Ottumwa - BNSF and IMRL
June 14, 1997

Mark Van Wyk of Urbandale and I agreed to go train-watching on Saturday, and left Indianola at 7:30 with the general objective of finding some IMRL activity in southeast Iowa. We first drove south to Chariton and went out to the west end of town. Mark spotted smoke on Whitebreast hill, which I though was too much to be a train, but it turned out to be a coal load with a very smoky second unit. We intercepted them at 8:20 at the "Hy Vee" road, with BN 9454 and 9505 in front of AEPX gondolas.

We knew from the radio that a westbound was approaching, so we followed 9454 back through town and waited along Russell Boulevard, near milepost 333. At 8:32, Oakway 9061 and BN 9204 came into sight with an empty set of DEGX hoppers.

We got back onto highway 34 and drove over to Albia, passing the coal load we'd seen in Chariton. We went on out to Maxon to wait for them to make it up the hill. A 10 mph slow order on the south hill kept the dispatcher worried about them stalling, but they crested the grade at 9:34. Close behind was another load. It arrived at Maxon at 10:05, with OWY 9032, EMD 6045 and OWY 9060 pulling BN gons.

Mark and I set out on old 34 and gravel county roads, heading in the direction of the IES coal-fired electrical plant near Chillicothe. Mark really wants to see a coal train unloaded, so we thought we'd at least check to see if one were on the property. Along the way, at Dudley, we encountered the Des Moines turn (formerly 447/446) on its way to Albia and then up the Des Moines branch. Their power today was SF 3413 and BN 2984.

Just as we got to the IES plant, called "ISU Switch" on the railroad, we saw the track inspector's highrailer go by on the eastbound. We drove around the plant property, and Mark went inside to inquire about unit train unloading. He was told that the plant was only notified when a train reached Creston, about three hours before it arrives at the power plant. We did get a look at the rotary unloader, but not in action.

We'd heard nothing about Amtrak #6 yet this morning, and no one seemed to be very concerned about trains occupying the eastbound main, so we assumed it was running late. When we got to Ottumuwa, we went to the depot and inquired. It had just left Lincoln, NE at 11:15, which meant that it would probably not get to Ottumwa until late in the afternoon.

We drove to the IMRL/BNSF diamond and visited with a railfan who was there from Oskaloosa while we waited on a westbound train that was going to come down the hill from Rutledge. This manifest finally appeared at 12:05, with IMRL 358 and HLCX 3066 on the point. The 3066 appeared to have come from the UP's used loco lot. IMRL seems to be using quite a mixture of high-mileage power - at the west end of the yard we saw 8918 and 217 in gray and blue, respectively.

We stayed by the BN tracks long enough to catch the westbound BNSF intermodal hotshot (formerly 65) at 12:24. It had SF 3848 and 7429 on the head end today.

Since things seemed to be quieting down on the BNSF and there were no other IMRL trains around, we decided to chase 358 southeast out of town. We left town right beside the tail end of the train, but got well ahead of them before reaching Blakesburg and taking to the gravel roads that meander along the right of way. I stopped under one of the steel trestles on the old MILW route to get another picture of the train. We managed to get ahead of them again and catch a last look at the train at a grade crossing in Moravia.

We drove north from Moravia and went back west along 34 again. From the scanner, we knew that another eastbound was coming our way, so we dropped south into Melrose and waited for it. This was another coal load, with ACCX and UCEX hoppers pulled by BN 9551 and 9557.

On the way back home, we heard Amtrak call the dispatcher and say that they were out of Osceola at 4:01 - almost seven hours down today!

Bonus Images from Sunday, June 15:
We'd been searching for a centercab "critter" around here for a week or so, following up on reports from the Railroad List. I checked Transglobal and Short Line Yard before finally locating it at Industrial Transportation Equipment Co. near Avon this afternoon. It's an interesting little machine, lettered for Ohio Edison, with the phrase "The Energy Makers" below. This lettering was on only one side - the other has only blue striping. The ends are both marked, "No. 2" just under the headlights mounted on top of the hoods. The trucks are very different with a high frame and a cylindrical protrusion (traction motor?). The high truck frame gives the engine strange proportions, making the cab and hoods look lower than usual.

While we were getting pictures of the critter, the UP ran a grain train southbound on the Spine line. It came by us at 4:36 with UP 6183, 9171 and 3326 in charge. They were given a warrant all the way to Allerton.