While I was primarily making the trip home to photograph Iowa Interstate's two QJ class 2-10-2s, I decided that with the coming of the dozen new ES44ACs, I should make an effort to photograph the railroad's regular operations one more time while the trains were still primarily being handled by the old GP38-2s and SD38-2s. So, I took the entire week prior to the QJ events and spent as much time as possible chasing and photographing operations across the Rock Island to Newton segment of the system. The first chapter will cover Tuesday and Wednesday, 14-15 Oct 2008, while the second chapter will cover Thursday.
Tuesday was relatively calm. I slept in, and consequently only went as far west as Iowa City before meeting the east train (CBBI) coming past the old Rock Island depot. Both the east and west trains were into town by 1030h, so I just waited around for a while for the east train to head out towards Rock Island. Of note was that it was lead by 153, one of the SD38-2s. It used to be that the six axle EMDs held down the Cedar Rapids - Iowa City - Rock Island turns, and seldom wandered further. Now, with the GEs entering service, I found the 150s wandering the system on the regular through trains, such as this CBBI. By just before noon, 153 and crew had a warrant, and so after grabbing some lunch, I headed east after it.
I caught up with it just short of the Cedar River bridge, preparing to enter the work area on the western approach to the bridge. Maitenance of Way was still out lining the grade with heavy rip-rap, presumably in an effort to prevent severe erosion damage as was seen during this past summer's flooding. There was no work train out, though, when I went by the first time.
Proceeding on into Wilton, the east train met the RIIC turn and a work train. The work train had been using 154 as power when it was dumping rock out on the west side of the bridge earlier in the day, and the turn was still swapping 154 out for 719 when the east train arrived. This was the first time I'd seen the SmartStart automatic shutdown actually work - the east train had to wait so long that both engines stopped. Rather eerie to be standing next to two huge diesels and have them just suddenly go quiet.
With the meet done, I decided to follow the turn back towards Iowa City, given that the sun had shifted over and all three SD38-2s on the front were running backwards. I wouldn't have wanted to be the engineer trying to run that way, but it did make for an interesting sight. I caught them at Moscow and West Liberty, and then decided to head back for home as I was supposed to meet my aunt for dinner in Clinton in about two hours.
On the way back, I stopped to see Work Extra 719 near the Wendling Quarry. The work crew was loading rock into the six side dump cars with a backhoe and getting ready for another run up to the work site.What follows is an abbreviated copy of the update I sent to the IAIS list to accompany the photos from Wednesday, 15-Oct-2008. Just thought I'd make a note of it, since it's written in a short first person style that's a little different from how I usually narrate trip reports.
I went west today, on the off chance the QJs started to move. Unfortunately for me, they didn't budge. The good news is that by the second time I went by, both engines were hot and smoking. Maybe tomorrow? (Turns out the answer was Friday, 17-Oct-2008...)
I did run into the Menlo ethanol train (506/502) today just outside of Grinnell, and wound up chasing it all the way to its meet with the west train at Marengo. It was a tight fit - the ethanol train held the main, just barely clearing between the switches - and the huge west train ran past on the siding. Put it this way - by the time they re-entered the main at the west switch, the IAIS 506 crew estimated that there were still 35-40 cars yet before the end of the west train cleared the east switch.
As for why it was so big... By the point it got that far west, it had dropped the power set from the morning and picked up five EMDs - 717, 714, 702, 715, and 151. It had the regular freight (grain empties, intermodal, etc.) plus a huge string of ethanol empties, presumably headed out for loading at Menlo later in the week.
Given the clouds to the east and the blue skies to the west, I decided to follow the west train instead. Shot it once at the US 6 bridge between Ladora and Victor, then again at Malcom and a couple times west of Grinnell. I tried for the interlocking at Grinnell, but I'm not used to chasing this new, faster IAIS and got skunked in the process.
From I-80, I saw what I assume was the CR job at Tiffin at about 1815h. Looked like it had a 500 on the front, but didn't turn around to chase it - too little light.
The final train for the day was around 1930h at Walcott, when 155 and 704 blasted through with a string of coal empties. For tomorrow, the DS told the coal empty that they'd probably tie down in the hole at Atkinson. So, for those of you out east, look for a second sub run tomorrow.
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This work is copyright 2008 by Nathan D. Holmes
(firstname.lastname@example.org), but licensed under a
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I encourage others to consider CC or other Open Content-style licensing of their original works.
All photographs in this trip report were taken with a Canon EOS 40D using either a Canon 24-105mm F4 L IS/USM, Sigma 18-50mm, or a Canon 100-400mm f4.5-5.6L IS/USM.