Rails & Trails Pages

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Mason City 2013

On Monday, October 21, 2013, on my way to Kansas City, I stopped at Mason City and visited the Iowa Traction Railroad.

It is the last electrically operated freight railroad in the United States and operates on 10.4 miles of track between Mason City and Clear Lake, Iowa.  Our engine this morning will be "motor" number 50.
It is a 600 Horsepower motor and built in 1921.  Before we can begin, the knife switch must be thrown to put power on the overhead line.
Here's the engineer's seat, which is identical on the other end and the engineer, Doug, jumps back and forth, depending upon direction of travel.
Don't put your hand in here--you may get a "shock"!!!!
The job today is to pull 19 loads of soymeal out from the soybean plant for interchange with the Canadian Pacific Railroad and bring back 7 empties.  Because of track elevation and the small engine, we can only pull 4 cars at a time, so this will take several moves.  Here is part of the large AGP Soy Plant that the Iowa Traction services.
Here is our job for today, 4 cars at a time:
This is why we can only pull 4 cars at a time, and that is uphill on a curve, with a small engine.
We pull the cars to this location.  Since there is no run-around track, the motor will cut off and duck into the siding.  The 4 cars will be allowed to roll by before the motor heads back for another 4 cars.  After all loads are on the track to the right, the cars will be shoved to the CP Interchange track.
The loads roll past.
Back to get 4 more of this string.

The Iowa Traction serves the soy plant from the north, bringing in soybeans and taking out soy meal.  The Union Pacific serves the plant from the south and brings in tank cars.
OK--all loads are assembled and we shove the string to the Canadian Pacific.
The loads are on the left and we are picking up the empties on the right.
The Union Pacific crosses under this overpass and the sidetrack to the left is the Iowa Traction's interchange track with the UP.
Conductor John protects the shove as the empties are shoved into the plant for loading.
Back at the car barn, there are 2 passenger cars stored inside.  Here's one of them (I thought I had taken pix of both).
And Motor #51 is getting new wheels.
Outside, Motor #54 waits to do switching at the scrapyard in the afternoon.
After this ride, I checked out the Mason City sites.  Here's the Canadian Pacific station, formerly Milwaukee Road.
They still have a turntable in their yard.
Here's the former CNW depot, near what is now Union Pacific track.
I then head up to Manly, site of a large Iowa Northern yard, and crossing of the Union Pacific.  Here's a GREAT Welcome Sign!!
There's still part of the roundhouse and a turntable here.  And check out those 2 cars awaiting restoration.
Iowa Northern has a large yard with lots of tank cars here.  I think it's an oil transloading facility.
And they are constructing a large loop track, I think for transloading intermodal.
This will be the lead to the loop.
There's some vintage stuff here, I think for Iowa Northern's Dan Sabin's planned Museum.
I had a little time before dark so I sat at the diamond of the crossing of the CP and UP and watched trains!!
Thanks to Iowa Traction's GM Michael Johns and crew members Doug and John for a most interesting ride on the Iowa Traction Railroad!!

KCS Train Ride

On Saturday, October 26, 2013, I had a special train ride on the Kansas City Southern Railroad's executive train.  I was in Kansas City for a railroad convention and the KCS graciously provided us a great ride.  We would leave the beautifully restored KC train station.  This awesome station was built in 1914 and was the third largest depot in the US and served 12 railroads.  It fell into non-use and disrepair but was renovated and now hosts 6 Amtrak trains, many shops, restaurants, museums, theaters, a model railroad room, and our Lexington Group!  Here is the station.  The large water fountain in the front was not being used.
Some inside views.  The first shot is the large waiting room which would have been filled with benches with passengers awaiting their trains.

The ceiling, during the day:
And at night:
The model railroad room has 5 layouts with many different gauge tracks.
Note the large erector set in this shot.
Two nights previously we had eaten steaks at the Fred Harvey Restaurant.  Here are Peter Espey, George Forero, and Barry Karlberg, my dinner partners.
Inside the restaurant, which was pretty dark and hard to get a good picture.
The original Fred Harvey restaurants were built to serve a hungry passenger base.  Before there were dining cars, hungry passengers had to try and find food at towns where they passed through.  There often wasn't time to get a meal and they were charged exorbitant prices.  Paul Harvey built restaurants along the way that were able to handle the crowds, at reasonable rates.  It's a fascinating history to explore.  Here's a painting of what one would look like.
I think I have now seen almost all of the famous railroad stations in the US, with the exception of Portland.  I've been to Grand Central and Penn Central in New York City, Washington, Boston South Station, Philadelphia, Chicago, St. Paul, St. Louis, Kansas City, Los Angeles, and Seattle.  Am I missing any?  Anyone want to go to Portland with me??
At the station there is an overhead walkway bridge over the railroad tracks allowing people to watch trains and access the shopping district on the other side.  This bridge was moved here from the east and west bottoms in 2006 and the tracks see 180 trains a day.
Here is our train for today.  It has 3 diesels and 11 cars.  It is called the Southern Belle.  The original Southern Belle train ran from 1940 to 1969.
Inside views of some of the cars:
Even though I was one of the first people in the cars, the small dome was already full.
That's Matt Van Hatten, senior editor of TRAINS, who I have gotten to know at these Conventions.
Yours truly in the Theater Car.
These cars are definitely First Class and KCS treated us royally with hors d'hoeurves and lunch of sandwiches and salads.  But with over 250 people aboard, we were packed and almost had to stay in any seat we could find.  We took a 52-mile ride, one way, to Amsterdam.  The bright sun made a lot of reflection on the windows.
Here's the BNSF Flyover into their large Argentine Yard, with a coal train on it.
At Amsterdam there is a wye for turning our train.
There is oil in Missouri!
KCS purchased a runway area of an abandoned Air Force base and constructed its intermodal facility here.  Here's the lead to it.
It's always fun going over bridges.
We pass a large scrapyard where they grind up steel and ship it in gons.
Good-bye to Kansas City.
My hotel was the Crowne Plaza.
KC--A great place.  I need a reason to go back and see more.  Let's see--the Kansas City Royals play baseball there . . . .