Indianola rail fan and C&NW aficionado Mike Endres emailed me earlier this week wondering if I'd have time to do some train chasing on the coming weekend. After some discussion we decided that Mike would come over on Saturday morning and we'd decide later just what railroad to check out. Mike appeared a little before 10:00 and we decided, since he'd never been there, to head for Creston. We had a perfect fall day, clear and cool, and I drove south toward the BNSF mains at Osceola.
I'd called Amtrak's 800-number earlier in the morning and learned that the Zephyr was an hour and twenty-five minutes late. Since Mike hadn't planned to be at my place before 9:45, and No. 6's schedule called for them to be in Osceola at 8:38, I didn't think we'd be there in time to see the passenger train today. Osceola's about a half-hour drive. However, just after I pulled into the parking lot at the depot, I heard the train calling the depot on the radio. They got no response today and no passengers were on the platform.
The eastbound California Zephyr showed up at 10:45. Station attendant Pat Green came trotting by me, saying that she'd almost not made it to the depot on time today. In the train:
AMTK 185 and 138They made a single spot to load and drop passengers and were out in good time. Pat apologized profusely to Conductor "Doc" Livingston for not being at the depot ahead of time. The guy on the right in the previous image arrived and left on a motorcycle. He just watched the train, he didn't bring anyone there or take anyone away with him. Interesting...
Transition Sleeper 39043
Coaches 34072, 34074 and 31539
Sightseer Lounge 33022
Dining Car 38006
Sleeping Cars 32058, 32030 and 32063
Freight: Material Cars 1425, 1535 and 1558, 5 Boxcars and no Roadrailers
Mike and I knew from the radio that we had trains coming from both directions and that a westbound should be getting fairly close. Shortly, the detector announced it, a DTCX empty behind BNSF 4698, 4916 and ATSF 829. After this train passed we decided to move on west toward Creston. We kept hearing detector announcements, both from the west near Thayer and from the Osceola detector. As we pulled into Murray at 11:30 a coal load, with BN and FURX cars, was just rolling through town.
We stayed at the Maple St. grade crossing in Murray for two more trains. At 11:42 we had a westbounder with six autoracks on the head end followed by a set of DEEX empties. On the point were EMD 9068 and BNSF 8209. We heard this train exchange "Okay..." messages with another and at 11:54 the second coal load of the day came into sight. This train, made up of DTCX and CEFX cars, was pulled by BNSF 9734 and 9901.
A gravel road follows the south side of the mainlines for a distance out of Murray and we decided to move west and look for an overpass. We stopped at a suitable bridge near MP 373 to wait for the next train, which arrived at 12:22. This time we had a Distributed Power coal load, BN and BNSF tub gondolas, with BNSF 9892 on the front and 9957 behind. By the time the rear unit reached us, it was shoving hard to make the grade up into Murray. The detector at the east side of Talmage hill (MP 378) had reported this train at 516 axles.
Mike and I waited for a while (not quite long enough it turned out) and then decided we would move west to another overpass, this one in the town of Thayer. We were just turning off of Hwy. 34 to go into town when we saw an IPWX empty behind a couple of MAC's go through. We staked out the overpass for the next train, a DEEX/CEFX coal train that came through at 1:15. I'd spotted this same train last Friday afternoon at Burlington. Power for the load was EMD 9003, BN 9250 and BN 9253.
We next drove on to Creston. The IPWX empty we'd just missed in Thayer was being held out east of Creston and we got to see it at "Bullock's" crossing. BNSF 9718 and BN 9592 were doing the chores on the head end.
As we drove up toward the east end of the Creston yard there was a coal load just rolling to a stop for a crew change. When Mike got a look at the lead unit, he said, "What's that???" We'd gotten lucky and arrived just in time to see a unique BNSF paint job, one of the experiments as the two roads were merging. BNSF 9647, sometimes called the "Barf Bonnet", was painted in the ATSF war bonnet scheme, but using the BN's cream and green "Executive" colors. Incidentally, in the background of the previous image you'll see the elevators of the recently-bankrupt Crestland Coop.
9746 didn't hold still long. They made a quick crew change and rolled out again in five minutes. Trailing unit on the UCEX/ACCX load was BNSF 8930. 9647 had to get out of the way for another load that was close behind. We caught them at the west end of the yard as they arrived at 1:54 with BN 9644, 9534 and BNSF hoppers.
There were a number of units in the yard today. At the west end we found BNSF 2825, BN 8012 and BNSF 2800. Working the east end were BN 2716, BNSF 2332 and BNSF 2121. Mike and I were the subject of quite a bit of chatter on the yard channel today. We learned later that the crew believed that, "most fans don't have that channel" (AAR 19, 160.395 MHz).
At 2:55, 9718 and the IPWX cars left town, which allowed the next waiting westbound to pull up to the yard office for a crew change. This JHMX hopper train stopped at 3:10, made a crew change and pulled by the old CB&Q depot at 3:46. On the point were BNSF 9816 and BNSF 9786.
We'd been parked just south of the mains by the Elm Street crossing for a time when the yard crew brought their three units from the east to the west end to tie them onto one of the yard tracks. As they rolled west, there was quite a commotion on the radio, mostly unintelligible, but we did hear, "...you ran through Elm!". When we looked behind the Jeep we saw 2121's nose just across the sidewalk, her lead truck run through from the straight side of a switch lined diverging. I walked around to the south side of the loco to get a picture. The crew carefully backed the engine through the damaged switch without further problems. We had a brief visit with one of the switching crew, who seemed surprised to learn that we'd heard what happened on our scanner.
Around 4:30 we heard the dispatcher west of Creston stopping his traffic. There was a fire near the rail line at MP 408 and a local fire department had apparently been using the right of way to reach it. The dispatcher was not at all happy with with this situation because he'd learned of it only afterhand. He asked that the fire department be told that they were risking having, "...a close look at an SD-70 MAC, a very close look." Mike and I drove out to an overpass just east of Prescott where we found 9816 waiting.
This is former directional double track territory that was converted to CTC with mixed one and two main sections. The track alignment here shows the former westbound main moving over to the center to enter a 2MT section by an equilateral switch. You'll note also that the signals and switches here are controlled by VHF radio, using a very common protocol with each control point treated as a node in a computer network.
We moved on west but never were able to locate the fire. West of Prescott, at Orange Avenue, we intercepted 9816 one more time after it was moving again on Main 2 at 5:00 p.m. They met an eastbound train which passed on the far side as we waited at the grade crossing. This eastbounder was a set of tub gons with distributed power, BNSF 9836 on the point and 9905 behind.
At this point Mike and I started working our way back toward Indianola. We encountered a couple of westbounds as we traveled. At about 6:00, the GALLIN came by near Afton with 4720 on the point, and a MARX empty behind 9807 was going under the highway overpass at Thayer.