Iowa NRHS Convention
Part 2: June 23-25

Photos by Dave Ingles

Sat. June 23, 2012

Today turned out to be the only mostly cloudy day of NRHS week, but it was just as well, as the day's excursion generally went northwest from Cedar Rapids on Iowa Northern's (IANR) ex-Rock Island line to Bryant Yard on Waterloo’s south side and back. Having ridden this line in June 2000 on a private-car excursion from Iowa City to Manly to Waseca, Minn., to Winona, on Crandic, IANR, and DM&E, our plan was to chase it. Sunday's trip would go from Cedar Falls to Manly and back. I rode this on the former Zephyr Rocket in 1964; in fact, I met today's IANR President, Dan Sabin, when he -- as a 10-year-old or so kid on a bike -- met the train at the depot in his hometown of Manly during its crew-change and meal stop (box dinners, pre-ordered thru the conductor, put on board here). Our plan was to ignore Sunday's trip for photos if we did well Saturday, which we did. The train deadheaded from Cedar Rapids thru Waterloo to Cedar Falls Saturday night because either Union Pacific or CN, or both, which IANR uses on trackage rights thru Waterloo, would not permit its operation with passengers. IANR's two F40's were separated for these two trips, with the 461 on the north end and the RI-painted 678 on the south end. This line was originally Burlington, Cedar Rapids & Northern, whose HQ building still stands in downtown Cedar Rapids with the initials prominent at the top on the west side. Foliage by the track prevents a good train view here, however.

The train loaded on Crandic tracks just west of the Cedar River south of downtown C.R., and after crossing the new bridge, restored after the 2008 flood took the former one out (originally Milwaukee Road -- also lost in the flood was IANR's ex-Chicago Great Western bridge in Waterloo, now UP-owned), boarded a few local passengers at a rib-fest event just east of the river bridge.

We followed the train thru downtown, shooting it 3 times, and then we expressed thru the city's north end and west to Palo to intercept it. The northbound run-by was at Shellsburg, the next town, where we were waiting for our next photo anyway. The train made two back-and-forth runs, enabling photos by the grain elevators, or on two creek bridges, one on the town's east side and one on the west.

At Vinton, where we had a photo stop on a Lexington Group excursion from downtown Cedar Rapids to northeast of Waterloo at an ethanol plant on the old CGW a few years ago, I set up for a going-away photo of the 678 passing the restored depot (museum), which has Rock Island emblems on it.

From Palo to near Washburn, we shot the train a few more times, nothing special. Since Bryant Yard is inaccessible to the public, we looked around Waterloo, shot some depots, had lunch at Culver’s, and caught up with the southbound return just underway. This is the old RI-CGW Waterloo depot, where I detrained from the former Zephyr Rocket in 1964, then walked across the river to the old downtown IC depot to catch the night train for Freeport, Ill. The tracks in this area were removed for highway widening, which now requires IANR to use UP and CN in a long way around thru the city.

At the east end of the new IANR-UP bridge in Waterloo is a nice plaque telling of the city's former passenger stations and the tower that guarded the IC city passenger line's crossing with CGW, very close to the plaque's position.

We were able to shoot a couple of IANR diesels at the north end of Bryant Yard.

CN still uses the roundhouse and turntable at the old IC facility. We made this photo from the car in the parking lot. The black unit at left is IC SD70 1017.

Downtown Cedar Falls was having "Whoopie Days," but we fought our way thru the crowds (in our van) and managed this photo of the Rock Island depot, where Sunday's excursion would load. It is at the end of several blocks of street-running.

Leaving Culver's after lunch and heading for the IANR, we learned the southbound return was just underway, so we caught up with it and shot it 9 times between MP 142 near Washburn and Palo, and had some opportunities for "pan shots" of the 678.

Perhaps my favorite is this front-end view at MP 139 (from Burlington, I presume), which shows the old pole line, how things used to be.

While the train staged a run-by near La Porte City, we sought out another WCF&N interurban depot, in Brandon, and the right of way in Urbana, illustrating the right of way's use as a trail.

The other significant shot southbound was here in Vinton, where a remnant spur of an old RI branch line off to Iowa Falls and the "Bow and Arrow country" of northwestern Iowa diverged from the BCR&N "main." We had time to relax here for this view while the run-by finished up, and only got him a couple more times.

Sunday, June 24

With not having to chase the Waterloo-Manly trip, we checked out of our motel and headed west on Route 30 for Boone, so I could try to ride what eluded me two summers ago -- the 0.6-mile electrified line from the museum in to central Boone, originally part of the Fort Dodge, Des Moines & Southern interurban line. The Boone & Scenic Valley operates a Charles City Western trolley on it, but on our previous visit, the car quit running just before I could ride, being "trapped" east of the station while the RS1 was substituted for the 2-10-2 on the steam run to the west, which I'd just ridden. The engine had steaming problems on the return.

En route, the UP main line again was quiet; turns out, we were "chasing" a westbound merchandiser, with units 6507/6423, which we finally caught up to around State Center and photographed in town at high noon, then across the fields west of there.

Upon arrival in Boone, alas, we found the trolley to be not operating as scheduled, “not enough volunteers today,” which could mean the NRHS event Thursday occupied the usual cadre of volunteers. I did photograph the afternoon train, which hadn't loaded yet. Its power, an Alco S2, I did not recall from 2010 (see separate file on my 2010-2011 page). The backlot out to the west seemed to have been cleaned out a bit of its junk; the RS1 was by the west-side barn, no sight of the 80-ton long GE center-cab; other units from 2010 must have been inside.

With disappointment but time saved, we condensed our plans. First, we grabbed a Subway lunch and sat trackside in Boone, and before long, at 1:30 pm, an eastbound merchandiser showed up with 8254 up front and a mid-train DPU of 8199.

I'd intended to prowl around the new Kate Shelley bridge again, but we'd done that in 2010 and it was high midday light, so we took advantage of the time opportunity and headed south to see and photograph the 6 covered bridges of Madison County (Winterset is county seat) southwest of Des Moines that we’d planned for Monday. We'd already reserved a motel in suburban Des Moines for Sunday night, so we made a swing thru Madison County, photographed the 6 bridges, then went after a couple of depots, and headed back up I-35 to Des Moines in what turned out to be a 400-mile day, all on one tank full of Cedar Rapids gas.

This is the Cedar bridge, northeast of Winterset, typical of the style of the area (4 of the 6), and the only one you can drive through. Turns out it was burned and completely rebuilt to original plans, after the movie (which  we haven't seen, nor have we read the book -- we're just covered bridge fans), so it undoubtedly has stronger support beams, etc., than it originally did.

Leaving Madison County, we paid a call on Creston, mainline division point on the BNSF (ex-CB&Q) main line, and found the situation much as Rick Moser & I had found it last year driving home from Lincoln, Neb., after riding the Amtrak detour that skipped Omaha during the high-water aftermath: DPU's on 2 or 3 eastbound coal trains within sight of the depot, and a few local units parked to the east and south. Time here was 5:20 p.m.

The best of the few depots we found was this one at Mt. Ayr, on an ex-CB&Q branch, at 630 pm. The rail water tank is fake and/or moved; the city water tower is genuine; and the depot is on-site. From here we headed east, got on I-35, and highballed back to Des Moines, with dinner at the Urbandale Ruby Tuesday's next to our motel.

Monday June 25, 2012

This day had been planned for Madison County and environs, with the trek homeward on Tuesday, but with the covered bridges already photographed (mostly on gravel roads, took about 2 hours total), we took a scenic route home this day, via southeastern Iowa. We had not expected any certain train action, but had a lot of serendipity. First, as we arrived into downtown Oskaloosa, this UP local came at us. This made unnecessary any check of the little yard to the north, he had just left it. Like UP’s New Berlin/Waukesha local at home, this job had a unit on each end of his train (1 load of lumber). The units were 1924 and 395, the latter, I believe, one of the original C&NW 4600-series GP38-2s (ordered by RI just before bankruptcy) that Bob Anderson and I hunted down all over western Iowa in 1994, a trek that included a stop at the Oskaloosa yard for a pair late on a Sunday afternoon. The line here is the ex-M&StL main line, one of the few stretches remaining, which UP still operates from Marshalltown south to Oskaloosa.

This is the "rear end" after, startled, I'd done a U-turn thru a parking lot and gone to the first crossing to the north. He has passed us and is crossing the east-west main drag, headed south past where the old Iowa Central 2-story depot used to be. Iowa Central was merged by M&StL way long ago; the depot was gone by our 1995 visit, my first to this city.

Here, in a coming-going sequence, he is proceeding thru the switch (he had to stop for the conductor to align it, which enabled to me get these shots -- we were using our GPS to navigate all the back streets of Oskaloosa's south and southeast sides) where the former M&StL "main line" which turns east for Peoria, Ill., here, diverges from the line that went on down to Albia, Iowa, for a head-to-head interchange with the old Wabash. The SPV shows the line still in to Maxon, on the BNSF (ex-CB&Q) main line just east of Albia, but I'm not sure the line is still in all the way down there, or how far UP operates south of Oskaloosa. We never had a chance to talk to this crew, who I'm sure could have filled us in.

Here he is crossing US 63 that comes into town from the south. The SPV shows that this remnant of track, out to a lumber yard and other customers southeast of town, as partially ex-M&StL and partially an ex-CB&Q branch, but after examining aerial photos on Google Earth, I would dispute that. The direction the line is going in leaving town, at end of track, lines up with the former M&StL main, so I think this whole caper was on old M&StL track.

He now is crossing Route 23, our planned exit from town, and is about to enter the lumber yard spur. Our "chase" finished, we just headed on southeast.

Our next stop was Eldon, we photographed the Rock Island depot on-site at a former crossing of two RI lines, plus the Grant Wood “American Gothic” house. The lines here were the "Golden State Route" main line from Davenport to Kansas City, and the branch that followed the Des Moines River to the state capital from Keokuk, on the Mississippi River. It was not until I was home that I bothered to look in my "caboose book" which lists all displayed and preserved cabooses, that I tumbled that this car displayed in Eldon is ex-GM&O! DOH! I knew it wasn't likely a Rock Island car, from its style, and the road number doesn't seem to fit either GM&O, ICG, or RI. The park to the southeast, with the sign pictured, indicates this long branch was known as the "KD," which fits, just like our ex-C&NW "KD" line from Kenosha to Rockford, Ill., for the old Kenosha Division.

You need to follow the signs to the "Grant Wood American Gothic" house in the far northeast corner of town, near the old RI mainline right of way. It's now a small rental property, and occupied. Nearby is a visitor center, which in the heat of the day we passed up.

Continuing our "scenic route" home, we went on to Burlington, Iowa, for lunch at a new Maid-Rite diner, quite the opposite from the quaint old, "original style" Maid-Rite we'd lunched in during our Cedar Rapids stay; just west of downtown, that little restaurant completely rebuilt after the 2008 flood and has lots of pictures on the walls of its tiny dining room.

After lunch and dessert at Culver's (to "get the boothage," my 327th location in the chain now numbering at least 456 outlets), I checked with "Julie" and learned Amtrak #6, the eastbound California Zephyr, was running 4½ hours late and due soon, so we meandered downtown to photograph it -- and were pleasantly surprised to see it led by the red-nose Heritage unit, 156! This meant it was worth shooting each side of the Burlington depot, at 3:06 and 3:15. I'd wanted to shoot it between the old buildings west of the depot, but that seems to work only for westbound trains, or trains on the north track -- no spot for #6 on the south main was open enough for a good shot.

We then photographed a westbound local, sitting crewless in the yard, and made the obligatory photo of the displayed 4-6-4.

After filling the gas tank, checking the Burlington Junction to see if any unit was outside (none were), we said farewell to the Hawkeye State after a week at about 345 pm. 

Out route home was to be US 34 to Mendota and then I-39 and I-43. With an eye on the Amtrak timetable, we highballed around Galesburg on the 34 bypass, hoping to be in time to shoot #5, the westbound CZ, approaching the city, which we did at 442 pm, behind units 181/73, at what must be the last old signal gantry standing on the Mendota Sub, a couple miles west of Wataga.

This began a serendipitous parade of 7 westbound trains, which delayed our progress home, but were all welcome in gorgeous sunlight with temps around 80. Since the back path to Kewanee, Trolley Road, has been severed and closed by a new ethanol plant on Galva's east side, we parked at the east end of town to await Amtrak #3, the Southwest Chief. But first, a freight showed up at 520, tarped-gondolas behind BNSF 4523/CSX 713/239. He was running on Main 2, and we would figure out that an eastbound was parked, probably crewless, at West Kewanee; we never did see it. Ten minutes later, #3 came by behind units 201/47.

As we entered Kewanee's south side on 34, the detector east of town went off, so we managed to get trackside just east of the West Kewanee interlocking for this shot, at 552, of a 75-well stack train with nice power, BNSF 778/CN 8963.

As we were photographing the new Kewanee Amtrak station (note the blue sign inside), on the site of the old CB&Q depot, gone for decades, the detector went off again.

The train on the detector turned out to be this 47-car local behind 2351/3019, at 6:05 p.m. The close-up digital shot didn't work. Obviously the passenger shelter on Main 1 is "original."

We thought we'd hit the lull ahead of the Illinois Zephyr, but not so. Once thru Neponset, just as 34 begins to curve away to go up to Route 6 at Sheffield, there came another westbound freight, so we doubled back and got him at the west end of Neponset. Note the name of the local high school athletic teams!

First attempting to go via I-80 and I-39 in hopes of nabbing the Illinois Zephyr, we went up Route 40 to I-80 and made another obligatory shot of the UP overpass that still carries the C&NW emblem, which I tried to do last year JUST as a northbound UP freight popped out, silently, from behind the trees!

We got on I-80 but I chickened out time-wise, since I-39 is about 3 miles east of Mendota's depot, instead getting off at Route 89 and going up thru Arlington and moseying east on back roads to park and wait for the Zephyr. The roads are mostly gravel, and the railroad cuts the triangles of all the farm roads, so we just found a paved one and sat at the crossing for 10 minutes or so, a "name" called Clarion (on the Delorme, but no town). The train came by, engine 166 and 5 cars (Horzions plus an Amcafe) at 735, but the ditigal telephoto wouldn't focus, so only got a slide. The last photo of the day was of this road set parked in Mendota on a ballast train, at 750, note how crappy the lead unit looks. Nevertheless, a serendipitous 7-train experience from Burlington to Mendota!

We got on I-39, dined fashionably late at Steak n Shake in Rockford at 845 pm, and were home by 1050. Total miles on the fan for 9 days: 2,388. --- Dave Ingles

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