Education Through Demonstration

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  • 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!

  • August 08, 2019 9:56 PM | Anonymous member

    Thanks to everyone who stopped-by our tent at South Elgin’s National Night Out celebration on Tuesday, August 6. Special thanks to Jeff, Joe, Jill, Kathleen, Barb, Damin, Doug, Mike, Sandy, Bernie, Rylee, Abi, Justin, and Community Relations Manager Lorrie Nevens for their efforts representing the museum.

  • May 19, 2019 8:30 PM | Anonymous

    Welcome our newest volunteer Kathleen. What a great addition to our Car Department crew. She is working on removing rust from the frame work around one of the operators windows of the car. She has been working during the week on our CTA Crane car, S314. With today's rain, we were luck enough to have her help inside.

    Not quite as glamorous of a shot, you can see Andy fitting new metal into place below.

    Never a job that Mike has any problems with! Here you can see the main frame rail of the car has been exposed. Mike first de-scaled all the loose rust with needle scaler. Then Jeff and Mike together systematically torched the rivets from behind and drove them out with an air hammer. In the picture Mike is now applying a rust encapsulating paint (POR-15) to all surfaces for the frame. This will prevent any future rusting. The next step is to fit the new body panels on the car, mark them for drilling, and install them. The first three panels actually got installed today!

    Look at these beautiful new window sills ! Custom made and carefully installed.

    Here is a good shot of to compare the old rotted out sills to the new custom fit ones.

    Here Ryan is using the Plasma Torch to custom cut one of the body panels

    While Andy and Jeff install the panel that Ryan just cut, Ryan gets back to the rivet removal on the other side. 

    Now all the rivets are finally removed, Mike and Jeff work on installing the new body panels, while Ryan and Andy are making and drilling the next panels to be installed

    This is interesting. The car was originally made with pained on imitation wood. The picture of this hinge removed, is a metal panel, not wood. Removing one of the hinges that has never been removed, shows the original paint work. From my understanding, this faux wood painted on design did not last long, before the interiors were painted over. 

    It was a great weekend, and many thanks to everyone that brought it together! Great to have you back this year Andy, and Kathleen you rock! Ryan hope to see more of you, as you are a great pair of hands. Jeff and Mike will be chugging away as usual.

  • February 24, 2019 3:08 PM | Anonymous

    Well here a month has flown by since the last update. Rest assured that work didn't slow down.  The last we posted, you could see the floor had been stripped of all the rotten wood, and the rusted metal was being cut out. Even some new panels had been laid. 

    Many more panels have been plasma cut laid, and welded in.

    Just about done with all the side panels, getting ready to cut and weld down the center ones.

    Every panel has now been cut and laid. Most all are welded, but a few towards the North end still need to be welded in.Quite frankly we would have kept on welding this weekend, but we ran out of wire! We had 5 spools of .030 wire. Doing the math, so far we have welded a little over 21,000 feet of wire and roughly 12 4x8 sheets of 11 gauge steel. One sheet of steel weighs about 160 lbs. 

    So 50 pounds of wire, and almost one ton (2000 lbs) of metal are laid down on 4451... Geeze no wonder we are tired at night.

    Looking at the finished floor, it reminds me of the floor of a bumper car ride at the fair. Remember that?

    Anyway, the last few panels will be welded down this week.

    For the most part, the structural I-beams and frame of the car have been in pretty good shape. The exception to this is in the train door entrance areas. The supporting I-beams that were rotted out, were carefully cut back to good metal and replaced with new I-beams. You can see in the picture above the left one is being welded in, and the right one shows the rot issue.Welding away

    Above and below you can see the finished product. Two new I-beams installed and properly attached.

    Our next step is to finish stripping the train end walls. You can see above the hand brake assembly in place, and below it has been removed.Now to get to work on walls and floors of the vestibules.Stay tuned, as we have a long road ahead...

  • January 25, 2019 7:19 PM | Anonymous

    The L2, SE door has significant rot issues. Before we took the door off the car, it was bound in place pretty severely. Once we got it down, this is what we had to start out with. A good two inches of the door, just simply gone.

    So we cut out all the rot, and got down to good metal. Then rebuilt the inner support structure.

    Once the inner supports were rebuilt, the door was re-skinned on both sides. 

    The sensitive edge was removed to address rust and rot under it. The lower track guide, that can be seen here in yellow, was salvaged from 4000 door we had in stock. The one that was supposed to be on the car was no where to be found. With some scaling and grinding, this guide fit the bill nicely.

    Still some more grinding and filling to do on this door. Just this door alone we probably have 30 hours in. And this sucker is heavy. Three guys to lift and turn as the work was going from one side to the other.

    The first NEW METAL panels are laid !!! 

    While the door above was being massaged, the welder went inside. One person has the plasma cutter set up and was making each panel to custom fit, while another was inside welding them in place. The system was working quite well, and we plan to continue it tomorrow.

    It's -7 outside, and as many of you know, about the same temperature in the barn. When the temps get below zero, propane tanks will not release their full potential, and as the temps drop even lower, you may be lucky to get half a tank out. Soooooo, we upped our game, and had three more  100 lb tanks delivered. (175 lbs when full, hence the crane)

    With the three tanks we had, and three more, we now have 6 tanks manifolded together, to fuel our construction heater. It keeps the car a little warmer, and for the lucky guys doing inside car work, they get warm tootsies.

    View from the plow truck. It has been interesting keeping the snow under control to gain access to the barn.... As you can see the dumpster has not been emptied. The garbage truck is too scared to go done the hill at the entrance.... 

    Jeff was not one with warm tootsies...

    While one crew was working on installing new floor panels, and one guy was working on the L2 door, two others were continuing to cut out the major rotted floor sections.  All the sections that we are removing in the main part of the car are out.

    All the air pipes that come up through the floor are being carefully removed, labeled and remade this weekend. So the problem of pipes rusting through where they meet the floor will not happen in the future. Some of the pipes were one bump away from leaking, so all new piping through the new floor will be nice.

    We are taking the opportunity to clean the undercarriage while we have it exposed. 

    I would just like to note, you can see the whole crew is always wearing respirators, and eye protection. If the job involves other potential hazards like this one did, the worker suits up full body, wears full safety goggles, and hearing protection. Personal Protection Equipment is a must in the car department. 

    Also you may note that four chemical fire extinguishers are at an arms reach inside the car, and one at each end outside the car. A water charged (anti freeze mixed) extinguisher is also on hand. 

    We are running a safe restoration all the way around here folks. 

    The bench seat arm rests are being stripped down to clean metal

    All the electrical access box covers (advertisement holders) were removed, and wall / panels underneath have been sanded down 

    This one still needs a little attention, but it's getting there.

    Snowing like crazy and -3, and we had a full crew of 4+ people everyday this week! No Snow Day for FRTM !!!

    Moving right along to the motorman areas, you can see the flooring is severely rotted. The air piping and other mechanicals coming up through the floor are all in poor condition at what used to be metal.

    So out they come... Just like that... Ya right ! Hours and hours have gone into carefully tagging each and every wire, pipe, connector, clamp, etc so that reassembly will be possible.

    Both motorman compartments are being just about fully stripped so the base structure can be repaired. Then as they are reinstalled, new piping can go to them, as well as bad switches and loose components on the walls being addressed. The Motorman windows have come out as well to repair rot damage.

    All things considered, we had a fantastic week in the barn working on 4451. Some of us are still waiting to regain feeling in our extremities however..... That "Hot Hot Hot Chocolate" ain't lookin so bad right about now.

    The weekend will be seeing more time on the floor install, and next week, back on the horse, so stay tuned!

  • January 18, 2019 4:53 PM | Anonymous

    With the ceiling done, it is time to move to the floors. All the seats were removed and have been sent out to be sand blasted.

    All the heaters are out being blasted and brackets made to house modern designed heat strips.

    Door engines (extremely heavy mechanism the opens and closes sliding doors) have been removed, and in this picture you can see the last of the walls being removed.

    With the walls out, and the first two layers up flooring up, we are tackling the last two layers of flooring.... Yes four layers of flooring, not including the final metal bottom.

    As can be seen in these above and below pictures, the flooring was so rotted that is was the consistency of wet landscaping mulch. Most of it just came out by grabbing hand fulls of wet mulch and getting in bags.

    This past week was a very productive one. Here you can see five guys working on the car at one time! (well the guy holding the camera was working before he thought a selfie with this background couldn't be missed)

    All the wood flooring is out, the walls are striped. The wet all insulation is out. Most all of the rotted metal floor is out. In the picture above everyone is working on cutting out rotted sections, or grinding imperfections flat, in preparation for the new floor.

    Stay tuned,  the goal is to have all the metal walls and current floor treated and ready for new flooring by next Wednesday. Then have two days to work on installing new metal flooring!



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 (312) 473-0993

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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