Residents of South Elgin and the surrounding area will get a chance to travel back in history this weekend -- all the way back to June 1944 in France.
The Fox River Trolley Museum, in conjunction with war re-enactors from across northern Illinois, the South Elgin Park District and the Forest Preserve District of Kane County, will host Rails to Victory, the trolley museum's second annual living history event.
If you goWhat: Rails to Victory living history event
When: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, June 9 and 10
Where: Fox River Trolley Museum, 361 S. LaFox St., South Elgin
Cost: Trolley ride $12, $10 ages 11 and younger; general admission $4 ages 12 and older, $2 ages 11 and younger
Details: railstovictory.com or call (847) 697-4676
On Saturday and Sunday, June 9-10, Rails to Victory will transform South Elgin into the French countryside in the month following June 6, 1944, otherwise known as D-Day. Wednesday marked the 68th anniversary of D-Day, when Allied forces stormed the beaches of Normandy, France, eventually liberating the nation and much of Europe from Nazi rule in World War II.
Throughout the weekend, the museum's trolley operation will be in full swing, providing patrons an interactive experience as they travel from "Paris" to "Rouen," otherwise known as Black Hawk Forest Preserve, along the mighty Seine, a part played by the Fox River. Other events throughout the weekend include re-enactments of famous riverfront battles and a vintage women's baseball game, also played by local re-enactors.
Rebecca Tulloch, event coordinator, said the weekend aims to be an interactive experience for families and a time for commemorating fallen soldiers and those who have served in the military.
"Memorial Day just passed and D-Day is this week," she said. "It just seems like an appropriate time to be remembering World War II veterans and soldiers since there aren't that many left."
Though this is the museum's second foray into living history, Tulloch said Rails to Victory is a production on a much larger scale than last year's event. She and a team of coordinators have been working toward this weekend since October.
"Last year it was not really publicized at all; it was all thrown together in about five days," she said. "But the museum enjoyed what we had done, so (this year's event) is really to the benefit of the people."
More than 200 re-enactors are registered for the weekend; 60 will be participating in the trolley ride while still more will portray the Allied and Axis powers in the battles. On Sunday morning, the World War II Girls Baseball Living History League, founded by Tulloch, will play a demonstration game as the Rockford Peaches. The Peaches were an actual team in this era and were portrayed in the 1992 film "A League of Their Own."
Kyle Burson of St. Charles will portray the commander of Allied forces in this weekend's re-enactment. As president of the 10th Mountain Division Living History Display Group-Midwest Chapter, Burson oversees the re-enactment of his particular unit. Though the 200 re-enactors are responsible for fighting three battles throughout the weekend, Burson said much of the interaction is ad-lib.
"It's not scripted but there's an overarching idea of what needs to happen," he said. "We try to keep things a little more authentic, a little more realistic for the public so they can see how things change as the battle goes on."
Burson, along with Axis force coordinator Rick Pennington, has worked with the museum on Rails to Victory for months. Burson pointed out the area's ties to the war effort in World War II -- from soldiers and families to local businesses.
"This is a very old community with a rich history," he said. "Commemorating (World War II) is very big, especially since World War II veterans are dying at an astonishing rate."
Rails to Victory patrons can either purchase tickets for both the trolley ride and general admission ($12, $10 for kids ages 11 and younger) or opt for general admission only ($4, $2 for ages 12 and younger). Battle re-enactments and the Rockford Peaches baseball game are covered by general admission.
The Fox River Trolley Museum is at 361 S. La Fox St., South Elgin. For more information, visit railstovictory.com for event details.