Near the Spine Line
November 30, 1996


The kids were in town for the Thanksgiving weekend, and Byron and I thought Saturday would be a good time to go test the UP's "zero tolerance" trespassing policy while everyone else was out Christmas shopping. Our first stop was Short Line Yard in Des Moines, where we watched Job 1 switching until an IAIS westbound came through. Engines 626, 407 and 627 clattered across the old Rock Island diamond at 11:35. We learned from the Spine dispatcher, "DLS", that a southbound was headed toward us from the junction at Nevada, so we started north along the Spine line.

Before long, we heard that UP 5991 South, the BOKC, had been stopped by the Elkhart detector, and found the train standing on the main just south of the town. We waited at a grade crossing while the conductor walked back along the train. They'd gotten reports from the detector of hot wheels on two axles, one on the 18th, and one on the 80th car. After an hour's delay, they reported to the dispatcher that the handbrakes had not been fully released on the two cars. They rolled by us at 12:50, behind CNW 7027, UP 5991, and NS 8678. I felt for the man who had to walk the train - it was 30 degrees, windy and overcast.

We got to the junctions at Nevada at 1:30, just in time to see a southbound stack train speed around the west leg of Chicago Junction. A UP worker in a nearby truck commented that they were moving pretty fast and must have a green light all the way to Des Moines. On the point of the stacker were CNW 6896, UP 3231 and CNW 6838.

We got lunch and parked near the E/W mains in Nevada, but didn't see any traffic until just after we decided to head west along the line (naturally) when an eastbound piggy-back train got by us. We stopped at the west end of Ames Yard, where we found the burned remains of the yard shanty and telephone poles. A handful of engines, including UP 7012 and CR and NS units sat on one of the yard tracks near the west end.

We went on into Ames and watched some "switching" being done across from the depot using a small tractor. Covered hoppers, some as single cars, others in cuts of 3 or 4, were being pushed and rolled into position on a couple of tracks. One of the cars carried some unusual grafitti.

While the John Deere switcher worked, we did manage to see a train. An eastbound, with 33 cars, showed up at 3:18. On the head end were CNW 6919 and MPI 9029. This train was headed north on the Spine Line, and ended up waiting for quite a while at the junction. Before we left Ames, we saw one more train. At 3:30, a westbound manifest came by the Ames power plant with UP 9557, UP 3338, and CR 538 in charge.

Back in Nevada at 4:08, we caught a coal load of CWEX cars, behind UP 6744 and 6768. We headed down to the junction to wait for a southbound (on which CNW 6919 was waiting), but it got too dark for pictures, so we just got on I-35 and rolled on south to Indianola.

That's It!