Hot Times in Iowa

Jan and I headed for Moravia on Saturday morning, June 29, to ride the Appenoose County Community Railroad as part of an event sponsored by the Moravia Historical Society. I'd paid a visit a couple of weeks ago, and had posted news about the excursions to the Railroad mailing list. As it turned out, that may have almost been our undoing, as the crowd that showed up was much larger than expected, and we, along with many others, had some trouble getting a seat on the train.

On the way down, we stopped around 9:30 at Halpin, west of Albia, to catch a coal empty behind Oakways 9080, 9005, 9053 and 9015, and BN 9476, on the BNSF. We'd done an evening of train-watching at Osceola earlier in the week (Thursday), and had seen several trains while waiting for my aunt and uncle to arrive on Amtrak.

7:55: WB Empty - OWY 9085, 9055 - 115 FSTX hoppers
8:05: WB Empty - BN 9718, 9695, 9730 - Trough Train
8:50: EB Coal Load - BN 9672, 9613- 116 IPWX cars
9:15: EB Coal Load - OWY 9036, 9069 - 116 DEEX cars
10:00: EB Coal Load - BN 7265, UP 3892, BN 8131 - BN cars
10:10: WB ATK 398, 365, 401
Back to Saturday! When we arrived in Moravia, we found a large crowd on hand at the restored Wabash depot, and that all four trips each day on the train, both Saturday and Sunday, had been sold out for a couple of days. We were told that on Tuesday, ticket sales "just went nuts", and calls started coming in from all over. The railroad had agreed to add a fifth trip on each day, and they were going to sell tickets to it after the fourth trip left for the day. One of the runs south to Moulton Junction was just returning, and the train pulled north across the highway to run around its cars before returning to unload in front of the depot.

The two ex-Southern cars used for the excursion appear to be flat cars fitted with park-bench style seats, and hold 40 persons each. We watched as the group queued up and loaded for the trip south. The engineer and brakeman of APNC 116 were in for a long, hot day - the thermometer reached 95 in the afternoon, with 75% humidity. After everyone had left the train, the waiting crowd was lined up and loaded for the next trip.

Since space on the train might be available only later in the day, Jan and I decided to follow the it south to Moulton Junction. Moulton Junction is the switchback, about 10 miles east of Centerville, where the APNC connects from the NS (NW, Wabash) rails to the old Rock Island route and heads west toward Centerville. Making use of yet another abandoned route, the APNC follows a short portion of an old CB&Q line into the city of Centerville. The excursion train arrived from the north and pulled down, leaving its cars on the main while running around them for the return trip to Moravia. In a few minutes they were headed north again over a bridge that once spanned the Rock Island right of way. We drove back into Centerville to get pictures of the old CB&Q depot, the APNC's other engine, Geep 973, and ex-BN caboose 11396, which has apparently suffered a minor collision.

We got lunch in Centerville and then returned north to Moravia. In the mean time, the run we'd photographed at Moulton Jct. had returned, loaded another 80 customers and headed south again. We hung around to see if we could get aboard either the last regular run as standby customers, or if we could get on the extra train that had been added for late Saturday. When the train returned, they pulled north, running around using the elevator track, coupled back on the south end of the cars and crossed the highway again to get ready to unload.

The crew was given a lunch break while we waited in front of the depot. We were fortunate and, along with about 25 others in the standby line, got onto the train and headed out from the depot around 2:30. We were seated up close and personal with 116, and I spent much of the trip south with my ears plugged as the engineer honked the horns for the numerous gravel road crossings on the way to Moulton Jct. Just south of the depot the APNC crosses the CP (ex-Soo, ex-MILW) tracks at grade. The APNC had posted a man to call the CP on the dispatcher's phone to expedite clearances. On this particular, extra-hot afternoon, I wouldn't have wanted that job! There was a good breeze from the south, so the passengers were fairly comfortable in the open cars.

The ride south took about 40 minutes, and before long we were stopped at Moulton Jct. as 116 pulled away to run around us through the siding. The excursion group waited patiently on the hot afternoon as the engine coupled back on, tested the air and started back, over the old RI bridge, toward Moravia. We found the interlocking at the CP cleared for us and another group of passengers came around from the shade behind the depot as we pulled into Moravia. After uncoupling and running north, 116 returned through the elevator track, stopped south of the siding switch, coupled onto the cars and pulled back down to the depot where another load of passengers waited. We thanked and wished our friends at the Moravia Museum Depot, Bill and Delores Burkland, well and headed home for the day.

That's It!