On Sunday July 17th, 2023 the museum hosted some visiting “firemen” from the Northern Ohio Railway Museum. Steve Heister, who has been helpful since we acquired 304 and 458, and who has access to the Gerald Brookins collection of papers from the old Trolleyville museum now in the special collections of the Cleveland State University library, and has been sharing relevant information about 304. They are restoring sister 303 so we have exchanged notes on that front. As a youth he volunteered at Trolleyville and vouches for the fact that 458 was never operated there and was very impressed at our restoration. With him was Blaine Hays, who was an administrative assistant to Ed Allen when he was the head of the Shaker Heights Rapid Transit shop. For those who don’t know, Ed Allen was the young CA&E employee holding two phone handsets in an iconic photo taken at Forest Park on the fateful July 3rd in 1957 when passenger service was ended at midday. Ed was one of the people who tried to retain the Elgin branch as freight short line. While this effort failed, the group evolved into RELIC with Ed being one of the founding members of our predecessor organization. Later he moved on to become the master mechanic of the Iowa Terminal (now Iowa Traction) electric short line in Mason City, Iowa which is where I first met him. Later on he moved to Cleveland to become the head of maintenance at Shaker Heights Rapid Transit and when it was folded into GCRTA he became head of all rail maintenance there. Blaine continued his friendship with Ed after their retirements and when the Brookins collection was finally being disbursed to other museums in 2009, Blaine would take pictures of the CA&E cars at the GCRTA Brookpark facility and share them with Ed, who by that time was in assisted living. Ed told Blaine that those photos of his beloved CA&E cars were what kept him going. Ed passed away just one day after the last batch of pictures arrived.
Much to our surprise we had another fabled visitor, Karl Johnson, who is currently head of maintenance of the Memphis Area Transit Authority’s streetcar line. When I first met him, decades ago, he was head of maintenance of the historic streetcar fleet at Muni in San Francisco as well as the PCC’s and Italian Peter Witts that operate on the famous F streetcar line. (The cable cars are a separate division.)
We toured our car barn and had rides on 458. Karl left in the early afternoon to visit Desplaines Hobbies, a shop he has done mail-order business with but had never been there in person.
In the photos it is Karl, Steve, Blaine and Jeff. On a later 458 trip after Karl was gone we had a “hornfest” at Coleman with a westbound CN freight to the delight of our visitors and the CN crew alike! And yes we waited until the whole train passed overhead per our safety protocol.