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  • December 13, 2022 6:23 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    With the last parts of the ceiling going in, it was time to finish up all the wiring connections and draw the final wiring diagram for what was done.

    Rough draft here of the wiring diagram so don’t be too harsh!

    Chief Car Officer Jeff Bennett couldn’t find any diagram in all our stuff that even came close to the way the car was wired, plus, CA&E had made many alterations over the years.

    Jeff decided to redesign the whole lighting system to what I know works, based on other cars he has done.

    This sketch is how the car is currently wired now.  It will be made into a nice fancy drawing soon, but getting this step done, and the switch cabinets tidied up was a massive happy occasion for Jeff

    Here we are at Classic Woodwork Inc, in Crystal Lake.

    Bruce, the owner, has reproduced the original side wall panels EXACTLY!

    Mahogany, with the correct trim, and all custom made based off the old panels we brought him as templates.

    Jeff grabbed a shot of Bruce next to the old wall panels, as we were going through what was what. 

    Bruce has made stuff for this restoration that I had no idea what we were going to do to get replacements. Bruce is currently the Museum's hero!

    And speaking of hero’s!

    Andre is finishing up the last, and hardest of the heater box removal. 

    Thee, all bundled up,  has gotten the whole lower wall on the east side stripped and sanded! Some detail work still to be done, but it looks amazing!

    As we conclude this news update, we’ll leave you with this cliffhanger.

    Chief Car Officer Jeff Bennett is mocking up the exterior upper “steamer” stained glass windows here.

    Yes for you experts out there, these stained glass panels are from a Kuhlman car not a Jewett, but they are the same dimensions.

    Seeing as the car had these upper exterior stained glass pieces removed and sided over sometime in the 40’s, there isn’t anything to go off of to reinstall them. All the framing, moldings, window slides, and siding have to be figured out.

    Jeff has mocked up how it should kinda look. Bruce from Classic Woodwork is going to come on site and evaluate. He said that he can then make all the custom molding and pieces needed!

    Very exciting!!!! Stay tuned.

  • December 12, 2022 8:10 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The weather is changing and that means it is the busiest season of the year for the Museum's car restoration team. 

    You see all of us in our winter wear. Jeff, Andre, Thee, and Joe can all be seen working on the south end of 316.

    John diligently stripping paint, and Andre, well who knows what he’s doing, but he’s having fun!

    Oh ya now I remember what Andre was doing, bringing over arm loads of clamps to align and install the east side main sill.

    Cole and Fred B. worked to get all the seat frames out as well as heater boxes and heater box covers.

    Here we have the FIND OF THE DAY.
    It’s obvious the car had this checkered flooring at one point in its life. (It was filthy and we cleaned it for this picture)

    Being that removal of the entire seat frame is quite a difficult task, we can assume that the CA&E never removed the seat frames to re-floor a car.

    We are guessing that this car flooring possibly came from Jewett Car Builders originally in 1913. No one is sure about this and we are still seeking info on what the original floor looked like and what other floor variations may have been in the car.

    With many of the seat frames and heaters out, Jeff pauses to snap a selfie.

    Cole is organizing parts that will be sent out to Kyle, our off site guy that does sand blasting and other stuff for the Museum.

    This shot has taken to show what a “hot seat” was.

    Many of you may know, but I bet a lot don’t. My crew had no idea what it was and also had no idea why there where these burned areas behind the heater insulation. Well, the original designed heaters were wire wound ceramic tubes, that when 600 volts of trolley power was put through them, would turn red hot and heat the car. When one of them got something combustible in it or if the wire broke, a small fire would ignite under the seat of the problem. The bottom part of the seat would start on fire!

    Fairly commonplace from what I understand. It would then be the conductors job to open the window, and throw the burning seat cushion out. I’m told that during the winter, along the line it was common to see fully burned seats. What a different time huh?

  • December 11, 2022 7:49 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    We all need a little help from a friend every now and then!

    CA&E 20 was coupled to 316 to pull it out of east barn track 5 and move it over to the center track 4. With car 316 next to the east wall of the car barn, it made working on the east side of the car impossible!  

    Here’s a nice shot of all the work that has been done on the west side.

    Jeff Bennett motored the car out of the barn, and James Tarbet handled the poles.   Mike Giles worked as the ground crew to keep the area safe and the wheels chocked as needed.

    And here’s the lovely pair!

    We are also going to leave 20 on the middle track. It is in need of new wheels, and with the newly donated electric car jacks we got, we can now lift the whole car off its wheel trucks to pull them out for service.

    John doesn’t miss a beat. Here he is on the east side of 316 with the IR paint stripper.   We have all been itching to get to the east side of the car.

    Thee is very pleased as well. He has removed some of the rotted sill and siding.

    We always do everything possible to save as much of the original fabric of the car as possible. Thee carefully removed only the wood that was too far gone for restoration. 

  • October 13, 2022 6:41 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    An important job for getting ready for Polar Express is to refresh the landscaping at the Museum's Blackhawk station in the Jon J Duer Forest Preserve.

    2,560 people will be boarding trains her in November and December so we want it to look professional and top notch.   I think we got the results we were looking for from the following pictures.  

    Of course, by Polar Express time, the Autumn decorations will be replace with holiday decorations.

    Special Thanks to Chief Car Officer Jeff Bennett for arranging for the landscaping work at Blackhawk station

  • October 12, 2022 6:20 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Doug Rundell reports on his and James Ham's work on Monday, 10/10/2022 to prepare one of the cars for Polar Express.

    With James’ help, I was able to set up and finish the caulking of trolley board saddles on car 43 using SikaFlex-1A. What I encountered on Monday on the south end of the car was less deterioration than I saw last week further north. There were a few gaps where the caulk had embrittled and pulled away, opening a pathway for water infiltration. I’ve completed all the inspections and repairs.

    Longer term, it would be great to pull off the trolley boards and really get easy access to the saddles, but that’s a major project for the very distant future.

    Looking at Car 40 is that we don’t have a major water problem on the roof, and we don’t have gobs of peeling paint on the ceiling.  

    Car 45 has more significant issues. I hope to get to that after getting 40/43 ready.

    Doug grounds the trolley wire to the track so that he can get on top of the car with no danger of shock, even if the power is turned off.   Since the wire is continuous, grounding it on track 2 grounds it for the railroad.

    Next, Doug tags out the power supply station so that no one will come by and turn on the power.

    And here, Doug has tagged out the power supply building assuring additional protection.   Safety is NUMBER 1 at the Museum

    Now comes the business of caulking around the areas of the roof where the trolley board brackets are mounted.

  • September 25, 2022 6:34 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    A CTA electric steeple cab, shoving AE&FRE diesel #5, a Wilson Refrigerated box car, and Illinois Central caboose 9648 northbound on the main while a North Shore car passes it southbound. And YES CTA L202 pushed that entire train up the hill all the way by itself, multiple trips! Talk about the little engine that could!

  • September 19, 2022 8:02 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Our beloved NSL Silverliner finally into the barn for FRTM to do another award winning restoration!

    CTA 4288 stripped to bare metal for epoxy primer to be applied this week!

    The canvas roof got finished the weekend of 09/17 - 09/18/2022 on 4288

    Some much needed trimming done along the line with a hy-rail bucket truck and hy-rail chipper, contracted by the museum with HRH Rail Services 

  • September 16, 2022 7:52 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Thee is reinstalling the overhead access panel with new fasteners in the north end of CA&E 458.  This work is in anticipation of the first coat of epoxy primer being applied any moment.

    Chief Car Officer Jeff Bennett and steadfast right hand man Mike Giles took 458 for a test run just a few days ago. Quickly found one retriever was malfunctioning. Below you can see that when Jeff took it apart, the main “retrieve” spring had failed. Jeff was able to make repairs with parts on hand

    Sneak peak,,, look at that shine

    Told ya any moment. Here’s Kyle applying the epoxy primer to the south motorman’s compartment

    Mike is masking and painting the last step well on 458

  • September 15, 2022 7:40 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The next car restoration is Chicago North Shore & Milwaukee 1930 Interurban Trolley 756.   These photos show the first steps of moving 756 into the Allan C Williams car barn to start the project.

    Chief Car Officer Jeff Bennett, with the crew of Mike Giles and Connor Ladley, took NSL 756 southbound on our line to do a run-around at Coleman siding, and upon the return northbound trip were lucky to have encountered a CN freight train.

  • September 14, 2022 7:14 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    There is a lot going on at the Allan C. Williams car barn with activity on CA&E 316 and CTA 4288

    Here, Chief Car Officer Jeff Bennett has a big smile of joy having Eric at his side to unexpectedly jump start the restoration of CTA 4288

    Two happy guys! Jeff Bennett and Eric Zabelny spent a whole day clearing out 4288’s contents so the restoration could again start moving. Having just finished, smiles all around.

    CA&E 458 has been at the cusp of its first test run for weeks now.

    This will be the first time out and down the line with its new roof, poles, and brakes.

    Our horns were in desperate need of service as they sounded a little sad. Well when it comes to air horns here at Fox River, there is one guy we all think of, Superintendent of Operations Mr. Patrick Storm. The guy never saw an air horn he didn’t like! So one quick message to him and down he came to the barn. Tools in hand he climbed up and gets right to work. Thanks Patrick!

    Mike Giles smiles and is clearly happy at the weekends progress with CA&E 316’s south end air brake control installation.

    Chief Car Officer Jeff Bennett, here with Mike Giles, spent the entire weekend cleaning and rebuilding these two brake valves for CA&E 316, then custom fitting all new piping to the valves.

    Here you can see Jeff working into place all the newly cut, threaded, and bent galvanized piping on the freshly rebuilt and cleaned brake valve.

    All this was done IN-HOUSE!

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Ever since CTA began to assemble its 21st Century Heritage Fleet, rail enthusiasts have expressed hope that 'L' cars of decades past could be returned from museums or private owners to enlarge the fleet.

Thanks to CTA and the Fox River Trolley Museum, those hopes have come true.

The museum has re-sold cars 6101-02 to CTA for Heritage Fleet operation. The Fox River board approved the sale at its July 8 meeting. CTA signed off on the terms in late July and moved the cars from South Elgin to CTA Skokie Shops Aug. 9-10.

"We've done our part for historic preservation, which is our mission," said museum President Edward Konecki. "Now it's time for them to go home."

The married pair, built by the now-defunct St. Louis Car Co. in 1950, features a set of outside conductor's controls and twin headlights, which makes them unique among surviving 6000-series cars.

Fox River has long-term preservation in mind. CTA once had a Heritage Fleet of streetcars and rapid transit equipment that was disbanded in the 1980s.  Today's Heritage Fleet is its second.  The re-sale contract includes a clause that gives the museum a 90-day right of first refusal to regain possession of the cars, should CTA decide to terminate its current Heritage Fleet program. If returned, they must be in fully operable condition. The cars were never used in public operations at Fox River because of restrictions written into the contact between the museum and CTA in the 1990s. Essentially, Fox River could not carry paying passengers on the cars. That clause will not be included should the cars revert to Fox River.

CTA hopes to unveil the cars to the public in time for its 70th birthday party in October.

CTA, created in 1945 by the Metropolitan Transit Authority Act to take control of the city's mass transportation providers, bought the 'L' from the receivers of the bankrupt Chicago Rapid Transit Co. Oct. 1, 1947.  Today it is one of the three operating agencies that compose the Regional Transportation Authority.  

The Fox River Trolley Museum is a not-for-profit, founded in 1961, dedicated to the preservation Chicago's electric railway heritage and interpretation of the lines' colorful history. All workers at the museum are volunteers.  The museum operates its demonstration railway, a remnant of the old Aurora Elgin & Fox River Electric Co. interurban (inter-city) rail line, on Sundays from Mother's Day through the end of October, Saturdays in July and August and on three major in-season holidays -- Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day..

Contact us:

General Information (847) 697-4676

Event and Ticket questions (847) 380-6121

365 S La Fox St, South Elgin, IL 60177           

P.O. Box 315

The Fox River Trolley Museum is an IRS 501(c)(3) Illinois Not for Profit Corporation.
Donations are tax deductible to the fullest extent of the law. 

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