Corn Belt Route CGW By H Roger Grant A History Hard Cover Ex Library Bk
The Corn Belt Route CGW By H Roger Grant A History of the Chicago Great Western Railroad Company
Hard Cover Ex Library Book Stamped on edges of the book , inside front cover, first page
231 Pages Indexed
H. ROGER GRAN I has written a colorful and thorough account of the Chicago Great Western Railroad, the spunky mid-western carrier that contributed mightily to the transportation industry. The 1,5oo-mile CGW, built by the iconoclastic and ambitious A. B. Stickney, proved to be exceptionally innovative as it developed new ways to compete with larger railroads. Pitted against tough, determined competitors, the CGW during its
85 years made innovations that changed the history of transportation. Among the pioneering activities for which the Great Western is remembered are the early use of internal combustion equipment, the hauling of truck trailers atop flatcars ("piggybacks"), and the use of extremely long freight trains. Indeed, much of the railroad's past supports the thesis that smaller, less-established carriers frequently stimulate changes in industry thinking and practices.
In spite of its innovations, the path of the CGW, sometimes called the "Great Weedy," did not always run smooth.
In the 1930s, John W. Barringer III quipped,"The Chicago Great Western is a mountain railroad in a prairie country serving a traffic vacuum." Such a negative comment was not uncommon for this prairie pike that did in fact climb some steep grades and even owned a long tunnel. And while the road did not operate in a "traffic vacuum," nevertheless, its competitors were well entrenched and robust. By 1903, the CGW served the strategic gateways of Minneapolis-St. Paul, Chicago, St. Joseph, Kansas City, and Omaha. Between Chicago and the Twin Cities alone, the company competed with six other roads. When the Chicago and North Western acquired the CGW in 1968, one of America's most imaginative railroads was eliminated.
The Corn Belt Route is the first scholarly treatment of the Chicago Great Western Railroad, a company that has long intrigued the railfan, whether collector, modeler, photographer, or historian. Richly illustrated with photographs, it tells the lively story of one of the great small railroads that once served the Midwest.
THIS history of the "Corn Belt Route," the Chicago Great Western Railroad (CGW), offers the first in-depth account of this late Midwestern carrier. While professional historians have mentioned it in passing, and railroad "buffs" have produced several works about it, the road has otherwise been ignored. Why this has happened is not absolutely clear. Perhaps the wholesale destruction of thousands of irreplaceable records by disgruntled employees at the time of the CGW's merger with the Chicago & North Western and the widely scattered nature of remaining documents have deterred scholars. More likely, the Great Western's size has made it unattractive as a writing project. In recent years big railroads like the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe; Illinois Central; and Louisville & Nashville have all received well-deserved corporate biographies, but the more modest roads, like the Chicago Great Western, have been slighted. In my estimation, this has been a grievous omission. The once dynamic, 1,500-mile Great Western had a colorful past and contributed mightily to the transportation industry. Indeed, competitive innovation commonly sprang from this smaller, less robust carrier. While a firm like the giant Pennsylvania experienced steady ossification, the Great Western did not.
Begun as a speculative venture by that imaginative and energetic Minnesotan, A. B. Stickney, the Chicago Great Western grew to be much more than its creator first anticipated. From its 1885 origins as a 110-mile pike running from St. Paul to the Iowa line, the road quickly gained access to the nation's greatest rail center, Chicago, and shortly thereafter to St. Joseph and Kansas City. Later, the company entered Omaha. By reaching these strategic gateways, the CGW became a significant property.
Although constructed at a late date in an intensely competitive region, the Chicago Great Western fought long and hard to make a profit. Initially, it relied heavily on bargain-basement charges and efficient operations. While regulatory constraints and a change of ownership ended its reputation as a "rate cutter," the company remained dedicated to flexible and innovative practices: it had little choice. Its life continued to be hectic, with powerful neighbors and increasing rubber-tire competition after World War I. These factors help to explain the CGW's most widely celebrated "first" -hauling loaded truck trailers on flatcars, i.e., "piggyback" service.
Like most businesses, the Corn Belt Route experienced its darker moments. Two receiverships and an episode of horrible mismanagement scarred it. Though employees took considerable pride in considering themselves members of a large, happy "family," nasty labor spats did erupt. An exceedingly bitter and at times violent strike hit in 1922; more serious trouble came in 1953.
The Great Western closed out its life in a fashion true to its heritage of innovation and no-nonsense operations. The tenure of William N. Deramus III from 1949 to 1957 and that of his hand-picked successor saw employment of the latest state of the art technology and the most economical methods. A lean work force moved longer and fewer freight trains along a Spartan yet modern physical plant. But the merger mania of the early 1960s radically changed the road's situation. If it were isolated by its friends and rivals, management believed, the company would surely wither and die. Thus, the CGW found a mate, the Chicago & North Western, and it officially joined that corporation on July t, 1968.
Since the Chicago Great Western operated in a region crowded with carriers, various observers have either argued for or at least accepted the point of view that it should never have been built. This seems faulty logic. When Americans had only the railroad to break their isolation from one another, every mile of track was needed. Even when the automobile age dramatically changed the transportation picture, the Great Western still served a vital purpose: it gave generally good, dependable service at reasonable prices. As already suggested, the company achieved a remarkable record for its pioneering efforts. Undeniably, the CGW was an asset to its territory, as the pages of this book will reveal.
My interest in the Corn Belt Route springs from several sources. Admittedly I like trains and have ever since my earliest childhood. Although I grew up in Albia, a southern Iowa community served by the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy; Minneapolis & St. Louis; and Wabash, I also spent time in Carroll, Iowa, on the Chicago & North Western's main line across the state and on the Chicago Great Western's "West End." The former road's streamliners thrilled me, but the latter's long freights, pulled by those ubiquitous F-3 units with their attractive deep red paint scheme, caught my fancy. And there was something about that company's name- Chicago Great Western -that sounded mighty and wonderful. I vividly recall dashing from my aunt's basement office in the old Carroll County Courthouse to the Great Western's tracks when the distinctive blasts of the locomotive's airhorn announced the train's approach to downtown. My fascination for flanged wheels did not end here, and graduate school ignited a strong interest in the progressive era, that great period of uplift and reform that swept America at the turn of the century. Statements by Great Western founder A. B. Stickney attracted my attention. Apparently he was a maverick among his peers for suggesting that the government regulate railroad rates in a meaningful fashion. I assumed that Stickney, and certainly his company, had been studied by at least one professional historian; I soon discovered that I was wrong. The story of this man and his railroad remained to be told.
I CHAPTER ONE
A. B. Stickney Builds a Railroad: The Minnesota & Northwestern, 1883-1887
21 CHAPTER TWO
The Chicago, St. Paul & Kansas City and the Formation of the Chicago Great Western, 1887-1892
3 5 CHAPTER THREE
Running the Maple Leaf Route, 1891-1908
48 CHAPTER FOUR
Years of Growth, 1895-1904
73 CHAPTER FIVE
Reorganization, Rehabilitation, and Recuperation: The Samuel M. Felton Years, 1908-1919
Scandal, Depression, and War, 1929-1948
The Deramus Era, 1948-1957
The Final Decade, 1957-1968
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