Mike Endres, Simpson student and CNW fan, had been after me to go train-watching. We both had a day off from other obligations on Wednesday, so after helping on the crew of a hot air balloon early in the morning, he came over and we headed southeast. I drove down along the UP Spine line, but there was no traffic today. We started hearing of BN trains being crossed over at Chariton to run "left-handed" to the CTC at Halpin (that should remind Mike of the CNW, shouldn't it?).
Amtrak No. 6 was uncharacteristically punctual today, and we'd gotten a late start, so we missed the Zephyr. We learned from a switch tender at Chariton that two coal loads, of the typical fleet of three, were already out of Chariton. We hurried over toward Albia, thinking that we might see at least two of them. We got to Halpin to find an empty, with BNSF 8864 and 9813, waiting for the eastbounds to cross back over.
As it turned out, because of delays passing Form B's on their way over, we managed to get to Halpin ahead of all three of the loads. Meanwhile, westbound traffic was stacking up behind the above empty. The first load, with CIPX cars, came around the corner and moved quickly through the crossover to Main 2 around 11:00. On the point were BN 9462 and BNSF 8816. Mike found a spot on the rock fill near the west signal on Main 1 for his picture.
From the radio, it sounded like another westbound had been moved down the hill from Maxon to line up behind 8864. We decided to take the gravel road up between the two mains to see what we could find and to catch the next eastbound on the hill. We found not just a second, but a third train as well stopped on the hill waiting to continue westward. At 11:25 the next eastbounder arrived with bright orange power, BNSF 9899, 9924 and 9848, and AEPX gons. The point where we got our pictures is just west of a recent pile-driving operation undertaken to stabilize the "south hill". This train turned out to have distributed power and was trailed by another new orange MAC, BNSF 8823.
We drove partway back down the hill to get a picture of the next load on one of the county road bridges. It appeared at 11:51 with EMD 9026, SF 8101, BN 6774 and BN 7246 pulling DEEX cars.
We knew that as soon as the three loads cleared Halpin traffic would start rolling westward in the single track between Halpin and the crossover just east of Chariton at MP 33.10. By this time we'd heard of a fourth westbound at Maxon, so we went back down to Halpin hoping to see all four trains.
We arrived at Halpin at noon, just in time to see the first empty that had been waiting. On the head end were BNSF 8864 and 9813, trailing WPAX gondolas. The second empty followed just eight minutes later. Mike exclaimed over the smoke as the engines notched out approaching us. "GE's", I replied. I could hear them "chuffing" over the sound of the SD in the lead. The train had all foreign power, CSX 8357, CR 5062 and CSX 7581, with brand new (7-99 build date) DEEX cars. This train had a passenger a short distance back from the head end. He was seated on a small platform at the end of the car, riding with one foot on top of the truck frame.
We waited at Halpin for the third westbound, which we'd spotted up on the hill. It turned out to be a UCEX empty with BN 5059, 8071 and EMD 9048. It was by us at 12:22. I decided to show Mike the old location of Halpin, on the north side of Hwy. 34 down one of Iowa's "Level B" roads. We stopped there for the fourth train, which we'd heard making a pickup of fuel loads at Maxon earlier. This was another coal empty, DEEX gons, behind BNSF 9753, 9909, BN 5580 and BNSF 9873. They were at Old Maxon at 12:30. Along with the fuel, they'd picked up an old, red SF hopper.
Mike and I got lunch and went to Maxon to await traffic. Things were pretty quiet, but pretty soon we heard the UP Branch Dispatcher talking to a train nearing Maxon. I'd heard that the branch from Eddyville down to Maxon had been out of service, and it never was a particularly high-speed operation, so I figured we would have time to go to the Albia yard and return.
We found four engines in the yard. In front of the yard office sat BNSF 2305 and BN 2121. Tucked away at the west end of the yard were EMD 9067 and BNSF 6397, probably being used as helpers when it was necessary to take coal loads up Main 1.
We got back out to Maxon in time to catch the "Syrup Turn", arriving at 1:46 with CNW 4609 and 4704. I was relieved to see the power, since Mike doesn't consider it an official train-watching day without some green and yellow around. The turn had 15 cars, all Cargill corn syrup tanks. The brake-one told us that the branch was out of service for a couple of weeks so that some washouts could be repaired near a bridge and that the speed limit on the line was 10 mph.
Mike and I next headed on east to Ottumwa. We went to the IMRL yard where we found a number of units. IMRL 220 and 204 were switching some cars around in the east end of the yard. Other units near the yard office: IMRL 359 (with smiley face), IMRL 8924 in gray paint, 222 and 357. At 2:50, a train with KCS power arrived from the west with units 697 and 731. We went around to the north side of the yard (via a detour, since the Quincy Street crossing was closed) and found ex-IC (NREX) 2026 lined up with the rest of the power in the yard.
A few weeks ago, I received an email describing work being done on the CB&Q steam engine displayed behind the BN depot in Ottumwa:
From:I took a few pictures of the loco, 3001, which is looking greatly improved in fresh paint. Currently, a new jacket is being applied to the boiler. After visiting the depot, we drove through the BNSF yard area where we saw BNSF 8873, coupled to some freight and a long string of ballast hoppers.
Date: Sat, 17 Jul 1999 16:32:03 EDT Subject: Ottumwa Locomotive 3001 To: email@example.com MIME-Version: 1.0 Dear Mr. Tinder: I wanted to update you on the rehabilitation of the steam Locomotive 3001 that is on display outside of the Amtrak Station/Historical Museum in Ottumwa since your site posted photos of its deteriorated state on previous excursions to Ottumwa. Over the past year, the City of Ottumwa, with the help of a grant from the Iowa Department of Transportation has been rehabilitating the locomotive and bringing it back to life. This has been both an exciting and frustrating project since funds have been tight from the start. We are now nearing completion (the asbestos lining has been completely removed, the metal boiler jacket, which had nearly completely rusted away, has been refabricated and is being reassembled, metal repairs have been made, and the locomotive has now been cleaned, primed, and painted). However, we found extensive rust damage underneath the outer metal coverings that was hidden from view, and as a result, have run up against a 20% cost overrun (in the neighborhood of $12,000). Of course, the IDOT grant money fund is out of money until the year 2003 and local grant sources are also spent for the year. We are now having to turn to fundraising to try and raise the necessary money to complete this significant and worthwhile project. We could use any and all help we can get in this endeavor from rail fans all over the State of Iowa. Is there a good way for us to get the word out? The City of Ottumwa is establishing a Save the Locomotive fund to collect donations to complete this rehabilitation but also to hopefully get a small endowment earmarked for future maintanence so that the Locomotive never again has to undergo such a major rehab project. The contact is Bill Perry, City of Ottumwa Parks Department, 105 East Third Street, Ottumwa, Iowa 51501. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org I am a Historic Preservation Consultant working with the City of Ottumwa to get this rehabilitation project completed. The rehabilitation work is being conducted by a great father and son team from the State of Washington whose company is called Historic Railway Restoration. They have been doing a fantastic job. Thanks for any help or info that you can provide. Leah Rogers LDRog215@aol.com
On our way back toward home, we intercepted one train, a coal load, at new Maxon. This train came up the hill and passed us at 4:25, pulled by BNSF 9779 and BN 9490. After watching the load accelerate past the crossover signals, we drove back to Indianola.