The Museum is open daily.

Freight Train Exhibit

Freight Train Exhibit at IRM - interior of refrigerated boxcar, or reefer

***This exhibit is currently closed for rehabilitation work.***

From the earliest days of railroading right up to the present, the movement of freight has been a primary role of railroads. Two of the cars in the Freight Train Exhibit focus specifically on the trains that kept the Chicago Stockyards, at one time among the largest in the world, in business.

  • See how cattle, pigs, and other meat “on the hoof” was moved in special ventilated stock cars
  • Step inside a refrigerated boxcar, or “reefer,” and discover how the invention of refrigerated railway cars revolutionized American life
  • Walk through a railroad caboose and learn about the role a freight train’s conductor played
  • See a wedge-nosed snow plow that was used to clear snow from the railroad tracks

The Freight Train Exhibit is located inside Barn 3, along Depot Street just south of the East Union Depot, on the southernmost track. The exhibit is open for self-guided tours whenever the museum is open.

Illinois Railway Museum

The Illinois Railway Museum, as you see it today, is the result of decades of effort by a dynamic group of dedicated volunteers. All of the buildings, track, locomotives and cars were assembled here at Union on what was once farmland. Our main line trackage was laid on the vacant right-of-way of the Elgin & Belvidere Electric railway. Why would rational adults freely contribute so much of their time and treasure to creating this repository of railroad history?

To answer this question, we must remember that at one time in our nation’s past the railroad industry was the largest private employer. With so many families supported by one enterprise, the widespread interest in that industry is understandable….manifesting itself in special interest groups devoted to various activities such as taking railroad pictures or publishing books on railroads, building railroad models or just “riding the rails,” The Illinois Railway Museum is probably the ultimate railroad historian special interest group. Originally formed to preserve one important piece of rolling stock, it has evolved into an educational and historic preservation organization recreating possibly the largest operating demonstration railroad showcase on the North American continent.

We welcome all to our Museum and encourage you to join in our education, restoration and preservation efforts. Only one prerequisite is recommended, a sincere interest in some aspect of railroading.

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