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What is the biggest railroad museum in Illinois?

If you love trains and are looking for a fascinating place to visit in Illinois, the Illinois Railway Museum (IRM) is a must-see destination for you. The museum is a sanctuary of America’s rich railroading history, located in the Chicago metropolitan area at 7000 Olson Road in Union, Illinois. In fact, IRM is the largest railway museum in the United States, with over 450 pieces of rolling stock on display across a sprawling 100-acre site, offering visitors a rich and immersive experience.

Founded in 1953, the museum started small, with a few dedicated volunteers and a passion for preserving the country’s railway heritage. Over the years, the museum has grown substantially and has become as an essential part of the nation’s railroading history. It is home to historic locomotives, passenger cars, electric trains, interurban streetcars, trolleys, and other equipment that have played a vital role in American transportation history. At the Illinois Railway Museum, you can enjoy the thrill of riding historic trains and trolleys, explore impressive collections of railroad artifacts, and immerse yourself in the past.

Train and Trolley Rides

One of the main attractions of IRM is the train and trolley rides. They offer over 20 miles of train and trolley rides on various historic lines and routes using vintage locomotives, streetcars, and passenger coaches. Visitors can ride the train or trolley to different destinations while enjoying scenic views of the rural countryside of McHenry County. The train rides are complete with conductors donning period garb and wonderful details, creating an immersive experience that truly transports visitors back in time.

Exhibit Collections

IRM has an extensive collection of exhibits, including locomotives, freight cars, passenger cars, electric trains, streetcars, and trolleys. The museum’s displays include artifacts and equipment that date back to the mid-1800s, and visitors can explore the evolution of railroading and learn about the various eras of railroad history. The exhibits include the Nebraska Zephyr, a streamliner diesel-powered passenger train that ran between Chicago and Lincoln, Neb., in the 1950s and 60s and the Santa Fe 92, a narrow-gauge steam engine that hauled the first trainload of coal out of Colorado in 1878.

Other notable collections include the Milwaukee Road, which was the main thoroughfare between Chicago and Seattle, the Illinois Terminal interurban system, and one of the few surviving Dy-Dee cars, which were the very first streamlined passenger cars ever built. Visitors can also view the industrial machinery necessary for maintaining and restoring the rolling stock that is present in the museum.

Education and Research

The museum offers immeasurable opportunities for education and research. Visitors can attend related lectures, attend educational programs, and participate in hands-on educational events dive deep into railway history, and experience how trains and trolley works. The museum also has an extensive library of books, periodicals, and technical papers available to visitors, which showcases the history of America’s railway system. Additionally, through interactive exhibits and activities, visitors of all ages can learn more about various technologies utilized in railroad construction, operations and maintenance.

Plan Your Visit

The Illinois Railway Museum is typically open to the public from May through October, but opening dates and hours can vary, so it is best to check their schedule online beforehand. The museum offers different ticket prices, which vary depending on the age of visitors and the activities they intend to explore. Train, trolley, and streetcar rides are included in the admission price, but some special rail rides may require an additional fee.

The IRM is located 55 miles (89 km) northwest of downtown Chicago, and visitors typically spend a half-day or more exploring its rich collections. There is a picnic area on the grounds, and visitors are welcome to bring their food in or buy snacks and drinks from the various vendors inside the museum.


The Illinois Railway Museum is indeed the largest railway museum in the United States. Much more than a static collection of old trains, IRM provides an immersive and interactive experience for visitors to explore, learn and get to know the railways’ development and operations. From riding historic trains, exploring the unique collections of artifacts to attending special events and educational programs, there is never a dull moment at the IRM. Whether you are a railroad enthusiast or a family looking for a fascinating outing, the Illinois Railway Museum is a place you don’t want to miss.


How big is the B&O railroad museum?

The B&O Railroad Museum is a historic museum that tells the story of American railroading. With a vast collection of over 200 locomotives, railway cars, and artifacts, the B&O museum is a must-visit place for railway enthusiasts and history buffs. The museum is located in Baltimore, Maryland, and covers an area of more than 40 acres. The museum is home to a vast collection of railroad-related artifacts that range from steam engines, diesel locomotives, cabooses, and various rolling stock.

On the B&O museum’s campus, you will find multiple buildings that house the museum’s collections and exhibits. The most notable building is the Baldwin Roundhouse, which was constructed in 1884. It covers almost an acre of ground and has 22 stalls for locomotives. It used to be a working roundhouse where steam engines would be repaired and maintained. Today, the Baldwin Roundhouse is one of the most significant railroad landmarks in the country and is now home to some of the most iconic rolling stock and locomotives in American history.

Aside from the Baldwin Roundhouse, visitors can explore the 15,000 sq. ft. Pavilion. This building houses an extensive collection of railroad locomotives, rolling stock, and various artifacts from American railroading’s history. Visitors can also take a ride on the museum’s train rides, which traverse a part of the museum’s campus and convey visitors back in time to the golden age of railroading.

The B&O Railroad Museum is a vast complex that covers over 40 acres of land, and its exhibits and collections are housed in multiple buildings, including the Baldwin Roundhouse and the Pavilion. With a vast collection of over 200 locomotives, railway cars, and artifacts, the museum is a must-see destination for railway enthusiasts and history buffs.

Which Chicago museum has trains?

If you’re interested in seeing and learning about trains, you’ll want to head over to the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. Specifically, the museum’s Great Train Story exhibit is the place to be! This exhibit showcases model trains that move throughout a miniature landscape representing different regions of the United States. It’s an impressive display that includes over 1,400 feet of track and 30 trains!

But that’s not all the museum has to offer when it comes to trains. The museum also has an exhibit called The Coal Mine, which takes visitors on a simulated underground tour of a coal mine. As part of this exhibit, visitors take an elevator down into the mine and then ride on a train through the tunnels. While the focus of this exhibit isn’t strictly on trains, the train ride is certainly a highlight.

If you’re a train enthusiast, the Museum of Science and Industry is definitely worth a visit. The Great Train Story exhibit and The Coal Mine exhibit both offer unique train-related experiences that are sure to delight visitors of all ages.

How long does it take to go around the Railway Museum?

The time it takes to go around the Railway Museum can vary depending on the person and their interest in railways. However, we recommend setting aside approximately an hour and a half (90 minutes) for your visit. This should give you enough time to explore the exhibitions and displays at a leisurely pace and fully appreciate the history and importance of railways. Of course, if you are particularly interested in trains and their history, you may want to spend more time at the museum. There is a lot to see and learn, so we encourage visitors to take their time and fully immerse themselves in the exhibits. Additionally, the museum has various interactive displays and hands-on experiences that allow visitors to fully engage and experience the exhibits, which may also take up some additional time. we recommend allocating at least an hour and a half to explore the Railway Museum, but you are more than welcome to take your time and soak in its rich history and exhibits for as long as you wish.

How much does it cost to get into the George L Carter railroad museum?

If you are interested in visiting the George L Carter railroad museum and wondering about the admission fee, then let me tell you that there is no charge for admission. The museum does not charge an entrance fee to visitors, but they accept donations to help with the maintenance and upkeep of the exhibits and the museum itself.

The George L Carter Railroad Museum is a nonprofit organization that seeks to educate and inspire visitors about the history and heritage of railroading in the United States, especially in the Southeast. The museum features numerous exhibits that showcase the different aspects of railroad transportation, including locomotives, passenger cars, cabooses, and freight cars, as well as the tools and equipment used by railroad workers.

Visitors can also learn about the people who built and operated the railroads, including the engineers, conductors, brakemen, and signal operators, and the impact that railroads have had on the economy and culture of the region. The museum hosts special events and educational programs throughout the year, including train rides, lectures, and workshops.

So, if you are planning a visit to the George L Carter Railroad Museum, you can rest assured that there is no entry fee that you need to pay. However, the museum administration highly appreciates any donations that visitors may want to give to help maintain and improve the exhibits and facilities of the museum.