Millennium Amtrak
December 31 and January 1

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.

New Year's Eve

Friday evening, Jan and I drove down to Osceola. The BNSF had pretty well shut everything down except for Amtrak, and No. 5 was actually running a few minutes ahead of schedule tonight. In the train:
GEnesis units 24 and 79
Baggage 1577 and 1132
Transition Sleeper 37014
Coaches 34028, 34026, 34057 and 31515
Sightseer Lounge 33020
Diner 38010
Sleeping Cars 32069 and 32026
Two boxcars (71172 and one grafitti'd over)
Material Car 1430
I walked back to the lounge car where John had said he'd be waiting and got his picture through window. The train waited until schedule time, 9:47, before leaving for Creston. During the pause, station attendant Pat Green showed off the "Millennuim" sweatshirt she'd created.

We drove back to Indianola and I watched the New Year arrive in New York, Washington and in Des Moines.

New Year's Day

On Saturday morning I awoke around 5:30 to dispatcher "SSW" sending a train eastward out of Creston. I'd locked the bedside scanner on the Kansas City desk just to see when things cranked up again. I checked the Amtrak web site and found that No. 6 was about 2 hours down. That would give me plenty of time to organize things at home and still be in Osceola for the train. Around 9:00 I left Jan to work on her sermon for tomorrow and headed back down to Osceola. Near New Virginia I heard "SLY" give a warrant to ATSF 802 East, which reported out of Creston at 9:20, so I knew I'd catch at least one freight train this morning.

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:

GEnesis Units 10 and 8
Baggage 1740
Transition Sleeper 39042
Coaches 34012, 35006, 34069 and 31509 (Smoking)
Sightseer Lounge 33022
Diner 38022
Sleepers 32002 and 32017
Baggage 1003
Boxcars 71091 and 71104
Express 1717
I checked the lounge, but John was nowhere to be found this morning. He was probably catching up on his sleep! They made a three minute stop and were away at 11:12.

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.

That's It!