The Hub City Heritage Museum opened in 1987 and features the railway express building, yard office, yard tower and a collection of locomotives, rolling stock, pump handcar and gift shop. There is also an extensive collection of employee records, pictures and other memorabilia.
The railway express building was originally the home of Wells Fargo. The yard office and yard tower were the heart of the Chicago Great Western in its heyday. The tower, which was built in 1953, is open to the public. It provides an outstanding view of the former CGW switching yards (which are now D&W), Transco and downtown Oelwein. The museum includes refurbished cabooses and engines.
The objectives of the Hub City Heritage Corporation are to encourage and promote the preservation and restoration of railroad memorabilia as it is pretinent to the Oelwein area. It is also to establish, furnish and maintain a railway museum for the education and enjoyment of the public.
The Chicago Great Western Railway was one of America’s leading regional carriers from the turn of the century through the 1960′s. Headquartered out of Oelwein from 1952 until its merger with the Chicago and Northwestern in 1968, the CGW spanned 1,432 miles in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri and into a small extent Nebraska and Kansas.
Built by the imaginative and energetic Minnesotan, A.B. Stickney, in 1885 the modern CGW began as a 110-mile pike from St. Paul to the Iowa state line named the Minnesota and Northwestern Railroad. Instead of selling the short line to another rail as Stickney had done with previous roads that he constructed, he retained ownership and quickly extended the tracks to Chicago and Kansas City. By connecting these important gateways, the railroad became a respectable carrier.
In 1887, the M&NW was acquired by another Stickney railroad, the more appropriately titled Chicago, St. Paul and Kansas City Railroad. Because the three lines radiated out from Oelwein, Stickney chose this location to construct the system shops. At the time when the Oelwein shops were opened in 1899, they were the largest and best-equipped shops in the United States.
The final extension of the CGW was completed in 1903 as the tracks were extended to Omaha.
Initially the CGW relied heavily on rate cutting and efficient operations to compete with other railroads. Although its reputation as a rate-cutter ended when Stickney retired in 1908, the railroad remained dedicated to flexible and innovative practices. Among the pioneering efforts for which the CGW is remembered are its early use of internal combustion equipment (in 1911), extremely long freight trains (the longest being 276 cars), piggyback service, and welded rail (in 1939).
As part of Oelwein “Heritage Days” the third weekend in August of each year, the museum is open on Saturday and Sunday from 9am to 4pm.
26 Second Ave. S.W. (next to City Hall)
Oelwein, IA 50662
1-4 Sundays, Thurs., Fri., & Sat. 10am-3pm late May-Labor Day, or by appointment.