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Twilight Rails

Twilight Rails: The Final Era of Railroad Building in the Midwest

H. Roger Grant
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 296
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  • Book Info
    Twilight Rails
    Book Description:

    In Twilight Rails, H. Roger Grant documents the stories of eight Midwestern carriers that appeared at the end of the railroad building craze. This thorough and highly accessible history provides a fascinating look at the motivations, accomplishments, and failures of the twilight carriers, granting a new breath of life to this neglected aspect of American railway history.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-7366-7
    Subjects: Transportation Studies

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Introduction: Twilight Rails
    (pp. 1-19)

    A universal truth in the story of American railroads involved the joy associated with the arrival of the first train on a new railroad. Prior to all-weather roads and the triumph of internal combustion vehicles, railroads were magic carpets that bound localities and the nation. “The railroad system of the United States is a great piece of commercial machinery, essential to everyone in this complicated modern civilization,” observed Howard Elliott, president of the Northern Pacific Railroad, in 1913. “Without this piece of machinery, there could not be the volume of business—agricultural, manufacturing, and commercial—that there now is.” Even...

  6. Chapter 1 A Road with a Bright Future: Akron, Canton & Youngstown Railroad
    (pp. 21-47)

    During the twilight years of railroad promotion and construction, projects emerged in the Midwest that were both urban-and rural-centered. The Akron, Canton & Youngstown Railroad (AC&Y), built in Ohio between 1911 and 1913, nicely represents the former category. Initially a seven-mile industrial road in Akron, with plans to reach the nearby cities of Canton and Youngstown, this company gained greater stature in 1920 when it took control of the 161-mile Northern Ohio Railway and became “a large factor in the movement of Akron’s commerce.” Until entering the orbit of the Norfolk & Western Railway (N&W) in 1964 as part of...

  7. Chapter 2 Crazy Willie & Dandy Molly: Creston, Winterset & Des Moines Railroad
    (pp. 49-67)

    Although the map of steam railroads in Iowa had seemingly jelled by 1900, additional railroad schemes periodically appeared. By the eve of World War I, some projects had become more than paper proposals. The successful undertakings consisted of several main line relocations, a few trunk line extensions, and more than a half dozen short lines. As for the latter, these pikes developed in places where residents believed that new or additional steam car service was vital for their economic well-being. Yet enthusiasts failed to recognize the potential impact of internal combustion vehicles and better roads. That lack of foresight resulted...

  8. Chapter 3 The Handy Lines: Detroit, Bay City & Western Railroad and Port Huron & Detroit Railroad
    (pp. 69-97)

    By 1900 Michigan, like other states in the Midwest, claimed impressive steam railroad mileage. At the start of the century the Wolverine State had a 7,946-mile web of steel rails, the fourth-greatest density in the eight-state region. A decade later Michigan mileage reached 9,021 miles, and when the predictable decline set in, it dropped to 8,734 miles in 1920 and 8,072 miles by 1930. This well-developed grid included track owned by lumber carriers, both common and private, that expanded and contracted as timber operations changed. Similar pikes flourished in the forests of northern Minnesota and Wisconsin and the Ozarks of...

  9. Chapter 4 Luce Line: Electric Short Line Railway and Minnesota Western Railroad
    (pp. 99-127)

    The last major independent railroad to be built in the Midwest was the Electric Short Line Railway, whose corporate existence began in 1908 and whose track started to appear five years later. By 1916 the company operated a fifty-eight-mile line west from Minneapolis to Hutchinson, Minnesota, and further expansion followed. Notwithstanding the national progression from trains and tracks to cars and roads, construction into South Dakota appeared likely, but finally, in 1927, the rails of what had become the Minnesota Western Railroad reached Gluek, Minnesota, which became the permanent end-of-track. In the building process, this Minnesota railroad, more than any...

  10. Chapter 5 Ettrick & Nothing: Ettrick & Northern Railroad
    (pp. 129-147)

    Nestled in the picturesque “driftless” or nonglaciated region of western Wisconsin is Trempealeau County. A portion of this 745-square-mile county borders the mighty Mississippi River, which historically provided some residents access to major markets, but interior sections were mostly isolated during the settlement process. For decades, a modest network of primitive wagon ways meandered through the hilly countryside. The area’s most famous pike, the strategic, albeit coarse Galesville and Eau Claire Road, crossed over a heavily wooded and substantial sandstone barrier known as “The Ridge” or “Blair Ridge” that separated the southeastern and central parts of the county, becoming at...

  11. Chapter 6 The Rockford Route: Illinois, Iowa & Minnesota Railway and Chicago, Milwaukee & Gary Railway
    (pp. 149-173)

    As the twentieth century dawned, Illinois resembled other midwestern states by possessing a well-developed network of railroad lines. In fact, by 1900 the Illini State claimed the greatest amount of trackage, at 11,002 miles, with Iowa a distant second at 9,185 miles. Unique among these eight states, mileage in Illinois increased after 1910, reaching an impressive 12,188 in 1920 and peaking at 12,506 a decade later. No one should have been surprised by this extensive grid of steel rails. By the post–Civil War years, Chicago had developed into the meeting place between East and West, becoming the undisputed railroad...

  12. Chapter 7 Ozark Short Line: Missouri, Arkansas & Gulf Railroad
    (pp. 175-193)

    Before the modern era of vehicular travel, Missourians understood the importance of the railroad. As in other midwestern states, this desire produced considerable railway construction. On the eve of the Civil War, the state’s network stood at 817 miles, but by the close of World War I, mileage had reached 8,529, although sections of the sprawling Ozarks region lacked extensive and, in the minds of many, adequate rail coverage.¹

    It is unsurprising that one of the last frontiers in America, the Ozarks of south-central and southern Missouri, with its abundant stands of pines and hardwoods, ample water, valuable minerals, and...

  13. Chapter 8 The Arnica Salve Line: St. Joseph Valley Railway
    (pp. 195-224)

    “An institution,” insisted American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson, “is the lengthened shadow of one man.” Had Emerson lived in Indiana early in the twentieth century, he could have had the St. Joseph Valley Railway Company (Valley Line) in mind as the institution, and Herbert “Herb” E. Bucklen (1848–1917) as the man. It was Bucklen who created and sustained the Valley Line and, in the process, contributed to the economic development of its northern Indiana service territory. In the public’s mind he personified this Indiana carrier much as James J. Hill represented the Great Northern, A. B. Stickney the Chicago...

  14. Epilogue: Legacy of Twilight Rails
    (pp. 225-230)

    As these case studies reveal, the boom in twilight railroad projects in the Midwest occurred prior to the zenith of national railroad mileage. Although 1916 was a watershed year for total trackage, construction in the region did not stop, including the opening in 1918 of the Ettrick & Northern, and the expansion somewhat later of the Electric Short Line, reconstituted in the early 1920s as the Minnesota Western.

    While excitement and success were part of the experiences of twilight rails in the Midwest, these roads came with some pain. When faced with an insolvent property, supportes at time refused to...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 231-258)
  16. Index
    (pp. 259-276)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 277-277)