Hamilton County Railroads

Dubuque & Pacific RR.

Many times a railroad was started west from Dubuque starting in about 1856. The first was organized at the Dubuque & Pacific Railroad. It was organized by Edward Slossan and Judge John T. Dyer. The first year saw no track laid. The next year the track was extended west to Dyersville. It went bankrupt after a small start. It was reorganized and the next effort failed after only a few more miles. This continued until the railroad finally got to Iowa Falls.

Iowa Falls & Sioux City RR  (1969- to the present)

When another bankruptcy ended the line, it was finally reorganized by John Insley Blair into the Iowa Falls and Sioux City Railroad. This time the line progressed as far west as Alden. Walter Willson met with Blair and told him of his desire to get the line extended to Webster City. Blair told Willson that he would push the line to Webster City if Willson would build it. Willson organized a crew and finally managed to extend the line to Williams, Blairsburg, and then to Webster City in 1869. Finally the population had a way to get supplies and ship their produce to market. Blair induced Willson to extend the line to Fort Dodge, which he did in just 30 days. This was a record for rail laying in Iowa at the time. Blair then managed to get Willson to extend the line to Storm Lake. Blair wanted Willson to run the line on into Sioux City, but Willson returned to Webster City to establish his new hotel, opera house and other ventures. The railroad brought new settler's, carried supplies, and the county grew and prospered. The early day rivers allowed only north-south travel. The railroad expanded the travel east and west.

Illinois Central RR (now Gulf Illinois Central RR

This Iowa Falls and Sioux City Railroad is known as the Illinois Central Railroad and now has recently been renamed the Gulf Illinois Central Railroad reflecting a change of ownership. Other railroads followed the Dubuque and Pacific.

Des Moines & Minnesota RR (1878-1880)

In 1874 James Callanan laid out a narrow gauge railroad from Des Moines to Ames called the Des Moines and Minnesota Railroad. It was extended to a new town, Callanan, in Hamilton County in 1878. This terminus became a location of a town that became a popular vacationing and reveling spot. The engine had to make a run for the grade up into Callanan. Sometimes it failed to make the grade and had to back down for another "run for it." Special trains were run to Callanan for drinking, dancing, and carousing. The town business rapidly grew and North Callanan was platted. The town grew to about 200 population. In the two short years of operation the town recorded two murders. One copy of the Callanan newspaper remains in the files at Kendall Young Library. A citizen writes warning that the town will come to a bad ending if the town law remains so lax.

Crooked Creek RR and Coal Company (1875-1883)

Walter Willson wanted to bring his coal and clay from the Lehigh area to Webster City. He developed a narrow gauge railroad operated by the name of the Crooked Creek Railroad.

Webster City and Southwestern RR (1883-1910)

One branch came from Lehigh to Brushy to Flugstad and then to the National Tile Factory in Webster City. The tracks crossed Second Street and ran into town parallel with the Illinois Central. A branch ran from Brushy north to Judd on the Illinois Central line. The narrow gauge tracks were elevated so that the top of the narrow gauge coal cars were at the same height as the standard gauge cars on the Illinois Central. Men were hired at $1.00 per day to shovel coal from the small cars to the bigger cars, working ten hour days. Today all that remains at Judd is an abandoned elevator.

Toledo and Northwestern RR (1879-1880)

The Toledo and Northwestern standard gauge line came into the county to Ellsworth in 1880. After the land was secured for the town, the public learned that John I. Blair and his Chicago & Northwestern Railroad was the real owner. This line went west to Jewell Junction, Stanhope, and Stratford in 1881 county.

Chicago & Northwestern RR (1880 - to the present)

Blair then purchased the bankrupt narrow gauge line of the Des Moines and Minnesota Railroad and rerouted it from Ames to Randall, then angled to Jewell Junction, and then on to a new town of Kamrar and into Webster City in 1881. This was named the Chicago & Northwestern. This line was the only line that traveled north-south through the county. It continued north to Eagle Grove and still is in operation today. At one time there were 24 passenger trains passing through Webster City. The last passenger run was from Webster City to Fort Dodge in the early 1970's. Today there are none. Several freight trains continue to run, however.