The rise of the railroad was ultimately Brownville's undoing. The railroads siphoned traffic away from the Missouri River's steamboats. Brownville's attempt to secure a railroad of its own was severely botched and led to immense tax increases to pay the bonds for the failed venture. This drove most of the population away and led to the county seat being transferred to Auburn in 1885.
Today, owing to its place in Nebraska history, Brownville is primarily a tourist attraction, with several old houses having been opened for tours or converted to museums. Art galleries and wineries in and near Brownville have also helped to make the town an increasingly attractive getaway for residents of the region's larger cities. The Brownville Bridge over the Missouri River is on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Cooper Nuclear Station is south of the city.
In 1992-1993, the Governor Furnas Arboretum was planted.
There were 74 households out of which 20.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 44.6% were married couples living together, 5.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 44.6% were non-families. 40.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 17.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 1.97 and the average family size was 2.63.
In the village the population was spread out with 18.5% under the age of 18, 5.5% from 18 to 24, 19.2% from 25 to 44, 34.2% from 45 to 64, and 22.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 51 years. For every 100 females there were 117.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 108.8 males.
The median income for a household in the village was $34,375, and the median income for a family was $51,000. Males had a median income of $35,750 versus $28,438 for females. The per capita income for the village was $20,928. There were 11.5% of families and 15.9% of the population living below the poverty line, including 15.2% of under eighteens and 17.9% of those over 64.