Iowa Interstate Railroad

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Iowa Interstate Railroad
Iais logo.jpg
Reporting markIAIS
LocaleIllinois, Iowa, Nebraska
Dates of operation1984–
Track gauge4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
HeadquartersCedar Rapids, Iowa

The Iowa Interstate Railroad (reporting mark IAIS) is a Class II regional railroad operating in the central United States. The railroad is owned by Railroad Development Corporation of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.


Iowa City Depot, once part of the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad, now on IAIS line.

The railroad was formed on November 2, 1984, using former Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad tracks between Chicago, Illinois, and Omaha, Nebraska. It was in partnership with real estate firm Heartland Rail Corporation that the IAIS was able to operate. Heartland purchased the right-of-way and infrastructure for $31 million (of which, $15 million was a loan from the Iowa Railway Finance Authority), and then leased it to IAIS for operations.

The IAIS and the railroad infrastructure were purchased from Heartland by Railroad Development Company of Pittsburgh, PA in 2003.

In recognition of the railroad's Rock Island Railroad heritage, the IAIS logo uses a shape similar to the original railroad's logo and has also painted two of its General Electric ES44AC locomotives (513 and 516) in Rock Island inspired paint schemes.


Two trains meet near Altoona, Iowa. At left, train 707 is led by a GP 38-2. At right, train 710 is also led by a GP 38-2.

When the IAIS took control of the track, the former Rock Island signal system was already damaged beyond repair due to sitting dormant for several years. Operations on the railroad are primarily controlled by track warrants rather than signals as a result.

Trains are dispatched from the company's HQ in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where a new dispatching office was completed in 2016. IAIS uses Wabtec's Train Management and Dispatching System (TMDS), the same dispatching software used by several Class I railroads, including the BNSF and KCS.

The railroad's mainline is roughly a straight line between Council Bluffs, Iowa, and Chicago, Illinois, with a branch line connecting Bureau to Peoria, Illinois. The mainline is separated into 4 Subdivisions:

  • Council Bluffs Subdivision (Council Bluffs to Des Moines, Iowa)
  • Newton Subdivision (Des Moines to Newton, Iowa)
  • Iowa City Subdivision (Newton to Silvis, Illinois)
  • Blue Island Subdivision (Silvis to Bureau Junction, Illinois)

The railroad also includes the:

  • Peoria Subdivision (Bureau Junction to Peoria, Illinois)
  • Cedar Rapids Subdivision (South Amana to Cedar Rapids, Iowa). This line is owned by the Cedar Rapids and Iowa City Railroad, but dispatched and operated by the Iowa Interstate.

The Iowa Interstate operates from Bureau to Chicago over the former Rock Island tracks controlled by CSX and Metra. In Chicago the IAIS owns two yard facilities, Burr Oak Yard and Evans Yard (the site of former rail car builder Evans), both in Blue Island, Illinois.

The Iowa Interstate is unique in that it is the only Class II railroad in the US that has connections to every Class I railroad, affording its customers a reach not offered by other regional railroads.

The railroad also maintains two intermodal operations at either end of its line in Chicago and Council Bluffs. The operation in Council Bluffs is also used by the Union Pacific, with IAIS crews shuttling freight to and from the UP several times a day.


Beginning in the mid-1990s, the IAIS mainline has been identified as a potential route for high speed passenger train service between Wyanet, Illinois (where the IAIS could be connected to the BNSF Railway), the Quad Cities and Iowa City, Iowa, as part of the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative (MRRI). The ultimate goal of the MRRI is to establish passenger train routes in a hub-and-spoke formation with Chicago as the hub that allow for speeds up to and above 110 mph (177 km/h). So far this project has not progressed beyond high level planning.

Other Notes[edit]

IAIS subsidiary Rail Traffic Control formerly provided consulting services for dispatching and operating small- to medium-sized railroads worldwide.

In 2004, IAIS was awarded the E. H. Harriman Award for its safe operational record.

Motive power[edit]

IAIS uses 42 locomotives and two slugs to power its trains:[1]

  • 4 EMD SD38-2 (Numbered 150-153)
  • 17 GE ES44AC (Numbered 500-516); unit 513 is painted in a Rock Island commemorative scheme; unit 516 is painted in a Rock Island inspired 30th anniversary paint scheme. Three additional ES44s (517-519) are on order and expected to be delivered in 2019.[2]
  • 1 EMD GP38 (Numbered 601)
  • 17 EMD GP38-2 (Numbered 700-703; 705; 707-708; 710-716; 718-719; 721) 720 was sold/leased to ADM in Des Moines, Iowa in 2017.
  • 2 Slugs (Numbered 650 and 651) 601 and 650 are semi-permanently mated, as are 721 and 651

In 2006, IAIS also purchased two ex-China Railways QJ 2-10-2 steam locomotives, numbered 6988 and 7081 for special excursion trains and fundraising events. 6988 has been "Americanized", with a paint scheme inspired by American locomotives. 7081 retains its original China Railways paint with Iowa Interstate badges. In 2018 the 6988 made excursion trips to raise money for local volunteer fire departments in Brooklyn and Mitchellville, Iowa.

The 6988 will again run charity fundraisers in 2019 in both Iowa and Illinois. The first trips will be on May 18th running between Henry and Chillicothe, Illinois, and May 19th running between Annawan and Geneseo, Illinois. Later in June the same locomotive will make trips in Western Iowa, culminating in a July 4th run between Oxford and Iowa City. 7081 is currently out of service.

IAIS #708 crossing the Government Bridge at the Mississippi River, southbound from Davenport, Iowa into Rock Island, Illinois
Iowa Interstate Railroad passenger cars near CRANDIC shops in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Iowa.

Company officers[edit]

Officers as of 2019:[3]

  • Joe Parsons, President and CEO
  • Carrie Evans, Vice President Sales & Marketing
  • Cathy Smith, Vice President Finance & Accounting
  • Al Satunas, Chief Operating Officer
  • Tom Meierhoff, Director of Compliance and Dispatch
  • Adam Sutherland, Director of Safety and Security
  • Mike Stuver- Chief Transportation Officer
  • Chad Lambi, Chief Engineer
  • Andrew Reid, Chief Mechanical Officer
  • Bobbi Allen, Director of Human Resources
  • Kyle Fries, Director of IT

Former Presidents of the Iowa Interstate Railroad:

  • Frederic W. Yocum Jr.
  • Doug Christy
  • Jon R. Roy
  • Dennis H. Miller
  • Jerome Lipka


  1. ^ IAIS Locomotive Roster
  2. ^ "Iowa Interstate News".
  3. ^ "Iowa Interstate News".

External links[edit]