Amazing 1959 film of Iowa's US 30

YOU WILL LOVE this video of central Iowa’s US 30, filmed in 1959 to show congestion and the need for road improvements. Highway Relocations was created by the Iowa State Highway Commission (ISHC), now IDOT, to show the downside of gas stations, rest stops, and the skinny two-lanes they populate. Filming started just east of State Center at the junction of Iowa 64 (now Iowa 330) and US 30 (the Lincoln Highway) and continued west along US 30 through State Center, Colo, Nevada, and Ames, ending just west of Boone. The film is 16 minutes long and covers 55 miles. {Note: Please read the comments for more info on  the cars and the year it was filmed.]

Amazingly, most of it was filmed by a camerman perched atop a ladder connected to a car and extending approximately 22 feet in the air above the roadway! The camera, on a 1958 Ford Ranch Wagon, followed and filmed a 1958 Plymouth Fury. “The unidentified cameraman had the precarious task of trying to hold the camera steady and stay on the ladder, notably without a safety harness or other protective device.”

“As part of the Iowa DOT’s effort to preserve and archive its historical resources, the original Highway Relocations 16mm film was recently professionally cleaned and restored to its original film quality.”

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44 Responses to “Amazing 1959 film of Iowa's US 30”

  1. Tom Weinkauf Says:

    This is a fantastic video for us historical minded roadgeeks and Lincoln Hwy fans. You might double check the date which is given as 1959. At 5:34-5:37 a red 1960 chevy is seen to the right immediately followed by a 2nd blue 1960 chevy pulled off the side of the road. At 10:27 a car carrier is hauling what looks like a shipment of 1962 Cadillacs. And at 10:39 a 1961 Ford follows in that stream of traffic.
    Thanks for sharing!!

    • brianbutko Says:

      Thanks Tom Weinkauf for your eagle eye. I’d wanted to scan for year clues but it took a ton of time just to assemble the story, images, and links. I saw the blue 60 Chevy but thought that still made sense. Missed the red one but see it now by watching one frame at a time (24/sec) in QuickTime. But the Caddy trailer is the interesting one — are you sure they’re 62s? Looks like they could be 1960s and that would fit better with the rest. And don’t you mean a 1960 Ford? So maybe it is late 1959, or started then and finished in 1960.

      • Tom Weinkauf Says:

        After some even more intense review, I would agree that late September 1959 would make sense. Not being sure how early that 1960 models were available, it very well could be that the 1960 cars in the video were brand new cars. The tail fins on the Cadillac were very similar on the 60,61, and 62’s. I didn’t notice the front grille of the lower level car and that clearly appears to be 1960 models on their way to dealers. And yes I did mean a 1960 ford which it is, also must be a new car. Looking at the amount of leaves on the ground looks like just a bit later in the year than today, so it could be Sept 15-25th range, maybe even later. School is obviously in session. The restoration of the video is really great work!

    • tom wible Says:

      > at 10:39 a 1961 Ford…

      that’s a ’60 ford…it does seem that the film spanned quite some time: ealy on, all the trees are bare, but by this point they’re full.

  2. tom wible Says:

    > perched atop a ladder

    i don’t think so: from the screengrabs above, the camera was obviously on the roof of the car. and the ladder would have a hard time going over that girder bridge;-)

  3. Bob Beaudoin Says:

    Notice the price of gas 28 – 31¢ a gal. Also, many brands no longer around.

    • tom wible Says:

      yeah, i noticed that, too…1 clearly visible sign is on the left side of the road @ ~5:10…right before that is a sign for…starbucks…motel;-)

      i also noticed prior relocations: @ ~3:30 a 30mph left curve has replaced an old T intersection, later, they remark on a “sharp curve” of 40mph @ the 60/30 intersection, where 30 turns left…

  4. Jim Payne Says:

    This is great! I sometimes wish I could travel back in time to the 50’s and take a road trip. This video may be the next best thing.

  5. RoadDog Says:

    A great trip back in time. Thanks.

    How did you come across it?

  6. Denny Gibson Says:

    Calling it amazing is certainly accurate. Wonderful stuff. I came here after watching it only to discover you have already had the car model conversation I was thinking of. Besides the Fords & Chevys already mentioned,I believe I saw a couple 1960 Mercs in there, too. Since there are plenty of green leaves on the trees, it seems likely that the film was made within a few weeks after the new models became available. I’m thinking that’s a lot of new cars in a very short time but that could be a misperception. Or maybe Iowans had to buy a lot of new cars to replace the ones they were wrecking on that crappy road. No imports, though. Great find, Brian. Thanks.

  7. tom wible Says:

    speaking of road relocations, they make a big deal about improving traffic & safety, of course, but they ignore the tremendous upheaval in business.

    i remember when the rt30 bypass went south of greensburg, right by my neighborhood, in ~’61…that marked the beginning of the decline of the downtown…there are now vacant lots on main st…which only now is coming back with the expansion of seton hill to a university.

    greensburg now has a reputation as a party town;-)

  8. Brad Lawrence Says:

    Great footage! Brings me back in time. From Minnesota, I would drive on the Iowa roads by Marshalltown (US30) and note how narrow they were. Some speed limits were 70mph. Driving at night was insane; when meeting a truck you reverted to prayer. Remember, the cars were full sized back then – no scaled down Toyotas. The GMs and Fords were huge and they wore biased ply tires with drum brakes and no ABS! And they used generators and big distributors. BTW I also noticed over ten 1960 Chevys in the first 12 minutes of the film. Thanks for sharing this gem!

    • brianbutko Says:

      Thanks for your note Brad. Check the other replies for a discussion about the year. Yeah, lots of 1960 models; we still think the date is right so must have been a prosperous time for the region.

  9. Cathie Nichols Says:

    This is cool, Brian! Living in Iowa we have driven this route and enjoyed seeing all the changes. Wonder what happened to that neat bridge over the Des Moines river? Glad this was mentioned in the Forum–really enjoyed it.

  10. Phillip Says:

    Highway 60 (with the bridge over the Des Moines River) became Iowa Highway 17 on January 1, 1969

  11. Don Wilcox Says:

    Wonderful trip back in time. I remember every inch of that road very well. As kids we laid on the lawn of the court house in West Boone and watched all of the big trucks go by. Usually pumping our arm up and down trying to get truckers to blow there air horns, most didn’t!!!. Filming coming through Boone there is a Allied Van straight truck coming towards the camera crew. That had to be me or my brother driving because we were Wilson Transfer employes and alway drove that truck in 1959-60. Thanks for the trip down memory lane….

    • William Boone Says:

      Don… that must have been Duane driving the Allied truck because it looked like it was totally under control! LOL I can remember on one occasion a double deck cattle truck loaded with feeder calves struck the West Boone underpass killing several calves. The hills on both sides of the river were a real pain for truckers in the winter as chains were frequently needed to get to the top of the hills. It seemed the sanding trucks always got there too late to keep the hill open for traffic. Thanks to the poster….enjoyed very much!


  12. Donny Wilson Says:

    Great film I was born and raised in Moingona, Half way between Boone and Ognen I spent alot of time on highway 30

  13. Ron Waters Says:

    Even though I’ve never been to Iowa, this is a great film for us old car fans. Someone posted a link on the Forward Look website. Nicely job restoring the color.

    I’d have to say that most of the film was shot mid-1960, judging by the number of 1960 cars I see. Police car is a ’60 Plymouth, while numerous ’60 Pontiacs and Oldsmobiles are shown.

    Minor correction to the text above: the light blue Plymouth that we follow is either a Belvedere or a Savoy. Furys only came in Buckskin Beige and had a more upscale interior than what is pictured.

  14. Sören Fjellstedt Says:

    I am from Sweden born in the sixties and I am really love American cars from fifties and sixties and this movie really show cars in their natural situation. Big Thanks to the people that make it possible to see this wunderful Movie from the real America with the real American Cars!!! And I did not need to pay for the ticket……

  15. Ron Says:

    Hey Cathie – that old bridge was replaced by a newer structure a few years back. It was also “raised” to provide unintrerupted passage should the Des Moines River flood as it did in ’93 and other years. My first time driving for Drivers Ed was in my instructors Le Mans/Grand Prix (?) convertible through that bridge returning to Ogden from Boone. It was scary going through that and meeting other traffic. The instructor said I did well, but it was still scary.

    Thanks Brian for putting this up. It was cool to see some of the old stuff I remember and a lot I didn’t.

  16. Dave Darby Says:

    Love this film, and your write-up. The Iowa DOT has some great treasures on their website. By the way, FYI, those Cadillacs on the truck are 1963s.

    Dave Darby
    Executive Director
    Route 6 Tourist Association – Iowa Division

  17. Diego Says:

    The video is from late-1961 or 1962, not from 1959.

  18. The Halls Says:

    This brought back lots of memories where we both grew up together from age 15 years old on until we got married in 1956.

  19. Dave Darby Says:

    Yeah, after looking at the roofline and front end of those Caddys, they are definitely 1960 vintage. From the rear quarters they looked like 63’s at a glance, but they are absolutely 1960 Cadillacs.

  20. Joann Lyon Sargent Says:

    Wow, this is amazing….In this video I found my Dad with his red low-boy truck, hauling our big tournadozer!!! He worked all around the area
    making lakes and terraces for farmers. This is really a gem for me to see now….he has been gone for many years, but his work lingers on.
    One of his beautiful works…is the lake at Twin Anchors..which is now a wonderful RV park with a restaurant. Thanks for the keepsake.

  21. Steve Lawson Says:

    At the 4.32 mark is that a corvair at the under overpass, don’t have my glasses and couldn’t stop it and get a clear pic but sure looks like one to me.

  22. Marietta Moravetz Says:

    This is just wonderful, and what a public service! I grew up on a farm one mile south of highway 30 and about three miles east of Ogden. How many memories this brought back! For three years when I was in high school, I lived in Ogden on 30. I used to lie on my bed in the third floor bedroom and watch the trucks go by under my window. I fantasized about where they were going and what they hauled. I was always looking for the Navajo trucks with the painting of the Navajo chief on the front of the truck above the cab. In recent years, I was traveling in NM and saw one of these old Navajo trucks with the chief painted on the front. It was in a junk yard. Tears came to my eyes, remembering how I had looked for those trucks 50 years ago in Ogden! God bless you for putting this together and distributing it.

  23. Collins Roe Says:

    Our farm in the late 1940’s was 6 miles north off the Lincoln Highway near the town of Lanesboro. Thus, we often traveled on Hwy 30 to get to Carroll, and it looked much like this film. The film said this section to Carroll had been updated, and the section covered in the film need updating.

    We often traveled this section of the highway on the way to see Grandpa & Grandma in Boone, and onto Ames to see Uncle Glen in Des Moines.

    As the film crew entered Boone, I saw my grandfather’s cafe.

    I left Iowa in 1950, and did not see the updating process. But, after Mom & Dad moved back in 1975 Hwy 30 was a good road to travel.

    Mom & Dad were killed in 1995 on this road in the town of Jefferson.

    I was born in Jefferson in a hospital that faced this highway.

  24. Karen Says:

    this past year we moved into an 1880’s home in Ogden that sits right on old hwy 30. we were excited to learn it has quite some history – including previously being a maternity hospital & funeral home. i’ve never had the opportunity to research the history of a private home before, and only have a few details to start with. since it does sit on old hwy 30, and was different types of businesses at different times, anyone have hints on how to go about getting more specs on its history?? any tips would be great!

    • Cal Roe Says:

      I was born in such a home/hospital in Jefferson Iowa. It was on the south side of the Lincoln hwy across from the hospital that was built in the late 1930’s.
      Collins Roe

  25. Ed Says:

    Saw this on the Nevada section of glurb (HeyIowa. com). Love the old footage.

    The Highway providess quite a bit of pride for some fo the folks that live along the road..

  26. Chuck Wlodarczyk Says:

    Chuck says; I’m a Lincoln Highway member and i’ve been over the Lincoln Highway in Iowa a few times and this brings back many memories. Born in Chicago and Grew up in Wyoming so I’ve logged many miles back & forth.. Even when I was younger and rode the Bus it used The Lincoln Highway in Nebraska so It made me a lover of the Highway Great Stuff

  27. Some cool video fo 1959 US 30 between Marshtown and Boone - CycloneFanatic Says:

    […] Amazing 1959 film of Iowa’s US 30 Lincoln Highway News Looks like an old State of Iowa Highway video about proposed improvements to U.S. 30. Pretty cool […]

  28. Mary Sue Rolfes Tate Says:

    Loved watching that film as I would have been a junior in High School at that time. I drove that old highway30 Many times to both Ames and to Ogden..I had boyfriends in both towns! Such memories!

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