Byron and I had decided to do a train-watching day some time this week and Thursday's weather forecast looked perfect. We planned to meet at Creston at 8:00 a.m. I invited Byron's cousin Alex along, since he'd wanted to see what this train-chasing business was all about sometime this summer.
Alex and I got to Creston just after 8:00. A coal load was just being pulled out of the yard and under Hwy. 34 as we reached town. The east end of the yard was empty, but another load, with BN 9659, 9646 and PSTX gondolas rolled in as we drove toward the depot to meet Byron.
The Zephyr wasn't expected until 10:00, and there was nothing else that we knew of in the vicinity, so the three of us started back eastbound in the Jeep. We figured from the EOT beeps that we'd probably passed the load Alex and I drove over on the way into Creston. Just before we got to Osceola, we heard the detector out east of town announce a westbound, so I stopped just west of the I-35 junction and waited in the median with my camera. This would be one of those DT situations where you hope you're on the right side of the track.
We lucked out and the westbound got to us first, just before 9:00. This was BNSF 9806 and 9810 with new (pink!) OGSX cars. The load we'd passed was right there a minute later with BN 9487 and 9495, pulling IPWX cars. We noticed that the draft created by the passing trains was causing quite a bit of coal dust to blow across the highway today. BN 9487 would soon be in trouble over on the south hill at Albia.
The BNSF has moved one of the Osceola detectors. The Main 1 (normally westbound) remains at 356.7, but the Main 2 detector has moved west to 357.8 and has a different "announcer" now.
We drove on into the depot in Osceola. A Herzog ballast train was parked on the north side west of the Hwy 69 grade crossing. At 9:30 they backed the train up the branch and moved it out onto Main 1 to head west out of town. They had a caboose on the rear, BN 12155. Power for the ballast train, which was already about half-dumped, consisted of a couple of refurbished SD-40-2's, BNSF 7127 and, in the lead, 6830.
After making use of the Osceola "facilities" and noting that someone had gone a little nuts with yellow paint around the depot (like painting the sweep of the doors on the restroom floors - give me a break!), we headed on eastward.
Our next stop was the Albia depot area, which had also recently been victimized by the BNSF yellow paint squad. Ex-SF GP-30 BNSF 2411 was parked just west of the office.
We knew from the radio that a couple of trains were in the vicinity, so went out to new Maxon to catch them. About this time, BN 9487 called the dispatcher to say that their lead unit had "shot craps" on the hill and that they were stalled at MP 304. It was a little after 11:00 and Amtrak was on the way - okay - maybe things would start to get interesting around here!
I checked out the Maxon crossovers, which were lined 2 to 1 for a westbound. At 11:20, an empty rolled up on Main 2 and crossed over. On the point were BN 9479, 9462, 9552, 9664 and BNSF 8887 and 9967, trailed by JE hoppers. Hey, Mr. Dispatcher, I think opportunity is knocking here - six units! However, 9487 was left to confer on the radio with the locomotive desk at length about TCC's and "crowbars", but to no avail. With one and a half old MAC's, they could not start their train on the hill. I believe I heard them being relieved on hours after I got home.
We moved over to old Maxon for Amtrak, which came up the "North Way" at 11:48, passing the stalled train. These people have gone through as many paint schemes as BNSF! This was the same power I saw last Friday on the way to Galesburg, but I couldn't tell if the rest of the consist were the same.
Before we started back westward I walked up the Appenoose County RR line (ex-Wabash/NW/NS) to their bridge over the south hll to see how close 9487 was. They'd stalled just a few carlengths east of bridge.
We drove back to Osceola and got into town just in time to hear the detector announce an eastbound. Dang, missed one! However, the new detector reported that they had "total axles, one nine", so we concluded that it must be maintenance equipment. Alex and Byron walked over to the Casey's while I monitored the radio. The detector came on again with a rebroadcast. Same axle count. The train beeped up the dispatcher and reported the axle count, which should have been up in the 400's. There followed some discussion about detector rules. If you get a count from two detectors varying by more than 16 axles, you're supposed to stop and inspect your train. (If it's fewer than four cars, no big deal!) Anyway, it seems that they'd gotten an "integrity failure" on the Thayer detector (near MP 378) and were wondering if that counted. They and the dispatcher decided to go on to Russell detector (MP 328) and see what happened there.
At 3:13 another eastbound came through Osceola. This was an AEPX train with BNSF 9943 on the front and BNSF 9778 on the rear. We waited for the report from the new detector. "Integrity Failure" it said. They called the dispatcher, who asked if they were going too slowly. No, "track speed".
We arrived back in Creston about 4:00. The same load that had been pulling in at 8:00 a.m. with BN 9659 and 9646 was parked at the east end of the yard. At the south side of the yard BNSF 2199 and EMD 759 looked ready to take a train out eastbound, but did not have a crew yet. Down at the west end, near New York Ave., an AEPX load was parked, dark, on Main 2 with BNSF 9939 on the point.
Alex and I dropped Byron off at his Blazer and started back toward home. He and I caught two more trains on the way back. As we drove over the overpass just west of Thayer, we could see the headlight of a westbound coming down the hill. This turned out to be BN/BNSF empties pulled by BNSF 9997 and 9815. They went by us at 4:37.
As we neared the Osceola depot, the (working) detector announced another westbounder. We caught them at 5:02, a GAL-something type manifest with BNSF 1100, 4693 and 4479 in charge. The orange on 4479 is really faded!