Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Visit to East Troy

Frank writes...

Sunday was a field trip day; a bunch of Car Department guys headed up to visit the East Troy Electric Railroad in East Troy, Wisconsin, about an hour north of Union. The history of the line between East Troy and Mukwonago (muck-WAAN-ago if you were wondering) is a long and sordid one, but the brief version is that the Milwaukee Electric built a line from Milwaukee out to East Troy early in the century. The "TM" abandoned the line in the late 1930s but the village of East Troy bought the segment between their village and the railroad interchange in Mukwonago, operating it as the freight-only Municipality of East Troy Railroad. In the late 1960s a group called The Wisconsin Electric Railway Historical Society (TWERHS) started operating interurbans over the line but in the 1980s they were kicked off the line in favor of ETER, a separate group also looking to operate interurbans over the route (TWERHS dissolved and most of its cars ended up at IRM, though some ended up with ETER). Today ETER is part museum, part tourist line, but does a brisk business between the historic substation in East Troy and the "Elegant Farmer" restaurant/grocery, located near the Mukwonago end at a spot known as Phantom Woods. Just this year they've extended service east to the interchange, aka Indian Head Park, though most ridership is between East Troy and Phantom Woods.

They were operating two South Shore cars, 9 and 30, when we were there. Here's car 30 sitting in front of the historic substation at East Troy. In "TM" days the passenger station was a block west of here but today the building is used as the station/museum/gift shop. Across the tracks is an old-time ice cream parlor. Note the car has had its roof "humps" and pantographs removed. Although most of East Troy's operating fleet consists of South Shore cars, these have all been converted to trolley poles for ease of operation.
The 5-mile trip to Phantom Woods takes some 25-30 minutes. We rode all the way to Indian Head Park and back, then disembarked for lunch at the "Elegant Farmer." Like most museum/tourist operations that have traffic originating at different points along the line, ETER has a regular posted timetable. Trains depart East Troy eastbound and Phantom Woods westbound at the top of the hour, meeting at a siding along the line. Above, after lunch car 30 approaches the Phantom Woods stop from the east. The sign in the foreground discusses the acquisition of several South Shore cars from the National Park Service in 2010.
Some of the usual gang: here's Zach Ehlers, Nick Espevik, Greg Kepka and Richard Schauer riding in the box smoker on car 30. Thomas Slater, Joel Ahrendt, and diesel department volunteer Jeron Glander were also along for the visit. East Troy has stripped the interior walls of cars 9 and 30 (not sure about their other South Shore cars) down to bare wood, which looks pretty nice.
En route back to East Troy we met their president, Ryan Jonas, who very kindly agreed to show us through their car barns. Above is the East Troy barn; a pair of Chicago 4000s painted in 1920s colors is on the left, beyond which is Milwaukee Electric work car L6 and a homebuilt open car constructed by ETER back in the 1970s or 1980s. At the end of this track, the usual home of cars 9 and 30, is another South Shore coach. Ryan said that ETER currently has eight (!) operational South Shore cars.
Here's the dining car set: back in the 1990s ETER rebuilt a pair of South Shore air-conditioned "stretch" coaches as dining cars and ever since then has run a successful dinner train operation. There's no kitchen on the cars, the food being brought aboard for the trip.
South Shore car 33, shown here, was one of five acquired in 2010 from the National Park Service. This car is unique in that it was rebuilt by the NPS to more-or-less original condition, complete with square end windows, humpless roof, stained-and-varnished interior, and tile floors. It really looks nice and it is operational, but at the moment is having work done to get electric heat working in the car (these cars ran in service with coal-fired hot water heaters - not something ETER or anyone else, to my knowledge, is looking to use!).
The ETER line car is ex-Milwaukee Electric car D23, which is identical to our own D22. Theirs is in good condition and is in regular use.
Here's something unusual out in front of the East Troy barn: a super-low-profile switch throw.
And then we all jumped in our cars and drove back over to Phantom Woods, where Ryan showed us through East Troy's new maintenance and restoration building. As seen above, it's a one-track, two-berth structure built alongside the old TWERHS Phantom Woods barn (left background) which today is used mostly for dead storage. The new building has a small office in the front corner, which is air-conditioned, while the entire structure is heated.
And here's the main bay with a Twin Cities streetcar over the pit. The building is extremely impressive; there's a between-the-rails inspection pit about 70' long, with a wide spot some 25' long in the middle, and plenty of work space all around. The track extends out both ends of the building and the plan is to eventually construct a parts storage building out behind (to the east of) the building. The pit is slightly deeper than ours, which is nice because you don't need to duck as much walking underneath the cars!
Along one side of the main bay are a couple of workshops separated by both regular doors and large roll-up doors. The idea is that these roll-up doors will usually be kept open, but in the winter they can be closed and the workshops heated individually without incurring the expense of heating the entire main bay. Pretty nifty! There are two workshops, intended as a metal shop and a wood shop, plus a restroom and the aforementioned office at the southwest corner of the building.

And then it was back to IRM, where CA&E 451 has returned to "traction land" after a long seven years, give or take, over in the Barn 2 diesel shop. The car is shown below following removal of the plastic sheeting that had been draped over it to limit the dust. We are hoping to pick back up with this project at some point. The doors need to be retrieved from the contractor who still has them, the roof boards need to be made and installed, roof hardware must be replaced, some final painting remains to be done, and then comes the mechanical inspection and replacement of the air compressor. But at some point this car should join sister car 460 in operation on our railroad. Looking to help? Contributions to the CA&E 451 fund are always appreciated!


Anonymous said...

The next time you are in East Troy, check out Lauber's ice cream store across from the substation. It's a place decorated with the furnishings of many old Milwaukee drug stores complete with a marble soda fountain with original seltzer dispensers.

C Kronenwetter

Anonymous said...

The current East Troy organization started out as an independent trolley museum in nearby North Prairie. There was some competition and maybe a little not so good blood between the groups, but I think in the end it was the slipping ability of TWERHS to manage its operation that led to a switch in museum operations. There was a short period of time when both groups were on the same RR. I think the M-15 came to IRM from the City of East Troy RR sometime around 1981. Though it is correct in its current configuration, I would like to see that unit restored back to a straight Merchandise motor.

Joshua Sutherland said...

Very curious where they got that low-profile switch. Those are mostly used in car ferries and car floats. Might be something off a Milwaukee dock.

sd45elect2000 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
sd45elect2000 said...

The original configuration of the M15 was not a merchandise motor. M-15 was a freight trailer. It was motorized in 1939 in preparation to be sold to East Troy.

Its no coincidence that we have seen photo's of M1, M2, M14 and M16 pulling cars but no one has seen photo's of the M15.

I think it's fine in it's current configuration.

Randy Stahl