Sunday, March 29, 2009

Back the Attack!

Unfortunately, very few of the 308's original car cards survived. And this is the only one that we haven't already seen in the 309. (We filled the rest of the car with reproductions.) Still good advice, though.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Starting Inspection

I started doing the inspection for car 308 today; much of it can be done without having the car over the pit, in particular the roof equipment and the interior. Here's a controller with its cover off. The jar of petroleum jelly is washed out by the flash, but that's what we use for lubricating the controller fingers.

There's a four page inspection sheet for each car. I completed about a page and half.

One thing that isn't included on the inspection sheet for some reason is lubricating the rollers for the pocket doors, as seen to the right. The top of the door frame is hinged so it can be opened to access the mechanism.

The spring latch came out of one of the window frames last year, so I got around to fixing it. This involved removing the shade tracks and taking the window itself to the shop. Then I drilled out the holes and glued in dowels. After the epoxy set, I drilled new holes and reattached the spring latch, as seen here. Then it's reinstalled.

Speaking of Amtrak, for some reason this nice flatcar lettered for Amtrak appeared outside Barn 8. It's just another part of the "Heritage Fleet," I guess.

I also spent some time working on the roof of the 277. All saddles were put back in place, and the new running boards were moved into their approximate location. I'm working on making the laps for the running boards, as seen here. I'm using treated 2x6 lumber as recommended by Bob Kutella.

I also went up on the roof of the 309 to try to free up one of the shunt cables, so far without success.

Phil Stepek gave me a fluorescent light fixture; he has several which are now surplus. I installed it over the workbench in the 321, a big improvement. Later I went back and took another one. Thanks, Phil!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Major roof work completed

The big news for today was that major roof work on the 205 has been completed with the successful installation of both trolley bases. When I arrived at the museum, a quick inspection of the two bases revealed that they were both still "frozen" after years of outdoor storage. Dan Mulvihill, who has been helping us out so much lately that you'd think his last name was actually Hicks, fired up the torch again and after some "heating and beating" both bases were freed up. I took them over to Barn 8 and managed to get them up onto the roof of the 205, where both were bolted to the base stands without incident. I also lifted the poles themselves onto the car roof, but installing them in the bases may have to wait until the car is outside. The roof of the barn is too low to put the poles into the bases with no tension on the bases, and there's no good way to fasten these bases down. Still, this marks the completion of major work on the car's roof. The only things left to do now are 1) clean all the sawdust and wood shavings off the roof, 2) install the poles in the bases, and 3) do some touch-up painting, most notably on the roof ladder and various recently-installed bolts. And now... on to the rest of the car!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Last One

Today was spent working on the trolley poles, again. The third one was finished and installed, and we nearly finished the last one. Rod Turner spent much of the day doing the expert torch work.

First, we drilled the hole and installed the rivet for pole #3. Then I installed the various parts to make it complete. The finished product is shown here. I then installed it on the 308. This car now has both trolley poles renewed and should be ready for service.

I then removed the remaining pole from the 309, helped by Mike Stauber. The old trolley casting was removed, and after some filing and adjustments, the new casting was installed. I wish I could show you a picture of what it looks like when the casting is red hot, but we're always too busy to take pictures. You have to be there.


The blue cars will be used in regular service this year, so that means two things need to be done first: inspection and cleaning. My views on inspection still stand. Read and heed. As an alternative, you could help out with car cleaning. This is always greatly appreciated!

Car cleaning sessions will be held on:

Saturday, April 4, 2009 Meet at east end of Barn 7.

Saturday, April 11, 2009 Meet at O'Mahony Diner Annex public entrance.

Both days will start at 10:00 AM. All cleaning items will be supplied.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

From Pole to Pole

You do the math: if two interurban cars have two trolley poles apiece, how many poles are there altogether? And if two have been rebuilt, how many does that leave to rebuild? (Pause) If you answered two, congratulations! Well, that's enough advanced math for this week. For next week, I want you to read the chapter on eigenvalue equations.

Today, I started replacing the trolley hardware on the third trolley pole, helped by Wes Lloyd and Dan Mulvihill. The weather was good, so some of this was done outside because several other projects were going on inside the shop. The old trolley casting (L) was removed, and after some sanding, filing, and grinding, the new trolley casting was heated up to red-hot and forced onto the end of the pole. However, we didn't have the right size of rivet, so the project has stopped at this point. Rivets are on order, so the rest of the process will be quickly completed next time.

So then, I drove a Museum truck to Woodstock and purchased four 10' 2x6 timbers for the new running boards on the 277. I lifted them up onto the roof of the car, and next time I'm out there I can start fitting them to the saddles. The 101 was moved out of the barn for inspection, so here's a view of the 277 and the Class B.

And here's a picture of the 415 and 101 switching places on the tail track, two different types of IT suburban cars with the same paint scheme. Only at IRM!

I also took some better pictures of the Salem diner, which I have updated on the Roadside Diners page.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Rockford Streetcar

I paid a brief visit to the Rockford Park District's "streetcar" operation while on vacation. They have a gasoline-powered open car which they operate on about two miles of what I believe is still an active branch of the North Western (UP). It starts its trip at the station shown here.

Not far away is the carbarn, lettered for "Rockford and Interurban"; it has large picture windows so the car inside was visible, but difficult to photograph. The car was damaged in a fire a couple of years ago, but has been repaired and should be operating this summer.

The line includes about a half mile of street running, as shown here. I'd like to know the details of how their track rights agreement with the UP works. A collision between the little open car and a freight train would be bad, to say the least.

I also took some pictures of CB&Q stuff in and around Oregon, if anyone's interested.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Moving the 205

The service history of car 205 has been covered here. After it was removed from service in Portland, it was acquired by a private owner and stored for many years. In 1993, it was purchased by IRM and moved to Union that December. Three members traveled to Yakima to move the car: George Clark, Dave Diamond, and the late Don Liberko. This is a sampling of photos of the move, by all three of them (credits are thus GC, DD, and DL) in the Dave Diamond collection.

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

Here the 205 is being moved on street trackage in Yakima, being pulled by a steeple cab. (DL)

George checks out the car prior to having it loaded onto a trailer for shipment to Union. (DD)

Another view in the yard at Yakima, with Dave Diamond. (GC)

The car was then winched onto a trailer still on its trucks, and left Yakima.

Traveling down a long steep grade towards the Columbia River. (DD)

At a rest stop somewhere in Washington state. (DD)

However, the weight of the car with its trucks and motors was too much on the rear of the trailer, and rear tires blew out a couple of times. Here they have stopped after the first blowout; the trailer has been jacked up to take the weight off the rear axles so the tire can be replaced. A young Dave Diamond stands next to it. (DL)

They finally stopped at a truck stop, and the rear truck was removed from under the car, and placed on the gooseneck at the front of the trailer. This distributed enough weight from the rear to the front to enable the trip to continue successfully. (DL)

At the weigh station between Montana and North Dakota. (DD)

Finally, the trailer was deposited at Electric Park. Note the truck on the neck in front of it. (GC)

Fifteen years later, the car is nearing completion of a cosmetic restoration, as documented in regular posts on this blog.

Cleaning Up Lake Shafer

I found this snapshot in my collection the other day; it's dated Sept. 29, 1996. Four wooden interurban car bodies from the THI&E had been converted into summer cottages on the shore of Lake Shafer in central Indiana back in the thirties, and now they were about to be scrapped. IRM decided to try to preserve them, so a crew traveled down there to prepare them for shipment and remove parts for storage. The car behind us was too badly deteriorated to move, but the other three are now in storage in Barn 10.

From L to R, Dave Diamond, Jim McAlpin, J. Johnson, myself, Tim Peters, and Brian Harp. There was lots of junk lying everywhere, among it the "Johnson Realtors" sign. Somewhere I must have pictures I myself took of the place, but I haven't found them yet.

Monday, March 9, 2009

More on 277

It's spring break, so I'm on vacation! Woo hoo! And I remembered my camera!

I spent most of the day working on the 277. I finished making a preliminary installation of all of the saddles, as shown here. The next step will be to borrow a Museum truck some day and pick up four 10' 2x6 planks for the running boards. They will then be attached to the saddles so everything will fit together properly after the canvas is installed. The screws you see here are too long and will be replaced, but for now they do the job of aligning the saddles. Also, one more length of the tongue and groove roof boards had collapsed and needed to be replaced, so that job is finished also.

Then I picked up the repainted spring clip which I had left in the shop, and installed it on the 309. As seen here, it holds the side door open. When it's warmer, I'll paint it blue.

Then I spent some time sorting parts and straightening up inside the 277. I'm using some work lights, since I don't want to put DC on the car while work is progressing on the roof. Also, I believe there are problems with the car's light circuits. I also took several pictures of interior detail, which are in the IT photo album here.

I sorted through the parts and tools in the car to see what we have. Some of the parts are for other cars, such as the 101. I was planning to order new screws for permanently attaching the saddles, but then I found just what I needed in a large jar inside the car. All of the essential parts are on hand, I believe. Bob Bruneau was working for several years off and on to restore the 277's interior.

As you will notice, the seats were removed along one side of the main compartment, so the walls can be replaced. There has been a lot of water damage over the years, as seen here on the other side.

Dr. Bruneau has an interesting tool you won't find in every woodworker's collection: two large glass syringes with steel needles for forcing glue into odd places. One of the needles is about 8" long, and comes with a wire for cleaning it out. I'm not sure exactly how you would go about cleaning all the glue out of the apparatus once you're done.

Finally, some scenery around the property. Dave Diamond has finished installing the ceramic panels on the O'Mahony diner, so check out the updated listing here in Roadside Diners. It looks great!

And then, here's our windmill tower. This is the last remaining vestige of the Knut Olson farm. This area, where the Main Street project will be, remained in the hands of Mr. Olson for many years. When I started back in 1974, the partially-assembled Ferris wheel was still standing nearby. He had the idea of putting a small amusement park on this property, right between our IRM campus and the road. Nice. Anyhow, I was told that as the Ferris wheel was being assembled there was a serious accident and a workman lost a hand, so that brought the project to a close. Moral: Safety First!

Hicks Locomotive and Car Works


Company History
F. M. Hicks and Co. (1887-1897?)
Hicks Locomotive and Car Works (1897-1911)
Narrow Gauge Equipment
Interurban and Miscellaneous Equipment
Labor Relations
Central Locomotive and Car Works (1911-1918)
Liberty Car and Equipment Company (1918-1921)

Biographical Information on F. M. Hicks

Preserved Cars
Chicago Aurora and Elgin #309
Green Bay and Western #20
Green Bay and Western #21
Green Bay and Western #22
Kewaunee Green Bay and Western #76
Kewaunee Green Bay and Western #77
Lake Superior and Ishpeming #63
Munising Railway #64
Nevada Copper Belt Railroad #503
Virginia and Truckee #20
Yosemite Valley #330
Adaptive Reuse
Resold Cars



Railroads were still very much a growth industry in 1897, when F. M. Hicks entered the locomotive and car business; by 1921, when the company had changed hands twice and finally ceased operation, the long secular decline had definitely begun. During the growth period there were many small, lesser-known companies which competed with the giants of the industry, such as Pullman. The Hicks firm is perhaps a typical example of a part of the industry that is often overlooked when railroad history is presented. Many of the company’s customers were also small, marginal operations. Thus, the list of purchasers includes some of the best-known roads (Norfolk & Western, Atlantic Coast Line, Green Bay & Western) and a large number of the most obscure shortlines (Charleston Clendennin & Sutton, Groveton Lufkin & Northern, etc.)

As a result, the company was vulnerable both to temporary financial panics and the general decline; this was intensified by its inability to cope with technological advance, namely the changeover to steel car construction. The “flywheel” which enabled Pullman to weather recessions with ease was not available. For a smaller firm, prosperity was sporadic, and the company was finally unable to survive a prolonged downturn in business.

Two brief presentations of the company’s history have appeared in print: a previous “History of the Hicks Locomotive and Car Works” by the present author appeared in Rail & Wire Issue #120 in 1986, and a similar (but better) article by Michael Collins appeared in issue #2 of the YVRR #330 newsletter in 1996. On the web, Mid-Continent has a treatment with lots of interesting illustrations here. No full-scale analysis of the firm’s business history has ever been done, to my knowledge. It may not even be possible, given the loss of records, partly due to fires which destroyed the company’s offices. On the other hand, the trade press of the time tended to cover smaller firms as well as the larger ones, and because the plant was located in a medium-sized town, the local newspaper documented many minor occurrences that would have been passed over by the Chicago papers, for instance.

  • F. M. Hicks and Co. (1887-1897?)
Founded in 1887[1], this company made architectural ironwork of various sorts, including decorative iron castings for a number of downtown Chicago buildings[2]. Evidently it was organized as a simple proprietorship, and not incorporated.

It is possible that this firm continued as a separate entity after the organization of the Locomotive and Car Works. The seat frames in the 1907 Virginia and Truckee car and the 1910 LS&I car, for instance, have the name “F. M. Hicks and Co.” cast into them. However, the original ironwork plant location was later abandoned in favor of the two railroad facilities (see below).

  • Hicks Locomotive and Car Works (1897-1911)

This company was founded in 1897, and was organized as a partnership between F. M. Hicks and William McInnes[3]. In 1906 it was incorporated in the state of New Jersey as the Hicks Locomotive and Car Works Company, with a capital of $1,200,000.[4] Until 1907, the company’s offices were located in the Fisher Building in downtown Chicago. This building is still in existence, and an architectural landmark. The plant buildings were always located in Chicago Heights, on the south side of 17th Street east of downtown.
    Within the next few days, the general offices of the Hicks Locomotive and Car Works will be located in the west plant on 17th St. The sales department will remain in Chicago.[5]
There were two main facilities. The older part, the West Works or locomotive shop, consisted of a machine shop, erection shop, boiler shop, blacksmith shop, coach shop, mill, upholstery department, tender shop, tin shop, veneer shop, and pattern shop. A new storehouse was erected and the erection shop was increased in height. The west plant was used for building and repairing passenger cars and rebuilding locomotives.

In 1905 the company acquired the East Works, which had originally been a tube mill; this consisted of a wood machine shop, truck shop, two erection shops, a store house, blacksmith shop, power house, boiler house, and oil house. A large storehouse was constructed and a steel car repair and erection shop was built. This plant was dedicated to the building and repairing of freight cars. Construction of new freight cars began in 1906.[6]

The original purpose seems to have been to furnish locomotives for the second-hand trade. At that time there was a substantial demand for second-hand locomotives for use by contractors, short lines, and industrial firms, but typically the purchaser would have to make the necessary repairs and modifications. The new company would rebuild the locomotives and then sell them in ready-to-run condition. Freight and passenger cars would also be refurbished or rebuilt as needed and resold.

At the 1904 Exposition in St. Louis, the company exhibited a rebuilt 4-4-0, to compete somehow with the many new and larger locomotives being displayed by the larger builders.  The fair booklet observes:
F. M. Hicks & Co. exhibited an American type locomotive which was rebuilt at their shops.  It has 18x26-in. cylinders and is of standard construction for that size and type of locomotive.
The rebuilding included a new firebox, new tires, new driving boxes and brasses, new Russian iron jacket, asbestos lagging, new piping throughout, new front end complete with nozzles, netting and stack, and a complete overhauling of all machinery and parts.  The tender received new frame and new wheels.
This work has been done in a very creditable manner and the locomotive appeared to be as good as new. [6A]

The firm quickly branched out into building new freight and passenger cars. Ads from the period around 1905 claim a capacity of 10 coaches per month and 25 freight cars per day. The firm continued to deal in second-hand equipment for the rest of its existence. A small number of new steam locomotives, probably all switchers, were also constructed.

Floor plan for the parlor-obs car exhibited at the St. Louis exposition.

The firm’s output of new equipment thus consisted of a large number of mostly wooden freight cars and a smaller number of wooden passenger cars. No conversion to the construction of steel passenger cars ever took place (see below under Central Locomotive and Car Works).

Narrow Gauge Equipment
Narrow gauge equipment played a small role in the company's output, largely because by this time there was little narrow gauge purchasing activity. Once the narrow gauge boom was over, most roads had more than enough equipment to last to the end of operations[7]. The cars built for narrow gauge use are probably outnumbered by the cars ordered by narrow gauge lines, such as the Gulf & Ship Island, that had just converted and were re-equipping themselves for standard gauge. Of the few narrow gauge passenger cars built, the most interesting was the deluxe parlor car "Azalea" for the ET&WNC (unfortunately not preserved)[8]. Dealing in second-hand narrow gauge rolling stock undoubtedly continued, however.

Interurban and Miscellaneous Equipment
The only passenger equipments not built for standard steam railroad use were a gasoline-mechanical car and two interurban coaches; in both cases the company evidently supplied only the bodies, and the purchasers then installed the equipment.

In 1905 the company supplied the body (essentially a combine with a special-purpose baggage compartment) for an early gasoline-mechanical car built for the St. Joseph Valley Traction Company in Indiana. This line was projected as an interurban but never electrified. The car was unusually short, and had a higher than normal clerestory.

Two interurban coaches were built in 1907 for the Aurora Elgin and Chicago, one of which has been preserved. The carbodies were very similar to the catalog-model coaches of the time, except for the enclosed platforms and exposed steel underframe.

Other interurban lines with which the firm dealt include the North Shore Line: in 1906 Hicks supplied two rebuilt 0-6-0s for construction of the main line to Milwaukee. In 1917 Central resold two wooden cabooses of unknown origin to the North Shore, numbered 1000 and 1001; these were side-door steam road cabooses, and were retired sometime between 1938 and 1962.[9]

Finally, Hicks built two exhibit cars for state fish commissions. Unfortunately these weren’t preserved, and no other information is available.

Labor Relations

Photograph courtesy of Michael Pannell

Notices in the local paper indicate that the number of men employed at the works varied widely from time to time. This indicates that many of the employees were hired on a temporary basis, and subject to layoff with little warning, much like the construction trades, I suppose. Presumably it was not uncommon when the labor force had to be expanded to hire men who had experience in carpentry or cabinetmaking, but not necessarily in the railroad field, since wooden car construction seems to have involved very little that was railroad-specific. Examples:
    The east plant of the Hicks Locomotive and Car Works is now showing sign of activity. The concern has a fair sized repair order on hand and about 100 men are now employed. Other orders expected in the near future will require operation of the plant at its full capacity.[10]

    The Hicks Locomotive and Car Works have just received an order from the Wisconsin Central Railroad to repair about 400 freight cars. This will give employment to a large number of men for some time. The company also reports a good run of business in other lines.[11]
The Star reports occasionally on labor troubles, and at least one strike. There is not enough information to be sure, but it would appear that the level of discontent was no greater than at other industrial firms of this type at that time; certainly there was never anything like the Pullman strike. No instances of violence or vandalism are reported.

    After a long drawn-out struggle between the Hicks Locomotive and Car Works and the Woodworkers, the difficulties have been adjusted. All the workmen who went out on strike have been taken back and no further trouble is looked for.[12]

Fire was a common occurrence at that time. Buildings in general were built mainly or completely of wood, and homes, schools, churches, stores, and factories regularly burned to the ground. As a result, these fires were usually taken in stride. The Star typically will report that factory X just burned down, but as soon as the rubble is cleared away work will continue without interruption, and all the employees should report for work as usual. (Exactly how they managed this isn’t clear to me, I must admit.)

The company suffered two major fires during 1910. In the first, the west plant burned down; in the second, the offices and storehouse were destroyed. Manufacturing operations were disrupted, but work continued. Evidently all of the company’s records were lost, including any construction blueprints for the cars that have been preserved.

    A disastrous fire last Thursday night, May 12, at the west plant of the Hicks Locomotive and Car Works caused a loss between $50,000 and $60,000. Much valuable machinery was ruined, and a large quantity of materials destroyed along with many of the blueprints. Many of the employees will be temporarily thrown out of work. The company will immediately build a substantial new structure on the site of the one destroyed.[13]

    For the second time in two months the Hicks Locomotive and Car Works have suffered a heavy loss by fire. Last Sunday, July 24, the offices and storehouse were burned together with their contents, causing a loss of about $75,000. However, this fire will not retard the operation of the plant, and no one will be thrown out of work. New buildings will be erected as soon as the debris can be cleared away.[14]

Presumably the losses from these fires helped put the company into bankruptcy.

  • Central Locomotive and Car Works (1911-1918)
In September of 1910 the Hicks Locomotive and Car Works was put into receivership at the petition of creditors, and on February 21, 1911 the company was sold at a receiver’s auction, which was held in Chicago. The firm was bought by William Barbour of New York, who renamed it the Central Locomotive and Car Works and resumed operations. This firm was incorporated under the laws of the state of Maine, with $500,000 in preferred stock and $100,000 in common stock.[15]

    The Hicks Locomotive and Car Works is now in the hands of a receiver, appointed by the court on the petition of creditors. The appointment of a receiver will not interfere with the operation of the plant in any manner. It is understood that the company has considerable work in the locomotive and coach departments, although the car repair shop is now closed down temporarily due to lack of orders.[16]

    William Barbour is now the owner of the Hicks Locomotive and Car Works of this city, having bid in the plant at the receiver's sale held in Chicago on Tuesday, Feb. 21. The purchase price was $475,000. It is understood that the east works will be equipped with machinery for the manufacture of steel cars. It is also certain that the plant will be kept in operation.[17]

After the reorganization, William McInnes remained with the company and was promoted to President, with A. M. Gardner the V.P., and the owner, William Barbour, named as Treasurer. Despite the change in ownership, the company’s day-to-day business operations seem to have changed very little; second-hand locomotives and cars were bought and sold, and new cars were built, although the passenger car market fell off rapidly due to the conversion to steel. Note that while steel freight cars were built, there was no attempt to construct steel passenger equipment (although the later cars all had steel underframes). No passenger cars were built in 1913, and two cars, the company’s last, were built in 1914.[18]

    Since the purchase by William Barbour of the Hicks Locomotive and Car Works, a complete reorganization of the company has taken place. The name of the company has been changed to the Central Locomotive and Car Works, and new officers have been elected. The east plant will be overhauled and equipped to manufacture steel freight cars.[19]

    Arrangements are being made by the Central Locomotive and Car Works to reopen their east plant. The company is in receipt of a large number of car repair orders, and a considerable force of men will be employed.[20]

    The Central Locomotive and Car Works are just completing a large new building at its east side plant. The structure is 170' x 360' in size and will accommodate about 70 freight cars. This building will permit the company to continue operation in all sorts of weather.[21]

The Star mentions that since the supply of hardwood for the construction of wooden passenger cars was no longer needed, the company would turn out a few choice articles of furniture until the hardwood was used up:

    Because a few men employed in one of the departments of the east plant of the Central Locomotive and Car Works were laid off for a few days last week on account of a temporary shortage of materials, the rumor was spread that the entire plant was going to be shut down. However, at present there are 562 men now at work and company officials say they have enough orders on hand to keep the plant running at full capacity for several months. At the west plant work is slack, as wooden passenger cars are fast being discarded. The company has on hand there a large amount of hardwood lumber and in order to use it and keep their men working, they are now starting to turn out a few articles of furniture. The payroll of the company is now almost $50,000 per month.[22]

In 1916 there were two more fires reported in the Star, although neither involved the destruction of the main plant buildings. The reported dollar losses are also much less than either of the two 1910 fires.

    Fire in the yards of the United Car Co. at 26th Street and East End Avenue last Saturday morning, Sept. 9, caused a loss of more than $3000. One shed and four cars were totally destroyed, and another shed badly damaged. This plant has for some time been operated by the Central Locomotive and Car Works, and there were a large number of cars in the yards to be repaired. The fire will not interfere with the operation of the plant and work is proceeding as usual.[23]

    A disastrous fire last Saturday night, Sept 23, at the plant of the Central Locomotive and Car Works caused a loss of more than $7000 to lumber and cars. A large number of cars were in the yards for repairs, and many of these were removed by railroad switch engines. However some of them could not be moved and were burned. While the fire will cause some inconvenience at the plant, work will be continued.[24]
In the period of 1917 to 1918, due to the disruptions caused by World War I and the inflation which accompanied it, several car builders went out of business, such as Niles, Jewett, and Stephenson. The Central Locomotive and Car Works were also a victim of the changing times, and went bankrupt early in 1918.

  • Liberty Car and Equipment Company (1918-1921)
In April of 1918, the Liberty Car and Equipment Company was incorporated with P. H. Joyce as President. This firm purchased the East Works only, and prepared to resume the freight car construction. At this time, the locomotive plant (West Works) was reportedly being utilized for the manufacture of farm tractors.[25]

    The Central Locomotive and Car Works has been purchased by the Liberty Car and Equipment Company, and the new owners have already taken possession, and in a short time there will be increased activity at one of the largest and best factories in the city. The new concern will build new freight cars and repair old ones, and materials for this purpose are now being received. The normal working force of the plant is from 800 to 1000 men and the new owners will employ that many or more. A large number of orders are on hand now, and operation will start in a short time on a large scale.[26]
    The operation of the Liberty Car and Equipment Company plant has been held up by a controversy with the Public Service Company over power. The electric company installed transformers at the plant when it was owned by the Central Locomotive and Car Works, and now demands that the new owners pay $3500 deposit on those transformers before they get any electric power.[27]
    On last April 29, the Liberty Car and Equipment Company of this city was awarded a contract to build 1000 new freight cars for the United States government. The amount of the contract is approximately $3,000,000 which means that a large force of men will be put to work, and a large sum of money distributed here in wages. The cars are of the box type with steel underframes, forty feet long, and of forty tons capacity.[28]

In 1919, Patrick Joyce also formed the Liberty Car Wheel Co. in Hammond, Ind. The Liberty Car and Equipment Co. and the Illinois Car and Manufacturing Co. of Hammond were consolidated in early 1921, with Joyce as President. The company retained the Illinois Car and Manufacturing Co. name and the general offices at Hammond. The plant at Chicago Heights became the Liberty plant while the one at Hammond became the Hammond plant.[29]

The site of the plant was a large empty lot when the author visited it in 1979. No attempt was made to search for evidence of foundations or other artifacts. Since Chicago Heights has always been an industrial town, and many enterprises of this size have come and gone, it is perhaps not surprising that there is no evidence remaining of the company’s existence, other than the surviving Hicks-built railroad cars.


Frank Mather Hicks was born in Monticello, Minnesota on Feb. 13, 1860. His father was Marcus Hicks, born in 1813 in Vermont.[30] His mother was Elizabeth Ross, who would have been born about 1824. Marcus Hicks was a preacher.

1870 Census Ohio, Hamilton Cnty, Cincinnati, 22nd ward
Frank, age 10, was living with his mother, 4 sisters, and 1 brother -- no father is listed. His mother was a Post Mistress. Elizabeth: Mother age 46; Siblings: Mary, Charlotte, Harriet, Albert, and Carrie. Frank was the youngest.

1880 Census Ohio, Hamilton Cnty, Cincinnati
Frank, age 20, was living with his Mother and Siblings: Elizabeth, Albert, Hattie E, Carrie, and Mary Shaw, who had a daughter Bessie Shaw - born in China. Bessie was a missionary.

His first wife was named Mary Perry Noble, whom he married on Nov. 5, 1889 in Chicago[31]. She died in Chicago on July 4, 1890, aged 24[32]. They had no children.

The next biographical information on the founder of the company is this article from the 1905 edition of the “Book of Chicagoans”:

Hicks, Frank Mather, manufacturer; b. Monticello, Minn., Feb. 13, 1860; s. Marcus and Elizabeth (Ross) Hicks; ed. public schools of Cincinnati, O.; widower. Came to Chicago, 1887, and engaged in architectural iron works under name of F. M. Hicks & Co.; organized and established, 1897, the business of Hicks Locomotive and Car Works (a partnership in which William McInnes is the partner), with mfg. plant at Chicago Heights and offices in Chicago, mfg. locomotives, freight cars and passenger coaches. Republican. Residence: Evanston, Ill.[33]

In 1906 it was reported that Mr. Hicks withdrew from the business to take an extended vacation, and Elliott C. Smith took over as the Manager.[34]

Frank Mather Hicks died on October 12, 1930, in Taylorville, Illinois[35]. This obituary would seem to describe a completely different individual, were it not for the identity of date and place of birth:

Frank M. Hicks, brother of A. M. Hicks of this city, passed away Sunday evening at St. Vincent hospital following a long illness. Mr. Hicks had lived in Pasadena, Cal., for the past 17 years, where he was well known both in social and philanthropic circles. For several years he was deeply interested in astronomy and was one of the leading amateur telescope builders of southern California. He worked out a design for a telescope mounting with a stationary eye piece which has come to be well known in amateur telecope circles throughout the United States.

He also designed the Hicks spectra-demonstrator and color absorption demonstrator which are in use in the National Academy of Sciences at Washington, the California Institute of Technology, the Museum of the Mt. Wilson observatory on Mt. Wilson, California, and in the Planetarium in Chicago.

Mr. Hicks was born at Monticello, Minn., Feb. 13, 1860. In 1907 he married Katherine Lipe Shults, who died in June, 1929. He is survived by one sister, Miss Caroline R. Hicks of Chicago, a brother, A. M. Hicks of Taylorville and the following nieces and nephews: Mrs. Elizabeth Shaw, Boston; Mrs. R. F. Smith, Cuyahoga Falls, O.; Mrs. D. L. Vanderslice, Buchanan, Mich.; Mrs. R. W. McCauley, Hicksville, O.; Mrs. M. H. Hicks, Chicago; Mrs G. L. Armstrong, Taylorville.
Funeral services will be private and burial will take place in Pasadena, Calif.[36]

Author’s note: I know of no relationship between myself and F. M. Hicks.


For a small and relatively obscure builder, a surprising number of cars from the Hicks Locomotive and Car Works have been preserved. The following is a list of the known cars, along with the author’s observations:
  • Chicago Aurora and Elgin #309
Interurban Coach, 1907. Preserved at the Illinois Railway Museum, Union, Ill.; restored, kept inside, on public display, and operated regularly. If I may say so myself, it is in the best condition of any surviving equipment, the most thoroughly documented, and the only one which has been completely restored. Preserved in its 1940’s configuration, which includes several railroad modifications, the most obvious being removal of the streamer sash (CA&Ese for the exterior arched stained glass windows)[37].

This car is unique in that the 309 was part of the only order of cars built by the company for interurban use. Unusual features include the exposed steel side sills (a design feature inherited from the road's Niles cars) and the enclosed platforms. Seats are Hale & Kilburn walkovers. The electric lighting was installed by the company, and was evidently an unfamiliar technology.

  • Green Bay and Western #20
Coach, presumably identical to #21: c. 1908, probably a Hicks rebuild of an earlier sleeper, and rebuilt by the railroad to Mail/Baggage/Express.

Privately owned, and on display in Rapid River, Michigan. From pictures, the body appears to be in good condition, and is on its original trucks. The interior has been rebuilt for use as a gift shop. (Photos by Ed Gross, 2002)

  • Green Bay and Western #21
Coach, c. 1908, probably a Hicks rebuild of an earlier sleeper, and rebuilt by the railroad to Mail/Baggage/Express. Preserved at the National Railroad Museum, Green Bay, Wisc.; stored under cover, in good condition. (Photos c. 1974)

This car has been heavily rebuilt; it has a steel underframe which is obviously a retrofit, as well as the ends. Probably little of the original passenger car fabric is left. Very similar in appearance to KGB&W #77.

Quoting verbatim from the NRM Web site:
    GREEN BAY & WESTERN #21, "WINONA" Mail - Baggage - Express
    No. 21 began its career on the GBW as coach #5,2 in about 1906[38]. Purchased from the F.M. Hicks Co., it was probably originally a Pullman or Wagner Palace sleeping car of the 1880s.
    As these cars were replaced by steel cars in the early 1900s. Hicks converted them to coaches and sold them to shoreline railroads.

    In 1930, No. 57 was rebuilt as a mail-baggage express car at Green Bay and renumbered No. 21. During the 1950s, it was converted into an excursion car, bringing people to Green Bay Packers football games.
    It was donated to the Museum in 1961.[39]

  • Green Bay and Western #22  (scrapped)
Coach, rebuilt by the GB&W to mail/baggage, then to work train service. Was on display at Stonefield Village in Cassville, Wisc. until 2014 when it was scrapped due to general deterioration. Pictures of the car at the end are here.

From the history posted near the car:
1904: Built as first-class coach #51 by Hicks. 4-wheel steel-plate wood frame trucks, steam heat, oil lamps of the 2-burner chandelier type.
1930: Removed from passenger service, rebuilt to mail-baggage by GB&W. Steel underframe. Renumbered to #22.
1937: Delco light plant (motor-driven generator) added to provide self-contained lights for the mail-baggage car and adjoining coach.
1948: Car placed in non-revenue work train service, renumbered to X-22. Additional windows and removal of mail doors and partition. The X-22 was assigned to the GB&W's system paint gang.
1970: Donated by the GB&W to the Wisconsin Historical Society for display at Stonefield.

  • Kewaunee Green Bay and Western #76
Mail-Baggage car, 1909. From the same order as #77, below. Privately owned, and used as a machine shop near state route 113 south of Baraboo, Wisc. Stored on trucks and appears to be in good condition.

  • Kewaunee Green Bay and Western #77
Mail-Baggage car, 1909. Preserved at the Mid-Continent Railway Museum; not restored, stored outside. Some structural problems, but in better condition than coach #64.[40]

Quoting verbatim from the MCRM web site:
    #77 is another graduate of the Hicks Locomotive and Car Works of Chicago Heights, Illinois, where it was built in March of 1909 as a wooden mail-baggage car with steel underframe for the Keweenaw Green Bay & Western. KBG&W was a close affiliate with the Green Bay & Western, providing a "gateway" connection between Green Bay, Wisconsin (GB&W's headquarters) and Keweenaw (where a car ferry operation loaded railcars for the trip across Lake Michigan to Ludington, Michigan. #77 was renumbered to GB&W #23 in 1930, renumbered again to KGB&W #76 at an unknown date, and eventually ended up as GB&W #X-76 for work service in 1948. In 1964, it was sold to the Marquette & Huron Mountain tourist railroad operation at Marquette, Michigan. Twenty years later, it was again sold, this time to Mid-Continent, and was moved to North Freedom in 1985. Today, #77 serves as a work shop and tool and material storage for steam locomotive LS&I #22.[41]

  • Lake Superior and Ishpeming #63
Coach, 1910, rebuilt by the railroad into a combine. Preserved at the National Railroad Museum; stored under cover, on public display, and in excellent condition. This car is in the best shape of any of the steam-road cars.

The coach compartment has the same F. M. Hicks Company dual-lever flipover seats as the Virginia and Truckee car; red plush upholstery. As built, it had a washroom at each end plus an eight-seat box smoker next to the men's washroom. Originally had Pintsch gas lighting, but the fixtures were removed; no evidence of later lighting arrangements. Built with double sash, with storm windows inside; these storm sash have disappeared. The inside upper sash have clear glass, and can be raised up inside the wall. Equipped with double-window window shade boxes. The ceiling panels are sheet metal (tinplate). Many interior features are identical to Munising #64.

Quoting again from the NRM Web site:
    LAKE SUPERIOR & ISHPEMING #63, Combination Baggage/Coach
    No. 63 is one of two coaches purchased from the F.M. Hicks Co. of Chicago for $5,800 in 1910. The railroad saved $150 by ordering second-hand trucks from an old Pullman car.
    Other specifications called for a canvas roof covering, inside finish of quarter sawn oak, an Empire special ceiling, leaded oval gothics above the windows, one oval window for each toilet, Crimson plush seats, an 8 seat smoking compartment finished in Chase leather, double brass chandelier lamps, nine coats of paint, gold leaf lettering and a tool box with saw, ax and sledge.
    In the 1930s, one end was rebuilt as a baggage section.
    No. 63 was donated in 1962.

  • Munising Railway #64
Standard coach, 1910. Preserved at the Mid-Continent Railway Museum, North Freedom, Wisc.; now under restoration. Serious deterioration has occurred to the floor and other parts of the structure; the platforms have obviously been rebuilt (presumably by the M&HM) but not correctly; the interior is complete but heavily vandalized. Most of the ceiling is missing.

The design is similar to the catalog-model coaches, but one pair of windows longer and equipped with six-wheel trucks. Equipped with a washroom at each end, plus an eight-seat box smoker next to the men's washroom. This car was equipped with walk-over seats with red plush upholstery; the interior is finished in oak. Originally had Pintsch gas lighting, but the fixtures have disappeared.

Quoting from the MCRM web site:
    The Hicks Locomotive and Car Works of Chicago Heights, Illinois built this wooden coach for the Munising Railway as their #64 in May of 1910. The Munising Railway Company was a shortline formed in 1895 and operated two rail lines, one running from Princeton to Munising, and a second from Stillman to Cusino, all in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The Munising Railway was later absorbed into what became the Lake Superior & Ishpeming Railroad in 1923. At that time, #64 came under LS&I ownership, retaining its original number. Passenger service ended on the LS&I in 1929, and #64 was retained for work service. In 1964, it was sold to Marquette & Huron Mountain, a tourist railroad located at Marquette, Michigan. In 1985, it was purchased by Mid- Continent and moved to North Freedom with other equipment acquired from the now-defunct M&HM. #64 is presently stored for future restoration.[42]

As of fall 2013, the 64 has been moved into the car shop at MCRM for a thorough restoration.  (Photos by Bill Buhrmaster.)

  • Nevada Copper Belt Railroad #503

Boxcar built in 1905 as Tonopah and Goldfield #219; sold to Nevada Copper Belt Railroad in 1911, where it operated as #503 until the railroad was abandoned in 1947. It then became a shed at a meat packing plant in Mason, Nev. Acquired by the Fernley Preservation Society about 2001 and stored pending restoration (as T&G #219). Boxcar #504 may be of the same origin.[43]

Something you don't see on the passenger cars!

Pictures of this car in early 2009 by Linda Sanders of the Fernley Preservation Society.

  • Virginia and Truckee #20
Standard combine (baggage, smoker, coach), 1907. Preserved at the Orange Empire Railway Museum, Perris, Cal.; kept inside, on public display, with some restoration work in progress. Purchased by the V&T for $5,900 in 1907 (this car is the second #20); sold to MGM in 1947.[44] This car appeared in several MGM Westerns under various guises. Current condition is basically good; it has recently been repainted in V&T yellow.

The non-smoking compartment has not been modified in any noticeable way. It is equipped with the original dual-lever flipover seats, and the seat frames are cast with the words “F. M. Hicks and Co.” The ladies’ washroom is complete. In 1938, the railroad removed half of the bulkhead between the smoker and the baggage compartment, along with the men’s washroom which was built against it, so that the smoker could be used for additional express and baggage storage.[45] At some later time, probably during its movie career, however, the smoker was re-equipped with dual-lever flipover seats of a much smaller pattern than the originals in the main compartment. Otherwise the car is complete and appears to be structurally sound, except for the platforms, which are always the weak point[46].

  • Yosemite Valley #330
Parlor - observation car, 1907. Built in an order for three cars: one combine, one coach, one parlor/observation. When the Yosemite Valley was abandoned in 1945, this car was sold to the Yreka Western. Several years later, the car body was converted into a roadside diner at Yreka. In 1986 it was condemned and moved to the Yreka municipal storage yard. On the point of being burned as a fire department training exercise in 1995, it was purchased by Wes Swift and moved to Morgan Hill, near San Jose, by Wes Swift, Jack Burgess, and their associates. Here much of it was completely rebuilt. The entire floor and underframe were replaced. New trucks were acquired, along with a great deal of other equipment. In April, 2005 it was moved to the Niles Canyon Railway site at Sunol, Cal. The group also put out an excellent newsletter about their progress[47], but this has now been replaced by a website.

Adaptive Reuse

Railroad car bodies lend themselves to various uses after they have been retired from railroad service.  Freight cars can be used as storage sheds, and passenger cars can be used as houses, cabins, diners, shops, and so on.  Of the preserved cars mentioned above, two were rescued from adaptive reuse: the Yosemite Valley car spent many years as a diner, and the Nevada box car(s) were used as storage sheds.  At least one other passenger car body was used as a house until recently.

  • Cadiz Railroad #9

The Cadiz Railroad of Kentucky bought a single coach from Hicks in 1908.  It appears to have been converted to a combine by the railroad.  In 1938 the car was retired and the body became part of a house in Cadiz.  This lasted for 76 years until the house was demolished in July 2014.

(Pictures by Thomas Harper)

Resold Cars
The company acted as an equipment dealer throughout its existence. Preserved cars which are known to have been resold by Hicks or Central, but probably not rebuilt, include:
  • Bingham and Garfield #100: Coach-observation purchased from Central in April 1911.  Its original builder and date are unknown.  It has passed through several hands, including at least five different museums.  A complete history of the car is available here.  It is currently stored inside awaiting restoration at the Sumpter Valley Railway in Baker, Oregon, where it has been placed on narrow gauge trucks.
  • Colorado and Southern #521: Coach purchased second-hand by C&S from Hicks in 1902; original builder and date are unknown. Retired in 1943 for use as a yard office in Cheyenne, then sold for use as a house about 1954. Body is on private land near Cheyenne.[48]
  • East Jordan and Southern #2: Built 1864 by Osgood-Bradley, and sold to the EJ&S by Hicks in 1902. Rebuilt several times; now a combine. Preserved at Mid-Continent, stored inside awaiting restoration.
  • Great Western #100: Built 1887 by Wagner, and sold to the Great Western (of Colorado) by Hicks in 1904. Combine. Preserved at the Colorado Railroad Museum; stored outside, in fair condition, and on display.

  • Hicks purchased four Jackson and Sharp narrow gauge coaches from the Ulster and Delaware in June 1900 and resold them to the White Pass and Yukon in May 1901 (WP&YR 218, 220, 222, and 224). These four cars have been rebuilt several times under White Pass ownership and remain in service.[49]
  • Klondike Mines #1: This is an 1881 narrow gauge 2-6-0 preserved and on display at Dawson City, Yukon.  It was built for the Kansas Central RR and has passed through several hands, including Hicks and the WP&Y. Details from here.
  • Texas & St. Louis #18: This is an 1882 2-6-0 preserved at the San Filippo estate in Barrington. It was built as a narrow gauge engine but was later converted to standard gauge.  It has passed through several hands, including the Northern Pacific, Hicks, and the Ford Museum. Details from here.


There are at least ten preserved passenger cars out of a total of about 480 new and rebuilt cars, a survival rate of 2%. I suspect this is greater than the rate for Pullman cars produced during the same period, for instance. Partly this is because Hicks generally sold to shortlines, and these marginal operations were often unable to replace their old and obsolete equipment when mainline railroads did. Thus several cars survived in regular service at least into the 1950’s, when the historic preservation movement had started.

There is only one known freight car preserved; this car was reduced to use as a storage shed for many years. Typically wooden freight cars were not maintained as well as passenger equipments, and of course freight service was much more severe. Furthermore, old freight equipment was less likely to be preserved, and is often poorly documented. The builders and dates for many old freight cars in museums are unknown.

The geographical distribution is rather uneven: six in Wisconsin, one each in Illinois and Michigan, and two in California. Although a large number of cars were ordered in the Old South, none from this area appear to have survived. In any case, survival was entirely a matter of chance. The concentration in Wisconsin occurred mainly because one railroad (the GB&W) was an enthusiastic repeat customer, and held onto its wooden equipment until the 1960’s. The CA&E happened to be the last interurban to run wooden cars in regular service; the Virginia & Truckee operated with turn-of-the-century equipment until 1947, then had almost its entire roster bought up by movie studios. The Yosemite Valley car was hardly “preserved” as such, and is now the subject of a heroic rescue effort.

It is also curious that all were built in the 1907-1910 period; there are no cars from the Central Locomotive and Car Works. Judging from the delivery dates, it is possible that at one time CA&E #309, V&T #20, and YV #330 were all under construction in the west plant, more or less side-by-side.


[1] Marquis, A. N. ed. Book of Chicagoans, Vol. I, 1905. Publ. by A. N. Marquis
[2] MacGregor, William (private communication)
[3] Marquis, A. N., ibid.
[4] Collins, Michael A. History of Hicks Locomotive and Car Works, YV330 Newsletter No. 2, Feb 1996 (Not footnoted, but generally taken from articles in Railway Age.)
[5] Chicago Heights Star, Nov. 14, 1907
[6] Collins, ibid.
[6A] Railway and Engineering Review, Dec. 31, 1904 special issue. Available at this link.
[7] Hilton, George American Narrow Gauge Railroads, Stanford U. Press, 1988. See pp. 195-202.
[8] Hilton, ibid. Pictured on p. 518.
[9] Bulletin #106, p. 81, Central Electric Railfans’ Association, 1962
[10] Chicago Heights Star, Oct. 1, 1908
[11] Chicago Heights Star, Aug. 19, 1908
[12] Chicago Heights Star, May 24, 1906
[13] Chicago Heights Star, May 19, 1910. In addition, this webpage (p. 331, starting in right column) gives the text of an agreement between the company and the machinist's union.
[14] Chicago Heights Star, July 28, 1910
[15] Collins, ibid. Note that this is just half the capitalization of the earlier firm.
[16] Chicago Heights Star, Sept. 22, 1910
[17] Chicago Heights Star, Feb. 23, 1911
[18] Taken from the list of passenger car orders (not yet included).
[19] Chicago Heights Star, Mar. 9, 1911
[20] Chicago Heights Star, Sept. 13, 1912
[21] Chicago Heights Star, Feb. 21, 1913
[22] Chicago Heights Star, Nov. 19, 1914
[23] Chicago Heights Star, Sept. 14, 1916
[24] Chicago Heights Star, Sept. 28, 1916
[25] Collins, ibid.
[26] Chicago Heights Star, Apr. 11, 1918
[27] Chicago Heights Star, Apr. 25, 1918
[28] Chicago Heights Star, May 2, 1918
[29] M. Collins; Railway Age, March 4, 1921, Vol. 70 # 9, page 530.
[30] 1850 Census, Ohio, Scioto County, Portsmouth. All information from census reports and marriage licenses was kindly provided by Glenn E. Prow.
[31] Illinois license #00145967.
[32] Illinois State Archives. Death certificate #00005073.
[33] Marquis, A. N., ibid. (p. 283)
[34] Collins, ibid.
[35] Illinois State Archives. Death certificate #0110313.
[36] Taylorville Breeze-Courier, Oct. 13, 1930, p. 1
[37] For complete details, see History of Chicago Aurora and Elgin Car #309
[38] Based on the passenger car order data, a more probable acquisition date is 1908. The only coaches acquired in the 1905-1907 period are specified as being new construction.
[39] This text seems to be no longer available at the museum's website:
[40] Buhrmaster, Ray (private communication)
[41] Mid-Continent page on this car here.
[42] Mid-Continent page on this car here.
[43] "Fernley Depot News", article by the Fernley Preservation Society, Reno Gazette-Journal, March 11, 2009
[44] Nevada State Railroad Museum, on-line Virginia & Truckee roster (no longer available?). See also untitled fund-raising flier for V&T #20 published by Orange Empire Railway Museum (in the Hicks Car Works collection).
[45] M. Collins. The replacement seats may be from a streetcar.
[46] OERM page on this car here. Also, this page (scroll down) has an extended history of the car, including some interesting details on the negotiations between the railroad and the builder. A more recent view is here.
[47] YV330 Newsletter Nos. 1-5.
[48] Michael Pannell, private communication. Pictures here.
[49] Special Report: White Pass & Yukon Route 1901 (unpublished); and White Pass & Yukon Route 1901 specialized journals (unpublished) and 1901 property & equipment subledgers (unpublished), Yukon Archives, Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada