Union Pacific Railroad Historical Museum

The following text is from the museum brochure that appears above:

Union Pacific Railroad extends to you a cordial welcome to our headquarters building and our historical museum.

Here you will see many relics of early days of the building of the west. Old six guns used by early day desperadoes - rifles used by pioneer railroaders defending themselves from marauding Indians - the tea set from Abraham Lincoln's private car and a host of other historical objects.

All these have been donated or loaned by employees or friends of Union Pacific and because of the interest shown, we have set aside this area to grace in the most graphic manner possible the rugged, adventuresome spirit of our western pioneers.

These were the men who opened our great western expanses for settlement. They were the men who faced the dangers and hardships of frontier living.

It is fitting, therefore, that we dedicate this museum to the builders of this railroad and to the early pioneers who opened the great west to colonization. Union Pacific hopes that you will enjoy your visit.

A. E. Stoddard, President
Union Pacific Railroad

Located only a few steps off the lobby on the first floor of Union Pacific Railroad's 12-story headquarters building in downtown Omaha, Neb., the Union Pacific Museum is within easy reach of all visitors to the city.

U.P.'s unique museum got its start quite modestly in 1921 when it was discovered that part of the Lincoln car service had been gathering dust in a vault.

It was then decided to start a museum in a small office and for the next few years the collection grew rapidly until the office was overcrowded. The museum was moved to its present location on the main floor in 1939.

Thousands of railroaders added historic items to the collection and with this huge army of collectors the displays grew rapidly.

One of the remarkable facts about the museum is that every item it contains was donated. But whether it's an original historic document signed by President Lincoln or an old link and pin coupler found buried in a switching yard, the Union Pacific Museum is unusual and significant in that it gives visitors a flavorful taste of the old West and the human history of the growth of a railroad which is acknowledged by historians as one of the most important events which led to the western way of life we enjoy today.

Proof of its popularity is the fact that well over half a million persons have inspected the displays. On hand always to greet visitors and answer their questions are Museum Director Mrs. Irene A. Keeffe and her assistant, Miss Erma M. Smatlan.

The free museum is open for visits from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Trace the history...

An extensive display of documents, maps and pictures - handily encased in glass swinging panels - provide visitors with easy access to the documentary history of the building of Union Pacific lines through the untamed west.

Mounted for easy viewing, the files include early maps of the territory (some hand drawn and beautifully illustrated), photographs that portray adventure in the West's development, an album of old locomotive photos, panels of early and foreign paper money and coins, the original telegram reporting the completion of rail construction through to Promontory, Utah, old newspapers marking special events in the history of the country, and a separate file on famous outlaws that made the early railroad life a hazardous one.

Railroad section...

For devoted railroad fans the museum boasts several miniature locomotives and an unusual collection of locomotive pictures taken when steam engines were the undisputed champions of railroad power.

And there is a railroad library which was started in one huge bookcase and has now grown to fill an entire vault.

Early equipment...

Union Pacific Railroad equipment improved steadily with the still continuing "age of modern miracles" and left behind many mementoes.

Surveying instruments used by Gen. Grenville M. Dodge, chief engineer of U.P. from May, 1866, to Jan., 1877, are in excellent condition and displayed in glass cases.

Historic spike and rail sections are being retained as reminders of early construction victories. And to ensure that the countless day-by-day activities of operating the first railroads are not bypassed, the museum has collected miscellaneous items for display, such as ticket punches, badges, telegraph keys, insulators, cable and other equipment, an old locomotive clock, train tickets and schedules, lanterns and many other articles of interest to the general public.

Pioneers represented...

Western history could not be fairly represented without devoting space to the rugged pioneer families who gave impetus to the need for a Western railroad.

Many of the tools and implements necessary to stay alive in that danger area have been retired to the U.P. collection where visitors can examine them and go away with a much better idea of frontier life.

A huge sauerkraut stomper, a grain flail, a barley fork and a cradle scythe - all hand made and predominately of wood - clearly show the exhausting labor of pioneer living.

Tribute to Lincoln...

Pride of the museum's priceless collection is the display honoring President Abraham Lincoln who, in 1862, signed into law a bill creating the Union Pacific Railroad and authorizing that company to build what was to be the nation's first transcontinental railroad and telegraph line.

Within the museum, the Lincolniana display is considered one of the most complete in the country. A large portion of one wall of the room is entirely taken up by portraits and personal papers of the Civil War president. Among the photographs is one of three known to bear his autograph.

The most prized original document is an executive order which appointed Springer Harbaugh director of the railroad on the part of the government in October, 1863. This particular document is one of the few which he signed "Abraham Lincoln" rather than "A. Lincoln" which became his familiar signature.

In 1864 a private railroad car was built for the president but Lincoln was unable to use it while he lived. This car was then to become his funeral car and a replica of it is another of the Lincoln items on display.

Many of the original furnishing from that car are numbered in the Lincoln collection - a walnut desk, bookcase, a reclining chair, a portion of the silver service, a mirror, four oil paintings and two davenports, one extra long for the president and capable of being converted into a bed.

An integral part

Like brothers under the same coat, the story of the American Indian goes along with the construction of the nation's Western railroad.

Among the museum's more bizarre items preserved to keep the Indian legend alive is a Shoshone Indian headdress made of wild turkey feathers which trailed to the wearer's ankles. This headdress does not appear unusual until close inspection reveals that each feather is decorated with a tuft of human hair.

Tomahawks, bows and arrows and many items of Indian clothing make up a sizeable display. Each of the articles has a story behind it.

The outlaw period...

Synonymous with the difficulties early construction gangs had with the Indians were the string of lesser battles waged against the infamous Western outlaw. The museum has an excellent representation of grim mementoes from that period.

A gun owned by Tom Horn, the "Wyoming Man Killer," and a piece of the rope with which he was hanged tell of the violence surrounding his life.

Another case holds the leg irons used to shackle "Big Nose George" Parrott, another Wyoming desperado, and the top half of his skull. Parrott was executed in frontier fashion for the attempted robbery of a Union Pacific train and the slaying of two posse members who pursued him.

Lesser known criminals are represented by one case that is filled with deadly weapons, all removed from criminals by Union Pacific special agents.

This small collection of postcards depicts the Union Pacific Railroad Historical Museum that was once located in Omaha at the headquarters of the Union Pacific Railroad, located at 1416 Dodge Street. The collection of items once contained in this museum have now been moved to The Union Pacific Railroad Museum, located in Council Bluffs, Iowa, at 200 Pearl Street.

The text below is taken from the reverse sides of the cards in this collection:

Visitors from every state in the union and many foreign countries to the Union Pacific Historical Museum have proclaimed it one of the most outstanding exhibits in America. The museum, located in the Union Pacific Railroad headquarters building at Omaha, Nebraska, is open Monday through Friday and Saturday mornings to the public and contains a wealth of valuable pieces recording the struggles and triumphs of the old west.

The museum...is filled with valuable articles descriptive of the old west and the building of the first transcontinental railroad.

The museum...presents a visual record of the struggles, tragedies and triumphs of the pioneer west and a graphic story of the building and growth of the railroad.

Interior photographs of the Union Pacific Railroad Historical Museum:

Photo #1 Photo #2 Photo #3 Photo #4 Photo #5 Photo #6 Photo #7

One additional photograph in this collection depicts a few of the museum artifacts and is described as follows:

A few of the thousands of items which annually draw visitors from every state in the nation to the Union Pacific Historical Museum. Pictured [clockwise from upper left] are: early link and pin coupling, buffalo head, General Dan Casement's ivory-handled revolver, the Lincoln silver service, portion of original letter signed by President Lincoln, ox yoke

Photo #8


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