Quincy Mall Meet in Ottumwa

March 3



Saturday morning I started out for Ottumwa just after 7:00 in a fairly thick morning fog.  The temperature was around 20 degrees.  I'd checked the Amtrak web site, which listed No. 6 as an hour and fiftyeight down.  Just after leaving, I heard the Kansas City desk dispatcher, (SLY this morning) talking to a track inspector, say that he had three loads, one just coming into Chariton, one at Woodburn and one at Osceola.

It looked like I had a chance of intercepting the last one somewhere along the way if I didn't catch up to too many any cautious motorists on Hwy. 65.  I had clear sailing and made good time in the fog until just a mile or so from Hwy. 34.  By this time I'd heard the second train telling the third that they'd made the top of Whitebreast hill, and there were EOT buzzes coming in on my scanner.  I got to the crossing just east of Shannon as the gates were going down and caught BNSF 9760 coming out of the mist to take the signal at the base of the grade.  It was 7:38.

I hurried up the hill on 34 and went to the Braden Ave. grade crossing in Chariton to wait for them.  A snow "mountain" at the end of the city parking lot provided a convenient perch from which to take pictures.  The lights were flashing and the bells ringing long before the train became visible rounding the curve east of the depot. BN 9760 and BN 9642 came through town at 7:58, leading their GEAX cars off into the foggy morning.

From the radio I learned that a work train, with BN 1406,was being put together in the yard at Chariton.  I didn't even look, figuring I wouldn't be able to see it this morning anyway!

After a quick coffee and donut stop, but before heading on east toward Albia, I stopped to get some pictures of the Charitone Hotel.  Dad took mom to the restaurant here on their first date - it was the fanciest place in town.  They also stayed here instead of at my grandmother's apartment when he came back from service in WW II.  The Charitone's for sale - 4500 square feet per floor - just $79,000!

On the way to Albia I heard the Ottumwa sub dispatcher, Karen (KDD), receiving the coal loads that were running ahead of me.  She was substituting for the regular Tuesday-Saturday dispatcher, KRS, so that he could attend the Ottumwa meet.  BN 9671 (the second of the three loads) cleared Halpin at 8:21.  KDD was looking for a loco this morning, and asked a westbound to see if BNSF 8231 were in the siding at "Ah'bya".

I got to Albia well ahead of 9760 and had time to check out the yard area.  There was no 8132 in sight, but there were two "helper motors" idling southwest of the yard office, EMD 9058 and 9092.  Karen later instructed her westbound Des Moines train, with BNSF 1073, to pick these engines up and take them up the branch.  To the east, out by the now-unused UP connection on Main 1, a westbound was picking up fuel oil tanks brought down from Des Moines.  On the point were BN 9536 and 9451.

Figuring that 9760 would be catching up to me pretty soon, I took up a position on the south hill at a county road crossing near Old Maxon.  They arrived right at 9:00, ground by me and were off into the murky morning again.

By this time the empty picking up the fuel cars was ready to go down the hill, so I went to the west end of Albia yard to catch them going by.  They left at 9:10, with 9536, 9451 and their CWEX cars.  Track Inspector Earl Hamilton had put a 10 mph slow order in effect near the bottom of the hill due to a stripped joint.  SLY gave them a warrant to Shannon, where "Superintendent of Switches" Leyhart  (as SLY called him) would be waiting to cross them over to Main 2 between there and Osceola.

I knew that another westbound, the GALLIN, was waiting to run behind the 9536, and I went to the CTC where the Des Moines branch connects to Main 1 for them.  They waited for 9536 to clear Halpin and then came through the yard at 9:35.  On the point were BNSF 5390, SF 930 and BNSF 5176, the latter a SF/SP merger scheme "Kodachrome" unit.

After the GALLIN was by, I drove on over to Ottumwa.  The fog lifted and it was nice and sunny by the time I arrived.  At the west end of the IMRL yard sat three units, IMRL 230, 231 and 206.  Back on the north side of the yard I found a single UP unit, 8103 and the usual yard engine, IMRL 610.  Things were to remain pretty quiet in the IMRL yard today, as they had a derailment near Mystic.

I went to the mall next to have a look at the train show.  Right away I found BNSF dispatcher Kevin Shelen (KRS) standing near the Great River modular HO setup.  We visited for a while about the BNSF and about his substitute, who seemed to be having a pretty hard time handling things on the Des Moines branch today.  I took a few more pictures of the club layout and then wandered around checking out the vendors and such.

A small but well-forested N layout caught my attention.  This turned out to have been built by Randy Riehm of Batavia.  Randy and I fell into conversation about photographing layouts, digital cameras, closeups, lighting, etc.  He wanted to see how close (this image is 40% of its size out of the camera) I could get with the Olympus, so I took a few shots and said I'd mail him some prints.  Randy's layout, which features some beautiful bridges, is for sale.  If you're interested, you can contact him here:  Box 173, Batavia, IA 52533.

After visiting the train show at the mall, I went across the river to the Amtrak station to check on the Zephyr.  I'd arranged to meet a friend, Steve Craven, at noon either at the mall or the depot depending on how Amtrak was doing.  The outbound engineer told me that they expected it at ":50", so I got on the phone and called Steve to let him know that I'd be in the parking lot southeast of the depot.  He was just coming through Fairfield at the time.

No. 6 arrived right at ten 'til, just as I'd been told it would, and started the process of loading and unloading passengers.  On the point today were AMTK 70, 13 and 404.  Amtrak's beginning to rack up more paint schemes than the BNSF.  In the train today:

AMTK 70, 13 and 404
Baggage 1253
Transition Sleeper 39030
Coach/Baggage 31036
Coaches 34091 and 31502
Sightseer Lounge 33012
Diner 38014
Sleeping Cars 32011 and 32111
Material Car 1459
Boxcars 71023 and 71182, and two Roadrailers
They were away straight up, 12:00.

We knew from the radio that there was a westbound train about to come through, so we waited at the Market Street crossing.  This turned out to be a DTCX empty behind BN 9570, 9568 and BNSF 8231.  Hey, there's the engine Karen's been looking for today!  Won't it be a shame when all the warbonnets are gone?  Around 12:15 463's train, with BN 2759, got a warrant to come out of the Ottumwa yard and take Main 2 to the IMRL crossover.

Steve and I headed back to the mall for some train-shopping.  At the Great River layout, we caught KRS rerailing some CB&Q power.  Modular layouts are a great attraction, probably a very significant factor in bringing new people into the hobby these days.  Silver Carrier was circling the layout now, pulling the articulated Nebraska Zephyr consist.  We browsed the vendors and employed our charge cards before caravaning back west to Old Maxon for some train-watching.

The day was bright and had warmed to 44 degrees by the time we got out to Maxon.  Just before 2:00, on the way in, I'd heard SLY talking to eastbound trains at Russell and at Shannon.  Our first catch was a load that got to the top of the hill at 2:43.  This was a distributed-power AEPX coal load with BNSF 9719 on the front and BNSF 8910 in the back.  At 3:10 I heard BN 2832 get a warrant to come out of the Cargill Spur and head for Ottumwa on Main 1.

We had a westbound empty next, at 3:13, with BNSF 9826 and 8915, and engineer Don Lipsky at the throttle.  The detector east of Maxon had reported this train at 532 axles.  Hi Don!  Another DP load came up the hill at 3:20, mostly BN and BNSF cars with a few FURX as well.  On the point was BNSF 8940 and pushing, BNSF 9837.

Our last train of the afternoon was a load with some older power, BN 9204, EMD 9053 and BNSF 9277, a Heritage I wide-cab '60.  I think I've not seen that before.  9204 had very bad horns!  They came by slowly at 3:30, following on 9719's taillight I expect, with CEFX and NCUX hoppers.

Steve pointed out that the Appenoose County had replaced the bridge that passes over a city street between their yard and the connection with the BNSF.  We'd heard by now that the IMRL had a derailment somewhere down to the southwest.  Steve was ready to head back toward Cedar Rapids and I decided to see if I could find the derailment, so we split up.  He called just before I left Albia to let me know that 8231 had been set out in the yard.

I drove clear down to Seymour without locating the IMRL problem, but a friendly employee at the "yard office" there told me that it was just east of Mystic.  With very little daylight remaining I drove back up to Mystic to see if I could photograph the derailment.  I found it inaccessable, however, and only saw lots of Hulcher and Pettiecord trucks parked near the town's main grade crossing.

Just missed a couple, one BNSF westbound and one UP north (I think) at Chariton on the way home.

That's It!