Iowa Traction

1. It was foggy in Emery, Iowa on the morning of August 22, 2006. As I arrived at the Iowa Traction shop and yard, only an indistinct orange blob gave any indication that any of the railroad's ancient electric locomotives were present. As the fog lifted, little by little, IATR Baldwin-Westinghouse type B steeplecab # 50 came into view. Here it is pictured as the mist retreated into the background.

1. It was foggy in Emery, Iowa on the morning of August 22, 2006. As I arrived at the Iowa Traction shop and yard, only an indistinct orange blob gave any indication that any of the railroad’s ancient electric locomotives were present. As the fog lifted, little by little, IATR Baldwin-Westinghouse type B steeplecab # 50 came into view. Here it is pictured as the mist retreated into the background.

Today, we are featuring more fine photography from guest contributor Kenneth Gear, from a trip he took to Iowa in 2006. We thank him for this, and his many other contributions to this site.

Here is what the Wikipedia says about the Iowa Traction Railway, which is keeping a long tradition of electric freight alive:

The Iowa Traction Railway Company (reporting mark IATR), formerly the Iowa Traction Railroad Company, is an electrically operated common carrier railroad running between Mason City and Clear Lake, Iowa, United States, and also serving Rorick Park near Mason City. It can trace its roots back to the Mason City and Clear Lake Railway, which was founded in 1896. The shops were situated in Emery, the midpoint between the two namesake towns. Passenger service began on July 4, 1897. Freight has been the major source of income since the beginning and has been the only source since the charter for trolley service in Mason City expired August 30, 1936. The Mason City and Clear Lake Railway’s name was revised slightly to Mason City and Clear Lake Railroad in 1950, when new owners took over.

The name was changed to Iowa Terminal Railroad in 1961 when new owners from Michigan took over. They acquired the Charles City Western on December 31, 1963. The Charles City Division was dieselized after a tornado destroyed much of the overhead wire on May 15, 1968. Several years later the remaining trackage at Charles City was abandoned. Meanwhile, the Mason City Division continued to operate as usual. The Charles City equipment was transferred to Mason City to replace equipment burned in the November 24, 1967 shop fire. On April 13, 1987, the Iowa Terminal Railroad was sold to Dave Johnson and renamed to Iowa Traction Railroad.

Today, the Iowa Traction continues to actively operate the track between its Emery headquarters (southwest of Mason City) and the Clear Lake Junction with Union Pacific Railroad. Though track exists beyond Emery to Interstate 35 in the west and from Clear Lake Junction to 15th Street Southeast in Mason City to the east, the active portion is Emery to Clear Lake Junction.

2. IATR # 51 with the car barn in the background.

2. IATR # 51 with the car barn in the background.

3. Iowa Traction # 50 at Emery. It was built in 1920 for the Washington & Old Dominion Railroad.

3. Iowa Traction # 50 at Emery. It was built in 1920 for the Washington & Old Dominion Railroad.

4. Iowa Traction # 50 at Emery 8/22/06.

4. Iowa Traction # 50 at Emery 8/22/06.

5. Iowa Traction # 51 in the Emery IA yard. #51 was built by Baldwin-Westinghouse in 1921 for the Northeastern Oklahoma Railway. 8/22/06.

5. Iowa Traction # 51 in the Emery IA yard. #51 was built by Baldwin-Westinghouse in 1921 for the Northeastern Oklahoma Railway. 8/22/06.

6 & 7. Iowa Traction interurban coach # 727 (formerly Chicago North shore & Milwaukee # 102) is just inside the Emery Car barn on August 25, 2006.

6 & 7. Iowa Traction interurban coach # 727 (formerly Chicago North shore & Milwaukee # 102) is just inside the Emery Car barn on August 25, 2006.

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8. IATR interurban car # 727 is all decked out with flags and marker lamps because it will be out and running the next day on a fan trip, the "Mason City Limited". Unfortunately my travel plans did not allow for me to remain in Mason City for another day so I missed seeing this classic interurban running down the rails. August 25, 2006.

8. IATR interurban car # 727 is all decked out with flags and marker lamps because it will be out and running the next day on a fan trip, the “Mason City Limited”. Unfortunately my travel plans did not allow for me to remain in Mason City for another day so I missed seeing this classic interurban running down the rails. August 25, 2006.

9. IATR # 54 was built in 1923 for the Southern Iowa Railroad. Here it is inside the Emery shop.

9. IATR # 54 was built in 1923 for the Southern Iowa Railroad. Here it is inside the Emery shop.

10. Iowa Traction Steeplecab # 51 and Interurban car # 727 inside the shop at Emery.

10. Iowa Traction Steeplecab # 51 and Interurban car # 727 inside the shop at Emery.

11, 12, & 13. Iowa Traction # 51 at night in the yard at Emery, IA The sky being illumined by bright flashes of lightning. Soon a thunder storm rolled through cutting short my attempts at night photography. 8/25/06

11, 12, & 13. Iowa Traction # 51 at night in the yard at Emery, IA The sky being illumined by bright flashes of lightning. Soon a thunder storm rolled through cutting short my attempts at night photography. 8/25/06

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14. Iowa Traction flanger # 32 at Emery, IA

14. Iowa Traction flanger # 32 at Emery, IA

15. Iowa Traction snow plow # 40 at Emery, IA.

15. Iowa Traction snow plow # 40 at Emery, IA.

16. Iowa Traction Steeplecab # 60 is dwarfed by the silos at the AGP soybean processing plant. Mason City, IA. 8/22/06

16. Iowa Traction Steeplecab # 60 is dwarfed by the silos at the AGP soybean processing plant. Mason City, IA. 8/22/06

17. IATR # 60 pulls a cut of hoppers away from the AGP plant at Mason City.

17. IATR # 60 pulls a cut of hoppers away from the AGP plant at Mason City.

18. Iowa Traction Baldwin-Westinghouse type C steeplecab # 60 switching cars at the Mason City AGP plant. This locomotive was built in 1917 for the Youngstown & Ohio River as their # 5.

18. Iowa Traction Baldwin-Westinghouse type C steeplecab # 60 switching cars at the Mason City AGP plant. This locomotive was built in 1917 for the Youngstown & Ohio River as their # 5.

19. IATR # 60 moves light over the 19th Street SW crossing in Mason City. This locomotive remains in revenue service to this day and it was built in 1917. Next year it will be 100 years old and still going strong!

19. IATR # 60 moves light over the 19th Street SW crossing in Mason City. This locomotive remains in revenue service to this day and it was built in 1917. Next year it will be 100 years old and still going strong!

20. Number 60 takes yet another string of hoppers away from the AGP plant. 8/22/06

20. Number 60 takes yet another string of hoppers away from the AGP plant. 8/22/06

21. Steeplecab # 60 also worked for Iowa Traction predecessor Mason City & Clear Lake as # 52. In 1961 the MC&CL was sold and renamed Iowa Terminal. In 1987 abandonment was close at hand when it was purchased by local interests and renamed again, this time to Iowa Traction. The word "traction" was included in the new name so there would be no doubt that the line would remain electric

21. Steeplecab # 60 also worked for Iowa Traction predecessor Mason City & Clear Lake as # 52. In 1961 the MC&CL was sold and renamed Iowa Terminal. In 1987 abandonment was close at hand when it was purchased by local interests and renamed again, this time to Iowa Traction. The word “traction” was included in the new name so there would be no doubt that the line would remain electric

22. Here is one last shot of IATR # 60 hauling a cut of cars at AGP in Mason City on August 22, 2006.

22. Here is one last shot of IATR # 60 hauling a cut of cars at AGP in Mason City on August 22, 2006.

23. August 25, 2006 was grey and overcast in Mason City but the sight of a 1917 built steeplecab electric locomotive in revenue service sure brighten up the day. Cloudy weather afforded the opportunity to get a shot of # 60 leaving AGP from the opposite side.

23. August 25, 2006 was grey and overcast in Mason City but the sight of a 1917 built steeplecab electric locomotive in revenue service sure brighten up the day. Cloudy weather afforded the opportunity to get a shot of # 60 leaving AGP from the opposite side.

24. Steeplecab electric locomotives aren't the only ancient pieces of railroad equipment used on the Iowa Traction. In Mason City this old semaphore signal protects the IATR crossing of the Union Pacific Railroad. 8/26/06.

24. Steeplecab electric locomotives aren’t the only ancient pieces of railroad equipment used on the Iowa Traction. In Mason City this old semaphore signal protects the IATR crossing of the Union Pacific Railroad. 8/26/06.


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