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Iowa Interstate Railroad, Rock Island team up for flood relief Posted: Oct 19, 2008 6:41 PM PDT by Brady Smith

Iowa City (KWWL) - The Iowa Interstate Railroad and the city of Rock Island teamed up this weekend to not only raise over $50,000 in donations for the Salvation Army's flood relief efforts, but broke a 21st century record for steam locomotive cargo transport.

All eyes looked to the East on Sunday morning, as two steam locomotives brought in passenger cars to the Iowa City depot. Clouds of smoke and steam hailed their arrival, and acting conductor Bill Nelson says it was a great experience. "It's fanstastic. For some people it gets in their blood, and they just the opportunity. Nelson, Director of Parks and Recreation in Rock Island, says the goal for money raised from passenger ticket sales was $50,000, and he estimated that was surpassed. The weekend was a combination of daytime excursions and dining car meals. He added that on their way from Iowa City to Rock Island, the engines hauled 6,250 tons of cargo, a steam locomotive record for the 21st century.

Chris Guenzler was on the train, and says it was a unique combination of fundraising and rail travel. "You guys were totally hit hard by the floods in this state, and this is just our way of helping you guys get through it. With two Chinese steam engines running in America today, it's a totally unique experience.

That's saying a lot, because Guenzler is known as the Million Mile Rail Travel Man; he's literally traveled over a million miles on railroads, and this stretch was a first for him. "Any time I can find a new piece of railroad to ride, I'm always going to do it."

After departing Iowa City, the locomotives went back to Newton, where they'll stay for the winter.