Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Fading Glory

Cadillac-TtV, originally uploaded by William 74.

TtV Tuesday! This week's entry is an old favorite, the Old Rusty Cadillac! I like this one, it's got a real vintage feel to it. The subject matter helps, I think. Old cars, buildings, and other stuff is well suited to TtV photography.

I've taken a lot of pictures of this car-I often use it as a test subject when I'm experimenting with new (or even old) techniques. I also stop and shoot a few frames even if I'm just driving past. I'll be very sad if and when it finally disappears.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Thank God The Tiki Bar Is Open

Tiki bars are exotic themed joints that flourished from the 30's through the sixties, and they usually serve complicated cocktails with lots of rum, and your better places feature a full menu of Cantonese food and other cool stuff. They're aesthetically defined by their Tiki culture decor, featuring things like Tiki god masks, hula shirts, grasscloth, bamboo trim, and other South Pacific themed stuff. They kind of died out until the mid 90's, when a Tiki resurgence began, and new places started springing up.

The Pago Pago was an oldie. This is a pretty well known Chicago ghost sign, as it's easily visible from the L as it leaves the Library stop on the Loop. I don't think it's open anymore-I took a look at the Wells address, and it wasn't there, at least as Pago Pago. No idea where I'm gonna get a zombie and some wonton noodles now!

*Thanks to John Hiatt for the title to this post.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Arcada

Arcada Theatre-St. Charles, IL, originally uploaded by William 74.
The historic Arcada Theater opened in the 1920's and originally hosted vaudeville revues. Eventually it went over to movies (I used to go there all the time) before closing sometime in the 90's. It's since been restored (although I seem to recall it's old fashioned interior even back in the 80's) and hosts all manner of live performances-I believe that Davy Jones was scheduled to appear when I shot this. The marquee was recently restored-until this past summer it only said "ARC" and featured some peeling paint. You can see it's unrestored state right here.

I have a soft spot for the Arcada-it was still showing first run films when I was in high school, and used to go here all the time with my friends. STC residents of a certain age are all probably similarly nostalgic about the old place!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Uncovering the Sky

Uncovering the Sky, originally uploaded by William 74.

Or how I spent Thanksgiving Day. Out in the country on a sorta cloudy day, and right around three thirty the cloud cover started to roll away, revealing a perfectly clear sky. It was very dramatic and a beautiful ending to the day.

I took several shots of this, with trees silhouetted in the foreground (and one with a barn), but this one, with an almost flat horizon, is my favorite.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Uptown Station

A brief return to the Uptown neighborhood on Chicago's north side. Uptown Station-better known as the Wilson Red Line stop-is an interesting structure. Wilson was originally the terminus of the Northwestern Elevated, although it eventually became a station for the North Shore interurban line. Several station layouts were used before the current (and final) station was built in 1923. There were a couple of different entrances and exits to handle the two separate railroads-the above sign was at the original entrance. Regular riders will know that the current entrance is on Broadway, and that this is now a Popeye's Chicken.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Up In The Sky

Up In The Sky, originally uploaded by William 74.

I like shooting pictures of clouds-they can be bright and friendly or dark and threatening, often at the same time. But mostly it's cause they're easy to shoot-no complicated lighting, no locations to arrange, no travel, no huge amounts of equipment. You just need to go outside and point your camera up.

I took this somewhere around the Villa Park area on a late fall afternoon, as a jet was on it's way into (or out of) O'Hare.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

NYC '55

NYC '55, originally uploaded by William 74.

The New York Central was one of the major railroads of the northeastern United States, and had lines as far west as Chicago. It is probably best known for Grand Central Terminal in New York City, which is probably one of the best known train stations in the world.

In 1968 the NYC merged with arch rival Pennsylvania Railroad to form Penn Central. PC went bankrupt and was rolled into Conrail in the seventies, and Conrail was broken up in the late 90's. What remained was split between Norfolk Southern and CSX.

Not much old NYC stuff is still around in either system. Occasionally I'll see an old NYC car in a mixed freight-this battered gondola has a particularly poetic reporting mark and number.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Through the Viewfinder Tuesday!

Windmill-TTV, originally uploaded by William 74.

Through the Viewfinder photography is a relatively newish technique to make nice, shiny digital photographs look like they were shot on film about fifty or more years ago, with a cheap camera, and then stored in a shoebox in a slightly damp basement. It's simple but really hard to do at the same time.

Basically, what you do is take an old twin lens reflex camera, preferably a cheap plastic one like an Anscoflex or a Spartus, one with a lot of dust and crap on the reflecting mirror, and take a picture through the glass viewing window on the top of the camera. You need to build a box to block out extra light, and it's not unusual to get only the image you're looking at, or the dust, to be in focus, and I've discovered that composition can be tricky.

But the results are delightfully analogue, and somewhat timeless. This shot of the windmill in Batavia was taken this past spring, but looks like it could've been taken any time since the war.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Shoe Tree

Shoe Tree-Woodstock, IL, originally uploaded by William 74.
This is a shoe tree in Woodstock, Illinois. Shoe trees are not to be confused with the shoe-preservation device found in your grandpa's bedroom closet. They are literally shoe trees-trees festooned with old shoes.

I have no idea how this (or any other) shoe tree gets started. I imagine that someone goes and tosses an old pair of shoes up in the branches of a convenient tree, and slowly other people see it as an interesting use for old footwear. Eventually you get what you see here, a tree with an interesting and varied collection of shoes. I spotted some expensive kicks up there.

Amusingly, there is a "no trespassing" sign stuck to this tree , with a pair of shoes hanging next to it. I suppose the very act of shoeing a tree is trespassing. Or is it littering?

Sunday, November 21, 2010


Another Sunday, another old neon sign. And, coincidentally another now defunct restaurant. This one's Standee's Coffee Shop on Chicago's north side. An Edgewater institution for about sixty years, Standee's (also known as the "Snack N Dine") was a traditional greasy spoon and was open almost continuously-24/7. Sadly, Standee's closed early in 2010, after the property management company that owns the building decided to not renew the restaurant's lease because...well, because they felt it wasn't nice enough anymore. The owner was hopeful to reopen in a new location but I've not heard anything more. Too bad-this place had the best hash browns.

The sign survives, though, having been purchased by a neon enthusiast in Indiana.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Pioneer Zephyr

Pioneer Zephyr, originally uploaded by William 74.

In the 1930's, railroads were still ruled by steam. Diesel electrics were in use, but they were still a novelty on most American roads. That changed in 1934 with the Chicago, Burlington, & Quincy's introduction of engine 9900, the Pioneer Zephyr.

Created with the idea of bringing riders back to the rails, the Zephyr was a huge step forward in passenger train technology. Aside from it's diesel electric power, the train was constructed almost entirely of stainless steel, which helped to make it far lighter than most heavyweight trains of the day. Combined with the shovel-nosed locomotive at the front, the shiny Zephyr was a sensation, like nothing else on the rails. It was fast, too, with top speeds in excess of 100 mph and making the dash from Denver to Chicago in a little over 13 hours.

The Pioneer went into regular use soon after the record run, and continued in regular service on several routes until March of 1960. By then the other articulated Zephyr sets had been retired. The Pioneer was donated to the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, where it resides today, beautifully restored*. That's where I shot it, just before Halloween. The Museum was running the "Haunted Zephyr" tour, a haunted house on rails. I'm well pleased with this shot, which really looks like it was taken at some remote whistle stop in a small town in Nebraska or Iowa.

*you can ride another Zephyr set, the Nebraska Zephyr, at the Illinois Railway Museum. This set is also in great shape, but is pulled by a fantastic EMD E5, rather than the engine pictured here. It's beautiful, too.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Haunted Tree

Tree Silhouette 1, originally uploaded by William 74.

My aunt and uncle have a farm in Wisconsin, and we often spend holidays there. I always make sure to bring my camera and go off for a while-usually while everyone's sleeping in front of the football game-and take some photos.

The driveway for the farm is about a mile long or so, bordered by corn fields that are usually bare when I'm visiting. But one constant is a stand of long-dead elm trees, down near the end of the driveway. They've been there as long as I can remember, and I've taken several photos of them down through the years. Every year they look a little more ragged, a little more like the scary trees in a haunted wood from some long-forgotten fairy tale.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Terrace Two Eleven Sixty

Terrace 2 eleven sixty, originally uploaded by William 74.

I dig old signs, and will shoot them whenever I can find them, be it at a theme restaurant with a bunch of old gas station memorabilia out front, at the flea market (when I'm not being shooed away), at museums, wherever. The best, of course, is finding an old sign that's still out in public.

This one, for Elliott's Paints (the wise choice) is in Villa Park, and is actually hanging on a building that's across the street from the address on the sign. I'm amazed that it's still hanging there-neither Elliott's Paints nor Kranz Hardware appear to be in business anymore. I'm mildly curious to try the phone number.

The title refers to that old style alphanumeric phone number. Back when you had to ask the operator to connect a call, you had to tell them the number, and the two letters (sometimes three) would denote the exchange the operator needed. Usually you'd tell the operator a word that corresponded to the two letters-sometimes it was a nearby street or landmark, but often they were chosen from a standard list. I looked it up-"TE" stands for "Terrace".

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Bel-Air, originally uploaded by William 74.

This is a '57 Chevy Bel-Air coupe. Of the three years of "Tri-Five" Chevys (the '55, 6, and 7 model years), the '57 is the most popular and iconic. It's probably the best looking of the bunch (although I think I prefer the '55, meself), and is the one that people think of when they envision a fifties car. It's the one on television, it's the one on the posters, and it's the one that people gather around at the car shows. That's where I shot this one, in the rain.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Heavy Weather

Heavy Weather, originally uploaded by William 74.
I took this in DeKalb, Illinois. I've shot the turbines from various locations quite a bit-I'm just sort of entranced by them-but this spot's one of my favorites, because the line of towers is a strong visual element. Plus, in the summer the corn's up, adding some color and shape. Plus, it's not a busy road, and the shoulders are wide, so it's pretty safe.

This was taken the same day as Caddy On The Storm-a really rainy day. I'd wanted to take pictures of the old Cadillac in the rain (follow the link to read the story) but had to drive out there through off and on showers and occasional sunny patches. Since the wind farm was on the way I decided to swing by. The rain stopped for about five minutes while I shot, and I drove off, straight into a blinding rainstorm that turned to sleet for about five minutes, then a sprinkle, then sun, then rain....lather, rinse repeat.

This photo just about has it all. A few high cirrus clouds, plenty of fluffy cumulus clouds, some dark cumulonimbus clouds, a speck of bright blue sky, and way off in the distance some rain. Those turbines are almost a distraction from the real beauty!

ETA: Edited to add a link.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Back Forty

Abandoned Barn, originally uploaded by William 74.

Winter's on the way, so I thought I'd share something with a little bit of snow on the ground. I'm told that this style of rounded barn is somewhat unusual, but I know of several in the general area around DeKalb, Illinois. A couple of them are in far worse shape (one is collapsing), a couple look like they've been restored, and at least one has a big addition with a tractor parked inside. This one's the only one that isn't right next to someone's house-in fact there isn't really much of anything else nearby, except for another older building (I think it was a chicken coop or other animal stall) and a modern shed. Nobody approached me when I photographed the area, and I was there for a good half hour or so.

The title here is somewhat misleading. I mean, the barn did seem to be a sort of auxiliary building for a farm, but it's really close to a lot of houses and other farms. More of a back ten than forty!

Sunday, November 14, 2010


Steven's-Elmhurst, IL, originally uploaded by William 74.

Welcome to Neon Sunday! This week, we're in the Chicago suburb of Elmhurst, within sight of the Sea...er...Willis Tower. Located on a busy corner is Steven's Steakhouse, which opened in the sixties, and has always featured this Googie-tastic neon sign out front. I like the giant arrow pointing right at the restaurant, and the fact that the biggest word on it is "STEAKS". No messing around there. The "Steven's" part on the top used to rotate, and is now held in place by a chain (which makes me wonder if it swivels in the wind now). The building itself doesn't quite match the sign, which was remodeled during the Dryvit "remodeling" craze and has a faint whiff of 90's small chain restaurant about it. I understand it used to have a much more minimalist exterior, complete with flagcrete.

Steven's has been closed for a couple of years now-the owner stopped when I was there and told me that the city wants him to take the sign down, and that it's free to a good home as long as the taker pays to have it removed. Thought I'd pass that along.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Sepia Memories

Abandoned Barn-Wisconsin, originally uploaded by William 74.
I spend quite a bit of my free time driving around the countryside, looking for things to photograph. I like finding small towns with traditional buildings, as they're often a good source for things like old gas stations and rusty Pepsi signs. But I like farm buildings as well. I think there's something peaceful and dignified about an old barn or silos.

But sometimes, they're sad, too. This old barn is part of an abandoned farm in Wisconsin. It's near my aunt and uncle's place, and I've passed it several times through the years on visits. It's been getting more and more dilapidated, and I finally went over there this past April to shoot it. The house is gone, just a foundation, and there are a couple of outbuildings that are still standing. But the big barn has half collapsed, with piles of old lumber littering the ground around it. It's pretty rickety now-around the back the framework is teetering, flexing in the wind.

I don't think it'll be long now, and wonder if the buildings will be gone next time I visit.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Roarin' Elgin

The Aurora, Elgin, and Chicago Railroad was an electric interurban running from the Fox Valley area into downtown Chicago. Known as the "Roarin' Elgin", The AE&C was the only electric interurban that ran into the city, initially as far as the Metropolitan West Side Elevated Railroad's 52nd Avenue station, but eventually AE&C trains ran direct to the Loop via the Met's tracks.

World War 1 was tough on the Roarin' Elgin, and the company fell into bankruptcy, emerging as the Chicago, Aurora, and Elgin in 1922. By 1926 the company was under the control of Samuel Insull, who also ran the South Shore railroad. Unfortunately the company once more entered bankruptcy, shedding the local lines to St. Charles and Geneva, and not emerging until 1946. Unfortunately, by then the automobile was taking over from rail as the preferred form of local travel, and plans to expand Chicago's L system would have affected the CA&E's ability to use the Garfield Park line into the Loop. The loss of one-seat travel into the Loop (as opposed to transferring to an L train) devastated the line's ridership, and the end came abruptly at noon on July 3, 1957. Riders who had taken the Roarin' Elgin into the city that morning found themselves stranded that afternoon-an unusual occurrence in American railroading.

This sign is in a building in downtown Elgin, near the riverfront, right about where the old tracks used to run. It is one of the few AE&C/CA&E buildings still standing.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Reflection and Contemplation Revisited

Reflection and Contemplation, originally uploaded by William 74.

We're back at the Japanese Garden in Batavia, seen through the viewfinder of an old Spartus Full-Vue TLR camera. This particular camera dates from the late 1940's, is made of black Bakelite, has really cool Art Deco lettering on the front, and the viewfinder on top is made of frosted glass, which is kind of like the privacy glass they used to make office doors out of. I don't know why they used this type of glass, maybe to reduce glare, but it lends a dreamy, almost painterly effect to anything seen through it. It's hard to get a good result doing the TtV thing with this camera, but when it works, it works really well.

I've been doing a bit of TtV photography lately, which is my excuse for posting this pic, although the real reason is simply because I like it a lot.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Caddy On The Storm

Caddy On The Storm, originally uploaded by William 74.

Back to the Illinois countryside, to the old Cadillac by the side of the road. I have returned to this car several times to photograph it, and each time I come up with a new angle, a new detail, a new mood. Sometimes I'm just going past and I stop off and shoot a few frames as I go on my way, sometimes I've got a new lens or other toy I want to experiment with, and sometimes I'm trying to take advantage of a certain weather or lighting condition.

This shot was definitely the latter. It had been off and on rainy all day, and as I traveled out of town I passed through several bands of storms, ranging from light showers to a horizontal sleet storm. I'd wanted to take some shots of the Caddy in the rain-I've shot other cars in the wet and like the effect-so imagine my disappointment when I finally got out there and it was...well not nice and sunny but definitely not raining. So I stood there shooting and waiting and watching the storm clouds go everywhere but over the car. As you can see a few desultory droplets fell, but not what I was looking for. If you look even closer, you can see rain falling in the background, a couple hundred yards away.

I was about to pack it in when the clouds parted, just a bit, shining some sunlight down onto the old Caddy's chromed nose. Sometimes things just happen, eh?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Street Parking

Street Parking, originally uploaded by William 74.

I'm sure I've said it before and I know I'll say it again, but sometimes you just get lucky. I'd gone downtown to try and do some experimenting with shaped bokeh, and it wasn't going well at all. I spent a good hour or so fiddling with the camera, pointing it at stuff, and getting bupkus for my troubles. I was about to pack it up and go home when I saw this bike up the street (it's actually parked on the bridge over the Fox River). I headed over and this perfect shot just presented itself. A nice machine, a pretty building, and some dramatically moving lights. No tricks, just some classic elements. What more do you need?

In the background there, is the historic Baker Hotel in St. Charles. It's a lovely building, built in the late twenties in the Spanish Romantic Revival style. Perched right on the Fox River, it quickly gained a reputation for it's luxurious surroundings and excellent service, and featured two excellent restaurants, the luxurious Trophy and Rainbow Rooms. Throughout it's heyday the Baker was known as "Honeymoon Hotel", and occasionally you still meet married couples who did just that.

Monday, November 8, 2010


Pendulum, originally uploaded by William 74.

The Foucault pendulum display at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. As the steel bob swings back and forth, it's plane doesn't change at all-the Earth rotates underneath it, eventually bringing the ball into contact with one of the posts around the circumference of the circle. There's always a crowd around it, and every once in a while you'll hear some cheering as a post gets knocked over, but I've never managed to see it happen.

I always thought the Foucault pendulum was neat. When I was a kid this display was in one of the stairwells, and it knocked over these little metal things that looked like Parcheesi playing pieces. Not these fancy stainless steel hinged things! (shakes cane angrily)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Atomic Number Ten

South Shore Line neon sign, originally uploaded by William 74.
I've always liked neon signs, and seek them out whenever I can find them. I actually hadn't gone looking in a while, but a bunch of recent finds has re-ignited this interest (see what I did there?), and I've decided to share some of my favorites in a new weekly feature-welcome to Neon Sunday, everyone!

Of course, I'm not sharing one of those new signs, and am instead sharing an old favorite. This beauty is at the Illinois Railway Museum, and is for the Chicago South Shore and South Bend Railroad, which was an electric commuter railroad that ran from Indiana into Chicago. Once part of the Insull empire that included several other interurbans, the South Shore survives today as part of the Metra system of commuter trains that serve the city.

This sign originally stood at the Gary, Indiana station and dates from the 1950's. I love this one, particularly the little train along the top. I took this a couple of years ago, and in the interim it's been beautifully restored and now works perfectly. You can see it here.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Kicks, etc.

Ghost Road, originally uploaded by William 74.

This is an abandoned alignment of Route 66, in Dwight, Illinois. Route 66 was realigned several times throughout it's lifetime, and I believe that this particular stretch dates from the 1940's, and was part of a postwar effort to ease traffic congestion through some of the towns the road passed through. Still, one could easily make a turn onto the earlier route and go through Dwight, Odell, and other towns along the way.

A newer road parallels this stretch of old pavement, which was common later in 66's life in an effort to increase capacity. A new pair of lanes would be laid, parallel to the existing route and separated by a small median, giving four lanes. Often, the older stretch of road was closed when Route 66 was decommissioned, sometimes torn up, sometimes not. The area around Dwight has a very long stretch of this old pavement, and I was pleased to see this bit still had it's markings.

Friday, November 5, 2010


Bozeman, originally uploaded by William 74.

Like most car guys (and gals), I have a little bit of a thing for old license plates. I don't have a huge collection, but I do have a few oldies kicking around the house. Back in the day, of course, most states issued a new plate every year, and it would be a different color-you often find people who have lived in the same house for decades who have collections of all their old plates stuck to the garage walls.

A lot of people just like to have an old license plate from the year they were born and the state they're from-they're a neat sort of conversation piece. Many people with old cars like to get an age appropriate plate for their collector piece, and I have to admit that a plate from 1953 makes a nice finishing touch to your Kaiser Manhattan. Some plates are iconic, like the California "black plate" that is so revered in the collector car world, and others, like the 1950's Tennessee plates that are shaped like the state, just look neat.

This one's on the back of a Simplex motorcycle that I photographed at a shop that specializes in petroliana. It's from Montana, and is interesting in that it states that it's specifically for the city of Bozeman.

I tried to give this that faux-LOMO look, which I am now calling "Lomaux".

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Hullo, Windy! Going to work today?

Batavia Windmill at Sunset, originally uploaded by William 74.

The city of Batavia, Illinois is big on windmills-I've shown you a couple already-and here's another. Another landmark brought to the area by Colonel Fabyan, the big Dutch windmill originally stood about twenty miles to the east of it's current loacation, until it was relocated in 1914 to the Fabyan property. It was completely disassembled for transportation, with all of the parts carefully labeled-one can still see the markings on the interior supports.

Time was not kind to the mill, and I remember sledding down the hill in front of it as a kid. Even then it was missing some shingles, and even though it was still a tourist attraction it was looking shabby. By 1990 it was deemed unsafe and was almost demolished-fortunately, enough people were willing to donate time, effort, and money to save this unique landmark. It's since been completely refurbished and looks quite fantastic, particularly on the days when demonstrations are done and it's sails are spinning. I've shot it quite a few times, and I'm sure you'll see a couple more of this.

Before anyone asks, the title refers to WIndy Miller, a character from the sort of obscure British kids' show Camberwick Green. He lived and worked in a traditional mill. Our British reader will laugh a bit at this.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Night Train

Rail Bridge, Geneva, IL, originally uploaded by William 74.

This rail bridge spans the Fox River in Geneva, and was built in the early 1900's for the Chicago & North Western Railroad. Primarily constructed of iron and steel, the bridge has had a few upgrades down through the years, but still retains most of it's original details. The concrete abutments still show wood grain patterns from the forms used during their initial pouring. The original builder's plate is still intact, as is a small CNW sign situated dead in the center of the span. Braces for telegraph wires still stick out from the sides of the bridge, and an old elevator is permanently mounted near the top.

Originally part of the North Western's main line west, this line serves the same purpose for the Union Pacific, shuttling both freight and passengers in and out of Chicago. This is a Metra commuter train, heading east towards the city.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Fading Glory

Fading Glory, originally uploaded by William 74.

A return to the famous/infamous oft photographed Cadillac out in the countryside. The car is in rural Illinois, and is a bit of a landmark in the area. It's not unusual to be driving by and to see a car parked by the side of the road, someone who has stopped to look and photograph this majestic old car. I like to stop whenever I go past and take a few myself. Like so many things, you never know when they'll disappear, so it's worthwhile to document while you can.

I took this on a late fall afternoon, the sun definitely on it's way to the horizon. I'd been on the road most of the day and stopped off to shoot a few frames. Peaceful and cheery, don't you think?

Monday, November 1, 2010


Challenge Company-Batavia, IL, originally uploaded by William 74.

In light of yesterday's picture of a Challenge Model 27, I give you this view of the former Challenge factory in Batavia, Illinois. It's situated right on the banks of the Fox River, and still has it's glazed brick logo in the smokestack. The building has been well maintained, and now serves as a building of office suites.

Interesting fun fact: along the river one can still see the pylons that once supported the tracks of the Chicago, Aurora, and Elgin's Batavia branch.