Today, we have a “guest” article by CERA Member Tom Sharratt, who is an active volunteer at the Illinois Railway Museum:
The story of the North Shore Line’s Electroliners is well known and was featured in Passenger Train Journal issue 255. Recently, Rock Hill Trolley Museum returned its former Electroliner, preserved as a Liberty Liner, to operating condition although much restoration work remains. IRM’s Electroliner (801-802) was restored to its original exterior appearance about 25 years ago when it returned to Illinois. This restoration included removing two doors that were added for service in Philadelphia to speed loading/unloading, reinstalling trolley poles and applying a high quality paint job. But when the train was taken out for operation, it immediately had motor problems. As a result, the Liner was moved to “temporary” storage in IRM’s Barn 4 where it remains today – well protected, but not open to visitors, not operable and not restored on the interior. It has been taken out on rare occasions for photo opportunities and to tease enthusiasts, but no work has been done.
That is changing. Last Spring, several IRM members gathered to develop a plan to restore the train to operating condition, inside and out, in time for its 75th Anniversary in January 2016. One of those members was Barbara Lanphier, whose father worked for the North Shore Line and who was born the same year as the Electroliners. For her, this project has a very special meaning. For the others, memories of riding and photographing the car is a driving motivation. They realize that while IRM has many priceless historic pieces in its collection, most people consider the Electroliner to be one of the three pieces most commonly associated with the museum. The others are the Nebraska Zephyr and Frisco Decapod 1630. Those two are operational. It is time to complete the restoration of the Electroliner so that it can once again operate and show the public its beauty and demonstrate the contribution it made in the effort to offer fast, comfortable and modern rail transportation during the 1930s and 40s.
A realistic analysis of what needs to be done showed that this project will not be easy – or cheap. The first and most critical job is to remove all eight traction motors and have them inspected and repaired as necessary by a qualified professional electric contractor. Based on past experience, it is estimated that this alone will cost $150,000. IRM wants to start this part of the project this summer. Once the motors are reinstalled, a Photographers’ Special will be held on a day that the museum is not open to the public – with premium priced tickets being used to continue the restoration. The second phase will involve replacement of the air conditioning system – essential to operation since the train is a sealed unit. This is estimated to cost $75,000. While the trains were in service in Philadelphia, the electric griddles were removed. An Electroliner without an Electroburger is unthinkable, so IRM will have to install a replacement – estimated cost: $10,000. The third phase involves reupholstering the seats, cleaning and painting as necessary. This will cost an estimated $100,000. And finally there are the unknown, but anticipated problems, that will occur when a 75 year old train that hasn’t operated in approximately 35 years is powered up. Electrical wiring and control systems, the brake system, plumbing and other problems yet to be determined will need to be repaired or replaced. It is estimated that these may cost up to $135,000. IRM volunteers are starting work on the interior as warmer weather arrives.
There is good news: just over $100,000 has been raised as of the end of March! Grants are being submitted, but the heavy lifting will have to come from individuals. As soon as $150,000 has been raised, the motor work will begin – and that needs to be done this summer to meet of goal of January 2016!
Visit the IRM website to check on progress and to make tax deductible donations at the museum store. Or, send a donation to: Campaign for the Electroliner, Illinois Railway Museum, PO Box 427, Union IL 60180. There are incentives for those giving at various levels – for details, contact Tom Sharratt at firstname.lastname@example.org. For these incentive programs, cumulative giving is used – donations over a period of time will qualify for the various levels. For frequent updates, photographs and more, visit the Electroliner Facebook Page .
Total needed: $500,000. Even if IRM had that much today, the work needs to be done and the clock is ticking. YOUR SUPPORT IS NEEDED NOW! Please contribute something today, and regularly until the Electroliner is again rolling on the museum’s mainline and Electroburgers are being served in the tavern lounge.