Russell, Chariton, Des Moines and Beech

February 1 and 3

Thursday, February 1 - Russell and Chariton

Thursday morning, while supervising a Fundamentals II lab, I began browsing realty sites to see what sort of properties I might find near the BNSF mainline in southern Iowa.  It's time for me to be thinking about what I'm going to do to entertain myself as a retired person.  This day's daydream was to have a railfan bed and breakfast with an observation deck, a couple of guest rooms, the "Rock Island" room and the "Burlington" room, with memorabilia and scanner hookups, maybe a webcam, heck, a caboose in the yard!

Anyway, I found a very interesting looking fixer-upper (I've got a few years to work on the place before I actually pull the pin) in Russell.  The realtor's site provided a link to MapQuest, and the map showed the house to be on the south side of the tracks and the property adjacent to the right of way.  After I got done with my labs at 11:30, I decided to take my lunch (a.k.a. "dinner" in southern Iowa) time to investigate.

It was cold (10 degrees), getting colder, and beginning to snow when I got to Russell.  Without paying attention to house numbers, I looked where the map showed the house to be.  The map location was a short dead-end street that had not been plowed this winter and which had no building.  I looked at the address printed on the map and at a nearby house number and decided that the property must be on the other side of town.  Sure enough, although the address printed at the top of their map turned out to be correct, MapQuest had misplaced the structure.  Unfortunately, the house was actually about a block from the tracks with a huge barn-like building blocking the view of the BNSF.  Too bad, in other respects it looked like exactly what I needed, and the asking price was right:  $23,500.

It was about 12:30 and I was making a trip around the block where the house was situated when I heard airhorns.  I got to the grade crossing just as a DEEX/DETX coal empty came through behind BNSF 8801 and a second orange thing I didn't identify.  I drove back into Chariton to find some lunch.  The coal empty was stopped east of town, waiting on a reversed eastbound to cross over at Shannon.  By the time I'd picked up some slowfood at Hardee's and returned to the tracks, they were headed out of town and down Whitebreast Hill.  I knew that the eastbound train would be coming uphill pretty soon and I'd also heard another westbound get a warrant at Halpin earlier.

The westbound showed up first, at 1:23.  This turned out to be a manifest, with blocks of automobiles and coil steel in the consist.  On the point were BNSF 5469, BN 6391 and BNSF 4456.  They met the eastbound, a DEEX load, in the yard area at Chariton.  The coal train had BNSF 8915 and 9847 in charge.  After seeing these two trains I headed back north for home.

Saturday, February 3 - Des Moines and Beech

We had another cloudy winter Saturday  in central Iowa, but after doing some housework and some homework, I decided to see what the UP was up to along the "Spine Line" today.  I headed out of Indianola around 10:45, thinking that I might catch a southbound at Carlisle.  Just before 11:00 I heard the detector between Carlisle and Hartford (MP 61.6) sound off and figured I'd missed one.  The siding at Carlisle held a parked manifest, with the crossing cut and no power anywhere around.  There was conversation on the radio that made it sound like a relief crew was being taken to Beech.

I made my way up through Avon to the Hwy. 65 cutoff and went back down into the NS's Glake Yard.  I found two units sitting on the wye, BN 8076 and BNSF 4256.  A crew van with just a driver aboard was waiting near the yard office, so I figured there might be a train on its way up from Albia.  I drove out east along the tracks for a distance, but saw nothing of interest save a herd of deer crossing the road.

I got to Short Line Junction right at noon, just as a southbound arrived and headed around the northeast leg into the yard.  This train had four units, UP 9201, 9291 (experiencing some diesel indigestion, apparently), 1643 and 2409.  They rounded the curve, headed down the west lead and into one of the yard tracks.  As the front of the train reached the east end of the yard, someone commented on the radio that "This 1643's been cornered somewhere".  The reply, was "Yeah, they had a little trouble up in Mason with it."  That remark provoked a, "Ya tattletale son of a gun!"  The yardmaster, referred to on the radio today as, "Tower", said that they were making the DMVP on 1 and the DMKC on the main.

Meantime, I'd heard a warrant given to CNW 6811 South and to UP 3293 North at Beech.  Before long 6811, the ITCK, called in to say that their lead unit was kicking the ground relay and that of their engines, they had only one working unit.  They said that the trailing unit, UP 6016, would run but was tagged as having a leaking exhaust manifold.  They were told to come back to Des Moines to pick up another unit, UP 6341.

At 12:30, a yard job came down from the north to be challenged for right of way by several motorists (Is it way past time to put gates on Dean Avenue?) before taking their cut of cars around the northeast leg into Short Line Yard.  On the point, UPY 1005.

I could see and hear the BNSF switching just south at the NS yard and noticed that they were apparently putting together a very long cut of cars.  I drove down to Maury where the power was shoving back to the north (west).  They didn't quite clear the street however, and sat in the middle of the grade crossing.  The NS/BNSF rails and the UP line cross Maury with about an automobile of clearance between.  A northbound UP train was pulling up to the BN crossing, so I drove around the waiting cars and turned south down a driveway to get another angle on the BNSF power, 4234 and 2328.  The engines were slipping and bumping as they struggled to get the long line of cars moving.

The UP northbounder, with UP 3293 and SP 7499, stopped south of the diamond at 1:24.  I noticed both here and up at Short Line Junction that the UP's been changing over to wireless communication with the signals in the interlocking plant.  I drove back to the old tower location to watch 3293 come into the yard.  Around 1:40 the MIC announced that they had trains called for 2:00 and 3:00, and light power called for 3:15.  After I got situated and lined up my picture, Brer Fox popped out of the brush and looked both ways before crossing in front of me and the train.  UP 3293 took the switch onto the southeast leg and rolled into the yard at 1:47.

As the northbound entered the yard, I observed a cloud of bluish-white smoke come up from behind the train.  This brought a remark on the radio, "I love it when you put it in eight." (ala American Grafitti's "Peel out..."?)  At 2:20 a westbound Iowa Interstate train called to say that it was stopped at University Avenue, and was told to come on down and to go through the yard on track four.

Around 2:30 the lead two units from the train I'd seen come in earlier, UP 9201 and 9291, were sent out the southeast leg to turn for the DMKC.  They ran north across the diamond and backed in on the northeast leg so that the 9291 would still be the trailing unit when they left Des Moines later in the afternoon.  While they navigated the wye, the west lead switch job waited, with CNW 1307 and UPY 542.  After the yard job got out of the road, the IAIS was allowed to proceed.  They pulled around 3:00 and came through the junction with IAIS 325 and 800.

At 3:13 the next train to yard at Short Line arrived from the north.  This was the BYDM, with UP 2980 and 2999.  On the radio I heard the IAIS train ask where they were to meet the "east train".  They were told that it was just out of Adair and that they might meet it at Booneville.  After the BYDM yarded I decided to take a run through Indianola to cycle Lester the Cat in/out and to then head out to Beech to see the DMKC and the rescue power for CNW 6811 come through.  On the way home I heard IAIS 325 get a warrant out of West Des Moines at 3:47.

After a quick stop in Indianola, I started east on Hwy. 92.  At 4:15 the DMKC, UP 9201 South, got its warrant to go to Beech and shortly after that UP 6341 was given a warrant as well.  I heard the detector at 61.6 announce the first of these at 4:30 and the second, "...axle count six", at 4:43.  The sun appeared briefly

At Beech I found CNW 6811 and three other units, SP 9697, UP 9177 and UP 6016, sitting on the main.  From the pattern on the rails, it was obvious that a train had been in the siding the last time it snowed here.  A portion of 6811's train had been cut off and left north of Beech's only grade crossing.  Just before 5:00, the headlights of the DMKC appeared up north where the siding curves away to the north.  They pulled slowly through the siding and stopped beside the 6811.  The conductor threw the switch and they were on their way under my observation point, a wooden overpass left over from the Rock Island days.  As they left, a call was placed to the dispatcher asking that the "...diesel doctor call us."  It was after 6:00 before they got the call back and were able to report that they'd cut out the No. 4 traction motor in one of their units because of a "flashover".

At 5:15 UP 6341 came into sight at the north end of the siding and, with a couple of stops along the way, proceeded down the siding until they were beside 6811.  They pulled onto the main just short of the signal and waited for a time, then moved on south enough to allow the switch to be thrown and backed onto the train.  The day was fading fast and shutter speed was down to 1/8 second by the time that last shot was taken.  I hung around for a while as they M-U'd the fresh engine onto the rest of the power and tested the brakes.  Putting the rest of the train together and getting it ready to go south was obviously going to take some time, so I drove back home and monitored the activity on the scanner.

That's It!