RailsWest Railroad Museum
HOURS OF OPERATION
Group tours of 15 or more are welcome. To schedule an appointment, please phone, write, or e-mail.
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.
The 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.
The Historical Society thanks our corporate members including:
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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The Historical Society of Pottawattamie County, Iowa