The Importance of the Railroad in Small Town Iowa in the 1940s

Although the automobile was around in the 1940s, railroads were still a main source of transportation for many small rural Iowa communities. Learn more about how the railroad played a key role in daily life in this segment from Iowa PBS’s "Picture Perfect: Iowa in the 1940s" documentary.


Narrator: For many years the railroad was Ridgeway’s lifeline to the rest of the world. But with the advent of automobiles, trucks and eventually airplanes, the “Iron Horse” was nearing the end of the line. Departures became less frequent in the late 1970s, and by the early ‘80s Ridgeway’s train was gone.

John Moe, Ridgeway High School Alumnus: One thing I remember at 11:00 the elderly men in town would have to come to the railroad station, get out their watches, and set the time, because at 11:00 they put the time on the telegraph. That way everybody’s clock was right. They had passenger trains, two each direction, morning and evening. I know I used to go from Ridgeway to Cresco, go to the bakery, get a long-john or something like that, and then catch the train and go back to Ridgeway.

Bob McQueen, Ridgeway High School Alumnus: Your dad must have got a pass for you.

John Moe, Ridgeway High School Alumnus: We all had passes. We could rid the train for nothing.


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