My son Byron and I left Indianola around 8:30, headed for Osceola and other destinations, on this clear and warm Saturday morning. When we arrived in Osceola, Foreman Tom Cottrell and his crew were dragging pre-cut pieces of welded rail into place across the highway 69 crossing. After moving two lengths on the eastbound main, they crossed over and got into the clear for several trains
The first train was a coal load, of AEPX tub gons, behind BN 9229, 7283 and 7067. They came by the depot at 9:14. Before they had cleared the highway crossing, a westbound empty appeared with new (6-97 build date) CEFX cars and BN 5530 and CR 6008 on the point.
We knew from the warrants we'd heard read on the radio on the way down that another load and empty were on the way. At 9:35, both trains came into sight. The eastbound had BNSF 9731 and 9404 in charge, followed by JE hoppers. These cars appeared to have been formerly lettered EEIX. The westbound was on the far track from us, with BN 9548 and 7845, and BN hoppers. Near the rear of the train were some brand new Burlington Northern - Santa Fe hoppers. These cars had dark green ends with a circle-plus logo on the right hand end of the aluminum centers and were numbered in the 650,000s. After this second meet at Osceola, we headed on east along highway 34.
We caught up to 9731's cars at Lucas and got ahead of the train as they pulled the grade at Whitebreast Hill. In Chariton, just east of the depot, the head end came by us again at 10:22.
We drove on over to Albia and went south 10 miles into Moravia, where the Appenoose County Community Railroad was to be providing train rides today. The old Wabash depot in Moravia has been converted into a community museum. The train had departed recently for Moulton Junction, so we decided to run back north and return later in the afternoon.
Back in Albia, we got take-out lunches and went out northeast to Old Maxon. We stayed there long enough to see two coal empties come through and head down the hill on their way through this short section of CTC. The first train came by us at 12:32, with AEPX cars and BN 9496 and BNSF 9721. The second was right behind, and appeared at 12:45 with BN gondolas and BN 9658 and 9639 in charge. As you can see from the images, we had a picture-perfect Iowa sky this afternoon.
The board inside the Osceola depot had said that Amtrak would be there at 11:45, making it due now where we were, but we'd still heard nothing from the dispatcher about it. I called 1-800-USA-RAIL and asked when they'd be in Ottumwa and was told "2 o'clock". We poked around Albia for a little while and then drove out to Halpin, the west end of the CTC to await the California Zephyr. The train finally appeared at 1:32, over 3 hours down from its schedule. Three GEnesis units were pulling the train: 87, 53 and 813. There were three express-baggage cars but no boxcars today.
We returned to Moravia to find APNC 116 running around its train. While they unloaded, I drove around to the far side and got more images of the train. The open-air cars used on the annual excursions were once the property of the Southern RR, and, according to one individual I talked to, still may be!
Byron and I returned to Albia and went to the "packing house crossing" to catch a coal load going up the hill. This train of AEPX tub gons had BN 7084, 5035 and 5525 on the point, and ground slowly by us at 2:47.
We had heard of no other BNSF trains in the vicinity, so we started back to the west in the direction of home. Just west of Albia, we heard a westbound enter the CTC, so we knew we had one coming along behind us. After passing Chariton, we heard Foreman Cottrell discussing moving his crane eastward along the railroad, and learned of a few more coal loads that were out of Creston. We stopped in Lucas and waited on the traffic.
At 3:45, a load came through with BN 7900, 7232 and 5543 pulling BN and IOPX hoppers. The next train, at 4:07, was a westbound empty behind BN 9627, 7285 and 5544. The cars were nearly 20 years old, CEPX gondolas. It's interesting how much heavier the older cars are - around 20,000 lbs more than the new ones.
Two more loads were stopped west of Lucas while the maintenance of way people moved their crane. They came through, first the crane pushing a flatcar, and then the foreman in his high-rail truck at 4:11 on their way to Russell. They went through the crossover at Shannon and got out of the way onto the westbound main.
We drove west a short way to the bridge on the road into Stephens Forest to wait on the loads. The first arrived at 4:44 with BN 9485 and 9631 pulling ACCX hoppers. We watched them head around the curve into Lucas and then decided that it was just too hot out there to wait for the second train, which was just leaving Osceola.
Our hot afternoon turned into a stormy evening across southern Iowa, with heavy rains in some areas. By 10:00 p.m., I heard the Kansas City Line dispatcher (Creston to Halpin) ordering all of his trains to stop "on high ground" until the right-of-way could be inspected. At 11:30, Roadmaster Vanderpool reported water across the tracks at milepost 322.8, near Melrose.