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Des Moines & Central Iowa - A Capsule History

This interurban operated out of Des Moines in a V shape, with one branch going northwest to Perry and the other branch going northeast to Colfax. It was an electric line until after WWII and was affiliated with the Des Moines Street Railway (street car) properties. In general, passenger traffic was very weak, but it survived because of industrial sidings and steam railroad connections, which generated freight revenue.

In 1949 the line was purchased by Salzberg, who dieselized the line immediately. While he had no qualms about scrapping properties, his policy was to continue to operate viable lines. Finally, in 1968 (and 69), the DM&CI was purchased by the C&NW.

It should be mentioned that there was a short, side branch to Woodward and a long belt line around the north side of Des Moines. That belt line transversed an industrial area, including access to the Firestone Plant. That plant was served by the C&NW into the 1990s.

Reporting Marks (varying, depending on circumstances): DM&CI, D&CI, DCI

Timeline:

  • 1899 The Inter-Urban Railroad was incorporated. That name was used in the early era.
  • 1902 The line to Colfax was built. Colfax had some resort prospects and there was also coal along the line.
  • 1906 The line to Perry was constructed with a side-branch to Woodward.
  • 1918 1920 Military traffic was provided to Camp Dodge.
  • 1922 The line is renamed the Des Moines & Central Iowa.
  • 1930s Passenger traffic on the Colfax line dropped from 9 trains to 3 trains.
  • 1939 Three ex-Lake Shore Electric cars (steel) were purchased used. These were supposed to rectify the problems with older cars. They were scrapped in 1951.
  • 1941 Passenger traffic was discontinued to Colfax and also on the Woodward branch.
  • 1946 The Colfax line is abandoned.
  • 1948 The line from Granger to Perry drops passenger service.
  • 1949 The remainder of the Perry/Granger line drops passenger service.
  • 1949 Salzberg purchases the line and continues to operate freight service on the industrial segments.
  • 1949 The line is dieselized with second-hand diesels, painted in a cream and orange scheme. The electrical equipment is sold for scrap, but the money is reinvested back into the railroad.
  • 1954 The Granger to Perry segment is abandoned.
  • 1961 The old Willow Street shops are removed and a new shop for the diesels is built, within a year, on the belt line, near a small yard.
  • 1968 The line is sold to the C&NW.
  • 1980 Track from Granger to Camp Dodge is abandoned.
  • 1988 1990 Only 2 miles of DM&CI track remain and the C&NW upgrades some of it.
Compiled by Joe Piersen

Sources:
Archives notes
Hilton & Due The Electric Interurban Railways In America
Lloyd, G. Spring 1991 issue of North Western Lines
Sims, R. Spring 1991 issue of NWL, includes all-time locomotive roster
Ibid. Winter 1988
Ibid. Summer 1994


Also recommended, but not used, is a volume on Iowa interurbans by the Central Electric Railfans Assn. Not in our library.

All of the resources above are out of print, but visit the Regional History Center at DeKalb for the issues of NWL. Use interlibrary loan for the Hilton book.

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