CELEBRATE CHICAGO'S RAILROAD HISTORY
The railroads influenced the growth of Chicago more so than any other industry. The ribbons of rails that radiated from the city moved people and goods across America. From the first railroad built in 1848 to the present day, the rail industry continues to play vital role in the city's economy. Chicago Railroad History Month will celebrate Chicago's relationship with the railroads, past present and future. In honor of that history the City of Chicago has proclaimed October as
Chicago Railroad History Month.
Chicago Railroad History Month.
The Pioneer was the first locomotive to operate a train in Chicago. Preserved by the Chicago & North Western Railroad it now resides in a place of honor at the Chicago History Museum. From this humble beginning the city would rapidly grow to become the Railroad Capitol of America. The fortunes of the railroads and the city became entwined. Carl Sandburg would characterize the city as "proud to be Hog Butcher, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat, Player with Railroads and Freight Handler of the Nation".
the railroad landscape
Present day Chicagoans would be amazed at how much of the city's real estate was given over to railroad use. Roundhouses and yards in many neighborhoods serviced the hundreds of locomotives and cars that worked in passenger, commuter and freight service. Hundreds of trains arrived and departed each day. The suburbs bloomed along the rail lines that carried commuters to and from the city each day. The sound of the whistle was heard in every corner of the city.
the great passenger trains
Chicago boasted 6 major downtown railroad terminals that were served by at least 18 different railroads. These great terminals were cities in themselves.The heyday of rail passenger service was a great moment in the city's history that also helped bring about changes in the city's demographics and social structure. From African Americans seeking freedom from life in the South to the waves of immigrants who rode the trains and came no further than Chicago to make a new life.
The railroads employed thousands of workers in various jobs. One of our goals is to tell their stories and collect oral histories from railroaders and their families.
What is our goal
An Annual Celebration
On October of every year we will introduce new programs for public outreach and education on the history of Chicago's railroads, and their continued importance in the city's economic life.
The grand celebration
The 175th Anniversary in 2023
In 1948 the Chicago Railroad Fair celebrated the 100th Anniversary of the first official run of the Pioneer. Our goal is to create a year long celebration of public events and exhibitions that will commemorate that history and the future of railroading in Chicago.
how can you help
Public and Private Partnerships
We seek the public's input for ideas on how to best celebrate our railroad heritage. We are also interested in working in partnership with museums, historical societies, schools, libraries and civic groups. Our goal is to create programs and exhibitions that best tell the stories of the many aspects of the railroad industry, both from a historic and contemporary viewpoint.