Byron and Tammy came over on Thursday evening to visit us after having a family Thanksgiving dinner with her folks. With the "girls" occupied on Friday, Byron and I made plans to head for Albia. I'd received an email from Steve Emmons, an Internet railfan friend who now lives in Oklahoma, saying that he'd be around on Thanksgiving weekend. Through phone calls on Thursday evening and Friday morning, we arranged to meet at Albia. Steve was to bring along a friend from Ankeny, Dave Cubit.
Byron and I got out of town around 8:00. It was cool, cloudy, and threatening to rain on us. On the way down to Chariton we kept track of warrants and detector announcements. A couple of trains got by us as we traveled - BN 9685 West and BN 5091 East.
We arrived at old Maxon, on the east side of Albia, around 9:30. Steve and Dave were already parked on the north side of the BNSF mainlines waiting for an eastbound to come up the hill. We had a couple of minutes for introductions and comments about what we'd seen and heard along the way to Albia before it was time to line up the first picture. They came around the corner at the top of the hill at 9:45 with BNSF 9906, BN 9582 and ACCX and UCEX coal loads. Byron had this one on his list, since we'd heard them get a warrant at MP 346 around 8:25 and figured we could beat them to the top of the hill.
From radio conversations, it sounded like that might be the last train through before Amtrak No. 6. I'd called earlier to check on the CZ and had been told that it would be 55 minutes late today. Amtrak was to be reversed from Creston all the way to the top of the hill at Albia. We'd heard a westbound told by dispatcher KRS to "drop anchor" east of Maxon to wait on the passenger train. Our group picked up and drove out to "new" Maxon where we could see the headlight of the waiting westbound.
Another load, BN 9723 East, was brought up the hill to wait for Amtrak to go around. They rolled to a stop west of us at 10:40. By this time the weather had deteriorated somewhat and we found ourselves in light showers with a strong south breeze. The temperature was just above 40 degrees.
Around 11:00, Amtrak pulled along side the waiting load and stopped to copy a warrant. In a couple of minutes they came around 9723 and were on the move through the crossover switches. In the Zephyr today:
Getting Amtrak out of the way turned loose a number of waiting trains. The first to move was a westbound AEPX empty which came by us at 11:07 behind BNSF 9795 and 8821. Just as they cleared, the waiting load started moving toward us. This train had BN 9723 and BNSF 9850, with DEEX loads.
Another eastbound came close behind at 11:25. This was a distributed power train (I could tell there was one in the neighborhood by the funny squeaks on the EOT channel) with BNSF 8884 on the head end, JE cars, and BNSF 9946 behind. While we were watching the eastbound, a westbound empty (probably 9569 W) with new-looking (7-99 built) DEEX cars passed on the north track.
We drove back west to "old" Maxon for the next westbound, at 11:45, which turned out to be track inspector Lynch in his highrailer. We all departed to fetch some lunch and returned for a few more trains.
At 12:30 another empty came through. This train had BNSF 9752 and 8898 and fairly new PSTX cars. The next train was a load with crusty old CEPX box gondolas (1979's) and some older power, EMD 9073, BN 9247 and EMD 9059. They came through at 1:03 and seemed to be moving at a pretty good clip in spite of their age.
Steve and Dave took off west down the right-of-way in search of any remnants of the old M&St.L interlocking while Byron and I stayed in the relative warmth of the Jeep. While they were gone we had another empty, BNSF 9950 and 9897 with a collection of BN and BNSF cars. They roared by us and headed on into Albia at 1:24.
After a long absence, Steve and Dave returned to report a successful hunt. Byron and I said goodbye and started back toward home. We didn't get far before the detector announced another train on the westbound, so we went to the Albia yard area and waited. After switching for a few minutes at Maxon, 463's train came on into town. The lead unit was BNSF 2262, with BN ?935 trailing. Interesting paint on the plow. (From here on out in this excursion my taperecorder malfunctioned, so I don't have all the unit numbers and times.)
Byron and I drove on westward on Hwy. 34. We heard one eastbounder clear up at Halpin and another on the detector at Russell. We also heard 463 call the UP syrup turn only to discover that they'd been to Maxon and had headed back north while 463 was in Albia. Perhaps Dave and Steve got to see this train.
As we drove toward Chariton, we could hear the UP Trenton sub dispatcher setting up a meet at Williamson, so we decided to go to the old Rock Island depot and wait for the southbound. This was a manifest (lots of lumber!) behind UP 5684, RG 5357, UP? and SP?.
While we cruised around Chariton to see if anything else would turn up on the BNSF, we heard very faintly a detector for Track 2. I figured this was probably the Osceola detector, so we went west down to Shannon and waited for a few minutes at the bottom of Whitebreast Hill. Before long, the signals lit and BN 9448 with another old MAC came by us eastbound.