Sunday, April 28, 2013

Old Rails

Old Rail by William 74
Old Rail, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.

Fun fact-when the rails on train tracks are made at the foundry, the dates are cast or otherwise written directly into the metal. This helps the railroad to know when they were made and installed, and makes maintaining them a little easier. If you look at the rails at your local station (staying safely away from the tracks, of course), you can probably see the dates on the inside of the rails.

This one is on an abandoned stretch of the former Chicago Great Western mainline from Chicago to Oelwein, Iowa. It is by far the oldest rail I have seen in the wild, and connects to the mainline, which uses rails from the late sixties, probably just before or after the CGW's merger with the Chicago and North Western. Located in St. Charles, Illinois, it used to serve a foundry on the west side of town, not far from the crossing over the Fox River. When the Union Pacific took over the line from the Chicago and North Western (who had gotten it when CNW took over the CGW), there were still a couple of customers on this side of the river. However, the last customer closed a few years ago, and the UP petitioned to abandon the line entirely.

The tracks already ended about a mile west of here, at an old warehouse that has since been demolished. Construction on Illinois Route 64 severed the line at a grade crossing as well. I imagine that there will eventually come a time when these rails are completely gone, leaving nothing but the railbed.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


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

We've visited the various windmills that dot the city of Batavia, Illinois, so I won't bore you with the town's history of windmill manufacture. Anyway, here's another one, a big Batavia-made piece that dates from the late 1800's. It's in great shape, and turns silently when the wind's up.

Monday, April 22, 2013


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

The perennial small fry in the US auto market, the American Motors Corporation was always trying new things to garner attention. From unusual styling cues to wild paint jobs, AMC usually marched to a different drum, often out of necessity. The last of the independent American auto manufacturers, AMC was often underfunded and kept models in production far longer than the Big Three did. But, when they splurged, they did it right as evidenced at the '70 Chicago Auto Show.

The AMX was AMC's sports model, a two seater muscle car with lean good looks and big block power. But a lesser-known car was the AMX/3 show car, a mid-engined exotic that clearly aimed higher than AMC's usual competition. Originally an engineless fiberglass show car, American Motors placed an order for 30 runners, contracting with Italian sports car manufacturer Bizzarrini. Using AMC's 390 V-8 and an OTO/Melara four speed transaxle, the running AMX/3's featured steel bodywork and a few detail changes to the styling, but remained true to the show car's Italianesque exotic looks. Road testing was done by none other than BMW, which declared the 3's platform to be one of the stiffest they'd tested, with neutral handling and plenty of power.

Sadly, costs escalated and the 30 car run was ended after a mere five examples left the Bizzarrini factory. They are rare, highly prized, and absolutely gorgeous.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Congress Hotel

Congress Hotel by William 74
Congress Hotel, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.

A moody, sunset shot of the Congress Hotel in Chicago. Opened in 1893 for the World's Columbian Exposition, the Congress has undergone two major expansions through the years, the second one by Holabird and Roche in 1907. Originally designed as an annex for the Auditorium Theater across LaSalle Street, the hotel was connected to the theater for many years by a marble-lined tunnel called "Peacock Alley".

Both buildings still stand today.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Speed Demon

Speed Demon by William 74
Speed Demon, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.

A faux-vintage sticker on a real vintage motorcycle. I thought it might be real, or based on an old logo, but the "Go Fast or Go To Hell!" tag line rather gave it away!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Farm Fresh

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

A vintage powered lawn mower. I have no idea how old it is, or who made it, or what kind of engine is on it. All's I know is that it's in one of the upstairs stalls in my great-uncle's barn. Which totally sounds like I'm making it up, but it's true!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Apache Motel

Apache Motel by William 74
Apache Motel, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.

Vintage neon for the Apache Motel, Chicago. Note the reversed writing on the marquee-it used to say "Welcomes You", but they switched it around to mount the marquee strips.

I took this in 2009 and only just noticed this.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Deliciously Different!

Deliciously Different! by William 74
Deliciously Different!, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.

Created in 1866 by Detroit pharmacist James Vernor, Vernor's Ginger Ale is the oldest surviving ginger ale brand in the United States. After opening his own drugstore on Woodward Avenue, Vernor began selling bottling franchises for his popular drink, city by city. Primarily a regional drink (and it remains most popular in Michigan, northeastern Ohio, and Southern Ontario), Vernor's became a national brand in the 1980's. Although, now I think of it, it's still kind of hard to find!

This vintage Vernor's sign is on display in the Museum Of Science and Industry, in Chicago.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

J.C. Higgins

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

For almost sixty years, Sears sold sporting goods under the J.C. Higgins name. Originally named after longtime Sears employee John Higgins, an Irish immigrant who began working for the company in 1898, eventually becoming a vice president of the company before retiring in 1930.

The Higgins name continued to be used by Sears until 1968, and the company sold a wide range of sporting goods under the brand, from rifles to golf clubs. This included bicycles, including this farm-fresh fifties cruiser.