Office of Rail Transportation

Masthead for Iowa Railroad Ties Masthead, continued Masthead, continued Masthead, continued

Fall 2004


Feature Articles

Welcome to Iowa Railroad Ties We welcome you to the inaugural issue of Iowa Railroad Ties – what it is, when you will receive it, and more. FULL ARTICLE

Engine for Prosperity Discover some of the ways that Iowa’s railroads contribute to Iowa’s health and well-being. FULL ARTICLE

Long Road to China The challenge – get 130 John Deere tractors to a seaport in six days for shipment to China. Read about the role that Iowa Northern Railway and Union Pacific Railroad play in the long journey from Waterloo to China and other international markets. FULL ARTICLE

Off to the Fair Both Iowa railroading and the Iowa State Fair are celebrating their sesquicentennial. Learn how the Office of Rail Transportation celebrated the event. FULL ARTICLE

Industry News
DM&E Heats Up Rehab Iowa Chicago & Eastern Railroad will be heating up its track improvement program beginning in 2004. FULL ARTICLE

Safety First Three Iowa railroads receive safety awards, one receiving the top national honor. FULL ARTICLE

Government News
Horns A’Blowing A federal rule will soon replace all existing rules and statutes about when and where a locomotive must blow its horn. FULL ARTICLE

Decorative rule

amtrak engine
Passenger Rail Corner
The name Amtrak is the blending of the words “American” and “Track.” The railroad's official name is the National Railroad Passenger Corporation.

Ticket Information on the Internet
or call 1-800-USA-RAIL

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Did you know...

At a crossing with signals, the operating railroad and an emergency number are often posted. Look for a sign on the signal house.
Signal House

Call the listed number to report signal malfunctions, rough crossings, emergency situations or other concerns.

Printable list of phone numbers


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Office of Rail


Feature Articles

Welcome to Iowa Railroad Ties
This is the inaugural issue of Iowa Railroad Ties, a newsletter published by the Iowa Department of Transportation’s Office of Rail Transportation. In this and upcoming issues you can expect news and insights into Iowa’s rail industry and the role it plays in Iowa’s economy. Initially, the newsletter will be issued quarterly.

Let me know what you like or don’t like, and what type of articles or information you seek. And if you are interested in submitting a guest feature, let me know.

I can’t guarantee that every issue will have something for everyone, but we will strive to include information on a variety of topics. Current and past issues will be posted on our Web site at

The E-mail newsletter format is a new process for us; so, be sure to let us know what you think of the format, especially any problems you may have viewing it. We will work through them.

And, of course, if you are not interested in receiving any further issues, there is an unsubscribe link at the end of the issue.


Diane McCauley
Editor, Iowa Railroad Ties

Engine for Prosperity

In the early days of Iowa’s railroads, towns sprung up along the tracks, businesses thrived, and the railroads were the engine that quickly moved Iowa into a new era of prosperity.

Although Iowa’s rail network is smaller now than in its heyday; (to paraphrase Mark Twain), reports of the railroads’ death are an exaggeration.

Railroads transport Iowa’s agricultural and industrial products throughout the nation and to overseas ports providing access to more lucrative markets. Many Iowa businesses rely on rail transportation to efficiently and economically receive raw materials or ship their products to the marketplace. Enterprises looking to expand or relocate often seek rail transportation when deciding upon a location, making rail a tool for economic growth.

As private companies, Iowa’s railroads pay taxes, wages and benefits just as any other private employer. Railroads maintain their rail system, which generates jobs and income for contractors and suppliers.

Railroads efficiently move freight on rail cars that carry the equivalent of four semi-trailer loads, relieving traffic congestion on the state’s highways. And on a per ton-mile basis, railroads are three to six times more fuel efficient than trucks, protecting Iowa’s environment and air quality.

Iowa’s railroads are still an engine to move Iowa toward prosperity with their vital role in the state’s economic health and vitality. Understanding and supporting rail transportation in Iowa will help achieve a more vibrant and vigorous Iowa.

Peggy Baer, Director
Office of Rail Transportation

Long Road to China

Picture rail car after rail car loaded with those familiar green farm implements winding through the Iowa countryside. That’s what you may see in eastern Iowa when Iowa Northern Railway and Union Pacific Railroad provide the initial transportation link between John Deere’s Waterloo plant and Deere’s international customers.

The rail shipments destined for international markets began March 31 when a 50-car trainload of 130 tractors left Waterloo on the first leg of a trip to a Tacoma, Washington, seaport for delivery to China. Iowa Northern Railway transported the cars from Waterloo to Cedar Rapids, where they were passed off to Union Pacific Railroad to continue their journey to the coast. Trainload of John Deere tractors

“Seeing that impressive sea of green from one of Iowa’s premiere ag manufacturers is a testament to the critical role railroads play in supporting and growing Iowa’s economy,” said Dan Sabin, president of Iowa Northern Railway. Link to larger copy of photo

Sabin indicated that the John Deere shipments will occur every few months. The China shipment was followed in May by a 65-car trainload of tractors from the Waterloo plant. In Cedar Rapids, Union Pacific added 25 rail cars of cotton pickers from the Ankeny plant and then sent the combined trainload on its next leg of a trip to Europe, via the Port of Baltimore.

On July 23, 170 tractors left Waterloo on 85 rail cars (a trainload more than a mile long) on their way to Galveston, Texas, for eventual delivery to Brazil. Expected in early October is another shipment of farm implements bound for western Asia. TOP

Off to the Fair
Early in the Iowa State Fair’s history, a spectacular, staged collision between two steam locomotives was one of the most popular events.

Although we had nothing nearly as dramatic to offer, the Office of Rail Transportation staff, along with personnel from Iowa’s railroads and other rail-related organizations, spent 10 days at the Iowa State Fair visiting with fair-goers about Iowa’s rail transportation system.

The fair booth celebrated the sesquicentennial of the first rail laid in Iowa and emphasized that after 150 years, railroads are “Still the One” to move Iowa’s industrial and agricultural products and people.

Terry Bailey of Iowa Interstate Railroad said, “The part I enjoyed most about working the Iowa State Fair booth was talking to retired railroad workers and hearing how proud they were to have been a part of this vital transportation system.”

Special thanks to the following for their collaboration and assistance in staffing the booth

Appanoose County Community Railroad
Canadian National Railroad
Federal Railroad Administration
Iowa Association of Railroad Passengers
Iowa, Chicago & Eastern Railroad
Iowa Interstate Railroad
Iowa Northern Railway
Iowa Traction Railroad
Operation Lifesaver
Progressive Rail
Union Pacific Railroad

150 years ago...

In 1854 the Lyons & Iowa Central became the first line to actually lay track in Iowa. Lyons & Iowa Central intended to have Iowa City, Des Moines and the Missouri River as destinations. Only a tiny percentage of the line was ever laid, and the rail workers were never paid their promised wages. Instead, they were encouraged to secure credit at the company store, which had only limited stocks of yard goods, earning the Lyons & Iowa Central the nickname “The Calico Road.”
Clinton, Iowa: A Railroad Town



Industry News

DM&E Heats Up
The Iowa Chicago & Eastern Railroad Corporation (IC&E) has turned up the heat on track improvements this summer. Several million dollars will be invested this year in Iowa for refurbishing track segments from Mason City north into Minnesota, from Sheldon to Marquette, and south of Marquette along the Mississippi River. The refurbishing is just part of a larger improvement project underway by Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Railroad (DM&E) and its subsidiary, DM&E.

DM&E was successful in securing a $233 million Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF) loan, the largest of its kind ever awarded, from the Federal Railroad Administration. This loan is being used to refinance debt and for track rehabilitation in South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa.

DM&E/IC&E’s capital budget for track improvements will quadruple from a typical $15 million to $65 million this year, with investments in subsequent years to be in the $30 million range. Work being done in 2004 throughout their system includes:

  • replacing nearly 100 miles of rail;
  • installing 235,000 new wood cross ties;
  • placing 240,000 tons of crushed rock ballast;
  • surfacing 800 miles of track; and
  • strengthening nearly 150 bridges.

“For the first time in many years, very substantial improvements are being made in the track structures of our railroads, which will allow us to improve our service offering in a very competitive transportation environment,” said Lynn A. Anderson, Vice President – Marketing, DM&E/IC&E. TOP


Safety First

Iowa Interstate Railroad (IAIS) employees completed 330,000 hours of safe activity in 2003 with ZERO injuries. That exemplary record earned Iowa Interstate the Harriman Memorial Gold Award, the highest safety honor from the Association of American Railroads. Iowa Interstate Railroad also won the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA) Gold award for 2003. Dennis Miller, IAIS president, commented, “IAIS employees have shown the industry that a goal of zero injuries is possible and we hope that all carriers use us as an example in their goal for safety improvement.”

Burlington Junction Railway and Appanoose County Community Railroad Co. also completed 2003 with no reportable injuries and were honored with the “Jake with Distinction” award by ASLRRA.

Congratulations to these winners for putting “Safety First.” Railroading, at one time considered among the nation’s most dangerous occupations, has made great strides in improved safety. According to the ASLRRA, today’s railroad employees have injury rates lower than other modes of transportation. TOP

Government News

Horns A’Blowing
The sounding of locomotive horns at railroad/highway crossings will soon be governed by a federal rule. Currently, state law requires the sounding of the locomotive's horn at least 1,000 feet before a road crossing is reached. Additionally, railroad companies require their employees to blow locomotive horns at crossings.

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has issued a proposed rule (scheduled to go into effect Dec. 18, 2004) that will require all locomotives to blow their horns at railroad crossings. This federal rule will preempt any railroad rules and local or state statutes. Under the rule, local jurisdictions meeting certain safety requirements can apply for a “quiet zone” where train horns are not routinely sounded. The FRA will be the final authority on the safety improvements and other measures that must be in place to qualify for a quiet zone.

For further information, refer to the FRA’s Web site at or contact the regional FRA office at 816-407-9651. TOP



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