About 10 miles north of Mason City, there is a junction between
the UP and the Iowa Northern. The track ends here in Manly at the former Rock Island yard, and
no longer goes any further north into Minnesota. The last business is a
cement plant on the north side of Manly.
Iowa seems to be one of those under
rated states for railfanning. When I was travelling a lot for work back in
the late 90's, I got to sample a fair portion of what Iowa has to offer,
including Mason City, Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Ames, Waterloo, Iowa City, and
the quad cities area with Davenport. I was not disappointed, to say the
Interstate I-35 bi-sects the state of Iowa right down
the middle. This makes it easy to get to from the twin cities of
Minneapolis and St Paul to the north, and Des Moines to the south.
Manly is about 3 hours from the twin cities.
The easiest way to get here, if you're coming into the area
via the interstate, I-35, is to take exit 203. This puts you on IA 9, which
brings you right into the middle of Manly as South Street.
From Mason City, take US 65 north to Manly.
To get to/from Nora Springs, you will have to zig-zag the
NOTE: While driving around here, a good portion of the
roads are dirt roads. If you are following another vehicle which is
kicking up the dust, slow down and wait "till the dust clears" :-)
This is important, as there could be a vehicle coming at you from the other
direction, and you will never see it if you follow too closely.
All of the pictures here are from a trip I
took to Minneapolis and St Paul back in 2006.
Engine and Caboose on Display
Iowa Northern #2000 on static display where the IAN crosses
Manly Junction RR Museum
Opened in the summer of 2012, it is a work in progress.
The following story was found
An orange rail motorcar, weathered lanterns, signs,
timetables and mural-size photographs are among the
displays in the Manly Railroad Junction Museum, set
to open to the public later this summer. A
project of Dan, Brad and Mark Sabin, descendants of
Art Sabin, a former engineer for the Rock Island
Railroad in Manly, the museum will be open weekends
in August, said Brad Sabin, project manager for the
Iowa Northern Railway Co., of Cedar Rapids. It
is housed in the former Oltman’s Grocery store at
101 E. Main St. “We grew up in a railroad
family and this was a railroad community,” Sabin,
50, said. “We wanted a museum for the community and
for the people to enjoy and understand what the
railroad used to be.” The museum is a
testament to the days when Manly was a hub for the
Rock Island Railroad, the location of the Rock
Island Terminal, Sabin said. In the early 1950s, as
many as 14 passenger trains per day stopped at
Manly, formerly known as Manly Junction. The
Sabins leased the grocery building in August 2010
and completely remodeled it, adding new carpeting,
track lighting and a ticket office that features an
iron grate from a depot in Texas. Dramatic
black-and-white photos dating from the late 1800s to
modern times and 13 flat-screen TVs with separate
slide shows help tell the story of the railroad days
in Iowa and southern Minnesota, days that shouldn’t
be forgotten, the Sabins said. “It’s all of
our heritage,” said Dan Sabin, 59, president and
owner of the Iowa Northern Railway, which runs from
Manly to Cedar Rapids. “Just about every town in
Iowa was formulated by the railroads. Now I think
people are realizing how important railroads are,
particularly people who have lost theirs.” He
is especially excited about photos showing troop
trains from World War II and the railway post
office, Sabin said. One photo shows a
flag-draped Vietnam soldier’s coffin being unloaded
from a train; another shows a middle-aged man
receiving the body of his nephew killed in World War
II in the 1940s. “You can’t look at that
without feeling the emotion of the human story,”
Sabin said. Depression-era photos of hobos and
a family reduced to riding the rails, tug at the
heart. An 1890s photo of women in long skirts
pumping water at a railroad well presents a picture
of life that few may remember. Engineers lean
out of their windows, a conductor holds up his
lantern to signal the engineer.
“The main thing
we’re trying to show is the different workers and
characters of the railroad,” Brad Sabin said.
Many of the photos were donated. But Dan Sabin also
donated from his own sizeable personal photo
collection. The photos have been blown up to poster
size on a museum-quality printer. Other
exhibits feature memorabilia such as railroad
watches, grips, uniforms and tools, donated by Manly
residents and other interested individuals.
Globe lights in the front portion of the museum are
from the old Manly depot. There is still much
work to be done. Exhibits need to be labeled,
the collection must be indexed and there are still
many materials — including a map collection from the
Chicago Northwestern Historical Society and archives
from the Rock Island Technical Society — to sort and
organize. One portion of the building is being
set aside for construction of a model railroad.
“It’s a slow process to do it right,” Dan Sabin
said. Construction of the museum would not
have been possible without a $88,547 grant from the
Worth County Development Authority in April 2011,
Sabin said. Earlier WCDA grants for $50,000,
in April 2008, and a special grant of $10,000 in
November 2007, were also used toward the project,
including for the purchase of 10 acres of land on
the north side of town. An adjoining
seven-acre parcel was donated by Lois Thompo, Brad
Sabin said. The Sabins hope in the not too
distant future to build a permanent structure to
house the railroad museum and a community center for
the citizens of Manly to enjoy. “I’ve been
collecting since I was a little kid,” Dan Sabin
said. “It’s an opportunity to share this. We’re
really hopeful that people will have artifacts and
photographs that we can use.” Anyone wishing
to donate railroad memorabilia or photos to the new
Manly Junction Railroad Museum is asked to call Brad
Sabin at 641-425-6104.
The following excerpt from July 2007 was found
Plans are being unveiled to build a ten-million dollar
railroad museum in the northern Iowa town of Manly. Dan
Sabin, president of the non-profit Iowa Northern
Railway, says they’re just completing the purchase of
two historic locomotives that would be restored and
housed at the planned museum.
Sabin says it’s still in the development stage but
they’ve bought two rare Rock Island Lines passenger
locomotives. They want to display them but also want to
have them be operated on the grounds so it would be a
"live museum." Sabin says the group would like to see
the museum developed into a great place for rail fans,
tourists and researchers to visit.
They want to integrate commercial development,
including restaurants and shops, with modern facilities
but in a 1920s appearance, along with a vintage railroad
station. Sabin says there are also plans for a
storehouse of pictures and other information about
railroads so the museum could also become a railroad
research facility for scholars, writers and historians.
Manly is just north of Mason City in Worth County. Sabin
says the town used to be a hub for rail activity,
decades ago, so he sees it as an appropriate distinction
that railroads could again put Manly on the map.
Sabin says the group wants to see that Manly
celebrates its railroad heritage with such a museum.
Sabin and his family members are also partners in the
Manly Terminal, an ethanol warehouse operation that is
currently being constructed north of Manly. He says that
project combined with the museum idea could also make
Manly a railroad town of the future. Anyone interested
in contributing money or memorabilia to the project can
contact Sabin at (319) 297-6000 or by e-mailing him at
What's left of the Rock Island yard... not much...