Springtime in Southern Iowa

I headed east out of Indianola toward the UP "Spine Line" at Beech. Iowa was enjoying clear weather and record high temperatures were predicted - a perfect Spring train-watching day. Just before reaching the highway 92 underpass, I heard some EOT clicks on the scanner, but there was nothing yet in sight. I went south to a gravel road overpass, parked and could hear a train coming from the north, so I waited on the overpass with the camera.

At 8:15, a southbound manifest appeared behind CNW 5065 and UP 9359, and rolled under me and around the curve toward the southeast. I went back up to highway 92, east to 181, and south toward Melcher. I crossed the overpass on 181 just head of my train, and left them behind. It would be 10:00 before they would catch up to me again in Chariton.

On the scanner, I could hear the BNSF dispatcher working out schedules for track inspection and maintenance. Two coal loads were out of Creston, and another train received a warrant at Maxon at 8:24. I figured that the three should all converge on Chariton a few minutes after I got there. Amtrak #6 was expected at Creston by around 10:00. The UP had about half a train in the siding at Williamson, with no power or EOT.

At Chariton, I went to the west end of the S curve that the BN mains execute passing through town and waited. At 9:05, a coal load showed up behind Oakways 9000 and 9052, and BN 9472. The BN cars generated lots of flange noise as they negotiated the sharp curves and multiple grade crossings in Chariton. As the coal train passed, I heard the Russell detector announce a westbound. The crews exchanged "OK on the ....side" messages and BN 3122, LMX 8527, BN 4045 and 7204 came by at 9:15 with mixed freight. This was to be the last westbound for some time, and maintenance personnel got warrants to go both directions out of Chariton on the westbound main. Ronnie Bescoe headed east with his "ditch lights" flashing to inspect the track between Chariton and Albia.

I moved out to the east end of town, where the BN mains pass over the old Rock Island "Kansas City Short Line". I found 78 year-old Marvin Small standing in the sunlight on the county road bridge, watching trains pass. He and I conversed for a few minutes before another coal load showed up. BN 5540, IC 6157, and SF 8124 came by us at 9:51, with a unit train of JE cars. Welders were then given a warrant on the eastbound until 10:50, and drove their truck down the rails just as CNW 5065 reappeared.

The 5065 passed under the new BN bridge at 10:00 and headed on south under highway 34. It had taken an hour and fortyfive minutes to make the 25 mile trip from Beech to Chariton. The UP has new rail laid out along this line. Eventually, things quieted down, and I told Marvin that he could expect Amtrak sometime after 11:00. After a quick trip to Hardees, I returned to watch the welders working on the crossover under the highway bridge for a little while, and then went on east along highway 34.

I drove to Albia, and went to the east end of the CTC, called Maxon, arriving about 11:10. There, OWY 9000's coal train waited for traffic. The BN always clears the tracks well ahead of Amtrak, so the two coal trains would wait at Albia to be passed before continuing eastward. Soon, the track inspector appeared, and got a warrant to pass OWY 9000 and go on to the east ahead of Amtrak.

I sat on an old telegraph pole and enjoyed the sunshine while the coal train crews discussed motive power problems with the dispatcher. The 9000 was off line, and their trailing unit was not "lead qualified" due to brake problems, but was loading. The following coal train made arrangements to stop in Ottumwa to take on water for one of their units. At 11:54, about an hour and fortyfive down, Amtrak came blasting by on the north track with engines 823 and 308. They were given a warrant to keep running left-handed from Maxon to the crossover at Batavia. In a short time, the two coal loads were also given warrants to Batavia, and a clear signal on the eastbound main. BN 5540 pulled up the hill behind the BN hoppers, giving me a good look at IC 6157, an Operation Lifesaver unit, and at SF 8124, as they pulled through Maxon.

I grabbed some fast food and went south 10 miles on highway 5 to Moravia to have my lunch by the CP (ex-MILW) mainline. The old Wabash depot, built in 1903, has been moved a short distance away from the rails and is used as a local museum. As I was taking pictures of the depot, a woman drove up and introduced herself as one of the curators and said if I would like to see the interior, she would go get the key. I said that I certainly would, and when she returned, I was given a personal tour of the museum's collection. Deloris Burkland, who kindly showed me the depot, and her husband, Bill, are both very active in the museum's program.

The most striking thing about the interior of the depot is the woodwork that covers the walls and ceiling of the waiting room. Bill has a small HO model railroad in the waiting room, which includes a replica of the depot. The station agent's area includes a telegraph and the train order levers, and a mannequin agent in period garb, standing by an old stove salvaged from another depot. The express and storage area in the end of the depot has grooves in the floor for handcar storage, which, interestingly, are set at an angle to the building. Above the handcar storage area is a balcony overlooking the express area. The museum houses a collection of memorabilia that includes both railroad and general community history items. Outdoors, there is a restored track speeder and mining tram cars. Still standing across the road from the museum is the boarded-up Iowa Southern interurban depot.

After my depot/museum tour, I walked south along the Appanoose County railroad track toward the CP diamond. I didn't get there quite in time to catch this CP westbound freight at about 1:45. I believe the engine numbers were 6008, 5661 and switcher 1204. After the train passed, I reached the diamond, milepost 260 on the Appanoose County, and checked out the dispatcher call boxes, which still carry designations from the previous generation of ownership.

I returned to Albia and then went back west along highway 34. At the west end of Chariton, I saw my last train of the day, another coal load. Its AEPX gons crested Whitebreast Hill and headed into Chariton behind BN 9468 and 9714 at 3:07.

That's it!