Railfan Sites in Iowa

A self-guiding railfan tour

John Jensen is the Editor for Frograil's Iowa Railfan page.

To submit contributions, corrections and/or additions to the Kansas page, please e-mail John here (after removing spaces and substituting for "at"): cgw2719 at yahoo . com

Railfan, railfan--where do you see trains in Iowa?

Cities And Sites

(1) These goodies are thanks to Dick Tinder, at his excellent Iowa Railfan site. Check it out here.

(2) With special thanks to Tom Persoon, who has been both patient and generous in his support of the development of this information.

(3) This is a link to Mr. Gaylor's Eastern Iowa Railfan Page, which is here.

Back to the top


This is a gravel road, and it crosses under US 30, at the east end of another gravel road which runs along UP main from Edgewood Road. There is a good view from the south side, where you can see east and west along the main. There are no facilities close by, but I refer you to Edgewood Road. There is a convenience store on Edgewood Road just north of the US 30 interchange. [NOTE: Thanks to Tom Persoon for this information.]

Back to the top


Beverly yard is located in the southwest corner of the city, and is the UP's main yard. To get there, exit US 30 (4-lane freeway) at Edgewood Road and go south on Edgewood - you can see the main line crossing from the US 30 interchange. The yard stretches west from Edgewood Road and the yard office is located there, too. On the south side of the main (east from Edgewood) or yard (west from Edgewood) is a gravel road that provides excellent access but, unfortunately, is on UP property. When the CNW ran the show you could hang out on the gravel road and no one bothered you - in fact RR employee sometimes stopped to chat. Now, however, I understand that the UP police will toss you out if they catch you there, though I've driven through without any trouble. [NOTE: Thanks to Tom Persoon for this information.]

There is no engine facility at Beverly, only a yard office and rip track shed. Occasionally you will see layover power parked at the yard office, e.g., if they brought in a coal train for the power plants or a grain train for ADM. So, basically, there isn't much to see at Beverly, and through trains blow thru the yard at 40 mph! [NOTE: More data from Tom Persoon.]

Back to the top


US 30 is now a freeway-quality 4-lane highway which goes around the south side of Cedar Rapids. C street intersects with US 30 just west of the place where older maps might show the old Rock Island's Cedar Rapids to Burlington main line. If you exit on C street and go north about 0.5 mile, you come to the UP (ex CNW) main line or about 2 miles east of the US 30/I-380 interchange. There is ball field is on the north side of the tracks, with trackside parking. [NOTE: Thanks to Tom Persoon for this information.]

Back to the top


Cole Road (off Otis Road, east of the Cedar River) - Road dead ends, public parking lot on south side of tracks, as this is the head of the Sac and Fox nature trail. Great place to watch trains, unobstructed view, horns for C street announce eastbounds, Otis detector announces westbounds, trains are usually moving slower due to speed limit on bridge. Downside - not easy to find, no fast food or "facilities" anywhere nearby, and police have told me that drug deals etc. often occur in the bush so stay in the parking lot. [NOTE: Thanks to Tom Persoon for this information.]

Back to the top


Edgewood Road is one of the six grade crossings of the UP in Cedar Rapids, and the crossing is a place where railfans frequently park to watch trains. Beverly Yard lies between Edgewood Road (east boundary) and Old Bridge Road (western boundary. Therefore, if you find either of these crossings, you have also found Beverly yard. The mainline tracks run thru the center of the yard, and switchers have to get permission from the DS to cross over from one side of the yard to the other -- from a railfan's point of view, this is good, as the DS will always tell the switcher crew how many through trains they'll have to wait for, before getting permission to cross.

Back to the top


J street is one of only 6 grade crossings of the UP main in Cedar Rapids. Because there are so few grade crossings, they are the few spots where you can photograph UP main line action from public property. To get to J street, exit I-380 at 33rd Avenue and go east 1 long block to a stop sign. This is J street. Turn right (south) and you will see the crossing at the bottom of the hill. There are two business parking lots on the north side of the tracks where you can park, and there is an unobstructed view (but no place to park) from along J street on the south side of the tracks. [NOTE: Thanks to Tom Persoon for this information.]

Back to the top


Old Bridge Road - on west side of Beverly yard, gravel road, little traffic. To get there from Edgewood Road, take first road south of US 30, then a quick left (probably 44th Ave), and follow to T intersection at Nursery Road, then left on Nursery Road and follow around bend to next intersection, which is Old Bridge Road. Left again on Old Bridge to the tracks. Switchers usually work yard from this end, there is no auto traffic, and the contributor has never been bothered while parking here. No facilities nearby - try Edgewood Road. [NOTE: Thanks to Tom Persoon for this information.]

Back to the top

CLINTON -- 5th STREET INTERLOCKING (September 20, 1998)

From the east: Coming from Illinois on US-30, cross the Mississippi on US 30 West, which turns left onto 4th Street. Continue on 4th Street to first stoplight, which is 11th Avenue. Instead of following US-30 right to 11th Avenue, continue on 4th Street and go under the tracks. On the other side of the underpass, take the first left. This city street, which runs parallel to the tracks has ample room for parking, and an unobstructed view of the 5th Street interlocking plant.

From the west: Coming from the Heartland on US-30, follow US-30 towards "downtown" Clinton, watching street signs. At the intersection with 4th Street (stoplight), turn right and go under the tracks. On the other side of the underpass, take the first left. This city street which runs parallel to the tracks has ample room for parking and unobstructed view of the 5th Street interlocking plant.

Here, the double track UP main comes across the Mississippi River bridge, and curves south just before the interlocking. The IMRL main line comes under the US-30 bridge, and enters the interlocking just west of the UP big curve. There may not be much warning for a westbound UP train, but all trains will be slowing down as they enter the yard, since the UP changes crews in Clinton. You will hear westbound IMRL trains before you see them, as they whistle crossings prior to arriving at 5th Street. IMRL trains must radio the UP dispatcher for permission to cross. You can easily see eastbound trains of both railroads approaching. Again, eastbound IMRL trains must also radio the UP dispatcher for the signal at 5th Street.

From the 5th Street interlocking, IMRL trains go north, parallel to US 67. There are multiple grade crossings where IMRL trains can be photographed.

Also, BNSF has trackage rights into Clinton over the IMRL. BNSF keeps a light road switcher in Clinton, which is often found idling near 5th Street.

The building northwest of the 5th Street interlocking is the old CNW station, which is now used by a private business. There is a hobby shop, Rusti's Miniatures, located on 11th Avenue about a half block west of 4th. A Dairy Queen is also nearby. The HyVee supermarket on 4th Avenue has a deli. Other fast food establishments are located west of 4th Street on US-30.

ENTERTAINMENT AND FOOD There now is riverboat gambling in Clinton, so you should have no trouble finding something to do if it rains or at night if you're staying over. There are plenty of motels and restaurants in the general area of US 30.

[NOTE: Thanks to Tom Persoon for this information.]

Back to the top

CLINTON -- UNION PACIFIC YARD (September 20, 1998)

The UP yard office and engine facility are located off 14th Street, which intersects with US-30 about two miles west of 4th Street. Parking in the area is limited, and the 14th Street overpass provides a good vantage, but there is a nasty chain-link fence, which limits pix.

[NOTE: Thanks to Tom Persoon for this information.]

Back to the top


From I-280, take IA-22 Exit (last exit in Iowa if eastbound, first in Iowa if westbound) and go east on IA-22 about 300 yards past I-280 to first road on right. Turn right and follow this road, which parallels I-280, until you reach the IMRL tracks. Nahant yard is to your left, and the engine facility is right in front of you.

The road is public, and it goes along the west side of the roundhouse (formerly Milwaukee Road) so you can safely photograph power on the turntable and in the engine facility from the street. Another public street continues around the back of the roundhouse and along the south side of Nahant Yard. The yard office is located at the end of this street. You can photograph trains from the employee parking lot near the yard office. [NOTE: Thanks to Tom Persoon for this information.]

Back to the top


The Crandic yard is located along the Iowa River between Burlington and Benton Streets. Assuming you're coming from the IAIS, from the intersection of Webster and Page, go west on Page, which becomes Benton Street. Continue west on Benton to the first stop light (Capitol Street), and turn right (north) on Capital; continue on Capitol to Court Street at the stop sign. Turn left (west) on Court, and go 2 blocks to the Crandic yard (whew!). Crandic does not normally keep any motive power in Iowa City.

If you're heading to the Crandic yard directly from I-80, follow these directions: From I-80, take exit 244 (Dubuque Street) and go south to the 3rd stoplight (Market Street). Turn right (west) on Market Street, and go 3 blocks down the hill to Madison Street. Turn left (south) on Madison and go thru the University of Iowa [Webauthor's note: Soon, no doubt, to be re-named the Tom Persoon International University of Higher Trainwatching!!!] campus to Burlington Street (2nd stoplight). Continue south one block past Burlington to Court Street; turn right (west) on to Court, and you will end up at the yard.

[NOTE: Thanks to Tom Persoon for this information.]

Back to the top

IOWA CITY -- IAIS August 27, 1998

Iowa City is the headquarters for the Iowa Interstate Railroad (IAIS). The IAIS has a small yard and single stall engine house here, as well as an interchange with the Cedar Rapids and Iowa City Railroad (CRANDIC).

To reach the IAIS yard from I-80, take exit 244 (Dubuque Street) and go south (toward Iowa City) to the second stop light (Church Street). Turn left on Church, and go 5 blocks to Dodge Street, which is the first stop light. Turn right (south) on Dodge, and continue until you cross the bridge over the IAIS yard. Turn right on the first street after the bridge (Page Street), go one block to Webster Street, and then right again. Webster Street ends in the IAIS parking lot; the engine house is on your left, and the headquarters building (crews call it the depot) is on the right. You can take pix from the parking lot and surrounding streets, but do not stray into the yard itself.

The interchange between the IAIS and Crandic is located two blocks west and two blocks south, near the intersection of Kirkwood Avenue and Gilbert Court.

[NOTE: Thanks to Tom Persoon for this information.]

Back to the top


From Waterloo, go east on US 20 to Iowa 150, and then 16 miles north to Oelwein.

This is one of those truly remarkable railroad places which can never die -- yet it has. For decades, there was a truly monumental deadline here, a kind of Smithsonian Institution of midwestern railroading death. Today, all pretense of historical nicety is gone -- Oelwein is dead. If you've never been there, for God's sake get up there and see the place -- you probably won't understand it all, but you'll at least have a clue. Oelwein was special, and even in its vast emptiness, it is still special.

Back to the top