Friday Night in the Berning Motor Inn
October 8 and 9


Jan and I decided to stay in Creston for a night at the Berning Inn, located near the west end of the BNSF yard. The woman Jan talked to on the phone when making the reservation understood about railfans and booked us into a room toward the southwest corner on the second floor of the building, room No. 77 (right next to the "Boudoir d'Amour", as it was called). I was done with classes at 11:00 on Friday, so after a quick lunch at home we headed south for Osceola.

On the way down we heard warrants given to a westbound at Albia (BN 7022) and an eastbound at MP 384 (BNSF 9728). We figured we could intercept both of these this afternoon. A rail gang was replacing welded rail on a curve just east of town, right next to the old Hwy. 34 paving. We stopped out there to wait on the above eastbound. I started a, "Nice afternoon." conversation with one of the workers who returned, "Great day to lay rail!". He said that the gang would be working between Osceola and Burlington through December.

At 1:00, our eastbound came into sight with BNSF 9728 and BN 9555. This was a coal load with CCFX, BN, GCCX, DEEX and DETX cars. They "whistled freely" through Foreman Dias' Form B and were on their way to Osceola.

We decided to stay ahead of 7022 and proceded toward Creston. Because of the rail work on the westbound main this afternoon, trains were crossing over to run reversed to Thayer where a switchtender was on duty. We decided to stop there and wait on an old overpass for the next train. Our westbound appeared at 1:45 and rolled slowly between the bright fall colors up to the crossover behind BN 7022 and BNSF 1122. This train had a long block of empty grain hoppers on the head end and a few miscellaneous other types of cars on the rear.

We drove on to another overpass on the west side of the Talmage Hill area to get another picture or two as the train wound up the hill and headed toward Afton.

We knew from the radio that an eastbound was out of Creston and should be getting fairly close, so we just stayed at the overpass east of Afton until they showed up at 2:15. This was CWEX loads behind BN 7828, BNSF 8171 and EMD (Oakway) 9061. This shot of the yellow-ended cars snaking down toward the Talmage bridge is Jan's favorite image from this trip.

After these two trains were by we went on into Creston. In the yard we found BNSF 4252 and 2324 switching cars around at the west end, putting together a grain empty called for 1600. Other power parked on the south side of the yard included renumbered BNSF 1484, and BN 2310 and 2887.

By 3:00, BN 7022, that we'd followed on the way over, was switching the grain hoppers out of its train in front of the Creston depot. We noticed that under the black paint it had once had a red pilot.

A coal empty came into town at 4:15. This train had WFAX cars and had BNSF 9916 and 9812 on the head end. The detector just west of Thayer announced this one as having 484 axles. Meanwhile, 4252 and 2324 continued putting their grain cars together. 9916 pulled up on Main 1 for their crew change and rolled west again at 4:20.

About this time we decided to check into the Berning. The place was staffed with some senior women who were very pleasant and accomodating. Although there was an elevator, our room was quite a way from it, requiring a trip down and back up short flights of stairs as you passed above the movie theater below. Jan helped as much as she could as I made several trips out to the Jeep and back to get our things. The room was very nice. Two double beds, a recliner, plenty of towels and so forth, and just $45. ($40 for one person). Definitely a train-watching bargain!

The room's window looked south out on the BNSF mains over a city street and parking area. There were two nearby grade crossings (Elm and New York Streets), along with plenty of activity on the radio to keep one apprised of the location of the railroad traffic. BNSF 4252 was now switching outside our window.

At 4:50, the train we'd stopped to see at Thayer with BN 7022 and BNSF 1122 left town. As they passed the motel I noticed that 1122 had a portion of a war bonnet spliced into the left side.

7022 was told that they'd be waiting for two eastbounds before getting out onto single track. On the radio we could hear westbounds over on the other side of Osceola (MP 350 and 353) finally getting released to come on into Creston after the steel gang got out of the way. We got some takeout and returned to the yard.

At 5:30 4252 and 2324 pulled out with a long collection of grain cars. They too were told that they would be waiting on the two eastbound trains. On the radio we heard the first westbound (BN 9456) clear their warrant as they entered the Creston yard limits at 6:10. It had taken them almost 6 hours to get here from Burlington.

Our next train at the west end of the yard was an eastbound DEEX coal load behind BN 9651, 9604 and 9221. They crossed Elm Street at 6:15. After stopping on Main 2, their EOT was changed out and they eventually rolled out of town with a fresh crew at 6:40. Before their departure, 9452 and 9419 with UCEX empties was dispatched to the west at 6:25.

By this time, a pleasant light show was settling over the Nebraska sub and the Creston depot. I hoped for another eastbounder to roll in under under the sunset, but my timing was off tonight. At 7:10, a westbound with a long string of power, BN 9645, BN 9667, NS 8925, BN 9412, EMD 9069 and BNSF 9755, started to pull out with DETX cars. However, they were stopped and had to wait just east of the Elm St. crossing by the depot.

About the time the above train stopped, another eastbound, BN 5115, EMD 3 and BN 6828, came in with CEPX loads. BN 9645 waited until 7:52 before being allowed to leave town.

By this time I was ready to give up on the attempts at nighttime digital photography. I just can't hold the thing still enough when the shutter speeds get up (down?) into the 'teenths of seconds. We hung around, going back and forth between the AmShack and the motel, keeping track of traffic on the BNSF:

7:50 - Eastbound BN 7270, 5555 and 8179. DETX cars built 2-99.
8:45 - Eastbound BN 5011 and 8088 with piggybacks.
9:15 - Westbound BNSF 4327 and LMX 8587. Manifest.
9:40 - Westbound BN 9230, 8649 and EMD 6047. CEPX empties.
We went to the AmShack for No. 5. They were in at 10:42 with:
AMTK 55, 34 and 313
Material 1469
Baggage 1709
Transition Sleeper 39044
Coaches 34066, 34091 and 31519 (Smoking)
Sightseer Lounge 33030
Diner 38016
Sleepers 32067, 32073 and 32039
Boxcars 71042, 71026, 71111, 71028, 71028, 71070 and 71032
Baggage 1714
I returned to the Jeep to find Jan sound asleep - fortunately I backed up her log with the tape recorder this time. We went back to the motel and I pulled the recliner over by the window and relaxed with the scanner and a notebook.

It was a warm Friday night and the street below, right in front of the town's movie theater, was rather American Grafitti-ish tonight. Lots of middle-school girls squealing with excitement as older boys cruised by. Lots of feigned nonchalance from the objects of their attention.

I didn't last too long before I decided to move over to the bed, but here are a few trains in the night:

11:35 - Westbound BNSF 8882 and 8933. DEEX empties.
11:50 - Eastbound BNSF 6836, 5174, ??(not BN/SF) 9549 and BN 7005. Intermodal.
12:15 - Eastbound BN 9528 and 9661. DEEX loads.
12:34 - Westbound BNSF 1110 clears at the east yard limit
ZZZZZZZ.....

6:00 - Eastbound BN 7284, EMD 9003 and BN 5553. WFAX loads.
6:31 - Eastbound BNSF 8810 in front, 8938 rear. AEPX loads. Yarded - won't depart 'til noon.
(Somehow this changed tense at this point, so, as they say on the railroad, be governed accordingly!)

Lots of activity on the radio! 9824 West is at MP 365, 6791 East at MP 337. The dispatcher wants to know, "How's the fog?" EMD 9087 East at MP 353, BN 7284 East at MP 374, I guess we missed a few in the early hours! Did I sleep through those horns right outside my window and just incorporate them into my dreams?

I head down to the parking lot for a look at the morning. The yard is covered in fog with a clear sky overhead. This should be a very fine train-watching day! A younger woman's on duty at the motel desk and on the way back in I ask if the restaurant within is open for breakfast. "I think so. There's a waitress that comes in around six." I go through the bar and around the corner for a look. One customer waits at a table out in the middle of the dining room. Plaques proclaim that Rotary, Lions and Kiwanis all meet in a room below. There are boxes of cereal on a shelf by the grill, so I figure I can get my roommate to eat breakfast here. Upstairs, I give my report on the Berning restaurant to Jan and we decide to eat in.

The Elm Street grade crossing is visible from the non-smoking booths. Jan orders cereal, asks about the fruit listed in the menu and says she'd like apricots. Our waitress doesn't know what an apricot is, but Jan, ever the teacher and mother, tells her to just look for the can that says "Apricots". She doesn't have to ask me what scrambled eggs, bacon and toast are, and she's soon headed off to double as the cook on this early Saturday morning. The girl looks sixteen and pregnant and I ponder what it was like to grow up never learning about apricots and now having to open the restaurant at 6:00 a.m. and be all things to all customers.

When the food is delivered it's apparent that Jan's been served something like a whole can of apricots, a heaping cereal bowl of them! Naturally Jan knows, "what these cost in the grocery store", and later asks for a container to take the leftovers back and put them in our cooler. The scrambled eggs are great, properly greasy off of a well-seasoned grill, not at all like those pristine things we cook at home.

I don't get very far into my breakfast before it's necessary to hurry outside for an eastbound. BN 7909, 7885 and 7925 hit the Elm crossing at 7:38 with IPWX loads. They're directed to yard their train on "Track 2", and inquire of the yardmaster just which track this is. The impatient reply is, "You've got Main 2 and then Yard 2". Apparently there's no Yard 1. A westbound pulls in about the same time with BNSF 9824, 9845 and DETX hoppers.

Back in the Berning, I wolf the rest of my now-cold breakfast and am instructed, "She has a nice smile and can use the money, leave her a big tip." No problem, she fixes great eggs and got them and the toast and bacon done at the same time - something I've never been able to accomplish. I don't get that many opportunities to tip a cook. Our waitress/cook takes care of the cash register, too, which sits on top of a large glass case. Enshrined within is a football, painted white and carrying lots of signatures, a reminder of the year We (the Panthers) Were the Champs. I'm pleased to hear my change counted out properly, up from the bill to the amount tendered.

We go wandering around the yard, which is pretty well covered in fog this morning. At the east end, the crew from 7909 is waiting for the van to pick them up.

Amtrak is supposed to be fairly close to on time today. One passenger, going all the way to Pennsylvania, waits to board. It's his first Amtrak trip and he seems hyperactive and full of questions about the train. He and his wife, who's brought him to the station, say they were told by their travel agent to be sure to call ahead since the train is often a few hours late. Inside the waiting room, the BNSF people have two hand-lettered welcome signs posted on the glassed-in yard office.

The Zephyr arrives at 8:27 and stops short so that Laurie, from the yard office, can deliver warrants and bulletins to the engineer and conductor. The passenger I've been talking to sees the conductor step down onto the ballast well to the west of us, picks up his stuff and starts marching off the platform. I flag him down and explain that the train will pull ahead and stop with his car over the platform. This fellow's going to need to gear down or he's not going to enjoy this ride. I point out and explain the Sightseer Lounge, just ahead of his coach, and encourage him to get a drink and kick back.

(We frequently visit Osceola for Amtrak stops and I'm amazed that the same "service" is performed so differently just a few miles away. Osceola has an Amtrak station attendant who is absolutely obessive. Passengers are kept informed, particularly of what they are not to do, and escorted whenever they step out of the waiting room. I'm fairly often scolded by this individual for using the platform to take pictures of passing trains. In Creston, the passengers are told nothing - in fact they're told to not ask questions!)

In No. 6 this morning:

AMTK 30, 67 and 259 (Authorized Personnel Only!)
Baggage 1159
Transition Sleeper 39010
Sleepers 32075 (Connecticut), 32056 and 32019
Diner 38036
Sightseer Lounge 33001
Coaches 31527 (Smoking), 34098 and 34026
Material 1520
Boxcars 70031 (Green), 71086, 71147, 71010, 70035 (Green)
Material 1438
After boarding my Pennsylvania acquaintance, they are away at 8:32. The passenger's wife and I converse, and she confirms my concern that he might not be able to slow down enough to appreciate the trip, "He's always flown before!"

(Gearing down to past tense again...)

At this point we returned to the motel, I schlepped our stuff out to the Jeep and we checked out. On one of my trips down/up the stairs I managed to catch an eastbound manifest from the motel window. They came in at 8:54 with BN 3140 and SF 579. The outbound crew has already been told that they will follow Amtrak and they are just beginning to pull as we get to the east end of the yard for another look. SF 579 appears to have been the recipient of a nice orange air conditioner. Compare to BNSF 1122.

The next train in from the west arrived at 9:50, a fairly new set of CIPX cars behind BN 9437 and BNSF 8886. We caught them at New York Avenue under the Nebraska Subdivision sign. Shortly, we heard the new crew report out on the radio at 10:10.

Also from the radio, we learned that another load was waiting to come into town behind 9437. We drove out of town to the west and found them stopped on a bridge east of Cromwell. This was a distributed power train, JE coal loads with BNSF 9893 in front and BNSF 8842 in back. We followed this train back into Creston, seeing both head end and rear end power up close. They made a stop on Main 2 and were on their way with a fresh crew at 10:44.

9893 was followed closely by a trackinspector coming in from the west. This turned out to be Butch Vanderpool, formerly the Roadmaster east of Creston. Butch was standing in the door of his truck in order to get a good look at the rails and roadbed.

We checked out a westbound CEFX empty with BN 9497 and 9473 that was tying down at the yard office at 11:00, and then started our way back home along Hwy. 34. We made a fairly long stop by the detector at MP 378.8 to wait for an eastbound. This was the 8810 that we'd seen come into Creston around 6:30 this same morning. They came across the Talmage bridge at 12:30, AEPX cars with distributed power, BNSF 8938 on the rear.

Our last stop was in Osceola for one each way. At 1:15 an IPWX coal load that we'd seen in Creston early in the morning came through behind BN 7909, 7885 and 7925. The last train was a westbound manifest with BN 8135 and cabless SF 337. They were by the Osceola depot at 1:35.

We had babysitting duties scheduled for later in the afternoon, so we headed back up for Indianola. On the radio, the Osceola detector and several "Okay on the ... side." messages informed us that we were missing some more traffic.

That's It!