My grandfather was a yard clerk, fireman and locomotive engineer on the Elgin Joliet and Eastern Railway, the EJ&E, from 1917 until 1961. The EJ&E was a belt railroad that circled Chicago from Waukegan, IL in the north to Gary, IN in the southeast. In this configuration it had three revenue streams – interchange traffic with just about every railroad going into Chicago to avoid city congestion, servicing steel mills at Gary, IN, and local freight from on-line industries. The “Steel Diamonds” title of this blog refers to the shape made by the steel rails when railroads cross each other at an interchange, on which the EJ&E depended.
I am fortunate that my Grandfather, and my Mother, saved his time books from 1938 through 1961. From these documents I have a record of what locomotives he was operating every day he worked, the hours he worked, and the trains he was running. He was based in Joliet and normally worked freights originating from there, or worked the East Joliet yard on a switcher.
When I decided to build my third HO scale model railroad in 2012 I chose to model the EJ&E at Griffith, Indiana. In the 50s there were five railroads that intersected at Griffith, and it had several interesting local industries. My goals were to model one interchange and four to six industries on a 5′ by 11′ switching layout in an “L” shape, with the layout 22″ wide.
Commercial models of EJ&E locomotives are very limited for the period of the 50s. I purchased a Stewart model of a Baldwin VO 1000 in EJ&E brown, #476, and this exact engine was being operated by my grandfather the day I was born – remember the log books? All my other locomotives have been painted and lettered by me, but represent locomotives which my Grandfather actually operated. More on that later.
This blog will be sharing some of my modeling projects, a few pieces on the EJ&E, and sharing some other modeling thoughts and information.