First Run
Madison County Zephyr
May 11, 1996


I'd heard a new Iowa Interstate dispatcher, "Jackie", give her "Inaugural Passenger Train Warrant" to IAIS 625 West at 6:00 a.m., and figured that this might be the so-called "Madison County Zephyr" on its way to Earlham. The train was at Altoona, east of Des Moines, so I headed west and north to West Des Moines to see if I could intercept it. Just after turning off of I-35, I saw a highrailer headed west in advance of the train - a prudent move by the IAIS, considering the recent heavy rains in central Iowa. I picked out a spot where the IAIS and UP lines diverge in West Des Moines and was soon joined by other central Iowa railfans waiting for the passenger special to appear. At about 7:30, IAIS 625 and its short train made an appearance. Behind 625 were three passenger cars, "Enterprise", "Tallahassee" and "City of the Angels", and IATR 1500 boxcar, containing a generator to provide electrical power to the passenger cars.

We all got back in our cars and headed west to follow the train on out to Earlham. The Zephyr's leisurely pace made it very easy to pace, in fact, the train was ahead of schedule and paused for a few minutes at DeSoto in order to arrive on time. I caught the train again beside the Raccoon River in Commerce, and again where the old Rock Island line crosses the river just west of Booneville. West of DeSoto, the line dips south under highway F90 before passing the old limestone loading point at Winear.

I went ahead to Earlham to check out the preparation for the train's arrival. The high school band was on hand, warming up with "Louie, Louie" (68K .au file), "Hang on Sloopy", and what must have been the Earlham fight song. Earlham's main street was blocked at the tracks, and promoters of the event had even constructed a depot. The Zephyr pulled in right on the advertised and spotted the second car over the "platform" so that the local Boy Scouts could roll out the red carpet for its passengers. A fair-sized crowd was on hand to see the train and to greet its passengers as they made their way to the waiting chartered bus.

The train went on west a few miles to Dexter and used the elevator track there to run around its cars for the trip back to Newton. Back in Earlham, the media had arrived, unfortunately, too late to catch the train's original arrival. Des Moines TV station KCCI's personality Martin Augustine and his cameraman waited for the empty train to return from Dexter, and were joined by a cameraman from WOI in Ames. The Zephyr returned and stopped for a while, allowing the operating personnel to be interviewed for the news.

Bonus Short Line Junction Excursion

My son Byron met me at Earlham, and we decided to do some more train watching in the afternoon. We went to Short Line Junction on the east side of Des Moines, figuring that we would at least see the "Zephyr" once more as it went back to wait for its passengers in Newton. As it turned out, Short Line was fairly busy. Here's the log:

That's It!