8.8.06

EXTRAS AND EXTRAS. World War II was the last great railroad war. Steven Spielberg is making a movie based on Flags of our Fathers, a biography of the six troopers who raised the flag on Iwo Jima. But vintage passenger trains are not exactly abundant on the common carriers. Solution: hire the Silver Cars from the Illinois Railway Museum.

These cars received a mechanical refit to be able to travel to the Chicago area, as well as new glazing, and a temporary Burlington paint job. (One might call these extras "stunt doubles" as Mr Spielberg's original plan was to hire the Nebraska Zephyr, but those cars were damaged in a switching oops. Preservation railways are subject to all the hazards of the common carriers with the additional difficulty of locating spare parts.

Inside, the cars still show evidence of their use on Amtrak. Silver Ridge, because of its unusual floor plan, was not converted for head-end power in Amtrak's Heritage Fleet rebuilds. Remember purple-and-orange, carpeting halfway up the walls, and paisley upholstery?



Slumbercoach Loch Sloy has its Northern Pacific lettering, which would be correct for trains running on the Burlington as well. In the movie it might show up immediately behind the diesel ... anachronism alert!


The double Slumbercoach room provides a toilet and sink as well as double bunks. Today's Superliner roomette eliminates the plumbing in order to provide somewhat wider bunks. There's not much luggage space in either configuration as there isn't enough headroom in the corridor for the luggage space the Viewliner sleepers provide.

The museum has made some improvements in the grounds. This shelter once served Springfield Avenue in Rockford, Illinois. After the end of interurban service, someone adaptively reused it as a doghouse. (If not for doghouses, chicken coops, diners, and cottages there'd be a much thinner supply of preservable city and interurban cars.)


The collection is going to receive shelter as well. These tracks are grouped in such a way as to permit sheds to be built over them, probably for maintenance purposes so as to allow for more display space in the existing carbarns. The museum recognizes that storage has opportunity costs, and cars kept under roof must earn their keep in some way.


Inside one of the existing barns, a clear shot of North Shore baggage-coach 251. The North Shore Line attempted to match the steam railroads' silver cars with silver paint and carefully applied shadow markings.


Here is the oldest steam locomotive in the collection, an Illinois Central small Suburban Tank. It is set up for decent visibility over the coal bunker in order to run bunker-first in one direction. The Boston and Maine Budd Car behind it is set up with control cabs on each end, again, to make turning a suburban train less challenging.


The Chicago solution has been to provide a control cab on one end of a coach, and a diesel on the other end of the train (and despite the profusion of grade crossings, passengers are allowed at the engineer's end.) But it makes one feel a bit old to look at this car and remember that cars in this style and coloration were running from Geneva into Chicago in 1986, when I started at Northern Illinois.


The pioneer Fairbanks-Morse diesel switcher, which runs, was on the diesel house lead.


The dispatcher's office has a working signal control panel. The museum has a number of webcams now, including one that provides live updates of the model board.


Inside the tower, a preserved track diagram offering visual aids to the signalman. This is South Upton Junction on the North Shore Line.


The view of a diesel train from the tower.


Some pot signals recently obtained from North Western Station during a rebuilding of the Lake Street interlocking. These look like British "shunting signals" but they were used to give the road out of and the route into the station. Some signals had one or two stars on the back side that illuminated to give the road to a train so long that the engine was beyond the end of the platform.


At the main station, a North Shore Line train using older cars that never received the Silverliner treatment.


The day of my visit, the museum was setting up for a vintage automobile show.


I don't know whether this car was an early arrival or the property of a museum member.


Here's a screenshot, taken from the museum's tower camera, of the show.


The next big event will be a Day Out with Thomas, the weekends of the 19-20 and 26-27. The Chicago Tunnel Company did not deliver this shipment of Thomas toys for the upcoming Day Out with Thomas.


Thomas now has some new of friends, including a Claud Hamilton and a Stirling Single from the Victorian era, a Streak from the streamliner era (scroll down to Spencer), and a Q1 (Neville), Ivatt Suburban Tank (Arthur), and a 9F (Murdoch) from after the war. No doubt many of those push-toys will be going home with tired toddlers in the next few weeks.

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