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Muscatine North & South Railroad Company

The Initial Train


First Regular Run on the Muscatine North & South Railroad

On Friday January 20, 1988, at the close of that same work week, the much anticipated news of the first MN&S train graced the front page of the Muscatine Journal.  It may have been more fitting, at least to the superstitious at heart, if the train had been run on the preceding Friday,

that being Friday the 13th.

Reprinted from the Muscatine Journal of January 20, 1899.


A goodly number of citizens were gathered at the M.N.&S. depot early this morning to witness the departure of the first train over the new road.  A large amount of freight had been consigned, and it's loading occupied not a little time, so it was exactly 4:27 when Conductor George Hesnan shouted "All aboard," and the first trip of the first train over the new railroad line was begun.  Along the trestle work at the river front the train rapidly made way, and we soon realized that the distance between Muscatine and Fruitland was quickly lessened.


Geo. Hasnan, the genial conductor, has been for the past several years employed as night yardmaster by the Rock Island Railroad Company.  J.W. Dunn, son of the late S.C. Dunn, is employed as brakeman, and right royally does he swing his lantern and give forth signals with the ease and grace of an old-time expert.  W.A. Walcott, of this city, is also one of the crew, and in his capacity of brakeman and obliging assistant to lady passengers, bids fair to hold a large place in the esteem of the travelers on this line.


The train was made up of a freight car, one combination express baggage and smoking car, and one coach.  The two latter revel in all the glow of newness and beauty, being number 1 and 2 respectively, and riding with great comfort, as though determined to please all patrons so well as to cause them to delight to make journey after journey.  "Muscatine North & South Railroad" in large and clear letters adorns the outside of the coaches.


Engine  No. 101, with engineer W.J. Crocker at the throttle, pulled the train.  This gentleman is a passenger engineer in the employ of the St. Paul & Duluth, but has been doing engine work for the construction company building of this line, thus was E.D. Williams, of LaCrosse, Wisconsin, ~ a most whole-souled gentleman.


Some little rocking to and fro was apparent as we bounded along over a road so newly laid as not to give time for proper ballasting.  Shortly after leaving South Muscatine a friendly, bent on wishing us a more than usual Godspeed, swept it's branches down so far as to make varnish and new paint yield to it's tender embrace.


We were scheduled to reach Fruitland at 4:35, but our late start landed us at the station at 4:55.  But this was not to early to meet the new agent, C.S. Cunningham, who, with a countenance wreathed in smiles and the glow of a wonderfully bright lantern, received the freight consigned to him and notified the conductor that the track was clear to the next station.


On into the darkness we sped, and 30 minutes behind schedule time we landed at the Grandview station, and established the historic fact that for the first time this town has railroad communication with the rest of the world.  Station agent J.S. Swain was on deck, and showed the company through a wonderful handsome depot building.  But glowing colors of paint and all the polish of varnish can never produce the "glow" to be seen upon the face of E.T. Letts, who has labored early and late for this road and whose hearty good morning and general evidence of happiness told more than pen can describe, what the arrival of this train meant to him.


Twenty-two minutes behind schedule time the train arrived at Wapello, and Agent J. O'Donnell was not to be found.  The excitement incident was too much for him, and ~ Morpheus evidently had the under hold, when, after dropping a large shipment of freight, the signal was given and we started for the last station on the road, Elrick, which was reached without mishap or a ~ hot box at 6:37.  Agent Fell, with a large pen behind his ear, was on deck, and received the delegation with a warm reception as unlimited as the confines of Elrick, whose present location gives them a depot building, water tank and a farm house.  In just two hours and twenty-two minutes we had covered the 28 miles, and the journey was made without mishap of any kind.


Newspaper men are not supposed to arise very early in the morning, and the Journal representatives had worked up a ferocious (not an unusual thing, and quite necessary considering the table he wrote that fell to our lot) as the result of getting out of bed at the unseemly hour of  3 a. m.  We found the Hotel de Jarvis ready for us with an abundant menu of fried mush and bacon, potatoes, bread and butter and coffee, to say nothing of being regaled by the landlady with a complete and thrilling account of the history of the town of Elrick.  It seems the boys are determined to name the new burg Battle Ax, "cause my man chaws this brand, and we are determined to fight Pld Elrick."  The lobby of the hotel lacked in tessalated floors and moorish tapestries, but it fairly reveled in other "things."


The following officers of the new road were passengers on the train, General Passenger Agent Darley, Roadmaster H. Farrell, and President W.R. Stewart. the latter a wonderfully fine gentleman, as indeed, are the entire officers and crew of this new road.  J. Lielson, A.A. Dixson and H.F. Balch boarded the train at Wapello.  They are officers of the road and made the balance of the round trip with the train.


At Elrick the private car of General Manager Martin, of the Iowa Central Railway, was coupled to the train and made the return trip with us.


The following persons were passengers on the train on it's down trip:
  M.G. Hammill, Grandview,
  J.A. Bond, Muscatine,
  V.B. Hudkins, Muscatine,
  H.H. Fitzgerlad, Muscatine,
  John Brann, Milwaukee,
  Hon. John Hahin and Chas. L. Breckon,
       of the Daily Journal, Muscatine.

    E.A. Erb, W.R. Norton and C.G. Dallas, Adams Express Company men, were in the express department.


On the return trip Elrick was left at 8:10 and Wapello was reached at 8:35.  Here a warm reception awaited the train, almost the entire town being out to bid a hearty welcome.  The town ~ hack driver was there and he dared to shout "all aboard for the Palace Hotel," while his comrades gave him the "horse" laugh.  At 9:05 we were given the signal and started for Grandview, the morning sun sending it's cheery beams along our track in a most kindly manner.


The kisses of the beams of the sun in all their multi-colored glow were tame by comparison with the greeting that awaited us at Grandview.  Beautiful damsels, in all the glow of youth and beauty, old men and women, boys and girls, they were all at the depot.  They swarmed upon the train like Kansas grasshoppers upon a wheat field.  "Come here," said one, "I just want you to see how this ere car is fixed up.  Golly it is fine."


They twitted each other, they laughed, they joked, they screamed and yelled, but through it all E.T. Latta towered with a dignity that was charming as he beheld the happy people and the fruit of his labor ~ a railroad for Grandview.


Before the reporter knew it he was in the grasp of a young lady, who was plying him with all sorts of questions, while her face was beaming with a glow unequaled by any arc lamp and her eyes danced in harmony with the excited state of her nerves. The whole affair was a scene that occurs just once - an isolated people greeting the arrival of their very first steam train.


At 9:30 the conductor gave the signal to go ahead, but the engineer did not dare to open the throttle valve for a moment or two - those wildly excited people must be given a chance to get on terra firma. We're off - we're off - hear that mighty shout. Long live Grandview. She deserves the best, and now she has the means to that end.


Before reaching Grandview we cross the Iowa River and see the preparations for a magnificent steel railroad bridge and a partially completed wagon bridge.  The cuts through the bluffs on this side of the river were indeed massive, and after leaving Grandview more cuts were gone through in the famous Whiskey Hollow district. The work of grading this road has certainly been a large undertaking and when sufficient time shall have elapsed to properly ballast the road this line will afford a most picturesque view of rolling bluff and beautiful expanse of loamy river bottom soil.


Ten passengers came out of Wapello, tickets numbering 1 to 10.  Elrick furnished two, 0 to 1, and Grandview 7, all off the top of the pile. The Hershey Lumber Company made the first car-load shipment of lumber, same being consigned to W.S. Isett, of Wapello.


It was M.N. Bond that received the first express package, a bicycle shipped from Racine, Wisconsin. Farmers greeted the train all along the line on the return trip. They rode prancing steeds to the very edge of the rail, they stood on the bluffs and waved a hearty welcome, they lined the hollows and shouted a ~ paen of victory. Yes, it was a glad and happy day along every foot of the route.


Fruitland was reached at 10:35, and "All Aboard" was shouted at 10:40, with Muscatine in sight and the terminus reached at 11:10, thus making the return trip in three hours. Thus was the first trip of the first train completed, and thus closes the record of the first day on a new railroad.


A large delegation of enthusiastic citizens greeted the arrival of the train at the depot in the city. Many where the kindly expressions about how "that looks all right, don't it?" and "Ain't she a beauty, though?" Glad faces were everywhere visible and a feeling of intense joy was everywhere manifest.


Until a turntable can be made at this end of the line only one train per day will be run each day - that in the morning. It will require 8 to 10 days to finish the turntable.


The bridge over the Iowa River at Wapello is now on a structure known as "false work." The permanent bridge is being placed in position, and until that can be done the train in the middle of the day as provided in the time-table will not be run, so that the work at the bridge may not be interrupted.


Traffic arrangement, however, is now regularly inaugurated over the long-desired and greatly needed Muscatine North and South Railroad. It gives favorable connections to the East at Peoria, to the West at Oskaloosa, Ottumwa and Centerville, and to the North at Marshalltown and Mason City. The Iowa Central Railway now operates 510 miles of railroad.


Besides, the new line affords direct connection by the early morning train at Wapello with the B.C.R.& N. train to Burlington and thence to Keokuk, Quincy and St. Louis. The evening train, when it begins to run, will give more direct connection from these southern points than we have had heretofore, passengers reaching here at 10:25 at night instead of 11:20. The two depots at Wapello are only about 200 feet apart.


On the whole, our people may well congratulate themselves on the completion of this highly important railway connection."

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