Recycled rail cars save Iowa officials money

Associated Press

OSAGE, Iowa -- Using old railcars as culverts and bridges is saving officials in some Iowa counties a lot of money as they look for ways to make ends meet.

Jim Hyde, the county engineer for both Mitchell and Worth counties, has been taking advantage of old rail cars for the past two years.

An old tanker car, with the ends cut off, works well as a culvert and is much less expensive than corrugated pipe of the same size. One tank car costs $6,500.

A rail car culvert will soon be installed two miles southwest of McIntire. It will be the fifth one installed in Mitchell and Worth counties this year.


Old flatbed cars, which are made of steel and can handle a load of up to 50 tons, also can be put to good use as a bridge.

A flatbed car bridge is being built in Floyd County just south of Orchard, on the Mitchell County Line Road.

Dustin Rolando, engineer for Floyd and Chickasaw counties, said three flatcars will be welded together and set on concrete abutments to form the bridge. It's the first of its kind in the area, Rolando said.

Using the rail cars to build a bridge also is much cheaper than building a bridge from scratch, he said. A concrete bridge of the same size would cost as much as $150,000.

The road has been closed for some time and the concrete abutments have been poured.

An error made in cutting a rail car to size has delayed the project as officials look for another flatcar that will match.

Rolando said he will consider using more rail cars in the future.

"There are so many structures and so many are going bad," Rolando said.


Hyde said the rail cars are good for low-volume roads, but probably wouldn't be feasible for a paved road with a high volume of traffic.

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