April 19, 1998

Jan persuaded me that train-watching would be more fun than composing final exams, so we took a Sunday morning "off" and drove down to watch the BNSF. We arrived in Osceola well ahead of Amtrak's schedule. JR Green's schedule board showed No. 6 to be running more than hour behind schedule today. A well-grafittied boxcar of company materials sat on the north spur by the passenger kiosk. Just around the corner to the north, a couple of men with a magnet crane were collecting tie plates.

At 9:30, a westbound coal empty with a few (9?) tank cars on the head end came by the depot. This train had BNSF 9727 and 9724 on the point. Shortly, we heard an exchange of "Okay on the ... side" messages, and a coal load, of AEPX gons, with SD70MACs BN 9460, BNSF 9768 and SD60M BN 9247 rolled through town.

From the scanner we learned that the next westbound had left Halpin at 9:39 and that it had a wide load, so that there were concerns about where it would meet the 9460 and Amtrak. We decided to move eastward along the tracks and wait for traffic at the Shannon crossovers at Lucas. We caught up with 9460 as we crossed the Hwy. 34 overpass, and got a picture again at 10:15 as they started up Whitebreast Hill.

In just a couple of minutes, the westbound appeared with LMX 8508, cabless BN 4070 and 4105, and warbonnet BNSF 4701. There was trouble making radio contact with the foreman in charge of a Form B, and they stopped briefly in Lucas before getting permission to proceed westward. This gave us a chance to drive to the front of the train and get pictures of BNSF 4701 and the wide load just as they opened the throttle.

We got back on Hwy. 34 and drove on toward Albia, pacing the 9460. On the radio, we heard the Russell detector (MP 228.0) report for both the north and south tracks, so we must have missed a westbound. The 9460 was told that they would be waiting at Maxon for Amtrak to come around, so we went out to the far east end of the CTC at Albia to see what sort of shape the "Level B - Enter at Your Own Risk" road was in. I managed to keep the Jeep out of the water-filled ruts, and we were soon parked next to the west crossover signals.

At 11:24, 9460 made it up the hill and pulled slowly to a stop just west of us. Soon, the California Zephyr's headlights appeared beside them. The Zephyr came through the crossover and back onto the eastbound main at 11:35, with units 6 and 54 on the point, and several boxcars on the rear. As soon as Amtrak cleared, the power switches lined for the mains and 9460 was on its way again. As they accelerated past me, I got a shot of the SD60M at the rear of the consist.

Much earlier in the morning, we'd heard a train leaving Des Moines and coming down the branch line to Albia. They'd now arrived, so we circled around to the north over the eastbound main to get a picture. Right at noon, BN 6904 and BNSF 782 came through Maxon and went on toward Burlington with their short freight train.

We went back to check out the work by the Albia yard area. What I'd last week identified as a crane turned out to be a pile driver. It is apparently on hand to help with the Hwy. 5 bridge work. There were several carloads of I-beams parked in the yard. The 3rd street crossing of Main 1, just east of the highway bridge, has been torn up in preparation for realignment of the track.

At that point we hit the infamous early afternoon "lull" on the BN, and started working our way westward, using county roads to stay near the tracks. We knew that there was another eastbound headed toward us, but did not know its exact location or how long it would be waiting on trackwork. We stopped at the non-existent community of Tyrone for a while, but still heard nothing on the move.

We encountered the "smooth-em-up" gang at milepost 321. Just west, around a corner, a coal load waited to use the eastbound with BN 7218, 7810, KCS 724 and BNSF 9860 on the point. The track gang finally headed into Melrose and the load rolled at 3:00. This train was warranted using the last unit - a Heritage II paintjob.

We continued following the tracks to the west, but didn't encounter any more trains before deciding that it was time to get home.

That's It!