Recapture the glory days of trolley travel in the Fox Valley with a trip to the Fox River Trolley Museum, on Route 31 in South Elgin. The museum's line is a two-mile remnant of the old Aurora, Elgin & Fox River Electric Co.'s line that once connected Carpentersville with Yorkville, and was co-owned for more than 20 years by the group of financiers that built the CA&E. Not only does the ride recreate a trip into the past, the Fox River Trolley Museum has one of the line's original interurban cars. AE&FRE 304 is expected to operate for several special events this year, as efforts continue to return it to the condition and paint scheme it wore in the early 1930s.
The museum's season opens Sunday, May 11, Mother's Day, with a special treat for mom, stepmom, grandma and even great-grandma -- a free ride with a paid child's fare. Other adults pay the regular fare of $4, $3 for seniors, age 65 and older, and $2 for children, ages 3-11. Children under 3 ride free. Visit foxtrolley.org.
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Mother's Day is only the first of 19 scheduled special event days at the museum, located at 365 S. LaFox St., South Elgin. Others include:
• Rails to Victory, June 7-8. Remember the veterans of America's Greatest Generation as the nation marks the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion. Experience a World War II military encampment, view period battles on the banks of the Fox, ride special trains that take you "behind the lines" and re-enact the cat-and-mouse game between the French Resistance and occupying Nazi troops. There's also a U.S. Home Front baseball game featuring the Rockford Peaches, made famous in the 1992 film "A League of Their Own." AE&FRE 304 is expected to operate. Special fares apply, and tickets may be purchased in advance.
• Father's Day, June 15. Dad, Grandpa, Stepdad, and even Great-Grandpa ride free with a paid child's fare; others pay regular rates.
• July 4, Red White and Blue Value Day. Celebrate America's birthday and the museum's 48th anniversary with the best deal of the year -- all rides, all trips, $2. Bring a picnic lunch and enjoy the holiday on the museum's grounds or at the Jon J. Duerr Forest Preserve, the line's southern terminus.
• Aug. 16-17: Two great celebrations and one great time as the museum's annual TrolleyFest runs simultaneously with the village of South Elgin's Riverfest Express food, fun, music and carnival rides. AE&FRE304 is among the cars expected to operate. Regular fares apply, but trolley museum hours are extended to 6 p.m. each night. Tickets for trolley rides are not honored on carnival rides.
• Sept. 21 and 28: The Caboose Train is back! Repairs are complete to the museum's former CTA freight locomotive, the only one anywhere that operates. Take a ride with the conductor in the big red Illinois Central caboose or up front with the motorman on the museum's demonstration freight train.
• Oct. 18-19 and 25-26: The Pumpkin Trolley. The corn is in the shock and the pumpkins are ready for you to harvest in the museum's very own Pumpkin Patch. Regular fares apply, but pumpkins are $2 apiece. AE&FRE 304 is expected to operate. All children get a small treat.
• Oct. 18 and 25: Ghost Story Train. Ride a spooky trolley to the haunted forest preserve and listen to chilling stories around the campfire while enjoying monstrously good treats. Suitable for all ages. Special fares apply, and purchase of tickets in advance is highly recommended.
• Dec. 6-7, 13-14 and 20-21: The Polar Express comes to life. Board at Blackhawk platform in the Jon Duerr Forest Preserve for the ride to the North Pole; children get the First Gift of Christmas, visit with Santa, sing carols and hear the Chris Van Allsberg classic read cover to cover. And who knows what the conductor will punch into your ticket! This event sells out months in advance; tickets go on sale June 1.
The Fox River Trolley Museum, in South Elgin, is dedicated to recreating the colorful Trolley Era in the Chicago area, one of the major centers for electric transport in the early 20th Century. The museum, a 501(c)(3) Illinois nonprofit, is staffed entirely by volunteers who attempt to evoke memories and make each trip memorable. Hours are 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. Sundays through Nov. 2, Saturdays July 5-Aug. 30 and Oct. 18 and 25, and major holidays. For more information, or to charter a train, call (847) 697-4676.