Tucked away near the small town of Union, IL is what I consider to be one of the gems of this state. The Illinois Railway Museum is the largest railway museum in the United States and is located just 55 miles NW of Chicago. The museum was started in 1957 and there are over 450 pieces of prototype equipment in its collection as well as numerous displays. For the price of admission, visitors may ride on some of the museum’s electric, steam and diesel-powered trains from April through October.
(click on any photo to enlarge in lightbox)
It’s really simple, if you even remotely like trains or vintage railway stuff this place needs to be on your bucket list. If you want to know more about the museum, start with Wiki, then make a trip over to the IRM Web Page.
The Museum is run and operated completely by volunteers. The equipment that’s acquired, the restorations that occur, the historical research that’s done, the events that are held are made possible purely by volunteers.
I first made my way to the Railway Museum a few years ago. It was one of the “free” days. The gates to the ground were open, but nothing else was. With over 450 pieces of equipment, plus buildings, signage, lights, parts bins and an extensive bone yard, it was and is a photographers playground.
The Museum grounds are only 14 miles from where I live, so recently, I decided to go back for another visit, but this time as a Paying Member. Day admission is $10 or $14 but the $40 annual membership is the best investment you can make if you want to make repeat trips.
I wasn’t on the property for 10 minutes when a long time member Kirk Warner introduced himself. As I recall, he lives in Florida and comes to the museum when there is work to be done that matches his competence. He introduced me to Bob Kutella whose been associated with IRM for over 40 years. These two gentlemen were rich in stories and history and facts and culture of IRM.
They imparted on me a deep appreciation of the time and dedication it takes to restore a piece of train equipment from bone-yard junk to operational status.
Take this caboose as an example. Not only does the restoration require all the machining and metal fabrication and wood mill work but the colors, the letters the numbering all has to be researched to be accurate. Even more intense, when you look inside the caboose, it’s not just a period accurate wood stove, thermostat, kerosene lamp or coal bucket. It is the car specific equipment!.
Think about it, not only does someone have to research what it should be, someone else has to source it or fabricate it. Then someone else has to restore it, someone else needs to install it and the list goes on. Which brings me to one of the two purposes for creating this page.
I am not a train buff (though I might become one), but I do want to pay tribute to what the volunteers at IRM have accomplished.
Admittedly it would be a better outcome, if the work I produce here encourages you to visit or contribute to the IRM. Frankly, many of the volunteers I’ve run into at IRM are my senior and I wonder a little about the long term fate of this place once they begin to disappear. As anyone who knows me or follows me understands, I don’t endorse often or freely but in this case, I appreciate the men and women volunteers at the Illinois Railway Museum.
Again let me direct you to their site to explore more information. (IRM)
My second purpose is to share this location with the photographic society at large. Regardless of your genre, there is truly an abundance of photo ops waiting for you at the IRM.
Hopefully perusing through my images here you will make a visual connection that might spur a visit. Maybe at some point, we could make this the destination of a Photo Walk.
See Gallery of Images on the next page.