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Sandwich's railroad dining car carried Teddy on three campaigns
By Barry Schrader.................................March
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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DeKalb, Ill 60115