School's Out

An Afternoon on the BNSF

Friday, April 25



My grades were on the desk in the Registrar's office Friday at 10:55.  After a cloudy morning the sky was clearing and the temperature was in the low 60's.  I'd left my phone in the Jeep and after leaving the administration building I retrieved it.  On a whim I called "Julie" at 1-800-USA-RAIL.  She reported that No. 6 was down 6 1/2 hours.  I took this as a sign that I should go meet the train in Osceola this afternoon.

I got out of town around 11:30 and headed for the depot in Osceola.  New Amtrak signage has been added in the parking lot and near the tracks.  At 12:15 I heard an eastbound at Murray getting a warrant.  They were to cross over from Main 2 to 1 just east of Osceola at MP 357.9 and then come back to the south rail again at Shannon for the climb up Whitebreast Hill.  I drove out to the northeast corner of town to catch them at the Eisenhower Road grade crossing.

The train appeared at 12:28, with BN 9627 and BNSF 9456 leading a set of loaded MBKX hoppers.  I followed them out of town toward their meeting with Switch Tender Lehart and got a couple of pictures as they came out onto the fill and crossed over the gravel road.  I decided to stay with this train and follow it at least over to Chariton, so I drove east and then south on gravel roads, jumped on Hwy. 34 and headed east.

I pulled up at the grade crossing just east of the crossovers at Shannon (near Lucas, Iowa) and waited for the train.  Track Inspector J.D. Cottrell and another switch tender, Merle Johnson, were in place and waiting for the coal load to pass.  The train showed up at 1:05 and rolled into the crossover switches and back onto Main 2.  The string of hoppers went through the switches and cleared fairly quickly and soon the train was grinding up the hill toward Chariton.

I started up the hill on Hwy. 34, but changed my mind and turned around after hearing dispatcher "KRS" (on the KC desk this morning) talking to a couple of westbounds, one of which was already on its way down the hill.  I drove to one of my favorite spots for pictures of the BNSF, the overpass near Stephen's Forest, to wait for the westbound trains.

The first train came around the corner west of Lucas at 1:23.  This turned out to be BN 9558 and BNSF 9427 pulling a set of empty PSTX/ESCX tub gondolas.  The first coal empty was followed closely by a second, arriving at 1:36.  On the point were BNSF 8897 and 9721, trailing a set of OGSX cars, probably from the "ISU" power plant near Chillicothe, Iowa.  After watching this train head under the bridge I started west, back toward Osceola.

I'd heard the dispatcher say that No. 6 was now expected at Creston at 14:30, so I figured on catching its station stop there some time after 3:00 p.m.  I heard the Osceola detector count 488 axles on the first of the two empties, and I was at the depot when the second registered 516.  Among those waiting at the Osceola depot were a young train watcher and his granddad.  8897 roared over the Main St. crossing just before 2:00.  I had a brief conversation with the youngster and then went to get some lunch before the passenger train arrived.

I heard the Zephyr report out of Creston at 2:53.  The track inspector was in town to have a look at the spur going north from the depot.  There'd been some discussion earlier on the radio about a local construction outfit leaving things a bit too close to the rails.

The California Zephyr came into sight west of the depot at 3:15, braking hard for the station stop.  The lead unit was AMTK 185, with engineer Rich Fertig at the controls today.  Today's 80-axle consist included:
AMTK 185 and 62
Baggage 1253
Transition Sleeper 39028
Sleepers 32037 and 32072
Diner 38034
Sightseer Lounge 33007
Coaches 31503, 34092 and 34069
Seven boxcars and five roadrailers
After two spots to handle sleeping car and coach passengers, the train was away, reporting the stop as ":21 and :25" to the dispatcher.