As we neared Chariton, I could hear the distinctive squeaks of distributed power on the EOT channel, so I flipped a coin and headed for the west end of town. We got to the Hy Vee crossing about 8:30, just in time to catch the rear of the train. Shoving on the rear of the EDGX tub gons was BNSF 9926.
We got onto Hwy. 34 and took off eastbound, figuring that we could easily get ahead of the train before it got up the hill at Albia. We heard the Russell detector report them at "516 axles", or 126 cars of coal. As it turned out, the train was destined for the power plant at Chillecothe, and the crew was told by the dispatcher that they would have to wait on a couple of westbounds before getting onto Main 1 to go to the plant.
Dennis and I drove to Albia and on out to "New" Maxon to see the westbounds come through. The first arrived at 9:20. This was a coal empty, AEPX cars behind BNSF 9859 and 9804. The eastbound DP train we'd passed topped the hill and stopped around 9:30. The second westbound was close behind the first at 9:42. This was a long manifest with a quintet of GE's on the point, BNSF 4767, 4315, 4424, SF ???, and BNSF 4758.
As soon as the westbounds were out of the way, the DP load started rolling east. The lead unit turned out to be BNSF 8842. They were in the crossover and headed onto the westbound main by 9:50.
By now we'd heard that Amtrak No. 6 wasn't far behind us. I decided to make a dash for "County Line Road" and hustled the Jeep down old 34 (H35) and then north on T61 to the double-track BNSF grade crossing. We had just enough time to set up for pictures when the crossing bell started ringing. At 10:22 ATK 85 led the Superliners, boxcars and RoadRailers by us high, hot and inside. It's always a thrill to have a close encounter with the Zephyr at track speed!
Dennis and I went north and then took a new paved road east to the power plant. The rear of our DP coal load had just passed under the bridge at "ISU Switch" when we arrived. We entered the grounds of the plant and got some shots of 8842 coming around the loop and heading past the coal piles toward the rotary dumper.
Next it was on to Ottumwa and into the IMRL yard by the back way. On the radio we could hear a BNSF coal load in the IMRL yard preparing to take their second cut up the hill. On the north side of the yard, a crew was just climbing down from IMRL 603.
We crossed the river and were surprised to see the Zephyr still standing at the Ottumwa station. Earlier in the morning we had heard dispatcher "KRS" call the Amtrak agent on the radio and ask that he be called back on the phone, so something must have been up. Eventually No. 6 departed, reporting their stop to KRS as, "33 and 07".
At the IMRL/BNSF diamond (Lawler) we caught the second cut of a coal load headed for Fruitland. The MARX cars were pulled by BN 9695 and 9474. They headed up the hill to put their train back together at Rutledge at 11:13.
With Amtrak out of the way, over on the east side of town, the local was getting ready to run to Albia. We started toward the yard, but they were on the move westward on Main 2 before we could get there. I drove back to a crossing east of the depot where we got pictures of the power, BNSF 2353 and 2110 as they rolled slowly toward the crossover at 11:34.
At this point Dennis and I decided to follow the local back to Albia. We arrived around 12:30 to find them switching the UP connection at "Old Maxon". They left a long cut, extending through the siding and out onto the UP branchline. It included an old ROCK covered hopper, CNW 752388.
Shortly after we arrived an ESCX coal load came up the hill with BNSF 9945 and BN 9545. I went over to check out a spot where the rails had been pumping as the train went through. Just past the point where the eastbound changed from concrete back to wooden ties, the BNSF had a pretty good mudhole going - and Iowa hasn't had that much rain lately, either!
We followed the local east to the APNC connection where they shoved the interchange cars for the Appenoose County RR around the curve to the southeast. After tying them down, the locos rolled back west, paused to set the derail and then pulled back out onto Main 1.
We knew by this time from the radio that a westbound was going to use the "south way" today since the local had Main 1 blocked. Dennis and I went to the Benton Avenue crossing and, at 1:20, caught a JAIX empty with BN 9714 and 9514. This is in a short section of the south hill that's relatively level, and the grade crossing is on the old Hwy. 34 route.
We took our take-out lunches back to Maxon and waited for more traffic. At 2:11 another load came up the hill. This turned out to be ACCX and UCEX cars pulled by BN 9507 and 9614. The local appeared to be ready to go back to Ottumwa and we figured it was just waiting on traffic. Every now and then, they would put out a call for the UP "Syrup Turn" on the radio.
After 9507's train cleared, another westbound crossed over at New Maxon and went down the hill on Main 2. They came by us at 2:22 with BNSF 8873 and BN 9703 and WFAX hoppers. That's Dennis doing the chemical imagery thing in the foreground. We waited for a while to see if the local would take off, but apparently they were waiting on the UP train. Eventually, the BNSF dispatcher told them that the UP dispatcher had said there was "no train on that division today".
Dennis and I both had evening obligations back in Indianola, so we started back west on Hwy. 34. Near Chariton I heard a northbound on the UP Spine Line clear a warrant at Williamson (They stated the limits for once!), so I figured we might be able to catch a meet there. We pulled into the town of Williamson but could see no trains. When we got back on Hwy. 14 and started north, we could see that there was a very short train clear up at the north end of the siding.
We just got to the highway bridge over the siding at 4:00 when a southbound grain train roared through on the main. The northbounder had GATX 903 and CNW 8651 on the point. We got some pictures and then ran ahead of it to Melcher to catch them again at one of the Rock Island's old wooden overpasses at the north end of town.