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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


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DUBUQUE AND NORTHWESTERN RAILROAD. A meeting to consider the construction of a railroad from Dubuque through the Wapsipinicon River Valley to the northwesterly corner of Buchanan County and then into Minnesota was held at the DUBUQUE COUNTY COURTHOUSE on June 16, 1883. Estimates were made that the road would be worth more than $40,000 annually to the city. Support was also assured from Delaware and Blackhawk counties. (1)

The Dubuque and Northwestern Railroad Company, was incorporated June 20, 1883, in Iowa. During the spring of 1885, surveyors of the Dubuque and Northwestern staked out a line from Dubuque which passed five miles north of Dyersville. Their instructions were to secure a short route to the Twin Cities, to compete with the Minnesota and Northwestern building from St. Paul. By September, 1885, a total of $95,000 had been received from a railroad tax with a balance of $65,000 still due and coming in gradually. (2)

The citizens of Dyersville watched their movements closely. A serious setback for the community and depreciation in all classes of business and real estate would result if the railroad could not be attracted. It was understood that in order to secure the new line, considerable influence and financial help for the railroad was required.

A group of businessmen traveled to Dubuque to meet with railroad management. The Dubuque and Northwestern was given right of way through the corporate limits of Dyersville, and three full blocks of lots were provided for yard purposes. All of the residences located on the land were to be moved off at the town's expense.

The company constructed the line from Dubuque to a point near Thorpe, Iowa during 1885 and 1886. On November 30, 1886 the railroad conveyed its property to the Minnesota and Northwestern Railroad Company of Minnesota. (3) This gave the Minnesota and Northwestern Railroad Company a complete line of railroad from St. Paul to Dubuque, the line from Hayfield to Lyle where it connected with the Illinois Central, and a line from Sumner west to Hampton, Iowa. (4)

The Minnesota and Northwestern Railroad's depot in Dubuque was a two-story brick building at 399 East 8th Street. The building was later purchased by the Chicago Great Western.



1. "The New Railroad," Daily Times, June 17, 1883, p. 3

2. "Caught on the Fly," The Dubuque Herald, September 17, 1885, p. 4

3. Donovan, Frank P. Jr. Iowa Railroads. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2000, p. 57

4. "A Brief History Of the Construction And Operation of the Chicago Great Western Railway Company," Train Web. Online: http://trainweb.org/ucgw/hsfcgw10.htm

5. Meyer, Jeffrey J. "Inter-century Railroad Station," Julien's Journal, February 2012, p. 50