Plan Your Visit
The Illinois Railway Museum has the largest collection of historic railway equipment in America.
The main museum campus in Union, Illinois features more than twenty structures spread out across 100 acres of land. These include exhibit buildings which house much of the museum's collection of trains as well as historic structures like the 1851 East Union Depot, Spaulding Tower, the Schroeder Mercantile Store, and the Central Diner. Plan on spending the day: from horse-drawn streetcars to million-pound steam locomotives, from sleek streamliners to workaday boxcars, there's a LOT to see!
Please check the operating schedule for open days. The grounds are open for self-guided tours all days the museum is open.
Safety First: always look both ways before crossing any railroad tracks and expect a train on any track at any time. Climbing on trains can be dangerous and is prohibited except where boarding a train is specifically indicated.
On operating days, exhibit buildings will be open. Admission is charged on all operating days but parking is always free. Except for special-fare days, your admission ticket includes unlimited train rides and access to all public areas of the museum. IRM is an outdoor museum so when planning your visit please dress appropriately for the weather and wear comfortable shoes. Exhibit buildings are not heated or air-conditioned but are handicapped-accessible. The Schroeder Store and Central Diner are heated and air-conditioned.
Train rides take place on two separate routes: the main line and the streetcar line. The main line is a five-mile-long railroad built, owned, and operated by IRM. Main line trains board at the East Union Depot and trips take approximately 35-45 minutes, returning directly to the depot. The streetcar line is a one-mile loop encircling the main museum campus with five stops. You may board or alight at any stop. A complete circuit of the streetcar line takes about 15 minutes. On weekends during the summer there are typically multiple trains operating on both the main line and streetcar line, while on weekdays an electric train will travel over both routes.
In addition to the train rides, attractions available on operating days include the train-themed playground near the depot; walk-through tours of Pullman railroad cars in Barn 3; rotating historic exhibits in the special exhibit train in Yard 5; the gift shop and bookstore in the historic Schroeder Mercantile Store; a display on "signal row" of operating railroad signals; and a 1910 Chicago 'L' station open for the public.
Facilities available during operating days include restrooms in the East Union Depot and Central Diner. Food service is available in the diner weekends between mid-May and early October and weekdays between mid-June and Labor Day. When open, diner hours are 11am-4pm on weekends and 11am-3pm on weekdays. The Central Diner incorporates an original 1930s roadside diner and features a dining room with panoramic views of streetcars on the streetcar line. There are picnic tables located around the property and visitors are welcome to bring their own food. Alcoholic beverages are prohibited.
Accessibility: the public areas of the museum grounds are all wheelchair-accessible. All of the train exhibit barns and most of our buildings, including the depot, Central Diner, and Schroeder Store, are fully or partially wheelchair-accessible. Some main line trains are wheelchair-accessible as well including coach trains and CTA 'L' trains (see our calendar for a list of what's running on any day). We encourage anyone to contact our office at 815-923-4391 to inquire about whether a wheelchair-accessible train will be operating on the day of your visit.