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Railfan Extra Board - September 2011

Postscript to a perfect day on the Iowa Interstate

A westbound road freight out of Nahant yard on the Canadian Pacific (former IC&E main line) is rolling into the setting sun on September 4, 2010, after squeezing between Buffalo, Iowa, and the Mississippi River. Highway 22 follows river and rails along this stretch allowing an easy evening chase.

Postscript to a perfect day

By Michael Harding/Photos by the Author

Postscript to a perfect day on the Iowa Interstate

Soo Line 6033 is perched between the Mississippi River and the town of Buffalo, Iowa. They've left Nahant Yard behind and are heading westward towards Ottumwa as the day draws to a close on September 4, 2010.

Most of my railfan time is spent in my home state of Ohio. While I have the opportunity to see plenty of trains at home, when I venture away I'm looking for something different. Traveling to nearby Iowa, not only can I experience the attractively painted power of the busy Iowa Interstate, but also chase the last of the Iowa, Chicago & Eastern "blues." Add in the gently rolling countryside and Mississippi River views, and the Hawkeye State makes a strong case indeed.

I happened to be in Iowa on the same day that David Patch tackled the Iowa Interstate as described in the August 2011 issue of Railfan & Railroad. During the course of that day our paths crossed repeatedly in pursuit of the many Iowa Interstate trains running that day. Late in the afternoon we finally parted company for the last time as he pursued a final Iowa Interstate train north towards Cedar Rapids while I began my drive east towards my hotel in the Quad Cities.

Upon getting close to Davenport there was still a good hour or two of sun remaining so I opted to head over to Nahant Yard in hopes of finding something worth tripping the shutter. A day which had already been full of good luck did not disappoint as I discovered a yard buzzing with activtiy. At least one train seemed to be getting put together, with another set of power also working the yard. The orientation of the west end of the yard favors afternoon and evening shots of the turntable and engine house so I passed some time there while I formulated my plans.

It became evident after a while that a westbound road train was nearing ready to go, so I took off to Walnut Grove where Highway 22 joins the tracks near the Mississippi River. After waiting longer than expected the train popped into sight rolling along at a reasonable clip. The chase was on! Through Linwood, Buffalo, Montpelier and beyond we chased the train, repeatedly stopping for sweet evening light shots of the train rolling by industry, rural, and river scenes.

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Soon though a decision was upon us in a day that had been full of such choices. I had heard that a second train, a local out of Nahant Yard was going to follow the first... So do I burn up the remaining light on the first one or roll the dice on getting the second? I decided to play the odds and started heading back east along the river. I barely made it to Buffalo before I found the second train was already highballing past a large elevator complex. Grabbing a shot and then spinning the car around, the second chase of the evening was on! Since the light was fading fast it was to be a short one, with a final shot taken at Montpelier, just ten miles west from Nahant along the Mississipi River. My gamble had paid off!

Some days of railfanning become etched in memory for reasons that are either remarkably good or incredibly bad. That day fell into the fortunate "good" category and my postscript along the Mississippi was icing on the cake. If you think of Iowa as dull, never-ending farmland with little variety in scenery, think again. Good friends, an abundance of trains, and interesting locations along the way made this trip memorable. With each visit, I discover more and more reasons to return.

 
 

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