The Museum is open weekends in May.

Hoffman Bus Garage

The Hoffman Bus Garage, home to many of our preserved buses and trolley buses, is one of our equipment exhibit buildings. The Illinois Railway Museum’s collection mostly consists of railway equipment, but we also have a collection of rubber-tire mass transit equipment. These motor buses and trolley buses are displayed in the Hoffman Bus Garage. In this building you’ll see:

  • Electric-powered trolley buses from cities across the United States and Canada
  • The first articulated bus ever owned by the CTA, a trolley bus nicknamed the “Queen Mary”
  • Motor buses from Chicago and several other Midwestern cities spanning nearly a century of bus development
  • The last trolley bus to run in Chicago before electric bus operation ended in 1973

The Hoffman Bus Garage is also home to a complete narrow gauge train from the Chicago Tunnel Company, an underground freight railroad which had tunnels running throughout the Loop to deliver goods and coal to downtown businesses. The diminutive electric locomotive was extracted by IRM from the tunnels in the 1990s when reconstruction work on Lake Shore Drive uncovered an elevator shaft, allowing access.

The Hoffman Bus Garage is open for self-guided tours most weekends the museum is open. The garage is located at the east end of the main campus, along Central Avenue near the Electric Park streetcar stop.

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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