Tuesday, September 30, 2008

History of Illinois Terminal #518

Car 518 on the rear of a U of I football special, laying over on the alley tracks in Urbana. The train includes the 534 and a combine, probably of the same type as our 277. All photos from the Robert E. Bruneau collection.

Note: These photographs are copyrighted and may not be reproduced without permission.

The Illinois Terminal Railroad was perhaps best known for its distinctive main-line interurban cars with their flat-top arched roofs, three-window fronts, massive radial couplers and other features designed by the road’s master mechanic, J. M. Bosenbury. These cars were all built between about 1907 and 1915, and held down most long-distance passenger service until the end in 1956. Seven of these cars survive, five of them at IRM.

Builder's interior photo of this series of car. The only major change between then and now is that the interior art glass windows were replaced with pieces of Masonite painted to match the rest of the varnished mahogany woodwork.

Car 518 was one of an order of twelve cars (516 to 527) from the St. Louis Car Company in 1911. It was always a trailer and was never motorized. It originally had tongue-and-groove wood siding and was painted Pullman green. This picture shows what the car looked like as built; the first car behind the Class B is probably the 518, certainly the same type, at least.

In the twenties the paint scheme changed to traction orange, with maroon trim, which is what all of our cars have been restored to. At some later time (before 1938) the wood sides were covered with sheet metal, held on with round-head wood screws. The sheet metal also covered over the outer stained glass windows, which are still there. During WWII, we believe, it was equipped with a trolley pole to facilitate back-up movements by an attached motor car, but there was never any control equipment. The pole was later removed. Otherwise, it was little changed during forty years of continuous passenger service. It appears that the 518 was never painted in the later IT blue-and-silver paint scheme.

The 518 on October 29, 1950. The pole is no longer being used: there's no retriever, it's just tied down. It will soon be removed. Photo from the Ray Burmaster collection.

Of the other cars in this series, the 527 was rebuilt into the bedroom car Illinois in 1930. The 525 was destroyed by fire in 1930 and the 526 on Christmas Day in 1950. Most of the others were scrapped between 1950 and 1952. The Illinois was later renumbered as 535, and the body is still in existence, serving as a residence next to the IT substation building in Harristown.

The 518 after arrival at Federal Yard, but before repainting. That little box over the train door is a connector for the 600V lighting.

In 1952, as passenger service was rapidly declining, the 518 was assigned to service as an “INSTRUCTORS CAR” at Federal Yard in Wood River (near East Alton). It was used as a classroom for instructing employees in such matters as safety, as I understand it. At first it kept its original paint and number, but was later painted box car red and numbered 0100. In this capacity, it was retained by the railroad for a couple of years after the end of passenger service.

About 1960(?), it was purchased by Maury Klebolt for his Illini Railroad Club in Champaign. Here it was repainted in the club’s orange and blue paint scheme, and it received the name “Illini”. It was used on a couple of Diesel-pulled excursion trips over the remaining IT lines, but spent most of its time in storage at Champaign. The Illini Railroad Club owned three IT cars: business cars 233 and 234 (named “Urbana” and “Champaign”) and the 518. It also operated the observation car Inglehome (renamed “Chief Illini”), though this was owned by the University for some reason. The flamboyant Mr. Klebolt had all of this equipment repainted in his own (University of Illinois-inspired) paint schemes.

By 1968, Mr. Klebolt had moved to San Francisco and interest in preserving the equipment waned. The railroad cars were donated to IRM and moved to Union on their own wheels.

The roof of the 518 after its arrival at Union, in 1969, before installation of the trolley hardware. Photo by Bob Bruneau. Don't recognize the location? This is Yard 1, facing south. Directly ahead is the roof of the 233. And that ugly thing to the left is the 321.

Here they were repainted to the Illinois Terminal’s orange paint scheme, and needed repairs were made. And the 518 had its trolley pole reinstalled, so that the 277 could be operated with it on our railroad, where there are no turning facilities at either end. It has been maintained in good condition over the years; it has been stored inside since the Lester barn was constructed in 1975.

The interior of the 518 in Sept. 1969. Photo by Glenn Monhart.

The interior of the 518 in Oct. 2008. Photo by Randall Hicks.

Our current plans are to make the necessary repairs to the 277 so that it can operate with the 518 in occasional revenue service. The 518 will once again be serving in an educational role, this time as a demonstration of what interurban service was like at its zenith.


It was raining when I arrived in the morning, so I was able to check the roof of the barn for leaks. The caulking I did last time held up better than I expected; one piece of plastic on the 277 needed to be replaced. Also, I helped Rod briefly with checking out the electrical connections to the air compressors.

Then I worked some more on sorting parts and rearranging the 321, and did some more work on 518 windows. Not a lot to take pictures of, so here are a couple of views from previous sessions.

I then picked up a new gallon of maroon paint for the windows, which Diamond Paints in Des Plaines mixed for us. As usual, it appears to be a perfect match. And I visited Bob Bruneau; he let me borrow his file on the 518. This has a number of great pictures of the car, both inside and out, many of which have probably not been published before. When I get a chance in a day or two, I'll start on an illustrated history of the car. It also includes the original St. Louis blueprints for the bulkhead by the stove, which was removed when the car was converted for use as an instruction car. We will need to replace it. All this will be covered in more detail later!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Window of Opportunity

I did some more work on 518 windows today. I can see already that these blog posts are going to get kind of boring. The car has 28 inside windows, and making it sound interesting would tax the abilities of a better writer than myself. Maybe we can tell dirty jokes instead. Anyhow, I finished stripping the second pair, which I removed last week. I put a first coat of primer on the outside surfaces, and stain on the inside. And a second coat of varnish (L) on the inside of the first pair. One of the second pair has a broken pane which will need to be replaced.

The 518 windows have several layers of paint on the outside. The car had, I believe, three exterior paint schemes while it was in regular service, and then was repainted for work service. Then it belonged to Maury Klebolt and was repainted while it was stored in Champaign, then it was repainted in the orange and maroon paint scheme when it was acquired by IRM. It appears the windows were never stripped down to bare wood, until now. Fortunately, the insides were never painted; they're still in stain and varnish, so stripping is relatively easy. Whew!

To the left, here's the new wig-wag at the corner of Depot and Springfield, which is in operation. And to the right, even though it was Sunday, there were four contractors working on Barn 11.

That reminds me of a good story about the construction of Barn 9. It was built early in the spring, about 30 years ago. The company brought down two crews from Canada to finish it in record time, since I suppose Canada was still covered in snow and ice. Checker's was the only restaurant in town, of course, so when Checker arrived in the morning there was a long line of hungry men waiting patiently at the door. They quickly ate up all the food he had for breakfast, so when the regular customers arrived he had nothing to offer them. Then they came back and ate up all his lunch. That sort of annoyed everybody. So Checker decided to bake up two large pans of meat loaf - that ought to fix them! Unfortunately, he didn't realize that the next day was Ash Wednesday. The men were all French Canadians and good Catholics, so they couldn't eat meat on Ash Wednesday. Checker was left with two huge pans of meat loaf he could hardly give away! Here, want some meat loaf???

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Roof boards and doors

Today I made good use of the Rustoleum rusty metal primer that we purchased during the week. It was 80 degrees and sunny, so I toted the six 12' long 2x6's that will serve as the 205's roof boards outdoors and put a coat of primer on all of them, the sun drying the paint quickly enough to do both sides. After this was done, I used our new pad sander to sand down the previous coat of primer on the two new door leaves for the car and put a final coat of primer on those; now they're ready for Indiana Railroad orange, and then final hardware fitting and installation! The doors are shown below left. I also got to show blog reader Glenn Prow, who has helped us with Hicks Locomotive & Car Works research, through the 309 before his Take the Throttle trip. And there has been progress on Barn 11 - the roof trusses and stringers at the west end of the building are in place, as shown below right.

Monday, September 22, 2008

518 Window Work

Today I started working on windows for Illinois Terminal car 518 in earnest. Most of the interior windows need to be refinished. As shown at left, the car has outer storm windows, which are normally stored in the up position, and inner windows which can be adjusted by the passenger. In this view the two storm windows to the left are in the up position, and the ones on the right are down. Once I remove a window for refurbishing, I can put the storm window down. Most of the storm windows are in very good condition because they're always up inside the car.

To the right, we see a pair of windows from the inside. Notice the water stains on the inner windows? In order to remove them, one must first remove the window shade box, as well as the window shade tracks on each side. The window can then be lifted out. This is actually easier than it was on the 308 and 309, where I had to partly remove the seat backs to get windows in and out.

To the left, we see a pair where I have removed the inner windows. Now the storm windows are down.

I also worked some more on re-organizing the 321, where the refinishing will take place. And I started stripping the two windows I had removed from the 518.

And I went for a walk. Three contractor employees were busily attaching the lower wooden planks to the frame of Barn 11. I noticed they were using a chain saw to trim the boards to length. That's carpentry on a slightly different scale than I'm used to.

And here's a view of the berm along the south edge of our property. This would probably make a good defensive position for the next Civil War battle that gets fought at IRM. On the other hand, it may be too far from the supply lines. It's difficult for the armies to fight without adequate supplies of food, ammunition, and spectators.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

First finish paint goes onto 205

A milestone in the 205 cosmetic restoration project was reached today: the first finish paint went onto the car itself. It wasn't orange though - it was green. I painted the roof saddles and roof vents with a coat of IR dark green paint; both had previously received a coat of paint, but the roof had been painted with a much darker green (almost black) as a first coat. The paint we're using for the second coat matches the roof and step wells of the 65. The difference can be seen below:
After this was done I was running out of time (I didn't get out to IRM until mid-afternoon) but I decided to borrow the official Car Department Truck, IRM fleet #45, and drove to the Menards in Woodstock to save more money on some 12' long 2x6's. These will be used as roof boards on the car, replacing the (badly rotted) 2x6 roof boards it had when we got it. I also bought a new pad sander to use on Bondo applications on the 205. I had already picked up some paint roller supplies, and I hope that within the next couple of weeks I'll be able to put the final coat of green on the entire roof. All in all, it was a productive day.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Memorial Bench

Frank and I donated a memorial bench in memory of my father, Allan Hicks, who was a generous supporter of the Museum for many years. It arrived on Saturday and was installed at the Depot. Pictures by Dave Diamond -- thanks, Dave!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Wye It's Important

Today Wes Lloyd helped me wye the 321 to put its better side towards the public sidewalk. It's been sort of an eyesore for the past couple of years, and I finally was able to put the good side in view. That's the side that appears in all of our recent pictures on the web. And since I wasn't able to operate anything on Member's Day, at least I got to run the 308+309 out and back in again. And it was fun to ride the 321 on the connector track and around the car line. Thanks, Wes!

It's always hard to take good pictures inside the barn, so you'll just have to take my word for it, or see for yourself. And no more 'wye' puns for a while, I promise.

I spent most of the rest of the day working on rearranging things inside the 321 to make it a more efficient working space. I also put a first coat of varnish on my two 518 windows, but I'll need a key to the IT cars before I can do much more.

And finally, for this week's campus scenery, we have news! This great new billboard has just been installed along Riverside Drive, south of the Hoffman building. It's a vast improvement over looking at the material yard. Put up billboards and Keep America Beautiful!

Washout Part II It Could Have Been Worse...

On early Sunday morning, the St. Louis area received torrential rains. Some areas got as much as 7 inches in two hours. Add that on top of an already rainy September, and what do you get? Flash flooding! The Red Cross had to set up overnight shelters in University City and other suburbs. Boats were used to evacuate people from Ladue.

At the Museum of Transportation, the new parking lot got wet. Also, the track for the miniature train ride was flooded. The photo to the right was taken from the present parking lot. The foreground is where the new visitor's center is planned to be built, and the new parking lot is beyond that. Below the T-80 trainer should be try land and behind it should be a road and a golf driving range. I guess mother nature had other plans.

Some of you know that the museum has a storage barn on this level, where the bulk of the electric railway collection is stored. Early reports indicate that the water did not reach the building, or even near it.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

RR Steakhouse

The "RR Steakhouse" is a small supper club-type restaurant located on Rt. 20 about three miles from the Museum, just west of the intersection of Coral Rd. and 20. (I.e. south on Olson to Coral, west on Coral to 20, turn right, and it's on the left.) This place has been there since at least the seventies under various owners.

Various types of steak are available at $18 to $22, including salad, potato, and rolls. Seafood generally runs about $14, apart from lobster. We tried the prime rib, New York strip, and steamed salmon, and all were very good. The menu also includes burgers, pasta, appetizers, etc. Drinks are very reasonably priced. You can eat either in the main dining area or at the bar, and the informal atmosphere should appeal to working members, or even rich lawyers. Closed Monday and Tuesday. Definitely recommended.

Saturday, September 13, 2008


Member's Day 2008 was essentially washed out by the constant rain, so relatively little happened. Flooding was not as bad as it might appear, and there is no significant flood damage. So the three of us (David Wilkins came up from St. Louis) made the best of it we could.

I decided that this was a good opportunity to check again whether Barn 8 was leaking over "my" cars. There are no leaks over the CA&E cars, but I found there were three or four serious leaks over the IT 277 and 518. (This isn't quite as drastic as it sounds. The cars were moved to a new location just last week, so it isn't as though the cars have been rained on for the last twenty years.) I put plastic sheets over the roofs, and then tried to caulk up the leaks in the ceiling. This probably wasn't too effective, since the caulk won't adhere to wet surfaces, but I hoped it would at least slow the drips for today and tomorrow. This post shows a picture of what the caulking process does.

The three of us then used the rolling scaffold to check for leaks over every car in Barn 8; no more serious problems were found. A slow leak over a 6000, which is entirely aluminum, was judged not to be a problem.

Then we went for rides on the silver train and the heavyweight train, which operated without difficulty, of course. Here (R) is the crew of the silver train. L to R, John Bender, Linda Evans, Debbie Fowler.

The dining car Birmingham (L) was packed with passengers on its first trip.

And here's a typical passenger (R) in the sleeper Silver Ridge, obviously enjoying his trip. Note the rain running down the window.

I spent several hours cleaning and straightening in the 321.

Later in the afternoon, North Shore car 749 was brought out for several trips. To the right we see its beautiful interior. David got to operate it for part of a trip.

Finally, the big news is that Barn 11 is now under construction. Here are two views of the complete set of posts. This barn, when complete, will protect a large number of valuable pieces of equipment in our historic collection.

Monday, September 8, 2008

IT Work Starts

The steady rain today limited the things I could do. I went up on the roof of the 277 and finished taking measurements and making sketches for an engineering drawing of the roof equipment we'll need to replace. I also did some excavation to see how much wood we'll need to replace. All of the trolley boards and saddles for the rear half of the car will be replaced, but it appeared that less of the roof itself needs to be replaced than I had thought. Certainly we'll need all new canvas. I found that there was a layer of felt under the canvas; this felt just turns to dust when you try to handle it. I also made a wiring diagram.

Then I started on refinishing 518 windows in my 321 workshop. These two had already been stripped, so I put a first coat of primer on the outside and stain on the inside. They're going to look very good.

I also checked the 308 and 309, looked at the trolley shoes, and verified the roof isn't leaking. And I spent some time cleaning up the 321 and getting it ready to be moved. I want to wye the car to put the better-looking side towards the sidewalk.

And for this week's campus scenery, here's a picture taken a few weeks ago of the Kishwaukee River flowing under the old North Western bridge at the east end of our line. I suppose those posts must be left over from an earlier trestle. Or else they're to keep the abutments from being rammed by heavy barges. Who knows?

Sunday, September 7, 2008

"IT" Lives!

Illinois Terminal combine #277 was successfully tested today, operated for the first time in nearly 20 years. Due to the hard work of a number of department volunteers, the car was inspected, repaired and made operational over the past several weeks, and today IRM saw the operation of a real "traction orange" interurban train for the first time in many years.

The 277's first run was a mid-afternoon solo jaunt around the streetcar line (below left), after which it was coupled to trailer 518 to make reverse moves easier. Though a trailer, 518 does have a pole that can be used to operate the train "backwards." The train was then operated around the car line again (below right) before heading out onto the main line.

Below is an image never before seen: a view of the end-of-track at Kishwaukee Grove from the front window of the 277! This car has been out of service since before the museum's main line was extended to its current eastern terminus.
The day wasn't all IT, though. I got some needle-chipping work done on the 205 (below left), nearly concluding the last of the needle-chipping on the car. I did most of the anti-climber at the west end, the remainder of the west end letterboard and the last two side window posts. Thanks to Joe Stupar for his help with this work! The 308 and 309 were also in operation (below right) and ran all day without incident. Finally, Art Schwartz from the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum was visiting and I showed him around Barns 7 & 8.