Railroad History in Siouxland, Council Bluffs

10 Mar
An old locomotive sits on tracks at the Railswest Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday, January 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Exploring in Siouxland is always a pleasure, even during cold winter months when some places are not open, but then gives one a reason to return in warmer weather when it is. The Railswest Museum in Council Bluffs is one place relishing in the rich railroad history that encompasses the area. The General Greville M. Dodge historical house is also located in Council Bluffs and he was instrumental in mapping out the railroad expansion westward but made Council Bluffs his home turf to work from.

The museum’s website states: “The restored depot was originally built in 1899 for the Chicago Rock Island and Pacific Railroad (the “Rock Island”), one of 15 rail lines serving Council Bluffs.  The last Rock Island passenger trained pulled out of the depot on May 31, 1970.  March 31, 1980 was the last day of operations for the Rock Island Railroad.  

Engineer Grenville M. Dodge surveyed the westward route of the Rock Island Railroad to Council Bluffs in 1853.  Years later, Dodge would survey the route west from Council Bluffs that enabled the city to become the eastern terminus of the transcontinental railroad.

The construction of the transcontinental railroad played a major role in the development of southwest Iowa, and vice-versa. The history of this era is well preserved in our depot and museum.   It is the last survivor of a half-dozen passenger depots which at one time dotted the Council Bluffs landscape.”

The depot at the Railswest Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday, January 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A locomotive and some cars are seen at the Railswest Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday, January 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

So this trip was spent looking at rail cars and a locomotive and cars sitting on a track without the chance of a tour but definitely might be something to explore when the facility again opens up and allows visitors in for a peek and to regale them in history of the railroad and its expansion west from Council Bluffs.

A peek inside the former depot at the Railswest Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday, January 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A peek inside the former depot at the Railswest Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday, January 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A peek inside the former depot at the Railswest Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday, January 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

At least a sunny January day made it possible to linger a bit to look over the facility and try to glean a bit of its history with a casual look. Spring and summer will hopefully bring back those seasonal temperature expectations to make such an outing enjoyable.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A courtyard is dedicated to veterans from the area who served in the armed forces is located at the Railswest Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday, January 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A look at the Railswest Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday, January 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A look at the Railswest Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday, January 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A look at the Railswest Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday, January 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

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