VTWI Anniversary - Osceola and Chariton

March 10

Virtual Train Watching in Iowa was born one Friday afternoon in 1995 when Byron and I went to Osceola with a borrowed digital camera and I published a few of the pictures we took on the Internet.  Six years, three cameras and thousands of on-line images later, we're still serving up the same, "high signal to noise ratio", railfan news - no advertising, no cookies, no frames, no animation, no nonsense - just text and pictures (and an occasional sound bite) of Iowa railroading.

Aaron called Friday night and suggested we do at least a half-day excursion on Saturday and that his wife Christy go along this time.  I voted for Osceola and Chariton so that we could see Amtrak and stop at Piper's Store for some home-made chocolates.  I picked Aaron and Christy up at their apartment at 8:00 and we took R45 south to Osceola, arriving around 8:40.  This afternoon (Sunday 3/11) we have a winter storm watch in effect and are expecting more snow, but on Saturday in Osceola hundreds of optimistic geese were headed north over the depot.

We didn't have to wait very long for a train.  Just before 9:00 the detector east of town announced a westbound train.  Predictably, this was a coal empty, BN 9654 and 9474 with DTCX cars.  According to the Amtrak web site, No. 6 was 22 minutes down, giving an arrival in Osceola of 9:25.  The board in the depot said 9:15, so we expected the Zephyr to appear before long.

We heard the passenger train's horns from the west end of town at 9:30 and got set to get our pictures.  Both Aaron and Christy were armed with 35mm cameras today.  In the eastbound California Zephyr this morning:

AMTK 806 and 812
Baggage 1751
Transition Sleeper 39040
Sleeping Cars 32096 (Nevada) and 32049
Dining Car 38008
Sightseer Lounge 33034
Coaches 31527, 34039 and 34071
Material Car 1557
Amtrak Boxcars 71121, 70020 and 71184 and one Roadrailer
Station Attendant Pat Green and Conductor "Doc" Livingston consulted over some paperwork while the passengers got aboard and the train was ready to roll again with just a three minute stop.  They reported their times to the dispatcher as ":34 and :37".  Pat told me that they'd had 45 people for No. 5 on Friday night.  It's spring break - time to go skiing in the Rockies.

We three decided to next head east to Chariton.  Just outside of Osceola, as we approached the Hwy. 34 overpass above the BNSF mains, we spotted the headlights of a westbound train approaching from the southeast.  I parked on the shoulder just short of the bridge and Aaron and I bailed out to get some pictures.  Someone in the cab spotted the Jeep and honked at us as the train, BNSF 9972 and 8899 pulling AEPX cars, came under the highway and rolled northwest toward Osceola.  The detector reported this train to have 532 axles - undoubtedly a distributed power run eastbound.

We made our run over to Chariton without encountering any more trains and parked just west of Braden Ave to await an westbound we knew was coming.  This was the GALLIN, which entered the S-curve in Chariton at 10:26.  On the point were BNSF 5381 and 8840.

After this train, we went to the Chariton town square for a look at the Charitone Hotel.  We found some people inside who were willing to give us a tour.  The interior of the hotel has been completely gutted and partially refinished.  None of the guest rooms remain, all of the fixtures, plumbing and heating have been removed, and what remains is not very inviting.  After our tour we went across the street to Piper's, visited with the help there and bought some hand-made candies.

We decided to get some lunch next.  While I was waiting in the car for Aaron and Christy I heard the female-voiced UP "Spine" line detector just south of Chariton at MP 23.2.  From warrants we heard later, this was a northbound train that was to meet a southbound at Williamson.  We caught the southbound at the old Rock Island depot at 12:11.  On the point of the manifest were UP 9925 and UP B4207.  B-designated locos have to run as trailing units.

We'd heard a warrant given to a westbound at Halpin around noon, so we knew there'd be another train on the BNSF pretty soon.  As we were making a positioning move back to the double-mains, we started picking up on the EOT channel  the distinctive sound made by distributed power.  That meant that a coal load was on the way toward us as well as our westbound from Halpin.  We stopped at the Linden Avenue crossing, behind the police station, and heard horns to the west just after getting out of the car.  We had a long wait before the train appeared however - they must have stopped somewhere near the depot.

At 12:30 the lead unit of the DP load came around the corner and started toward us.  I took a series of pictures as the loco approached in the S-curves and passed by us.  As soon as the first few cars of this OGSX train were by we used the old Hwy. 34 underpass to get to the other side in advance of the westbound we expected.  We were back at Braden for the rear unit, BNSF 8938.  Looks like they ran out of 3's when they were doing the number boards?  Maybe this unit was 8998 for a time.

Our anticipated westbound finally arrived at 12:50.  This turned out to be a collection of DTCX tub gons behind BN 9441 and BNSF 9724.  The BNSF has numerous new ties laid out along the right of way in Chariton.

We started toward home but heard some conversation about a train "coming up the hill" before we'd gone very far west on Hwy. 34.  I turned around and went back to the Curtis Ave. crossing out at the west end of the yard for our last "Train!" of the day.  We waited for another coal load, with BNSF 9756 and BN 9705 pulling BN and DTCX cars.  (Yeah, there's a bit of a dip there just east of that concrete culvert - the frost's going out here after a long, cold winter!)  They passed us and headed into town at 1:15.

Not a bad "catch" for a Saturday morning, and I know we missed a couple - the northbound UP and an eastbound (6356?) that KRS sent up the north way at Albia.

That's It!