May 30, 1998
A Busy Day at Creston


Byron and I had agreed to meet at Creston on Saturday morning, and I hit the road fairly early. As I drove south on I-35 toward the BNSF mains at Osceola, I used the scanner to listen to the dispatcher giving track warrants, trying to figure out if I'd be able to intercept any trains along Hwy. 34. The radio reception was almost too good this morning, and I found myself locking out more and more channels so that I'd hear just the BNSF dispatchers.

Very early in the morning, while still at home, I'd heard that "60" (now known as the ZDENCHI) had been delayed for quite a while at Albia. About the time I left for Creston, it sounded like the eastbounds were backed up but were beginning to roll again. I learned later from newspaper and railfan net reports that, around 4:00 a.m., the train ran over a corpse placed on Main 1 near Maxon. That's different. About 7:30, I heard an eastbound report out of Creston, and figured I might have a shot at that one somewhere along the line. We made an almost perfect meet in Thayer. Two MACs, BN 9476 and BNSF 9785, came through the tiny community with UCEX hoppers at 7:57. I heard later in the morning that they didn't get too much farther down the line before breaking a knuckle. The delay made it necessary for them to back over onto the westbound at Shannon to let Amtrak by.

I arrived in Creston around 8:15 and found a coal load standing at the east end of the yard with Oakway 9027, BN 7110 and 7193, and GCCX cars. (BNSF has switched to calling the Oakways "EMD" engines, but I'll use Oakway to distinguish these blue and white SD-50s from other EMD lease units.) This train did not get a crew while we were in town today. Remnants of the March 28 rear-ender remain north of the mainlines at the east end of the yard.

Byron was already at the depot and moved his stuff into the Jeep. I'd figured that we'd be running up and down the line today, but as it turned out, there was plenty of train-watching to do right in Creston. An empty, with BN 9439, BNSF 9736, BN 6333, BN 7890 and Oakway 9096 was stopped at the depot when we arrived. It would await a crew until noon. Byron pointed out that the 7890, with a white cab, was at one time a natural-gas-fueled unit.

In the yard today, SF 6366 was doing the switching chores, along with BN 2973. The usual caboose (12526) was in the yard, too. The Creston switch crew eventually parked the SF unit and used the power from a westbound manifest, BN 6356, EMD 6508 and LMX 8530, to do their switching.

Amtrak No. 6, the California Zephyr, came in about an hour down today (9:40). In the train:

GEnesis units 72, 32 and 17
Express 1740
Transition Sleeper 39029
Sleeping Cars 32043, 32018 and 32068
Diner 38010
Sightseer Lounge 33029
Coach (Smoking) 31522
Coaches 34010 and 34002
Baggage 1251
Boxcars 71074 and 71125
Material 1562
Coincidentally, an Iowa public school band director and former fellow student of Byron's was at the depot today with his family to ride the train to Burlington and back, just for fun. I recommended a visit to Phyl's Diner across from the Burlington depot during their layover, however, they both looked pretty fit and probably avoid buttered steaks like those Phyl serves up.

Right behind Amtrak, arriving at 10:06, was the DENGAL with BN 7910, cabless 4144 and freshly painted HLCX 6080. They pulled to the east end, changed crews and were rolling the Coors eastward again at 10:40.

We drove out to Bullock's crossing, the first gravel road grade crossing east of the Creston yard, since we knew another westbound was waiting to get into the yard. We found BN 9691, Oakway 9015, BN 7204, Oakway 9077, BNSF 9778 and BN 9695 with empty AEPX gondolas. From this and the train in the yard, it appeared that the BNSF was trying to get some power moved westward on the line.

Back in town at 11:00, the yard crew had begun switching with the road power mentioned above. We discovered that they were using 160.395, a channel I'd not heard used in this area before.

At 10:42, a coal load arrived with NCUX hoppers, (relatively new - 9/97), behind BN 9220, EMD 6382 and Oakway 9018. They pulled down to the east end, changed crews and were on their way again at 11:57. Another load was right on their heels at 12:06. This train had BN 9637 and BNSF 9811 and a string of twenty-year-old CEPX gons.

By this time, a crew was ready to go west and, as an EOT battery was replaced on the eastbound load, the 9439 rolled at 12:17. In just a few minutes, 9637 had changed crews and moved on, making room for the next load to come in at 12:27. This train had units BN 9434, 9567 and 7266, with DEGX and JHMX hoppers.

At 12:32, the westbound that had been waiting at Bullock's crossing (9691) pulled in for a crew change and rolled again at 12:43. The next empty pulled up at 12:54, with BN 5026, 5046 and 5530, and FSTX hoppers. This train would wait for about an hour for an outbound crew. Meanwhile, waiting east of town were BN 9653 and BNSF 9735 with another string of empties, ACCX cars.

We noticed an interesting feature of the detector just west of Creston (MP398..), on this warm afternoon it was saying "eight - tee - four degrees". I'll have to come down some cold day next winter to see how it handles ten, eleven, twelve and the teens.

The 5026 outbound crew arrived and moved their empty on west at 2:07. In a few minutes, 9434 and its loads moved out. At the same time, the empty that had been waiting at Bullock's (9653) came in. I drove in to a spot near the old turntable to get a picture of this train as it passed what little engine service facilities remain in Creston today.

The inbound 9653 engineer was instructed by the yardmaster to stop west of the lead track that serves industries on the north side of the yard, so that the yard crew could work the elevator. Using the SF 6366, they pulled to the west on the westbound and then shoved back toward us just as the next load came in on the eastbound main at 2:30. The load, EFCX and FSTX gons, was pulled by BN 5521, Oakway 9019, BN 5559, 9602 and 9405.

6366 went east to the elevator and returned light around 3:00. In the meantime, 5521 had pulled out, leaving room for another load, which arrived at 3:18. This train had BNSF 9832 and BN 9654 on the point and a consist of JE hoppers.

At 3:22, we heard detectors both east and west of the yard announce more inbound trains. The eastbound turned out to be the OMAGAL, in at 3:36 with BN 6843, 7012, SF 3671, and BN 3118, the latter marked "LARS Equipped".

I was due back in Indianola to attend an evening wedding, so I left Byron and started back east on Hwy. 34. At this point (3:45) there were three trains moving in the yard - 9653 was pulling west, the JE loads with the 9832 were going east, and the OMAGAL was doubling into tracks six and seven. Just east of town, I spotted a westbound manifest that had been waiting with BNSF 4736 (Heritage II paint), cabless BN 4017, SF 2861 and 2142. The Oakway 9027 and GCCX cars that had been in the yard at 8:15 a.m. remained.

Byron said that he saw two more eastbounds and heard the Armadillo van being sent to the Creston airport to pick up crews before he left at 5:00.

That's It!