A Cold Morning on the BNSF

Saturday, January 11

I left Indianola around 7:30 on a clear and cold (5 degree) Saturday morning, and headed for Osceola.  Amtrak's "Julie" said that No. 6 was expected there at 9:06, just a half hour behind schedule.  On the radio this morning, the maintenance of way forces were being marshaled to take care of a number of broken rails, stripped joints and pull-aparts on Main 2.  A flat wheel on a coal load was suspected.  Plans were laid to move the Zephyr over to Main 1 when the train reached the 333.10 crossover at east end of Chariton.  I had a quick look around Osceola and, having heard nothing about any trains on the radio, started east toward Chariton.  As I motored down Hwy. 34 I heard 4967 West get a warrant at Albia, so I knew I'd have at least one westbound to intercept.

The low winter sun would be right behind a westbound this morning, so at Chariton I parked at Braden Ave., in the middle of the "ess" curve where there would be some light on the north side of the train.  I heard the Russell detector announce a 528 axle train on Main 1 at 8:42.  This would have been a quick trip from Halpin for 4967 or there might be another train ahead of it.  It turned out to be the latter.  At 8:46 a CEFX empty appeared, by pulled by BN 9694 and BNSF 8856, elephant style.  Judging from its length, this would have been a distributed power load when eastbound.

They were barely by when the Russell detector came on again, this time with 472 axles.  Running exactly ten minutes behind 9694 came BNSF 4967 with BN 9639 and a set of WFAX hoppers.  They rolled through the Chariton curves very slowly, apparently right on the taillight of 9694's train.

After these two westbounds had passed, the dispatcher (SDK this morning on the KC desk) let Track Inspector Cottrell put his high-railer on the north track and head out of town.  I hung around to wait for the Zephyr to stop and go through the crossover this morning.  On the radio, the track inspector called in to put a 10 mph order on a pull-apart at Woodburn.  This was the fourth defect on Main 2 I'd heard about so far this morning and a fifth, just east of Maxon, was to follow soon.

Before long I heard the passenger train report its times at Osceola to the dispatcher, 9:16 and 9:19.  I took up a position east of the crossover and waited.  At 9:40 the Zephyr came around the last corner in town and stopped to copy a warrant while the switches were being thrown to take it over to the left-hand track.  After a mandatory delay for signals to time out on their new route, the train moved forward under Hwy. 34 and crossed over to Main 1.  In the eastbound California Zephyr this morning:

AMTK 160 and 161
Baggage 1230
Transition Sleeper 39014
Coaches 34006, 34105 and 31513
Sightseer Lounge 33002
Diner 38028
Sleepers 32083 and 32050
Material 1407
One boxcar and six roadrailers
The detector at MP 328 reported 66 axles as the train entered Russell.

I decided to go over to Albia to await whatever traffic might follow.  I ended up with a long dry spell parked at old Maxon before seeing the next train.  There was time to read the Des Moines Register cover to cover, work both crossword puzzles, have some take-out lunch and get in a half-hour nap!  Just before 11:00 I heard the KC dispatcher talking to two eastbounds, 8845 and 9470, both of which were being given the slow order about 50 miles away at Woodburn.  At 12:45 the Ottumwa dispatcher (KRS today) told maintenance people to expect traffic at Maxon at 13:30.

The first train, an eastbound, finally came up the hill at 1:45.  This manifest had plenty of power, some of which was to be set out for the shops at West Burlington.  On the point were BNSF 6397, 6934, 7319, 9521 and 8289.  This train and a couple that followed were crossed over from Main 2 to Main 1 at Maxon due to the track work just to the east.  The manifest registered 454 axles on the detector near MP 298.

At 2:20 another eastbound appeared, this time a DEEX coal empty with distributed power.  Working the head end of the train was BNSF 8845 and trailing behind, BNSF 8958.  I believe the detector counted 504 axles on this one.

I noticed this afternoon that trains approaching Maxon were coming on the radio to identify their train and to give a signal indication, location and their speed.  I understand that this is a recently-issued general order and is to be done when a signal indicates less than clear prior to a control point.

From the radio I knew that a couple of additional eastbounds were approaching and I decided to intercept them down the hill somewhere.  I caught the first at 2:45 from an overpass just west of Hwy. 14, a CEFX load with BNSF 9470 and 9558 on the head end.  They reported a speed of "14 miles per hour" when calling out the signal indication near the top of the south hill.

I waited at Halpin for the second train, which came around the corner at MP 310 at 3:00.  This was another distributed power coal load, OGSX cars with BNSF 8922 on the front of the train and BNSF 9840 bringing up the rear.

At this point I figured I should head for home, so I started west on Hwy. 34.  Just as I was passing over the mainlines at Lucas, I heard dispatcher Wes Carr (WSC) giving warrants to two more eastbounds, currently at MP 370 and 378.  Since they were only thirtysome miles away, I decided to go west a little further and catch these two trains from a gravel road that parallels the rails in the river bottom between Lucas and Woodburn.

The sun was very low in the west by 4:22, when the first train came into sight.  Shooting from anywhere near the train was a bit tricky, but I positioned myself in the shadow of a utility pole and got several pictures as the distributed power brought a set of DEEX loads through the valley.  BNSF 8851 was leading with BNSF 9896 shoving on the rear of the unit coal load.

The following coal load, last train of the day for this excursion, was a set of BN cars with BN 9766 on the point and with BNSF 9860 doing the distributed power duties in the rear.

That's It!