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The First Fayette County Railroad; the Burlington, Cedar Rapids and Northern:
...The first completed railroad in Fayette county was the Burlington, Cedar Rapids and Northern passing through Independence, West Union, Elgin, Clermont and Postville.  This road came through Oelwein, Maynard, Randalia, Donnan and then swinging into West Union, to Elgin, Clermont and Postville in Allamakee Co.

The Railroad through Lima;  the West Union Line of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad,
…What was known as the West Union Line of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul road was promoted from Dubuque about 1871, under the name of the Iowa & Pacific Railroad, having as its initial point the mouth of the Turkey River and its destination Omaha.  Its chief active promoters through Fayette County were Hon. William Vandeve and Platt Smith. Taxes were voted, subscriptions made, right of way secured, work commenced and actively prosecuted until September, 1873. Track was laid nearly across Clayton County, but, as everywhere, the financial crises of 1872/73, put an end to all building.

..There was a railroad grade constructed--in an early day, 1871-1873 ---following the Volga River valley, coming into the county near Wadena, to Lima, but then west through or near Sumner and Waverly. The grade did not go from Lima to West Union but kept going west from Frog Hollow and crossed the Fayette to West Union wagon road on the side hill just south of the burying ground (Pleasant Hill Cemetery)  three miles north of Fayette.

...Building was resumed in 1878 and track laid as far as Wadena by May of that year (Note: 1878 has also been reported as the arrival date of the railroad in Lima but that date is incorrect, it was 1882.)  In 1881 or early in 1882 the road was purchased by the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul, and extended on the old road-bed as far as Lima by November 2, 1882.  Then, diverging to the north on a new grade (the old grade built to the west in the early 1870’s went up Frog Hollow and was to go into Sumner)   The new short line reached West Union in the winter of 1882 and that was the terminus of the line coming from the Mississippi River up the Turkey Valley then on to the Volga Valley, to Volga City, Wadena, Lima and finally West Union.  The line would function until 1938, when the rails were torn out.

...A lumber yard was established west and south of the Lima store, and was operated for many years by P.H. Hastings, who was also depot agent.  The lumber yard was discontinued in about 1910, and a commission company was formed with stockyards in its place.  Many carloads of cattle and hogs were shipped out from the Lima Stockyard.  Apples, eggs, butter, and other produce was shipped out of Lima.  A passenger car was available.  Commodities were shipped in for the Store and other patrons.
....Rufus Warner was the depot agent for many years.  The Warner family also farmed and blacksmithed.

Fayette County, Iowa, area rail lines in 1905.



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the Dinkey
by Winnie Stearns Davis














(in reference to the train from Wadena, through Lima and on to West Union)
by Winnie Stearns Davis of the Lima/Albany Valley.

The oldsters called it "The Dinky"
That little Rock Island train
That passed twice a day through Lima,
Come sunshine, or, come rain.

It was the lifeline sustaining
Oelberg's General Store;
And the supplies were many and varied
That were unloaded at the depot door.

It puffed on past the old Lima hall,
Where, often, on a Saturday night,
The sound of fiddles and dancing feet
Made the cares of the day take flight.

The Dinky rolled on through Frog Hollow
And it thrilled the little folk -
They loved to hear the whistle blow
And see the billowing smoke.

They'd rush out in the field to watch,
As it sped along the track -
What fun to wave at the engineer!
And the engineer-he'd wave back!

Now, the little train is long gone;
It's usefulness is through.
To ride one time to the end of the line,
Was a dream that never came true.


...In 1915, on February 22, it rained all day and on the 23rd , the river flooded  
carrying large ice cakes downstream and not a railroad bridge was left undamaged 
from Lima to Turkey River Junction. It was three weeks before a train came through,  
mail came by way of West Union and brought down by hand car.
...There was  lumber yard run by P.H. Hastings. It closed about 1910 and a Commission  
Company was formed and stock yards built where the lumber yard stood. F. T. Jones was  
manager of the company. A warehouse was built here.
















In the 1890's the 'Dinky' travels through extreme cold and snow from Wadena and approaches Lima from the east just south of the Lima Cemetery.  The tree line just above the front of the engine is at the Volga River.  The Lima Mill would be a couple of hundred yards off the right edge of the picture.  The engine steam occludes the rest of the trees along the Volga.


In 1875 the rail bed from Wadena through Lima and to the west had been laid out but discontinued because of the financial crises of 1872/73.

In 1878 the building of the rails through Wadena and Lima continued again and by late 1882 the first trains reached Lima and on to West Union.  the 1916 map above and 1919 map below show the route that was adopted instead of the original which would have continue westward from Lima and Frog Hollow on to north of Randalia and then to Sumner.

Lima was never on a major road where commerce moved from larger villages through the Albany and Lima area.  Thus when the rails came in 1882 and until 1938 when they were removed, trains were the Valley's major link to outside commerce.  Lima and Albany in their 'hay day' only had a few business to supply farms with basic commodities.  Many of the residents of the Valley traveled to Wadena, Arlington, Fayette, West Union.  Fayette because of Upper Iowa University attracted many of the offspring of the early settlers.  Many of the pioneer surnames of the Lima and Albany area can be found in the cemeteries of surrounding towns.

The Rails to Lima and Albany were a revolution to a relatively isolated area.

...Andrew Hensley took up land in 1849 a mile plus down river from Lima near the Volga, near where the rails would eventually be laid. Then in 1851 moved to the Lima mill site, putting it into operation in 1852 and farming the land adjacent to Lima and within the Lima plat.  There was no white pioneer settlement in the valley when they arrived.  No farms, the Indians had just been 'pushed' off the land.  The Hensley's had been in the county about ten years before this, coming by oxen and wagon, living in the most primitive of cabins, making a living with basic subsistence frontier activities.  Andrew's offspring were young children or not born yet when he arrived in the area.  They built farms, mills, living quarters by ax and ox.  All materials moved into the valley on draft wagons and sleds from 1849 to 1882.  Yes, the rails were a revolution to a people 'trapped' in a very rural existence.  It meant not only movement of people and materials, but also telegraph communication with the outside world for the first time.

Working short line engine at Mt. Pleasant Iowa's Old Threshers grounds.

...The depot at the Hamilton, Illinois Old Threshers grounds.  Lima's small depot area would have been similar. Although the rails did not directly go through Albany, the depot at Lima was only two miles away, thus easily utilized by all the area residents.  Lima and Albany never had a creamery so milk would be shipped by rails, as would all the other local produce to include mainly livestock, hogs, poultry, apples, honey, eggs, wool, lumber.   From 1882 until motor car and truck transportation became common the rails into Lima and Albany were an absolute revolution in movement of goods and people.


...One can imagine the children of Andrew Hensley and other first to arrive pioneers, boarding a train at Lima in 1890 and being able to travel anywhere in the country. Residents could travel eastward to the Mississippi then into Dubuque and on to any destination east of the Mississippi.  Likewise they could go to West Union and on to any point to the west.  In a matter of days they could be on either coast, a trip that took weeks by horse and wagon or stage line.  As stated the rails were an absolute 'modern' revolution for the people of the Volga Valley.


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All of my direct surnames were very early pioneers into Fayette Co, generally in the mid 1850's.  Growing up in Fayette and trekking the hills, prairies, streams throughout the county when the small villages and farms were so active and functional before the 1960's, the now lost history and memories of the pioneer generations and lifestyles from 1840-1960 continue to hold my interests.
Barry Zbornik
625 N. Section
Hannibal, MO  63401

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