Illinois tourist railroads you must visit include restored depots to a National Historic Landmark in the Windy City and everything in between in the Prairie State. Here’s our list of must-see tourist railroads, museums, and displays — for almost every region in Illinois.
Amboy Depot Museum
Built in 1876, this former Illinois Central division headquarters building has been restored inside and out. It is now a museum that presents the history of Amboy and features artifacts of the Illinois Central Railroad. The museum also contains a freight house with additional artifacts, a Baldwin 0-8-0 steam engine, a wooden caboose, and a schoolhouse. It is open Friday through Sunday, April through October. The Depot Days festival takes place in August.
Location: 227 East Main Street, Amboy
Phone: 815-857-4700 or 815-857-3814
Chicago Great Western Railway Depot Museum
This depot museum displays artifacts of the Chicago Great Western Railway. The depot serviced the nearby Winston Tunnel, the longest railroad tunnel in Illinois. The museum features a Milwaukee Road caboose, a working telegraph, and operating model railroads. It is open on weekends from May through October.
Location: 111 East Myrtle Street N, Elizabeth
Chicago History Museum
This museum traces the development of railroads in Chicago through exhibits that include the first L car, the Pioneer locomotive, and the history of the Union Stock Yard. You can explore other elements of the city’s history in additional galleries. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday.
Location: 1601 North Clark Street, Chicago
Galesburg Railroad Museum
The Galesburg Railroad Museum displays a Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Hudson steam locomotive, a Railway Post Office car, a 1930 caboose, a Pullman parlor car, and various pieces of rail equipment and artifacts. The museum is open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, noon to 4 p.m., April through September, and Railroad Days take place in June. Appointments are accepted for any day outside regular hours.
Location: 211 South Seminary Street, Galesburg
Phone: 309-342-9400 or 309-342-9400
E-mail: Form on website
The historic Greenup depot is a museum that displays artifacts of railroad and telegraph history. The preserved 1870 Vandalia Line depot also maintains a collection of audio, visual, and written materials related to these subjects. It is open Saturday and Sunday year-round. Just west of the town is a 200-foot reconstructed covered bridge; Abraham Lincoln helped construct the original bridge.
Location: 213 West Cumberland Street, Greenup
Pullman National Historic Park
The new visitor center at Pullman National Historic Park is where you can get introductions to the train innovation, labor history, and other key Pullman stories. HPF also runs the Pullman Exhibit Hall, currently featuring the exhibit RAILROADERS: Jacks Delano’s Homefront Photography, see artifacts of Pullman History, view a video that informs visitors about George Pullman, the Pullman Company, and Pullman’s 1880s model industrial town, and much more. You can take a self-guided tour of the historic area or a guided walking tour, which is offered the first Sunday of the month from May through October. The exhibit hall is closed Mondays.
Location: 11001 South Cottage Grove Avenue, Chicago
E-mail: Form on website
Kankakee Railroad Museum
Kankakee’s restored train depot displays railroad memorabilia and a model train layout of Kankakee in the 1950s. Also on display are a 1947 Pullman coach, a caboose, and a trolley that ran in Kankakee from 1916 until 1932. The museum is open Friday through Sunday.
Location: 197 South East Avenue, Kankakee
Trolley Car 36
Departing from downtown Riverview Park, a 45-minute trolley ride transports you along Rockford’s historic riverfront, with a 10-minute stopover at Sinnissippi Rose Garden and Eclipse Lagoon. Excursions on the trolley take place Fridays and Saturdays during the summer. Riverboat cruises are also available.
Location: 401 South Main Street, Rockford
Union Depot Railroad Museum
The railroad museum is housed in an 1888 depot building. It contains displays related to the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy; Illinois Central; and Milwaukee Road. You can tour a 1923 Mikado type 2-8-2 steam locomotive, a Milwaukee Road combine car, and a 1911 caboose. You can also ride on the Gandy Dancer Express, a motorized inspection car. It is open Saturday and Sunday, from noon to 4 p.m.
Location: 683 Main Street, Mendota
Phone: 815-538-3800 or 815-539-3373
Wheels O’ Time Museum
Started by two guys looking for a place to store some collector cars, the museum now includes planes, trains, tractors, trucks, and smaller artifacts. Displayed outdoors are a Rock Island steam locomotive, Milwaukee Road combine car, Plymouth switch engine, and caboose. The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday, noon to 5 p.m., May through October.
Location: 1710 West Woodside Drive, Dunlap