This line was first built by the Eldora Railroad and Coal Company in 1866 for the purpose of transporting regionally-mined coal to a connection with the Dubuque & Sioux City Railroad at Ackley. Further expansion of the line to Marshalltown (and a connection with the Chicago & North Western Railroad) occurred between 1868 and 1870.
By 1912, the line had come under the ownership of the Iowa Central Railroad, who, in that year, merged with the Minneapolis & St. Louis Railroad. The C&NW purchased the M&StL in 1960, and since the C&NW already owned a line that operated parallel to this route, C&NW opted to move all mainline traffic to the other parallel route, leaving this route for local service only. C&NW subsequently started abandoning portions of the line at various times.
In 1988, C&NW filed to abandoned a portion of this line between Ackley and Geneva. However, the North Central Railroad negotiated with the C&NW to purchase the line, and did so the following year. With the operation of the Ackley-Geneva portion of the line occurring in 2009, the NCRA filed for abandonment in 2013.