Illinois Railway Museum retires last mortgage

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Various preserved motive power is seen at the Illinois Railway Museum at Union in July 2005.
Michael Karlik
UNION, Ill. – The Illinois Railway Museum has retired the last of its land acquisition mortgages, a move that museum staff says makes the operation debt-free for the first time in 50 years.

Communications director Frank Hicks tells Trains News Wire that the museum has been working towards that goal for "about 55 years, depending on how you look at it." The organization took out their first mortgage when it moved to Union in 1964 and purchased a 26-acre plot around the depot.

The museum paid off the mortgage on that first plot several years ago, but then took out several more mortgages for the purposes of "land acquisition and to establish buffer space between ourselves and residential areas." This last mortgage, Hicks says, was for an 89-acre parcel acquired in 2009. IRM was able to pay it off after receiving a sizable bequest earmarked for land acquisition.

"Being debt-free fees up more money on month to month basis that we can put towards operations or restorations," Hicks says. "We are grateful to our many donors who allowed us to get to this point."

Hicks says that the museum has not directly transferred the mortgage payments to other projects, but having those funds available will allow them to put more emphasis on building a visitors' center and recreating a historic Main Street with tracks running down the middle.

"The Main Street (project) will allow us to operate our streetcars in an authentic setting," Hicks says of the two-block long stretch of historic buildings and facades. "The visitors' center will be its cornerstone. We have worked with an architect to develop plans, and we are just now starting fundraising for that project."

For more information on the Illinois Railway Museum and its holdings, go to

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