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Barry Schrader


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  • Daily Chronicle : DeKalb County Life

The Articles started December 2007.


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Sandwich's railroad dining car carried Teddy on three campaigns

By Barry Schrader.................................March 19, 2008

Setting along Route 34 (formerly Route 18) in Sandwich since the 1930's is a railroad dining car with links to lots of history.
Owner Kelly Conover, 47, who with his wife Martha and adult children Rachel and Jon run Kelly's Pub and American Grill of which the 1893 railway car is its landmark signature, said the car draws railroad buffs from all over the U.S. and even from other countries.
"This Pullman Palace Car made its debut at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago," he explained, built at a cost of $25,000. After the 1894 fair ended it was put into service as a part of Burlington Railroad's Crack Flyer train, "The Pride of Burlington."
This car, Number 4438, was later placed at the disposal of Teddy Roosevelt who used it as part of a three car suite for his 1900 and 1904 presidential campaigns, then later for the "Bull Moose" campaign of 1912.
"It was the creme de la creme, the state of the art in luxurious rail travel in its day," Conover said. The interior is Mahogany and the wood infrastructure made of White Oak. A previous owner of the diner covered the exterior in aluminum, "giving it the body style of the 1950's (Zephyr look) but it was originally all wood on the outside."
Once inside the dining car one can see the lavish design, the colored glass windows and the light fixtures which would have been part of an elegant train in the 1890s.
When the car was retired by the railroad it was bought and transported by rail from California to Sandwich, where it left the tracks and was moved to its present location. The additional dining rooms and bar space were added later, meeting the need for an expanding restaurant business.
The Conovers bought the restaurant from Paul and Terry TePoele five years ago and specialize in Irish fare, but still offer a full menu of American dishes as well. Their daughter Rachel attended culinary school and her father proudly proclaims her Irish Boxties to be the best. This is a potato pancake that offers a choice of ingredients, including steak and mushroom, corned beef and sauerkraut, chicken, seafood or vegetarian plates. Conover left the corporate world to buy the place, but is no stranger to the food business, having owned two restaurants in Indianapolis earlier in his life.
For those excited about the rich and famous, since the diner has been located in Sandwich it has hosted such celebrities as Grace Kelly, Cary Grant, Guy Lombardo, world heavyweight boxing champion Max Baer, and members of the Glen Miller Band, according to Conover, but all before his time. It was situated on a major cross-country route between Chicago and Denver, the highway later being extended all the way to California.
On a warm summer evening seated on the outside deck you can close your eyes and hear the sound of a train passing--the Burlington Northern Santa Fe tracks are just a block or so north in town.

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Barry Schrader
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DeKalb, Ill 60115

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