10.2.07

WHAT TOOK THEM SO LONG? Among ferroequinologists, a large number of the active editors and writers are friends of Steak 'n Shake.

OK, cult might be too strong a word, but what would you call a bunch of guys who can name every Steak 'n Shake they ever visited and probably its ZIP code, and is led by a man who decorated his kitchen to look like one?

That would be Mike Schafer, the self-proclaimed president of the fan club.

That would be the once and present editor of Passenger Train Journal and self-proclaimed president of the Illinois and St. Louis.
This behavior may be caused by fumes from the magazine business, because [Kevin P.] Keefe and 13 of his fellow devotees all work at Kalmbach Publishing in Waukesha - or used to.
That would be as in the founder of Passenger Train Journal.
They showed up Wednesday during the very first hour that a new Steak 'n Shake in Wauwatosa was open. The debut Milwaukee-area location is on the corner of 124th and Burleigh.
No doubt for a good wallow in the past: one of the pioneer Steak 'n Shakes is hard by some major railroad bridges in the Peoria area, and, for some reason, a lot of Midwestern model railroaders find the concept for a layout as "move a lot of freight cars to Peoria and shuffle them all afternoon, then eat a dry hamburger and stringy fries." (I'm not impressed by Steak 'n Shake's cooking techniques, and I've sparred with some of these guys about them.) The Milwaukee location is a little too far from the former Chicago & North Western freight belt for that kind of railfanning.

In an uncertain world, what these fans like most about this restaurant is that it hasn't changed much since opening in the 1930s in Illinois. It feels retro, right down to the durable china plates, although Schafer was chiding owner Joe Denis about the lack of neon signage at this site.

"It's familiar. It's good food. It's something to do," said Dave Ingles. No one in the club can top his feat of stopping at 177 different locations, starting with a boyhood visit in Chicago Heights about 1950. A little Lipitor and he's good to go.

So now we have the past editor of Trains at this gathering. The article doesn't mention whether Railfan and Railroad's Jim Boyd, also a Midwesterner and occasional habitue of that Peoria Steak 'n Shake, was at this feeding frenzy.

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