After two weeks of continuous cloudy weather, Indianola finally had a sunny morning! Finals were over and school was out for Christmas break, so it was a perfect day for some train-chasing. Jan and I got out of town at 8:30 and headed south toward Osceola and the BNSF mains.
From the detector's announcements on the radio, we knew that we had just missed three trains by the time we got into town. We'd seen one westbound coal empty from the highway while still a couple of miles north of town. At the depot, J.R. Green had posted Amtrak's California Zephyr as 2 hours and 45 minutes late today. There were two people in the depot who really wished they'd called ahead!
At Osceola, the new platforms were finished and the long-awaited passenger shelter had finally been erected on the north side of the tracks. From the size of the shelter, I'd say they're not expecting very many passengers. All that remains to be done is to finish the crosswalk. The materials for it and a prefabricated switch lay just northeast of the shelter.
There was quite a bit of work equipment in the sidings at Osceola, including a caboose, BN 12266. While we waited for traffic, we heard discussion of crossing gate problems and a broken rail at Chariton. A 10 mph slow order was issued to eastbound trains from MP 334.4 to 334.3 and the MoW forces started calling in some help from Ottumwa and Fairfield.
We waited for a coal load that came through Osceola at 9:30, with BN 9428, 9530 and 9500 pulling ACCX and UCCX cars. We knew that there was at least one westbound out of Albia, so we decided to pace the 9428 over to Chariton.
At Chariton, we went right out to the "HyVee" crossing just west of town. A signal maintainer was there to check out the gates, and we could hear our eastbound coal load grinding up Whitebreast hill to the west of us when we arrived. At 10:08, a westbound empty came by us with BN 9642 and EMD (Oakway) 9069 on the point. They met the load just west of town.
After having a look at the broken rail, just east of the Auburn St. crossing, we went to the east end of town to wait for 9428's train reappear. They crossed the gap in the rails very carefully, taking almost 1/2 hour to make it from the HyVee crossing at MP 336 to the crossovers at MP 333. At 10:37 they came slowly by, giving us a good look at the 9500, an early AC unit, still in its demonstrator paint scheme with sine waves on the sides.
Just as we were getting ready to leave town, we saw a northbound UP manifest on the Spine line. About 40 minutes earlier, we'd heard this train, the UP 6234 North, getting a warrant at MP 375, ten miles south of Allerton.
We drove on east along Highway 34 toward Albia, listening to traffic on the scanner. The Des Moines branch was crowded today, with two trains heading up (westbound) and one down. Dispatcher "KRS" was working hard to get them by one another at Knoxville. I've lately heard references to a train numbered 661/2 on the branch, that apparently runs between Des Moines and Creston.
West of Albia I took to a county road to reach Halpin, the west end of the CTC. I parked and went over to the far side of the tracks to get a couple of pictures of an empty we'd heard was on its way down the hill. At 11:46, BN 9716 and BNSF 9826 came by with CWEX cars and headed around the curve toward Melrose. The sign identifying Halpin, which had been lying on the ground long enough that I'd considered collecting it a couple of times, has now been restored to its proper position.
We got some sandwiches and drove out to Maxon, but we found our view of the westbound (Main 1) blocked by 9428's train, waiting for Amtrak to come around it, so we went over to the old depot area to await the CZ. Idling near the depot, we found SF 3436 and, in that awful green/orange paint scheme, BNSF 2835. The BNSF had plenty of work equipment at the Albia yard, including an articulated gondola set for ties, and a spreader 972618.
Before the CZ appeared, there was time to run another westbound down the hill. This was another coal empty, of IOPX 3-bay hoppers, from the power plant near Chillicothe, and had BN 9514 and BNSF 9797 on the point.
Amtrak was delayed another few minutes at the bottom of the hill by problems with the power switches. They needed to cross over from the eastbound main to main 1 in the CTC, but had to hand-throw the switches. They finally came by our vantage point at 1:46, running about three and a half hours late. Leading the charge were GEnesis units 1 and 85, followed by two material cars, seven high-level Superliners, and four freightcars on the rear.
As we drove back toward Chariton, we heard the slow order taken off of the broken rail on the eastbound, and shortly met one of the MoW trucks heading back home. At Chariton, we stopped to check out the repair, where a section of rail had been bolted into place. On the scanner we'd heard of five trains that were converging on us, so we waited trackside to get our last pictures of the day.
At 2:23, an eastbound coal load of HLMX and LRDX gons passed us behind BN 9501 and 9466. We moved to the Roland Street crossing for the next three trains. The first, a westbound set of empty grain cars with BN 7018, 7126 and 5068, came by at 2:36. The next two trains arrived simultaneously at 2:47. Westbound was a manifest pulled by BN 1516 and SF 2861, and eastbound was a coal load of AEPX gons behind BN 9578 and 9468.
We moved to the Auburn street crossing to see our the last train of the day at 3:02, a coal load of new (7-97) WFAX aluminum hoppers with EMD 9051, BN 9275 and EMD 9063 on the point.