A Midwest Regional Railroad - 1930's - 1940's
Fort Dodge Des Moines & Southern Railway


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The Fort Dodge Des Moines & Southern Railway began as a small coal carrier in central Iowa running from mines to connecting railroads. Later, it expanded and became a common carrier hauling coal, gypsum, and carload freight, interurban passengers, mail and express. A metamorphosis changed it from steam to electric, with greatly increased track mileage running streetcars and buses and eventually running diesels as a class 1 carrier. At it's peak in the early part of the 20th century and into the 30's and 40's it ran frequent and luxurious interurban electric cars between Fort Dodge and Des Moines, Iowa, and on several branch lines. As auto traffic cut into interurban business, the FDDM&S continued on as a freight carrier well into the diesel age until cut back and purchased by the C&NW in 1958. A scenic 12 mile portion remains today as the Boone and Scenic Valley Railroad, a tourist line and museum which operates over the beautiful "High Bridge" over a seasonal creek ravine running down to the Des Moines River near Boone, Iowa.
Timeline of the Fort Dodge, Des Moines & Southern and successors
1875 - Crooked Creek Railroad chartered, The CCR began operation as a 3-foot narrow gauge, 8 mile line from Judd on the IC Railroad east of Fort Dodge to coal mines south in Lehigh.
cir 1885 - CCR is standard gauge, and operates in conjunction with the Webster City and Southwestern Railroad, which had a 14 mile line from Border Plain Junction (on the Crooked Creek) east to Webster City.
1885 - The Clyde Coal Company sank its first shaft coal mine at Incline, west of Moingona. The manager was Hamilton Browne.
1892 - CCR buys WC&SW.


FDDM&S

Fort Dodge Des Moines
& Southern
August 1, 1943
1893 - Browne & associates formed the Boone Valley Coal and Railway Company, chartered to run from Fraser to a connection with the Minneapolis & St Louis Railway, at Fraser Junction, now called Wolf. The road was built to haul coal from the mines in Fraser to the M&StL connection.
1893 - The BVC&R opened with about three miles of track. It commenced operation with a 40 ton 2-6-0 locomotive.
1897 - With the help of a second locomotive, the road was hauling over 122,000 tons of coal annually.
1899, - A new railroad, the Marshalltown and Dakota Railway was formed and purchased the BVC&R. This new road, headed by Browne, was chartered to " build from Story City (east of Fraser) via Fraser, Gowerie, Manson, Pocahontas, Laurens and Hartley to Sibley, Iowa a distance of 145 miles and thence northwest into southeastern South Dakota”.
1899 - M&D completed its line westward from Fraser to Gowrie.
cir 1900 - The CCR road from Judd to Border Plain was scrapped.
1901 - The M&D name changed again to the Boone, Rockwell City and Northwestern Railway.
1902 - The Newton & Northwestern is formed, from the BRC&NW, with Browne again, as chief executive. The N&NW owned “two large bituminous coal properties, which had been profitable producers for years, and were increasing output.
1903-04 - Extensions from Fraser to Newton on the east and from Gowrie to Rockwell City on the west were completed. A wooden trestle "High Bridge" was built over a seasonal creek ravine running down to the Des Moines River east of Fraser. It was 156 ft high and 784 ft long, and was considered to be an engineering feat
1904 - The entire line from Newton to Rockwell City was completed.
1905 - Boston group buys N&NW, and branch from Goddard to Colfax service other mines. The N&NW was now a line over 100 miles long from Rockwell City to Newton. Mines were declining and new capital was needed.
1906 - The Fort Dodge, Des Moines and Southern Railroad is incorporated in Iowa. New Englanders furnished the needed capital and Homer Loring of Boston was made the road’s president. The new managers looked to the gypsum mining and producing industries of Fort Dodge to the north and to the industries of Des Moines on the south.
1906 - The FtDDM&S acquired control of the Newton & Northwestern, the Fort Dodge Street Railway, and the Ames and College Railway, a two- mile steam dummy line organized in 9, 1890 operating from Ames to the Iowa State College. This line was connected at Kelley with a 7 mile extension.
1907 - Fort Dodge to Hope electrified. Des Moines to Midvale electrified. The former N&NW line from Hope to Midvale electrified. The Kelley branch to Ames is electrified. This meant high-speed, frequent interurban service between Des Moines and Fort Dodge, and connections were made to many other Iowa
FDDM&Smap
Fort Dodge Des Moines & Southern - 1943
railroads. The remainder of the system continued to be operated by steam power as did freight service on the entire railroad
1907 - Power Plant built at Fraser and is supplier by company coal. Plant serves electric lines and sells power locally. 53 foot interurban cars built by Niles Car Company are in service. With interiors furnished in mahogany, leather upholstery and clerestory windows, they were the pride of central Iowa. Fast service on the 85 mile run between Des Moines and Fort Dodge commenced. Entry into Des Moines was over the tracks of the local street railway. At its peak, electric cars were operated on an hourly basis.
1910 - The expense of electrification put the road into bankruptcy, with Homer Loring and Parley Sheldon of Ames as receivers. To expedite the handling of heavy freight by electric locomotives, the line was converted from 600 volts to 1,200 volts operation.
cir 1910 - The branch to Rockwell City was electrified and the road extended a branch from Wolf to mines near Ogden, with running rights on the M&StL for about two miles.
post 1910 - The FtDDM&S bought an interest in the mines near Ogden, but labor trouble and flooding made the operation impracticable and the Ogden branch was abandoned.
1912 - Colfax mines were worked out and, despite the increase in freight service from Maytag who started shipping washing machines in 1907 the whole line from Midvale to Newton was abandoned.
1912 - A flood washed out the center span of the “High Bridge”. Seven days later a modern steel span was in place, and exists to this day, and provides one of the best scenic views in the state.
1913 - Old Colony Trust of Boston bought FDDM&S at foreclosure, with Homer Loring as president. The line aggressively sought carload freight in addition to interurban passenger traffic and observed steam railroad rules and practices.
1916 - FDDM&S purchases Crooked Creek Railroad, and constructed its own line to Border Plain from Ft Dodge and the entire line was electrified. The Crooked Creek roundhouse was still standing in 1954.
1917 - USRA takes over FDDM&S during WW1.
1918 - The line continued to push their freight business. With the increase in gypsum mills, sewer pipe and drain tile, freight business flourished, especially in the Fort Dodge area. The road had over 2,500 freight cars, maybe more cars per mile of track than any other railroad in America. The FtDDM&S also had great passenger equipment including two parlor cars with wicker seats, smoking compartments, high-quality Brussels carpets and porter service. An excess fare of 25 cents was charged between Ft Dodge and Des Moines to ride in these cars.
1924 - As automobiles became numerous, passenger service was cut back. These changing conditions led to the forming of the Fort Dodge, Des Moines and Southern Transportation Company. Bus service was inaugurated between Boone and Ames and Des Moines. This bus service was later sold.
1925, - All passenger rail operations discontinued with the exception of Des Moines - Fort Dodge service. Local streetcar operations in Ames and Fort Dodge also ceased.
1930 - FDDM&S in receivership.
1942 - Reorganization as the Fort Dodge Des Moines and Southern Railway.
1943 - The FDDM&S was down to 4 passenger trains a day, at 3 hour intervals between Fort Dodge and Des Moines.
1947 - The boom in construction following WWII saw an increased use of gypsum and greater business for the road. To handle longer trains, three 16 wheel “steeple cab” locomotives were purchased from the Oregon electric Railway. These husky 4 truck locomotives greatly expedited freight up the 2.44% grade west of Fraser.
cir 1955 - Dieselization began. Eventually the FDDM&S had 12 40 ton GE switch engines numbered 401 - 412 and two center cab engines, one in Ft Dodge and one in Des Moines.
1968 - FDDM&S sold to C&NW.
1968-1983 - Portions of the line were discontinued but the line did continue serving some grain elevators and shippers with freight service until 1983.
1983 - The Boone and Scenic Valley Railroad started by a group of volunteers, (the Boone Railroad Historical Society), primarily to preserve a scenic section of the former FDDM&S, which they purchased from the C&NW. This stretch of track through the Des Moines River valley includes the beautiful high bridge. It runs approximately twelve miles from Boone through the small town of Fraser, Iowa and ends at the site of the former town of Wolf.
1983 - The first trip handling passengers was made in November. Tickets were sold out of a tent for rides out onto the high bridge.
1984-85 - Work began on the present depot and it was dedicated in 1985.
post 1985 - Other buildings have been acquired along with additional equipment which is being restored as funds become available.
1989 - The B&SV purchased the last commercially built steam engine, the JS8419 from Datong in the People's Republic of China.
The Society has purchased 25 acres of land which will provide for expansion of the museum. Long range plans include expanding trolley operations both east and west.
1999 - First B&SV dinner train operates.
2002 - The B&SVY acquired and restored an EMD FP9 that was formerly a passenger locomotive owned by VIA Rail Canada. It has been painted in Chicago and North Western Railway inspired colors and powers the line's dinner train.
2008 - The B&SV now owns numerous locomotives and dozens of cars. It gained notoriety in the late 1980s for acquiring one of the last new 2-8-2 Mikado steam locomotives built in China. This locomotive has had maintenance problems but is still operating. The railroad also runs a short trolley ride and has even begun to do light freight switching at Boone industries in recent years. Its station is located just one block from the Union Pacific Railroad mainline.

Our Sources
Private Collection of Richard R. Parks(rp)
Wikipedia the free Encyclopedia [web](wik)
Official Guide- various editions
C&NW Historical Society


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Web Page Written and Maintained by Richard Parks
Copyright © Richard Parks, Decenber 18, 2010, revised May 30, 2011