Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Downtown Railroading

Old PRR signals-Chicago, IL by William 74
Old PRR signals-Chicago, IL, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.
An interesting shot from just outside of downtown Chicago, on the near west side. These are a pair of Metra commuter trains, heading out of the city on a midday run, just a few minutes out of Chicago's historic Union Station.

The signals are interesting-they're old position signals that date from the 40's, when the Pennsylvania Rail Road ran passenger trains into the city. Position signals have rows of lights that mimic the positions of old semaphore signals. In this case they're also color coded-three greens vertically, three yellows at an angle, and three reds horizontally. Position signals have been gradually phased out, especially in light of more sophisticated communications between dispatchers and crews, but there are still a few of them in Chicago.

This shot is also interesting because you can see the Sears Tower in the background. It's one of, if not the, defining shape on the Chicago skyline, and seems to turn up whenever you shoot.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Faux Retro

Fading Glory by William 74
Fading Glory, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.
It's that Cadillac again. I pass it fairly frequently when I'm out in the countryside, and I often stop and shoot a couple of frames, just for kicks. This despite having literally hundreds of different photos of it, taken over the last couple of years. I like to use it to test out new toys or techniques, but also, I've learned that you never know when something you like will disappear. So shoot it when you see it.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Nip 'N' Tote

Nip 'N' Tote by William 74
Nip 'N' Tote, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.
Rudy's Liquors in Peru, Illinois. Pretty cool vintage sign, with a lot going on-stripes, bold colors, and chasers. It seems like it's in pretty good shape too, as it was turned on this bright sunny day.

Nip 'n' Tote seems backwards, though-surely you tote then nip?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Rapid Transit

Rapid Transit by William 74
Rapid Transit, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.
Former CTA 5000 series cars. These are, I believe, the sole survivors of just four built.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Light Leak

Light Leak by William 74
Light Leak, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.
Some of you have heard of the Orionid meteor shower that recently lit up the night skies. I had a notion to try and finally capture something like this, so I went out in the country to do some test shots. this is facing east, with the lights of the Chicago suburbs almost making it look like sunrise instead of 10 pm.

Where are the meteor photos, you ask? There ain't none. I slept through it!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Rusty Gold

Rusty Gold by William 74
Rusty Gold, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.
We've visited this well-seasoned '53 Chevy sedan delivery once before. I first saw it two years ago, parked in front of a repair shop in rural Illinois. It's still there, getting a little more rusty and listing a bit further to the right as the tires deflate.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Thompson Drugs

Thompson's Drugs by William 74
Thompson's Drugs, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.
A classic American brand name, Rexall had it's start in 1902, with the formation of the United Drug Stores cooperative, which sold products under the Rexall name. The cooperative developed a franchise system where independent drugstores could use the Rexall name and sell Rexall products. The company grew steadily, and by the late fifties was the largest drug store chain in the U.S.

However, by the sixties Rexall was beginning to come under attack from discount chains such as Thrifty Drug and Eckerd, which were able to drive prices down through block purchasing. By the 70's the company had sold off all of the company owned stores, but allowed franchisees to continue using the name. To this day you can still find Rexall drug stores here and there, usually in smaller cities and towns.

This beautiful vintage Rexall neon sign is on a nicely preserved sixties styled building in the town of Spring Valley, Illinois.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


Estate by William 74
Estate, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.
You see a lot of those little rectangular vacuform signs around-they were ubiquitous at one time and a lot of them have remained. Usually you'll see one or two segments on a given sign, but this one has eight-a definite record for me! Anyway, this carbon dated beauty is in Ottawa, Illinois.

Do they even make these signs anymore?

Monday, October 15, 2012


Monterey by William 74
Monterey, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.
Mercury's Monterey was the company's jack of all trades, at various times being the entry level, mid-level, and top of the line full-sized offering. Introduced in 1950 as an upscale coupe in the Mercury Eight line, the Monterey became it's own model line two years later, with coupe, convertible, and sedans on offer.

This taillight is from a '61 coupe.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


Trolley by William 74
Trolley, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.
This is the former Chicago Surface Lines #3142, one of 169 steel "pay as you enter" streetcars ordered in the early 20's. Built in 1923 by the J.G. Brill Company, 3142 was used by CSL, and later the CTA, until 1953, when it was parked and used as storage at the CTA's South Shops. Donated to the Illinois Railway Museum in 1973, a fifteen year restoration finally put it back on the tracks. Today it is the only surviving CSL steel "arch roof" streetcar.

I saw this operating at the museum, and got it rolling past the Museum's Riverview billboard. I like to think that 3142 delivered patrons to the park at one time.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Gas Class

Gas Class by William 74
Gas Class, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.
A predecessor to the modern Funny Car, Gassers were popular from the later 50's up until the early 70's.So named because they used regular gasoline instead of exotic fuel cocktails like methanol or nitromethane, gassers were typically based on old, used cars that could be bought cheaply. The cars were usually stripped out, often with fiberglass bodywork, plexiglass windows, drilled straight axles, and that nose high stance for better weight transfer.

The archetypical gasser is probably the late 30's and early 40's Willys Americar (to the point where I've never actually seen a stock Willys), but plenty of other cars got the Gas Class Treatment. Probably second most popular is the Tri-Five Chevy, usually the squarer '55's (although I've seen a couple of iconic '57 gassers as well). This one was pretty mild by Gas Class standards, more of a street/strip car with it's full compliment of steel panels, glass, and chrome. Still, it ran fast down the strip and looked awesome doing it.

Saturday, October 6, 2012


Larson's by William 74
Larson's, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.
This sign is a bit of a mystery to me. It's in the town of LaSalle, Illinois, tucked away from the downtown area, in a section that looks like it is (or was) a neighborhood shopping district. Just a few storefronts and an old gas station. The current business is an antique/junk type of shop (it didn't look open the day I was there), but it's not called Larson's. So I really have no idea what a Larson's is or was.My best guess is a restaurant or bar, but what's "BPS" mean?

I mean, look at it. This is a really nice sign. The colors are great, and most of the glass is still there, and it's not all rusted through. My research so far has turned up exactly one reference to this building, and that's my photo.

Any ideas?

Thursday, October 4, 2012


Transit by William 74
Transit, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.
Faded Waukegan & North Chicago Transit logo, on the side of a derelict ACF bus, which is parked out back behind one of the buildings at the Illinois Railway Museum.

Also, it looks like Rebecca was here.

Monday, October 1, 2012


Chrysler Fire Power by William 74
Chrysler Fire Power, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.
Some engines are known by their numbers-289, 350, 427, 3.8 litre (that's a Jaguar). Some by their name-Flathead, Commando, Twin-Spark (that's an Alfa Romeo). But one seems to always tower above all the rest-Hemi.

In the broadest terms, a "hemi engine" is just an internal combustion engine with hemispherical combustion chambers at the top. This puts the intake and exhaust valves on opposite sides, providing a direct path for the gases to flow across the combustion chamber. It's an old design, dating to the early twentieth century, and plenty of illustrious manufacturers used the design. Alfa Romeo, Peugeot, Ford, BMW, Bristol, and the wonderful racing engines of Harry Miller all used this design. However, when you say the word "Hemi", one other word usually pops into your head-Chrysler (or maybe Dodge. Or Plymouth. Or DeSoto if you're weird).

Chrysler has been the largest, and arguably most famous, proponent of the hemi-head design. Best known in it's mid sixties 426 version, Chrysler's earliest hemis were introduced in 1951, to power the company's big luxury cruisers. Hot rodders and drag racers soon learned that these engines were quite a bit more powerful than the Ford flathead V-8, and they were easy to tune and able to take serious amounts of forced induction. In fact, these early engines were popular well into the sixties, after they ceased production-plenty of top flight drag racers were using them, running huge blowers and nitromethane on junkyard blocks.

This one's a Fire Power that I saw in a hot rod-I was told it came out of a '54 New Yorker.