To say that the railroad has been an important part of Missouri Valley history is a gross understatement. Without the railroad, chances are Missouri Valley would not exist at all. Although the Union Pacific did not start in Missouri Valley, it is the only one that runs through the town today. Three railroads initially used Missouri Valley as a terminus: The Chicago and Northwestern, the Sioux City and Pacific (headquartered in Missouri Valley), and the Fremont Elkhorn and Missouri Valley Railroad.
In 1869 “The Shops” were built in Missouri Valley, employing just 15 men. This may sound small, but these shops brought with them more than 200 individuals in the form of engineers, conductors, firemen and their families.
Around 1880, Union Pacific built a bridge connecting Missouri Valley to Blair, Neb. This bridge helped create a boom in Missouri Valley increasing the number of workers in the machine shops to approximately 500. The bridge allowed cattle and other commodities to be shipped between the east and west. Missouri Valley became a feeding point for livestock headed to and from Chicago. And growth with the railroad meant growth for the town.
By 1900, the population of Missouri Valley had boomed to more than 4,000. Credit for this can be almost entirely given to the three railroads that converged there. In just a few short years, the railroads had given the community rail connections that were a huge advantage to local merchants and farmers.
By the turn of the 20th Century, Missouri Valley had become a significant hub. One of the most well known dignitaries to visit Missouri Valley was President Teddy Roosevelt. The former president stopped on August 26, 1910, and made an address to the crowd from the back of a rail car stating “I believe in Iowa, and I believe in its crops, but I believe and honor the men, women and children of Iowa much more.” (Omaha Daily Bee., August 27, 1910).
In the 1930s, the Great Depression left its mark on the entire country. Many jobs were eliminated. Advances in technology such as more efficient, larger locomotives eliminated the need for stops, shops and crews. Smaller rail systems were gobbled up by larger railroads. This was a hard time for most of the country, but because of the railroad, Missouri Valley actually enjoyed a 6 percent population growth.
Today, the relationship between Missouri Valley and Union Pacific Railroad is stronger than ever. Union Pacific currently owns the tracks running through Missouri Valley. It is a crew stop for east and west bound rail crews, as well as home to signal shops and maintenance personnel. The railroad continues to be an integral part of our community today providing jobs, grants and other investments to improve and beautify our community. Past, present and future, Missouri Valley maintains a strong relationship with the railroad, and is proud of this relationship and the important part in history that railroads have played for our community.