June 10 and 12
to Iowa City and Cedar Rapids


This is an account in text and pictures of a pair of excursions on Saturday, June 10 and Monday June 12. Our objective on both trips was to get some pictures of the "Crandic" (Cedar Rapids and Iowa City - reporting mark CIC), a former interurban line. Because there was little activity along the line on Saturday, we returned on a weekday and had better luck. I'd been wanting to show Jan the interchange activity between the Crandic and the Iowa Interstate, and we managed to catch that on Monday evening. The pictures accompanying the article were taken using an Apple QuickTake camera and processed with a program called PhotoFlash.

On Saturday, we followed the Iowa Interstate line east out of Des Moines, stopping to check out remaining structures along the old Rock Island route. In Newton, the old Rock depot is being restored and used for various community activities. We were fortunate to find it open for a high school reunion, and were able to get pictures of the ticket window and the operator's desk.

We stopped next in Grinnell, where the RI/CNW depot is being refurbished and converted into what appears will be a restaurant. The image looks northwest, and the diamond in the foreground is the crossing of the Iowa Interstate line and the CNW branch from Marshalltown, through Eddyville to the BN interchange at Maxon, just east of Albia. The IAIS track is in sad condition here. Many ties have rotted and broken in two (or three!), and the railheads are worn and cracked.

At Iowa City, the Rock Island depot is being converted into office space. We went to the Iowa Interstate yard and office area, and found things to be pretty quiet. IAIS engines 325, 407 and 601 were west of the engine shop, along with DSC 1833. 601 was dead, with the battery compartment empty. On the east side of the shop we found IAIS 403, sitting over sheets of fabric on the ground.

We stopped for a minute to get a picture of the Crandic office in Iowa City, and then headed up Iowa highway 965, along the Crandic right of way, to Cedar Rapids. In Cedar Rapids, after crossing over the CNW mains, we turned west onto 33rd Ave. SW, and followed it around and up 12th street to Wilson avenue. Going west on Wilson takes you across the south end of the Crandic yard area, and over the CNW interchange tracks. Just after crossing the tracks, we went north on Rockford Road, which follows the west side of the Crandic yard. This image is from the 16th Avenue overpass.

There was a bit of switching going on in the Crandic yard on Saturday afternoon, with CIC 95 knocking grain hoppers around. We saw Crandic loco 101 behind the engine house.

I've had no luck at all in the Cryo-Trans car spotting project, HOWEVER, it turns out that Crandic grain hoppers carry names! Some cars are marked "In recognition of Crandic employee..." and others say "In memory of...". So, here's a list of those we spotted on Saturday and on Monday:

After deciding that there wasn't going to be much more to see on the Crandic, we drove over to the CNW's Beverly yard, in the southwest corner of Cedar Rapids. There, we caught CNW units 8529, 8567, 5063, 8643, 8719 and 4121 shoving their train into the east end of the yard. After reassembling things, and leaving the 4121 behind, they headed east out of Cedar Rapids. We continued west along the tracks, stopping in Belle Plaine to take a shot of the depot.

By the time we reached Marshalltown, it was getting too dark for QuickTake pictures, but we did see a few trains.
9:09 CNW 8516, 8559 - Coal (MIDX cars)
9:37 CNW 6883, 6877, 8603 - PRCBA (Proviso to Council Bluffs)
9:51 UP 6345, CNW 7027, UP 9046 - Eastbound Stack Train

On Monday, June 12, we headed east to Iowa City again. Since we'd covered the IAIS route on Saturday, we went east out of Indianola on highway 92, and made our first stop in Oskaloosa, to check out the CNW's branch line that we'd crossed Saturday in Grinnell. At 9:20, just after we turned off of the highway, we heard the horns of CNW 4627 and 4613, heading south to Eddyville. Engine 4627 is an "Operation Lifesaver" unit.

Listening to the scanner as we left Oskaloosa, we heard the CP Missouri dispatcher send a train east out of Ottumwa. With luck, we'd be able to catch it at Washington. The CP tracks through Washington, Iowa were formerly those of the Milwaukee Road, and Washington was also served by the Rock Island. A street overpass there is painted for Rock Island on one side and for Milwaukee on the other. The depot in Washington has been turned into spaces for businesses, while the railroad uses a metal building nearby. An old freight house stands one block west of the depot. The CP track workers were busy with a Burro crane nearby. At 11:17, the eastbound mixed freight, behind CP 741, HLCX 6206, and Soo 6035 caught up to us and passed the depot.

We went on east along the Soo/CP tracks to Columbus Junction, where there was once a crossing of Rock Island tracks, and then turned north and headed for West Liberty. West Liberty was once a junction of two Rock Island lines, but today is served only by the IAIS. The Rock depot in West Liberty, originally built in 1897, is undergoing restoration by the Hoover Nature Trail association. Near the IAIS tracks lie the ties taken from the diamond when it was removed.

After a picnic lunch by the West Liberty depot, we went back west into Iowa City. We checked to see which engines were in the IAIS yard, and found 325, 407, 601 and DSC 1833 pretty much where we'd left them on Saturday. Unit 403 was gone, but 401 and 628 were now present. I found a good view of the yard from the Dodge Street overpass, with the IAIS office to the left and the engine house in the background.

There was nothing moving on the rails in Iowa City, so we went north to Cedar Rapids and headed for the Crandic yard again. We found units 100 through 105 in the yard this time. The power for the Iowa City turn was weighing some cars, so I had an opportunity to get individual pictures of CIC 104, 103, 105, and 102. Nearby, CIC 95 and NREX ???? were switching in the yard. At 5:30, the Iowa City turn pulled out. This was the train we came to see!

Since the Crandic is a former interurban route, the right of way has steep grades and sharp curves. We paced the IC turn south out of Cedar Rapids, and out into the country by the airport. There, they stopped briefly to work a siding. We went ahead to Iowa City, grabbed some take-out, and went to the park by the University of Iowa Memorial Union to wait for our train to come into town and cross the Iowa River.

On the scanner, we heard the IAIS dispatcher talking to an eastbound that was coming into the west side of Iowa City, so we decided to go over to the Iowa City depot and wait for it. At 7:20, IAIS 627 and 402 crossed Clinton Street and passed the depot into the IAIS yard. They stopped and cut the Chicago cars off of the end of their train, leaving them on the bridge over the Iowa River, and pulled ahead to wait while the head end cars were worked by several units from the yard.

By now, we knew the Crandic train must be getting close, and we went back just in time to see it cross the river and rumble over our heads at Iowa Avenue. We paced it south to the Burlington Street crossing and to a short stop at the office. It continued south beside the river, under the IAIS and around the corner to the east, where the Crandic tracks run just beside the street. After crossing Gilbert Street, the tracks turn south again, following Gilbert Court. The noise from the flanges is painful here, and the Crandic crew members wear earplugs.

The Crandic train pulls south far enough to clear the interchange connection with the IAIS and then shoves the IAIS cars back up the interchange track, just clear of Kirkwood Avenue. The bills are stuffed into the coupler of the rear car, and they're off to work the junkyard and to pick up the cars that the IAIS has shoved south for them earlier. On nights when there are too many cars to fit between Kirkwood and the south siding switch, the Crandic crew has to wait for the IAIS to come down and take the cars away. On this evening, the Crandic locos came back north to pick up their brakeman and headed down to pick up the northbound cars.

Before long, the IAIS headed down the steep interchange track beside Van Buren Street to get their cars. Units 401, 628, DSC 1833, and 325 coupled on and pulled the interchange cars back up to the IAIS yard around 8:00 p.m.

Meanwhile, the Crandic has completed its switching and returns as CIC 102 North, turning west off of Gilbert Court and rounding the sharp turn on its way back to Cedar Rapids.

That's it!