Watson Steam Train
Watson Station will closed on October 31, 2021.
Watson Station is a 100-foot long replica of an old-time small town railroad depot. Built in Missouri Valley’s City Park in 2009, the complex includes the depot and a 1700-foot miniature 12-gauge park railroad. Housed in the depot are two trains. The first is a restored steam train, originally owned by the Missouri Valley Fire Department and later by John Watson, for whom the station is named. The second is a 2013 Union Pacific diesel replica. Both trains operate during the station’s season, May through October. The depot features railroad-related artifacts and displays, including a major collection of miniature (to scale) brass locomotives. The mission of Watson Station is to educate and entertain by bringing back the grand old railroad days of yore.
Watson Station is located in the Missouri Valley City Park, just 20 miles north of Omaha/Council Bluffs near the intersection of Interstate US29 and Highway 30.
HOURS OF OPERATION
Open Noon- 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, Birthday Parties, tours and family gatherings may be scheduled at special times by calling Watson Station at (712) 642-2210 or (712) 870-1961.
Watson Station is open holidays: Noon- 5:00 p.m.
Admission to Watson Station is free. There is a $3.00 train ride cost for all ages. The 1700’ ride traverses over a bridge and through a 50’ tunnel on a double loop which brings passengers back to the Station.
SCHEDULE OF EVENTS
Halloween Costume Party, Saturday, October 28, 2023 Noon-5:00 p.m. The cost of the Party is $5.00.
Polar Express, Saturday, December 2, 2023, 11:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. The cost of the Polar Express is one non-perishable food item.
We book private birthday parties, organization parties and tours, family gatherings and special events by calling (712) 642-2210 (station) or (712) 870-1961.
PRIVATE BIRTHDAY PARTIES
Our private birthday parties are very popular. The parties are 2 hours, which includes up to 1 hour of rides. Birthday parties can be booked for any time other than the station’s normal operating hours (Saturday Noon – 5:00 and Sunday Noon- 5:00). The rental fee is $125. Party and event dates fill up quickly, so call and book your date.
ORIGINAL WATSON STATION BOARD
Bill Bugenhagen, Pete Graham, Craig Guttau, Phyllis Henrich, Jerry Meade, Gary Rodewald, Mark Warner, Randy Watson, Sharlotte Watson
CURRENT 10 MEMBER BOARD
Bob Albers, Lee Charbonneau, Fonley Allen, Don Hoffman, Ron Mace, Jerry Mahoney, Al Selk, Mark Warner, Bruce Johnson, Cheryl Thomas, Jo Lyman
HISTORY OF WATSON STATION
The Watson Steam Train Restoration and Station/Museum Project began as a result of public demand and individual dreams of restoring the Missouri Valley miniature steam train. The train was built in 1948 by the Ottaway Amusement Company of Wichita, Kansas, purchased by the Missouri Valle Fire Department in 1950, and has been giving rides to children in the Missouri Valley City Park for over 60 years. In the initial year of operation, it was not unusual to give 5 cent rides to nearly 2,000 children during a two-day weekend. Ticket sales the first year of operation netted $1091.50.
The miniature steam train is a 12 gauge, coal-fired engine and tender, with three passenger cars. It is capable of carrying about 15 children at a time on its current 1700 feet of track.
John P. Watson purchased the train in 1967 after the Fire Department made the decision to sell it. John maintained and ran the train until his death in 2001. In December, 2006, his widow, Sharlotte Watson, gifted the train to the Missouri Valley Parks Board with the dream of restoring the train for the enjoyment and education of people of all ages.
Randy Watson, son of John, undertook the task of restoring the train. In his standard of excellence, he rebuilt this precious antique into a historically authentic work of art.
The local Parks Board, under the direction of Gary Rodewald, and guided by the Watson Steam Train Committee of nine members, produced an inspired plan for the train and a station/museum to be erected in the existing Missouri Valley City Park. The station/museum likewise is historically accurate as well as useful for housing the train, viewing the train and displaying a multitude of museum-quality railroad items.
The Watson Steam Train Committee, headed by Mark Warner, began immediate fundraising. The committee made known its plans through local and area newspapers, posters, television, websites, and signage on the area highways. Local residents and businesses responded generously. Jeff, Snyder, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce, helped organize two fundraising events at the local Eagles Club, netting $10,000 and $21,000 respectively. Tim Peffer of Sgt. Pefers and Tim Guinan of Gurney’s Restaurant, along with many local restaurants and catering services, supplied food for the fundraising events.
Members of the Watson Station Project Board, along with numerous other volunteers, have played an integral part in the overall project.
In January 2013, Watson Station received the gift of a new 14 gauge gas train locomotive. This generous gift was a result of donations from four local families. After nearly 3 months of finish work and painting by the volunteer crew, this new engine is completed and is used as the station’s daily work train.
To date, the Watson Steam Train Restoration Project (including 14 grants) has raised over $700,000.
HOW THE PROJECT WAS PAID FOR
The Project was paid for with contributions from individuals, civic groups, businesses and grants. Seed money of $20,000 from the City of Missouri Valley, along with $25,000 from the Missouri Valley Foundation, gave the Station Committee enough money to start the project.
The first major boost came from a $175,000 RPA Commission Grant.
Our next substantial gift came as a $225,000 Vision Iowa/CAT Grant. The Harrison County Board of Supervisors pledged $10,000 to be used for in-kind services for the project. The Community Foundation of Southwest Iowa Grant has been awarded to individual project grants totaling over $57,000 to date. In addition, the Loess Hills Alliance awarded the project a grant of $10,000. Renee Anderson from the Harrison County Development Corporation furnished the needed marketing advice for several of our grants.
Robert and Trish Rand have been wonderful supporters with three separate grants, the donation of a restored motor car, the generous donation of a complete miniature brass replica UP Engine collection, major donors in the Station’s newly built engine as well as helping raise funds during the Project functions held at the local Eagles Club. The Eagles Club has donated the use of their hall for the two fundraisers.
Craig Guttau and his sister Julie Thiel also have on exhibit their award-winning “Winterview” (Christmas Village Collection).
Lynn Sass of Landscapes Express and family designed and donated much of the plantings which help to beautify the station grounds.
WHO WAS INVOLVED
Our Project involved nearly every local civic organization’s help or financial support. Private businesses and individuals helped financially as well as by volunteering in much of the building process. The Project had a large volunteer base, composed of committee members and numerous others in building a bridge, tunnel, walls, fencing, patios, design and track laying, train engine maintenance, train car construction, sound system design, a replica water tower and coal bunker, as well as numerous weekly projects. Without all of our kids and adults volunteering their time and efforts, Watson Station would not have become a reality.
Valuable publicity for the duration of the Project has been provided by the Missouri Valley Times News, Logan Herald Observer and the Council Bluffs Nonpareil.
Chief photographer Mike Plews of WOWT Channel 6, followed the project from the beginning and has provided a window to the metro area for our project.
DONATING/VOLUNTEERING YOUR TIME
If you enjoy giving back to your community, volunteering at Watson Station is an excellent opportunity to help the community, the county, and the area youth while helping to educate the public on Missouri Valley’s railroad history. The fun-filled attraction is run solely by volunteers like yourself.
If you would like to become a volunteer, call 712)870-1961 or call 712)642-2210 and leave a message.
We welcome all volunteers from working the station ticket sales counter, operating our trains, fundraising, mechanic repair, grounds upkeep, grant writing, or helping with our special events.
MAKING A GIFT DONATION
“Donations Run the Railroad”.
We use your generous donations to maintain and expand our facility, purchase equipment and merchandise, and upgrade and pay for everyday project expenses. We receive no Government funding. We depend solely on donations, grants, private birthday parties, counter sales, and train ride ticket revenue in order to operate Watson Station.
Monetary donations of $100 or more are recognized with a name tag on our station honor board.
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON WATSON STATION
Watson Station - 712-642-2210
Birthday Party Bookings - 712-870-1961
Tours - 712-870-1961