Iowa History Daily: August 29 - Trains & Troubles

Iowa History Daily: On August 29, two important railroad events took place during the late-1800s. In 1866, the first train rolled into Des Moines on the Des Moines & Valley Railroad, and in 1877 the Rock Island derailed in Central Iowa at Four Mile Creek killing 20.

Growing out of the failed Des Moines Lock & Navigation Company’s ambitious effort to create a 37 part lock and dam system to allow for steamboat navigation on the Des Moines River, the Des Moines & Valley Railroad started stretching northwest from Ottumwa in 1857. Reaching Eddyville in 1861, construction halted due to the American Civil War.

Construction resumed and the line reached Pella in late December of 1864. Nearly two years later workers completed the final stretch between Marion County and Des Moines. The first train headed for Iowa’s capital city left Keokuk at 7:30 a.m. on the 29th and chugged into Des Moines just before 3:00 p.m. Halting at the east side of the river due to the lack of a bridge, a large crowd enthusiastically greeted the train.

Eleven years later and not too far to the east near Altoona at Four Mile Creek heavy rains wreaked havoc on the Chicago & Rock Island bridge over Four Mile Creek. The storm also washed a bridge over a large ravine about a mile down the track, and although the horrific wreck stands as the work in Central Iowa’s history the catastrophe would have been much worse had the train continued down the line. 20 people died as a result of the wreck, and an additional 35 were severely injured. #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryCalendar


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