On Sunday, June 1st, newly restored Chicago & West Towns Railways car 141 was formally dedicated at the Illinois Railway Museum.
We previously featured the West Towns in a two-part series here and here. In addition, CERA published the definitive book on the railway in 2006, by the late James J. Buckley, and edited by Richard W. Aaron. It’s still in print.
Finally, we recently issued The Complete ERHS Collection on DVD, which includes a 1952 short book on the Chicago & West Towns written by the late Robert W. Gibson.
There are historical connections to car 141 that bring together CERA, ERHS, and the Illinois Railway Museum. The car was used on an early CERA fantrip in 1939. Later, after the West Towns had converted to buses in 1948, car 141 became a storage shed, minus its running gear. It was saved from destruction in 1959 by the Electric Railway Historical Society, and was hauled to the ERHS site in Downers Grove, where it remained until 1973.
Then, it became part of the IRM collection. The long process of restoration started in 1997 and continued until 2013, under the direction of longtime volunteer Frank Sirinek. You can read more about that processhere. Although the journey was long, the results are magnificent and speak wonders about the tireless dedication of the museum’s volunteers.
C&WT 141, ready for dedication.
IRM did things up right on Sunday to honor Mr. Sirinek and formally introduce the West Towns car, the only survivor of its fleet, into revenue service. The event took place at the 50th Avenue “L” station, which came from Cicero, in West Towns territory.
A 1944 Ford motor bus, which although not from the West Towns has been restored as number “343,” one number higher than the actual sequence, was on hand to greet the trolley. A sharp-looking 1948 Chrysler was also on hand. After a few brief speeches, Frank Sirinek took the controls and began taking passengers around the IRM trolley loop. An accordion player added musical accompaniment onboard the train.
IRM volunteers passed out souvenir flyers, reproduced below, along with reproduction transfers. Car 141 is also featured in the latest issue of Rail and Wire, the museum’s magazine.
You can sample the flavor of the event in the photos posted below. In addition, we have three videos for your enjoyment:
PS- All 2014 photos by David Sadowski
Chicago & West Towns Railways 141 on a CERA fantrip, April 23, 1939. (Lamar M. Kelley Photo)
141 as it appeared in September, 1959. (Charles L. Tauscher Photo)
Perhaps CSL streetcar 3142, also out on the trolley loop, used to meet up with C&WT 141 at Cermak and Kenton.
A 1948 Chrysler parked outside the IRM Diner.
Montebello Municipal Lines 17, repainted as the Chicago and West Towns 343, was built by Ford in 1944.
The dedication ceremony, fittingly, took place at 50th Avenue “L” station, which was transplanted to IRM from Cicero.
Although not an actual C&WT bus, the “343” is the closest possible recreation of the real thing, and was spotted at the 50th Avenue station for the event.
The C&WT logo on the “343.”
The sign on 343 harkens back to the signage West Towns used on streetcars and buses in 1948, when trolley service ended.
A rear view of the 1944 Ford bus.
Wooden “L” car 1797, awaiting the arrival of C&WT 141 at 50th Avenue.
Along with the Ford bus, a 1948 Chrysler added to the history of the occasion.
From left: IRM President Joe Stupar, Frank Sirinek, Barbara Lanphier.
From left: Frank Sirinek, Barbara Lanphier, Gwen Stupar, Joe Stupar.
George Kanary with car 141, representing the Electric Railway Historical Society.
Car 141, ready for its close-up.
A nice view of the motorman’s stool in the 141.
C&WT 141 meets the 1944 Ford bus at 50th Avenue.
The 1948 Chrysler sedan, complete with optional sun visor.
C&WT 141 has been beautifully restored.
Fans board the 141 for its first trip in revenue service since 1948.
Enthusiastic fans aboard 141. Note the stove, used to heat the car in winter.
Fans on 141 were serenaded by an accordion player.
141, ready to head out on its first official trip in IRM service.
Car 141 is fittingly decorated with period photos and signage.
A close-up view of the stove aboard 141.
141, signed for La Grange.
The West Towns served Brookfield Zoo, which opened on July 1, 1934.
Frank Sirinek at the controls of 141. He spearheaded the decades-long restoration of the car.
Passengers disembark from 141 after completing its first trip after the dedication.
A side view of the 1948 Chrysler parked in front of the IRM Diner.