Monday, September 7, 2015

Sunset Lines

Frank writes...

This weekend was the first time, to my knowledge, that IRM has ever been open at night for regular train operations.  (The museum has been open at night in recent years for special events such as Train of Terror and the Zephyr dinner trains.)  Saturday night it was the North Shore cars running the 3pm-9:30pm shift but Sunday night the evening shift fell to the cars from the Sunset Lines.

My father and I got out to the museum a bit after lunchtime and switched the order of the cars.  The plan had originally been to run the 36 and 309, but another grid failure on the former precluded that.  We coupled up the 309 and 319, our two four-motor cars, and went into service about at about 3:00.  The North Shore cars were put back into the barn but the other electric service train, the CTA 2200s, ran a few more trips before they retired about 5:00.

The 1630 with its coach train and the Zephyr were also operating, however the Zephyr went out of service around 4:00 because it was running two dinner train trips (4:30 and 6:45 if memory serves) and around the same time the 1630 tied up for the evening.  Fortunately a decent crowd stuck around into the evening, and we ran a trip every hour - six total - with a pretty good load of passengers each time. Dispatcher Harold Krewer had his hands full at times but handled the unusual combination of train movements with aplomb.
Our first three trip were effectively normal daytime trips, but our 6:40 trip returned to East Union as the sun was setting and we promptly mounted headlights and kerosene markers for our 7:40 trip.  Fortunately the markers worked perfectly this evening.  We had a relatively busy trip at 7:40, probably 45-50 passengers between the two cars as darkness settled.  Our last trip left around 9pm, taking on a few passengers from the last Zephyr dinner train of the night, and even that late we had maybe 25-30 passengers aboard.  Greg Kepka and Richard Schauer helped us put the train away, returning to the barn around 10pm.
I don't know what the official take on the success of this was, but it sure was a lot of fun and the attendees seemed to really appreciate how unique the experience was.  Riding these trains at night is quite different than during the daytime; I've always thought it was a much more immersive "time machine" kind of experience.  Overall the event seemed to go quite well and we had a lot of very nice comments from our visitors.  Hopefully we can do it again next year!
But I would be remiss if I didn't mention some of the other things happening on the property.  Jeff Brady was hard at work on the Michigan car; as shown above, the new side sill on the left side under the baggage door has been test-fitted and before long should be ready for riveting.  There's also been more progress on the new barns, though unfortunately I neglected to get a photo (d'oh!).  Barn 14 now has siding on the west end and the end of Barn 13 has been framed out.  And the car line was busy as well with CTA 3142, the "Hornet" and the open car all making the rounds.


Josh Jodlowski said...


My girlfriend and I road the 7:40 trip. I have to say it was one of the most amazing experiences we've ever had at the museum. For me the coolest part was watch you guys switch directions and bring those beautiful kerosene lamps through the car. Hopefully we get to ride again next year!


Anonymous said...

It sure does surprise me that an Interurban Railroad would stay with oil marker lights when they had power to run the cars. A motor-generator or a resistor bank would make low voltage for lights outside as well as inside.

But they sure make a warm glow for the end of the cars!

Ted Miles
IRM Member

Randall Hicks said...

That really shouldn't be surprising. Power can be lost at any time, and bulbs burn out without warning, making electric lights inherently unreliable to some degree. But you can always check that there's enough fuel in the pot to keep an oil lamp burning. Which would you rather bet your safety on?

And I believe many railroads resisted the introduction of electric hand lanterns for exactly the same reason: there's no way to be absolutely sure the bulb won't burn out or the battery start to die.