Historic Michigan Avenue Sign to Light Up Again at the Illinois Railway Museum in McHenry County
Union, IL - A giant piece of Chicago history is coming back to life at the Illinois Railway Museum in Union, McHenry County. On October 29, 2016 at 5:00pm the 70-foot long illuminated SANTA FE sign which for decades sat atop the Railway Exchange Building at 224 South Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago will be re-lit following an extensive restoration effort. The sign was acquired by the museum in 2012, when it was removed from the building and donated by the building's owners, Hamilton Partners. Restoration of the sign, which was constructed in 1982 to replace an earlier 1962 version, took place in 2016 courtesy of a grant from the BNSF Foundation.
Restoration of the enormous sign was conducted by MK Signs Chicago. "Over 260 man-hours went into this project," said Dave Diamond, head of the museum's Buildings & Grounds Department. "The work included cleaning and repairing polycarbonate surfaces, wiring replacement, and installation of over 1400 energy-efficient LED modules to illuminate the letters." Steel supports were installed near the museum entrance, where the SANTA FE letters will be easily visible from passing cars. The sign joins other restored railroad signs at the museum including examples from the North Shore Line, South Shore Line, Illinois Central Railroad, and Chicago Transit Authority.
The Santa Fe Railroad was founded in 1854 and began construction of a railroad west from Atchison, Kansas in 1859. It became the nation's second transcontinental railroad in 1881 and built an extension to Chicago in 1888. This installation complements other artifacts of the Santa Fe preserved at the Illinois Railway Museum including locomotive 2903, which was moved from the Museum of Science & Industry in 1995 using temporary tracks set up alongside Lake Shore Drive, and FP45 "Warbonnet" diesel locomotive 92.
The Illinois Railway Museum was founded in 1953 and is located 65 miles northwest of Chicago in Union. The nation's largest railway preservation museum, it encompasses all aspects of railway history including steam and diesel locomotives, electric streetcars and elevated cars, and historic passenger and freight cars which are operated on the museum's 150-acre site and 4.5-mile long railroad. The museum will be open in November and December for its Happy Holiday Railway event, during which the SANTA FE sign will be on public display.