The Railway Museum is a great place to explore the history of trains. Whether you’re a rail enthusiast or just a casual fan of the industry, there is something for everyone. The museum has everything from locomotives and train cars to artifacts and historical displays.
Founded in 1953, the Illinois Railway Museum is the country’s largest railway museum. Its collection of historic railroad equipment, which spans more than 300 years of American and international history, includes a wide variety of vehicles, as well as a number of historic railway buildings.
It is located in Union, Illinois, just 55 miles (89 km) northwest of downtown Chicago. The Illinois Railway Museum was originally sited in a cramped warehouse building on the grounds of a hardware foundry, but it eventually moved to an empty field east of town.
In the early days, the Museum was primarily a hobbyist project. Volunteers donated their time to restore pieces of equipment and a few full-size models. They also built the first Museum roundhouse and a motel to house guests.
Today, the Museum has expanded and re-invented itself. The current facility features a state-of-the-art trackage system and a host of interactive exhibits for visitors to enjoy.
One of the most impressive exhibits at the museum is its collection of 19th century steam locomotives, which feature a variety of eras from the 1880s to the 1950s. The Museum also has an impressive selection of industrial and commercial steam locomotives, as well as a unique collection of World War II military equipment.
The Railroad Museum is also home to the largest collection of Civil War railroad equipment in the world. It offers visitors a chance to see and touch a variety of Civil War-era rail equipment, as well as a large selection of video presentations and life-size dioramas.
If you’re looking for a fun day out with the kids, the Railway Museum is the perfect destination. The museum offers hands-on family events throughout the year, such as story and activity times on the first and third Thursday of each month at 10:30 a.m.
In Station Hall you’ll find Queen Victoria’s royal carriage, dubbed a “palace on wheels” for its opulent furnishings. Other highlights include the Signalling School, where you can try your hand at using a set of railway signals and a viewing balcony overlooking the modern railway station that adjoins the museum.
Another popular attraction is the Museum’s extensive collection of historic railway carriages and saloons, ranging from wagonway vehicles to those used by royalty up to the 1970s.
The National Collection at York contains approximately 280 rail vehicles, with around 100 being on display at any given time. The oldest are wagonway vehicles, from about 1815.
The Museum also has a large collection of steam locomotives, including Caledonian 123, Columbine, Cornwall, Hardwicke and Highland 103, plus three others, which were later scrapped. The LMS also set aside a number of historic locomotives, which it preserved at Crewe Works. These included the GWR’s City of Truro and Tiny, as well as the London & North Eastern Railway’s Columbine and Gladstone.