In Blog

The Dinkey

Posted by: on Jul 26, 2012 | 2 Comments

Just a little reminiscing:

In the first semester of my Ph.D. at Iowa State University, I noticed something very odd. The morning classes started right on the hour, as you would expect them to. For instance, Monday classes ran at 9, 10, and 11. But at noon, classes shifted to 10 minutes past the hour: 12:10, 1:10, 2:10, and so forth. I had never seen this sort of schedule before, and I’ve never seen it since.

Of course, the undergraduates at Iowa State thought that this schedule was completely normal—just the way things were done. But many of the other graduate students, like me, had done our undergraduate work somewhere else. We knew that this was weird.

Finally, a few semesters in, I found out why. One of my fellow graduate students had worked in the university archives, and had turned up the answer.

“Oh,” he told me offhandedly, “It’s because of the Dinkey.”

I had never heard of it. “What on earth is the Dinkey?”

The Dinkey, he told me, was a small steam train that had connected the Iowa State campus with downtown Ames. For a nominal fare, students and faculty could ride the Dinkey to and from town. It ran about every two hours, arriving on campus right about the top of the hour. So, he explained, faculty and students would sometimes catch the Dinkey, ride into town for lunch, then come back for afternoon classes. The extra 10 minutes were just enough time for these riders to jump off the train and hurry to class.

“But Scott,” I pointed out, “there’s no more Dinkey.”

“Nope,” he replied. “They decommissioned it during World War II.” It had been over fifty years since the Dinkey had made its last run, and Iowa State’s schedule was still built around it.