Quincy Mall Train Show

Ottumwa

Saturday, February 26



Late Winter, early Spring, a sunny Saturday morning!  After several wet weekends we finally had a really good-looking day in central Iowa.  I was on the road at 6:00 and headed for Ottumwa.  It was clear and cool, in the low 20's with a bright moon just past full and beginning to wane.  I listened to the scanner as I drove to Knoxville and on down toward Albia.  At 6:34 I heard a westbound with 488 axles on the detector at MP 298, just east of Maxon.  I wouldn't make it there in time for that one.  I heard them call the KC desk for a warrant - a UP lead unit, 8196.

I was running along beside the Des Moines branch just north of Albia when the detector announced another westbound.  I went directly to the west end of the yard and could see the headlights in the distance when I arrived just before dawn at 6:50.  The train, a set of empty PSTX cars, was led by BNSF 5685 and 5629.  I watched them roll down the hill under the moon, still visible in the early morning western sky.

I spent a few minutes looking around and managed to miss a third empty in the fleet of westbounds, led by BN 9414.  I called to check on Amtrak and learned that No. 6 was three hours and forty minutes late, expected at Ottumwa at 12:39.  From the radio I learned that an eastbound was ready to start up the hill, so I headed for the "packing house" (aka "double") crossing in the southeast corner of Albia.  Along the way, I found this 6-axle unit, RLCX 3005, parked on a stub track in the Appenoose County railroad yard.

The eastbound was invited up Albia Hill by dispatcher KRS, but told that they would be waiting at Maxon because there were two broken rails ahead east of Ottumwa on Agency Hill.  I heard them on the radio reporting, "Approach to Maxon, 11 MPH", and they came into sight, grinding up the hill, at 7:22.  The lead unit BNSF 8885, came by and a few minutes later UCEX hoppers had passed and the rear end, with BNSF 9905, rounded the curve over the two crossings.  Apparently too many motorists have been short-cutting the crossings and barricades have been placed in the maintenance road beside the BNSF rails.

Shortly, 8885 was given a warrant to come ahead to the ICE crossing at Ottumwa.  The detector reported the distributed power train at 532 axles.  I went to Hwy. 34 and drove on east to Ottumwa.  At about 7:30 I heard a westbound, BNSF 5697, getting a warrant to come from Fairfield and figured I would catch them in Ottumwa.  I intercepted them just east of the depot at 8:15.  5697 was leading, with CSX 91, and a set of DEEX cars.

The Ottumwa Sub. dispatcher made a plan to cross his eastbounds over to Main 1 to get them around the work on the broken rails.  They would run "left-handed" between MP 278.1, just east of the Ottumwa yard, and a crossover at Fairfield.  By later in this morning there would be five coal loads stacked up and waiting east of Ottumwa.  I drove out to Iowa Avenue to wait for traffic at the bottom of Agency Hill.  Pretty soon Iowa railfan Dave Kroeger showed up and I climbed into his pickup for a visit with Dave and his son Garrett.

At my suggestion, Dave put in a call to the BNSF's dispatching center and we asked KRS why he wasn't at the Quincy Mall today running toy trains.  Kevin's stayed active in the Great River club and often does attend this event.  As always, we were treated to a short diatribe about how superior the BNSF was to the Union Pacific.  Interestingly, a few days later the BNSF dispatchers in Fort Worth staged a short walkout over personal leave time.  At 8:30 Dave and I jumped out of our vehicles for an eastbound, BNSF 9898 and BN 9415 with FSTX cars.

At 9:00 I went to the Amtrak depot and walked to the far west end of the platform for the next coal load.  This was the same train I'd seen on Albia Hill earlier, BNSF 8885 leading and 9905 in the rear.  Later Saturday, after I was back at home, I received a picture of myself taking pictures of 8885 from Joel Vander Molen.  He and his dad were down from Pella for the train show and to do some train-watching today.  Joel does most of the maintenance on the Rock Island Technical Society's site these days.

I went west to the last grade crossing east of the ICE diamonds to wait on an eastbound that was parked at the ICE crossover.  At 9:30 a track smoothing gang came west on Main 2 and crossed over  in front of the eastbound.  Tom Cottrell stopped his machine and visited, opening with the usual, "When are you going to retire?" question.  While we talked, Foreman Elva Sheets stopped in his truck and called KRS to get a warrant for his gang to go west.  Bringing up the rear of the equipment parade was an endloader pulling a load of ballast.

I waited quite a while for the eastbound to move, but finally gave up at 10:30 and went across town to the Quincy Mall to check out the train show.  There seemed to be a pretty good collection of vendors this year and the Burlington "Great River" club was present with their modular HO setup.  Among the numerous familiar sections of the layout was one that I didn't recognize with a nicely-detailed elevator, mill and used tractor lot.  After visiting with a number of old friends at the show, I got some take-out and went back over to the BNSF mains.

The first train through, at 11:45, was a distributed power UCEX train with BN 9683 in front and BNSF 9926 on the rear.  They were told by the dispatcher that they would be waiting at Fairfield for Amtrak today.  I went back to Iowa Avenue for the next one, another DP coal load at 12:10, with BNSF 8927 in front of a set of FURX cars.  BNSF 2951 was waiting to go east out of the Ottumwa yard as the coal train's rear unit, BNSF 9731, passed.

Next stop was the depot again for another eastbound.  This one came through the passenger shelters at 12:20 with BNSF 9846 on the point and BNSF 5713 behind the GEAX/GCCX cars.  The detector on Agency Hill reported this one at 528 axles.  Another coal load appeared at 12:50, CEFX/DTCX tub gons with BNSF 9432 and BNSF 9602 in the lead.

At about the same time, I heard Amtrak getting a warrant to come from Maxon (Albia) to Ottumwa.  The headlights of the Zephyr appeared at 1:11.  They pulled their very short train into the depot on Main 1 and stopped at 1:13.  Behind, I could see another coal train waiting at the ICE diamonds on Main 2.  My camera battery indicator started flashing during the last couple of shots, so I hustled back to the Jeep, swapped batteries and drove over to the south side of the rails to catch the coal load coming through.  The load came by the Zephyr at 1:17 with BNSF 8931 on the front and BNSF 8887 shoving hard on the rear.  They did manage to get clear of the depot before the passenger train pulled out at 1:33.

In the California Zephyr today:
AMTK 100 and 25
Baggage 1734
Transition Sleeper 39007
Sleepers 32083 and 32044
Diner 38068
Sightseer Lounge 33043
Coaches 34138, 31031 and 31011.
Nothing on the rear, only 44 axles today.
After the smoke cleared, the local came west out of the yard about 2:00 with a long string of syrup tanks.  I caught them west near the ICE diamonds where I had a visit with several other 'buffs, including UP MOP John Smith from Marshalltown.  The local had BNSF 2278 and 4257 on the point.  I made a quick stop in Albia on the way home to get this power, BNSF 780, parked in the yard behind the spreader that was in the first picture of the day.

Running Extra:


Boone and Scenic Valley Valentine Dinner Train - February 12

Susan and I took the B&SV's dinner train on Saturday evening.  There was a rather large crowd on hand to board.  It appeared that the train, which was running Friday, Saturday and Monday nights, had sold out.  The food, in spite of being catered by a local grocery chain, was very tasty.  When we got back, I got a couple of shots of our car, BSVY 4810, ex-UP "City of Los Angeles".  Up front, a couple of the passengers persuaded the engineer to run over some coins for them.


CIGRS Meeting - February 22

The regular monthly meeting of the Central Iowa Garden Railroad Society was held at the Washington Township Schoolhouse west of Minburn on Sunday afternoon.  We had a fine potluck lunch and I got a few pictures of the affair.  Trains were running in the old school gymnasium and back in the dining room people were showing off their models.  Among the pieces of work were a B&B with an illuminated sign, a scratchbuilt stockcar under construction and a work bunkhouse made from a passenger combine.

That's It!