Education Through Demonstration

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  • February 20, 2022 6:03 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    A lot of activity took place this weekend in the Alan C. William car barn and foremost was get the rest of CA&E car 20's seats reinstalled.

    All CA&E car 20 seats are back in-house from our fantastic vendor, Riverside Upholstery in West Dundee. Great thanks to Joe Hazinski for seeking them out! They recovered the rattan cushions in just under a month!

    Here Fred Lonnes and James Tarbet are working the system of installing the seat backs in the smoker. The back cushions have metal channels inset on the sides and the seat frame arms have a mating track that when everything is lined up, the back is pounded down until it hits the stops in the track. This turned out to be very time consuming and required multiple people to allow for proper alignment.

    Mike Giles has been shuffling in seat backs and keeping each work team well stocked with whatever they yelled out for.  

    Jeff and Fred are working in the background on another back.

    In the background you can see the many successful installations.  

    A couple seat backs required the inset metal track piece to be removed and the wood holes have shims installed to allow the screws to be completely tight.

    Fred and James are seeing to the repair of one track.

    And now for the important part… THE TEST DRIVE.

    Everyone took a seat to thoroughly test the correct functionality of the seats!

    Jeff took the picture, and crew relaxed for a moment. Towards the back Fred Biederman came over from his work on 458 to lend a “test butt”. He also concurred everything was great!

  • February 14, 2022 11:32 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    After all the trim pieces were painstakingly removed that joined the arched upper stained glass openings to the ceiling panels, many hours were spent stripping the old paint off and giving the a rejuvenating coat of boiled linseed oil. The lowest piece shows what we started with, the middle one has had its paint stripped, and the top darker one has a good coating of boiled linseed oil.

    Last week all the ceiling panels were installed and this week the arched window openings were cut into the panels. Many tricks were used to mark where to cut, so Andre knew where to dig in with his hand held router. 

    Back to the trim pieces, a couple of them were so brittle they did not hold together during removal. James is here using the heater to aid in drying glue that was liberally applied to several pieces. 

    Another arched window opening being trimmed out. 

    We have been using the infrared paint stripping heaters extensively. Here it can be seen the progress being made on the north bulkhead wall. Very careful removal of paint over the doorway revealed the gold leaf lettering originally applied by the Jewett Car Co. 

    Here Jeff is working on one of the many arched window openings. The infrared paint stripper is being used. Each archway took about an hour to get all the paint off.

    A good picture of the ceiling panel as it looks after it’s final trim, but before any paint stripping.

    A close up of unstripped archway on the left vs stripped on the right.

    Once Andre finished trimming this panel, and Jeff finished stripping the paint, Mike and James went to work removing the ventilation diffusers.

    Most were filled with nests, mud wasps, and rodent homes, from the days the car sat outside. While up there, Mike and James also removed the stained glass pieces that were damaged, and prepped the opening for new glass. 

  • February 07, 2022 11:55 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    After a great Polar Express season, it was time to take down the Christmas decorations.   On Saturday, 02/05/2022, Event Coordinator Damin Keenan along with Fred Lonnes and Art Lemke disassembled the Elves North Pole apartments to put them away for the season.

    Here, the bracing has been removed and the flats are waiting to be loaded into Fred's truck to be hauled back to the events trailer.

    Art Lemke stacks bracing materials against the clock tower as the building flats are disassembled.

    Fred Lonnes uses a stake-puller to remove the stacks that anchored the building flats to the hillside.  His truck (parked on the sideway along Route 31) was used to carry the building flats down to the events trailer where they will be stored until the next Polar Express.

    Damin Keenan, takes a break from the work to document the the day's progress.

    Working in single-digit temperatures on a slipperly, snow-covered hillside was difficult, but the work needed to be done.

    While working on the building flats, we noticed that the stop sign at the end of our driveway had been knocked down.

  • February 06, 2022 11:12 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Thee and John just about have the smoker interior stripped. Another two full days… gotta be getting close to primer huh?

  • February 06, 2022 10:40 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Here’s one update that’s been a long time coming! 

    CA&E 316’s ceiling panels are all installed!

    Jeff, Andre, James T., and Mike rebuilt the entire roof structure over the last couple weekends. Every single piece that the new panels would touch and attach to was reinforced and built up to the correct angles to receive the new custom made panels.

    Andre is fitting the last panel in above the bathroom in the main compartment.

    Smoker section with both panels in.

    Every panel up!

    And the money shot! Still plenty to do, but what a wonderful step completed.

  • February 06, 2022 10:22 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Sunday Jeff and Mike dedicated the day to installing several of the recovered rattan seat cushions into CA&E 20. 

    Jeff unloading the seat bottoms from our faithful “trolley ambulance”. 

    Every cushion was marked prior to removal by Joe Hazinski. As Mike shuffled the cushions back into the car Jeff placed them into their respective location.  

    Each seat mechanism was in need of something!

    Here pointed to on the left, new bump stops are being installed. The old stops were leather, and mostly rotted and missing. New heavy rubber stops were installed.

    Being pointed to on the right, it can be seen were some welding was required.

    Many of the complete seat frames needed to be removed for service on a bench. Kyle and Mike removed them. Kyle took them to his shop, where he was able to make many repairs. Being that many parts are cast iron, the process is extremely difficult. 

    Kyle was able to fix all the issues, reinstall the frames, and test their functionality. This is a massive success, as many of the walkover seats have been inoperative for decades. 

    So now the tricky part.
    MANY of the lower cushions had been altered or worn over the years due to the failed or failing seat mechanisms. Now that everything is fixed with the frames, it turned out that several cushion bottoms needed to have reinforcement bracing removed or relocated. Getting them all to fit correctly as they were originally designed to was quite the task!

    Here the outer edges on the sides were replaced and altered somewhere in the past to accommodate a failing seat frame. The particular cushion required both outer pieces to be removed and remade “on the fly”. 

  • January 31, 2022 11:43 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Damin helping organize parts as they are removed from 316’s ceiling  

    Jeff at about 8pm on Sunday.  A long weekend of re-wiring all the lighting circuits in 316 comes to an end with all wires pulled into the main cabinet, attached at all points in the wood runners, and leads all hanging where the fixtures will go.  James Tarbet and Mike Gilles were instrumental in helping to get this massive undertaking done in one weekend. It was certainly a three person job.

    Andre and Mike are jacking the ceiling back up in this picture and splinting the cracked carlines. It seemed that where the three aisle dome lights were mounted, the weight cracked the very dry wood, which lead to the roof slats cracking, and then the sag. A series of jacking and splinting brought the ceiling structure completely in line once again.

    This image gives you a small idea of how the wiring for all the light circuits works it’s way through the car.  It’s all in the ceiling in channels, and must be installed prior to the ceiling panels.

    Look carefully down the sides of the ceiling run.  All new shims have been installed by Mike and Andre to accommodate a perfect mounting surface for the new panels. Many hours were also spent by Andre reinforcing the carlines, both in the ceiling and the car card area. 109 years have left many of the wood pieces so dry they have cracked away from their original nails. Hundreds of new fasteners were installed and some new wood, until every piece of this inner structure was rock solid  

    Thee and John worked all day Saturday and Sunday on 458. Continuing the interior prep work for paint. The bathroom was worked on extensively, and had the sink, mirror, light fixture, and soap dispenser removed. This was done because all those items are extremely fragile and needed to be away from the work zone. Also with them out a much better prep and paint job will be able to be achieved. 

    Fred Lonnes worked with Jeff consulting on several things, then went to his track duties. 

    Kyle brought back one of the seat frames for 20 that needed extensive repairs. He spent the day inside 20, installing the one seat frame that he had repaired and removing several others that need repair. They are quite intricate, and have many moving parts that have worn over the last 120 years!  

    Fred Biederman just about has all the screw holes in 458 drilled and tapped. Another whole day was dedicated to that by him.

  • January 26, 2022 11:28 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Here we have the seat work being performed on CA&E car 20's rattan seats. Riverside Upholstery in West Dundee has been contracted to do the rehab of the seat frames, and then recovering them. The internal springs are supposed to be held partially compressed by what used to be canvas. The decades have taken it's toll, and the canvas has mostly fallen apart. In the pictures you can see the new polyester binding being used to hold the springs compressed at just the right depth. Upon our visit with them this week, they have successfully completed all the regular seat bottoms, as can be seen leaning up against the wall. The backs are being worked on in the pictures. Every seat needed some sort of internal attention. The crew at Riverside has done an amazing job of thoroughly rehabilitating the frame work, prior to the excellent recover job!

  • January 26, 2022 11:23 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    It may have only been 5 degrees outside, but the crew in 316 is on fire! Damin is helping to organize parts removed, pack and store them. James and Andre are continuing the disassembly of the south end to get the car to a point that is solid to affix the new wood to. Jeff was working on removing the lighting wires. All new overhead wiring is being installed, and the old must come out first.

  • January 24, 2022 11:14 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    2022 the year of massive ambition in the car department… here’s a sneak peak at CA&E car 20’s seat restoration project. Rafael from Riverside Upholstery has been contracted to do the rattan recovering. Here Jeff, the Chief Car Officer is inspecting and approving a sample. Stay tuned, this is gonna be huge!



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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