Creston Congestion

Friday, August 13

Byron and I arranged to meet in Creston on Friday morning, so I left home at 5:45.  Iowa has been soaked with rain and flooded lately, and it was 81° with high humidity this morning.  I drove down to Chariton, headed west and got to the bottom of Whitebreast Hill in time to see a PNJX coal load starting up the grade.  I turned around and drove back to the "HyVee" crossing west of Chariton to intercept them.  The light was excellent and I got several shots as the train emerged from the trees and approached the crossing at 7:00.  Leading were BNSF 6420 and 5961.  BNSF 5777 brought up the rear as the train entered Chariton.  Later, I heard the Russell detector report 79° and 558 axles for this train.

I resumed my trip toward Creston, meeting two more loads along the way, though missing photo opportunities for them.  There was quite a bit of discussion with dispatcher JBB about westbounds waiting to get into town.  JBB was rolling up her eastbounds, which included BNSF 5830 and 9174, and encouraging them to keep moving ahead of Amtrak.  I called "Julie" and was told that today's No. 6 was expected into Creston at 8:35.

I got to Creston at 8:10.  There were two loads stopped at the east end of the yard with BNSF 8841 and 9601 on FEPX cars, and BNF 6192 and 5982 with NS cars.  This image shows a bit of fog on the lens from the high humidity Friday.  There also was an empty that we'd see pull later hanging out the east end of the yard with no rear end power.  I met Byron at the west end of the yard and we decided to hang out near the depot.  While we waited, I took this shot of the rear of one of the loads - an NS "TopGon", apparently converted from a hopper at some point.  This car was just ahead of the rear unit,  BNSF 5804.  The west end of the yard was being worked by BNSF 1068 and 4433.

The Zephyr finally arrived (timetable is 7:44) at 8:55.  I'd called on Thursday evening and was told that this train had been 40 minutes early into Denver.  Leading elephant-style were AMTK 160 and 192.  Conductor "Doc" Livingston dropped down from the Transition Sleeper and walked forward to confer with the engineer Ogundipe and a group of deadheading BNSF employees.  After a short time, the passenger train pulled down a few cars to drop and load a the passengers.  In the California Zephyr consist today:

AMTK 160 and 192
Baggage 1216
Transition Sleeper 39043
Sleepers 32000 and 32025
Diner 38048
Sightseer Lounge 33015
Coaches 34047, 34096 and 31009
Sleeper 32030

Within a few minutes, a westbound that had been waiting to use the single track and for the Zephyr to clear, pulled.  This train had BNSF 5788 and 8973 leading and no rear end power.

We noticed that BNSF operating personnel are now required to wear safety vests when working over the rails or on equipment.  I've been told that these may be removed when one is inside a locomotive.  Another new thing that I'd not noticed before is that track authority is now being given across the CTC at Albia.  That is, warrants are issued with limits like, "east bound control signal IC&E to east yard limits Creston"- essentially all the way from Ottumwa to Creston.  In the past, warrants were surrendered and issued to all trains at the ends of the Albia CTC, locations named Maxon and Halpin.  Listening to the radio, it seemed to me that there might now be a bit more "roll up" traffic than there used to be.

As soon as 5788 was out of the, about 9:20, the next westbound pulled up for a crew change.  This train had a single lead unit (two in the rear that we would see later), BNSF 6054.  The crew reported to the dispatcher their arrival time at Creston as 05:20!

At 9:36 a DEEX load came in with BNSF 6244 and 5939  on the point.  It was trailed by the DENGAL, with very colorful power, which stopped west of New York Ave just before 10:00.  The DENGAL's third unit was to be dropped by the outbound crew.  At this time, the 6054, with UCEX hoppers, started west, but it needed the rear units inspected and the cards signed, so they arranged to stop with the rear end power, BNSF 5861 and 6217, positioned so that the DENGAL crew could inspect them.  As it turned out, 6217 had 1000 gallons of fuel and 5861 was dead account low lube oil pressure.

Through the last half hour or so, we'd been having a lightning show to the northwest.  Byron looked up the radar weather map on his phone, and it was obvious that we would soon be in the rain.  At 10:20, the first two units, BNSF 1813 and 8025, were cut off and pulled forward.  A couple of minutes later, BNSF 2803, the unit that was to stay in Creston, pulled into the clear and 1813 and 8025 returned to the train.   By this time the rain had arrived, and we watched westbound BNSF 5972, along with "executive" paint scheme units 9699 and 9706, go by in the downpour.

At 10:50, the DENGAL had its air and moved on east with just two antique SD's in charge.  Shortly, BNSF 9246 with fading 9481 pulled by with BN/BNSF empties.  Bringing up the rear was BNSF 9957.

One more image from Creston - a long, long line of "Oakways" parked at the south side of the yard.  With the radar showing more rain on the way, Byron and I split up and headed for our respective homes.  I drove through the showers to Osceola, got some lunch and waited at the depot for a number of westbounds that I knew were coming.  These trains were running behind one that needed to be recrewed at Woodburn.  For a while, I thought the rain would let up, but it just kept raining harder, so I gave it up for this day.

That's It!