The Rock Island then used a small frame building on South Main Street as their passenger depot. Local citizens were aghast that the railroad had allowed such important and prominent entrance into their city become so run-down. Seeking to change this, a delegation of Council Bluffs citizen’s petitioned the Iowa Board of Railroad Commissioners in 1891. The Rock Island was given sixty days to repair, repaint, renovate the building to construct suitable wash rooms and water closets for men and women and ensure that passengers were provided adequate heating and lighting.
The frame depot was replaced in 1899 with the Romanesque Revival structure at 16th Avenue and South Main Street that stands today. The new depot was originally built as two one-story brick buildings with pink granite trim connected with a massive Spanish tile roof. The larger building contained the passenger waiting rooms and offices with baggage rooms in the smaller building; the breezeway between the two separate buildings was enclosed by walls in 1954.
The new depot’s offices and men and women’s waiting rooms were elaborately finished in marble tiling, the mottled enameled wall work giving the rooms a very rich appearance. The new depot featured steam heating, electric lighting, and toilet facilities finished in white enamel and brass. From the late 1930′s until 1970 the Rock Island shared the depot with the Chicago, Milwaukee, Saint Paul, and Pacific Railroad.
Passenger service from the Rock Island Depot came to an end in May 1970 and the women’s waiting room was converted into offices while the men’s waiting room was used for freight storage.
16th Avenue and South Main St,
Council Bluffs, Iowa
Open Fridays and Saturdays, 1-4 pm.
To arrange group tours please phone
Historical Society of Pottawattamie County members: Free
Seniors (over 60) and AAA members: $6.00
Ages 6 - 12: $5.00
Age 5 and under: Free
The Rock Island ended operations altogether in March 1980 and the building was deserted until 1985 when the City of Council Bluffs leased the building to the Historical Society of Pottawattamie County. The building houses a railroad museum today, operated by the Historical Society.