October 2, 2003

WASHINGTON (Oct. 30)—Illinois’ two U.S. senators, Democrat Richard Durbin and Republican Peter Fitzgerald, today introduced a resolution honoring the National Railroad Hall of Fame in Galesburg.

The resolution is expected to aid the Hall of Fame in its effort to establish a monument honoring the contributions of the rail carriers and their employees to the growth of the world’s most powerful industrial economy.

“The impact of railroads on American industry, economy and lifestyle is—and was—a major force in the nation’s development,” Durbin said. “The National Railroad Hall of Fame in Galesburg serves as a monument to the spirit of American invention, progress and innovation. Those qualities provide a valuable lesson for every generation.”

Fitzgerald, the state’s junior U.S. senator, noted that despite its location on the prairie 162 rail miles west of Chicago, Galesburg is the appropriate place for the Railroad Hall of Fame.

“Galesburg has played a key role in the growth of the railroad industry since 1849, when it became part of then newly organized Peoria and Oquawka Railroad,” he said, noting that for a brief time Galesburg was one of the few places in the world served by two railroads.

“I can think of no better home than Galesburg for a monument honoring the great tradition of the American railroad.”

Although the Peoria & Oquawka eventually was absorbed into the much larger Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad and is now part of the giant Burlington Northern Santa Fe, Galesburg’s role in the national transportation system is bigger than ever. Two of BNSF’s busiest east-west main lines cross there, intersecting with a major north-south route and several branch lines. The huge yard just south of the city classifies thousands of freight cars per day while dozens of through intermodal and coal trains pause at Galesburg for inspection and crew changes before continuing on their transcontinental journeys.

Galesburg thus reflects the larger role played by the state of Illinois as the geographic hub of the North American railroad network and the center of the railroad industry’s technological and commercial development.

• In the early 1860s George M. Pullman developed the first successful railroad sleeping car—the famous Pullman car—in Chicago and established his corporate headquarters and his largest manufacturing plant there.

• Ralph Budd, who headed the Burlington route, introduced the nation’s first lightweight, stainless-steel, diesel-powered streamlined passenger train, the Burlington Zephyr, in 1934, setting off a technological revolution that ultimately evolved into the high-speed Shin Kan Sen trains of Japan and the TGV trains in France. The original Zephyr is on permanent display at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry.

• Abraham Lincoln, before he left Springfield to become America’s Civil War president in 1861, was already well known as one of the nation’s most prominent railroad attorneys for his representation of the Illinois Central, at that time the nation’s largest railroad.

“We support the National Railroad Hall of Fame’s mission to serve as a museum, archive and educational facility,” said Durbin and Fitzgerald in a joint statement. “Galesburg and the National Railroad Hall of Fame will keep alive the work of those whose labor and ingenuity established the railroad system that carried us into the American Century and beyond.”