Friday, July 29, 2011

Walter C. Knack Co.

Welcome to Neon Friday! We're in Dixon again, this time visiting the home of the Walter C. Knack Company. In business since the 1950's, the Knack Co. deals in vending machines, and is still family owned and run.

This is a really cool, unique sign. I've never seen one quite like it-lots of neon sign companies had sort of stock patterns. I'd love to see it restored and working again.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Go West

Sunset by William 74
Sunset, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.

Well, west-ish. This road doesn't go exactly west, and winds around a bit on it's way to DeKalb.

This would have been a cooler shot if I had a more interesting car, something like a Kaiser Manhattan or a Ford Model A.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Fifi by William 74
Fifi, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.

One of the largest aircraft used during World War Two, Boeing's B-29 Superfortress was also one of the most advanced piston-engined craft of the era. In a time when pilots still had to rely on oxygen masks at altitude, and defensive gunners often stood at open windows, the B-29 had a pressurized cabin and an advanced remotely controlled armament system. The B-29 could also cruise at very high altitudes and speeds, with maximums of 40,000 feet and 350 mph, respectively. It was truly a remarkable airplane for the late 40's.

Despite teething troubles-particularly with the new Wright R-3350 engines-the B-29 managed to become a successful bomber, and was instrumental in the air war in the Pacific. It also continued in service through the 1950's, the final airframes being retired in the early 60's. The B-29 proved to be a fairly versatile airplane, being used as a testbed for new technologies, weather tracking, and possibly most famously as the mother ship for the Bell X-1 project, which culminated in Chuck Yeager's supersonic flight.

This is Fifi, which is flown at airshows by the Commemorative Air Force. Of the 3,970 B-29's built between 1943 and 1946, just twenty-six survive, and Fifi is the only one that's airworthy.

Monday, July 25, 2011


Alfa Romeo by William 74
Alfa Romeo, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.

Founded in 1930, Pininfarina is one of the world's most famous automotive design firms, as well as a legendary coachbuilding firm. Some of the most famous manufacturers have been the firm's clients, including Ferrari, Rolls-Royce, Cadillac, and Maserati.

This happens to be an Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spider, an unrestored example from the fifties that still sports the Pininfarina crests.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Long's Sportsman

Long's Sportsman-Dixon, IL by William 74
Long's Sportsman-Dixon, IL, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.

This building has had a couple of remodels (the vinyl siding and newer windows gives it away), but they've kept this cool, old school neon sign on the wall. I don't think it works, but it still is in pretty good nick, and is pretty cool.

The "Long's Sportsman" sign also looks pretty old. I don't know what they do here-I think it's an outdoorsy supply store.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Elburn Co-Op

Co-Op by William 74
Co-Op, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.

A friend of mine calls these silos "the skyscrapers of the prairies". I think this one makes a striking silhouette.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011



Rugged, relatively fast, and forgiving, North American's AT-6 Texan (or SNJ if you're in the Navy, or the Harvard if you're with the RAF) was an excellent advanced training craft. It was also a long serving one, with Harvards remaining in use with the South African air force until the mid 90's, as well as an example, brought on strength with the RAF in 1945, still being used as a helicopter chase plane as late as 1995. That's a pretty good run for an airframe designed in the mid 1930's!

The Texan was also built in fairly large numbers, and since it wasn't a combat plane they tended to remain fairly safe. Consequently a lot of them have survived, and they remain popular airshow attractions. This one made a perfect TtV subject.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Sometimes you feel a little low....

Sometimes you feel low....

...and sometimes you feel reeeeeal low! Car customizing has been around for just about as long as cars-before that, really, since coachbuilders built coaches before cars. And I'm reasonably sure that the first owner of the deDion Bouton asked for custom paint and upholstery.

Anyway, car customizing in America became very popular in the immediate pre-war and postwar years, as young men sought ways to make inexpensive, often used, cars look newer, and more modern, and just plain unique. This could run the gamut from special paint all the way to reshaping panels, adding trim from other cars, radical lowering, and completely new upholstery. In some cases, it's hard to tell what the original car was.

This '39-ish Mercury coupe features quite a few tricks of the early custom car trade. It's been chopped (the roof lowered for a sleeker profile), the badges and trim removed (to partially hide the origin of the car), new wheels, and it's been lowered. It's a classic example.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Hub

The Hub Theatre-Rochelle, IL

Rochelle, Illinois is known as the "Hub City", due to it's location at the intersection of two major highways-the Lincoln Highway, the first transcontinental road, and Rt. 51, one of the first to go north/south. Although the Lincoln and 51 have diminished in importance through the years (they're known as State Routes 38 and 251 respectively), the town is still crossed by major routes going in both directions. It's also the center of the universe for local area train buffs, with both Union Pacific and BNSF having major lines that intersect in town. It's proven to be such a draw that the city put up a park just for rail fans.

Anyway, that's how the Hub Theater got it's name. It's been around forever, and features a well weathered neon sign atop the marquee. I believe it still works. Sadly, the Hub is currently out of business and is up for sale-hopefully someone can save it.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

To City

To City

Hmmm, train stations two weeks in a row. This is a good recreation of an early Metropolitan Division station, what would eventually become Chicago's famed elevated railway. It's on the property of the Illinois Railway Museum, and usually has a couple of trainsets standing by. The one featured is a former New York City subway car, which was undergoing renovation at the time.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Monday, July 11, 2011



A classic, subtle kustom Mercury. Well, as subtle as a car with flames painted on it can be.

Friday, July 8, 2011

South Shore Line

South Shore Line neon sign

The Chicago, South Shore, and South Bend Railroad, better known as the South Shore Line, was an interurban that ran from Chicago's Loop, south around Lake Michigan, and out to South Bend. An electric road, the South Shore handled both passengers and freight, and was a popular way to get into the city. Having it's roots in the Chicago and Indiana Air Line, the South Shore fell under the control of industrialist Samuel Insull, who turned the road around and got it turning a profit again. The South Shore's classic orange cars were a fixture in and around the Chicago and eastern Indiana area for the next forty years, and is still remembered fondly by longtime residents.

This amazing South Shore sign used to be in front of the road's Gary, Indiana stop, and now is on the property of the Illinois Railway Museum. It's a fantastic piece, with that little train running across the top and all the chaser lights. The before shot dates from 2006 (and is sadly the only shot I have of it in that shape-note the North Shore sign in the background)-and in the intervening years the museum has completely restored it to working condition. It looks fantastic-I hope to eventually go to the museum after dark and shoot it.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Railway Express Agency


At one time, the local railroad station was the commercial center of a town. Anything that was bought and sold went through the station, either on the way in or out. It was also often the first view visitors and returning citizens saw of their town. A lot of stuff went on at the station, and the stationmaster and his crew needed to be ready for just about anything. This included loading and unloading rail cars, helping customers, and hauling luggage.

This antique cart is in front of the nicely restored station at the Illinois Railway Museum in Union, Illinois.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

TtV Tuesday!


Tuesday, time for ground glass! I enjoy shooting clouds-it's ever changing and best of all free, just go outside and have at it.

Monday, July 4, 2011



Introduced in 1955, the Ford Fairlane was the company's new full sized offering, and proved fairly popular for it's short two year lifespan. The model received a restyle for the '57 year, and along with most of Ford's range the Fairlane grew in size and gained a lower, leaner look. The model also gained a new top-line designation, the Fairlane 500, and a new top, top of the line model, the Skyliner.

The Skyliner was something really special-a hardtop convertible. Retracting hardtops are a bit more common these days, but in the late fifties this feature made the Skyliner unique-it was the only model offered anywhere with such an option. Sadly, although watching a Skyliner go through the motions is a traffic-stopping show, it was an expensive option, prone to malfunctioning (there's a zillion miles of wiring involved), and worst of all took up most of the trunk space. So, only about 20,000 Skyliners were built in '57, and way fewer for the restyled '58 and '59 years.

This one's a '57, and is resting peacefully behind a body shop out in the country. It seems pretty solid-I hope it gets the restoration it deserves.


Friday, July 1, 2011


Robert's Drive In-Genoa, IL

Another small town find, this time in Genoa, Illinois. Robert's Drive In is still in business, although I believe that this sign no longer works. Still, despite having been last painted some time ago, it still points the way to this ice cream stand.