UP 844 and the Cruise Train had been stored in the Hull Avenue Yard after returning from Clinton on Tuesday. Today, passengers were to be picked up at the old Rock Island depot in downtown Des Moines and carried on a round trip to Boone's Pufferbilly Days.
We arrived at Short Line Junction on this foggy morning around 7:30 to find quite a few railfans already waiting on 844. She appeared north of the junction at 8:00 and rolled slowly around the northeast leg of the wye into Short Line Yard. After quite a bit of discussion on the radio with the Iowa Interstate dispatcher, the train began backing across the diamond toward downtown Des Moines at 8:24. The loco had some guy with a cigar at the throttle as it cleared the crossing and shoved its 19 cars toward the crowd waiting at the downtown depot.
In the Cruise Train:
The train backed across the remaining (north) track of the Rock's double-track bridge across the Des Moines River, now used by the Iowa Interstate. The train was pushed well to the west, with loading sites organized by the tracks along several city blocks. The head end stopped to clear 3rd Street, about a block west of where RI Rocket power usually paused.
Boarding was scheduled for 8:30, and was well organized, with personnel on hand at each of a number of preset locations to assist passengers. The train appeared to be nearly filled to capacity. Just before 9:00, UP 844 whistled a warning to the people surrounding the engine and began rolling eastward back to the Des Moines river bridge. With its whistle echoing (63K .au file) off of the office buildings nearby, the yellow train cleared the depot and headed back to Short Line, where it would turn north on its way to Boone.