(SIOUX CITY, IA) - A major makeover is in the works for what's now been named the "Sioux City Railroad Museum." A big grant is giving the museum a chance to save the area's railroad heritage.This is a nearly two and a half million dollar project. There are three phases that will take place during the next year or two. A group of railroad enthusiasts, community leaders, and financial backers gathered at the museum Thursday afternoon for a groundbreaking ceremony. A few people got the best tour offered: a train ride around the site.
The project will upgrade four of the museum's buildings and add electricity to the facilities that don't have it. The museum will also, as they put it, finally have a bathroom. It's all thanks to grant money from Security National Bank and the city's support. "It's showing that we are becoming very viable in the community as a cultural institution that we are being seen as a good place for preserving history and allowing people to connect with that history," said President of the Siouxland Historical Railroad Association President Larry Odermeyer. "When we have people come to Sioux City, we want to be able to offer them a variety of different things and this is just one of the many things that we can offer to the people out there. It's going to be a great thing," said Rhonda Capron, Sioux City City Councilwoman.
New construction could attract many more to the museum who may have never heard of it before Thursday. "I'm excited about the variety of things that we get to see not only current things that move, but you also get to see actual buildings and shops that actually were here," said Bill Sibley, a Sioux City Museum volunteer. Security National Bank pitched in more than $300,000 to the project while the city has given the museum its full support. "I think this demonstrates how significant this project is to our community in terms of improving the quality of life and taking a property that probably had little chance of redevelopment because of its prior land use and now becoming a vibrant place where families can enjoy themselves," said Odermeyer. The St. Louis Corliss Steam Engine will go in a large pit in one of the buildings. It will take 91 yards of concrete to support it. The engine itself weighs 45 tons. "Part of the grant money is going to be used to put electricity and that. And in order to be able to run the engine, we have to have a boiler which is going to need electricity and that," said Co-Project Manager Odell Overgaard. Perhaps the biggest boost behind of all the upgrades will be the hands-on education the museum will continue to offer children. "Tourism is becoming one of our fastest growing industries for our communities. And last year with our visitor count of 45,000 people, our economic impact was over two million dollars," said Odermeyer. Digging in to make those improvements Obermeyer says can only continue to improve Sioux City as a whole.
Phase two and three will include paving the parking lot and entrance way and putting in outdoor areas for picnics and more. The Railroad Museum will be open during construction. So you can get a first-hand look at the upgrades in progress. Phase one of the construction should be finished by December.