The Dinky
I first heard the legend of the Dinky from my Dad. He was a railroad enthusiast, and he passed that interest on to me. He loved to regale me with the story of the diminutive steam train that ran between downtown Ames and Iowa State College from 1891 until 1907. The original Dinky was long gone by the time my Dad was born, but its replacement, an electric interurban line, was an integral part of his life. The electric line still maintained the name the Dinky, and Dad understood the historical significance when he bought tickets for the two of us to ride of the last interurban car. The farewell run happened on a scorching hot fall day in 1955 and when the conductor called "All Aboard," I could barely contain myself as I exuberantly leaped on the train. It wasn't until I was on board that I realized I had stepped in a patch of tar used to repair a crack in the station platform. As I walked down the aisle looking for a seat, I felt like something wasn't right. I looked down at my foot to discover I was missing a shoe. I wrestled my way against the flow of boarding passengers to eventually look down the entry stairs where I could see my PF Flyer tennis shoe stuck in the black goo.

The train ride followed the original Dinky line from downtown Ames to the college power plant. It had been decades since the tracks continued to central campus. Instead we veered to the southwest, behind the Memorial Union, across Lincoln Way, up the hill through Dogtown, then on to Kelly, where the branchline met the Des Moines to Fort Dodge mainline. Despite the shoe incident, I had my introduction to the Dinky.

A few years later, my Dad showed me the sidewalk on central campus that followed the old roadbed of the original Dinky. When my two brothers and I would ride our bicycles down to Brookside Park for tennis lessons, I made sure I took that sidewalk. We'd ride by Marston Hall, the Hub, Morrill Hall. then east so I could feel like the engineer on the Dinky. My interest in the little railroad continued when I attended Iowa State, where I became familiar with the Special Collections Department of the University Library. There I found a treasure trove of information about the history of Iowa State, and particularly the Dinky. I don't recall how many nights I went to the library to study, only to find myself digging through old photos of the Iowa State campus looking for images of the Dinky. Years later, that research manifested in this drawing.
            © Stewart S. Buck