Outreach and Educational Programs-

The Historical Society of Pottawattamie County serves people of all ages from southwest Iowa and southeast Nebraska.  The Society provides educational tours and programs for grade schools, middle schools, and high school students.  

The Squirrel Cage Jail is part of many historical bus tours from around the country from as far away as South Carolina and Utah.  

The RailsWest Railroad Museum at the Rock Island Depot, in addition to our regular tours, offers several special programs for groups, especially suited for school audiences.

The RailsWest Railroad Museum offers a variety of educational programming all set in this charming 1899 restored Rock Island Depot. This Museum also boasts a large model railroad layout as well as a rail yard full of railcars and locomotives to explore.* The programs listed below are interactive, fun and engaging and appeal to a wide variety of learning styles.  Please note outdoor exhibits are dependent on appropirate weather.

RailsWest Railroad Museum Special Programs:

All About Trains!

Learn the difference between passenger and freight trains in this fun, fast paced tour. Children will see where people waited for their trains and walk inside real train cars! Ring the bell on a locomotive and operate a real model train.  Comes with a fun handout to remember their trip! 30 Student maximum group size.  Pre-school to 1st grade 30-40 min.


Railway Mail Service

At one time, Council Bluffs was the largest mail center in the Nation! Come and see how things worked when mail was sorted on train cars! Lift a real mail bag, sort mail on the real mail car, and operate the mail crane. Take home your own envelope that you “hand-cancelled” from a Rock Island Railway Post Office. 45 min. Students should be able to read or be paired with a good reader for this program.

Station Agent and Depot

See this center of the community come to life!  Learn about the jobs at the Depot and what role they played in the community. Look behind the scenes at the Ticket Agents Office, try out the telegraph, and learn all about why Depots were so important! 30 min- 45 min 

Lesson Plans/Units:

These Teacher's Guides have great information to use both before and after your visit!

"Journey to the Past" (PDF)

For over 150 years, railroads have played an important role in the history of Council Bluffs,     Pottawattamie County and Omaha, NE.  Here's information on the programs and tours of Council Bluffs' three railroad-oriented museums.


"A Railroad History of Council Bluffs" program materials (PDF)

"Railway Mail Service" program materials (PDF)












"Teaching Iowa History" is a statewide project intended to equip K-12 educators to teach Iowa history using primary sources.  Click here for more information.

The State Historical Society of Iowa has free and downloadable Primary Resource Sets to help K-12 educators meet the Iowa Core Content Anchor Standards for Social Studies.  You can find more these at: https://iowaculture.gov/history/education/educator-resources/primary-source-sets

Contact us if you're interested in a field trip or need more information.

EMAIL      PHONE:  712-323-2509

Historical Society of

Pottawattamie County

County Seat Council Bluffs, Iowa