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Old May 5, 10, 7:13 am   #1
 
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Illinois Railway Museum

We're planning a visit to the Illinois Railway Museum as part of a week we're spending in Illinois/Michigan.

Is it worth a visit? We're big train fans, and the website looks great - but it rather suggests that the buildings won't be open, just the grounds. Is there anywhere similar in the Chicago/Milwaukee/Detroit vicinity that will be open and as good/better?

We've already got the Henry Ford museum on our itinerary!
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Old May 5, 10, 7:32 am   #2
 
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I take it you will be visiting on a weekday in May. As the IRM is a volunteer organization, and may I admit, one of the best of its kind in the US, most daily operations and buildings are open on May weekends and daily beginning in June thru Labor Day.
Do visit on a weekend. You willl love its huge collection including the Nebraska Zephyr streamliner, operating Chicago transit cars and North Shore interurbans, CB& Q diesels Baldwin steam loco 4-6-4, and much more.
There is a veritable treasure trove of historical cars on displays in the "car barns"
Other RR museums in the area include, Durand Union Station in MI, Huckleberry RR in Flint MI, Michigan Transit Museum, MT Clemons, MI,
In Illinois there is the Rochelle RR park in Rochelle, IL where the UP and BNSF cross., Monticello RR museum Monticello, IL, Fox River Trolley Museum in Elgin.
Wisconsin offers, East Troy Electric RR, Mid continentent RR museum in North Freedom, WI, National RR museum in Green Bay, among others.
Most places only operate on weekends in May.
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Old May 5, 10, 7:51 am   #3
 
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Sorry - we're actually visiting in late September, so after Labor Day.
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Old May 5, 10, 8:16 am   #4
 
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Then, by all means do plan to visit on a Saturday or Sunday, it is only about 1.5 hours from downtown Chicago or about 70 minutes from ORD. It seems silly to travel that distance and not visit especially if you are a rail fan.
If you have ever watched the movie "A league of their own" you may recognize the train and all the train scenes that were filmed there. In fact many movies are filmed here, just look for any vintage diesel or steam power with overhead catenary above the track, it kind of gives it away.
You may also like the Rochelle train watching platform as it is open every day, and is usually filled with many train watchers from all over the world, who would like to converse with anyone within earshot. It is about 30 minutes from Union and about 2 hrs due west from Chicahgo on the UP mainline and BNSF line to the Twin Cities and Pacific Northwest. At an average about 40-60 trains a day (mainly freights, coal drags and containers, and other manifests) pass the junction daily. Plus it has a web cam. Just google Rochelle train cam and you should find it.
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Old May 5, 10, 10:25 am   #5
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by saint_em View Post
We're planning a visit to the Illinois Railway Museum as part of a week we're spending in Illinois/Michigan.

Is it worth a visit? We're big train fans, and the website looks great - but it rather suggests that the buildings won't be open, just the grounds. Is there anywhere similar in the Chicago/Milwaukee/Detroit vicinity that will be open and as good/better?

We've already got the Henry Ford museum on our itinerary!
If you only go to one railroad museum in your life, the IRM is a good choice.

I would add the Little River Railroad in Southwest Michigan, the Adrian & Blissfield tourist road (between Toledo and Ann Arbor), and the Southern Michigan Tourist line (roughly between Ann Arbor and Jackson) to your list of things worth seeing.

There's also a possibility that the Bluewater Michigan Chapter NRHS will be running an excursion the weekend your in Michigan, there's a link to their website at NRHS.com

Bob H.
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Old May 5, 10, 2:17 pm   #6
 
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Great, thanks guys

Rochelle sounds like a stop we'll have to make - I'm going to get the map out to see if we can fit any of the others in!
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Old May 7, 10, 11:16 am   #7
 
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Note that you have to drive right by Elgin, IL (trolley museum cited above) to get to the IL Railway Museum (coming from ORD or Chicago).
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Old May 10, 10, 2:43 pm   #8
 
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Illinois Rail Museum is one of the best run and most comprehensive museums of its type. Check their website for times and days that they are open, but you will find that it is run by some of the nicest, hardest working and talented group of train nuts I have ever come across.
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Old May 11, 10, 4:54 am   #9
 
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Looks like a weekend for this then, as the trolley museum is only open on Sundays at the time of our visit.

I think we will reverse our trip - we were originally going to do the rr museum in the week and have the weekend in the city, but it looks like having Sunday for train-related activities might be the best bet!

Thanks for all your help.
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Old May 11, 10, 7:11 am   #10
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by saint_em View Post
Looks like a weekend for this then, as the trolley museum is only open on Sundays at the time of our visit.

I think we will reverse our trip - we were originally going to do the rr museum in the week and have the weekend in the city, but it looks like having Sunday for train-related activities might be the best bet!

Thanks for all your help.
If you a really into trains then budge a LOT of time for this museum. There is a ton of stuff to see. I'm not really into trains that much but easily spent about 4 hours there one day and that was with two little kids. (Consider bringing a picnic or going after lunch because the food in their concession stand is pretty bad)
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Old Jun 25, 10, 9:29 pm   #11
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by saint_em View Post
Looks like a weekend for this then, as the trolley museum is only open on Sundays at the time of our visit.

I think we will reverse our trip - we were originally going to do the rr museum in the week and have the weekend in the city, but it looks like having Sunday for train-related activities might be the best bet!

Thanks for all your help.
If you aregoing to stop at the Fox River Trolley Museum send me a PM. I can give you a behind the scenes tour.
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Old Aug 19, 10, 2:33 am   #12
 
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A must see for any train fan

I would agree that you need to stop here as well. Growing up about 90 minutes away, it was always a part of my labor day weekends, when they have more trains running than you can shake a stick at. Although I haven't been here in about 4 years, the last time I was there the buildings were open for walkthroughs. An incredible assortment of steam apparatus, from a N&W Chesapeake to a Milwaukee Road Northern (#264 I believe) as well as a Decapod almost sent to Russia (still with a Cyrillic Baldwin build plate too). I guarantee it is worth your while to trek on over to Union IL for the IRM.
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Old Aug 20, 10, 12:47 am   #13
 
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On your way to the museum, you likely will drive past Donley's Wild West Town, a small, western-themed amusement park. We stopped in for the first time earlier this week. The place is a bit run down, but there's a lot for young children to see and do. They also have a very kitschy but decent sit-down restaurant.
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Old Sep 29, 10, 8:40 am   #14
 
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The IRM is definitely worth doing for any train buff. I've taken my dad there twice. I recommend taking a cooler and bringing your own lunch, the food in their cafeteria is truly bad. (burgers, chicken sandwiches, pizza & greasy fries sitting under heat lamps)
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