Rev. Bob Drenten, a northwest Iowa railfan, was visiting in Oskaloosa and had invited me to meet him at Albia for some train-chasing on Saturday. I left Indianola just after 7:00 on a cool, partly cloudy morning. I monitored the scanner on the way down to Lucas and across Hwy. 34. I heard SLY send an eastbounder out of Creston at 7:26, telling them to "Cross your fingers and let me know if you have aaannny trouble!". It sounded like Amtrak might be close to on-time today.
West of Chariton I heard EOT activity and again about half the way to Albia. I wondered if I were missing some westbounds. BN 9556 East called for instructions at a Form B around MP 362. Probably the above train out of Creston. I heard that Amtrak was on time and that another load was called for 8:30. Good! There'd be some traffic this morning.
I got to Old Maxon around 8:30 and waited for Bob. After he arrived, we did some exploring between Albia and Ottumwa, checking out the Cargill spur construction and the 4-Mile Bridge project. Once in Ottumwa we stopped first at the IMRL yard where we saw a CEFX GP 38-3 numbered 3034.
From the radio it sounded like a westbound IMRL train was ready to come down the hill, so we went over to the BNSF/IMRL diamond to wait for it. The train arrived at 10:39 with IMRL 257 and 265 on the point. They had a large block of empty covered hoppers on the head end, including ex-ROCK IMRL 815393.
The next train across the diamond at Lawler was Amtrak No. 6, at 10:51. In the Zephyr today:
GEnesis units 17 and 53Amtrak reported its times at the Ottumwa depot as "55 and 05".
Transition Sleeper 39014
Coaches 34132, 34066, and 34056
Sightseer Lounge 33014
Sleeping Cars 32028 and 32066
Sleeping Car 32017
3 Boxcars (Amtrak calls these "Express" cars)
Bob and I were joined by a Des Moines area railfan named Mike Thompson while we waited on the next train. This was to be a coal empty that had been awaiting Amtrak's departure before passing through the depot area. This train approached our camera line (I decided to get the "foamers" in the picture) at 11:13. On the point were BN 9468 and 9539, pulling PSTX tub gons.
The next train was eastbound, a UCEX hopper train with BN 9556 and 9505. They crossed the IMRL at 11:30. We decided to see about some lunch and almost missed another westbound. We intercepted them at 11:39, just as they came under the viaduct with BN 9491, 9621 and old DEEX cars.
Bob and I got some take-out and hurried back to Lawler for 112's train on the IMRL. This train came across the Des Moines River, over the diamonds and up the hill at 12:05 with IMRL 232 (ex-UP, apparently) and 8936. They had a block of autoracks on the head end and piggybacks at the rear.
We were having pretty good luck at Lawler today! Just 10 minutes after the IMRL cleared, the local came across westbound on Main 2 to head for Albia and today's corn syrup exchange. Two EMD units pulled 2 cars, EMD 792 and EMDX 767 - very fresh, you could almost smell the paint.
The GALLIN was hot on the local's heels at 12:28. On the point were BNSF 8972, BN 8192 and BNSF 1083.
I left a business card with Mike, and Bob and I started back west. We drove first to the overpass by BNSF's "ISU Switch" near Chillicothe. The GALLIN was supposed to pick up an engine from a DP coal load here. I heard later on the radio that the dumper at the generating plant was out of service and might remain so for up to 3 weeks. The crew discussed the power pickup with the dispatcher for a time and it was finally agreed that they would bring a unit with them. Under Bob's direction I tried an old back entrance to the plant, but after passing through Dogpatch we ran into a washout and had to back out. I was able to easily straighten the cell phone antenna later.
Back at Maxon we found the local we'd seen in Ottumwa waiting for the UP's Syrup Turn to come down from the Cargill plant at Eddyville. They were nearby and came into the small interchange yard at 1:42 with UP 773 and CNW 5525. The BNSF local did some switching before heading back east toward Ottumwa. This gave us another good look at EMDX 767 and EMD 792. They were on their way at 2:04.
We knew from the radio that we had a load coming up the hill by now, and it arrived at 2:11. This was a DP train with AEPX cars. (When the Olympus 620's autofocus fails, it does so spectacularly - no telling what it "saw" in the foreground that I didn't). The rear of the train was being shoved up the hill by BNSF 9955. As the 126-car train passed, we watched the rails pumping pretty badly just where the concrete ties end and wood takes over. I went over for a shot of the area, which turned out to be pretty muddy.
Bob needed to get back to "Osky", so we said goodbye and I started on west. Near the Melrose turnoff I learned from the radio of an approching eastbound, and I knew that the GALLIN was still to come down the hill, so I decided to go back to Halpin for a couple of trains. I heard the GALLIN call for a warrant, saying that they were "ready to go 'Everywhere West'". When I got to Halpin, the signals were already set up, "2 to 2" (and I assume "1 to 1", as well) at the end of the CTC.
The westbound manifest got there first, passing onto the Kansas City dispatcher's territory at 3:12. They now had four units, having picked up BNSF 9871 at the power plant. A coal load came into view about 10 minutes after the GALLIN cleared. This was a DP train with JE hoppers, 9867 on the point and 9943, door open, trailing.
After these two trains, I started west again. On the radio I could hear discussion related to single-tracking out east of Osceola and about crossing over trains at MP 357.9, so I decided to go all the way over to Osceola and see if I could catch some traffic there. I ran into Jim Hewitt, doing some switch tending for the BNSF today, and went with him to the crossover which is southeast of a county road. Jim sent me a much-appreciated note at Christmas time when Jan was struggling to recover from a chemo. treatment.
The GALLIN arrived at the crossover at 4:23 and I managed to get a shot of the unit they'd picked up at ISU, BNSF 9871. The next train was a coal load, NCUX cars that had to cross over and run on Main 1. This train had an interesting collection of power, BNSF 8880, CSX 756, CN 5372 and CN 5748.