The museum is open daily.

Model Railroad Exhibit

The Hobby Shop/Model Railroad Exhibit features three operating model railroad layouts and one under construction. There is a huge O gauge display that IRM rebuilt by adding interactive components that permit kids of all ages to operate portions of the layout. The layout includes city scenes with elevated train operation, representative of the Chicago ‘L’, as well as sizable railroad yards and multi-track main lines.  A Mickey Mouse train delights the little children with several cars with Mickey Mouse characters. There is even a Christmas-themed section of the layout set at the North Pole. The second operating layout is a large HO gauge model railroad showing “Four Seasons”.  It features a “scavenger hunt” challenge in its elaborately detailed scenes with 40 questions such as “Can you find the Dinosaur in the corn field?”  The third operating layout features our smallest N gauge train with numerous buildings not to be found in any catalog as they were designed and built by our volunteer using a 3D printer. Come and see the fourth layout being built by our volunteers–HO gauge.  A fifth layout which will be G gauge is scheduled to start in September outside between the Model Railroad and the Northwestern Archives buildings. The exhibit also houses displays of historic train models, memorabilia, dioramas, and a Hobby Shop that sells all gauges of model railroad locomotives, cars, track, scenery, transformers and buildings. The Model Railroad Exhibit is located in the Multi-Purpose Building on Main Street, just west of the entrance from the parking lot. Look for the Union Hobby Shop sign.  It is open Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays 10 to 4pm Memorial to Labor Day.

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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