May 30, 1997

Jan and I had a perfect late Spring day, and after doing some chores around the house, we drove southeast in search of some trains. Our first stop was in Melcher, where the UP had a work train getting ready to back south. This train had UP 5002 and 5016 in front of a string of ballast cars. Near the head end were CNW cars, and the rest of the string was made up of articulated GRR and GREX sets. About two thirds of the cars were full of broken concrete. A backhoe was riding on the south end of those were empty.

The Yellow Horde's bulldozers left a slight depression in the earth where the Rock Island depot recently stood. Sometimes I find them depressing, too. (First the pedestrian walkway over Short Line Yard, now this...)

As we started to leave town, I saw what appeared to be a semi tractor with a locomotive-like triangle of headlights south of the elevator. Upon investigating, we found a set of trailers equipped with flanged wheels backing out of the elevator spur. These units, labeled Rail Max - SSI Mobley Co., Inc., had a semi tractor on the front and were being employed in weed spraying.

Jan and I drove south to Chariton and then east on highway 34 to Albia. We went first out to the northeast end of town and caught train 491 (the numerical designations are still used by dispatchers and crews on the radio). They were ready to head down the hill and on to the west at 2:40, with BN 2106 and 1506 on the point.

We drove on out to "Old Maxon" to catch a coal empty that had been waiting impatiently behind 491. They were by us at 2:56 with MACs 9672 and 9431 with DEEX gons in tow. The traffic at Maxon was heavy, with the Ottumwa local next in line. They arrived, westbound, at 3:06. The local had a matched set of Operation Lifesaver units, BN 1524 and 1521.

The next two trains were coal loads coming up the "south way". The first one reached the top of the hill at 3:33 with BN 9507, OWY 9028, and BN 9283 pulling OGSX tub gons. This train crossed over to the westbound track in order to deliver at the Iowa Southern Utilities plant a few miles east of Maxon. Right behind them, at 3:55, came BN 9402 and BNSF 9741 with MCHX cars.

Since it sounded like things were going to quiet down a little bit in Albia, we decided to see if we could find any IMRL activity. There'd been nothing from their dispatcher on the scanner, but we took a chance and drove on over east to Ottumwa. At the former CP (Soo, MILW) yard, we did find some switching going on. A GeeP, obviously formerly a Soo unit from it's fading paint, was now lettered I & M Rail Link 101.

Three IMRL units were doing the switching, and as they worked back and forth at the east end of the yard, we got a good look at them. The units were IMRL 358, dark gray 8905, and a shiny F45, IMRL 393.

After checking out the IMRL units, we drove back over to Albia and went back to Maxon, arriving at about 5:30. The Ottumwa local had its train together and was ready to head back to the east. The UP's "Syrup Turn" had arrived from the north, made the interchange of Cargill corn syrup tankers with the BNSF, and was getting ready to depart. The Syrup Turn power today was UP 2277 and CNW 4627.

Just as earlier in the afternoon, there was plenty of coal train activity. An empty, with ACCX and UCEX hoppers got to Maxon at 5:50 with Oakways 9022 and 9081, followed by SF 8101. Just a couple of minutes later, a load came up the hill with BN 9558 and 9453 pulling AEPX gondolas.

We made a quick run to Hardee's and brought our sandwiches back trackside, passing over another coal load as it worked its way up the hill. We got back to Maxon in time to see the train, with BN 9620 and BNSF 9778 pulling GCCX and BN hoppers. Fifteen minutes behind them, the next load arrived, with LGSX and BN cars, pulled by BNSF 9755 and BN 9667.

On our way back home, we saw the tail end of a coal load starting up Whitebreast hill at Lucas, so we turned around and raced it back to Chariton. I got a picture of them at the west end of the Chariton yard at 7:45. This train had BN 9482 (very dirty!) and 9434 leading CEPX gons.

That's It!