Like many colleges with large football programs, the University of Iowa faces major congestion problems on football game days, when tens of thousands of fans converge on its stadium. But Iowa has come up with an innovative solution to the traffic.
A railroad runs directly behind the football stadium, which got university administrators thinking. Working with Iowa Northern Railway, the University proposed running a train from satellite parking areas to the football stadium on game days.
Iowa Northern thought it was a great idea, and the Hawkeye Express was born.
In the beginning, they leased equipment from Colorado’s Ski Train. For the third season, they purchased a former Amtrak locomtove and 6 bi-level former commuter cars from Chicago’s Metra, now painted in Hawkeye black and gold. The train, while owned by Iowa Northern, operates over tracks owned by Iowa Interstate Railroad (whose chairman, Henry Posner III, is a prominent passenger train advocate).
The train takes 8 minutes to get from the parking areas in Coralville to the stadium and costs fans $10. It has operated for seven seasons of Iowa football.
No other university uses special trains just for football games. But it’s certainly not the only university where fans can ride a train to the game. The University of Pennsylvania’s stadium is just steps from the SEPTA Regional Rail station at University City. Georgia Tech’s Grant Field is just a few blocks from the MARTA subway. And these aren’t the only examples.
In the past, many university stadiums were served by special trains from near and far. For many at the University of Iowa, this service hearkens back to the days when Rock Island trains brought fans from as far away as Chicago.
For most, it’s just a way to avoid parking problems and congestion. And, as the film shows, it’s also a fun way to go.