116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Schoolchildren in Eastern Iowa in the 1930s into the 1960s often got to visit places or experience events that are no longer available to children today.
One of the more notable outings: Tours of the Quaker Oats plant in Cedar Rapids, where kids could see seeing Puffed Wheat “shot from guns.”
Train rides were another popular outing.
Third-graders from Strawberry Point got to ride a train to Edgewood in May 1939. They returned home by car. When they got back, their teacher assigned them to write about their excursion.
One youngster wrote, “We went to Edgewood on the train. On our way I saw one rabbit. I saw a meadowlark. I saw a farmer plowing a garden. I saw bonfires. We switched tracks. I went up town. I bought an ice cream cone and candy.”
“Don’t forget your ticket” and “Give your ticket to the conductor” were the instructions most often heard by Postville kindergartners in November 1950 as they boarded a train. They were joined by one first-grader who had missed the trip the year before when he was absent from school.
Second-graders from Letts Consolidated school were taken to Columbus Junction to board a train bound for Wapello. All but three of them were riding a train for the first time. A school bus brought them back to Letts.
Mrs. Childer’s kindergarten class at Horace Mann school in Iowa City were excited for a trip to Oxford in May 1953. The conductor explained some train signals to them, and they were allowed to explore the mail and passenger cars.
From Cedar Rapids to Decorah and back
No Rock Island passenger service existed between Cedar Rapids and Decorah in November 1955 so the rail workers attached a passenger car to the railroad’s thrice-weekly freight run.
“The Rock Island obligingly hauled the passenger car on a freight train all the way from Cedar Rapids to Decorah and back just so it would be warm for the youngsters,” The Gazette reported.
In Rowley, in Buchanan County, about 80 kids boarded the train for a ride to Walker. Each paid a dime for the ride.
When the Rowley kids got off, youngsters from Walker and Troy Mills got on and rode to Center Point. The children were delighted to spot their school buses on the highway on the way to meet them in Center Point.
As the short ride ended, Brakeman P.C. Wright of Cedar Rapids, a father of nine, expressed amazement: “We’ve gone nearly six miles and none of the youngsters has asked for a drink, nor has anyone had to go to the bathroom.”
From Iowa City to Manchester
Kindergartners from Independence boarded an Illinois Central streamliner in Iowa City for a trip to Manchester in December 1955.
The children met the conductor, visited the dining car and felt the 60-mile trip ended too soon.
In June 1956, 62 kindergartners at Cedar Rapids Hayes school boarded a train at Union Station for a short trip to Ely. At Ely, cars picked them up and brought them to Bever Park for a picnic.
Robins kids ride to Mount Vernon
In May 1958, 25 kindergarten-through-second graders from Robins Elementary had an end-of-the-school-year outing that included a trip on a Chicago and Northwestern passenger train. The trip — from Cedar Rapids to Mount Vernon — was the first train ride for most them.
Before the train ride, the kids toured the Central Fire Station at 427 First St. SE, built in 1918.
From Independence to Manchester
Another set of kindergartners from Aurora rode a train for the first time on May 18, 1961. The kids traveled by bus to Independence, then hopped the morning passenger train to Manchester. Another bus took them home to Aurora.
An Amana Cub Scout den of 11 boys took a train ride on Jan. 28, 1967. Only four of the 11 had ridden on a train before.
They boarded a Rock Island train at Marengo and rode to Iowa City. The ride was “part of Cub Scout study on transportation,” The Gazette explained.