17 The Rock Island Line

by admin on October 27, 2011

On the short ride to the station the boys grew restless with anticipation while the adults engaged in small talk about the day that was about to unfold.  Harold couldn’t help but remember the events of just the day before.  Robbed and swindled with nowhere to turn.  Could it be just twenty four hours ago?  He was shaken from his nightmarish daydream by the low growl of a big steam whistle.  In moments that was replaced by the shrill sound of a small whistle that pierced the air…their train was arriving.

A few minutes later the big Caddy pulled up to the Burlington, Colorado passenger depot.

The Burlington station was owned and operated by the Chicago, Rock Island, and Pacific Rail Road Company.  The CRI & P RR had its origins in Chicago starting in 1852.  Through the next many decades the railroad would grow until its passenger service reached Los Angeles to the west and freight service reached Galveston, Texas to the south.  But after World War II passenger service began a slow death spiral and larger competitors began to eat away at its freight service.  The Rock Island Line, as it had become known, fell upon very hard financial times.

Through a series of events a “perfect storm” eventually brought about The Rock’s demise.  After 3 separate bankruptcies The Rock Island Line was finally liquidated in the 1990’s.  Parts of the railroad were divvied up between its rivals while the cash proceeds paid off creditors.  The remaining cash was used to form the Chicago Pacific Corporation, which went on to purchase the Hoover vacuum cleaner company.  Subsequently the Hoover Company was sold to its current owner, Maytag Corporation.  What a terribly ignoble end to a great railroad.  The legend of “The Rock” lives on in song, however.

Among others, Johnny Cash immortalized the railroad with his rendition of

The Rock Island Line:

The Rock Island Line is a mighty good road

The Rock Island Line is the road to ride

The Rock Island Line is a mighty good road

If you want to ride you gotta ride it like you find it

Get your ticket at the station for the Rock Island Line

Six tickets would soon be purchased at the station for The Rock Island Line.

The hired driver eased the big Cadillac into a vacant parking space and turned off the motor. After opening Mr. Dunwell’s door he dutifully opened the remaining passenger doors and headed for the trunk.  With a smile a porter with a baggage cart approached the car.  The driver motioned the porter to the rear of the Caddy and the two men began loading the Bingham’s suitcases on to the cart.

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