I had not previously visited the Illinois Railway Museum, but since it called itself “America's Largest Railway Museum” I thought that we had better while we were in northern Illinois. Unfortunately our day there was very hot – well over 100 deg. with high humidity. The museum is at Union IL, near Belvedere in the far northwest Chicago area. (It was an easy drive from the Rock Cut Illinois State Park near Rockford where we parked the motor home.) The heat drove us away after 2 1/2 hours. On a more temperate day, one easily could spend all day there. It has over 400 units of rolling stock with primary focus on trolley, interurban and rapid transit units such as those used on Chicago’s L and the North Shore line. I did not see any narrow gauge equipment.
Signs on many of the units similar to those below were helpful in understanding the history of the unit, identifying its various owners, how the museum acquired it and its uses. The text on the signs often pointed out that the unit was the last one of its kind, or one of a small remaining number of its kind, or otherwise unique.
The museum offers daily rides as part of the admission, often in overhead powered streetcars, with more exotic power on weekends. For more info, see its website, www.irm.org.
The museum has the old Marengo depot dating from 1851, boxcars used as the gift shop and book store, and 5 very long barns open to the public, each with 4 tracks to store rolling stock. It also has restoration shops for diesel locomotives, steam locomotives and electric cars (not open to the public). Two garage buildings are devoted to motor and trolley busses. We saved these for next time due to the heat.
The Union Pacific experimented with turbine locomotives such as this one using an airplane jet engine as the source of power for the generators to drive the electric motors for the wheels. The turbine ran on bunker c oil. A large diesel engine was needed to start the turbine. The locomotive is made up of three units, the last of which carried the bunker c oil. Most of these were scrapped.
Here is the galley in a passenger dining car – I was surprised by its length. Other cars on display in barn 3 which historically were pulled by a steam engine included passenger cars, business cars, private cars, and Pullman cars . Many of the cars were locked which on busy days probably were open to visitors.
Jo on back platform of the Gold Coast Limited of the Chicago, North Shore and Milwaukee interurban.
Here is a large variety of track signals used by various railroad.
Barn 6 is devoted to interurban and rapid transit cars. I remember my mother telling me that midwest interurbans once provided transportation over long distances. One ran from St. Louis to Peoria IL, and many lines radiated out of Chicago and Milwaukee. A few interurbans even had sleeper cars. Many also hauled freight. A map of interurbans in Ohio shows that the state had many. The sign shown here points out that by World War II, most had gone out of business due to modern roads and private vehicles.
Interurbans required maintenance of way cars just as their larger cousins. This car was in a barn and there was not enough room to get an unobstructed view of it for a picture. Several cars were on display which were used to remove snow from tracks of both interurbans and trolleys.One line had a self-propelled derrick.
Here is a Chicago, North Shore and Milwaukee interurban coach built in 1929. The North Shore ran on electric overhead lines and operated until 1963 with high speed service between Chicago and Milwaukee. Construction of parallel freeways was a major factor in the North Shore going out of business.
This is a head unit of one of two Electroliner 4 unit train sets with deluxe cars which helped to keep the North Shore in business for many years after other interurbans disappeared. They were put in service in 1941 and ran up to 80 mph. I remember seeing North Shore trains in service. This set is in working condition and used at the museum for demonstration rides on some weekends.
This is a U S Army version of a Steeple locomotive commonly used in Interurban operations when power beyond that in the self-powered cars was needed. Most of these locomotives were displayed in barns and were not as convenient to photograph as this.
Here is one of three parallel rip racks with equipment awaiting restoration. How many locomotives can you count?
Barn 9 housed this Burlington Zephyr, the first streamlined diesel powered passenger train in the US. The cars were permanently attached to one another, but the locomotive was separate so when it needed repairs another locomotive easily could be substituted for it. It was not successful in the long run as cars could not be added or subtracted as needed to adjust for varying passenger loads. Barn 9 also had examples of trains powered bymore conventional steam and diesel locomotives.