The Waukon & Mississippi Railroad

The Waukon & Mississippi Railroad connected Waukon, IA with the Milwaukee Road at Waukon Junction on the Mississippi River. Originally a narrow-gauge railway, it would later be re-gauged when operations were assumed by the Milwaukee Road. It first opened in 1875, after construction was completed along the very difficult and rough terrain, which included a climb of over 600 feet throughout the route, with construction being completed in 1877. (Right of Way)

From IAGenWeb, "The "Narrow" Comes In - Above is a photo of the "Union Prairie," first train to enter Waukon on the narrow gauge. This event took place on Oct. 27, 1877, and hundreds of Waukon people were at the station to meet it. The "narrow gauge" railroad is still in operation, running from Waukon to Marquette, its train carrying passengers as well as every kind of freight. (Telegraph-Herald, Dubuque, IA, July 2, 1944)"

"The Waukon narrow gauge railroad was built for both political and commercial reasons. Waukon, as the county seat was being threatened by Lansing. Lansing wanted a vote on moving the county seat from Waukon, saying Lansing had the advantage of being located on the Mississippi River, and was served by a branch of the Chicago, Clinton, Dubuque & Minnesota Railroad. Waukon unfortunately had attracted no early railroad development due to its geographic location, the terrain between Waukon and the Mississippi River being the steepest of any along the Iowa bank of the river. For this reason, Waukon businessmen envisioned that a narrow gauge railroad could be built." (IAGenWeb)

In Waukon, the railway was the only connection for the independent Mississippi Valley Iron Company Railroad to connect to the rest of the US railroad network. 

"Mississippi Valley Iron Co. Waukon, IA, X2496" (could be 12496). This was an iron ore beneficiation mill built in 1913 by the Missouri Iron Company just north of Waukon, Iowa to process limonite ore. Another photo of the same plant is given in the Iowa Geological Survey Annual Report for 1914, page 85, along with a description of the mine and mill, and the 1930's USDA orthophotos show the mill buildings shortly before their demolition. (Wikipedia Commons)

Lansing still fought to become the county seat, to no avail. In 1880, the Milwaukee Road purchased the right of way, with the Chicago, Clinton, Dubuque & Minnesota Railway operating the route for a short time in between. Due to the rough terrain the road was built on, freight rates were slightly higher on this line than the typical part of the Milwaukee system. Nonetheless, in spite of the challenges, the line survived longer than many other short lines, finally ending service in 1960, and fully abandoned ten years later.


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