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iowa traction
Iowa Traction
       Although not a Wisconsin system, as the only remaining electric freight railways in America, the Iowa Traction Railway
deserves some recognition.

Brief History
       Iowa Traction began operation as the Mason City & Clear Lake Traction Co.  The inaugural run was made July 3, 1897
and it opened to the public July 4th.
      The line was built to connect Mason City with the resort town of Clear Lake, about ten miles to the west. The shops were
built at Emery, near the middle of the line.  Promoters of the line also hoped Emery would develop into a separate
community.  In addition to passenger service, they hauled various freight, stone from the quarries and ice cut from Clear Lake.
      The franchise to operate in the streets of Mason City expired Aug. 30, 1936 and the dwindling passenger service was
discontinued.  However, there was enough business to keep the freight operation going.
       July 1, 1961 the line was sold to Michigan investors and renamed, Iowa Terminal.  During the 1960's and 1970's there
were several attempts to make the line profitable.  But the 1980's brought a downturn in profits.
       Following years of ups and downs, the line was put up for sale or abandonment.  On April 13, 1987 a group of local
investors headed by David Johnson purchased the line.  The name was changed to Iowa Traction (IATR), which underscored
their plan to remain an electric line.
      They upgraded much of the line, repaired the equipment as needed and found new business.   Today, rather than being
just another memory, the IATR is alive and well.  It interchanges over 1,300 carloads a year with CP Rail, UP and I&CE.
The fleet of old, but well maintained Baldwin locos are adequate for the job and are fascinating to watch as they run back and
forth with strings of hoppers and other freight cars.
      Additional, unused trackage around Mason City that once connected with other railroads remains intact.  Various
abandonments and mergers made this trackage unnecessary.
      Traction fans will find the operation most interesting.  Although there is some new development along the line, there are
long stretches of open fields, where you can easily time warp back to the 1950's or 1960's.  Because most of the line runs
alongside the road, there is no trouble taking photos or videos.
       In 2012 the railroad was sold to Progressive Rail.  As a condition of the sale, the line is to remain in electric operation.  
So far, operation seems to be continuing as usual, with little changes.
       IATR  personnel is generally co-operative with fans.  But, remember, IATR is a not a museum or tourist attraction.  It is
a working railroad.  Be courteous.  Respect the equipment and observe safety precautions.
Although dwarfed by modern hoppers, No.54, a classic Baldwin
steeplecab and its brothers have enough power to pull a string of cars.
Limited to four or five full cars on a slight grade, they can easily handle
more on level track.
IATR 33 (former CNS&M merchandise car 234) sits in the shop.
Although fitted for use as a linecar, IATR found it more practical to do
overhead line work with a bucket truck. It is now at the Iowa Trolley
Park in Clear Lake.
Ex-CNS&M 727 rolls along the mainline on an annual excursion for the
Iowa Chapter NRHS.
Now owned by IATR, the 727 is undergoing restoration and only operates
for railroad purposes.
Built in 1926 it ran on CNS&M until January 1963, when it was
purchased by Iowa NRHS, and operated on teh Southern Iowa Railway.
It has now operated on lines in Iowa longer than on the CNS&M.
Most freight action is limited to switching hoppers in Mason City from AGP to the interchange.  But, if
you visit often enough you might catch other movements such as this shipment of scrap from the salvage
yard behind the shop.  Because of the long up grade, one loco pulled three cars and another pushed
three more to the top, where they were coupled and moved to the interchange.
Through the years the line acquired many second, third and forth hand pieces of equipment.
Some were bought to use, some may have been bought only  to salvage parts to keep others running.
Numbers followed by (*) indicate equipment still in existence.
1920's McGuire Cummins
Single-truck line car. Built as 105.  Destroyed in 1967 fire.
1911 Mcguire Cummins
Single-truck sweeper.  Sold to Midwest Central Museum 1973.
1915 McGuire Cummins
Double-truck sweeper. ex-Charles City Western.  Sold to IRM 1970.
1922 Cincinnati
Merchandise-Dispatch. ex-CNS&M 216.  Destroyed 1967 fire.
1924 Cincinnati
Merchandise-Dispatch. ex-CNS&M 239. Never used. Scrapped 1968
1924 Cincinnati
Merchandise-Dispatch. ex-CNS&M 234. Stored until 1968
Replaced  number 31.  Fitted with platform for use as linecar
Now at Iowa Trolley Park in Clear Lake
50 (1st)
1929 Oklahoma Railway
Steeplecab. ex-MC&CL 50. Scrapped 1963
50 (2nd)
1920 Baldwin
Steeplecab. ex-W&OD, CRANDIC, KC&KV
Was number 53 until 1st number 50 was scrapped.
1921 Baldwin
Steeplecab. ex-Northeastern Oklahoma, CRANDIC, KC&KV
1919 Baldwin
Steeplecab. ex-NO, CRANDIC, KC&KV, Destroyed 1967 fire.
53 (1st)
1920 Baldwin
Steeplecab. ex-W&OD, CRANDIC, KC&KV
Became 2nd number 50
1928 Texas Electric
ex-CCW, Moved to Mason City 1968. Never used.
Sold to Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad
1923 Baldwin
Steeplecab. ex-Southern Iowa Railway
1917 Baldwin
Steeplecab. ex-MC&CL number 52
1913 Baldwin
Steeplecab. ex-MC&CL number 53. Scrapped 1970
1907 Baldwin
Steeplecab. ex-GP&H, GRR, CCW. To Mason City 1968 Srapped 1973
1904 Baldwin
Steeplecab. ex-P&B, GP&H, GRR, CCW. To Mason City 1968.
Scrapped 1973
1921 Preston
Steeplecab. ex-GRR. Scrapped 1973
1921 Preston
Steeplecab. ex-LE&N. Scrapped 1973
1921 Preston
Steeplecab. ex-GRR. Never repainted or used. Scrapped 1970
1914 McGuire Cummins
Combine. ex-WCG&N. Sold 1956 to NRHS. Ran at Centerville.
Came to Mason City 1966. Destroyed in 1967 fire.
1915 McGuire Cummins
Combine. ex-CCW number 50. Came to Mason City 1968.
Never used. Now operating at Boone & Scenic Valley.
1926 Cincinnati
Coach. ex-CNS&M 727.  Sold to NRHS 1963.
Operated at Centerville. Came to Mason City 1968.
Now owned by Iowa Traction. Re-numbered 727.