Sunday, July 8, 2012


I had not previously visited the Illinois Railway Museum, but since it called itself  “America's Largest Railway Museum” I thought that we had better while we were in northern Illinois. Unfortunately our day there was very hot – well over 100 deg. with high humidity. The museum is at Union IL, near Belvedere in the far northwest Chicago area.  (It was an easy drive from the Rock Cut Illinois State Park near Rockford where we parked the  motor home.)  The heat drove us away after 2 1/2 hours. On a more temperate day, one easily could spend all day there. It has over 400 units of rolling stock  with primary focus on trolley, interurban and rapid transit units such as those used on Chicago’s L and the North Shore line. I did not see any narrow gauge equipment.

Signs on many of the units similar to those below were helpful in understanding the history of the unit, identifying its various owners, how the museum acquired it and its uses. The text on the signs often pointed out that the unit was the last one of its kind, or one of a small remaining number of its kind, or otherwise unique.

The museum offers daily rides as part of the admission, often in overhead powered streetcars, with more exotic power on weekends. For more info, see its website,

The museum has the old Marengo depot dating from 1851, boxcars used as the gift shop and book store, and 5 very long barns open to the public, each with 4 tracks to store rolling stock. It also has restoration shops for diesel locomotives, steam locomotives  and  electric cars (not open to the public). Two garage buildings are devoted to motor and trolley busses. We saved these for next time due to the heat.





The Union Pacific experimented with turbine locomotives such as this one using an airplane jet engine as the source of power for the generators to drive the electric motors for the wheels. The turbine ran on bunker c oil. A large diesel engine was needed to start the turbine. The locomotive is made up of three units, the last of which carried the bunker c oil. Most of these were scrapped.


Here is the galley in a passenger dining car – I was surprised by its length. Other cars on display in barn 3 which historically were pulled by a steam engine included passenger cars, business cars, private cars, and Pullman cars . Many of the cars were locked which on busy days probably were open to visitors.



Jo on back platform of the Gold Coast Limited of the Chicago, North Shore and Milwaukee interurban.


Here is a large variety of track signals used by various railroad.



 Barn 6 is devoted to interurban and rapid transit cars. I remember my mother telling me that midwest interurbans once provided transportation over long distances. One ran from St. Louis to Peoria IL, and many lines radiated out of Chicago and  Milwaukee. A few interurbans even had sleeper cars. Many also hauled freight. A map of interurbans  in Ohio shows that the state had many.   The sign shown here points out that by World War II, most had gone out of business due to modern roads and private vehicles.


Interurbans required maintenance of way cars just as their larger cousins. This car was in a barn and there was not enough room to get an unobstructed view of it for a picture. Several cars were on display which were used to remove snow from tracks of both interurbans and trolleys.One line had a self-propelled derrick.


Here is a Chicago, North Shore and Milwaukee interurban coach built in 1929. The North Shore ran on electric overhead lines and operated until 1963 with high speed service between Chicago and Milwaukee. Construction of parallel freeways was a major factor in the North Shore going out of business.



This is a head unit of one of two Electroliner 4 unit train sets with deluxe cars which helped to keep the North Shore in business for many years after other interurbans disappeared. They were put in service in 1941 and ran up to 80 mph. I remember seeing North Shore trains in service. This set is in working condition and used at the museum for demonstration rides on some weekends.


This is a U S Army version of a Steeple locomotive commonly used in Interurban operations when power beyond that in the self-powered cars was needed. Most of these locomotives were displayed in barns and were not as convenient to photograph as this.



Here is one of three parallel rip racks with equipment awaiting restoration. How many locomotives can you count?




Barn 9 housed this Burlington Zephyr, the first streamlined diesel powered passenger train in the US. The cars were permanently attached to one another, but the locomotive was separate so when it needed repairs another locomotive easily could be substituted for it. It was not successful in the long run as cars could not be added or subtracted as needed to adjust for varying passenger loads. Barn 9 also had examples of trains powered bymore conventional steam and diesel locomotives.

Saturday, July 7, 2012


Part 1

We took Jo’s sister Arla with us on a day trip to nearby Galesburg IL to look in antique stores, but only one of the three in town was open. Fortunately, it was the largest one.  None of us made a purchase, but it was nice to see the old downtown. An Illinois State Museum is there showing the home in which Carl Sandburg was born.



Here is the very small Sandburg home, perhaps 16 ft. by 20 ft. It was divided into 3 rooms: kitchen – dining in the back and parlor and bedroom in the front. Carl was the second child born here. By the time his next sibling arrived, the family had moved to a larger home. Next to this building is a museum with the story of his life as a poet, songwriter and journalist. His first few books of poetry were self-published.


Behind the home was a large back yard,  containing the hand water pump (right) and the white necessary. The area originally was a garden and perhaps chickens were kept.



Carl Sandburg so admired the Rembrance Rock in the back of the home that he asked to be buried there. Both he and his wife were.

A walk around the rock is paved with stepping stones, and some have memorable lines from his poems.  One was “The past is ashes.”



My digital camera, a Canon A1100 IS, has a special setting for taking pictures of fireworks, so I gave it  a try for the first time during the fireworks show at our RV park the Saturday before the 4th. Below are my best ones, about 40% of those I took. One has to be fast on the shutter button to get the display at its best.







Friday, July 6, 2012


Whenever we are in the Quad Cities (Rock Island and Moline IL,Bettendorf and Davenport IA) we like to visit the John Deere Pavilion to marvel at the machines made by Deere. A few are displayed outdoors; most are indoors. If you visit, plan to spend at least a couple of hours, especially if you want to take a turn operating any of the three simulators. There is no admission charge and the machinery is changed once a year.

Another nearby attraction is the Rock Island Arsenal, an active military base. One needs to enter the base to reach the Lock and Dam no. 15 on the Mississippi River and the Corps of Engineers visitor center at the lock. On the base was a prisoner of war camp for Confederate soldiers during the Civil War. The many who died there are buried in a separate cemetery on the base. There is also an interesting display of military artillery. The Commandant's home is reported to be the largest U S owned residence after the White House.




One of Deere’s larger tractors and a very wide planter. Generally the cabs are air conditioned and have stereo, etc. Many are equipped to be steered by a GPS signal.



Big motor grader with scarifier teeth on the back. All of the construction equipment is painted yellow, with green being reserved for farming equipment.



This is an articulated 4 wd loader. The bucket holds 5.25 cu. yd. of material. Visitors are encouraged to sit in the operating cabs of the new machines inside, and many do make the climb up.



Deere makes their own diesel engines. Here is a cutaway version to illustrate the many parts. Also on display in the Pavilion were smaller units built by (or for) Deere, such as a riding lawnmower and a quad.


Model S 670 combine. A sign explained that the name of the machine comes from the three processes combined in the machine – harvesting the crop, separating the crop from the stalks and chaff, and separately disposing of each – the crop into a hopper for discharging into a truck or “buggy” and the waste to the ground or another container if not to be spread on the field.



Different heads are available for combines. This one, I think, is for harvesting soy beans. There are others for corn and wheat.


This is called an Autonomous Tractor. There are no operator controls on the machine – it is controlled only remotely. This machine is labeled as experimental.



Here is another experimental machine, a six legged tree harvester. (It reminded me of some of the war machines in the Star Wars movie series.)The mechanism to grasp and cut the tree is yellow. After the tree is cut the machine lays the tree on the ground. The machine was so close to others I could not back up far enough to be able to include the whole machine in one picture. The display features a video of the machine in action.  Although it probably will not go into production, some of the systems developed for this one are going to be used in more conventional machines, according to a sign.



This shows 3 legs on one side.



This is the front of Deere”s more conventional tree harvester. It is shown holding and cutting two trees at one time.



In the antique section, people are not to climb on the machinery. This is one of Deere’s early crawler tractors. When in law school in the late 1950s I had a summer job working for a landscaper, and one of the machines we used was a three cylinder Deere crawler tractor.



This tractor was built by the company bought by Deere  in 1918 to get into the powered equipment business. Note that this one was powered by kerosene! This had to be hard to steer with no power steering.


This model was Deere’s first more powerful tractor with a diesel engine produced from 1960 to 1963. This model came with either 4 or 6 cyl. engines. The cutaways show working parts which otherwise would be covered. 1960 marked the end of a 40 year era when Deere’s tractors were powered by 2 cyl. engines.


Both young and old enjoyed playing on the three simulators in the pavilion. I did not get a turn on any of them!




In a nearby building was the gift shop with everything imaginable bearing the Deere logo, including toys.

Monday, July 2, 2012


Friends of many years, George and Karen Chapman, moved from Silverton CO a couple of years ago to Mt. Pleasant IA,. They bought a special home there, one of ”Three Sisters”, (brick two story homes with tower in the Italianate style)  built near downtown about the same time in the 1850s. The Chapman home is on the National Register of Historic Places. The Chapmans’ home, the largest of the three, had been converted to apartments in the 1950s, but a later owner began restoring the interior to its original condition. The original millwork and windows remain in the home. with lots of other charming features.

We had a great day visiting the Chapmans and touring their historic home  as well as taking a nice walk to the town square.


Front elevation. A porch is on the right.



Front staircase, with wide steps and comfortable risers between steps. The ceilings are 12 ft. high!



Reading area in the library room.


George wishes that there would be more shelving to accommodate more of his books! The tall book resting on the floor is one of William Henry Jackson pictures taken over 100 years ago.




Part of parlor.


Dining room



Have you ever used a toilet where flushing was done by pulling a chain to empty the large tank high on the  wall?  The radiators are still used heat the home in the winter.