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Tales of the rails

The 90 Club

Jim L. Rueber

Not many people outside of the Oelwein area knew about the Great Western 90 Club.

Train No. 90 left Oelwein every evening seven days a week and was due at Bellwood by 3:00 am to make connection with the IHB. They would handle the meat from South St. Paul and Hormel out of Austin and if No. 90 did not make the Bellwood connection by 3am then the IHB did not have to wait for it and would pick it up later to deliver to connecting roads which resulted in bad delay and all the blame was placed on the Great Western.

We knew that the IHB was not all that good that they could be at Bellwood by 3:00 am every morning so when No. 90 was a little late which was most of the time, we would still tell the IHB that No. 90 was going to be there at 2:45 am then if No. 90 got there before the IHB showed up we would tell them the interchange was made at 2:50 am.

The president of the Great Western knew that No. 90 had to get a good start out of Oelwein to make that connection at Bellwood so he had the CGW officials that were in Oelwein come down to the yard office every night to see that nothing went wrong with getting No. 90 out of town. Thus was formed the 90 Club made up of people who wore a white shirt and tie to work like the Superintendent, the Trainmaster, the Supt. of Motive Power, the General Car Foreman and the Asst. Car Foreman and sometimes the Division Engineer. We would see all those white shirts walking around outside the yard office getting in the way, if No. 90 was delayed getting out of Oelwein those guys had to answer to the president the next morning.

On Thursdays every week the CGW got most of the car loadings from all the packing houses on line like at South St Paul, Austin, St Joe and South Omaha. They would send 2 "F" units over to Council Bluffs on No. 91 on Wednesday and deadhead a crew down on No. 13 from Clarion to be rested to run a meat train extra from Co Bluffs to Oelwein. No. 92 handled the meat from St Joe and No. 41 handled the meat from So. St. Paul and picked up the Hormel meat at Hayfield. All 3 trains arrived Oelwein early in the morning to connect with No. 192 which had to make a 1:30 PM connection at Bellwood with the IHB.

Well, needless to say all the boys from the 90 club were invited to be down to the yard office on Friday morning to make sure nothing went wrong with getting No. 192 out of town as quickly as possible. If Mr. Reidy, the president was in town on Friday morning he would get up early to help out also, when No. 192 started moving out of Oelwein yard Mr. Reidy and the boys from the 90 Club would all jump in the CGW Chevy station wagon and beat it over to Oneida, Iowa that was about an hour's running time for No. 192. There, they would jump out of the station wagon, some would get on one side of the big curve, the rest on the other side, to make a good train inspection of No. 192, as there were no open stations between Oelwein and Dubuque where the train would get an inspection.

After No. 192 had passed Oneida and everything was ok then Mr. Reidy took everybody out to breakfast.


Copyright 1998,99 Tom Tolstead

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