Good Catch on the BNSF

Saturday, May 12


Susan had gone to Kansas City to see her daughter for Mother's Day weekend, so I was able to get out early for a Saturday of train chasing on the BNSF.  Later, when she asked why I'd gotten up at 4:30, I explained that it was so I could get this picture of a UP southbound at sunrise!  I'd chased this one south from Beech, and caught up and passed them as they came through Williamson around 5:50.  I got the pictures at an abandoned overpass in Chariton.  The train had stopped in Melcher to drop of a radio for a following train that did not have a working radio on the lead unit.  The power on the southbound freight was UP 6705 and KCS 4606.

The Melcher detector's been changed over to a female voice, and now sounds just like the Hartford one, except for the milepost, of course.  I can copy both of these from the ranch, and it was certainly easier to identify them before the gender change.  At Melcher, southbound trains are "on the side of a hill", and tend to be going slower than northbounds, so you can often infer direction from that detector's automated script.

While intercepting the UP train, I'd heard the foreman of a rail grinder crew on the BNSF getting a warrant to leave Chariton and work west on the westbound (Main 1) track.  At 6:30, I caught the grinder leaving the north yard.  The machines rolled very slowly out onto the Main 1 and headed west, apparently grinding only on the curved track.

From the radio I knew that there was some traffic in the area.  I'd heard an eastbound on the Osceola detector at 6:35, and knew that a couple of westbounds were coming from Halpin.  The westbounds had warrants to MP 334, holding them behind the rail grinder.  I went to a grade crossing just east of the old depot to wait for the trains.  As the grinder moved west, dispatcher "ALM" would get a milepost it cleared, and move her westbounds down the line.  They were getting warrants and coming into Chariton at the same time that a coal load came up Whitebreast Hill and appeared at the west end of the yard.

The westbound had the approach-lit signals showing, but I bet on the eastbound and stayed on the north side of the tracks.  At 7:30, the loaded BNSF hoppers got to the grade crossing behind BNSF 8961 and 5665.  The trains met just east of the grade crossing.  The westbound was a set of MBKX hoppers pulled by BNSF 8972 and CEFX 128.  The eastbound was a distributed power train and I was just barely able to get a picture of the rear unit, BNSF 9995, rolling away around the curve as the westbound cleared in front of me.

More trains were on the way.  At 7:40 I could see a unit approaching on Main 2 with containers sticking up high above the power.  On the point of the mix of containers and pigs was ex-Santa Fe, BNSF 643, followed by 883.  The Russell detector counted 124 axles on this train.  Once again I nearly had a meet right in front of me.  In a couple of minutes, an ex-SP unit now numbered for UP rounded the corner with a set of empty EXEX hoppers.  Leading the hoppers were UP 6219 and NS 9121.

I called "Julie" to see how late No. 6 was today and learned that the current figure was over 5 hours.  I decided to work west and see if I could catch the grinder in action somewhere along the line.  In discussion with ALM, they'd said that they would go in the hole at Osceola to let more westbounds come by.  I passed 8972, stopped at the bottom of the hill waiting on a chance to move down the line toward Creston.  I got almost all the way to Osceola before spotting an eastbound automobile train on the detector (276 axles) west of town.  It looked like an interesting catch, and I'd had pretty good luck this morning, so I U-turned on Hwy. 34 and highballed the Jeep back to the wooden overpass near Stephens Forest.

I got there in plenty of time and caught the auto train (gorgeous morning in Iowa!) with BNSF 5841 and EMD 9081 at 8:47.  By this time, ALM was patiently doling out a few more miles (340 to 354) to the waiting westbounds, and I stayed on the bridge long enough to see BNSF 8972 come through again.

Back in Osceola at 9:10, a high rail truck that had followed the grinder was already out of the way and the grinder was backing off of Main 1 and onto the old north lead.  They'd been informed that they would be waiting on four westbound trains.  I got some shots of the grinder equipment, the "waycar" at the rear, a couple of tank cars, and each of the two different types of grinder apparatus.

At 9:37 the parade of westbounds started with BNSF 8972 and CEFX 128 with MBKX cars - 484 axles.  UP 6219 and NS 9121 again with EXEX hoppers at 9:49 - 476 axles.  The third train, (my 7th so far this morning) BNSF 9820 with 9388 and BNSF hoppers was next - 532 axles.  And last, at 10:29, BNSF 8930 with 9480, JHMX cars and BNSF 6092 on the rear - 550 axles.

Just before 11:00, as the grinder was being brought back out onto Main 1, the DENGAL arrived with BNSF 8290, UP 7069 and BNSF 8724.  The detector reported the eastbound freight at 516 axles.  I still hadn't seen any grinding take place, so I went west out of Osceola to try to get some pictures of the grinder in action.  On the way I met another eastbound, WFAX hoppers behind BNSF 9894 and 5685.  9894 has pretty well faded to pink!

As the grinder came by, I caught them spraying water on the brush to suppress fires and also got a picture or two of the sparks flying under the machine as it reshaped the railheads.

I stopped to pick up some take-out lunch on the way back into Osceola and went to the depot to await more westbounds that I knew were getting warrants to follow the grinder.  At noon I caught a CEFX hopper train with BNSF 6049 and 5605 on the point.  Just 15 minutes behind was another empty, DEEX tub gons behind BNSF 6157 and 9468.  The latter registered 532 axles on the Osceola detector.

Amtrak had made up a little time from the estimate I got while in Chariton.  I heard them report ":26 and :28" at Creston.  They showed up west of the depot in Osceola at 12:56.  In the Zephyr today:
AMTK 93 and 189
Baggage 1733
Transition Sleeper 39035
Sleepers 32051 and 32062
Diner 38022
Sightseer Lounge 33024
Coaches 35001 and 34072
I  took a minute to visit with the Osceola station attendants J.R. and Pat before the short (40 axle) passenger train departed.  They reported their stop to the dispatcher as ":01 and :04"

I was aware that more empties were on the way, but decided to start back to the east along Hwy. 34.  I just missed one, seeing only the rear end as I crossed over the main tracks on the highway.  However, I got back to Chariton in time for four more.  I got the first one at the County Home Cemetery behind the HyVee warehouse at 1:50.  Leading another set of 130 DEEX tubs were BNSF 8864 and 8928.  I moved to Curtis Ave. for the last three.  The first to come through the Chariton yard was at 2:00, BNSF 9816 and 6202 with OGSX tub gondolas, probably from the Chillicothe power plant.  Twelve minutes behind were BNSF 8869 and 9430 leading WFAX hoppers.  Right on their taillight at 2:30 was a PSTX train with BNSF 8844, 9937 and 4994.

Eighteen trains in a little over eight hours - not a bad catch!

That's It!