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Iowa interurban freight

By | December 21, 2021

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Locomotive 182 of the Waterloo, Cedar Falls & Northern leads a freight train across the Cedar River bridge south of Waterloo, Iowa, in the late 1940s or early ’50s.
William D. Middleton photo

One thought on “Iowa interurban freight

  1. The first car on that train has a story to tell in it’s own right — it’s a Rath Packing (RPRX) meat reefer.

    Waterloo-based Rath was an old line packer straight out of Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle” And like all its competitors. it faced the challenge of either re-orienting itself or falling by the wayside. In Rath’s case, it fell, and fell hard.

    In 1959, the late Philip Hastings of the “Trains” staff penned an article on a cab ride between Omaha and Chicago on Illinois Central’s “meat train” CC-6. with specific reference to a large cut of RPRX reefers added at Waterloo. That was the last I heard of the traffic until Interstate Route 80 was completed across Pennsylvania’s northern tier in the summer of 1970 and a brand new fleet of refrigerated tractor trailers appeared under the name of Waterloo-based Kroblin Refigerated Express; it wasn’t hard to put two and two together.

    Rath also appeared in increasing frequency in the pages of the Wall Street Journal over the next few years — as a struggling company unable to adjust due to changes in the rigid structure under which it had prospered,

    I got a chance to visit Waterloo while on vacation in 1985, about a year after Rath gave up the ghost. There was still some hope of preserving the classic 1920’s -style corporate offices, but the plant was just waiting for the wrecking ball, and the only business in the area was a pawn shop where some of the former Rath employees went to hock their toys.

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