Afternoon Zephyr

Saturday, August 24



The last Saturday of the summer - my classes start Monday!  I left home around 7:30 on this foggy morning and drove south toward the BNSF.  Automated Julie's reply to "Give Details." had No. 6 out of Fort Morgan, CO at 4:20 a.m., so I knew I wouldn't see the California Zephyr this morning.  On the radio Foreman Danny Judge and Dispatcher Steve Yost (SLY) were setting up a Form B for the LoRam Shoulder Cleaner, to work on Main 2 between Osceola and Chariton today.  Steve had a train called for 9:00 at Creston and several other eastbounds were already on the move.  It sounded like I might be able to get there in time for BNSF 1064, by Woodburn at 7:44.

Switch tenders were in place east of Osceola at MP 357.9 and at Shannon, near Lucas, so that eastbounds could cross over to Main 1 around the ballast work.  Steve planned to reverse "after BNSF 1064 East", but the following train, BNSF 8961, called in to say that they were having trouble with wheel slip on the wet rails and to ask to run straight through.  My first thought was, "Heck, it's downhill pretty much all the way from Osceola to Shannon.", and someone on the radio remarked "That's the best one I ever heard...".  However, going through the crossover at Shannon would have given them a slow start up Whitebreast Hill, so maybe they had an excuse after all.

I got to Lucas at 7:53 and couldn't tell for sure if I'd beaten 1064 there or not, so I just headed east on Hwy. 34 and up the hill to Chariton.  On the way up, I heard 1064 report themselves by MP 340, so I knew they were right over my shoulder.  I also heard Ottumwa sub. dispatcher KRS address a warrant to 8850 East, and as I pulled into the parking lot where Braden Ave. crosses the tracks at 8:05, I heard the Russell detector report 484 axles on Main 2.  Missed two, but there was barely enough light at 8:00 a.m. to get the camera to focus anyway.

I heard the horns when I stopped the Jeep and at 8:08 a PSTX load appeared in the fog.  On the point were BNSF 1064 and 9446, trailing PSTX tub gondolas.  After this train passed I heard BN 9646 call KRS for a warrant.  That would have been the train on the detector just after 8:00.  This was the typical early morning traffic pattern down here - a collection of coal loads out of Creston between 5:00 and 9:00.  Today there were five and I'd catch three of them.

I drove back down the hill to Lucas, listening to some talk between SLY and one of the eastbounds.

"Bad news, the kid's on duty, I was expecting Jennie.  She's a lot better looking."
"I try not to think about it.  Say, Kevin knows that Amtrak's seven hours late doesn't he?"
"Yeah, but he's going to hold you at Maxon for them."
"Roger.  Call out the dogs!"
As I parked back at the bottom of Whitebreast just east of Shannon, I heard 1064 clear the Russell detector - 484 axles.

The next eastbound, BNSF 8961 East, was a distributed power CEFX load.  They arrived at Shannon at 8:28 and started up the hill.  With the signals lit, I could see that there was another train not too far away on Main 1.  The rear unit on the CEFX train, BNSF 8804, disappeared into the woods and fog at 8:30.  A couple of westbounds were calling on the Form B by this time, so I just stayed at Shannon to catch them as they came through.  On the highway, the regular Saturday bake sale wagon arrived to set up at the junction of highways 34 and 65.

The first of a pair of empty UCEX hopper trains showed up at 8:43.  On the point were BN 9518 and BNSF 779.  The ballast work on Main 2, which used a machine that could foul Main 1, was to hold off until these trains had passed.  The second UCEX train arrived at 8:54, with BN 9571, 9554 and BNSF 8271.

At this point it sounded like there would be a break in the traffic.  KRS had another westbound at Albia, apparently an empty from the power plant at Chillicothe, and there was discussion about them picking up fuel loads that had been brought down from Des Moines.  Eventually they were told to "highball" the pickup and head on west.  I took advantage of the lull to drive back into Chariton for some fresh coffee, returning to Shannon about 9:30.

Track Inspector Earl Hamilton had followed 8961 and came by Shannon at 9:45.  The fog was lifting somewhat by this time so I moved over to the south side of the rails for pictures of the next westbound, at 10:10.  This was an OGSX empty, pulled by BNSF 8975 and 9942.

Dispatcher Yost told the ballast cleaning crew that an eastbound, 9924, had left Creston at 9:45, that he had nothing but Amtrak behind them and no crew rested until 1300.  I decided to trail 8975 west and intercept the eastbounder, which would be crossing over to Main 1 after 8975 cleared the crossover east of Osceola.  9924 reported themselves clear of MP 369 at 10:25 and at 10:33 I heard 8975 on the Osceola detector with 516 axles.

I drove to a gravel road crossing just east of the detector and waited for the eastbound.  They called switch tender Tom Lehart to let him know that they had passed the last block signal preceding the crossover so that he could go ahead and throw the switches.  At 10:53 the train popped out from under the Hwy. 34 overpass and, with cars still on the crossover, moved slowly toward me.  Before long the train reached the Main 1 detector.  BNSF 9924 and 4872 led a set of NCUX coal hoppers.

Lacking other traffic for the time being, I reversed direction and paralleled the train back toward Shannon.  I managed to get well ahead of them, so I turned off at the Stephen's Forest entrance and parked near a wooden overpass.  The shoulder ballast cleaner was operating to the west of the bridge, picking up ballast and throwing the dirt to the south on the edge of the right of way.  When the cleaner reached a pair of block signals, the Main 1 signal had already dropped to approach as 9924 came up from behind.

The mechanism on the north side of the cleaner was withdrawn and the crew cleared for 9924.  The train showed up and passed the work at 11:30.  After watching them go under the bridge, I drove on back to Shannon to see them at the crossover.  Switch tender Norris was waiting for the train and had the switches set up to bring them back over to Main 2 for their climb up Whitebreast Hill.

It was about 11:45 at this point and I decided to head clear back west to Creston, get some lunch and wait for traffic to pick up again.  At noon I heard Foreman Judge call SLY and ask if there were anything out of Galesburg yet.  Steve replied that, yes he had a train that had just passed the "Kevin Schelen Connection", a reference to Cameron Jct. just west of Galesburg.  The dispatcher also said that he had a grain train called out of Creston at 1300.

I took my McDonald's to the east end of the yard at Creston where the grain train power, BNSF 797 and 4395, idled awaiting the crew.  After lunch I had a look around the yard, spotting quite a few units, including BNSF 8048 and IC 6120 with BN 7054 on the west end of a set of BNSF covered hoppers.  Also in the yard were BNSF 2228 and 2271.

It sounded like the grain train was getting ready to leave, so I drove out east of the yard to Bullock's crossing to wait for it.  I visited for a minute with Track Inspector Hamilton who had made his round trip, returning on Main 1, and set off at the crossing.  At 1:45 the grain train, with a few boxcars in front, left the yard and came by with 797 and 4395.  They were to cross over at 357.9 to go around the ballast work.  After a conversation with the dispatcher about how well their train was handling, it was decided to move them to Albia ahead of Amtrak.  The grainer registered 420 axles on the Thayer detector.

Train 654, the "Illinois Local" was up next and pulled at 2:00.  On the point were EMDX 745 and BNSF 1599.  With a relatively low horsepower to tonnage figure, this train took 40 minutes to get its 81 cars to the Thayer detector.  After a brief conference with the dispatcher they decided to wait at the crossover east of Osceola and let Amtrak come by them on Main 1.

I went back to the east end of the yard where locos were being added to the string of brown BNSF covered hoppers.  Eventually the line included BNSF 4256, BN 6796 (DIC?), BNSF 8048, IC 6120 and BN 7054.

It was now about 2:40, and the Zephyr was expected in at about 3:00.  I decided to drive back to Osceola and head home from there after the passenger train came through.  As I drove away, I heard Amtrak hit the detector west of Creston at MP 389 - 106 axles today.  I heard them report out of Creston at 3:04.

I was surprised to find quite a few customers at the Osceola depot.  Patient people!  No. 6 appeared at 3:30, coming in slowly on Main 1.  In spite of plenty warning on the radio from Engineer Bill Greenley, the station attendants waited until the train was in sight to hustle their patrons across to the north side of the platform.  The Zephyr had AMTK 6 on the point today, with Bill's American flag fluttering out the window on the north side of the loco.  In the train:
AMTK 6, 139 and 181
Baggage 1187
Coaches 34045, 34057, 34020 and 31513
Sightseer Lounge 33026
Diner 38024
Sleepers 32015 and 32075 "Connecticut"
Transition Sleeper 39039
Material Car 1439
Box, box, box, reefer, box, box, box, reefer, box, material car 1538 and four Roadrailers.
There was good variety in the locomotive paint schemes today.  The Zephyr made two spots and highballed at 3:42.  Here's a short video (8 Meg .MOV) of the train pulling away.  Between blasts of the horns you can hear dispatcher Wes Carr in discussion with the shoulder ballast cleaner crew.

That's It!