The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa


September 27, 2013

Railroads Made Clinton Famous



After that crisis, things returned to normal and railroading continued to grow. East Clinton was famous for having the largest roundhouse in the world in 1910! A small community existed there for several years, which often amazes younger generations. The engine “Old Scoot” plus one passenger car ferried railroad men over to East Clinton during this time. There was even a spacious three-story wooden hotel for the men’s use. In 1900, the Chicago & NorthWestern (its name was written many ways) Car Repair Shops moved to Camanche Avenue, near Riverside and Chancy. A third roundhouse was built for their larger “H” Class engines. It survived there for several decades, after which many other railroad buildings were built in that vicinity.


The building of railroad bridges is a bit confusing. Clinton’s first, 1865, bridge remained in place, essentially in the same way, until 1909. However, a new span was affixed to it in 1887. Crossing our Gateway Bridge to this day, looking south, one can still see all the old bridge abutments moldering there in the slough!


Railroaders were a tough hard-working, hard-living lot, and many had a favorite local “watering hole.” The Pleez-All on Fourth Street was always in competition with Johnny Croakes at 11th Avenue and the Herrity Saloon at 12th Avenue. Other men congregated at the Liberty Tap, south of the roundhouse. In later days, some went all the way to 5th Avenue to get their checks cashed and have lunch and conversation at Reynolds or Ford Hopkins.


Remember when whole families used to go down to the Depot and watch the trains come in? The heyday of railroads as passenger purveyors passed soon after the 1950’s, and Clinton’s largest family-tinged industry where, indeed, multi-generations had been employed also passed, in stages.

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