Trains in the Rain

Saturday, May 11



Iowa got a much-needed soaking on Saturday.  It was the sort of day that normally would have kept me indoors but for whatever reason, I decided to see how I could do taking pictures of the trains in the rain.  A telephone check with automated "Julie" on the California Zephyr showed it to be an hour late, expected in Osceola at 9:39.  I fueled the Jeep and headed south out of Indianola around 8:15.  It was 50 degrees, with a strong breeze out of the southeast, and raining steadily.

I knew from the radio that a coal load was out and running and would probably beat me to Lucas.  By the time I got to Chariton they were just leaving town, and moving fairly slowly.  I learned later that there was a slow order in effect just east of town.  I hurried on east and drove down into Melrose to intercept the coal train.  Parked facing north by the rails in Melrose, I found that putting the driver's side window down let in just a little rain, the passenger side a lot, so shooting eastbounds would work fairly well.

The load first came into sight at 9:15.  On the point was BN 9648.  A tape recorder malfunction that I didn't discover until mid-morning kept me from catching the second unit and the reporting marks.  The load was followed closely by a pair of helper units at 9:38.  From the radio I learned later that the helpers were needed on the "slippery when wet" south Albia Hill as soon as they arrived at Halpin.

When the approach-lit signals came on for the above load, the signal on the north track had an approach indication, and for the helpers it had turned red, so I expected a westbound soon.  As soon as I spotted the headlight, I opened the window on the passenger side and just let things get wet.  The westbound appeared just after the helpers passed, at 9:40.  On the head end of a set empty tub gons were BNSF 9481 and BN 9575.

I decided to head back to Chariton to catch Amtrak, which was now reported out of Creston at 9:35.  I made a stop at Casey's and then parked in a lot near the tracks at Brayden Ave.  The CZ came through town at 10:43 with units 162, 168 and 196 in the lead.  As the train passed through the "S" curve in Chariton I read the car numbers into the recorder, but I discovered later that the tape hadn't been moving.  The Russell detector reported 98 axles for the passenger train.

Because I'd heard them getting a warrant for the K.C. sub. earlier, I knew a westbound had to be getting pretty close to Chariton.  They hit the Russell detector at 10:52 with 478 axles and came over the old Hwy. 34 overpass just 15 minutes after the Zephyr.  In the lead were EMD 9040, BN 9692 (dead in consist) and BNSF 9545 followed by a set of NSPX hoppers.

I'd heard dispatcher S.L.Y. say to a track inspector that he had nothing out (of Creston) on Main 2 yet, so I decided to chase the 9040 to the west.  They made it down Whitebreast Hill into Lucas right beside me, but I managed to get to Osceola  a couple of minutes ahead of them.  I caught them again as they approached and cleared the the Main Street crossing at 11:31.

I headed on west on Hwy. 34 but west of Murray I heard an exchange of "Okay" messages, along with EOT telemetry from a distributed power train, so I reversed direction and went back to a spot just west of Osceola to await the eastbound.  This train showed up at 12:03, a set of BNSF tub gondolas bracketed by 9848 and 8927.

Arriving around 12:30, I found the Creston yard pretty full and the westbound main occupied by the two trains I'd spotted earlier in the morning.  There was one coal load with no power.  I speculate that this might have been the source of the helper power passing through Melrose.  There was a tie train, with both concrete and wood ties on flat cars, along with two BN cabooses, 12526 and 12257.  Quite a few GP's were scattered around the yard as well.  I spotted BNSF 2804, 2825, 2281, 2203, 2351, 6783, 6846, 2193, 2528 and 6344.

BNSF 9481 had been re-crewed and was just waiting by the yard office for eastbound traffic to come in off of the Omaha line.  The first of these showed up at 1:40 and came under the signal bridge at New York Avenue.  The DTCX tub gons were pulled by BN 9570 and 9572.  Not quite a half-hour later a distributed power AEPX train followed, with BNSF 9751 in the lead.  9750 had been yarded on track 2 to make room for this load, with BNSF 8985 trailing, on Main 2.

Things were getting pretty congested, with both mains and most yard tracks covered at this point, and another load was approaching, short on time and ready to "die on the law" at 1500.  The short-timer arrived at 2:31.  This was a DEEX load with BNSF 9821 and 9962 on the point.  They rolled in very slowly, since the train ahead of them on Main 2 was just beginning to move as they crossed New York Ave.  Before 9821's train cleared the grade crossing, it was finally time for westbound BNSF 9481 to roll.  I'd spotted this coal empty this morning in Melrose and it moved on west of Creston at 2:40.

As the rear of the short-time train passed behind 9481's cars I noticed that it was a DP train.  Bringing up the rear was BNSF 9753, which I photographed after they stopped on Main 2 for their crew change.  With westbounds moving again, it was possible for EMD 9040 to come to the yard office for a crew change.  This consist, 9040, BN 9642 (dead in consist) and BNSF 9545 which I'd seen earlier in Chariton, took off at 3:07.

At this point I decided to start back toward home.  9570 was just getting a warrant from second trick dispatcher Wes Carr as I left town.  There was some delay and discussion about overweight (for the Ottumwa sub.) cars in their train, but that problem was eventually resolved and they got moving at 3:25.  I stopped and got another picture of them as they passed through Osceola at 4:27.

That's It!