Discover the Sunset Cluster—railroads that were doomed to fail?
The first two decades of the 20th century were the twilight of the Railroad Age. Major routes had long been established, and local service became the focus of new construction. Beginning in 1907, a cluster of five shortline railroads were established in otherwise unconnected parts of Iowa. They, however, would short lived.
The five Iowa 'sunset cluster' railroads might appear to deserve eternal obscurity, being at best minor footnotes to American railroad history. After all, their total mileage barely exceeded 100 miles. Their average life span, moreover, covered about five years, and the Des Moines & Red Oak Railway (DM&RO) never turned a wheel. Yet, these Iowa shortlines had an immediate positive impact to their service area, but disappointingly they became victims of modal competition and the Good Roads Movement.
Using contemporary newspapers, government reports, and other little-known sources, renowned railway historian H. Roger Grant offers a fascinating look at these shortline railroads. Sunset Cluster explores the almost desperate desire by communities to benefit from steel rails before the regional railroad map finally imploded and the challenges faced by latter-day shortline builders.
1. Sunset Years: Railroad Fever
2. Atlantic Northern & Southern Railway: Cass County
3. Iowa & Southwestern Railway: Railroad Problems
4. Creston, Winterset & Des Moines Railroad: An Empty Corridor
5. Iowa & Omaha Short Line Railway: Treynor
6. Des Moines & Red Oak Railway: Gestation of an Interurban
7. Epilogue: The Sunset Complex Matters
"Roger Grant's thoughtful and well-researched study of a handful of late-comer railroads in western Iowa is far more than a regional addition to the existing literature. Not every railroad was a Pennsylvania or a Santa Fe, and not every builder was a Vanderbilt or Harriman, but hometown folk pursuing local rail construction projects provide a valuable case study that showcases the optimism still extant during the twilight years of railroad expansion, the result being these short and often marginal late arrivals."~Carlos A. Schwantes, co-author of Crossroads of a Continent: Missouri Railroads, 1851-1921
"Roger Grant has done another masterful job in presenting an aspect of railroad history that is too often overlooked. The last burst of railroad construction, particularly in the Midwest, is overshadowed by the tumultuous years after the First World War. Grant has taken the histories of five short line railroads in Iowa and placed them in the larger context of the sunset of railroad expansion in the United States. In doing so he's produced an interesting an enjoyable book for scholars and the general reader."~Nick Fry, Curator, John W. Barriger III National Railroad Library at University of Missouri - St. Louis