Everywhere West
A Day on the Burlington Northern


This is an account of a train-watching excursion taken from Indianola to Pacific Junction and back along the Burlington Northern on April 15, 1995. The "photos" were taken with an Apple QuickTake camera, and processed with the program PhotoFlash into JPEG images. We left home in Indianola and went directly to Osceola, arriving there about 9:00 in the morning. We followed the BN west to the Iowa border and returned to Osceola about 10:30 the same night. The round trip from Osceola was about 300 miles long.

Following Highway 34 west from Osceola, we encountered our first trains at Creston, a division point about 30 miles west of Osceola. Pictures and information about Creston are available in the Train Watching Spots section of these pages. In the east end of the yard, we found a grain train, headed by BN 7012 and 7839. At 10:00, another eastbound arrived, train 492, with BN 2970, GT 5813 and BN 5529 on the point.

We moved to the west end of the yard, by the old depot and Amtrak station, where several engines were idling. Among them were BN 2771 and EMD 770, BN 7080, BN 2982, and BN 2364. Along the south side of the yard, I also took a shot of an old spreader.

Amtrak's eastbound California Zephyr, number 6, is scheduled into Creston, Iowa at 8:47 a.m. This day, it was running late and arrived behind Amtrak engines 291 and 275 at the Elm Street crossing at 10:30. A brief, one spot, stop was enough to discharge and take on passengers today. At the tail end of the consist was a second transition car, perhaps to facilitate turning the train at the end of its run.

Typically, BN dispatchers are careful to clear Amtrak by a wide margin, resulting in a lull in traffic ahead of the passenger train and a rush after it. We hung around Creston for a couple of hours after Amtrak departed and saw the following trains:
10:52 Eastbound Coal BN 6788, 5023, 7880, 8131
11:50 Eastbound Coal BN 5542, 5100, 5570
12:00 Westbound Empty BN 7911, 5550, 5092
The 7911 made its crew change stop, and in a few minutes passed the elevator at New York Avenue and headed west onto the Nebraska Division.

We headed west also, taking county road H33 out to Cromwell. On gravel roads west of Cromwell at 12:44, we encountered another coal train passing under a one-lane bridge. In the lead were BN units 7128, 7159, and 5049.

Except for an occasional word between dispatchers and trains on the scanner, things were pretty quiet for the next couple of hours. We worked our way west, stopping to look for insulators and take pictures of the depots in Corning, Red Oak and Glenwood.

Our destination, Pacific Junction, is just a short drive out of Glenwood. There, we heard several radio conversations indicating that some trains were nearby. At 4:10, and eastbound coal train appeared behind BN 5050, 7138, and 7236. At the same time, BN 8000 and 8106 rolled slowly up from the south, waiting to go west at the junction. This train had an airliner cab just behind the units.

We made a brief trip over the old toll bridge into Nebraska and returned to Pacific junction in time to catch a couple of westbound trains. At 5:55, stack train 65, behind BN 9460 and LMX 8537 went through the high speed switch, passing an empty coal train. The BN hogger shut off his ditch lights for the camera. The empty, with BN units 7126, 7141, and 7132 pulled through the junction at 6:03. We were to see these units again on an eastbound coal train later in the day, as they were traded for ailing power at Oreapolis junction.

Returning to Glenwood, we bought some supper and took it to the depot. There, at 7:16, we caught a westbound empty coal train behind BN 7132 and SF 6140. As it passed, a load headed east behind it with the power it had received at Oreapolis. Back at Red Oak, with it getting too dark for pictures, we caught a westbound mixed freight (possibly 491) with five units. I missed the first one, but the rest were BN 7141, 7000, 7029, and 5529. At Villisca, we went over the highway overpass above westbound Oakway 9058 and a second unit that I couldn't see.

At Creston again, we arrived just in time to see number 5, the westbound CZ, a couple of minutes ahead of its 9:46 p.m. schedule, behind ATK 805 and 353. That was to be our last train for this day's excursion. We followed the BN back to Osceola, and got back home about 11:00.