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The Wyanet Depot

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

The Norwegians are often for solving the logistics of the two-story outhouse, but that feat pales on comparison with the railroad depot at Wyanet, Illinois, east of here.

In April of 1852, the first tracks of the Chicago and Rock Island Railroad began snaking west from Chicago toward the Mississippi River. By September of 1853, passenger service had reached Tiskilwa. By then, a second railroad, the Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy, had also left Chicago heading southwest to the Pacific.

Did the two sets of railroad builders realize there was going to be a problem? The two routes would cross each other a hundred miles west of Chicago, near Wyanet, where they would have to go under and over each other.

As it turned out, the Burlington Railroad went over the Rock Island Lines, and the location came to be known as The Crossing. By 1866, both railroad lines were close to reaching the West Coast. And over this crossing passed most of the transcontinental business of the United States. There was need for a depot to serve crews and passengers.

The Crossing Station at Wyanet was a joint venture by both railroads, and the only three-story train station in the world. The upper level housed the Burlington waiting room and the agent's family's living room, and kitchen. The middle level housed the family bedrooms, while the lower level was the Rock Island Lines waiting room. Passengers changing trains at the Wyanet Depot had only to walk up or down to do so, often stopping for one of the excellent meals served by the agent's wife and children.

The Wyanet station stood for 44 years before succumbing to an almost inevitable end: sparks from one of the lower level trains passing through ignited the wooden frame structure on February 4th, 1910 and burned it down.

A more romantic and dramatic end for Wyanet's three-story train station than for the Norwegian two-story outhouse, which has almost entirely succumbed to indoor plumbing.

Rock Island Lines is supported by grants from the Illinois Humanities Council, the Illinois Arts Council—a state agency—and by Augustana College, Rock Island.

Beginning 1995, historian and folklorist Dr. Roald Tweet spun his stories of the Mississippi Valley to a devoted audience on WVIK. Dr. Tweet published three books as well as numerous literary articles and recorded segments of "Rock Island Lines." His inspiration was that "kidney-shaped limestone island plunked down in the middle of the Mississippi River," a logical site for a storyteller like Dr. Tweet.