Sunday, October 13, 2013

Kankakee Railroad Museum

The Kankakee Railroad Museum is a small non-operating volunteer organization.  It includes three or four model railroads of various scales and other displays located in part of the impressive IC depot in downtown Kankakee.  They also have three preserved cars, of which the rarest is a streetcar body from Kankakee itself.

Although not a large city, Kankakee had two street railway companies.  This is car 114 of the North Kankakee company, a single-truck streetcar built in 1917 by McGuire-Cummings.  It and sister car 116 were backyard sheds until about 2003, when they were rescued.  Since that time, the museum built a display building for the car, and they have done a lot of work to restore it as best they can.  It makes a very nice display.  The 116 is now in storage at IRM.

Since the truck and all of the mechanical and electrical parts were missing, they purchased many things from Gomaco.  The controller is from a Milan car, and the seat frames from Portugal.


The wicker upholstery was done by museum volunteers, as was all of the woodwork repair and repainting.

And they purchased a trolley pole and a short length of wire from Gomaco also.


Since the correct type of truck is unobtainable, a plywood mockup serves to show how the car was mounted.

The center part of the original ceiling is missing.

The museum put a lot of effort and money into this display, and the result is very instructive for people who haven't seen a real streetcar before, such as school groups.  They have a lot of historic pictures of Kankakee in streetcar days, and the volunteers I talked to were very helpful and enthusiastic. 

Outside, next to the station, there's a steel UP caboose and a Santa Fe Budd coach.  The coach was in Amtrak service for a while, then passed through unknown hands until they purchased it from an equipment dealer.

Many of the seats were missing or beyond repair, but about half of the car has been restored to its coach configuration.

The other half has been made into a diner, displaying a large collection of railroad china.  It can also be rented for birthday parties and such.

I took more pictures of the museum, but that's enough for now.  Our brief visit was certainly worthwhile and educational.


Stephen M. Scalzo said...

The streetcar body on display at the Kankakee Railroad station (in a separate building) is NOT a Birney car. - the North Kankakee system never operated Birneys - only the Kankakee system operated Birneys.

Anonymous said...

The North Kankakee Electric Light & Railway streetcar body on display at the Kankakee Depot (but stored in a separate building)was built by McGuire Cummings in 1917 - there were two streetcar numbered 114 and 116 involved that went to the North Kankakee system. After streetcar service ended on November 30, 1932, the two bodies were purchased for storage sheds in the back yard of a Seventh Avenue house in Kankakee - covered with wooden pitched roofs and siding.