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Dereck's Rail Pics
Railfanning the Oelwein Line (Waterloo-Oelwein, IA)

     The Oelwein Line was owned by the Union Pacific until this spring when Transco Corp., a rail contractor at the end of the line, bought it and has the Iowa Northern run it. The line was built by the Chicago Great Western, which was merged into the Chicago Northwestern in the late 1960s. During the 1970s, the CNW got rid of many of it's ex-CGW lines and downgraded the yard at Oelwein. CNW did continue to use the roundhouse and it's shops, as many of the roads rebuilds were done in Oelwein. In 1995, the CNW and the UP merged.
     Transco operates out of the old CGW roundhouse. They mostly repair freight cars, I think they sometimes paint cars too. Last time I was out there, they did have some ex-CNW units sitting out, but weren't in a good place to be photographed. [see the "Summer of Steam" link for photos of these units] 
     This line runs from Union Pacific's Linden yard, located along Martin Luther King Drive in Waterloo, to Transco's facilities in Oelwein. The office for Linden is at the corner of MLK and Linden Ave. UP's motive power lays over by the Linden Ave road crossing. This is usually a GP15, but I have seen GP38-2s on the line. Transco is located at the west end of the ex-CGW yard, there is a CGW museum at the east end, I belive it is called the Hub City Museum. The museum features a TR1, a bay window caboose, a Rock Island caboose, and 116A. 116A is an FP7 that was donated by the CNW and painted at the Transco shops. The museum also owns several peices of rolling stock, including a hopper and a flat. They hold a swap meet every year during Hub City Heritage Days.
     The line runs from Linden, along MLK to the John Deere plant and out to Armour. There is a potash facility along Elk Run Road called Midwest Bulk. They use an ex-B&M SW9 and an ex-BO&CT SW1. The line then runs to Dewar. When the UP sold the line, they retained ownership of it from Linden to Dewar. This was so they could continue to serve the John Deere factory. I think they wanted to keep the elevator at Dewar and Midwest Bulk which is why they retained it to Dewar. The Union Pacific usually operates this line on Thursday before the Iowa Northern goes out. The UP uses AAR channel 71, which is 161.175.
      Dewar is where the Transco ownership begins. Transco has Iowa Northern run this line, and IANR has trackage rights over the UP from Linden to here. The UP has been trying to sell the line for a while, and initially there was talk that the IANR was to run the line along with the UP, up to Oelwein, so the IANR would have been left to come up with the local traffic by it's self. Instead, UP sold it to Transco, and now Dewar is as far out as the UP goes. If UP is willing to give up the Transco business, one wonders why they retained the John Deere and Dewar elevator. I am told that unit potash trains come down the IANR from Manly with UP runthrough power, so that might be the reason that this part of the line was retained.
     After Dewar, the line goes to Dunkerton. Between the two towns is a nice curve near the Big Rock Road crossing that is photogenic for either direction. At Dunkerton, there is an elevator and a bridge accross the Crane Creek. The bridge is near a park, and there is an island out in the middle of the creek with a picknic table on it. This offers one of the many good photo locations on this line. Dunkerton is a success story as far as the Iowa Northern is concerned. When the begain running the track in April, the elevator in Dunkerton begain to ship by rail again for the first time in 25 years. Go IANR!
     From Dunkerton, the line runs to Fairbank. Between the two is the bridge over the Wapsipinicon River. This is also near a park, with a trail leading up to one of the banks by the road bridge accross the river, which is close to the rail bridge. 
      At the west edge of town, the Iowa Northern crosses the Little Wapsipinnicon River(?) on a nice bridge surrounded by trees, but photos are tough as the only clear view of it that I am aware of is on private property. In Fairbank is an old spur which appears to be out of business, and a passing sideing which I belive hasn't been used in a while Interesting backdrops for the IANR in Fairbank is the easially visable watertower and the trackside public swimming pool.
     The next town up the line is the last one, Oelwein. Oelwein used to be the main yard and shops for the Chicago Great Western, but is now only a shell of it's former self. There is a wye in town, and the yard is on the track that used to run up to the Twin Cities. The other legs of the wye goes to Chicago and Kansas City. The line from Waterloo to Oelwein is on the Kansas City leg.
     To get to Transco, the IANR comes into town from the southwest. It runs along a park, crosses 6th Ave., parallels 6th St., and swings around north on the wye before getting to Frederick St., the main drag in Oelwein. From the wye, the IANR is on the St. Paul main the rest of the way to Transco. After a couple of blocks, the train passes the old yard tower, sanding tower, and office building of the museum. After passing the museum, the IANR pickes it's way through the old yard where Transco stores cars, to the west end where the roundhouse is. Transco uses what I belive is an SW1. The driveway for Transco is on 3rd St. NW, and good views of the switching can be had at the curve in 3rd St. near the driveway for Transco, and off of county W-14 (R Street). The yard extends from back by the museum to just before a gravel road that is, I belive, 240th street. 
     The line then runs northwest all the way to Highway 3 where it ends at the pavement. This is to serve a fuel dealer along the highway. I am not sure if the Transco's switcher serves this industry or if the IANR serves it, most likely Transco. The Iowa Northern and Transco interchange cars at the west end of the yard along W-14. The IANR then runs back down to Waterloo the same way it came up. Good Luck and Happy Shooting!

"Don't ask me. This is your little world, I'm just in it." -Rob, a co-worker