The Rochelle Railroad Park is the first park in the nation built just for visitors to see operating trains!
The story of railroads in Rochelle begins in 1854 when the Air Line Railroad was completed between Chicago and the town of Lane (Lane was the first name of Rochelle). The railroad later became the Chicago and North Western and today is owned by the Union Pacific (UP).
Sixteen years later the Chicago & Iowa Railroad was built through Rochelle in 1870 and it crossed over the Air Line Railroad between 11th Street and 12th Street. The railroad was later called the Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy before becoming the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF). In January of 2005 another name change took place, and even though the holding company name remains the Burlington Northern Santa Fe, the introduction of the new rail subsidiary name and logo took place. The railroad is now identified as the BNSF. The original BNSF depot on Main Street was built in 1921 when it replaced the original 1890 Depot. For many years both railroads had daily passenger service to Chicago or the West Coast, but the last passenger service in Rochelle ended in 1971.
Today these two railroads daily haul millions of tons of merchandise on at least 80 to 90 trains a day through Rochelle in a 24 hour period. This has made Rochelle a "hot spot" for train watching, drawing visitors from every state in the nation and world wide. Because of the number of visitors Rochelle acquired the land in 1995 and constructed a park just for train watching. The park, which was dedicated August 30, 1998, includes a handicapped accessible observation pavilion with various vantage sites for the best visitor viewing and photography. Visitors can see locomotives from many different railroad companies pass through Rochelle. They include the Union Pacific and the BNSF. Other units from railroads of the Eastern United States, Mexico, and Canada also pass through from time to time. One will also see engines wearing their color schemes from past mergers, mixed within the power of a passing freight. The radio transmissions that you are listening to are actual railroad communications from the dispatcher to the train crews and track workers. We monitor both main lines through Rochelle for the UP and the BNSF. Dispatching originates for the UP in Omaha Nebraska, and out of Fort Worth Texas for the BNSF.