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The Hole in Stickney's Pocketbook - CGW's Winston Tunnel

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 in Illinois.

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 jobs.

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 Concrete.

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 Western Railway.

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 tunnel.

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 cars.

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 block signals.

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 his return.

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 $15.7 million.

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 lifters."

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 other railroads.

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.