Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Today's Train of Though- (Iowa) Interstate Love Song, July 24th, 2013

Today's Train of Thought takes us to the Hawkeye state and features the somewhat quirky Iowa Interstate Railroad. The 580 mile regional got its start in late 1984 from the ashes of the Rock Island, operating between Chicago and Council Bluffs, IA.

For nearly 20 years, motive power for the IAIS consisted of primarily former Illinois Central Gulf GP10s and GP8s along with former CSX GP16s, ex-Providence & Worcester M420s and ex Illinois Central SD20s showing up long enough to get a coat of paint before being scrapped or re-sold.

By 2003, with traffic on the rise thanks in no small part to the growth of ethanol and the fleet of IAIS rebuilt geeps were beginning to show their age, the units were gradually replaced with former Conrail GP38-2s purchased through LLPX leasing, followed by ex-Reserve Northshore Mining SD38-2s also purchased through LLPX.

The motive power selection for the Iowa Interstate only got more interesting after the acquisition of the 6-axle EMD's- by the summer of 2006, the IAIS purchased two 2-10-2 QJ Class steam locomotives from China's national railways for use in excursion service. Two years later, the Iowa Interstate broke with tradition and purchased brand new ES44AC GEVOs from General Electric- joining Montana Rail Link and Indiana Railroad in purchasing new locomotives from GE or EMD instead of using secondhand power purchased from Class 1 lines or other regionals.

Here, contributor BA Tiemann caught Iowa Interstate SD38-2 #150 leading mixed freight ICCR [Iowa City to Cedar Rapids- NANESB!] around the curve on the former Milwaukee Road line between Cedar Rapids and the interchange with the IAIS Council Bluffs-Chicago line at Homestead, IA on May 9th, 2007. The line is actually owned by the Cedar Rapids and Iowa City, but is subleased to the Iowa Interstate and is the IAIS access to interchanging with the CRIC, Canadian National and Iowa Northern in Cedar Rapids.

While the lead unit has been repainted, some of the trailing units are still in their blue and white Reserve Northshore mining colors. Although the CRIC originally had a more direct former interurban line between its namesake cities for interchange with the IAIS, it was surprisingly hilly considering that its Iowa and is seldom used to this day. Today, the much newer GEVOs are likely to appear on the Iowa City-Cedar Rapids run either in solid sets or working in tandem with the older 6-axle EMDs.

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