An Ames two-fer

While seemingly half of the citizens of the city of Ames were in Iowa City for the big Iowa State/Iowa football game (or at least hunkered down at a sports bar in anticipation), it was  great day to be downtown Ames.

I started the day at the Main Street Farmers Market. The market, one of three farmers markets in Ames, is located in the 400 block of Main Street in downtown Ames. The market offers all the usual produce, local eggs and meat, baked goods, prepared foods, coffee, and crafts you’d expect at a small farmers market. I thought the late-summer produce selection was especially attractive. Here are some views:

Click HERE for a list of vendors. The Ames Main Street Farmers Market is held Saturdays through Oct. 27 from 8 a.m. through noon.

Later in the day I visited the Octagon Center for the Arts exhibit “Rail Reality: How the Trains Made Ames.”

In 2009 the Ames Historical Society realized that there was a significant anniversary on the horizon for the city of Ames: the 150th anniversary of the Union Pacific Railroad in 2012. The society applied for a grant from the Union Pacific Foundation to fund an exhibit to tell the story of how the railroad shaped Ames. The resulting exhibit, presented by the Ames Historical Society and Octagon Center for the Arts, opened June 1 and runs through Oct. 28.

It’s a mostly poster-presented exhibition, with a few artifacts and a scale display of the Ames railyards from the 1930s and the Ames and College Railway, a.k.a. “The Dinkey.”

I’m especially interested in the history of the Dinkey, which ran from 1891 to 1907. The exhibit tells us that from the 1860s until 1890, you could get between the small town of Ames and the small Iowa Agricultural College (now Iowa State University) three ways:

  • By walking the train tracks, cutting across a pasture, and taking a footpath.
  • Taking the unpaved Boone Road (now Lincoln Way), which was often muddy.
  • Using the horse-drawn “college bus” departing from the depot or hotel downtown.

The Ames and College Railway changed all that — and helped both the town and the college to grow and prosper. The fare was a nickel, and ridership reached as high as 14,000 per day. In 1892 the motor depot or “Dinkey station” was built between Old Main (now Beardshear Hall) and Morrill Hall — the current location of the Hub.

The Dinkey also carried mail from the main post office to the campus depot and transported building materials and equipment during the campus building boom: The Campanile (completed in 1898), Marston Hall (1903), Beardshear Hall (1906), and Alumni Hall (1907).

The Ames Depot, which is still standing, is also filled with interesting history. Did you know that five presidents passed through Ames’ train depot? Yep — Teddy Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Franklin D. Roosevelt, William McKinley, and Dwight D. Eisenhower.

A portion of the of the Rail Reality exhibit is on loan from the Union Pacific Museum in Council Bluffs. The Octagon Center for the Arts is located at 427 Douglas, Ames.

If you’re a train buff, you won’t want to miss the “Living Legend” Steam Locomotive tomorrow (Sunday, Sept. 9) on the track at 20th St. and Ridgewood Ave. in Ames. The locomotive, constructed in 1944, will be in Ames from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Also coming up are two free gallery talks: Sept. 18 (“The Railroad Today” by Brenda Mainwaring of Union Pacific) and Oct. 6 (“Today’s Freight Trains” by the ISU Railroad Club).

For art enthusiasts, The Octagon’s biggest annual event is also coming up on Sunday, Sept. 23. The 42nd Octagon Art Festival will be held on Main Street in Ames from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.


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