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  • February 13, 2023 8:31 PM | Jacob Goldberg (Administrator)

    Once Andre had John on the big machine he tended to some spot repairs.

    Fred B. on the left is spot sanding around the some tight areas and Thee on the right is using the hand operated edging sander. Working with this machine is like trying to hold down an angry alligator!

    Yet somehow Andre handles the “angry alligator” with a smile!

    Passing out new sanding material as needed and watch everyone closely. Andre managed the floor finishing quite well.

    And here’s a shot of the finished floor. The light doesn’t do it justice, but these two guys are glad it’s over! What a physically demanding job.

  • February 11, 2023 9:14 PM | Jacob Goldberg (Administrator)

    Finally all the work is done and the floors are ready to be sanded. We rented an industrial floor sander and Andre, who turned out to be an old pro at this, started the process and taught John how to use the big sander. Here you can see John getting a lesson from Andre.

    It’s a very difficult machine to handle and if you make a mistake it’s not forgiving!

    Soon, though, John had the hang of it.

  • February 10, 2023 3:25 PM | Jacob Goldberg (Administrator)

    Well now that we are back from the land of the north, it's time to get back to business on Chicago, Aurora, and Elgin (CA&E) Car 316.  The custom made mahogany wall panels have been picked up from Classic Woodworking and taken offsite to be stained. Here Jeff and Andre begin the process.

    As the panels are stained, they are being laid out in a warm area to cure.

    And a few days later Andre and Jeff are back at it. An industrial floor clear coat is being applied over the cured stain. This stuff is the same quality as what's used on basketball courts and roller rinks. It's heavy duty stuff. Once it’s mixed and activated, it’s some potent stuff. Even Jeff put on goggles; it was that strong.

    One side of finished panels which caught the light in this selfie Jeff took so you can see the shine!

    Andre is applying the clear coat to the second row of panels. There is quite a lot of skill needed to get this clear coat to to lay down correctly, and luckily for us Andre was a pro!

  • February 09, 2023 5:20 PM | Jacob Goldberg (Administrator)

    So most sound minded folks take a holiday trip somewhere warm and lay on a beach…but not us at Fox River! Chief Car Officer Jeff had been talking with a recent addition to his team Eric Zabelny who also volunteers at East Troy, about North Shore car 228. It’s an interesting car that’s basically a box car with boxcar side doors. Anyway, Eric has been working to restore this car and was at the point of needing to work on the curved ends of the roof. Since we have done several of these over the last few years, we knew all the tips and tricks.

    One thing led to another and over the Christmas and New Years holidays, Jeff, Connor and Eric were able to get both ends of the car done.

    One end of 228 done, now on to the next.

    Always something new to learn. This is the first car we did where the interior would not have a ceiling. The roof and carlines would be exposed. This meant they had to look good not only from the top, but also from the bottom. For every other roof we have done, it didn’t matter what the underside looked like, so if a nail missed a carline or an added piece of support wood was needed, no big deal… Well that was not the case on this job. It had to be pretty, top and bottom, we learned.

    And here’s Jeff signing off after just finishing the second end of 228! Now come on home!

  • February 08, 2023 8:47 PM | Jacob Goldberg (Administrator)

    Thee promises he’s smiling underneath that respirator. He, John, Jeff, Andre, and Fred B. are all working very hard to prepare for sanding the floor.

    Now somehow, Jeff just had to work in some welding! Surrounded by basically an entirely wood car, Jeff was having metal work withdrawals! Five guys with sandpaper and Jeff gets the welder. What he’s doing is preparing the original heater boxes to accept modern internal heat strips. A fair amount of fabrication is required to removed the old ceramic wire wound elements (the ones that when they fail, cause a fire), and upfit the system to contain modern style sealed heater strips. This has been done in the other cars restored here at FRTM and worked well. It allows the original heater box and all its fixtures to be used, but safe new modern internal elements. Best of both worlds!

    And since this heater modernization is something we have become quite familiar with, we even have the elements on hand to get job done.

    Jeff sure looks happy to be wearing that welding helmet.

    And to keep the floor mystery going, we carefully removed checkered flooring to find it was affixed directly to the untreated floor planks. Then at some point the floor was stained. Then of course as the car came to us, it was slathered with brown paint.

    Fred Biederman has enough mahogany dust on him to build a board! He had the grueling task of sanding the floors under the railfan seats.

  • February 07, 2023 7:19 PM | Jacob Goldberg (Administrator)

    Chief Car Officer Jeff Bennett is using a triangle corner cleaning sanding adapter on the oscillating multi tool….

    And here’s why. With all the major paint and varnish removal out of the way and the bulk of the sanding done, the devil is now in the details!

    And look! Another find from under the smoker wall. The mystery checkered flooring is found again. Yet another place that it exists, that seemingly would have had to be put in before the wall. Did this car come from the Jewett factory with this wild checker flooring??? The car department is convinced it did, but who knows!

    Little chilly today and you see Jeff in the foreground holding the remnants of a heating element, and John is bundled up in the background continuing the seemingly endless detail work.

    The John goes with that ever handy multi tool.

    Big Ben has been working his fingers to the bone! He’s working on the window shade boxes. These ornate mahogany boxes house the window shades. They were of course covered in paint. The small detail work is endless. And not power tools on these, the wood is just too soft.

  • 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



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..

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