History of the Illinois Railway Museum Steam Team

While researching the history of IRM for a five-part article series in the Rail & Wire which celebrated the 60th Anniversary of the founding of the Illinois Railway Museum in 2013, Pauline Trabert interviewed many of the early members and drilled down through the collection of Rail & Wire archives to discover many interesting things about the early days of the Museum.

The following notes drawn from the Illinois Railway Museum publication, The Rail & Wire, are specific to the Steam Department and highlights acquisitions, projects, and volunteers through the years.

(R&W #32 January – February 1965) Museum Seeks Steam Locomotive: The Museum is building a railway exhibit in the Metropolitan Chicago area, historically the railway capital of the world, with more arrivals and departures, and more first class railways, than any other geographical area. Our goal is to present a completely integral collection depicting the growth and development of this dynamic industry in the Midwest and its representation of the interurban, and an interesting assortment of other traction equipment. This traction grouping is almost complete and one must travel a long way to find its equal, if an equal exists. But the Museum must also exhibit significant examples of the steam era, and 0-6-0T No. 7, a gift from the Commonwealth Edison Company, by itself leaves much to be desired.

(R&W #35 July – August 1965) St. Regis No. 5 Shay: We shall begin the story of the Schwabenfest with the arrival of the shay, St. Regis No. 5, at the Chicago and Northwestern Railway’s 40th Street Shops, Saturday, July 7th. The engine was on an SP flat, somewhat dirty, drive shafts removed, securely blocked, and with braces welded directly from locomotive to flat car.

The No. 5 is leased from Mr. Elliott Donnelley, Honorary Public Trustee, whose interest in the Illinois Railway Museum is most deeply appreciated. We enjoyed the fine cooperation of Mr. Fitzpatrick, who heads the North Western , and are grateful for the personal interest and extra work of Bernie Waller, and Master Mechanic Art Enders, who promised to assist with the engine as it is readied for service.

(R&W #38 November – December 1965) Frisco 1630: The Eagle-Picher Company of Miami, OK has donated a genuine Russian Decapod 2-10-0 to IRM. History: They were built for export to Russia in 1918. The Revolution came and they were never shipped. The USRA distributed them to roads that were critically short of motive power. Frisco got a flock of them including 5 that were sold to the Eagle-Picher Co., in 1950 for use in the lead mine fields in northeastern OK. The line was mothballed in 1957-1958 and when operations for E-P resumed a Northeast Oklahoma Railway diesel handled the business and the 5 decapods slept.

The Eagle-Picher’s line as about the last outpost of steam in the southern prairie states. They received countless requests for the engines from cities, towns, hamlets, historical societies, museums and railroad fans. One decapod went to Dallas, another to the Museum of Transport in St. Louis. Three were left.

IRM’s PR Director kept plugging away and stayed in contact with the E-P people. Late in the fall our carefully prepared proposal for the donation and preservation of a decapod was sent to Eagle-Picher. Their reply dated December 10, 1965 stated: “After examining the information you sent me, we have decided that we will be willing to donated one of these remaining locomotives to your organization since we believe that you will be able to preserve it in good order … either one that you want.”

(R&W #39 January – April 1966) Mid-1960’s Roster: Illinois Railway Museum Roster of Equipment – Truncated to include only steam locomotives.

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(R&W #48 August – September 1967) Equipment Acquired in 1967: The following steam department equipment arrived at Union in 1967:

Frisco 1630 2-10-O Russian Decapod

(R&W #51 June 1968) New Equipment: Since the publication of the last roster of equipment the museum has added several new additions to its collection. In most cases the equipment has not yet arrived on the property.

Steam Engines: Commonwealth Edison #5 (0-6-0) with slope back tender, Louisiana Midland RR Engine #99 (2-8-0)

(R&W #58 August – September 1969) New Acquisition: Arriving on the property during September was ex-Tuskegee RR #101. The oil-burning prairie (2-6-2) was built by Baldwin in 1926 but looks much older. It is a “soak” engine (no superheater) and quite small but well proportioned. It should be the perfect engine for our kind of passenger operations. #101 was purchased by Herb Hansen from the T. R. Miller Lumber Mills and is on permanent loan to the museum.

(R&W #60 December 1969 – January 1970) Union Pacific #428 2-8-0: A Union Pacific steam locomotive and a Santa Fe heavyweight sleeper-lounge have been donated to IRM by the Heart of America Museum in Kansas City and moved to Union. UP #428 is a Harriman consolidation built by Baldwin in 1901. The medium-sized engine is a hand-fired coal burner and has a Vanderbilt tender.

(R&W #66 February – March 1971) New Arrivals:
L&A #99: This little consolidation is featured in this month’s equipment flyer and on the picture pages. It was built for the Louisiana and Arkansas River and Navigation company, later called the Louisiana and Arkansas Railway, in 1919 by Baldwin as their #52292. The engine was sold to Mr. H. H. Holloway in 1940’s and used on the short switching line of his Monroe Sand and Gravel Company. It was taken out of service in 1954 but remained on the gravel company property.

Several years ago #99 was donated to the Illinois Railway Museum, but getting the locomotive to Union has proved to be a major problem, particularly since over the years the track leading from the engine to the outside world had been removed in some places and covered with mountains of gravel in others. But early this year member Dave Conrad decided to make a concerted effort to move the engine and, along with member John McKelvey, headed down to West Monroe. Their aim was to get #99 moved to the Illinois Central tracks where at some future date the engine and tender could be loaded on to flatcars for the trip to Union.

American Creosote #77: The American Creosote Works at Jackson, TN donated a small 0-4-0 steam locomotive to IRM in 1965. Since that time, the museum has been unable to afford the cost of loading the engine and shipping it to Union. Recently however the GM&O has kindly offered to help load the locomotive on a flatcar and handle it at a reduced rate over their railway. The museum is now trying to arrange for a reduced rate the rest of the move to Union, but a minimum of at least $1000 will probably be needed to complete the job.

The oil-burning locomotive is a tank engine, ie not equipped with a tender, but storing fuel in a small bunker behind the cab and water in a tank draped over the boiler like a small saddle. the little engine, whose number has long since been forgotten by plant personnel, is a standard saddle-tank switcher as built by the hundreds by Vulcan for industrial use around the world. There is some indication that this engine was originally built for the Illinois Central. But at any rate it is only the second IRM steamer built by someone other than Baldwin, and the first example at the museum of the 0-4-0 wheel alignment.

(R&W #69 August – November 1971) New Acquisitions: Lake Superior and Ishpeming #34 a 2-8-0 giant, arrived at IRM in September, roughly four years after its purchase by Herb Hansen from the former owners. Built in 1916 to push ore cars up a 2.5 percent grade on Lake Superior ore docks, #34 probably never saw road service. Although she has a tractive force of 66),00 pounds, she is not the most powerful of her type.

Also new on the property is Louisiana and Arkansas #99, a 1919 Baldwin 2-8-0 donated to the museum in 1966 by Monroe Sand & Gravel. Until late 1970, however, even considering moving the engine from Monroe Louisiana was impossible, Moving became possible only recently, due in part to many generous contributions to the #99 transportation fund a year ago.

Out of service since the mid- 50’s, #99 may be more practical for museum purposes than #34 but will take more work to be made operable. The tender for #99 needs a lot of work before she can take up museum service hauling locals as she did for the L&A and its predecessor, the Louisiana Railway and Navigation Co.

(R&W #70 December 1971 – January 1972) New Acquisitions: Numerous and varied pieces of equipment were acquired by the museum during the final month of 1971 and the first month of this year. Among them was American Creosote 0-4-0T #8 from Jackson, TN.

The American Creosote saddle tank switcher #8 (Vulcan, 1917) was built for the Brooklyn Navy Yard for switcher duty and was sold to American Creosote in the late 20′ s. Donated to the museum in 1965, it remained in Tennessee until December when it became the ninth museum steam engine on the property and the last steamer owned by the museum brought home to Union from storage elsewhere.

(R&W #72 April – May 1972) New Acquisitions:
Restoration of the Decapod 2-10-0 was greatly aided by receipt of a gondola load of spare parts for the big ex-Frisco locomotive, all gift of the Eagle Picher company which last operated here.
The donation of virtually all remaining parts for the decapod, is another of those cases in which the acquisition of parts is almost as important as getting a car itself because it helps us get a piece of equipment we already have into running condition.
Included in the donation were spare rods, trucks, fire brick, several tires and brake shoes for them (special ones needed on the decapod because of her wide tires which adapt her to standard gauge) axles, wheels and much more.

This gift and the earlier donation of a fire ring used to heat the tires to install them is expected to take care of many mechanical requirements of the engine, Jim Johnson speculates, and should help speed the day she is returned to service.

(R&W #76 December 1973) New Locomotive: During the spring, the Museum was offered and accepted the donation of a classic Mogul (2-6-0) locomotive which formerly ran on the Graysonia, Nashville and Ashdown as their #26. The Locomotive , now located in Kansas, was purchased from Wilson Carlgren and was the object of a great deal of work by Dennis Daugherty during the summer.

(R&W #78 October – November 1974) Old Smokey [Milwaukee Road #265]: In all its history, Illinois Railway Museum has never before had such BIG news. But then, it has never before had such a big locomotive. Your Museum. has just acquired title to a huge Milwaukee Road steam engine, a Northern known affectionately as “Old Smokey”, that has been on display in Milwaukee for many years. Members who are well versed in steam power will understand immediately that Old Smokey is far larger than any locomotive now in our collection. It is really a unique addition to the stable of steam power.

Pending construction of a new expressway through the engine’s display site forced the Beer Town city fathers to either move Old Smokey themselves or find a new home for her among others. They chose the latter course, and a presentation by IRM representatives convinced them that we would provide a good home for Old Smokey.

(R&W #79 December 1974 – January 1975): The new locomotive is Milwaukee Road 265, a Northern (4-8-4) known as Old Smokey that has been on display in Milwaukee since 1956. Now, as most of you know from the flyer attached to our last issue, the City of Milwaukee has given her to our Museum.

(R&W #81 April – May 1975): Old Smokey Arrives at Union April 12, 1975.

(R&W #82 June – August 1975): Decapod Completed, In Service: More than 13,000 manhours of restoration work paid off during the summer when Frisco 1630, the decapod, was completed and returned to active duty. This was the major event of the season in the Steam Dept. and represents one of the largest restoration jobs yet undertaken by your Museum.

Work on the 1630 continued at a fever pitch throughout the spring, with nearly everyone in the Steam Dept. pitching in for the final effort. The slow, dirty job of chipping all old paint and grime from the inside of the cab was accomplished by (at various times) Dave Conrad, Tom Schneider, Roger Kramer, Tim Jurek, Ray Cook, and Donald.. Once this was done, the chippers attacked the wheels and running gear; assisting in this phase were Scott Harms, John McKelvey, John (Scotty) Scott, Mike Ruthenberg, Frank Meenalch, Steve Paul, Tim, Mickey and Ken. It was tedious work but quite necessary to obtain a good finish. The people who turned to on this job deserve special thanks for their efforts.

Finally, on July 18, the engine was ready to fire up. After a hectic day of tightening things up here and there and adjusting work by Dave and Scott, the 1630 trundled out onto the mainline for a few test trips before going into service the next day. She ran the balance of the summer without incident.

(R&W #83 December 1976) Norfolk & Western #2050: A chance visit to the Museum by a Middletown, OH family started a chain of events which culminated with the arrival of the big engine at Union last April.

(R&W #102 August 1981) 15th Steam Engine Arrives: Grand Trunk Western 8380 at Union with rebuilt headlight and distinctive GTW number holder installed The IRM roster of steam locomotives was increased to 15 in early July when Northwestern Steel & Wire No. 80, ex-Grand Trunk Western No. 8380 arrived at Union. The 8380 was built by Baldwin Locomotive Works in October 1929, Builders No. 61011 and was GTW class P-5-G which included engines numbered 8370 through 8381. Specifications for the engine and tender is as follows: length 68’3″, height 15’2¬Ĺ”, weight in working order 364,910 pounds, wheel arrangement 0-8-0 switcher, drivers 51″, cylinder diameter 22″, stroke 28″, grate area 50 square feet, boiler pressure 220 pounds, tractive effort 49,691, tender capacity 11 tons of coal and 8,000 gallons of water. The engine has Baker valve gear.

(R&W #105 March 1982) Museum Acquires Locomotives: The Museum received the most pieces of equipment ever acquired at one time this winter when IRM was given 11 steam locomotives and spare parts by Northwestern Steel and Wire Co. of Sterling, IL.

The locomotive fleet were ex-Grand Trunk Western Class P5 0-8-0 switchers and were well known due to Northwestern Steel being the last stronghold of regularly-operated steam engines in the US. Disposition of the locomotives is still in the preliminary stage, however, it is planned to move one locomotive to Union and sectionalize it by cutting it lengthwise and exposing the inside of the boiler and firebox for public display. At this point it is planned to sell or trade the balance of the engines and not move them to Union.

(R&W #107 September 1982)16th Steam Engine Arrives: The Museum acquired its 16th steam engine when the estate of H. Stuart Kuyper donated the Kettle Moraine 2, a 2-8-2 Mikado-type locomotive. The locomotive was originally built for the Saginaw Timber Company before being sold to Polson Log and Lumber which later was taken over by Rayonier Inc. in Washington.

Rayonier operated the engine until the early 1960’s when it was sold to the Grand Traverse Northern Inc., operator of the Cadillac and Lake City Railroad, Cadillac, Mich. where it operated in tourist and freight service until the early 1970’s. During this period the engine was brought to Chicago for use in the movie “Gaily-Gaily” steaming into Grand Central Station. The engine was then sold to Karl Ulrich for use at the Kettle Moraine Railway at North Lake, Wis. where it operated until 1978.

The locomotive was built in 1912 by the Baldwin Locomotive Works, its weight is 70 tons and with 44-inch drivers this engine is considered a low-driver, logging Mikado. It is believed that it was built as a oil-burning locomotive which it is today . Since acquisition, the boiler has been chipped and primed, however all work has ceased as the Museum is exploring some trade proposals for the engine.

(R&W #108 February 1983) Fireless Cooker Locomotive Arrives: On October 13, 1980 the Museum sent a letter to Union Electric Co. in St. Louis about getting one of the fireless cooker locomotives from the Venice, Illinois power plant.

The Museum learned that all the locomotives had been given to the National Museum of Transport in St. Louis. Arrangements were made with NMOT and IRM was given No. 4. This loco was built by H. K. Porter Co. in 1946, builders no. 8082, an 0-4-0 with 36-inch drivers and an operating weight of 50 tons. The engine last operated in the mid 1970’s.

(R&W #110 December 1983) Ford Museum, IRM trade engines – Get Toledo & Detroit #16: The story begins more than a year ago when IRM members Dave Conrad and John Scott spoke with Ford Museum officials about trading for one of three 4-4-0’s in their collection. The Ford Museum agreed to trade the T&D 16 for a consolidation, a wheel type that was lacking in its collection.

Originally the Museum proposed to trade a consolidation from the three in its collection however the Ford Museum was only interested in the one locomotive which is subject to a life interest agreement and the Ford Museum would not anything less than clear title.

Inquires were made on displayed park locomotives but political or cost considerations ruled them out. The trade proposal was looking pretty bleak until May when the Bessemer & Lake Erie Railroad agreed to sell their #154 to the Museum for $5,000.00. The 154 was one of three steam loco­motives the B&LE was storing in their Greenville, PA roundhouse since the end of steam with the thought that they would be put on display in an appropriate place someday. This proved to be the shot in the arm that the project needed because now the acquisition portion of the trade proposal was possible at an affordable price.

Letters were exchanged with the Ford Museum ironing out the provisions of the trade proposal and in late September the Museum received the signed agreement making IRM the owner of a beautiful 4-4-0, in exchange for the IRM restored B&LE 154. The Ford Museum liked the B&LE 154 because it was essentially unchanged from its original 1909 configuration making it an ideal candidate for historic preservation.

(R&W #111 March 1984) BL&E 154 Arrives at IRM: The Bessemer & Lake Erie 154 arrived at the Illinois Railway Museum in mid January where it will be visually restored and traded to the Ford Museum for the Toledo-Detroit 16, a 4-4-0 American type. The negotiations took more than one year to complete but the preparation and moving of the 154 did not take as long at all.

(R&W #121 December 1986) Illinois Central Steam Locomotive #3719 Coming to IRM: Late in 1985 a series of events occurred which would result in the engine [#3719] returning to her home territory. First, Steamtown acquired a 1908 Lackawanna 2-6-0 which duplicated the slot in the collection filled by #109 [#3719]. This engine, although in worse condition, was felt to be more desirable to the Steamtown collection since it was a ‘hometown’ locomotive. Second, David Conrad, owner of Steam Locomotive Services, Inc., the prime contractor in the Steamtown relocation, having long felt that the engine belonged back in Illinois, offered to take it in lieu of cash for a portion of SLSI’s fee. Once this was agreed to in principle by Steamtown, he contacted IRM General Manager Nick Kallas and proposed to sell the locomotive to IRM. As one of 12 Illinois Central Railroad steam locomotives left in existence, it is a significant addition to our collection of twentieth century steam locomotives.

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