yards were built in 1870 when the Illinois Central Railroad,
moved its shops out of Dubuque. Cedar Falls assumed it would
be selected for the new yards, but Waterloo was chosen.
(An offer of land and $23,000 made the Railroad's decision
The yards originally
included a 14-stall roundhouse, a blacksmith, machine, carpentry
and paint shops. The 160 men employed here could service
38 engines at a time.
became an important division point for the Illinois Central,
so important that the railroad established a division office
here in 1900. The yards were enlarged to accommodate up
to 86 engines, and employment reached 400. The workforce
doubled within a few years, and the railroad became Waterloo's
largest single employer.
The decline of
passenger rail service after World War II, coupled with
the replacement of steam engines by diesels, reduced the
importance of the Illinois Central shops in Waterloo. There
was less traffic, and the diesels needed less maintenance.
The railroad continues to have a large investment in the
city, but Waterloo's glory days of steam railroading are