Sunday, October 17, 2021

Just Visiting

Today my wife and I went for a drive and stopped in at IRM in the afternoon to ride the CA&E cars and just pay a brief visit.  It's relaxing to not have to work once in a while.  And here's a brief report.

Holding down revenue service this weekend: the 309 and 319.

The crew consisted of conductor Bob Kersey and motorman Fred Zimmerman.  They do a good job.

I came along as sort of a check ride, and was entirely satisfied.

For the end of the season we had a pretty good crowd.  I found a few minor things that need to be fixed: the 309's interrupter is out of alignment, the thermostat on the 319 is loose, one of the motorman's window shades is out of the track, little items like that.

Meanwhile, the 18 was over on the pit lead getting needle-chipped.  Nick E. looks on as two new volunteers take turns on the chipper.  I didn't write down their names, but Frank will have more details soon.

And he is happy with the progress that is being made.

But he was busy on another task -- this one is rather amusing.  The 415 will be repainted soon, and so we need tracings of all the lettering.  We already have complete tracings, and we know where they are, but the car they're stored in is now infested with angry bees, and nobody dares go in there until the middle of winter.

Frank is good at this sort of thing, so it's easier and safer to just retrace the lettering.

Whether they're bees or groundhogs, pests are a fact of life around here, and we just work around them.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

In Memoriam John Myhre - Updated

 We just got word from Randy Anderson that John Myhre died late Thursday after a long illness.

John and his son Dan (2008)

John was a long-time member of the Museum and an enthusiastic helper on work of all sorts, especially the Line Dept. back in the 1970's when Randy A. was in charge.  And as Norm Krentel points out, he and Randy were responsible for installing much of the trolley wire we still use today, for both electric cars and buses.  He had his own unique sense of humor and was always cheerful and friendly.  He will certainly be missed.

Visitation will be on Tuesday, Oct. 19th, from 3PM to 8PM at Hitzeman Funeral Home, 9445 W 31st, Brookfield.  Funeral at 3PM on Wednesday at Faith Lutheran Church, 3801 Madison, Brookfield.

Memorial arrangements are given in detail at this link:

John D. Myhre - Hitzeman Funeral Home & Cremation Services | Brookfield, Il

Friday, October 15, 2021

Friday News Flash

Today's report will start with work on the North Shore roof mats, but we have something even more exciting to follow, so don't go away!

I started by cutting out more saddles for the #2 end, until I ran out of wood.  But only one more piece is needed for this end.

I have my own private labeling system for the various parts, but it's very complicated and you'd need an Enigma machine to decipher it.

By the end of the day, four out of the five saddles are temporarily attached.  Some more sanding and fitting will be needed, but it will go more quickly if I can get a sander hoisted onto the platform.

But for a break, let's look at the Model Railroad building again.   The new 3-rail O gauge layout has just arrived and is pretty much complete and operational.  This is really a stunning installation.  

Among other things, it has a large number of accessories visitors can operate by pushing the buttons located along the side of the platform.  I don't know how many trains can run simultaneously, but it's a lot.

Part of the layout has wintertime scenery, with a large mountain for the Polar Express.

At the other end of the table is a city with a double-track elevated loop, and lots of other things.

And behind the O gauge layout is the HO layout we saw previously.

Each section has a list of things to find within the complicated scenery, ranging from everyday objects to dinosaurs and Santa Claus.  This ought to keep the kids busy for a while.

These should really be a great asset for the Museum.

Lots of other projects are continuing, of course, but that's our news for today.
Brought to you by Hicks Car Works -- an oasis of sanity in a crazy world.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Maritime Monday

We may be far from the ocean, but I spent all day Monday on lobster traps.  And I almost needed a boat to get home, due to torrential rains.   But enough of that.

I purchased a good supply of 8/4 ash, nice and clear, and started making the saddles for the 714.  A couple of progress photos shown here:

The only screws I could find of the right size and type were either too long or too short, but that's easily fixed.

By the end of the day two saddles at one end are complete, with one more started.  They could still use some adjustments with either the belt sander or the spindle.

Meanwhile, Fred and Gerry were working on the interior of the 306.

Fred is removing old paint from the lower sidewalls.

Gerry has removed the old quarter-round moldings, which will need to be replaced.

This is the governor.

And then I was asked to identify this valve, located under a seat, but I'm not as familiar with SME brakes as I ought to be, evidently.  

Update:  Fred Lonnes identified this as the K-1 emergency control valve, which is what I suspected, and also sent us a pdf of the manual for the whole system.  Our readers are the best -- thanks!!!

And as I was wandering around, I noticed this warning on top of the 65.  It's painted on the inside of the fuse box lid, and I would have thought that if you're trying to change the fuse on an electric car you already know that  600 volts is dangerous.

Also, I found some time to spray the next two 453 baggage racks with a finish coat.

John continued to work on the moldings for the 306, but I didn't get any pictures.   And Tim showed up to work on the 2872 after his long and arduous bicycle ride, not too much the worse for wear.

So that's the news for today.   And please notice that details for the memorial service for Bob Kutella has been added to the post below.

The 308 Needs Your Help

Update: The fund has reached about $9,200, almost a third of the goal.  Matching funds are still in effect at this time.  Our warmest thanks to all who have contributed!  Of course, we still have a long way to go....

 This is Chicago Aurora and Elgin car 308, one of the jewels of our fleet, in my opinion....

It's been nicely restored and maintained over the years, but right now it's out of service due to a shorted traction motor.  These motors are big and heavy, and we estimate that one motor will cost about $30,000 to rebuild -- money the Museum doesn't have available at this time.  So it's time for another donation campaign.  YOU can help!

For a limited time we are able to offer a matching grant, so your money will do double duty.  Send us an email if you have any questions.

To donate safely online, go to this link.

Or you can always mail a check to the office.  Our address:

Illinois Railway Museum
P.O. Box 427
Union, IL    60180

  Be sure to designate your donation for the CA&E Wood Cars restricted fund with the magic word:


That should be easy enough to remember - the R stands for Restricted Fund.  Thanks!!!

Monday, October 11, 2021

In Memoriam - Bob Kutella

We are very sad to report the death of longtime IRM volunteer Bob Kutella. Bob hasn't been an active volunteer for eight or nine years now, due to ongoing health problems, but he left an indelible mark on the museum during the roughly 45 years he spent as a volunteer. The project with which he was always most closely associated was the restoration of Sand Springs 68 over a period of many years. He did a tremendous amount of work on this car in an impressive variety of disciplines, from woodwork and roof work to machining, wiring, electrical engineering, and truck work. The result was a transformation from a basket case into a fully operational car (described in this history that Bob wrote for this blog back in 2010).

But Bob's involvement with IRM went far beyond a single interurban car. At one time or another he was General Manager, a director, and in the early 2000s he was the curator of the Freight Car Department. He oversaw the collection of a number of very significant pieces of equipment and, along with a handful of other department regulars, worked to restore several different freight cars that are still seen and enjoyed anytime we run demonstration freight trains. He was always interested in the history of the cars under his care and made a point of "going after" particularly rare or significant pieces.

Bob's interest extended to machines, too, and he was a major driver in the effort to outfit the current wood shop with a range of restored woodworking machines These included, notably, the giant Berlin sander, which was completely rebuilt on his watch. Following outfitting of the wood shop he helped set up the first "Arnfest" gatherings of woodworking machine enthusiasts, gatherings which continue to the present day under Buzz Morrisette. Bob was also a go-to expert in the shop on several different subjects, including drafting work as well as lettering (sign painting), at which he excelled. And of course his dry sense of humor was ever-present.

I'm sure that I'm missing a lot of contributions Bob made to the museum, and indeed his heavy involvement over so many years would make a comprehensive list of his activities virtually impossible. He will be sorely missed.

UPDATE: Funeral and memorial service arrangements:

Visitation will be Thursday, October 14, 2021 from 11:30am to 1:30pm with a memorial service to follow at 1:30pm. The location is the Lauterburg-Oehler Funeral Home at 2000 E. Northwest Highway, Arlington Heights. Chris and Dan Buck will lead the service.

Kirk Warner photo

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Sunday update

Frank writes...

I arrived at the museum a bit later than usual Sunday afternoon but kept busy. The first task was to try and get more accomplished on repainting the 18. I had hoped that I might be able to run the car over to the pit lead and do some necessary needle-chipping, but on/off rain all day nixed that. Instead I did some wire wheeling, Bondo application, sanding, and spot-priming around the back of the car.
At the back right corner, you can see the results here. I didn't do anything to the angled "dasher" piece directly over the bumper on the right side of the car because there's a spot with some rust jacking that I want to try and address with the needle chipper. But the entire rest of the rear end of the car got Bondo and spot-priming as needed, and is now ready for grey paint.
At the back left of the car, you can again see evidence of past "18" and "1218" numbers. If you look really closely you can also see evidence of the yellow "hourglass" design from the car's end-of-service livery. That "1218" on the left is the last instance of the car's Trolleyville-era number to go away. Unfortunately I ran out of sandpaper after getting one window forward from the corner of the car.
The 453 may be out of Barn 4, but the 453 project lives on. Gregg had kindly sand-blasted a third and fourth baggage rack for the 453 before toting them both back over to Barn 4. I cleaned these two up and then sprayed them with primer. They're now ready for a coat of "whatever color" finish paint, after which they (and the two previously-painted racks visible in the left background) can go into the car. At some point when the interior walls get repainted, these too will be painted the correct color.

As usual, there were several people out and about working on various projects. Zach and Good Nick were working on sourcing spare parts for use on the roof of the 714, particularly metal reinforcement straps that are needed for the lobster traps. Bill was working on window shades for 4000s and Jon was working on the roof of the 65. I also saw several other people briefly including Mike S., Tim, and Dave Conrad, who reported that he's finished repairs to the air piping under the floor of the Ingersoll-Rand boxcab.
And finally, here's something pretty nifty. Coach Department volunteer Tim Fennell has been sending me some roster shots of cars at IRM for inclusion on the website, and mentioned that his interest had been piqued by the fact that we'd never figured out the fleet number of our Tri City Railway & Light car body. After a couple of emails back and forth, he agreed to tackle this mystery and headed out to Yard 15. He was able to carefully remove (and later reinstall) several window post caps, and each of them had the car number stamped on the inside: 483. We already knew the car was from TCR&L's 451-485 series built by American in 1913, so this discovery gives it a real identity for the first time in many decades. Thanks, Tim!!

Saturday, October 9, 2021

Bloomington Pontiac & Joliet

BP&J car "Dwight" with a flat car in tow. The BP&J's cars had streetcar styling, but from their size they were unmistakably interurban cars. All photos are from the Stephen Scalzo Collection and are the property of the Illinois Railway Museum.

The Bloomington Pontiac & Joliet
by Stephen M. Scalzo

The Bloomington Pontiac & Joliet Electric Railway was chartered by the state on December 20, 1902 with $100,000 of capital. The company was organized by a group of Pontiac men, led by J.A. Carothers, president of the Pontiac Light and Water Company, and Fred L. Lucas, and built with local capital. It was the intention of the new company to build an interurban from Bloomington to Joliet to connect those terminals with other interurban lines, but in reality the line was never extended beyond Pontiac and Dwight. The designers planned to make a substantial savings by using the novel system of high-voltage alternating current to operate the system.

BP&J car "Dwight" not long after it was delivered from the American factory in St. Louis

Construction began in 1904, with trackage being built and poles being installed for 10.4 miles from Pontiac through Cayuga to Odell. A very crude and simple catenary overhead system was installed, with separate northbound and southbound trolley wires into which 3300 volt, 25 cycle electricity was supplied. During September, the Pontiac city council protested that the company was not replacing street bricks between the rails within the town. Construction continued during the winter of 1904-1905. The car barn was constructed on the northeast edge of Pontiac near the Spartan foundry, the J.P. McMurry Canning Company, and the old coal mine that was located next to the Illinois Central, Wabash, and Alton Railroad tracks. The main office of the company was at 221 West Washington Street in Pontiac.

BP&J car 201, formerly the "Dwight," location and date unknown

The first interurban, named the Dwight, arrived on February 3, 1905, and the second interurban, named the Pontiac, arrived on July 19th. The first interurban operated over the completed trackage between north Pontiac and Odell on March 15th. However there was a problem in trying to get the Illinois Central and Wabash steam railroads to allow for the construction of a crossing with the interurban on the north side of Pontiac. On March 24th, the city council created a right-of-way from Wabash Avenue across the Wabash tracks so that the interurban could get a crossing, and on April 23rd a crowd rode the first interurban into downtown Pontiac to the southern terminus at the northwest corner of the reformatory. Afterward eight daily interurban trains were operated between Pontiac and Odell.

BP&J car 202, the "Pontiac," at the end of the line in its namesake city.

By 1906 the remaining eight miles of trackage had been completed into Dwight. The line was graded and culverts installed from Pontiac south beyond Chenoa, but the trackage was never installed. A city streetcar was acquired for use on the two mile city line through Pontiac to the reformatory. Later two old elevated railway trailers were obtained. Traffic was heavy in the early years, as dusty paths served as the only roads. Excursions, especially for picnics or for the Chautauqua in Pontiac, were common. A dance hall at Interurban Park near Odell attracted many persons. Competition came from the Chicago & Alton Railroad which operated 13 daily steam passenger trains through Pontiac, and the Illinois Central and Wabash which each operated four trains.

BP&J car 201, formerly the "Dwight," northbound at Main and Madison in Pontiac.

A few years later the company was sold to the Fisher Syndicate in Joliet. On March 1, 1913, the company was again sold along with the other Pontiac utilities for $750,000 to the Public Service Company of Northern Illinois, which became a part of the Insull empire. Because of electrical problems, the company changed to a 600 volt direct current operation around 1915. During the fall of 1915, a new route was constructed north out of Pontiac. A blizzard on January 12-13, 1918, accompanied with 20 degree below zero temperatures and 20 foot snow drifts, closed down interurban service for several days, isolating Pontiac.

The traffic potential of the company was very limited, and confined to passenger service which operated with two hour headways. Highway construction and World War I inflation squeezed the company. In June 1920 the Illinois Public Utilities Commission granted the company permission to increase fares to three cents a mile; however another ruling by the commission provided that tickets had to be sold for 2.5 cents a mile. In early 1921, the company petitioned for a three cent a mile fare regardless of a ticket sale or cash fare, with permission being given on February 1st.

BP&J car 202 is in Pontiac, southbound on Main turning west onto Washington, in 1910. It is towing one of the ex-New York elevated trailers. The courthouse to the left is still there.

That action did little to resolve the financial problems of the company, and by 1924 only 21,000 passengers were carried compared to 154,000 in 1919. In Pontiac, the Vermillion Street bridge was opened to automobile traffic, and as passenger traffic continued to decline, the company began operating at a loss. On August 19, 1925, the company asked permission from the state to abandon service, and after permission was granted on November 24th, the last interurban operated on November 25, 1925. The system was later dismantled for scrap and the equipment burned.

This history was written by the late Stephen M. Scalzo. Thanks go to Ray and Julie Piesciuk and to Richard Schauer for maintaining the Scalzo collection and making these materials available for republishing.

Bloomington Pontiac & Joliet Equipment Roster

Built 1905 by American Car Company on ord#569 as Dwight
Length 41'8" - Weight 58,000 lbs - 40 seats - Brill 27E1 trucks - 4 x GE 604 motors - T33 control
Fitted for AC or DC operation

Built 1904 as a demonstrator for the St. Louis World's Fair (builder unknown), delivered in 1905 as Pontiac

Thirdhand Manhattan Railway elevated trailers built c1880 and purchased in 1908 from unknown intermediary
Length ~45' - Weight 16,000 lbs - 40 seats

Built 1895 by American Car Company for Citizens Railway of St. Louis
Sold to United Railways, resold 1906 to Chicago Union Traction as CUT 3866
Purchased by BP&J in 1913
Length 36'2" - 36 seats - St Louis 21 trucks - 2 x WH 56 motors - K-11 control

A freight motor was also purchased in 1908 but there is no solid information on it.

A single-truck city car numbered 33 built by McGuire-Cummings in 1912 was leased from the Public Service company's Streator lines in 1921 but was soon returned.