Sunday, October 12, 2014

EJ & E Railroad (part 2)

So while I was on Google looking up information on the EJ & E Railroad, I found a bunch of photos that I wanted to share, because it's a part of the history of my husband's family.

Trains and Box Cars ......

An EJ E switch engine moves cars yard Joliet's east side.

6 Brass Keys from Railroads, including the EJ & E in the top middle ....

I saw these, wish they were bigger images ...

My husband, when I told him I was going to share some history and such from the EJ&E Railroad, he said "The J" and I said "what?"  ... he says ... "It was just referred to as THE J all around the area,"

Vintage E J & E Railway oil can. The only information is regards to this railway was the ELGIN, JOLIET & EASTERN Railway of Illinois and Indiana.

The caption on this said it was a "Waiters Badge"

A hard item to find from the EJ&E rr. Tool check of some type with the number 72 on it.

10 year service pin from the EJ&E railroad, now taken over by the. Canadian National. Bottom ribbon says Elgin Joliet & Eastern Ry.

Barrington, IL Train Station

EJ&E Bridge Tower

Some Maps

EJ & E Railroad (part 1)

So in the last entry, I talked of how my husband's Grandparents (etc) worked for the Railroad in Joliet, Illinois ....

I found some really interesting information about the railroad, and some other blogs.   I wanted to make sure to share them ... the photos are amazing.

First there is THIS amazing site!!!

There is also this SITE .... STEAMLOCOMOTIVE(dot)com

I found this blog :  Zett's O Scale Train Layout  ... he was on a mission to create a replica of the Union Station and of EJ & E Railroad.  His Grandfather was a Conductor for the railroad.   But he shared some history also .....  on these blogs..... Only reason I'm posting the blogs because - in case he decides to delete his blog, I'd like to be able to reference them, and his photos he shared, especially if I find some bigger connection later on.  However; I am linking back to Zett's original posts!!  I feel like this is a huge find even though it doesn't directly pertain to my husband's family.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Employee's Picnic 1928

Here is a picture taken in the summer of 1928, showing the Elgin Joliet & Eastern Railway 755 2-8-2 Mikado. According the the this locomotive was built by Alco Brooks in 1923.

This is a special picture for my family, showing my great grandfather James McArdle, who was an engineer on the 755. He is shown wearing a white cap in the picture, 6th from the left. At the EJ&E yearly picnic, different divisions of the railway would clean and decorate an engine, that would be entered into a contest. According to a letter my great grandfather wrote, the 755 lost this contest in 1928 to the Gary division engine 748. The contest turned serious in 1929, to which the 755 would emerge victorious (I will share some photographs of the 755 in 1929 in the future). The 755 is seen here pulling passenger cars that carried employee family members for the special occasion. This picture was taken in Plainfield, IL north of the grain elevator which still stands today, just south of route 59. The engine is draped in a patriotic red white and blue. The American Flags at the time had 48 stars, 6 horizontal rows of 8.
Posted by Zett at 11:25 AM 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Typical Days of the Past

In the early to mid 1900s, the downtown area of the City of Joliet was filled with people, businesses, and of course steam engines. Before the tracks were elevated, these locomotives passed right through the city on ground level. Back when train service was at its peak in the 1940s, who knows how many engines would storm through downtown each day. Since its construction in 1912, hundreds of thousands of steam engines roared past the Joliet Union Station, a sight that is now rarely seen. The last time a steam engine passed through Joliet, to my knowledge, was September 1992. I was 9 years old, and my dad did not take me out of school to see it. My dad went to see it though, along with my Uncle and Grandfather.

The above posted video was taken by John Rockey, posted with his permission. You can see his webpage at This video of the Santa Fe 3571 is rare look at a sight and sound that citizens of Joliet used to experience on a daily basis for over 70 years. In the background you can see the southeast face of the Joliet Union Station.
Posted by Zett at 2:46 PM 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Rock Island line at Joliet's Union Station

Sometimes I will look at an old building and just find it fascinating that 100 years ago life went on around that same building just as it does today. It is a completely different time, so many changes to everything, however there the building stands just as it did long ago. History is what makes Joliet special to me. I look at photographs like the ones shown below and can see a world that is familiar to me as it appeared to family members long past. Today if you stand at Joliet's Union Station, there is constant freight traffic moving north/south being pulled by Union Pacific and BNSF diesels. On the east/west tracks you will most likely see a Metra passenger train or a CSX freight train.

Flash back as recent as 62 years and you would see this. A Rock Island Lines 4-8-4 steam engine pulling a freight load eastbound. This shot is taken standing on the south side of the station facing west, looking toward the DesPlaines river. Today only the tracks closest to the platform pavers remains.

Posted above is the Rock Island 4-8-4 #5114 heading west. If you click on the picture above and open the larger version, you can clearly see the bell on the front of the engine swinging away. This picture is taken looking east, standing in roughly the same location described above. The switch tower seen in this picture still stands today, however its future at this time is uncertain.

It is always a treat coming across photographs like this. Special thanks to Lance Wales who gave me permission to repost photographs which are in his collection, original photos by Bruce MacDonald. You can view Lance Wales collection here.
Posted by Zett at 10:12 PM 

Friday, January 20, 2012

Whistle Operations

When the time does come to finally run some trains on my layout, I will run them in a prototypical manner. With that said, I am not an expert, and definitely have zero experience when it comes to actual train operations. So I have some learning to do, but that is part of the fun. In my recent quest to uncover some family train history, my Aunt and Uncle came across some old documents that belonged to my Uncles father. I know he worked on the Chicago Rock Island & Pacific Railway in at least 1941-1942, and then was hired on with EJ&E. Beyond that I don't know specifics at this time, we will see what I can uncover in the future. My Aunt and Uncle were kind enough to give me some pay stubs, and an EJ&E time table.

The table went into effect in 1942. Once again, I love history, and its amazing to me how much can change over 70 years, but its also interesting what does not change. Reading through this time table was very interesting. When it comes to engine operation, the 40 page booklet started with this inside the front cover:

Still the same today as it was long before 1942. Doing some research I learned that the typical crossing signal of 2 long, 1 short, and 1 long is morse code for the letter Q. This whistle signal was used when the Queen of England was on board a ship at sea, and the signal was sounded to make other ships aware that the queen was on board, signaling a yield to other ships. This practice eventually became universally known as a signal to yield, and was somehow picked up by the railroad industry. I have no idea if this is the entire history of the signal or not, but it makes sense. Some other common signals are as follows:

1 short - stopping
1 long - approaching station
2 short - 10-4 or acknowledge
1 short 1 long - inspect train
2 long - proceed forward
3 short - proceed reverse
4 short - warning or get off tracks

There are many more but when it comes to running a layout, these are the signals that would be most used in operation. I will share more from the time table in the future.
Posted by Zett at 10:20 PM 

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Employee's Picnic 1928 - Part 2

Imagine what life would be like living back in the 1920s, or 1930s. Hard to do when compared to todays life of television, cell phones, we have things easy compared to 85 years ago. I guess that is what made the EJ&E employee picnics such a grand event. It seems that it was an event of complete joy and celebration. It seems that the build up, planning and preparation, made the event a highlight of each year.

I do not know too many specifics regarding the annual event, other than it took place for many years, going back at least as far as 1909. In part 1 I shared a photograph that is famous in my family and is a centerpiece of my personal collection. Finally, thanks to my sister, I now have our entire family collection scanned. My grandfather wrote on a few of the pictures, in some cases drawing arrows right through the middle of the photograph (awesome). Although I wish he would not have done this, at least I can view the pictures now and know exactly what I am looking at.

Here is a cab shot of my great grandfather James McArdle, who was an engineer on the 755. As I stated in part 1, the engine was "gaily decorated." That is in his words. According to him in a letter written to the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, the 755 was cleaned and decorated, all in a day and a half. The engine lost to the Gary Division engine 748, which was prepared for two weeks leading up to the picnic.

A shot of the front of the engine shows even flowers were used for decoration. American flags stand proudly over a curved base painted with the year 1928. Safety first is not a strange addition to an EJ&E locomotive, and was obviously a company priority, even during a day of fun.

My great grandfather is now standing on the left, posing for a picture with the fireman, standing in the center holding an oil can. I do not know who the individual is standing on the right. My great grandfather stated in his 1929 letter that the engineers and firemen would change into the "ice cream vendors" (white overalls). I would assume that they would then serve ice cream to family members and guests, and this is why they are wearing white hats. The first three pictures posted were taken in Plainfield, IL near the grain tower that still stands today.

The final two pictures I have to share show a crowd gathering during a yearly picnic. I am not sure of the date of these pictures, however on the back my grandfather wrote "EJ&E picnic Washington St. and Henderson Ave." This is an intersection in Joliet that is just southwest of the EJ&E east yard, and just east of the Joliet Union Station.

My guess is that these picture were taken prior to 1928. It appears that the crowd is gathering around a Northern Pacific box car. I do not know what the track arrangement was like at this area during that time. Today the tracks in this area are the old Rock Island line which is now a freight line used by CSX, and Metra which still operates a passenger service to Chicago.

The 755 makes a return to the employee's picnic for 1929. I have some amazing photographs of this engine to share in the future, as well as my great grandfathers complete letter to the B of LE. Stay tuned!
Posted by Zett at 2:54 PM 

**** NOTE ****  Wouldn't it be amazing - just thinking that DB's relatives are in those last two pictures????   They most likely are, since they worked there at the time.   

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Joliet Track Elevation Project - Rock Island Line

With the Union Station as the centerpiece of my layout, the track elevation project that began in 1908 and concluded in 1912 will be a major characteristic of my track plan. It is amazing to think that as recent as 100 years ago, the train traffic crusied directly through the downtown area, which at the time was the place to be in Joliet. In fact, the main Rock Island line sat directly next to the courthouse, and then passed directly through Jefferson St. just east of Chicago. I would like to know how loud and disturbing it would have been during that time to be trying to hold a trial with a steam engine crawling past, undoubtedly shaking the entire courthouse.

This first picture is taken from the clock tower of the old courthouse looking east. The street below is Jefferson St. and you can see the two main lines of the Rock Island crossing Jefferson St. Its hard to imagine the city center with this arrangement today.

Traveling further west, this is the old Joliet Rock Island station that was used prior to the construction of the Union Station. This picture is taken looking west.

Now moving even further west, here is a very early shot of the Rock Island line crossing the DesPlaines river prior to the construction of the lift bridge in 1930. The I&M Canal is on the right. This picture was possibly taken from an upper floor of the Joliet National Hotel which was on the corner of Jefferson (Exchange St. at the time) and Bluff St.

The construction of the track elevation brings the landscape of downtown Joliet to where it is today. The lift bridge was constructed in 1930 and at one time had two active lines. Today there is only one active line. This bridge has seen a lot of railroad history pass over it, everything from steam engines to the Rock Island Aero train.

Standing on top of the track elevation looking west, you can see where a second main line used to exist on the left.

Facing east from the same position you can see the gradual curve towards Union Station which is covered by the trees on the right. The new courthouse dominates this view. To imagine the track configuration 100 years ago, pretend these tracks instead of curving to the right, proceed straight towards the courthouse on ground level.

Trying to match the scenery of this picture will be a challenge on my layout just because of the dried weeds inbetween the rails. Matching the ballast color should be an easier task.

A peek into the past is offered with these next two photographs. I am not sure how long these tracks have been out of service, but it has been quite a long time. This is the Rock Island line over DesPlaines St. It appears these tracks curved down and ran south along the east side of the river.

I wonder what the last engine was to pass over these rails.

The opposite side of the main line facing east shows this downgrade which ran just past Joliet St. for a time. Some old pictures shows passenger cars parked on this line.

The tracks were elevated with a concrete wall which at some spots shows its age at 100 years, though overall it is holding up quite well.

The final shot for today is a view of the line crossing over DesPlaines St. where the Rock Island Lines logo continues to fade. The Rock Island is no more, however the main line above is still quite active. CSX freight crosses this path at least 6 times a day.

Posted by Zett at 12:03 PM

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Union Station 100th Anniversary Banquet

Some exciting news as the Blackhawk chapter of the National Railway Historical Society have announced a banquet to celebrate the 100 years of the Joliet Union Station. On October 14th 1912 a grand opening celebration was held at the Union Station. The program of events for that day will be recreated to mark this special occasion, everything down to the menu will be influenced by the 1912 banquet.

This is pretty exciting and I think it is a great way to honor the past and celebrate what is one of the greatest historical structures still standing in Joliet. I guess I know what I am doing October 14th. For more information visit
Posted by Zett at 9:35 AM 

His last entry I am just copy and pasting, that is why it looks a little different.   

Monday, March 18, 2013

EJ&E 765 - The Last of its Kind

I would like to say that the #765 Mikado in Gary Indiana is the last surviving EJ&E steam engine, but at this point, it is probably more accurate to say that it is the last existing one. With that said, it is still great that it exists, which is a miracle in itself.

After seeing pictures of the 765 online for years, I finally made it out to see it for the first time in person. For me, I instantly got chills down my back as I turned westbound on to route 12 just east of Broadway in Gary, and caught my first glimpse of the tender.

Even though she has not had a heartbeat in decades, gazing upon the 765 in person is a wonderful experience. Since its not every day most of us see a steam engine, you quickly forget how massive these pieces of machinery are. Below I am going to post a few picture showing the engine. I am not too knowledgeable about the workings of a steam engine and its parts, so enjoy the pictures.

Here is a close up shot of the front. The headlght and number boards are long gone. The old electrical wiring inside still exists behind this fixture to a certain degree.

Only a fraction of the cow catcher is still in place.

My nephew Emmett looks upon the fireman side of the locomotive. He said "The wheels are huge!"

Alco Reverse Gear, patented in 1915. The engine was built in 1929 by Baldwin Locomotive works.

The metal is getting pretty thin in a lot of places. Years of erosion are much more visible up close.

Not much left in the cab. See picture below for reference.

Inside the cab looking up at the ceiling.

I found this carved into a piece of steel, it says "J 765." I wonder when this was actually added.


Here is me an my nephew in the cab. He was afraid to touch any of the levers. Maybe next time.

Well, that is how she looks today. Like I said earlier, at least she still exists. The sad part is just seeing what has happened to the engine over time. Several items of note are missing, such as the bell, whistle, builders plates, several controls and pipes. Some were removed over the years by the city, others I am sure were stolen and sold for scrap. I can only hope that somewhere the city of Gary has the whistle and bell, and that they were not melted down never to be seen again. The cab windows were encased in wood, which has since rotted away. Pieces of rotting wood are still present in the cab. At one point the cab had sliding windows as well. All long gone.

Well, if you want to see what the 765 looked like in her past glory days, here you go. Most of these images are from the Blackhawk Railway Historical Society. You can purchase photographs from them. Please visit their webpage at

Now, the 765 was presented to Gary Indiana after the city requested a steam engine from the EJ&E to put on display. In 1948 the EJ&E sold the 765 to DM&IR where it saw service renumbered as 1330. In 1962 it was returned to pristine condition, numbered back to the EJ&E 765, and presented to Gary. If you observe the photographs below, you can see the care and pride that went into this engine. It is a shame when you compare these pictures to what remains today.

Believe it or not, this is the same engine. Immaculate condition.

Here is a shot inside the cab. They had each lever labeled. I would guess that hundreds of hours went into getting the engine into condition for the donation. I believe the man in the center of this picture is the Mayor of Gary, George Chacharis. You can see the sliding cab window in the background.

Here is 765 in service, unknown location.

Restored and ready for delivery.

 765 being delivered to its final resting place. Looks like a great crowd turned out for the show.

Of course my hope for the 765 would be that it somehow would return to Joliet and be placed on display in front of Union Station. The plans for upcoming construction around the station call for a display of an old engine or piece of railroad equipment. Having this as the center piece would be incredible. I am sure some people in Gary would have something to say about that though. With that said, someone could at least take the time to accurately refinish the paint on the engine. Right now the EJ&E and the number 765 is almost made with a pastel yellow. The numbers were painted on freehand. If you look at the care that went into the presentation of this engine, it is disrespectful. The Chicago Outer Belt Line logo should be repainted on the tender. This would at least be a start. Who knows, maybe one day I will win the lottery and can bring the engine home to Joliet.
I want to thank Zett for the time and effort in sharing this amazing history on his journey!!  Things like this give those that can't access it a major piece of joy, just to be able to share in the history!