Next stop Memory
Lane. . .
The Hesston Steam
Museum in Northwest Indiana (only a 90 minute drive from the Chicago area)
has brought back some fun childhood memories for people of a certain age,
and into the present for all to enjoy again. Two of the most fondly
remembered train rides are the miniature steam train from Kiddieland in
Melrose Park that carried families since the 1930s and the Brookfield, Salt
Creek & Western Railroad that meandered through the Brookfield Zoo, giving a
behind-the-scenes zoo tour from 1967-1985.
The best-known pair
of steam locomotives that ran at Kiddieland are "The Hudson" and "The
Northern" which are art deco streamlined trains of the 1930s. At the
Brookfield Zoo, three locomotives were in operation - two steam engines,
nicknamed ‘The Blue Goose’ and “Granny”, and a diesel powered locomotive,
fondly called “Rudy”, commissioned and donated to the zoo by the late
Elliott Donnelley of RR Donnelley Printing.
people might think these trains only exist as memories, they were not
scrapped after all and are now located very close to Chicagoland. Some of
these engines have been fully restored and are ready to take passengers for
a ride on the rails again.
Other engines, such
as “Granny’, are still in need of restoration, but are available for
viewing. Up until a few years ago, ‘Granny” had not been on display since
her days of operation at the Zoo, so viewing this locomotive is a rare
treat. 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.
“I remember riding
both the zoo trains and the trains at Kiddieland as a child,” said museum
manager, Ted Rita. Rita, now in his 40s, took several trips to Kiddieland
Amusement park with his dad as a child and one trip to the zoo with his
grandmother. Rita says he is always excited to meet others who have fond
memories of these trains. Some of the Hesston Steam Museum volunteers also
remember them from the past.
“Not only are these
trains fun to ride, they are important parts of history of the Chicagoland
area and we are very happy to be home to them now. Every time I ride behind
the Blue Goose (Brookfield Zoo locomotive) I have fond memories of my
Robert Franken, a
museum volunteer and head conductor of the Hesston Scenic Railroad, along
with others, have restored a coach that was still in the original paint from
the zoo which reads Brookfield, Salt Creek & Western. Franken and his crew
kept this coach in its original colors when they restored the paint on it.
“It’s interesting to talk to people who rode these trains in the past and
this coach, with the original paint scheme, is a great conversation
starter,” Franken said. The zoo coach is ready to ride for this year’s
Chicago Day Event at the museum.
trains now run on two of the three different track routes through beautiful,
shady woods and along fields at Hesston. Listen to the clickety-clack of the
wheels as the train gently rocks along the track and the sound of the steam
whistles as they take riders back to another time and back to childhood.
Speak with engineers of these trains at the Hesston Steam Museum, learning
more and sharing memories.
vintage Cretors steam-powered popcorn machine will also be in operation for
this upcoming Chicago Weekend Celebration. Charles Cretors, founder of C.
Cretors and Company in Chicago, introduced the world's first mobile popcorn
machine at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. Be sure to
enjoy a bag of hot, freshly popped popcorn during your visit.
Another piece of
steam-powered Chicagoland history is on display at the museum -- the Good
engine that ran Chicago’s Cook County Hospital. This piece of Chicago
history was built in 1876 and was in operation at the hospital until 1918.
Also view other steam equipment, ride a variety of miniature trains,
purchase a memento from the gift shop and treat the family to ice cream or a
deliciously cool soda at the restored vintage 1930s soda fountain or enjoy a
tasty, freshly created meal at Doc’s Soda Fountain.
Grounds open at
11:30 a.m. and trains run from noon to 5 p.m. (Central Time).
information and for a schedule of operating days visit
www.hesston.org or call 219-778-2783
Train fares are $5
for adults and $3 for kids 3-12. Parking is free and there are no admission
The Hesston Steam
Museum is a 501(c)(3) organization that is located east of State Rd. 39
(west of Basswood Rd.) on LaPorte County Rd. 1000 North. From I-94, take
Michigan Exit 1, New Buffalo, or from the Indiana Toll Rd. use Exit 49,