Getting Around

In Sioux City’s boom years during the late 19th century major businesses poured revenue into the city’s infrastructure, and this included many kinds of transit systems. Originally roads in the city were dirt, and then cedar block paving made traveling smoother. Unfortunately, cedar roads had a bad habit of floating away during the floods! As a result, Sioux City had some of the first concrete paved roads in the country. These more modern roads made way for another exciting development: streetcars. Originally these cars were horse-drawn, but as the years passed electricity became more readily available. Soon Sioux City sported many different lines of electric trolleys and cable streetcars, stretching from the Missouri River all the way to Leeds and the Northside.

Steam-powered transit rail lines were also popular in the late 19th century. In central Morningside a suburban rail line operated as early as the 1880s, and this was soon expanded. Mass amounts of money were poured into a project that, when complete, brought an elevated rail line to Sioux City. This line was almost immediately electrified and thus while Sioux City was the third city in the nation to have an elevated rail, it was the first city to have one electrified. The designs for Sioux City’s elevated rail would eventually inspire the L train in Chicago.

As for travel into and out of the city, Sioux City relied on the rivers and steamboats in its earliest years. Boats brought goods and people upriver to the vital junction of rivers that the city was built around. Soon after, however, as Sioux City began to grow, her lifeblood was the railroad. Though not part of a transcontinental line, Sioux City played a vital role as a terminal facility, where many railroad lines ended. This meant that people and freight often changed trains and lines here, which required major facilities for switching, repair, and other forms of vital infrastructure. When rails faded in popularity Sioux City evolved to fit into the world of automobiles, acquiring major national highways like Highway 20, Highway 75, and Interstate 29.

Today being in the Midwest means that most Sioux Cityans drive wherever they need to go, either around the city or in and out of it on the major highways. The transit systems still exist in the form of bus lines, taxi services, and the Downtown Trolley, a motorized trolley that services most of downtown on Fridays and Saturdays. Many of the rail lines that were so important to the city’s vitality still operate today, carrying coal, grain, oil, and other goods. And the Sioux-Gateway Municipal Airport provides the fastest means of travel in and out of the city, with daily flights to Chicago and beyond.

Objects in this Collection