Iowa museum replicates narrow gauge passenger car of Milwaukee Road affiliate

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A replica combine is underway in Eastern Iowa.
John Schumann
MAQUOKETA, Iowa — The Bellevue & Cascade was a 3-foot gauge Milwaukee Road branch that ran between its namesake towns in eastern Iowa. The B&C lasted longer than any other Midwestern narrow gauge, being sold to a shortline railroad before finally folding in 1936. In 2015, the last surviving B&C depot in Le Motte was in danger of being torn down. The Jackson County Historical Society banded together to procure the depot and move it to their museum site in Maquoketa. JCHS placed the little depot on a new foundation at its Clinton Engines museum site; the depot has been fully restored.

However, the story doesn’t stop here. JCHS members decided the Le Motte depot needed a more railroad feel, and what better way to do that than with a passenger car. JCHS volunteers undertook the big project to build a replica passenger car, based on original B&C combine No. 8. They purchased an open air tourist car from Colorado and moved it to Maquoketa. The original frame was lengthened, and a new wood car body was built from scratch by society volunteers. Currently, the exterior is mostly complete, and interior work is continuing.

The car is currently sitting in the museum parking lot, awaiting funds for a final move to newly built tracks in front of the depot. Windows will be added after the car is moved. One of the main drivers for this project was Harold Lubben, who passed away recently, not getting to see the passenger car moved to the depot and finished. JCHS volunteers are continuing the project to complete his vision. More information can be found at www.jciahs.com. — John Schumann
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