The Museum is open weekends in May.

Signal Display

The Signal Display at the Illinois Railway Museum, located along the north side of Barn 4, includes a wide variety of railroad signals. Signals on the railroad are every bit as important as traffic signals on the road, and since the mid-1800s they have been used to ensure the safety of passengers and crew traveling the rails.

Different railroads and different signal equipment manufacturers developed a wide range of signal varieties over the years, and the museum’s Signal Display seeks to exhibit as many varieties of lineside signal as possible. Learn about the difference between semaphores and searchlights, find out why different railroad signals at the same location can have different “aspects” (like red or green), and discover how signals were sometimes engineered for a specific location – like in the subway.

The display is open for viewing anytime the museum is open, located along Depot Street just south of Barn 3. On most weekends, the signals will be in operation, including rotating color aspects and moving semaphore blades.

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.

Learn more