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“Very Large Collection”

Illinois Railway Museum
Ranked #1 of 4 things to do in Union
Certificate of Excellence
More attraction details
Attraction details
Recommended length of visit: 2-3 hours
Owner description: The Illinois Railway Museum is the largest museum of its kind in America. Ride historic trains on the museum's five-mile demonstration railroad. See giant steam locomotives, powerful diesels and elegant electric cars on display and in operation. Enjoy educational displays, a train-themed playground for children, and immersive exhibits. Bring a picnic or dine at the Central Avenue Diner. The museum's collection includes such highlights as the "Nebraska Zephyr" streamliner, featured in the movie "A League of Their Own;" the 1941 "Electroliner" train which helped inspire Japan's famous Bullet trains; the last surviving "Green Hornet" streetcar from Chicago; and a 1918 steam locomotive originally built for export to Imperial Russia.
Useful Information: Wheelchair access, Activities for young children, Activities for older children, Food available for purchase, Stroller parking, Bathroom facilities
Reviewed July 3, 2013

I recently went the Illinois Railway Museum while I was at a conference in Chicago. It is located about an hour outside of Chicago but it was worth the drive.

The museum is very spread out with equipment located outside and inside large pole barns. The collection mostly focused on the railroads, trolley lines, interurban lines, etc. of the area but there are a few pieces of equipment from lines outside the area.

The museum was not fancy or should I say polished like other railroad museums. They have large pole buildings that the lighting isn't the best and the equipment is tight inside the buildings. This isn't really a complaint but just an observation on what is there and is better than some of the equipment outside that really should be moved inside to preserve. Most of the equipment had signs describing what you were looking at, a little on the railroad, when it ran, and how the museum obtained the equipment.

While there is a variety of rail equipment, there is alot of trolley and inter-urban railway equipment. There is also trolley buses which I was disappointed the buildings were closed that day and they were not operating.

Now if looking at old railroad equipment is not your thing, this place likes to operate equipment. The day I was there, they were running a main line train and they were having demonstrations on the old railway post office. There was also a trolley that ran around the grounds. The trolley does make many stops so you can use it as transportation so you don't have to walk as much.

I would highly recommend going here if you have an interest in railways, kids that like trains, or anyone that wants a fun learning experience.

Thank jandthud
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Write a ReviewReviews (234)
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"love trains"
in 13 reviews
"thomas the tank engine"
in 10 reviews
"rail cars"
in 10 reviews
"steam engine"
in 9 reviews
"train buff"
in 9 reviews
"railway museum"
in 39 reviews
"run by volunteers"
in 5 reviews
"real train"
in 3 reviews
"on display"
in 15 reviews
"great train"
in 3 reviews
"picnic area"
in 4 reviews
"nice collection"
in 3 reviews
"check their website"
in 3 reviews
"gift shop"
in 10 reviews
"diesel locomotives"
in 7 reviews
"thomas train"
in 3 reviews
"spend hours"
in 3 reviews

173 - 177 of 234 reviews

Reviewed June 25, 2013

I read reviews about this place and the IRM website and couldn't wait to visit.On the Saturday of our weekend away in Chicago,I drove to the railway museum (my wife stayed in the hotel to rest).I was not disappointed with what they had on offer.You get an impression of the sheer size of the place with the size of their parking lot.When you buy your admission ticket you are given a map of where everything is on site.Most exhibits are housed in 'Barns' which are all very long and each one having at least three lines of trains/trollies or streetcars inside,I think there is 9 barns maybe 10 I cant remember.Theres also a large number of trains ,box cars,freight cars etc outside.If you come here be prepared to do A LOT of walking.The day I visited they had one trolley working on the trolley line that you can ride,which was a break from walking,also the had 2 streetcars and a 4-car train taking turns giving rides out on the mainline.All the train rides are in with the ticket price and you can ride the trains as many times as you like.They had a diner selling the usual things like pop,burgers,hotdogs,chips etc at reasonable prices.the bookstore and gift shop were very well stocked with a big selection of things to choose from,again this was also reasonably priced.My only minus point for this museum and I might be wrong but im sure there was only one restroom which was in the same building as the diner and there was only the same restroom on the map,If I'm right and you need the restroom but you're nowhere near it then good luck !!,remember this is a BIG place.I will come back again,I really enjoyed my visit here,the staff were friendly and helpful too,thank you

Thank honeymonster37
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed June 22, 2013 via mobile

We took our trek to this museum after seeing it profiled on our local Pbs station. The shear scale of the collection is amazing. We went on a week day so it wasn't crowded at all. The people were all friendly. If you have any interest in trains or trolley cars you will be in heaven. I took two boys aged 11 and 15. They were thrilled and could not get over the size of the steam engines. We also took a ride on a 1924 interurban car on the museums tracks. All included in the admission. Well worth the trip.

Thank travelwithmydear
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed June 20, 2013

My wife and I visited the museum on Memorial Day, which is usually a high-visitation day, but the weather was rather dreary, so only a few hundred people were onsite. If you are a rail-fan visiting Chicago or Northern Illinois, this needs to be on your must-see list. IRM has more equipment on display than any other railroad museum in the US. Even on a misty day, there are plenty of activities inside to enjoy. My biggest thrill was the sought-after chance to sit in the last seat at the rear of the parlor car on the Nebraska Zephyr passenger train as it made its run from the museum through the corn fields of McHenry County. It provides a great and comfortable view! I am a railfan, and I spent the entire day there, but still did not get to see "everything" or ride all of the available trains that were running that day. My loving wife tolerates my obsession with trains, and she too had a fun time seeing and riding the historical equipment - by 5pm she politely let me know she was done for the day, and we headed off to dinner.

Thank im4cnw
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed June 13, 2013

We had a perfect weather day for exploring this great collection of historic railway equipment. The people who gave us the tours were very informative and we were allowed to explore on our own. We enjoyed riding on a Streetcar and had a bit longer ride on an Interurban car. I would highly recommend this museum for anyone interested in trains.

Thank Ann S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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