The Cedar Rapids & Iowa City Railway, "The Crandic Route"
The Cedar Rapids & Iowa City Railway (also known as the "Crandic
Route", following its initials) is one of a very few original interurban
lines that survives, quite successfully, today as a Class III, shortline. When the interurban industry sprung to life around the turn of the 20th century most builders put little stock
into potential freight traffic believing that regional and local
passenger business would sustain their lines for many years.
Unfortunately, this proved to be a mistake as the industry faltered less
than two decades later. However, a few lines like the Crandic were
visionaries and spent much effort developing freight traffic. It proved
so well for the little interurban, which connected its namesake cities
in eastern Iowa that freight derived nearly all of its traffic even
during the early years. After passenger service ended the road
dieselized and today it continues to thrive on a mix of interchange
traffic and several customers.
The Cedar Rapids and Iowa City Railway (reporting marks, CIC) first began operations on August
13, 1904 during the major interurban construction boom that occurred
during the first decade of the 20th century. The Crandic was owned by
the Iowa Railway & Light Company. At the time it was rather common
for power companies to either own or purchase interurbans since they
could provide electricity to the right-of-way as well as derive any
potential profits from the line. The Crandic's original main line
connected Cedar Rapids with Iowa City to the south, a distance of 27
miles. The fact that the property was privately owned was significant
for a few reasons; first, they had complete jurisdiction over their
route (many interurbans obtained free rights-of-way along roadsides that
proved problematic in later years), and second this allowed the company
to utilize lower grades and easier curvature (using a public roadway
meant interurbans were dealt whatever grades and curves the route was
constructed to, which normally meant the lay of the land).
It was not long before the Crandic built up a successful carload and
interchange freight business, which was thanks to the fact that at Iowa
City it interchanged with the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific
Railroad (the Rock Island) and did the same with the Milwaukee Road and
Chicago & North Western at Cedar Rapids (and later the Illinois
Central). Additionally, because Iowa University
was located in Iowa City the interurban saw steady commuter traffic for
several years. In 1914 with operations humming along and revenue high
the company looked to expand operations to Davenport. Had it done so
the Crandic would have connected with fellow interurban Clinton,
Davenport & Muscatine as well as additional connections with the
C&NW, Rock Island, and Milwaukee Road. Starting from Cedar Rapids
it reached Mt. Vernon and as far as Lisbon about 17 miles away to the
Unfortunately, the plan proved too expensive and with little online traffic from the branch it was scrapped in 1928. The road, however, continued to prosper and was still seeing decent passenger traffic after World War II and during the very early 1950s allowing it to dispatch up to 14 trains per day. However, this service began to plummet as early as 1952 and by May 30, 1953 it abandoned passenger operations altogether. Directly after this the "new" shortline railroad scrapped its overhead catenary for diesel locomotives mostly in the way of early EMD switchers. With freight volumes during the times allowing the Cedar Rapids and Iowa City Railway to see revenues topping more than $1 million annually it is no surprise the company was quick to end its passenger business once it began to do more harm than good to its overall bottom line.
From the 1950s through the 1960s and into the 1970s the Crandic
continued to function in much the same fashion, providing service to
local customers and interchange operations with the Milwaukee, C&NW,
IC, and Rock Island. As the industry hit rock bottom in the 1970s,
however, things began to change with both the Rock and Milwaukee in
serious financial difficulty. With the bankruptcy
of the CMStP&P the Crandic picked up its line between Cedar Rapids
and just south of Amana, a distance of about 20 miles (this line once
connected to Ottumwa). Also, with the Rock being liquidated in 1980 the
railroad purchased 15 miles of its branch between Iowa City and
Montezuma to Hills. Today, the company still operates these lines along
with its original route; in total owning about 60 miles, which does not
include sidings, yards, and spurs.
In place of classic lines like those mentioned above today the
Crandic Route interchanges with Union Pacific, Iowa Interstate, Iowa
Northern, and Chicago Central & Pacific. The railroad's traffic
base is a mixture of interchange traffic along with agriculture, coal,
and paper products (this has
changed somewhat from its early years when traffic was a mix of coal,
milk, lumber, and agriculture). Interestingly, for a line just 60 miles
in length it employs almost 100 with carloads nearly reaching 100,0000
annually. The line's motive power continues to use a yellow livery
from its early years, although today with some equipment coming from
Union Pacific it has merely removed the Class I's markings in place of
its own (which includes its original logo, "The Crandic Route" with an
outline of the state of Iowa).
Cedar Rapids & Iowa City Railway Locomotive Roster
115, 121-123, 130-133
While trains on the line may no longer "Swing and Sway the Crandic Way"
(a popular song derived from the rocking motion of the fast "Red Devil"
interurban cars it purchased from the defunct Cincinnati & Lake Erie
in 1939) the railroad looks to remain a strong Class III, shortline for
years to come given its diverse traffic base and numerous interchange
partners; not bad for an interurban that survived that downfall of an
industry that collapsed between 1920 and World War II. Perhaps history on the Crandic will repeat itself. In July of 2015 it was announced a new study would be undertaken looking at the possibility of restoring passenger service between Iowa City and Eastern Iowa Airport in Cedar Rapids to cut down on growing congestion along nearby Interstate 380. If you would like to learn more about the Cedar Rapids & Iowa City please click here to visit their official website.