Trains, Planes & Automobiles, Oh My!


One of the best ways to combat the gloomy, chilly winter days is to visit one of Chicago’s museums, luckily The Museum of Science and Industry offered free admission days in January and February. Recently my friend Adeline and I decided to visit the sprawling museum located in Hyde Park, the structure was actually originally built as the Palace of Fine Arts for the 1893 Columbian Exposition World’s Fair. It later became a science museum and debuted as such during Chicago’s 1933 Century of Progress Exposition World’s Fair.

If you have the chance to visit the museum, be sure to allot at least 3 hours to explore the museum’s 75 exhibit halls, there are interactive scientific exhibits as well as entire planes and locomotives on display. Of course the museum is ideal for families and children but it’s definitely enjoyable as an adult too.


Above is the Pioneer Zephyr, a 1930s era train that was one of the first diesel fueled engines.


Planes from the 1920s through the 1970s are suspended from the ceiling in The Transportation Zone.



From the Museum site: “The 1917 Curtiss JN-4D, or “Jenny,” was a plane that greatly influenced military, recreation and commercial aviation. It popularized aviation by giving thousands of Americans their first sight of an airplane. In order to draw the public’s eye, Jenny pilots put their airplanes into dramatic positions, and the Museum’s plane is seen upside down, in the midst of a barrel roll.”


WWII era Supermarine Spitfire flown by the Royal Air Force and later donated by the British government to the museum.



The Great Train Story is a 3,500 square foot model railroad that follows a crosscountry route between Chicago and Seattle, Washington.


Look, it’s the Space Needle!


Posing inside a wooden street car, I believe it is from the early 1900s.




It’s a little unclear how this exhibit relates to science or industry but it’s a large scale mechanical model of a circus.



These are life-size circus animals, I didn’t see them move while we were there but I assume they were once mechanical as well.



Silent film star Colleen Moore built an elaborate Fairy Castle in the 1930s and later donated it to the museum. Walt Disney actually painted some of the murals and paintings in the castle and there are treasures like chandeliers adorned with diamonds and emeralds and the tiniest bible ever written inside the castle.



Yesterday’s Main Street is a representation of what Chicago would have looked like in 1910. Above is the slightly terrifying dentist office of the time period. There are storefronts that line a cobble stone street– sadly you can’t go inside the stores but can only peek through the windows.


Thankfully Finnigan’s Ice Cream Parlor is fully functional so we stopped in for an old fashioned treat.


Metal chocolate molds.



Of course I ordered a classic beverage too, I forget the name of this but it was like a chocolate egg cream with vanilla ice cream.


Both of these antique cars were scary– the first one really looks like a “horseless” carriage and the model below is one of the earliest race cars. Neither look very safe!



The entrance to a WWII exhibit that leads to the U-505 Submarine, a German U-boat that was captured by the Americans in 1944 off the coast of West Africa.



Photographs of WWII sailors, Adeline was especially smitten with the handsome fellow in the middle.


One of my favorite exhibits is the genetics and baby chick hatchery.


We actually got to see baby chicks hatching! Don’t worry, the one on the right is just napping after breaking out of its shell.



Eek they’re so fluffy!



The most contemporary portion of the museum is the Science Storms exhibit that demonstrates the physics and chemistry of natural phenomena like tornados and avalanches.


A misty tornado.





The main entrance is no longer used by visitors due to the sheer volume of people that go through the museum each day– instead there is an underground entrance. Of course I had to capture my 1940s-era outfit in front of the museum.



Vintage 1940s wool beret hat: Rose Vintage
Vintage 1940s plaid dress: Antique mall in Fayetteville, Arkansas
Vintage 1940s handknit sweater: Thrifted in Chicago
Leather boots: Thrifted in Fayetteville, Arkansas


In honor of the museum I wore a 1940s carved wood car brooch and a “bone shaker” bicycle brooch.


Surprisingly I didn’t show you ALL of the museum, we didn’t have time to hit the space exhibit or the coal mine. If you’re in the Chicago area it’s definitely worth a visit, winter’s a good time to go as it’s less crowded and is still free this month.


Leilani, a journalist and photographer, is almost always overdressed in heels and frocks from the 1930s-1970s. She hails from a junking family, one that spent Saturday afternoons combing garage sales and antique malls for additions to their growing collections. When not trawling the aisles of Chicago-area thrift stores for glittery costume jewelry or cookbooks that feature such bizarre concoctions as and ‘creamed chicken in potato cups;’ Leilani can be found indulging her love of Antiques Roadshow or BBC’s Cash in The Attic from the comfort of her 1890s-era apartment in Logan Square. She dreams of some day having an all-aqua kitchen (including appliances) and having the ability to wear a different vintage dress every day of the year (yes, 365!).

Comments 8

  1. That’s always been my favorite museum in the city (closely followed by the Planetarium b/c I was always a huge astronomy buff growing up). I even have the book about the Fairy Castle because I love it so much!

    Your outfit is fab– sooo envious of that gorgeous sweater!

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