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Edition #59, August 1, 2007

All Eastbounds

Photographer: Craig Williams

                                                        Photo by Craig Williams

All Eastbounds


The weather was nice and sunny when I got up around 12:30pm on Wednesday. I was first out at the railroad so I went down to the yard office to see if any trains were running and if I was going to work anytime soon. I was told neither one was going to happen so I decided to head down to the UP main across Iowa for the afternoon. I've been trying to get a nice westbound shot on the Kate Shelly High Bridge down near Boone, IA. The UP has started to work on a new bridge they are going to build to replace the 1901 structure. The new bridge will be built north of the old bridge so I wanted to get some final shots before the area is changed forever. The bridge is an easy 40-mile drive from my place in Ft Dodge. Since I had about 3 hours of light left I figured the high density UP line would provide me with at least one westbound.

I got down to the East-West mainline around Ogden, IA at 2:30pm. The UP had a couple of eastbound coal trains moving at a snails pace towards Boone. It's pretty common to see eastbounds backed up west of Boone because of the crew change point being a bottleneck. As I made my way down towards the high bridge I saw a westbound freight and an eastbound coal train meet just west of the high bridge. I blew off both trains because of normal, boring, GE power on both of them. The dirt roads down to the high bridge were not doing very well with the snow and rain from the weekend before and temperatures in the mid-40s and 4-wheel drive came in handy trying to pull off the road to get in position. I setup for a westbound shot off the gravel road that runs under the bridge and I turned on the scanner to see what was going on. Most of the chatter on the radio was from the dispatcher directing crew changes and inbound crews talking to outbound crews. There also seemed to be a form B around the high bridge for the work being done for the new bridge. The foreman cleared up another eastbound on main 1 behind the one going by me.

As I sat and waited I wanted to update my 2007 calendar with the days off I needed at work this year, so I was in a relaxed mood not worrying too much about what was going on. I figured with the form B in effect I would know in plenty of time when a westbound would show up. While I waited, a couple more eastbounds crawled by taking their turns to get into Boone for their crew changes. Then I heard the outbound crew on the UP 6695 west tell the Omaha 19 dispatcher they were ready to leave town. He said, "It will be a while, I am shot gunning eastbounds into Boone on both mains and Boone will be bottled up for awhile." That was not the news I wanted to hear at three in the afternoon with sunset around 5pm.

With two hours of sun left I was hopeful that I would get my shot until I heard Omaha 19 talking to some eastbounds that were going to die short of making it into Boone. Then I heard more bad news when Omaha 19 called the UP 5904 east and told them they were going to be crossing over to main two at Ogden and run to the Hard Road in Boone. This wasn't a good turn of events for me because I know how slow things can go with the UP around Boone and the crew aboard this eastbound was dead at 16:45. 

I started contemplating my next move as the eastbounds closed in on me and I decided to make the most of my eastbound parade. I could hear the eastbounds blowing their horns for Ogden about 4 miles west of me and while calling the foreman for the form B over the high bridge on the scanner so I decided to take a chance. I thought maybe I could walk in on the dark side of the bridge and shoot back against the sun making a silhouette of the train with the water. I had no idea what that would look like, but I was thinking any shot I get around here would change in the next year and a half. I figured I had nothing to lose and I could always delete it if I don't like it. I knew the river was down so I could walk into the bridge from the north side pretty easy.  I grabbed my camera and scanner and headed to the bridge when I heard a relief crew say they were aboard the UP 7086 east about a mile west of me. When I heard them whistle off to start pulling east I heard a different horn from another eastbound coming thru Ogden.

The UP 7086 started dragging a string of coal cars across the bridge before I got as close as I wanted to and I took a couple of shots from farther away than what I was hoping for. I continued walking toward the bridge hoping one of the other trains could provide me with the shot I had in mind. I got to where the coal train was blocking out the sun and it made for a nice shot since the sun was casting light out onto the water and I was closer to the bridge to shoot a wider angle. As the coal train cleared the bridge the UP 5904 started across on main 2. I was in position for this one but it wasn't on the closest track to me and some of the bridge was blocking the train. That made for strike two so hopefully the third time was the charm. Then I heard the UP 5042 east get cleared through the form B on main 1. As the sun sank lower in the sky, I kept moving up river to keep the sun right at track height as I waited for my efforts to pay off. I could hear the horn blowing to the west and it seemed to take forever for the 5042 to arrive. When it finally showed up and started across the river I snagged 3 shots and packed up to head back to my vehicle. I was a happy man on the hike back to setup for that westbound that ended up never coming. I guess some days you have to take what you can get and make the most of it.

The next sunny day I get I will be making my 3rd trip down the high bridge to get that westbound shot, but for now I am happy with my "all eastbounds" afternoon.

Craig Williams

Ft Dodge, IA

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