Byron came over on Thursday evening so that we could get an early start on some train-watching on Friday. We got out of Indianola around 7:30 and headed for Osceola to see what was going on along the BNSF. On the way down, we heard one of the dispatchers say that Amtrak would be about 3 hours late today.
The depot was open and a number of passengers were already waiting an hour before the train's scheduled arrival. They'd learned from someone (the public phone in the waiting room is out of order these days) that they would have a long morning in the run-down depot. I had a conversation with a gentleman from Des Moines who already knew that he and his family would have to make different arrangements for travel from Chicago, since they would miss the connecting train that was to have taken them to Louisiana.
His greatest concern was the surly treatment he'd observed waiting passengers getting from the BNSF personnel. The signal and track maintenance crews occupy most of the depot, leaving just a portion of the original waiting room for Amtrak customers. The Amtrak station manager has complained to me in the past about how difficult it is to keep the depot clean and to maintain a pleasant atmosphere for customers with the BNSF people around. Before long Byron and I saw one of them urinating on a ballast regulator just east of the depot. At least he wasn't making a mess in the depot restroom!
At 8:25, our first train of the day arrived. This was a long (136 IPWX cars) coal empty powered by BN 6365 and GT 4922. That's some of the recently-anointed track equipment in the background of the picture.
Several Form B's were in effect along the line within range of our scanner. Work on a switch was in progress just west of the depot in Chariton, piles were being driven in the valley near Stephens Forest, and welders soon took over the westbound from MP 358 to 368. Trains were being run around the pile driver on Main 1 between Woodburn (MP 350.6) and Shannon (MP 342), and the machine fouled both mains while driving its posts.
This generated lots of activity on the radio and made it easy for us to keep track of the location of trains. Several times during the day we heard trains delayed, calling repeatedly trying to get a replies from the foremen in charge.
At 9:50, just as the welders' truck was setting on to go west on Main 1, an eastbound load came into Osceola. Leading DEEX cars were BN 9400 and 9661. One other railfan, from New Jersey, visiting a friend in Osceola while on vacation, was at the depot by this time.
Another load, with UCEX and ACCX hoppers, was just 15 minutes behind. On the point were BN 9693 and 9703. This train and the preceding one would end up waiting at Woodburn on a couple of westbounds before getting around the pile driver.
It was about an hour before the westbounds made it to Osceola. We'd heard the first get a warrant when it entered the CTC near Albia at 8:20 and the second at 8:46. The first train came by the depot at 11:03, with BN 9571, 9525, and new (3 and 4 - 99 built) CIPX gondolas. The following empty arrived at 11:28 with BNSF 6769 and 3163 pulling CEFX and DEEX cars.
Amtrak reported out of Creston at 11:07. As far as we could tell from the radio, the two loads ahead had not yet left Woodburn. At 11:40 the California Zephyr arrived, 2 hours and 47 minutes late, with the following train:
Amtrak was rolling again at 11:45, but when they called to report their times at Osceola, the dispatcher told them they needed to copy a warrant to cross over at Woodburn and run reversed all the way to Albia. Bad Timing! Just a mile out of the depot, the train stopped again so that the engineer could copy a warrant.
By this time Amtrak was right on the taillight of the two loads ahead of it. They were hustled around the piledriver and back onto Main 2 at Shannon so that the Zephyr could pass them on Main 2. Byron and I decided to go east down the railroad and see how things were going in Chariton.
We could see the pile driver off to the south of the highway as we approached Lucas, and the rear end of a coal train was just going through the crossover at Shannon when we started up Whitebreast hill. Once in Chariton, we crossed the tracks just east of the depot and could see a headlight to the west. Since there was no way that a load could have gotten up the hill that fast we concluded that we'd beaten both the coal loads over here. As it turned out, we got ahead of Amtrak as well.
At 12:16, the first of the two loads came through Chariton, winding through the S curve and numerous grade crossings. Amtrak passed the second train while it was working its way up the hill and came by us on Main 1 at 12:23. The trailing coal load appeared just eight minutes later. We heard the Russell detector announce 9400's train, followed immediately by Amtrak, at 12:30. Amtrak stopped to copy its next warrant at Maxon at 1:00.
Byron and I got lunch and then headed back to the west to check out the pile driver. We then drove to Woodburn to watch traffic crossing over around it. At Woodburn we found a couple of Maintenance of Way trucks, one on the rails and the other parked nearby. The switch tender that was assisting trains as they crossed over came trackside from "Houdini's Pizza" soon after we arrived.
At 2:20, an eastbound load, IPWX cars with BN 7064, 5097 and 5550, arrived and waited to cross over and use Main 1. A westbound was calling for permission to get through the Form B, and eventually made it past the pile driver. This train, another coal empty, with BN 5597, 5131, 7240 and BNSF 9959, arrived in Woodburn at 3:00. Behind the power were two fuel tanks and a string of CEPX cars. They roared up the hill past the waiting 7064.
Now it was 7064's turn to try to get past the pile driver. After a number of calls to the foreman, they were told that the pile driver was almost done and would be going east to Shannon to cross over and tie up back at Lucas. They decided to wait and run "normal" instead of crossing over, and the switch tenders on both ends were dismissed for the day at ten after three.
Several eastbounds had by this time stacked up behind the 7064, so Byron and I drove back to Lucas to watch them come through. The first thing we saw at Lucas was the pile driver, which first went by us eastbound and then came back westbound to get into the spur at Lucas around 3:45.
Just as the pile driver approached us in the spur, 7064 cleared a slow order west of Lucas and "boogie'd" for Whitebreast Hill. We waited for the following trains, which appeared in fairly short order. At 4:04, BNSF 9871 and 9935 arrived with MAXX hoppers, and at 4:26, BNSF 9734 and 9777 came by us with CWEX gondolas.
Down the line to the east, things were backing up and trains were having to find stopping places. Two trains were staged between Russell and Chariton, and the third, 9734, decided to stop out west of Chariton. This left the next load no parking space at the top of the hill, so they chose to stop west of Lucas until things cleared up down the line.
Byron and I decided to intercept this next train at the wooden bridge leading into Stephens Forest. This coal load, with BN 9416 and 9486, and WFAX cars, rolled slowly up to where we waited and came to a slow stop outside of Lucas at 4:50.