In March, 1880 it was reported the narrow gauge railroad has built an elevated track to improve handling of grain transfers. In November, 1880 it was reported that work on an engine house was progressing nicely. The bricks coming from Adel, the lumber from Minneapolis. Mr. McKissick was doing the mason work and the old turn table was to be moved and put in just west of the engine house. (The engine house and turn table were located just north of the highway in the triangle formed by the two railroads.) The engine house had four pits. Engines were run onto the pits to shake down the ashes and hot coals.
From the Dallas County News of January 21, 1880,the railroad fare from Waukee was:
To Ortonville – 16 cents
To Adel – 28 cents
To Kennedy – 51 cents
To Redfield – 67 cents
To Linn – 89 cents
To Panora – $1.14
From the same paper of August, “The two railroad make Waukee a very lively place. Everybody busy. No vacant houses.”
It was reported that the depot, which once stood at the north end of 6th Street , was built in 1880, so it must be surmised that the tracks were laid into Des Moines at this time. It is not known how long this railroad operated under the name of Des Moines, Adel and Western but in 1882 the road was called Wabash, St. Louis and Pacific. In 1891 the road was changed from a narrow gauge to a full size track to meet current needs.
The road has been under the management of Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific for a good many years.
The two road had many busy years, with all the coal that was mined in Walnut Township and the grain and stock that has been shipped from this point. For many years a stock yard was maintained near the Milwaukee station. This was a great hangout for tramps who rode the rails. A creamery was also maintained north of the tracks with a spur line running past it. Maybe this was where the Waukee cheese factory was located.
In 1956, the old Milwaukee depot was torn down by Baer and Myer and some of the lumber was salvaged and used by them to build an addition to their warehouse.
For those too young to remember what the inside of the railroad depot looked like, there was a large pot-bellied stove in the center of the waiting room, with benches all around to rest on. Many a travel weary passenger warmed himself around the stove, circus people, cattle shippers, coal miners and fine ladies and gentlemen, to name a few.
Mr. A. C. Jacobs who retired here in 1954, had been one of the most beloved of all agents for the Milwaukee road. He spent 32 of his 50 years of service here in Waukee. Ted Finnane was our section foreman for 54 years.
In 1969, it seems a shame that we don’t have passenger service to Des Moines. Sure would save a lot of money spent on gas, parking and wear and tear on our cars. Wouldn’t it be fun to have our narrow gauge back again? Even now in 2011, we could use a passenger rail system with stops at Valley Junction, Downtown Des Moines, etc.