Illinois Railway Museum

Illinois Railway Museum, Union: Hours, Address, Illinois Railway Museum Reviews: 4.5/5

Illinois Railway Museum
10:30 AM - 4:00 PM
10:30 AM - 4:00 PM
10:30 AM - 4:00 PM
10:30 AM - 4:00 PM
10:30 AM - 4:00 PM
10:30 AM - 4:00 PM
11:00 AM - 5:00 PM
11:00 AM - 5:00 PM
The Illinois Railway Museum is the largest museum of its kind in America. Ride historic trains on the museum's five-mile demonstration railroad. See giant steam locomotives, powerful diesels and elegant electric cars on display and in operation. Enjoy educational displays, a train-themed playground for children, and immersive exhibits. Bring a picnic or dine at the Central Avenue Diner. The museum's collection includes such highlights as the "Nebraska Zephyr" streamliner, featured in the movie "A League of Their Own;" the 1941 "Electroliner" train which helped inspire Japan's famous Bullet trains; the last surviving "Green Hornet" streetcar from Chicago; and a 1918 steam locomotive originally built for export to Imperial Russia.
Suggested duration
2-3 hours
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288 reviews
Very good

Michele B
Northbrook, IL34 contributions
Disappointing Trains.
Aug 2021 • Couples
We’d never been to this museum, so although we are not Sheldon Cooper/Big Bang Theory, and have an obsession for trains, we wanted to visit. Very empty on a Thursday morning. We went to buy tickets and probably didn’t need them, as we were unable to ride a train. We were told they run every 30 minutes, and although it was 10:58 and probably wouldn’t make it to the 11:00 train, the next one wouldn’t run until 12:15! Huh?
We wandered in and out of each one of the buildings and enjoyed the walk. The diner was not open on weekdays due to a staffing shortage. We had actually planned to grab a bite but that didn’t happen either. They’re building some new stores and adding on. No one was around to answer any questions. So, basically we donated our admission to the museum. Disappointing.
Written 19 August 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

South Bend, IN3,144 contributions
Best Railroad Museum I've been to.
May 2021
I've been to a few different railroad museums over the years, including the National Transportation Museum in St. Louis, the Galesburg, IL and Elkhart, IN museums and even the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, MI. This museum blows them all away.

There is building after building of train cars and locomotives. The mail Steam Engine building was very cool. They offer different types of rides, a good giftshop, plenty of cars you can walk through, and an extensive outdoor display area. The only downer was the constant rain/drizzle the day I was there and the fact that I didn't have time for a ride on a train since I had about 3 hours before I had to head to my next location.

It was really cool and I highly recommend if trains are of interest.
Written 6 July 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Islamorada, FL172 contributions
The Trains Are Alive on Weekends
May 2021
The museum's trains come alive on weekends. On weekdays there's more than enough static displayed locomotives, rolling stock and railroad memorabilia to keep any rail fan happy, but on weekends the trains actually run. I saw two operating steam locomotives, several interurbans and two trolley cars, all available for rides with no additional charge beyond the museum's admission price.

Unfortunately, Covid's effects are still being felt to some degree. Visitors are asked to wear masks inside buildings and train cars, and the diner is closed due to lack of staff, so bring lunch and use one of the many picnic tables on the grounds.
Written 30 May 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

David K
Thornhill, Canada36 contributions
One of the very best
Aug 2019 • Solo
The IRM is a railfan must-see but even non fans will enjoy the museum's excellent and very extensive collections. It specializes in Midwest interurbans since the area had many such services, but there are plenty of fine examples of steam, diesel and electric railroad equipment too. Many are rare or unique. You can ride a beautifully restored interurban car on their extensive trackage and on summer weekends they run steam and diesel trains. Wear comfy shoes; it's huge.
Written 15 March 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Laurel B
Tipp City, OH732 contributions
Amazing Scenery
Jun 2019
My grandsons ages 14 and 13 loved the museum. It wasn't just looking at trains, but touring them and actually riding in them. Wonderful experience!
Written 11 February 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

BELLEVILLE, United States2 contributions
Train Ride
May 2019
This is a grate collection of Railway equipment. Everyone I encountered was very knowageable of the equipment and it's place in history.
Written 6 November 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

David R
South Wales, UK120 contributions
One of the best rail museums
Sep 2019
Very comprehensive collection from dining car plates and cutlery to street cars, to busses to massive Baldwin steam locos. I've visited many rail museums around the world and this is up there with the best. The staff were informative and happy to chat a while. On a Saturday there was steam up plus caboose rides. The only thing that saddened me is how much of the stock is in a poor condition and will never run again. But it's all privately funded and they do what they can.
Written 15 October 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Ron P
4 contributions
Illinois Railway Museum
Union, Illinois
Sep 2019 • Couples
This place is amazing. The amount and variety of locomotives and railcars is great. There is an historic depot that was moved there that has a lot railroad memorabilia. I was amazed at the amount of track they have. It is not just rail equipment sitting still, not just an excursion train. They have it all. A great place for anyone who is interested in railroad at all.
Written 12 October 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Robert F B
Wiehle, VA890 contributions
Imagine the Mona Lisa Slashed With Sections Missing!
Aug 2019
Given that my visit was on a Tuesday, I wasn't surprised that a steam train wasn't running. And, with severe thunderstorms in the vicinity, I wasn't surprised that the trolley didn't run after mid-morning. Safety first!

This museum got its start with railfans preserving streetcars, interurban cars, and other electric railway vehicles. Thus, it comes as no surprise that these exhibits are world-class.

It is also commendable that this museum also has a good collection of preserved diesel locomotives.

However, it's the state of display of too many of the steam locomotives merits this museum a “Dean Wormer Disgrace Award”! (I don't think TripAdvisor would allow even the abbreviation of the profanity!) The majority of these locomotives are displayed with some of their side rods noticeably missing! Like some other visitors, I'm a railfan who has dreamed of coming here for ages. And, while the collection of steam locomotives is amazing, seeing too many of them displayed in this manner is nothing less than a tragic obscenity. Part of the character of a steam locomotive is the mechanical complexity involved in converting steam into motion. Seeing these locomotives displayed in this incomplete manner brought a mix of anger and sadness to me. If you're not going to display the whole locomotive, you might as well scrap it. Yes, there's an “informational sign” in one of the barns that addresses the situation. However, how often are the individual locomotives moved? If a locomotive isn't being moved at least every six months, there's no reason not to display it intact. That means with all of the side rods! And, if the side rods have been scrapped or otherwise lost, at least “Leninize” the locomotives by having fiberglass replicas of the side rods made and attached to the locomotives so they at least look “real”. Railfans who decry the vandalism, arson, demolition, or scrapping of railroad history would be best advised to ignore the steam locomotives here and to realize that museums are also involved in the destruction of railroad history. So, before you condemn the vandal, arsonist, or bean counter involved with scrapping steam locomotives (I'm thinking of the Dick Jensen collection), “tagging” a boxcar of a “fallen flag” railroad, etc., consider the condition of most of the steam locomotives displayed in this museum. Not too many years ago “Trains” magazine gave special recognition to this museum. They must not have seen the steam locomotives. (I bet their "Thomas the Tank Engine" is intact!)

This museum is unique in having preserved quite a few historic railroad signs. And, has restored neon signs to operation.

Among the exhibits is a snack bar in a re-constructed diner. I had a bratwurst that was good. Service and selection were both good for an uncrowded weekday and pricing were fair. Be aware that you will not get a lid for your cup of soda nor a straw for it as apparently Illinois has declared war on plastic.

This museum is in the middle of very rural country. You will do a lot of driving on country roads nd through towns. Watch your speed accordingly. It is on a very large tract of land. Be prepared to do a lot of walking! The admission fee was reasonable considering the quality of many of the exhibits. Parking appears to be in reasonable supply. Do your best to get here early in the day as there is a lot to see.

Summary: The electric and diesel exhibits saved this review from an otherwise well-deserved “terrible” rating. What it does well, it does with excellence. Indeed, they are good enough for a return visit.
Written 9 October 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Cedarburg, WI263 contributions
Always Something New
Jul 2019
This Museum in one of if not the largest Railroad museum. What makes it special to me is that it has featured days besides Day out with Thomas, Pumpkin Run and the Christmas Train. it has Showcase days, bus days, Chicago Railroad Days Milwaukee Road Days, and my favorite, Transportation Extravaganza. During the Transportation Extravaganza vintage Cars, trucks and other vehicles come into the grounds and are grouped by make and type. It is just such a treat to see your favorite vehicles driving in among the many locomotives and traction items. But It does not end there, the museum is always bringing new equipment on line, carefully restoring older things, and operating two steam locomotives. Beyond that, Where else can you see a Little Joe and GG1 end to end, a North Shore Electrolier, Nebraska Zephyr, Russian Decapod and Shay under steam, and so many other railroad, traction, and trackless trolley units. Then, there is one more layer to this museum they also have items like: the Santa Fe sign off the former Chicago headquarters, a vintage billboard advertising a former trolley amusement park, the Electromotive sign, a huge collection of railroad signals, and architectural items form many area stations. The final Perk? once you pay the reasonable admission, riding any of the usually 3-5 moving trains is free.
Written 9 October 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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Frequently Asked Questions about Illinois Railway Museum

Illinois Railway Museum is open:
  • Mon - Fri 10:30 - 16:00
  • Sat - Sun 11:00 - 17:00

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