A message on the MNRail list Friday from Steve Craven described a passenger special to be run on the CIC (the "CRandIC") Saturday between Walford and Fairfax. According to the message the train was to have just two cars, a heavyweight observation car loaned by the Illinois Central, and another observation car familiar to Iowans, CB&Q Silver Solarium. On Saturday morning I checked the status of Amtrak No. 6 and concluded that I might be able to catch the CIC special and still make it to Mt. Pleasant in time for the CZ. I left Indianola around 7:30 and stayed on 65 mph roads all the way over to Hwy. 151 near the Amana Colonies. It was cloudy, windy and cool, and I ran into a couple of rain showers on the way over.
I reached Walford around 9:30 and stopped for a look at the community's preparations. A large tent had been set up near the railroad and there were a number of generic signs directing people to the "Event", as in, "Event Parking" and "Event Entrance". A couple of the Event Staff were working on an Illinois Central Operation Lifesaver parade train that had stopped in the middle of the street shortly after being unloaded.
I drove the short distance up 151 to Fairfax and, from the overpass above the UP mainlines, spotted the passenger train coming into town from Cedar Rapids at 9:45. I turned around and parked on what on a nicer day would have been the sunny side to get some pictures. A fellow in a suit with a camera jumped out of a brown Tahoe on the other side of the tracks and yelled something to me that sounded like "Foamers on both sides!"
The special had two CRandIC GeePs, 111 and 112. A fan told me later that these are ex-SP units and the newest power on this Iowa short line. The IC car, marked MW 101-314 was next, followed by Silver Solarium. The Tahoe and I headed back south toward Walford, easily passing the train along the way. They got to Walford at about 10:00. A few fans were waiting and I joined them in the photo line for more pictures of the diesels, the IC car , and that beautiful streamliner.
The train pulled south to clear the switch and was backed up and spotted a car length or so into the siding, next to the tent. Silver Solarium has a neon California Zephyr sign, which was lit once the train stopped.
I didn't wait around for the citizens of Walford and Fairfax to board and ride their train but instead headed south for Mt. Pleasant. The current Amtrak schedule calls for No. 6 to leave Mt. Pleasant at 11:03 a.m. I arrived about 11:30 and checked with the agent who told me that the passenger train would be in "around 1:00". Another railfan was there, parked on the north side of the tracks in a pickup with the plate "E59911A", a reference to a preserved CB&Q passenger loco. We got to talking and I learned that he was Scott Marsh from Cedar Falls and was on his way to a meet of some sort in Bonaparte that evening. When we were talking about his license plate, he remarked that he'd like to get a picture of BNSF 9911. I happen to have an image of that 9911 that I got while on a trip through Nebraska in 1999, and I've printed and surface-mailed a copy to Scott.
At noon, a GEAX coal load came through behind BN 9701 and 9494. 9701 looked like she'd been ridden pretty hard since the last wash job. Scott and I visited while we waited for more rail traffic. There were a couple of other fans around, whom Scott said were from Florida and out photographing depots. One was using an interesting-looking bellows-style, large format camera.
A westbound manifest, probably the GALDEN, passed us at 12:45. It had an interesting collection of diesels, BN 7242, BNSF 2761, BNSF 104 and BN 9443.
The California Zephyr's headlight finally appeared on the horizon west of the depot at 1:12. The consist today:
AMTK 139 and 138There were lots of skis to be unloaded today, so the Zephyr stopped short for baggage transfer, and then pulled down for a second spot to accommodate the sleeping car passengers. (Yes, it's been raining in Iowa!) Shortly after leaving the depot, the engineer reported their times to the dispatcher as "13:13 and 13:21". The detector east of Mt. Pleasant counted 82 axles as they passed - quite a bit of freight today.
Transition Sleeper 39046
Coaches 34053, 35010 and 31591
Sightseer Lounge 33024
Sleepers 32030, 32015 and 32041
Material 1548 and 1513
Four Amtrak Boxcars and three Roadrailers
Scott and I both left the depot at this point. I went over south of the small BNSF yard in Mt. Pleasant to get pictures of BNSF 2642 and caboose BN 10781, parked north of the mainlines. From the radio I knew that I could expect another westbounder pretty soon, so I parked a block west of the depot and waited for the detector to announce the train. At 1:48 I caught a DEEX empty as it came around the curve east of the depot and rattled on toward the dip in the tracks just outside of Mt. Pleasant. On the point were BNSF units 9957 and 9799.
I started back in the general direction of home, more or less staying with 9957 on the way over to Fairfield, where I stopped for lunch. I heard 9957 call the dispatcher just after they got out of Fairfield to report that they'd stopped to clear debris put on the tracks by a couple of youngsters. They said both mains were blocked with tires, appliances and other assorted junk.
My next stop was around 3:30 at the BNSF Ottumwa yard. There was no activity but I spotted several locos, BNSF 2792, 2107 and 2762 near the yard office, and 9243 and 9274 on the north side near the mainlines. I drove down to the IMRL crossing and started picking up DP noises on the EOT channel. Shortly, a DEEX load came through with BNSF 9973 on the front and 8871 on the rear.
It sounded like the IMRL had a couple of eastbounds coming, one ready to go up the hill and another waiting to get into the yard behind it. I went over to the Quincy street crossing just east of the yard for the first one. This grain empty was pulled by UP 7289, 7019, 6865 and IMRL 209. They took the signal and started over the Des Moines River bridge just before 4:00. The second train dashed into the yard before I could get to the west end, so all I saw of it as I left town were the last few cars.
On the drive over to Albia I heard BN 9673 East at Melrose getting a warrant from the Ottumwa Sub. dispatcher and figured I could intercept them at Maxon. As it turned out, I got to Old Maxon in time for a train ahead of them as well. The first, a distributed power coal load, arrived at 4:54. BNSF 8949 was leading the AEPX cars with BNSF 8937 bringing up the rear. The detector east of Maxon reported 528 axles, or 129 cars, for this train.
The train I had heard at Melrose was right behind and crested the south hill at 5:15. This one had ACCX and UCEX hoppers and was pulled by BN 9673 and BN 9507 - only 472 axles for this train. Before leaving town I stopped by the Albia yard. A couple of locos, BN 9270 and BNSF 6205 - probably helper power, were parked west of the yard office.