Illinois Railway Museum

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Illinois Railway Museum
Illinois Railway Museum Herald.gif
EMD E5 at IRM.jpg
The only surviving EMD E5, named Silver Pilot, pulling one of the museum's excursion trains
LocaleUnion, Illinois
ConnectionsUnion Pacific Railroad
Commercial operations
Built byElgin and Belvidere Electric Company
Original gauge4 ft 8+12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Preserved operations
Reporting markIRMX
StationsMainline: 2
Streetcar loop: 5
Length4.6 mi (7.4 km)
Preserved gauge4 ft 8+12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Preservation history
1953Opened as the Illinois Electric Railway Museum
1956Elgin and Belvidere Electric Company right-of-way acquired
1961Current name adopted
1964Museum relocated
1966Illinois Terminal Railroad interurban car 415 first operated
1967First steam locomotive operated
1971First storage barn erected
1981Streetcar loop constructed
Late 1980s/early 1990sRailroad line built
HeadquartersUnion, Illinois
Route map
Elgin and Belvidere Electric
west to Belvidere and Rockford
Union Pacific Railroad
Schmidt Siding
50th Ave.
Central Ave.
East Union
Barn 9 North
Depot St.
Springfield Ave.
Electric Park
Boot Creek
Johnson Siding
Seeman Road
4 Mile Siding
Elgin and Belvidere Electric
east to Elgin
Interlocking Tower that once protected the junction of the Milwaukee Road and the Elgin, Joliet & Eastern at Spaulding, just east of Elgin, IL The tower was closed in 1980 and was donated in 1988.

The Illinois Railway Museum (IRM, reporting mark IRMX) is the largest railroad museum in the United States.[1][2] It is located in the Chicagoland metropolitan area at 7000 Olson Road in Union, Illinois, 55 miles (89 km) northwest of downtown Chicago.

Granted tax-exempt status in 1957, the museum aims to demonstrate the vital role railroads have played in the growth of Chicago and the United States as a whole. There are over 450 pieces of prototype equipment in its collection as well as numerous displays. Visitors may ride on some of the museum's electric, steam, and diesel-powered trains from April through October.



The museum was founded in 1953 by ten people who joined together to purchase Indiana Railroad interurban car 65. Originally called the Illinois Electric Railway Museum, the museum was renamed in 1961 to reflect its expanding scope. Initially located on the grounds of the Chicago Hardware Foundry in North Chicago, Illinois, the museum's entire collection was moved in 1964 to Union along the former right-of-way of the Elgin and Belvidere Electric Company. Two years later, operations began using Illinois Terminal Railroad interurban car 415; in 1967, the first steam locomotive was operated. The first storage barn was erected in 1971. In 1981, a one-mile (1.6 km) streetcar loop was constructed. A 4.6-mile (7.4 km) railroad line was built during the 1980s and early 1990s.


The museum's operations are primarily concentrated around its main campus just east of Union. Train rides are offered on the main line as well as the streetcar loop. Electric trains are operated from April through October and diesel and steam trains from the beginning of May through the end of September. Trolleybus operation occurs on the Saturdays of the Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day weekends, as well as on "Bus Day"; the last Saturday in September or the first Saturday in October. IRM is one of only two railway museums in the country that operates both electric and diesel trains, and the only one to offer trolleybus rides on a regular basis.

Equipment and structures[edit]

Physical plant[edit]

The electrified mainline at the Illinois Railway Museum

The Illinois Railway Museum property covers more than 80 acres (32 ha),[3] the most extensive physical plant of any rail museum in North America. In 2009, the museum bought another 89 acres (36 ha) of adjacent land as a buffer against development.[4] The main campus is located at 42°13′40.0″N 88°31′38.08″W / 42.227778°N 88.5272444°W / 42.227778; -88.5272444. In addition to the museum's revenue trackage, the main campus in Union includes:

IRM also owns two off-site libraries; the Pullman Library in downtown Union and the Strahorn Research Library in downtown Marengo.

Locomotive roster[edit]

Operating Steam and Diesel Locomotives[6]
Locomotive Class Image Type Builder Built Status Previous Owner Notes
Frisco 1630 2-10-0 Decapod Steam Locomotive Baldwin Locomotive Works 1918 Operational Eagle-Picher Ore Mine Often used on coach trains out of East Union Station.
J. Neils Lumber Co. No. 5 3 Truck Shay Steam


Lima Locomotive Works 1929 Operational J. Neils Lumber Co. Previously woodfired and converted to run on coal.
Union Pacific 428 2-8-0 Consolidation Steam


Baldwin Locomotive Works 1900 Under Restoration Union Pacific Arrived in 1969, currently under restoration.
Chicago Burlington & Quincy 9911A Silver Pilot EMD E5 Diesel Locomotive Electro-Motive Corporation 1940 Operational Chicago Burlington And Quincy The only surviving EMD E5 and often paired with the Nebraska Zephyr.
Chicago And North Western 411 EMD F7A Diesel Locomotive Electro-Motive Corporation 1949 Operational Metra Ex Metra 305
Metra 308 EMD F7A Diesel Locomotive Electro-Motive Corporation 1949 Operational Metra As of 2020 still in original Metra paint scheme.
Milwaukee Road 118C EMD F7A Diesel Locomotive Electro-Motive Corporation 1951 Operational Milwaukee Road
Burlington Northern 1 EMD F9A
BN F-Units (1).jpg
Diesel Locomotive Electro-Motive Corporation 1954 Operational Burlington Northern Built as Northern Pacific 6700A
Burlington Northern 2 EMD F9B Diesel Locomotive Electro-Motive Corporation 1954 Operational Burlington Northern Built as Northern Pacific 7002C
Burlington Northern 3 EMD E9A Diesel Locomotive Electro-Motive Corporation 1956 Operational Burlington Northern Formerly Burlington Northern 9919
Wisconsin & Southern 102 EMD E9B Diesel Locomotive Electro-Motive Corporation 1955 Operational Wisconsin Southern Formerly Union Pacific 467
Chicago And North Western 6847 EMD SD40-2
CNW SD40-2 -6847 (2).jpg
Diesel Locomotive Electro-Motive Corporation 1976 Operational Union Pacific Formerly Union Pacific 3028
Santa Fe 92 EMD FP45 Diesel Locomotive Electro-Motive Corporation 1967 Operational Santa Fe Built as Santa Fe 102
Rock Island 4506 EMD GP7R
Rock Island 4506 (1).jpg
Diesel Locomotive Electro-Motive Corporation 1952 Operational Chicago And North Western Ran as Chicago And North Western 4160 until restoration back into Rock Island Paint.
Illinois Terminal 1605 EMD GP7 Diesel Locomotive Electro-Motive Corporation 1953 Operational Illinois Terminal Railroad Formerly Norfolk & Western 3406
Chicago Burlington & Quincy 504 EMD SD24 Diesel Locomotive Electro-Motive Corporation 1959 Operational Burlington Northern Formerly Burlington Northern 6244
Southern Pacific 1518 EMD SD7 Diesel Locomotive Electro-Motive Corporation 1951 Operational Southern Pacific First SD7 Built
Wisconsin Central 7525 EMD SD45 Diesel Locomotive Electro-Motive Corporation 1971 Operational Wisconsin Central Has Operation Life Saver paint scheme applied.
Chicago Burlington & Quincy 9255 EMD SW-7 Diesel Locomotive Electro-Motive Corporation 1950 Operational Burlington Northern Formerly Burlington Northern 121
Commonwealth Edison 15 EMD SW-1 Diesel Locomotive Electro-Motive Corporation 1950 Operational Midwest Generation LLC Often seen on the Caboose Train
Minnesota Transfer Railway 200 Alco RS3 Diesel Locomotive American Locomotive Company 1951 Operational Minnesota Transfer Railway Used for the take the Throttle Event at Diesel Days 2019
Green Bay & Western 2407 Alco RSD15 Diesel Locomotive American Locomotive Company 1960 Operational Green Bay & Western Formerly Santa Fe 841
Chicago And North Western 1689 Alco RSD5
CNW 1619 (1).jpg
Diesel Locomotive American Locomotive Company 1954 Operational Chicago And North Western Formerly J.K. Line Incorporated 1689
Milwaukee Road 760 FM H10-44 Diesel Locomotive Fairbanks-Morse 1944 Operational Milwaukee Road First Diesel built by Fairbanks - Morse
TTI 260 GE U28B Diesel Locomotive GE Transportation 1967 Operational Transkentucky Transportation Formerly Chicago Burlington & Quincy 114
Burlington Northern 5383 GE U30C Diesel Locomotive GE Transportation 1974 Operational Burlington Northern Repainted In 2006
Union Pacific 1848 GE B40-8
Up 1848 (1).jpg
Diesel Locomotive GE Transportation 1988 Operational Union Pacific Formerly Cotton Belt 8049


MBTA 902.jpg


Electro-Motive Corporation 1957 Operational MBTA Formerly GTW and SEMTA
Nekoosa Paper


NEKP 14.jpg





1947 Operational Nekoosa

Paper, Inc.

Ex-South Omaha Terminal

Notable equipment[edit]

Among the locomotives preserved at IRM are:

Other equipment includes:

Museum gallery[edit]


The Illinois Railway Museum is an IRS Chapter 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation owned and managed by its membership. Museum management includes a board of directors, elected by the regular membership of about 160 active volunteers. A board president is elected by the directors. The board oversees the general manager, a volunteer who in turn has oversight over an array of department heads. Major departments include Steam, Diesel, Electric Car, Passenger Car, Freight Car, Track & Signal, Buildings & Grounds, Trolley Bus, Motor Bus, and Operations. Other departments oversee the museum's libraries, electrical infrastructure, and display and education functions. Most department heads are volunteers. All workers at the museum fall under the direct authority of one of the department heads. The vast majority of workers are volunteers. Anyone who is interested in trains or other collections/aspects of the museum is actively encouraged to volunteer, with required training done by the museum.

Use in film[edit]

IRM has been used in several films, due to its proximity to Chicago and its extensive collection of historic railroad equipment. In the 1992 film A League of Their Own, starring Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, and Madonna, the museum's depot was used for several small-town depot scenes; other scenes featured with the Nebraska Zephyr and only surviving EMD E5. The 1993 movie Groundhog Day featured the museum's EMD SD24 diesel locomotive. The museum's grounds and some of the passenger cars were used in the movie The Babe, starring John Goodman. In late 2005, the Burlington 9911A and several coaches operated to Chicago for filming in Flags of Our Fathers, a Clint Eastwood film. The initial sequence of 2008's The Express: The Ernie Davis Story was shot at IRM. The most recent film Transformers: Age of Extinction starring Mark Wahlberg, released in 2014, made IRM the host of several scenes.[7]

Many television shows' railroad sequences have been shot at the IRM. Scenes depicting steam era operations in the late 1920s were shot for the 1993 television series The Untouchables. The hit show Chicago Fire features the IRM onsite in the season 2 episode "No Regrets".

Special Events[edit]

The IRM sign, containing the days when the “Day out with Thomas” event operates
  • Note for 2021 Season all events are TBA - please check the Museum's website for updates.

The museum hosts a series of annual special events:

  • Day out with Thomas event in July
  • Bunny Trolley Hop around Easter
  • Chicago Day in June, which commemorates the end of streetcar service in Chicago in 1958
  • Scout Day in May
  • Vintage Transportation Extravaganza one of the largest antique car shows in the state on the first Sunday in August
  • Diesel Days in mid-August
  • Museum Showcase Weekend in mid-September
  • "Bus Day" the last Saturday of September or first Saturday of October
  • "Happy Holiday Railway" (weekends between Thanksgiving and Christmas)

See also[edit]


External image
image icon Railroad Picture Archives - Photos taken in Union, IL
  1. ^ "Illinois Railway Museum - The Largest!". CNN iReport. September 28, 2014. Retrieved February 28, 2018.
  2. ^ Green, Joey (2017). Vacation on Location, Midwest. Chicago, IL: Chicago Review Press Inc. p. n.p. ISBN 978-1-61373-725-5 – via Google Books.
  3. ^ Tourist Trains Guide Book (second ed.). Waukesha, WI: Kalmbach Books. 2009 [2007]. p. 83. ISBN 978-0-87116-273-1 – via Google Books.
  4. ^ Kallas, Nick (November 20, 2009). "89 Acre Siegel Farm Purchase". Retrieved February 28, 2018.
  5. ^ "Illinois Railway Museum buys Burnham Shops turntable". Trains. March 25, 2016. Retrieved March 28, 2016. (subscription required)
  6. ^ "Illinois Railway Museum Roster of Equipment". Retrieved 2020-07-29.
  7. ^ "Transformers Movie Comes to Union". Marengo-Union Times. October 1, 2013. Retrieved June 20, 2017.

Coordinates: 42°13′46″N 88°31′43″W / 42.22944°N 88.52861°W / 42.22944; -88.52861