Ivan the Terrible
Ivan Earl Summa

Rock Island GP38-2 4345, "Ivan the Terrible", was named for Ivan E. Summa, manager of the Superior Co-op Elevator in Superior, Iowa. In an exchange of letters in October of 1976, Ivan was notified by the railroad that it wished to put his name on a loco and he agreed, provided that the engine carry one of his nicknames, either "Big I" or "Ivan the Terrible".

Ivan's request that a nickname be used was honored by the railroad. His two nicknames were used at the elevator to describe a large, physically imposing man who saw to it that business was done in accordance with good business practices. He stated that at the Superior Cooperative, we "stick to basics - nothing fancy here".

Harriett Summa, Ivan's widow, says, "He was pretty strict about accounts receivable and so he kind of got that nickname. Of course, we know that Ivan the Terrible was a bad, bad person, but my husband was not a bad, bad person! I don't know that he even knew the history behind the real Ivan the Terrible, but anyway, it seemed to fit. He was a big, robust type person and a lot of the employees called him the 'Big I'. He just sort of coined the phrase 'Ivan the Terrible'. Like I said, he was very strict and very honest. Everything had to go according to the system."

However, Ivan's conservative practices in financial affairs were coupled with a creative and tireless genius for improving the profitablility of the cooperative's farmer members. When the elevator was short on boxcars in which to load grain, Ivan used everything that could be pressed into service, loading open-top hoppers and stockcars with plywood linings. Ivan saw the financial benefits to the cooperative that could be garnered by owning and leasing cars, and added that to the "basics" of the elevator business.

When car shortages were keeping the elevators of northwest Iowa from shipping, Ivan and a number of other elevator managers organized a public meeting in Estherville. Ivan's many creative ideas to relieve the car shortage were quoted in the Estherville Daily News.

There came times when cars were plentiful, but reliable transport for the elevator's railcars was not available. Ivan then became a political activist, working at both the state and national levels to get rail lines upgraded and rate structures changed. When bankruptcy and labor disputes threatened the shipment of grain, Ivan campaigned for intervention from Washington. Throughout his career, he worked to improve the economic power of the grain farmers.

Ivan's career as manager of the Superior Co-op began in 1961 and lasted 25 years. Just a few years into the span of his leadership, the cooperative's board of directors nominated him for the Dreyer Management Award. The board cited particularly Ivan's sound financial practices and his work on such innovations as unit grain trains.

Harriett Summa still has models in HO scale of 4345, a few grain hoppers and a caboose that were given to Ivan. The cars are lettered for the Superior Cooperative and carry (incorrect) reporting marks ISEX. Prototype cars, owned by Ivan E. Summa, carried IESX reporting marks, but these were not lettered for the cooperative, to avoid conflicts of interest. Leased cars with the Superior Cooperative name on them carried PTLX reporting marks. A display case was constructed for the train by Ivan's brother-in-law Gahlen Gilbert. The model was on display in the elevator for some time before Ivan's retirement.

Ivan started work at an elevator in George, Iowa as a bookeeper and then got the manager's job at Archer, Iowa. He then decided to go into business for himself and bought into a feedmill in South Dakota. After leaving the feed mill, he returned to Iowa and got a job at the Superior Cooperative in 1960. The Summa family lived in Estherville, Iowa. Ivan retired from the Superior Cooperative in 1986 at age 59 and died March 31 of 1992. He is survived by his widow and five sons.


These pages and pictures would not have been possible without the cooperation and assistance of several Iowans. Thanks particularly to:

Mark Van Wyk, who made the connection between RITS and the Summa family.
Dean Summa, Ivan's son, who arranged for us to meet with his mother.
Harriett Summa, who generously contributed from her memories and scrapbook. Her gracious, enthusiastic support and hospitality made this project a pleasure to complete.

Dick Tinder
May 10, 1997