Saturday, August 9, 2008

High Bridge High

On the evening of Thursday, August 7, I was guided by a former co-worker on a tour of the Boone, IA area. First thing, I want to say thanks to Dick for the information and the tour-it was great!

And on to the trains. If your idea of Iowa is that it's one huge, flat cornfield, prepare to be surprised. There are a lot of flat cornfields, but that's not all there is. The Kate Shelley High Bridge is the tallest and longest double track railroad bridge in the United States. Of course I have some photos, but they don't (and can't) convey the scale of what you are looking at when you first see this bridge.

A replacement bridge is currently under construction right alongside the existing bridge. It is a huge project, projected to cost more than $40 million. The new bridge will allow trains to cross at track speed rather than the slower speed they are now limited to, and is supposed to accomodate heavier cars as well.

But before we get to the bridge itself, we have to travel through Boone. On the way into town we encountered a westbound UP merchandise train that was stopped for a crew change. It was a handsome assembly with matched EMD comfort cab locomotives sporting the classic UP "wings" on the nose.

There was an eastbound ballast train waiting to depart in the yard, and I took some backlit shots but nothing that is worthy of posting. I was excited at the amount of activity we were seeing, though.

Dick drove around Boone a bit, showing me the Boone & Scenic Valley RR facilities. This was a nice looking area with a lot of interesting equipment and I would like to visit sometime when I could ride that operation.

Next we headed west of town, visiting an old overpass, where we found an empty coal train stopped well east of the overpass. I again shot him but he was so far away there wasn't much to see.

Next stop was the high bridge itself. We viewed it from the north, off the Wagon Wheel Bridge, which crosses the Des Moines River just a few hundred yards from the Kate Shelley. As soon as I got out of the vehicle I heard a train blowing for a crossing to the west, and figured he had to be an eastbound as we had not seen anything headed that way. In just a couple of minutes he rolled out onto the bridge, with three units leading a stack train. I put my batteries to the test as he crossed the river.

This was a high powered stacker, as he had two units on the tail end as well, with at least one of them operating.

It was quite a treat to get to see a train cross the bridge, and under sunny skies as well. The new construction currently taking place is very obvious in these photos. There is an extensive construction area at the west end of the bridge, which we drove by a bit later.

We ran back to the overpass I mentioned earlier to watch the stack train pass under it, and I snapped the DPU's going away. That was my first experience with seeing stack trains with DPU power.

We ran down to Moingona, the site of the bridge where Kate performed her heroics, and got a look at the plaques and depot in that location. It's a nice display and said it was open by appointment.

Passing through Boone on the return trip, the sun was getting very low, and there were trains waiting to leave the yard and waiting to enter the yard. First, the train waiting to leave, a nice glint shot.

The light was very nice for that shot. After waiting for what seemed like half an hour for the westbound, we finally headed out toward him and arrived at a crossing just as he started to pull. We simply ran out of light by the time we had a shot.

Here's one more, of Dick as he catches the eastbound waiting to leave Boone yard.

All I can say is thanks, Dick, for the tour. It was a great evening and I would have never seen all this without your help.

Later, Jim

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