Chicago – February 2019 – Union Station Architectural Tour

Back in Chicago for more architecture tours starting with the Union Station.

We passed by the symmetrical cool train shed and post office in the distance on the way.

Chicago was for more than 100 years mail order capital of the world with Sears, Montgomery Wards and others shipping products around the country. With all that business, the post office was massive. It is now being converted to condo’s and offices.

The entrance along Canal Street are graced with this massive colonnade the entire length.

The exterior doors and the surrounding ironwork.

Once inside, a quick look back at where we just came from reveals a grand entrance.

The Amtrak Metropolitan Lounge – AKA – The Pennsylvania Room, from the days of the Pennsylvania Railroad.

As you reach the Great Hall you are greeted with these massive Corinthian columns, and a scaffolding free skylight!

When we last visited for Open House Chicago in October the ceiling was covered with scaffolding. The temporary inconvenience has paid off – what a magnificent hall and ceiling.

Even the statues look brighter.

The detail on the tops of the columns are stunning.

A second view of a column as well as the period perfect lighting.

The south end of the hall.

With the renovation complete hopefully they tear down the hideous Amtrak kiosk that is so out of place.

The benches are original to the 1925 construction.

We were fortunate enough to get to visit the Burlington Room. In the early days it was the women’s lounge.

This creepy looking guy keeps watch over the room.

Our final stop was in the Legacy Club. It is awaiting some remodel for private event use.

The city of Chicago should be proud of their grand rail entrance now that the renovation has been completed.

Cleveland – February 2019 – Radwood

There is a group of auto enthusiasts who celebrate the 1980s and 90s automotive style couple with the overall feel of the time. They encourage period correct dress to go along with the cars.

Normally held outdoors with large audience participation I read online that the Crawford Auto Aviation Museum was holding an exhibit.

The small display of about a dozen cars did feature some fashion.

Some of it the classic (some would say tacky) look straight from Miami Vice.

It is not their goal to have the best, or most expensive cars presented, just ones that are representative of the era.

Overall the exhibit was disappointing because it lacked that audience participation. Fortunately there is more to see at the Crawford.

Most of the museum celebrates the long history of auto making in Cleveland and northern Ohio. One of the longest in business was White Motors who started building cars and trucks in 1900.

In addition to the cars and planes there are numerous large banners celebrating historic Cleveland events including the 1936 Great Lakes Exposition.

For many years Cleveland held the national air races. The exhibit includes a couple of the planes.

The lower level featured more automobiles with historic significance..

We finished by checking out this sweet Cleveland motorcycle

Chicago – December 2018 – Elevated Architecture: Downtown ‘El’ Train

Our final tour of this visit was one I was looking forward to – a tour of architecture of and from the El train. The tour would take us into a number of El stations, as well as checking out some of Chicago’s finest architecture from a view most don’t see – 20 feet up from the El platforms.

We made our way to our first station in the pouring rain. The group of 9 people were more than happy when we arrived at the Washington and Wabash Station. Rebuilt and opened just a year ago, this station is sometimes referred to as the Millennium Station as it is located just a block from the park (but to any Chicagoan it will always be Washington/Wabash).

The canopy is made of steel and glass, with waves that are to evoke the feeling of nearby Lake Michigan.

As you enter the station you are greeting by a significant amount of artwork.

A major portion of the tour was focused on the nearby buildings. We had seen the Sullivan Center previously, but on this tour we had the mix of the canopy of the station with the classic lines of the building.

This row of 5 floor buildings are survivors from the 1800s, and are classic buildings. All they need is someone to come along with $40-50 million to purchase and rehab them (perhaps into boutique hotels!)

We made our way clockwise around the loop to the stations at State and Van Buren, aka the Harold Washington Library Station.

While the station is a fairly typical El station, it has great views of the Fisher Building and the Monodnock Building.

The Fisher Building is an 1896 Daniel Burnham masterpiece. As with many buildings it was built in two phases. Note the bay windows on the portion closest to the camera, then a flat face just beyond that.

The building’s terracotta has numerous sculptures featuring fish and crabs, as well as mythical creatures.

The northbound view of Dearborn Street with the Monodnock on the left and the Standard Club on the right.

The rain and the Monodnock gave a basic light added character.

We had the good fortune of having the CTA Holiday Train roll through the station as we were checking out the sights. A Chicago tradition since 1992, the train is decorated by volunteers and corporate sponsor.

Prior to Christmas they will run open air flatbed cars with Santa on them (check out the blog posting on the CTA Skokie Repair shop for more details as it was being prepared when we were there in October).

Throughout our tour the CTA employees were more than helpful, holding the train briefly while we boarded en mass or letting us through the turnstiles without addition payment to check out the stations.

I am certain to them it is just a job, but how cool would it be to drive an El train around all day.

The Quincy Station was the highlight of the tour. It was opened in 1897 and is essentially the same as the day it opened (with a few additional safety features).

They even have a couple of the original (unused) fare boxes mounted on the wall

It is the only station in the system that does not have advertising, rather they have period correct ads from the early days of the station.

Interestingly the ad on the left for the South Shore could still be valid, as that commuter rail still runs down into Indiana.

The platform maintains the same look. Quite the contrast to the skyscrapers in the background (including the 1400′ high Willis/Sears Tower directly behind the platform).

Again the lighting adds to the overall look.

We continued around the loop, crossing Randolph Street past the Palace Theater.

We made a turn to the west at the northwest corner of the loop, giving a great view of the wood planking for the tracks as well as one of the control stations.

Our final stop was at the Clinton Station in the West Loop. With the recent construction of very tall buildings, and the rain, the views were diminished this day, but it still gave some great symmetry shots.

This station is next to Union Station. The building in the background was once a large warehouse but has been re purposed to condo’s.

The view back towards the loop. It is interesting how this 100+ year old transportation still works, skirting past the massive skyscrapers.

We were at a Metra Commuter Rail station and had the good fortune of seeing their Holiday Train as well! Talk about good luck (even with the pouring rain).

As always our volunteer docent was knowledgeable and personable. With so many tacky tourist hop on hop off bus type businesses in large American cities, the non profit, mostly volunteer Chicago Architecture Foundation is a real treasure. We are looking forward to returning for more tours.

Cleveland – July 2018 – “Fuel Cleveland”

Fuel Cleveland is an effort to bring together motorcycle art, culture and design. In existences for just 3 years, the annual event has become huge.

2018 07 28 136 Cleveland Fuel Motorcycle & Art Show.jpg



Cleveland has always been a center of transportation manufacturing, with the famed ‘Cleveland’ motorcycles being produced between 1902 and 1929.

Today the name has been revived by the Cleveland Cycle Werks.

2018 07 28 150 Cleveland Fuel Motorcycle & Art Show.jpg



The show has a limited number of motorcycles inside, but is attended by thousands who arrive on their own bikes.

2018 07 28 79 Cleveland Fuel Motorcycle & Art Show.jpg



The collection on the street where we parked was better than most shows, and that was just the beginning.

2018 07 28 83 Cleveland Fuel Motorcycle & Art Show.jpg



As previously noted, art is a critical part of this show. This photographer specializes in using the old school camera, developing his own film. He came to the event from New York City.

2018 07 28 97 Cleveland Fuel Motorcycle & Art Show.jpg



Inside were some of the best bikes. The restorations are amazing.

2018 07 28 102 Cleveland Fuel Motorcycle & Art Show.jpg



While many are customized choppers.

2018 07 28 111 Cleveland Fuel Motorcycle & Art Show.jpg



Held in an old factory on the east side, the setting was perfect for this event.

2018 07 28 116 Cleveland Fuel Motorcycle & Art Show.jpg



Many of the custom jobs had death as a subject matter.

2018 07 28 121 Cleveland Fuel Motorcycle & Art Show.jpg



The art was mixed in throughout.

2018 07 28 123 Cleveland Fuel Motorcycle & Art Show.jpg



There were plenty of colorful people as well.

2018 07 28 131 Cleveland Fuel Motorcycle & Art Show.jpg



Your usual retro living room based on motorcycle parts.

2018 07 28 142 Cleveland Fuel Motorcycle & Art Show.jpg



Even the vendors had character.

2018 07 28 147 Cleveland Fuel Motorcycle & Art Show.jpg



While most of the bikes were Harley Davidson’s, I did come across a few others including this great old BMW.

2018 07 28 154 Cleveland Fuel Motorcycle & Art Show.jpg



Next up was the Skidmore Garage. A working garage specializing in old bikes, most were up on the stands for easier access.

2018 07 28 157 Cleveland Fuel Motorcycle & Art Show.jpg



This bike, called Junk and Disorderly used random, non traditional motorcycle parts. Note the seat is made out of an old tire.

2018 07 28 163 Cleveland Fuel Motorcycle & Art Show.jpg


The mix of the custom bikes and eclectic art of old gas tanks provides a good idea of the atmosphere in the Skidmore Garage.

2018 07 28 166 Cleveland Fuel Motorcycle & Art Show.jpg



The Detroit Brothers have an interesting approach to gas tank accessories.

2018 07 28 172 Cleveland Fuel Motorcycle & Art Show.jpg



Hells Angels softer side – a pink chopper.

2018 07 28 174 Cleveland Fuel Motorcycle & Art Show.jpg



There were numerous helmet design artists on hand.

2018 07 28 183 Cleveland Fuel Motorcycle & Art Show.jpg



Even the air cleaners looked cool.

2018 07 28 187 Cleveland Fuel Motorcycle & Art Show.jpg


This area of the east side of Cleveland was always an industrial neighborhood. While most of the industry has left, there are still a number of buildings remaining. The neighborhood definitely added to the gritty feel with the bikes.

2018 07 28 189 Cleveland Fuel Motorcycle & Art Show.jpg


The parking lot was packed with bikes and riders.

2018 07 28 196 Cleveland Fuel Motorcycle & Art Show.jpg



The classic winged Harley logo.

2018 07 28 202 Cleveland Fuel Motorcycle & Art Show.jpg



Old bikes and old factories – a perfect combination.

2018 07 28 204 Cleveland Fuel Motorcycle & Art Show.jpg



Even more – bikes everywhere.

2018 07 28 207 Cleveland Fuel Motorcycle & Art Show.jpg



Lining the tree lawns along the street.

2018 07 28 228 Cleveland Fuel Motorcycle & Art Show.jpg



A sweet cherry red chopper by itself in front of the building across the street.

2018 07 28 232 Cleveland Fuel Motorcycle & Art Show.jpg



Welcome to Cleveland.

2018 07 28 235 Cleveland Fuel Motorcycle & Art Show.jpg



By now we were dog tired and headed home, just not in a dog chariot – we took the car.

2018 07 28 249 Cleveland Fuel Motorcycle & Art Show.jpg




Pittsburgh – July 2018 – Bicycle Heaven

Another repeat visit that was totally worth it was a second trip to Bicycle Heaven, located on the North Side of Pittsburgh.

2018 07 08 263 Pittsburgh Bicycle Heaven.jpg



When you collect a few thousands bicycles you also end up with nice collections of parts – the Schwin exhibit.

2018 07 08 266 Pittsburgh Bicycle Heaven.jpg



In addition to the massive used bike inventory – they have some new ones that have unique designs.

2018 07 08 275 Pittsburgh Bicycle Heaven.jpg



There are some nice miniatures along the counter.

2018 07 08 277 Pittsburgh Bicycle Heaven.jpg



Small bike backed up by large banana seats.

2018 07 08 281 Pittsburgh Bicycle Heaven.jpg



There are some true vintage bikes scattered about the collection.

2018 07 08 283 Pittsburgh Bicycle Heaven.jpg




As you walk through you see huge piles of bike parts – need a tire?

2018 07 08 293 Pittsburgh Bicycle Heaven.jpg



Perhaps a chain guard?

2018 07 08 301 Pittsburgh Bicycle Heaven.jpg



This is known as the Groovy Cranky Panky Sprocket Room.

2018 07 08 310 Pittsburgh Bicycle Heaven.jpg



There are a few non bikes features.

2018 07 08 313 Pittsburgh Bicycle Heaven.jpg



A great old peddle airplane.

2018 07 08 314 Pittsburgh Bicycle Heaven.jpg



Bikes high and low.

2018 07 08 325 Pittsburgh Bicycle Heaven.jpg



An 1890 bike mixed in.

2018 07 08 329 Pittsburgh Bicycle Heaven.jpg



Oreo bicycles – must be double stuffed Oreos.

2018 07 08 331 Pittsburgh Bicycle Heaven.jpg



Bicycle Heaven is always worth a visit, or two.

2018 07 08 340 Pittsburgh Bicycle Heaven.jpg




Sugarcreek, OH – June 2018 – Age of Steam Roundhouse

The Age of Steam Roundhouse located in the countryside outside of Sugarcreek, Ohio is the result of a single man’s passion for trains. Jerry Joe Jacobson had a lifelong interest in trains, and over the years collected numerous steam and diesel engines,, along with a number of cars.

In 2011 they completed the roundhouse to house the collection. I had read about this online and sent an email querying about visiting. The email I received back detailed how they only opened to large group tours, but that sometime in the summer they would offer up public tours – so I signed up and a few months later had my tour.

I received back a lengthy waiver detailing numerous don’ts for the visit. While giving me pause we headed out. Upon arriving we had yet another lengthy warning speech about safety (don’t step on a rail you might twist an ankle!) and numerous other things. Now I was concerned it was going to feel like a school field trip we headed out.

Thankfully I was very wrong once we went out on our tour. Our primary tour guide was the son of Jerry (who passed away a year or so ago). He was informative, engaging and lead us throughout the facility – although they did group us into 3 large piles of 30+ people.


2018 06 09 9 Sugarcreek OH Age of Steam Roundhouse.jpg



The roundhouse is 48,000 square feet with space for 18 locomotives. Built out of masonry and heavy timbers it is an impressive sight.

2018 06 09 16 Sugarcreek OH Age of Steam Roundhouse.jpg



Our first stop was the shop where they restore the locomotives.

2018 06 09 38 Sugarcreek OH Age of Steam Roundhouse.jpg



It was here we got our first close view of the impressive doors, each weighing over 2000 pounds (1000 kilograms). They are proud that they are so well balanced you can close them with 1 finger.

2018 06 09 48 Sugarcreek OH Age of Steam Roundhouse.jpg



Also outside is the large water tank and delivery system that steam locomotives require.

2018 06 09 54 Sugarcreek OH Age of Steam Roundhouse.jpg




Returning back inside we toured the numerous engines housed there.

2018 06 09 68 Sugarcreek OH Age of Steam Roundhouse.jpg



A couple of the middle bays were free of trains to give a nice overview of the building.

2018 06 09 72 Sugarcreek OH Age of Steam Roundhouse.jpg




The assistants to the tour were all dressed for the part – and helpful.

2018 06 09 89 Sugarcreek OH Age of Steam Roundhouse.jpg




Each bay has a chimney to capture the significant smoke that a steam locomotive puts out. Note the impressive ceiling.

2018 06 09 93 Sugarcreek OH Age of Steam Roundhouse.jpg




They had a variety of engines, although to be fair with the large crowd you could either a) be up front where you could hear the description but have 35 people in the way of the photos  or  b) hang back and get nice photos but no description. One of the numerous opening instructions were no talking to each other or the other guides so you don’t disrupt the tour – they have a schedule to keep.

2018 06 09 99 Sugarcreek OH Age of Steam Roundhouse.jpg



Outside are the doors to the turntable – a very impressive sight remembering each of the doors (36 in all) are over 2000 pounds.

2018 06 09 112 Sugarcreek OH Age of Steam Roundhouse.jpg




The tracks to the turntable with an engine on the table.

2018 06 09 118 Sugarcreek OH Age of Steam Roundhouse.jpg



One of the ‘pushers’ (to keep everyone in line) was Jerry – he and the others were really great and helpful (I whispered my questions!). After the tour I was able to speak to Jerry further finding him a very interesting man.

2018 06 09 127 Sugarcreek OH Age of Steam Roundhouse.jpg




Returning back inside – another great view.

2018 06 09 140 Sugarcreek OH Age of Steam Roundhouse.jpg




A close up of one of the engines and the ceiling.

2018 06 09 143 Sugarcreek OH Age of Steam Roundhouse.jpg




They did have a couple of small display of ancillary railroad items.

2018 06 09 158 Sugarcreek OH Age of Steam Roundhouse.jpg




A final look inside.

2018 06 09 163 Sugarcreek OH Age of Steam Roundhouse.jpg




A view from outside the fence surrounding the property. The Age of Steam Roundhouse is an amazing place well worth the visit, even with the extensive (silly) warnings and processes and slightly expensive cost to attend.

2018 06 09 179 Sugarcreek OH Age of Steam Roundhouse.jpg




Amish Country, OH – June 2018 – A variety of scenes

Sugarcreek is the center of Amish Country in Ohio, and with our trip to see the Age of Steam Roundhouse (other posting) we passed a strange mix of sights, including the photo above with an Amish buggy in front of what they claim is the world’s largest cuckoo clock.

On the way we passed the numerous farms in the area.

2018 06 09 193 Sugarcreek OH.jpg



The large corn crib nearly full provided an interesting shot.

2018 06 09 191 Sugarcreek OH.jpg



When we arrived in town we found that many of the buildings had murals on the front depicting Switzerland, as the town was founded by the Swiss and they continue to play up this fact for tourists.

2018 06 09 192 Sugarcreek OH.jpg



Including the fire station.

2018 06 09 203 Sugarcreek OH.jpg



Only to find …. a car show!

2018 06 09 210 Sugarcreek OH.jpg



With some strange rides

2018 06 09 221 Sugarcreek OH.jpg



And some nice ones.

2018 06 09 238 Sugarcreek OH.jpg