Documents and Artifacts
Donated artifacts help us tell the story
The Illinois Railway Museum gratefully accepts donations of all sorts of railway-related artifacts and documents. If you are interested in making a donation, please fill out the contact form on this page and someone from the museum will be in touch. All donations are tax-deductible to the extent of the law. Please note: the Illinois Railway Museum cannot perform appraisals nor suggest a cash value for items it receives as donations. If you are looking for an appraisal of items in your collection, we will not be able to help you.
Books - Railroad history books, ledgers and corporate records of railroad companies or manufacturers in the railroad industry, and technical books directly pertaining to railroads or railroad operations are gratefully accepted. We are not able to accept donation of books on subjects other than trains and railroading.
Documents - Original documents from railroad companies can help us fill in the gaps in published history. Internal business documents, memos, employee information, blueprints, technical drawings and specifications, and other documentation from railroads or manufacturers in the railroad industry are accepted. In general, documents from shippers and other companies outside the railroad industry itself are not held by IRM and its libraries.
Photographs - Old photos of trains, railroad facilities, and railroad personnel can be immensely helpful in piecing together the history of railroading. Photographs, slides, negatives, movie reels, DVDs, and original or commercially-produced videos of trains and directly railroad-related subjects are always accepted.
Artifacts - Virtually all of the artifacts and ephemera that IRM puts on public display were donated. The same is true of many of the items seen by visitors in our train operations like uniforms and headlights. The museum is grateful for the donation of physical artifacts like lanterns, headlights, brake and reverser handles, keys, hats and uniforms, china, linens, and signage from railroad companies. Actual train components like electrical or brake fixtures, interior fittings, horns, and bells are very useful as well.
Models - IRM has a world-class Model Railroad Exhibition. To support this interpretive exhibit, train models of all types - as long as they are complete and intact - are accepted as donations to help us tell the story of miniature trains. We are not currently accepting the donation of model railroad tools, paint, decals, layout construction supplies, loose model train parts, or incomplete kits.
Magazines - At the current time, the only magazines we can accept are Rail & Wire, First & Fastest, and specific railroad historical society publications. The museum already has complete sets of all mass-market train and model railroading magazines.
Large Artifacts - Do you have a caboose or a locomotive you want to donate? Perhaps you own an ex-railroad building or large piece of machinery? The museum's ability to accept donations of large items like these is dependent on many factors including the cost of transportation and our available space. Please feel free to contact us so that we can discuss whether giving your piece of history a permanent home at IRM is an option.
The Illinois Railway Museum reserves the right to evaluate items received as donations and make use of them in whatever way is best for the museum and its preservation mission. Items that are duplicates or are not relevant to the museum's mission may be sold with proceeds going to benefit the museum.