BY GLENDA WINDERS
Anyone who is intrigued by the mystery and romance of trains can’t help but enjoy a visit to the Monon Connection Train Museum in Monon, and serious train enthusiasts will be positively delighted. This is where they’ll find the largest private collection of railroad memorabilia shared with the public in the whole country.
“The Monon Connection Museum has more than 6,500 mostly railroad items,” said Mark Reynolds, who conducts tours at the museum and is himself a collector of Monon memorabilia. “Seeing this display is amazing, and people are awestruck when they take the four-room tour.”
The railroad-related items in the museum range from china, silver and lanterns to whistles, uniforms and speeders — the little railcars used by track inspectors and work crews. Many of the pieces are one-of-a-kind, but others are for sale. Even before you even go inside you’ll be able to explore the largest collection of Monon rolling stock in the country — railroad cars, cabooses and cranes.
Perhaps the centerpiece of the museum is the 84-feet-long Flagler Car built in the 1890s by the Jackson and Sharpe Co. When Henry Flagler — an industrialist and one of the founders of Standard Oil — ordered the car, he told the builders that he wanted the best money could buy, and that’s what they gave him.
The car’s parlor is fitted out with Tiffany windows (some of 30 throughout the car), hand-carved woodwork from the Canary Islands, a marble onyx fireplace from Pakistan and a dining table under a crystal chandelier. Mrs. Flagler’s elegant bedroom comes with an en suite bath, and an observation room is comfortably appointed for watching the scenery outside pass by.
Or perhaps you’ll prefer the representation of an Illinois Central Train Depot, set up inside the museum exactly as it would have been in the 1800s. Pieces such as an antique typewriter, lantern and telephone bring the display to life.
Model railroad buffs will be equally thrilled by the 14-feet-by-22-feet HO scale model train layout. The detailed setup is complete with a round house, lighted buildings and a running water feature.
Chances are you’ll be here for lunch or dinner, and your meal will come with more surprises than just how good the food is. Here you’ll dine among more railroad memories beneath another larger model train. Then as you leave, be sure to stop at the Round House gift shop for souvenirs to recall your visit.
For more information visit mononconnection.net.