Medium 9780253220738

Iowa's Railroads: An Album

Views: 734
Ratings: (0)

At one point in time, no place in Iowa was more than a few miles from an active line of rail track. In this splendid companion volume to Steel Trails of Hawkeyeland (IUP, 2005), H. Roger Grant and Don L. Hofsommer explore the pivotal role that railroads played in the urban development of the state as well as the symbiotic relationship Iowa and its rails shared. With more than 400 black-and-white photographs, a solid inventory of depots and locations, and new information that is sure to impress even the most well-versed railfan, this detailed history of the state's railroads—including the Chicago & North Western, Cedar Rapids & Iowa City, and the Iowa Northern—will be an essential reference for railroad fans and historians, artists, and model railroad builders.

List price: $38.99

Your Price: $31.19

You Save: 20%

Remix
Remove
 

7 Chapters

Format Buy Remix

1 The Age of Steam

ePub

Much of the history of Iowa is associated directly with the Railway Age. No one would deny that the railroad evolved into a magnificent means of long distance transportation, both for freight and passengers. The process began in the United States at about the point when the first Euro-American settlement occurred in the future territory and later the state of Iowa. By the time residents gained admission into the federal union in 1846, the railroad had emerged from its initial demonstration period. Notions about roadbed design and rails had been largely established, and motive power and rolling stock resembled equipment that for decades would dominate rail operations. As the state matured, so too did railways. On the eve of the Civil War railroad mileage in Iowa had reached 655 miles, but by 1890 trackage had soared to an astonishing 8,366 miles that fully covered the state.

Iowa was well suited for railroad construction. The general terrain in this “Beautiful Land” between the mighty Mississippi and Missouri rivers offered no major impediments for shaping paths for the iron horse. Of course, not all of the state was as flat as a floor, but the hills of the northeast, the “pot and kettle” sections elsewhere, especially in the southern tiers of counties, and the steep loess hills along the banks of the Missouri did not make for painfully difficult and costly construction, conditions that often confronted railroad builders in other sections of the country. After all, crossing the spine of the Allegheny Mountains, for example, had been time consuming and expensive, forcing such roads as the Baltimore & Ohio and the Pennsylvania to drive and maintain costly tunnels, deep cuts, and monumental bridges.

 

2 Under the Wire

ePub

Iowans benefited from more than the highly developed grid work of steam railroads. Although the Hawkeye State never became the heartland of the electric interurban railway, a significant number of intercity electric or so-called juice roads emerged between the late 1890s and early 1900s. This new technology appeared in scattered sections of the state, excluding the southwest, with important concentrations in the Des Moines and Cedar River valleys and the coalfields of the south. In 1916 the nation’s interurban network reached more than 15,000 miles and Iowa claimed nearly 500 miles of this total, the greatest mileage of any state west of the Mississippi River except for California and Texas.

What was the electric interurban or electric traction railway? Unlike the street railway or trolley, which only provided local service within a community and possibly a short extension into the adjoining countryside to serve an amusement park, lake, or cemetery, the interurban was designed to connect two or more communities with services similar to those provided by a conventional steam railroad hauling passengers, express, and at times carload freight. These electric interurbans, according to an early advocate, “will perform a service for mankind as notable and perhaps ultimately as great as that rendered by its steam-operated precursor.” A revolution in technology made the interurban possible. In the 1880s engineers and others proved that electricity could be harnessed for urban transportation, and a decade later additional research demonstrated the feasibility of long distance intercity electric railways. In 1899 a system of three-phase alternating current (AC) transmission was perfected that significantly reduced voltage losses; refinements continued, most notably the efficient change by rotary converters of AC to direct current (DC) power.

 

3 Down at the Depot

ePub

Before the widespread presence of internal combustion motor vehicles rails bound together state and nation. At every official railroad station Iowans gained formal access through the depot building to the iron horse or perhaps to an electric interurban car. For decades the gateway to the community, each “deeepo” (a popular pronunciation) meant much to residents.

The depot was usually placed in a central location, although because of line routing, the structure might appear in an outlying area. The selection of a more remote site may have been the result of the local topography or because the railroad arrived after the town site had been established and it was discovered that the expense of a more suitable place was unacceptable. A. B. Stickney, founder and longtime head of the Chicago Great Western Railway (CGW), told fellow executives that “the depot should be built in as close to the business center of the city as possible . . . That way the public will remember you.” It is understandable, then, that when his company constructed its Omaha Extension between Fort Dodge and Council Bluffs in 1902–1903, the depot in Carroll stood only a few steps from the main commercial establishments and just a block from the courthouse.

 

4 Shipping by Rail

ePub

The bread and butter for railroads in Iowa involved freight, including carload and less-than-carload shipments. Simply put: freight paid most of the bills. It was common for the early carriers to dispatch only a single daily except Sunday freight train that conducted switching chores at the various stations. As a system of trunk carriers matured, however, long distance or through trains traveled main lines and likewise the number of local freights increased. On branch lines and shortlines, however, the freight volume generally remained light, with perhaps only a lone movement. And these poky freights might even provide space for passengers, either in an attached coach or caboose, thus becoming “mixed trains” that accommodated “hogs and humans,” as the expression went. Since some traffic moved seasonally or was tied to the vagaries of the local, regional, or national economy, extra trains accommodated these needs. This was particularly true for the annual grain rush that followed the summer and fall harvests and for such shipments as blocks of ice that were cut during the winter months and coal that increased during the heating season.

 

5 Working on the Railroad

ePub

The distinguished American railroad historian Richard C. Overton liked to make the point that “the railroad was commonly the first wage-earning experience for farm boys.” And that statement frequently held true for Iowans. Farm lads often found agricultural work unattractive; the monotony of farm life, with its seasonal and daily cycles of often backbreaking toil, was hardly enjoyable. For decades the chance to become a railroader held bright promises. The likelihood of a steady job in an expanding industry, which by 1920 employed more than two million workers nationally, looked good indeed. As railroad unions or “brotherhoods” gained strength, pay increased and for some railroaders this meant having the means to buy a home and to have other extras for the family. Over time brotherhoods contributed to an improved work environment, including safer conditions. Then there was the excitement of the work, especially in train service, for virtually every day would hold different experiences. Furthermore, at a time when most people did not journey far from home and when paid vacations and leisure weekends had not yet evolved, a railroader could travel great distances at little or no cost, often using a trip or annual pass, or perhaps by showing a brotherhood membership card to an accommodating train crew. “There were a lot of thrills being a railroader and I was glad that I made that choice,” opined a former Appanoose County farm boy who, as a teenager with only a country school education, became a fireman and later a locomotive engineer for the Wabash Railroad in Moulton.

 

6 The Diesel Revolution

ePub

Every industry has experienced technology replacements and railroads are no exceptions. Arguably the most important change came with the introduction of diesel-electric locomotives, initially for switching and then for passenger and freight service. The “diesel revolution” radically altered the nature of railroading in Iowa and the nation.

Early in the twentieth century some Iowans became familiar with a precursor of the modern diesel locomotive. Several railroads, including the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy (Burlington), Chicago Great Western (CGW), Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific (Milwaukee Road), and Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific (Rock Island), experimented with or placed into regular service internal combustion equipment. The CGW, a spunky, innovative carrier, became one of the country’s first major roads to extensively employ this form of propulsion. In 1910 the CGW tried out four gasoline-fueled combination passenger, mail, and express units. These pieces of rolling stock, built by the McKeen Motor Car Company of Omaha, Nebraska, had six-cylinder, 200-horsepower engines and provided seating for more than eighty passengers. And these self-propelled cars with their sleek contours which featured knife-noses and porthole windows anticipated the design of later-day streamliners. The CGW replaced more expensive conventional steam-powered passenger trains with these McKeen “wind splitters”; cars operated on local runs between Blockton and St. Joseph, Missouri; Mason City and Fort Dodge–Lehigh; and Waterloo and Des Moines. When automobiles later siphoned off patrons, the CGW and other roads acquired more self-propelled cars as performance quality improved and the need to economize increased. By the 1920s the General Electric and Electro-Motive companies became the principal manufacturers. Unlike McKeen cars, later gas- and diesel-electrics were designed without any consideration to streamlining. “They usually had a front end that was chopped off square with such locomotive appurtenances as bells, headlights, markers, and air horns more or less haphazardly mounted on them,” remarked railroad historian William D. Middleton. “On the roof in disorderly array were located complicated-looking pipe radiators, mufflers, and exhaust stacks.” These passenger units, commonly called “doodle-bugs,” “galloping geese,” or some equally derisive, yet affectionate, nickname by the public, frequently pulled trailers to expand their revenue capabilities. But it would be on secondary main lines and branch lines, rather than the “high iron,” where most of these doodlebugs found their regular assignments. Yet after World War II the Minneapolis & St. Louis Railway proved the exception when it acquired comfortable stainless steel and air conditioned coaches that its rail motor cars pulled on the main lines between Albert Lea, Minnesota, and Albia and Des Moines.

 

7 In Recent Times

ePub

No industry remains static, else it atrophies and perishes. Railroads in Iowa underscore the intrinsic truth of that statement. Since the 1960s the railroad scene has undergone monumental changes. It has been a fluid period, ironically somewhat reminiscent of the building and consolidation process of the nineteenth century. A combination of happenings, including massive line abandonments, corporate mergers, regulatory reforms, start-up shortlines and regionals, and technological betterments has reshaped railroading throughout the state.

Any observant person who today roams the Iowa landscape will notice the remains of former rail lines. Although some of these abandoned rights-of-way may have been obliterated by farmers seeking to increase their production acreages and urban dwellers wishing to build structures or expand their yards, hundreds of miles remain somewhat intact, albeit nearly always chocked with weeds, brush, and trees. But a few pieces of these one-time routes of the iron horse have become public hiking and biking paths, products of an active statewide rails-to-trails movement. Testifying to the popularity of these recreational resources, the Heritage Trail follows sections of the Chicago Great Western (CGW) in eastern Iowa, and the Wabash Nature Trail follows portions of the Wabash in southwestern Iowa.

 

Details

Print Book
E-Books
Chapters

Format name
ePub
Encrypted
No
Sku
B000000031857
Isbn
9780253013767
File size
79.6 MB
Printing
Allowed
Copying
Allowed
Read aloud
Allowed
Format name
ePub
Encrypted
No
Printing
Allowed
Copying
Allowed
Read aloud
Allowed
Sku
In metadata
Isbn
In metadata
File size
In metadata