Late Winter - Early Spring
Along the BNSF


Jan and I decided to skip church and do some train-watching on this early March Sunday morning. Overnight showers were ending as we left Indianola, and a strong northwest breeze was blowing the clouds from the state. We cruised the UP Spine line at Melcher and went on south to Chariton. We figured on a near miss with Amtrak number 6, but didn't get there in time to see it.

From the scanner, we knew there were some coal empties coming our way. We intercepted the first one at the east end of Chariton at 10:20. This unit train of 114 WFAX gondolas had just one motor (as they're sometimes called on this railroad), BN 9588, an SD-70 MAC. We'd heard this train get a warrant from dispatcher "J.E.W." at Albia at 9:10. Now we saw why it was taking so long to make its way along the 28 miles of track between Albia and Chariton. We decided to follow this train on west to Creston.

We stopped to get another image of our coal empty in Lucas, hometown of John L. Lewis, coal miner labor leader. Two young citizens of Lucas were trackside, one with ears plugged, to watch the train pass with us.

Staying ahead of the 20 to 30 mph train was no problem. We stopped at Osceola to see how the construction of the new passenger shelters was coming along. A carelessly-formed concrete wall now extends east from the footing that's been in place for some time. The project seems to me to be progressing rather slowly - but, Amtrak's waited 25 years, what's a few more months? The Osceola detector announced 9588's approach, so we went west of town and watched it pass one more time before getting back on the highway to go on to Creston.

We arrived in Creston about noon and went first to the east end of the yard. There were two coal loads parked awaiting crews - a string of BN hoppers behind two SD-40-2s and an SD-60M, BN 7180, 7855 and 9267, and IOPX cars behind SD-70 MACs BNSF 9761 and BN 9476.

We got take-out and drove to the west end of the yard to have our lunch. Around 12:30, BN 9588 finally rolled in, made a crew change at the yard office and went on westward. Creston is the crest of Iowa's topography in southern Iowa, so their trip to the Missouri river presumably went faster than the one up from the Mississippi.

Two more coal empties had now caught up to the 9588 and came into Creston for crew changes. The first train, 117 aluminum JE cars, was pulled by two SD-70 MACs, BN 9551 and 9657. They were rolling again at 12:58. Right behind them came freshly painted BNSF 9793 and 9790, with GCCX and CWEX gons. They were out of Creston at 1:12.

During the ensuing lull in activity at Creston, the yard crew came out to work the elevator northeast of the yard, using GP-28M 1527. Another GeeP idled at the west end of the yard, GP-38-2 2343

The first (I believe) eastbound train following Amtrak came into Creston at 3:45. This was the "H-PAS-MEM" in the BNSF's new symbols (High priority manifest, PASco to MEMphis). Consisting primarily of refrigerator, covered hopper and bulkhead flat cars, this train was behind BN 8167, 7876 and 7132. They passed up the yard office for a quick crew change stop at the east end of the yard.

(By the way, I notice on the radio as I'm writing this that, in conversations with maintenance personnel, the dispatcher is still referring to 65 as 65, not H-CH-DV. For so long, saying "65's coming" has meant "Get off the tracks now!", I'm sure it will take a while before "HCHDV" takes on the same imperative quality.)

The last train we saw on Sunday was another coal empty. On the point were BN 9510 and BNSF 9718. They stopped at the yard office at 4:10 and were on the move with a fresh crew in ten minutes.

That's It!