The Des Moines Valley Railroad

The Des Moines Valley Railroad HO scale railroad layout depicting what could have happened to the Des Moines to Ottumwa line if it had survived the Rock Island bankruptcy in 1980.
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HO Model Railroad

The 29th State
04/09/2019

The 29th State

#LEIGHTON, Iowa (#MAHASKA County)

FOUNDED: 1865
FOUNDERS: William C. Leighton, John Carver, and W. A. Burt
NAME ORIGIN: William C. Leighton
INCORPORATED: 1909
POST OFFICE: 1865-Present
1880 CENSUS POPULATION: 145
2010 CENSUS POPULATION: 162
LOCATION: Section 35 of Black Oak Township

THE CREATION OF THE TOWN:

Leighton was platted in an irregular eight block polygon adjacent to the Chicago, Rock Island, and Pacific Railroad—which, for all intents and purposes, is exactly the way it is today. If you drive into Leighton today, you will essentially see the exact same layout that you would have in the 1880s, save a few distinct differences. The railroad tracks that once ran south of Patch Street, adjacent to Muchakinock Creek, are no more. Also, the westernmost street—West Street, has been delisted. North of Chestnut Street is Jackson’s addition. This is the only amendment to the original plat.

The railroad set up a depot in late 1865 that stood south of the intersection of Otley and Patch. Aside from this, a sawmill was the first sustained business operation in town. Other enterprises included a lumber yard, drug store, two general stores, a shoemaker, blacksmith, butcher, grocery store and Walton’s Hotel. As Leighton grew it became an interesting mix of cultures. Many of the original settlers and their families were Dutch. Leighton was close to Pella and so we see many names associated with this heritage—Bogaard, Bruxvoort, Van Roekel, Van Haaften, and Gosselink. Leighton was also close to the mining camps of Fishville and Evans therefore it attracted a population of miners and mining foremen. Many of these persons were of Welsh, and Irish origin. Henry Kuperus was an early resident whom had a particularly interesting background for the 19th Century. He was an immigrant from the Dutch Colonies in South Africa and beginning in 1913 ran a store in town.

Records indicate that there have only been two congregations that met in town. Both are still in existence though neither are in their original sanctuaries. The Leighton Christian Reformed Church was founded in 1857 and the Ebenezer Reformed Church of Leighton, established in 1894. We don’t know what the going rate was for a good pastor at Ebenezer; at Leighton Christian however a good pastor could expect to make $500 per annum in the 1890s. He also would be able to accommodate himself in the parsonage however. Ebenezer eventually owned the ball diamond in town.

Today Leighton is located off of Highway 163 between Pella and Oskaloosa. There are no more coal mines and the railroad no longer passes through. There are however, still a number of businesses in town. Among these are Leighton Lumber, De Vries Cabinet and Countertop, Leighton State Bank, Leighton Processed Meats, Dave’s Pro Auto, and just outside of town, Tassel Ridge Winery.

FAST FACTS:

1) Leighton once had a saloon but it met with an unfortunate end. When Muchakinock Creek overflowed in 1881, the water toppled the wooden water tower. As it came down, it hit the side of the saloon—an old wooden building also located near the stream. The saloon, being unsecured, came loose from its crude foundation and floated downstream. It was never rebuilt.
2) Five doctors have practiced in town since 1865. Two of them, Dr Howe, and Dr. Sybenga were also mayor.
3) I’ve found conflicting information about the Leighton Schools. It did have its own district, but the years in existence and the building years do not match up. What I do know is that the town relied on Black Oak schools throughout its early years. A “modern school,” was built after 1910 and Leighton has been in Pella’s school district since 1958.

TOWN MOTTO or SLOGAN: “ A Little Bit of Town And Country”

TOWN FESTIVAL: N/A

DON'T MISS:
1) Tassel Ridge Winery
2) The Ebenezer and Leighton Reformed Churches

Caught the West Local early this morning switching the lumber yard in Leighton. Nice to see the early spring sunshine!
04/09/2019

Caught the West Local early this morning switching the lumber yard in Leighton. Nice to see the early spring sunshine!

A little history on the real Des Moines Valley RR!
04/08/2019

A little history on the real Des Moines Valley RR!

More about South Pella’s amazing but largely forgotten history. Today we take a look at the most important day in the history of Pella outside of its founding in 1847: The arrival of the Des Moines Valley Railroad (DMVR). Pella’s future changed forever on Wednesday afternoon, December 28, 1864 when a passenger train pulled into South Pella’s brand new railroad depot. Pella was finally connected to the rest of the country through a modern, timely means of transportation. Overnight South Pella became a boomtown. Raw materials and goods began pouring into the area; access to unlimited markets opened to farmers and manufacturers; passengers and travelers could conveniently access distant steamboats and railroads; correspondence could be sent and received quickly and inexpensively.

For the first 17 years of Pella’s existence, transportation was chiefly provided by horses, either pulling wagons laden with freight, or coaches for mail and passengers. Fortuitously, Scholte had the foresight to locate Pella on the ridge running parallel between the Des Moines and Skunk Rivers. This ridge stretched all the way from Keokuk on the Mississippi River to Des Moines in the center of the state - a distance of some 140+ miles. A primitive “road” followed the ridge providing the primary means of transportation through this part of the state. With no bridges or alternate routes, travel and transportation to the center of the state was primarily funneled up this road.

The railroad was a long time in arriving in Pella. An initial attempt had been made to make the Des Moines River navigable for year-round steamboat traffic through an ambitious project that would have entailed a system of 37 locks and dams between Keokuk and Des Moines. When this project eventually collapsed with only a few locks and dams completed, attention was shifted to constructing a railroad along the north side of the Des Moines River valley. Rails were initially laid from Keokuk in 1857 and had reached Eddyville by 1861, when the Civil War caused a halt to construction. In 1864 construction was restarted and the railroad reached Oskaloosa in July and Pella in late December.

For over a year Pella remained the terminus of the Des Moines Valley Railroad. As such Pella had its own depot and even a roundhouse in which to rotate the engines to travel back to Keokuk. All the local railroad facilities were located in South Pella, near the current location of Heritage Lace on South Street. For ten years the DMVR was the only railroad in the county as well as being one of the first in central Iowa. As a result, merchants, farmers and passengers flocked from miles around to use the depot for travel and freight.

Seemingly overnight South Pella residences and businesses sprang up: hotels arose; stockyards appeared; lumber yards sprouted; prominent shipping and forwarding agents bought and sold farm commodities and implements. Business boomed and Pella flourished. It was nearly two years before the railroad reached Des Moines; until that time Pella was a regular destination location for farmers and merchants from as far away as Des Moines, Indianola and Winterset.

It was over ten years before another railroad came to Marion County and during that time Pella remained a major shipping center for much of Marion, Jasper and Mahaska counties. During that time Pella’s population increased nearly 20% and South Pella’s population went from essentially zero in 1854 to over 400 by 1875. In 1870, as a sign of South Pella’s importance to the community, an overwhelming majority of Pella voters approved the annexing of South Pella and South East Pella.

The railroad had an immediate and long-lasting impact on Pella and single-handedly put South Pella on the map. We will talk more about some of those amazing early South Pella businesses in upcoming posts. BB

IAIS switches gondolas at Syrious Scrapyard in Monroe, IA.
01/29/2019

IAIS switches gondolas at Syrious Scrapyard in Monroe, IA.

The Osky Turn pulls one lonely gondola full of scrap to the yard in Oskaloosa. The first shot is of #821 rolling east ov...
11/12/2018

The Osky Turn pulls one lonely gondola full of scrap to the yard in Oskaloosa. The first shot is of #821 rolling east over Otley St. in Leighton; the second shot at Evans Junction, pulling onto the branch for Oskaloosa.

The Ottumwa to Des Moines local has made its Pella set outs and pickups and is ready to roll west!
07/29/2018

The Ottumwa to Des Moines local has made its Pella set outs and pickups and is ready to roll west!

Happy 4th of July everyone!🇺🇸
07/04/2018

Happy 4th of July everyone!🇺🇸

Catching the Osky Local and engine 821 on its run back from the branch.
05/28/2018

Catching the Osky Local and engine 821 on its run back from the branch.

Daily Eastbound local rolling through Otley.
02/24/2018

Daily Eastbound local rolling through Otley.

01/07/2018

Special excursion run today!

Seryous Scrapyard on the Des Moines Valley RR.
12/09/2017

Seryous Scrapyard on the Des Moines Valley RR.

Des Moines Valley 230 East Local doing the runaround back up to the front of the train after picking up one loaded grain...
08/05/2017

Des Moines Valley 230 East Local doing the runaround back up to the front of the train after picking up one loaded grain hopper in Otley.

I have started to use the JMRI Operations system on the computer and am really enjoying it! Took a bit of tweaking, but ...
07/08/2017

I have started to use the JMRI Operations system on the computer and am really enjoying it! Took a bit of tweaking, but overall it is a pretty user-friendly system and have all but eliminated my old car card and waybill system.

Some shots of the Pella local doing its thing.
05/02/2017

Some shots of the Pella local doing its thing.

New cornfield planted today!
03/12/2017

New cornfield planted today!

Down by the depot early in the morning...
02/27/2017

Down by the depot early in the morning...

Best of both worlds if your a warm weather railfan! What could be better on a scorching summer day than cooling off in  ...
02/25/2017

Best of both worlds if your a warm weather railfan! What could be better on a scorching summer day than cooling off in a swimming pool with a GP50 rolling by?

's cover photo
01/08/2017

's cover photo

This late afternoon shot captures the Pella Yard job as it shuffles out the covered hoppers for the local elevator in to...
12/31/2016

This late afternoon shot captures the Pella Yard job as it shuffles out the covered hoppers for the local elevator in town.

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204th Pl
Pella, IA
50219

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