Jan and I headed south for the BNSF double-track at Osceola on a sunny and warm Fall morning. A coal empty, of UCEX hoppers, was clearing the highway 69 crossing just as we arrived at 8:30 - from the radio, I believe the lead unit was BN 9462. Friday, I'd heard Roadmaster Butch Vanderpool on the radio arranging to do some weekend work, and we got there just in time to see a few machines pulling out of the siding onto the westbound to run east to do some ballast regulating and sweeping. A large collection of track working equipment was parked on the old north branchline track. The track work gang had arranged to hold the westbound and have traffic reversed while they worked on the ballast.
The first train to arrive was #6/36, pretty close to schedule at 9:27. On the point were GEnesis unit 812 and old-timer 305. The GEnesis locos, which were common on this route when brand new, disappeared, but have been showing up again lately. Amtrak made two spots to detrain and board passengers and was on its way again at 9:31. In the train today:
We hung around Osceola and waited for westbound traffic to be routed around the trackwork. After considerable discussion on the radio, it was decided that the work gang would take care of the crossover at the east end of the work (MP 357.9), and Roadmaster Vanderpool would handle the crossover switches at Osceola.
Eventually, another coal empty arrived and was crossed over to the eastbound main. This train with BNSF 9737, BN 9535 and OWY 9091 on the head end, reached the crossover at Osceola at 10:45. After the train of 114 MCHX hoppers pulled slowly through the crossover and by the Osceola depot, Roadmaster Vanderpool lined the switches back for the mains and things quieted down at Osceola. The coal empty passed the Osceola detector so slowly that it reported an "Integrity failure - Train too slow".
From the scanner, we learned that the next westbounds were still in Illinois (hotshot 65 was by the Cameron connection at 10:30, for example), and we'd heard nothing out of Creston, so we decided to head on west to see if any eastbounds were waiting in the Creston yard. On the way over, we heard dispatcher, "KRS", call the roadmaster and tell him that the cutover to "Digicom", originally scheduled for 6:00 a.m. Monday, and for which the track workers were going to require new paperwork forms, had been postponed.
The only train we found in Creston was the empty we'd seen in Osceola. It was sitting at the depot, with an outbound crew called for 12:00. In the yard today were engines BN 2700 and BN 2122. Also on hand, BN cabooses 12526 and 10525, and 4 damaged ACFX (AGP) tank cars. BN 2700 was handling the switching duties today. The yard was nearly empty except for a long string of rusty BN mechanical reefers that have been there for months.
A trackwork project was underway in the yard. It appears that a new switch is to be cut into the eastbound main right in front of the old depot, and some new tracks added to an area between the yard and the mains. We witnessed some spectacular pyrotechnics as field welds were made on the new switches. The switches themselves were marked as having been assembled at Galesburg. The work was progressing rapidly, with track being assembled using a Speedswing crane and hydraulic spike hammer.
At 12:35, 9737's outbound crew was aboard, and the empty coal train headed west out of Creston. We'd heard no indication from the scanner that any other traffic was in the neighborhood, so we decided to go back to Osceola and wait for 65. At Osceola, the trackwork equipment was back in the siding and the flag on the eastbound removed. I ran into a railfan new to our area, who was finding things pretty slow today on the BNSF. I had to agree! He was from Redlands, California, and I answered a number of questions from him about Iowa winters, including whether we went train-watching or not. I assured him that snow and cold weather didn't keep us away from the tracks!
Intermodal 65 showed up at Osceola, under a 25 mph slow order, at 2:45. This train was behind BN 7030, 6360 and 3117, and had a few autoracks on the head end, followed by piggybacks and containers. A young couple with two small childen were train-watching as well, and my new California acquaintance videotaped the train's passage. In a few minutes, train 161 followed with 66 cars of mixed freight behind SF 607 and BN 7251. It was by the Osceola depot at 3:10.