It would not be a complete history of Waukee without relating more history of the two railroads that cross in our fair city.
From September, 1963, “Palimpset” a monthly publication of The State Historical Society of Iowa, a story was found about the Rock Island in Iowa. Since the Rock Island took over so many of the smaller railroads in Iowa, the story of the Des Moines Valley Railroad appears here.
The Des Moines Valley Railroad was the first road to enter Des Moines, coming in August of 1866. It was greeted by great exuberance because Polk County had subscribed $100,000 to get a railroad. Polk Count made an agreement with Lee County to back the Constitution of 1857 which transferred the capitol from Iowa City to Des Moines. The voters of Lee County succeed in swinging the election so the capitol could be moved. Des Moines rejoiced not only in getting the capitol, but also in the prospects of a railroad.
The line started its corporate existence as the Keokuk, Fort Des Moines and Minnesota Railroad in September, 1853. Grading did not begin until 1855 and in 1856 when 4,000 tons of rails were delivered from New Orleans, the track laying commenced. Under the supervision of Chief Engineer Col. J. W. Otley, the line made moderate progress. The Civil War halted progress at Eddyville until 1864. At this time the name of the road was changed to the Des Moines Valley Railroad and track laying continued. It 1866 it reached Des Moines “where it was accorded one of the most elaborate and enthusiastic receptions of any railroad in Iowa”.
In 1873 the Des Moines Valley became bankrupt and in early 1874 it was officially cut into two roads at Des Moines. The southern section was reorganized as the Keokuk and Des Moines Railway and the northern section as the Des Moines and Fort Dodge Railroad.
The southern section, called the K & D was a valuable connection between central Iowa with direct lines to St. Louis, so in 1878 the expanding Rock Island leased it rather than let it fall into the hands of their competitor. The D. M. and Ft. D. line continued on as an independent railroad until 1887 when the Rock Island decided they wanted to run a line to the northwest corner of Iowa. They then leased the road and started new construction from Gowrie to Sibley.
By November, 1900 the entire line was in operation under the Rock Island. Their lease was to expire in 1904 and they thought there would be a routine extension but unknown to them, Edwin Hawley, a New York financier who headed the Minneapolis and St. Louis Railroad, had his associates quietly buying stock in the Des Moines and Ft. Dodge. “By 1905 they had control and Minnesota & St. Louis forthwith leased the Des Moines and Fort Dodge. A decade later it was purchased.”
The Rock Island line eventually tried to absorb the Minneapolis and St. Louis Railroad, (M & SL.) but this was never accomplished. The M & St. L. went bankrupt and the Chicago, Northwestern Railroad took over the line in 1962.
As was written previously, The Des Moines Adel and Western Railway was built from Waukee to Adel in 1878. For a time, the engine and cars were obliged to run backward to Adel. Then a turn-table was built here in Waukee. The railroad bridge was not built across the Raccoon at Adel until sometime in 1879. As soon as the money was raised the road progressed and was built on to the north through Redfield and Panora. Ora Williams reported in his story of the railroads that at one time there was a third rail laid down the Des Moines and Ft. Dodge track to Des Moines, to handle the little narrow gauge.
More to come next time on the Railroads.