Christmas Morning on the BNSF
December 23 and 25, 1997


Jan and I ran down to Chariton and Osceola on Tuesday, Dec. 23 to see what was going on along the BNSF. We'd heard a warrant given to a westbound at Albia and knew that we might catch them at Lucas, so I drove right to the Stephens Forest bridge. At 8:47, they came out of the fog and around the corner with BN 9447 and 9648 pulling empty BN and OVEX cars.

We drove over to Chariton, listening to Maintenance of Way people getting ready for the holiday. They were fueling and loading their trucks, and to be off work at noon, hopefully for the duration. An interesting building just north of the depot is being torn down (or perhaps collapsing under the snow?), revealing its construction - two outside-braced boxcars bridged by a roof and floor.

With nothing happening in Chariton, we drove back west, stopping at Stephens Forest again for an eastbound coal load. They arrived at 10:10, with three Oakways (now referred to as "EMD"s on the BNSF), EMD 9003, 9072 and 9064, and CEPX gons.

Inside the depot at Osceola, a sign was posted saying that Amtrak #6 was delayed by a "freight derailment at Holdridge, NE" and would be at least 10 hours late. I learned later that they were hoping to open the track late in the day, but that Amtrak patrons were being bused around the derailment and the passenger trains were turning at McCook and Lincoln, repectively. That night, I heard eastbound ATK 40 clear a warrant at Albia at 11:50 p.m. - about 14 hours down.

We waited at Osceola for one more train, which we'd heard get a warrant at Albia. This was a westbound manifest with five units, SF 5010, 5100, BN 5558, 4020 and 8073. They were by us at 11:45.

Figuring that the derailment would hold traffic down, we headed back home. Thursday morning at 7:00, the dispatcher was on warrant number 803. With the numbers starting over at 800 at midnight, it sounded like things would be slow on Christmas eve. However, by noon, traffic was moving and it remained busy throughout the afternoon.

Signal maintainer Larry Reese was called out on the day before Christmas to check out a red signal near Halpin, and found that about 20 poles worth of wire had been stolen during the night westward down the line near Russell. He was out most of the afternoon and evening, working on ice-covered poles in a sharp wind.


On Christmas morning we were southbound toward the BNSF again by sunrise (not that hard to do this time of year!). From the warrant count, the BNSF appeared to be having another busy day. We drove to Osceola and checked the bulletin board - ATK was due at 10:05. Since we'd just missed an eastbound, we drove west toward Creston to catch the passenger train there.

At the east end of the Creston yard, about 9:00, we found eastbound grain and coal trains waiting. On the grain were BN 6329, 7205 and 8904. On the head end of the UCEX and ACCX hoppers were BN 5102 (with red number boards) and BN 5105.

The poor signal maintainer was out again, since a signal east of Creston was red. Today, he found a broken rail just east of Afton on the eastbound main, put a 10 mph slow order on it, and turned the problem over to the track gang.

At the other end of Creston yard we found a sweet little five car freight, with caboose 12526 and GeeP 2906, parked headed westbound. Creston had decorated the west end of the restored CB&Q depot with a large "NOEL". The preserved, captive caboose, CB&Q 13513, looked great in the snow.

In front of the AmShack, the platform was being shoveled. There was little time left before the Zephyr's arrival, however, and only the westbound side was done before the passenger train showed up on the other track. Amtrak (hard to spell, apparently) came into Creston at 9:32 and made a two minute stop, dropping off one passenger and picking up eight deadheading BNSF personnel. In the train today:

GEnesis units 38, 21 and 36
Baggage 1272
Material Handling 1441 (in fresh gray paint wide wide stripes)
Baggage1163
Transistion Sleeper 39030
Coach 34073
Coach 34050
Coach 34030
Coach 34095
Sightseer Lounge 33026
Dining Car 38005
Sleeping Car 32106
Sleeping Car 32109
Sleeping Car 32057
Boxcar AMTK 71154 (different stripes)
Baggage 1160
Close on Amtrak's marker, at 9:57, was an eastbound manifest that made a quick crew change and moved on. On the point were BN 2764 and KCS 741. As they pulled out, they reported to the dispatcher that they had 100 cars and 10,000 tons. They met a westbound coal empty, of new aluminum WFAX hoppers, just as they were leaving. This train pulled down to the depot to wait for a crew with an 11:30 call. On the point were BNSF 9735, BN 9413 and 9654.

We decided to follow the 2764 back toward Osceola. We caught up to them again just east of Afton as they rolled slowly over the broken rail. We stopped on a wooden bridge overpass to get another picture just as another westbound arrived. This was the GALOMA (formerly known as 491) with BN 2291 and (LMX?)8591. They raced by the 2764, swirling snow all around us on top of the bridge, at 10:39.

We drove back into Afton to catch another westbound at 11:03. This was a coal empty, the MASRCM, with BN 9622 and 9536 and UCEX hoppers.

Back in Osceola, we made a pit stop, using the rest rooms and buying coffee, at a convenience store near the depot, just as we'd done in Creston. The man in front of me in line asked the young woman clerk why she was working on Christmas. She replied "I dunno, they just couldn't find anyone else dumb enough to do it, I guess..." After I paid for my coffee, I said "Thanks for working today, and Merry Christmas!"

She didn't have anything to say, but when I got back to the Jeep, Jan wanted to know what I had said to her, because she had watched me walk out and was smiling at my back. We drove back to the Osceola depot and had our sack lunches, but saw no more trains and heard nothing more on the scanner, so we returned home for the afternoon.

Merry Christmas, Friends!