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Remembering the 'railroaders' who kept America running during World War II

Tim Shelley / WCBU
This Jack Delano photograph is among those featured in the "Railroaders" exhibit now open at the Peoria Riverfront Museum.
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A new exhibit at the Peoria Riverfront Museum explores the railroads and the people who worked on them during World War II.

"Railroaders" is a showcase of Jack Delano's photography along the railroads on the homefront in the 1940s, as America was in the thick of a global war.

Bon French is chairman of the Center for Railroad Photography and Art and the exhibit's sponsor.

"It's a special exhibit that features railroaders. So it features people, as opposed to trains," he said.

French says highlighting and remembering the people who kept the railroads running during the Second World War is important.

"I think the main message here is the importance of immigrants in the workforce, the importance of women in the workforce, and the importance of people of color in the workforce," French said.

French says the importance of family and hard work is also emphasized, through interviews with the railroaders' descendants.

"The people who had these jobs on the railroad worked very hard. It was dangerous and dirty in many cases, but they supported their families through the Depression, the war, and beyond," French said. "And many of their sons and daughters and grandchildren went on to have even better lives and became doctors and lawyers and so forth and so on. So it's honestly a representation of America. A true American story."

The "Railroaders" exhibit runs now through January 2.