An official Proclamation signed by Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot declared October to be Chicago Railroad History Month. This Proclamation, the second in the past two years, is the result of the advocacy work of the Blackhawk Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society led by David Daruszka, vice president of the chapter, Beverly/Morgan Park neighbor and a retired locomotive engineer.
According to Daruszka, the goal of Chicago Railroad History Month is to bring greater public recognition of the history of railroads in the city.
“The railroads have been an integral part of the city’s economic and social life since the first inaugural train pulled out of the city in October of 1848,” Daruszka said. “The dignitaries who rode the first train believed that the railroad would bring prosperity and growth to the city. Little could they imagine how quickly that would happen, and how Chicago would become the rail capitol of the nation.”
Chicago Railroad History Month celebrates both the past of railroading and the continued importance the railroads play in the city’s current economic life.
“We hope to bring the story of railroads, and the men and women who worked on them, to as wide an audience as possible,” Daruszka said. “The railroads influenced the growth of Chicago more than any other industry, employing thousands of workers and claiming untold acres of land for railyards and tracks.”
The effort last year to establish October as Chicago Railroad History Month was designed to highlight this important aspect of Chicago’s past and present leading up to 2023, the 175th anniversary of the first run of the Pioneer locomotive on Oct. 25, 1848.
The Pioneer is a steam locomotive built in New York in 1837 and later purchased for use by the Galena and Chicago Union Railroad. It arrived in Chicago by ship on Oct. 10, 1848. The Pioneer is on permanent exhibit at the Chicago History Museum (1601 N. Clark St., Chicago).
Daruszka, an avid railroad historian and collector, and active member of the Blackhawk Chapter, gives presentations to community groups, historical societies, schools and other organizations to share the fascinating history of Chicago’s railroads. Through this and other outreach efforts, the Blackhawk Chapter hopes to support a sustaining effort that will lead to exhibits and programs in 2023 to celebrate that anniversary.
“Our effort is spearheaded by a group of historians, writers and railroad enthusiasts who serve on our advisory board,” Daruszka said. Planning continues on various ideas for the anniversary. Information about Chicago Railroad History Month can be found at www.crrhm.com. To schedule a presentation or contact David Daruszka, email firstname.lastname@example.org.