La Motte Depot

Our piece of the Narrow Gauge Railroad

These trains went were the big ones could not

View of La Motte Depot

Depot in Action

La Motte Depot rebuilt in 1912

History of the La Motte Depot

The first train arrived in LaMotte on Jan. 1, 1880, to a cheering crowd of 5,000. The depot built in LaMotte that year was the center of activity for the northern Jackson County farming community. Old-timers remember farm wagons lined up back to the Streff Tavern, (Now the Circle C Saloon) waiting to unload livestock as they shipped alot of livestock out of LaMotte.

Then in July of 1910 the original depot burned to the ground in a devastating fire that also destroyed the stockyards, one of two grain elevators along the tracks, a lumberyard and a milk depot. It was thought to have been started by some young boys smoking.

By 1911, all had been rebuilt. The depot, a 20'x 42' ornate wood structure was on the very same spot as the original. There are some wonderful vintage photos of the her in her heyday! According to Ralph Christian, an architectural historian with the State Historic Preservation Office, there were about 15 narrow gauge operations in the state over time, including the Chicago, Bellevue, Cascade and Western that stopped in LaMotte. It zigzagged in and out of Dubuque and Jackson Counties as it made the 36 mile run between Bellevue
and Cascade.

Then came the Great Depression. A failing economy coupled with failing equipment was a serious threat. But in 1936 old man winter dealt the fatal blow. Blizzard after blizzard closed the rails. When the broken snowblower couldn?t cut through the drifts, 30 hired shovelers tried and failed. The train twice had to be backed from western Jackson County all the way back to Bellevue. It was the end of an era.

The LaMotte Depot sit s proudly at its new home. The chimney has been rebuilt and volunteers have replaced the original platform. The other restoration steps covered by the DAR Special Project s Grant are in process and scheduled to be completed by June 30th 2017.