Courtesy of Thomas E. Scott, RFD 1, Box 157, Paxton, Illinois 60957 President, Ted Lemen, a sophomore at Illinois Wesleyan University, Bloomington, Illinois stands atop his pride and joy. The members had just unloaded the 27% ton 040 switch engine at
RFD 1,Box 157 Paxron, Ill. 60957
SPUR, Inc., got its start on February 16, 1966 with a meeting in a dormitory room at Illinois Wesleyan university at Bloomington, Illinois. It was that evening that a group of students got together to plan a massive campaign in an attempt to save steam power on the Burlington railroad.
It had become obvious that the railroad was serious in wanting to end all steam operations on its lines. For eleven years students of steam had ridden behind engines 5632, a Northern type engine with a 4-8-4 wheel arrangement, and 4960, a spirited Mikado classified as a 282. It was indeed with disappointment that fans accepted the fact that these 'fan extras' would not run again after the final trip on July 17.
For two months, the officers of SPUR (after collecting enough money from fans on a trip from St. Louis to enable chartering as a not-for-profit corporation) waged a bitter '1000 Letter' campaign. Congressmen, civic leaders, and hundreds of newspapers received SPUR literature. But, on April 16, 1966 SPUR, Inc., admitted the obvious. Nothing was going to change the Burlington position on retiring steam.
With this bit of knowledge, SPUR realized that if steam was to be run on a regular basis, it would have to be by private individuals who would purchase, maintain, and operate locomotives.
SPUR'S first real lead on an engine came in September when a member sent in an auction notice about a Heisler Bevelgear locomotive which was being sold in Memphis, Tennessee. Two SPUR officers went to the auction on September 28 and 29. Although SPUR did not buy the engine, a member who joined SPUR that very day did buy it, and it now sits at his home in Rossville Georgia.
More important than this engine though was information gained from that Georgia member on the trip. Much later a tip from him paid off.
At this time plans called for operation of a seven mile long steam railroad between LeRoy, Illinois, and Sabina, a wide spot in the road which boasted three houses, a grain elevator, and an abandoned general store. The trackage was that of the Illinois Central's Rantoul branch. The route was picked because of infrequency of traffic on the line. In publicity releases from May through October, SPUR outlined its plans for the proposed operation and asked for help.
Unfortunately, enthusiasm for the project was lacking in LeRoy. The costs of running with a five man un-on crew, extensive repairs to put an engine in ICC condition, and many other factors made the picture look grim for running on the IC.
While SPUR was still debating the possibility of an operation at Le Roy, a second engine opportunity came along. It was learned that an 040T industrial switch engine was available from a gravel company at Montezuma, Indiana. Just before SPUR attempted to purchase the engine, however, a retired railroader, Otto Klutzke, bought the engine. After keeping it only a few days, he then decided to offer to it SPUR.
On Friday, October 14, with SPUR just a little over six months old, the locomotive became SPUR's. The group also attained a headlight and steam generator from Klutzke.
While things progressed well for SPUR, plans for LeRoy were not moving ahead. Early in November, while talk of SPUR's purchase was still hot, officers faced the fact that operation at LeRoy was impossible.
Before planning further, a SPUR representative talked with Dean Gordon, Executive Director of the Illinois Pioneer Heritage Center, at Monticello, Illinois. Less than a week after discussions began, it was decided to switch the base of operations from LeRoy to Monticello.
News releases stating the inevitable prepared residents of LeRoy and of McLean County for the move. Finally, on November 17, 1966, the first SPUR engine was moved by truck to the Illinois Pioneer Heritage Center.
Lathe in November, the tip given by SPUR's Georgia representative paid off, and a deposit was made on an engine located in Margerum, Alabama. The engine, as ex-Southern 2-8-0, last run last in 1963, weighs 80 tons and is 80 feet long including the tender three times the size and weight of the 0-4-OT-which is affectionately called 'Little Dumpy.'
Also late in November, SPUR member Tom Wynn of Danville brought a visitor to Monticello. Within four weeks, this visitor's entire collection of railroad is an was moved to Monticello for the opening of the Rayville Pioneer Museum. Named after its donor, Raymond Mclntire, the Museum's main attraction is an operating 40 x 10 foot HO model railroad.
Mr. Mclntire, IPHC workers, and SPUR members painted a two story building just off the town square, and just before Christmas, the railroad and historical museum became reality.
Continuing at a fast pace, SPUR and the Mini Railroad Club of Champaign, Illinois signed an agreement which brought the ex-Wabash parlor car, the City of Decatur, to Monticello. The car will be used on the steam railroad when it is completed.
President Maurice H. Klebolt of the Illini club stated that he would like to see the car put to good use on the railroad, as it had been sitting idle in Champaign for two years and was subject to vandalism. While it is structurally in fine shape, new windows, upholstery, and interior decorations will prepare the car for operation.
An agreement between SPUR and the Iowa Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society is hopefully in the making at present. The agreement would bring a North Shore electric and a Chicago, Aurora, and Elgin interurban car to SPUR on a lend lease basic, much the same as that between SPUR and Illini.
SPUR. Inc., invited its entire membership to its 1st Annual Birthday Party held on March 5 at the Carriage House of the Heritage Center. Visitors toured the car, engine, museum, saw a film donated to SPUR by the Union Pacific Railroad, and toured the other three museums of the Illinois Pioneer Heritage Center.
Plans were also revealed by SPUR to sponsor steam trips from Chicago to Central Illinois behind Dick Jensen's Pacific, 5629. Hopefully, the trips will take place in late May or early June.
The membership attending also learned that state engineers and surveyors are now going over maps to determine the availability of a stretch of abandoned Illinois Terminal Railroad right of way for use by SPUR as its proposed railroad sight. The line would run four miles south toward Bement and stop at the graveyard about halfway to Bement.
When the right of way is obtained, SPUR members will lay track along the roadbed and move the engine and car to that sight. The group is now over hauling the engine across the street from the Heritage Center's Carriage House.
In order to raise funds for the railroad, SPUR, a not for profit, tax exempt corporation (gifts to which are tax deductible) is selling life memberships in the railroad. A life membership is $50, for which the donor will receive a membership card, certificate suitable for framing, frequent newsletters, a chance to operate the equipment, and the satisfaction of knowing he is helping to preserve some operating steam equipment for future generations.
Lesser donations are also requested, and certificates will also be issued for contributions of $10 or more. All donors will also receive a SPUR membership card and newsletters.
All inquiries and donations should be sent to: The Society for the Perpetuation of Unretired Rail fans, Incorporated, Box 94, Illinois Wesleyan University, Bloomington, Illinois 61701.