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Short line railroad was long on good times

By Todd Welvaert, Dispatch/Argus Staff writer

If travel by rail inspires romantic images of dining cars, fine china and crystal, the HY&T line, or the Hooppole, Yorktown and Tampico line, would probably disappoint.

Click here for larger view.
Lydia Sage/staff
Lloyd McElhiney of the Tampico Historical Society holds a photo of the old Hooppole, Yorktown and Tampico line that carried grain, livestock and passengers among the towns and to the bigger rail lines.
Even the little three-car train's most ardent fans admit, the Orient Express it was not. But for those who remember the little engine that did, "The Dummy" will always hold a special place in the heart.

"It was really quite a practical little train," said Amy McElhiney, member of Tampico's Historical Society. "People would use it to run from town to town, come in to go the dentist or get groceries. Some people would even use it to move. The line would drop a box car off on a Friday, they would put all their worldly possessions in it over the weekend and on Monday they train would pick them up to go wherever."

The train line ran between the towns of Hooppole, Tampico and Yorktown between 1907 and 1952. At one time, the train went all the way into Mendota, where passengers and freight could transfer onto other rail lines.

The train is affectionately known as "The Dummy" because, lacking a rail spur, it couldn't turn around and had to run a portion of its route backwards.

"It was practical, but there was a fun side too," Mrs. McElhiney said. "There is many a boy who still remembers running out of town, only to jump aboard the train and ride it back into town. They would run out there with their BB guns and jump aboard to pretend to rob the train. There are a lot of people who remember riding the little train into town to go to school, although many admit it would have been faster to walk. The train never went faster than four or five miles an hour."

Mrs. McElhiney said the line had five different engines during its tenure and offered a passenger car decked out in red plush for several years.

"It played a big part in the history of the three towns and the areas in between," she said. "They depended on it quite a bit to move grain and livestock to market. Many times the swampy areas were not passable and the train was the only way in or out of the town."

The little line was started by the Mathis and Sons Grain Co., which had plans to run the track south, all the way to Geneseo, however, more reliable roads and transportation came about and spelled the end of the line for the HY&T.

The last engine, the 1315, was scrapped for its metal. The medallion was later given to the Tampico Historical Society, where it remains on display.

Copyright 1999, Moline Dispatch Publishing Co.