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MARKER DATABASE
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Mason City in Cerro Gordo County, Iowa — The American Midwest (Upper Plains)
 

Railroad Development in Mason City

Steam Era, 1869 - 1955

 
 
Railroad Development in Mason City Marker image. Click for full size.
By William Fischer, Jr., October 2, 2015
1. Railroad Development in Mason City Marker
Inscription.

[Left Panel]
Steam railroad history began in 1869 for Mason City when the McGregor & Missouri River Rwy laid track from Nora Springs to Clear Lake and became part of the effort to link Chicago with South Dakota, and in 1870-71 when the Mason City & Minnesota, and the Iowa Central RR began to establish a north-south route to move coal from the Fort Dodge area. These and other short-line railroads in the region eventually merged by the early 1900's into the five major rail lines that served Mason City for most of the steam era.

A sixth railway of the steam era was the local Mason City & Clear Lake RR, an electric rail service begun in 1897 that still exists today as the Iowa Traction RR. It served to interconnect businesses, passengers, and rail transfer services between the major regional RR lines.

A few major industries of the steam era such as cement, bricks, tile, fertilizer, sugar, diary, livestock and meat industries are shown on the map, but many other businesses such as fruit, groceries, lumber, coal, kerosene, oil, fur and hides, furniture, grain, milling and feed, also depended on the railroads to move the products in and out of Mason City. Region wide, passenger services grew fast, and in 1915 nearly 2 million passengers were served by the M&StL RR alone.

You can trace the route of the five railroads

Railroad Development in Mason City Marker Center Panel Detail image. Click for full size.
By William Fischer, Jr., October 2, 2015
2. Railroad Development in Mason City Marker Center Panel Detail
on the map by following the heralds.

Railroad Herald Legend
Chicago Great Western RR
Chicago, Milwaukee, St Paul & Pacific RR
Chicago [&] Northwestern RR
Chicago, Rock Island, & Pacific RR
Mason City & Clear Lake RR
Minneapolis & St Louis RR

[Central Panel]
Railroad Transitions in Mason City
Chicago Great Western

1886 - Mason City & Fort Dodge RR
1901 - Chicago Great Western
1968 - Purchased by Chicago & NorthWestern RR

Chicago [&] NorthWestern
1889 - Iowa, Minnesota & North Western RR
1899 - Chicago, NorthWestern RR
1995 - Purchased by Union Pacific RR

Milwaukee
1869 - McGregor and Missouri River Company
1871 - Chicago, Milwaukee & St Paul RR
1985 - Soo Line RR
1991 - Canadian Pacific RR
1997 - I & M Rail Link
2002 - Iowa, Chicago & Eastern

Minneapolis & St. Louis RR
1872 - Iowa Central RR
1912 - Minneapolis & St Louis RR
1960 - Chicago [&] NorthWestern RR
(1995 - Purchased by Union Pacific RR)

Rock Island
1909 - St Paul & Des Moines Short Line
1911 - St Paul & Kansas City Short Line
1913 - Rock Island RR
1980 - Liquidated. Some track and equipment to CNW

[Right Panel Photo Captions, from top]
Downtown Mason City in 1874, looking west toward Central Park

CNW

Railroad Development in Mason City Marker Right Panel Detail image. Click for full size.
By William Fischer, Jr., October 2, 2015
3. Railroad Development in Mason City Marker Right Panel Detail
RR over Lime Creek
(Winnebago River, NW of cement plant)

Corner Cafe & Cobb Furniture store at SW corner of State St. and Main Ave. (Federal), 1909, future site of the Frank Lloyd Wright designed bank and hotel

Mason City and Clear Lake RR pulling Kennedy Farms refrigerated cars.
Colorful and decorative, "billboard" box cars and refrigerator cars were common sights during the steam era

M&StL #130, a 4-4-0 "American" built in 1882 by Manchester Locomotive Works.

M&StL #634, a 2-8-2 "Mikado" built in 1920 by Brooks Locomotive Works. During WWII this workhorse of the rails became known as a "MacArthur".

In the mid 1930s, diesel powered locomotives began to be introduced, and shared nearly 25 years with steam on the rails before steam phased out in the late 1950s. The demise of steam power was swift on most major railroads, and except for remote rail lines, tourist excursion lines, and museum displays, steam locomotion has all but disappeared in favor of diesel power. The smoky, smelly, sooty days of steam are long gone in favor of clean efficient diesel power. But nothing will match the drama, majesty, and romance of a mighty steam locomotive on the rails.
 
Marker series. This marker is included in the Chicago Rock Island & Pacific Railway marker series.
 
Location. 43° 9.153′ 

Railroad Development in Mason City Marker image. Click for full size.
By William Fischer, Jr., October 2, 2015
4. Railroad Development in Mason City Marker
Next to the M&StL #457 "Rotary Cannonball"
N, 93° 10.987′ W. Marker is in Mason City, Iowa, in Cerro Gordo County. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: East Park, 802 East State Street, Mason City IA 50401, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. The Minneapolis & St. Louis R.R. #457 (a few steps from this marker); Dr. George C. and Eleanor Stockman House (approx. half a mile away); Vietnam War Memorial (approx. half a mile away); Mason City Public Library (approx. 0.7 miles away); Veterans Memorial (approx. 0.9 miles away); Civil War Memorial (approx. 0.9 miles away); The Historic Park Inn Hotel and City National Bank (approx. 0.9 miles away); Mason City Area Veterans Monument (approx. one mile away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Mason City.
 
Also see . . .
1. Iowa Rail History. (Submitted on October 16, 2015, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
2. Mason City at RailPictures.net. (Submitted on October 16, 2015, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
3. Railroads at Iowa Pathways. (Submitted on October 16, 2015, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
 
Categories. Industry & CommerceMan-Made FeaturesRailroads & Streetcars
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on October 15, 2015, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania. This page has been viewed 219 times since then and 59 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on October 16, 2015, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.
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