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Riding the rails: Tama - Montour

Union Pacicic provides rare passenger train trip

July 2, 2013
By John Speer - Editor ( , Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

Some Tama city employees and a couple of guests accompanied Mayor Dan Zimmerman aboard passenger train car on a trip from Tama to Montour and return on Friday morning, June 21.

The Union Pacific Railroad event was aimed at letting city officials know of the safety precautions in place on the mainline freight-carrying tracks which run through Tama and across southern Tama County. Passenger service itself at Tama hasn't been available for more than 50 years. Friday's ride may have given a glimpse of some of the views those riding on the old Chicago-Northwestern and Milwaukee passenger lines saw.

"Right now, 40 to 50 trains daily run through Tama," David Huntley, UP manager Operating Practices at Marshalltown, said on this Friday.

Article Photos

View from the window atop the dome car on a Union Pacific passenger train at the State Street (U.S. Highway 63) crossing in downtown Tama on Friday, June 21. Tama city officials and guests were offered a ride from Tama to Montour and return in order to be acquainted with safety polices and procedures on the UP?Railroad.
News-Herald/John Speer

While the trip was delayed about two hours, those boarding at Tama joined a group identified as employees and family who worked at the Bituminous plant at Tama and had ridden to Tama from Marshalltown.

Huntley said Bituminous along with Tama Paperboard are two stops made by freight trains here.

The boarding area was on Tama's east side, at the crossing east of the Iowa Premium Beef plant.

Friday's three passenger cars were "pushed and pulled" by a locomotive on each end. The trip was aboard the "Columbine" complete with an observation deck.

Huntley said the three cars in use on Friday were of mid-1950s vintage but featured new carpet and seat covers. They are maintained at Omaha for special occasions.

From the observation car passengers were able to get views they likely have never seen before of downtown Tama, areas of the Meskwaki Settlement, the Iowa River and Montour. (Check more photos on Click on CU)

Safety was the message Huntley delivered. In emphasizing what he said was a company commitment he said train crews whom are detected exceeding the speed limit by more than 5 mph are fired. The speed limit through Tama is 70 mph, he said.

Trains are controlled and monitored from Omaha at the UP Automated Train Center. Huntley was able to bring up a screen on his hand-held mobile device which he explained showed the position of all trains in the area as they appear on a large monitor screen in Omaha.

In Tama there are five train crossings. Huntley said the trains are required to signal at a distance of 1/4 mile before each crossing or as closely as they can with some crossings less than that distance apart.

The Union Pacific participates in Operation Lifesaver -a national rail safety education program of which Huntley serves as Iowa division vice president.




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