Historical information provided by Jonathan Reed
WHO REMEMBERS…seeing trains on the rail lines, visiting the local train depots, or driving under the Arnolds Park viaduct?
Spirit Lake was served by two rail lines, and that meant two railway stations. The first to arrive in 1882 was the Burlington, Cedar Rapids & Northern, the same railroad that built the massive Orleans Hotel a year later. Before long, a depot was added to handle freight. (The Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette advised vacationers to mark their luggage with “Spirit Lake – Orleans” otherwise it would be deposited here, a mile south of the hotel.)
With decades of railroad consolidation and bankruptcies, however, the depot, now owned by the Rock Island line, was decommissioned in 1963. Located near Memphis and Keokuk avenues on the present jogging trail, the goldenrod yellow building with its brick-red roof was removed about 1970.
The Milwaukee Road line also pushed through to Spirit Lake in 1882, but it was the northern terminus of the route running from Des Moines–locomotives were turned in a roundhouse to the northeast while cars waited on a nearby siding for the return trip south. The 1883 depot handled both passengers and freight, with sometimes as many as 14 arrivals per day.
Rail service declined steadily after WW II. According to the Dickinson County Historical society, the last passenger trip was in 1952, and the final freight run completed in 1974. By that year, however, the need for the depot had already diminished, and the museum had made arrangements to move in.
Memorial Day to Labor Day
Labor Day to Memorial Day
(Until the end of this year, Tuesdays and Wednesdays 10 to 3, but appointments can be arranged.)
(From the December 28, 1972 Spirit Lake Beacon.)
(This aerial photo is a portion of a Vinton C. Arnold postcard circa 1960. It shows the Rock Island line tracks on the left, and the yellow freight depot. This view shows the location of the freight yards to the old Dickinson County Fairgrounds, now the Hy-Vee supermarket. The row of poplar trees and their shadows point toward the location of the Milwaukee Road depot, painted gray at the time.)
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