Thanksgiving Break

Friday, November 23



I got away from the ranch around 7:00 on Friday morning.  It was cold (15 degrees) but clear.  Before I'd gotten too far from home, I heard the UP discussing a broken rail at MP 29.4, a few miles north of Chariton.  8525 South was being told to stop at Williamson and wait for someone to come out and walk them over the break at 10 mph.  As I neared the Fairview Church overpass, I saw the train going under the highway and figured I could easily get ahead of them as they pulled the hill up into Melcher.

The UP manifest arrived in Melcher at 7:30.  They had three units on the point, UP 8525, NS 9898 and UP 2668.  The detector in Melcher counted 426 axles, making the train 102 cars long.  I later heard some discussion about "Des Moines emptying the yard" and the issues in handling a long train in cold weather.

I intercepted the UP train again as they pulled to a stop on the mainline in Williamson.  It sounded like there would be a short wait for someone to get into position to watch the train over the break.  I went south on gravel, watching for any sign of the UP vehicle, but couldn't locate it.  I decided to go on down to Chariton, and got the southbound again at 8:30 as it approached and cleared an abandoned overpass in the north end of town.

Meantime, I'd been monitoring the BNSF radio and trying to get some information on the doubletrack traffic today.  While I was waiting for the above train, I'd heard a westbound go through town.  I thought I had enough time for a restroom break, but got back to the Auburn Ave. crossing at 8:36, just in time to see someone drive around the gates in front of a westbound, and to get a couple of quick shots out the window of the passing PSTX empty.  Leading were BNSF 8989 and 6055.

On the scanner I heard, "Okay on the ... side." messages exchanged and soon saw a headlight coming along the south side of Chariton yard.  This turned out to be a DP set of BNSF gondolas with BNSF 8907 in the lead and BNSF 8841 trailing.  I noticed that the approach-lit signal for Main 1 remained on after the eastbound passed, and at 9:00 I had a westbound, BNSF tubs with distributed power, BNSF 5645 and 5784 ahead and BNSF 9711 trailing.

Before driving east over to Albia, I put in a call to Julie to see how No. 6 was doing today.  They were expected into Osceola at 9:30, about 35 minutes late.  I figured they'd be at Albia no sooner than 10:30 and that I'd have no problem catching them there.  I heard my last eastbound, 8907, call Ottumwa sub. dispatcher KRS for a warrant after they passed through Russell.  KRS told them to, "Climb the hill, you'll follow Amtrak out of Maxon."

At Albia I drove out to Maxon and found some new-looking track equipment in the east passing track, a Herzog rig with a traveling crane, a "Dynamic Tamping Express", and one of those tie-plate and spike picker-uppers, among other machines.

I returned to "Old Maxon" just in time to see 8907, which I'd caught in Chariton earlier, make the hill.  I drove on west to the gravel road grade crossing to see if they would clear, and they did!  Later on this Friday, a train would block this crossing for more than 2 hours.  The railroad must have pretty tolerant neighbors out here.

Knowing that the Zephyr would be coming up the hill on Main 1, I had a choice of going out to the New Maxon mudhole, or, since the crossing wasn't blocked, going back into town to the depot area.  I chose the latter and parked just west of the yard to wait on No. 6.  The passenger train came into sight at 10:55 with AMTK 24 and 173 hauling the short consist out toward Maxon.  They'd already copied a warrant that would get them to Ottumwa, not having to stop at Maxon today because there were two persons in the cab.

After the California Zephyr passed, the helper crew came out of the Albia yard office and started moving some engines around.  They had two units in the yard destined for Galesburg for servicing, and a third out on the west passing track with a collection of loaded fuel oil tankers headed for Lincoln.  I got images of the helpers, 6232 and 6223, and the other two units, 8891 and 523 as they were shuffled over onto the Des Moines branch to wait on a westbound.

The westbound, which had been waiting east of Maxon for Amtrak to cross back onto Main 2, came to the Des Moines Branch junction at 11:10.  Three units, BNSF 5704, 9960 and 9708, led a set of WFAX hoppers by the waiting helpers and down the hill.

The helper crew discovered the another unit, BNSF 9724, on the west passing track and called KRS to inquire if it were to go along to Galesburg.  After some discussion it was decided that the unit, which was "...supposed to be in Creston.", was to be taken along with 8891 and 523.  The helper crew also volunteered to gather the tankers together and put air in them, so that they could be picked up by a coal empty later in the day.

I went into town to get some lunch and returned to Old Maxon.  During the round trip I heard 8907 register 512 axles on the detector as the coal load followed Amtrak down Main 2.  The helper crew knocked tank cars around for quite a while.  Finally, around 12:30 they came east with another dead unit, BNSF 9724.  They rolled out to New Maxon where Tom Scully was waiting for them to cross over to Main 2 and deliver the dead units to the east passing track so that they could be picked up by the approaching DENGAL.

After some discussion with the dispatcher about an "Out of Service" tag on the east pass, the three units going to Galesburg were dropped off and the helpers returned westbound to the Albia yard at about 1:20.  Just before 2:00, the DENGAL came up the hill behind BNSF 5817 and BNSF 6768, a "Snoot" motor from the Santa Fe.  They pulled alongside the dead units and started the work of adding them to their consist.

I drove back to the gravel grade crossing to see if the DENGAL were hanging far enough down the hill to block the road.  Sure enough, the road was blocked, so I just went back to New Maxon to wait for them to finish switching the engines into their train.  However, they ran into difficulties with 9724, which had an air brake system that just would not cooperate.  An hour went by with numerous calls to "Fort Worth Mechanical", and lots of experiments with various switches and valves on the old MAC.

At 2:40 the westbound GALLIN with 456 axles arrived and went by on Main 1.  Leading were BNSF 819 and BNSF 6922.  At 3:10 the DENGAL crew decided they needed a ladder to get into the compartment under the engineer's side of the cab.  Eventually they somehow got in there, but that did make things work.  I waited until almost 4:00 and it still did not sound like they were making any progress.

I decided that it was time to head home and took the mud road north from Maxon.  On the way home I could hear them still trying unsuccessfully to move 9724 in their consist.  I think they eventually decided to leave it, because on Saturday  I heard the same unit being discussed by the crew of the next day's DENGAL.

That's It!