Along the North Shore

The Chicago & Milwaukee Electric had two car 10s, purchased in 1898 and 1899. Not sure which one this is, but it is named the Highland Park. Service to Highland Park began on June 23, 1898. (Rex Butler Collection)

The Chicago & Milwaukee Electric had two car 10s, purchased in 1898 and 1899. Not sure which one this is, but it is named the Highland Park. Service to Highland Park began on June 23, 1898. (Rex Butler Collection)

It continually amazes me when we are able to find so much out about the lives of people who lived more than one hundred years ago. We recently were in touch with Rex Butler, whose grandfather Frank H. Butler worked as a conductor on the Chicago and Milwaukee Electric from 1898 to 1900. The photos in this post are from his collection, and shed some light on the early history of the North Shore Line interurban that eventually ran between Chicago and Milwaukee. It started out in Waukegan.

We are very thankful Mr. Butler has shared these wonderful photos with our readers. We also thank Diana Koester for her genealogy research.

Keep those cards and letters coming in, folks.

-David Sadowski

PS- You might also like our Trolley Dodger Facebook auxiliary, a private group that now has 771 members.

Our friend Kenneth Gear now has a Facebook group for the Railroad Record Club. If you enjoy listening to audio recordings of classic railroad trains, whether steam, electric, or diesel, you might consider joining.

Work on our North Shore Line book is ongoing. Donations are needed in order to bring this to a successful conclusion. You will find donation links at the top and bottom of each post. We thank you in advance for your time and consideration.

Butler Photos and Family History

George Butler. (Rex Butler Collection)

George Butler. (Rex Butler Collection)

Frank H. Butler.

Frank H. Butler.

Frank H. Butler learned photography from his uncle, who had a studio in the Dakotas.

Frank H. Butler learned photography from his uncle, who had a studio in the Dakotas.

Frank H. Butler eventually owned a stationary store in Waukegan that also sold books and typewriters. (Rex Butler Collection)

Frank H. Butler eventually owned a stationary store in Waukegan that also sold books and typewriters. (Rex Butler Collection)

Chicago & Milwaukee electric car #1 was built by Brill in 1896, and eventually became a line car. (Rex Butler Collection)

Chicago & Milwaukee electric car #1 was built by Brill in 1896, and eventually became a line car. (Rex Butler Collection)

The man at left certainly looks like Frank H. Butler. (Rex Butler Collection)

The man at left certainly looks like Frank H. Butler. (Rex Butler Collection)

(Rex Butler Collection)

(Rex Butler Collection)

The Republic Construction Company was owned by A. C. Frost, head of the Chicago and Milwaukee Electric, and built much of the North Shore Line up until 1908. (Rex Butler Collection)

The Republic Construction Company was owned by A. C. Frost, head of the Chicago and Milwaukee Electric, and built much of the North Shore Line up until 1908. (Rex Butler Collection)

Caleb Butler (1792-1870) was born in Vermont, and became an early settler in the Waukegan area around 1841. His sons were George Butler (1840-1927) and Henry Butler (1836-1918), who both served on the Union side during the Civil War.

Frank Henry Butler (1871-1963) was George’s son. He married Eva Celestine Browne (1892-1976) in 1917. Her father was Walter Browne (1862-1931), who added an “e” to the end of their last name because there was a town drunkard named Walter Brown, who got into all sorts of trouble. He did not want to be confused with him.

Frank H. Butler worked as a conductor on the Chicago and Milwaukee Electric for two years (1898-1900) and the 1900 census lists his occupation as a photographer. He learned the trade from his uncle.

Later, he worked at W. F. Wandel’s bookstore at 137 N. Genesse Street in Waukegan. The store sold stationary and typewriters as well, and also rented typewriters. The 1910 census says he was a salesman.

Eventually, he took over Wandel’s store and ran it until November 1921, when he sold it. The family moved to Florida for his wife’s health (she had asthma). While in Florida, he owned a candy store and later, a pharmacy. From 1931 to 1950, he worked as a janitor at a school.

Rex Butler is Frank H. Butler’s grandson.

From The Waukegan Weekly Sun, July 8, 1898, page 6 (“Waukegan Happenings”):

The new street cars are now running in this city. They are as described in this paper Saturday. The new trailers are “away out of sight.” Conductors now run on every car and fare boxes have been abandoned. Among the new conductors are Frank Butler, Mr. Goss, of North Chicago and Mr. Nellis of this city. The two new cars and four trailers for the South end of the line will probably not be running before the tracks are connected. Work of connecting them progresses slowly. On Monday, the Fourth, 3000 passengers at five cents a piece were carried. As no passes whatever are honored, the receipts for the day were about $150. Ivan and Dan Jardins, the new men have assumed charge in their respective positions of General Superintendent and Cashier. The new cars are thirty feet long and weigh 28,000 pounds. They are lighted and heated with the electric power…

A general rumor for several days has been that the Northwestern road had bought or was negotiating for the Chicago and Milwaukee electric railway. While there may be some indications as to the probability of such a transaction, as to facts there is nothing whatever to be learned in regard to it. Several prominent parties who know considerable of the business of both corporations had heard nothing of the rumors and could tell nothing. One said “I would not be surprised to hear it,” and another remarked “It seems to me a very likely project. That street railway franchise will in a few year, be a very valuable piece of property and a great thing for the Northwestern road or anyone else to own. It would be a good move for the Northwestern road to make.” Several have thought the fact that the Northwestern road was building the viaduct at North Chicago for the electric road was an indication. It is not, however, as the Northwestern prefers to supervise all construction which interfere with its right of way, and that the street railway has contracted to pay the sum of $15,000 to the Northwestern for the work, was assured to a reporter today by a man who was one of the signers of the contract.

Note: the “Northwestern road” mentioned here is the Chicago & North Western, and not the Northwestern “L”. The viaduct in North Chicago was needed so the Chicago and Milwaukee Electric could cross the North Western. The steam railroad refused to allow the upstart interurban to have a grade crossing there.

Waukegan Power Plant Explosion

Around 11:30 pm on April 22, 1908, the belt that turned a flywheel at the North Shore Electric power house in Waukegan caught fire, and this spread to the other equipment. While firemen were trying to put it out, there was an explosion, and the flywheel went through a wall, causing massive destruction. Two people were killed, and many more injured. All of Waukegan lost power as a result.

The North Shore Electric was a Samuel Insull utility, but Insull did not take control of the Chicago and Milwaukee Electric interurban until 1916, at which time it became the Chicago North Shore and Milwaukee, aka the North Shore Line. Streetcars and interurbans were major customers of electric utilities, and also helped bring electric power to many rural areas.

The photos in this section are believed to have been taken by Frank H. Butler, and are courtesy of Rex Butler.

Page 1 of The Waukegan Daily Sun for April 23, 1908.

Page 1 of The Waukegan Daily Sun for April 23, 1908.

Page 4 of The Waukegan Daily Sun for April 23, 1908.

Page 4 of The Waukegan Daily Sun for April 23, 1908.

Along the North Shore

This extremely rare promotional brochure, here from Rex Butler’s collection, was produced some time between 1899 and 1902. Although the map shows service to Milwaukee, this did not come to fruition until 1908.

A Guide to the Railroad Record Club E-Book

William A. Steventon recording the sounds of the North Shore Line in April 1956. (Kenneth Gear Collection)

William A. Steventon recording the sounds of the North Shore Line in April 1956. (Kenneth Gear Collection)

Our good friend Ken Gear has been hard at work on collecting all things related to the late William Steventon’s railroad audio recordings and releases. The result is a new book on disc, A Guide To the Railroad Record Club. This was quite a project and labor of love on Ken’s part!

Kenneth Gear has written and compiled a complete history of William Steventon‘s Railroad Record Club, which issued 42 different LPs of steam, electric, and diesel railroad audio, beginning with its origins in 1953.

This “book on disc” format allows us to present not only a detailed history of the club and an updated account of Kenneth Gear’s purchase of the William Steventon estate, but it also includes audio files, photo scans and movie files. Virtually all the Railroad Record Club archive is gathered in one place!

Price: $19.99

$10 from the sale of each RRC E-Book will go to Kenneth Gear to repay him for some of his costs in saving this important history.

Now Available on Compact Disc:

RRC08D
Railroad Record Club #08 Deluxe Edition: Canadian National: Canadian Railroading in the Days of Steam, Recorded by Elwin Purington
The Complete Recording From the Original Master Tapes
Price: $15.99

Kenneth Gear‘s doggedness and determination resulted in his tracking down and purchasing the surviving RRC master tapes a few years back, and he has been hard at work having them digitized, at considerable personal expense, so that you and many others can enjoy them with today’s technology. We have already released a few RRC Rarities CDs from Ken’s collection.

When Ken heard the digitized version of RRC LP #08, Canadian National: Canadian Railroading in the Days of Steam, recorded by the late Elwin Purington, he was surprised to find the original tapes were more than twice the length of the 10″ LP. The resulting LP had been considerably edited down to the limited space available, 15 minutes per side.

The scenes were the same, but each was greatly shortened. Now, on compact disc, it is possible to present the full length recordings of this classic LP, which was one of Steventon’s best sellers and an all-around favorite, for the very first time.

Canadian National. Steaming giants pound high iron on mountain trails, rumble over trestles, hit torpedos and whistle for many road crossings. Mountain railroading with heavy power and lingering whistles! Includes locomotives 3566, 4301, 6013, 3560.

Total time – 72:57

$5 from the sale of RRC08D CD will go to Kenneth Gear to repay him for some of his costs in saving this important history.

Chicago’s Lost “L”s Online Presentation

We recently gave an online presentation about our book Chicago’s Lost “L”s for the Chicago Public Library, as part of their One Book, One Chicago series. You can watch it online by following this link.

The Trolley Dodger On the Air

We appeared on the Dave Plier Show on WGN radio on July 16, 2021, to discuss Chicago’s Lost “L”s. You can hear that discussion here.

Our Latest Book, Now Available:

Chicago’s Lost “L”s

From the back cover:

Chicago’s system of elevated railways, known locally as the “L,” has run continuously since 1892 and, like the city, has never stood still. It helped neighborhoods grow, brought their increasingly diverse populations together, and gave the famous Loop its name. But today’s system has changed radically over the years. Chicago’s Lost “L”s tells the story of former lines such as Garfield Park, Humboldt Park, Kenwood, Stockyards, Normal Park, Westchester, and Niles Center. It was once possible to take high-speed trains on the L directly to Aurora, Elgin, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The L started out as four different companies, two starting out using steam engines instead of electricity. Eventually, all four came together via the Union Loop. The L is more than a way of getting around. Its trains are a place where people meet and interact. Some say the best way to experience the city is via the L, with its second-story view. Chicago’s Lost “L”s is virtually a “secret history” of Chicago, and this is your ticket. David Sadowski grew up riding the L all over the city. He is the author of Chicago Trolleys and Building Chicago’s Subways and runs the online Trolley Dodger blog.

The Images of America series celebrates the history of neighborhoods, towns, and cities across the country. Using archival photographs, each title presents the distinctive stories from the past that shape the character of the community today. Arcadia is proud to play a part in the preservation of local heritage, making history available to all.

Title Chicago’s Lost “L”s
Images of America
Author David Sadowski
Edition illustrated
Publisher Arcadia Publishing (SC), 2021
ISBN 1467100007, 9781467100007
Length 128 pages

Chapters:
01. The South Side “L”
02. The Lake Street “L”
03. The Metropolitan “L”
04. The Northwestern “L”
05. The Union Loop
06. Lost Equipment
07. Lost Interurbans
08. Lost Terminals
09. Lost… and Found

Each copy purchased here will be signed by the author, and you will also receive a bonus facsimile of a 1926 Chicago Rapid Transit Company map, with interesting facts about the “L” on the reverse side.

The price of $23.99 includes shipping within the United States.

For Shipping to US Addresses:

For Shipping to Canada:

For Shipping Elsewhere:

NEW DVD:

A Tribute to the North Shore Line

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the demise of the fabled North Shore Line interurban in January 2013, Jeffrey L. Wien and Bradley Criss made a very thorough and professional video presentation, covering the entire route between Chicago and Milwaukee and then some. Sadly, both men are gone now, but their work remains, making this video a tribute to them, as much as it is a tribute to the Chicago North Shore & Milwaukee.

Jeff drew on his own vast collections of movie films, both his own and others such as the late William C. Hoffman, wrote and gave the narration. Bradley acted as video editor, and added authentic sound effects from archival recordings of the North Shore Line.

It was always Jeff’s intention to make this video available to the public, but unfortunately, this did not happen in his lifetime. Now, as the caretakers of Jeff’s railfan legacy, we are proud to offer this excellent two-hour program to you for the first time. The result is a fitting tribute to what Jeff called his “Perpetual Adoration,” which was the name of a stop on the interurban.

Jeff was a wholehearted supporter of our activities, and the proceeds from the sale of this disc will help defray some of the expenses of keeping the Trolley Dodger web site going.

Total time – 121:22

# of Discs – 1
Price: $19.99 (Includes shipping within the United States)

Help Support The Trolley Dodger

This is our 287th post, and we are gradually creating a body of work and an online resource for the benefit of all railfans, everywhere. To date, we have received over 864,000 page views, for which we are very grateful.

You can help us continue our original transit research by checking out the fine products in our Online Store.
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In order to continue giving you the kinds of historic railroad images that you have come to expect from The Trolley Dodger, we need your help and support. It costs money to maintain this website, and to do the sort of historic research that is our specialty.

Your financial contributions help make this web site better, and are greatly appreciated.


Remembering Bradley Criss

Bradley Criss on March 3, 2012 at the end of the St. Charles Car Line at Carrollton and Claiborne Avenues in New Orleans. (Jeff Wien Photo, Wien-Criss Archive)

Bradley Criss on March 3, 2012 at the end of the St. Charles Car Line at Carrollton and Claiborne Avenues in New Orleans. (Jeff Wien Photo, Wien-Criss Archive)

As many of you may know, I was part of the creative team that produced CERA Bulletin 146*, along with Jeff Wien and Bradley Criss. For that book, I wrote a tribute to Jeff, who is 14 years older than I am and has long been a friend and a mentor to me in the railfan field.

Now, just one year after the book’s publication, I find myself unexpectedly penning a tribute to Bradley. Late last night I received the following note from Jeff:

It is with a sense of deep regret that I inform you of the death of BRADLEY CRISS on June 29, 2016 at 2:00am. Bradley died peacefully in hospice care at Advocate Illinois Masonic Hospital where he had been hospitalized for a month’s time fighting off infections and other problems.

Bradley was a highly talented young man who will be missed by all of us.

Bradley’s passing was a great shock to everyone who knew him.  He was just 53 years old, and as he was the junior member of the B-146 troika, I had just naturally assumed that he would outlive the both of us.

That is just too young an age for someone as smart, funny, opinionated, and talented as Bradley to die. Let me tell you the story of how the book came about, and how crucial a part Bradley played in its creation.

B-146 was, somewhat improbably, the first CERA publication entirely devoted to Chicago streetcars since a roster had been put out in 1941. There were a variety of reasons why this was so, including the publication of Alan R. Lind‘s excellent book Chicago Surface Lines: An Illustrated History in 1974, the controversial demise of Windy City trolleys, and the immensity of the subject.

During my first term on the CERA board in the early 1990s, I suggested something like this, but the time was not yet ripe and nothing came of it.

About 10 years ago, Jeff and Bradley produced the Chicago Streetcar Memories DVD. Jeff provided the content, and Bradley did a terrific and very professional job putting it together. He had fantastic skills in video production, as anyone who has seen the North Shore Line program that Jeff and Bradley did a few years ago will attest.** The videos they made together are definitely the best of their type. If you have not seen them, they are highly recommended and should not be missed.

In particular, their North Shore Line video brings that storied interurban to life in a way that I would not have thought possible.

Unbeknownst to me at the time, Jeff and Bradley had originally planned a CERA book to accompany the Chicago Streetcar Memories DVD. Some work was done then, including parts of the text that would later appear in B-146, but somehow it went onto the back burner in favor of other projects.

During my second stint at CERA a few years ago, I brought up the subject of a Chicago book again, and learned not only that there were tremendous resources available, but that a “head start” had already been made by Bradley and Jeff. The time was right this time, and the project received an enthusiastic green light.

Jeff had the knowledge and had collected a lot of information over the years. I rode a Chicago streetcar once in 1958 as a three-year-old, but Jeff was already a very active fan by that time, documenting the waning days of the PCCs with his hand-held 8mm movie camera.

Over the years, his own photographic collection, together with additional material such as the late Bill Hoffman’s movies, became what is now the Wien-Criss archive. This served, along with the PCC photos that were generously shared by Art Peterson from the Krambles-Peterson archive, as the cornerstone for our book.

Jeff knew his subject inside and out, and had lots of material, and it was my job to help him organize it and flesh it out with additional images. I was sort of a “hunter-gatherer” of Chicago PCC material, a habit that has continued to this day here on the Trolley Dodger blog.

Improvements in technology over the years made a book like this possible.  There is no way it could have been made in the 1970s, 80s, or 90s.  And in that regard, Bradley Criss was our computer technology “maven.”

Bradley’s role was much more than just being Photo Editor. The entire design and layout of the book was his work, and I believe it is one of the most attractive railfan books ever published.

It certainly has the best color photo reproduction of any such book I have seen. And again, this was Bradley’s work. He not only had to painstakingly match the colors of the various cars with the other photos, but had to remove thousands and thousands of blemishes from these photographs via Photoshop. Bradley wrote something at the end of the book about this, but in my humble opinion he greatly minimized the actual difficulty.

The ultimate goal, of course, was to make things look as they originally did in real life, to make up for 60 years of fading and hard knocks that our original source materials had in some cases suffered.

In this, Bradley had the highest possible standards for the work. He would not let it be published until it was absolutely perfect.

If you could see the “before” vs. the “after” of some of these pictures, you wouldn’t believe it.  Of course, when you see the book now, you don’t see all the hard work that went into it.  You can appreciate it as the seamless whole that it is.

It did not do him any favors when we decided that there was so much great material, that we ought to make it a double length book. This took an already impossible task, and multiplied it times two.  As a Chicago PCC book, it really is the “Big Enchilada.”

Eventually, under the crushing weight of such a project, he had to ask for additional help with the daunting task of “spot removal.” Some of the images we used had as many as a thousand such imperfections that had to be fixed one at a time in Photoshop, looking at a very small part of each scene under 200% magnification or more.

Along with Jeff, John Nicholson, and Diana Koester, I did some of this work myself. After spending eight hours a day on spot removal, I could barely see straight. But to take nothing away from the contributions made by other people, Bradley did most of it himself.

There were many things that could have gone wrong and derailed this book. The combination of very high standards and the sheer number of images that were used, created a daunting task, and it was only by pulling together as a team and persevering that we scaled this Mt. Everest of a book and planted our flag on the summit. All this work took longer than anyone could have anticipated at the outset.

Bradley not only had to make the pictures look good; he had to make the entire book look good, and it had to “flow” for the reader, and he had to squeeze a tremendous amount of material into a limited number of pages.  But when you read the book, to quote The Wizard of Oz, you “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.”

Even if I had written a tribute such as this to him for the book, there is no way he would have wanted it printed. He was, to use a restaurant analogy, a “back of the house” sort of guy, who jealously guarded his privacy. His work was integral to making the book a reality, and helped shape it in many ways, but he was not the type of person who would stand at the front of the line and accept praise from the people who have the book and appreciate it. It wasn’t easy for me to even persuade him to sign someone’s copy.

However, in the one year since the book came out, it has been warmly and enthusiastically received. It has also sold a lot of copies, and I am sure that it will eventually sell out and join the long list of other collectible CERA publications. If you do not yet have a copy yourself, I urge you to consider it while new copies are still to be had. There will come a time when the situation will be different.

When we were working on the book, I thought of it as Jeff’s legacy to the world, which of course it is. I had no way of knowing then that it would also become, all too soon, an important part of Bradley’s legacy as well.

This is to take nothing away from the many people who contributed to the book in one way or another. I thank all of them, and am also very grateful to CERA for publishing it.

But on this day, as we mourn the passing of Bradley Criss, I am especially appreciative of what he accomplished, in spite of health issues that he had even at that time. Who knows what he could have achieved in the future.

Bradley was someone who did not suffer fools gladly. But I am glad that I could call him a friend, fortunate to have known him, and even more fortunate to have worked with him on the definitive Chicago PCC book, which may very well gain in stature as the years go by.

I will miss him greatly, miss hearing him laugh, and miss his jokes. I regret that we will never be able to share another deep dish pizza at Gulliver’s on the north side of Chicago, as it was his favorite. Now that he is gone, there is a gap in our lives that cannot be filled.  I loved him like a brother.

So I thank him for everything he did, and I apologize to him for making him, for this one moment, a “front of the house” guy.  I am happy that at least he lived to see the fruits of his labor.

My deepest condolences go out to his family and friends, and everyone who knew him.

-David Sadowski

You can read CERA’s tribute here.

Here is Bradley’s Chicago Tribune obituary.

Bradley’s obituary from the Illinois Valley News Tribune is here.

*Full title: Chicago Streetcar Pictorial: The PCC Car Era, 1936-1958, available from CERA and their dealers.  Trolley Dodger Press is not affiliated with Central Electric Railfans’ Association.

**The North Shore Line video is not commercially available at present, but is occasionally shown at January CERA meetings. Chicago Streetcar Memories is included with B-146 and can also be purchased separately here from Chicago Transport Memories (again, not affiliated with us).


Help Support The Trolley Dodger

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This is our 144th post, and we are gradually creating a body of work and an online resource for the benefit of all railfans, everywhere. To date, we have received over 173,000 page views, for which we are very grateful.

You can help us continue our original transit research by checking out the fine products in our Online Store.

As we have said before, “If you buy here, we will be here.”

We thank you for your support.

Badger Traction, 2016

The Minneapolis car at East Troy.

The Minneapolis car at East Troy.

Badger Traction is alive and well in Wisconsin, the Badger State. Although the Interurban era ended when the last North Shore Line train crossed the state line into Illinois in 1963, interesting things are happening here, with more to come. The new Milwaukee “starter” streetcar should be up and running in a few years.

Electric trains have run continuously between East Troy and Mukwanago, more or less, since 1907, although it was freight only from 1939 until 1973. Soon after, a museum operation began*, which unfortunately had its problems and got replaced with the current incarnation, the East Troy Electric Railroad. This is the last remaining original remnant of what was once a vast Wisconsin interurban network.

It’s been a few years since I went to East Troy, but I made the trip last weekend and as usual it was very enjoyable. The people are friendly, as they are all over Wisconsin, and the museum is headed in the right direction. Restoration work continues on various cars in their roster, their facilities have recently been improved, and they have a group of dedicated and enthusiastic volunteers.

Our the way north, we made a short stop for lunch at the historic Franks Diner in Kenosha, where we spotted the Chicago tribute car out on the two-mile long loop. (See the video at the end of this post.)

Service at East Troy is usually two different trains running on an hourly basis, meeting up at a passing siding in the middle of the main line between the power house and the Elegant Farmer. This year, they are operating on an additional two miles of trackage east of the Elegant Farmer to a local park, near a lake. It’s a nice addition and makes for a picturesque ride, and the track is actually in better shape than the regular main line. (I was told they are replacing 250 ties on the main line this year.)

The day we were there, they were running the former Minneapolis car 1583, and a two-car train made up of 4000-series Chicago “L” cars. South Shore Line interurban car 30 was parked at the East Troy depot but did not operate. Still, I took a look inside and marveled at the new bucket seats that were recently installed.

The only trackage that they do not regularly operate now is a spur line to an industrial park in East Troy. I was told that this is operational, and was used last year to shuttle people back and forth when a new plant opened.

This is not a high-speed operation, being limited to 15 miles per hour. As our conductor explained, it’s more about the trip than how fast you get there.

Here’s what Don’s Rail Photos says about Twin Cities Rapid Transit Co. car 1583:

1583 was built at Snelling Shops in May 1913 as Class L-8. It was rebuilt in 1921, one-manned in 1928, and rebuilt in 1948. In 1954 it was retired and sold for use as a cottage in northwest Wisconsin. In 1981 it was acquired and rebuilding began by Paul Averdung as Duluth-Superior Transit 253 which was an almost identical car. It now operates on the East Troy Electric Ry.

One interesting feature of the 1583 is its air horn. This sounded different depending on which direction the car was going, more like a horn one way, and a whistle the other. Yet I was told the same horn is used in both directions, although I did not try to confirm that. I made sure to record several horn blasts on the videos at the end of this post.

While in Wisconsin, we spotted some interesting vintage cars, including a 1929 Ford Model A (a “Fordor,” natch), a 1938 Pontiac Touring Sedan, and a 1953 Studebaker (see pictures below).

After our train rides, we bought an apple pie that was baked in a paper bag at the Elegant Farmer, always a good place to stop by, and then had some great burgers at Fred’s Parkview in Burlington.

However, there was one more bit of railfan serendipity on our way back south, although we did not manage to snap a picture. We drove past a steam excursion train in Fox Lake, Illinois, headed up by Nickel Plate Road 765, with an impressive array of passenger cars, including some dome cars behind it. It was just leaving town as we got there.

Here’s what I found about this steam trip:

CHICAGO, May 4, 2016 – The second weekend in June will mark an historic occasion for rail fans with the return of the Nickel Plate Road’s locomotive No. 765 to the Chicago region.

On Saturday, June 11, this 400-ton historic steam locomotive will make an appearance at Franklin Park’s annual Railroad Daze festival followed by its first public excursion trip in the Chicago region in more than 20 years on Sunday, June 12.

Nickel Plate Road steam locomotive no. 765 will be on live-steam display for visitors to Franklin Park’s Railroad Daze from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, June 11. On Sunday, June 12, No. 765 will pull “The Varsity” an exclusive roundtrip excursion train between The Glen of North Glenview stop on Metra’s Milwaukee North Line and Janesville, Wis. The train will also stop for passengers at Metra’s Fox Lake Station.

“The Varsity” will feature vintage passenger cars from the 1930s-1950s and will include accommodations in standard coach, deluxe coach, and first class and dome car. Tickets can be ordered online or by calling 888-718-4253. Additional information and frequently asked questions can be read at fortwaynerailroad.org/faq.

“We are thrilled to bring the dramatic sights and sounds of no. 765 to the region,” said Bill Otter, president of the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society (FWRHS). “We could not be more fortunate to be working with Metra, the Village of Franklin Park, the Wisconsin and Southern Railroad and the Iowa Pacific to bring this type of experience to thousands of area residents.”

Owned and operated by the FWRHS, no. 765 has operated passenger excursions and public exhibitions throughout the Midwest since 1979. The locomotive and train attract passengers from around the world for numerous sell-out excursions throughout the year. No. 765 was originally built in 1944, restored in 1979 and completely rebuilt in 2005 and is maintained by an all-volunteer crew.

“There is nothing like the sights, sounds and mechanical marvels of a steam locomotive in mainline service! Please join us as we relive a past era of railroading in the Chicago area, and throughout America. Welcome aboard!” stated R.R. Conway, Senior Trainmaster, Metra.

“The Varsity” will operate over the route of its Milwaukee Road namesake train, which originally ran between Chicago and Madison, Wis., until 1971. The No. 765’s excursion June 12 will be the first by a steam locomotive over portions of the route since 1953.

The visit to Railroad Daze and the excursion trip to Janesville are operated in partnership with Metra, the Village of Franklin Park, Wisconsin and Southern Railroad, Iowa Pacific and the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society (FWRHS). In addition, the Indiana Harbor Belt and Norfolk Southern Corp are assisting in the logistics and transportation of No. 765 to and from the events.

The operation and ongoing maintenance of No. 765 is supported by donations, ticket sales and a membership base of around 1,000 supporters.

“These types of operations are incredibly complex, involving countless parties, organizations, railroads and individuals. All of them prove crucial to inspiring people with the power of the 765,” added Otter.

Additional excursions for No. 765 will be announced later this season.

Another Chicago-area trip using NKP 765 is planned for June 25 and 26.

Meanwhile, if you haven’t been to East Troy, or haven’t gone in a while, take my advice and make the trip. You’ll be glad you did.

The only thing that could have made our trip even better would have been to ride the Milwaukee car, which I still haven’t done. But as the Brooklyn baseball fans used to say, “wait ’til next year.”

-David Sadowski

PS- All the photographs in this post are mine unless otherwise noted.

*The original operation was called the East Troy Trolley Museum, and was run by the Wisconsin Electric Railway Historical Society. Upon leaving East Troy, their collection was dispersed and some cars went to the Illinois Railway Museum. I don’t believe there is any overlap with the current roster.

The Minneapolis car at the Elegant Farmer.

The Minneapolis car at the Elegant Farmer.

The Minneapolis car at the Elegant Farmer.

The Minneapolis car at the Elegant Farmer.

The main line runs southwest from Mukwonago to East Troy.

The main line runs southwest from Mukwonago to East Troy.

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The old station in East Troy serves as a museum.

The old station in East Troy serves as a museum.

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South Shore Line 30, which was built in 1926. In museum service, its pantograph has been replaced by a pole.

South Shore Line 30, which was built in 1926. In museum service, its pantograph has been replaced by a pole.

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Car 30 has new seats. I don't recall it ever looking this good on the South Shore Line.

Car 30 has new seats. I don’t recall it ever looking this good on the South Shore Line.

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The proprietor of the local ice cream parlor in East Troy is an avid supporter of the museum.

The proprietor of the local ice cream parlor in East Troy is an avid supporter of the museum.

A nice looking 1953 Studebaker at East Troy.

A nice looking 1953 Studebaker at East Troy.

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The 4000s head into a siding so we can proceed on the single track line.

The 4000s head into a siding so we can proceed on the single track line.

The Beulah stop once led to a popular resort that burned down in 1911.

The Beulah stop once led to a popular resort that burned down in 1911.

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A visitor from Scotland helps change the poles.

A visitor from Scotland helps change the poles.

The new end of the line.

The new end of the line.

The new end of the line.

The new end of the line.

The new end of the line.

The new end of the line.

The new end of the line.

The new end of the line.

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At the Elegant Farmer.

At the Elegant Farmer.

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Chicago Rapid Transit 4420 and 4453 at the Elegant Farmer.

Chicago Rapid Transit 4420 and 4453 at the Elegant Farmer.

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The Elegant Farmer is always a good place to stop for a homemade apple pie, baked in a paper bag.

The Elegant Farmer is always a good place to stop for a homemade apple pie, baked in a paper bag.

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A stunning 1929 Ford Model A at Kopp's Custard in Greenfield, Wisconsin. (Diana Koester Photo)

A stunning 1929 Ford Model A at Kopp’s Custard in Greenfield, Wisconsin. (Diana Koester Photo)

(Diana Koester Photo)

(Diana Koester Photo)

The dog makes this picture. I think the owner said his names is Johnny. (Diana Koester Photo)

The dog makes this picture. I think the owner said his names is Johnny. (Diana Koester Photo)

A 1938 Pontiac Touring Sedan in Brookfield, Wisconsin.

A 1938 Pontiac Touring Sedan in Brookfield, Wisconsin.

Fred's Parkview in Burlington, Wisconsin has great hamburgers.

Fred’s Parkview in Burlington, Wisconsin has great hamburgers.

NKP 765 at the Edgebrook Metra station on June 12, 2016. (Melvin Bernero Photo)

NKP 765 at the Edgebrook Metra station on June 12, 2016. (Melvin Bernero Photo)

In this mid-1950s view, Village of East Troy Railway freight motor M-15 is shown here in East Troy, Wisconsin, near the power station which now serves as the waiting room for the East Troy Electric Railroad museum operation. It was built by TMER&L in 1920 and is now preserved at the Illinois Railway Museum. (Walter Broschart Photo)

In this mid-1950s view, Village of East Troy Railway freight motor M-15 is shown here in East Troy, Wisconsin, near the power station which now serves as the waiting room for the East Troy Electric Railroad museum operation. It was built by TMER&L in 1920 and is now preserved at the Illinois Railway Museum. (Walter Broschart Photo)


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