Railfanning Guide to Iowa Interstate

If you're a railfan looking for information on how to have a successful day 'fanning the Iowa Interstate, you've come to the right place. Contained in this guide should be almost everything you need to quickly bring yourself up to speed on track locations, radio frequencies, more-or-less typical train operations, and tips and tricks that will help you out.

Also, it can't be said enough: Safety First! Iowa Interstate has always been exceptionally friendly to railfans, so for the sake of us all, please always make it your first priority to be safe around the railway and to respect private property (both the railroad's and surrounding landowners') when you're out there. Not that any of you railfans need to be reminded (right?) about safety, but for more information about railway safety, please see Operation Lifesaver.

Subdivision 1
Blue Island - Iowa City

Subdivision 2
Bureau - Peoria

Subdivision 3
Iowa City - Newton

Subdivision 4
Newton - Council Bluffs

Yocum Conn. - Cedar Rapids
Iowa City - Cedar Rapids

Regular Trains
Freq (MHz)AARDescription
161.22074IAIS #1 Road
160.30513IAIS #2 Yard
160.32014IAIS #3 Yard
160.32014CSX New Rock Sub - Road
160.23008CSX New Rock Sub - Yard
160.47024Peoria & Pekin Union
160.32014UP - Des Moines
160.50026CRANDIC - Yard Manager
452.9375--Locotrol DPU
457.9375--EOT Device (FRED)

Iowa Interstate runs from the Chicagoland area westwards over the ex-Chicago, Rock Island, & Pacific mainline to Council Bluffs, IA. In addition, they operate a branch from Bureau, IL, to Peoria, as well as a small part of the ex-Rock Island Southern extending from Rock Island to Milan. Recently, as part of a six month experiment, they are also run a daily train each way via trackage rights over the Cedar Rapids & Iowa City (CRANDIC) between Yocum Connection, near Amana, and Smith-Dows Yard, near Cedar Rapids.

Operations over IAIS are largely governed by track warrants, except on the Metra trackage rights chunk in the Chicago metro area. While the Rock had signaling on the line during its operation, most of the system was damaged beyond repair when IAIS took over in 1984. So, it's always a good idea to be monitoring both road and yard frequencies, as track warrants will usually give you a good picture of where a train is going, how much work it has en route, and where it might be meeting the next train. It's also a very good idea to monitor the EOT/FRED frequency when out along the IAIS. While the information given in track warrants is quite useful, track warrants tend to be issued over large stretches of railway, and you probably will miss the warrant unless you're travelling alongside the train anyway. Other voice chatter is infrequent at best (such as trains reporting their location), so the occasional blip provided by FRED will let you know there's a train in the area. It's not perfect (I've passed IAIS trains without ever hearing anything), but it's better than nothing if you're on the move and don't have a train yet.

The IAIS system is held together by two mainstay trains - BICB (Blue Island, IL to Council Bluffs, IA) and CBBI (Council Bluffs to Blue Island), known as the West and East Trains respectively. It takes these trains some 28 hours to work their way over the entire system, largely due to terminal switching times, meaning that a large part of their passage is done under the cover of night. Mixed in with these are the Iowa City-Cedar Rapids trains, the Rock Island-Iowa City trains, and a gaggle of switching jobs that tend to roam out over the road. Based on information from the Iowa Interstate list as well as many fan observations, we have put together a guide to the normal trains that operate on the IAIS system.

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Questions? Comments? Please email us at contact@iaisrailfans.org
  Last modified on December 29, 2011, at 03:14 PM
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