The Chicago Section today has more than 1,600 members, including two subsections— Meetings are held monthly and generally rotate between section and subsections with speakers on topics of current interest and plant tours. The Chicago Section supports student sections at Northwestern University, the University of Illinois at Chicago, Illinois Institute of Technology, Purdue University Calumet, and Olivette Nazarene.
The Chicago area is a source of endless opportunity for professional speakers and interesting tours, and the Chicago Section is never at a loss for an interesting and informative program. Recent tours have included such engineering destinations as Argo Corn Products, Plynetics Express, Rapid Prototyping, and the Experimental Aircraft Association Museum of Flight.
The By-Laws of the sections are available in PDF format for your review. They were re-written in 2001. They had remained unchanged since 1961. By-Laws (PDF)
The Chicago Section was organized in 1913 and re-chartered in 1980 to commemorate the Centennial Year. The Section includes the Calumet Subsection, organized in 1956, and the Skokie Valley Subsection, organized in 1963. The Chicago Section at one time included the Fox Valley Subsection, which was organized in 1956 and achieved full section status in 1975.
Chicago hosted the annual meetings in 1980 (the centennial year for ASME), 1988, and 1994. The 102nd president of the national ASME was Chicago’s own F.W. Scott, who served 1983-84. Chicago members Carl Tack and David Blaine each served as chairman of the Rail Transportation Division.
Monthly meetings in the earlier years drew a large attendance, as many of the members worked downtown. Members met for many years in the Engineers’ Club in the John Crerar Library Building on Randolph Street. According to Chicago Section veterans David Blaine and Ozzie Rothchild, in those days 100 was a poor turnout, and attendance more often ran as high as 250. As businesses began moving to the suburbs and life in general became more complicated, it became harder to draw people to the meetings. Directors met for many years at the Union League Club.
The Chicago Section hosted the historic sesquicentennial and centennial national meetings for ASME with extended celebrations of mechanical engineering meetings, programs, and tours. During the centennial, Chicago Mayor Jayne Byrne declared the week of November 16 as American Society of Mechanical Engineers Centennial Week.
The Chicago Section claims three important Historic Landmarks: the Pioneer Zephyr Winton, the Railroad-wheel Dynamometer, and the State Line Generating Unit #1.
(1) Accepted as a landmark in 1980, the Pioneer Zephyr Winton 8-201-A Diesel Engine (1934) is displayed at the Museum of Science and Industry. The Pioneer Zephyr was built for the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad in 1934, ushering in a new era in travel by rail.
The Zephyr’s exterior was a streamlined, stainless-steel creation that was the result of a wind-tunnel test conducted at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The power source was a revolutionary diesel-electric engine that would eventually replace the traditional steam locomotive. The Zephyr could travel up to 120 miles per hour, measured 197 feet long overall, and weighed approximately 208,000 pounds, with a total seating capacity of 72.
(2) The Railroad-wheel Dynamometer, accepted as a landmark in 1988, is now located at the Association of American Railroads Transportation Technical Center in Pueblo, Colorado. Until 1996, it was housed at the Illinois Institute of Technology in the laboratory that was occupied by the AAR before it moved to Pueblo.
The dynamometer tests full-size railroad wheels under controlled conditions exceeding those of normal service. This particular dynamometer was contracted from the Adamson United Company of Akron, Ohio, by the U.S. Steel Corporation in the early 1950s to evaluate the performance of its wrought-steel wheels and axles, and cast-iron brake shoes. The AAR purchased the dynamometer from U.S. Steel and moved it to Chicago in 1983.
(3) Designated a landmark in 1977, the State Line Generating Unit No. 1 is located in Hammond, Indiana, at the Illinois-Indiana border. With its rating of 208 megawatts, Unit No. 1 of the State Line Station was the largest turbine-generator in the world during 1929-1954, serving the massive industrial district from Chicago to Gary.
The project was initiated by Samuel Insull, then president of Commonwealth Edison, who intended to establish a monopoly of service in the Chicago region. The power plant was situated on 90 acres of fill on the Lake Michigan shore. Consulting engineers were Sargent & Lundy; architects were Graham, Anderson, Probst & White; the General Electric Company furnished the 208-MW turbine generator. In December 1953 State Line Unit No. 1 was retired as champion by a 213-MW turbine-generator in Ohio. It has since been dismantled.
Information on these Chicago landmarks has been obtained from members and from the publication Landmarks in Mechanical Engineering.