The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa


September 27, 2013

Railroads Made Clinton Famous



Clinton once seemed intended by fate to be the new “Chicago on the Mississippi.” The river and the railroad, -- coupled with the first transcontinental automobile highway (The Lincoln Highway), the north-south Milwaukee Line Railway, many sizable industries like E.I. DuPont’s and Clinton Corn Processing -- made it appear inevitable! However the dream hasn’t materialized.


Any remembrance of railroad history would not be complete without mentioning the roundhouses. Stage melodramas of an earlier era often included the chant, “Run to the roundhouse Nellie, they can’t corner you there!” Roundhouses were an important part of the railroad industry, and this area had three between the 1870’s and 1957. The first was near the river on 8th Avenue, circa 1870 to 1910 -- just below the high wagon bridge, another was in Fulton, and the third was out on Camanche Avenue through the 1960’s. Clinton’s new depot was constructed in 1915 and a viaduct by 1922. The Second Street Viaduct was a bit later. It contains a sidewalk large enough for vehicles to cross in flood season!


In 1893, Chicago had its famous World Fair called The Columbian Exposition. President Cleveland flipped the golden switch and lights came on! The Exposition showed every wonderful new thing invented to date. At that time, Thomas Edison was referred to as “Professor Edison,” and his light bulb was displayed magnificently in numerous ways throughout the gigantic midway. Clinton’s own Lillian Russell signed for a 16-day tour at the Fair, and her friend Diamond Jim Brady came along -- escaping that year’s terrible Stock Market Crash in New York. This economic disaster had a great effect on the railway industry; Clinton’s Courthouse was delayed for years and hundreds of millionaires became penniless, but the World Fair plunged on as if nothing happened. It was a huge success!

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