Busy Saturday on the BNSF
August 8, 1998


Byron came over on Friday evening so that we could get an early start on some train-watching on Saturday. We'd not decided for sure where to go, but discussion early Saturday morning on the scanner helped us decide. At around 7:00 in the morning, dispatcher "KRS" said that there were seven westbounds headed for the "KC Line" (what Albia to Creston gets called, for some odd reason, these days), and that the first was at Ottumwa waiting at the IMRL diamond.

We headed down highway 65 and then went west on 34 toward Chariton. On the way down, we learned from the scanner that there would be some eastbound traffic as well. Two track inspectors were on the westbound, one near Chariton and the other between Osceola and Creston, and the dispatcher was anxious to get them out of the way. The east one arrived and got off the rails just as we picked out a shady spot by the "S" curves in Chariton.

Unfortunately for the dispatcher, the second Track Inspector took longer to clear up, and the dispatcher ended up having to give each of his (numerous) westbounds several warrants as the highrailer progressed toward Creston.

Our first train arrived at 8:28. It was an eastbound coal load, with AEPX and BNSF hoppers, behind BN 9413 and BNSF 9838 (prototype for a model I recently saw advertised on the back of a magazine). Before they'd gotten far, we heard the Russell detector announce a westbound. This train, a manifest with BN 5097, EMD 3 and BN 6835 on the point, came by us at 9:10. 5097 was missing a ditch light and had a really gross-sounding horn.

Three more coal empties (westbounds, of course) followed:
9:24 - BN 9209, 5103 and OWY (EMD) 9047 - DEEX gons
9:37 - BN 9521 and OWY (EMD) 9078 - OGSX gons
10:18 - BNSF 9954 and BN 9615 - new (5-98) ESCX cars

We'd been hearing so many "Okay on the ... side" messages on the scanner that it was hard to predict from which direction we'd see the next train. At 10:34 the next eastbound came up the hill and into town. This train had a few other freight cars mixed in with a consist primarily of covered hoppers. On the point were long-nosed BNSF 6854, SF 3416 and BN 7910.

We'd been listening to the UP Trenton Sub dispatcher and knew that a northbound train was to have a meet at Williamson, so we tried to keep an eye on the "Spine Line" as well as the BNSF mains. We missed the northbound, but heard the southbound leaving the siding at Williamson, just a few miles north of Chariton. We went to the bridge where the BNSF mains go over the UP line and waited. The first two trains to arrive were on the BNSF, however.

At 10:52, the next coal empty came into Chariton, WISX cars pulled by BN 9453 and 9482. They'd barely gone out of sight around the curve when an eastbound AEPX load showed up with BN 9512 and BNSF 9831 in charge. By the time the load was by I could hear the engines on the southbound. They came under the BNSF at 11:00 with CNW 6871 and SP 8328.

We moved to the first grade crossing east of the bridge and met another empty, two MACs elephant-style, BN 9669 and 9611, with AEPX cars. They were running just 15 minutes behind the last.

We went back to the curves east of the depot for the next westbound at 11:41. This was an "all green" empty, with BN 7285, 7211 and 5042 pulling BN coal gondolas. Ten BNSF trains in a little over three hours - unusually heavy traffic for a Saturday morning!

We'd heard nothing yet from Amtrak No. 6, so I called 1-800-USA-RAIL and learned that it was to be in Ottumwa at "1:34". From this we interpolated and guessed that we'd see it in Chariton about 12:30, so we made a quick run to Hardees and returned to the curves for lunch. As usual, the Amtrak folks weren't very well informed about where their train was, and it finally came by us at 1:01. GEnesis units 47 and 55 were on the head end today, and the rest of the train was typical except for a private car behind the last baggage car. This was a fluted, stainless observation car. A couple of the car's occupants were on the platform enjoying a scenic view of the front of an Amtrak boxcar.

We'd finally run out of trains, so we decided to head west to Osceola. Along the way, we did hear some warrants being issued at Albia and at Creston, so we knew we'd see some more BNSF traffic this afternoon. We got to Osceola just before 2:00 and set up camp in the shade of one of the pine trees just north of the depot. At 2:19, we heard 9453, which we'd seen in Chariton around 11:00, give up its warrant and enter the yard at Creston, so we figured that traffic was waiting on the westbound outside of Creston.

The first train at Osceola, an eastbound coal load of JE hoppers, came by at 2:25 with BN 9223 and Oakways 9070 and 9056. We again started hearing lots of "Okay on the .. side", and announcements from the detector as well. At 2:37, an empty arrived with OWY 9010 and BNSF 2599 and 2421. These last two were old SF four-axle units, unusual power for coal trains.

We saw three more trains in rapid succession before leaving Osceola:
2:51 - Westbound, CWEX empty - BN 7233, 9215 and OWY 9072
3:00 - Eastbound, UCEX hoppers - BN 7021, OWY 9022 and BN 7237
3:09 - Westbound, CEPX gons - BN 9565 and 9654

On the way north toward Indianola, we heard 7285 clear its warrant at 3:22. They'd been waiting to get into the yard at Creston since1:15.

That's It!