Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Sioux City Railroad Museum seeks historical status for Milwaukee Railroad Shops

Sioux City, IA – The Siouxland Historical Railroad Association is seeking a historic designation to list the Milwaukee Railroad Shops Historic District in Sioux City on the National Register of Historic Places, a federal program administered by the National Park Service that recognizes buildings, structures and sites historically significant to the country, regions, states and local communities.

      The railroad museum organization formally submitted its application and draft nomination package last week to the State Historical Society of Iowa for review by the staff State Historic Preservation Office.  The submission last week kicks off a technical review process that will take several months by state staff and the State Nominations Review Committee. The first round of reviews will take place next week on Wednesday, December 2 at the State Historical Museum in Des Moines.
     Once approved by the State of Iowa, the nomination package will be forwarded to the National Park Service for its consideration of listing the Milwaukee Railroad Shops on the National Register of Historic Places. The Siouxland Historical Railroad Association is seeking designation of the Milwaukee Railroad Shops at the level of a “nationally significant” historic district.

     Situated on approximately 31.5 acres in Sioux City’s Riverside neighborhood, the Milwaukee Railroad Shops Historic District is a meat clever shaped property bordered by the Big Sioux River to the west, the BNSF Railway main line on the south to southwest, State Highway 12 –Sioux River Road on the east, and farmland on the north.  
     The historic landscape contains approximately 50 historic buildings, structures, foundations and industrial archaeological remnants that once formed the bustling Sioux City Roundhouse, Repair Shops and Engine Terminal of the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific Railway.  The complex was built over a three year time span of 1916 to 1918, with its opening in mid-July 1918.

     Information supplied in the nomination package states the layout and configuration of the Milwaukee Railroad Shops Historic District was designed by renowned railroad civil engineer Charles F. Loweth. He is also known for his work in designing the Sioux City Elevated Railroad and railroad properties throughout the territories of the Dakotas, Wyoming and Pacific Northwest.
     In general, the Milwaukee Railroad Shops Historic District reflects a trend at the time in railroad land use and development relating to the servicing, repair and maintenance of steam locomotives and rolling stock. The buildings, structures, and other remnants are characteristic features of the era of the “Golden Age of Steam Railroading.”  According to historical research there were approximately 1,842 roundhouses and railroad repair shops built across the country during the steam locomotive era, employing over 400,000 railroad workers known as shopmen. By 1935, there were only 416 roundhouses and railroad repair shops in operation across the country, employing approximately 135,000, as the railroad industry started its transitioning to diesel locomotives. The Milwaukee Railroad Shops Historic District in Sioux City is one of seven roundhouse terminal landscapes in the nation with a comprehensive collection of buildings, structures, and industrial archaeological remnants to have survived into the 21st Century.

     At its peak during the 1930s, the Sioux City Roundhouse, Repair Shops and Engine Terminal repaired and rebuilt over 35 steam locomotives from coupler to coupler each month, repaired tens of thousands of rail cars, and fueled, serviced and maintained 850 steam locomotives a month. Complex employment topped over 585 shopmen during its height of operations during the 1920s and 1930s. The complex and employment were downsized in 1954, and saw the razing of several buildings and structures, when the Milwaukee Road railroad completely dieselized its motive power fleet.
     Notable events at the Milwaukee Railroad Shops Historic District include the 1922 Shopmen’s Strike, also known as the Great Railway Strike; the hiring of women to work as shopmen and railroad laborers during the strike, World War I and World War II; and the final bankruptcy of the railroad in 1980 that lead to the abandonment of the roundhouse terminal in 1981.

     Larry Obermeyer of the Siouxland Historical Railroad Association authored and prepared the nomination package; and he oversaw the extensive five-year historical research process. A team of volunteers helped with gathering research and historical information from across the country. Several family members of former railroad employees and railroad enthusiasts provided photographs of the complex to help illustrate in the application the history of the Milwaukee Railroad Shops over time. Archivists and librarians with the Milwaukee Public Library also assisted with the researching the Milwaukee Road Company Archives held by the library. The research team was able to find original blueprints for the Milwaukee Railroad Shops in the company archives. Other construction documents and site plans were obtained from the planning and zoning records maintained by the City of Sioux City.

      In 1991, the State Historical Society of Iowa determined the Milwaukee Railroad Shops Historic District was eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. This status was followed by the White House and National Trust for Historic Preservation designating the Milwaukee Railroad Shops Historic District an official millennium project of the Save America’s Treasures Program. The Milwaukee Railroad Shops Historic District was listed in 2000 by the Iowa Historic Preservation Alliance as one of Iowa Thirteen Most Endangered Historic Properties in the State.

     The Milwaukee Railroad Shops Historic District is currently undergoing extensive historic preservation work to transform the complex into a railroad museum and recreational area similar in scale to a national park. Over the past ten years, approximately $4 million in historic preservation work has been completed. Another round of $3 million of construction work is currently under way at the historic site.


Thursday, November 19, 2015

Santa's Whistle Stop Tour 2015 is approaching soon!

Here are a few pictures from lasts year's Santa's Whistle Stop Tour

Monday, November 2, 2015

Help support the Railroad Museum through our Rail Sale and get a great piece of history to display at work or home.

The Railroad Museum would like to take this opportunity to present a great way for you to help support the museum and collect a great piece of authentic railroad history at the same time. We have taken decommissioned rail and beautifully preserved it along with our Milwaukee Railroad Shops domed logo and included a card of authenticity with the history of the rail.

For just $99.00 (includes shipping and handling) you can proudly display this great piece of history and support one of the best railroad museums in the Midwest.

You can order yours today by contacting the Railroad Museum through one these very simple methods;
* Email ( - or
* Facebook Private Messaging with a return name/number - or
* Calling the museum at (712) 233-6996 - or

* Stop in and place your order in person
  Rail Dimensions: Approximately 4 1/4" tall x 1" thick.

This is a great gift idea for a birthday, special event, or Christmas for that history/rail buff in your life. It looks great on a shelf as a display and conversation item yet it's heavy enough to be very functional as well as a desk top paper weight or book end.  The preserved finish on this 100+ year old rail is nice enough that it will look great in a professional setting at work or in the comfort of your home.

 Thank you for your generosity and ongoing support of the Railroad Museum - Sioux City!!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015


Once again Sioux Cities fastest growing family Halloween event is almost upon us. Our annual
Halloween at the Roundhouse event will be held the last two Saturdays of October this year, the 24th and the 31st. The hours of the event are 10 AM to 4 PM each day. Last year a record breaking 12,000+ people came out for the two day event and everyone left happy. This is the perfect way to spend some good old fashioned quality fun time with the family. Admission into this event is the same as it has always been, a free will donation. We want everybody in Siouxland to come out and just plain have fun.

We do have a number of buildings currently undergoing restoration so some areas of the 30 acre museum complex will be off limits, but there will still be plenty to see and do. For those of you that have never been to our event here's a sneak peek at what you can expect.
- Oct 24th - Special Unveiling- restoration project completion
- Families can come dressed-up for Halloween
- Trick or Treating
- Bounce Houses
- Ghost Stories
- Hay Rack Rides
- Children's Crafts
- Children's Games
- Contests
- Scavenger Hunt
- Haunted Railroad Diner Car
- Meet Hobo's, Witches, and Ghosts
- See Millie, the Railroad Museums very own 1943 diesel locomotive and visit with her special guests from the Island of Sodor, Sir Topham Hatt and Mr. Conductor.
- See the 75' x 16' Nebraska Central HO scale operating model railroad and others
- Climb into the cab and ring the bell on Sioux Cities very own Great Northern Steam Locomotive #1355, Old Ironhorse, that was built in 1909.
- See the actual buildings that were built in 1917 that our grandparents and great-grandparents worked in while working on steam locomotives and fixing rail cars.

Other things to do during the event that have a fee attached:
- Apple Slingshots - prizes are gift cards to local businesses
- Railroad Motor Car rides - $1 each
- Railroad Museum Volunteer Bake Sale - 100% of the sales are returned directly to museum restoration projects.
- Food Vendors
- Petting Zoo - on Oct 31st - only
- Railroad Museum Gift Shop

Save the date(s) and plan on having a lot of fun with the family and your friends. We can't wait to see you!

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Railroad Museum Biggest Construction Phase Kicks Off

The Railroad Museum in Sioux City, IA is beginning to embark on its busiest and most comprehensive phase of construction in 20 years of recovery, restoration, and repurposing work of the Milwaukee Railroad Shops Historic District and the volunteers and staff couldn’t be more excited. After years of painstaking fundraising, historical research, archeology studies, engineering, and more fundraising. The next major milestone is now underway. The amount of construction that will be happening will only be rivaled by the original construction of this historic complex 98 years ago back in 1917.  Here’s a brief overview of what is going to be happening over the next few months. Of note, we DO intended to keep the museum complex open as much as possible during the construction although some areas may be blocked off from time to time to accommodate the construction.
Back in March we had our new permanent restroom facilities installed just south of the machine/blacksmith shop building. Now, we are having the water, sewer and electrical installed and if everything comes together properly they may be up and running for our annual Halloween at the Roundhouse event the last two Saturdays of October.  Along with this, we are also having water lines run to two new fire hydrants and the Railroad Civil Engineering Display building that houses our operating model railroads.

We will also have restoration work proceeding on four of the original shop buildings at the same time. This work will allow us to lift the Red Tags off of these building and allow us to begin a serious effort to fill them with top notch exhibits, interpretations, and interactive displays.  What buildings are going to be worked on and what is going to be done to them you ask? Here’s a brief overview of the planned construction.

- The Car Shops building – This former wood shop and office building will receive new windows, doors, floor repair, lighting, and Heat and Air Conditioning (HVAC). This building will be repurposed as our new Railroad Marketing and Advertising Display building and will feature permanent and rotating exhibits of the efforts, advertising tools, and multiple media formats that the railroads used to sell their product to the public.  It will also have a secondary function as well as being able to be used as rental space for parties, business get-togethers, or other events.

- Engineers Tool Shed – After its interior and exterior restoration and the addition of electrical power, lighting and adding HVAC this building will act as our permeant visitor entrance and Information center.

- Sand Drying House – This building will get a full blown rework of the walls, roof, interior, electrical, HVAC, lighting, doors and windows. This building will be converted into a multi-media display hall where we can show slideshows and short movies of the history of the railroads in the upper Midwest and it will also be able to be used as rental space for business meetings and small weddings.

- South End Water Closet – this building will be restored and re-purposed to be used for storage.

After the trenches are dug and filled back in for the water and sewer lines and the heavy construction equipment is no longer driving over the grounds and all the ruts have been smoothed out. Then we can begin working on laying out the roadbed and the mile and a half loop for our new Grand Scale Train which is sure to be a huge hit with all our visitors when completed.

This exciting new addition will operate on 15” wide tracks. This 3” scale train will provide
transportation as a people mover around the museum complex. We are currently working on closing a funding gap that arose during our development phase. The train will run around inside the fenced in area of the railyard complex and there will be 3 station stops to help people get around the complex easier and have more fun. The stops will be at the main gate (Gilchrist Station), near the Machine/Blacksmith shop and the Roundhouse, and near the Sand Drying House and Railroad Civil Engineering Display building (model railroads). The total consist will have an F7 replica diesel locomotive and two passenger coaches (one of which will be ADA capable to handle a couple wheel chairs) and one passenger observation coach.  The passenger train is painted to look like the old Milwaukee Road passenger train called The Arrow that once served Sioux City.

If you would like to help us share the cost of these exciting upgrades and additions as we continue to grow this wonderful family entertainment complex your donations would be most graciously accepted. We are a 501c(3) non-profit private organization so all donations toward this project are tax deductible. If you may be considering a more sizeable donation to help us improve the quality of life in the Sioux City area by providing quality family oriented entertainment, naming rights for certain areas and buildings are also available. Please contact Matt Merk, Executive Director or Tom Obermeyer, Deputy Director at the Railroad Museum for more information regarding these opportunities.

Thank you all for your continued support, we could never make this happen with out you.

Friday, July 10, 2015


The Railroad Museum in Sioux City is offering a new Ride the Rails Program that can not only provide you with a ride in the cab of our 1943 General Electric 45 ton switcher locomotive, but it could land you in the engineers seat with you actually operating the locomotive yourself. This is a rare opportunity for rail fans and visitors alike to actually drive a diesel locomotive.

During each hour long session the participants will be given basic instruction by our trained engineers while looking over the locomotive and learning how it works. Then it’s time to climb into the engineer’s seat and take the locomotive for a spin. In addition, each engineer participant will also receive an engineer’s cap and a certificate of accomplishment to serve as reminder of this unique experience that can be shared with friends and family for years to come.

Up to four people may share each of the hour long time slots. In order to operate the locomotive you must be 18 years old or older, however, any people younger may ride along with an adult.

The cost of this unique experience is $50 per engineer and $10 per passenger. This cost will help cover fuel and train crew costs. The program will run from 10 AM through 3 PM on Saturday, August 1st and Saturday, August 15th. Additional times and dates may be added later and an update will be posted if those additions occur.

Reservations are required in advance and are on a first come first serve basis. The locomotive will continue to operate unless severe weather approaches.

Please contact the Railroad Museum, Sioux City at (712) 233-6996 to make your reservation or for answers to any additional questions that you may have.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Touch A Truck or Train Day - Sat. May 9th from 10 am - 3 pm

If you came out to our first Touch A Truck or Train Day event last fall you know how much fun it is. The event we have planned for May 9th is going to be bigger and better yet. The word got out to the local companies around town about how much fun it was and we have had many more request to be a part of this wonderful event this year so we will have many more vehicles to crawl through, honk the horns, blow the sirens, and explore than last year.

What can you expect to see? Construction vehicles, trucks, cranes, Fire, Ambulance and Police Department vehiles, military vehicles, 75-100 antique cars, and even remote control airplanes! Providing there are no emergencies the Mercy Air Care helicopter is scheduled to fly in and make an appearance. A food vendor will also be on-site so you can take a break have lunch and be refueled for a full afternoon of adventure. If this will be your first visit to the Railroad Museum don't forget to check out Sioux Cities very own steam locomotive Great Northern #1355 that you will be able to explore, the spectaular 75' x 16' Nebraska Centeral HO Scale operating model railroad, take a family ride on the motor car, and explore the rest of the buildings, railroad equipment, and displays on this 30 acre historical complex.

How much is all this fun going to cost you? $5 for individuals or ONLY $10 for your family. Wow! You can't beat that for some great family bonding time, fun and adventure.

Here are a couple pictures from last falls event.  Save the date: Sat. May 9th from 10 am - 3 pm

You are not going to want to miss this great family treat!