Ottumwa is in southeast Iowa on U.S. highway 34, about halfway between Interstate 35 and the eastern border of the state. Highway 34 parallels fairly closely the BNSF/Amtrak route across southern Iowa. This line is double-tracked from Creston, Iowa, to the east through the state. At Ottumwa, there is a grade level crossing and interchange track with the IMRL line going from Kansas City to Davenport, Iowa (Nahant Yard). This line formerly belonged to the Milwaukee Road, Soo Line and CP. Both IMRL and BNSF have small yards in Ottumwa.
The IMRL yard is on the north side of highway 34 at the west side of the city. It is approximately where the word "SOO" appears at the left center of the map. The tracks go across the Des Moines river, over the BNSF double-track main, and then head north up a steep grade to a siding at Rutledge. Many eastbound trains must double the hill in order to get out of the Des Moines river valley.
The BNSF right of way is on the north side of the river and does not follow any highways very closely west of the city. To the east, the tracks follow highway 34. To reach the BNSF, turn north off of 34 onto highway 63 (Wapello Street) and you will cross the river, the tracks, and Main and Second Streets. Once over the tracks, turn right and go two blocks east, then right again to go down and back toward the river. You'll see the Amtrak depot/museum straight ahead. Turn left onto Main Street and stay to the right side to enter the depot parking lot. The Amtrak schedule calls for stops by the "California Zephyr", westbound #5 at 7:47 pm, and eastbound #6 at 10:38 am.
To reach the BNSF/IMRL diamond from the Wapello street bridge, make three quick right turns to go back under the bridge on Second street. Proceed to either Clay or Benton street and turn left (back toward the river). Cross Main Street and the BNSF tracks and go ahead to Gateway Drive. Turn right onto Gateway, and you will find the IMRL tracks straight ahead in a block or so. Just across the tracks is the entrance to the river park area. Here, you can park and see the diamond just to the northeast.
This is track warrant control territory for both railroads, and both roads' dispatchers will refer to mileposts and named locations. The IMRL dispatcher will refer to Rutledge (the top of the hill to the east), and to sidings at Blakesburg and Moravia to the west. The diamond, called "Lawler" in the timetable, is at MP 301.7 of the Davenport subdivision.
The diamond is at MP 280.4 on the BNSF. The BNSF dispatcher will refer frequently to Batavia (to the east, at MP 266.1), ISU Switch (to the west, a coal-fired power plant at MP 289.1), and to a short section of CTC at Albia, Iowa, from Maxon (MP 301.9) to Halpin (MP 309.7). Virtually every train through here on the BNSF obtains a warrant by radio while in or near the Albia CTC section.
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