The Hole in Stickney's Pocketbook - CGW's Winston
By Jerry Huddleston
The afternoon of October 31, 1971 was sunny
and warm in Jo Daviess County. Chicago & North Western Railway
Extra 121 West, GP7 121 running light, coupled a single boxcar
at Galena Junction, Illinois and returned east on the former
Chicago Great Western Railway main line. Engineer Delbert Hatton
notched forward the throttle on the 1- percent grade out of Aiken,
Illinois. The train disappeared into the west portal of the Winston
Tunnel. Once inside the tunnel, the geeps rocking headlights
revealed the cracked and worn lining. The sound of the EMD 567-series
engine reverberated in the cab; and the field shunt contactors
clicked in the electrical cabinet. A few minutes later the train
reappeared from the east portal. Engineer Hatton notched back
the throttle as the train continued on a gentle curve downgrade
to Stockton, Illinois.
Next year, scrappers arrived and dismantled
70 miles of the former CGW main line from Galena Junction to
Byron, Illinois. The C&NW considered the route superfluous
as the parallel C&NW main line was barely 30 miles to the
south. The railroad added a fence to both portals to keep trespassers
out of the abandoned tunnel. Over the years, the portals and
approaches were covered with weeds and trees, portions of the
bore collapsed, and water covered much of the floor. The tunnel
remains today, seductively frightening, even with powerful D-cell
flashlights. But now, only the ghosts of trains continue to pass
through the tunnel.
In the Spring of 1886, surveyors from A.B.
Stickney's Minnesota and Northwestern Railroad hiked the exceedingly
rugged and snake-infested countryside of Jo Daviess County to
locate a 50 mile route from South Freeport, Illinois to the Mississippi
River near Dubuque, Iowa. Wild pigeons flitted overhead and shrubs
scratched the arms and legs of the survey party as they crossed
the rolling hills and limestone bluffs. Earlier, line location
for the Forest Home, Illinois to South Freeport segment had posed
few problems. The first 27 miles from Forest Home to St. Charles,
Illinois followed the grade of the ill-fated Chicago, St. Charles,
& Mississippi Air Line, which never turned a wheel, and included
useable bridge piers at the Fox River. From St. Charles the line
would continue in a northwesterly direction to South Freeport
crossing undulating prairie, hardwood groves, and wetlands.
Because construction costs in the rugged countryside
of Jo Daviess County would be extremely expensive, the railroad
first constructed the Forest Home to South Freeport segment and
acquired rights on the Illinois Central Railroad from South Freeport
(which the IC referred to as Dunbar) to Dubuque for one year.
M&NW engineers knew that an expensive half-mile long tunnel
near the Mississippi River would have to be built. The alternative
of making an open cut was hardly a better idea, as enormous volumes
of waste would be created. The tunnel would be the longest bore
By the following Spring the M&NW had completed
the Forest Park to South Freeport segment and trains ran from
Chicago to Dubuque detouring over the IC. Several crews of Shepard,
Winston, & Company began to carve up the rough terrain of
Jo Daviess County. Stickney's Minnesota Loan & Debenture
Company, which had an agreement with the M&NW, controlled
the project. Shepard, Winston, & Company won the contract
to build the tunnel and the railroad from South Freeport to the
Mississippi River while subcontractors obtained some related
Shepard, Winston, & Company employed 354
laborers to hand dig the half-mile, 2,440-foot tunnel. Crews
labored around the clock for almost an entire year to build the
tunnel. Many local farmers short on cash also joined the laborers.
The "sandhogs" dug from both the east and west portals
and from a 198-foot vertical shaft sunk from the crest of the
hill to the center of the tunnel. Temporary tracks were constructed
to cart clay and dirt from the bore.
Engineers initially believed that the bluff
where the tunnel was to be constructed was made of solid rock
because a thick layer of limestone was found on top of the hill.
However, after work began, the "solid rock" was found
to be mostly hard blue shale. While solid when first exposed,
the rock rapidly decomposed when exposed to air and water. Naturally,
construction of the tunnel was very dangerous. Scores were injured,
and on March 12, 1887, John Hill, a 31-year-old Finnish immigrant
laborer, was killed while digging the west portal.
The Dubuque Daily Times of August 31, 1887
reported: "It is next to impossible to drive the tunnel,
which runs through a bed of blue clay, which can not be worked
with picks, and on which blasting has little effect...The tunnel,
when completed, if the time ever comes when it is completed,
will be the longest tunnel in the state, and as the blue clay
when exposed to the air becomes a rotten shale rock, which crumbles
to pieces, the tunnel will have to be strongly arched from one
end to the other. The cost of the tunnel will probably exceed
the cost of grading fifty miles of any part of the road."
The tunnel was originally lined with 12 x
12 inch timbers spaced 4 feet apart. The walls behind the timbers
were lined with stone up to the spring line of the arch, which
rested on steel beams. A thick arched floor was built of Cyclopean
A few years later, a second set of the same
size timbers was added inside the original set when the first
set showed signs of decay. The supplemental timbers were spaced
1 to 4 feet in different parts of the tunnel.
A crude hotel was hastily constructed to house
the tunnel workers. A local resident described Gallagher's Hotel
as "little more than a tar paper shack" built near
the east portal on the south side of the tracks. The pious farmers
of Irish Hollow avoided the hotel as it earned a reputation for
intemperance and prostitution. The hotel mysteriously burned
after construction of the tunnel was complete. At least one man
was reported to have perished in the fire.
Two small stations were constructed near both
portals of the tunnel to control movements through the tunnel.
Both stations resembled flagman's shanties rather than of standard
M&NW depots. While Winston Station was built at the east
end of the tunnel, Rice Station was built about 1.5 miles from
the west end of the tunnel. Both stations were located by the
railroad to provide access to local roads.
The M&NW never ran a train through the Winston Tunnel because
the railroad was acquired by another Stickney road, the Chicago,
St. Paul, & Kansas City Railway, before the tunnel was completed
in January 1888. The total cost of labor and materials for construction
of the tunnel was more than $600,000, which exceeded projections.
The first train passed through the tunnel on January 20, 1888.
On March 1, 1888, the date M&NW rights
ended on the IC, CStP&KC trains traveled the entire route
from Chicago to Dubuque on home rails. Later in 1892, the CStP&KC
was acquired by yet another Stickney road, the Chicago Great
The CGW initially believed that the vertical
shaft sunk to the center of the tunnel during construction would
provide adequate ventilation for trains that passed through the
tunnel. Unfortunately, this proved false as the railroad began
to receive reports that the intense heat and smoke of the slow
moving locomotives boiled and choked crewman and passengers.
A common remark was that crews emerged from the tunnel looking
like "boiled lobsters." Some crews refused to go through
the tunnel. Of course, the ventilation problem remained unresolved
after the shaft was filled.
The ventilation problem grew worse as traffic
levels increased through the tunnel. Several inexpensive methods
were tested by the railroad. Engine crews soaked towels and wrapped
them around their heads and hands and lie flat on the deck to
lessen the discomfort. The railroad also increased the speed
of the trains through the tunnel. Neither solution really worked.
Eventually the railroad decided to construct
an expensive and complicated fan system at the west portal of
the tunnel that was designed to push the smoke out ahead of the
trains as they passed through the tunnel. A wooden shroud and
fan duct were added to the west portal of the tunnel and a small
brick building was constructed for the fan controls near the
west portal on the north side of the tracks. The fan measured
14 feet in diameter and was powered by a 310 horsepower diesel
engine. The fan was designed to create a 25-mph wind through
The railroad employed two fan house operators
that each worked a 12-hour shift. After working a 12-hour shift
for two weeks, the operators traded shifts. Both operators worked
a long 18-hour shift when they traded shifts. No roads were constructed
to the fan house, so operators had to either use a handcar or
walk the tracks to work, leaving behind their cars at either
Rice or Winston Station.
Local resident R. Merle Funston described how he entertained
visitors to his family's small farm a half-mile north of the
tunnel. "When visitors came to our house on Sunday afternoons,
my brother and I would take them down to the fan house at the
west end of the tunnel. This was a lonely place, so the fan operators
were glad to have company and were glad to explain how the fan
worked. If no trains were due, they would start the fan for us,
and to demonstrate would throw a Sears Roebuck Catalog into the
fan. It came out looking just like snow."
On occasion, the diesel engine that powered
the fan failed to start causing considerable discomfort for the
train crews. As a result, train crews often left an unhappy message
with the dispatcher at either Stockton or Fairground Yard informing
them that the fan did not operate. Although they were not always
at fault, the train crews usually scorned the fan house operators.
Because of drainage problems and settlement
of the second set of timbers the Winston Tunnel had to be extensively
rebuilt only fourteen years after it was originally completed.
The contract was awarded to Lorimer, Gallagher, & Walsh Construction
Company to reline the tunnel with brick and concrete and rebuild
the floor and approaches. In 1902 construction began and would
continue day and night for two years.
Engineers had initially planned to remove
both rows of plumb posts from the tunnel, but this proved impractical
given the tenuous nature of the rock behind the posts. Instead,
only the front row of plumb posts was removed, leaving the rear
row intact, and a foundation for the wall was dug. It was necessary
to undermine the rear plumb posts in order to lower the foundation
to the required grade. In this space, 3-foot thick walls of concrete
faced with brick were built up to the spring line of the arch.
Once the walls were completed, the grade was
lowered between 1 and 3 feet through the tunnel and approaches.
Sections of 150 feet were gradually worked down to the subgrade
and a 6-inch layer of concrete was poured from wall to wall to
seal out the water and mud. Also, new rails and ties were added
to a foot of ballast.
Next, a four-ring brick arch was built below
the original and supplemental timber arches and the space between
the arch and timbers was filled with concrete. Centering for
the 8 foot radius arch was made of 4 x 4 x ½ inch T-iron
bent to a 7 foot 9 ½ inch radius (the T-iron was bent
2 ½ inches tighter to account for sagging). The T-iron
was spaced 5 feet apart and supported by posts in the wall. The
arch was bricked up and backfilled with concrete about 2 feet
at a time in 40 to 50 foot sections. When a section was completed,
and sufficient time was allowed for setting, workers moved forward
on the next section.
The approach to the east portal was rebuilt
in connection with the tunnel work. A 24 inch tile drain was
set in concrete and extended from the east portal to the end
of a 1000-foot cut designed to divert ground water away from
the tunnel. Heavy masonry retaining walls were built on both
sides of the long cut.
Because of limited workspace in the tunnel,
work on the arch had to be done from scaffolding added to cars
that also contained the workers and the material. The only material
not on the cars was the material that was added to the tunnel.
Mortar was mixed on the floor of the cars and passed up through
trap doors; bricks were also tossed up from the floor of the
Workers also had to contend with the heat
and smoke from the locomotives of work trains and scheduled freight
and passenger trains that passed through the tunnel daily. To
minimize this danger, work trains pushed in the cars, cut them
off at the work area, and then backed out. The cars were also
backed out of the tunnel when freight and passenger trains arrived.
The system's busiest main line, 25 scheduled trains passed through
the tunnel daily, kept work trains running day and night. About
15,000 barrels of cement, 2,500,000 bricks, and 11,000 cubic
yards of gravel were needed. Construction was completed without
a serious accident.
Operations through the tunnel during construction
were controlled by a specially installed staff system. Operators
at Winston and Rice Station controlled access to the tunnel.
When a train approached either of the stations, that station
would signal the station on the opposite side of the tunnel.
The opposite station would indicate if the track was clear. If
the track was clear, the near station would hand the staff to
the engineer. After passing through the tunnel "block"
the engineer would hand the staff to the station on the opposite
side of the tunnel, who finally signaled the near station.
The following rules applied: "An interlocking train staff
system and signals have been erected at Winston and West Tower
(Rice) which will govern the movement of trains through Winston
Tunnel while it is undergoing repairs, the district between these
points being considered a 'block'. No train, engine, push car,
or hand car will be allowed to pass upon or through the block
until they have a staff in their possession and the signals indicate
'proceed'. As soon as the block is clear the staff must be returned
to the operator. Work trains permanently employed in this block
may go upon the main track without train orders if they have
a staff in their possession and signals indicate 'proceed'. Staffs
will be delivered by operators to engineers and must be delivered
by engineers to operators. The exchange of staffs between trains
is forbidden." The railroad continued to use the staff system
after construction was complete until the line received automatic
After Samuel M. Felton assumed control of
the CGW in 1909, rehabilitation of the railroad began immediately.
The railroad issued considerable amounts of securities to meet
its financial obligations and provide the cash needed for improvements.
The 240-mile Chicago to Oelwein main line received automatic
block signals, new eighty-five pound steel rail, and double track
between Kent, Illinois and Winston Station. About $10 million
were spent on improvements for the entire system.
Part of Feltons desire to rehabilitate the
property included the possibility of relocating the main line
in Northwestern Illinois. The never-ending maintenance for the
tunnel, heavy grade out of Aiken, and the expensive toll exacted
by the IC for using its Mississippi River Bridge at Dubuque,
regularly caused trouble for the railroad. The most likely route
would be build west from the main line near Elizabeth, Illinois
directly to the Mississippi River; span it near Bellevue, Iowa
and rejoin the main line near Dubuque. Prohibitive construction
costs dampened management's enthusiasm although studies continued
until the Second World War.
The Illinois National Guard dispatched troops
to protect the strategic tunnel from seditious acts after the
U.S. entered the First World War. A soldier was posted at both
ends of the tunnel and the soldiers were based in troop cars
parked on the Winston siding. Soldiers undoubtedly found this
assignment prosaic, but were reassigned after only three months
when the perceived threat had diminished.
The Winston Tunnel regularly needed repairs
during its 84-year history. Ever-present ground water continually
deteriorated the tunnel materials and the shale rock surrounding
the bore. In 1912, the west portal was extended 60 feet with
a non-reinforced concrete arch section backfilled with stone
and in 1918, a 12 inch plain concrete floor was added to the
tunnel. The replacement floor was twice as thick as the concrete
floor added in 1902. New steel rails and wood ties were also
added to a foot of ballast in the tunnel and approaches. These
repairs were engineered to improve drainage in the tunnel. In
1944 and 1947, two sections of the tunnel totaling 1,266 feet
from the east portal were reconstructed with 8 inch steel ribs
set in concrete added flush to the walls and arch. A smaller
section of 200 feet near the west portal was also reconstructed
using the same materials. The steel rib and concrete lining replaced
sections of the brick and concrete lining added in 1902.
Operators apparently considered the fan house
job the most undesirable job on the railroad. The roadless location
combined with wild stories about a ghost that haunted the tunnel
made the job terrifying for many operators, particularly those
negligent in their duties. The following account by Stockton
operator C.W. Finch illustrates an incident at the fan house.
"One time the Chief Dispatcher at Stockton,
Larry Ross, thought he would sneak up on an operator at the fan
house who was often drunk on the job. This operator had caused
so much trouble there, and in the past the chief had always failed
in his attempts to catch the man drinking. This time Chief Ross
hoped he would find the evidence necessary to dismiss the man.
The chief and four men left Stockton in an
old 'Model-T' Ford about midnight and headed for the tunnel.
It was a cold, autumn night, but accompanied by the usual gallon
of drinking alcohol to ward off the chill, or perhaps in case
of snakebite, they made the fifteen-mile trip without incident.
When they arrived at their destination at the east end of the
tunnel the last train was just passing through. The next one
would not be along for three hours.
The chief and his men walked all the way through
the tunnel. When they arrived at the fan house they shined a
light through the window, sure they would catch the operator
asleep, and they found the place empty. Ross unlocked the door
with his switch key and walked inside. Although he found the
place empty he could still smell the odor of pipe smoke and figured
the man was around there somewhere, even though the man was nowhere
to be seen.
Ross telephoned the operator at Rice, the
next station west of the tunnel. This was the place where the
man going on duty left his automobile and then climbed aboard
a handcar and pumped himself to the job at the fan house, one
mile away. The man being relieved would then take the handcar
back to Rice and leave it for the next man coming on duty. Some
of the men, however, had their own handcar and would keep it
right at the fan house while at work.
The operator at Rice, thinking that the chief
was back in his office at Stockton, informed him that the fan
house operator had just left for Hanover, saying that he had
to go because his wife was having a baby, but would be back in
one hour. 'Hell, he isn't even married,' the chief snorted. 'The
guy is down there somewhere in a tavern.'
While waiting for the operator to show up
the chief and his men made elaborate preparations for his homecoming.
They all wanted to give the man a good scare, and eagerly awaited
A string was passed through a fork in the
small tree next to the rear window of the office and attached
to a small nail just above the window opening. A medium-sized
nut tied on a small string two feet from the end so that when
the string was relaxed it would allow the nut to bang up against
the window in whatever manner the man on the other end of the
string desired. They sat back and waited.
When the operator finally appeared they could
see that he was drunk as a skunk. As the fellow pushed his handcar
away from the tracks he heard strange noises coming from the
tunnel. The moans, groans, and other unearthly sounds soon had
the man running for his office and he almost broke down the door
in his haste to enter. He slammed the door shut and then immediately
barricaded it with a chair. He seemed to be terrified. The chief
and his men were delighted at their success.
When the man on the string started pumping
away with his device, two shots and the sound of breaking glass
echoed through the tunnel entrance as the man shot out the window.
After a few more minutes of harassment he suddenly appeared in
the doorway with his pistol firing madly as he raced for his
handcar. The chief and the others hit the dirt as the bullets
whined away in the darkness and ricocheted off the nearby cliff,
but soon regained their feet when the man pumped madly away on
his vehicle. He never came back.
After the chief and his men recovered from
their hilarious laughter someone brought up the subject of the
fan house job, which was now abandoned. Someone was going to
have to protect this job. With nobody else around to take care
of the job the chief ordered the second trick man at Stockton
to finish out the shift. This man was one of the men who accompanied
the chief to the tunnel and had previously worked his eight-hour
shift at Stockton that night. He was not happy, to say the least.
He finally did consent to protect the job
when the chief promised him that someone would drive over and
pick him up when the shift was over and the day man relieved
him. The chief returned with the others to Stockton.
In a week or so the man who had been frightened
at the fan house showed up at Stockton to get his pay. He reported
all sorts of fantastic stories about the Winston Tunnel ghost
to anyone who would listen, and since the company was short of
operators that day they had to put the man back to work, although
he refused to ever work at the fan house again. His tales about
the ghost became wilder and wilder as the years passed."
Major savings to the CGW came from dieselization in 1948. New
diesel locomotives effused much less heat and smoke in the tunnel
than old steam locomotives allowing the railroad to close the
fan house. Workers removed the wooden shroud and fan duct, although
the fan house remained intact. Earlier, both Winston and Rice
Stations had been closed.
A young William N. Deramus III assumed control
of the CGW in 1949 determined to improve the property. Because
the railroad enjoyed relative economic prosperity with the post
Second World War boom, Deramus had the cash he needed to modernize
the plant. Between 1949 and 1951, capital expenditures for track,
bridges, and structures totaled $6.9 million and for equipment
Deramus also considered relocating the main
line in Northwestern Illinois. In 1951, the CGW employed the
Chicago engineering firm of DeLeuw, Cather, & Company to
submit a field study and engineering report for an improved main
line between MP 150, near Rodden, Illinois, about 13 miles west
of Stockton, and MP 196, near Farley, Iowa. This required a survey
of the entire area between the two endpoints to locate the most
desirable route and included plans for all of the structures
and bridges demanded along the line. The railroad specified that
grades on the new line be limited to a maximum of .80 percent
and that curves are limited to a maximum of 2 degrees, or 1 degree
wherever possible, which would permit operations of 200-car trains
at speeds in excess of 80 mph. After a preliminary field study
the railroad quickly agreed to move the starting point east to
MP 137, near Stockton, which would save an additional 4 miles
between the field study endpoints.
Engineers were unable to find an inexpensive
way to navigate the Mississippi River; bluffs rise sharply several
hundred feet above the level of the river and numerous rivers
and small streams crossed the rough undulating countryside of
the survey area. Solid rock is on the surface in many places
and between 6 and 20 feet of dirt, clay, and sand cover stratified
and solid limestone along the entire route.
The proposed Stockton Air Line Railroad would run in a fairly
straight line from Stockton to Farley. The airline was only 47.8
miles long between the endpoints, compared with 58.3 miles between
the endpoints of the existing route. To maintain the maximum
.80 percent grade, a 7,000-foot long, 221-foot deep cut would
be needed at MP 148 near Rodden, the highest point of the line
east of the Mississippi River. The proposed line would span the
Mississippi River with a massive 6,165-foot bluff top to bluff
top single-track bridge. The east abutment of the bridge would
be located 1.5 miles north of Galena Junction and the west abutment
would be near St. Donatus, Iowa. U.S. Highway 20 would also have
to be relocated a total of 6,000 feet to accommodate the relocation.
The existing main line east of the river between
Stockton and Galena Junction, including the Winston Tunnel, would
be abandoned while the track west of the river between Farley
and Dubuque would be retained to provide local service. A wye
connection and a 1,400-foot siding would be constructed at MP
184.5 between the airline and the existing main line. New 115-pound
welded rail, creosote ties, a foot of ballast, and automatic
block signals would be added to the line.
The estimated cost of the Stockton Air Line
Railroad was a staggering $37,219,900. The prohibitive cost ended
management's plans for major line relocation. Some CGW wag suggested
that "they could pay for CB&Q and IC trackage rights
forever to cross the river and still come out ahead."
On August 12, 1956 the CGW annulled Chicago
to Oelwein passenger trains, although Dubuque to Oelwein passenger
trains continued until September 30, 1956, when the CGW received
regulatory permission from the Iowa Commerce Commission.
In 1964, the CGW again employed the Chicago
engineering firm of DeLeuw, Cather, & Company to submit an
engineering report to either relocate the main line using an
open cut or improve the existing tunnel and approaches to provide
additional vertical clearance. The railroad required that any
relocation considered be less than 5 miles in length and that
the present tunnel vertical clearance of 18 feet, 6 inches, from
the top of the rails to the bottom of the arch, be increased
to 22 feet.
The Winston Tunnel had deteriorated considerably
since it was last repaired in 1947. Salt, used to treat ice that
accumulated on the floor of the tunnel during cold weather, had
deteriorated the bottom of the walls, grade beams, and floor.
Sections of the brick and concrete lining installed in 1902 was
cracked and pushed out by ground water. The plain concrete floor
added in 1918 was breaking up and parts had pushed up through
the floor. Both portals were cracked and worn. The north retaining
wall at the west portal was displaced and had been hastily shorn
up with timbers.
Engineers initially considered three possible
alternatives to relocate the main line using an open cut: relocate
the main line to the north of the tunnel, daylight the tunnel,
or relocate the main line to the south of the tunnel. The 2.6-mile
southern route was considered the most viable alternative. It
provided lighter grades and fewer curves than northern route
and would not have removed traffic from the main line during
construction as daylighting the tunnel would have.
Further consideration was given to the possibility
of improving the existing tunnel and approaches to provide additional
vertical clearance. Engineers examined improving the tunnel and
approaches with and without traffic. Lowering the floor and approaches
was considered the most viable alternative because the floor
needed repair and the arch and walls were in serviceable condition.
Improvements would include replacement of the floor, approaches,
and retaining walls and repair of the walls and portals. Finally,
new rails, ties, ballast, and signals would be installed.
Based on this report the cost to relocate
the main line using an open cut would be $6,888,000, and the
cost of improving the existing tunnel and approaches with traffic
would be $2,116,000, and without traffic $1,648,000. The engineering
firm concluded that relocating the main line could not be considered
on a comparative economic basis with improvements made to the
tunnel. Although the cost of improving the tunnel was certainly
reasonable, the needed repairs were not made. New merger talks
with the C&NW sealed the fate of the Winston Tunnel.
As the end of an independent CGW drew near,
the railroad operated four daily Chicago to Oelwein time freights
through the crumbling tunnel: #91 and #143 westbound; #90 and
#192 eastbound. The operating philosophy was to hold for tonnage
and move heavy tonnage trains, on one occasion 15,000 horsepower
lugged 275 cars through the tunnel; however, most trains were
9,000 horsepower. IC operators who controlled CGW movements to
the west of the tunnel between Portage, Illinois and Dubuque
Junction referred to these prodigious freights as "mortgage
IC relief operator LaVerne Andreessen worked
the second trick at East Dubuque, Illinois for three weeks in
1965. He described a visit with a CGW engineer, "one evening,
the CGW called and asked if I would place #143 into the IC's
Center Siding at East Dubuque. The train was, by CGW standards,
relatively short, and fit quite easily. It was an easy thing
for me to 'store' the train as the CGW did not want the train
over into Dubuque on account of #90 either in town or due to
arrive soon, so the East Dubuque meet was arranged. It was common
for the CGW to arrange their own 'meets' on the CGW double track
- by merely holding #143 at Galena Junction on their own track,
and when #90 got ready to get out of Dubuque, the CGW would 'turn
#143 loose' and the two would meet at track speed on the IC's
double track between East Cabin and Portage approximately 12
miles to the east.
The IC's Center Siding had an electric switch
on the east end, and the train could be routed from the westbound
main through the electric switch, through a spring switch located
at the south end of the center siding and put away. Upon leaving,
I would use the 'armstrong' levers and let the train out of the
north end of the siding. No problem - so I did so. I recall they
arrived about 9:30 PM CST.
Shortly after the train came to a stop, the
office door opened and in walked one George Green, bedecked in
traditional engineman garb as I recall. We discussed a wide range
of things as they were there for an hour or so. One yarn he told
me was that in his earlier days with the railroad the CGW used
to have pusher engines to help trains up through the Winston
Tunnel. After shoving an eastbound up through the tunnel, it
was great fun to drift back west and stop at the tunnel entrances
in the Spring and look for recently awakened rattlesnakes warming
themselves in the sunlight on the rapidly heating rock outcroppings.
And, the crews would take the 'squirt hose,' which was used to
clean up about the cab, and give the snakes a shot of hot water
directly from the boiler. He said it would 'really get 'em riled
up.' I am certain this also proved fatal to the snakes as well.
Now what prompted this yarn as I recall was
his telling that a short while before arriving at East Dubuque,
they had stopped at Galena Junction and set out a car for the
CB&Q interchange. In the rapidly gathering darkness the brakeman
opened a switch, thought he heard a noise, and as good braking
practice would require, used his lantern to check the switch
points. A rattlesnake had crawled into the closed portion of
the switch points to keep warm due to the rail heat from the
day's sunlight. The opened switch points caused the rattlesnake
to fall down to the ties and ballast, and then stick its head
and part of its body back up through the open switch points.
The quick-thinking brakeman immediately lined the switch back
to the direction it was, and managed to kill the snake by squeezing
it in between the two-closed switch rails again. Now whether
this yarn was true or not, I do not know. But, I do know that
George Green was one hell of a story teller."
Proposed mergers of surrounding railroads
would change the role of the CGW with these railroads. Management
believed that bankruptcy would ultimately result if the CGW was
isolated by friends and rivals and had to cover the constantly
rising costs of labor and material alone. After considering merger
with several railroads, the CGW found a determined suitor in
the C&NW. Merger would yield substantial savings for both
railroads and both railroads overwhelmingly backed the merger.
An application for merger was filed with the Interstate Commerce
Commission on November 13, 1964. The merger was delayed until
July 1, 1968 because of regulatory opposition from shippers and
The author would like to thank LaVerne
Andreessen, Monica Best, Thomas Bluecher, Richard A. Dittmar,
Charles W. Finch, Matthew J. Frahm, Bruce Funston, Howard R.
Garner, James A. Neubauer, James Rueber, Paul K. Swanson, and
Phillip A. Weibler for their help with this article.
C. W. Finch, The CGW Winston Tunnel and its
Ghost. Newell, IA, 1985.
R. Merle Funston, The Winston Tunnel and I. Newell, IA, 1983.
H. Roger Grant, The Corn Belt Route: A History of the Chicago
Great Western Railroad Company. DeKalb, IL, 1984.
Phillip R. Hastings, Chicago Great Western: Iowa in the Merger
Decade. Newton, NJ, 1981.
Robert P. Howard, Illinois: A History of the Prairie State. Grand
Rapids, MI, 1972.