Illinois Railway Museum Offers Incredible Collection

St. Louis-San Francisco Railway 1630
St. Louis-San Francisco Railway 1630, a decapod (2-10-0), was built by Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1918. (Photo by Todd DeFeo/The DeFeo Groupe)

UNION, Ill. — The motorman lets out a pair of short toots of the horn, and within a few seconds, Chicago Rapid Transit 1797 is under way.

American Car & Foundry Co. built No. 1797 in 1907, and the car saw service on Chicago Rapid Transit, a predecessor to the modern Chicago Transit Authority. Along with a non-powered coach, the train eases out onto the mainline for a 40-minute roundtrip on the former Elgin & Belvedere interurban right-of-way.

The Illinois Railway Museum was founded in 1953 when a group of enthusiasts came together to purchase and preserve an Indiana Railroad interurban car, No. 65. The museum was originally named the Illinois Electric Railway Museum, and the museum’s collection includes an impressive collection of electrics, including interurbans, streetcars and L cars.

While too long to list all rolling stock preserved at the museum, some of the museum’s notable cars and locomotives are:

  • Union Pacific 6930: The EMD DDA40X was one of 47 of these locomotives Union Pacific ordered. Known as a “Centennial” or “Big Jack,” the locomotive is both the longest diesel-electric locomotive and the most powerful single unit ever built.
  • Union Pacific 18: This 8,500 horsepower gas turbine-electric locomotive (also known as a GTEL) was built in 1960 by General Electric. Union Pacific has the distinction of being the only railroad in the United States to own and operate gas turbine locomotives. Noted for their poor fuel efficiency, they were out of service by 1970, and the one on display here is one of two surviving examples.
  • Pennsylvania Railroad 4927: This 480,000-pound GG-1 locomotive was built in 1942 for the Pennsylvania Railroad. The locomotive, which measures 79 feet and 6 inches long, later saw service on the Penn Central and Amtrak.
  • St. Louis-San Francisco Railway 1630: This decapod (2-10-0) was built by Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1918. The steamer was built for use in Russia, but remained in the United States after the Bolshevik government could not afford to pay for the locomotive. It was donated to the museum in 1965.
  • Nebraska Zephyr: The Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad operated this famed train starting in 1947. The route is perhaps know for its two famed train sets: the “Train of the Gods” and “Train of the Goddesses,” which operated along the route until 1986. The “Train of the Goddesses” train set arrived in Union on Sept. 21, 1968.

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Todd DeFeo
About Todd DeFeo 236 Articles
Todd DeFeo loves to travel anywhere, anytime, taking pictures and notes. An award-winning reporter, Todd revels in the experience and the fact that every place has a story to tell. He is owner of The DeFeo Groupe and also edits Express Telegraph and The Travel Trolley.