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Trip Report – The Illinois Railway Museum

The Illinois Railway Museum

I’ve had a longtime relationship with the Illinois Railway Museum since I first visited in the 1990’s with my young nephew. My first impressions were – how BIG it is, and how much STUFF there is! It was a brief one-day visit accompanied by family members, but I went away with very positive feelings for this place.

Since then I’ve enjoyed witnessing lots of changes during my many visits to the Illinois Railway Museum. Usually by myself, I am free to explore and experience the many things to see and do here in depth. If I am lucky, I will witness a piece of equipment that I had observed on display in one of the many huge barns on a previous visit, now in operation!

Something else that impresses me about the Illinois Railway Museum are the volunteers. I’ve been to many operating museums, which also have wonderful volunteers. But here, the place is so immense and has so many moving parts, it’s almost like a small city. I can’t put my finger on it, but the volunteers at the Illinois Railway Museum seem to be at a somewhat higher level of professionalism. Perhaps many of them have worked in railroading and transit and bring that expertise with them. At any rate, they seem to always know what they are doing, enjoying the work, and interacting well with museum visitors.

One of the hundreds of volunteers at the Illinois Railway Museum - Yard Goat Images Photo

One of the hundreds of volunteers at the Illinois Railway Museum – Yard Goat Images Photo

I’m a member of the Illinois Railway Museum, and I support the work they do. They not only restore and operate these valuable examples of mostly 20th century transportation machines, but they also preserve, protect, and interpret the vast collection. The barns keep most of the artifacts protected from the elements, but the barns are not cheap to build or to maintain. The organization has carefully managed its investments, adding new barns and other improvements when they could afford to. We should be grateful to past and present overseers of this fine operation.

Here’s an example of why to be thankful for past decisions and investments. By nature, a museum like IRM concentrates on the past, but here they have also planned for the future. Years ago they bought vast acreage surrounding the site to guard against encroaching development. Today this land is rented to nearby farmers who plant crops. This land acts as a natural buffer between the noise and smells of busy railroad operations and the distant neighbors. Cool!

Documenting the Illinois Railway Museum

Over the past several years I’ve made more frequent visits while working on capturing video and photos for our DVD program Sparks & Cinders – The Illinois Railway Museum.  I was pleased by the support from Illinois Railway Museum Executive Director Nick Kallas, who pretty much gave me the run of the place for the really intense days we were shooting video in 2014. We timed our weekend to include two days of steaming with Frisco 1630, and the annual “Trolley Parade”, which brings out much of the electric collection for daylong running.

Also included in the program is footage of the prized Nebraska Zephyr train-set performing a fast day-trip to Bureau, Illinois during the 2011 Rock Island Train Festival. Another Illinois Railway Museum off-site trip we documented for this DVD took us to North Carolina for the 2014 “Streamliners at Spencer” event, with two of Illinois Railway Museum’s classic diesels participating.

The Nebraska Zephyr at the Rock Island Train Festival - Yard Goat Images Photo

The Nebraska Zephyr at the Rock Island Train Festival – Yard Goat Images Photo

Please visit the Illinois Railway Museum!

I urge you to make the Illinois Railway Museum a top destination to experience your own nostalgic time travel back to the 20th century. Become a member! If you have never been there, or even if you have, you will be amazed by this place. And while you’re there, be sure to stop in to the well-stocked Gift & Book Store and pick up your copy of the DVD!

Thanks for reading,

Steve Mitchell

Sparks & Cinders - The Illinois Railway Museum DVD from Yard Goat Images

Sparks & Cinders – The Illinois Railway Museum DVD from Yard Goat Images

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  1. Peter Stack  June 23, 2017

    Looking to purchase an old Railroad refrigerated box car to be placed in a museum. Perhaps you may have same or know where one could be purchased. Thanks Peter

  2. Steve Mitchell  July 5, 2017

    Peter – I do not have any resources for this, however you may find a museum with no need for this type of car in their collection at this website – Good luck with your search!

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