A Slow Saturday on the BNSF

April 12



Saturday came up sunny and cool.  I had the day "off" and got out of Indianola around 7:20 to head south, with my first stop in Osceola.  I could hear the dispatcher talking to a crew putting together a work train at Chariton and heard an eastbound, 9471, report out of Creston at 9:55.  Amtrak's "Julie" told me that No. 6 was more than two hours down and wasn't expected at Osceola until 11:25, "...however, trains can make up time in route..."

I stopped in Osceola for a few minutes to mount a longer range antenna on the Jeep and get a refill of my coffee before heading east on Hwy. 34.  At 8:08 I heard westbound 9554 getting a warrant at Albia to run on Main 2 to the crossover at Shannon.  I decided to run straight through to Chariton to intercept this westbound.

I got to town at 8:30 and found BNSF 2174 putting together a tie train.  There was some other power in the Chariton yard, BNSF 2314 and 2841.  2841 had been pretty well "tagged" by a graffiti artist somewhere along the line.  As 2174 worked on Main 1, I made my way to a grade crossing just east of the depot to wait on 9554, which had now passed the Russell detector with 488 axles.

At 8:48 BN 9554 and 9686 brought a DTCX empty through the "ess" curves in Chariton.  They passed the work train on Main 1 and started down Whitebreast Hill where switch tender Lehart was waiting to return the train to the north track.  Track inspector J. D. Cottrell had his highrailer parked on Main 2 just west of the Shannon crossovers, and an eastbound train was waiting to take the hill behind him.

I waited for the grade crossing to clear and then chased 9554 down the hill, arriving at the grade crossing east of the crossovers at the same time (9:01) that the coal empty did.  The crossover iron at Shannon was already bent for 9554's move and the track inspector and switch tender were conversing north of the mainlines.  After the DTCX cars cleared the crossover, the switches were lined and Mr. Cottrell proceeded eastward up the hill on Main 2 toward Chariton at 9:11.

I  next went to the wooden bridge over the rails near Stephen's Forest, where the coal load I'd heard leaving Creston earlier was waiting for J.D. to clear up.  They got a warrant and started accelerating their loaded CEFX tub gondolas toward the foot of the Whitebreast grade at 9:53.  Trailing 9471 was an interesting pair of engines, early SD-60 wide cabs, BN 9231 in original green, black and white, followed by 9249 in BNSF livery.  I got another shot of 9231 as the train passed under me and throttled up for the hill.

I reversed direction (again this morning) and started up the hill on Hwy. 34 to see if I could intercept the train as it climbed Whitebreast.  I scrambled down into the deep cut where the separated mains pass under Lucas County route S-23 and caught them at 10:07, in Run 8 and dragging 119 loaded coal cars up out of the river valley.

With a sprint back up to the Jeep and a quick run into Chariton, I was able to watch the train as it came by the yard in Chariton at 10:15.  I got a few more shots as they approached, passed the depot and grade crossing, and headed into the serpentine right of way just southwest of Chariton's town square.

I made a brief pit stop and started on east toward Albia.  Another call to "Julie" revealed that the Zephyr had lost an additional hour and was now expected in Osceola at 12:38.  At 10:58 I heard 9471 clear their warrant with the KC desk dispatcher.  With them and the work train out of the way at Halpin, westbound 9981 was given a warrant, complete at 11:03.  I thought I might be able to catch them and headed south on a gravel road just east of Georgetown.

From a crest in the road I could see that the train was just getting underway at Halpin, so I headed west and south on the gravel, making the best time I could considering the driving surface.  (By the way, I've found that the Jeep drives much better on gravel, with less tendency to hang the rear end out, in full-time 4WD.)

I got to a grade crossing (around MP 313) between Halpin and Melrose at 11:07, just in time to catch a distributed power empty with BNSF 9981 on the point, a set of UCEX hoppers, and BNSF 9930 trailing.  Most of the trains that run DP through here loaded seem to have all the units on the point when they come back westbound, but this one was still running in distributed mode.

I drove back to the highway, into Albia and out to Maxon, the east end of the CTC section governing Albia Hill.  Another railfan was parked at Old Maxon and we visited for a minute about traffic and what I'd heard on the radio.  Things had quieted considerably.  By noon I knew that there were a couple of eastbounds out and running, but that they would be waiting on Amtrak to come around them somewhere in the vicinity of Albia.  The first of these (9665) was at MP 348 and the second (9630) at MP 365.

I got some take out lunch and returned to Old Maxon.  The other rail buff gave up and departed.  Amtrak reported out of Creston at 12:19 and got a warrant at Osceola to the crossover just east of Chariton (MP 333.10) at 12:50.  There they would cross over to Main 1 in order to pass two coal loads.  9665 East was told to go ahead and come up the hill.  Once stopped this train would block my view of Main 1, so I moved out to new Maxon for the Zephyr.

The passenger train cleared up at 333.10 at 1:33, and at about the same time the first of the loads rolled up to new Maxon.  This CEFX load had BN 9665 and BNSF 8269 on the head end.  I heard Amtrak giving back its warrant at the bottom of the hill and recognized the engineer, my friend Rich Fertig.  At 2:00, AMTK 141 rolled to a stop beside the coal load at the top of the hill and paused to copy a warrant for the Ottumwa subdivision.  I moved to the south side of the rails and made a video (8 Meg .MOV file) of the Zephyr.  Rich put on a good show as the train went by.

Before heading home I decided to get the following load on the south hill.  I went to an overpass in Albia just west of the Hwy. 5 bridge and waited about 10 minutes for the train, with BN 9630, BN 9613 and CSXT 280.  They came under the road ( 6 Meg .MOV file) at 2:50 with FSTX and ESCX coal loads.

That's It!