Lake Shore Electric Railway Auction, Updated October 3, 2009

by Bob Bresse-Rodenkirk

After decades in the Cleveland area, seven Chicago-area interurban cars are returning home.

The cars are among 31 auctioned off to 10 museums October 2 in a sealed-bid auction for the collection of streetcars and interurbans assembled by real estate entrepreneur Gerald E. Brookins.

The 10 museums, including Illinois Railway Museum and the Fox River Trolley Museum, represented a consortium assembled by Shore Line Trolley Museum President Bill Wall.

“Chicago lost the Olympics but it got the Aurora & Elgin cars,” said IRM General manager Nick Kallas, who traveled to Cleveland for the opening of the bids, the only railway museum executive to do so.

IRM obtained CA&E cars 36 (Stephenson, 1902), 319 (Jewett, 1914), 409 (Pullman, 1923), 451 and 460 (both St. Louis, 1945) as well as Cooperativa de Transportes Urbanos y Suburbanos (Veracruz, Mexico) open car 19, a type of car not represented until now in the IRM collection.

“The euphoria is still sinking in here,” Kallas said. “We got what we wanted Aurora & Elgin-wise, although we didn’t get everything we wanted.”

Kallas said the cars may operate for the first time at IRM before the end of 2009, possibly in a special event for donors.

“It’s going to be a four-car steel train,” said Kallas, the fourth car being IRM’s CA&E 431 (Cincinnati, 1927). “I think there’s going to be some wet eyes out there after all these years.”

Kallas said IRM bid directly on nine cars in the complicated bidding process, in which two separate sets of bids were prepared. One set of bids were submitted directly to the board of the Lake Shore Electric Ry. Museum, which maintained the Brookins collection in its final years. The other, successful, consortium bid was assembled by Wall.

The motors will need to be reinstalled on CA&E 36 before it can operate; they had been removed for repair while in Cleveland. The other happy problem that IRM faces is finding room for six new cars at once, a stretch even for IRM, which is just completing construction of another barn.

“While all space is committed, we’re going to be doing a big shuffle around the place and we think we’ll be pretty successful in getting them inside,” Kallas said.

Fox River Trolley Museum is equally elated. Not only did it obtain another CA&E car, the 458 (St. Louis, 1945), it obtained an interurban that was built for its own railroad, Aurora, Elgin & Fox River Electric (later Shaker Heights Rapid Transit) car 304 (St. Louis, 1923).

“The greatest dream of the Fox River Trolley Museum is a reality,” museum President Edward Konecki said. “A Fox River car is coming home to the Fox River Line.”

Fox River has long planned an extension of its car barn, and Konecki said those plans may be fast-tracked. It also deaccessioned Johnstown 362 (St. Louis, 1926) to make room in the barn for AE&FRE 304.

“Next come the challenges of moving them, and preparing them for operation,” Konecki said.

CA&E 458 is easily the roughest of the returning cars. Gary Brookins, Gerald Brookins’ son and a long-time Trolleyville and LSE board member, said it has not operated in recent years.

“In my heart we know that these beautiful pieces are going to be in nice homes where they will be enjoyed for many generations,” Brookins said.

Brookins said it was “a sad day” for the museum, but was pleased that the consortium found homes for not only the streetcar and interurban collection, but for the five semi-trailer truckloads of parts in storage since 2006.

“We thought it in the best interest of everybody to accept Bill Wall’s bid,” said Brookins, who indicated that the consortium bid was $80,000 less in aggregate than the independent bids, but left six cars from the collection and many of the parts unclaimed, including “surprisingly,” CA&E 303.

“That was a good car. We were really shocked about that,” said Brookins about the 303, which was one of two cars operated in 2004 on the GCRTA Rapid and displayed several times since then at Tower City (the former Cleveland Union Terminal).

Nonetheless, he called the bidding process “extremely successful.”

In all, Brookins said, 14 museums will divide the parts.

Both museums continue to raise funds to defray the cost of acquiring the cars and transporting them to the Chicago area.

IRM is accepting donations online, at http://www.irm.org, in increments of $25, and Kallas said he expects IRM to develop a program to encourage higher-level donations. Fox River is accepting donations at the museum, or through the mail at P.O. Box 315, South Elgin, Ill., 60177-0315. Fox River also hopes to begin accepting online donations soon. It already has developed a program for higher-level donations:

  • $100: A one-day pass for rides on AE&FRE 304 and other operating cars; the donor gets to designate the day.

  • $250: A one-month pass for rides on AE&FRE 304 and other operating cars; the donor gets to designate the month.

  • $500: A one-season pass for two for rides on AE&FRE 304 and other cars, anticipated to be for the 2010 operating season.

  • $1,000: An invitation to ride the first regular trip of AE&FRE 304, along with a one-season pass for two.

Two ex-CA&E cars and one former AE&FRE car will not be returning to Chicago. CA&E 303 will travel the farthest, relocating to the Connecticut Trolley Museum, in East Windsor, Conn., with three other cars from the Brookins collection. The Northern Ohio Railway Museum, of Chippewa Lake, Ohio, will obtain five cars, including AE&FRE 303, which is expected to be restored in its silver, cream and red Shaker Heights livery, which Milwaukee transit fans may also remember as the livery worn by the two ex-Shaker Heights and ex-Fox River cars that labored for Speedrail 1950-51. The Electric City Trolley Museum, of Scranton, Pa., will obtain four cars, including CA&E 453.

LSE, named for the famed Ohio interurban that connected Toledo and Cleveland until 1938, had moved the collection in 2006 from suburban Olmsted Twp. to downtown Cleveland, hoping to establish a heritage trolley line in the Flats East Bank area, and at one time negotiated with the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA) to assume operation of its Waterfront rapid transit line using the interurbans. The economic downturn iced its ability to raise funds, and LSE had no other way to pay the bills for the engineering studies and planning it had commissioned.

Terms of the deal require the museums to remove the cars from Cleveland by the end of the year.

The cars dispersed to museums outside of the Chicago area are as follows:

  • National Capital Trolley Museum: Blackpool “Boat Car” 606, Toronto PCC 3602, MBTA PCC 3334
    .
  • Pennsylvania Trolley Museum: Cincinnati Street Railway 2227, Toledo Rys. parlor car “Toledo” and Centerville, Albia & Southern Ry. box motor 100.

  • Northern Ohio Railway Museum: AE&FRE 303, Cleveland Peter Witt 1225, Cleveland Transit System Airporter car 172, Northern Ohio Traction & Light Co. (later Shaker Heights and GCRTA) box motor OX and Norfolk & Western caboose 508021.

  • Seashore Trolley Museum: Cleveland Rys. Peter Witt trailer 2365 and Cleveland Transit System “Bluebird” rapid transit car 113.

  • Connecticut Trolley Museum: CA&E 303, Centervlle, Albia & Southern Ry. line car 1 Centerville, Albia & Southern Ry. box motor 101 and New York, Ontario & Western caboose 8146.

  • Electric City Trolley Museum: CA&E 453 and Shaker Heights PCC cars 63, 71 and 76.

  • Fort Smith (Ark.) Trolley Museum: Cooperativa de Transportes Urbanos y Suburbanos (Veracruz) open car 9.

  • New York Museum of Transportation: one unpowered line car.

 

         
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