Looking for a fun family excursion just outside Chicago? You won’t even need your car for this trip to the Homewood Railroad Park on the Metra Electric Line out of Millennium Station in downtown Chicago at Randolph and Michigan (schedules at www.metrarail.com).
The Homewood Railroad Park offers visitors a safe, raised train-viewing platform for watching train operations near the working Canadian National Railroad switching yard. The platform includes a live audio feed to the switchyard, and is wheelchair accessible. Across the tracks (via an underground walkway), visitors can get up close to a retired and restored Illinois Central locomotive and caboose.
Visitors can also walk through the architecturally significant Homewood Train Station (built 1923), probably the only Spanish Revival train station in the Midwest. The Homewood Station is modeled after the clubhouse of a nearby public country club, Ravisloe, founded in 1901.
The Homewood Railroad Park is unique because visitors can view three distinct train types operating along the tracks: freight, regional commuter rail (Metra) and intercity rail (Amtrak). Works by noted muralist Richard Haas are also located on the rear of buildings along the south side of Ridge Road, just steps from the park, and a host of restaurants and shops are within walking distance of the park.
The next stop south on the Metra Electric Line is Flossmoor, home of Flossmoor Station Restaurant & Brewery, located in the village’s original Illinois Central station, which was later converted into a restaurant and brewpub. Flossmoor Station, known across the U.S. as one of America’s finest brewpubs, offers a great selection of handcrafted brews and food. Photographs of the region’s railroad past adorn the walls of the brewpub, and trains roll by as guests enjoy lunch, dinner or a cold beverage. On the south side of the property, the brewpub operates an ice cream shop in a completely restored IC caboose (1035 Sterling Ave., 708-957-2739, www.flossmoorstation.com).
Learn more about the Chicago area’s rich railroad past on this fun day trip!
– Bob Lukens