The Restored Burlington Northern Depot & WWII Museum   |   |   Red Oak, Iowa


 [excerpt from] Andreas' History, 1882


The completion and opening of a third line of railway from Chicago to Omaha marked another epoch in the history of the great metropolis and the Northwest. To the Chicago & North-Western Railway is due the credit of having been the first connecting line of the Union Pacific Railroad. Western railway enterprise rapidly developed another link by the completion of the Iowa Division of the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad, and that was quickly followed by the Burlington & Missouri River Railway, a continuation of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad, affording three great eastern outlets to the Union Pacific via Chicago.

   The Burlington & Missouri River Railroad, running through the richest portion of Southern Iowa, a region abundantly supplied with timber and coal and presenting a diversity of agricultural facilities, was projected in about 1850, but, owing to local and political causes, its progress toward completion was like a desperately fought campaign, with a succession of battles where every advantage was carried inch by inch at the point of the bayonet.

   The line of the road was surveyed from Burlington to Ottumwa, seventy-five miles, in 1853. It was put under contract the following year, but was not completed until 1859. Ottumwa was the Western terminus for six years, at which time, in 1865, the company recommenced operations and began to push slowly toward the advancing Union Pacific. The road was completed to Albia in 1866; to Chariton in 1867; to Afton in 1868, and the balance in December, 1869.

   This is one of the best constructed railroads in Southern Iowa. The road-bed and track are apparently as firm as the hills, and cars glide along in a manner rarely realized upon Western railroads. The western portion of the road is more primitive, but still very firm, the embankment being well rounded and rendered secure by an admirable system of drainage. The ties were selected with great care, and consist chiefly of oak, with a sprinkling of walnut, cherry and locust. These are laid 2,500 to the mile. The track was laid with sixty-pound rails, two and a half inches wide and four inches deep.

   Notwithstanding the fact that the Missouri River at Omaha is five hundred feet above the Mississippi River at Burlington, the gradients are easy, the greatest being less than seventy feet to the mile. This fact is largely due to the engineering skill of those who laid out the road. There are upward of five hundred bridges crossed by this line of road; these are of all sizes, from a single span over a miniature creek to a splendid structure half a mile long, like that over the Des Moines River. All these bridges are models of symmetry and strength, resting upon stone foundations or firmly set piles, and are entirely safe, giving no perceptible vibrations as trains pass over. To secure a supply of water for the engines, reservoirs and ponds were constructed at suitable points all along the line. This was accomplished in some instances by damming small streams. The water was elevated into tanks, holding nearly 50,000 gallons each, by automatic wind-mills. There is no danger that the supply will ever be short, as experience has demonstrated. The Burlington & Missouri Railroad connects at Ottumwa with the Des Moines Valley Railroad and the North Missouri road, and, at Pacific Junction, with the St. Jo & Council Bluffs road.

   Among the important branches and extensions of the road is one from Red Oak Junction [emphasis added] to Nebraska City and the Nebraska Extension to Lincoln. The experimental trip over the road was made January 17, 1870, and was the first passenger train from Chicago to Council Bluffs by the new line. The trip of 496 miles was made in a trifle over twenty-two hours, and was a very successful one, demonstrating to the satisfaction of all the practicability and comfort of the route.

   The Iowa census report of 1869 showed the aggregate of live stock and wool carried eastward from the several stations along the line of road, during the year ending April 30, 1869, to exceed that carried on any other Iowa road. The scenery along this line of railroad is everywhere diversified and beautiful, and the last twenty miles up the Missouri Valley is perfectly magnificent. The high bluffs that fringe the valley on either side, marking the ancient boundaries of a mighty river, are picturesque beyond description.

   The road from Burlington to Omaha traverses eleven counties and runs through the county seat of each. Everywhere along the line, new and prosperous villages soon sprang up, the most noted of these being Mount Pleasant, Fairfield, Ottumwa, Albia, Chariton, Osceola, Afton, Corning, Villesca [sic], Red Oak Junction [emphasis added] and Glenwood.

  A portion of Iowa, hitherto comparatively undeveloped, was, by the building of the Burlington & Missouri River Railroad, opened up with quick and easy access to the great produce markets of the East, and now attains marked prominence on one of the great national highways.     ###