Byron came over early on Friday morning and we headed for the BNSF at Chariton. They'd sounded pretty busy early in the morning, and it was evident from the radio that trains were getting away from us. We found a train in the siding at Beech on the UP Spine line. It had been cut at the crossing and the power was north out of sight.
Things were quiet at Chariton, so we drove on over to Albia, arriving around 9:30, and went to the yard to have a look around. There we found BNSF 2359 and SF 3674, parked facing westbound with a cut of tank cars. The 2359 appeared to be freshly-painted. I hadn't noticed the lovely green truck frames before on this scheme. Eeeeuuu...
From the scanner we learned that No. 6 was to be about 3 hours late, and that there was one load out of Creston ahead of him. In conversation with a carman, dispatcher "KRS" (a.ka. "DS-44") also cheerfully volunteered that he had "no westbounds, either". Hmmm - time to rethink our train-watching plans for the day.
Scattered around the sidings at Maxon were a number of coal loads - rather unusual. One car, an OGSX one, needed repair and led to a discussion on the radio of the presence of the others. It seems the BNSF tried a 135-car coal load with distributed power this last week, and and when it arrived, discovered that the train wouldn't fit the loop at the power plant near Chillicothe. Plan Ahead...
We decided not to wait for things to pick up on the BNSF and started cross-country, following the UP line up from Maxon to Eddyville. We figured we could hit Marshalltown around lunch time and do some "fish in a barrel" train-watching on the ex-CNW mains.
At Eddyville, we found a UP unit, 2729, switching the giant Cargill corn syrup plant. I thought I heard horns to the north, and we'd picked up snatches of warrant-reading from a train in Oskaloosa earlier, so we poked around Eddyville for a minute. Pretty soon, a headlight appeared, and we caught a southbound local in the north end of town. They stopped to do some switching, with UP 2359 (yup, same number) and SP 7774 (SSW).
Nearby, there is a residence with two CNW bay-window cabooses in the yard, 10393 and 10535. The captive cabs just barely fit the place, and are parked on short sections of rail at a right angle to each other.
I stopped in Oskaloosa long enough to get a couple of pictures of the decaying Rock Island depot. The Rock Island herald is still visible, although it appears that at one time someone painted over it. This is a neat brick structure, with once generous eaves, but desperately in need of some TLC.
Byron and I drove northward through Grinnell and then a collection of tiny communities, following the Oskaloosa branch line. We picked up some EOT device activity around Searsborough, but never did spot a train in the area.
Just outside of Le Grand, around noon, we saw a piggyback train eastbound under the highway. We drove into Quarry and then went west toward Marshalltown. We heard "Okay on..." messages exchanged and figured there'd be a westbound soon, so we stopped at a gravel road crossing and waited. The westbound turned out to be a short train that we later saw tie up in Marshalltown. They came by us at 12:15 with CNW 6914 , UP 3024 and twentyone cars.
As we were driving on into Marshalltown, we saw a coal load head out of town at 12:20. The traffic we expected to find on the UP didn't materialize, and this turned out to be the last train we saw until after 2:00 p.m.
We got our Maid-Rites at Taylor's and had lunch by the tracks west of the Marshalltown depot. We had the windows down on the Jeep, since it was nearly 70 degrees, and record highs for late November were being set in several cities in Iowa. We had a look around the yard, finding some live and some dead power. UP 8051 and 6652 idled near the turntable, along with the power off of the above local. We also saw GT 6405, apparently in servicable condition. On the dead list, begin cannabalized for parts: CNW GeePs 4142, 4165, 4533 and 4189, along with SDs 954 and 6639.
By 1:45, we were ready to give UP on Marshalltown, and headed west along the line. We were just pulling into Nevada at 2:15 when an eastbound intermodal roared through town - on the point: CNW 8718, UP 6059, 7515 and 6172. This was a long train for a stacker, but obviously had plenty of horsepower. This train seemed to break loose a string of eastbounds.
We drove out to the east end of Ames Yard to meet the next train of containers and trailers at 2:22. This was shorter and had only UP 7512 and a very dirty tunnel motor, SP 8245, on the point. A coal load, of CSEX cars, had been doubled into Ames Yard. The power, UP 6648 and 6554, was right at the golf course road.
After hearing the Ontario detector announce another train on track one (left-handed running in effect here), we continued west into Ames, just missing an eastbound train of autoracks at 2:40. We caught the next eastbound near the Ames depot at 2:53. This was another intermodal, with UP 6163, SP 8568 (another tunnel motor) and UP 3841.
The detector clued us in to yet another eastbound, and we watched a merchandise train come by downtown Ames at 3:21. This train was powered by UP 7034, UP 9050 and SP 5504 (DRGW).
At this point we decided to head down I-35 toward home. We went into Des Moines and had a look around Short Line Junction before going south to the "BN" crossing where BN 2356 was switching at 4:12. From the radio, we could tell that there was some activity south of Des Moines on the Spine Line, so we went to Avon, where we spotted, at a distance, an old CNW switcher and three cars headed north from the elevator.
Two trains were meeting at Carlisle. We drove to the south end of the siding in time to catch UP 6348 and B3640 waiting for a northbound to clear at 4:33. We turned around and hurried back to the north end in time to see the train holding the mainline start northward toward Short Line at 4:38. On its head end were UP 3134 and UP 4160. As you can tell, even on a nice clear day, in November the sunlight goes away pretty early.