Education Through Demonstration

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  • June 17, 2020 1:06 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    A painter contracted by Jeff Bennett is painting CTA crane car S-314.

    The boom of S-314 was fully extended so it could be painted as the yellow dries on a Sunday afternoon.

    It’s Saturday and Jeff is bringing up another load of ballast in the EZ Dumper for the Track 0 project.  Mike Gilles photo

    Mike and Fred Lonnes bar over Switch 20 so Jeff can deliver the ballast.  Jeff Bennett photo

    Fred watches as the ballast gets closer to it destination.  Mike Gilles photo

    It is Sunday and the switch stand for Switch 20 is in service complete with a switch lock.  For years this switch had been spiked so it could not be moved.

    Chris Nelson brought out a track level, an important tool used to make sure the rails are level when tamping the track up.

    Here Fred and Mike use a track jack to raise the east rail while Chris watches.

    Tamping begins with Fred and Chris manning the electric Jackson tampers while Art Lempke takes a brief restbit, and I mean brief, from shoveling ballast where it is needed.

    A view of the tamping crew and their tools at work.  This will be the first pass as after the track settles over time, tamping will have to be done again to get the level surface back.  A couple old ties did not come up with this lift so Chris, Art and another new member, who’s name I can’t recall, replaced those ties and then ballasted and tamped them as well.

    It’s the end of the day and Track 0 is completed.  It is now ready to receive the contactor’s equipment which will be used during the week of June 21st to replace 400 ties in the mainline and Track 2 to keep our trackage safe for operation.  CTA 43 and her sisters 45 and 40 are laid up on Track 1.

    Here is the plastic shield in place at the ticket window.  Agent Laura Taylor would only let one customer into the museum store at a time to make a purchase.

    A family about to descend the Castlemuir high level platform after completing a round trip on 43.

    Another family, with their masks on, waits to board while the car is turned and sanitized.

    Conductor Doug Rundell tells the story of the Forest Preserve extension to our visitors while motorman Bruce Kuhnhofer turns the car.  This was a capacity trip with ten total riders, the current CDC/Illinois State limit.

    Back at Castlemuir Day Manager Doug wipes down the seats, railings and stanchions for the next trip.  While I have no numbers, ridership was better this last weekend as the museum continues to operate in a restricted mode.

    Jeff gives Doug and Damin Keenan a quick tutorial on operating our new motorcar which we decided to call BSA (Boy Scouts of America) 973 which was recently donated to the museum.

    Here Mike is looking down at the innards of BSA 973, a Fairmont motorcar originally built for the Union Pacific Railroad and later decorated by troop 973 as a project for the last owner.

    Mike was looking down at Jeff who was under the car (that’s his legs sticking out) while he was fixing the electrical system so the lights would work.  Mike passed him tools and parts during this process.

    One of our portable toilets was replaced last week.

    It has a hand-washing station attached to it, one of the items needed in order to reopen during the Covid-19 pandemic.

  • June 10, 2020 1:41 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Our Castlemuir depot is set up for covid-19 safe ticketing.

    Stanchions mark six-foot spacing points before boarding on the high-level platform.

     The first trip of 2020 returns to Castlemuir with CTA 43 doing the honors.

    Our first three paying passengers descend the mainline high-level platform.

     New member George Barreto wipes down the railfan seat in 43 (courtesy of Doug Rundell).

     Doug Rundell and George continue to sanitize the car before the next run.

    Member Bud Wilkening with his mask on, awaits to take a ride on our second trip.  Members are on standby as only ten persons are allowed per trip.  On this trip we had only one paying passenger so three of us rode.

    Member Bernie Kamenar, motorman Dan Kelly and day manager Doug taking layover time at Blackhawk as trains were running on schedule rather then on demand as we usually do.

    Doug explains to potential passengers that they have to board at Castlemuir.

    George posts a notice explaining the temporary operating procedures.

    The covid-19 notice as posted at the Jon Duerr Forest Preserve platform.  The restrooms were still locked at Blackhawk even though there was heavy use of the grounds by the general public.

    The family of three from the Forest Preserve boarding at Castlemuir while the crew checks for tickets.

    The next family keeping a safe distance come up the high-level platform stairs.

    Jim Tarbet, Doug and George, all wearing their face masks waiting for their departure time at Blackhawk.

    “Make way for ducklings” in the area of Timepoint 53 caused a minor delay to northbound car 43.  It took a little time for mother duck to get her four or five ducklings to leave the track zone and head down towards the river.  Our six passengers got a chance to see the duck family from the train door.

    Northbound car 43 passes over the 54 stop cattle run, one of four bridges on the line.  I could see that all three cattle runs have been repaired by Summers Construction and I suspect the Ward’s Bridge abutments have also been repaired but they are pretty hard to see from the train.

    Ed Konecki observes Fred Lonnes and Chris Nelson operate our Racine rail saw making the last cut to fit the rail for the completion of Track 0.

    Here Fred and Mike Gilles set up an electric rail drill to make the holes in the web so bolt up can be done.

    The rails are line up for the last joint on Track 0.

    Finally the joint bars are bolted on.  Now the track has to be gauged and spiked down so that ballasting and surfacing can take place.

    At the end of the day we see all the rails together on Track 0 while the motorcar and track tools are on the mainline heading for the Maintenance Of Way building for storage.

    While all the passenger operations and track work were going on, Jeff Bennett was busy in the car barn laying down layer after layer of epoxy primer inside and out of CTA 4451.

    4451 now in all white primer, protecting all the old and new steel from rust, pending continued work to complete the car and its final painting.  Lots of etching and solvent wiping down takes place before the primer can go on, a process that will have to be repeated when the final colors are applied after windows are reinstalled and new wood flooring installed.

  • June 03, 2020 12:15 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)


    Loco 5 is coupled to CTA S-314 on Track 3 North and a brake test is being performed by Jeff Bennett and Mike Gilles.

    The train is ready to depart for its first assignment, in decades, at the Fox River Trolley Museum.  Much work has proceeded this move as the Perkins diesel engine that powers the crane had to be rebuilt and the brake system on the car serviced and tested.

    Here the hydraulic diesel-powered crane is rotating out to rail stored along the right-of-way near Timepoint 53.

    Mike goes in to set the rail dog onto the center point of the first rail to be picked up while Art Lemke stands ready with the control line as Roadmaster Chis Nelson watches.  It became obvious that rail has to be picked up at the balance point so it can be safely controlled by the guide line.

    The second rail picked is being set down on the deck.  Jeff is at the controls of the crane.

     A third shorter length of rail is being moved to the deck with Art steadying its swing with the guide line.  A fourth rail was also loaded from this location.

    The crew is now going for a fifth and last rail at one of the rail piles in Coleman Yard for the trip back to Castlemuir.

    The last rail loaded is the first to be unloaded at Track 0 at Castlemuir.  The Perkins diesel engine does have a red metal shroud but it was deemed a good idea not to apply it on this first shake down run just in case adjustments were needed.  Fortunately, everything went well.

    The first rail is down on the ties.  The sub station was turned off so that the overhead would not be alive.  Jeff was always very careful and never got close to the wire during the whole process but safety first!

    All five pieces of rail are now down on the ties and Chris will have start bolting them up and spiking them down.  In this construction process the ends of the rail will have to be cut to size and new holes drilled for the joint bars.  The museum’s rail saw and rail drill have both been serviced and are ready to go.

    Jeff and Mike cover the diesel engine with plastic pending installation of its shroud.  It was a successful first outing of CTA S-314 as the day’s goal was accomplished safely.  Like all museum rolling stock it will need some tweaks but we now have some experience with the unit and we are confident that it will be a very useful tool in the future.

  • June 03, 2020 12:08 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    FRTM 4288 UPDATE

    CTA 4288 has been moved into the barn on Track 4 ahead of 4451 and is undergoing evaluation and exploration necessary to bring it to operating condition.

    In this report we will concentrate on efforts on the #1 end which is facing south.  In this photo the class light boxes have been removed.

    Based on the experience with 4451 it was decided to replace all the end wall panels below the windows rather that to try to patch the original skin on the car.  The original pieces are used as patterns so all attachments end up in the correct location.

    Here you can see one panel sitting in place before being fitted.

    Temporary bracing is tac welded in place to keep the train door frames squarely in place while the rusted-out bottoms are replaced as in the near frame.  Fortunately, 4288’s car body is in better overall shape but there still are challenges.

    All the motorman’s cab appliances are still in place with the outer skin off.

    While in somewhat better condition than 4451, now is the time to replace all the air pipes and conduit that pass through the floor of 4288.  If they don’t leak now it will only be time before they do.  This is a common malady that all traction operators had to deal with.

  • June 03, 2020 11:34 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The ceiling panels have been striped and all the new woodwork from the window sills up has been installed.

    Here you can look through the empty roof vent openings and see some more detail of interior restoration.  The interior and exterior vents and regulators are on hand for when the time comes to install them.

    The south end cab equipment has all been installed with new air pipes and the complete rewiring of the controller down to the junction box under the car.

    The hand brake which has been fully rehabilitated is now in place and only needs the wooden flooring installed over the metal sub floor to be operational.

    A week later Jeff Bennett was able to lay down a couple of coats of epoxy primer from the ceiling to the window sills.

    Before the primer went on every surface has to be cleaned with solvent and the metal ceiling etched.  This gives one some understanding of how extensive the scope of the work being done is to produce a car that will be attractive and serviceable for the museum in years to come.

  • March 29, 2020 5:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Maintenance and restoration is still ongoing at the museum. Here are some updates for you!! Thank you Joesph Hazinski for the photos and information.

    The wood roof on 4451 has been completed with both end bonnets and all has been covered with water and ice shield.  One the weather improves and restrictions are lifted it will be time to put the canvas on the roof. (no photo)

    The north end of 4451 in January before heavy restoration work started on this end.

    In March Jeff shimmed up the north train door so that the bottom of the rusted out door posts could be replaced by the metal workers.

    A week later if you look closely you can see the new metal welded in to complete the bottom of the door post.  Also notice the junction box hanging in air for the wiring for the classification lights which will be reinstalled on the new metal end wall.

    The totally rebuilt north train door in place before the cast threshold was attached to the car which is why there appears to be a gap at the bottom.

    The north end in early March with the new metal skin installed.  The class light boxes, windows and window guards need to be installed.

    The north motorman’s side door in place.  All four of the side doors have undergone heavy rebuilding and now manually move in and out of their respective pockets.  Now the door engines need to be repaired, installed, tested and control circuits rewired along with replacement of all the sensitive door edges.

    The south end of the car with new metal end sheets installed.  Some of us recall when sheet aluminum and Bondo made up the bottom of the ends of the car to cover the rust out.  With all the rebuilding the end and train door frame is as solid as new.

    Here the south cab has been re-piped for the brake system and installation of the controller, laying on the floor here, has been completed.  All new modern wire has been installed from the controller terminals to the junction box under the car and where needed, new conduit and hardware was used.  As of the writing the north cab is now also almost complete.

    The lapped and rebuilt air brake valves and laser cut rubber gaskets for 304 in the box from Pittsburgh Air Brake.

    304’s air gauges, rebuilt and calibrated by Gauge It awaiting installation.

    One of the “safety car” foot valves for 304 back from Pittsburgh Air Brake.  All these valves and gauges along with the rebuilt door controls valves have been re-installed and are found to be operating correctly.  There still are few system leaks that need to be tracked down but static operation is much better than before.  North end truck inspection and lubrication is still on tap.

    Another improvement done earlier this year has been the installation of a new shop air compressor courtesy of Jeff Bennett which included hard wiring it into the AC electrical service.  Not only has the air been piped up to the rafters but he has installed retractable hose reels hanging from the trusses.  Work is almost complete on repairing the southwest step linkage on 304 so that the steps will stay up in order to clear the air compressor once the car returns to its normal berthing location in the barn as it will be a tight fit.

  • January 22, 2020 10:58 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    While the museum was buzzing with Christmas events, the car barn has been packed with people working on 4451. November, December, and January have all proven very productive. The complete south end of the car has been stripped of paint and rotted metal. New metal has been installed, fitted, and finished in many areas. The sliding doors have been completely restored, as well as the end train door. Basically inside and out, the south end will be ready for primer by the end of the day!

  • January 18, 2020 1:09 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    On Sunday January 12th after CA&E 458 was moved outside and 304 moved to Track where Jeff Bennett and Mike Gilles jacked up the south truck of 304 for inspection and servicing. 

    It was confirmed that the cracks in the concrete floor in the smoking compartment are due to rust heave on top of the bolster and not the failure of the bolster or frame.  This is good news as there is no structural compromise in this critical area of the car so it is safe to operate.  Some bearing lubrication was done along with inspection of the underside components.

         Next both motorman's M-28 brake valves were removed for professional lapping and servicing.  Both door control valves and the two floor pilot valves were also removed with all six units being sent to Pittsburg Air Brake in an effort to reduce air leakage which has plagued 304 since we obtained it.  Both air gauges were also removed for refurbishment and calibration (each one displayed a different pressure) by Gage It Inc.  The cost of this work is reasonable and turnaround time is more than sufficient.

         While there is no picture, Fred Lonnes continued to work on the heat control system of 458 after obtaining replacement coils for some critical relays.  Basically the heat works but its control system needs fine tuning.  All the seats are out of the car so interior work can continue and once Spring weather returns the canvasing and restoration of the roof can start over the ice and water shield which now covers the all new wooden roof (there is a tarp over the roof while it is outside). 

          As all this activity was going on two contractors were expertly cutting out rusted areas, welding in new metal and then grinding the patches smooth to restore the south end of 4451, building upon all the underlying structural work Fred Biederman has done over the last season. 

          With all this work finished Fred, Mike and Jeff dragged out the yellow Line Department extension ladder and replaced one burned out car barn light bulb and then installed a new type of LED fixture in place of another burned out fixture.  The barn is getting brighter and with less power use.  It was a good Sunday with progress made on a number of fronts!

  • August 29, 2019 8:59 PM | Jeffrey Bennett (Administrator)

    Needle scaling..... OMG Needle scaling !!!!

    The entire car is / has been needle scaled to remove the many coats of old paint.

    New side panels are installed on one side.

    Since this picture, the panels have been fully welded and riveted.

    Fred B. got caught by the camera, so he was happy to show all the structural work he has completed below.

  • August 29, 2019 9:52 AM | Jeffrey Bennett (Administrator)

    As 715 is the museum's work horse, it was decided to do some much needed body work. The entire car needed a paint job. Also three of the four end panels were severely rotted away from the anti-climbers. (bumpers). 

    Above you can see Dave, working on removal of the red along the top. He had spent the day working down the side of the car, just on the red.

    Below, a full view of one side primed with epoxy primer. In the middle where the herald (logo) goes, there was old body filler that we initially decided to not completely remove. Well the epoxy did not take well to that area. So we sanded down all the way to find out just what the heck was so deep. It turned out there were about seven bullet dents under all that body filler. Most likely from long before we got the car. 

    Below, all rotted areas were ground out, and first prepared with a rust encapsulating epoxy. This will stop any future rust. Then the top coat of light body filler to make a nice smooth finished product. 

    All the above illustrate the various stages of grinding, sanding, body repairing, paint prepping, and finally epoxy applied. 

    Above, the retrievers had about a dozen coats of paint that had to be removed. So deep in spots, that the raised lettering could not be read. 

    Below, the various stages it took to remove the old body filler and rot, then rivet in repair panels, and finally prime and seam seal them.

    Big shout out to Buzz and Richard at IRM (Illinois Railway Museum) for helping with electronic files of the numerals and the heralds. Thanks, and watch for the decals to be installed soon.

    Below, Kathleen wondering if everyone left

    Joe and Mike worked quite hard to repair the south train door. It had fallen apart at the bottom from rot. They removed it, repaired, and epoxy filled the areas needed. 

    The project got a little bit bigger than, just a paint job, but with doing these repairs correctly, 715 will serve us well and with a great new shine for years and years to come.

    Thanks to so many people involved with this. There are over a dozen active folks helping to see this through, and we are very thankful to have them!



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:
(847) 697-4676

365 S La Fox St, South Elgin, IL 60177           

P.O. Box 315

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