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Silvis railway yard shop complex to be turned into historical locomotive restoration site

"Friends of the 261" purchased the shop complex from National Railway Equipment to complete steam and diesel locomotive restoration, passenger car repairs and more.

SILVIS, Ill. — Minneapolis based nonprofit "Friends of the 261" has purchased the former National Railway Equipment (NRE) shop complex located in Silvis, Illinois. The group plans to use the railway yard for mainly historical restorations. 

Friends of the 261 President Steve Sandburg is excited about the groups expansion.

"We're really kind of an organization that's dedicated to railway preservation and education," Sandburg said. 

The group will be turning the yard into a hotspot for steam locomotive and diesel repairs, passenger car work, and historical preservation. 

"We've got a large fleet of historic passenger cars, some of them which date back to the 1920s," Sandburg said. "Some of them are famous cars."

In addition to that, the nonprofit is looking to use the 400,000 square-foot main building for freight car storage, transloading, and even a museum somewhere down the line. 

Silvis Mayor Matt Carter is excited to see a piece of history return to Silvis. 

"This was at one time the largest repair locomotive in the nation. And it's going to go back to its glory again," Mayor Carter said. 

Carter notes Silvis' deep roots within the railway industry, and is eager that those historic engines will come back to where it all began. 

"It's just a natural marriage to to see the Iron Horse come back, and revitalize the shop to the steam locomotives because that's what made Silvis," Carter said. 


Friends of the 261 is focused on cleaning up the property this year. NRE will lease part of the property back from the nonprofit for the time being as a way to help make a profit off the space as they work to restore it. 

Sandburg saying they hope to have trains moving on site by 2023 and restorations in full swing. 

"We can store some of these historic rail cars inside to preserve them for future generations," Sandburg said. 

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