Illinois Railway Museum to restore classic Streamliner

  • Work on the Electroliner at the Illinois Railway Museum is now underway to return the luxury streamliner to operable condition within the next three years.

    Work on the Electroliner at the Illinois Railway Museum is now underway to return the luxury streamliner to operable condition within the next three years. Courtesy of Ronald P. Ziolkowski

 
Laurence Pearlman
Updated 10/3/2014 7:11 PM

The Illinois Railway Museum in Union has begun a restoration project planned to return the famous streamlined Electroliner to operational condition in 2017.

Delivered to the Chicago, North Shore and Milwaukee railroad early in 1941, the two Electroliner trains were capable of speeds close to today's higher speed Amtrak trains. Darting between Chicago and Milwaukee, the trains routinely traveled at 90 miles per hour using clean electric power. They served until the railroad was abandoned in January 1963, when they were sold to the Red Arrow Line in Philadelphia, where they served well into the 1970s.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The museum's Electroliner received an external restoration when it returned to Illinois in the 1980s, but problems with the train's eight electric motors prevented the streamliner from returning to operation. Work is now under way to return the luxury streamliner to operable condition within the next three years. In addition to work on the motors, work is needed on the wheels, trucks, air brakes and air conditioning before it can be operated.

"The two Electroliner trains were the high point in design and operation of electric interurban railroading in America. They were the North Shore Line's premier trains, each making five one-way trips each day between the center of downtown Milwaukee to the Loop in downtown Chicago. The trains are an important part of the area's local history and a very significant artifact of a bygone era," said Gwyneth Stupar, museum member and project leader for the restoration. "Many World War II and Korean War veterans remember riding these historic trains from Great Lakes Naval Base to Chicago or Milwaukee while on pass. We are thrilled at the prospect of bringing this train back to service."

Restoration work is expected to cost at least $750,000. Since the project was announced in July 2013, well over $100,000 has been raised, including grants from the National Railway Historical Society and the Tom E. Dailey Foundation of Chicago. A $25,000 matching grant has been approved by the 20th Century Electric Railway Foundation for the restoration of the historic train. In order to receive this grant, IRM must raise $25,000 in donations.

The Illinois Railway Museum is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. All donations are tax-deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law. Donations may be sent to the Electroliner Fund, Illinois Railway Museum, P.O. Box 427, Union IL 60160, or on the website (www.irm.org) at the "Museum Store" link.