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Red carpet rolls out for steam excursions in Chicago

Passengers will enjoy a VIP experience at LaSalle Street Station

This summer, a restored 1940’s-era steam locomotive will operate The Joliet Rocket, a high-speed, passenger train excursion between Joliet and Chicago, Illinois for tourists railroad fans and the general public alike.

On June 17th and 18th, steam locomotive no. 765 will pull 2 roundtrip excursions each day from the Joliet Transportation Center to a private event at LaSalle Street Station, where passengers will be treated to a 2-hour layover featuring live music, entertainment, reenactors, vintage cocktails, appetizers and awards for best dressed attendees. The trips will each feature a scheduled photo-runby.

Sponsored by the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society, Inc. (FWRHS) in a partnership with Metra, The Joliet Rocket will offer economy coach and deluxe coach seating options. First class and dome car amenities may also be offered. Special limited Railfan Event Passes will also permit photographers to join the event during the layover and support the operation of no. 765 from afar. Tickets go on sale March 29th at 6:00PM Eastern Time. All roundtrips depart the Metra platforms at the Joliet Transportation Center.

Members of the FWRHS will enjoy a 10% discount on economy coach tickets and pre-sales beginning March 22nd. Click here to become a member.

“We’re excited not only to partner again with Metra, but to create an amazing, one-of-a-kind experience for our passengers,” said Kelly Lynch, Vice President of the Railroad Historical Society. “Few things can compare to boarding a historic passenger train and arriving in downtown Chicago behind a steam locomotive. This will essentially be a four hour private party with your very own time machine.”

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LaSalle Street Station was originally the main terminal for the New York Central Railroad from 1908 to 1968 and hosted other railroads such as the Rock Island Line, which operated the original fleet of premiere “Rocket trains,” and the Nickel Plate Road, no. 765’s original owner. The phrase “red carpet treatment” originated from the service provided by the New York Central’s 20th Century Limited, where a red carpet was laid out on the platform for passengers.

Though the station’s original head house was demolished in 1981, the platforms continue to serve trains from Metra’s Rock Island District. The return of the Rocket marks the first steam excursion into the station since 1973.

Following the organization’s first successful trip with Metra in 2016, the FWRHS annulled an excursion with Amtrak between Chicago and Galesburg due to short lead time for ticket sales. Customers affected by the decision have been contacted with arrangements and questions should be directed to ticketagent@fwrhs.org.

Additional trips for no. 765 will be announced later this year.

INTUITION, FEEDBACK CREATE NEW EXPERIENCES FOR PASSENGERS

Since 1979, the non-profit FWRHS has operated no. 765 in public exhibition and passenger excursion service throughout the Midwest, offering hundreds of thousands of riders the opportunity to revisit the golden age of railroading and support historic preservation efforts aboard its traditionally sold out trains. The Joliet Rocket represents a renewed focus by the organization on making its successful trips more than just a train ride and emphasizing engaging experiences and customer service.

The Historical Society recently conducted a survey where opportunities to see and hear the locomotive, ticket price and destination/layover were the top three requests for customers.

“Our experience matches the detailed feedback we’ve been getting and as a result, The Joliet Rocket will be unlike anything we’ve offered before and unmatched by similar events in the industry,” explained Lynch.

For submitting feedback, four of over 1,000 survey entrants have been randomly selected for free tickets.

The FWRHS is also accepting applications for new volunteers and car attendants. Interested applicants can sign up online or contact Brad Morocco, Passenger Services Supervisor.

PRESERVING AND MAKING RAILROAD HISTORY

In addition to operating excursions each year with no. 765, the FWRHS is facilitating the removal and renovation of another historic steam locomotive from a city park in Hammond, Indiana; restoring to operation a vintage diesel locomotive built in 1958; and pursuing the development of a popular railroad tourist attraction called Headwaters Junction in downtown Fort Wayne, Indiana.

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