A Spring Day on the BNSF
Thursday, May 3
Thursday's forecast was for a perfect late spring
day in Iowa. I called to see how Amtrak was doing and learned that it
was expected to be about 45 minutes late. I was out of Indianola for
the drive down Hwy 69 (they've raised the speed limit from 50 back to 55
as it was in the "old days") just after 6:00 and missed one westbound a few
minutes before reaching the tracks. I'd also heard another westbound
getting out of Albia around 6:25. At 6:45 dispatcher KRS had taken over
the Ottumwa desk and had the eastbound "DENGAL" going around a couple of
other trains at Albia.
At 6:50 I heard "Okay on this side" messages exchanged and figured the westbound
I'd missed had met someone west of town. Shortly the detector east of
Osceola reported another westbound. This turned out to be an interesting
consist, stack cars, piggybacks and numerous loaded auto racks. The
train came out of the sun at 6:55 with BNSF 8262 and 6804.
It's rare to see any intermodal through Osceola
in the daytime.
Distributed Power noises continued on the scanner after the westbound passed
and just after 7:00 a coal load came around the corner
west of the depot. On the head end was BNSF
9933 (note red flag). Bringing up the rear of the set of BN/BNSF
and COEH cars was BNSF 9742. After the
train was out of town, the detector reported
them at 532 axles.
I waited in the depot parking lot for the Zephyr while various railroad
maintenance people busied themselves nearby. A high-rail boom truck was loaded with new ties
and a track inspector got on Main 1 to head
east out of town.
Just before 9:00, Engineer Denise called in to tell Depot Attendant Pat
that No. 6 was crossing the Interstate. Pat informed the engineer that
she had two sleeper fares to board. The passenger
train appeared and rolled to its first stop almost one hour down from
the timetable. Consist today:
AMTK 58 and 138
After passing the detector, Amtrak reported "9:01 and 9:05" to the KC line
Transition Sleeper 39042
Coaches 34062, 34027 and 31540
Sightseer Lounge 33007
Sleepers 32038 and 32018
Private Car (apparently occupied) "Silver Iris", from Golden State Ltd. (Silver Iris web site)
Four Boxes and four roadrailers.
The overall picture of traffic this morning now appeared this way: There
was one eastbound out of Creston behind Amtrak, a coal load led by BNSF 8808.
Later in the morning, this train asked the dispatcher if they were going
down the K-Line and were told "There's no K-Line, half of it is under water!".
I'd also learned from dispatcher KRS that three empties were lined
up east of Albia waiting for Amtrak to climb the north hill, passing the
9933 that I'd seen come through Osceola about 2 hours ago. I decided
to to follow the Zephyr and headed for Albia. In spite of a couple of
Form B's to deal with, Denise gradually pulled away from me as I ran a steady
60 mph across Hwy. 34.
By the time I got to Albia, Amtrak was back on Main 2 and on the way to
Ottumwa. I went to the yard area in Albia to see if I could intercept
the westbounds on Main 1. The first one, which had read out at 484
axles on the detector at MP 298.5, arrived at the junction
with the Des Moines branch at 10:20. In the lead were BN 9585 and 9425. The empty's consist was NCUX cars.
Five minutes later, the detector reported the next westbound, this time
a DP train with 532 axles. I'd heard the 9933 pass the detector on
Main 2 and knew that I'd be able to get through to old Maxon, so I drove
out there to find my usual parking place occupied by BNSF maintenance forces.
I drove a bit further east to another pullout and caught the next train
at 10:30. This empty had BNSF 5703 in the
lead and 5701 shoving on the rear of its COEH tub gons.
The detector announced the third westbound at 10:40, 488 axles. This
train, with BN 9523 and BNSF 4158, was to stop and pick up a set of fuel
oil cars from Des Moines. They had a set of new (April 04 build date)
PSTX tub gons.
By this time I figured that eastbound 8808 would be starting up the hill,
so I went to the first grade crossing west of Old Maxon, a gravel road that
crosses only Main 2, and waited. They showed
at 11:15, a distributed power load of UCEX hoppers with BNSF 8808 in the lead. In this shot, looking up the hill, you can see
the new PSTX tubs in the background on Main 1 as 9523 has stopped and cut
off its train to pick up the fuel oil. BN 9705
was on the rear of the coal load, totaling 528 axles on the detector east
I next went to the west end of the Albia yard on Main 1 to catch 9523, its train back together coming through with
the fuel oil, on the way down the north hill
At this point it sounded like there wouldn't be much traffic for a while.
Dispatcher KRS was granting maintenance people track and time warrants
on both mains, so I decided to get some lunch and find a shady parking spot.
On the way back to the tracks I saw some movement of covered hoppers
out of the corner of my eye. It was the Appanoose County coming into
Albia, a "good catch"! I hurried over to the east side of the rails
to get a shot of their loco, APNC 973, just after
they'd dropped their cut and were heading for the BNSF interchange.
I drove around trying to get an angle on the train and finally decided to
wait for them to come back south and cross the road on the old Wabash overpass. They brought the cars from
the BNSF down to their small yard, dropped them and ran around to the south end of the cut they'd brought
up from Centerville. These cars were then shoved
north across old Hwy. 34 and around the corner toward the interchange. The
engine then returned light, ran back to the south end of the yard and prepared to couple up
with the cars brought from the interchange earlier. At this point the
engine crew tied down and got aboard the APNC weed
sprayer to go to lunch.
Around 12:45 I heard KRS say that he had an eastbound coming, so I went
down to the bottom of the hill at Halpin to check the signals. I found
John Horn in a highrail outfit waiting to take Main 2. By 1:00 things
were starting to clear up at the top. I'd become impatient, however,
and had moved to a spot part way up the hill where both mains were visible,
though on grades separated by the road. Horn
came by at 1:15 and a coal load followed at 2:00. The load had two
new-looking units running elephant style, BNSF 5119
and 5118. The consist was FSTX and ESCX
On the radio, KRS now had the Galesburg to Lincoln manifest out of Ottumwa,
plus another coal load approaching the bottom of the hill. I moved
to Halpin for these two. The GALLIN, a "45
mph train", registered 494 axles on the detector at MP 298.5 and arrived
at the bottom of Albia Hill at 2:20. They had three units in the lead,
BNSF 9204, 8054 and FURX
Maintenance workers were on the radio to the Ottumwa dispatcher trying to
get on the track, and when one of them mentioned "the next guy", KRS replied
that, "I am the 'next guy' today." This prompted a side remark from
some other radio, "Kevin never leaves the building..."
The last train (Number 11) of my day got to Halpin
at 2:43, a CEFX load behind BN 9406 and 9538. According to the discussions heard on
the scanner, there was now nothing out of Creston and a couple of empties
near Burlington. I decided to head back to Indianola. On run
north up Hwy. 65 I heard the GALLIN on the Osceola detector at 3:35.