Central Electric 
Railfans' Association

A Tale of Two Awards

Monday, June 30, 2014 3:01 PM | Ed Graziano (Administrator)

The 1923 “Insull Trophy”

At our June 18th meeting, your CERA Directors presented Jeff Wien with a token of our appreciation for his 26 years of continuous service as a Board member.  We do not know all the details behind the 1923 “Insull Trophy,” pictured below, but it was inscribed to C. H. McCormick as part of a construction team.

The original medal is about the size of a quarter, and has both a ribbon and a watch fob.  We assume the “E” stands for excellence, always a hallmark of the Samuel Insull empire, which at one time owned all three major Chicago interurbans, plus the rapid transit system, Commonwealth Edison, and that’s just locally.  There is also a horseshoe, which we presume is there for good luck.

If anyone can shed any additional light on the story behind this medal, please contact us at:







The newly restored Chicago & West Towns car 141 at its dedication ceremony at IRM on June 1, 2014. (Diana Koester Photo - CERA Archives)

The newly restored Chicago & West Towns car 141 at its dedication ceremony at IRM on June 1, 2014. (Diana Koester Photo – CERA Archives)

Driehaus Preservation Award Nomination

Each year, Landmarks Illinois presents its’ annual Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Preservation Awards. This year, CERA has joined with others in nominating Frank Sirinek and the Illinois Railway Museum for the 2014 award. Here is a copy of our nomination letter:

Central Electric Railfans’ Association, founded in 1938, is an educational, technical not-for-profit organization incorporated in the State of Illinois. We have published 145 bulletins about the history of electric railways, and host 10 programs each year. We have also held more than 200 fantrips worldwide.

While not directly involved in the preservation of railroad equipment, CERA is very supportive of “sister” organizations like the Illinois Railway Museum that are on the forefront of these efforts. And at IRM, Frank Sirinek has been a leader for more than 40 years, working to preserve unique examples of historical equipment such as the Chicago & West Towns Railway car 141, and the Chicago Transit Authority “Green Hornet” streetcar 4391.

C&WT car 141 was used by CERA on a fantrip that took place on April 23, 1939, over 75 years ago. After the West Towns discontinued rail service in 1948, the 141 became the sole survivor of the fleet, and even then, was in a very dilapidated and incomplete condition. The idea that it might ever run again seemed far-fetched. Practically no one but Frank Sirinek thought it could be possible.

After the 141 came to IRM in 1973, Frank took charge of the project. Authentic parts for the car were sought and obtained from all over the world.

Due to Mr. Sirinek’s steadfastness and dedication, 40 years later, the project reached a successful conclusion. This beautiful 1920s streetcar, now fully and faithfully restored to its former glory, was formally dedicated at IRM on June 1, 2014. It now serves as a living example of the early 20th century history of Chicago’s western suburbs, where the car once ran in towns like Oak Park, Forest Park, Berwyn, Cicero, LaGrange, Riverside, and Brookfield. People can now ride the car at IRM, as they once did to the old Western Electric plant, or to the Brookfield Zoo.

The Illinois Railway Museum, founded in 1953, also deserves special honor as the largest and most extensive institution of its type in the entire United States. The restoration of car 141 is but one of many such success stories at the museum.

For all these reasons, and many more we do not have space to provide, I nominate Frank Sirinek and the Illinois Railway Museum for the Driehaus Preservation Award on behalf of CERA. I cannot think of anyone more deserving of such an honor.


-David Sadowski

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