Thanks again guys
I'm currently on my trip but don't have a way at the moment to post photos since most are on my camera and are not downloadable onto my iPad. I'll share a few things so far.
Yesterday morning I arrived before 8am in Des Moines and grabbed my rental car. I drove around by the UP yard as I had seen an IAIS geep with some cars moving through there while on final approach. I never did see it again but did see a UP southbound pull into the yard with a patched SP AC4400. After tootling around there, I decided to head north to Ames and Boone. Had breakfast in Boone at the Whistle Stop Cafe then headed out to find the bridge. Plenty of trains had passed through the area while there but when I arrived at the bridge a WB had just cleared it and an EB was halfway across. Took some pics then spent another hour or so staring at an empty bridge. Ugh. I left and not five minutes later a WB came roaring along (of course) which I caught at the wooden bridge just west of the High Bridge. I then began my long trek to KC for my first night. Got off the freeway in Cameron and tried to follow the UP south but ended up getting totally mixed up on the backroads. Got gas in Excelsior Springs just before running out then headed for my hotel in Independence.
This morning I got up and headed for the West Bottoms, where I hung out for about an hour or so. Saw a number of trains but the overcast skies made it a bit underwhelming in pics. Headed back and checked out of the hotel and headed for Knoche Yard as one of my goals was to see a KCS train in person vs just run-through power. Just before arriving, though, I saw a KCS SD70ACe (solo) leading a SB past I think HWY 24 (just south of the yard) so I jumped back on 435 to try to catch it. Well, needless to say, I don't know my way around these roads and had bad luck trying to find it. Ended up all the way south almost to Grandview, got all turned around, drove around on back roads, and somehow stumbled upon the big concrete viaduct off of Gregory Road. I pulled off to snap some pics and voila! I heard the southbound toot it's horn intermittently as it approached. I hustled my portly frame partway up the hill and grabbed some shots of it crossing. It had a grey "mid-train" AC helper - I say "mid-train" because it was just 10 cars from the rear. What would Pres. Tom Cater from the 1979-ish Trains Mag articles say about not placing them closer to the front? Lol
After that, headed to Lenexa to grab something to eat and sit trackside. BIG waste of time. It was lunch time and plenty of traffic. Couldn't find anything appealing as I don't know my way around so I ended up getting a mediocre sub at GreatCents or whatever it is. Scarfed it down trainless in Lenexa, then followed the tracks south to Santa Fe Road before getting back on the freeway without seeing anything. I got off where the freeway crosses the ex-MP as I saw a couple of shortline units there. Turned out they were at what must be a maintenance location or something. One was a black/yellow SD45 I think while the other was a grey geep. After that, I got back on and continued west.
My day was to end in Emporia so I would periodically jump off and tootle around to find the tracks. I did see trains occasionally, such as south of the big intermodal yard in Edgarton. I got to shoot a baretable off of Idaho Rd near Pomona but nothing else came while I stood there in the heat. Again, headed west towards "downtown" Pomona only to see two trains passing each other off in the trees. Whizzed around and caught an EB Z with a pair of NS GE's leading and lots of UPS in the mix. I found a pedestrian bridge in I believe Malvern but a couple of carloads of people had just parked in the driveway to it and gotten out so I drove around the block - only to miss another intermodal rolling east. lol
Heading back to the freeway the tracks were slightly separated with separate overpasses. I decided to park adjacent to the easternmost overpass as the sun was out but it was stormy looking to the east. Of course, a train came along very quickly heading WB just like I wanted - except it was on the other track. lol Soon though an EB rolled by so I got some pics, albeit going-away shots.
Finally got to Emporia and checked into my motel on the east side of town. I then drove to the other end of town and across a bridge spanning the eastern part of the yard. I parked and walked out to the middle of the span and hung out there for about 1/2 an hour or so. Got pics of the windmill blades as well as a few trains in decent light. I headed back into town to perhaps go back to my room and get ready for dinner when I saw a WB with some unlettered blue units. I was pretty sure these were some of the GE Tier 4 test units so wanted to grab a shot or video. They were on a Z train, though, and hauling you-know-what eastbound, so I jumped on the freeway and raced to catch them. I ended up getting off in Lebo with some sunlight still out, though not ideal for an EB. Didn't have to wait long for them to arrive. I video'd the train, which had 3 of the blue GE's and two BNSF GE's and a long string of trailers behind them doing full track speed. Just before it cleared the crossing, a WB grain train blew through. It had the Santa Fe heritage hopper in it, which was cool.
After that, I headed back to town and ate at Bobby D's BBQ downtown then caught some after-dark action by the tracks, including the local with BNSF 190 (blue/yellow GP60) shoving back into the yard after switching some grain cars at an industry. I'm now back in my room and listening to train after train blowing through town.
Tomorrow I start my day in Emporia and end my day in Grand Island. Not really excited about the long drive as I've put a lot of miles on the car in the last two days. I originally wanted to get up before sunrise so I could spend a few hours trackside near Emporia but I'm starting to think I should get an early start to my drive rather than hang out here too much more. I LOVE the BNSF transcon, but my past two getaways have been along the BNSF transcon in California and New Mexico, and I live in Seattle so don't really need a huge BNSF day. I'd rather get to the UP Overland Route with some time to spare, plus allow for anything along the way. Kyle? Other?
I still need to go back and review the thread to see what the advice was on getting to Grand Island. At this stage I'll probably choose a fairly short route (versus curcuitous) but haven't gotten that far yet.
Ok, that's where I'm at as of now. I'll touch base again and let you know how it's going.