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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.

Illinois Railroad Association Staff


Illinois Railroad Association

Joe Ciaccio has served as President of the Illinois Railroad Association since 1998. He joined the staff of the Illinois Railroad Association in 1986, when he was named Vice President and General Counsel.

Joe is a graduate of St. Louis University and Northern Illinois University Law School. He was licensed to practice law in 1980. He served as a research analyst and staff attorney for the Democratic Staff of the Illinois House of Representatives until 1983. In 1983, he was named Manager of Government Affairs for the Illinois State Chamber of Commerce, a statewide business organization with more than 4,000 members. In that capacity, he served as liaison between the Illinois business community, and the Illinois General Assembly and state government agencies with the primary responsibility of monitoring legislation affecting Illinois businesses.

CATHY HENSCHEN, Secretary/Treasurer
Illinois Railroad Association

Cathy Henschen began working for the Illinois Railroad Association in November 1988 as a temporary employee. In January 1989, she was hired by the Association to serve as Secretary-Treasurer and she continues to serve the Association in this capacity. She is responsible for overseeing all office functions, and manages all accounting and budgetary matters for the Association.

In 1974, Cathy began working for the State of Illinois and worked for the Department of Local Government Affairs (later known as DCCA) and the Department of Labor. In 1976, she continued her state service for the Illinois General Assembly by working for various legislators and in 1981, she joined the staff of the Speaker of the House.

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