Madison County Zephyr
July 6, 1996


Jan and I had decided to get up early Saturday and get to Des Moines to see the Madison County Zephyr come through. We first heard from our train, IAIS 900 West, on the scanner at breakfast - they'd hit livestock on the right of way near Grinnell. We arrived at Short Line Yard in Des Moines at 7:00 a.m., with time to spare, and watched the UP's PRDMB-02 (left Proviso Tuesday?) pull around the northeast leg of the wye and into the yard. The MCZ was told by the yardmaster to come through the yard on track 18.

Soon, IAIS 900, an RS-36, hit the diamond and rolled west toward downtown Des Moines. IAIS 900 was running long nose first (better for cow-punching?), and was followed by HEP-in-a-box IATR 1500, a name/numberless lounge/diner, and sleeper Tallahassee, numbered 75 on one end and 800028 at the other. We drove to the Riverside Drive area, and caught the MCZ crossing the Des Moines River on the westbound span of the Rock Island bridge. As the train passed over Riverside and toward the old RI depot, we got back in the car and headed for West Des Moines, where we took one more picture of IAIS 900. We paced the train westward along Grand Avenue and out into the country on highway F90 to Booneville.

We arrived at Earlham well ahead of the MCZ, although they stayed on schedule for their advertised 9:00 arrival. The people of Earlham still turn out to meet the MCZ, although the crowd was nothing like that of the first run back in May. The boy scouts were on hand to hold a banner and to roll out the red carpet as the passengers left the train for the chartered bus waiting nearby. Before long, the train departed to the west.

The siding at Earlham held several cuts of grain hoppers, so IAIS 900 took the MCZ west to Dexter to cut off and run around the cars. The return trip to Earlham was on the move in short order. Back at Earlham, the MCZ stopped to pick up a group of local citizens who were getting a one-way ride on the train into downtown Des Moines today. While they waited for the boarding to be completed, Jan struck up a conversation with the IAIS engineer. The train moved to the east only far enough to clear the siding switch, back into the east end of the Earlham siding, and wait for a westbound UP detour. 115 WPSX empty coal hoppers came by behind UP 9060 and 9174 at 10:20. In a few minutes, the MCZ, now IAIS 900 East, was on its way toward Des Moines.

We drove back into Des Moines and grabbed some lunch to take with us to the Rock Island depot. There, we found an Earlham school bus and driver talking with IAIS policeman Mark Sandler. Mark gave me some literature and asked me to remind you railfans not to trespass on railroad property. Just after noon, the MCZ pulled up to the depot, it's short train fitting perfectly between the crossings. The passengers and train personnel disembarked, somewhat sweaty after the failure of the generator in IATR 1500.

Jan and I went to the southwest end of the downtown area to have a look at the remains of the NS yard, which is currently being torn out and salvaged. The IAIS (ex-RI) bridge and tracks will now be the only rail service in downtown Des Moines. The CB&Q bridge was taken out some time ago, and the NS (ex-NW, ex-Wabash) bridge is now closed and will probably be removed as well. The Wabash diamond is still in place, guarded by a swinging gate, but the rails are disconnected both north and south of the crossing.

We hung around the west end of the old yard long enough to see an eastbound following the MZC. IAIS 466 and 100 pulled by our vantage point and passed the salvage operation at 12:40 with seven cars.

That's It!