Assorted Short Excursions

Christmas Break - 2001

Monday, December 24

After a number of trips to Des Moines during the first week of Simpson's Christmas break I finally had my shopping done and the presents wrapped for the family Christmases to come.  On Sunday afternoon I made one more run to the city and played Santa to myself by getting yet another digital camera.  I've been using an Olympus 2500 for my train-chasing excursions and have been very pleased with it, but I wanted a "longer" lens.  Any of you who read fan publications know that railfan photographers rely heavily on telephoto shots.  The 2500, with an added telephoto adapter, gave something approximating a 140mm. lens on a slide camera.  On one of my shopping trips I'd run across an Olympus 2100, which zooms to the equivalent of 380mm. and which was priced at half what I paid for the 2500.

On Monday afternoon I overheard the UP Trenton sub. dispatcher talking to a northbound train that was going to stop and pick up a unit from the siding at Carlisle.  It was cold but sunny and I decided that this would be a good opportunity to try out the new camera.  I got to Carlisle about 1:30 and found a grain train tied down in the siding with CEFX 7111, UP 2908 and UP 6293 on the point.  6293 was the engine to be picked up by the northbound.

The northbound, apparently a grain empty, approached and stopped short of the spring switch and signals at the south end of the siding.  The crew walked to the three units on the grain train, cut them off of the train and pulled back south to clear the switch.  Here's a shot of the power moving south with the northbound in the background, wide angle.  Here's a shot taken from the same location of the northbound as it was stopping, telephoto.  Interesting comparison, huh?  The images you're seeing here are reduced to 40 percent and further compressed from what the camera provides.  Here's the original.  The 2100 also has built-in lens stabilization so that it's easy to get such a shot without a tripod.

The power was taken north on the main, split - leaving 6293 on the main, the remaining two units were put back in the siding, and the crew walked to 6293 and backed toward their train.  6293 was coupled to the original northbound power, UP 7383 and 6572.  A track maintainer who was nearby helped with the air test and they were on their way north again by 2:45.

Wednesday, December 26

My son Byron and his wife Tammy had come over to stay with me on Tuesday night.  We had the first of three family Christmases planned for Wednesday evening at my mom's place, and with a day to kill, Byron and I went to Osceola to meet Amtrak.  The Zephyr was pretty close to on time this morning, and running left-handed get around coal loads on track two. Passengers were herded to the north side of the mainlines at 8:38 and No. 6 came around the corner west of the depot shortly after.

It was a chilly morning in southern Iowa, with a very light snow falling as the Zephyr cleared Main Street and pulled up for a quick stop.  In the consist today:

AMTK 170, 167 and 166
Baggage 1206
Transition Sleeper 39018
Coaches 34008, 34024 and 31523
Sightseer Lounge 33048
Diner 38034
Sleepers 32020 and 32086
Four boxcars, and no Roadrailers
Byron and I hung around for a coal load that we learned the passenger train had just passed.  They came through just before 9:00 with BN 9540, 9939 and a set of COMX hoppers.  As you can see, I was having fun playing with my Christmas present this morning!

Saturday, December 29

Byron and Tammy had returned for two more Christmases on Friday and stayed over, giving Byron and me a chance to do some more train watching.  We had clear and cold morning with a below-zero wind chill.  This time we headed north out of Indianola and then went over to Carlisle to intercept a northbound coal train on what was once the Rock Island's Kansas City Short Line.

Byron and I went a short distance southeast of Carlisle on Hwy. 5 and met the northbound train at 9:37.  On the head end were UP 6744, UP 8236 and SP 257, trailing mixed older system hopper cars.  The Trenton sub. dispatcher couldn't get the signal at CP U064, the south end of the Carlisle siding, to come in this morning, so the train had to stop on the Middle River bridge and inspect the spring switch before proceeding.

We were picking up lots of activity on the scanner at Short Line Yard, so we decided to go up to the crossing with the Iowa Interstate in Des Moines and watch the traffic at the yard.  We got there a little after 10:00, just in time to see a long set of locos being turned on the wye by Job 63.  After pulling north across the IAIS diamond, they came back into the yard on the northeast leg:  UP 9485, UP 9449, CNW 6866, UP 3050, UP 3127, UP 3538, CEFX 7111, and UP 4389.  Over the next few minutes we watched as these engines were distributed over several yard tracks.

At 10:20 the coal train reached the diamond and ran through to make a crew change north of Hull Avenue.  A southbound manifest, referred to as the "ITDA", had been waiting on them and it came down to the junction at 10:42.  On the point were CSXT 8119, UP 3437 and UP 3749.

From the radio we learned that the Iowa Interstate was bringing light power into the east end of the yard to pick up some locos and freight.  I'd been reading on an email list about some foreign engines on flatcars that were in Short Line Yard awaiting transportation to NRE at Silvis, Illinois.  Byron and I got to the east end just as the Interstate power, three units, went by on the far side of of a cut of cars blocking East 34th St.

We went east around the blocked crossing, taking a detour on company property that we'd seen some other citizen use, and took up a position south of the yard leads to wait on the eastbound move of the IAIS train.  UP Job 2 was working the east end this morning with UPY 1320 and 1394.  While waiting we were visited by a friendly security guard for the nearby pallet company, since I'd parked in a semi-trailer parking area on private property.

The IAIS finally got things together and the air tested around noon.  They came east with IAIS 628, LLPX 2042 and IAIS 485.  They were trailing two units on the rails, UP 5041 and SP 8315, nine flatcars with Korean GP-8's, a few cars of freight and a tenth Korean unit at the rear.  I got pictures of most of the ten "KORAIL" engines on the flatcars as they went by us:

Several of the units had some sort of box mounted on the side of the truck frame that I'd not seen before.  For some (inscrutable?) reason, 3050 had been separated from the other nine units.  I got another shot or two of it as the IAIS towed all of them east out of the yard.

Byron and I were due back in Indianola before 1:00, so we headed back toward home.  The UP had not moved the cars blocking east 34th, gates down, bell ringing and lights blinking, for more than an hour!

Monday, December 31

Neighbor and buddy Joan Overton and I had been planning to get together for at least one excursion during our Christmas vacations.  New Year's eve day came up bright and cold, we bundled up and around 9:00 headed for Osceola.  I'd called to check on Amtrak and learned that No. 6 was a couple of hours late.  I'd also heard the Ottumwa sub. dispatcher on the radio talking to a westbound at Albia round 8:30, and thought we might catch them and then move on east.  We had a couple of general objectives for the day.  I wanted to explore a road over by Albia that I'd spotted while riding the Zephyr, and Joan and I always try to look for places new or unusual to dine.

After a stop at the depot in Osceola, I made an ill move and decided to head on east on Hwy. 34.  We just got to the overpass east of town when the expected empty arrived.  I turned around and chased it back through town and on to the west.  I gave up the chase at 10:00 and went for a long shot at the end of a section of old 34 west of Osceola.  On the head end were BNSF 9871 and 9455.

We turned back and drove along 34 back through Osceola and on toward Chariton.  Along the way we heard another westbound get a warrant at   Albia, so we decided to intercept it in Chariton.  This train came through the "S" curves at 11:00, with CSXT 7733 and 7334 pulling empty FSTX cars.  Joan took pictures with the 2500 and her film camera today, while I played with the 2100.  We'd heard the Russell detector report this train at well over 500 axles.

After a visit to Piper's Candy and Groceries on Chariton's square, we went on over to Albia to wait for Amtrak.  I took one of Iowa's "Level B" roads to what I would call "Old Halpin", a place where the signals and crossovers were years ago, and we crossed the tracks and followed a farm field access road down into the curve where Main 2 starts up Albia hill.

I considered waiting down here for No. 6, but changed my mind and drove to another spot between the two mains and part way up the hill.  We waited here for quiet a while, eventually hearing the Zephyr report out of Osceola at 11:44 (schedule is 8:38).  We caught them on the hill at 12:36, with cameras on both sides of the rails.  The lead unit was AMTK 138 today and the detector east of Maxon counted 76 axles.  BNSF's recently installed flange oilers on the south hill, apparently solar-powered?

We had a look around Albia for a place to eat and then decided to drive up to Oskaloosa and see if the refurbished Rock Island depot, now the "Rock Island Grill", was open.  It was and we stopped there for lunch.  The interior of the depot has been given an interesting make-over, with lots of used lumber and simple furnishings.  Enlarged photos and railroad memorabilia have been used to decorate, and the Rock Island theme is seen throughout.  I'm sorry to report that, based on our meals I can't recommend the food, and the coffee was particularly vile.  No Stars.

After lunch Joan and I turned back west on Hwy. 92.  We had a close encounter, but no pictures, with a BNSF train going down the Des Moines branch toward Albia.  About the time we got to Beech, we heard the UP Spine dispatcher setting up two southbounds in Des Moines, so I took the Palmyra pavement up to Hwy. 5 where we waited on these last two trains of the day.

For a while it looked like we might run out of sunlight, but the first train finally came around the curve in the mainline at Carlisle at 4:25.  This last image demonstrates exactly the sort of capability I was seeking when I bought the Olympus 2100.  The train was a stacker with UP 4090, 4224, 2210 and 6159 in charge.  We watched them climb the hill and then moved to Carlisle's Main St. crossing for the second train.

The light did run out, that is the shadows reached the rails, for the following train - it was 4:40 when they hit the north end of the siding.  This was a grain train pulled by 8131 and 8265.  For this one, I used another feature of the 2100.  It can make short digitized video, in QuickTime, .MOV, format.  Here's one frame, showing 8131's engineer waving.  If you've got the bandwidth and the software, try out the video (11 Meg .MOV file) as well.

Okay, so far for this vacation, That's It!  Happy New Year!