The museum was granted its tax-exempt status in 1957 and its mission is to demonstrate the vital role railroads have played in the growth of the Chicago area as well as the United States as a whole. There are over 450 pieces of prototype equipment in its collection as well as numerous displays. Visitors may ride on some of the museum's electric, steam and diesel powered trains from April through October.
The museum was founded in 1953 by ten individuals (one of the founders was Howard Odinius from Milwaukee) who joined together to purchase Indiana Railroad interurban car 65.
Originally called the Illinois Electric Railway Museum, the name was changed to IRM in 1961 to reflect the museum's expanding scope. The museum was initially located on the grounds of the Chicago Hardware Foundry in North Chicago, Illinois. In 1964 the museum's entire collection was relocated to Union along the former right-of-way of the Elgin & Belvidereinterurban. Two years later, operations were begun using......