Our History

The Illinois Railroad Association was formed in December of 1950 at a meeting of the Chicago Railroad Presidents’ Conference.

Since the early 1900s, the Chicago Railroad Presidents’ Conference, which was made up of the presidents or general counsels of the largest railroads operating in Illinois, monitored state and federal legislative activity through a committee called the Illinois Legislative Committee. The Conference also had a Tax Committee and a Railroad Operating Committee.

The Illinois Legislative Committee was charged with the responsibility of testifying at legislative hearings, sending copies of legislation and journals to member railroads, preparing weekly updates and progress reports on legislative activity, and reporting on any bills that were ultimately enacted into law.
By 1950, the leaders of the Chicago Railroad Presidents’ Conference decided that a more structured, independent, full-time organization should bear the responsibility for monitoring state and federal issues that have a direct impact on the railroad industry. Railroad associations had already been established in other states around the country.

On February 1, 1951, the Chicago Railroad Presidents’ Conference reorganized its Illinois Legislative Committee and created the Illinois Railroad Association with an initial annual budget of $30,000 and with the ten largest members of the Chicago Railroad Presidents’ Conference serving on the Executive Committee.
Dramatic changes in the railroad industry over the years have had a positive effect. The industry is safer, more shipper-oriented and more profitable.


Tim Butler, President

Tim Butler joined the Illinois Railroad Association as President in January of 2023, bringing to the Association over three decades of public service working for the people of Illinois.

Immediately prior to joining the association, Butler served as an Illinois State Representative for four terms (2105-2022), representing largely the same district Abraham Lincoln represented for four terms. Butler’s focus was on issues surrounding transportation, infrastructure, environment, and energy. He was an Assistant Republican Leader and served as the top Republican on several committees, including the Transportation: Vehicles & Safety Committee and Appropriations: Capital Committee.

Before the Legislature, Tim had 20 years of experience working for the U.S. House of Representatives on the staff of Reps. Rodney Davis, Ray LaHood, Harris Fawell, and the Education and Labor Committee. During that time he held various roles including District Chief of Staff, Campaign Manager, and Communications Director.

In the private sector, Butler also served for over three years as the Director of Marketing for St. John’s Hospital in Springfield.

Butler has been an active community volunteer for many years, including service on the boards of Downtown Springfield, Inc., the Dirksen Congressional Center, and the Springfield Road Runners Club. Butler is a 2019 Patricia Birkholz Institute Fellow , a 2016 graduate of the Bowhay Institute for Legislative Leadership Development, a 1998 graduate of the Peoria Chamber of Commerce’s Community Leadership School. He was in Peoria’s 1998 class of Forty Leaders Under 40, and was awarded the 2007 Rod Steele National Volunteer of the Year award from the Road Runners Club of America.

A 1990 graduate of Eastern Illinois University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science, Butler has lived in Springfield since 1998 with his wife Wendy.

Butler, a native of Peoria, is the fourth-great grandson of Lewis Barker, a State Senator from Pope County during the first four Illinois General Assemblies. He is the youngest of seven children and his parents owned a small manufacturing business.