RAILROADING HERITAGE OF MIDWEST AMERICA TO EXPAND OPERATIONS TO SILVIS ILLINOIS SHOP & RAIL COMPLEX.
The rail complex will be developed as a multiuse commercial development, historic preservation, restoration and future transportation museum.
RHMA subsidiary Friends of the 261 owns and operates Milwaukee Road steam locomotive No. 261 based in Minneapolis. “This takes our organization to a whole new level,” said Steve Sandberg, President, and Chief Operating Officer of the Friends. “We are excited about the possibilities; I believe this is one of the boldest moves for historic and railroad preservation in recent history. The Quad Cities is home to many different companies including industrial giant John Deere and represents the backbone of American industry.”
“This historic shop complex and the City of Silvis are part of the greater Quad Cities area which has a population of nearly 500,000. We hope to work with local and state officials to bring more tourism to the region,” Sandberg said. “The Silvis Shops are a significant part of America’s industrial history, and it is our aspiration that it will serve as a platform for historic preservation supported by commercial opportunities and future public events. This will be the largest historic restoration facility in the United States, which we think will be a major attraction for the area. The facility is currently not open to the public, but we hope to change that in the future,” Sandberg added.
In 1902, the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad (Rock Island) chose the town of Silvis as the site of its largest locomotive repair shop, a central hub for its network that would eventually include a general stores department, repair shop, roundhouse, and large freight yard. Rock Island continued to use the shop until it shut down in March 1980. It was later acquired by National Railway Equipment.
NRE closed the Silvis shop in March 2021 as part of a plan to consolidate rail operations to its shops in Mt. Vernon, Ill. and Paducah, Ky. Since its inception in 1984, NRE has grown to become the world’s largest independent supplier of leased locomotives; new and remanufactured locomotives; new and rebuilt mechanical materials; electrical components; technical support; and field services.
Sandberg said at this time there are no plans to move Milwaukee Road steam locomotive No. 261 from its home base in Minneapolis, although it could be moved to Illinois to pull excursion trains on a temporary basis if necessary. The famous locomotive, built in 1944 by American Locomotive Company, has pulled excursion trains around the United States, including the Quad Cities since it was restored to operating condition in 1993. “We hope to someday construct a railroad museum in part of the complex,” said Sandberg. In addition to No. 261, the Friends owns a large fleet of historic passenger train cars and an E9 streamlined diesel locomotive. Some of the equipment could be displayed at the museum when not in use.
RHMA is accepting donations to offset the cost of the project and is urging supporters of historic rail preservation donate and become members of the organization.