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07 April 2011

Julie Ann Johnson (1942 – 2011) executive, rail enthusiast, activist.

James Johnson was born in Geneva, Illinois, and educated in Wheaton. He majored in political science at Wheaton College, and while a student edited two railroad magazines.

A fan of the Chicago, Aurora & Elgin interurban railroad, he rode the line's last train west from Forest Park. In the early 1960s he wrote a history of Chicago Streetcars and then a history of the CA&E. He worked weekends as the General Manager of the Illinois Railway Museum in Union and helped the museum to significantly expand its operations, spending large amounts of his own money to purchase CA&E artefacts.

He joined the family printing business in 1972 after working for other companies in the same business. In 1988 he became the president of the family business.

At the turn of the century, Johnson transitioned as Julie Ann and became active in the Chicago Gender Society and the Be-All Conference for trans people.

In 2010 she completed a large project of placing her entire collection of CA&E materials online for public use.

She died of cancer at age 68.
  • James David Johnson. A Century of Chicago Streetcars, 1858-1958. Wheaton, Illinois: Traction Orange Co, 1964.
  • James D. Johnson. Aurora 'n' Elgin: Being a Compendium of Word and Picture Recalling the Everyday Operations of the Chicago Aurora and Elgin Railroad. Wheaton, Ill: Traction Orange, 1965.
  • Bob Goldsborough. "Julie Ann Johnson, 1942 – 2011". Chicago Tribune, March 15, 2011.,0,7161924.story.


  1. One thing the obit you published left out is that Julie Johnson was forced to resign from the Illinois Railroad Museum president when she transitioned in 1999:

    Strangely enough, the membership had known of her trans status for some time but seemed to really not like her transitioning. The board made their dislike of her transition enough that she resigned. What a way to pay back the service that Julie spent a lifetime putting into museum.

    As someone in the rail preservation community I'm as equally disheartened that has been no mention of her passing on the rail preservation sites I visit except for the Trains Magazine news wire, it isn't even mentioned on the blog of the museum she helped build for nearly 30 years. Any other rail historian of her caliber would have received long-winded obits and remembrances.

    But not for her. Thrown away, banished, and forgotten, all for having the courage to be herself.

    I'm sorry for the rant, but I'm besides myself right now.

  2. I'm just seeing this for the first time. I wanted to let you know that not a day goes by that I don't think about Julie's legacy and I personally truly valued everything she did for the museum and its volunteers. I know I'm not alone. While I can't make up for past wrongs of others, I wanted to thank you both for celebrating her life and I will do my best to ensure that her story lives on. Thanks and have a happy holiday season,

  3. Sad to hear how IRM treated JOHNSON after her transition. She loved IRM (Illinois RR museum) and was one of the founders besides serving as general manager for many years. Since our gender is coded in the DNA of all 5 billion cells of our bodies, we cannot really change our gender, but all humans, regardless of their life choices should be treated with respect and love!


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