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Encyclopedia Dubuque


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This railroad sign was posted just outside the Chicago, Burlington and Northern Railroad depot in Dubuque until the 1980s. Photo courtesy: Bob Reding
Illinois Central passenger depot. Library of Congress
RAILROADS. Having a railroad pass through your community in America's past meant having the opportunity for the town to prosper. John PLUMBE, Jr. recognized this early as 1836 and began laying plans. In 1838 enough work had been done for a committee of five prominent Dubuque residents, including Plumbe, to draft a resolution to Congress for the construction a transcontinental railroad connecting the MISSISSIPPI RIVER near Dubuque to Lake Michigan. (1) The proposed railroad would be only about 150 miles long. in person and at his own expense, Plumbe began the inspection of the route. Buoyed by his success, Plumbe in 1849 discovered a route through South Pass for a railroad to use in reaching the Pacific Ocean.

Attempts to secure an appropriation from the Iowa Territorial Legislature met with failure. Legislators believed they should not help establish a railroad route outside of their territory. They also believed that the proposed railroad failed to help anyone else in the territory. (2) On December 7, 1836 the BELMONT AND DUBUQUE RAILROAD COMPANY was incorporated. Stock was sold in February, 1837. (3)

Interest in railroad construction continued to build. In March, 1848 Caleb H. BOOTH as chairman and Alonzo P. WOOD with W. H. Merritt as secretaries directed a meeting in Dubuque which wrote resolutions favoring the construction of railroad from Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River at Jordan's Ferry, opposite Dubuque. Those selected to formally write to Congress were Lucius Hart LANGWORTHY, Timothy MASON, Thomas S. WILSON, W. Y. Lovell, Lincoln CLARK, George Washington Jones, and W. W. Coriell. A large railroad convention was held in Dubuque on May 20, 1848 at which resolutions favoring railroads and the sale of stock were passed. (4) Dubuque representatives on the State Railroad Committee were Peter LORIMIER and Lucius Hart Langworthy.

Plumbe's original idea of donating alternate section of land for railroad construction was first applied in 1848-49 to the DUBUQUE AND KEOKUK RAILROAD. Businessmen in Dubuque and other communities were particularly anxious to see a rail connection to Lake Michigan. Businesses in St. Louis and many boat lines worked cooperatively to charge high prices. A rail line could break that monopoly. Proposals were made to link Dubuque to the Red River in the North making Dubuque the focal point for all lines reaching to the Northwest. There was no much news and reports of projects that MINERS' EXPRESS (THE) in 1850 began a "Railroad Department."

The City of Galena in August 1852 prohibited the ILLINOIS CENTRAL RAILROAD from passing through that city. The hope was that this would prevent the railroad from building further westward toward Dubuque. At a citizens' meeting on September 22, 1852 the proposition was made that the City of Dubuque should purchase $100,000 of stock in the Milwaukee, Janesville & Mississippi Railroad. The voters approved of the idea a few weeks later with only 9 negative votes. In June, 1852 the Chicago & Galena Union Railroad announced that it would reach Galena in eighteen months causing further excitement. (5)

Shortly after the construction of the Illinois Central began in Illinois, Lucius Hart Langworthy, Jesse P. FARLEY, and Plumbe began plans for a transcontinental railroad westward from Dubuque to the Pacific Coast.

Milwaukee-St. Paul depot
A meeting in Dubuque on April 28, 1853, was held to organize the company. The name DUBUQUE AND PACIFIC RAILROAD was chosen with the company's capital stock fixed at $10 million. The company was formally incorporated on May 19, 1853. Besides Langworthy and Farley, those involved in the company included Asa HORR and Platt SMITH. In May, 1853 more than one hundred fifty citizens petitioned the Dubuque city council to purchase $100,000 in the DUBUQUE AND PACIFIC RAILROAD. Voters approved of that measure by 466 to 79. (6) The council was not always accommodating. In October, President Nelson Dewey, of the Southern Wisconsin road asked the council for $50,000 in aid. He was rejected. On December 1, 1853 Peter LORIMIER offered free-of-charge ten acres of land near his LEAD smelting furnace along the Mississippi River for a railroad depot. Put to a vote, the measure passed by 677 for and 285 against.

The citizens continued to support the purchase of select railroad stock. The city purchased $150,000 of stock in the Mississippi and Milwaukee (formerly called the Southern Wisconsin) in January, 1855. Notice was made at the time that Dubuque and Dubuque County citizens had made significant purchases:

            The city has already pledged its credit for one hundred 
            thousand dollars to the Southern Wisconsin road; one
            hundred thousand to the Dubuque & Pacific. Individuals
            in the city are pledged to the latter for one hundred to
            the latter for one hundred and fifty thousand dollars.
            The county is pledged to the same for two hundred thousand
            dollars, and the bonds of the city are already in the market
            for thirty thousand dollars. This make for five hundred and
            eighty thousand dollars.  Add to this one hundred and fifty
            thousand dollars voted on 2n inst. and we have the handsome
            little sum of seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars.
            Truly, we are a progressive people.
                            Express and Herald, January 4, 1855 (7)

Although those who incorporated the railroad were men of great wealth, the immense amount of capital needed to fund the ambitious project required two years of fund raising. Construction bonds were sold as low as fifty cents on the dollar in some places.

Aware of their achievements, railroad investors and representatives paused on June 11, 1855. A group of twenty ladies and gentlemen using seats placed on the gravel cars, were carried by railroad from Dunleith to Galena in about forty minutes. A train of passenger cars arrived on June 9, 1855 from Galena to Dunleith. The Tete des Mortes branch of the Dubuque and Pacific was considered in 1855-1856 and construction was started in 1857. Dubuque citizens, however, rejected in 1855 the granting of the north half of Middle Island to the Dubuque and Pacific by a vote of 130-614.

The Illinois Central reached Dunleith in the summer of 1855. The celebration in Dubuque exceeded the amount which had been collected to pay for it by $402. The actual construction of the Dubuque and Pacific from Dubuque to Dyersville began on October 1, 1855.

Anticipating a business boom, speculators doubled land prices in Dubuque almost overnight. The construction of the railroad fueled further immigration into Iowa. Dubuque hotels accommodated 865,045 travelers in 1855. It was perhaps the booming economy that led to the special election on December 13, 1856. The question of whether the city of Dubuque should borrow $500,000 for railroad purposes passed 1,456-4. (8)

On September 10, 1856 a pot-bellied, wood-burning locomotive, the "Dubuque," from New Jersey was ferried across the Mississippi. The "Jesse P. Farley," named for the president of the railroad arrived soon after and made its first trip to Dyersville on May 11, 1857. The track did not have rock ballast, so cordwood was used to firm the rail bed. Despite this, the engine jumped the rails three times on its first trip. (9) The time schedule was as follows:

                    Dubuque to Julien..............60 minutes
                    Julien to Caledonia (Peosta)...26 minutes
                    Caledonia to Epworth...........40 minutes
                    Epworth to Farley..............28 minutes
                    Farley to Dyersville...........35 minutes
Chicago-Milwaukee depot
The first train entered Earlville, then boasting two houses, on September 22, 1856.

Work began by the DUBUQUE SOUTH WESTERN RAILROAD COMPANY in January, 1857. The contract at $25,000 per mile called for the construction of four miles between the junction with the Dubuque and Pacific and the 27 miles between Farley and Anamosa. The same month the DUBUQUE, ST. PETER AND ST. PAUL RAILROAD was organized. The City of Dubuque, by a special act of the legislature was authorized to purchase $250,000 of stock in the railroad through an issuance of bonds. The citizens voted 1,129 for and 94 against. In May, 1827 work began on the Dubuque and Southwestern Railroad along LAKE PEOSTA. The first shipment, 450 barrels of flour, from the "interior" on the Dubuque and Pacific arrived in Dubuque in May, 1857. (10)

The panic of 1857 came as a severe blow to the Dubuque and Pacific, although it appeared at times that everything was progressing. On May 1, 1857 the Dubuque Daily Express and Herald predicted: (11)

              The Dubuque & Pacific Railroad may, and we
              believe will become the great highway of
              the world from the Atlantic to the Pacific,
              while the North-West road will form a link 
              of that great chain of Railroads (sic), the
              Illinois Central being another, which are
              to unite and bind Hudson's Bay, the great
              inland sea of the North and the Gulf of
              Mexico as well as eventually connect the
              two parts of the American continent together.

The Illinois Central and Dubuque and Pacific obtained a large site during the summer for a station and depot at Jones and Iowa STREETS and pledged to build a $100,000 union depot. A railroad bridge was also considered. (10) Nearly all of the land, however, the company received--1,251,040 acres--was immediately sold or given to creditors at an estimated price of two dollars per acre. (12) By the end of the year the company was almost entirely under the control of Abram S. Hewitt of New York due to its inability to pay interest on construction bonds. On November 4, 1857 the Express and Herald announced that the contract cost for the first thirty miles from Dubuque to Dubuque to Dyersville had ben $1,100,000 or $36,666 per mile. (13) Trying to keep confidence in the project alive led the Dubuque and Pacific Railroad to publish Northern Iowa: Containing Hints and Information of Value to Emigrants, a wonderful example of boosterism describing Iowa's opportunities. Some income came to the cash-strapped Dubuque and Pacific when the DUBUQUE WESTERN RAILROAD leased the line as far as Farley Junction in 1857. It passed southwestward from there to Anamosa with the destination being the Iowa coal fields.

Stock purchased by votes of the citizens of Dubuque prior to October, 1858 continued to be enthusiastic: (14)

               Dubuque and Pacific. . . . .   $200,000
               Dubuque Western .  . . . . .   $250,000
               Turkey River Valley. . . . .   $200,000
               Dubuque and St Peters. . . .   $750,000
               Dubuque and Bellevue . . . .   $100,000
               Southern Wisconsin . . . . .   $150,000
                                Total       $1,650,000
                            (equivalent to $45,419,752.80 in 2018)

With all the money involved, there were instances of graft and misrepresentation. The Express and Herald in March, 1857 demanded to know the exact route the Dubuque, St. Paul and St. Peter Railroad had planned before endorsing its additional request for $500,000. Apparently some changes were made before the money was granted--the company had planned to start from Dyersville. The Illinois Central in 1859 charged Dubuque shippers thirty cents more per hundred pounds of freight. (15)

Nearly two years of inactivity came to an end when the thirty-two miles between Earlville and Independence were completed on December 12, 1859. Train service between Dubuque and Jesup, seventy-eight miles apart, was completed on March 2, 1860.

Shortly after the completion of the line to Jesup, the Dubuque and Pacific Company was forced into receivership by Morris K. Jesup, the largest creditor. Taking over the business, Jesup saw the company reorganized on August 13, 1860, as the DUBUQUE AND SIOUX CITY RAILROAD. Company reports stated that the railroad owned thirty-five flat cars, six passenger cars, sixty-five box cars, and four locomotives. The railroad reached Waterloo on March 11, 1861, where the arrival was acclaimed as an end to the long overland trips to Dubuque to sell goods and obtain supplies. Twenty days after its arrival in Waterloo, the railroad reached Cedar Falls.

As the sectional hostilities increased before the CIVIL WAR, railroads played an important role in strengthening the North. Southern states relied heavily on steamboats. Railroads in the North, however, pushed west. By providing markets for crops and livestock, railroads succeeded in converting the West into an economic satellite of the North. (16)

The start of the Civil War suspended further construction. For the next four years, Cedar Falls was the western terminus of the line. East of Dubuque, the Illinois Central and the Chicago and Galena railroads linked Dubuque with eastern cities.

The war had a marked effect on railroad transportation. Stalled shipments out of Dubuque by way of the Mississippi River led to stores of grain in Dubuque increasing faster than they could be shipped. Wartime use of the rails was further harmed after January 1865 when only government cars were given the right-of-way. Dubuque businessmen, feeling harassed, pledged $100,000 to the first railroad completing its track from Lake Michigan to Dubuque. The Julien Theater was the scene of a Shippers and Merchants Convention on March 1-2, 1865 which considered building another railroad eastward from Dubuque.

Railroad construction resumed with peace. By April 16, 1866, the DUBUQUE AND PACIFIC RAILROAD had reached Iowa Falls, 143 miles west of Dubuque. Business boomed freighting livestock to market and offering passenger service to immigrants headed west. (17) The Dubuque and Sioux City Railroad existed only on paper after 1867 when the Illinois Central leased the road. (18)

The year 1867 was crucial in the history of Dubuque's railroads. Sioux City, hoping to challenge Council Bluffs and a "gateway to the West," pressured the Dubuque line to hurry construction of its track between Iowa Falls and Sioux City. This would enable Sioux City to link itself with the Union Pacific at Fremont, Nebraska, and thus beat Council Bluffs which hoped to be the link for the Chicago and Northwestern Railway and Union Pacific. At this point, the Illinois Central entered Iowa. The Dubuque and Sioux City line, lying between Dubuque and Iowa Falls, was leased to the Illinois Central on September 13, 1867.

The DUNLEITH AND DUBUQUE BRIDGE was completed in December 1869. Considered an engineering triumph of the day, it was built by the Keystone Bridge Company headed by Andrew CARNEGIE. Regular train service from Chicago through Dubuque to Sioux City began on October 10, 1870.

In 1870 the Illinois Central joined the track to Sioux City. (19) The lease on the road ended in 1870 and the Illinois Central forced the Dubuque and Sioux City to sell its stock at $80 per share. (20)

Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul depot (1987) on Central Avenue.
Like the hub of a wheel, Dubuque became the center of intense railroad building. Railroad construction out of the city southward was the goal of the DUBUQUE, BELLEVUE, AND MISSISSIPPI RAILWAY. With forty thousand acres of land and $300,000, the company planned to lay track through Jackson and Clinton counties.

To the north, the Dubuque, the Saint Peter and Saint Paul Railroad joined with the Turkey River Valley Railroad Company. A projected route extended through Clayton, Fayette, and Howard counties into southern Minnesota. Although this promised valuable trade with Dubuque, the line was never constructed.

With the goal of reaching markets to the southwest, the DUBUQUE WESTERN RAILROAD planned to reach Anamosa. There it would link itself to the Iowa Central Air Line Railroad to connect Dubuque with trade in Benton, Boone, Jones, Linn, Tama and Marshall counties. Organized in September 1855, the company built an independent track from its depot yards through the northern city limits of Dubuque to the track belonging to the Dubuque and Pacific at Center Grove. The Dubuque Western, financed by a $200,000 private subscription, a loan of $200,000 voted by Dubuque residents, and a land grant, leased Dubuque and Pacific track to Farley Junction before building south. The Dubuque Western reached Anamosa by 1860. After consolidation and being renamed the Dubuque Southwestern Railroad, it pushed on toward Cedar Rapids.

To the northeast, the Dubuque and Waukegan and Dubuque, Arena, and Watertown lines promised Dubuque access to valuable forests of Wisconsin around Milwaukee and Green Bay.

Chicago Great Western passenger depot. Library of Congress
Financing railroad construction was accomplished in part by the private issuance of notes from the railroad company. Examples of this in Dubuque include hand-dated notes issued by the Dubuque and Pacific Railroad Company; the DUBUQUE, MARION, AND WESTERN RAILROAD COMPANY; the Dubuque and Sioux City Railroad; and the Dubuque Western Railroad Company.
Postcard showing the railroad passing through a cut north of Dubuque.

Dubuque began the task of raising $200,000 in private stock sales for the DUBUQUE AND MINNESOTA RAILROAD in March 1870. A passenger station was constructed at White and 5th and work on laying track began in 1871. The first passenger and about twenty-five new box cars for the line arrived in Dubuque around September 13. The first regular passenger train operated on the line on October 9, 1871 to Guttenberg. Lansing, Iowa was reached and a large excursion to that city was held on May 8, 1872. The same year the Chicago, Clinton and Dubuque line was opened to Clinton. (21)

The history of the famed MILWAUKEE RAILROAD SHOPS began in Dubuque around 1880.

In 1882 the floating debt began in Dubuque with a subsidy to the Milwaukee Railroad. (22) The same year the DUBUQUE AND NORTHWESTERN RAILROAD was planned with the assistance of a $160,000 or more than 5% tax. It was stymied in its progress by misfortunes of two or three great railroads which depressed the value of its securities. Work was resumed in 1885 under the supervision of the Minnesota and Northwestern. The line ran in a northwest direction out of Dubuque through Buchanan, Fayette, Bremer, Chickasaw and Howard counties in Iowa and Mower and Dodge counties in Minnesota. It connected there with the Minnesota and Northwestern which operated between St. Paul and the Iowa line at Mona. The company purchased fifty acres at the northern end of Dubuque for its machine shops, transfer yard, car yard, and roundhouse. Caleb Booth was paid $55,000 for a depot site from the Third Street bridge to the river. Renamed the Chicago, Burlington and Northern in 1884, the line connected Dubuque with the entire Burlington system.

Depots became a social hub of the community and nearly every town had one. Trains brought the mail and hope. By the late 1800s, people could order the latest fashion in clothing and home furnishing mail order businesses like SEARS ROEBUCK AND COMPANY. Using the trains, individuals or families could travel to large cities to shop or view such attractions as the Chicago World's Fair in 1893. Passenger trains allow access to libraries and museums which inspired education. For some children who did not travel, even peeking through the ticket and hearing the clacking of the telegraph instruments "couldn't have been stranger than hearing a message from Mars." (23)

Right-of-way through Dubuque became important around 1870. The right of way was granted to the following railroads on the indicated date: (24)

      Dubuque and Minnesota--Ordinance of October, 1870
      Dubuque, Bellevue & Mississippi--Ordinance of February, 1871
      Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul--Ordinance of March, 1881
      Dubuque and Northwestern--Ordinances of March, 1884/June, 1885
      Chicago, Burlington and Northern--February 1886/October, 1890
      Illinois Central--Ordinance of December, 1884

By the late 1800s, railroads had replaced steamboats as the primary means of transportation. This encouraged the development of cities away from rivers and near to interior sites of agriculture. Railroads like the Illinois Central advertised throughout eastern states and Europe to tell people land was available. Railroads even arranged passage for potential customers to view the land. Plans called for towns to develop in intervals from five to fifteen miles along the track. This was considered a reasonable distance to travel for farmers to bring products into town for shipment. (25) Towns established before railroads or those which did not comply with railroad requests could be by-passed. Some towns relocated or like Hanover, Illinois formed the Hanover Railway Company to construct a 2.5 mile track to the Chicago and Great Western Railroad lines.

The fates of railroads involved merger upon merger with deeply involved financial transactions. In 1877 bondholders of the Chicago, Dubuque & Minnesota and the Chicago, Clinton & Dubuque Railroad who had claims upon the directors of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy who were interested in contracts for building the Dubuque roads decided not to exchange bonds for stocks. Instead a committee was appointed to negotiate for a plan of reorganization to protect the interests of the bondholders. (26)

Dubuque for years had direct connection with only two major railroad systems--the Illinois Central and the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul--a total of about 7,000 miles. Dubuque by 1886 was part of an immense railroad network. The following chart indicated the number of miles of railroads entering Dubuque: (27)

                 Illinois Central                    1,915
                 Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul     4,935
                 Chicago, Burlington and Northern      365
                 Chicago Burlington and Quincy       4,661
                 Dubuque and Dakota                     64
                 Dubuque and Northwestern              141
                 Minnesota and Northwestern            109
                                     Total          12,190

In September, 1885 M. C. Woodruff published a pamphlet entitled "The Industries of Dubuque." In it, he wrote that Dubuque received and shipped about one-twelfth of the entire freightage of the entire state of Iowa. (28) City officials were expecting in the near future that the Chicago and Northwestern system of 5,809 miles would extend its line to Dubuque and that the Minnesota and Northwestern and Dubuque and Northwestern would extend its line from Dubuque to Chicago. Upon such information, Woodruff concluded that "Dubuque's business promise for the future greatly exceeds the accomplished pre-eminence of the past." (29) An editor in 1886 stated:

              There seems to be no reason why Dubuque will not become the
              largest city of the Upper Mississippi between St. Louis and
              St. Paul. (30)

The MISSISSIPPI RIVER played an important role for many years in controlling railroad rates. Dubuque's railroad rates were half those charged to inland towns. When the winter weather froze the river, rates jumped 20%, but during the majority of the year Dubuque merchants could ship much more cheaply than their competitors. (31)

In August 1894 an ordinance was proposed forcing railroads to pay for street improvements where their tracks were located. This ordinance was in compliance with a law passed by the previous session of the Iowa legislature. (32) In 1904 the railroads assured the chief of police that they would respect the ordinance of not operating in the city limits in excess of six miles per hour. (33) There was some pressure exerted to force this agreement. City officials had threatened to place automatic gates across the tracks. (34)

A plan to connect Dubuque with the Chicago and North-Western Railroad generated much excitement. A pledge of $20,000 needed at once was raised at a meeting held in December. Consideration of a tax levy under the law of 1892 was opposed. Dubuque had a reputation as "a wealthy, conservative, old town, proud that only home capital was used in its investments." It was frequently said that "foreign" capital could not get into the city. (35)

In 1900 the Clinton, Dubuque and North-Western Railway was considered. Citizens quickly raised $151,000 in 1904 for a projected Dubuque,, Iowa and Wisconsin Railway. This effort was apparently abandoned. In 1906 citizens raised $125,000 for the same proposed railroad. (36)

Four major railroads were passing through Dubuque by 1900 with twelve passenger trains leaving daily for Chicago and the same number returning. (37)

On December 3, 1917 representatives of all railroads were considering the potential of all Dubuque passenger stations using one union station. Officials of the other lines generally agreed that the Illinois Central station had the most suitable location for such a plan. The motivation for the change came from the federal government which in supervising the railroads demanded consolidation of assets. (38) Illinois Central officials were in favor of the proposal and felt that only the CHICAGO AND GREAT WESTERN RAILWAY would have any difficulty using the station. (39)

On-time arrival was a matter of discussion in 1921. Although it had to go back to a study by the United States Railroad Administration for the months of August-November, 1919, the Illinois Central announced its bragging rights. While all railroads in that period average between 82% to 84%, the Illinois Central scored between 95.4% to 96.2%. (40)

By WORLD WAR I Dubuque's railroads had reached a peak as did the growth of the city. At their peak, 22 passenger trains passed through Dubuque and East Dubuque daily. The Burlington Northern led the way with twelve, followed by the Illinois Central and Milwaukee with four each, and the Great Western with two. By the 1930s narrow gauge railroads had been judged inadequate. Because they could not handle the freight of the standard gauge cars, an estimated two hundred miles of track was torn up by the start of WORLD WAR II and not replaced by larger track. The last of the small rails in Iowa belonging to the Bellevue and Cascade line were removed in 1934. (41)

In 1933 in the depths of the GREAT DEPRESSION, a newspaper article suggested that, for some in Dubuque, times were not that rough. Under the title "Want to Do Something a Bit Different? Take a Trip on the Railroad Train," readers were reminded that eight trains out of Dubuque made round trips in a single day. Dubuque residents could spent ten hours in Chicago using one of three trains, follow the Mississippi River to La Crosse on the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific, or travel half way across Iowa on the Illinois Central. "From observation windows, travelers may view nature..." "Tots" could be placed aboard the Illinois Central under the supervision of the conductor for a 45 minute ride to Farley to be picked up by their parents using an automobile. A similar service ran to Galena. With extra planning, the children could eat in the diner. (42)

Factors leading to declining railroads nationwide as well as in Dubuque included trucking and private automobiles, government taxes and labor. By 1930 narrow gauge railroads, which never had been involved in Dubuque, had been torn up. In 1930 it was estimated that the amount of intercity travel by automobile was less than 50%. By 1959 it was estimated at 90%. Railroads which saw its passenger service fail to pay for itself by 1920 reduced their number of passenger cars. In 1909 there were twelve passenger trains leaving Dubuque daily for Chicago. In 1959 only two of the four Dubuque railroads provided passenger coaches. (43) Railroads were also once the primary transport system of fruit and express deliveries; by 1959 trucks were carrying 65% of these products. (44)

Responding to these challenges, railroads reduced branch lines and employees, began freighting trucks, modernized equipment, and appealed to the government for tax relief. Between 1926 and 1959, railroads reduced the number of employees by 50% and began buying their own trucks. Hauling these semi-trailers on flat railroad cars became the "piggyback" system. One Dubuque depot constructed a ramp needed to pull the trailers from the flat cars. Trucks owned by railroads drove from Dubuque to Waterloo and Rockford daily. The first step in streamlining trains were the first Zephyrs in the mid-1930s. Vista-domes were introduced in 1945 to encourage tourists. (45)

1950 appeal by the railroads. Photo courtesy: Telegraph Herald (Note: To enlarge further, slide picture to desktop.)
The removal of passenger service to the tri-state area began on November 17, 1951 when the Milwaukee Road ceased service. The Chicago Great Western Railway ended passenger service between Oelwein and Dubuque on September 28, 1958. On May 2, 1971 the Burlington Northern made the last passenger trip from East Dubuque, Illinois. (46)

By 1959 faced with financial problems, railroads were determined to implement labor-saving diesel locomotives and automation. Nationwide an estimated 40,000 firemen on freight and yard diesels and work rules requiring a minimum number of crewmen on trains, together known as examples of "featherbedding, were to be cut. A commission formed by President Eisenhower recommended that the companies be given broad power to eliminate workers, but ordered them to find ways of easing the transition. Companies generally approved the ruling, while unions rejected it.

When an emergency board named by President Kennedy in 1963 failed to produce an agreement, the issue went to Congress. On August 28, 1963 the nation's first compulsory arbitration law in peacetime was voted and signed by Kennedy. The arbitration board ruled that 90% of the firemen's jobs on diesel yard engines and freight trains should be eliminated. The firemen lost a legal appeal to the United States Supreme Court and the arbitration decision took effect. In 1966 estimates were made that 20,000 union members had lost their jobs in the previous two years. (47)

In 1988 the progress of U. S. 61 through Dubuque was dependent upon an agreement to abandon part of the SOO Line track--in the planned U. S. 61 right-of-way--for merger with the Chicago, Central and Pacific railroads. Parties to the agreement included the Department of Transportation, the Soo Line and the Chicago, Central and Pacific railroads. (48)

Amtrak began providing passenger service between Chicago and Dubuque in 1974. Officials with Amtrak in February, 1981, warned that performance figures showed that the Black Hawk passenger train lost more riders than any other railroad in the United States. In the fall of the same year, the Dubuque-Chicago run made its last trip.

Hopes for a return of passenger service to Dubuque was revived in 2009 through the Envision 2010 committee of the DUBUQUE AREA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE. The Amtrak Black Hawk line through northwestern Illinois might be revived creating a daily train from Chicago through Belvidere, Rockford, Freeport, Galena, East Dubuque and into Dubuque. Passengers could board the train at an intermodal site early in the morning at the Port of Dubuque and reach Chicago before noon. (49)

Funding for the Chicago to Dubuque route would mostly be paid for with Illinois tax dollars. A funding bill had been approved by the Illinois General Assembly and was awaiting the governor's signature. The City of Dubuque would use $300,000 of state transportation money and $237,000 of federal transit money for a feasibility study of the train platform and the intermodal site. For the first time, the Iowa legislature had set aside money for passenger rail--$3 million. Both Iowa and Illinois congressmen had asked for part of the $8 billion of stimulus money for high-speed rail projects be used for the Chicago to Dubuque route. (50)

Railroads are given an unusual amount of autonomy. Examples include blocking traffic. Although Iowa law states that trains cannot block railroad crossings for more than ten minutes. However, federal law super-cedes and ensures that whatever the train needs it gets. Other instances are trains blowing their horns or carrying out construction projects without local oversight. (51) Railroads counter the argument with the fact that local decisions should not impede interstate commerce.

The BEE BRANCH project in Dubuque has involved negotiations with the owners of a Garfield Avenue railyard. Although culverts exist under the property, they are too small to carry the water the Bee Branch is designed to handle. Different owners of the property resulted in agreements that new owners had to reconsider. In 2018 the Canadian Pacific seemed ready to allow work to begin (52)



1. Stanley, Mary. "The Rail Could Make a Town Real," Telegraph Herald, February 24, 1987, p. 49

2. Oldt, Franklin T. and Patrick J. Quigley, History of Dubuque County, Iowa. Goodspeed Historical Association, Chicago, p. 241

3. Ibid.

4. Ibid., p. 242

5. Ibid., p. 243

6. Ibid.

7. Ibid., p. 244

8. Ibid. p. 245

9. Ibid. p. 246

10. Ibid. p. 247

11. Everly, John and Becky Sisko. "Railroads Made Tracks in Tri-States," Telegraph Herald, September 23, 2001, p. 1A

12. Stanley

13. Oldt, p. 247

14. Ibid.

15. Ibid. 247

16. "Dubuque's $10 Million Railroad Was Vital Link With Early West," Telegraph Herald, September 2, 1962, p. 20

17. Ibid.

18. Ibid.

19. Illinois Central Historical Society. Online: http://www.icrrhistorical.org/milestones.html

20. "Dubuque's $10 Million..."

21. Ibid.

22. "Dubuque's Railroads," The Herald, May 9, 1886, p. 1

23. Sisko, Becky and John Everly, "Railroads Brought Together Many People and Cultures," Telegraph Herald, September 30, 2001, p. 1A

24. Oldt, p. 249

25. Sisco, Becky and John Everly, "Towns Formed, Thrived Near Railroads," Telegraph Herald, September 28, 2001, p. 1

26. "The River Roads," The Dubuque Herald, January 18, 1877, p. 1

27. "Dubuque's Railroads,"

28. Ibid.

29. Ibid.

30. Stevens, Dave, "The 'Iron Horse' Comes of Age," Telegraph-Herald, November 8, 1959, p. 15

31. Ibid.

32. "New Railway Lines," The Herald, December 31, 1899, p. 4. Online: http://p8080-

33. "A New Ordinance," Dubuque Daily Herald, August 10, 1894, p. 4

34. "Want Compromise," Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, January 28, 1904, p. 3

35. Stevens

36. Oldt, p. 250

37. Stevens

38. Oldt, p. 250

39. "Favor Plan for Union Station," Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, January 11, 1918, p. 9

40. "Want to Do Something a Bit Different? Take a Trip on the Railroad Train," Telegraph-Herald and Ties-Journal, November 12, 1933, p. 5

41. Stevens, Dave."Railroading in Transition," The Telegraph-Herald, November 15, 1959, p. 17

42. Ibid.

43. Ibid.

44. Ibid.

45. Gallo, Matt, "Rail Deal Predicted in 60 ," Telegraph Herald, September 2, 1988, p. 1

46. Ever, p. 7A

47. " 'Featherbeding' Against at Heart of Rail Strike," Telegraph-Herald, March 31, 1966, p. 4

48. "Year in Review," Telegraph Herald, December 31, 1981, p. 10

49. Nevans-Pederson, Mary. "Passenger Rail on Track, Leaders Say," Telegraph Herald, June 6, 2009, p. 1A

50. Ibid.

51. Jacobson, Ben, "The Power of the Rail Industry," Telegraph Herald, November 4, 2018, p. 1A

52. Ibid., p. 6A