I'd been alerted to Railroad Days at Omaha's Western Heritage Museum by a note on the Railroad mailing list from Paul Marsh. Jan and I decided to drive out on Sunday. We left Indianola about 11:00 in the morning and alternated between Interstate and older highways. Just east of Booneville, we intercepted an eastbound Iowa Interstate train behind IAIS 604, "Al Roberts", and IAIS 601.
We got to the museum, once the Omaha Union Depot, around 2:00 and found a very long line of people waiting to enter, stretching around the building from the entrance on the north side, south across the viaduct over the tracks. We circled the block and pulled into the Amtrak depot, where a few railfans were hanging out with video cameras. Since neither of us wanted to spend the time waiting to get into the musem, we decided to explore some other railfanning opportunities.
I crossed back over the Missouri River into Iowa and headed into the railyard area in the south part of Council Bluffs, following a map that Paul sent me a while back. We soon came upon the old Rock Island depot, which is now serving as a railroad museum. Railroad Days were being celebrated here, too, with train rides for the kids and tours of a Union Pacific RPO and a freshly painted Rock Island bay window caboose. Inside the depot/museum, visitors could try out the telegraph in the operator's bay and check out the model railroad in the northwest end of the depot.
After leaving the museum, we went southeast to explore the IAIS terminal and engine service area. IAIS units 7976, 900, 801, 413 and 400 were parked near the engine house, along with DSC 1833. IAIS 2628, the "Cedar River", and a road or rail IAIS crane were also on hand. Several ex-VIA passenger cars, being refurbished for excursions like the Madison County Zephyr, were sitting beside the engine house, including, "Exeter" and "Edgeley". We also found one of the "Purple Martin" cars, ex-UP 501 in the yard. Retired Rock Island spreader 95308 sat near the Cedar River car.
We left the IAIS yard and went north to the old CNW and IC yard areas. Each of these yards, which parallel each other, has the remains of an old concrete coaling tower, with the CNW one still used to support a sanding tank and the IC tower abandoned completely. There was quite a bit of railroad activity in the area, with a UP coal train of MIDX cars pulling in behind 7062 and 8029, and UP 2233 and 2316 switching nearby.
We decided to head for home and drove south on I-29 to Pacific Junction on the BNSF. We arrived just in time to see two MACs, 9579 and 9438 with a coal load, meet a westbound freight behind BN 7001, LMX 8585 and cabless BN 4035. Just behind that train was a coal empty, of GLLX cars, pulled by BN 5592 and a KCS unit. We stayed on highway 34 across to Osceola. Eventually, we caught up with train 168, and saw it at Osceola with BN 7169 and 7066, and LMX 8575.