RailsWest Railroad Museum
• 16th Avenue & South Main Street, Council Bluffs, Iowa (I-80, Exit 3)
• Open April 2 through October 31
Wednesday through Saturday: 10 am to 4 pm
Sunday: 1 pm to 4 pm
Closed Mondays, Tuesdays, and Holidays
• Admission: Adults: $6, Seniors & AAA members (60 & over): $5, Ages 6-16: $4, Ages 5 & under are free.
• The depot building is stroller-friendly, but the actual rail cars are not handicap or stroller-friendly at all. Plan to carry any babies into & out of rail cars.
Other than Lauritzen Gardens and the bear trap at the Dodge House, RailsWest Railroad Museum had to be my children’s favorite stop during Railroad Days. We ended up spending time there on both days. The first day, this was the only stop in Council Bluffs that we toured. On the second day, we wanted to see the other Council Bluffs locations, but we didn’t want to waste the time on the bus. So, we decided to park on the Iowa side. We parked here because I was confident I could find this location and knew there would be parking available. The kids begged to see (and run through) the railroad cars again, so we spent some time doing that after we had visited the other two Council Bluffs sites.
This museum used to be the Rock Island Depot and it was built in 1899. The last Rock Island passenger train pulled out of the depot in 1970. General Dodge surveyed the railroad lines east of Council Bluffs back in 1853 and later the route west, enabling Council Bluffs to be a key terminal in the transcontinental railroad. It was renovated starting in 1985, but does show its age.
We didn’t spend too much time inside the former Depot. We briefly saw the HO scale model railroad display, but it wasn’t running like a couple of the other displays we had seen at other locations. Besides, we were thirsty and the water was being sold outside. After some water (only $0.50, compared to $1.50 at some of the other Railroad Days locations), the kids were ready to go see the railroad engines, caboose, and different types of cars.
They were fascinated with the “fake food” on one of the cars and the bell anyone could ring in the railroad yard. They liked the cabooses, climbing on the engines, and just about everything about this location.
I put the baby in a back carrier to take him up the stairs and through the exhibits, trying to keep up with the other children. If you have a kid who likes trains, this is a great place to go to help them get a feel for their real size and function.
Here are some pictures of what you will see here, courtesy of the Historical Society of Pottawattamie County.
[This post was submitted by a guest blogger. See what else the family is up to at “Learning As I Go.”]