Education Through Demonstration

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  • March 13, 2022 5:03 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Chief Car Officer Jeff Bennett was the last one out on Saturday, He snapped this picture of Thee’s handy work. Thee was able to get the canvas laid out on 458 first thing in the morning.

    So on Sunday March 13, 2022, when it was warmer Jeff  started to teach Thee the process of “stretching canvas”

    We used CTA L Car 4288 as our south end anchor.

    Turned out we needed a little bit more material to the north.

    On the north end we used the massive old design canvas clamps. The longer cars really require some pulling effort. Here you can see Jeff Bennett is also trimming some burlap in anticipation of tacking the canvas.

    Since the car is basically right up against the door on the north end of the car barn, we had to some interesting anchoring. A brace was put across the inside of the door opening and we used that. This way we can still close the door.

    I think that next weekend we will need to use another car though. Just need more pulling power to get the canvas nice and tight. With any luck next weekend we may even start tacking. Just have to see how well we can get it stretched. 

    Kyle is all set to spray primer this week on the interior of 458. He spent Sunday doing the final masking and cleaning. We have the compartment sealed off and heat running at 50 degrees, so hopefully Monday he can crank the heat up just a tad more and get one coat on.

  • March 12, 2022 6:13 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    It was a real cold Saturday morning at the Allan C. Williams car barn, but the restoration artists don’t let a little cold slow them down!

    Joe C. decided to tackle the onboard tool box, which stores the car's emergency equipment. It had been partially stripped of paint, but that was about it.

    He completely disassembled the box, cleaned and stripped the remaining parts, and rebuilt it back to like new! He didn’t have to use one new piece of wood.  That's a real artist of restoration.

    Manny is continuing paint removal on the north bulkhead wall. Very slow going to do it right.

    So Manny is now moved over to the door and you can see behind him, he finished the wall. Mike is working in the north vestibule stripping paint. He must have drawn the short straw, because it turned out that those panels have the most paint of anything. Brown, blue, red, green, then wood. We are trying different techniques and tools to see what works best.   The archeology of paint layers!

    Fred Biederman was assigned the bathroom to finish the removal of one last wall. 

    Here Jeff Bennett is using the razor edged contoured stripper to get into the tiny corners of the crown molding. Another crazy slow job, getting the old paint and varnish off, without gouging the wood.

    Being that Saturday was so cold, John and Thee, in the foreground, joined everyone in 316, where the heat was pumping in, and worked on stripping the side walls below the window sills.

    Fred Lonnes came in from his track work to warm up. We are planning some extensive track work again very soon and Fred has taken the lead on managing it. He’s obviously in awe of our work, or maybe he is looking up to Mother Nature asking her to turn up the heat!

  • March 07, 2022 5:58 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Saturday was awesome weather so we set up outside. So much easier when working with full sheets of wood.  Since the special flexible plywood came in during the week, Joe and Andre got straight to work Saturday morning, cutting the wood to the correct size for the car card area in 316.   Swift Workshop reefer in background.

    With all the pieces cut and ready, the guys loaded them up into the car and started getting them up there, one by one.

    Here is the west side, all panels up.

    Mike is prepping the east side for Andre and Joe, by making sure there is nothing sticking up in the wood, like an old nail, and marking the location of the carlines (studs) so once the panel is up, the crew could quickly fasten it in.

    Shuffling the ceiling vent covers out to Kyle for sand blasting and painting, Mike is moving quickly to stay ahead of the team!

    James Tarbet also took advantage of the wonderful weather on Saturday and worked outside stripping countless feet of crown trim from 316.

    Using the IR paint stripper and special contoured scrapers, the work moves pretty quickly. It’s WAY better than chemical or mechanical stripping techniques, and creates ZERO dust. Everything stripped turns into a melted little ball and is safeley disposed of.

  • March 07, 2022 5:30 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Sunday Andre and Jeff spent quite some time deciding how to replicate the side wall panels. They are quite detailed pieces, with inset wood, and intricate cut trim.

    We applied boiled linseed oil to some of the better panels to see how much they would come back to life.

    Some panels have extensive de-lamination from past water damage. Some have very little damage. 

    With a plan of attack, Andre removes the last remaining panel.

    It was decided that off site restoration of the panels was going to be the best solution. With the detail each panel has, and the fact that we plan to RESTORE each panel and not just replace it, a bigger working area is needed. Mike is hauling one of the many panels to Andre’s truck.

    And here Jess is finishing out Sunday in the bathroom! 

    With a plan for the wall panels in motion, I decided a demo of the bathroom walls and ceiling was in order.

    Things went pretty much as expected. Mike got the toilet and door off and out, and Jeff came in to remove some walls.

    Three out of the four walls have extensive water damage and will require complete replacement. Jeff started by carefully removing all the ornate trim, both above and around the oval window. Then went town on the walls. Rebuilding this will be pretty standard stuff, however Jeff did discover the floor is cement! Gonna have to decide what to do there….

  • March 06, 2022 5:25 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    It was an amazingly productive weekend as the Car Department team went all out in the Allan C Williams Carbarn.

    FINALLY! What a marathon it was to get all of CA&E Car 458'interior stripped, but finally we all agreed that it was the best it’s gonna get!

    So off to taping and masking, in perpetration for the primer coat of paint. We are still ahead of the game, as it’s too cold to spray yet anyway, but as soon as Mother Nature gives us the green light, we will be some paintin fools!

    With the interior being masked by Kyle, Thee started laying out the burlap in preparation for the canvas that will cover the roof.

    Mike is helping to coil up the old roof harness. We will be putting new wiring on the car, but the terminal connectors on the old harness will be reused.

    Thee is putting in the last couple staples to loosely hold the burlap in place on the roof.

    And just before we shut down on Sunday, I shimmied up the “Tower of Terror” as we have come to call it, (CA&E's Wheaton Ship built rolling, homemade scaffold apparatus that is always an adventure to use), and shot these pictures of Thee’s handy work.

    Roof Canvas next weekend for sure!

  • February 27, 2022 6:37 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    With all the different projects and groups working together, we are doing our best to continue cleaning and organizing things. Below Mike and Thee are putting away a CA&E control stand that was left along the wall by CA&E 316. 

    Continuing efforts are underway to maximize the efficiency of the space we have. The back two corners of the barn are where we have our tools, machines, and supplies. We are organizing things back here to allow for some much better working arrangements.

    Here Andre is doing some light electrical, so we can correctly power our equipment. As some may remember, a few years ago now, the museum took a big leap and supplied the entire campus with 480 volt electrical service. The car barn being the biggest benefactor of this upgrade.  

    And here’s just a few of the shining faces that make things happen around here.

    Left to right, top then bottom;

    Mike G. Big Ben, Jeff
    Andre, Joe C. Thee

  • February 27, 2022 5:57 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    With the inside of 458 continuing to have its paint stripped off to bare metal, Fred Biederman attacked the roof ventilator holes.

    Having gone over the layout and measurements, Fred went to cutting necessary holes in the roof to accommodate the ventilators. Once that was complete, he removed the roof cable harness, as new main trolley wiring will be installed.

    I TOLD JOHN TO SMILE. Think we’ve keep him in 458 too long!

    Now Thee on the other hand it quite the happy camper! Probably because they are now just about done stripping all the paint. Behind him you can see, everything is just about done.

  • February 26, 2022 6:02 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    More exciting news from Jeff Bennett and his team as they work on CA&E 316 in the Allan C. William Barn

    Welcome back Joe C.!  Joe was traveling for work and has been away for some time. Glad to have ya back!  Andre and Joe had to take one panel back down in the smoker. It just wasn’t fitting right, and they decided to investigate. 

    While we always try to use as much of the “original fabric” of the car, some times complete replacement of things is the only way. Andre and Mike had “splinted” many of the roof carlines to get the ceiling structure back in line. However, this particular section was just too far gone. One carline was completely replaced with a custom fit replacement. Another was doubled up on both sides with new ones. The final step was to jack the ceiling structure back into place and install fasteners. This final step is being carefully handled by Joe and Andre.

    “One small post for man, one GIANT leap for 316”  

    The custom fabricated corner posts were delivered by Greg from Chicago Window and Door Solutions on Friday, 02/26/2022.

    Joe and Andre are right at home working with wood, as they are both professional carpenters.

    I was amazed at just how much time and attention to detail it took for Andre (shown holding one post) and Joe to plan, then execute the installation of the post. We are very lucky to have these guys on this task!

    Guess Joe is happy to be back! Look at this guy, all smiles. He’s shaping the ceiling panels to the arched window opening, so the trim can be reinstalled. Jeff has about six of these installed so far.

    Manny diligently spent the whole day with the IR paint stripper, removing paint from the north bulkhead wall. We are finding amazing and beautiful woodwork everywhere. Manny likes to do working projects and has been extremely knowledgeable and helpful in this area. We now call him the “refinishing manager”. 

    Almost caught Mike in action.

    A couple sessions ago, James Tarbet removed all the stained glass pieces that were broken. This past weekend Mike made templates for each opening so Jeff can take and have our friends at LeWalt glass cut us new ones. We were able to source 12x8 stained glass plates, and have them on hand. When Mike and I looked at each other, deciding on which one of us was gonna cut them, we decided NEITHER. Let the professionals do it!

    In the back to right you can see Manny working away at that wall.

    Some new, some old, but all right as rain!  This is the compartment above the south vestibule, showing some of the wiring that has been done.

    Here Jeff snaps a selfie with his wiring work underway. If you look to the left you can see the wiring diagram I’m working of off.

    Days and days of diagramming, ringing out wires and then ultimately installing all new wiring for the lighting, as well as other systems, lead up to this day. This has been a group effort. Ralph Taylor and Fred Lonnes spent countless hours determining the wiring as it was and diagramming it. 

    Ralph acquired the special 1000 Volt rated wiring and donated it to the project (not cheap stuff either).

    Then Fred comes up with ORIGINAL wiring diagrams for the car! He was able to not only print me out the systems we were working on, but also provide digital copies!   

    Here was the happy crew on Sunday. Jeff, Andre, Joe, Mike, and in the way back, Manny, with tools in hand. 

    Mike and Jeff are loading the new ceiling panel trim pieces they just cut.

    Here it can be seen the trim pieces installed to cover the ceiling panel joints. Mike and Jeff worked for some time developing a system of installation.

    Mike, the water boy! Keeping the crew well hydrated!

  • February 20, 2022 6:28 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Thee and John are cranking away at the paint removal on the interior of CA&E 458. Kyle and Fred Biederman were also in there with them a good portion of the day.

    The “original” plan was to sand down the existing paint and prime over top of it. However, many places throughout, the existing paint and primer were “popping”, basically losing their ability to adhere properly to the metal. No way are we going to lay down our epoxy primer and Imron paint onto a questionable surface! So the decision was made to take the entire interior down to bare metal.

    Kyle has a very aggressive barrel type sander, and we have needle scalers. So off to the races. Everyone either had a needle scaler or barrel sander and was going to town. Hindsight, we should have just gone down to bare metal right from the start. We wasted a ton on time sanding down paint, that we are now ultimately removing all the way. Live and learn I guess. Rather make the call now and just do it right!

    Kyle has been shuffling the walk-around seat frames 3 at a time to his shop for service, repair, refinishing, and lubricating. Here is one done. There are several more done. He’s probably halfway through. 

  • February 20, 2022 6:17 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Here we see Manny Dunn and Jeff working on trimming the ceiling panels so that the face trim can be reinstalled just below. It is the piece that covers the wire groves.

    The arched window openings have now all been cut out of the new ceiling panels.  

    Next, a belt sander was used to smooth the panels to the arch. All the paint has been removed from all the arched areas.  The trim pieces that mate the connection of the arch and the ceiling were painstakingly removed earlier.

    The crew then went through the process of repairing all the trim. The final step was to give them several coats of boiled linseed oil, and it’s a darn good thing we did! When we removed these pieces they were as brittle as could be, but now during reinstalling them, they bent and flexed, “kinda”.

    Here is installing a trim piece. It’s a slow process of installing one screw, forcing and bending the piece to the right angle, holding it there and installing the next screw. Each piece has 20 screws! We did not get all the arch trim in, as it’s about an hour per arch. We did get four done, and all the trim reattached just below the arches. 

    We also took the time to remove each vent diffuser for cleaning and service.

    Next, any piece of stained glass that needed attention was removed for later restoration.

    The ceiling is really flying along, thanks to all the great volunteers.



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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