Few today realize the extent of the University Library’s collections on American railroads. Over many decades our History, Engineering, and Commerce libraries built up very substantial railroad collections encompassing everything from original timetables from the 1880s onward to technical journals, works on railroad economics, annual reports of the various companies, such as the Illinois Central, and lavishly illustrated books on the “glory” days of passenger streamliners throughout the 1930s, 40s, and 50s. The Library also contains the George Russell Carr railroad history collection numbering several thousand items.
In fall of 2014, Library Friend Roger Clark, a graduate of the University and collector, donated a unique collection of mint-condition railroad passenger memorabilia to our Library. This collection, which resides in the Library’s Illinois History and Lincoln Collections, includes brochures on many of the “name” trains like the Pennsylvania Railroad’s Broadway Limited and the Santa Fe Railroad’s Super Chief, guide booklets published by the railroads for their passengers on cities and scenic areas traversed along the routes, handsomely illustrated maps, dining car menus featuring enticing entrees as well as cocktails, and miscellaneous memorabilia, such things as cocktail napkins and match booklets, all advertising the named trains for which they were intended. Most of the railroad lines featured are ones that crossed Illinois, which amounts to a large number, Chicago being the most significant railroad city in America. Famous liners coming in from both coasts are well represented, e.g. the Baltimore and Ohio’s Capitol Limited, the New York Central’s Twentieth Century Limited, the Union Pacific’s City of Los Angeles, etc. Also featured are notable electric interurbans, such as the Illinois Terminal’s Ill-Mo Limited and the Chicago, North Shore, and Milwaukee’s Electroliners.
A final category of great value is that of timetables. The reader can ascertain quickly how frequently, say, in 1948, the traveler could have gone from Urbana’s station (currently the “Station Theater”) to Indianapolis and thence on to midtown Manhattan’s Grand Central Station on the Twentieth Century Limited.
The Roger Clark Collection, which anyone is welcome to examine at any time in the Illinois History and Lincoln Collections, is neatly arranged and accessible in Hollinger boxes and file folders. What distinguishes it from many other collections of railroadiana is the excellent, mint condition of most of the materials. Items are accessible via a detailed inventory and a subject index which were provided by Clark as part of his gift. Items may also be located by the name of a particular railroad company and date of publication.
This collection has found a perfect home for many reasons, not the least of which is the College of Engineering’s prominent Illinois Rail Transportation and Engineering Center, “Railtec,” whose academic programs can be viewed at railtec.illinois.edu.