[ Return to Index ] [ Read Prev Msg ] [ Read Next Msg ]

Collett Station and the 'Peavine' railroad


Posted By: Joey Stark
Date: 6/10/2011 at 23:17:47

"The Fairfield Ledger"
Wednesday, August 12, 1891
Page 3, Column 4


The Ft. Madison RR people are said to be pushing their work of construction and improvement right speedily... New rails have been distributed as far west as Birmingham.... The bridge carpenters will begin their labors on the Libertyville extension this week. Dr. HUTCHINS last week purchased 3 or 4 acres of land for station purposes and yards at Libertyville. It lies just east of the town....


"The Fairfield Ledger"
Thursday, November 9, 1939
Page 5, Column 7

LIBERTYVILLE. Saturday will see the train go through here on the branch "L" line running from Ft. Madison to Ottumwa for the last time, as the road from Birmingham to Batavia will be abandoned and torn up. Already the stockyards here and at Collett have been sold and are being torn down. John CREEK bought the one here and Frank ALLBRIGHT the one at Collette (sic). For almost 50 years the little train has chugged its way through Libertyville and it will be greatly missed by people along the line.


"The Fairfield Ledger"
Saturday, November 18, 1939
Page 5

COLLETT, Nov. 18. Monday morning work was begun on taking up the railroad track from Birmingham to Libertyville, as that line will be discontinued. The owners of farms on right of way can buy back the land at $10 per acre.


"The Fairfield Ledger"
Thursday, November 23, 1939
Page 7, Column 7

COLLETT. Work was completed Monday of tearing up the rails from Birmingham to Libertyville, and the "jerkwater" as it was called, is a thing of the past.


"The Fairfield Ledger"
Saturday, December 2, 1939
Page 4, Column 3


BATAVIA--W. N. GLOTFELTY, living four miles east of Batavia, sold a part of his farm to the builders of the "Peavine" Railroad. Fifty years ago he watched the men lay the iron rails and was one of the first to ride over the track.

Tuesday morning his grandson, Wayne GLOTFELTY, who lives near his grandfather's farm, rode to Batavia, with a load of these same rails, which are now being torn up.

Wayne is a student in the Batavia High School, and had planned to walk to school in the morning and ride home on the "Pea Vine" passenger at 3:30 in the afternoon. However, now since the track is being torn up, the family car will see service.

This branch road will be greatly missed by persons living along the way, as it was a convenient means of reaching the nearby town, especially in bad weather.

Workmen are in Batavia taking up the last of the 50-year-old track between Batavia and Birmingham.

Among railroad officials the track was known as Burlington 212, a branch from Ft. Madison to Batavia.

Originally started by a company to make a shorter route for farmers to ship their goods to the Mississippi River, the road was built directly to Ottumwa, then about 10 years later, when purchased by the C.B. & Q., trains were switched to the Main Line from Batavia on to Ottumwa.

The track, taking its name from its winding route, was always known as the Pea Vine.


Des Moines Sunday "Register"
December 19, 1954

'Pea Vine' Railway Due For Pruning
By Staff Writer.

BIRMINGHAM, IA.--Bit by bit, they're snipping off the twigs of Iowa's remaining branch-line railways. Now "the Pea Vine" faces the pruning process again.

The Pea Vine is one of the world's most prettily named railways. It is a Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad branch of 41.3 miles, entwined through the picturesque hills and valleys of southeastern Iowa, from Fort Madison to Birmingham.

One tendril extends to Salem and Hufton. On its main stem the Pea Vine has flowered at West Point, Pilot Grove, Stockport, Birmingham, and -- until the branch was snipped beyond here -- as far as the main line of the Burlington at Batavia.

In a Pasture.

Over the prairie farmland and into Birmingham, the Pea Vine even extends one line through two farm gates and into a roomy pasture. Here it is that the train turns around.

At present the pasture is empty, but when livestock is there, trainmen must dismount among the right-of-way morning glories to open and close the gates, and shoo off cows which have become more curious than frightened by the strange iron horse which once a day invades their domain.

Aside from poetic connotations the road and its terrain suggests, no one knows for certain why this Burlington branch is called "the Pea Vine." But that always has been its name and at times this designation even creeps into dignified, official railroad communiques.

The late Robert L. RIPLEY gave the Pea Vine national recognition when he used it and the pasture turn-around as a "Believe It or Not" feature.

[Ed. note: There's a photo in the article of a woman behind a window working at a desk; the photo won't reproduce well enough to be included here, unfortunately. The caption reads: "One by one, through the years, Iowa is losing its branch railways and stations. At Birmingham, Mrs. M. D. DINGUS, station agent for the Burlington's "Pea Vine" line, carries out her duties by kerosene light in the little bay-windowed office that may be closed "for lack of profit." "]

A train-length's distance from the north pasture gate stands the little red railway station which the citizens of Birmingham are determined to save. An application has been made to the interstate commerce commission by the Burlington Railroad to abandon the westward 6 miles of the Pea Vine, from Stockport to Birmingham.

End of Era.

It will be the end of an era if the station goes. Through many years, thousands of trains have brought in the freight, helping build this and nearby communities.

Passenger trains carried vacationists, traveling salesmen and special excursionists.

From this station, the late Gov. William S. BEARDSLEY boarded the train to leave Birmingham, his boyhood home, to enter the drug business at New Virginia.

The station has changed but little in the passing years. Townspeople here defend its service as a most valuable one. The station is warmed by a coal-burning space heater, and one kerosene light provides what evening illumination is required.

For 12 years the station agent at Birmingham has been Mrs. M. D. DINGUS, 48, who has five grandchildren. Mrs. DINGUS is busy with her station duties from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Calls Customers.

She makes out car reports on the freight cars on hand, checks the yards and calls customers to notify them of shipments at the station, makes up freight bills, makes collections and goes to the bank with the day's receipts.

In her spare time, Mrs. DINGUS practices telegraphy. Telegraphic service has long been discontinued at the Birmingham station, but she practices daily with her key and recorded receiving device because she may need her telegraphic skills at her next assignment.

Mrs. DINGUS, native of Albia and the daughter of a railway telegrapher, W. O. LOWRY, learned the code as a girl. Her grandfather also was a railway telegrapher.

She worked as a Western Union operator until her marriage. Her husband, a Burlington section foreman, is now on sick leave. They have three sons, Malcolm, 29, of Keosauqua; Richard, 22, with the air force in Japan; and Donald, 19, at home.

Mrs. DINGUS' seniority with the railway gives her the right to assignment at another station, but she does not know where this would be.

Abandon Notice.

At this point, the Burlington railway has published notice of its plan to abandon the line because of lack of profit and no date for a hearing has been set.

Mayor Earl BRIER of Birmingham, store and service station operator, estimated that 15 business houses at Birmingham would be adversely affected to varying degrees by discontinuance of the line.

Most concerned about the effect on his business is Joseph W. HOURIHAN, who recently purchased the Birmingham Lumber Co.

"Discontinuance of railway service here," he said, "would work a hardship in may ways. It would put us out of the coal business, and this would mean that many now burning coal would be forced to convert to oil. We can't truck coal in and sell it at the price we now charge.

"There is a substantial freight business in here. Our freight bill at the lumber yard was about $1,200 for November."

Are "Dismayed."

Petitions circulated by farmers and businessmen state that the signers are "dismayed at the proposed abandonment."

Track abandonment began in Iowa as automobile travel increased. In the 20 years prior to 1941, more than 1,000 miles were dropped from use. When World War II accelerated freight shipments, little or no track was abandoned.

There were than (sic - then?) 9,772 miles of track left, and the abandonment had amounted to about 10 per cent, the Iowa commerce commission reported. Since then, 1,196 miles of the railway track in Iowa has been abandoned.

Cities and towns advance the argument that railways have been a public service obligation to maintain marginal-profit branch lines while making large profits on the main lines. The argument is based on freight needs, rather than passenger service.

At Birmingham, for example, the freight is a "mixed train"; that is, tickets are sold for passengers to ride in the caboose. In recent years there have been few purchasers.

[Ed. note: On this page of the article is another picture: Station Agent Mrs. DINGUS stands between the rails at the pasture gate near the Birmingham depot where trains must pass through to turn around.]


"The Fairfield Daily Ledger"
Thursday, January 30, 1958
Page 4


Further information has been received regarding Collett Station, a small community that was once located about four miles southeast of Libertyville and at one time served as the western terminal for a narrow gauge railroad.

The further information was compiled by descendants of some of those who assisted in getting the railroad to extend its branch line through Jefferson County.

The C.F.M. and D.M. Railroad, later called the "Peavine," built a branch line from Fort Madison to Birmingham in 1881. Later it was extended northwest to McKee station as it was first called. It was located on the Greer McKEE farm.

The name of the station was later changed to Collett, named for John COLLETT whose finances helped to build the station and whose influence with the railroad authorities caused it to be changed in his honor.

Farmers in the vicinity contributed about $700 to build the station and it was erected in 1886.

When the railroad was first built it was a narrow gauge road, but it was widened to standard gauge when it was extended from Collett to Ottumwa in 1891.

When the railroad was extended from Collett on west, there was a slight change made in the course of the right-of-way near Collett. This was done in order to avoid sharp turns and steep grades and made at the suggestion of Greer McKEE.

As the course of the railroad was changed, Collett Station was moved from its original location in the south central part of the McKEE farm to the Joe CLARK farm.

Collett Station was then located northeast of the old barn still standing, but the site is in cultivation and there is little or nothing to mark the site. The farm now belongs to Mr. and Mrs. Grant JOHNSTON.

Harvey THOMPSON, postmaster, also had a small store there in connection with his postal duties and his duties as ticket agent and freight agent for the railroad.

THOMPSON resigned as postmaster about 1900, and at that time the post office was closed. He moved a house (sic - to a house?) east of Collett Station where he lived until his death on Feb. 14, 1914.

A freight station continued at Collett for several years and at one time was a busy center for shipping of coal from the several mines nearby. Hay, grain and livestock were also shipped from the station.

Many passengers boarded the train at Collett, going either to Ottumwa or Fairfield, or to more distant points. When going to Fairfield they changed to the main line of the C.B. & Q. railroad at Batavia. Often special excursions were run to Ft. Madison.

As the years passed the need for the branch railroad dwindled. The depot was finally closed and moved away. It was replaced by a small lean-to station.

On Nov. 10, 1939, train service was discontinued on the "Peavine" from Birmingham to Batavia.


"The Fairfield Daily Ledger"
An undated clipping


The small community of Collett four miles southeast of Libertyville at one time served as the western terminal for a narrow gauge railroad. A few years later the tracks were widened and extended on to Batavia.

Lee GALLUP, former state representative from Jefferson County, whose farm is located near Libertyville, said his grandfather, the late Harvey THOMPSON, was custodian at the old Collett depot and often spoke of its past history. THOMPSON died in 1914.

Information concerning the early history of the railroad said it was first built as a narrow gauge line from Fort Madison to Collett. The terminal was located in Liberty township near the farm now owned by Harry KRACHT.

Two or three years later the tracks were widened to standard gauge and extended on to Batavia to become known as the "Peavine" railroad owned and operated by the C. B. & Q.

Collett was moved a short distance west and north as the line was extended, and for a time was quite a flourishing place. At one time it included a depot, general store, post office and stock yards. GALLUP said as far as he knows, there was only one house in Collett. It was the small house occupied by his grandfather. The house was located back of the depot.

Recently GALLUP returned to the site where Collett one stood and found the well where his grandfather's house once stood. Now the well is in a field and is surrounded by a clump of high weeds. A pile of old wire fencing covering the well makes it impossible to mow or farm the small area.

As years passed the need for the little railroad community dwindled. Finally the depot was closed and later torn down. A little lean-to station was erected for the convenience of the passengers who still used the services of the "Peavine" railroad.

One by one the other buildings disappeared, until the little lean-to station remained alone. That was Collett for a number of years. Finally the railroad was abandoned from Birmingham to Batavia and the little lean-to station also disappeared.

All that remains of Collett is the well and the clump of weeds growing up through the fencing. Similar to several other communities in Jefferson County, Collett was born and died with the coming and the going of the railroad.


"The Fairfield (Iowa) Daily Ledger"
Wednesday, April 28, 1971
Page 1

After 112 Years Of Service--
City's Passenger Train Era Ending

Unless some unforseen action is taken between now and the end of the month, Fairfield will be without direct rail passenger service for the first time in more than 112 years.

When the new Railpax System takes over operation of the nations' rail passenger service May 1, a single passenger trail will operate through Fairfield each way on the Burlington Northern Railroad, but Fairfield is not designated as a stop.

So far stops have been designated at Burlington, Mount Pleasant, Ottumwa, Chariton, and a recent one added, Osceola.

Fairfield Chamber of Commerce officials said they have made application with Railpax to make Fairfield one of the regular stops in Iowa. So far no results have been obtained.

The first train arrived in Fairfield Sept. 1, 1858, well over a century ago. Throngs crowded the streets near the tracks to get a good look at the mysterious "Iron Horse" that was to pull the first cars into Fairfield.

A big celebration was held on the day of the train's first arrival. An article which appeared in the Ledger at that time stated, "A few minutes before 11 a.m., a swelling cheer went up as a smudge of smoke appeared on the eastern horizon."

The Burlington and Missouri River Railroad, the forerunner of the Burlington Route through Fairfield, was first planned in 1851 and incorporated by a group of Burlington men in 1852.

Grading for the new railroad began in 1854 and the line reach Mount Pleasant in 1856, Rome in 1857 and Fairfield in 1858. A dozen years later the railroad had reached the Rocky Mountains.

A second rail line, the Rock Island Railroad reached Fairfield in September, 1871, adding to the rail service to the community.

Both rail lines flourished, and a half century ago as high as 20 passenger trains a day passed through Fairfield. With increased car and plane travel after World War II rail passenger travel began to dwindle at a rapid rate. Train after train was taken out of service.

Passenger service on the Rock Island line ended through Fairfield on February 20, 1968, when the famed Golden State Limited made its final run. It was the last passenger train on the line at that time and had been in existence for 65 years.

Rail service continued on the Burlington Route with as high as four passenger trains per day easy way (sic - each way?) only a few years back. This was after many major cities in Iowa were without rail passenger service as trains continued to pass out of existence.

Now there are two passenger trains each way on the Burlington Northern. Eastbound trains are No. 2, Denver Zephyr, due in Fairfield at 5:21 a.m.; and No. 12, due 3:05 p.m.

Westbound trains are No. 11, due at 4:32 p.m.; and No. 1, Denver Zephyr, due at 8:52 p.m.

Officials at the Burlington depot said today they have received word that all passenger trains beginning their last regular runs on Friday, April 30, will continue through and will make regular stops to their final destinations.

As a result, the final regular stop by a Burlington Northern passenger train will be the eastbound California Zephyr at 3:05 p.m. Saturday. It will leave Denver Friday night and continue on through to Chicago.

Many people are hoping present action will result in having a regular stop in Fairfield for the new train beginning May 1. They believe Fairfield deserves the service.

*Transcribed for genealogy purposes; I am not related to the person(s) mentioned.


Jefferson Documents maintained by Joey Stark.
WebBBS 4.33 Genealogy Modification Package by WebJourneymen

[ Return to Index ] [ Read Prev Msg ] [ Read Next Msg ]