BNSF Saturday

November 13


This November Saturday in Iowa was clear and cool, 24 degrees, with a forecast high of 50.  I left the acreage around 7:20 and headed toward Chariton.  An early call to "Julie" put the Zephyr just 34 minutes down today.  They would make up a few minutes before their stop in Ottumwa this morning.  The scanner was active as I drove south parallel to the UP's "Spine Line".  "A.L.M", Adrienne, was on the Kansas City desk and "K.R.S.", Kevin, on the Ottumwa side.  ALM had one eastbound with a crew aboard at Creston and another called for 8:00.

Kevin handed a westbound, BNSF 8272, over to the KC side at 7:30.  I decided to see if I could catch this one at Chariton.  They rolled 484 axles by the Russell detector (MP 328) at 8:08 and came into the curves in Chariton a couple of minutes later.  BNSF 8272 and 9727 were leading a set of CEFX/DTCX empties.  Examining the above long telephoto pictures got my curiosity up, and I went to Microsoft's "Terraserver" to see what the track alignment looks like from above.  Here's the aerial view, with a red arrow indicating the camera location and a green one showing the train, which in the first image is just passing over the old route of Hwy. 34 through town.

Kevin's litany of sorrows was just beginning for the day.  He informed the DENGAL, waiting at Halpin, that "Galesburg don't want you.", and that he currently had trains stacked up all the way back to Mt. Pleasant.  They were told to come up Albia hill, wait at Maxon and follow Amtrak to Ottumwa.  Already short on time, this crew would end up being relieved at Ottumwa by a "deadhead" crew riding the Zephyr.

There was some discussion of stopping the passenger train adjacent to the freight and dropping off the crew, but that plan was rejected by KRS because it would, "...count against me."  I assume this was a reference to the penalty a dispatcher is assessed for delaying Amtrak.  The  Zephyr would come around the DENGAL, the relief crew would ride to Ottumwa, and a van would take them back to their train.

The westbound GALLIN had been sent out of Galesburg with too many tons for the power and had stalled on the hill at Burlington.  They, too, would require a "dog catch" crew early in the afternoon.  To make KRS's day more interesting, the "Slot Machine", articulated cars with a back hoe aboard, wanted to occupy Main 1 east of Maxon.

I decided to head pretty much directly for Ottumwa, but as I neared Albia I heard the detector east of Maxon report 516 axles on Main 1.  I decided to go for the yard and see if I could catch them coming through town.  Just before 9:00 I managed to get this through-the-windshield shot of the head end, BNSF 8869.  Trailing the FURX cars was BNSF 9808.  I noticed an engine, BNSF 9259, parked with the spreader on the Des Moines branch run-around track.  I then took off for Ottumwa and missed a westbound, BNSF 9590, following closely behind the 8869.

The Zephyr came into sight at 10:15.  AMTK 175 was in the lead.  Ottumwa is a relatively long stop, with time for a smoke and to tend to other needs.  I didn't know you could take your dog on the train!  The dog catch crew for the DENGAL found their van and arranged to go get something to eat before meeting their train.  In ten minutes or so the outbound engineer finished his conference with the conductor and boarded the lead unit.  After one false start they high-balled, reporting the stop as, ":14 and :33" to the dispatcher.  In the train today:
AMTK 175 and 138 (Ottumwa local headlight in the distance)
Baggage 1715
Transition Sleeper 39008
Sleepers 32049 and 32043
Diner 38015
Sightseer Lounge 33024
Coaches 34082, 31515 and 35002
Interestingly, the train was trailing one high-tech "Satellite Controlled" reefer.  I guess the freight's not gone entirely.

I drove to Clay Street, the first crossing east of the ICE diamonds to catch the dog catch on the DENGAL.  The crew change started at 10:43 when the lead units pulled across the grade crossing and and the inbound crew dropped off.  After a long conference by the van, the outbound engineer started a very thorough inspection of his units.

I drove back down to the depot area to wait for the DENGAL to come by.  At 11:06 they rolled slowly by the depot with BNSF 5263 and 2836 on the point.  I later heard the detector on Agency hill count 406 axles, or 99 cars on this one.

KRS gave a warrant to another eastbound at Maxon at 11:18.  This train arrived in Ottumwa at 12:05 with CEFX/GEAX tub gondolas pulled by BNSF 9937 and 9516.  They were moving at a pretty good clip going by the depot but slowed on the hill, reaching the Agency detector at 12:41, with a reading of 452 axles.

The next thing to move was the Ottumwa local, out of the yard at 12:30 and headed for the Cargill spur.  The local had three units today, EMDX 762, BNSF 4266 and EMDX 771.  By this time KRS had talked to two more westbounds near Fairfield, 9206 and 9833.  He also had the work train out on Main 1 near Maxon with a "Work Between" (Item 4) warrant.  After some discussion, they were told to clear up on the Des Moines branch by 1:30 for westbound traffic.

With the work train holding an Item 4 warrant, nothing could be let into their limits behind them, and the local could not get into the Cargill spur.  The work train called the dispatcher and offered to give up their warrant and take a "directional" (Item 2) instead so the local could come into their limits, but were told, "That doesn't help me."  They radioed back to the local, "We tried...".  "Yeah, I know.  Whatever!"  I got to Maxon in time (1:27) to catch the work train racing for the run-around track on the Des Moines branch.  BNSF 4256 was leading a set of articulated gondolas carrying a back hoe and a load of what appeared to be mud.

I decided to go to the depot to have a look at the "Slot Machine" and noticed along the way that Albia now has some railroad equipment on display.  The Monroe County Museum includes a CB&Q locomotive, RE 602 and a caboose, CB&Q 13555.

At the Albia yard I found the work train nosed up to the 9259 that I'd spotted earlier.  By this time things were starting to move between Ottumwa and Maxon, so I went back out there to meet the delayed GALLIN as it came into town around 2:15.  They were to go down the hill and wait at Halpin for a relief crew coming over from Creston.  On the head end of the 122 car manifest were BNSF 9206 and BNSF 6846.  Next up at Maxon was a coal empty running on Main 2, just 10 minutes behind the GALLIN.  This set of COEH tub gondolas was a distributed power train with BN 9833 in front and BNSF 8878 behind.

After those two were out of the way, I drove down to Halpin to check out the waiting GALLIN.  Just before 3:00 a WFAX hopper coal load went up the hill behind BNSF 8882 and BNSF 9752.  As they passed the waiting freight train, the crew van from Creston arrived.  Re-crewed, the GALLIN rolled westward again at 3:12.  I watched them take off and then went west myself toward Chariton.  After a quick pit stop at Casey's I heard the train hit the Russell detector, so I went out to the HyVee crossing west of town for one more picture, at 4:00, before heading home.  The sun surely gets low in the sky early these days!

That's It!