Ottumwa Traffic

November 23


The college had a three-day break this year for Thanksgiving instead of the usual two.  I spent Wednesday and Thursday, both sunny and warm, preparing and hosting The Big Family Dinner at my place.  I had lots of help of course, and had delegated some of the food preparation to my friends and family.  However, I cooked the bird and it came out rather well for a first try, if I do say so.  By Thursday evening I had the dishes done and put away, the slats out of the dining room table, most of the laundry done and was ready for a day "off", chasing trains.

Unfortunately, Friday came up cool and cloudy, but the forecast for the weekend didn't sound much better so I decided to head out anyway.  Before leaving Indianola I dialed up Amtrak's computer system, which reported that No. 6 was on time (8:38) today.  I got to the depot in Osceola in time to have a short conversation with attendant Pat Green before the passenger train called in on the radio at 8:32.  She was visiting with a passenger who looked and sounded very familiar, but I just couldn't place him.  He said he was an engineer on the Boone and Scenic Valley and I then remembered that I'd seen him, Ed Truslow, do a presentation on operating rules at a meet in Des Moines.

The Zephyr came around the corner west of the depot on time.  In today's No. 6:

AMTK 161, 46 and 153
Baggage Car 1750
Transition Sleeper 39023
Coaches 34027, 34054 and 31527
Sightseer Lounge 33019
Diner 38018
Sleepers 32084 and 32069
Material Cars 1447 and 1545
Three boxcars and two Roadrailers
They made a quick stop and were away again, reporting to the dispatcher, "40 and 41", as their times.  The detector east of town counted 74 axles as they went by.

After the passenger train left I headed east out of town, listening for any hints from the radio that other railroad traffic was coming.  Just after 9:00 I heard the Ottumwa dispatcher clearing an eastbound, EMD 9033, at Albia.  I heard Amtrak on the Russell detector and was just past Chariton on Hwy. 34 when "Okay on..." messages were exchanged, so I decided I'd better get trackside.  I turned south on a gravel road that came out on the west side of Russell and had just enough time to get parked when I heard the horns, the gates went down and the train came into viewEMD 9033, 9018 and BNSF 4507 came through at 9:23 with a DTCX empty.  The Russell detector reported them at 490 axles.

At 9:30 Amtrak cleared up at Halpin and I heard the Kansas City desk calling an "8886 East" but I didn't get the location.  Dispatcher KRS gave No. 6 two warrants out of Maxon so they could pass a coal train and return to Main 2 at Ottumwa.  It was still pretty dark and gray this morning and intermittently there was a light drizzle falling.  I made Albia about 10:00 and went out to Maxon, still not hearing any other traffic nearby.

The area north of the BNSF mains at Old Maxon was piled high with bundles of used cross ties.  The old M.&St.L. (ex-CNW, UP) line down from Eddyville is being salvaged.  The "Tie Yard" of Omaha warns that these ties are not there for the taking!  I also noted at Maxon that new 136 lb. rails have been laid at the top of the grade on Main 2.

I waited for a while at Maxon to see if I'd hear anything coming.  Except for Amtrak's progress, (out of Ottumwa at ":23") the only radio traffic was on the IMRL.  They had a westbound, UP 8010, that got a warrant from Linby to Rutledge at 10:40.  They were told that their outbound crew would be on duty at Ottumwa at 11:20.  That being the only game in town right now, I decided to move to that town and try to catch them coming into the IMRL yard.

I got to Ottumwa just before the westbound UP train hit the detector near the top of the hill at Rutledge, still plenty of time to make it to the BNSF crossing.  About the same time, I heard KRS tell someone that he had three eastbounds on the way.

I drove in along the south side of the BNSF mains to a parking spot east of the diamonds.  There'd apparently been a pile of coal here recently and as I drove through the remains a large black cloud surrounded the Jeep.  The UP train reached Lawler and rattled across the BNSF mains at 11:22.  This was a MARX empty pulled by UP 8010, 6613 and 6511.

I drove over to the BNSF yard to check out the power for the local today: BNSF 2962, 2745 and 2292.

Ten 'til Twelve - I was finally hearing some eastbounds getting warrants from KRS and clearing up with the Kansas City desk as they reached Halpin.  First was 8886, then 9581.  I decided that I had plenty of time to go fetch some takeout.  Back by the tracks east of the depot by 12:20, I heard 9815 getting a warrant at Melrose.  That accounted for the three I'd heard about earlier.  As the trains approached I overheard the dispatcher and engineer Don Lipsky on the MoRAS discussing the 4-Mile Bridge project.

The first of the three loads showed west of the depot at 12:55.  It was a DP train with BNSF cars, 8886 leading and 9919 on the rear.  I moved down near the IMRL diamonds again for the second train, which arrived at 1:14.  This was a CEFX load with BN 9581 and BNSF 9432 on the point.  Engineer Lipsky's at the cab window giving me the, "My camera's out of memory." signal.  The third train was just 30 minutes behind and had BNSF 9815 and 9670 in charge of a set of CWEX tub gons.

Close to two o'clock - the Ottumwa local was getting ready to leave the yard, just waiting on a track inspector to clear up.  I decided to have a look at the IMRL yard, where I'd glimpsed an interesting collection of power on the way into town.  As I approached the Quincy Street stoplights, a train with six units appeared to be pulling out of the yard and starting across the river.

As it turned out, they were just doing some switching of the train, so I went to the Quincy grade crossing for pictures as they were backing into the yard.  From the rear, the power was IMRL 370, IMRL 214, CEFX 7122, IMRL 8936, IMRL 364 and IMRL 359.  The lead unit, ex-"Susie Q", has been sporting a smiley face for some time now.

I took the back road out of Ottumwa so that I could stop and get a picture of the bridge project.  The BNSF has been replacing portions of the "4 Mile Bridge" over the Des Moines River.  They recently set to the south (image courtesy Don Lipsky) the last two through-truss sections and replaced them with larger ones.

About 2:30 I heard the dispatcher talking to an eastbound load that was to go to the ISU power plant.  I made a plan to intercept the Ottumwa local at the county line road as it went up the Cargill Spur and possibly to catch the coal load as well.  I got to the grade crossing well ahead of the local, which finally came into sight at 2:45.  The local, with BNSF 2962, 2745 and 2292, slowed to a stop so that the brakeman could throw the switch leading off of Main 1 to the corn-processing plant.

I went north and west to a gravel road crossing on the spur and watched the train, pulling nothing but corn syrup tank cars, turn north and head uphill for the plant.  On the way in, they passed a small yard where the unit cattle feed train is now being stored.

I'd still heard nothing from the ISU load, so I drove over to the rural community of Frederic to wait for it.  The BNSF mains pass through Frederic on separate grades, about 500 feet apart.  My arrival was noticed by a three-legged dog, who put up quite a racket until his owner came out to investigate.  We had a nice visit while I waited by Main 1 (ISU trains are reversed out of Maxon to go to the power plant).  Eventually, I heard the detector just east of Maxon report a train on Main 1 with 516 axles and concluded that my train was near and, from the length, that it would be using distributed power.

The load showed up at 3:37.  The cars were OGSX tubs with BNSF 8810 in front and 9850 behind.  As you can see in the images, it was getting dark pretty early this afternoon.

I'd heard the M-DMOWQM (that's a mouthful!) coming down from Des Moines clear up at Albia, so I drove over from Frederic to Maxon to see if I could intercept them next.  They were doing their switching when I arrived at 3:55.  The power on the West Quincy-bound manifest was BNSF 2975, 130 and 7063.

The Des Moines train was the last of the day.  As I was driving home, I heard IMRL 359 at 4:20 telling the dispatcher that they'd stalled and would be doubling their train up Rutledge Hill.  The Ottumwa local called in to say they were ready to come back onto the mainline at 4:48, but they were made to wait on a westbound train.  I heard them finally get a warrant from the Cargill switch to the IMRL crossover in Ottumwa at 6:40.

That's It!