During the latter part of the 19th century, no town west of the Appalachians could have survived without the railroad. Delegations of civic leaders and capitalists made it their business to lobby for a rail connection to the outside world. And to bring this about, the consumption of alcohol and the smoking of cigars occurred in public, while bribes were often traded in private. The community’s future depended on it.
It was Justin Nelson’s enthusiasm for railroadiana that put Agincourt definitively on the Milwaukee Road (shortened reference for the Chicago, Milwaukee, St Paul & Pacific) and he designed its depot at the turn of the 20th century. Another student is working on that same project this semester, which has led me to wonder about the railroad’s physical presence and its long term influence on community history. This image of a Milwaukee Road yard in Perry, Iowa gives some indication of the scale of its physical plant.
I suspect we’ve not allowed enough room.