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Iowa Interstate QJ Trip Des Moines to Council Bluffs

by Chris Guenzler

I saw a post on on the Steam Board about this trip and I called the phone number and got the address to send the check. I called Bob Cox thinking he might like to do this but due to other pending matters he couldn't. Chris Parker was next on my list and at first he was going to go but his business partner talked him out of it. I checked rental cars in Council Bluffs and it worked out. I then got my rental car at Kirksville to get me to Des Moines. Carole Walker of Belle Vista Travel got me my needed hotel rooms and I got my Amtrak Tickets in coach to La Plata to save money. With that all I had to do was wait for the tickets in the mail and returns in my E-mail of the places I wanted to visit. No one returned my E mails so I had to make phone calls instead. I learned that the Omaha Zoo Train wasn't running. I got through to the Durham Museum and found out about doing it. The UP Museum is free so that was no problem and the Rock Island Depot Rail West Museum's Karla agreed to open it up for me. I lived until the day of this trip and my mother drove me down to the Santa Ana Train Station. From Marti I learned Surfliner 583 was running late so I bought a Metrolink ticket for the trip to Los Angeles.

Metrolink 609 11/08/2010

I boarded the cab car on this five car Metrolink train to get me to Los Angeles in plenty of time to catch the Southwest Chief. The train ran fast and got me to LAUPT early this early evening. I walked over and sat on a bench to wait for the Southwest Chief to pull in. Surfliner 583 pulled in just before the Southwest Chief backed in.

Southwest Chief 4 11/08/2010

I boarded Coach 34058 and was given seat 67 at the forward wall. The train consisted of Engines 171 and 80, Baggage 1234, Amfleet Coach 82530, Transition 39030, Sleepers 32068 and 32111 Texas, Diner 38019, Lounge 33018 and Coaches 34058 and 34048. The front of the coach filled up and the train left LAUPT on time. The excellent Amtrak Conductor Dave Arthur took my ticket and then I asked him about upgrading to a sleeper. There was a lady smoking in the last coach and using vulgar language who was removed during our longer than normal Fullerton stop. Dave got back to move me once we were in Santa Ana Canyon and sold me Room 20 in the Transition Car. He helped me with my luggage and I took out my new computer and started writing the story as I listening to some music. I took fresh air at San Bernardino before I finished writing. I sat back and enjoyed the climb up and over Cajon Pass before I made up my room for the night.

11/09/2010 I was up by 6:30 AM and went straight to the Dining Car and was seated at a table by myself. The train crossed Canyon Diablo just before sunrise and I enjoyed French Toast and Bacon. I went back to bed waking up fully after Gallup. I read USA Today as the Cowboys finally fired Wade Phillips and enjoyed the passing New Mexico countryside.

A tree in its full fall colors near Azac as we made our way east towards Albuquerque. We arrived there early and I detrained to a 45 degree late morning with a jacket needed. I was in the Dining Car having lunch with a mother and her son going to Galesburg then the bus to Davenport as we left Albuquerque on time. I enjoyed the Angus Steak Burger and vanilla ice cream for dessert. I was really enjoying the new earlier Southwest Chief schedule as we made our way towards Lamy. We meet the southbound New Mexico Railrunner train at Bernalillo. From there it was clear running to Lamy. The train climbed through Apache Canyon then up and over Glorieta Pass. On our descent down the north side of Glorieta Pass at Fox the westbound Southwest Chief was in the siding waiting for us to clear. We dropped down the grade all the way to the Pecos River before we climbed and we went through the Chapple "S" curves and by Starvation Peak. From there the train made its way into Las Vegas which we arrived into early this mid afternoon.

Fall colors in Shoemaker Canyon.

Just north of Shoemaker Canyon.

Interesting shadows upon the landscape.

That stream near French looked great this late afternoon. We arrived into a cold and windy Raton ten minutes early and I took a nice long fresh air break. Once on the move again at 5:00 PM I went to the dining car for dinner. I was seated with a couple from outside Tulsa and a woman from State College, PA. I had the steak and the lemon sorbet for dessert. I caught up the story on the way to La Junta, our next fresh air stop. After that I made up my room and called it a night.

11/10/2010 I woke up after they fueled our engines at the BNSF Argentine Yard and headed straight to the dining car for a breakfast of French Toast and bacon with two ladies going to Cleveland. The train stopped in Kansas City and I found Andrew who told me to strip the sheets off the bed which I did. The train left KC on time with me watching the second disc of "Milwaukee Road 261 through the Years". The new section of track east of Congo where they took out some curves is now 70 MPH track. The train crossed the Missouri River at Sibley then sped the rest of the way across northeast Missouri to La Plata where I detrained a most happy train rider this morning on time.

La Plata 11/10/2010

I dropped off the rest of the VHS Tapers Jim Nowell donated to Bob Cox. I then got a ride to the Depot Inn & Suites where I got the key to the Pullman Suite. I then checked E-mail before I took a Sauna Bath which was wonderful. I then downloaded a new ViewNX and Nikon Transfer so I could put the pictures in my story. I uploaded the story as Enterprise called telling me they only had a four door truck and if I wanted it they would deliver it. I signed up for a car so it would be later today until they would bring it to me. Then there were no pictures in the story. Time to go see Shivam at Trainparty taking the golf cart and after 40 minutes we came up with the solution. I returned to the Depot Inn & Suites where I changed the size of the pictures to the right size for the story. With that done, I took the golf cart out to the Chris Guenzler Million Mile Lookout Point and had a westbound BNSF grain train going by when I got there.

This BNSF grain train had a DPU on the rear.

My favorite path in the whole wide world. With that I returned to the Depot Inn & Suites for an afternoon to relax. Later I got the rental car then went to the Red Rooster for dinner before relaxing the rest of the evening.

11/11/2010 I got up at 5:30 AM and was out of the Depot Inn & Suites after I had breakfast, checked e-mail and checked out. I drove north of US Highway 63 and this rental car was acting weird. It accelerated up hills and dropped speeds going down hills. Just before Bloomfield, IA I was enjoying the morning Iowa countryside when I crested a hill doing 75. I saw a car off the road and dropped my speed but I got pulled over by the Bloomfield Police. When I explained what was going on with this car he wrote the ticket for 60 MPH in a 55 MPH zone. I was happy with that getting my first ever speeding ticket which I could mail in by December 12, 2010. I drove north to the junction of Iowa 138 which I took west to Pella where I made my only planned stop on the way to Des Moines.

The Pella Rock Island Station. From here I drove the 42 miles into Des Moines and parked in the Science World Parking Garage for my steam trip to Council Bluffs.

The Chinese Rocket to Council Bluffs 11/11/2010

Here I found Randy and Dave and after a few minutes they checked me in for the trip. I talked with Steve Sandburg of the Milwaukee Road 261 who would be our engineer west of Atlantic on this trip. We heard the train coming and I went up on the parking structure to catch the train coming into the Rock Island Station to pick us up for the trip to Council Bluffs.


The QJ 7081 pulling into the Des Moines Rock Island Station.

I walked over to get my luggage and took this picture of the rear of the QJ 7081. I boarded the train and took the forward table in the Abraham Lincoln. The train consisted of QJ 7081, Water Car, Tool Car, Diner Abraham Lincoln and Business Car Hawkeye. The train left at 10:19 AM and we were on our way to Council Bluffs. I decided to ride out on the open platform of the Hawkeye.

Our journey started rolling west along the Raccoon River.

Curving out of Des Moines.

The Raccoon River.

A junction with a former CNW line in West Des Moines.

Crossing Walnut Creek.

The Raccoon River.

West Des Moines.

The train curving in West Des Moines.

The siding in West Des Moines.

One more look at the Raccoon River.

Rolling along Commerce Avenue in Commerce.

Old Rock Island ABS Signals.

Rolling west between the trees.

Crossing a creek.

More ex Rock Island signals.

The train takes another slight curve on this railroad.

The siding at Booneville.

Booneville, IA.

Crossing the Raccoon River just west of Booneville.

The Raccoon River.

The train took several curves along our route.

Crossing another creek.

Passing Milepost 379.

More Rock Island signals.

Desoto, IA.

Climbing the grade.

Crossing another creek.

We then crossed another creek.

Looking back down the straight track.

The grain elevator in Earlham.

Earlham, IA.

The siding at Earlham will be extended in the future.

Looking back down the straight rails.

Crossing over Interstate 80.

Grain elevator at Dexter.

Curving into Stuart.

Stuart, IA.

The speedometer cable came lose on the engine and we stopped at Stuart to fix it before we continued west.

The ex Rock Island Station in Stuart as we left town heading west.

Iowa Countryside.

The large Ethanol Plant at Menlo, IA.

Menlo, IA.

A look back at a curve west of Menlo.

Crossing another creek.

Casey, IA.

Looking back.

Crossing another creek.

Adair, IA.

Dropping down the grade from Adair.

It was along here on July 21, 1873---The James-Younger Gang's first train robbery (and the first train robbery west of the Mississippi River) happened on this date. Nine gang members (and possibly one or two more) participated in this robbery. Namely, Jesse James, Frank James, Cole Younger, Jim Younger (who decided to rejoin the gang), John Younger, Clell Miller, Bill Chadwell, and newcomers Bob Younger and Charlie Pitts. The gang's target was the Chicago, Rock Island, & Pacific Railroad. A train of that company was coming through Adair, Iowa on July 21, 1873. The gang met near Adair. While two of the gang ate a meal at a house near the train station, the other seven men stole a tie hammer and a spike bar from a handcar house. A short time later, all the gang met up about a mile and a half away from the depot. The nine men used the hammer and spike bar to pry off the fishplate connecting two rails of the track, and then they pulled out the spikes. A rope was tied to the end of the disconnected north rail and it was slid under the end of the south rail. The gang then hid nearby in a small bank and held onto the rope. A short time later, the train came down the tracks. The gang had intended for the train to halt, but it didn't. Instead, Engineer John Rafferty slammed on the air brakes and the train derailed. Two cars went on their sides into a nearby ditch. Other cars laid on their sides. Rafferty was crushed by the engine and instantly killed. Fireman Dennis Foley was also seriously injured. The passengers were scared and some were wounded. The gang was shocked. Nevertheless, half of them boarded the train while the other half stayed outside holding the horses. They went to the express car and ordered, at gun point, guard John Burgess to open the safe. Burgess did this, but only $2,000 was in the safe. The gang took this. Disappointed that there wasn't more money, they decided to go through the passenger cars and order the passengers to give up their jewelry and money. They stole only from men, not women or children. While they were stealing the money from passengers, Cole told the passengers they had not intended to kill or physically harm anyone. While this was going on inside the train, the gang members outside were shooting their guns into the air to keep the passengers inside the cars. After the gang finished with the passengers (gaining only an extra $1,000 from them), they ran outside, jumped on their horses, and vanished.

The wind mill farm of western Iowa. I went back inside and grabbed my computer and took the pictures out of the camera and put them into the computer. I got them all numbered as the train pulled into Atlantic, IA for a thirty minute stop.

Click here for Part 2 of this story