Ottumwa Train Show
February 1, 1997


Saturday was partly cloudy and warming from an overnight low above freezing for a change. Jan and I left Indianola around 8:00, bound for Ottumwa and a rendezvous at the train meet in Quincy Mall with Harry Grossman. Harry directs the Carl Sandburg College Train Show, held in conjunction with Galesburg Railroad Days.

From the scanner, we knew that the UP had a couple of opposing trains and a track rider out on the Spine Line south of Des Moines. We intercepted the northbound, behind UP 3095, B4315, and 3677, in front of the old Rock Island depot in Melcher at 8:55. This train, probably the KSIT, was to meet 6838 South at Beech.

We drove on south to Chariton and apparently just missed a westbound, BN 9462, that we'd heard get a warrant at Albia around 8:30. They told the dispatcher that they were "all by MP 333" just as we pulled up to the tracks at 333.1. We figured that there would probably be no more eastbound traffic ahead of Amtrak, and we'd heard no other warrants given for westbounds after 9462, so we headed on east for Ottumwa.

At the west end of the CP yard, which is right beside highway 34, we could see a westbound headlight, but the train was hidden behind autoracks in the yard. I made a quick loop onto the CP property to see SOO 757 and 6031, which were parked near the yard office. We heard the CP dispatcher talking to a westbound waiting at the top of the hill at Rutledge and heard Amtrak get a warrant at Albia, so we went to the BN/CP diamond to wait for two trains.

At 10:55, ATK 840, 509 and 2 came by with their short Saturday train of only 7 Superliners. In tow: Material Cars 1427 and1552, Baggage 1268, and Superliners 39007, 32058, 32056, 38000, 33022, 34076 and 34074. They made a quick stop at the Ottumwa depot a few blocks east of us and were on the way again at 11:01.

The waiting CP train came down the hill and across the diamond immediately after ATK cleared. Westbound train 511 crossed the BNSF mains at 11:06 behind CPRail 5989 and 6408 (with flags). This train had quite a few green CPRail box cars in it, and we noticed that there were a number of them in the yard at Ottumwa, also.

We went back south across the Des Moines River and over to the Mall to find Harry and check out the Train Show. BNSF dispatcher Kevin Shelen, "KRS", had driven up from Ft. Worth to direct HO scale traffic on a modular layout in the mall.

Around 2:00, we decided to start working our way back west toward home. We left Ottumwa just as a westbound BNSF train was coming through town, and managed to get ahead of it on the way to Albia. There, we drove to Maxon, the east end of a section of CTC where the BNSF mains are separated so that eastbound, uphill, traffic has a lighter grade.

The first of five trains to arrive in quick succession was an eastbound coal load of DEEX cars. They hit the top of the grade at 2:47, with three "Eddie Bauers", BN 9414, 9456 and 9448 on the point. On this (relatively) warm afternoon, the engineer had the window open and gave us a friendly wave as the train passed. On the MACs, the windows are so dark and thick that you normally can't tell from the outside if anyone's in there!

The next train, just 5 minutes later, was westbound intermodal (probably train 65) traffic behind SF 5844 and BN 8023. I could hear the horns of trains approaching from both directions and Jan, listening to the scanner, reported that another eastbound was on the way up the hill. I was having trouble deciding on which side of the double track to wait (you train photographers recognize the dilemma). Before the eastbound got to us, we had a westbound unit train of covered hoppers with BN 7269 and 5081 on the point.

At 3:20, before the empty grain hoppers were out of sight, the next coal load made it to Maxon. Its BN gons were pulled by BN 7159, OWY 9018 and BN 5067 (w/red number boards). Unaware that more traffic was nearby, we drove east to check out a dead engine, BN 5130, another with red number boards, on the eastbound siding.

As we left Maxon, we heard talk on the scanner indicating that we had another westbound train coming. I parked at the first grade crossing west of Maxon, and at 3:34, we watched another coal empty go by. This train had OGSX cars and had BN 9527 and 9658 on the point. We paced this train back to the west, passing right over the head end on the highway 34 overpass at Chariton. At the bottom of Whitebreast Hill, just east of Lucas, we stopped and took one more image of 9527 before turning north toward Indianola.

That's It!