Illinois Railway Museum keeps 100-year-old Chicago transit trains running


This train, Chicago Aurora and Elgin 409 & 431, ran on the interurban line from Chicago to Wheaton, with splits to Elgin and Aurora (thus the name). You can see its extensive route map. Many of the suburbs it traveled to and through now have Metra service and other parts became the Illinois Prairie Path. 

Every year at the Illinois Railway Museum in Union, Illinois, volunteers bring out the working condition trains that used to operate on Chicago or Chicagoland tracks: ‘L’ trains, interurbans, and streetcars. This past weekend was “Chicago Day” at IRM. My friend and I rented a Zipcar and drove there, 54 miles from my house in Avondale. According to the article on Wikipedia about IRM, it’s the largest railroad museum in North America.

The museum is a not-for-profit education corporation run completely by volunteers. It’s funded by memberships, donations (both monetary and services, like train car transporting), grants (including from the State of Illinois), entry ticket sales, and sales in the gift shop and of vintage paraphernalia.  Continue reading Illinois Railway Museum keeps 100-year-old Chicago transit trains running

A sneak peek at the exhibition “Bikes! The Green Revolution”


Brandon Gobel from Chicago Cargo is one of many local cyclists you might recognize in the exhibit. The photo of Brandon is by Steven.

I’m used to seeing Chicago bicycle culture portrayed in the mainstream media in ways that seem a little off, so it’s refreshing when someone gets it right. Bikes! The Green Revolution, a new exhibition opening Saturday at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum does a great job of celebrating the many facets of the local bike scene. I got to check out the exhibit at a media preview yesterday. They managed to capture most of my favorite aspects of Chicago biking: history, planning, advocacy, youth education, bike shops, messengers and style.

Steven tells me that the museum got plenty of input from West Town Bikes’ Alex Wilson, who’s been a central figure in promoting cycling here for more than a decade, so that may have something to do with why the exhibit hits all the right notes. The Lycra crowd may find it a bit light on bike racing content, and I noticed a few minor errors on the exhibit signs, like a statement that the Lakefront Trail runs from Rogers Park to 75th Street when it actually runs from Edgewater to 71st. But otherwise I think it’s an excellent show that all local bike enthusiasts will want to check out, especially if they have kids.

Continue reading A sneak peek at the exhibition “Bikes! The Green Revolution”