Old Santa Fe Depot Historical Complex – Fort Madison, Iowa

Old Santa Fe Depot Historical Complex – Fort Madison, Iowa.

Because of the flooding June 2008 the  Museum is now located in the Old CB&Q Depot to the north of the former location.  The ATSF Complex is being raised above the flood plain to avoid the type of tragedy that occurred during the flooding.  Once this is completed the Museum will return to the original site.  The original site was  built in 1909, this mission revival style depot and was the home of the North Lee County Historical Museum. The museum is on the National Historic Register.

The historic Santa Fe Depot is set to be used as an Amtrak Depot.  This will bring more than 8,000 travelers a year to the scenic Riverview Park.

Although the museum is prone to flooding when the Mississippi decides to bless the community with extra water, the museum personnel had become adept at saving the displays. New display cases have panels on the bottom that can be detached so water can flow underneath. Other artifacts, such as an old ticket counter, have been outfitted with wheels so they can be rolled to higher ground.  But, with the high water and the flooding being excessive it was determined to avoid having to do this by raising the building above the 500 year floodplain level.The old Linotype machine, one of the heaviest items in the museum, is propped up on cinder blocks. That means that when the water recedes the museum can be cleaned up and the displays back in service quickly. Only railroad tracks separate the 83-year-old building from the Mississippi.

The railroad complex, with Santa Fe Caboose #235, is a classic for those interested in railroad history, firefighting lore, and Sheaffer Fountain Pen history, territorial and pioneer days.

Outside the depot sits a circa 1954 caboose, completely restored including brakemen seats, Conductor’s desk, and folding seat/beds, of course the traditional cast iron stove remains in the old caboose, allowing visitors to picture the caboose crew warming their hands, coffee and cooking supper in the traditional way. The caboose was donated to the Historic Society by the Santa Fe Railway, now the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad and was permanently placed on the depot property by volunteers. Also included on the site is a diesel utility car utilized by the Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy Railroad. It is often the center of attention of our young visitors who climb aboard and enjoy an imaginary journey down the railroad tracks to exotic destinations.

The Historic Center is proud to have at the center of its collection a horse drawn Silsby pumper, showcased complete with its horsecart. The Sislby is also complimented by a Firefighter’s display and a police department display.

Also of interest to many visitors to Ft. Madison is the Iowa State Penitentiary, the oldest Penitentiary still in use west of the Mississippi. A display representing a typical cell at the Penitentiary and pictures of the original stone Penitentiary structure are often topics of discussion for visitors, particularly after viewing the many artifact restraints on display.

Other artifacts on display include Victorian Era Clothing, a Native American arrowhead collection, a working Thomas Edison phonograph, and a reed organ that runs by continuous pumping of air by the operator.


Sunday: 12 noon-3:30pm
Monday: 10am-3:30pm
Tuesday: 10am-3:30pm
Wednesday: 10am-3:30pm
Thursday: 10am-3:30pm
Firday: 10am-3:30pm
Saturday: 10am-3:30pm

Except holidays.

There is also a one-room schoolhouse called Brush College just north of Fort Madison, the Old Lee County Jail and the SANTA FE 2913 steam locomotive that can be toured with an appointment.  The one room schoolhouse is located two miles north of Fort Madison on Augusta Road (X38) at the end of 190th Street.  The Old Lee County Jail is located at 711 Ave F, Fort Madison

Location: 814 10th St., Fort Madison, IA

Phone: 319.372.7661



  1. Kim Wemer says:

    I have some old railroad brochures,Southern Pacific and Western Pacific time tables and tourist info of San Diego from World War II when my Mom travelled from Ft. Madison to San Diego where my Dad was stationed before going on to Dutch Harbor, Alaska. He was in the Marine Corps.

    I would appreciate hearing from you regarding this matter. I would say these have historical signifigance and definitely railroad related!

    Thank you,
    Kim S. Wemer

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