Just about any other railfan, upon seeing the day's weather, would have rolled over and gone back to sleep. Under normal circumstances I might have done the same, but it had been too long since I'd been trackside. During the long hiatus I'd had several notes of concern from fans of VTWI, and I'd just had to reply that circumstances had kept me at home on sunnier days. You'll be pleased with today's pictures I think, though, there are some nice ones in spite of the weather.
Under a cloudy and cold sky, with a light mist falling now and then, I headed south out of Indianola around 7:30. It was 52 degrees with a fairly strong south breeze. By the time I reached Hwy. 34 I'd heard some traffic westbound to the east of me so I decided to run over to Osceola to catch them and Amtrak. It sounded like there was one load out running ahead of the Zephyr that might also be a possibility. I pulled over near Osceola at the highway overpass, but had only been there a minute before the Highway Patrol pulled up. I told the officer what I was doing and asked if there were a problem with where I parked. He said that he couldn't really do anything because I was off the roadway, but that "...it would be better if you were in town by the depot." Okay, whatever!
Down the line to the southeast I could already hear horns from the first westbounder, so I scooted into town (being careful not to attract any more attention from The Law, of course) and parked on company property at the first crossing east of the depot. The detector was already announcing the train as I got my recorder and camera ready.
In the fog and dark the train looked eerie coming around the corner toward me. I had a telephoto extender on the camera and the head end ditch lights show up in an inverted reflection on the lens. I grabbed a second frame as the train went by. The Oly was complaining the whole time about me making it take pictures in such low light. The shots show shutter speeds of 1/20 and 1/100 second respectively.
The coal empty, with a consist of MARX tub gons, was by me at 8:27. On the head end were BN 9653 and BNSF 8831. I knew that another train wasn't far behind, and had by now learned that Amtrak would be pretty close to on time today, so I decided to move down to the depot for these next two trains.
Hot on the heels of the first empty, at 8:40, I got pictures of another, pulled by two big orange ones - BNSF 8891 and 8818. This train had BN, BNSF and (mostly) JE hoppers. They rolled off into the mist and in just a few minutes I heard them exchanging "Okay on the..." messages with the engineer of the eastbound California Zephyr.
Amtrak rolled in ahead of the timetable with GEnesis units 63 and 79 on the point. They made their initital spot, for the first-class passengers at 8:58. In the train today:
AMTK 63 and 79Now that the Roadrailers are missing from the CZ, the other freight business seems to have picked up! As soon as they stopped, I decided to drive down to the east end of the train for a some more shots of the head end. As I was doing so they pulled down a few cars to spot the train for the coach customers.
Transition Sleeper 39046
Sleepers 32030, 32043, and 32069
Sightseer Lounge 33030
Coaches 31545, 34080 and 34082
MHC 1463, Seven boxcars and MHC 1523
Near the Ayers Street crossing again, where I'd caught the first coal empty, I lined up a shot of AMTK 63 again and then heard, "Dick! Come on up!" from the cab window. I had trouble spotting the recessed handrails on the passenger unit, but I made it into the cab where a warrant was being copied.
Engineer RLS?? turned around and greeted me, noting that I hadn't been out lately. We visited for just a minute and I asked if they were waiting for scheduled departure. He said, "Yes, 9:03". That was the current time, so I climbed back down and got another picture or two as the units pulled acoss Ayers and rolled east out of town.
I headed for a quick pit stop and then went east out of town to see what I could find elsewhere along the BNSF today. On the highway between Osceola and Lucas it started to drizzle and then to rain for real. Not the best train-chasing conditions, but it was still early in the day. I was pretty sure from the warrants I'd heard that I wouldn't miss anything by just following Amtrak. At 10:07 I heard the passenger train call in and get a warrant from dispatcher KRS at Maxon.
Leaving Lucas County, I heard two westbounds clearing up as they entered the CTC at Albia, so I decided to try to intercept them at the bottom of the hill at Halpin. The first came around the corner and headed toward my position by the switch heaters at 10:25. On the point were BN 9645 and 9432, pulling UCEX hoppers. With them out of the way, it was a very short wait for the next, another coal empty. I had moved east of the crossovers and their signals to get pictures of BNSF 8940 and BN 9593 with DTCX tub gons. They were by at 10:38.
Once these two trains were out of the way I moved up the hill to old Maxon to await traffic. My first train up there was another empty. This time it was AEPX gons with BNSF 8820 and 8944 doing the honors. They passed a long string of syrup tankers waiting on the UP interchange at 11:20. By this time the sky was starting to lighten just a bit, but it was still fairly cool and windy. I saw several flocks of migrating geese while parked out at Maxon this morning.
Very close behind the empty was the first (and only) freight train of my day. This train registered 396 axles on the detector just east of Maxon and was led by a warbonnet, BNSF 724. Trailing was BN 8085. They passed old Maxon at 11:35.
Earlier I'd heard a couple of eastbounders getting warrants as they approached the CTC at Halpin. The first made it up the hill at 11:50. This was a DEEX load (a few BN/BNSF cars on the head end) with distributed power, BNSF 8955 on the front and BNSF 8958 pushing behind. About 1/2 hour later another load arrived at old Maxon. This time it was UCEX hoppers with BNSF 9762 and 9876.
You know, if you're a regular reader, that there's often a lull in the middle of the day along this part of the BNSF mainlines in Iowa. Byron and I have sort of come to expect it after years of train-chasing down here. By 12:30 I'd run out of traffic and so I started back to the west hoping to intercept something.
On the way back across Hwy. 34, I heard the Russell detector on Main 2 and then listened to a warrant given on the Ottumwa sub. to 9581 East, so I must have missed one. This was around 1:00. I was too far down the highway to go for an intercept at Melrose or anything like that. I didn't see any more trains, even though I drove all the way back over to Osceola. I did, however make a stop in Chariton to check out a preservation project.
Under the egis of the Chariton Historical Preservation Commission and the Lucas County Arts Council, a project has been launched to restore and occupy a 1907 CB&Q Freight House near Brookdale and Auburn Avenue. The freight house has also been taken on as a project by the local Rotary Club. The grounds have been cleaned up, some funds have been raised and grants applied for. Work will start on the interior early in November. If you would like to learn more about this or help out, please contact:
229 S. 17th St.
Chariton, Iowa 50049