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  • March 27, 2022 6:04 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Weekend action in the Allan C. Williams car barn.

    In the final stretch for applying the canvas to CA&E 458- literally.

    Chief Car Officer Jeff Bennett carefully stretched each section of the roof canvas.   He then put in the top row of tacks into the canvas. Then cutting away the excess canvas, trimming the burlap and folding the canvas up under itself.
    Jeff worked intensely to keep a nice fold line,   After that, Jeff nailed in the lower tacks to secure the canvas to the car.   What's left is a beautiful edge between roof and car body.

    Following is a couple of pictures of the final product of applying the canvas to the roof of CA&E 458

    Fred Biederman picked up all the paint supplies needed to mix up the secret formula for the canvas paint.   Fred will be doing that just in time for the next work session. 

  • March 20, 2022 9:27 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    While on top of CTA L Car 4288, helping to canvas CA&E 458, Chief Car Officer Jeff Bennett gets a birds eye view of Joe C. removing the outer, upper paneling on CA&E 316, where we be reinstalling the original stained glass arch windows!

    Joe C. test fitting one of the arch windows… Visualize how magnificent this car will look, sporting its original stained glass, inside and out!

    Kathleen is learning how to use the infrared stripping gun from Thee.

    As you can see, Kathleen is very impressed with the results of removing paint this way!

    Somehow Mike G. Fred B. Fred L. and Manny hid well from the camera this weekend. But fear not, they were all busy bees!

    Mike could barely keep up with the messes that Jeff was making. 

    Manny was doing so well with paint removal, he took some arm rests home to do there!

    Fred B. assisted with canvas work, and took home a sample of a roof saddle from 458 to make more of them at home,

    Fred L. spent some time diagnosing 4451, as it developed some control circuit gremlins.

  • March 20, 2022 9:16 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Time for 715 to have its annual maintenance and inspection. Tom Albright has been a very active member of our operating crew and was interested in learning maintenance and repair! We welcomed him with open arms!

    Jeff Bennett and Tom Albright snap a selfie before getting to work.

    Tom quickly realized just how, let’s just say “involved” it is to inspect and maintain these magnificent machines! He must like it, he’s all smiles!

    With Tom is doing some wheel truck work, James Tarbet is steadily working his was through the group switch contacts.

    The group switch is the box the makes and breaks electrical connections, based on what the motorman is doing at the controls. All of those contact points, and the mechanisms that operate them, need regular servicing. It’s quite time consuming….

    And look at the coupler, the work group has a blue flag installed. This indicates that the car is being serviced and that no one but the person that put the flag there may do anything in, on, or under the car without that persons express permission. Blue Flagging is an industry wide safety system, and we vigilantly follow it!

    Oh look, Jeff found another hard to reach area for Tom to service. Tom wanted the “full experience” so we were happy to oblige. It was really great to have another happy set of hands, not to mention it’s great for our operating crew to understand how these beasts work, and what it takes to keep them in tip-top condition. 

    While we didn’t finish everything that is needed for 715’s annual on Sunday, we did get through a lot of things on the list. We were able to put the car back into service if needed, and will continue on the annual next weekend. It’s not uncommon for a proper annual inspection and servicing to take multiple work sessions.

  • March 20, 2022 9:05 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Kyle addressed some areas of concern that were seen through the first coat of primer.

    The walls have many fasteners that are to be painted over. The original paint had failed at these fasteners due to slight movements and differences in the metal types.

    To stop that problem, Kyle has applied flexible, paintable seal sealant to the joint edges, and a different type of epoxy sealer over the trouble areas.

    Just about done with the main compartment, then off to the smoker.

    Back to the roof.  With the car now having ratchet straps all the way around, Thee is working his way up and down, stretching the canvas a few clicks at a time.

    This is shot of Chief Car Officer Jeff Bennett on top of the car, with Thee below. Jeff went on top in his socks to inspect the roof canvas for any problem areas.

  • March 14, 2022 5:33 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Mike and Jeff worked Monday afternoon to get AE&FRE Locomotive 5 down to track four to use as an anchor to stretch the canvas on CA&E 458.

    Sunday it was clear that due to 458 being considerably longer than CTA 4451, there is much more surface area to cause friction and therefore make it difficult to pull.

    Notice Mike standing way back while Jeff pulls with the locomotive!

    So here is Chief Car Officer Jeff Bennett with his new brilliant plan to hook to 5 and inch north to stretch the canvas. Mike and I decided this was a great plan and if it worked we would share these pics right away…. And if it didn’t, we’ll we would promptly delete them!

    Probably got about 2 feet out of it. Here Jeff Bennett is attaching the straps to the cross beam so we could unhook them from 5.

    Earlier in the day, Kyle had been applying the first coat of epoxy primer to the main cabin of 458.

    Sunday we left the propane construction heater set at 50 degrees running in the sealed car so Monday morning it would be warm enough to spray, and it was!

  • March 13, 2022 9:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    CA&E 20 is now equipped with fully rebuilt and recovered rattan seats!

    There were about a dozen bottoms that came back from upholstery there were too wide. They fit, but when walking the seat backs over, the side arms of the back rest were rubbing all over the rattan. That would wear the material in no time, so it was decided to have them shortened.

    Chief Car Officer Jeff Bennett took the seat bottoms back to Riverside Upholstery, where Rafael was able to carefully open the ends, cut off a smidge of wood, and re-affix the rattan. The seat bottoms were done during the week and Barbara B. was kind enough to pick them up so we had them for the weekend.

    Having helped the whole process through, Mike quickly got the seat bottoms in place in the care and confirmed the problem was fixed.

  • March 13, 2022 6:32 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Sunday saw additional work on 316.

    Andre spent all day, particularly working with Joe, on getting two more custom made end post splices installed.

    Here’s the finished splicing in corner post product into the existing corner post. The corner posts are roughly installed and will be custom finished off to the existing posts in coming weeks.   Just like the CA&E's Wheaton Shops.

    James Tarbet worked like crazy on arm rests. Crazy time consuming!

    Thee, Mike, and Jeff worked on the lower interior stained glass window inserts throughout the weekend.   

    Editors Note: In the 1930s, the Chicago Aurora & Elgin painted over the stained glass windows and the wood finished interiors of its wood cars to make the cars look modern to the general public.   The railroad could not afford new, modern equipment so it made do with what it had.  Car 316, built in 1913, was "modernized" to match the public's taste in decoration.

    Between stripping the paint of the glass and wood, then having to sand the wood to make it ready for stain, I think we got maybe 6 out of 18 completely done.

    Yet another fantastic weekend of progress! For just about every weekend of this year we have had two or three cars being worked on at once every weekend. WE NEED this massive push to continue. There are cars under tarps waiting for us! 

  • 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.



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 (847) 380-6121

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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