Ottumwa, February 24, 1996



Saturday was a clear and warm late winter day in Iowa, with long vees of geese heading back north across our end of the state. Jan and I had arranged to meet Harry Grossman in Ottumwa at a train show and swap meet at the Quincy Mall. Harry and I had been corresponding via email about Galesburg Railroad Days, and were to finalize plans for me to be on the program this year.

We headed east out of Indianola on highway 92, and found a train sitting on the overpass at Beech at 8:45. Southbound DMKC24, with UP 9120 on the point, had stalled. Of its five units, only one was running. Byron asked later if the rest were "dummies". After some discussion on the radio, "...hold that switch up 5 seconds, hit reset 4 or 5 times...when it shows operator level 2, put it back on line...", they were ready to get underway again. It was just in time, too, the dispatcher, "DLS", had just started to arrange to have them passed by another southbound that was waiting at Carlisle.

We drove on down through Melcher and into Chariton. On the way, we heard on the scanner that Amtrak was running about an hour late today. As we continued east on highway 34, listening to various warrants being read, it sounded like we'd be able to make it to Halpin, the west end of the CTC at Albia, just in time to catch an empty coal train. As it turned out, we had about a 10 minute wait before BN 5599, 5522, and 7260 came by with their coal gons in tow at 9:55. This train had a couple of passengers. About 10 cars back from the head end, two men bundled up in parkas rode, perched on the top corners of a coal gon. It looked like a cold and uncomfortable position, but they were making good time.

At Ottumwa, we passed the CP yard as we came into town, and saw the CP 3015 standing in the yard. We went directly to the depot to check on Amtrak. We were told it would be in at 11:45, which gave us about an hour. The depot in Ottumwa these days serves as a museum, as well. Behind the depot sits 4-6-4 CB&Q 3001, its paint chipping away. We went over to the Quincy Mall and easily located Harry Grossman, who was busy exhorting everyone to attend Galesburg Railroad Days. After a quick introduction, and a promise to return, we excused ourselves and went back out for some more train watching.

Amtrak #6 finally appeared for a 4 minute stop at 11:48. The train had the following consist:

Power: ATK 406, ATK 346, ATK 283
Material Cars: 1473, 1140, 1425
Baggage: 1185, 1268
Transistion Sleeper 39018
Sleeping Car 32092 "Mississippi"
Sleeping Car 32027
Dining Car 38061
Lounge Cafe 33012
Coach 34049
Coach Baggage 31008
Coach 34094
Sleeping Car 32074
Dining Car 38036
Coach 34079

Four minutes isn't much of a "smoke break", but passengers immediately hit the platform for a quick one.

There were many railfans in town, and they had pretty good luck at the depot. At 12:11, a train appeared with unusual power. Grimy SP 6844, RG 5320 and RG 5383 came by eastbound with a mixed manifest. I was told that SP trains had been detouring on the BN due to the Tennesee Pass wreck. The platform at the Ottumwa depot was littered with pellets of taconite ore, further evidence of SP traffic.

In a few minutes, at 12:18, westbound 161 train came by, powered by BN 8086, 6385, and LMX 8530. We saw the LMX 8530 again later in the day, set out on the westbound passing track at Albia to be picked up by another train. The next train by the depot, westbound at 12:29, was the local to Des Moines. It was behind BN 2921 and 1382, and had 2 tank cars and 10 grain hoppers.

We decided to get our lunches and picnic by the CP diamond, so we made a quick trip back to the mall and then returned to a park just southwest of the BNSF/CP junction. There were already quite a few railfans hanging out in the area formed by the interchange track and the diamond. I walked over and introduced myself, and learned that two had come all the way from Chicago for a day of train watching and to go to the Quincy Mall show.

Before long, more BNSF trains appeared. At 1:18. westbound 491 reached the CP diamond, behind SF 3698 and BN 2292. They were met just west of Ottumwa by a coal load that passed the group of rail buffs at the diamond at 1:36. After reducing throttle for the crossing, BN 5580, BN 5115 and SF 8101 notched back up, GE-nerating lots of black smoke.

In a few minutes, the railfans were able to see northbound traffic across the junction, as CP 5542 and 780 pulled out of the CP yard, crossed the Des Moines river, and headed up the hill to Rutledge.

We returned to the mall and located Harry again. I told him that I'd heard from one of the railfans over at the CP interlocking that a BNSF dispatcher was there, and Harry offered to introduce me. I'd heard Kevin Schelen, "KRS", on my scanner for years, and it was a real kick to get to meet him in person. Kevin had come up from Fort Worth and was directing traffic on the HO modular layout of the Great River club out of Burlington, Iowa.

After spending some more time talking to Harry and checking out the tables in the mall, Jan and I set out for Indianola. We stopped by Maxon, just east of Albia, but found only a railfan napping in his car, LMX 8530 that we'd seen go by earlier on 161, and caboose 12257 on the east passing track. Around 5:00, just before leaving highway 34 at Lucas, we met train 492 behind BN 3160 and 2809.

That's It!