CHICAGO — No, that’s not a CTA train on the expressway — but it is a fully functional bar.
A viral photo of what looked like a runaway train on the Eisenhower stopped many in their tracks this week. But the rail car is actually a promo-on-wheels for Goose Island Brewery, company President Todd Ahsmann said.
“That’s 100 percent our train,” Ahsmann said. “Sometimes we have to pull that thing to events down the expressway.”
The retired train car, which traveled the Blue Line in the ’60s, was repurposed with a cooler and draft-line system featuring 12 handles, Ahsmann said. A bartender serves out of the train car through a custom window.
The car’s microphone, PA system, rotating sign for stops, some of the seats and metal floors and finishes are all original, Ahsmann said.
“And the smell is original, too,” Ahsmann said. “The ‘L’ is such an iconic part of Chicago, and as a city brewery we wanted to include that into what we do.”
Goose Island had to reduce the width of the car so it would be legal to drive on public roads, Ahsmann said. It also replaced the wheels because they were “super heavy,” Ahsmann said.
The train is hooked up to a trailer and lugged on the highway only a handful of times a year, Ahsmann said.
It’s usually stationary at the brewery, 1800 W. Fulton St., but has stopped at Taste of Chicago this summer, with plans to make additional stops at Riot Fest and the Goose Island Block Party in September.
The bar was inspired by CTA party trains and popped up “from us just sitting around drinking beers, shooting the s— and someone bringing it up as a joke,” Ahsmann said.
CTA doesn’t sell old trains and wouldn’t make an exception for Goose Island, Ahsmann said.
But the brewery was able to find one at auction — but it was won by Jungle Jim’s, a famous grocery store near Cincinnati known for its theme park theatrics and wonky oversized displays.
Ahsmann “rushed two of our marketing guys to Cincinnati” to smooth-talk “Jungle” Jim Bonaminio, he said.
Jungle Jim got cold feet and said he’d only be interested in selling to Goose Island if its representatives beat him in a hand of poker.
Goose Island’s marketers threw down a pair of jacks and bought the CTA train.
“We don’t know why this train even got to auction in the first place,” Ahsmann said. “But when people find out it pours beer now, they get really happy.”
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