A piece of national history finishes up a big move to Iowa tomorrow (Saturday). It’s “Golden Spike Day,” the 134th anniversary of the completion of the first transcontinental railroad, and the Union Pacific is reopening its relocated railroad museum in Council Bluffs. Peggy Baer directs the Rail Office in Iowa’s transportation department, and she says railroads remain critical to the state.The railroads have evolved into haulers of “bulk commodities,” she says, grain, fertilizer and many things vital to the farm economy, which are hauled most economically by rail. She says the need for speed has taken away some of the railroads’ business. The “just-in-time” delivery systems have put a lot of packages on trucks which can meet a tight time window, but for long distances and heavy commodities the rail system’s better, and Baer doesn’t see that being replaced by anything in the near future. Railroads predated the highways, so when the trains came along to replace wagons on dirt roads, Baer says the change meant “everything” to Iowa. Baer thinks the whole development of the state was based largely on the rails. She says passengers were once as important to railroads as commodities are today. Communities were “born,” and grew on rail lines, and in addition to commodities, trains carried people long before the state had a highway system. Baer said the railroad, local depots and the people who worked on them were the center of the community. The Union Pacific Museum has been moved over the past few months from Omaha to the 100-year-old Carnegie Library in downtown Council Bluffs. Saturday is its grand opening in the new home.
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