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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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

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While many are customized choppers.

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

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

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The art was mixed in throughout.

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There were plenty of colorful people as well.

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Your usual retro living room based on motorcycle parts.

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Even the vendors had character.

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

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

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

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

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

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Hells Angels softer side – a pink chopper.

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There were numerous helmet design artists on hand.

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Even the air cleaners looked cool.

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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.

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The parking lot was packed with bikes and riders.

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The classic winged Harley logo.

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Old bikes and old factories – a perfect combination.

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Even more – bikes everywhere.

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Lining the tree lawns along the street.

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

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Welcome to Cleveland.

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

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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.

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

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

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There are some nice miniatures along the counter.

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Small bike backed up by large banana seats.

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There are some true vintage bikes scattered about the collection.

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

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Perhaps a chain guard?

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This is known as the Groovy Cranky Panky Sprocket Room.

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There are a few non bikes features.

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A great old peddle airplane.

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Bikes high and low.

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An 1890 bike mixed in.

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Oreo bicycles – must be double stuffed Oreos.

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Bicycle Heaven is always worth a visit, or two.

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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.

 

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

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

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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.

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

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Returning back inside we toured the numerous engines housed there.

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

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

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

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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.

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

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

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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.

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Returning back inside – another great view.

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

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

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A final look inside.

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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.

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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.

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The large corn crib nearly full provided an interesting shot.

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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.

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Including the fire station.

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Only to find …. a car show!

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With some strange rides

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And some nice ones.

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