Friday, January 18, 2008

Missing the Whistle

You don't have to be a railroad buff to wax nostalgic about the sight, sound, and smell of of an old steam engine chugging alongside a prairie highway. The railroad -- specifically, the Chicago & Northwestern Railway -- played a key role in the economic and social life of many high plains communities in Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming.

Growing up in Chadron, Nebraska, in the 1940s and '50s, I was intrigued by the fact that so many homes had green trim -- very much like the green paint used on locomotives that were parked in the roundhouse for repairs and servicing! It seemed that half the town worked for C&NW, which probably wasn't far from the mark. Of course, that was before the railroad company removed itself from the community. Were it not for Chadron's four-year college, the loss of the railroad likely would have been the death knell for Chadron.
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Quite by accident, I recently came across a WEB SITE dedicated to the history of the Chicago and Northwestern Railway System. It's a neat site, full of photographs and history of the mightly line before it merged away its identity. I suspect many Chadron residents, along with citizens from hundreds of other communities across the midwest and plains states, have already discovered the site.
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The Dawes County Museum just south of Chadron has many artifacts from the rail era. But if you've not seen the C&NW Historical Society web site, it's worth a CLICK. Lots of information. Lots of photos, and lots of fun!

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