On August 14, 2008, Railroad Development Corporation and Iowa Interstate announced a weekend of steam operations as a fundraiser for the Salvation Army, as a way of thanking and supporting them for their relief efforts during the record-breaking summer floods of 2008. The railroad would run four sets of trips out of Rock Island, IL - two runs towards Walcott, IA, three runs towards Silvis, IL, a dinner train to Walcott and back, and a Sunday trip from Rock Island to Iowa City - with all proceeds going to charity. All costs - operations, food (in the case of the dinner train), and staff - were donated either by the railroad, their partners, the City of Rock Island, or individuals so that every dollar raised went straight to the Salvation Army.
In addition to the passenger trips, IAIS planned to run what was billed as a "record setting" amount of tonnage behind steam on Saturday morning. Well, record-setting for the 21st Century, at least, since much more tonnage was routinely handled before mainline dieselization. Since the railroad needed to get 6988 and 7081 from Iowa City to Rock Island anyway, they just attached what appeared to be the regular freight from ICRI (the IC-RI turn) on the back, totalling 62 cars and some 6950 tons. The weather was supposed to be beautiful for a chase, but Saturday broke with a dense fog overlying most of the route. Still, though, there were good spots where the sun broke through, such as West Liberty and Walcott, and by the time the freight reached Rock Island for the main events, the fog had all burned off.
The afternoon consisted of five shorter runs: three from downtown Rock Island towards Silvis at 1200h, 1400h, and 1600h, and two towards Walcott at 1300h and 1500h. One steam engine, four passenger cars, and a GP38-2 (for the reverse move) were assigned to each. In addition, for those waiting on their train or just watching the activities, Iowa Interstate had IAIS 502 on display in the downtown yard. Looking at ticket sales before the event, the Walcott trips were selling reasonably well, but the Silvis trips looked to be struggling a bit. I don't know how exactly it panned out, but those observations were mirrored by the number of people I saw on board.
On Saturday night, the railroad ran a dinner train consisting of IAIS 7081, BNSF 45 (Powder River), IAIS's own 100 and 101 (Hawkeye and Abraham Lincoln), and IAIS 716 on the back for the shove from Walcott. (Note: 716 was likely following and not added until we started back from Walcott.) The chefs for the occasion were all either RRDC or IAIS employees, representing four different sites on the globe - Robert Pietrandrea, President of RRDC (Pittsburgh), Mick Burkhart, IAIS Chief Transportation Officer (Cedar Rapids), Hugo Avila from RRDC's Ferrocarril Central Andino (Peru), and Joel Lopez of RRDC's Ferrovías Guatemala. In addition, a wonderful selection of wines for the evening was provided by Dmitri Papageorgiou of Dmitri Wine & Spirits. If any of the chefs happen to see this, I want to both thank you for volunteering your time and talent, and commend you on what has to be the best charity dinner I've ever eaten.
One final charity trip was made Sunday morning - the return run from Rock Island to Iowa City with both QJs on the front end, followed by the coaches, and bought up in back by IAIS's pair of business cars. The train ran just a hair late, not clearing West Davenport until a bit after 0900h (scheduled departure was 0830h), and arrived in Iowa City at around 1115h, with the full fan contingent trailing behind.
I'd just like to thank everyone RRDC and IAIS once again for putting on this weekend and for donating so much in support of the Salvation Army. It's a phenominal thing for a railroad to come out and put on such a grand affair, all in the name of charity. I'm glad to have been a part of it.
I'd also like to encourage my fellow fans who were there, particularly if you didn't get the chance to contribute during the event, to consider make a donation through [their website].
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This work is copyright 2008 by Nathan D. Holmes
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All photographs in this trip report were taken with a Canon EOS 40D using either a Canon 24-105mm F4 L IS/USM, Sigma 18-50mm, or a Canon 100-400mm f4.5-5.6L IS/USM.