Jan and I decided to take a short excursion Sunday and have lunch in Chariton. As we went east out of Indianola, we heard the Melcher detector go off, and when we got to the underpass at Beech at 12:40, we found a train in the siding waiting. From conversations with the dispatcher on the scanner, we learned that there was a northbound due, and that the crew would be out of time at 1:30.
The northbound, with UP 3459 and 3430 on the point, appeared at 1:08 pulled into the siding and cleared the main at 1:15. They got a warrant to pull on north through the siding and meet a relief crew at the next road crossing north of Beech. The southbound turned down its headlight again, after learning that they would be waiting for a northbound stack train.
We drove on down to Melcher just in time to catch the stacker at 1:40. They barreled through, with UP 1996, the Olympic Torch Relay engine, and MPI 9023 on the head end. We went on down the "Spine Line", and stopped just north of Williamson on the Highway 14 overpass to check out some trackwork. The UP is extending the Williamson siding to the north, and appears to have everything ready for track to be laid and signals installed.
We drove on down to Chariton, got some take-out and ate at the Chariton depot by the BNSF mains, but saw no traffic. On the way back home, we stopped again in Williamson and caught the southbound, behind UP 3657, Conrail 6607 and IC 6111, that had been in the Beech siding earlier. They made the south end of the Williamson siding at 3:10.
Having heard on the scanner that helpers were to be used on Whitebreast Hill between Lucas and Chariton, so that coal loads could make it up the steeper westbound track, I headed down to Lucas on Tuesday afternoon. Although the helpers, with early AC unit 9501 on the west end and an SD-70MAC on the other, were on duty in Chariton, traffic today prevented their use. They'd been called because the eastbound main was blocked just west of Chariton by a ribbon-rail pickup train with BN 2295 on the point.
While making the half-hour drive down from Indianola to the BNSF doubletrack, I listened to maintenance of way activity near Chariton, and further to the east near Russell. Train 65, an intermodal hotshot, had to stop before proceeding past some of the work, a no-no on the BN. I found nothing going on at Lucas, so I drove on up the hill on highway 34 and went north on county S23 at the airport. This brought me to an overpass that crosses the BN mains after they have diverged slightly, with the eastbound, uphill track, on a much lower grade than the westbound. I parked and walked under the overpass to catch sight of 65, running west at 12:50, behind BN 5598, 8025 and 7199.
I spent a fairly quiet afternoon in conversation with the conductor from the ribbon-rail train, waiting to see the helpers in action. 65 was the last westbound, and the first eastbound, train 492, came up the westbound track and passed the ribbon-rail train at 2:35. 492's power today was BN 2716, cabless booster 4018, and 5023. The only other traffic I caught this afternoon was a Speedswing crane zipping into Chariton before the ribbon-rail train went in to tie up for the day. With the tracks cleared, the helpers were not going to be used, so I headed home.