Exploring the Fascinating History of the Illinois Railway Museum

Welcome aboard and take a trip back in time through the fascinating history of the Illinois Railway Museum. Located in Union, Illinois, this museum is the largest railway museum in the United States, with an extensive collection of steam, diesel, and electric trains, as well as trolley cars and buses. The museum offers visitors an opportunity to learn about the history of transportation in Illinois and the United States, with a focus on the role railways played in shaping the nation’s economy, culture, and society.

Experience the Fascinating World of the IL Railway Museum

The IL Railway Museum is a unique destination that offers visitors a glimpse into the past while providing an exciting and educational experience. Located in Union, Illinois, it is the largest railway museum in the United States, boasting an impressive collection of trains, cars, and locomotives from different eras. Whether you’re a railway enthusiast or simply looking for a one-of-a-kind adventure, the IL Railway Museum is an attraction that’s not to be missed.

The History of the Museum

The IL Railway Museum was founded in 1953 by a group of volunteers who wanted to preserve the state’s railway history. They began with a vision to save historic rail cars and locomotives that would have otherwise been lost to time. Today, the museum has evolved into a premier destination, drawing visitors from all over the world.

The museum’s collection has grown over the years, thanks to generous donations from private collectors, railroads, and other organizations. Today, the IL Railway Museum has over 400 pieces of rolling stock and locomotives, making it one of the largest and most diverse collections in the world.

Visitors can explore the museum’s collection of historic equipment, which includes steam locomotives, diesel engines, passenger cars, and more. Each piece has a unique story to tell, allowing visitors to step back in time to a bygone era of rail travel.

The Museum’s Collections

The museum’s collection is truly extensive, offering something for everyone to admire. The collection includes a variety of railway equipment from different eras, including the iconic steam engines that powered the early railways, to the sleek diesel engines that revolutionized rail travel in the mid-20th century.

The museum also has a vast collection of passenger cars, many of which have been restored to their original condition. Visitors can board some of these cars and experience what it was like to travel by rail in different periods of history. From the gleaming observation cars of the early 1900s to the streamlined coaches of the 1950s, the IL Railway Museum has it all.

In addition to the rolling stock, the museum also has a variety of other exhibits and displays, including historic railway signage, signaling equipment, and other artifacts. There’s even a working telegraph station where visitors can send messages using the same technology that rail workers used in the past.

Interactive Exhibits and Activities

One of the most exciting things about the IL Railway Museum is the variety of interactive exhibits and activities it offers. Visitors can take a ride on one of the many vintage trains that run on the museum’s 5-mile track, experiencing firsthand what it was like to travel by rail in the past. The train rides are led by knowledgeable volunteers who provide fascinating insights into the history of the equipment and the railways themselves.

The museum also hosts a range of special events and programs throughout the year. These include holiday-themed events, concerts, and even a “Day Out With Thomas” program for children, where they can meet and ride with their favorite character from the popular children’s book series.

For visitors who want to learn more about railways and their history, the museum’s library is a treasure trove of information. With over 10,000 books, periodicals, and historic documents, it’s a veritable paradise for rail enthusiasts and historians alike.


The IL Railway Museum is a fantastic destination for anyone interested in railways and their history. With its vast collection of rolling stock, interactive exhibits, and special events, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Whether you’re a lifelong railway enthusiast or simply looking for a unique and memorable experience, the IL Railway Museum is a must-see attraction that you won’t soon forget.

Planning Your Visit to the IL Railway Museum

Location and Directions

The IL Railway Museum is located in Union, Illinois. It is roughly an hour and a half drive from both Chicago, Illinois and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. For those traveling from either city, there are multiple routes you can take to reach the museum.

If you are coming from Chicago, take I-90 W to IL-47 S in Huntley. Take exit 42B from I-90 W for IL-47 N toward Woodstock. Follow IL-47 N for about 7 miles, then turn right onto Main St and continue onto Museum Rd. From there, you will see signs directing you to the museum.

If you are coming from Milwaukee, take I-43 S and I-94 E to US-12 E in Richmond. Take exit 347 from I-94 E. Follow US-12 E for about 9 miles, then turn left onto IL-176 E. After about 2 miles, turn right onto Main St and continue onto Museum Rd, where signs will direct you to the museum.

It is recommended that you use a GPS or map application before embarking on your journey. This will help you avoid any potential traffic or construction along the way and ensure that you arrive at the museum on time.

Ticket and Membership Information

The IL Railway Museum offers admission to the general public for a fee of $12 for adults, $10 for seniors (62+), and $8 for children (ages 3 to 11). Children aged 2 and under are free. Group rates are also available for groups of 12 or more, with a discounted rate of $10 per person.

If you plan on visiting the museum more than once, it may be beneficial to become a member. Membership fees range from $35 for an individual to $100 for a family membership. As a member, you will receive free admission to the museum and discounts on events and activities. You will also be supporting the museum’s mission to preserve and showcase railway history.

Tips for Visiting the Museum

To get the most out of your visit to the IL Railway Museum, it is recommended that you plan ahead. Start by checking the museum’s website for special events and activities that may be happening during your visit.

Be sure to dress appropriately for the weather, as a portion of the museum is outdoors. Wear comfortable shoes and bring sunscreen if it is a sunny day. You may also want to bring a hat, sunglasses, and a refillable water bottle.

If you have children with you, encourage them to participate in the museum’s interactive exhibits and activities. There are also special events throughout the year, such as holiday train rides, that are great for kids.

Finally, take your time exploring the museum. There is a lot to see and do, so make a plan of what exhibits you want to see and how much time you want to spend in each area. Don’t forget to visit the gift shop before you leave, where you can purchase souvenirs and railroad-themed merchandise.

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