Chicago Great Western – CGW

CGW f-engine

The Chicago Great Western is one of two lines that got me interested in putting old rail line on maps. With a hub in the town of Oelwein Iowa, it had branches to Chicago, Minneapolis, Kansas City, and Omaha. It started in the later 1800’s and was bought up first by Chicago North Western which was bought by Union Pacific. Most segments were abandoned shortly after the consolidation.


June 1, 2017, I made changes in the Sycamore-Decalb area since I had it following CNW’s tracks on the north end.

10 Nov 2014, I updated the map with much greater detail on the Kansas City line. I’m still not sure if I have the tracks right in the KC area, but I’m feeling much better about the placement from Leavenworth to Des Moines. Oh, and I updated where the train crossed the river based on reader feedback

Dec 2011, CGW Map v4 includes changes in the segment from Waterloo to Des Moines based on reader feedback in the comments (thanks Tom!). I’ll be adding more stations soon. Pervious versions here.

Looking for a larger map? Please visit the CGW Map Page

Detailed History to follow



  1. Not sure how you are mapping your lines and I am certainly no train authority… but…
    I can tell you that the route you have shown for CGW’s line from Marshalltown, IA to Des Moines, IA is off quite significantly.
    The line passed throught the towns of Melbourne, Baxter, Ira, Mingo, and Bondurant along the way.
    Part of the line is still easily visible using the satellite imaging on your map. The old roadbed from Baxter (where I am from) to near Bondurant is now a bike trail and from Bondurant into Des Moines still has tracks on it. (although I noticed that they cut the tracks out at the street crossings in Bondurant this past Summer.. 🙁
    My Great-grandmother’s house was right next to the tracks in Baxter when I was a child in the 70’s and, although it was CNW by then, I recall standing in the back yard with her, waving at the engineers and men in the cabooses.
    At the time I had no idea that it was of any significance but I recall always watching to see if the caboose would be yellow or red. 😀
    I recall the occasional red engine as well… (F7-ish style..?)
    Sadly, the old Depot was taken down when I was in high school… 🙁
    I wish I knew much more about the CGW operations in this area…


      1. Hope I didn’t come across as critical. I sure didn’t mean it that way.
        As I look over Google maps satellite view, I notice that, starting from Melbourne, IA, you can actually still trace the old CGW line North out of town and most all the way to the main line West of Marshalltown.
        The section from Melbourne South to Baxter is almost all completely dozed out and gone but, again, if you zoom in and look carefully, you can still make it out. (I would be more than happy to help with this when the time comes, if necessary.)

        As an aside, the CGW crossed the Milwaukee at Melbourne as well and you can easily see that old roadbed going both East and West out of town.

        I admire this undertaking. Thanks for doing it! Please let me know if I can help in any way.


        1. No problem! Sharing knowledge is never critical. The best help you can be is to keep up the comments of locations. I’m planning on updating the map with a bunch of changes (including yours) in early Jan. So, fire away with any updates you see!

        2. Tom,
          I made a bunch of changes based on your information. Please take a look and let me know how I did. Obviously, there is much work to do yet including adding all the stations on that branch, but I hope these changes are a good start.
          – Mike

          1. Hi, Mike.
            Long time no check-in. Sorry.
            The placement you are now showing from at least Marshalltown to Des Moines looks correct to me.
            Did I read somewhere that you are also going to want the locations of depots? If so, I can certainly help you with Baxter’s. I may also be able to help some with those in neighboring towns as well.

            Thanks again for doing this, Mike!


      2. I have a map of the CGW line showing the towns that were on the lines. If you would like to have a copy, please let me know & I will email it to you.

  2. The river crossing for the CGW is off, you have the crossing as the N&W bridge, the actual CGW Des Moines River bridge is downriver from the 1st Street Bridge across the Des Moines River.

    1. Luke is right.
      The bridge was just slightly down from the 1st St./Scott Ave Bridge.
      In fact, if you zoom in far enough on your map (in Satelite mode), the pictures are older and the old CGW bridge magically (re)appears! 😀

      On a side note:
      I can’t imagine how tedious this project must get but I hope you are still plugging away at it.
      I find it very valuable. Just think if someone had taken the time to record things of this relevance several decades ago… :/
      Keep up the good work, Mike!

      1. Thanks Tom and Luke
        I finally updated the river crossing.. and I kept going south to Kansas City. Lots of changes and I hope you approve!

  3. Sorry, I missed your update on this…
    As far as I can tell, you have the section from Marshalltown to Des Moines pretty much spot-on now.
    Thanks again for taking this on. It will be a valuable resource for people for years to come.


  4. I just found your link and website through Google Earth while looking over the Oelwein area. I’m in Cedar Rapids and had no idea such a large yard existed up there.

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