Around 3:30 Sunday afternoon I had an ear on the scanner as problems started developing on the Trenton Sub. south of Des Moines. A northbound had tied up in the siding at Beech and gone to Des Moines with their power. After they reached Carlisle, a southbound grain train was released and had started down the line toward Beech.
Further down the line, between Allerton and Chariton, a northbound KSDM had what they thought was a problem with the airbrakes on one of their units. They'd called into locomotive field support and were trying various things to recover the train's air. Jan and I decided to run out to the line and see what we could catch. We had a cloudy and cool afternoon with just a little mist of rain in the air.
As we came through Beech, we saw the train in the siding as we expected. Just after we passed under the tracks the dispatcher, "JCB", came on to let the grain train know that they might have to hold back in order to make room for a setout by the KSDM at Williamson. From the sound on the radio, we figured that the southbound was not far behind us.
By this time, the KSDM had called back in to say that the air problem was not on the loco, but had turned out to be a car with a broken air line (the pipe was broken) and that they would need to set the car out somewhere. They were at MP 15, a few miles south of Chariton. To complicate matters, they were running out of time. A relief crew was on the way and looking for a place to meet the train. Both the northbound and southbound trains had ones following them not far behind.
We stopped on the way south toward Melcher-Dallas by the Fairview Church to see the southbound grain train pass. They caught up to us just after 4:00 and hustled under the highway. On the head end were CNW 8811 and SP 131.
We drove on south, paralleling the train. Before long, we heard them come by the Melcher detector (MP 39) - 312 axles, 23 mph, 64 degrees. We drove into Williamson for a quick look around and then went on down to Chariton. By this time, the KSDM train had cut off of their train with the defective car in tow and was headed north. The plan was to put the car into the house track at Williamson before going back after the rest of the train. JCB gave them a line four, "work between" warrant with enough room north of Williamson (MP 33) to run around their cars. The southbound grain train was to hold back of MP 36.
The KSDM was to meet their relief at Chariton, so we drove to an old wooden overpass just around the curve north of the depot. They rolled north with the relief crew at 4:45. The train had SP 8119 and very freshly-painted UP 5650 pulling about a dozen cars. The dispatcher asked the crew if they'd noticed if the house track at Chariton were occupied. They'd not.
We drove back up to Williamson to meet them. They arrived there and pulled into the siding just after 5:00. They pulled the offending car down to the switch leading into the house track and called the dispatcher. JCB had remained calm so far, but did not take happily the news that the house track housed a tamper and that the switch was tagged and spiked. He'd not been informed that the spur was out of service.
The crew suggested that they might go back south and pick up the rest of their train while someone from MoW came out to release the switch and move the tamper. They cut off of the cars in the siding, went north and then came back down the main. We drove back down to Chariton to catch them one more time, noting that the Chariton house track was empty. While we waited, "UP Proe (unknown spelling)" arrived, grabbed a company vehicle and headed for Williamson. UP 5650 and SP 8119 arrived southbound around 6:00, stopping at each of the red signals on the way back to the rest of their train.
Jan and I went for some take-out and parked near the BNSF tracks in Chariton. We'd heard some traffic on the BNSF, both from the Russell detector and horns coming through town, but did not know of any other trains in the neighborhood. Not long after we stopped however, we heard horns to the west. "Bonus!", Jan said.
At 6:25 an eastbound coal load came around the corner by Roland Avenue. The GEAX and CWEX cars were powered by BN 9565 and 9555. I watched the rails just east of the Roland crossing pumping up and down as the ends of the coal gons passed over them. It's amazing how far that steel can flex without cracking, but it's definitely time to get some rock under those ties. When a coal load piles up it makes a huge mess, and right in the middle of Chariton would be a very bad spot for that to happen.
We started back to the north, listening on the radio for the KSDM to get moving again. They called the dispatcher at 7:25 to say that they had started back north toward Williamson again. We hung around Williamson long enough to see them arrive, and for some locals to stop and ask what we were up to. "...well, Bruce here said you were just watching trains..."
The Short Line Yardmaster called asking for an ETA on the train and was told, "Around 10:00". Behind them, another northbound had tied up at Allerton and the crew had been taken off by the same van that had been in Chariton. We found the second section of the southbound grain train stopped at the north edge of Melcher-Dallas at 8:00. On the point, an interesting collection - UP 5075, NS 5011 and WC 6578.