The "K-Line"
Notes and Clippings from Pat Ryan White




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The above picture shows the wooden covered railroad bridge over Big Creek south of Mt. Pleasant.  The bridge served the Keokuk, Mt. Pleasant, and Northwestern Railroad, better known locally as the K-line.  The K-line operated from 1882-1932, serving Oakland Mills, Denova and Salem in Henry County.

Photo courtesy of Don Young.



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K-Line Postcard

Postcard with postmark dated, "October 18, 190?" to 

"Miss Minnie Cady, Winfield, Iowa 

Hello Minnie:  Do you know anything about this picture?  It is down on the dear, old "K" line.  Did you ever see it? 

From Ted

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"On the K-Line,
Mt. Pleasant, Iowa"

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On the K-Line

One of the more scenic sections of the "K" line right of way is Hoaglin Drive, the road to the landfill on the west edge of Saunders Park

From The News, Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, October 21, 1972

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The K-line route passes west of Salem.

- 1917 Standard Atlas of Henry County, Iowa

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The K-line route passes through Oakland Mills.  Notice the K-line depot north of the church.

- 1917 Standard Atlas of Henry County, Iowa


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K-Line Schedule

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K-Line Schedule

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K-Line Schedule

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K-Line Schedule


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This picture was provided by Rosemary and Bill Marley.  On the back is written "December 1916". 




History of the K-Line Train 1881 ~ 1932  

K-Line Train Makes Last Run From Mt. Pleasant To Keokuk This Afternoon


Lacked Only Three Days Of Rounding Out Fifty-one Years  

The K-Line train made her last run today.  

Puffing in and out of Mt. Pleasant for fifty-one years, the Keokuk-Mt. Pleasant train came near making her last visit on the fifty-first birthday. The first run was made on January 29, 1881, the last on January 26, 1932.

Coming in late today, K-line trains never had any great reputation in recent years for coming in on scheduled time, the train was greeted by a few older residents who saw the train come into Mt. Pleasant the first time in 1881 and by a few others who were interested in one way or another. Perhaps a few were there who have a warmth in their heart of the K-line track, not for the train itself, as the result of college romance, but their secrets were not revealed and perhaps never shall be.

Heavy clouds and snow brushed by a damp, chilly wind, provided the curtain that closed over the last act of the K-line production. After steaming into the local station, the train was directed on to the state hospital for work there, then back to the station shortly before three o'clock where a small crowd had gathered to see the train slip through the curtain and disappear from the stage as the last scene ended.

In charge of the train today was Engineer L. Lambert, who has been on the line two years, Sanderson, fireman, Fred Clark, brakesman and R. R. Rubison, conductor, who started on this run on June 13, 1929.

Passengers on the trip over from Salem included T. H. Doogan of Salem; M. C. VanVelkinburg, roadmaster of Keokuk; A. J. Lamm of Mt. Hamill, who was taking a car of cattle to Chicago from LaCrew and Mrs. H. A. Kester of Salem.

Going from Mt. Pleasant to Salem were Mr. and Mrs. O. A. Garretson of Salem, Mr. Garretson having ridden on the first train to run from Salem to Keokuk a year before the Salem to Mt. Pleasant run was made, W. K. Rogers of Mt. Pleasant and William Van Allen, son of Mr. and Mrs. Fred Van Allen of this city.

On the run this afternoon the train consisted of three flat cars, one box car and the combined baggage and passenger coach.

Greeted By Crowd in 1881

A gay crowd greeted the train when it arrived on the first run at 10:20 a.m., on January 29, 1881, with one box car and the engine, No. 12. Chris Ayers was at the throttle and Conductor Griffin in charge of the train. Among those who well remember the arrival of the train is Geo. Thomas of this city.

The train, which carried stockholders of the company and others, stopped west of Madison street at a depot and after a short time the group went to the Harlan hotel for dinner and then out to Oakland Mills to inspect the new river bridge.

Material had been hauled to Oakland Mills from the main line of the railroad by Charles Martin. The winter was a cold one and part of the false work for the construction of the bridge was built on the ice.

The Keokuk-Mt. Pleasant and Northern railroad company was incorporated May 2, 1879, and consolidated with the Keokuk and Northwestern railroad company on February 11, 1881.

An election was held in Mt. Pleasant regarding the road on July 29, 1880, and a tax was voted 458 to 101. Mt. Pleasant was the only place in the county to vote on the proposal to assist with the railroad.

The plan of the corporation interested in the railroad in this county was that the road should extend from the Lee-Henry county line to Salem and north to Mt. Pleasant and then to Crawfordsville and Washington. In 1889 the Keokuk and Northwestern company sold the Burlington and proceedings to extend the line on to Washington were dropped.

Stockholders of Company

The Articles of Incorporation of the company of 1879 listed the capital stock as $100,000 to be divided into one thousand shares of $100 each, of which amount 20 shares were already subscribed. The stockholders who were the incorporators numbered 17: George H. Spahr with 2 shares; W. I. Babb, 1 share; James Harlan 2; Henry S. Clark, 1; George W. McAdam, 1; M. L. Edwards, 1; Reuben Eshelman, 2; Geo, L. Talbot, 1; r. F. Twinting, 1; w. H. Schliep, 1; William McCoy, 1; H. C Saunders, 1; and Edward l. Penn, 2.

Only thirteen days after the train went into operation, the consolidation with the Keokuk and Northwestern company took its place.

Mt. Pleasant Daily News, January 26, 1932


Build New K-Line Bridge at Big Creek


New Project Is Now Under Construction On The K-Line


A project of considerable importance was begun recently and is now rapidly getting under way. A new steel bridge is to be built at Big Creek on the K-line.

The old structure, it will be remembered was a wooden affair with a sheet iron super-structure built over the bridge to protect it from the weather conditions. The bridge has stood a great many years and has carried traffic on that line faithfully, but now the old must be replaced by the new and the modern.

The new structure is to be of steel construction and will be of the more modern type. Pilings are now being driven for the bridge and as the work progresses the old bridge will be removed. It will require about three months to complete the work.

Mt. Pleasant News, August 28, 1928


A Trip on the K-Line

The first of the week we went to Keokuk, visiting the great dam, of course. The first question presenting itself upon preparing for an adventure of this importance was the getting there. Whether to go by way of Burlington and back the same way and being out most of the night or trusting one's self to the "Jerkwater" was a question over which we wrestled for many sleepless hours. Finally the "K" line was elected and we made the round trip safely.


Now the "K" line, being a local affair we want to say that it is suffering still from a reputation that was given it during the lean years when the management refused to spend money on the line and it was hardly safe for an overloaded handcar. One year the "K" line train was off the track forty-nine times and while no one was seriously injured, it gave the train a hard name which it is trying to live down.


The ride to Keokuk on the "K" line is anything but a monotonous ride and through as pretty an agricultural country as you will find anywhere. The road bed has been put in good condition, had to be for now freight cars are loaded up to sixty tons of coal and it takes a real track to carry that kind of a load. Between stations the train runs from thirty to thirty-five miles an hour but as it is mixed and the crew is obliged to do the work of a mail crew, an express crew, a passenger train crew, and a way freight crew there is more or less delay at the several stations. And yet if one is inclined it is pleasant to get off at the several stations and watch the crew unload the contents of the baggage and freight cars and do their switching, look over the little town and then hop on and pass on to the next station.


A very great deal of work is being done on the line and three bridge gangs were at work between here and Keokuk and extra gangs were at work on the track which will now carry safely any engine and train. The ride from Mt. Pleasant as far south as Denova is as pretty as you will find anywhere you go. There is not a straight rail along the line and the track weaves in and out among the hills down to the creek and up again and down to the river and up again through a quiet scenery of natural beauty. It is worth the cost in time and money of the entire trip to sit in the rear end of the coach between here and Denova. Kodak fiends find all the material of hill and dale, field and woods, brooks, streams and river, cattle on the hills and sheep in the valleys, wild flowers, flowering shrubs, stately forest trees, rock outcroppings.


The rest of the way down the country is level and prosperous until you get nearly down to Keokuk when a most charming view of the Mississippi can be seen from Summit with Nauvoo in the distance and the river spreading out among a group of island like an arm of the sea.


And there are really a number of interesting things to see. Just below the gas plant the Saunders Grove from the train looks like a joy forever and you almost ask yourself as what that beautiful place really is. The old abandoned quarries with their rock formations have for generations been explored and photographed and in their dress of green today are beautiful. The big gash in the hill at the big quarry is worth seeing and you usually stop there to switch in empties and at night stop again for the loaded cars. Then you cross Big Creek over an old fashioned covered bridge, and on either side are some wonderfully pretty views. The drop down to the Oakland station is like a picture at this time of the year and the river bottom is worth several snaps of the Kodak. And then the fascinating ride up the slopes to Denova. It is the prettiest ride you will find in Iowa.


Salem is the big station on the way and usually there is quite a wait, as there being but one railroad and one train a day, lots of business accumulates every twenty-four hours for the "K" line and one would usually have time to go up town and look about the square. Leaving Salem you pass the great 1600-acre Hartley farm and orchards. If you are lucky you will get a glimpse of the buffalo and the Elk herds which are quite an attraction. A little further on you cross over the Burlington branch which runs from Ft. Madison to Ottumwa. At Donnellson the train usually makes quite a stop as there is considerable business. Here is crossed the branch of the Burlington which runs from Burlington to Carroltown, Mo. There is a lot of switching here and transferring of freight. At New Boston the tracks pass up and over the main line of the Santa Fe. At Summit is a beautiful view of the Mississippi. At Mooar are located the great black powder works of the Dupont company and then you drop down hill almost headlong into Keokuk, winding around the banks of a little creek, down through the back yard of the town into the freight yards and then back up to the Union station and alight, three hours out from Mt. Pleasant, and distance fifty miles, fare including war tax $1.60 and you get your money's worth.


If you are on time you have from eleven o'clock until half past three to visit the dam and that is all the time you want. The dam is but ten minutes walk right up along the river bank, indeed you can see the dam and power house from the depot. The best way to do, if we may be permitted to give advice is to take your lunch with you. As soon as the train pulls in walk up to the dam, look about and eat your lunch there. Then on the even hours, one o'clock, or two o'clock, get at the power house to pass through the building with a guide. It takes about half an hour and you don't see or hear much but it is worth while. Then come out and remain on the place until three o'clock, be at the power house to and your train will be waiting for you and you are back in Mt. Pleasant in time for a late supper. You can make the trip for $3.50 if you take your lunch and for $5.oo if you are quick about it you can have a whale of a time.


If you want to you can leave the train on arrival and go up to the new Iowa Hotel, clean up and at noon get a real acceptable dinner, but expect to pay the top notch for there isn't anything cheap about the price at the Hotel Iowa. Patrons are scarce and they have to trim those whom they do get. And yet the hotel is a fine one and the service and the cooking was excellent. If you are thrifty you will take along your own lunch and eat it at the dam. If you want to see more of Keokuk you can remain until evening and come home by the way of Burlington getting here at midnight. But really for a thoroughly pleasant day at little cost with lots to see from the beauty of the scenery to one of the most stupendous engineering enterprises of the world, where or how can you beat it?


From "The Bystander's Notes", by C. S. Rogers, Publisher , Mt. Pleasant News, August 26, 1920

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