Sunday, August 3, 2008

Illinois Railway Museum and Car Show

Earlier this year the LCC-LMR made the 18th Annual Vintage Transport Extravaganza one of our summertime events to show our cars. The Extravaganza is held at the Illinois Railway Museum in Union, IL. Well before Mario and I purchased the Clenet, we penned this car show into our calendars thinking we'd show our 1967 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham.

The Illinois Railway Museum is something that everyone needs to see - even without having the additional 500+ vintage cars added to the mix! Museums I've visited display artifacts in small glass cases or within moderate vignettes. This museum has hundreds of locomotives, coaches, interurban commuter trains, trolleys and most anything else that can ride on rails! We walked through vintage train cars that were contained in barns several-hundred feet long. Some train cars were in all of their restored glory, while others are awaiting complete makeovers from hundreds of die-hard volunteer rail enthusiasts.

Getting there...hours, minutes, miles and car swapping. Sounds like something one did at parties during the 70's by mixing car keys in a large bowl.Yesterday, Mario needed to be in Three Oaks, MI for their annual summer fest that is held along the main street of the tiny hamlet. He combined the Clenet with the Realty's parade float, which is a cute little house that is painted in Century 21 yellow with white trim and black details. Being one of the busiest summers I've had in years, Ken and I missed the summer fest to attend a wedding held in Indianapolis, IN. With no time to swap cars on Sunday morning, Ken and I took the Jaguar X-type sedan from Michigan instead of my XK8 convertible. I will require the sedan in Chicago on Monday morning to collect our distant cousins who will be arriving from Italy. Try getting 3 adults and their luggage into an XK8, especially after an eight hour international flight...I think not.

Early Sunday morning, Ken and I left the very fashionable downtown Indy hotel and headed north along I-65 to rendezvous with Mario just over the Indiana/Illinois border. I phoned Mario and gave him our estimated time of our arrival to the expressway oasis, hoping to allow him sufficient time from his home in Lakeside, MI. As Ken and I arrived at the Mobil station, the Clenet was already parked at one of the gas pumps. We pulled along side and began to re-fuel the Jaguar. Mario walked from the store, saw us and said he just pulled in a few minutes ago. Talk about great timing! We agreed to change cars for the ninety-minute drive to Union, IL. We quickly moved to the oasis rest area and made a pit-stop for breakfast and much needed coffee.
The drive out to Union was uneventful with the Sunday morning traffic being quite light.
Utilizing our Garmin navigation devices made our jaunt much easier as we didn't need to bother referencing our printed maps. We arrived at the show-car gate and were surprised when one of the attendants spotted our car and knew exactly what our car is. He also inquired if our car still had the original crystal ashtray and unfortunately it doesn't.

Most car shows I've attended over the years usually assemble the cars in an open field or area with neat orderly rows and categorize by make/manufacturer. Not here! Cars and groups were placed sporadically about the campus and in areas between the rail car barns. Some cars were grouped by manufacturer and marque, while others were grouped by club affiliate without regard to make/year/manufacturer.

As Ken and I drove along the paved drive, we passed some of these groups of cars while the volunteers gestured us to keep moving along to our designated area. Being our first visit to the Railway Museum, we did not know what to expect, nor where the car would fit in. Nope, not GM, Chrysler, nor Ford products. We passed Special Interest and noted the Studebaker, Cord and Packards with AMC nearby. I kept driving along and passed our designated and assigned area. Darn it! I now had to find a place to turn the Clenet around.

As we returned to our assigned area, the somewhat helpful volunteer motioned us into the Replica / Kit car area that was mostly filled with the local Chicagoland Replicar Association. Link: We pulled in to the assigned area nestled between a 1950's 4-car train to one side and one of the train barns on the other. Not wanting to express my concern that I was showing a low-production, factory-built vehicle and not a replica, we took our assigned space and quickly became acquainted with members of this local car club. Several members came right over, introduced themselves and asked many questions about the Clenet that we were very eager to answer.

Within minutes, Mario arrived and quickly asked why our car was assigned to this particular area. Without knowing who, what or why, I answered him by assuming the organizers chose this particular category for our car because they don't know what a Clenet is. Knowing the car show was not juried, we let it go and continued meeting more of the Chicagoland Replicar Club members and checked out their wonderful collection of hand-built cars. Their cars ranged from the well-known MG and Mercedes replicas to a stunning blue Bugatti along with a boat-tail speedster.

Just about an hour had passed when two Ferrari replicas arrived. Mario, Ken and I paid particular attention to these cars and questioned the owners/builders who all happen to be women. That's what I like...a girl who knows how to cut into metal with an acetylene torch! Their story and cars can also be seen at the noted link.

We finished setting up the Clenet with our information cards and leaflets to help educate & inform the public at large, then set off to see the show cars, walk through and ride the trains. What a wonderful way to spend the day.

Ron Zarantenello

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