Four Mile Bridge Curfew

July 16


I decided to return to Ottumwa on Sunday evening to have a look at the BNSF bridge project.  Two July Sundays, the 9th and 16th, had been reserved so that two truss sections of the bridge could be replaced with open decks.  I'd stopped by on Saturday the 8th just before the first span was replaced.

I got out of Indianola around 6:00.  Things had cooled off somewhat from our recent heat/humidity wave, and it was 82 with a light overcast.  On the drive down to Ottumwa, which takes about an hour and a half, I could hear the IMRL dispatcher talking to a couple of westbounders, IMRL 382 and BN 9457.  I figured that even with the BNSF blocked, there might be some traffic at the diamond.

I got to the bridge project at 7:30.  The second truss section had been removed and was on the ground south of the bridge.  Last week's truss was pretty well cut up, with one section still recognizable sitting to the west of the second.  The surface of the new bridge was occupied by high-rail vehicles, cranes and assorted track maintenance equipment.

By the time I'd gotten a few pictures of the bridge work it sounded like IMRL 382 was already on its way down the hill, so I hurried to the Quincy grade crossing to intercept them.  This was 111's train, which arrived at 7:45 behind IMRL 382 and 201.  Free Advice Dept.:  If you're coming to Ottumwa in the evening, bring your bug repellant!

The BN train wasn't far behind.  I drove over to the other side of the river and waited south of the BNSF/IMRL diamond.  BN 9457 and BNSF 9725 came through at 8:15 with a set of MPWX empties.  With the overcast, it was getting fairly dark for the digital Oly (100 ASA equiv., f 2.8), so I was already employing my external flash.

I went over to the Amtrak depot to see what sort of misinformation I might gather there.  No. 5, already overdue, was going to be here, "any minute", and would "layover until midnight".  The parking lot was full and there were quite a few people on the platform and inside the depot.  What I didn't know was that some of these people where here for No. 6!

I took up a position a block east of the depot in a bank parking lot and waited for the Zephyr.  At 8:45, the BNSF brought a bunch of equipment in from the bridge to the yard.  They were operating on both mains, an interesting collection of lights, unusual horns and machinery parading through the grade crossings.

After the equipment cleared up on Main 1, Amtrak was given the go-ahead to come into the depot, and told to go no further.  They pulled by at 9:15 with GEnesis units 42 and 99, and these cars:

Material 1521
Baggage 1258
Transition Sleeper 39034
Sleepers 32092 and 32041
Diner 38022
Sightseer Lounge 33021
Coaches 31529, 34090, 34041 and 34065
Sleeper 32027 (yes, occupied)
Six Boxcars
The trailing boxcar appeared to have two FRED's, both flashing.  I'm not sure which one the head-end had dialed up.

Engine 42 had been given a nose job, but unfortunately, no paint or striping.  While the customers wandered around on the platform, up at the front a few were treated to cab tours.

On the radio, impatient IMRL people were waiting on assorted BNSF foremen holding warrants and authorities for an opportunity to use the diamond.  By this time, word was out that Main 1 on the bridge would be available to Amtrak by 11:00.  Around 10:30, one IMRL eastbounder was allowed to cross.  This was a grain empty pulled by a single unit, KCS 2034.

The Zephyr whistled off and charged for the bridge at 11:00.  Once they'd cleared, the IMRL sent out an eastbound manifest up the hill at 11:15.  On the point were IMRL 213, 263 and 206.

It sounded like the fun was over for a while at Ottumwa.  A couple of highrailers got on the BNSF and started back toward the bridge on Main 2.  I was driving over the viaduct to get back on 34 when I heard some discussion of where crews were to be relieved that included, "No. 6 is out of Creston at 22:50."  Well!  That was very interesting - no detour this time, apparently.  I also learned that there was a Z-train out of Galesburg at 22:45 and "three behind Amtrak" (behind 6, I guessed).  I considered the time and distances and figured that I could intercept 6 at Albia on the way home.  On the drive over to Albia I heard No. 5 clear at Maxon at 23:36.

I went out to "Old" Maxon and parked on the north side of the mains.  At night you don't have to worry about being on the sunny side of the trains!  I heard ATK 17 report themselves by MP 330 right at midnight.  A work train and some track equipment were coming toward me from the east.  They decided to run the train down Main 1 and put it in the clear on the Des Moines branch.  The other equipment was to go down Main 2 and back into the siding on the south side of the mains.  On the air, the dispatcher seemed unsure of just where he would cross 6 over to run on Main 1 out of Maxon, and was waiting to see who cleared up first.

The work train came by me on Main 1 at 12:13 with BNSF 2236 and 8734, which I'd seen in the Albia yard on Saturday.  The track equipment cleared up around 12:20 just as ATK 17 did the same at Halpin.  No. 6 crossed over from 2 to 1 at Halpin and came up the "North Way".  I got their picture at 12:30 a.m. with an engineer, probably surprised to find someone out here at this time of night, leaning over the console to check me out.  17's nose didn't look any better than when I'd seen it westbound at Flat, CO, a month or so ago.  They had no Roadrailers on the rear and only one FRED.

I got back on the highway and listened to the scanner as I drove home.  There were numerous EOT chirps between Albia and Chariton and I heard the Russell detector announcing eastbounders.  In addition to the three behind No. 6, Amtrak No. 5 faced more eastbound trains parked on Main 1 and had to cross over at Osceola.  They reported their times there as 00:55 and 00:56.  I heard a 290-axle train on Main 2 at Russell just before 1:00 a.m.  BNSF 8809 and BNSF 9691 got warrants to cross over from 1 to 2 near Osceola after 5 was out of the way.  No. 5 finally cleared its warrant at Creston at 1:27, a fairly slow trip from Ottumwa tonight.

It had cooled off enough that I shut off the AC and opened up the place - first time in a couple of weeks.  After unloading the Jeep and making my bed, I turned in about 2:00.

That's It!