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A Visit to Keokuk, Iowa ~ September 5th, 2006

by Elizabeth Guenzler

While most of this day was spent in Fort Madison (travelogue can be found at A Visit to Fort Madison, Iowa), a side trip was taken to the City of Keokuk, the county seat of Lee County. It is the state's southernmost city and is named after Sauk chief Keokuk, who is thought to be buried in Rand Park. It is in the extreme southeast corner of Iowa, where the Des Moines River meets the Mississippi.

The first stop was at the Keokuk Junction Railway yard where BNSF GP39 2970 (ex. BN 2970, exx. SP 6643, nee SP 7746) was found.

A large plant of an unknown industry is beside the yards as well as Santa Fe caboose 999750.

Pioneer Railcorp RS3 203 (ex. West Michigan Railroad 203, exx. West Jersey Railroad 203, exx. Minnesota Transfer Railway 203, exxx. Burlington Northern 4054, nee Spokane, Portland and Seattle 69). It was scrapped in February 2012.

Baggage car of unknown origin at Keokuk Junction Railway.

Pioneer Railcorp (PREX) FP9A 403 (ex. Algoma Central 1750, nee Canadian National 6502) which had been acquired in 2003. This was prior to them being painted in the Keokuk Junction Railway livery.

PREX FP9A 404 (ex. Algoma Central 1752, nee Canadian National 6511).

PREX GP20 2035 (nee ATSF 1128).

PREX GP20 2047 (nee ATSF 1166).

The Keokuk Junction Railway office building.

The former Chicago, Burlington and Quincy station at Keokuk, before a multi-year restoration project commenced. Built in 1891, passenger rail service ended at the depot in 1967, after which it was used by the railroads as a headquarters for their agents and operators. The Keokuk Junction Railway (KJRY) acquired the local yard trackage and switching rights from the bankrupt Rock Island lines, and in 1981 they bought all of the shares of the Keokuk Union Depot Company. The depot was used by the KJRY as the base for their tourist train operations and its trolley rides across the Mississippi into Illinois. Pioneer Railcorp acquired the Keokuk Junction Railway's assets in 1996. They used the old depot for storage until 2011 when they conveyed the depot and the adjacent land to the City of Keokuk for 99 years. The city formed the Depot Commission to oversee the management and preservation of the facility. A non-profit organization, the Keokuk Union Depot Foundation, was established the following year to raise the necessary funds to preserve and run the depot.

Very close to the Keokuk Junction Railway is the Keokuk Bridge, which carries a double-deck single track railway and highway bridge across the Mississippi River between Keokuk, Iowa and Hamilton, Illinois, just downstream of Mississippi Lock and Dam number 19. It was designed by Ralph Modjeski and constructed in 1915–1916 on the piers of its predecessor that was constructed in 1869–1871. Following the completion of the Keokuk- Hamilton Bridge, the upper deck of this bridge, on the Keokuk side, was converted to an observation deck to view the nearby lock and dam; this deck is no longer used for road traffic, but the lower deck is still used for rail traffic. The bridge was originally owned by the Keokuk & Hamilton Bridge company, but following financial problems in the 1940's, the bridge was given to the City of Keokuk in late 1948. The bridge was originally the western terminus of the Toledo, Peoria & Western Railroad. Today, it serves the Keokuk Junction Railway with occasional train crossings for interconnection and river terminal services. Only the Keokuk side of the highway bridge has been converted, the bridge's upper highway deck is abandoned. The river traffic (barges and boats) have the right-of-way, so the swing section remains open until a train needs to cross the river.

The Keokuk water plant and dam as seen from the olad road bridge.

Part of the old rail bridge with the Keokuk dam in the background.

The remains of the overhead wires and transformers of the bridge.

The George M. Verity sternwheeler on display at Keokuk. It was built as the towboat S.S. Thorpe in 1927 by the Dubuque Boat & Boiler Works, Dubuque, IA, for the Upper Mississippi Barge Line. Her pilothouse originally was placed forward at the third deck, which gives her a similar appearance to the W. P. Snyder Jr. In early 1930 a texas deck was added, the pilothouse moved to its actual position and also the smokestacks became higher. In 1940 the boat was sold to the American Rolling Mill Company (Armco Steel) where she got the name George M. Verity. In 1945, the hull was widened and two years later, the paddlewheel was replaced with a new constructed "herringbone" paddlewheel to overcome the vibration. In 1960, the George M. Verity was retired and sold to the City of Keokuk one year later at a symbolic price of one dollar.

The Keokuk water plant as seen from Lock 19 and dam observation deck.

The doors of Lock 19 closing after a small pleasure craft has passed through.

The full lock and dam as seen from the observation platform of Lock 19.

The pleasure boat awaits the water level to be high enough at Lock and Dam 19.

The Corps of Engineers sign of Lock and Dam 19.

Technical details of Lack and Dam No. 19.

The pleasure boat receiving approval to proceed through the lock.

Sailing out into the Mississippi River with the Keokuk Water Plant behind.

The water being drained out of the lock. From here, we drove to Burlington.

Inside Burlington Union Station are these Burlington Road plaques.

The plaque beside the steam engine.

Chicago, Burlington and Quincy 4-6-4 3003 on display at Burlington Union Station. It was then time to return to Fort Madison for the rest of the day.