Compiled by Carol Bodensteiner and Mary Gottschalk
“My fascination with railroads began as I listened to my grandfather’s tales of his travels on ‘immigrant railcars,’” says James Andrew. The early-1900s version of covered wagons, these modified boxcars provided space for household goods, farm equipment, and livestock, as well as a small living area.
Railroads continued to play a part in Andrew’s life as he traveled with his father on cattle trains during the 1930s and with the Army on troop trains during WWII. After the war he ran a feed and fertilizer business in Jefferson that depended on railroad transportation.
But it wasn’t until after he retired in 1980 that his interest turned to passion. Andrew attended the bankruptcy sale of the Rock Island Railroad. He spent $272.50 and bought the first four items of what is today a 5,000-piece collection that celebrates the critical role of railroads in the development of Iowa. His collection, now estimated to be worth $250,000, includes a small country depot, a variety of railroad equipment (including a Light Inspection Car), a caboose, and toy trains,
When Andrew, now 90 and pictured above riding his inspection car, donated his collection to the Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad & Museum, Fenner Stevenson, general manager, knew he’d found a treasure. “It’s a truly unique collection from an industry that made a huge contribution to the development of our state. We look forward to sharing his passion with the public.”
Andrew’s collection will be open to the public for the first time in June at the new museum adjacent to the Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad. For information about museum hours and directions, visit www.iowarailwaymuseum.org or call 800-626-0319 .— M.G.
Photo courtesy James Andrew Museum