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Sioux City Railroad Museum Plus A Few Depots 8/20/2021

by Chris Guenzler

We left the Ramada in Sioux Falls at 8:45 AM and drove south into Nebraska and just before we crossed into Iowa, Greg stopped for petrol. After that we crossed the Missouri River into Iowa. We drove straight to the Sioux City Railroad Museum.

Sioux City Railroad Museum

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.

Situated on approximately 31.5 acres in Sioux City's Riverside neighborhood, the Milwaukee Railroad Shops Historic District is a meat cleaver-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. 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 fuelled, 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.

Our Visit

Greg paid our fee and we started looking around.

Milwaukee Road side-rod 45 tonner 206 built in 1943 as United States Marine Corps Supply Depot 8, later Port of Vancouver 614. One of the museum's guides came over to us and offered a half-mile ride on their railroad. You all know what we did. We took seats in the last trailer and went for a ride. Now sit back and enjoy a ride on their train.

We went to near the end of track and then reversed back to the museum's grounds.

The pictures of the roundhouse.

The pictures of the coaling tower.

Northern Pacific dining car 1677 built in 1915 and undergoing restoration.

This building houses the Nebraska Model Railroad Exhibit at this museum built in 1991 and commissioned by Willy Theisen, owner of Godfathers Pizza. It measures 68 by 17 feet and was displayed at Omaha's Durham Museum (the former Union Depot) from 1993 to 2004. It was set up in 2009. The visit includes the "HO" Gauge and "O" gauge model railroads. Now sit back and enjoy the model railroad views.

I hope you enjoyed the views of the model railroad here.

The Car/Carpenter Shop building.

The old coaling tower foundations built in 1917.

Chicago, Burlington and Quincy generator-coach 7207 also undergoing active restoration.

The sanding tower in the yard.

The Sand Drying House restored in 2015.

The Cargill station for the Sioux City and Dakota Railroad that runs only on weekends.

Burlington Northern box car.

Chicago and North Western box car 160970.

Milwaukee Road caboose, number unknown.

Museum view.

Rock Island outside braced tool car built in 1929 and donated from Atlantic, Iowa earlier this month.

Museum scene.

The Machine Shop/Blacksmith Building completed in 2011 which houses the recently-restored Corliss steam engine.

The inside of this building.

The Corliss steam engine which was rescued from KD Station, where it powered the production line for Swift & Co.

Scene ouside of the machine/blacksmith shop.

Two views of the roundhouse here. Now we will go inside this unique building.

Great Northern 4-6-2 1355 built in 1909 as Great Northern 1023, is the highlight of their collection.

My loving wife Elizabeth in the engineer seat.

The author in the engineer seat.

A speeder trailer.

Northern Pacific wooden caboose 1318 built in 1913.

A model of the roundhouse.

Timeline of the roundhouse.

The Milwaukee Road neon sign in the roundhouse.

The Milwaukee Road Sioux City roundhouse.

The machine shop/blacksmith building.

Chicago and North Western box car 162571.

Chicago and North Western caboose 11009 built in 1960.

The interior of the Chicago and North Western caboose 11009.

Milwaukee Road dining car 121 built 1948.

The interior of the Milwaukee Road dining car.

Milwaukee Road baggage-dormitory 1313 built in 1947.

The building where you pay at the window. The museum here was excellent and anyone who loves trains should visit it. Greg next drove us to Rockwell City.

The Milwaukee Road speeder 191401.

The replica Milwaukee Road depot from an earlier time.

Milwaukee Road Rockwell City station built in 1899.

The sign for the Rockwell City station.

The Milwaukee Road track speeder 052817. We drove to Knierim to find their station but it had been moved to another location. However, we found something else as a surprise to us.

Former Cedar Rapids and Iowa City SW8 93, built in 1953, now switching a grain elevator in Knierim. The four of us continued along Highway 20 to Webster City.

The Illinois Central Webster City station built in 1896 and moved here in 1971.

Illinois Central caboose 10209 on display in Webster City. Elizabeth next drove us to Independence.

Illinois Central Gulf caboose 199534.

Illinois Central 0-8-0 30 is really ex Grand Trunk 8300 ex Northwestern Steel & Wire 30.


Independence Illinios Central station.

The locomotive bell for another engine which you can ring to your heart's content. Elizabeth next drove us to Dyersville to the Field of Dreams.

The Field of Dreams. Greg drove us east and soon we came upon a train going west.

This Canadian National local had Grand Trunk GP38AC 4930. We all arrived into Dubuque, but alas that is in the next story.