Osceola and Albia
September 27, 1997


Early Saturday morning, on the scanner, I'd already heard that there were five westbounds between Ottumwa and Albia. Overnight, there'd been some discussion of a derailment at Albia, too. Jan called to see how Amtrak was doing this morning and was told that they were almost an hour and a half late out of Lincoln. We grabbed our train-chasing paraphernalia and headed south for Osceola.

On the way down, we heard a couple of the westbounds getting warrants as they passed through the CTC at Albia. Just a few miles out of Osceola, we heard both the north and south track detectors go off, and figured we had missed a couple.

Just as we pulled into the little parking lot north of the depot at 9:00, we heard the detector announce another westbound, so I grabbed the camera and walked to the west end of the platform area. The train turned out to be a coal empty, of BN cars, behind two SD-70 MACs, BN 9542 and BN 9661.

BNSF is still working, albeit very slowly, on new platforms in front of the Osceola depot. Construction on the north side of the tracks has just begun with the lower portion where the passenger walkway across the tracks will be. On the south side of the tracks, the platform is completed. Here, the elevated portions are confined to the areas east and west of the depot building, and the entire portion in front of the depot is at the lower level.

I had a short conversation with M of W Foreman Tom Cottrell, who was waiting on traffic before going out to replace bolts on the short (10 mile) section of jointed rail remaining on the westbound main. As we were talking, another westbound appeared. This was a second coal empty, behind BNSF 9783 and BN 9402, with UCEX cars. This train was by the depot at 10:00.

Jan and I went to a nearby convenience store for donuts and returned to await the California Zephyr. They showed up at 10:27 with GEnesis units 21 and 78 on the point. In today's train:

Baggage 1001
Transistion Sleeper 39030
Coach 34085
Coach 34090
Coach 31533 (Smoking)
Sightseer Lounge 33039
Dining Car 38028
Sleeping Car 32052
Sleeping Car 32069
Sleeping Car 32014
Baggage 1165
Boxcars 70001, 70012 and 70043
Express Baggage 1705 (with the doors open??)
The new platform certainly improves access to the bilevel cars, and Amtrak's decision to add a smoking car to the consists keeps the smokers on the train during these short stops. Three of the new boxcars were on the rear of the train - the most I'd seen so far. They made two spots and were on the way again at 10:34.

In a short talk with Tom, who'd finally obtained a warrant to do his work, we learned that there would be three trains following Amtrak to the east, but that it would be a while before any more westbounds appeared. We decided to drive on to the east along highway 34.

We stopped briefly in Chariton just to have a look around and then traveled on eastward. A few miles out of Albia we met Roadmaster Butch Vanderpool with a "county mountie" right on his bumper. On the scanner, we heard a westbound enter the CTC at Maxon, so we drove down the short gravel road to Halpin, at the west end of the CTC, and waited. At 12:13, another coal empty appeared. This one had OGSX and UNSX gondolas and was powered by BN 5536, 5510 and 9217.

We drove into Albia, picked up some lunch and went out to Maxon to await more trains. Things were really quiet, however, and we began wondering what had happened to the eastbounds supposedly behind Amtrak. The first train to appear at Maxon was the UP syrup turn down from Eddyville behind CNW GeePs 4630 and 4621. They pulled in at 1:00 with a string of Cargill tanks full of corn syrup.

Just after cutting off of their train, the UP boys discovered that yesterday's loads hadn't been picked up. I suspect this might have been related to the derailment we'd heard about. In their usual (for the UP in these parts) profane manner, the crew discussed the problem on the radio and started making their switching moves. The conductor called the BNSF and determined that the westbound BN local was due at 2:00 with 36 empties to interchange, so they decided to wait for the BN train.

We took advantage of the break to go in by the Albia depot area to see what we could find. The derailed cars were back on the tracks and car department people were working to repair some damage to a tank car. All the sidings in the area were filled with work equipment and ballast cars. Two locos were parked southwest of the BN office, EMD 776 (ex Conrail, apparently) and BN 2113. An interesting round-topped double door box, with an extra door cut into the side, was sitting on the north side of the mainlines with some ballast cars. There was also a caboose, BN 12523.

Back at Maxon at 1:50, we heard the detector just east of the CTC go off for the north track. The UP crew immediately started trying to call the local on the radio. They were to be disappointed however, since it would turn out that there were two westbounds ahead of it. The first was a manifest with BN 2700 and 7198 on the point.

We'd finally started hearing eastbounds getting warrants, and the first one made it up the hill to our location at 2:00. This train, pulled by EMD 9063 (formerly known on this line as an Oakway), EMD 6425 and BN 8001 and, had a block of grain loads on the head end, followed by manifest cars, and a caboose! (BN 12435).

The next train at Maxon was a coal empty. It had JE hoppers and was powered by BN 9591 and BNSF 9647. 9647 has a Santa Fe warbonnet version of the normal SD-70 MAC paint scheme.

A few minutes later, at 2:20, the BN local arrived at Maxon with ATSF 3427, BN 2358 and 36 empty tank cars. Negotiations between the UP and BNSF crews about rearranging all their cars began immediately and soon they were getting things sorted out.

At 2:40, an eastbound coal load came up the hill and by our observation post at Maxon. In the lead of the AEPX gons were BN 9708 and 9599. They were followed very closely by another load - CWEX gons behind BN 5588, 5067 (with red number boards) and 7125. That was the last of the trains that we'd heard about on the scanner, so we headed back westward toward home.

That's It!