The Trolley Dodger mailbag is overflowing this month. We also have some new photographic finds to share with you.
Along with our upcoming book Chicago Trolleys, we are pleased to report there will also be a related item– a pack of 15 postcards, showing selected classic images from the book. This is part of Arcadia Publishing’s Postcards of America series. More information below.
Kenneth Gear writes:
In that Railroad Record Club paper I scanned and sent to you last week there is a list of books Steventon was selling. One of them, “BLUE RIDGE TROLLEY The Hagerstown & Frederick Railway” By Herbert H. Harwood interested me. I searched online and found a copy for sale and purchased it (at a much higher price than the $10 Steventon was asking).
Many of the photos in the book were taken by Ara Mesrobian. This is the same photographer who took the photos of William Steventon along the H&F in January of 1954. These photos, as you know, were used in the article Steventon wrote for TRACTION & MODELS magazine. Since it is a certainty that Mesrobian and Steventon were together (with several others) while some of the recordings were being made that were included on RRC LP #6, the possibility exists that some of the photographs Ara Mesrobian made at the time may have been used in this book.
Using some clues from the RRC liner notes, the T&M article, and the photo captions in the book, I found a few photos that may very well have been taken at the same time as the sound recordings. I’ve scanned and attached two of them.
The first one shows car # 172 near Lewiston, MD. We know sound recordings were made here because of the T&M photo of Steventon at this location. The photo shows a snowless winter landscape that matches the T&M photo. The date of the photo is not given in the book, but this could be the visual of one of the cuts on side one.
The second photo’s caption does not give the car number but it appears to be car # 172 again. The date is not given but again the winter landscape and weather conditions are not unlike the photos in T&M.
There are a few more photos by Mesrobian in the book that could have been taken during the recording sessions but to me, these two are the most likely. Cars 171 & 172 were the only two H&F cars in operation at the time so all passenger car photos taken in this time frame would be of them.
Pinning down dates would be difficult too. The RRC #6 record label has the years 1953 -55 printed on it so we have this to work from. Steventon was in Washington DC in July of 1953 according to the liner notes of RRC 27. He was recording cars of the Capital Transit, and being that close to the H&F (and that far from Wisconsin) it’s possible he made H&F recordings on that trip. I could not find any photos in the book taken by Mesrobian that look like they may have been taken in midsummer.
Perhaps he did not accompany Steventon on that H&F trip, if indeed Steventon made one. We know he made H&F recordings on January 3, 1954 because the photos in T&M are dated. All passenger service on the H&F ended on February 20, 1954 (Steventon made his recordings just six weeks earlier) so anything recorded in 1955 had to be of the freight motors. Steventon wrote in the liner notes of RRC 6 that the in cab recordings of locomotive #12 were “made on a very cold day in January, with drifts of snow across the rails”. The T&M photos show no snow on the ground and the coat Steventon is wearing does not seem to be very heavy. Additionally he is hatless and not wearing gloves or a scarf. This indicates to me that in all likelihood it was not extremely cold that day. However, there may have been snow at higher elevations. Electric freight operations lasted, according to the book, until “early 1955”. So my guess would be the cab ride in # 12 took place in January of 1955, one year and a month after the end of passenger service.
All of this is just conjecture on my part but it seems reasonable and was a fun exercise.
Another interesting photo in the book is an interior shot of H&F car 172. This is one of the Railroad Record Club photos that you got on eBay! The photo was taken by Steventon himself and it’s a safe bet that he took it at the same time he made the on train recording, where he placed the microphone under the car’s floor, that is band 4 on side 1. Of note, Steventon’s name is spelled incorrectly in the photo credit. He is credited as William A. Stevenson! I’ve scanned and attached the page.
Anyway if you have an interest in the H&F I would recommend this book. There are many used copies available online.
Well that’s how I spent my afternoon today, it sure beat cutting the grass.
This is great detective work on your part. I will run this in my next post.
Of course, there may have been charters using the passenger cars even after the end of passenger service.
I know someone, now close to 87 years old, who rode one of those late H&F trips.*
The book didn’t have any photos or make any mention of fan trips after the end of regular passenger service, but It can’t be ruled out. It must be remembered that the wires came down in early 1955 so that only left a window of about 12-14 months for any fan trips to have run. Also in the book’s equipment roster it lists both 171 & 172 as having been retired in 1954 but does not give any disposition info. I look for fan trip photos online.
As long as the cars were still on the property, they could have been used for fantrip service. As the last operating interurban on the east coast, chances are there would have been a demand for such trips.
I will see what I can find out.
One other fairly interesting thing I thought of today. I watched a documentary about the H&F on Youtube (I can send the link if you wish), and in the closing credits there was a list of people whose photographs were used for the still frames in the film. One of the photographers listed was Steventon’s friend Bob Crockett. He may have been along on one or more of these recording trips. He also my be one of the people in the T&E photos too. There aren’t any of Crockett’s photos in the book however, and I can’t find any H&F photos of his online.Also in the acknowledgments of the book Ara Mesrobian is listed and said to live in Washington. He being so close to the H&F I’m sure he made many trips to the property without Steventon.
I believe that in 1953 Steventon was working for the Federal government in Washington, D. C., so he wasn’t living in Wisconsin yet. I think he grew up in Illinois, actually.
Good point, I hadn’t thought of that. I just always associate him with being in Wisconsin. You are right about him growing up in Illinois. RRC LP #20 liner notes he says he was born and raised in Mt. Carmel. I didn’t know of his government work, at least I don’t recall having read about it.
Pretty sure it is mentioned in that newspaper article about Steventon that I posted some time ago.
I re-read the newspaper article and you are correct, it states he was working in Washington DC in 1953. I overlooked this fact and it may put a little different spin on some of my assumptions as to the dates of the recordings. He could have made the trip easily to the H&F on many occasions during the time he worked for the government, and we don’t know the years he worked in DC.He was in Wisconsin, and apparently for some years, by the time of the newspaper piece was written in 1958. At any rate, we can be sure of the January 3, 1954 date because we have the T&M photos which are dated. As I said, it was just a fun way to fill a free afternoon and avoid doing yard chores.
Tracing the Hagerstown & Frederick:
Howard Sell Films of Hershey Transit and the Hagerstown & Frederick:
Bill Shapotkin writes:
In your most recent post (which covers your Chicago Streetcar book), there is this photo (above). Indeed, the pic is in Maywood (just barely). We are looking N/B on 19th Ave from a point just north of St Charles Rd. The Grd Xing is the C&NW (its Melrose Park station is out-of-view to right). Busses of PACE RT #303 continue to operate in 19th, passing this location.
Lou Astrella writes:
I was wondering if you had a picture of the trolley barn/garage that used to be at Division & Oakley in Chicago IL many years ago. Thank you.
I don’t have such a picture at present, but will keep an eye out for one in the future. Probably the best place to look for pictures of the car barn would be in the CSL employee magazine (Surface Service), from around May 1947 when it closed. Unfortunately, I do not have either the May or June 1947 issue in my collection at present. Perhaps the CTA might, however.
Here’s a partial view of it:
Hopefully, our readers may have other pictures to share.
Jack Bejna writes:
I have enjoyed your recent posts as always, and I find myself checking often, hoping to find another of your posts waiting for me. Good work! Here are some images of the second order of CA&E cars, built by Niles in 1905. Car 205 had its motors removed in the late years. Car 209 was rebuilt in 1924 by the company shops from parlor-buffet car Carolyn. The original photo of car 207 was an in-train image that I decide to modify to show the end details better. I spent way too much time on this one but I think the end result looks much better than the original image.
Thanks, Jack, once again for all your incredible work in making these cars look better than ever. I am sure our readers appreciate it as well.
Warren Kostelny writes:
I would like to express my satisfaction with your book Chicago Streetcar Pictorial: The PCC Car Era.** It is really a great book to enjoy.
Are you planning to publish other books for the other cities that had PCC streetcars?
They say you should write what you know, and while I have learned a lot about Chicago’s PCCs over the years, this doesn’t necessarily carry over to other cities. I will leave that to people who know those subject much better than I could. I will always be a Chicagoan at heart.
Meanwhile, I have a new book coming out this September called Chicago Trolleys, via Arcadia Publishing (see below). Chicago’s PCCs, and the experimental models that preceded them, are an important part of this tome.
I did find some discrepancies. On page 15 PCC cars #7035-7114 is listed as 90 cars built and delivered. If you add up the postwar PCCs it comes to 610 built. It should be only 600 cars.
That is a typo and should say 80 cars.
On page 428, cars #7035-7114 is listed as 80 cars built and delivered. When you add up postwar PCC cars built and delivered it is 600 cars. Which is the correct number built?
600 cars– 310 by Pullman, and 290 from St. Louis Car Company. No doubt the order was too much for either company to build in a timely fashion, so it was split.
Also on page 15, the 4 car lines were to get 182, 150, 171, and 75 PCC cars. This only adds up to 578. Where did the other 22 go so it totals 600 cars?
I would expect 22 cars were to be held in reserve to account for down time caused by accidents and mechanical issues. Having a total of 600 cars does not mean you have 600 cars available at all times.
On page 321, the picture is identified as July 1955. The car is a 1956 Pontiac. Next year’s new models usually came out in October, November, December.
Your point is well taken. 1955 and 1956 Pontiacs have the same basic body, but slightly different bumpers. You are correct in noting that the picture shows a 1956 model.
I recall, as a kid, that new car models were introduced during September. So, in some cases, you could have a photo with a 1956 model car that was taken in 1955. This tradition began to fray when Ford introduced the Mustang in April 1964, as a “1964 1/2” model.
1956 license plates have white background and black numerals, which this car has.
You are correct. Chances are this picture was taken shortly before the end of streetcar service on Western Avenue (June 1956). In some cases, the information that comes with a photo turns out not to be completely accurate. We do our best to catch such errors. Good eye!
I used a similar strategy to help date the photo of the Third Avenue El in our recent post Badgered (June 12, 2017). There, New York used the same plate in 1955 and 1956, but in the latter year, there was a sticker in the upper right hand corner. That helped date the picture to 1955. The type of slide mount on this “red border Kodachrome” also indicated a date no earlier than 1955.
Other 1956 photos which show this are pages 355 bottom, 322 bottom, 319 top and bottom, 309 top and bottom, 195 bottom, and 351 top.
Yes, and in those cases, the photos are correctly identified as 1956.
1955 car plates had black backgrounds and light-colored numerals. Pages 360 top, 334 top, 337 bottom, and 351 bottom.
And those photos are accurately listed as 1955.
It is a great book and hope there are more books to come on the PCC streetcars.
I’ll settle for partial credit regarding my new book, and hope it meets with your approval. Meanwhile, I am working hard to ensure that minor errors do not creep into Chicago Trolleys. Books such as this are full of complexities. Since humans are not perfect, it shouldn’t be too surprising that the books they create aren’t perfect either. But we do strive for perfection, naturally. To err is human; to forgive, divine!
Meanwhile, shortly after the PCC book was published, I received the following message from our resident South Side expert M. E.:
Yesterday I received B-146 and have been poring over it since then. B-146 is one heck of an achievement. I can only imagine how deteriorated the photos must have been. Your photo editor did a Herculean job restoring the photos.
The late Bradley Criss was an absolute master with Photoshop, a true magician. But instead of waving a magic wand, it took him endless hours of hard work, dedication, and attention to detail to make these pictures look as good as they do. My new book is dedicated to him.
I found a few booboos to tell you about:
(1) On page 38, the map you contend is from 1950. I knew the south side Surface Lines routes pretty well. Most of them are represented accurately in the map. But:
— Your own text, corroborated by Alan Lind’s book, says that streetcar service on Halsted south of 79th St. was eliminated in 1949. Therefore the route to 111th and Sacramento would have disappeared by 1950.
The map in question is correct as of early December 1949, and not 1950. We regret this error.
— Also, Lind’s book says the Halsted-Downtown route was the one that first ran to 111th and Sacramento. But by the late 1940s it was route 8. Lind’s book has a picture of a red streetcar on 111th St. with a destination sign showing route 8. From my personal experience, hanging around 63rd and Halsted as often as I did, I can state it really was route 8. Incidentally, I think the route 8 number itself was a rather late development. I remember destination signs on red streetcars that had no route numbers.
Route numbers were first used internally by CSL for accounting purposes, but gradually became public due to their use with the various Through Routes. So, for example, Lake-State was Through Route 16, and eventually the Lake route itself became 16.
— Also, that map shows route 8 between 79th and 81st Sts. The CTA may have retained trolley wire between 81st and 79th to connect routes 22 and 8/42, but there was no streetcar service south of 79th after 1949.
This map, produced by Dennis McClendon and Chicago Cartographics, is basically a color-coded version of one in a contemporary CTA Annual Report. Presumably their map showed wire between 79th and 81st since it was still there and available for car movements if needed, although not actually used as part of routes 8, 22, or 42.
(2) On page 211, the upper caption has the date October 1958.
That is, of course, a typo since the last car ran in June 1958. Possibly the correct date should be October 1957, based on the automobiles present.
(3) On page 381, the caption says the location is 63rd and Lowe. Not so. The view is facing west, and you can see the spire of the Southtown Theatre. The Southtown Theatre was at 63rd and Lowe, west of the railroad tracks. The true site of this photo is 63rd and Normal Parkway, which was 500 West. How do I know? In the photo is a sign for the 505 Grill. 505 is an address just west of Normal.
I wrote the caption for that photo, and mistakenly put down the cross street for the Southtown (Lowe) instead of the one for the photographer’s location (Normal).
The photo atop page 111 shows the 63rd Place short turn adjacent to the Halsted L station. For your information, the green and white bus belonged to the Suburban Transit System, based in Oak Lawn. Its route, starting at the L station, was north on Halsted to 63rd, west to Morgan St. (1000 west), south to 87th St., east to Vincennes (which at that point was about 900 west), south on Vincennes to 95th St., then west to any of several terminals along 95th St.
Also, there is a glimpse of a red and white bus in the distance. That one belonged to South Suburban Safeway Lines, which ran two routes into Englewood. One was the Harvey bus (currently route 349), which ran north on Halsted to 63rd, west to Western Ave., then south to Blue Island and Harvey. The other was the Chicago Heights/Crete bus (currently route 352), which turned south on Halsted and ran straight to the suburbs.
Thanks for all the great information!
The only other minor errors that I know about in B-146 involve some photos taken in the vicinity of Wrigley Field. These were mistakenly attributed to the late Charles Tauscher instead of Robert Heinlein. We regret this error, and thank Mr. Heinlein for taking such wonderful photographs.
It would be difficult to name a railfan book published within the last 50 years that did not have a few minor errors in it. This would include the legendary Lind book, which is rightfully considered the “gold standard” by which all other Chicago streetcar books should be judged.
I have seen the late Joe Saitta‘s personal copy of the CSL book, which included his own copious handwritten notes, for better or for worse, detailing what he regarded as corrections. The handwriting was very difficult to read, but there were notations on nearly every page.
*Ray DeGroote writes:
Yes, I visited the H&F for a day at Thanksgiving time, 1952. I borrowed a camera from Tom Desnoyers since I did not have my own yet. I rode the line from Frederick, MD to Thurmond, about 20 miles, where the interurban connected with the Western Maryland RR. By that time they were down to just a few trips each day, and the rest of the system had been abandoned.
If there were any fan trips around that time, I did not hear about then. But it is possible either the Baltimore or Washington groups may have arranged something.
**Published in 2015 by Central Electric Railfans’ Association. The Trolley Dodger blog is not affiliated with CERA.
Pre-Order Our New Book Chicago Trolleys
We are pleased to report that our new book Chicago Trolleys will be released on September 25th by Arcadia Publishing. You can pre-order an autographed copy through us today (see below). Chicago Trolleys will also be available wherever Arcadia books are sold.
Chicago’s extensive transit system first started in 1859, when horsecars ran on rails in city streets. Cable cars and electric streetcars came next. Where new trolley car lines were built, people, businesses, and neighborhoods followed. Chicago quickly became a world-class city. At its peak, Chicago had over 3,000 streetcars and 1,000 miles of track—the largest such system in the world. By the 1930s, there were also streamlined trolleys and trolley buses on rubber tires. Some parts of Chicago’s famous “L” system also used trolley wire instead of a third rail. Trolley cars once took people from the Loop to such faraway places as Aurora, Elgin, Milwaukee, and South Bend. A few still run today.
The book features 221 classic black-and-white images, each with detailed captions, in 10 chapters:
1. Early Traction
2. Consolidation and Growth
3. Trolleys to the Suburbs
4. Trolleys on the “L”
5. Interurbans under Wire
6. The Streamlined Era
7. The War Years
8. Unification and Change
9. Trolley Buses
10. Preserving History
Publisher: Arcadia Publishing SC
Publication date: 09/25/2017
Series: Images of Rail
Meet the Author
David Sadowski has been interested in streetcars ever since his father took him for a ride on one of the last remaining lines in 1958. He grew up riding trolley buses and “L” trains all over Chicago. He coauthored Chicago Streetcar Pictorial: The PCC Car Era, 1936–1958, and runs the online Trolley Dodger blog. Come along for the ride as we travel from one side of the city to the other and see how trolley cars and buses moved Chicago’s millions of hardworking, diverse people.
Images of Rail
The Images of Rail series celebrates the history of rail, trolley, streetcar, and subway transportation across the country. Using archival photographs, each title presents the people, places, and events that helped revolutionize transportation and commerce in 19th- and 20th-century America. Arcadia is proud to play a part in the preservation of local heritage, making history available to all.
The book costs just $21.99 plus shipping. Shipping within the US is included in the price. Shipping to Canada is just $5 additional, or $10 elsewhere.
Please note that Illinois residents must pay 10.00% sales tax on their purchases.
We appreciate your business!
For Shipping to US Addresses:
For Shipping to Canada:
For Shipping Elsewhere:
NEW – Chicago Trolleys Postcard Collection
We are pleased to report that selected images from our upcoming book Chicago Trolleys will be available in a pack of 15 postcards, all for just $7.99. This is part of a series put out by Arcadia Publishing. Dimensions: 6″ wide x 4.25″ tall
The Postcards of America Series
Here in the 21st century, when everyone who’s anyone seems to do most of their communicating via Facebook and Twitter, it’s only natural to wax a little nostalgic when it comes to days gone by. What happened to more personal means of communication like hand-written letters on nice stationery? Why don’t people still send postcards when they move someplace new or go away on vacation?
If that line of thinking sounds familiar, then Arcadia Publishing’s Postcards of America was launched with you in mind. Each beautiful volume features a different collection of real vintage postcards that you can mail to your friends and family.
Pre-Order your Chicago Trolleys Postcard Pack today!
For Shipping to US Addresses:
For Shipping to Canada:
For Shipping Elsewhere:
Help Support The Trolley Dodger
This is our 187th post, and we are gradually creating a body of work and an online resource for the benefit of all railfans, everywhere. To date, we have received over 297,000 page views, for which we are very grateful.
You can help us continue our original transit research by checking out the fine products in our Online Store.
As we have said before, “If you buy here, we will be here.”
We thank you for your support.
In order to continue giving you the kinds of historic railroad images that you have come to expect from The Trolley Dodger, we need your help and support. It costs money to maintain this website, and to do the sort of historic research that is our specialty.
Your financial contributions help make this web site better, and are greatly appreciated.