Thursday, February 13, 2014

Today's Train of Thought- Whoa Whoa Whoa Waterloo, Feb 13th, 2014

Today's train of thought takes us to Waterloo, IA where a flood-damaged bridge nearly proved to be a successful shortline's Waterloo- for lack of a better term.

Started up in the 1980s from an abandoned and largely unwanted portion of the bankrupt Rock Island, the Iowa Northern operates more than 160 miles in northern and central Iowa between Cedar Rapids and Manly, IA. Although it's fortunes improved considerably with the advent of the ethanol boom in the mid-2000s, it all came to a grinding halt in June 2008 after an important bridge used by the line collapsed into the Cedar River, cutting off the Iowa Northern from their southern interchange with the Union Pacific, Cedar Rapids & Iowa City, Canadian National and Iowa Interstate. This necessitated lengthy detours across the DM&E and Canadian Pacific of up to 300 miles that increased fuel and labor costs for the line. To make matters even worse, the IANR didn't even own the damaged bridge- it was part of a lightly used former Chicago Great Western branchline now owned by the Union Pacific. The IANR simply exercised trackage rights over the bridge and the UP was in no hurry to repair it.

After much political wrangling, an estimated $5.9 million was secured- including more than $3 million in state and federal funding- for repairs to the collapsed bridge, which reopened in time for the 2009 harvest.

Here, contributor Scott Marsh caught Iowa Northern GP38-2 #3802 trundling across the Cedar River into Waterloo, IA with a southbound freight destined for the IANR's Bryant Yard in the middle of a snowstorm on December 20, 2012. Trailing the #3803 are a pair of rebuilt former Amtrak F40PHs that have seen service on both the Iowa Northern and Montreal, Maine & Atlantic predecessor Canadian Atlantic.

According to the photographer, the storm was in the middle of dumping some 10-12 inches on that part of the Hawkeye State.

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