The Iowa Route

The Iowa Route

A History of the Burlington, Cedar Rapids & Northern Railway
Don L. Hofsommer
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 03/09/2015
Format: Hardback 222 b&w illus., 8 tables
ISBN: 978-0-253-01467-2
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The Burlington, Cedar Rapids & Northern Railway was an important part of the commercial life of the upper Midwest during the age of railways. Don L. Hofsommer uses the BC&N as the vehicle for his investigation of the birth, evolution, and disappearance of an important regional carrier, offering an inside look at the struggles of a small railway to stay relevant while railroad empires were being built. More than a bit player, the BC&N might have become even more important had plans gone forward to utilize its rails in a campaign to reach the Pacific. The struggle of the Cedar Rapids road and its corporate ancestors to place Minneapolis–St. Paul and St. Louis in competition with Chicago via a north/south route forms a major part of the book’s narrative, and the book also offers a history of the company's three-state service territory (Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota) from the dawn of the age of railways into the 20th century. The book includes more than 200 photographs selected from Hofsommer’s extensive library of historic photographs documenting the history of the BC&N Railway.

Author Bio

Don L. Hofsommer is Professor of History at St. Cloud State University and president of the Lexington Group. He is author of Off the Main Lines (IUP, 2013), Iowa's Railroads: An Album (with H. Roger Grant) (IUP, 2009), and Steel Trails of Hawkeyeland (IUP, 2005).


“This inside look at the struggles of a small railway to stay relevant while railroad empires were being built includes more than 200 photographs of BC&N's history.”

“The book is well-structured, written in a very clear and highly readable style and presents an in-depth comprehensive account of the origins, evolution, and ultimate fate of the Burlington, Cedar Rapids & Northern Railway.”
 — John Spychalski, former editor of Transportation Journal

“Anyone familiar with railways of the upper Midwest will be attracted to this newest addition to Don Hofsommer’s extensive histories of the Hawkeye State. Hofsommer’s meticulous background research is manifested in hundreds of chapter notes, which will be of great benefit to those seeking details of Iowa’s early commercial history.”
 — J. Parker Lamb, author of Railroads of Meridian (IUP, 2012)

“This book presents a thoroughly researched and complete history of this important Rock Island predecessor—no surprise for anyone who has read any of Hofsommer’s earlier railroad history books.”
 — Michigan Railfan

“[T]his elegantly written book places the history of the BCR&N in its larger context and serves as an admirable addition to the growing literature on Iowa's railroads.”
 — The Annals of Iowa

“[B]e thankful that Midwestern (and especially Iowa) railroading has an excellent chronicler in Don Hofsommer. ”
 — Lexington Quarterly

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Table of Contents

1. A Grand Highway from St. Louis to St. Paul
2. The Grandest Railroad Project of the Age
3. Providence Helps Those Who Help Themselves
4. Dirt Began to Fly
5. Panic
6. A New Dawning
7. Palpably Invigorating Ozone
8. Flux
9. The Albert Lea Route
10. To the Pacific Coast by a Northwest Route?
11. On to Bismarck
12. The Favorite Albert Lea Route
13. The Heavy Hand of Regulation
14. Spirit Lake Country
15. Of Panic and Tramps
16. The Gay Nineties
17. Pulling and Hauling
18. To the Twin Cities
19. A Most Satisfactory Disposition

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