A Busy Morning in Chariton
Monday, May 30 - Memorial Day
I left the ranch around 7:30. We had a forecast for a sunny and
windy day, and it was already up to 75° when I headed south along
the "Spine" line toward Melcher. "JBB", Jody, was on the Creston
desk this morning, and Amtrak's Julie reported the California Zephyr to
be 45 minutes down from schedule, expected in Osceola at about 8:30.
I'd heard a short discussion earlier between the 3rd trick
dispatcher and one of the eastbounds regarding some brake trouble, but
they were now on the move again. Several coal loads had left
Creston ahead of the passenger train, and the Chief Dispatcher was
getting tense about the potential delay.
By the time I reached Chariton, there was quite a bit of radio traffic
regarding the brake problem. They were trying to decide where to
stop and switch the two lead units, 6135 and 9216, since the headend
unit had a defective brake computer. JBB was making arrangements
to roll up warrants behind the coal loads at Afton so that the Zephyr
could get around them. I drove down to Lucas and caught the disabled train, a set of DEEX and CEFX tub gons, at 8:30, with BNSF 6135 and 9216 leading and 6005
on the rear. Since they seemed to be able to proceed without
correcting the brake issue, they decided to come up Whitebreast Hill,
where a "Rapid Response" vehicle was waiting at the HyVee crossing. With the Rapid Response truck watching the rear of the train, they pulled down beside the Chariton yard and stopped the train so that the first two units could be exchanged.
Instead of a directional warrant, Amtrak was given box 4, "work
between", authority to Maxon and proceeded through the crossover at
Afton around the coal loads using Main 1. They reported out of
their station stop at Osceola at 8:59, and appeared in Chariton pretty close to 9:30. The passenger train was led, elephant-style, by AMTK 173 and 123. The 48 axle consist included a baggage car, crew sleeper, three coaches, sightseer lounge, diner and three sleepers.
After a discussion with the dispatcher over whether to issue track
bulletins and warrants for the new lead unit or not, the coal load
headed out just before 10:00 with 9216 on the point and 6135 trailing. BNSF 6005 was still on the rear, of course. In just 15 minutes the next load, which had been waiting at the top of the hill, came by the depot and across Curtis Ave. These BNSF tubs were powered by BNSF 5902 and 6150, with 9231 shoving, as the train wound around the "ess" curve in Chariton. This train was reported a few minutes later by the Russell detector with 534 axles. A third coal load was just behind, BNSF hoppers with 9314 and 8939 leading and 5617 in DP on the rear. They came by my location at Curtis Ave. at 10:37.
I'd heard on the scanner that a couple of westbounds had warrants out
of the CTC at Albia, and at 10:52 the first one came around the curves. This was more BNSF hoppers with 6018 and 9718 pulling and 9986
on the rear. The Russell detector had reporting this train at 538
axles. Another westbound was close behind and I knew I had an
eastbounder coming up Whitebreast, so when I heard the horns of the
empty coming through town, I moved to the south side of the main
tracks, hoping to get pictures of both. The westbound, which came
through at 11:20, had 9781, 9729 and 8831 on the point and (I believe) nothing on the rear. Before 9781's train had cleared, the next load, BNSF gondolas with 8873 and 9610 in front and 5721 in back, came by.
At this point, I took a short break to visit a restroom and get a
sandwich for lunch. When I returned, I caught the tail end of an
MPWX hopper empty with no power on the rear. Another load arrived at 11:48, BNSF hoppers powered by 5780, 5792 and 6198.
I waited for them to hit the detector (490 axles) and listened
for whatever traffic was yet to come, but things had finally quieted
down for a while and I decided to call it a morning.