Short Line Junction and Yard
Des Moines, Iowa


Short Line Junction was once the crossing of the Rock Island's north/south mainline from Kansas City to Minneapolis and the Rock's east/west mainline from Chicago to Denver. Just east of the junction is Short Line Yard. The junction is the right-angle crossing with tracks in the northwest quadrant at the upper left of the map above. Today, the north/south line and yard belong to Union Pacific, and the east/west main is the right of way for the Iowa Interstate RR. UP refers to the north/south main as the "Spine Line", a name it aquired while owned by C&NW.

The junction once had wye tracks in all four corners and crossovers between the two east/west main tracks. Currently, the wyes on the east side (toward the yard) of the junction remain, and the east/west line is single track. A brick tower building that was in the northwest corner of the diamond has been removed, but one may still drive to the tower location and encounter other Des Moines area railfans.

To reach the junction and yard area, go south off of freeway I-235 in Des Moines at the East 14/15 (Hwy. 65/69) Street exit. Take 14th street south, keeping to the left side of the street. Turn east onto Dean Avenue and go approximately 7 blocks to the junction. Dean Avenue crosses the north/south main and the northeast leg of the wye, and parallels the north side of Short Line Yard.

The yard and junction area is roughly bounded by four streets. To the west, east 18th street crosses the e/w main and the Norfolk and Southern yard at one of the area elevators. Market Street passes along the south side of the yard, and the East 30th Street viaduct crosses over the east end of the yard (Hwy. 46).

A pedestrian walkway once spanned the center of Short Line Yard, providing good views to the east toward the 30th Street viaduct, and to the west toward Short Line Junction. The south end of the walkway overlooked the yard office and car shop area. The Union Pacific removed this bridge, apparently to encourage youngsters to cut through the yard at ground level??

Two other railroad grade crossings are just south of Short Line Junction, one with the Norfolk and Southern, and one with the Burlington Northern Santa Fe. The NS diamond is on Market Street at the east end of the NS yard, and the BNSF diamond is just south of Maury Street, about 6 blocks south of Market. Currently, both junctions are operated by the BNSF, as the NS no longer comes up from Missouri into Iowa, although they maintain a yard office in the junction area. The ex-CB&Q Des Moines yard is at the lower right of the map, just below the circled 46. It is now called "Glake Yard" by the NS.

UP trains on the n/s main enter and exit the yard on one of the wye tracks, although many change crews on the main, or at Hull Avenue yard, just north of Short Line. Train control on this part of the Spine Line is CTC through the Des Moines area from Broadway Avenue to the north through the south switch at Carlisle.

IAIS trains call Short Line Yard on UP frequencies.

Active radio frequencies in the area:

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