The Madison County Zephyr Rides Again
October 3, 1997

An email from my friend Christopher Kyte a few weeks ago tipped me off that there would be a private car on the California Zephyr this Friday night:

Just a quick note to mention something that may or may not amuse you!  While
NOT the cute little MCZ train (unfortunately), we are running two
'psuedo-Madison County' trips this fall with a novel twist.  On October 3 &
October 17th, we are running an ex CB&Q dome from CHI to Osceola (thence dead
to Omaha) as the "Madison County Limited".  From Osceola, bus to Des Moines and
the Covered Bridges et al.
It was a very warm (mid-80s) evening for early October, so we decided to go to Osceola for supper and to do some train-watching before the passenger train. We got to Osceola just in time to catch a coal train coming through town at 6:50. On the head end were SD-70 MACs 9455 and 9569, eastbound with GCCX coal loads.

We drove out to the southwest corner of town, ordered a pizza to go and went back to the depot. Just after sunset, at 7:20, another load arrived. This train had PRBX aluminum hoppers with BN 9453 and BNSF 9717 on the point.

Things were pretty quiet after that. The bus that was to pick up the passengers on the "Madison County Limited" came into the depot lot around 7:45 and I went over to have a talk with the driver who was looking for a spot to have supper.

We'd called to check on the passenger train earlier and learned that it was just 10 minutes late out of Galesburg. They made up some of that time, however, and were only 5 minutes late into Osceola at 9:22. A fair-sized crowd awaited the California Zephyr on the north side of the BN double track mains. In tonight's train:

GEnesis units 17 and 43
Material Handling car 1509
Express Baggage 1730
Transistion Sleeper 39010
Coach 34093
Coach 34091
Coach 31519 (Smoking)
Sightseer Lounge 33047
Dining Car 38010
Sleeping Car 32001
Sleeping Car 32007
Sleeping Car 32002
Montana Daylight "Silver Scene", BKSX 9544
Express Baggage 1740
In their first spot, the door of an Amtrak coach was placed right over an angled portion of the new platform, making the step out of or into the car pretty tricky. They pulled down for a second spot for the sleeping car passengers at 9:26. The head end crew apparently knew nothing about the people in the private car detraining at Osceola. On the radio, they were obviously disappointed to learn that they would lose the time they'd made up on a long third spot for 44 "senior citizen" passengers and their baggage.

The dome "Silver Scene" had an illuminated sign saying CZ-22 next to the doorway. With an Amtrak attendent in charge, the passengers were moved onto the new platform to wait until they could cross the tracks to reach their bus. Number 5 was away at 9:38, 21 minutes down.

With station attendant J.R. Green, referred to by one of the passengers as "that curmudgeon", making sure no one stepped on the BN's ballast, the Madison County Limited patrons crossed to the depot. One passenger was pretty upset because his bag hadn't gotten off of the train with him. Hey, if retirement's for getting excited about where your luggage is, you might as well just keep working!

The Silver Scene was to continue with its attendants aboard to Omaha and lay over until returning later on Number 6. The passengers were to tour the Winterset (Bridges of Madison County) and Amana Colonies areas and catch their stainless fluted dome again in Burlington for the trip back to Chicago.

Second Trip
October 17, 1997

Jan and I returned to Osceola on the night of October 17 to see the second run of the Madison County Limited. After going "around the block" (east to Beech, south through Melcher/Dallas to Chariton and back west to Osceola), we arrived in Osceola around 8:30.

Very soon, an eastbound coal load came through behind a trio of green and black GEs - BN 5055, 5014 and 5107. In a few minutes, a following train, consisting primarily of empty autoracks appeared with SF 2871 and BN 2982 on the point.

Amtrak number five was running late and finally reached Osceola and made its first stop at 9:55. In tonight's train:

GEnesis units 4 and 35
Express Baggage 1727
Baggage 1183
Transition Sleeper 39031
Coaches 34010, 34090, 31532 (Smoking)
Sightseer Lounge 33002
Dining Car 38005
Sleeping Cars 32013, 32025, 32071
Express Baggage 1720
Montana Daylight Silver Scene
After two spots for regular passengers, the train pulled to the west far enough to place Silver Scene right on the highway crossing and unloaded the tour group and their luggage while impatient motorists honked at the car. The California Zephyr was on its way westward again at 10:09, fiftytwo minutes behind schedule.

By the way, I learned from Internet sources that Silver Scene has been laying over in Denver, not Omaha.

If you'd care to learn more about these trips, you can read all about the Madison County Limited at the Train Holidays web site.

That's It!