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Active Member
South Council Bluffs

The Iowa Department of Transportation is working to relocate a railroad line as part of a plan to widen Interstate80/Interstate29 from 6 to 12 lanes.

Red X - Track removed
Green - BNSF
Yellow - UP
Pink - IAIS
Blue - Abandoned Wabash (only on one map)

1. This first images shows the track I think they will remove.

2. This is the "Simple" replacement for that track that Joe A, another local railfan, came up with.

3. Here is another Simple alternative that Railfan Rails Came Up with.

However it sounds like they also want to re-route the UP away from the school so here is another alternative that I sketched up.

4. You can see the school on the right, here I have the WYE Joe described and both the BNSF and UP have their own lines that follow the creek.

5. The lines follow each other until they hit Interstate 29 and split. UP would continue south under 29 and the BNSF would wrap around the outside.

6. The BNSF would follow I29 and tie in to the existing BNSF. The UP would cross the BNSF on a new diamond and tie in to their existing power plant lead




It all depends on how much money IDOT and CB can get from the Feds. To reroute away from the school will be costly. Lots of bridges will be needed to accomplish that. It would probably be cheaper to move the school.


New Member
The grain elevator just north of I-29 just spent a bunch of money building a spur for a new loco they are getting. I can't see how they can move or load 100 car shuttle trains with all the track removed from the south end of their yard.


New Member
Brad, here's what I was trying to describe in my earlier emails (my changes all in light blue):

Regarding the Bunge elevator north of I-80/I-29, I believe they could continue to load out unit trains simply by extending their loader across multiple existing Elevator Yard tracks there. This would allow them to take empties from the north and shove them south on each track as they load (as they do today on 2-3 tracks), with outbound unit trains being assembled from there. I'm showing their south yard lead remaining intact to 30th Ave., but I think it's probably more likely that their tracks will all stub at 29th Ave. to avoid the 29th Ave. crossing and I-80/29 underpass.

Given the proposed changes I've heard rumored (outlined below) about the IAIS and BNSF (BNSF basically sharing part of the IAIS's rebuilt ex-MILW yard and conducting interchange there), I don't believe Elevator Yard would be needed for any other purpose.

I don't believe the BNSF's spur to Weyerhauser will survive these changes. I'm not sure they're even receiving rail service today, and I'm sure the city would like to do away with that South Expressway grade crossing. I also don't believe MidAmerican Energy's existing line to their Council Bluffs Energy Center (CBEC) plant will remain. It's shown as a UP line in your illustrations, but actually owned by MidAmerican and jointly operated by UP (CBEC coal) and IAIS (CBEC flyash and SIRE spur).

This image shows the new connection IAIS has planned (upper right corner in blue and black) between their ex-RI main and the ex-MILW yard at the east end. I'm unclear of the exact location, but I'm guessing it'll be somewhere near what I've shown.

The left leg of the wye would enter the east/south end of IAIS's ex-MILW yard and would be used by IAIS (to reach CBEC and SIRE), BNSF (entering CB from the south to use a portion of IAIS's ex-MILW yard as their own) and UP coal trains (to reach CBEC). The right leg would allow BNSF trains from the south to swing onto the Bayard Sub, and would also allow unit trains out of SIRE to move east on the IAIS.

As mentioned above, I believe the existing CBEC line would be gone, and given the limited traffic, I think a single IAIS/UP/BNSF line would suffice between the wye shown above and the north end of the power plant/SIRE trackage.

This looks more complicated than it is. Basically, the BNSF from the south would wye into the joint IAIS/UP CBEC line from the north, and the IAIS line to SIRE (blue and black) would branch off that, cross the BNSF's leg into the plant, and continue south. While the BNSF hasn't served the MidAmerican Energy plant since losing that contract to the UP in about 1997, I believe MidAmerican would demand the south leg of the wye to be built in order to ensure competition on future coal contracts.

I don't believe the BNSF would continue NW and cross the joint IAIS/UP line, as the only potential customers there are the tank farm and Weyerhauser, and I don't think either receives rail service today. From the looks of things, the switches into the siding that once served the former have now been straight-railed.

Apologies for the white blotches in this illustration. I almost forgot to give the BNSF access to Council Bluffs, so I had to remove some X's. :)


There will be two significant bridges in your theory. The Hwy 92 one will really be interesting as the road is elevated at the point of the crossing and there is the need for one over I-29. Not a lot of room to build a gradual grade change off the IAIS or out of the Mid-America energy plant. I really do not see a extremely expensive viadock being buil acroos these either as some fancy track work will be needed to ease the grades for loaded coalers into the plant and loaded etoh trains out of that terminal. The RR's are going to want the track as level as possible due to the tonnage of the coalers, etoh trains and the BNSF Bayard trains.

Maybe IDOT will build new road overpasses on I29 and Hwy 92 but that will be fairly expensive also.


New Member
I didn't make it clear in my plans, but I was envisioning both I-29 and Hwy. 92 passing over the railroad, not vice-versa. Expensive, yes, but given the city's stated desire to move that CBEC line away from the school, I don't see too many other options. If I-29 is being rebuilt anyway, with Hwy. 92 potentially being impacted by that, two new bridges may be a relatively insignificant part of all that. Last I heard, the overall I-80/I-29 rebuild project through CB was going to be pushing $1b by the time of its completion in the 2020s.


New Member
Is this what you guys are talking about, I am no expert on council Bluffs but here are the plans from the Iowa DOT.

If you want more info go to and scroll down to April 3 Council Bluffs Interstate System and look at the project displays for the maps on what they plan to do.


New Member

Wow, thanks! That's really interesting. I appreciate you sharing the links.

Brad, apparently you were right on the money about the BN line staying in place to serve Weyerhauser. And it looks like they will stub the Bartlett elevator tracks (I incorrectly said Bunge before) at 23rd Ave.

I was surprised to see that they plan to leave the north end of the CBEC in place rather than consolidate and run through the IAIS yard, but I didn't think about the IAIS/BNSF not wanting to have their yards clogged by coal trains 2-4 times a day. Looks like the new CBEC line would have an additional track to stage the coalies. Also surprising to see the BNSF get direct access to SIRE. Assuming that's going to cost the IAIS a fair amount in switch charges for loads they pass onto the BNSF today.

Finally, this is the first I'd heard about the new cutoff west of the South Expressway viaduct ( ) to get BNSF trains back to their main to the north. I'd always assumed they'd just stay on the IAIS and run through the UP's yard, but the BNSF main bypasses a good share of the congestion there, so I should have thought of that.

Thanks again for posting these. Having grown up in CB, it's both fascinating and sad to see such major changes to the local rail network. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to - An online railroad bookstore featuring a curated selection of new and used railroad books. Railroad pictorials, railroad history, steam locomotives, passenger trains, modern railroading. Hundreds of titles available, most at discount prices! We also have a video and children's book section. - An online model railroad bookstore featuring a curated selection of new and used books. Layout design, track plans, scenery and structure building, wiring, DCC, Tinplate, Toy Trains, Price Guides and more.

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