If you are someone who is mesmerized by the luxury and romance of early train travel, consider a visit to The Whistle Stop Restaurant & Museum in Monon. The whole site is a museum with exhibits both outside and indoors, and there’s a charming cafe where you can have a meal while you’re there, eating as model train cars make their way along on tracks above your head.

As you make your way around the grounds of the museum inside, it’s like stepping back in time. The museum stemmed from the personal collection of Dale Ward that began in 1994. As a local quarry owner, Ward’s only connection to the railroad was that the rock that was excavated from his quarry was transported by rail car. 

Whistle Stop outside

However, his fascination with rail history and his collection quickly grew and it became in need of a large, permanent home. That’s when it moved to it’s current site where an addition was built to house a full-sized train car.

Whistle Stop Cafe & Museum

The museum houses the largest private railroad collection in the country that is accessible to the public. With the contents of over 6,500 items, you’ll find over 280 railroad lanterns, plus china, silver, whistles, chimes, padlocks, keys, railroad police badges, watches and more. There are also some unique bells that date back to the Civil War era.

Whistle Stop inside Museum

The centerpiece of the exhibit is its “Mansion on Wheels.” The luxury train car was built for Henry Flagler, one of the founders of the Standard Oil Company, in 1898. It was designed for his wife to travel in and cost $40,000 at the time. 

Whistle Stop Train Car

The sleeping car features a stunning chandelier in the dining area, hand-carved white mahogany from the Canary Islands, thirty Tiffany glass windows, four toilets and one of the first train cars to have a fireplace in it, which was covered in white onyx from Pakistan.

As you continue through the museum, you’ll find a full sized replica of an Illinois Central depot that was crafted from original blueprints. Be sure to check ahead on museum hours as it doesn’t have the same hours as the cafe. For further info, visit mononconnection.net.