Sixteen years ago on a weekend ride to Rochelle, Illinois to watch trains at the BNSF and UP diamond, we found a brand new, one week old Rochelle Railroad Park. Rochelle, Illinois, an average town in northern Illinois about 75 miles west of Chicago. Rochelle’s nickname is the “Hub City” which is found on city signs and brochures about the town’s heritage. The nickname comes from being the hub of various modes of transportation from major transcontinental highways and two major rail lines, the Union Pacific and Burlington Northern Santa Fe.
Rochelle welcomes rail fans from around the globe to a safe place to photograph and watch as two major railways cross each other. One can view trains from the parking lot to the covered pavilion lined with benches and picnic tables. Rochelle Railroad Park is a unique train watching experience. Looking at the guest book, names and countries from most of our continents appear. When we meet new rail fans in other places and say we are from Illinois, their next question is “How far are you from Rochelle?” Rochelle is quite a treat for people who love trains! Sometimes you wonder since you are in the middle of it all, are you watching the trains or are the trains watching you! Almost 360 degree view! On the average of a five to six hour visit, we tend to see at least 20 trains. At trn.trains.com, become a member to watch the Rochelle park web cam.
As you pull in the parking lot after crossing one of the railroads from either direction there sits a small white house on the left. When the park first opened there was no gift shop, only vending machines. Several months later, a great gift shop run by a real rail fan couple sold antique railroad memorabilia, model railroad items, film, batteries, collectible locomotives, lanterns, photographs, snacks, and books on consignment. No longer a gift shop; however there is news that the town may be trying to reinstall a place similar to the past. For now, one can watch an ATCS monitor board of the movement of area trains and buy a small snack as well as vending machines outside. Around the back are clean heated public restrooms. A rarity for the rail fans that could spend hours waiting for a train at most other railroad hot spots!
Over the years, the park has added conveniences for their guests. The park welcomes the whole family to visit with a covered play area for the kids, a gazebo with historical information and additional benches, grills to bbq your picnic lunch, a hobo hut with a fire pit, and Whitcomb locomotives on display.
The www.rochellerailroadpark.org website offers more information, coming events, directions, hours for shop, history, photos and rail links. Visit the Rochelle Railroad Park on Facebook.
The railroad park itself is open every day, 24 hours and free of charge.