The City of Ottumwa is now the owner of the train depot in downtown Ottumwa.

Amtrak leases the depot and in 2019 more than 10,000 passengers either boarded or got off a train at Ottumwa’s depot. Ottumwa Mayor Rick Johnson says the site is part of a development plan for the riverfront in Ottumwa.

“We’re just very pleased that we’ve gotten to the point where we could actually purchase this building from the Wapello Historical Society,” the mayor says, “and we’re really excited to be able to refurbish the building and have it be a integral part of downtown Ottumwa.”

The historic Railroad Retirees Clubhouse has been acquired by the city, too. Tom Linehouser is president of the Wapello County Historical Society, which restored the clubhouse and opened it for tours in 2014. He says negotiations to have the city buy the depot and clubhouse lasted about a year.

“This will also be a big boom to the City of Ottumwa, but the surrounding communities,” he says.

The City of Ottumwa bought the depot and clubhouse for less than half a million dollars. Officials say Amtrak will be spending $5 million to update the platform at the tracks and the depot’s waiting lobby. Ottumwa passengers board with tickets on the California Zephyr, which runs from Chicago to San Francisco.

The first train station in Ottumwa was established by the Burlington and Missouri River Railroad in 1859. The current depot building opened in 1951.

(By Ellis Codjoe, KBOE, Ottumwa/Radio Iowa’s O. Kay Henderson)