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Backstory and plans

Plans are effectively patterns, and my brain is wired to detect and draw from those patterns that surround me. So finding prototypes of early 20th century inter-urban depots was no sweat. And synthesizing what I found and adapting it for a corner site in Agincourt a block south of The Square was relatively quick.

Imagining the NITC (Northwest Iowa Traction Co.) happened very naturally, since the pattern of similar formations has been beautifully set out in George Hilton and John Due’s exemplary treatment The Electric Interurban Railways in America. If you look on page 364 of their book (in my alternate universe, that is) you’ll find the following:

NORTHWEST IOWA TRACTION COMPANY

When the Milwaukee Road threatened reduction of passenger service on it’s Agincourt branch in late 1908, 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 the city with the largest regional rail hubs. Building westward from Fort Dodge, the line reached Agincourt by fall and Storm Lake the following spring. Hourly service began in November 1909. 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 line’s major power source. NITC operated on city streets in Agincourt to reach the station-headquarters at Broad Street and First Avenue South (later Louisa Avenue). The company also operated a commercial hotel and restaurant adjacent to the station. A short branch seasonally served the Fennimore County Fair and Chatauqua Grounds northwest of the city; another, the resort communities at lakes 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 itself survived only six more years.

Scattered around these preliminary drawings for the depot’s first and second floors, there are several news clippings from The Plantagenet that document the building’s emergence from April 1909 until March of the following year. Who said my high school journalism class wouldn’t pay off!

But plans are easy. It’s elevations that freak me out.


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