Albia and Melrose

Wednesday, April 6


It was "Campus Day" at Simpson so my math classes weren't meeting.  Susan and I decided to take a day off and go for a drive.  We left early on a cloudy morning and headed for Albia to have breakfast at a little diner just off the northeast corner of the square.  I tried to keep an ear on the scanner for traffic on the BNSF.  I'd called earlier to learn that Amtrak's No. 6 was running pretty close to on time, expected at Osceola just 5 minutes down from schedule.

After breakfast we headed out to Maxon, nearly missing, at 8:15 a coal load, BN and BNSF hoppers, led by BNSF 9941 and 6053.  We caught the rear unit, BNSF 9627, at old Maxon.  The detector east of Maxon reported this train at 478 axles.  Another load, OGSX cars destined for the Alliant electric plant near Chillicothe, arrived at 8:50.  I'd moved to the north side of the tracks because this train was going to stop and wait to follow the Zephyr.  The lead units were BNSF 9728 and 9852.

I heard Amtrak clear its track authority just before 9:00 and it was just a short time before No. 6 appeared, hustling nine cars eastward on Main 1.  The passenger train had three units today running elephant style, 59, 58 and 195.  Amtrak stopped for a new warrant and proceeded on the normally westbound main to its next stop in Ottumwa.  Next up was a Herzog tie handling outfit, numbered HGZX 1700 in front and 170 in back.  This machine was run over onto Main 2 before the "ISU" load, with BNSF 9733 pushing on the rear, was sent down Main 1 behind the Zephyr to MP 288.  

Before leaving Albia we went down to the RelCo locomotive rebuilding plant to see what might be sitting out on the wye tracks connecting the plant to the APNC rail line.  BN slug 255 was waiting to be taken in for refurbishing on the south side of the entry road, and two "Oakway" units, 9015 and 9047 were north.  Farther back in the plant, one could see fresh paint jobs on BNSF 1554 and another slug, 259.

We next headed east on Hwy. 34, and then turned north at the "county line" road.  I drove back west to check out the bottom end of the Cargill yard, where there appeared to be a full train of distillers' grain, a by-product of ethanol production.  Three units were parked south of the gravel road, BNSF 2842, 2037 and EMDX 799.

We drove back east again past the Alliant facility and down into southeast Ottumwa.  We just missed an empty going under the bridge near the electric plant.  We spent some time in Ottumwa doing a little shopping and then stopped for lunch at Juanita's Pupuseria on the south side (make mine chicharon, and bring a bottle of Jarritos mandarina, por favor).

After lunch the clouds cleared as we drove back west to Albia.  At 12:45, I heard a westbound, led by 9919, get a warrant from the ICE diamond to Maxon.  We managed to get to the west end of the Albia yard in time to see this one come through at 1:15.  Leading 130 empty DEEX tub gons were BNSF 9919 and BNSF 9459.  Before we moved on west, I stopped for a picture of the helper unit idling by the Albia yard office, BNSF 6167.

From the scanner we learned of a couple of eastbounds that were near Chariton waiting on maintenance personnel to clear up for the afternoon.  I decided we could catch them at Melrose, so we drove down into the town and waited by the rails.  The Russell detector alerted us to the first one, reporting 558 axles.  Subtract off the three units and you come up with 135 carloads, around 100 tons each.  That's a lot of coal!  At 2:15 the train appeared, TNGX tub gons with BNSF 9322 and 9594 in front and 5663 bringing up the rear.

Within one half of an hour, we had a second coal load come through Melrose.  This one had FURX hoppers, and registered 494 axles on the detector.  Leading were BNSF 9670 and 9553, with BNSF 9365 shoving on the rear.