Ottumwa and Other Fall Break Excursions
November 4, 5 and 6


Thursday, November 4

After I spent the morning on household chores while Jan took her mom to the dentist, we decided to go to Des Moines. I wanted to spend a bookstore gift certificate and drop by a friend's house for a little computer consulting. On our way into town we stopped by Short Line briefly to see a southbound manifest leaving at 2:20. On the head end were SP 8134 and UP 9268.


Friday, November 5

Iowa was enjoying another mild day, with a mid-60's high forecast. After a quick stop at the hardware store to pick up a birthday present for our grandson, we drove east out of Indianola on Hwy. 92. We were headed in the general direction of the BNSF in Albia and Ottumwa, and could tell from the scanner that we were missing some traffic. I figured if we took the fastest possible route to Albia and out to Maxon, we might be able to catch a few trains before moving on to Ottumwa.

We got to Maxon around 9:45, just as the detector east of the CTC announced a westbound. This was a DEEX coal empty, pulled by BNSF 9729, BN 9554 and a very dirty SP unit, 8577. Before they were by us, we could hear an eastbound working up the hill. It arrived at 9:55 with BNSF 8843, BN 9612 and PSTX cars.

While we waited for the next train, I browsed through the BN's junk pile behind the shack at Old Maxon. There was a very inviting-looking switchthrow, complete with reflector target, but I couldn't quite lift it by myself. I'll have to get Byron over there with me soon. There was a sign that might be of interest to a NW fan, too (far lighter than the switch throw).

Our next train was another westbound coal empty, with CWEX cars and BN 9221 and 9678. It came through at 10:10.

We next went over to the Albia yard area to see what was on hand. A work train, powered by EMD 797, was shuffling ballast cars around. On the rear of their train was an in-service caboose, BN 10165. On the scanner we heard the 9221 told that they would be waiting at Halpin for Amtrak and one more train. Only Main 1 was in use between Halpin and Chariton (Xover MP 333.1) this morning.

We caught one more westbound before moving on to Ottumwa. This was a DETX empty with BNSF 9921 and BN 9211. They came through the junction with the Des Moines branch at 10:43.

Our first stop in Ottumwa was the IMRL yard. We found a BN coal load, MAXX cars, waiting to go up the hill and on to the electric plant at Fruitland. Coupled to the west end were IMRL 368, IMRL 200, BNSF 8800 and BN 9657. This train was to go up the hill in two cuts, the first of about 66 cars, but that activity was delayed by problems with an IMRL westbound.

At about 11:30, we just missed a westbound coming down the hill and across the IMRL diamond at Lawler. This train was a manifest with UP 8064 on the point. The diamond at Lawler had been turned over to welders, and both BNSF and IMRL personnel were on hand when we arrived.

Our first train across the diamond was another westbound on the IMRL tracks, a BN coal empty. It had IOPX and a few UNSX cars, and BNSF 9754 and BN 9684 on the head end. They came across the diamond at 12:20 and pulled into the Ottumwa yard to run their power around to the other end of the train and head on west on the BN tracks. At about the same time we heard Amtrak No. 6 get a warrant at Maxon, so we figured them to be the next train at the junction.

Amtrak showed up at 12:50 with this consist:

GEnesis Units 13 and 16
Baggage 1702
Transition Sleeper 39035
Sleepers 32050 and 32064
Diner 38014
Sightseer Lounge 33039
Coaches 31509 (Smoking) and 34071
Material 1550
Boxcars 71026, 71172, 71171, 70044, 70036 and 71135
Baggage 1165
Short on passengers and long on freight today! They reported their stop to the dispatcher as "52 and 58".

We kept expecting to see the coal load head up the hill. However, its power was called upon to go west and push the train with UP 8064 on the head end. They'd stalled at MP 314, and needed to make a meet with 112's train at Blakesburg. Offered the choice of doubling the hill or sending out a pusher, the dispatcher chose to send help.

This gave the BNSF time to bring their empty out of the IMRL yard and around the connection to their mainlines. They rolled westward at 1:30 with the same cars we'd seen come down the hill earlier, but now with BN 9684 in the lead.

We went back over to the IMRL side of the river and checked out some interesting old MILW equipment that rests out behind the IMRL yard office. While we were there, we saw a BNSF coal load (8808, probably) go through on the other side.

112 had called in to say that they would need to add water to their lead unit when they got to Ottumwa. It had required the same service in Chillicothe. They pulled in at 2:50 with IMRL 222, NREX 2039 and IMRL 116, and a fairly long train with intermodals on the rear.

We were due back in Indianola for a birthday party this evening, so we started back to the west. The dispatchers and detectors helped us keep tabs on the trains we were missing. We gradually caught up to 9684, and met the head end at the Hwy. 34 overpass at the east end of Chariton. Knowing that they would slow going through town, I decided to see if I could catch them at the airport road west of town. We also knew that an eastbound was approaching, probably already on its way up the hill from Shannon.

We watched 9684 pass once more at 4:02, taking their picture just as they went under county road S-23. I waited for a few minutes until I could hear the eastbound grinding along and then climbed down into the deep cut holding Main 2. This was another coal load, MPWX cars behind BN 9586 and NS 9363. They came slowly by on their way up Whitebreast Hill at 4:13. They were still rolling cars under the bridge as we headed north for home.


Saturday, November 6

Most of Saturday was given over to "homework", preparing for next week's classes and taking care of administrative duties at Simpson. Late in the afternoon, however, we headed for Boone and a meeting of the Rock Island Technical Society. The meeting was held in a portion of the Golden Corral, walled off with a folding divider. Unfortunately, it was the smoking portion. The area was crowded, hot and very uncomfortable for those of us who prefered not to share the cigarette and pipe smoke. I'd sure like to see RITS go "Smoke Free".

President Bob Riebe conducted a brief business meeting. At this time, RITS needs people to run for the offices of President and Vice President for next year.

Mark Gunton (right, in the picture) presented an excellent and very interesting slide show, starting with depots and moving on to unusual locos and other equipment.

We were out of the meeting (and breathing easier) by about 7:30. Jan and I drove to the north side of the Boone yard to find a coal empty changing crews. The train had CWEX cars and two units, UP 7026 and another we couldn't identify in the dark. One of the crew boarding the engine waited while I took a picture of the engine.

We left the yard and went out to Jordan to wait on another westbound. This was another coal empty with LNTX cars behind CNW 8812 and UP 7111. They passed the elevator at 7:52.

We went on east on Hwy. 30. On the radio, we could hear the northbound Valley Park train being told to tie up in the siding at Cambridge and hitch a ride with a southbound that was just getting a warrant at Nevada. I thought this was kind of odd, since a crew wasn't likely to run out of time just a few miles out of Des Moines. On the 10:00 news at home I learned why the train was being held - a southbound had collided with a manure wagon just north of Buckeye late in the afternoon and derailed. The engineer was killed and the conductor seriously injured in the accident.

The crew from the DMVP was picked up by a van instead of by the southbound train. We had considered trying to make the meet at Cambridge but ended up going on south to Elkhart instead. There, we met the first of two southbounds at 8:34. This was a grain train with UP 3046 and 2955 in charge.

Another train was out of Cambridge by this time, so we paced 3046 south to Enterprise and waited. At 8:54, UP 2966 and 3027 hustled through with a freight train.

That's It!