Iowa Interstate's Chinese-built 2-10-2 puts on a show

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Iowa Interstate 2-10-2 No. 6988 arrives in Newton, Iowa, Monday with revenue freight.
Kevin Gilliam
NEWTON, Iowa — Iowa Interstate wrapped up weekend steam excursions with the Central States Steam Preservation Association Monday with a 15-car freight train behind Chinese-built QJ 2-10-2 No. 6988 running from South Amana to Newton.

The locomotive operated on trips to benefit local fire departments that are on the Iowa Interstate main line in Brooklyn and Mitchellville, Iowa.

These were the first operations for No. 6988 since 2012.

On Aug. 18, No. 6988 provided head end power on five sold out excursions running out of Mitchellville. Tagging along with the QJ to provide power on the reverse moves, Iowa Interstate provided GP38-2 No. 703. The Mitchellville trips departed to the west, and backed down grade into the Des Moines River valley, where No. 6988 took over for a spirited climb back to Mitchellville. That evening, No. 6988 deadheaded back to Newton.

The following morning, the steam locomotive headed east to Brooklyn, Iowa, for another round of fire department benefit runs, this time operating east towards the town of Ladora. After the excursions, No. 6988 went east to South Amana for the night to await its freight duties Monday.

With 340 seats per train and five runs, around 1,700 people rode the train each day and all trips sold out. Built in China in 1985 and operating there until coming to the United States in 2006, the locomotive is a solid draw in the Heartland. The Central States Steam Preservation Association hopes to run the locomotive again in 2019.

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