Steam Excursions: Iowa Interstate to Run Steam in 2019, UP Might Continue Steam Program Beyond Next Year

The Iowa Interstate has announced that it will operate steam excursions in 2019 to benefit an Iowa volunteer fire department in Menlo.

The Iowa excursions will run on June 29 and are expected to be pulled by QJ-type 2-10-2 No. 6988.

The parent company of the regional railroad, Railroad Development Corporation, owns two Chinese-built steamers, neither of which has operated since 2012.

Iowa Interstate also has said there will be a second QJ operation next summer.
Tickets are priced at $14 for adults, $7 for children 12 and under and can be purchased by calling 641-524-536 or writing to Train Ride, 517 7th Street, Menlo, Iowa, 50164.

In related development, Union Pacific’s CEO has signaled that although the future of his railroad’s steam program is uncertain, it may continue it beyond 2019.

“We’re not sure. But right now, nothing,” Lance Fritz told Trains magazine when asked about the future of the program.

Fritz noted UP will operate several steam trips in 2019. “After that, there’s no sacred cow but I don’t have any plan to do anything different than what we’re doing right now,” he said.

Questions about the programs future have arisen because the railroad is seeking to reduce its expenses and is shifting operating to the precision scheduled railroading model.
Fritz acknowledged the steam program generates a lot of positive attention for the railroad but much of it comes from railfans.

“The question is: Is that a big value add versus what’s required to maintain it. It’s not that big of an asset burden. So it’s not like the math is complex. But we’re not even worried about that math right now. For 2019 we’ve got a big program.”

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