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NRHS Special Train Chicago to Cedar Rapids 6/17/2012 Part 2

by Chris Guenzler

The train started climbing out of Clinton and once again we were on our way to Cedar Rapids and out into rolling Iowa.

West of Grand Mound.

Just west of Calamus.

Just east of Lowden.

West of Lowden.

Grain Silo on the way to Clarence.

Rolling into Clarence.

On the way to Stanwood.

A neat home on the way to Mechanicsville.


On the way to Lisbon.

On the way to Otis.

We have reached the Cedar River Floodplain.

Cedar River. Later I saw my Motel 6 and I packed up my stuff. We pulled into Fairfax

Next once our UP conductor got back into the rear of the Cedar Rapids we were then ready to start backing into the Smith-Dow Yard.

We started backing and went as far as the derail but had to stop to throw it. Once that was done, we started backing again with our conductor now in a truck.

Backing into Smith Dow Yard.

The Crandic was ready to pull us into the yard. First the Amtrak unit had to cut off before the Crandic unit coupled onto us and would pull us further to our final resting place. I cleaned the bathrooms and picked up the trash while I waited for us to move again. The train was now ready to pull us to our deboarding zone in Smith-Dow Yard.

The Crandic engine and slug pulled us east.

The rear of the train minus our motive power from Chicago.

We passed the half mile post.

The school buses have been spotted. At 6:30 PM we came to a stop. We unloaded the passengers then I put the bags of trash in the vesituble.

Iowa Railroad History

Railroad transportation came to Iowa in the late 1840s and by 1860 the state had approximately 650 miles of track. The late 1800s saw enormous growth, with 2,683 miles in 1870 and almost 9,200 by 1900. The mileage peaked at more than 10,500 miles between 1911 and 1917. Because of its location, most major granger railroads served the state.

The first railroads were small, generally serving Iowa's river towns, delivering freight and passengers to the paddle-wheelers serving the major rivers in the area. The first railroad to cross the Mississippi River was the Mississippi and Missouri Railroad, later the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad, in 1856. Defending this railroad and their Mississippi River bridge is possibly the most famous legal case ever handled by Abraham Lincoln. The Rock Island filed for bankruptcy in 1975 and was ordered to liquidate by the bankruptcy court in June 1980. Much of the system was acquired by the Chicago and North Western, while the former Rock Island main line through Iowa City eventually became the Iowa Interstate Railroad.

While the Mississippi and Missouri Railroad was the first major railroad in Iowa, the Chicago, Iowa and Nebraska Railroad was the first railroad to build tracks across Iowa, including through Cedar Rapids. This railroad later became part of the Chicago and North Western, which itself was merged into Union Pacific in April 1995.

In 1874, the Milwaukee and Mississippi Railroad became part of what became the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad. In 1878, it completed its tracks across Iowa. The Milwaukee Road filed bankruptcy late in 1976. In 1986, the remains of the Milwaukee Road was acquired by the Soo Line/CP Rail. Parts were sold off but recently re-acquired. Two more of today's railroads saw their predecessors complete lines across Iowa in 1878. These railroads were the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy (now BNSF) across the south part of Iowa and the Illinois Central (now Canadian National) across northern Iowa.

While these railroads crossed the state, others served only small parts. For example, the St. Louis and Cedar Rapids Railway (Wabash) served only south-central Iowa to Des Moines while the Chicago Great Western and Minneapolis & St. Louis served northern parts of the state. Additionally, many communities bypassed by the large railroads built local railroads to ensure their survival. The early 1900s also saw construction of many miles of interurban railroads.

Since its peak of mileage in the early 1900s, Iowa has experienced one of the greatest losses of rail mileage of any state as a result of railroad bankruptcies and rail line abandonments. By the end of 2001, Iowa had permanently lost nearly 6,500 miles of track, much of it due to the bankruptcies of the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific and the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific railroads in the mid-1970s. Today, Iowa has approximately 4,200 miles of track in operation.

Today, Iowa is served by five Class I railroads: BNSF, Canadian National, Canadian Pacific, Norfolk Southern, and Union Pacific. Smaller railroads include Appanoose County Community Railroad, Burlington Junction Railway, Cedar Rapids & Iowa City, D&I Railroad, Iowa Interstate Railroad, Iowa Northern Railway, Iowa River Railroad, Iowa Traction Railroad, and Keokuk Junction Railway. For those wanting to do research, the University of Iowa Library has a large railroad collection.

Cedar Rapids History

When Cedar Rapids was first established in 1838 (the year that Osgood Shepherd, the first permanent settler, arrived), William Stone named the town Columbus. In 1841, it was resurveyed and renamed by N.B. Brown and his associates. They named the town Cedar Rapids for the rapids in the Cedar River at the site. Cedar Rapids was incorporated on January 15, 1849.

During the 1850s, Cedar Rapids worked to obtain a railroad, and it was successful. The first rail line was built through Cedar Rapids in 1859, and made the town a major commercial hub in eastern Iowa. The T.M. Sinclair Company, started in 1871, was one of the five largest packing houses in the world within its first ten years of operation. Cedar Rapids is still home to the largest cereal mill in the world, Quaker Oats, begun in Cedar Rapids in 1873. In the 1920s, Collins Radio Company was founded by local resident Arthur Collins at a time when radio was cutting edge technology. Expanding into avionics and other technologies, today Rockwell Collins remains a driving force in the local business community. One of the largest industrial facilities operated by ADM is also located at Cedar Rapids. Reportedly, thanks to all of this industry, Cedar Rapids currently has more engineers per capita than any other city in the United States.

Over the years, Cedar Rapids has been home to many familiar names in American history. Orville and Wilbur Wright were Cedar Rapids residents from 1878-1881. A little girl named Mamie Doud who lived in Cedar Rapids early in the 1900s, later became First Lady Mamie Eisenhower. Cedar Rapids was the longtime home of artist Grant Wood and his most famous work, "American Gothic", was painted here. Austin Palmer developed a nationally well known form of penmanship writing in Cedar Rapids. Recent local residents have included such people as golfer Zach Johnson and actors Ashton Kutcher and Elijah Wood. By the way, some longtime locals call themselves "Bunnies" based upon the way some folks pronounce the town's name: "see der rabbits."

When Cedar Rapids became the county seat of Linn County, the city began development of its unique Municipal Island in the historic center of the city, along the Cedar River. This scenic spot became a problem when during the Iowa flood of 2008, the Cedar River surpassed the 500-year flood plain and placed an estimated 1300 city blocks, or 9 square miles, on both banks of the river under water. Nearly 4,000 homes were evacuated and more than 300 destroyed. The Cedar River reached a record high of 31.2 feet on June 14, 2008. Additionally, several rail lines and bridges were washed away by the waters.

The Cedar Rapid Railroads

When the first railroads reached Cedar Rapids, they naturally routed their tracks to the industrial center. The city's earliest meat packers and millers built on sites with rail access to receive grain and to ship finished products, a pattern repeated as new railroads and industries came to town. Eventually more than a dozen tracks crossed the neighborhood, creating a congested downtown.

Today's Union Pacific route, built by the Chicago, Iowa & Nebraska Rail Road, reached Cedar Rapids during June 1859. The Cedar Rapids & Missouri River Railroad was organized a year later to extend the line westward to Council Bluffs. In 1886, the Linn County Railway was created to bypass the congested downtown Cedar Rapids area and is used as today's UP mainline.

In 1860, the Dubuque Western Railroad, later the Milwaukee Road, was reorganized as the Dubuque, Marion & Western Rail Road. It was quickly again reorganized as the Dubuque South Western Rail Road and reached Marion in 1863, and Cedar Rapids in 1865. Its track north and east of Cedar Rapids was abandoned in 1980 and the line to the southwest was sold to the Cedar Rapids & Iowa City in 1981.

The Burlington, Cedar Rapids & Northern, later the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific, built from Burlington, Iowa, in early 1869 and reached Cedar Rapids in late 1871. The line north of Cedar Rapids is today the Iowa Northern while the line south of here is now the Hoover Nature Trail.

1888 saw the arrival of the Cedar Rapids & Chicago Railroad, organized by Illinois Central to build a branch from Manchester to Cedar Rapids. Today, this line is still used by Canadian National/Illinois Central to reach the community.

During the summer of 1903, the Cedar Rapids & Iowa City Railway started construction on an interurban line between Cedar Rapids and Iowa City. The final railroad arriving at Cedar Rapids was the Waterloo, Cedar Falls & Northern interurban railroad. The WCF&N was the subject of The Story of the Cedar Valley Road, published by Westinghouse to promote the interurban railroad concept. The line to Cedar Rapids was completed by late 1913. After passenger service ended during the late 1950s, the Waterloo Railroad was created by the Rock Island and the Illinois Central to buy the WCF&N. In 1968, the CRI&P sold its share to the IC and during February 1977, the line between Cedar Rapids and Gilbertsville was abandoned.

In 1897, the BCR&N and C&NW built Union Station, which stretched between Third and Fifth Avenues SE along the Fourth Street corridor of tracks in downtown. The station featured a 102-foot tall central tower with a 6-foot diameter clock, as well as two immense fireplaces. From an 1899 peak of nearly 100 a day, dozens of passenger trains continued to operate through downtown every day through the post-World War II years. Passenger trains were gone from downtown by 1961, when Union Station was demolished to make way for parking. The nearby History Center recently unveiled one of the rebuilt station fireplaces. The Union Station fireplace exhibit features an audio presentation with photos depicting the history of the train station.

Today, most of the tracks are gone and transcontinental freight rolls non-stop south of the city. Now a single track, the old route through downtown, allows railroads to serve major industries such as Quaker Oats, Cargill, and Penford Products and to exchange freight with each other. Owned by Union Pacific, the track is also used by three of the four other railroads serving the city.

Besides the railroads, there were other rail related starts here. The Order of Railroad Telegraphers was founded in June, 1886, at Cedar Rapids. In 1965, the ORT changed its name to the Transportation Communications Employees Union. It merged with the Brotherhood of Railway Clerks in 1969.

Cedar Rapids

After the two school buses left we unloaded the luggage out of the last coach. The Tour Group Bus offered to take the rest of the passengers including me to the Clarion Hotel. From there I took a five minute walk over to the Motel 6 where I checked in for my stay. I quickly finished this story then got on line and uploaded it before going to Burger King to get dinner. I put in the corrections then posted it and then called it a night. What a first great trip our NRHS 2012 Convention Staff gave to all the passengers.

That is what we did at the 2012 NRHS Cedar Rapids Convention on this date.