The BNSF in south central Iowa had somewhat of a meltdown on Friday and the Ottumwa sub. dispatcher KRS, with a student today, was still working with vans and relief crews to get things moving again. On the radio as I drove over to Beech, dispatcher SLY, working the territory between Creston and Albia, was talking to Foreman "Dude" Rogers on a rail grinder at Chariton, "...gotta talk to the chief and see if he's gonna let you boys come out and play today. A lot of people got chewed out yesterday, me included!"
Just before I got to Beech I heard SLY say tell Dude that he had the DENGAL out of Creston at 7:40 and a load behind them. The grinder would be waiting at Chariton for these two trains (4816 and 9507) and then would go east to work. They'd have to get out of the way of the California Zephyr, however, "The chief does not want me reversing Amtrak."
By the time I got to Beech, the first of the two northbounds, short on time and to be relieved at Carlisle, was already gone. The second one had already started into the south end of the siding when I had a look from the wooden bridge at 7:45. While the conductor walked in I got a picture of the rails below the bridge - looks like it might be time for a visit from the undercutter. This will be the route of the Challenger in a few days.
As soon as the second train had cleared, the conductor threw the switch and they started moving. The southbound train was a unit grain train, powered by UP 6422 and 7197. After watching them pull out I drove on east and then south toward Melcher, planing to intercept the DENGAL at Chariton. The grain train wasn't moving very fast and I drove over them on the Hwy. 181 overpass. I heard them later on the Melcher detector at 8:30, with 324 axles.
In Chariton I parked at Braden Avenue and worked on the crossword while I waited for the DENGAL. They arrived just after 9:00 with BNSF 4816 and a long string of locos - BNSF 4816, BNSF 7840, BN 7051, BNSF 7042, BN 6927, BNSF 6388, BNSF 6391, BNSF 6830 and ATSF 116. Nine engines! At 9:30 the coal load came through with BNSF 9507 and 9437 trailing DTCX cars. The Russell detector reported this train at 488 axles.
After the two eastbounds were by, Dude called the dispatcher and got a warrant for the rail grinder. I got several pictures as the long machine, made up of several grinders and tank tenders, followed by a caboose, came around the corner and headed for work down by Halpin. A water truck was to meet up with them at MP 313.
I next drove on over to Osceola and checked on the Zephyr. They were not expected for another hour and as far as I could tell from the radio there was nothing else on the way, so I decided to go on to Creston, arriving there at about 11:00. At the east end of the yard there was one load parked, UCEX hoppers with and 9558. BNSF 6951 and EMDX 761 were doing yard switching on the south lead.
It wasn't long before I heard the Zephyr call the Creston yard office to say that they were by Prescott. At 11:52 the detector just west of Creston counted the train at 106 axles and a couple of minutes later the engineer sounded a couple of "shave and a haircut..." signals to someone west of New York Ave. The train came around the curve west of the yard and stopped short with the head end near the yard office before pulling down for two passenger spots.
The private cars were sandwiched between a couple of Amtrak's MHC cars, an arrangement that probably provided a better view from the domes than being right behind a Superliner. In the train today:
AMTK 168, 181 and 47The chef, squinting at Iowa's bright noonlight, looked out the vestibule of Puget Sound and inquired, "Where are we?"
Transition Sleeper 39014
Coaches 34078, 34133 and 31539
Sightseer Lounge 33022
Sleepers 32011, 32006 and 32048
Material Car 1472
Material Car 1441
One box, three Expresstrak, two more boxes and four roadrailers
I got a few more shots as the train pulled down for its third stop, and then had a brief conversation with some passengers on the observation platform. The best picture of the day was this one of three fellows on the platform - they look like they've had a fun trip! The CZ was away fairly quickly, reporting "straight up and :04" as their times at Creston.
I knew from the radio that I had both west and eastbound trains in the vicinity. A westbound with a crew called for 12:40 was coming and was instructed to pull down to the yard office. The eastbound, which arrived at 12:40, was told that they would be tying down their train on Main 2. This was a BNSF coal load with distributed power, BNSF 8855 on the point. I noticed that the tub gondolas on the train were heaped full - to the point that the springs were pretty much fully compressed.
Bringing up the rear of the BNSF load was 8933. The yardmaster came out for a look and found that the train did not fit on the main between the yard switches. They wanted to not foul the west switch in case it was necessary to yard any other loads.
At 12:52, about the same time that the load stopped, the westbound with BNSF 8252 and 8861 started moving. These two units provided a contrast in orange paint jobs. 8252 was fairly fresh, while 8861 was faded. The westbound had a mix of AEPX and BN cars, and the detector reported 532 axles as they left town. While they were leaving, the DP load was pulled east to clear the west switch.
With nothing else that I knew of in the vicinity, I decided to head for home. Near Osceola I heard the detector east of town report 488 axles on Main 1, so I stopped at Ridge Road and intercepted a DTCX empty at 1:34. On the head end were BN 9589 and BNSF 9491. I stopped at the depot for a few minutes while we had a brief shower, but there was nothing on the radio, so I just drove back to Indianola.
On Saturday evening I returned to Osceola with my friend Joan Overton. I'd talked to Amtrak Engineer Rich Fertig during the afternoon and learned that he would be running No. 5 tonight. The train was on time and it looked like today there might be enough light to get some pictures as the train made its stop in Osceola.
We found a few thunderheads in the sky, and
there were clouds in the far west, but basically there was enough
twilight for pictures. I set Joan
up with a tripod and wandered around waiting for the train. Rich
called in when they were about five minutes out so that the passengers
could be moved to the north side of the tracks. Here's a .MOV video
file of the Zephyr's arrival, and Joan's shot of
the train coming by the depot.
The consist tonight:
AMTK 99, 64 and 41Rich stopped the train right on the advertised, 9:57. I took a few pictures of the head end while Joan got passengers leaving and boarding the Superliners. After a short stop and all were aboard, they pulled again and made Creston on time as well. I got one more picture while the fares crossed back over to the depot and then we drove back home.
Material Car 1471
Transition Sleeper 39039
Coaches 34095, 34037 and 31529
Sightseer Lounge 33040
Sleepers 32049 and 32078
Coach (Snack Coach) 35005
Six boxes, one Expresstrak and two roadrailers