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BY MIKE AVITT
I found some very early information about Ringgold County’s only main line railroad, the Chicago Great Western. This week’s picture shows a typical CGW depot.
The Minnesota & Northwestern Railroad was reorganized as the Chicago, St. Paul, & Kansas City Railroad on June 1, 1886. The C,St.P,&,KC soon purchased the Wisconsin, Iowa, & Nebraska RR which had built a line from Waterloo to Des Moines with plans of continuing to Nebraska City, Nebraska. This railroad line was nicknamed, “the diagonal.”
C,St.P&KC President A. B. Stickney changed the destination from Nebraska City to Kansas City and construction of a line south of Des Moines was begun. The rails reached Ringgold County in October 1887.
The towns of Arispe, Shannon City, and Knowlton were created by the new line but the railroad missed Goshen by one mile. Also, it took a court order to solve the problem of how the C,St.P&KC should cross the Humeston & Shenandoah RR one mile east of Goshen.
The new railroad continued through Ringgold County bringing the towns of Benton, Maloy, and Blockton into being. In 1889, the town of Goshen moved a mile east, to the crossing, and became the town of Diagonal, named after the railroad’s nickname. I believe Benton and Blockton were named after railroad executives and Maloy was named after David Maloy, a farmer in Benton Township.
I have read that the C,St.P&KC opened for commercial traffic in August 1888. This railroad company reorganized in 1892 and emerged as the Chicago Great Western. The CGW was absorbed by the Chicago & Northwestern in 1968. In 1983, the C&NW bought the “spine line,” a railroad line of the defunct Rock Island Railroad. This gave the C&NW a better route to Kansas City causing the C&NW to abandon the old “diagonal.” The last train was in 1984. Ringgold County’s other two railroad lines were already gone.
I found a blurb in a July 1, 1886 Ringgold Record newspaper saying it was a certainty the “diagonal” would be passing through Ringgold County. This would have been less than one month after A. B. Stickney bought the Wisconsin, Iowa, & Nebraska RR. Stickney is highly regarded by railroad historians.
The CGW was unusual in that the line passed through only one county seat, Savannah, Mo., between Des Moines and St. Joseph, Mo. Also, there were no branch lines south of Des Moines. The railroad is gone but the towns it created are still here.