Harlan man plays the role of General Grenville Dodge


May 17th, 2012 by Ric Hanson

A Shelby County resident is being showcased in a new exhibit at the Union Pacific Railroad Museum. Dan Bieker of Harlan was selected to be General Grenville Dodge in a new exhibit inside the museum. The Union Pacific Railroad Museum was constructing the exhibit to educate visitors on how the railroad was built west of Iowa. Bieker says the museum struggled to find an actor to play General Dodge so his family reached out to him. He says his sister-in-law and his photographer brother asked him to play the role after they were unsuccessful in finding an actor. They said Bieker had the right stature, facial features and age to try the role. He says it was fun, and an experience he never thought he would have. 

Theatrical makeup was applied to him and the camera crew added more silver to his hair to make him look like General Dodge. Once Bieker was ready to go, he was placed in front of the camera. He says after his audition, officials decided to make his character a part of the museum. Bieker is featured several times throughout the museum on a video screen. He introduces himself as “General Grenville Dodge, Union Pacific’s Chief Engineer,” at the start of construction of the U-P Railroad. He’s on three different screens throughout the museum. The other screens talk about how Dodge met President Abraham Lincoln, and how the railroad was built west of Omaha without any locally available materials – they had to be shipped-in, by steamboat. 

The museum officials told Bieker the display will be around for the next 20 to 30 years. The Union Pacific Railroad Museum is located at 200 Pearl Street in Council Bluffs and is open from 10am to 4pm Tuesdays through Saturday. Admission is free. Bieker says it was an honor and a privilege to be chosen to play the role of General Dodge.