Sunday, January 28, 2007

Bringing Back the CRANDIC

We could fail to explain what the CRANDIC is and what it means to any railfan who visited eastern Iowa during the golden age, but that would be too much fun and also would probably drive away new readers of this blog. We have correctly used it as an acronym above, but it is more likely that you will see it just as Crandic.

The Crandic is the Cedar Rapids and Iowa City, a former interurban (until 1953) with a colorful past, a reasonably successful present, and, if this article has anything to say about it, a possible future as a revived electric passenger hauler. The Crandic may one day serve as a "light rail" line, the modern equivalent of a light interurban. A lot of old interurbans were light, up to some but not all of the standards of the steam railroads and able to haul some, but not all freight.

By today's standards for "steam" roads, they would all be light. This with the possible exception of the last surviving example, CSS&SB. But that has to do with steel mills and possibly with why the South Shore Line survived into the Twenty-First Century as a true-to-life heavy interurban.

As usual, we digress. Our point is that the revival of the Crandic as an electric interurban of sorts just adds to The Evidence.

The Evidence is that American cities made a big mistake by forsaking electric traction for passenger service, both intra- and intercity. Streetcar tracks should have never been pulled up or paved over and what was once electrified should have stayed electrified.

As America moves more to an energy philosophy that includes power generation with non-fossil fuels, electric traction makes more sense. (As of State of The Union 2007, Mr. Bush's energy policy still stinks. Biofuel is a boondoggle. Can anyone still pronounce nuclear correctly? I guess any country whose leader can't pronounce it shouldn't try to use it. But another digression has occurred.)

Alas, the streetcars disappeared in most cities no later than the 1950s. Interurban electric traction (like CSS&SB) disappeared earlier in most cases, and heavy electric traction (like Milwaukee Road's) except for Passenger Rail has been on the ropes for years. Infrastructure cost is part of it, but there was also a time when the so-called experts thought everything would move on rubber tires and Interstate highways. Talk about infrastructure costs!

So much for the experts.

If the Crandic returns in electric configuration, we also hope to see more streetcars and perhaps other electric interurbans. But we can't help imagining what it would be like if the wires had never come down.

©2007 - C. A. Turek -
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