Fox River Trolley Museum

Go for train rides and explore a collection of antique rail cars at this South Elgin, Illinois, museum. 

People standing on train platform next to red trolley car at Fox River Trolley Museum in South Elgin, Illinois (photo courtesy of Fox River Trolley Museum)

Forty miles west of Chicago, along the banks of the Fox River in South Elgin, the squeaking of wheels along a metal track, the faint sound of a whistle and the heavy breath of compressed air signal the presence of a passing train. The ones chugging along this 2-mile stretch of track belong to the Fox River Trolley Museum and take passengers through the surrounding woodlands on scenic, 30-to-40-minute excursions.

A group of electric-railway fans started the museum’s collection, which today contains nearly 13 antique train cars, in the 1960s after the interurban lines in the Chicago area began going out of business. Of the cars in the collection, seven have been restored to working condition and are currently running for tours. The oldest is a wooden trolley car built in 1902 for the Chicago, Aurora and Elgin Railroad. The rest are on display, with some, like the newly acquired Soo Line caboose, being stationary but still available for visitors to hop on and look around. 

During each excursion, narration provides history about the railroad line and the railcars as well as anecdotes from the heyday of this form of travel. Tickets are available first come, first served and provide unlimited access to rides on the day of purchase.

Some events throughout the year are by reservation only and include themed, family-friendly train rides like a Polar Express train, a ghost story train and a World War II reenactment event in the summer called Rails to Victory, which illustrates how railroad companies participated in the war with visits to a living history military encampment and battle reenactments along the Fox River. 

Regularly scheduled rides occur Sundays from May through October, Saturdays from July through September and holiday weekends, with some of the special events scheduled on select days throughout the year. 365 S. La Fox St., South Elgin, Illinois 60177, 847/697-4676,