History on the Rails

All aboard! Iowa has a history steeped in railroad tradition. Train aficionados will want to book a trip to one or more of Iowa’s railroad-related attractions, including restored depots, a tourist line railroad and museums.

Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad & Museum, Boone
Hop aboard this tourist line railroad, which travels 15 miles through the beautiful Des Moines River Valley over two amazing bridges. The Kate Shelley High Bridge is the world’s highest double track railroad bridge, and the Bass Point Creek High Bridge is the highest steel interurban railroad trestle in the U.S. In the museum, you can see displays of historic railroad items and equipment.


Iowa Trolley Park, Clear Lake
Ever dreamed of being a train engineer? At the Iowa Trolley Park, you can learn how to run a diesel locomotive, pump an old-time handcar and more! Take a ride and be wowed and this educational, interpretive and interactive railroad museum.


Trainland U.S.A., Colfax
Toy trains galore – that’s what you’ll find at Trainland U.S.A. This operating toy train museum depicts the development of the railroad across the United States. Frontier, team and diesel era trains are represented, with approximately 60 operating Lionel accessories in their original state.


RailsWest Railroad Museum and HO Model Railroad, Council Bluffs
Go west – RailsWest! This 1899 Rock Island depot is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and houses an extensive operating model railroad, historic photos, dining car memorabilia and uniforms. Also displayed on the grounds are several locomotives, club car, railway post office car and caboose.


Union Pacific Railroad Museum, Council Bluffs
One hundred fifty years of American railroad history is just waiting for you to explore it at the Union Pacific Railroad Museum. From the origins of the nation’s first transcontinental railroad to the advanced technology of modern-day railroading, it’s all covered here.


C.B. & Q. Restored Depot, Creston
Restored to its original glory, the C.B. & Q. Restored Depot now features railroad artifacts and miniature model railroad scenes. You’ll be in awe of the amazing architecture that showcases this depot’s beauty of yesteryear.


Delmar Depot Railroad and Military Museum, Delmar
For those wanting to experience the golden age of railroading, you’ll want to head to the Delmar Depot Railroad and Military Museum. Get a snapshot of an earlier time with displays both inside and out.


Dows Depot Welcome Center, Dows
Let’s go to the depot! The Dows Depot Welcome Center, that is. Tour this 1896 railroad station and welcome center and you’ll find period railroad items and local history proudly displayed.


Eldon Depot Museum, Eldon
Eldon used to be a bustling railroad hub for passengers and the U.S. Postal Service alike. This former railroad depot dates back to the 1870s and contains displays of memorabilia from the Rock Island Line and Burlington, Cedar Rapids & Northern Railway.

Eldora Welcome Center and Railroad Museum, Eldora
You’ll choo-choo-choose to go back to the Eldora Welcome Center and Railroad Museum time and time again. Serving as a trailhead for the Hardin County Bike Trail, this renovated Owasa, Iowa, railroad depot contains collections of railroad memorabilia and local tourism information.


Illinois Central Railroad Depot, Independence
One look and you’ll go crazy for the 1924 steam locomotive and 1978 caboose that are housed at the Illinois Central Railroad Depot in Independence. This depot from 1892 is also filled with unique railroad items.


Marquette Depot Museum, Gift Shop and Information Center, Marquette
On your mark…get set…go to the Marquette Depot Museum! This gorgeous reconstructed depot includes a tourism information center, gift shop and museum of local and national railroad history.


Cannonball 457, Mason City
Cannonball! The last remaining Minneapolis & St. Louis Railway steam locomotive is No. 457, the Cannonball. Built in 1912, the Cannonball was restored to its original appearance, and in 2005 was reopened to the public.


Watson Steam Train & Depot Museum, Missouri Valley
No trip to the Watson Steam Train & Depot Museum is complete without riding the restored 1948 coal-fired miniature steam train around the 1,800 square foot track that features a double loop, bridge and tunnel. Also tour the museum, where you’ll find a variety of HO-gauge trains, a collection of 160 brass replicas of every Union Pacific engine ever built, a winter-themed model train display and more.


Kate Shelley Railroad Museum, Moingona
In 1881, a 15-year-old girl crawled across the long Des Moines Railroad Bridge during a raging nighttime storm to warn people that an oncoming passenger train must be halted or it would crash through a ruined trestle. That girl was Kate Shelley, and at the museum named after her, you can see a working telegraph, railroad memorabilia and artifacts relating to Shelley’s life.


Hub City Heritage Railway Museum, Oelwein
You’ll be at the hub of railroad heritage when you visit Hub City Heritage Railway Museum. Tour the old railroad express building and yard office that featured refurbished cabooses and engines.


Kiwanis Museum Complex, Onawa
With more than 800 wonderful memorabilia items depicting railroad life, you’ll get lost in railroad wonder at the C&NW Railroad depot that’s part of the Kiwanis Museum Complex in Onawa.


Burlington Northern Depot and World War II Memorial Museum, Red Oak
Learn about life during the grand age of railroads at the completely restored 1903 Burlington Northern Depot. This depot also houses a World War II Memorial Museum, miniature train exhibit, theater room and reading room.


The Railroad Museum, Sioux City
Looking for a comprehensive collection of steam-era railroad buildings? Look no further than the Railroad Museum in Sioux City. These buildings include a roundhouse with turntable, wood sand tower and five other unique structures. While there, you can also see the Great Northern Railway Steam Locomotive No. 1355 and other railroad artifacts.


Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Depot, Wilton
Climb aboard the renovated caboose at the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Depot and you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time. This renovated 1898 brick depot is still at its original location and is adjacent to an active railroad line.


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