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RailsWest Railroad Museum
Rock Island Depot, Historic Railcars, and working HO Scale Model Railroad

RailsWest Museum at the Rock Island Railroad Station in Council Bluffs, Iowa
The Chicago Rock Island and Pacific Railroad Passenger Depot was constructed in 1899 on the south edge of downtown Council Bluffs and today is operated as a museum and model railroad display. 

16th Avenue & South Main Street
(I-80, Exit 3 - Go one mile north on South Expressway)
Council Bluffs, Iowa  51503
Information on directions HERE from Google Maps
Free Parking is available onsite
Phone (712) 323-5182

Tuesday through Saturday:  10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Sunday:  1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Closed month of January; available by private appointment only

Closed Major Holidays

Adults:  $7.00
Seniors (60 & over) and AAA Members:  $6.00
Age 6 - 12:  $5.00
Age 5 & under and HSPC Members:  FREE

Group tours of 15 or more are welcome.  To schedule an appointment, please phone, write, or e-mail.

Visit Council Bluffs Railroads on Facebook


Historic locomotive at the RailsWest Museum: CB & Q #915BACKGROUND
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.  

In 1984 the Society and the Greater Omaha Society of Model Railroad Engineers (GOSOME) joined forces with Council Bluffs to save one of the last remaining depots in Council Bluffs.  In 1985, the City of Council Bluffs leased the Depot to the Society and GOSOME, with instructions to restore the Depot into a tourist attraction and information center.  On July 21, 1995, the Depot was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

HO Model railroad at the RailsWest MuseumThe renovation of the Depot and transformation into the RailsWest Railroad Museum took great effort.  There was much rotted wood, much of the tile roof needed replacement, and a complete interior renovation was necessary.  GOSOME relocated its extensive HO scale model railroad display from Omaha’s Western Heritage Museum, which was undergoing renovations of its own.  Today the GOSOME display is located in the former freight section of the depot.  

The RailsWest Railroad Museum is located in the former waiting rooms.  There was a separate south waiting room for women and children, and north waiting room for men.  The Museum includes a gift shop, railroad artifacts and exhibits, and the former ticket office.

The Museum has displays of dining car silverware, a telegraph office, and memorabilia such as porters' uniforms and ticket stubs.  It has a large collection of daily newspapers chronicling the rise and fall of the railroads.

All railcars displayed outdoors were donated by the Union Pacific Railroad.  Four of the railcars have been part of the Museum for a number of years.  The Dodge Park Transportation Display was later relocated to the Depot site to enhance the rolling stock already on display there.  Some of the cars have been restored but the upkeep and restoration of the remaining cars is a massive and on-going project.

For additional information about the depot and an in-depth discussion of railroad history in Council Bluffs, please visit this page.

Historic Railcars

Please visit this page.

Greater Omaha Society of Model Engineers 
HO Gauge Model Railroad Layout

Please visit this page.

Visit the RailsWest Railroad Museum Gift Shop online

The Historical Society thanks our corporate members including:


red giant oil company Frontier Savings Bank hgm associates incorporated council bluffs chamber of commerce
Red Giant Oil Co Frontier Savings Bank HGM Associates Inc C.B. Chamber of Commerce Warner Family Dentistry


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The Historical Society of Pottawattamie County, Iowa was founded in 1934 and is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization dedicated to kindling and keeping alive an active interest in state and local history.  Contributions and inquiries should be directed to the Society  at P.O. Box 2, Council Bluffs, Iowa 51502-0002.  For additional information, phone 712-323-2509 or e-mail us here.

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