- Associated Press - Saturday, October 31, 2015

MENDOTA, Ill. (AP) - The last remaining coffee shop and lounge car still in existence will soon be looking like its old self again following restoration work in Mendota.

The car initially was loaned to the museum by a private collector before it was donated. Volunteers have been working on restoring the car and Bryon Walters, superintendent of rolling stock for the Union Depot Railroad Museum, said it’s almost finished now.

Putnam County Painting donated labor toward completing the painting on the car’s exterior and volunteers stripped out the interior before installing new wall and window coverings. Walters said they will lay new carpet soon.

The car was built in 1949 by the Pullman Co. for Southern Pacific Railroad. Walters said it was part of the Golden State Line that competed directly with the Santa Fe’s Southwest Chief.

Walters said once the car is finished, it will be like stepping back into 1949. The restoration will match the original color scheme both inside and out.

“Consistency was so important to the railroads,” Walters said.

“Customers could choose their train by appearance and cleanliness.

“They were basically running the same routes for the same price, so appearance was important.”

Walters said volunteers will spend the winter restoring the kitchen area of the car, even though it won’t be a working kitchen.

“We’re going to restore it to make it look like a working kitchen with four cooks moving at 95 miles an hour,” Walters said.

The car will be officially opened to the public Nov. 29 during regular visitor hours. It also will be available for catered parties and gatherings of up to 50 people.

Walters said business luncheons, wine tastings and similar events could be hosted inside the car. Rental fees will help offset the costs of maintaining the museum’s rolling stock.

But this car, like others at the museum won’t actually go anywhere.

Walters said it would take at least another $100,000 to properly fit the undercarriage and wheels.

As it is, volunteers have donated hundreds of hours in the restoration and also contributed financially to the car that was once a fixture in La Salle while on its route from Chicago to Los Angeles.

“It’s been an eyesore for five years,” Walters said. “Now it’s going to be a Mendota landmark.”

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Source: (LaSalle) News-Tribune, https://bit.ly/1ZYYi0U

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Information from: News-Tribune, https://www.newstrib.com

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