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Post Office Gallery

Featured in the Post Office Gallery for a limited time during 2024 only, the Illinois Railway Museum is proud to present Requiem for Steam: Railroad Photographs of David Plowden, produced in cooperation with the Center for Railroad Photography & Art (CRP&A).

David Plowden and the CRP&A produced this exhibition that traces the renowned photographer’s fascination with railway steam power, starting from a childhood spent watching steamboats on the East River in New York City and traveling behind steam-powered passenger trains in New England. He earned a degree from Yale University, spent a year as an assistant to the trainmaster on the Great Northern Railway, and apprenticed with photographers O. Winston Link and Minor White. Plowden’s work in this exhibition includes the end of the steam era in the 1950s and more recent examinations of steam's lingering imprints on the American landscape.

Requiem for Steam: Railroad Photographs of David Plowden is a traveling exhibit that has been featured at venues including the California State Railroad Museum, O. Winston Link Museum, and the National Railroad Museum.

Why the Post Office?

Main Streets across American almost always featured a post office, not only for sending mail but for for disseminating interesting information about the town and neighborhood. Located inside the (unofficial) East Union Post Office, just west of the museum main entrance, the Illinois Railway Museum's Post Office Gallery serves a similar purpose. It is available for adaptive use to inform and educate our visitors about subjects relevant to transportation history, and to display artifacts and documents from our historic collection. Enjoy your visit!

Previous Post Office Gallery Exhibits

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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