Des Moines & Central Iowa Railway — the old Inter-Urban — long gone

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Motorman Frank Comer of Granger drove the last run to Perry of the Des Moines & Central Iowa Railway Co. Sept. 29, 1949. Comer worked for the railroad for 39 years and retired in 1954.


 

On Sept. 29, 1949, a Des Moines man by the name of J. C. Wier of Center Street was one of about 50 people on the last run of the Des Moines & Central Iowa (DM&CI) Railway to Perry. A lot of the passengers, such as Des Moines and Perry representatives, were guests of the railroad, but Wier bought tickets for his wife and himself.

Wier had been a passenger on the first Perry run back in November 1906, when the line was still called the Inter-Urban Railway. It was reorganized in 1922 as the DM&CI.

“When I read the interurban was making its last scheduled run, I knew I’d have to go along,” said Wier, who was working in 1949 in the Tri-State Theater Corp. warehouse. “It wouldn’t seem right if I didn’t.”

Perry people who came to Des Moines by an earlier car in order to make the last trip included Perry Mayor Leslie Wright, Perry City Council member Herb Taylor and Perry Commercal Club President John Burnett.

Among the Des Moines riders were Des Moines Mayor Heck Ross, Des Moines Chamber of Commerce President Allen Whitfield and Chamber Secretary John Adams. Representing the Des Moines Railway was C. W. Gifford, and a group of retired DM&CI were the guests of General Manager J. C. Bussey.

Some regular commuters also made the trip because it was a handy way to get home. All in all, they nearly filled two cars on the final run.

The interurban line had not run two-car trains since World War II, when it was hauling troops to and from Camp Dodge, at one time an important stop on the line. People lined up to watch the final train pull out from the station at Second and Grand avenues, with railroad fans and the press recording the farewell take off.

At Sixth Avenue and Corning Street in Des Moines, Motorman Frank Comer stopped to pick up Ray McClelland, a former freight agent for the line, and took him to the Beaver Valley Junction. Comer worked for the railroad for 39 years and retired in 1954.

The conductor on the last run was Frank Logue of 700 Second Ave. Elmer Wellslager, 75, also made the last run, and he was a brakeman on the first freight train to Perry.

Started in 1898, the DM&CI at one time ran passengers and freight to Colfax and Woodward as well as Perry. Plans to go from Colfax to Newton were never realized.

It was not too successful in its freight operations due to competition from steam-powered lines or in its passenger operations due to sparsely populated towns along the routes. At its height in the 1920, the DM&CI ran nine trains a day between Des Moines and Perry and from Des Moines to Colfax, then a resort area.

Service on the Colfax and Woodward lines was stopped in August 1941, and service to Perry was reduced to only three cars a day. In March 1939, the DM&CI got three large, steel cars from Lake Shore, numbers 170, 179 and 180. Baggage compartments, truss rods and a bell on top were added, and the cars were renumbered 1710, 1712 and 1714.

Car 1712 was involved in a collision with a semi-tractor trailer July 7, 1940, and ended up on its side but was fixed and later return to service. It was car 1712 that made the last run to Perry. All three cars was scrapped in 1949.

By 1946 the line to Colfax was abandoned, and the branch to Woodward was torn up.

Passenger service ceased after 1949, but freight service was continued with second-hand diesels locomotives. The Granger-to-Perry line was abandoned in 1954, and by 1961 the old Willow shops were removed.

The Chicago & Northwestern Railroad bought the old DM&CI line in 1968. In 1980 the track from Camp Dodge to Granger was abandoned. The Union Pacific now runs on the remaining freight belt tracks still in use in Des Moines.

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