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Paper Trail 2.0

Published sources which reference various aspects of a community’s history are virtually without limit. Witness the story of interurban transport in the U.S.

According to Messrs Hilton and Due in their publication The Electric Inturban Railways in America, “Iowa had 489 miles of interurban lines, the greatest mileage in any state west of the Missippi except Texas and California. The Iowa interurbans in general resembled West Coast lines much more than the Midwest lines; their development of substantial carload freight business at an early date enables them to survive the coming of the automobile much more successfully.” Their assessment provides much useful information for me to conceive the interurban that served Agincourt.

Some of Iowa’s lines continued passenger service into the 1950s and there was ongoing freight service as recent as the 1960s. I could have ridden on one of those babies.

Toledo_interurban

So I’ve been able to imagine the Northwest Iowa Traction Company in fairly specific terms and to even write its brief history (in the style of Messrs Hilton and Due) as it would have appeared in the above mentioned book.

Northwest Iowa Traction Company

When the Milwaukee Road threatened reduction of passenger service on its Agincourt Branch in 1909, The Northwest Iowa Traction Co. quickly incorporated and projected an ambitious route from Fort Dodge to Sioux City, a distance of 131 miles, that would link Iowa’s two largest rail hubs in the northwest. Building westward Fort Dodge, the line reached Agincourt by fall and Storm Lake the following Spring. Hourly service began in April 1910. When right-of-way beyond Cherokee proved too costly, the extension to Sioux City never materialized.

A syndicate of Agincourt investors held more than fifty percent of company stock and several of its board also served as directors of the local electric utility, the lines major power source. NITC operated on city streets in Agincourt to reach the station-headquarters at Broad Street and Louisa (formerly First Avenue SW). The company also operated a commercial hotel and restaurant adjacent to the station; a short branch (1 mile) seasonally served the County Fair and Chautauqua Grounds northwest of the city. Other seasonal service reached the cluster of resorts at Sturm and Drang.

Connection with the Fort Dodge, Des Moines & Southern Railway at Fort Dodge provided transfer service to the capital and other points in central Iowa, including the Iowa State College at Ames. NITC sometimes used combination cars to carry passengers and freight, a profitable sideline during the 1920s. Passenger traffic stabilized during the Depression and improved somewhat through World War II. Operations ceased in 1948; the seventy-six-mile right-of-way was abandoned and the rolling stock sold to the Fort Dodge, Des Moines & Southern, which survived for only six more years. [excerpt from Hilton & Due, Electric Interurban Railways in America (1960), p364]

Fortunately, there are many postcard views to help me design their depot at the southwest corner of Broad and Louisa and to weave several other stories into that building’s design and construction and subsequent history.

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