Blog Post

A Day on the ‘L’

Yours truly, age 4, at the Illinois Railway Museum

I’ve loved trains ever since I was a little kid. I have no clue why – it goes back as long as I can remember.

From an early age, my parents fed this fascination by taking my brother and I to the Illinois Railway Museum. It’s an awesome place – the largest railway museum in the United States. They have lots of railroad equipment from a variety of eras, and many pieces operate on their demonstration railroad. It’s located in Union, Illinois, about 75 minutes Northwest of Chicago. If you’re ever looking for something to do in the area, I highly recommend it.

Last weekend I had the immense pleasure of attending a museum trip where they chartered a CTA train made up of 2200 series cars, the oldest cars still in service on the ‘L’ system (built in 1969-70). This was a fundraiser to help purchase and transport two 2200 series cars to the museum, as the CTA will be scrapping them later this summer.

We spent the entire day (10 hours) riding around nearly the entire ‘L’ system. Our tour guides pointed out all kinds of facts about the neighborhoods and the train route. For someone like myself who loves trains and local history, it was an amazing experience.

For anyone who’s interested, I’m happy to share the photos I took. They’re all geotagged and most have lengthy comments so you’ll know what you’re looking at. Enjoy!

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By Bob Pusateri

Bob Pusateri is a Microsoft Data Platform MVP, Microsoft Certified Master of SQL Server, speaker, blogger, volunteer, and author who loves finding new and exciting ways to break and fix things. He works as a consultant and architect, specializing in data, virtualization, and cloud technologies.


  • Scott R.

    Great pictures!

    I grew up on the south side of Chicago – back in the day. Lots of trains around there.

    My dad took the IC passenger train (Illinois Central – now METRA) to work every day at RR Donnelley printers (across from McCormick Place – Donnelley has since left that location, but the old Donnelley building is now a huge data center!). I walked to school every day and crossed 7 sets of freight train tracks each way (and sometimes had to wait for those trains). I remember putting pennies on train tracks before the train came by and picking up the smashed pennies later on. I remember cabooses on trains (no more) and calling from the playground next to the train tracks to the caboose train men “chalk, chalk” and they might throw you a large piece of chalk (about 4 inches long and 1 inch in diameter – what they used to mark train cars) to keep and play with. Or moving your bent arm up and down to get the train engineer to sound his horn for you (like some kids still do with semi-trucks on the highway today).

    My grandfather and uncle worked for railroad companies.

    Like you, I remember fun visits to the Illinois Railway Museum as a kid.

    We lived only two blocks from the nearest train tracks, and close to a train switching yard. You would hear train horns at all hours – it became background noise after a while.

    Are you familiar with railroad flares and “torpedoes” for signaling?

    Did you ever go to Snackville Junction? It was a restaurant in Chicago that served the meals using a model train. It may still be in business. Check it out if it is still open.

    I have taken long passenger train trips from Chicago to LA (the “El Capitan”), from Atlanta to New Orleans (the “Southern Crescent”, versus the “City of New Orleans” from Chicago to New Orleans made famous in the song by Chicagoan Steve Goodman and also by Arlo Guthrie), and in Europe (including the TGV bullet train in France).

    Trains were a part of my life growing up. Thanks for many stirred memories!

    Let me know if you are going to the PASS Summit in Charlotte this year. I would enjoy meeting you.

    Scott R.

    • Bob Pusateri

      Hi Scott,

      Thanks for sharing! I’ve heard of signal torpedoes but haven’t ever seen one that I know of. I have to imagine they’ve gone the way of the dodo. Never been to Snackville Junction but thanks for the tip. Yes I will be at PASS Summit this year – hope to see you around!


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