With over 100 years of service, CRANDIC Rail has a rich history. Once a passenger and freight rail service connecting Cedar Rapids and Iowa City, it has evolved to serve some of the largest manufacturers and ag processors in the area.
Construction on the initial Cedar Rapids and Iowa City Railway line, originally known as the "Interurban," began in 1903.
Formally established under the name Iowa Railway and Light Company, the little railroad eventually became known and nationally recognized as CRANDIC, representing the communities it served: Cedar Rapids and Iowa City.
CRANDIC's original design was for a high-speed 27-mile “interurban” rail system connecting the metropolitan areas of Cedar Rapids and Iowa City.
On August 13, 1904, the first electric cars carrying passengers made their inaugural trip over the Interurban. On the same day, a booster power station was started for the first time. That power station would eventually become the Iowa Electric Power and Light Company, and later into CRANDIC parent company Alliant Energy.
CRANDIC provided both freight and passenger service along its route. A regular schedule began with a two-hour trip between the towns, with a goal of reducing the transit to one hour or less as service became more established.
William D. Middleton Photo
Another asset to the CRANDIC’s popularity was that rail travel provided the convenience and flexibility passengers desired. Many benefited from the CRANDIC's hourly departure from either city, beginning at 5 a.m. and ending at midnight.
No one group characterized the CRANDIC's typical passenger: they came from towns or farms, and included men, women and children of all ages. Children took the train to school on popular cars such as the "Hot Shot," a car that traveled south through North Liberty at 8 a.m. carrying 40-50 students to high school in Iowa City.
Other cars, such as the "Milk Can Special," picked up both milk and students who had missed earlier cars. In a typical day, the train would carry 300 gallons of milk.
Many passengers took the Interurban to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics for medical care. Others went to see a show, eat dinner or take a simple tour of the countryside. CRANDIC also provided special trains to events such as Iowa Hawkeye football games and the Iowa Dairy Show.
The Gazette Photo
The heyday of passenger service would not last long. With the advent of affordable automobiles and a paved highway system, CRANDIC's ridership quickly declined. In 1952, only 188,317 rode the Interurban and only nine round trips were scheduled each day.
The last official run of a CRANDIC passenger train occurred on May 30, 1953. With Engine #119 in the lead, the "Rail Fan Passenger Special" marked the end of the CRANDIC Interurban era.
Ironically, as passenger service declined, freight revenues increased in the same proportions. CRANDIC eventually converted to an all-diesel fleet.
William D. Middleton Photo
From the 1950s-1970s, CRANDIC continued to expand freight service to businesses in the Cedar Rapids and Iowa City corridor.
In the 1980s, CRANDIC acquired the Milwaukee line through Amana, as well as the Rock Island line from Iowa City to Hills. This expansion played a key role in bringing four new major industrial companies to the area in the 1990s.
The Cedar Rapids and Iowa City Railway and Light Company’s first electric interurban train departed from Cedar Rapids on August 13, 1904. On Saturday, Aug. 14, 2004—nearly one-hundred years to the day it began service—350 employees, retirees, customers and dignitaries gathered at the company's maintenance facility to celebrate the milestone. Those gathered enjoyed entertainment and tours of the facilities and equipment.
To mark the event, a retiree monument was unveiled to recognize the employees who contributed to the company’s longevity and success.
CRANDIC continues to flourish in our second century of service. Since 2005, dozens of major upgrades and investments totaling more than $70 million dollars help ensure our continued success. CRANDIC’s achievements and longevity are owed to our founders, retirees and employees for their dedication and ongoing commitment to excellence.