National Railroad Hall of Fame

Galesburg, Illinois, has long served as a nexus for the North American railroad. Located at the crossroads of two major intercontinental railway lines and home to one of the largest rail yards in the United States, the city has played a significant role in American locomotive history. The new National Railroad Hall of Fame Museum, designed by SOM in collaboration with exhibition designers BRC Imagination Arts and landscape firm Tom Leader Studio, will celebrate the longstanding history of the American railroad industry while establishing a permanent home for the newly created institution.

Wrapped in weathered steel, the museum is formed of a series of distinct volumes, each housing a different element of the building’s program. The central building—its form inspired by turn-of-the-century rail roundhouses—serves as the main exhibition hall, featuring panoramic, interactive panels telling the story of freight rail in the United States, including highlights of key technical innovations and profiles of pivotal figures in railway history. Upstairs, a triple-height glass-enclosed exhibition hall opens onto an elevated pathway and bridge, creating an accessible entrance above rail lines that serve the building. The building also incorporates an active rail station and platform, and features a seven-story observation tower overlooking the city’s two active BNSF freight lines and rail yard to the south.

Designed to emphasize public space, the project encompasses a variety of outdoor venues for events including an expansive plaza, amphitheater, and landscaped parks to the north and south. Together with its neighboring cultural institutions and amenities, the museum aims to become a destination for rail enthusiasts, while serving as an engine for economic development in the city.