Elma’s Railroad History

These photos are shared from the Elma history book, “Those Were the Days” which was printed in conjunction with the town’s Centennial in 1986. They show the rich railroad history from which the town was formed.

Railroad Club House in Elma

The Elma Railroad Club House was built in 1887 for the use of railroad employees away from home. It contained bathrooms, reading rooms and other home-like comforts. The unusual windmill-water tower sat just to the south and was 25 feet tall.

Engine on the turntable

Engine 23, an early Minnesota & Northwestern 4-4-0, poses on the turntable in Elma. Photo is from the 1890’s.

Building the viaduct, 1901

Railroad water tower


This water tower was built in 1905 for the railroad. It had a capacity of 1193 barrels of water. A pump house is next to it. The depot displays a stop signal for southbound trains.

Elma Railroad Depot & Yards

This is an 1907 postcard view of the Chicago Great Western depot & yards from the south. Loomis, Johnson & Lee Grain Elevator is on the left. The wooden platform and stairs on the right lead down to Busti Avenue.

1900’s train derailment

This derailment was over the bridge just north of the creamery, west of Howard Cemetery, in the 1900’s. Engine #219’s nose is buried in the mud. A wooden channel was constructed to divert the creek while workers retrieved the engine. A pump drained the water from the creek bed.

Train viaduct, 1980

Demise of the Viaduct

Train service ceased in Elma in 1982; the roundhouse & maintenance service of the Chicago Great Western line had moved to Oelwein at this point, taking many Elma residents/railroad workers with it.

Posted: March 20, 2024 in Elma History