Sioux City, IA – The Siouxland Historical Railroad Association is seeking a historic designation to list the Milwaukee Railroad Shops Historic District in Sioux City on the National Register of Historic Places, a federal program administered by the National Park Service that recognizes buildings, structures and sites historically significant to the country, regions, states and local communities.
Once approved by the State of Iowa, the nomination package will be forwarded to the National Park Service for its consideration of listing the Milwaukee Railroad Shops on the National Register of Historic Places. The Siouxland Historical Railroad Association is seeking designation of the Milwaukee Railroad Shops at the level of a “nationally significant” historic district.
The historic landscape contains approximately 50 historic buildings, structures, foundations and industrial archaeological remnants that once formed the bustling Sioux City Roundhouse, Repair Shops and Engine Terminal of the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific Railway. The complex was built over a three year time span of 1916 to 1918, with its opening in mid-July 1918.
In general, the Milwaukee Railroad Shops Historic District reflects a trend at the time in railroad land use and development relating to the servicing, repair and maintenance of steam locomotives and rolling stock. The buildings, structures, and other remnants are characteristic features of the era of the “Golden Age of Steam Railroading.” According to historical research there were approximately 1,842 roundhouses and railroad repair shops built across the country during the steam locomotive era, employing over 400,000 railroad workers known as shopmen. By 1935, there were only 416 roundhouses and railroad repair shops in operation across the country, employing approximately 135,000, as the railroad industry started its transitioning to diesel locomotives. The Milwaukee Railroad Shops Historic District in Sioux City is one of seven roundhouse terminal landscapes in the nation with a comprehensive collection of buildings, structures, and industrial archaeological remnants to have survived into the 21st Century.
Notable events at the Milwaukee Railroad Shops Historic District include the 1922 Shopmen’s Strike, also known as the Great Railway Strike; the hiring of women to work as shopmen and railroad laborers during the strike, World War I and World War II; and the final bankruptcy of the railroad in 1980 that lead to the abandonment of the roundhouse terminal in 1981.
Larry Obermeyer of the Siouxland Historical Railroad Association authored and prepared the nomination package; and he oversaw the extensive five-year historical research process. A team of volunteers helped with gathering research and historical information from across the country. Several family members of former railroad employees and railroad enthusiasts provided photographs of the complex to help illustrate in the application the history of the Milwaukee Railroad Shops over time. Archivists and librarians with the Milwaukee Public Library also assisted with the researching the Milwaukee Road Company Archives held by the library. The research team was able to find original blueprints for the Milwaukee Railroad Shops in the company archives. Other construction documents and site plans were obtained from the planning and zoning records maintained by the City of Sioux City.