The Milwaukee Road's Sioux once offered overnight service between Sioux Falls and Chicago by way of Mason City and Madison.  The railroad passenger business paid its way by handling mail and express (this being before anybody anticipated Federal Express; there were stringent weight limits on air mail at the time.)  Thus local passenger trains, such as the La Crescent to Savanna local by way of Dubuque would exchange passengers, parcels, and on occasion cars, with the Sioux.

Today, the Sioux is running late, perhaps account sheep on the tracks or ghost riders in the sky, and the local has to hold at Marquette, Iowa, to make the connection.  You do not want to miss the connecting baggage car, particularly if just-weaned piglets or nursery stock are among the consignments, believe me!

This is not a good place for a train to wait for long, as there's lots of Dead Freight to be moved along the west bank of the Mississippi River.  The steel works in St. Louis is going to want that iron ore sometime soon.

Eventually, the name train shows up, and the transfers and switching proceed.

The coal mines downriver (on a model railroad, you sometimes have to be creative) have been loading cars, and it will be useful to get these passenger trains on the way in order to move the Dead Freight one way, and the coal, which is waiting in downriver sidings, the other way.  Passenger Services in Chicago will have to placate any irate passengers who arrive a little late for the opening bell at the Board of Trade.

Here, the Dead Freight gets under way from Marquette, as the first of the coal trains, for LaCrescent and points railroad west, arrives.  This coal train will add other cars for those destinations.  It's mostly a water-level railroad.

The second coal train, headed for Ossian, Iowa, where there's a generating station (you get to be creative on a model railroad) closes in on the LaCrescents.

The covered hopper cars are a signature of the Edmore Patrol, working a cement plant and grain elevators there.  The most dramatic model railroading license is in the background, where Sewell, West Virginia has somehow moved to where you'd expect to find McGregor, Iowa.

It's all in a day's work for the dispatcher.  Strong coffee, sharp pencils, a fresh trainsheet, and hope everything stays on the rails.

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