Along one side of Bayliss Park in Council Bluffs, Iowa is the old public library building. Rather than see this beautiful old building go to waste when a new public library was built, it was restored to be the Union Pacific Museum. This was a fairly good company type museum.
I especially liked the displays that showed the furniture and silver from the Lincoln funeral car is on exhibit. They had just fitted out a new Presidential car to use on the Union Pacific railroad. It was finished in time to use it as a funeral car. The fittings were returned to Union Pacific who now displays it in their company museum. Find more close up photos of what’s there on their page.
The exhibit on Grenville Dodge which were very well done and interesting. They also showed one of the gold spikes. Real gold and silver spikes were used on the ties that connected the two halves (they’d started building from each end) into one railroad. The original final spike was presented to Leland Standford of the Railroad that started in California. Later he was an United States Senator and founded Standford University in memory of his son who had died at an early age. The spike resides in the Standford University Archives today.
The top floor of the museum is on Union Pacific today. It included things like how today rails are made longer with cement ties and safety concerns for motorists sharing the road. They also had out available for inspection the traveling trunks that they have developed and gave us out the handouts they give teachers.
All and all it’s well worth a visit. A trip to Council Bluffs and all its railroad museums, along with those in its twin city, Omaha, Nebraska is well worth your time, especially for train buffs.
Since I originally shared this in honor of the bicentennial of Lincoln’s assassination, a replica of the Lincoln Funeral train has been built and debuted at Springfield, Illinois when the real one would have arrived.
Update April 25, 2015: I made a few minor updates including adding an explanation about the spike, adding states to city names, more information about the Lincoln collection and a link to the Lincoln Funeral Train. I also made the photos larger.
Sarah S. Uthoff is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales fighting to bring the History, Mystery, Magic and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation.Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, and find her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and Academia.edu. She is currently President of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Legacy and Research Association. Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.