Osceola to Albia

April 28



With my grades in and no May Term class to teach, school was more-or-less "out" for yours truly for this year.  I decided to do a solo Saturday along the BNSF to get summer off to a proper start.  We'd had a week of warm but mild weather and it was sunny and 60 degrees as I headed south for OsceolaPatch rails are still laid out northeast of the depot and I noticed that some of the platform tiles that have been falling out have now been replaced with asphalt.  A BN caboose, 12155, was parked in the stub track this morning.

Two coal loads were already out of Creston ahead of the Zephyr, so dispatcher SLY decided to run No. 6 around them on Main 1 all the way to Halpin.  The first load came through just ahead of Amtrak at 9:15.  This was a train of AEPX cars with distributed power, BNSF 9777 on the point and BNSF 9954 bringing up the rear.  I heard the detector report 528 axles for this train.

The passenger train was next, just a few minutes down from its 9:03 schedule.  In this morning's Zephyr:

AMTK 814 and 121
Baggage 1255
Transition Sleeper 39030
Coaches 34039, 34092 and 31590
Sightseer Lounge 33022
Dining Car 38008
Sleeping Cars 32037 and 32044
Material Car 1463
Boxcars 71075 and 70036
Material Car 1416
Two Roadrailers
They made a fairly quick stop, with the passengers on the north side of the tracks, away from the depot.  There were none boarding and nine passengers off today.  Among those arriving was Amtrak engineer Rich Fertig who was dead-heading back from Lincoln.  We had a brief visit, interrupted by the second coal load, which came in at 9:30.  This train had FURX and BN/BNSF cars and was another DP train, with three GE units, BNSF 4851 and 4542 in front and 4804 shoving on the rear of 130 cars.  4502 carried badly-faded orange paint compared to her sisters in the consist.

I decided to follow 4851's train east and just about managed to catch up to them by the time I reached Chariton.  I caught the rear of the train just as it went over the Hwy. 14 bridge.  On the way over to Chariton I'd heard three westbounds getting warrants at Albia, so I decided to go into Russell and try to catch them.  I got to Russell ahead of 4851, but they came through just as the first of the westbounds arrived on the far track at 10:38.  This was a coal empty with three units.  I believe the leader was 9949.

To catch the next westbounds I moved back to the west toward Chariton on a gravel road, H40, and stopped at its first grade crossing, just west of the Russell detector.  While I waited, I heard 9777 call the dispatcher and report some very rough track in Melrose.  The dispatcher had a conversation with Track Inspector Earl Hamilton, who said that this area had a slow order earlier, but that it was removed after the area was passed by an automated inspection car.

The first of what turned out to be three more westbounds came out of Russell at 10:50.  This was a 130-car AEPX empty with BNSF 9875 and 8840 on the point.  The next train was a manifest (GALLIN?) and was running just 15 minutes behind the coal empty.  This train had four units, BNSF 4936, 4698, 5498, and a GP (23?7) that I didn't get.  The Russell detector reported them at 522 axles.

On the radio just after 11:00 I heard another westbound, BNSF 1107, get a warrant at Albia.  I could also hear the UP Trenton Sub. dispatcher talking to a couple of southbounds, so I moved on along Russell Boulevard to the bridge where the BNSF passes over the UP at the east side of Chariton.  At 11:20 another coal empty came through.  This train had UCEX and ACCX hoppers and three wide-cab SD-60's, BN 9273, 9278 and 9234.  Before they cleared the bridge, a UP southbound came under me.  This appeared to be mostly covered grain hoppers and was still rolling under the bridge when the last car of the BN train went by.

I took a quick break and missed a coal load, GEAX cars, but I was to catch them later at Maxon.  BNSF 1107 and 710, pulling a container train, came through Chariton just before noon.  Detours from flooding have rerouted some intermodal and manifest trains on the BNSF through Iowa.  It's unusual to see container trains in the daylight hours here, although there are two, 60 and 63 that run at night.

After this rush of traffic between Russell and Chariton, I headed for Albia.  By noon it had warmed to 74 degrees and a strong south breeze was picking up quite a bit of dust from the fields and gravel roads.  I paid a brief visit to the Albia yard area, but did not find any power or other interesting equipment on hand.  At the yard office, a "Good Housekeeping" banner is displayed above the break bench.

I knew that the GEAX load I'd missed in Chariton would be up the hill pretty soon and I'd also heard dispatcher KRS talking to another westbound that was near Ottumwa, so I went out to Old Maxon to catch some more trains.  At 1:10 BN 9655 and 9567, elephant-style, crested the south hill with the GEAX load.  They too had a discussion with the dispatcher about the rough track in Melrose.

The UP interchange at Maxon is deserted these days - no more syrup turns now that the BNSF has its own rails to the Cargill plant at Eddyville.

The BNSF has set out a new switch on the north side of Main 1 at Old Maxon.  It is  a right-hander and labeled, Spring Frog, Spring Wing.

At 1:30 the Ottumwa local, with BNF 2447 and 2332, came into the CTC at Albia to pick up one tank car and return.  I'd heard them on the radio earlier grouching at KRS about having to wait two hours for a light power move.  This had been a very busy morning on the Ottumwa Sub, however.  Even the IMRL was moving trains through Ottumwa, in and out of their flooded right of way in the eastern part of the state.  I could hear their dispatcher on the Rutledge radio and a detector near Blakesburg as well.

There was a lull in the BNSF traffic at this point, so I went for some take-out and returned to Old Maxon.  I heard westbound BNSF 5429 report itself by Batavia at 2:25 and another westbounder, BNSF 1006, report clear of MP 265 at 2:52.  The next train at Maxon was another coal load, which arrived at 3:05.  This was a distributed power train with BNSF 8947 and 8943 bracketing BN tub gondolas.  The report from the detector just east of Maxon put them at 126 cars.

Discussion between the dispatchers and Track Inspector Hamilton of track conditions at Melrose continued as he made an inspection and announced that nothing had changed since the slow order'd been taken off.  Curious about the situation there, I decided to move to Melrose for the 5429 and whatever other traffic might arrive from the west.

I knew from hearing the Russell detector and some talk about the rough track that I had another eastbound train nearby and I was wondering if I'd end up with two at once as I did in Russell this morning.  However, at 3:44 BNSF 5429 and 4692 came west through Melrose with a long block of automobile cars and a few trailers on the rear.

Just five minutes later the eastbound, a COLX load, rolled in at track speed with BNSF 8860 and 8887.  Some of the rough spots were just east of the stub track switch.  Although the crew, in a discussion with the disptacher later, didn't sound as concerned as earlier eastbounders had, I watched the cars of their train jump and rock hard enough to throw their coal loads into the air.  After the train was safely out of the way, I walked down to have a look at the area.  I'm probably not qualified to judge this, but it was a bit hard to believe that the track inspection process had okay'd spots like this one near the stub switch frog.  Just east of the switch there was a series of "mudholes", as they were referred to on the radio.  In a particular one of these, the north rail appeared to be elevated and the south depressed.  Later in the afternoon I heard a slow order placed back on this section, and following trains were notified.

I moved on west, working in the general direction of home.  At 4:20 I spotted another load just west of Russell, led by BN 9528.  The Russell detector reported two overheated bearings on the automobile train, so they had to stop and inspect their train.  I passed the head end again at Bluegrass Road as the train was backing to pick up the conductor.   They found nothing and I later heard them get by the Osceola detector with "No Defects..."

Back in Chariton at Roland Avenue I caught 5429 again at 4:53.  They'd started west again at 4:45 after walking both sides of the train.  I knew that another train had been waiting on them and was close behind.  This turned out to be another stack train, with BNSF 1006 and BN 7911.  It was nice to have a little variety in the traffic down here, since the norm on the BNSF in southern Iowa is just lots and lots of coal trains.

I beat the stacker to the bottom of Whitebreast Hill and got another shot of them at the grade crossing near Shannon at 5:18.  Just as they were going through Lucas they met a GBRX load led by BNSF 8953.  I could hear more eastbounds being given the slow order at Melrose as I drove north on Hwy. 65.

That's It!