Sunday, September 19, 2010

Showcase Success

Updated - scroll down

The Museum Showcase weekend got off to a great start on Saturday, an unqualified success.

As usual, we were at the mercy of the weather. It started by raining from 9 to 10 or so, and we were beginning to worry it might be a washout, as it was two years ago. The rain stopped, but the skies continued to threaten throughout the day.

We had planned to run the three CA&E wood cars all day, but instead decided to take out the North Shore train. Greg Ceurvorst and I ran the 749 and 714, while my other two crewmen, Frank and David, served on the CA&E steel cars. This was the first time I had gotten to run the 749 in service.

It's a beautiful car -- at least until the motorman gets in the way.

The Veracruz open car #19 was running, and is always a crowd pleaser.

And here is the silver train coming in on track two.

Train Time At Wheaton

We started the day running the CA&E cars 409 and 431. That's David Wilkins in the doorway, changing poles. Then the 460 was brought out from the shop to make up a three-car train for the express run to Chicago.

One of the shop men at Wheaton brings out the necessary jumper cables.

The cables are hung over the fence between the tracks for easy access once the train is coupled together.

Another shop man (Joe Stupar) brings the 460 up to the 431, carefully watching the couplers.

Another shop man (Stan W.) installs the jumper cables over the door; one for the 600V bus, one for the buzzer circuit.

And the conductor (Frank) starts loading passengers at Wheaton for the run to Chicago.

By 3 I decided it had cleared up enough, and the three wood cars were brought out. Here are six CA&E cars lined up in front of the Wheaton station: 309, 308, 319, 460, 431, 409.

We put in a lot of money, time, and hard work to make scenes like this possible, but the results make it all worthwhile.

At supper time we had a barbeque at the Central Ave. pavilion and were entertained by the ever-popular West End Jazz Band. Good food and fellowship were had by all. Then it was time for our annual night runs.

Night Trains

The CA&E steel cars, the North Shore cars, two 4000s, the Zephyr, and the silver cars were running, as well as the VC 19. The South Shore sign and the signal display are especially effective after dark. I should have brought a tripod but didn't, so these photos aren't the best. As always, I'm counting on our friend Chuck Amstein to supply me with better pictures.

In any case, we all had a great time!

Update: I should mention that, as usual, there were many visitors from various places, including Orange Empire and Rio Vista. Tim O'Donnell and Alex Bruchac were visiting from Cleveland and were very helpful. We met Lee Wells, a CA&E enthusiast. Long-time member Pete Schmidt was there, and several more! And of course it's always nice to hear words of encouragement from the onlookers.

Frank adds...

I spent most of the day working as Julie Johnson's conductor on the CA&E steel train. We started out with two cars (right) but after the first trip the 409 and 431 were brought onto Station Track 1 where they were joined by the 460, fresh from having its numbers painted on over in Barn 4 (below left). The three-car steel train (below right) made quite an impression on the crowd. We made two more trips, both of them packed to the gills. If only the CA&E itself had been this busy in the '50's!

After the first trip, the steel cars were joined on Station Track 1 by the three-car wood train. Here the woods are seen speeding west past the depot. Click here to see a video of the woods coming into the station with the Zephyr passing by in the background.
After the day's operations were through, we ate at the members' dinner and took a look at a couple of the other restoration projects on display. Below left, Chicago Rapid Transit 1797 is showing tremendous progress courtesy of Tim Peters. Below right, while the rest of us enjoyed BBQ under the pavilion, David - as befitting his profession - dined on steak in the posh Boston & Maine diner being restored by our good friend and "Project 308" alum Jack Biesterfeld.

And finally we ended the evening with night operations. I was conductor on the first trip of the steel train, after which I bowed out for the remainder of the evening. A great time was had by all!

David adds.....

No photos. I left my camera at Randy's house. However, had I brought it, I wouldn't have had any time for photos. I managed to be conductor on 4 trains during the course of the day, as I got shifted around to meet operational needs. The four trains I worked on over the course of the day were the North Shore train Randy ran in the morning, the CA&E steel train, the CA&E wood train, and the Vera Cruz streetcar at night (complete with butchered Spanish announcements). During the course of the day, I punched a lot of tickets, walked the aisles many many times, chatted with passenger, changed poles, and whatever needed to be done. Joe, Stan, and Nick said I had the perfect "serious" conductor persona for the era. My feet are still a bit sore from all of the standing. Also a big thanks to Henry Vincent and Chris Buck who helped me man the 3 car wood CA&E train for their run.

I did, however, meet some IRM members from the St. Louis area, including a family who drove up specifically for the weekend. I also met a gentlement who reads the blog, who currently lives in Chesterfield, MO. If he's reading, please contact me off-blog! Overall, it was a great day. My one "joy ride" of the day was a ride in the Zephyr for a night run.


lee wells said...

Saturday was my first visit to IRM on showcase weekend, and it was a blast. Not only did I have an opportunity to see and meet the icons of the CA&E in person (Frank, Randall and Julie), I was able to ride the new 409, 460 and incredibly-restored 308. What beautiful cars, and what great memories they evoked.
I got a personal tour of the wood cars by Frank in the morning, when it appeared the cars would not run, and it was great. The three of them are in such great shape, great ladies not showing their age at all.
One question, did the "smoking motor" on the 319 turn out to be anything serious? I sure hope that there's no huge problem there. Randall "cut out" that car for the return, and we're hoping.

Thanks again for all your work, your money and the fact that you have fun with these historic trains. Without you, we'd be stuck with only our memories.

Lee Wells

Randall Hicks said...

Lee: Thanks for the comments.

The 319 has a motor problem, not yet diagnosed. We're hoping it's nothing too serious. Stay tuned.

David Wilkins said...

When asked why Randy put a photo of my backside on the blog, he replied "Given David's profession, it's his best side."