August 4

Lucas, Osceola and Creston

August 10

Saturday, August 4

In spite of Iowa's continuing heat and humidity, I'd decided to make Saturday a train-chasing day.  Amtrak was to run a special train westbound today, carrying motorcycles and riders to the annual week-long gathering of their ilk in Sturgis, SD.  The train was to run from Boston to New Castle (Wyoming) with a few stops along the route.  One stop was to be Ottumwa, Iowa, around 4:45 in the afternoon, and I planned to be there to see the train.

I started the day by going south to Osceola to meet the eastbound Amtrak California Zephyr, running an hour and a half late, pretty much normal these days.  It was 82 degrees and hazy by the time I was headed for Osceola around 9:20.  My plan was to head back home for lunch and then leave for Ottumwa mid-afternoon.

The new grade crossing on Hwy 69 (Main St.) was in service and I noticed that the BNSF had also repaired the broken railing in front of the door of the depot.  Just after 10:30 I heard the Creston operator talking to Amtrak 126 at Prescott, so I figured it would be about 45 minutes before we saw the train.  A coal load was out and running ahead of Amtrak, and it got to town at 10:41 (note young man "testing" the railing).  On the point were BNSF 8981, BNSF 94?? and EMD 9072.  The cars were DEEX tub gons and the detector reported the train at 506 axles.

Amtrak reported out of Creston at 10:49 and was put on Main 1 all the way to Halpin in order to pass the coal load.  They called in at 11:18 as they crossed Interstate 35, so that the passengers could be moved to the north side of the mainlines.  The Zephyr pulled in and stopped for its first spot at 11:22.  In the consist of the train today:

AMTK 126 and 79
Baggage 1206
Transition Sleeper 39015
Sleepers 32006 and 32049
Diner 38005
Sightseer Lounge 33041
Coaches 31517, 34042, 34072 and 34039
Sleeper 32009, George M. Pullman
Material Cars 1528 and 1522
Boxcars 71176 and 71026
Two Roadrailers
The train reported its times at Osceola to the dispatcher as ":22 and :26", and the detector counted the train as having 74 axles.

I headed back north for Indianola.  Once at home, I traded emails with John Elliot, who had been checking on the motorcycle special's progress.  The train was running very late, and it looked like it would not reach Ottumwa until the middle of the night.  I decided to skip it and try to catch the eastbound on Monday the 13th instead.  (That's tomorrow as I type this - we'll see how they do.)

Friday, August 10

Iowa's heat wave finally broke on Thursday night.  Cabin fever issues were starting to set in after two weeks of 24x7 air conditioning.  Naturally, on Friday I took advantage of the cooler temperatures and clear air to do some train watching.

I left Indianola just before 8:00.  It was 64 degrees and clear.  Amtrak's 800-number reported No. 6 three hours and ten minutes down today.  As I drove south on Hwy 65, I could tell from the radio transmissions of the dispatcher (Karen, "KDD" was on the Kansas City desk today) and the hotbox detectors that a couple of coal loads had already passed.  The lead units on these two trains were 9512 and 9561.  At 8:18 I picked up the Russell detector (MP 328.0) on Main 1.  I considered the possibility that the eastbound trains were crossing over, but just a few seconds later, the Main 2 detector came on as well, so I figured that I would be able to catch a westbound pretty soon.

I went to the wooden bridge near Stephens Forest to wait on the westbound.  The VHF "skip" was in today and I heard a distant dispatcher say that Amtrak was at Ashland at 8:35.  A large conductor bird was by the rails near the bridge, giving an "easy to the joint" sign to an engineer bird switching somewhere nearby.  My westbound showed up at 8:38, with BNSF 9956 and 8954.  They were copying a warrant from Karen as they rolled by me with a long string of AEPX empties.  From the look of things, I'd say a weed sprayer's made a vigorous application here recently.

I decided to chase the empty on west, and caught 9956 and 8954 again at the Osceola depot, 17 miles and 21 minutes later.  The detector reported the train at 532 axles, equivalent to 130 cars.

I'd heard KDD say she had an eastbound out of Creston, so I settled in with Friday's crossword puzzle to wait on it.  The train, a PSTX load pulled by BNSF 9448 and 9571, came through Osceola at 10:13.  Since it looked like there'd still be a long wait on Amtrak and I'd heard nothing much else coming on the radio, I decided to go on over to Creston and have a look around.

I got to Creston at 11:00.  the AEPX empty I'd chased earlier in the morning was sitting on Main 1, hanging well out to the east.  A CWEX load with a couple of very dirty MAC's, BN 9663 and 9597, was parked on the first yard track south of Main 2.  Since it was pretty quiet right now but the light was good, I decided to get some images of other locos in the vicinity.  The elevator's switcher, numbered 1211 and carrying a Transglobal tag, was parked at the east end of their yard, just north of the BNSF mainlines.

At the west end of the yard I found rebuilt GP-30 BNSF 2800 coupled to a line of cars.  Just to the southeast, near the UPS depot sat BNSF 2546, posing in the sun for this 3/4 shot.

Just before 11:30 I heard Karen rolling up a warrant on BN 9637 West, at MP 344, and Amtrak reported in to the Creston operator from Prescott.  No. 6 showed up at 11:40 with an 80-axle train today.  In the consist were many of the cars I'd seen on the 4th at Osceola.  They'd made a round trip through Chicago and Emeryville, CA, and were back in Iowa eastbound again.

AMTK 12, 52 and 86
Baggage 1705
Transition Sleeper 39015
Coaches 34039, 34072, 34042 and 31517
Sightseer Lounge 33041
Diner 38005
Sleepers 32049, 32006 and 32112 (Utah)
Material Car 1426
Boxcars 71179, 71091, 71052 and 70044
Material Car 1424
The Zephyr stopped short to pick up its orders before pulling down for the passengers.  They were warranted all the way to Halpin on Main 2 today, and reported their times to the dispatcher as ":42 and :44".

9637 East called in as they approached Creston and were given some bad news.  The crew for the empty in front of them (9956) wouldn't be on duty until 1:30, so they would have to stop outside of town and wait.  I drove out to the usual stopping point, "Bullock's Crossing", and got a picture as they stopped their train at 12:30.  This was a UCEX empty pulled by BN 9637 and 9640.  It would be two hours before they came in for their crew change at Creston.

The BNSF's typically pretty quiet mid-day this summer, and this was no exception.  However, it was 20 degrees cooler today than it had been at noon for a couple of weeks, so I just got some lunch and did some reading while I waited on things to start moving through the yard again.  Just before 1:30 the yard crew sprang to life, MU'd the two old GeePs and shoved cars around for a few minutes.

At 2:00, there began to be some activity around the head end of the 9956, and a very large man came out to replace the FRED on the rear of the CWEX load that had been sitting in the yard.  At 2:30, 9956 finally started westward again, with a passenger aboard the second unit.  In just a couple of minutes, the CWEX train, with 9663 and 9597, got a warrant and rolled east out of the yard.

With 9956 out of the way, 9637's crew was finally able to pull in from Bullock's crossing and bring their train to a stop the yard office.  After a ten-minute pause for a crew change, 9637 was on the move again, passing the old CB&Q depot and heading out into the Omaha Line dispatcher's territory at 3:00.

By this time I knew from the radio that another westbound had been waiting to come into Creston, this one since 1:00.  This was another coal empty, but with a block of autoracks on the head end.  They stopped at the depot at 3:10.  About 3:20 the auto/coal train lurched ahead a couple of car lengths and then stopped again in front of the yard office.

By this time another westbound, 9253, had called in received a somewhat surly reception from the Creston operator.  The auto/coal train, with BNSF 9975 and BN 9526, got on the move again at 3:32.  Behind the autoracks was a set of FSTX tub gondolas.

As a first step in heading back home, I decided to move to the east end of the yard for the next westbound.  They rolled in at 3:40 with BN 9253, EMD 9011 and DTCX cars.

As I was starting to leave the crew change area at the east end of the yard, another car pulled in and I asked the driver if he were train-watching today.  He said that he was and that he'd recognized me.  When I asked his name, I learned that this was Stewart Buck, an Iowa railroad artist and teacher.  We had an interesting visit and I learned that he'd been in Colorado and visited the same area of the old Rio Grande just a few days after I was there!  I'd known of Stewart for several years and it was great to get an opportunity to meet and visit with him.  Here (according to someone who emailed me) is an image I happened to get of Stew while out chasing UP steam several years ago.

The drive home was pretty quiet and I didn't see any more trains.  I heard the detector west of Creston report the temperature as, "seven tee seven degrees" at 4:00.  Just before 5:00, I heard a westbound getting a warrant at Halpin.  I think that would been the next train this afternoon.

That's It!