The mission of the Illinois Railway Museum is to educate the public as to our nation’s railroad and railway history by collecting, preserving, and restoring rolling stock, artifacts, structures, and related transportation equipment for display to the public; exhibiting and operating restored rolling stock and equipment on a demonstration rail line; and collecting, preserving, and maintaining a reference library of publications, technical information, and other materials regarding railroads, railways, and related forms of transportation for research and other purposes.
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. It has manifested 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 with the largest operating demonstration railroad showcase on the continent.
It has always been a prime desire of the Museum and its membership to display our historic collections to the public-at-large. Throughout IRM’s existence, there has been a concerted outreach to the general public to gain recognition, acceptance and support. 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.