Whatever happened to the Kiddieland Train in Melrose Park?

  What ever happed to the Kiddyland Train? www.Kiddielandtrain.com   September, 2013

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Welcome to the Kiddieland Train blog

Kiddieland Amusement Park 1929-2009

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KIDDIELAND LIMITED

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September 12, 2012 -- Kiddieland Steamers and Brookfield Zoo's Train Running at a Special Weekend

On Sept. 28 and 29, The Hesston Steam Museum in Northern Indiana will be hosting a special "Chicago Weekend" where our favorite trains from the past will be running together.

Two of Chicagoland's most popular train rides from the past will be running together for a special weekend later this month.  This will be a real treat for Chicago area families that loved going to those attractions. 2 of the most fondly remembered miniature trains from Kiddieland in Melrose Park that carried families since the 1930s and the Brookfield, Salt Creek & Western Railroad that meandered through the Brookfield Zoo from 1967-1985.  A pair of steam locomotives that ran at Kiddieland will be there along with Brookfield Zoo's 3 locomotives.  Although most people might think these trains are only memories now, they should know that all of these engines have been saved.  3 of these Chicagoland engines have been fully restored and are running again nearby, ready to ride!  Adults who grew up with these trains in Chicagoland can now experience them again and bring their children and grandchildren to enjoy the experience with them. 

September 2, 2012 -- Kiddieland Diesel's Whereabouts Unknown

We are currently looking for information as to the location of the 3 diesel locomotives and the cars that go with them.  Last know location was Frankfort, Illinois in 2011.

May 7, 2012 -- Kiddieland's 2012 Steam "Double Header" is in Doubt.

For the past 2 summer seasons, the Kiddieland Steamers have been chugging up and down the sandy hills of the Hesston Steam Museum in Northern Indiana (see pervious posts). Unofficial word from the Museum is that the lease to run the Kiddieland Northern has expired and a new lease to operate the steamer has yet to be secured. And if that wasn't bad enough, during routine spring tests, it was found that the Kiddieland Hudson needed repairs which may not be completed in time for the Memorial Day Weekend season opener May 26, 27, 28th.  We will provide more information as it becomes available.

March 22, 2012 -- Kiddieland's Diesel Train makes the front cover of Billboard.

Michael Garay sent this in.  It's a scan of a 1950 "Billboard Magazine" cover featuring our favorite amusement park train. Thanks for sharing Michael!

Click image to view full size.

November 27, 2011 -- The Kiddieland "Northern" and "Hudson" Steam Locomotives are "Winterized"

An age old tradition took place this month as the Kiddieland steam locomotives were washed out. This procedure involves Hesston volunteers removing several drain plugs from each engine's boiler.  Fresh water is then sprayed in via several access points, like the boiler's "steam dome", to flush out sediments that accumulate during the operating season. What gets flushed out looks just like the particles that form in a tea kettle.

Over the winter a leaky flue (or tube) will need to be repaired in the Northern's boiler. The leaking flue was discovered on the last big weekend of the summer season, Labor Day. The leak made it necessary to take the venerable engine out of service. Hesston volunteers are planning to make the necessary repairs in time for the 2012 kick-off weekend, Memorial Day weekend.

And what's happening with the G-16s (the diesel looking trains) that have been in storage for the past 2 years?  As far as we know, they are still in storage.  I hope they are dry and covered. If anyone has any info on these, please write to me.

March 26, 2011 -- Kiddieland Steam Train in Illinois for a Visit

The Hesston Steam Museum in Indiana has made arrangements to bring one of the Kiddieland Steam Locomotives (the Hudson)  to the "The Great Midwest Train Show" on Sunday, April 10, 2011. The Great Midwest Train Show is a monthly event taking place at the DuPage County Fairgrounds in Wheaton, Illinois. This coming show will be the only suburban Chicago appearance of the famous train that ran for many years in Melrose Park.

The train engine will be on static display during the one day event running form 9:30 AM and ending 3:00 PM. Bring the kids and bring your camera for a photo with the engine. For directions to the show, visit http://www.greatmidwesttrainshow.com/ . Adults: $7.00, kids under 12: are free. Parking is free.

October 25, 2010 -- Tough Times

In a copy written article in ChicagoBusiness.com titled "Reckoning comes for Gas City's McEnery" its reported that the Kiddieland Train owner and founder of Gas City, Bill McEnery, might be in a tough spot. In the article, it states that Mr. McEnery's corporation has fallen behind in business payments to several banks. Additionally, McEnery, 68, shut down his trucking company according to the published story.

It goes on to say he has retained a "turnaround adviser" and a "bankruptcy attorney". It would seem the self-made millionaire and owner of the Kiddieland Train is facing some rough track ahead. McEnery purchased the Chicago area amusement part ride in 2009. Two gasoline powered locomotives, an A unit and an A-B unit, along with passenger cars have been in storage near Homer Glen, Illinois ever since. The Kiddieland steam powered "Northern" locomotive was loaned to  the Hesston Steam Museum back in March of 2010. It was moved from the Homer Glen location to the Indiana steam museum where it has been joined with its sister locomotive, a "Hudson", in several "Double Header" events during the summer and fall.

Hesston officials have been very pleased with the interest museum visitors have shown in the Kiddieland train and hope to be able to continue the loan arrangement. They were unable to speculate on the future of the Northern or of the other Kiddieland equipment that is in storage in Illinois. However, it was admitted in in an email in October that this fall may be "the last time the Northern and Hudson are paired". 

One of our favorite Youtube videos of the Kiddieland Train at Hesston.

Here's another.
 

September 3, 2010 The Kiddieland Train resides in two places now. The Steam Locomotives and some of the wooden cars are located at the Hesston Steam Museum in Indiana and the Diesel Engines and cars are being refurbished for use in the suburban Chicago area.

The plan for the Diesel Train is to set up a 14" gauge track using the materials acquired from Kiddieland at Bengtson's Pumpkin Farm in Homer Glen.  I have not heard if Bengtson's has a target date for the completion of the track.  I could not find any information about the Kiddieland Train on Bengtson's website. Lets hope its completed in time for the 2010 Halloween Season!

The Steam Train (right) will be operating most weekends at Hesston this summer season.  Kiddieland's Hudson will take the primary roll and work as a single engine on non-holiday weekends.  The plan is to use both the Northern AND the Hudson for the July 4th weekend and Labor Day weekends.

Last week, Hesston volunteers located some interesting old placards that had been on the Kiddieland Hudson back in the 40s and 50s. Look for them when you visit Hesston this summer.  These little signs have not seen the light of day in something like 40 years! 

Photo by T. Rita. (c) kiddielandtrain.com all rights reserved.


The engineers stop to tend to the steamer's real coal fire. 
Photo by Bruce Moffat (c) www.Kiddielandtrain.com all rights reserved.


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DATELINE: May 29-31, 2010

HESSTON, IND. --  The Kiddieland "Double-Header" was a complete success. Visitors to the Hesston Steam Museum gathered early on Saturday to await the arrival of the Kiddieland Trains at Hesston Junction Station.  The Northern and Hudson steam engines pulling Kiddieland coaches arrived at the station shortly before noon.  In a little while, with two whistle blasts from each engine, the first Kiddieland double header in over 30 years pulls out with a full load of passengers

The Kiddieland Train in the media

WBBM News Radio
Herald Argus
Post Trib
NBC Chicago
CBS 2 Chicago
WGN TV
My Fox Chicago

Check out Grand Scales Quarterly, Oct. 2007 for a great article that includes the Kiddieland Train with photos of the Northern and the Hudson "double-heading" way back in 1958. 


Your kiddielandtrain.com webmaster at play.
Doing this was a dream come true for me.
Photo by Dan Vasta (c) www.Kiddielandtrain.com all rights reserved.
 


Jim's running the Northern and Rick is on the Hudson  Both engines were built by Wagner and Son of Plainfield, Illinois.  Both Rick and Jim are from the Chicago area and loved the Kiddieland Train as kids.
Photo by Ted Rita (c) www.Kiddielandtrain.com all rights reserved.


The first run on Memorial Day. Engineer Jim operates the lead engine while engineer Rick is in the second.  Both engines ran at Kiddieland for years and could be seen doing this exact same "Double-Header" arrangement back in the 1950s.
Photo by Bruce Moffat (c) www.Kiddielandtrain.com all rights reserved.


Engineer Jim waits for the "High-ball" (the go ahead) signal from the conductor on Sunday May 30th, 2010. 
Photo by Wayne Conklin (c) www.Kiddielandtrain.com all rights reserved.

 


Kiddieland Train News Letter No Spam, No Hype, No Junk. Only Kiddieland Train News. And only when we have news.  Remove your address at any time.



Video by Brent Conklin .

April 8, 2010  The Hesston Steam Museum reports that the Kiddieland Northern (see below for the complete history) steam locomotive is being serviced in preparation for the 2010 operating season.

All are invited out for opening day weekend May 29, 30 & 31 where the Kiddieland Limited Steam Trains will run again.  Check the Hesston web site for details and other dates.

March 12, 2010   The Kiddieland steam locomotive that had been removed from Kiddieland on November 20th, 2009 has been relocated to the Hesston Steam Museum (see video below) and is being evaluated for possible passenger service for the 2010 season.  Check back here or add your address to our News Letter mailing list for more information as it's made available.

February 28, 2010   Except for one steam train sold in the 80's, the Kiddieland train was sold to the founder of "Gas City".  It was removed by flat bed truck and taken to an undisclosed location.  I assume it is being stored in the Frankfort Illinois area where Gas City is based but don't know for sure. 


Video by K. O'Connor.  Music by Pullman Conductors of Jazz.

We need your old photos of Kiddieland's trains from
the 40's, 50's 60's and 70's.
Send 'em in, we'll publish them here and give ya full credit.   i  n  f  o  @  k  i  d  d  i  e  l  a  n  d  t  r  a  i  n  .  c  o  m

We don't know exactly what Mr. Bill McEnery, the new owner, plans to do with the Kiddieland Train he picked up on November 20th.  We hear Mr. McEnery is a train lover and has the resources to give it a good home.  We don't know if he plans to set up the track he acquired to run the trains. I would guess he does set up the track. The big question is:  "Will he allow the public to ride?"

We also know that another Kiddieland Train (the missing train) that was sold off in the 80's is being stored at a museum in Indiana.  We spoke to the director of the Hesston Steam Museum  in Hesston Indiana and they WILL BE RUNNING the Kiddieland "lost train" (the Hudson) and some original Kiddieland coaches on Memorial Day Weekend May 29, 30 & 31, 2010.

December 12, 2009  The Hesston Steam Museum in Indiana informed us that they WILL BE RUNNING the Kiddieland "lost train" (the Hudson) and some original Kiddieland coaches on Memorial Day Weekend May 29, 30 & 31, 20102.

November 25, 2009  CBS 2 reports that a Costco store will be built on the old Kiddieland site.

November 24, 2009  All 21 remaining rides and other equipment sold at auction.

  • Bumper Cars (1962) $18,700 purchased by an amusement company in Loganville, Ga.
  • Little Dipper Roller Coaster $36,300 (1950) from the Philadelphia Toboggan Co. purchased by Six Flags Great America.
  • Carousel $320,000 (1925) from the Philadelphia Toboggan Co.  Future unknown.
  • Hand pumped mine cars sold for an unknown amount and went to the Dutch Village in Holland MI.

November 20, 2009  The Kiddieland trains are loaded on a flat bed trailer (right).   Final destination unknown.  The exact sale price of the entire train including track, signals, engines and cars is not known.  It was said that this was sold for more than the Carousel at $320,000.  The lucky purchaser is widely reported to be William J. McEnery of Frankfort Illinois, founder and president of Gas City (a chain of gasoline stations).  We hope that Bill McEnery will make it available to the public in the Chicago area.


click images to enlarge  Photo taken 11-20-2009 by L. Andrew Jugle
(c) www.Kiddielandtrain.com all rights reserved.
 


History (what I've been able to piece together with help from L. Andrew Jugle)

1929  The story goes that founder, Arthur E. Fritz, won his original Pony Ride in a poker game. Fritz had been a successful building contractor until the crash and depression of 1929. He figured the pony ride could help him until the economy picked up and he could continue his contracting business.

1936  Kiddieland moved to it's permanent home on the corner of First Avenue and North Avenue.  The first 14" gauge (rails spaced 14" apart) track was laid within the first year.

1938  Art Fritz acquires a smaller 12" gauge (rails spaced 12" apart) G-12 from Miniature Train Company (MTC) of Addison Illinois.  It ran in the area that was later occupied by the "Little Dipper" roller coaster in 1950.

1941  The first of the large Wagner (Wagner and Son Manufacturing of Plainfield, Illinois) Steam Locomotives was delivered.  The 4-6-4 Hudson type was the replacement for the earlier steam locomotives that were underpowered.  The second large locomotive, a 4-8-4 Northern, was delayed by the war effort and wasn't delivered for another 9 years in 1950.  These 2 "trains" were pulled by actual steam engines (or "live steam" as it's called) and fueled by coal. The smaller Hudson was sold off in the mid 1980's along with several wooden passenger cars. The larger Northern remained at Kiddieland until it closed at the end of the 2009 season.  Both steam locomotives sported a streamline look reminiscent of the Sante Fe blue goose locomotives of the day.

1948  More trains were added. These new trains had the look of the modern diesels of the day.  While full scale F-2's were built by GM at the Electro Motive Division (EMD) in it's La Grange Illinois factory, Fritz's locomotives, G-16s. were built by the Miniature Train Company (MTC) of Addison Illinois.  As a side note, the MTC G-16 debuted BEFORE any full size F-2's hit the rails.

Art Fritz ordered #514 in 1946, and had to wait until 1948 for delivery. It was purchased for $16,949. It seems that Miniature Train Company had a new factory built to meet the post-war demand, and moved manufacturing to Rennselaer, Indiana while maintaining offices in Elmhurst, Illinois.


Photos taken 8-8-2005 by D. Crean. (c) www.Kiddielandtrain.com all rights reserved.

Wagner Northern (left) and Miniature Train Company #704 (right)
click images to enlarge

 


photo by D. Crean (c) www.Kiddielandtrain.com all rights reserved.

Miniature Train Company #514 A-B

"Kiddieland Limited" or "Chicago and Northwestern"?

The official Kiddieland website states that the Kiddieland train is painted in the Chicago and Northwestern paint scheme.  Obviously, that's not true.

A letter from one of our email newsletter subscribers put me straight on the mystery of the C&NW paint scheme as it appeared on the old Kiddieland Trains.  With clues from a story written by L. Andrew Jugle located here Grand Scales Quarterly, Oct. 2007. Its not that hard to figure out what happened.  In photos from that story, you can make out lettering (when you zoom in) on the G-16s and the steamers that say "Chicago and Northwestern".  The paint scheme on the G16s were never C&NW but resembled the Southern Pacific look (see photo above). Mr. Jugle verified that the the color delivery photos he received 2008 clearly show the train in it's familiar SP looking paint scheme (that black/yellow/red paint was the MTC standard color scheme).  So in the 50s, all the Kiddieland equipment, steam or diesel, was lettered C&NW without regard to paint color.

Now look at this placard that was recently found by Hesston volunteers that had been removed from the Hudson 20 years ago and recently re-installed.  It would seem that Fritz really liked the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad but wasn't worried about matching the paint.


MTC #514 A-B Photo by D. Crean
(c) www.Kiddielandtrain.com all rights reserved.

1950  The Wagner built "Northern" steam locomotive arrives at Kiddieland.

1953  Fritz orders #704 MTC, a "C" unit to make the first A-B-A "Transcontinental" MTC train (a "B" unit is cab-less and is controlled by the A unit and the "C" unit is the same as an "A" but placed running backward).

These new gasoline powered "G-16" trains were an instant hit. Like the Wagner engines, these new trains would run on Kiddieland's 14" gauge track (actually set 14 and 1/8" apart to reduce wear and derailments).  The modern G-16s quickly became popular with the crowds.  The Wagners, needing more maintenance, were used less and less over the years until eventually (we think) they stopped using them all together.  Many fans of the old steam trains continued to ask about them and due partly by public demand, the Northern was refurbished and taken out on special weekends.  They must have figured they would never run both steamers at the same time and besides, keeping two steamers in running condition is much harder than one so the smaller and older "Hudson" was sold off..

Kiddieland, the first amusement park in the country with that name, became the prototype for family friendly amusement parks during the baby boomer years in the late 40's.  Dozens of "Kiddielands" sprang up in those days.  Many were even called "Kiddieland" (Fritz failed to get the name registered) and all the new Kiddielands had miniature trains as the show piece ride.  Most had the MTC G-16 diesel train.  MTC would even help with the design and set up of a park as long as you purchased MTC train rides.


#704 at the "end of the line"
Image from youtube video by M. Peterson
09-12-2009
http://www.youtube.com/user/mspetersen
 

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The famous Kiddieland Steamer rides off into
the sunset as a child waves good bye.
   


 

 
 
Kiddieland train owner Ronald Rynes Jr. (center) with son and grandson.

The above photos taken by J. O'Connor and Carey Williams
(c) www.Kiddielandtrain.com all rights reserved.

 

More Photos

Click to view the videos   100_1810.MOV   100_1811.MOV


Where have all the Chicago's Train Rides gone?

Kiddieland Melrose Park Wagner Steam, MTC Diesels Closed 2009 The MTCs are in storage.
The Wagner steam engine is on loan to
Hesston
Santa's Village Dundee Chance Steam Outline Closed 2006 ?
Brookfield Zoo Train Brookfield Sandley Steam & Diesel Closed 1985 Where is it now?
Adventure Land Addison MTC Diesel Closed 1977 ?
Lincoln Park Zoo Chicago MTC Diesel unknown Where is it now?
Fairyland Lyons MTC Diesel Closed 1968 ?
Riverview Chicago MTC Diesel Closed 1967 ?
Wicker Park Chicago National Amusement Device unknown ?
Hoot, Toot & Whistle Elgin Sandley Steam Locomotive Closed mid 70s Where is it now?

It's obvious that miniature trains in the Chicago area are now extinct.  So where do you take your kids for an old fashion miniature train ride?   These are places I have visited and recommend...

Distance
from Chicago
Name Gauge
(track size)
Details
1.25 hrs Hesston Steam Museum
(home to the Brookfield Zoo train)
2'/3' gauge + 14" & 7.5" ga. Open every summer weekend.  Also special Holiday runs.  See website.
1.5 hrs Prairie State Railroad Club 7.5" gauge Open for public rides on the first Saturday of the month April to October. See website.
2.5 hrs Little Amerricka Amusement Park 16" gauge Open all summer plus extended weekends. See website.
1.5 hrs Milwaukee Co. Zoo 15" gauge May-October, weather permitting.
1.75 hrs Waterman& Western Railroad 15" gauge Open summer weekends and holidays.  See website.
1.25 hrs Blackberry Farm 24" gauge Open all summer plus extended weekends. See website.
1.5 hrs Six Flags Great America 2' gauge Open all summer plus extended weekends. See website.
3 hrs Riverside & Great Northern
(home of the Hoot, Toot & Whistle train)
15" gauge Open every summer day plus other weekends. See website.


About Your Web Blogger Jim O'Connor:

I'm from Oak Park.  My older brother Bob had a job at Kiddieland when I was about 11 years old back in the mid 60's.  No, he never drove the train but he would slip me tickets on my frequent visits to the park and I would ride for free all day.  I must have taken a hundred rides on the G-16s.  Thirty years later I discovered and fell in love with the large scale Live Steam Railroad Hobby.  Now I run a website called discoverlivesteam.com and belong to several live steam railroad clubs and own several pieces of 7.5" gauge equipment including a working steam locomotive in 1/5 scale.

Do you have more photos and info for this site?  Contact me at   i  n  f  o  @  k  i  d  d  i  e  l  a  n  d  t  r  a  i  n  .  c  o  m 

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