Friday, August 31, 2012

Ten Gallon Hat

Most people are probably familiar with the Arby's restaurant logo, a little stylized cowboy hat. It's been this way for as long as I can remember (not very, if I'm honest!), but back in the sixties the company really played up the Western theme. The earliest franchised restaurants were called "covered wagons", and were designed to have a sort of domed roof, reminiscent of an old Conestoga. Similarly, floors were tiled, in patterns that outlined steer horns, branding irons, and horses. And The Hat.

The iconic hat sign was designed by the company's sign maker, from the very first store opened in Ohio in the early sixties. Like the Golden Arches, The Hat was Arby's signature symbol, and you didn't have to even read the sign to know where you were heading.

Arby's stopped using the big neon signs some time ago, but older franchisees have made an effort to keep them in place, even when their buildings are updated and replaced (I don't think I've ever seen a "covered wagon", but I've seen a bunch of Hats).

Anyway, this one was in Aurora, Illinois, in front of an older restaurant, probably one from the later sixties. It was a fixture for decades, till the restaurant closed a couple of years ago, and The Hat was taken down. I sort of hope someone saved it-this one was in really nice shape.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Cloud Cover

Cloud Cover by William 74
Cloud Cover, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.
An Adams-esque view of some clouds. This is another one of those times where you just have to stop and shoot-I'd not seen clouds that dark outside of a thunderstorm. And there's no trickery going on here either, they were genuinely dark, just floating serenely among some much brighter, happier looking friends.

Anyway, if you see it, stop and look. You may not see it again, ever.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Ask The Man Who Owns One-Pt. 3

Packard by William 74
Packard, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.
I've shown you some later Packards a couple of times in the past, but they were usually pretty beat up. I spotted this one at a car show a few weeks ago. It's a '55 Patrician sedan, the first year of the Richard Teague-styled cars. The last of the real Packards, they're some of my favorite cars.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Heart 'O' Chicago Motel

I hardly call Edgewater the "heart of Chicago", being on the far north side, but it is conveniently-ish close to the lakefront and stuff like Wrigley Field, and the L which will take you right down into the Loop.

Either way, it's a classic sixties-style motel and has this awesome, well-kept sign out front. LessThanThree! <3 p="p">

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The North Western

The North Western by William 74
The North Western, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.
A former Chicago and North Western EMD GP-7R, originally delivered to the Rock Island, and dating from 1952. The GP-series of locomotives was originally designed to be a jack-of-all-trades sort of engine, capable of pulling freight or passengers, or doing some yard work as needed. General Purpose, as the designation goes, similar to a certain long-running off road vehicle. One wonders why nobody calls these "Jeeps" too!

I'm told that this particular example, which resides at the Illinois Railway Museum, was originally purchased for parts for the Museum's other GP-7 (the first one delivered, in fact!), but was discovered to be in good running shape. So the decision was to put it to use, and I've seen it pulling passenger coaches as well as moving stuff around the yards. I;m told that there is a plan afoot to restore it to it's original Rock Island livery.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Moose Lodge 799

Moose Lodge-Elgin, IL by William 74
Moose Lodge-Elgin, IL, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.
An oldie but a goodie! This vintage sign was on the Moose Lodge 799's building in downtown Elgin, Illinois. The sign was in pretty bad shape by the time I shot it in 2009, and the lodge had moved to a new location by then as well. But it still looked pretty cool, very Streamline Moderne. It disappeared sometime in 2010, reputedly stolen off the building.

Thinking about it, I've noticed that Moose lodges tend to have neon signs out front-I'll have to take a closer look as I drive around exploring.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Travel by Pullman

Pullman by William 74
Pullman, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.
Although the company made all types of rail cars-including freight cars and trolleys-Pullman is best known for it's luxurious passenger cars. Inspired by an uncomfortable overnight trip in which he tried to sleep in his seat, founder George Pullman decided to come up with a better solution. The earliest Pullman sleeper cars featured double berths-the upper ones folded down from the walls of the car, and the seats folded to become the lowers. Curtains provided privacy for occupants, there were washrooms for both men and women at each end of the car. In addition, the company provided staffing for their cars, and Pullman porters became fixtures at train stations all across the country . Pullman also hired black men as porters, offering better pay and opportunity for travel than most jobs open to them at the time. At one point, Pullman was the largest employer of black men in the U.S.

This car is a later, lightweight stainless car, and was used on the Northern Pacific. It's currently a display at the Illinois Railway Museum.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


Fifi by William 74
Fifi, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.
Fifi is the world's only flying B-29 Superfortress. Of over 3,000 airframes built during the 40's, only twenty odd survive, a pretty small survival rate for such an important airplane. Part of this was simply because it was a heavy, complicated, maintenance intensive airplane, and part of it was due to the evolution of jet fighters and jet bombers, rendering the B-29 obsolete as a bomb-delivering airplane. However, the B-29 and it's variants were still used in many roles, including air-sea rescue, electronic intelligence gathering, weather tracking, and pioneering air-to-air refueling.

Fifi's survival is an interesting story. By the sixties the last few Superforts had been retired, and aside from a few in museums, most of them were in outside storage. The Commemorative Air Force, in trying to acquire one example of all WW2 bombers, had made inquiries into getting a surviving B-29. Eventually, a complete airframe was acquired from the Navy, having been stored at NAS China Lake in the California desert, used as a target for weapons testing. Fifi was the lone undamaged B-29.

We visited her about this time last year (or maybe she us).

Monday, August 13, 2012

Fairlane 500

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

A Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner. If that sounds complicated it's cause it is-the Skyliner is the one with the retractable hardtop. This is a full sized car, by the way, with room for actual grown ups in the back seat. The rear deck is enormous, to accommodate that long roof-you can practically land a helicopter on it. And it's a fascinating thing to watch-the owner of this car kept running the top up and down every so often, and people always stopped to watch.

Eagle eyed readers will note the vintage ex-CTA "Green Hornet" trolley car trundling past in the background.

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Colonial Motel

I don't know much (okay, anything) about the Colonial Motel, except that it's on the east side of Elgin, just off U.S. Route 20, the Grant Highway. Which makes sense, because the Grant is a coast-to-coast road, and motels dot the length of it.

Oh, and it has this excellent fifties sign out front-I can totally imagine rolling up in an old '59 Chevy, back in the day.

The Colonial Motel-Elgin, IL

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Monday, August 6, 2012


Shoebox by William 74
Shoebox, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.
A great little '50 Ford convertible, which contrasts nicely with the Southern Pacific 1518, an early EMD SD7 locomotive dating from 1951.

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Paramount Theatre-Aurora, IL

We've visited Aurora's historic Paramount Theater a couple of times now, so I'll spare you the history lesson and just let you bask in the beauty of this building.

Okay, now go click the links and read up!

Thursday, August 2, 2012