THE BEGINNING OF REAL RAILROADS pgs 88-96
Although there were other failures among railroads some, as early as 1850, were undertaken in real earnest. Before any cars entered Iowa, however, there was an interesting contest between the cities of St. Louis and Chicago for the markets of the new State. Great cities are made by trade; and if the entire trade of the Mississippi valley could be captured for its markets, Chicago would gain great advantage. St. Louis had the start of Chicago, because the river trade was all going in that direction.
There were cities in Iowa ambitious to become the railroad centers of the State. Dubuque wanted to be, next to the city of Chicago, the market and railroad center of the northwest. It would have been to the advantage of Dubuque, no doubt, had the plan to build a line to St. Louis instead of to Chicago been carried out. At first the north and south road was not to run along the Mississippi River, but in a line which passed through the chief towns which had sprung up some distance back from that stream (See map, p. 80). The purpose of this line would have been to carry freight to St. Louis just as the river had before.
But the Chicago market was not idle; and the railroads were being pushed westward from that point toward Iowa. By the close of 1853 there were nearly three hundred miles of railroad in Illinois, while Iowa had none at all. Although the two cities mentioned, Chicago on the Great Lakes and St. Louis to the south on the great river, were trying each to win over the other, there were men in Iowa who saw the value of having two markets—one by railroad and one by water, or by both. These were the men, no doubt, who did the most to bring the lines of railroad into Iowa and to help them to get started.
About 1850 a company of men decided to build a road from Davenport to the capital of the State (Iowa City). It was to connect, when it was finally completed, with another then being built from Chicago to Rock Island, opposite Davenport. As in other ventures of this kind, the men who were at the head had to find money to employ a surveyor to lay out the line. Congress was asked to allow the road to pass through the public lands; and along with that request was another to give the company about 210,000 acres to help build the road. But Congress seems to have been troubled with too many requests of that kind to respond to all of them. This refusal seems to have made no difference, for the company went ahead and got a name; at least it became afterward a part of the “M. & M.”, or the Mississippi and Missouri, Railroad.
Not long after that the company had set out to construct a road in Iowa, and the road from Chicago was well under way (in 1853), it was agreed to unite the two companies under the “M. & M.” name; provided always that Iowa City (the capital) should be a station on the line.