The East Moline & Campbell's Island Railway

Campbell's Island is located on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River across from Bettendorf, IA. It has the distinction of being the westernmost battle site of the War of 1812. "Campbell's Island State Memorial is a granite monument that marks the site of a day-long battle on July 19, 1814 during the War of 1812 on Campbell's Island, Illinois." (Enjoy Illinois)

The memorial was built in the first decade of the 20th century, at a time of significant building on the island. In 1901, an interurban railway known as the Moline, East Moline & Watertown Railway was incorporated along a six mile line to serve the three cities. Today, Watertown is part of of East Moline, IL, but got its start as a stop on the Milwaukee Road north and east of Moline.

A year after incorporation, the company proposed to build up the island as a resort, purchasing the entire island the following year. "After the Moline, East Moline & Watertown Railway Co. bought the island in 1902 to develop its resort, William A. Meese, a Moline lawyer and the first president of the Rock Island County Historical Society, launched a campaign to create a memorial to Campbell and his party. The street car company set aside five acres for a park, the Campbell’s Island Monument Association raised money and the Illinois legislature appropriated $5,000." (QC Times)

A separate company, the East Moline & Campbell's Island Railway was incorporated to extend the line across the Mississippi River and to the island, but it was controlled entirely by the larger M, EM&W.

"Crossing the Bridge to Campbell's Island, Watertown, Ill."

This timber bridge was built in 1904 over an Army Corps of Engineers dam, and converted to road use in 1931 upon the closure of the interurban. The bridge was closed to road traffic in 1936 and replaced in 1938 with a more modern bridge, which was totally rebuilt in 1999

Another postcard, "Bridge from Watertown to Campbell's Island"

The complexity of interurban railway companies is on full display here. The East Moline & Campbell's Island Railway company consolidated with another small line, the Moline, Rock Island & Eastern Railway in 1908. Each was a subsidiary company of the Moline, East Moline & Watertown Railway, who then would merge with the much better named Tri-City Railway.


"Crossing the Dam to Campbell's Island. Moline, Illinois"

At least to some, the train ride to the island was the most thrilling experience. From the State of Illinois, State Parks, "The rushing water between the island and the mainland was spanned by nothing more than a thin track, along which the car rode.

Some people would try to walk across the bridge, stepping over the wood, from slat to slat. Even if these adventuresome types managed to overcome the fear of losing their balance, they still had to contend with the prospect of the railcar crossing the bridge before they could walk all the way across."

The company developed the island into a resort in a similar fashion to many other companies who used amusement pars in the early 20th century to drum up traffic for themselves.

From the Illinois Blue Book, 1919-1920
Eventually, the interurban would circumnavigate the island, running about two miles on present-day Island Ave and the bridge from Watertown.

Bathing Beach at Campbell's Island. Who wouldn't want to swim in the Mississippi River?

The park was more geared toward natural recreation as opposed to rides. One could swim in the Mississippi River or stay on the island and enjoy the greenery without leaving the Quad Cities area. 

"The Pavilion, Campbell's Island, Moline, Illinois".

And it wasn't the only park owned by the Tri-City Railway; at the end of Rock Island sat Watch Tower Amusement Park. At its peak, the park attracted 15,000 people per day, and even had a small roller coaster.
This amusement park was more developed and geared toward thrills than at Campbell's Island, and is apparently the birthplace of the "Shoot the Chutes" toboggan slide, opening in 1888, more than a decade before Campbell's Island. " It was described as a "long wood ramp angled upwards from the Rock River to the top of the bluff.  Flat bottomed boats filled with thrill seekers sliced down a greased track at speeds of up to 80 miles per hour before bouncing into the Rock River.  To return, the boat was pushed back to the ramp, where an electric cable winched it up to the top." (Rock Island Preservation).


Thanks as always for reading!






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