I’ve always loved museums and the Union Pacific Railroad Museum is no different. From the hundred-year-old columned building its housed in to the technological advances of the exhibits within, a visit to the Union Pacific Railroad Museum in Council Bluffs is a must.
From the moment you walk in, you’re whisked away to a bygone era. In The Lincoln Collection exhibit, you’re taken back to the 1800s as you step into a room honoring President Abraham Lincoln. You’re greeted by photographs, busts, and a variety of items from his extraordinary life. One of the best aspects of the exhibit is a replica of the President’s rail car, filled with the original rail car’s furniture and silver.
Just down the hall is the Building America exhibit, telling the story of how the transcontinental railroad came to be. Visitors move through the West as it was before the railroad’s construction, complete with stuffed bison and Native American artifacts. Continuing on, guests learn about the railroad workers and the hardships they endured to complete the transcontinental railroad.
The Building America exhibit includes an immersive walk-through tunnel that simulates the train tunnels that workers of the past painstakingly (and often with great risk) created through the Sierra Nevada mountains. It’s one of the museum’s greatest features.
My absolute favorite exhibit in the museum is America Travels by Rail. The exhibit steps back in time to a romanticized era of train travel between the 1930s and 1971. America Travels by Rail fully encapsulates the time period with thousands of artifacts, three replica train cars, and a 360-degree projection room.
A panorama of the 360-degree projection room.
If you find charm in the art style of the 1950s, America Travels by Rail is a definite treat. The exhibit’s walls are covered with vintage posters of train travel destinations, in the dining car you’ll find a similar art style covering menus, and in the 360-degree projection room you’ll find retro television ads.
Children will love the museum’s interactive stations, including an X-Box Kinect gaming experience. The museum even hosts monthly Family Nights with additional fun activities and learning experiences for kids and their families.
My 24-year-old husband proving the interactive stations are not just for kids!
And possibly the best part of the museum? Admission is free. Growing up in Southern California, little was free, including most museums. Treasure it!
The Union Pacific Railroad Museum is located at 200 Pearl St. in Council Bluffs. The museum is open Thursday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.