Saturday was cloudy and cool (80). We got out of town around 9:00, having heard that the BNSF would be crossing eastbound trains over at the east end of Chariton to work around a ribbon-rail train. We'd heard warrants given to several trains from both directions, so we hurried down the highway and got to the facing-point crossover at MP 333.10 just in time to hear the Russell detector announce the first westbound.
The first train by us, at 9:38, was a freight with quite a few covered grain hoppers. On the head end were LMX 8513, CR 6200 and BN 5116. A coal empty with a crew short on time was following closely behind. With all the radio chatter about tending the crossover switches, they couldn't hear the report from the detector.
The crew reported to the dispatcher that if they had to stop and inspect, they'd not make it into Creston on their hours. Arrangements were made to have the north side of the train inspected by switchtender Dan Berry and to have someone at the Chariton depot inspect the south side, so that they could keep moving. They came into the east end of Chariton at 9:55 behind BN 9537 and 9550, with UP 8007 and 6847, and UCEX hoppers. That's quite a bit of power for an empty coal train in Iowa!
The crossover switches were thrown and it was time for a westbound that had been waiting west of town to come through. This was a coal train, of CEPX cars, with BN 9707 and 9505 on the point. 9505 was smoking heavily as the train accelerated eastward out of town at 10:15.
The dispatcher indicated that two westbounds would be next through the single track section. Since it would be at least an hour before the coal load could get to Halpin and another westbound return, we decided to go check out a train that we knew was waiting at the west end of Chariton. We found it west of the "Hy Vee" crossing. It was another coal load, with JE hoppers and BN 9572 and 9704.
We got a snack at Hardee's and drove east out of Chariton toward Russell. We could hear trains working their way toward us through the Form B where the work was going on to the east. At 11:18, the first westbound came through Russell - CEPX empties with BN 9671 and 9423 in charge.
We followed the empty back west to Chariton and passed up the crossover for a parking spot in the shade behind the old Johnson Machine Works building. We parked right on top of what was once a spur reaching between grain elevator buildings and under the machine works crane.
At 11:54, the next westbound caught up to us and came around the sharp S-curve in Chariton. This was another set of CEPX empties, with BN 5534, 7191 and 9256 on the point. They had just cleared the crossing by the depot when an eastbound that had been waiting pulled into town and met them. This train was the coal load we'd seen at the HyVee crossing earlier.
The eastbound California Zephyr, running almost 3 hours behind schedule, was beginning to catch up to the other traffic. Today's No. 6 came around the curve in front of us at 12:40. On the point, ATK 60, 8 and 24, all facing east. In the train:
We decided to head west along the BNSF to Osceola. We missed two eastbounds as we traveled - BN 5001 East, which we didn't see at all, and BN 9534 East, the last few coal cars of which were just clearing the crossing by the depot when we rolled into Osceola at 1:30.
We set up in the small park north of the depot and waited on rail traffic. Work at the Osceola depot continues on the new platforms for the passenger trains. This project has been moving along slowly for most of 1997. A concrete ramp has been constructed to the trackside door of the waiting room, and the areas to the west on both sides of the tracks have been cleared of their old Purington bricks in preparation for concrete paving.
The bricks, cinders and asphalt debris have joined other discarded railroad junk gradually taking over a grassy triangle of land northeast of the depot. It's unfortunate that this once inviting picnic area is becoming so unsightly.
Our first train at Osceola was an eastbound freight at 1:43 with BN 2327 and 2164 pulling mostly empty autoracks. Ten minutes after them came LMX 8520, IC 6060 and cabless BN 4096 with another freight manifest. Eastbounds were under a slow order by the depot, making it possible for the digital camera to recover int time for a shot of the second unit. There were many uncommon (to us) reporting marks in this train, which made us wonder if there might be some detours going on. Traffic was also unusually heavy for a weekend.
We listened to warrants on the radio and learned that several westbounds were headed our way. At 3:00, while we stopped at a convenience store just south of the depot, one of them snuck into town. We could see it, but weren't ready to get a picture. It was a coal empty, of JE cars, with BNSF 9426 and 9768 in the lead.
Back at our spot under the pine tree north of the depot, we saw BN 7222, 7155 and EMD 6347 with OGSX empties go by at 3:10, BN 9623 and 9656 with GEAX hoppers at 3:23, and SF 3441, BN 9457 and BNSF 9789 with DEEX gons at 3:23. These trains were running right on each other's block signals and making "track speed" for Creston.
We started basically in the direction of home, but decided to check out some track repair at Shannon, near Lucas, Iowa. Eastbound traffic was on the way from Creston, but we figured we could stay ahead of it, since it was to be held at MP 345 while some welding was done on a switch frog on eastbound main at the Shannon crossover.
The welders were already at work when we arrived, so we went out west into the country in search of the waiting trains. Just before 5:00, we found BN 9490 and 9706 at MP 347 with a load of AEPX cars, rolling slowly toward Lucas. We were in a wide valley formed by the southern Iowa hills, with Stephens State Forest to the southeast. We were both surprised at how the horn on the SD-70 MAC echoed from hill to hill, lasting several seconds before dying out.
We drove back into Lucas, where a welder and foreman Tom Cottrell had temporarily cleared the tracks so that two eastbounds could come through. Tom thought we might be doing some sort of safety check for the railroad, but we assured him that we were just train-watching. At 5:15, the first train came through the welding location and accelerated toward Whitebreast Hill.
We moved west a short distance into the town of Lucas to wait for the second train. The community has built a small park, featuring a caboose, 12243, donated by the BN. At 5:30, our last train of the day came into Lucas. It was another coal load, WFAX cars behind BNSF 9806 and BN 9709.