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Iowa Interstate Steam for Flood Relief

by Chris Guenzler

On August 14th, 2008 I saw this posted on Trainorders and looked at it with great interest.

For Immediate Release August 14, 2008

Iowa Interstate to Operate Steam for Flood Relief Cedar Rapids, Iowa - On October 18-19, 2008 the Iowa Interstate Railroad (IAIS) will operate Railroad Development Corporation's (RDC's) 2 QJ-type steam locomotives on 2 days of special events for the benefit of The Salvation Army's efforts to assist communities through its territory impacted by June's flooding. A variety of rail-oriented events will be held, with the City of Rock Island acting as host and coordinator of the event.

On Saturday, October 18, a double-headed freight train will leave Iowa City for Rock Island, with the objective of setting "a new record for steam-hauled revenue tonnage in the 21st century." Upon arrival at Rock Island, the locomotives will then be split to operate passenger excursion shuttles east to Silvis, Illinois, and west to Walcott, Iowa. The day's events will culminate with a private evening dinner trip for special guests, with catering to be provided by RDC "celebrity chefs" from Pittsburgh, Cedar Rapids, Peru and Guatemala. Finally, on Sunday, October 19, a one-way limited excursion train will operate from Rock Island to Iowa City, accompanying the QJs back to their home in Newton, Iowa. RDC and IAIS Chairman Henry Posner III commented, "By October, the economic impact of the flooding experienced in June will have been long forgotten. Iowans do not like to complain, and it is their nature to deal with problems in a spirit of self-reliance, but in this case we would like to remind the greater community that there have been thousands of lives disrupted, and that they should not be forgotten."

IAIS President & CEO Dennis Miller commented, "Although it has taken us some time to recover from our flood damage, we have not forgotten the many people who also suffered losses and were assisted by The Salvation Army. We hope these events will help to replenish their much needed funds in order to continue their valuable service to our communities. All proceeds from the events will be donated to The Salvation Army." Additional details, as well as ticketing information, will be available at the end of August via the City of Rock Island's website, At that time a joint press release will be issued by the City of Rock Island, IAIS and RDC. Founded in 1984, IAIS is a regional carrier operating over 550 miles between Omaha, Nebraska, and Chicago, Illinois, with connections to all Class 1 carriers. In May 2008, IAIS won the Gold Harriman award in recognition of its performance as the safest Class 2 (medium-size) railroad in the USA in 2007. IAIS is a subsidiary of RDC, a privately held Pittsburgh-based railway management and investment firm, focusing on "Emerging Corridors in Emerging Markets." For more information on IAIS and RDC, please visit: and

Contact: Dennis H. Miller, President & CEO Telephone: (319) 298-5422

After reading that I really wanted to go. I had to wait for tickets to go on sale and watched the Trainorders steam page to get tickets once they went on sale. The day they did, I tried to get them on line but they did not have my home town listed. That is when I called the City of Rock Island and got my tickets for the Walcott Trip and the return trip to Iowa City. Bob and Elizabeth contacted me and thought we should do the Dinner Train together and they got me that ticket plus a room for two nights at the Ecoline Motel in Moline. We tried to get a flight into the Quad Cities or Cedar Rapids but could not get there from here. Steve Grande suggested fly to Chicago with Bob and Elizabeth having the same problem decided to fly to Chicago as well and our flights would arrive within five minutes of each other. Bob got us a rental car and all I had to do was wait for the day of the trip to arrive.

To the Quad Cities 10/17/2008

I worked half a day at Jefferson before heading home and finished packing. Randy came and picked me up and on the way to the John Wayne Airport we stopped by the Santa Ana Amtrak Station where I picked up my tickets for my Coast Starlight Detour Trip on October 26th from Sacramento to Los Angeles down the former Southern Pacific Valley Line then over the Tehachapi Mountains and down through Soledad Canyon. Randy then drove me to the airport and I was through Security in eight minutes. I waited at Gate 10 for American Airlines Flight 1262. The 737-700 left the gate at 3:02 PM and took off at 3:09 PM PDT. The movie was "Swing Vote" and I did Sudoku Puzzles the rest of the way to Chicago. We touched down at 8:35 PM CDT and taxied the long way due to gate traffic and reached the Gate A5 at 8:52 PM.

After I got off the plane, I was putting on my sweat pants and jacket when here came Bob and Elizabeth. They will be married on Valentine Day 2009. May they both be blessed with a long life together! After they collected their checked baggage, we went out front and waited eight minutes for the Hertz Bus to take us to their offices off the airport. Bob got the rental car and soon we were driving west down Tollway Interstate 88 towards the Quad Cities.

10/18/2008 We pulled into the Ecoline Motel in Moline and was in bed by 12:17 AM. After a short night it was time for this excellent adventure to start. I was in the lobby at 6 AM and checked e-mail on their computer since their wireless did not work. Soon Bob and Elizabeth showed up and we were off to Iowa City on a very foggy cold morning. It did not take too long to get to Iowa City and soon we were at the Iowa City Freight Yards.

There was a local freight waiting to depart sometime this morning.

Iowa Interstate Units 713 and 718 were on this freight train. We headed out of Iowa City but stopped at a gas station for some snacks. After that we headed down US Highway 6 and headed to the Cedar River Bridge.

The view was nothing but fog. We returned west to the grade crossing but it was cramped so we went back east into the town of Atalissa and waited for the Chinese QJ's to arrive.

The Iowa Interstate QJ's set the 21st Century Steam Haul Tonnage Record 10/18/2008

The first views of the QJ's 7081 and 6988 were caught storming through the fog in Atalissa. The train came out of the fog and went right back into it like something out of the Twilight Zone. Did we really just see a steam train go by us? Back into the car and off we went through the fog to our next photo location off the Highway 6 Bridge in Wilton.

They made for an impressive scene as they stormed underneath the bridge at Wilton. We took off again and drove the road that ran alongside of the tracks. Soon we were getting near the engines and then I got an idea. Why not try some pacing shots of these impressive Chinese QJ's.

A pair of pacing pictures before we got ahead and go for our next shot.

We next caught the QJ's at a grade crossing. After that due to a highway closure on the road that runs along the tracks we had to go out to Interstate 80 and headed east to the Walcott exit and then drove into town setting up near the grain elevator in town and waited for the train to arrive for its watering and servicing stop.

The QJ's steamed to a stop at Walcott. There I ran into Keith Schmidt, the excellent videographer.

QJ 2-10-2 7081.

QJ 2-10-2 6988.

The QJ's and the Walcott grain elevator.

The fire box of the QJ 6988 caught my eye and makes a unique picture. From here we headed towards Davenport to find another photo location but spotted an Iowa Interstate Freight sitting in the Walcott siding.

The Iowa Interstate freight train.

Iowa Interstate 719.

Iowa Interstate 718.

From here we drove towards Davenport and passed underneath a bridge with a Rock Island Railroad emblem on it. We kept going and found a nice spot at Central Park Avenue. Here we waited but after a while we heard a whistle and soon here came the QJ's out into the bright Iowa sunshine.

These pictures were worth the whole trip here and soon we were off once more. We drove into Davenport and set up at the east side of town in a parking lot and the QJ's put on quite a show.

The QJ's surprised all of us by blowing down as it passed our cameras. We drove beneath the train on the lower level of the Government Bridge and headed to the Rock Island Station.

The QJ's cut off the freight train but did set the 21st Century Steam Tonnage Record. The Iowa Interstate freight had 66 cars that had 6,252 Tons from Iowa City to Rock Island setting a 21st-century record. The QJ engines then backed down to the yard near downtown Rock Island. We drove down and parked. One of the QJ's went across the river to wye while the other got ready for the first of the Shuttle Trains to Silvas. We parked in the Rock Island Casino Parking Lot and crossed the street to get our tickets for our trips. Bob bought each of us both T-shirts of this event but the Tonnage Record Shirt would not be ready until after 4 PM. Elizabeth went to a Subway for lunch while Bob and I enjoyed Hamburgers under the tent.

The first train to Silvas departed the boarding area across the street. After dropping our shirts off at the car we went to wait for our QJ pulled trip to Walcott.

Click here for Part 2 of this story!