Monday, April 15, 2013

The disappearing railroad car

Where did the end of this interurban car go?  What happened to its siding? its windows?  What's going on here?  Why, long-term outdoor storage, of course!

The car body seen above was acquired just recently by a northeastern museum which is now working valiantly to try and save it.  And they've got their work cut out for them.  But this didn't happen overnight; over time any wooden car stored outdoors, as this one was, will naturally deteriorate.  The only real solution is indoor storage.  And indoor storage is something that many of the historic railway cars at IRM are currently lacking.

But fear not, readers - you can help!  IRM is now raising funding for building a storage barn which will house dozens of historic and irreplaceable cars and will preserve them for the future.  But donations are still badly needed to help get the museum the rest of the way towards building the next barn.

Donations towards the Barn 14 Fund or towards any of the department-specific indoor storage space funds - Electric Car, Freight Car, Internal Combustion, Passenger Car or Steam - may be sent to the Illinois Railway Museum, PO Box 427, Union IL 60180.  Or you can quickly and easily help out by clicking here and donating online.  All donations are fully tax-deductible.

Thank you for your help in preserving our history!


Ted Roy said...


What is the history of that car body?

Anonymous said...

PNAERC says it is Syracuse, Lake Shore and Northern #200, at the Martisco Station Museum. Is this a recent photo?

Randall Hicks said...

Yes, Frank took it last week.

Those of us in the Chicago area probably tend to take it for granted how much has been preserved of our electric railway heritage. There are so many cars from CSL, North Shore, CA&E, South Shore, and the L in existence, many of which have been preserved and are operational, with others being worked on. They're located both here in the Midwest and around the country. So you have lots to choose from.

Upstate New York once had an extensive array of interesting electric railways, but if you're from Syracuse, for instance, all you have left to work with is this and a couple of other bodies, in even more wretched shape. It's pretty sad.

So... support your local railroad museum!

Anonymous said...

Hello, Randy and all.

While you're at it, please support "OUR" museum!

The Illinois Railway Museum may be the largest museum in the United States, but we would be NOTHING and NOWHERE without our generous donors and volunteers! We are a PRIVATE museum, thus most of our money comes from "listeners like you," and most of the rest comes from visitors on days when we're operating equipment. Without YOUR time and YOUR money (that is almost never wasted, and is ALWAYS spent as best as we understand at the time) our 400 plus pieces of railway equipment would be Toyotas and soup cans. Our restorations have gained admiration and envy throughout the railway museum community and continue to do so. We have exhibits many other museums could never get, and could never maintain even if they got them.

Not all of our "fund areas" are "wiz-bang," but they're all good. Our Strahorn and Pullman Libraries not only provide US with information to correctly preserve and restore exhibits, but help other railway museums get critical restoration information, and also gain US respect with other libraries to research blueprints and service documents other museums will never see. Our track gang maintains a rail network whose length actually rivals some revenue short-lines. Through shrewd and timely purchases of neighboring land, we not only have the room to expand, but we can continue to operate PERIOD. After all, "corn has never called the police to complain about the noise."

But there is so much more to do. BARN 14! We also need additional barn space to perserve and ultimately show our exhibits. Building the Kishwaukee River Bridge, and double-tracking our main line would enable higher mainline speeds without sacrificing safety (which we will NEVER knowingly do) and allow us to go into Huntley, making our mainline demonstration track more closely resemble the revenue railways of days gone by. The "typical" electric motor for an interurban rail car or street car costs over $20,000 to rebuild, and most cars have two to four of these motors. Even in museum service, these motors ocassionally need to be rebuilt, and in most cases, we are profoundly lucky to get "junk cores" to rebuild in the first place. Diesel Engines also need to be rebuilt from time to time, as well as the boilers of steam locomotives like Frisco 1630. The "Henrietta," CRI&P 2612 is still working on "paying its way" into the museum, and needs moderate to major restoration work. The Michigan Electric 28 and 1630, which are the ONLY Michigan Electric cars preserved ANYWHERE, still need MAJOR work. Even cleaning is important! After all, who wants to ride in a dirty old train?

In short, please visit, donate and participate. It's hard, but fun "worning on the railroad." Randy and Frank can tell you of the good parent-child bonding experiences to be had restoring railroad equipment. And even as a visitor, you won't get this kind of fun at Six Flags!

I'd better get off of this soapbox quickly. Bob Kuetella is looking at it longingly with a crowbar in his hand, and sometihing tells me that it will become window sashes before too long.


Brian J. Patterson.

Randall Hicks said...

Thanks, Brian.

I suppose each of us has occasionally allowed his enthusiasm to outrun the more sober judgments of common sense. That's basically how most of our projects are completed, on the strength of enthusiasm. And while the Kishwaukee bridge and a double-track main line (that I'd never heard of) are unlikely to happen any time soon, there are always several valuable and feasible projects that are awaiting only the volunteer labor and financial resources to accomplish. So you too can be part of this heroic endeavor. They laughed at Fulton too, you know.

Nathanael said...

It would be nice if IRM had, in its online rolling stock inventory database, a note as to whether each car had paid (a) its track charge and (b) its indoor storage charge.

That way, if a particular car caught someone's eye while they were looking online, they would know whether *that particular* car was at risk of deterioration or not!

As it is, it's not really that easy to tell; only random comments from individual volunteers explain which cars have not "paid their way in".

Randall Hicks said...


That's an interesting idea, and I can understand the reasoning behind it. But the allocation of barn space is a very controversial subject (we could easily make the current Congressional debate over the debt ceiling, for instance, look like a church social) and will probably remain so. And we are naturally reluctant to publish too much financial information on the web where anybody can see it.

The newsletter always includes a list of current projects that are soliciting funds for various purposes, and that's probably as good an indication of where the money is needed as you can ask.

Of course, other opinions are welcome, as long as you adhere to IRM's standards of never-failing politeness and decorum.