Amtrak Trio

June 1 and June 8

Saturday, June 1

Mid-morning Saturday I drove to Osceola to meet No. 6 and deadheading engineer Rich Fertig.  I had a merchandise contribution to a fund-raiser that Rich and his girlfriend Amy were involved in and I wanted to get it to them before I was to spend a few days in Williamsburg, VA, at a conference for college science teachers.

On the drive down I heard dispatcher S.L.Y. give a warrant to track inspector Earl Hamilton to ride west from Osceola and he also reported on the air that he had "one west" out of Creston at 10:40.  "SLY" called Earl a bit later to tell him that the Roadmaster Turnbull had asked that he ride "all of your territory" today.

There's recently been a project underway to replace a set of tiles on the edges of the depot platforms, many of which had managed to detach themselves.  The replacement is a patterned, poured concrete setup.  Hopefully it will last a bit longer than the tiles.

I caught three trains at Osceola before the Zephyr arrived.  At 11:28, a DTCX coal load came through with BNSF 9798 and 9816 on the point.  This would undoubtedly be the last thing on the eastbound main before Amtrak.  Two westbounders appeared as well.  The first was a set of MPWX hoppers pulled by BN 9691 and BNSF 9451.  They were out of the station at 12:37.  The second empty followed closely behind at 12:47.  This train had BNSF 8859, 9967, 8881 and ?? pulling DEEX gondolas.

The Zephyr came around the corner west of the depot at 12:50.  In the consist today:

AMTK 43, 184, 77, 83
Baggage 1702
Transition Sleeper 39039
Coaches 34095, 34053, 34074 and 31527
Sightseer Lounge 33009
Diner 38025
Sleepers 32094 (Montana), 32043 and 32042
Coach 34054
Material 1433
Four boxcars, six reefers and eight roadrailers - 126 axles today!
Engineer Fertig was in the door of the crew car as they rolled to a stop.  We visited briefly before heading for our respective homes.

Saturday Morning, June 8

Rich called around 9:15 to report that No. 6 would be in Osceola around 11:15.  He had an idea for a photo-op, a long curve east of Murray where he thought it might be possible from the right vantage point to get the entire in the picture.  There was a small catch, involving the use of company property.  I already had a long excursion planned for Saturday afternoon, and when I said that the track inspector would probably spot me, we just changed the subject.

By 10:00 I'd talked myself into at least having a look, so I grabbed my gear and started down I-35 at a high rate of speed.  I checked to see where the train was and got detailed instructions on how to reach the location.  Just after leaving the Interstate and starting west on Hwy. 34 I passed Track Inspector Hamilton riding west.  Good, at least I know where he is and also that it will probably be a while before I see any westbounds.  (Or they see me.)

I parked at a grade crossing near my objective and waited, listening to radio conversation between the Zephyr's head end and my nearby Track Inspector.  Rich was making sure that I knew where Earl was - unnecessary as it turned out, since he was rolling right by me.  After the highrailer had passed by a safe distance, I moved into position for the photos.

The eastbound California Zephyr came into sight just before 11:00.  The original version of the previous image had power lines in it and was clouded by Iowa's high humidity on this warm morning.  There'd also been quite a bit of dust in the air, kicked up by the fairly heavy traffic on the gravel road between my location and the train.

I got several shots as the train approached.  Rich tipped his FDNY hat and waved as the lead unit passed and the train headed up a short hill to the southeast.

I hurried after them and managed to cross the bridge east of Osceola on Hwy. 34 just as the front of the train arrived there.  By the time we reached Lucas and the intersection with Hwy. 65 they were pulling away, so I gave up the chase and went home to get ready for this day's next excursion.

Saturday Afternoon, June 8

I'd been tipped off through the railfan net (the Internet) that today's westbound Zephyr would have a couple of "PV's" in the consist.  The initials come from "Private Varnish", referring to railroad cars that were once made of wood.  These PV's would be newer, built in the 1940's and '50's of stainless steel, and would have upper level "Vista Domes".

I don't get many opportunities to photograph No. 5 because its nearest stop to my home is after sunset.  (I know, the summer solstice is just about here, and I will give it a try - if the day's clear, the train's on time (8:57), etc., I just might get some decent pictures at Osceola.)  To intercept No. 5 at a station stop in daylight I'd have to go east to at least Mount Pleasant, where the schedule calls for a 6:36 p.m. arrival.

I recruited my neighbor and friend Joan Overton to ride along and we left town around 2:15.  It was 87 degrees with a strong south breeze this afternoon.  We had enough slack in our schedule to afford a little train-watching along the way.  Our first stop was in Chariton to catch a westbound train that we'd heard getting a warrant at Albia around 2:35.  They would be running "left-handed" to get around a rail grinder working on Main 1.

A second westbound (EMD 9040) got a warrant for Main 2 at 2:55.  We waited in a shady spot near the west end of the Hwy. 14 overpass for quite a while for the first to show up.  It finally arrived at 3:35, a DEEX empty pulled by BNSF 8906 and ATSF 856. 856 was peeling paint and rusting pretty badly.  The DEEX train pulled slowly around the first turn of Chariton's "ess" curves and headed to the yard where they would cross back to Main 1 for the rest of their run to Creston.  We decided not to wait on the next and started east along Hwy. 34 again.

As we neared Albia we heard a warrant given to another westbound, addressed to a loco with the reporting mark "TFM".  I U-turned at the Hwy. 34 bridge just north (east on the RR) of Halpin and we walked out onto the bridge.  The westbound, which turned out to be the GALLIN, showed up at 4:15 and passed under us.  The locos were TFM 1333 and 2366.  We then heard another train get a warrant at the top of the hill and be told by the dispatcher that they would be waiting for an eastbound to reach Halpin before they would go west.

We highballed the rest of the towns along 34 and got to Mt. Pleasant around 5:30.  A call to "Julie" at 1-800-USA-RAIL revealed the Zephyr to be running on time.  At the depot, a fairly large group was awaiting the passenger train.  With no attendant in the station people had lots of questions about tickets and boarding.  At 6:07 a westbound AEPX train came through behind BN 9268 and BNSF 9924.  The horns brought people out of the station, looking down the tracks and wondering if they needed to cross now or not.  This situation looks to me like the proverbial "accident waiting to happen".  Heaven forbid that an eastbound should show up at the same time...

The Zephyr was delayed in Burlington by a broken-down automobile fouling the rails.  They did not hit it, but had to wait for a tow truck to remove it before resuming their trip.  They came into Mt. Pleasant just a few minutes behind schedule and later reported their stop to the dispatcher as ":52 and :56".  I also heard them call the depot to report that they were "...about two minutes out."  Unfortunately, there was no one at the station radio to hear them.

Tonight's No. 5:

AMTK 83, 184 and 154
Baggage 1702
Transition Sleeper 39039
Sleepers 32043, 32094 (Montana), and 32023
Diner 38025??
Sightseer Lounge 33009
Coaches 31527, 34074, 34053 and 34059
Sleeper 32067
Chartered cars Puget Sound and Sierra Hotel
Five boxcars and three reefers - 96 axles total
Joan and I waited on opposite sides of the rails for the train.  While I got pictures of the private cars and their passengers from the south, she shot from the north and had a conversation with the staff and got the supper menu from the chef.  The people in the Vista Dome of the Puget Sound seemed amused to see us and waved and took pictures as we did the same.

Just out of curiosity, I looked up the cars on the WWW.  Puget Sound was originally built for the Great Northern for use on the Empire Builder, and Sierra Hotel served with the CB&Q on the California Zephyr.  This car appeared to me to have had the observation platform added later.  The web site stated that a car normally had two attendants, a steward and a chef, and that one could expect to pay $3000 to $5000 per car, per day.

That's It!