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300-308

301a.jpg
301 in Wheaton yard post modernization
Photo by Don Ross
Specifications
Manufacturer:Niles
Built:19061
Quantity:6
Numbers:300-308
Length:53'-1"1
Width:8'-8"1
Height:13'-0"1
Weight:83,900 lbs.1 (300)
93,500 lbs.1 (301, 307)
75,000 lbs.1 (302-306, 308)
Trucks:Pullman1
Baldwin1 (300, 301)
Motors:2-GE66B1
4-GE66B1 (300, 307)
Control:GE C211
Seats:521
Couplers:Van Dorn

History:

In January 1906, the Aurora, Elgin and Chicago Railway placed an order for the construction of ten interurban cars with the Niles Car and Manufacturing Company,2 the firm which had previously constructed the railroad’s first cars and the previous series. Nine of these would be standard passenger cars while the tenth would be built to the same general specifications, but be laid out and equipped for parlor car service.

TheChicagoCarAuroraIll.jpg
300 and a follower are at Aurora on a card postmarked in 1908, giving a good example of the original configuration. They began with window guards, a small destination sign beneath motorman’s window, vertical bar pilot, and arched upper sash.

Don Bosan-Bruno collection

The nine standard cars in the order were double-ended, heavy-interurban cars with a vestibule at each end. Passenger space was divided into main and smoking compartments which were separated by a partition. A small a lavatory was provided in the main compartment. This was the same general layout as the 200 series, however these cars were fourteen inches longer than their predecessors. Electrical pickup was through truck-mounted gravity third rail shoes and a pair of trolley poles affixed to the roof.

The cars were each equipped with four GE 66B motors and were sequentially numbered 300 through 308. This broke with the previous numbering system where motor cars were only given even numbers.

Once placed in service, they operated everywhere on the system, except perhaps on the Geneva branch where tight radius curves on the Fox River Division may have precluded their operation.

Circa 1911, the small destination signs found beneath the motorman’s window were replaced with larger, folding destination and classification signs in order to help identify limited trains. When flipped down into the open position, this produced a 30 in. x 30 in. white square with the word “Limited” and the train’s destination. In the center of the sign was an 8 in lens illuminated by a 16 cp [15.696 candela] lamp. The back of the sign was painted the same as the exterior of the car to reduce its visibility when folded up and not in use.3

In 1923, the Conway-management introduced the steel-built 400 series which were mechanically and electrically incompatible with the existing cars. The 400s were designed to be more luxurious cars for the faster limited trains and, as such, were given the exclusive assignment to these runs. With the arrival of the 400s, 300-308 (along with the rest of the wooden fleet) were phased out of limited service, instead being assigned only to local trains.

With the limiteds being handled by the incompatible steel cars, a compatible parlor car was needed. Car 305 was selected to be this car and was heavily rebuilt for this service.1 As part of its conversion, 305 had its seats removed, a kitchen installed, its couplers and control equipment replaced, and its sides clad in steel to help it visually train better with the 400s. Upon exiting the shops, it was renumbered 600.

Samuel Insull purchased the CA&E from Dr. Conway in 1926 and in 1928, the Chicago Aurora & Elgin acquired fifteen steel cars from the Cincinnati Car Company. Unlike under Conway, the steel cars were not restricted to any specific class of service and, with a pool now totaling thirty five, they began to cover the base service. With the newer cars handling the majority of service, use of the wooden fleet was reduced to Chicago-Wheaton locals and the cars rarely (if ever) ventured west of Wheaton in regular service except for use on the Batavia shuttle.4

At some point prior to 1939, cars 302, 303, 304, 306, and 308 had half their motors removed.

Beginning in 1940, the 300s began to be cycled through Wheaton shops and modernized. By this point passenger cars with arched stained glass windows had gone out of style and many railroads had already replaced their wooden cars with modern, steel equipment. The CA&E, however, was never in a financial position to do so and instead opted to update the appearance of its older cars. The most visible change to the cars was the removal of the antiquated arched stained-glass upper sash. Once modernized, the exterior of the cars presented a taller letterboard above the side windows though the arches leftover from the upper sash were still visible from the interior.

Unlike the modernizations/overhauls that occurred with the steel cars, the 300s were not rebuilt as a group, but were done one by one over a period of at least nine years. The first to receive this treatment was car 302, which exited the shops minus its “rainbow sash” in May of 1940. This was followed by 304 in September 1940, 301 in December 1940, 306 in July 1941, 300 in May 1942, 303 in March 1945, and finally car 307 in July of 1949. Car 308 received the same treatment at an as-of-yet undetermined date.1

All the remaining cars of the series remained in operation, providing service for local rush hour trips between Wells Street and Wheaton and on the Batavia shuttle. They survived the wooden car purge that occurred after the cutback of service from Wells Street to Forest Park and remained in operation until July 3, 1957, when the Chicago, Aurora and Elgin suddenly shut down at 12:13 p.m.

When the railroad was scrapped in 1962, Gerald Brookins purchased car 303 for his Columbia Park and Southwestern (which eventually became Trolleyville, USA) while Jan and Pat Girardot acquired 308 for the Indiana Museum of Transport and Communication in Noblesville, Indiana.5 The remaining six cars were scrapped.

In 1996, the Illinois Railway Museum purchased 308 from the Indiana Museum of Transport and Communication. 303 Remained at Trolleyville, USA, until that was shut down and the Brookins collection was transferred to the Cleveland RTA as part of an attempted transformation into the Lake Shore Electric Railway Museum. The car was fitted with a single-arm pantograph for operation over the Green Line. Ultimately the museum failed to materialize, a victim of the recession, and in December 2009, 303 was purchased by the Connecticut Trolley Museum.6

Additional Photos

Sources:

  1. The Great Third Rail. Central Electric Railfans' Association, 1961, p. III-17.
  2. AURORA, ELGIN & CHICAGO RAILWAY ORDERS NEW CARS.” Street Railway Journal 27 Jan. 1906, p. 164. <via Archive.org>
  3. Rolling Stock Maintenance and Other Operating Features of the Aurora, Elgin & Chicago Railroad.” Electric Railway Journal 19 Aug. 1911, p. 309. <via Archive.org>
  4. Plachno, Larry. Sunset Lines: The Story of the Chicago Aurora & Elgin Railroad 2 - History. Transportation Trails, 1989, p. 313.
  5. Hicks, Randall. “History of CA&E 308.” Blogger. Google, 1 Jan. 2009. Accessed 22 June 2016.
  6. Bresse-Rodenkirk, Bob. “Lake Shore Electric Railway Auction.” Shore Line Interurban Historical Society, 2 Oct. 2009. Accessed 22 June 2016.