A Trip to Ottumwa

This is an account, in pictures and captions, of a few hours of train-watching on March 15, 1995, from 9:00 am until 3:00 pm. This excursion followed the C&NW south from Melcher to Chariton and the BN east from Chariton to Ottumwa. The return trip followed the BN back from Ottumwa to Albia. All the photos were taken with an Apple QuickTake 100 digital camera and converted directly to GIF format.

The first set of pictures was taken at Williamson, on the C&NW's Spine line between 9:00 and 9:30. A northbound train was in the siding when I arrived, and was met by 6930 South. The rear of the northbound (sorry, no numbers) can be seen at the right of the first picture. 6930 and 6921 waited on the main while 8028 and 8037 North followed the first northbound through the siding. (3 photos)

The next photo is of a BN coal train that has taken the interchange connection track at Ottumwa, crossed the Des Moines river, and entered the Soo/CP yard. The engines on this train were BN 7132, 5063, and 5539. The cars were MPWX - aluminum with blue ends. The photo was taken from U.S. highway 34.

The action now shifted to the diamond where the CP crosses the BN, just west of downtown Ottumwa. This crossing, of the single track CP over the double-track BN, is at the base of a steep grade, and is protected by a derail switch just north of the crossing.

The grade on the CP eastbound from the diamond is steep enough that trains are often doubled and tripled up to a siding at Rutledge, at the north edge of Ottumwa. UP 9292 East was busy this morning taking several cuts of its coal train up to Rutledge and returning. The engines, UP 9292, 9229, and 6074, made two trips down the hill and one up while I was there.

A number of BN trains, plus Amtrak, passed the CP junction while I was there. A westbound set of grain hoppers pulled by BN 6925 and 7501 (cabless) went by at 11:10. BN's westbound #65, containers and piggybacks, pulled by LMX 8575 and 8579, was by at 12:37. Train 447, headed for Des Moines via track from Albia shared with NS, crossed the junction at 12:51. It had four units, BN 7159, 8094, 2981, and EMD 753. Amtrak's #6 California Zephyr, running about 2 1/2 hours late, stopped in Ottumwa from 1:06 to 1:13. Two GEnesis locos were on the point, 838 and 835. (2 photos)

I left Ottumwa, which was enjoying a record high temperature of 75 degrees, and drove back to Albia. There, I caught 447 leaving the BN westbound main and heading out to the northwest toward Des Moines.

At Albia, the BN has a short section of CTC from Maxon, MP 301.9 to Halpin, MP 309.7, with crossovers at each end. There is a fairly heavy grade up from Halpin to Maxon. The two main tracks are on separate right-of-ways, with track 2, normally eastbound, on a longer, less steep grade than track one, westbound. Coal loads pull down to low speeds, and sometimes stall, on the way up from Halpin to Maxon. The photos of 447, above, are taken at the crest of the westbound grade, near the area where the old CB&Q depot stood.

I followed a coal load up the hill, from Halpin through Albia, and ending at Maxon. The train is pulled by BN units 6101(?), 5576, and 7254.