Along the BNSF

Thursday, June 7


Thursday morning was overcast and foggy but we had a forecast of clearing skies and mid-70's temperatures, so I decided to spend the day along the BNSF.  After using the Internet to check on Amtrak No. 6 I left Indianola about 7:30 and headed for Osceola.  From the activity on the scanner I could tell that I had just missed an eastbound (9898) by a few minutes.  About 8:00 I heard "Okay on..." messages exchanged and I figured that I would see a westbound shortly after getting to the depot.

The westbound train showed up at 8:27, a mixed set BNSF and UCCX cars pulled by BN 9663 and BNSF 8888.  As I was lining up a shot of them I heard another set of horns behind me, and just as the westbound cleared, a coal load came around the corner west of the depot.  This was a distributed power CEPX train with 8878 in front and 9895 bringing up the rear.  The Osceola detector reported 532 axles for this train.

With another hour or more to wait on the Zephyr and having heard nothing of other westbounds, I decided to move east down the railroad.  I knew that 9898 was up that way somewhere and I'd heard the Ottumwa subdivision dispatcher tell them that they'd be waiting at the top of Albia Hill for Amtrak to come around.  I thought about going up to Maxon to catch them both, but with the rain we've had lately, the road to the new signals was bound to be a real mud bog.

Coal loads don't move too fast across southern Iowa, and I passed 8878 before getting to Lucas.  I drove up the Stephens Forest road and waited on the wooden bridge over the mainlines for the train.  8878 came out of the fog at 9:00 and rolled under me and on toward Lucas and Whitebreast Hill.  By the time the rear unit came through, the throttles were notched up for the hill.

I got back on Hwy. 34 and drove up the hill and on into Chariton.  It had taken the train one half hour to get from Osceola to Stephens Forest, a distance of about 20 miles.  The next 14 miles to the Chariton depot would take another half.  I parked at the first crossing east of the depot and waited for 8878's headlights to appear.  At 9:30, the train got to the depot and rolled into the beginning of the "ess" curve that the tracks follow through town.  I got one more shot of the rear unit before letting this one go.

From a warrant given by the Kansas City sub. dispatcher I knew I should now expect a westbound.  I heard them meet 8878 and heard both trains on the Russell detector (MP 328).  I went to Braden Avenue to wait and intercepted a DEEX empty with BNSF 9993, 9433 and 8851 at 10:06.  Railfans, look closely at the side of 9433's cab and you'll notice something interesting.

By 10:15 I'd heard a CSX westbound getting a warrant at Albia and also heard that Amtrak was out of Osceola, so I decided to stay at Chariton for at least two more trains.  The California Zephyr topped the hill and came through Chariton at 10:50 with Amtrak units 19 and 163 on the point.  The train had quite a bit of freight on the back today.  I counted ten roadrailers and the Russell detector reported 88 axles.  The normal train consist of two units, baggage, transition sleeper, three sleepers, diner, sightseer lounge and three coaches accounts for 48 axles.  It looked like there was a cut point near the middle of the trailers so I figured 12 bogies, or 24 axles.  That would leave 16 for four material or box cars.

Amtrak exchanged "Okay..." messages with the CSX train and it appeared in Chariton at 11:00.  On the point were CSX 7678 and 727.  At first this appeared to be an automobile train, but it was actually just a few loaded autoracks in front of an empty DEEX coal train.  The axle count on this interesting combination was 542.

Around 11:30 dispatcher KRS informed Amtrak that they'd be reversed from Halpin to Fairfield and that they'd need to call the Ottumwa depot to let them know that they'd be "...coming in on One".  I'd also learned earlier from the radio that there would be one load following Amtrak.  I had now heard this train on the Osceola detector and decided to go to the County Home Cemetery crossing (AKA "HyVee" crossing, Lucas County Rd. H-30) west of Chariton to wait.  They took a long time to climb the hill, but eventually I spotted them on the horizon moving very slowly toward me.  The engineer called the crossing at 11:45.  On the head end were BN 9598 and 9610, pulling a heaped-full set of GEAX tub gons.

As you can see in the pictures, the weather was beginning to improve in south central Iowa.  By noon, the Jeep's thermometer hit 80 degrees.  It sounded like things were going to quiet down on the railroad for a while, so I decided to drive back west all the way to Creston and spend the rest of the afternoon there.

I got to Creston just before 1:00.  On the radio, I could hear 9918 West just leaving town.  I stopped at the east end of the yard to get a picture of a UCEX load with BNSF 9974 and 8815 sitting in the yard with no crew.  The elevator north of the yard has exchanged their GeeP for an SW-type loco.

I paid a quick visit to McDonald's and parked next to Elm St. near the west end of the yard.  A couple of westbound trains that I'd seen earlier in the day were stopped waiting on crew changes.  At 1:20 a DEEX load pulled in behind BN 9584, BNSF 9752 and HLCX 573 (pretty obvious heritage).  I heard later that 573 was not running.

As soon as 9584 cleared, westbound 9663, that I'd seen around 8:30 at Osceola, opened the switch on Main 2 and rolled out of the yard.  The traction motor fans were kicking up quite a bit of dust as they came across Elm and worked the train toward the CTC west of Creston.

A couple of sets of locomotives were parked at the west end of the yard, BNSF 2331 and 2130, and BNSF 2762, 2142 and 2105.

I moved west to the signal bridge near New York Avenue for the next two trains.  The first, at 2:00, was another that I'd seen earlier in the day.  This was a DEEX empty with BNSF 9993, 9433 and 8851.  From this shot, you can see that 9433's cab sides have been repainted and lettered "BNSF".  Discussion on the radio with the Creston yardmaster now centered around a load, BNSF 9915, that was running low on time - the crew would "die on hours" at 15:00.  They decided to not take a chance on trying to get all the way into the yard and would instead change crews at New York Avenue.

The train pulled up and stopped right at 3:00 p.m.  The CSX train I'd seen earlier in Chariton was ready to leave, but the crew van was on the north side of the mains, so they were asked to wait.  The 9915 crew was changed out and both the CSX-powered and BNSF trains began to move about 3:10.  The two trains met at New York Avenue.  I wanted to see the trailing unit on the coal load, so I moved to the depot platform to wait, hoping that the westbound would clear first.  It was no contest.  By the time that the 16 autoracks and following empty coal cars cleared Elm Street, the 9915 had barely moved one block.

Creston got its name because it was the highest point, the crest, on the CB&Q line across Iowa.  The division point was originally established to the west a few miles, but the railroad found it problematic to start eastbound trains out with a hill to climb, so they moved to the new railroad town that they called Creston.  9915 and the trailing unit were struggling to bring their 130 coal loads up that hill and through town.  I could hear the flanges ringing on the rails as 9915 went by me on the verge of wheel slip.  It was ten full minutes before the rear unit, BNSF 8861, came by the depot.

I decided to pace this train back toward Osceola and stopped to get pictures of it from the old overpass in Thayer.  At 3:54, 9915 came through and headed up the grade east of town.  This time it was only a minute or two before the rear unit passed.  My last contact with them was when I heard the Osceola detector pass the train, "No Defects...", at 4:36 as I was driving north toward Indianola.


IAIS Encounter - Friday, June 8

On Friday morning I headed west to Audubon to pick up my friend Jane Jensen.  We took a drive to the Loess Hills of western Iowa and enjoyed a picnic and a hike along a trail near Preparation Canyon State Park.  We had supper back in Audubon and I was on my way home when I heard the Iowa Interstate doing some switching in Adair.

The shadows were getting long by the time I found the train, IAIS's BICB, working the West Central elevator.  The train had a loco I'd not seen on the IAIS before, numbered 485.  The train was led by 481 and IAIS 600 trailed.  The fellow in the black Grand Cherokee had tipped me off to the train's location when he called them on the radio and said, "I'm coming over to help you, we don't want any more surprises at Adair."

That's It!