Friday, September 30, 2011

The Roarin' Elgin

The Roarin' Elgin by William 74
The Roarin' Elgin, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.
The Chicago, Aurora, and Elgin was an interurban railroad that ran from Chicago out to what is now the far western suburbs but was then two medium sized cities and a bunch of small towns. When the lines opened in 1902 as the Aurora, Elgin and Chicago, the trip from Elgin to the city was just over an hour-about what it takes on Metra today.

However, the CA&E had some added benefits over the mainline railroads, such as the Chicago and North Western or the Burlington Route. It served some smaller towns, particularly at the outer reaches, that the big roads didn't. The AE&C also ran into the Loop, using the elevated tracks, terminating at Wells Street Terminal. And, the AE&C was able to send trains out every fifteen minutes, alternating between Elgin and Aurora, far more frequently than other roads.

The AEC suffered during World War One, filing for bankruptcy in 1919 and emerging as the Chicago, Aurora, and Elgin. Coming under the control of utilities magnate Samuel Insull, improvements were made to facilities and track, but it didn't keep the CA&E from filing for bankruptcy again in the late thirties, a bankruptcy it wouldn't emerge from until after the Second World War.

The CA&E never really recovered. Despite improvements both the physical plant and the purchase of new rolling stock, ridership steadily declined as automobile ownership exploded in the postwar years. The final death blow came in the fifties when the CTA ended service on the Garfield Park elevated branch, tracks that were used by the CA&E to reach the Loop. Trains stopped in Forest Park, where riders had to then transfer to CTA trains to reach the Loop. The end came at noon on July 3, 1956, with very little warning-riders who had taken the Roarin' Elgin into the city that morning found that they were stranded when they returned for a ride home.

This is an original Chicago, Aurora, and Elgin station sign. It's been nicely restored, and hangs on one of the sheds at the Illinois Railway Museum. I don't know if it's hooked up to power or not, but I'd love to see it lit up again.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Chicago Railroad Signal and Supply Co.

One of those "I happened to look down" deals. I was at the Illinois Railway Museum, which, like many such institutions, maintains a boneyard for spare bits and pieces. The IRM's is neatly arranged and not overgrown, and has a lot of old signal equipment that's been salvaged from various roads as they upgrade equipment.

This is one such piece, a vintage piece of...signal equipment. I really have no idea what it is, only that I'd never heard of this manufacturer, it had an attractive logo, and was made in Chicago. I particularly like this last bit, partially because I'm from the Windy City, and partially because it reminds me of how much industry was scattered throughout the country.

I should really go back and shoot the whole thing!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


Lincoln by William 74
Lincoln, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.
Originally introduced as a sort of budget marque to slot in between V-8 Fords and the big Lincoln Model K, the Lincoln-Zephyr's modern looks and smooth V-12 power made it a very popular car, more so than it's larger, more expensive stablemate. One of the first successful "streamlined" automotive designs, the Lincoln-Zephyr revitalized sales at Lincoln dealerships, and by 1940 most sales were Zephyrs. One of those designs that was right from the start, the Zephyr was able to be put back into production after World War Two with very few changes, the most major being the elimination of the Zephyr name.

I think this '39 makes an excellent TtV subject, especially in black and white.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Out of State Plates

Land of the Midnight Sun by William 74
Land of the Midnight Sun, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.
Another one in an occasional series of interesting license plates. Canada's best known for the polar bear shaped plates used in the Northwest Territories (and they're really cool), but this one's from the Yukon. The image of the man panning for gold has been used since the sixties at least.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Steak House

Woody's Steak House by William 74
Woody's Steak House, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.
This sign is on a pole near the corner, in front of a smaller building with a restaurant in it. Clearly, it's been repurposed from some other building, although I don't know if it was just relocated from this restaurant's previous location. Clearly it used to spin (and maybe still does-it's in good shape, and I bet it lights up nicely), but that big C-clamp pole is awkward.

This is down in Ottawa. I should really go down there and check it out at night, along with the Sands and Monte's.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Lincoln Highway

Lincoln Highway by William 74
Lincoln Highway, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.

Through the Viewfinder Tuesday!

The Lincoln Highway was the first named automobile road to completely traverse the United States, from coast to coast. Originally opened in 1913, the Lincoln's original stated length was 3,389 miles. It has been realigned several times, and over the years it has moved through 14 states, 128 counties, and over 700 cities, towns and villages.

Plenty of signs of the road exist all along it's length. Plenty of streets called "Lincolnway", signs old and new, and historical markers. This billboard is in the town of Franklin Grove, Illinois, which is the home of the Lincoln Highway Association as well.

Monday, September 19, 2011


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

A classic shoebox Ford, about a 1950. Someone said that shoeboxes have distinct faces, with a big nose right in the center.

Whatever, I like this shot. It looks pleasantly old.

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Sands

The Sands by William 74
The Sands, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.

This beauty is from the days when independent motels were the norm, rather than the exception. They always seemed to have these really cool names, often based on larger, more famous hotels. I can't imagine how many Sands Motels there must have been-The Sands in Vegas was very well known, so it would be a natural to copy.

This is a pretty well preserved old school Googie styled motel, complete with flagstone exteriors and funky lights. And dig the hourglass motif on the sign!

The Sands

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Open Road

Open Road by William 74
Open Road, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.

Old interesting car? Check. Sunset? Check. Clouds? Check. Grassy field? Check. Country road? Check. It's almost like a recipe for a cool photo, or just a really awesome moment.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Supersweet Feeds

Supersweet Feeds by William 74
Supersweet Feeds, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.

We've returned to the tiny town of Arlington, Illinois, to the elegantly crumbling grain elevator by the Burlington tracks. Several ghost signs in one shot-Supersweet Feeds, the famous red-and-blue CO-OP rings (not really a ghost, I guess!), and the Arlington Grain Company's logo itself. And, it's hard to see here, but the AGC's logo was painted on a couple of different ways.

Dust, fuzziness, grit, and general attitude thanks to the faithful Spartus Full-Vue.

Monday, September 12, 2011


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

Founded in 1894, Delahaye is probably best known for the almost impossibly outlandish exotics that coachbuilders such as Figoni et Falaschi and Chapron built in the pre-war years. But, the company also built slightly more down to earth cars, with graceful coachwork that is still capable of winning beauty contests today. Interestingly, Delahaye was also one of France's major truck manufacturers, a line that continued after the Second World War. In fact, Delahaye's biggest earner was a Jeep-like vehicle built for the French Army! Eventually the company merged with Hotchkiss (another French truck manufacturer with a sideline in cars), which discontinued Delahaye's car manufacturing arm, ending a run of over fifty years.

Friday, September 9, 2011


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

Maybe this is "Neonless Friday"? This arrow was tubed at one time, although I have no idea how long ago it lost it's glass. It points at the Chick-N-Dip in Hampshire, Illinois, which is an old school joint with a patio and no interior seating. It features no other old signs except this one. I think it's interesting that they've kept it for so long!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Home Of Good Neighbors

Smallville by William 74
Smallville, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.
So, some of you have probably heard about the new Superman movie that's currently in production and which goes by the secret name of Autumn Frost. It's been filming sort of near me, out in the country. The town of Plano, Illinois doubled as Smallville for the film.

I didn't even know that they were going to film in Plano when I took this. I'd gone out that way for something else, and took a detour down Plano's main street and things looked....odd. A new gas station was on the corner. There was a Sears. A row of buildings in what was a parking lot-badly damaged buildings at that. I figured it out pretty quickly, when I noticed a bunch of "Smallville" signs here and there.

This is on the front door of Plano's historic train station, which masqueraded as Smallville's town hall for the filming.

Smallville Town Hall

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Travel and Sleep, In Safety and Comfort

Pacific Peak by William 74
Pacific Peak, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.
Such was the motto of the Pullman Company, a name that would become synonymous with rail travel and luxury. Founder George Pullman was inspired to design a better rail car, after spending an overnight train journey trying to sleep in his seat. His design would go on to be built, in one form or another, until the 1970's.

This car, Pacific Peak, ran with the Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy, and is currently on display at the Illinois Railway Museum.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Ask The Man Who Owned One

Fading Glory by William 74
Fading Glory, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.
Once more, a rusty Packard. Sadly, this is an eulogy of sorts. This car, and several others we've seen have been removed from their rural location, to points unknown.

I'd stumbled across this collection by accident-railroad tracks run very close to this property, and I was driving over a bridge to cross the tracks, when I looked off to the side and spotted one of the cars. Being an inquisitive boy, I pulled a uey and went back.

What looked like an old lawn mower repair shop turned out to have several outbuildings, and a big open space with a bunch of old cars in it. Not just old cars, but old classic cars-rare ones, too. In addition to this Packard (a badly accident damaged Four Hundred), were a Studebaker GT Hawk (with the R2 engine option), a Kaiser Manhattan, four Crosleys, four more Packards hidden in the bushes, and probably a couple of cars I can't remember.

Anyway, I made several trips to this location, and shot hundreds of frames of the various cars, in winter, summer, with different lenses, TtV, the works. I found it endlessly inspiring.

It's gone now. I last visited in April, and got some good stuff. The buildings are empty now-some even open to the elements-and there's nothing to tell what once stood in the weeds. It's almost like I imagined it.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Monte's Riverside Inn

Monte's Riverside Inn by William 74
Monte's Riverside Inn, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.
Happy Neon Friday!

Ottawa, Illinois is a medium sized town at the confluence of the Fox and Illinois Rivers. I'd planned on going down there for a while now-it has a nice downtown area-and finally did it because I found myself in front of a sign that told me I was only twenty miles away. I mean, once you're that close, you may as well go, right?

Imagine my surprise when I saw this gem as I passed over the Fox River. Monte's has been around for a while and is a classic old-school restaurant. This sign is just gorgeous, and I have to find the time to go back down and shoot this at night, and more importantly, eat at Monte's!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

#36 Broadway

#36 Broadway by William 74
#36 Broadway, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.
This is the destination board on an old Chicago bus from the fifties or sixties.I like taking pictures of the destination boards of old trolleys and buses-they're kind of poetic in their own way and are a neat detail. But this one is a personal favorite-I used to take the #36 Broadway when I lived on the Far North Side. It's still a regular route today.