This week we travel through the Battleground State of Iowa as my trip across the country on Amtrak's California Zephyr continues. Now unlock the previous states between here and California, I had been to Iowa once before when in 2000 I spent about 10 minutes traveling across the southeastern tip on Amtrak's Southwest Chief as it made a station stop at Fort Madison. This time I would be spending almost an entire morning in the state as I had breakfast in Omaha and lunch in Burlington. My survey starts a few miles west of Creston on the tail end of the rain front and ends at Ottumwa where the signaling got boring. There will also be a second session between Burlington, on the Mississippi River and Galesburg, IL.
You can see the entire survey here. The generally gray weather helped mask the color correction problems I had been having, but as the sun came out into Illinois they became much more apparent.
We begin at Creston, where we see a classic Chicago, Burlington and Quincy signal bridge at the boundary between CTC and DT ABS territory just west of the station. Now unlike single direction ABS which we have encountered several times before on this trip, this is the more rare case of double track bi-directional ABS. Marked as DT ABS on the timetable it may look like CTC with signals facing both ways on both tracks, but it is most definitely not CTC. Traffic control is handled manually just like under single track bi-directional ABS lines (sometimes known as Rule 271) so trains must work under both signal indication and get a track warrant. This is because there is no way to set traffic on the lines so the signals will only reflect their adjacent block state so the signaling will not prevent Mexican standoffs of two trains routed towards eachother on the same track. The second major difference (as far as I can tell) is that none of the hand crossovers or industrial sidings have electric locks provided, again, relying on the procedural control of the dispatcher and track warrant system.
Anyway here you can see two absolute signals entering CTC territory and on the reverse two permissive automatic block signals. However to pass them all trains need to have a valid track warrant. This is also the boundary between the Creston and Ottumwa Subdivisions so there is also a change of radio channel here. The timetable makes several references to some sort of tower Operator in the Creston area, but aside from these two entrance signals there are no other interlocking appliances or controlled signals for the operator to control so that's a puzzler.
Here is the old CBQ Creston station which now appears to be a restaurant.
It is adjacent to the current Amtrak station and BNSF crew base.
BN GP35M #2967 switches cars in the Creston Yard.
One of the many BNSF SD70MAC's #9575 is in the lead position on one of the trains in Creston yard.
BNSF ES44AC #6188 on the front of a long coal train proceeding westbound on track #2 at Afton, IA.
As originally built the long stretches of DT ABS worked just like regular ABS lines with interlocked crossovers few and far between. In recent years BNSF has been adding CTC style crossovers on the sections of DT ABS track to give them more CTC-like capabilities which is being taken advantage of by my train. However without the traffic control functionality and locked switches the space between the crossovers remains ABS, not CTC as evidenced by the "Begin CTC" signs on the signals. Unfortunately BNSF is getting lazy with its interlocking names so here we see the brand new CP 318.
ATSF painted C44-9W #751 proceeding westbound at Thayer.
The doohickey on the back of the freight train at the Thayer crossover
is a special MoW pile driver car. The pile driver is not currently
Here is another of these units parked in a siding at Osceola, this time with the pile driver in place.
Osceola, IA Amtrak station.
As new CTC crossovers are built, many of the old ABS style hand crossovers are being removed.
This section of the main line between Osceola and Ottumwa would often
split into twin rights of way so if you suddenly see a single track
that's what happened.
MoW crew going on duty at Chariton.
CBQ station turned BNSF crew base at Chariton.
Here we see a Herzog built "Multi Purpose Machine" running a slot train
east of Halpin, IA. #170 here was a former EMD Geep that was given a
cowl type enclosed body with side and end doors. It is designed solely
for MoW work pulling things like slot trains and ballast cleaners.
East of Maxon interlocking
there is a short stretch of pure single direction ABS track that runs
all the way to Ottumwa. Now with single direction ABS there is no need
for traffic control, however BNSF rules still require trains to get a
Track warrant even in the signaled direction so I don't really know
what's up with that. This section of the line was actually getting a
full CTC upgrade so these cute ABS searchlight masts with the pointed
finials won't be around for much longer.
Another MoW critter is sitting just west of what will be a new
interlocking at the ISU Switch. As we passed the ABS signals it was fun
to watch them upgrade.
Ballast regulator doing its thing as the new switches are being installed.
Crossing the Des Moines River.
Entering Ottumwa we cross the diamonds of the former Iowa, Chicago and Eastern Railroad.
The station stop in Ottumwa was a smoking stop so I had some time to get out and take this photo of the train at the station.
View departing the station which has two large covered platforms serving both tracks.
While there was more sections of DT ABS between Ottumwa and Burlington (so check your authority)
that part of the line had already been re-signaled so I took a break
before heading to the Dining Car for lunch. By the time we reached
Burlington I was ready to back on the job. Here we see the 1950's era
CB&Q station with two covered island platforms with roofs that are
probably original. Despite the infrastructure neither one of the the 2
daily Illinois Service trains actually terminate here, instead turning
north at Galesburg to go to Quincy.
Hanging out in the yard were a pair of BNSF B40-8W's, #'s 515 and 510. This class was the
last 4-axle power GE ever produced and was only bought by the Santa Fe
Random Geeps including an EMD lease unit in Burlington yard.
The dark sector of resigning has even descended upon the spiritual home of the CB&Q. Note the oddly specific permanent speed restriction of 12mph.
The long bridge over the Mississippi River had just been completely replaced sometime within the last few months.
It still had that new bridge smell.
Although compared to its predecessor it could have definitely used more hot rivets. Note the BNSF freight train peeking around the curve at the other end.
BNSF ES44AC #5940 on the head of a loaded coal train at Gladstone. By
this point in the trip backlighting was becoming more and more of a
The former ATSF main line flies over the former Burlington Northern main line at Cameron, IL. In 1997 when the two railroads merged a large connection
was built between the two. Here we see part of that connection,
CP-169, on the former BN route with a C&S crew out doing some work.
BNSF C44-9W #4849 waits with some sisters for our train to pass on the Galesburg Bypass.
Arriving in Galesburg, the Altoona of the CB&Q, I came to see first
hand how the famous A, B and C interlocking plants were in the process
of being destroyed. It's a shame that most railroads only care to pay
lipservice to heritage through paint schemes instead of something more
Stuffed CB&Q class S-4 4-6-4 steam locomotive #3006 at the Galesburg station.
Train 6 at Galesburg with passengers and crew on the platform.
Our engines staring down an Approach indication on the track #1 searchlight mast signal eastbound at the B Plant.
Well that's it for this week. Next week tune in for the final dash into Chicago or, if I deem those pictures too sucky to bother with, photos from Chicago itself.