I've been corresponding by email with a young man in Iowa City named John Elliott who is a real Amtrak fan. He arranged to ride the California Zephyr west from Mount Pleasant to Lincoln on 12/31/99 and return on 1/1/00, and asked if I could be at Osceola to get pictures of the train. I told him that I'd try to be there to meet him if possible.
We drove back to Indianola and I watched the New Year arrive in New York, Washington and in Des Moines.
At the Osceola depot, Pat and J.R. had posted an optimistic 10:45 arrival for the CZ. Pat had decorated the plywood wall separating the BNSF's signal department from the remaining half of the waiting room with a sign. The new casino was supposed to open on Friday but they're having computer problems (not Y2K-related) and are off to a slow start.
My freight appeared at 10:08 with SF 802 and BNSF 4746 in charge. There was a long block of grain hoppers on the head end, followed by normal manifest stuff. They'd been told by "SLY" that they'd see how things were going when they passed the Osceola detector to decide where Amtrak would get around them. They ended up waiting at Albia for the passenger train to take the "north way".
I took advantage of the wait for Amtrak to go over to a nearby Casey's for a donut and a coffee refill. While I was in the store the phone rang. The clerk who answered it said it was someone inquiring if the casino were open yet. Interesting - it wouldn't have occured to me to call a convenience store for this information. Her reply to the caller, "No. The boat don't float."
Around 10:30 Track Inspector Ellis came through on Main 1, gave me a wave and moved on toward Creston. I'd heard no warrants given, so I figured there wouldn't be anything on the westbound for a while.
Back in the Jeep, I heard "SLY" tell the 802 that Amtrak had reported out of Creston at 10:39, so I grabbed my gear and went into the depot. One couple was waiting and, introduced by Pat, we fell into conversation. Seems they'd planned to go to Kansas City today, but "Everything was closed!" They decided on Chicago instead. I tried to sympathize with their plight. Life can be hard out here in the midwest!
Amtrak came around the bend west of the depot at 11:08. Pat was out in her party hat and home-brewed sweatshirt to greet them. The engineer and car attendants seemed very appreciative. In this morning's Zephyr:
John has promised a full description of his trip, plus some pictures taken onboard the train. I'll post these as soon as they arrive.