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"Wheels A-Rolling"
(1948) Chicago Railroad Fair
A history of transportation in America as presented at the 1948 Chicago Railroad Fair.
The highlight of the fair was the "Wheels A-Rolling" pageant. This was a dramatic and musical presentation intended to showcase the development of transportation and the railroads across the country beginning with trails and waterways. The pageant included a recreation of the Golden Spike ceremony at Promontory, Utah, and various historic rolling stock and replicas of equipment in operation.

Railroad equipment used in the pageant included:
(Original equipment)
Empire State Express locomotive 999 on display at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. No. 222 and coach
No. 637, Zulu and combine car
No. 10250
Cumberland Valley Pioneer and coach
Empire State Express No. 999
The General (1948 only)
John Hancock and coach
Illinois Central 201 and coach
Little Butter Cup and two coaches
Minnetonka and two logging trucks
Pioneer and coach
Pioneer Zephyr
Reuben Wells and coach
William Crooks and two coaches
William Mason and baggage car number 10

(Continued below)

Wheels A-Rolling screen shot.
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Replicas
Atlantic and two replica coaches
Best Friend of Charleston
Chicago horse car
DeWitt Clinton and three coaches
John Bull and coach
Jupiter (portrayed by Virginia and Truckee locomotive "Genoa") and combine car
Lafayette and two barrel cars
Pioneer horse car
Pullman coach number 9
State Street cable car
Tom Thumb locomotive and director's car
Union Pacific No. 119 (portrayed by Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy locomotive no. 35)

The Chicago Railroad Fair was an event organized to celebrate and commemorate 100 years of railroad history west of Chicago, Illinois. It was held in Chicago in 1948 and 1949 along the shore of Lake Michigan, and is often referred to as "the last great railroad fair" with 39 railroad companies participating. The board of directors for the show was a veritable "Who's Who" of railroad company executives.

The origin of the fair traces back to the Chicago and North Western Railway (CNW), which at the time was the successor of the first railroad to operate out of Chicago, the Galena and Chicago Union Railroad. CNW was seeking a way to commemorate 100 years of railroading in Chicago, especially as it was done on the CNW itself. Public Relations Manager F.V. Koval is credited with developing the idea behind the fair. The CNW advertising and public relation staff went to work to promote the show in the early months of 1948, beginning with a series of photographs made by company photographer Don Lidikay of people in 19th century costumes posing with the locomotive Pioneer, which had pulled the first train out of Chicago in 1848.

The fair was rapidly planned during the winter and spring of 1948, and originally scheduled to run between July and August of that summer. Erected on 50 acres of Burnham Park in Chicago between 21st and 31st Streets, the fair opened after only six months of planning. A grand opening for the fair commenced on July 20 with a parade that featured such spectacles as a military marching band and a replica of a troop train, a contingent of cowboys and Native Americans, a replica of the Tom Thumb, the first American locomotive, and the spry, octogenarian widow of Casey Jones, who served as honorary Grand Master of the parade. One dollar was the price of admission, and, except food, all the attractions, displays, exhibits and shows were free. Besides the thirty-nine railroads who participated in the fair, there were more than twenty equipment manufacturers, including General Motors.

A highlight of the fair was the presence of the of the Freedom Train.The Freedom Train traveled the country from September 17, 1947 through Jan 22, 1949 and was at the Railroad Fair from July 5 -- 9. It held many documents and artifacts from the National Archives. Available for public viewing were the original United States Constitution, Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. Security of the documents was the responsibility of the Marine Corps.

Thirty eight railroads and more than twenty railroad equipment manufacturers participated in the Chicago Railroad Fair exhibiting equipment and interpretive displays around the fair's theme of 100 years of railroad history. The majority of the participating railroads maintained a direct rail connection to Chicago.

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