Albia with Jonathan Quinn

Monday, May 11


    Jonathan Quinn contacted me last week to see if we could get together for some train chasing and suggested Monday.  We arranged to meet by the Casey's store in Pleasantville at 7:30.  The weather turned out great and I went to town at 7:15 to park and wait for Jonathan.  The scanner in the Jeep provided some information on trains, including a couple of eastbounds on the Des Moines branch of the BNSF.  Our plan was to go south today, and while I waited I heard a train leave Des Moines, pass the Hartford detector, and later the Melcher one.  By 8:15, I was beginning to wonder what had happened to Jonathan!

    By this time, the first of the two trains on the Des Moines branch was getting close to town, so I left Casey's and drove over to the tracks.  The train crew had called the train the "HUTDMO", a unit train of salt from Hutchinson, KS, and a crew van was waiting for it near the rails.  My cell phone rang about the time I heard the horns of the train and I instructed Jonathan on how to get to the grade crossing.  The 50 car salt train appeared at 8:22, led by BNSF 4099 and NS 6760 in very fresh paint.  The train of covered hoppers headed into the Hawkeye siding while a very friendly conductor visited with us and told us that the power would be cut off and returned to the east end of the siding before they got into the van to return to Galesburg.  The salt train remained in the siding until Tuesday night, when it was moved to Runnells for unloading.

    Jonathan commented on how friendly the BNSF crew were.  I think he's just become accustomed to the surly, railfan-averse Union Pacific personnel.  I told him I was pretty sure we wouldn't be reported as "potential terrorists" today.

    Of course, I'd contacted "Julie" early today and learned that Amtrak No. 6 was expected at Osceola around 9:20.  It looked like we were already too late to catch it, but I went for the intercept at Albia anyway.  We just had time to remove our lens caps and get the Zephyr, with 172 and 20 on the point, at 10:06 as they reached Old Maxon, running on Main 1 to get around a truck-powered work train on Main 2.

    As soon as the passenger train was out of the way, a second train waiting to go east up the Des Moines branch was allowed out onto Main 1.  This was an "Alliance" train with a unit consist of fuel tankers to be filled at Williams Pipeline in Des Moines.  The fuel train was let by two warbonnets, BNSF 712 and 778.  The latter still had its paint in pretty good shape.

    From the radio, we knew it would be a while before there was any traffic on the BNSF mains, so I gave Jonathan a complete tour of the area including the former depot location, new Maxon, and new and old Halpin.  We also visited Relco and saw this lineup of switchers waiting to be refurbished.

    By 11:30 or so, we were ready to get some lunch, but just before reaching Hardee's, we heard the detector east of Maxon announce a westbound.  I drove quickly to the grade crossing at the west end of the Albia yard area, and at 11:33 we caught BNSF 8972 and 9234 leading a set of WEPX tubs down Albia hill.  After this train, we tried to return to the restaurant, but before reaching it, the detector went off again.  We got back just in time to see BNSF 9788 and 9818 with BNSF cars.  Jonathan used a "bazooka" lens to get extreme telephotos shots.  This train was a distributed power one with BNSF 9265 on the rear.

    We returned with our lunch to old Maxon where a large high-rail truck marked "Brandt" was working with some side-dump cars of rip-rap.  There were several pickups in the area marked "Hulcher" in addition to the usual BNSF vehicles.  They appeared to be working with coffer dams and rip-rap somewhere on the south hill, since Main 2 was out of service for several hours.

    Just after noon, we had another westbound.  This turned out to be a manifest, rather than another coal empty.  What was interesting about it was that it was led by eleven BNSF locos:

5944
6059
6171
6065 and 8930
5740
9157 and 9811
9957
9535
9763

    At this point, the dispatcher gave up the north rail to a track inspector and it was clear that it would be a couple of hours before we could see another train in this area.  I took Jonathan on a brief tour of the rails in Chariton and north along the Spine line, but we did not manage to catch anything else today.

That's It!