Congestion at Albia
Saturday, August 28
After running a couple of quick errands in Pleasantville
early Saturday morning I headed southeast toward Albia and the BNSF mainlines.
We had a forecast of clearing weather, but at 7:00 there was a full
overcast and light rain. The BNSF had experienced some ballast washouts
during heavy rains earlier in the week and work was progressing on them
between Albia and Ottumwa. I called "Julie" to see how No. 6 was doing
and learned that it was expected at Osceola about 2:15 down from schedule.
On the drive down from Knoxville I could hear some activity on the radio.
A DP load (9995 leading?) had come up the south hill with helpers
and was waiting at Maxon. The dispatcher sent a freight train (likely
the DENGAL) with BNSF 5352 up on Main 1. They were still climbing
the hill when I made it to the yard. The signal
at the Des Moines branch junction was flashing yellow over red. The
dispatcher called and asked how they were doing and was told that they were
making 15 mph. When asked how long until they reached Maxon, the reply
was "Oh, five minutes." You could imagine the DENGAL crew hoping that
the coal load wouldn't be released ahead of them.
The freight, with 260 axles, crested the hill
at 7:40. On the point were BNSF 5352,
BNSF 4718, RailLink 309 and FURX 8110. At Maxon they were crossed over
to Main 2 and run ahead of the coal load. I drove out to the Maxon
area to see the coal train and caught up to the UCEX hoppers with their rear
motor, but decided not to do the "mud bog" thing trying to get to the head
end at new Maxon. From the radio I learned that the lead unit was 9816.
The rear, BNSF 8919, came by old Maxon in the rain at 8:00. The detector
east of Maxon reported this train at 524 axles.
These trains called on a Form B shortly after clearing the detector. As
it turned out, there were two trains on Main 1 between Albia and Ottumwa
working on the washout today, a work extra and a Herzog ballast train. This
shut down westbound traffic fairly well, and circumstances shortly plugged
Main 2 as well. A coal load, 9801 East over near Ottumwa, had trouble
with its rear motor and had apparently slowed everything through the night.
Crews were getting short on hours of service remaining and eastbounds
were beginning to pile up.
After some discussion with the dispatcher about possibly going east, the
pushers were sent down the hill on Main 2 and ran back to the yard on Main
1. I went back to the yard to await their
return. They arrived at 8:30, BNSF 9928
and BNSF 9629. I next drove out toward
Maxon again, only to find my way blocked by a train of empty autoracks on
Main 2. They pulled up to the crossovers and tried to call the dispatcher,
but got no response. They called to the next train behind them and
said that they were "all red" at Maxon and that they had "no paper" to go
on to the east.
I drove out to an overpass on Main 1 east of Albia and got this shot of the train. Due to the congestion
ahead and their relatively low priority, they would end up backing their train
onto Main 1, tying down and being relieved. On the Ottumwa Sub. radio,
I heard "...second out at Iowa Ave.", referring to Ottumwa. There were
also transmissions on the KC channel indicating a number of trains waiting
between Chariton and Albia.
Albia was celebrating "Restoration Days" and the town was filling up. A
parade was being assembled on the only practical route to Maxon, so I decided
to start west in hopes of getting out from under the weather as well as the
street congestion. Another call to Julie put Amtrak at 11:20 in Osceola.
Listening to EOT clicks and beeps, and unanswered calls to the dispatcher
as I traveled, I drove all the way to Osceola. The ICE dispatcher had
a train approaching Ottumwa from the south and told them that he'd been, "on
hold for 45 minutes" and that the "train ahead waited one hour to get across
the diamond". Things were pretty well tied up on the BNSF this morning.
I got to Osceola around 10:45 and worked on the crossword while I waited
for No. 6. They called in early to say that they were running on Main
1 today and that the coaches were in front. Station attendant J.R.
Black assembled the fares on the north side and the Zephyr appeared at 11:22, three hours and sixteen
minutes late. In the consist today:
AMTK 44, AMTK
They made a quick stop and moved slowly out of town
on the north rail.
Transition Sleeper 39030
Cafe Coach 35004
Coach 34002, 34063 (labeled "Coachclass")
Sightseer Lounge 33010
Sleepers 32081 "Illinois" and 32062
Two box cars, two Exprestrak, one box and one roadrailer
I got some lunch and, having heard an eastbound report out of Creston behind
Amtrak, returned to the depot to wait on it. This train, running
on Main 2, hit the Hwy. 69 crossing at 11:53. It was a distributed
power UCCX coal load led by BNSF 5360. On
the rear, BNSF 9951. They were making track speed through town as you can tell by the coal
dust in this picture.
From comments between crews on the radio I was aware of a number of trains
waiting to get up the hill at Albia, so I started back eastward on Hwy. 34.
Amtrak went around the waiting trains on Main 1, crossed over at Halpin
(Main 1 at the top of the hill was by this time blocked by the tied-down,
empty autorack train) and got a warrant on "the other side" at 12:30.
The KC desk dispatcher called 5360 to tell them that a "citizen" had called
to report that coal was coming out of their train on the grade crossing at
MP 349.24 -near Woodburn. They were told that "the chief" wanted them
to stop and inspect their train. I found them stopped at 12:45 with the head end at the "HyVee"
crossing just west of Chariton.
By 1:00 trains were starting to move up the hill. BNSF 9995 cleared
up and got a warrant and other crews began moving ahead to the next length
of rail clear of grade crossings. On the air I learned that there were
crews with only an hour or two left to work still out on trains. It
would be a long evening for the second trick dispatcher on the Ottumwa Sub.
By the time I got to Albia another load had started up the hill, so I went
to the "double crossing" (AKA "Packing House" crossing) and waited for them
to arrive. BNSF 9400, 8200 and 8297 brought
a short set (99 cars) of NOKL box gons by at a
pretty good clip for the south hill at 1:48. I headed out to Maxon
but when I got to the last gravel road crossing I found that the coal load,
which should have easily fit, was not quite clear
of the crossing. After a wait of about 10 minutes, they were moving
At a road crossing between old and new Maxon I found the empty auto train,
tied down with a rather tired-looking GE chuffing
away on the head end. The dispatcher brought another load up, 119 FSTX/ESTX
cars led by BNSF 9489 and BNSF 8292. They came around the autoracks
at 2:50. At this point the work and ballast trains were ready to be
put away for the night and were approaching Maxon on Main 1.
The plan was to put the work train and ballast train on the south and north
sidings at Maxon. However, the east switch of the north siding was
fouled by the autos, so they would have to be moved west first. The
crew of the work train, upon returning to Maxon, was to get aboard BNSF 903,
back it out of the way and then take it to the east once the ballast train
was in the clear. A number of BNSF personnel were on hand to help with
the train movements. A crew van arrived as well, ready to pick up those
dying on the law. The maintenance people meanwhile, wanted to get onto
Main 2 between Maxon and Ottumwa to line and raise track. They were
obtaining warrants as I headed for home.
On the way back north along the Des Moines branch, I stopped to get some
pictures of this derailment just south of Lovilia.
CIGRS Meet, August 15
The Central Iowa Garden Railroad Society met at the home of Phil and Barb
Deats on Sunday afternoon. Their layout,
called the "Rose Valley Railroad" is in the back yard
of their Clive residence, and includes plenty of detail
to keep your eyes busy as you watch the trains.
Susan and I have now been attending CIGRS meetings for over a year, and have
hosted one ourselves. I've found it interesting to observe the different
styles of garden railroad setups and to also note the trends in the hobby.
We've taken a minority stand on the layout issues, have emphasized
the "garden" aspect of the hobby and have not tried
to build a "model" railroad out of doors.
With a few exceptions, what I see at most of our meetings are train setups
that would look pretty similar if moved indoors. I admire the industry
and determination behind these intricate setups - it would be pretty daunting
to let Mother Nature have at all that detail!