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The Drive from Moline to La Plata then Home on the Trains

with coverage of the Wheels O' Time Museum

by Chris Guenzler

7/25/2011 Bob and Elizabeth met Nathan and I at the front door of the Motel 6 after we loaded our luggage at the back door and filled the ice box. We took Interstate 280 east to Interstate 74, which we took to Illinois Highway 78 north, then Illinois Highway 90 east to Edelstein. We drove through town to the bridge over the BNSF mainline and set up for the first train of the day.

BNSF 4826 East at Edelstein. From here we drove down to Houlihan's Curve.

The tail end of BNSF 4826 East at Houlihan's Curve. We now waited for a westbound train.

BNSF Norfolk Southern 2590 West, after which we proceeded east to Chillicothe, Illinois.

The Santa Fe Chillicothe station, a former Amtrak stop on the Southwest Chief. We made our way to the other station here.

The Rock Island station in Chillicothe, built in 1889, donated to the Historical Society in 1980 and now the Chillicothe Historical Society Railroad Museum.

Santa Fe caboose 999130, nee Santa Fe 2051 built by the railroad in 1929. It arrived here in 1987.

Me waiting for the Rock Island train that will never arrive.

Elizabeth waiting for that same train.

Rock Island lives on in Chillicothe. From here we went south on Illinois Highway 26 to Illinois Route 6, then Route 40 north to the Wheels O' Time Museum in Dunlap, Illinois.

Wheels O' Time Museum 7/26/2011

The Wheels O' Time Museum was founded in 1977 and opened to the public in 1983. Over the years, it has grown from the original building to six large structures, the newest one opening in May 1, 2021. Our multiple exhibitions include a variety of themes for the enjoyment of kids and adults alike.

We are open to the public from May to October. Maintenance and exhibition updates continue during the other six months of the year. Space is also made available for the winter storage of private vehicles whose owners want to keep them off the salty highways during the Central Illinois wintry months.

In 2017, the Museum became a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) corporation. This status helps the museum to secure additional items for display and funds for the maintenance, care, renovation and updates of the museum’s offerings.

The museum was closed but the railroad exhibits were accessible from the other side of the museum building.

The museum's display train.

Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific 4-6-2 886, nee 887 built by American Locomotive Company in 1909 and retired in 1952. It is one of only three Rock Island steam locomotives saved from the scrapper. The last Rock Island steam-powered train to leave Peoria was hauled by 886, which the railroad agreed to donate to the City, but it was discovered too late that the engine had already been scrapped. The railroad still had an identical engine, 887, which they simply repainted as 886. It initially went on display at Glen Oak Park and then at Detweiller Park, where it fell into disrepair. The park board sold it to the Wheels O' Time Museum in 1984..

There is a semaphore signal here.

Milwaukee Road Railway Express Agency 2716 built by the railroad in 1938 from a lightweight open platform baggage car. It later became Toledo, Peoria and Western 124.

Toledo, Peoria and Western bay window caboose 508 built by the railroad in the early 1950's.

Toledo, Peoria and Western work train 800, nee Chicago and Eastern Illinois coach 800 "Danville". This was acquired in 2010 from Vonachen's Junction, a defunct restaurant in Peoria, who used it as a dining room at their railroad-themed establishment.

A concrete whistle post.

Toledo, Peoria and Western 1, ex. Chicago, Burlington and Quincy 98, exx. Colorado Fuel and Iron "Sunrise", exxx. Colorado and Wyoming "Sunrise", nee Pullman business car 1 "El Fleda" built by the company in 1890.

When purchased by the TP&W, it was for railroad president George McNear. Following years of fighting, sometimes violently, with labor unions, McNear was assassinated on March 4, 1947. For the next ten years, the car remained idle on a siding at East Peoria until it was purchased by Vonachen's Junction Restaurant, shortly before it was going to be scrapped. It was relocated to the restaurant in 1957 and was used alongside the Danville until being relocated to Wheels o'Time in 2010.

Wheels O'Time switcher 2 built by Plymouth.

Two more views of the Wheels O' Time Museum.

We left and filled the van with petrol before making our way into Peoria and stopped at the very nice city hall so Elizabeth could obtain a municipal lapel pin from the city for her collection. We heard a train horn and found a Tazewell & Peoria Railroad light engine heading north so went after it in chase mode, got ahead of it and could not believe how lucky we just were.

Tazewell & Peoria Railroad GP10 3000, ex. Western Kentucky 3419, exx. Tradewater 3419, exxx. Precision National 3419, nee Illinois Central GP7 8909 built by Electro-Motive Division in 1954 came by the train shed and Rock Island station.

The former Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Peoria station built in the 1960's.

The former Rock Island turntable in Riverfront Park. From here we went to find the original Rock Island station.

The original Rock Island station built in 1891, whose clock tower was removed in 1939. Last used by the Peoria Rocket in 1978, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places the same year. Tilley's Restaurant was occupying the building during our visit.

A letter about this Rock Island station.

Click here for Part 2 of this story