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  • March 27, 2022 6:29 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Hey look! It’s Big Ben!

    We all love to see Ben, cuz he just shows up outta the blue and says, “what needs doin”. Just like all of us in the car department, Ben will do anything needed, and today that was unscrewing the clamps from the discarded canvas pieces of 458, so they can be stored for the next roof.

    Joe C. has been working hard on getting the west exterior side of CA&E 316 cleared of car siding that will not be needed once the stained glass arches are in, and Mike G. has been his faithful sidekick. Here Mike is making one of about a hundred trips to the dumpster. 

    Here it can be seen that all the filler panels and letter boards are off of 316 to make room for the arched stained glass windows.

    View from the other end of the car with all un-needed stuff removed.

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

    With many things moving quickly on CA&E 316, EVERY piece and panel that needs to have the ugly paint removed to let the lovely mahogany show, is being addressed.

    Not an easy or quick process! Here we have Thee painstakingly getting into every nook and cranny with picks and pointed scrapers to assure the stained glass panels are perfect. There are 14 interior arches and and 14 exterior! In the background Andre is running back and forth for tools to do some light electrical, and Mike G. is just out of range, picking up after Jeff, no doubt!

    The winter that just won’t go away! Jeff, Thee, and John are all lined up in front of a heater, bundled up and stripping paint like crazy.

    With the last of the canvas clamps off 458, James Tarbet lends a hand to clean up some discarded trimmings.

  • March 27, 2022 6:15 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Well Kyle snuck in somehow and got the walls top coated with our new standard paint, Imron.  As of typing the message, Jeff Bennett was told that Kyle is on site top coating the ceiling today! 

    The interior is looking beautiful.  Stay tuned closely for the ceiling pics, as Jeff is sure Kyle will be done with it before the next time the camera visits.

    A couple last shots of the canvas work. Fred Biederman has more experience in canvas roofing than Chief Car Officer, Jeff Bennett.  This assertion from Jeff himself.  The car department has been leaning on Fred B. for quite a bit for knowledge.

    Here he is helping to get a tough corner to lay flat.

    And he was successful! 

    If Mother Nature is kind enough to give a bit of warmth during the next work session, the first coat of canvas paint will be applied.

  • 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! 



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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