History of the IRM - A Museum In Motion


Chicago Transit Authority 9631
The largest collection of trolley coaches in America exists right here at the Illinois Railway Museum - eleven units. This is the only museum in this part of the world with a complete overhead system, providing demonstration rides for our visitors on a regular basis.

Chicago at one time operated the largest TC system in the world. During its 43 year life, 713 coaches provided service on 20 different routes. IRM has 6 units from this system including coach 84 from the very first order in 1930 (the oldest surviving trolley coach in North America), and the 631 from the final group purchased (the last trolley coach to carry passengers on the streets of Chicago, April 1,1973).

While the electric trolley coach looks much like a motor bus, it is a very close relative of the electric streetcar. In fact in some cities they were known as "trackless trolleys". The propulsion systems share much of the same technology and both are powered by 600 volts DC. Good performance and quiet dependability were hallmarks of trolley coaches. Transit managements appreciated their low maintenance costs.

Trolley coach operations have declined in the United States, but their usage in the rest of the world is increasing with about 350 cities currently under double wire. However with the recent concern about vehicular pollution, a renaissance may yet occur here in America.

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