Chicago Streetcars in Black-and-White, Part 2

It's August 28, 1936 on north Ashland Avenue, and time for a parade. One week earlier, streetcar service had been extended north of Cortland in one of the final extensions under CSL. Prior to this time, this portion of the route had run on Southport, two blocks to the east. North Chicago Street Railroad "Bombay roof" horsecar 8 is ahead of the experimental 1934 Brill pre-PCC car 7001. Ironically, the older car survives at the Illinois Railway Museum, while 7001 was scrapped in 1959. On the other hand, Mike Franklin writes: "Dave, the top photo is taken at 8537 S. Commercial, Chicago. Schmidt Cleaning and Dying. It is not Ashland Ave. Do Google Earth and it all makes sense." If you are correct, then this picture was probably misidentified, and the parade actually took place around May 2, 1937, when the east and west portions of the 87th Street route were connected via a through route. Thanks for your detective work.

It’s August 28, 1936 on north Ashland Avenue, and time for a parade. One week earlier, streetcar service had been extended north of Cortland in one of the final extensions under CSL. Prior to this time, this portion of the route had run on Southport, two blocks to the east. North Chicago Street Railroad “Bombay roof” horsecar 8 is ahead of the experimental 1934 Brill pre-PCC car 7001. Ironically, the older car survives at the Illinois Railway Museum, while 7001 was scrapped in 1959.
On the other hand, Mike Franklin writes: “Dave, the top photo is taken at 8537 S. Commercial, Chicago. Schmidt Cleaning and Dying. It is not Ashland Ave. Do Google Earth and it all makes sense.” If you are correct, then this picture was probably misidentified, and the parade actually took place around May 2, 1937, when the east and west portions of the 87th Street route were connected via a through route. Thanks for your detective work.

Our earlier feature Chicago Streetcars in Black-and-White has been very popular, so here is another heaping helping of classic photos by some of the greatest railfan photographers of all time. As always, clicking on each picture will bring up a larger version in your browser.

If you can share some interesting tidbits of information about these views, we look forward to hearing from you.

-David Sadowski

It's February 22, 1950, looking south on State Street. "Chicago's famed State Street gleams with all its brilliance before half of the lights were turned off to save fuel as the Coal strike cuts Illinois's output of coal 95 per cent. The State Street Lighting association began a 50 per cent voluntary dim-out of the street to save meager fuel supplies. The PCC is on route 36 - Broadway-State, while the Peter Witt is on route 4 - Cottage Grove.

It’s February 22, 1950, looking south on State Street. “Chicago’s famed State Street gleams with all its brilliance before half of the lights were turned off to save fuel as the Coal strike cuts Illinois’s output of coal 95 per cent. The State Street Lighting association began a 50 per cent voluntary dim-out of the street to save meager fuel supplies. The PCC is on route 36 – Broadway-State, while the Peter Witt is on route 4 – Cottage Grove.

CSL 5533 is eastbound on 63rd Street at Cicero, passing Midway Airport.

CSL 5533 is eastbound on 63rd Street at Cicero, passing Midway Airport.

Roy Benedict writes, "Chicago City Railway car 5232 is on 51st St. at Grand Blvd. (now King Dr.) as evidenced by the distant building, which appears in later photos. The car tracks ended at the boulevard then and for a couple of decades later." This photo must predate 1914, when the Chicago Surface Lines came into being. According to Don's Rail Photos, "1st 5201 thru 5250 were built by Brill-American Car Co in 1906, (Order) #15365, for CCRy as 5201 thru 5250, but it was shipped to United Railroads of San Francisco due to the earthquake. 2nd 5201 thru 5250 were built by Brill-American Car Co in 1906, (Order) #15365, to replace the orignal order. They were rebuilt in 1909 to bring them up to the standard of the later cars."

Roy Benedict writes, “Chicago City Railway car 5232 is on 51st St. at Grand Blvd. (now King Dr.) as evidenced by the distant building, which appears in later photos. The car tracks ended at the boulevard then and for a couple of decades later.”
This photo must predate 1914, when the Chicago Surface Lines came into being. According to Don’s Rail Photos, “1st 5201 thru 5250 were built by Brill-American Car Co in 1906, (Order) #15365, for CCRy as 5201 thru 5250, but it was shipped to United Railroads of San Francisco due to the earthquake.
2nd 5201 thru 5250 were built by Brill-American Car Co in 1906, (Order) #15365, to replace the orignal order. They were rebuilt in 1909 to bring them up to the standard of the later cars.”

CSL 5554 is eastbound on 79th, turning into Emerald, east of Halsted. Bill Shapotkin says it is turning into the carbarn. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

CSL 5554 is eastbound on 79th, turning into Emerald, east of Halsted. Bill Shapotkin says it is turning into the carbarn. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

Roy Benedict says, "(CSL) car 5663 faces south on the northbound track of Ashland Ave. south of Pershing Rd. waiting to begin a trip that will soon pick up a full load of industrial workers. The camera looks toward the northeast. The fans knew that they could often find unusual cars that would perhaps make just one trip from the carbarn at 69th to here, then to the south end of the line and back to the barn." (Route 9 - Ashland.) (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

Roy Benedict says, “(CSL) car 5663 faces south on the northbound track of Ashland Ave. south of Pershing Rd. waiting to begin a trip that will soon pick up a full load of industrial workers. The camera looks toward the northeast. The fans knew that they could often find unusual cars that would perhaps make just one trip from the carbarn at 69th to here, then to the south end of the line and back to the barn.” (Route 9 – Ashland.) (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

It must be cold, since CSL 3201 is covered in icicles. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

It must be cold, since CSL 3201 is covered in icicles. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

CSL 3093 is southbound on Morgan at 35th Street. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

CSL 3093 is southbound on Morgan at 35th Street. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

CTA red car 859 and prewar PCC 7024 are on hand at the 70th Street end of 69th Carhouse.

CTA red car 859 and prewar PCC 7024 are on hand at the 70th Street end of 69th Carhouse.

CSL 2755 at Eggleston and 74th. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

CSL 2755 at Eggleston and 74th. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

Bob Lalich says, "The photo of SB 2619 was taken near 130th St. The Brandon-Brainard line crossed two steam railroads near 130th St, the Calumet Western and the PRR-Calumet River line. The crossings were very close to each other as the junction between the Calumet Western and the Calumet River RR was a very short distance to the east. If you zoom in on the photo of 2619 in this blog you can see both crossings." (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

Bob Lalich says, “The photo of SB 2619 was taken near 130th St. The Brandon-Brainard line crossed two steam railroads near 130th St, the Calumet Western and the PRR-Calumet River line. The crossings were very close to each other as the junction between the Calumet Western and the Calumet River RR was a very short distance to the east. If you zoom in on the photo of 2619 in this blog you can see both crossings.” (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

Car 2721 crosses the Illinois Central Electric at 79th Street and Exchange Avenue. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

Car 2721 crosses the Illinois Central Electric at 79th Street and Exchange Avenue. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

79th and Exchange today.

79th and Exchange today.

CSL 1775, recruiting for the Navy, is southbound at LaSalle and Randolph in October 1942.

CSL 1775, recruiting for the Navy, is southbound at LaSalle and Randolph in October 1942.

Whether a "Sedan," a "Peter Witt," or both, car 3359 is southbound on Cottage Grove at 105th. (Robert V. Mehlenbeck Photo)

Whether a “Sedan,” a “Peter Witt,” or both, car 3359 is southbound on Cottage Grove at 105th. (Robert V. Mehlenbeck Photo)

CTA 3163 is westbound on route 72 - North Avenue in 1949, having just passed Halsted, on the first day of one-man operation. The "L" at rear is now known as the Ravenswood Connector. (William C. Janssen Photo)

CTA 3163 is westbound on route 72 – North Avenue in 1949, having just passed Halsted, on the first day of one-man operation. The “L” at rear is now known as the Ravenswood Connector. (William C. Janssen Photo)

North and Halsted as it looks today. The "L" makes a "triple curve" here.

North and Halsted as it looks today. The “L” makes a “triple curve” here.

Car 5790 circa 1918-20. Roy Benedict says that while this cannot be Burnside, "it might be looking toward the south along the Cottage Grove Ave. side of Cottage Grove carhouse and maybe it is, but I cannot confirm it with evidence which I have at hand." CSL did not paint their streetcars red until the early 1920s, when it was done to make them more visible to motorists. Before that, the standard CSL color was a dark green.

Car 5790 circa 1918-20. Roy Benedict says that while this cannot be Burnside, “it might be looking toward the south along the Cottage Grove Ave. side of Cottage Grove carhouse and maybe it is, but I cannot confirm it with evidence which I have at hand.”
CSL did not paint their streetcars red until the early 1920s, when it was done to make them more visible to motorists. Before that, the standard CSL color was a dark green.

Peter Witt 3327 heads out from the south end of route 4 - Cottage Grove. (William C. Janssen Photo)

Peter Witt 3327 heads out from the south end of route 4 – Cottage Grove. (William C. Janssen Photo)

In this slushy winter scene, car 3266 is southbound on State below 59th, passing under the "L". (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

In this slushy winter scene, car 3266 is southbound on State below 59th, passing under the “L”. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

Car 1821 passing under the Sacramento station on the old Garfield Park "L". The curve in the tracks is quite apparent here. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

Car 1821 passing under the Sacramento station on the old Garfield Park “L”. The curve in the tracks is quite apparent here. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

An inbound Milwaukee Avenue car meets a southbound Damen car. The third cross street is North Avenue. A drug store now occupies the bank building at center. (Edward Frank, Jr. Photo)

An inbound Milwaukee Avenue car meets a southbound Damen car. The third cross street is North Avenue. A drug store now occupies the bank building at center. (Edward Frank, Jr. Photo)

Southbound car 3096 passes under the Metropolitan "L" main line at Racine and Tilden. Marshfield Junction would be a few blocks west of here. The Eisenhower expressway runs through here now. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

Southbound car 3096 passes under the Metropolitan “L” main line at Racine and Tilden. Marshfield Junction would be a few blocks west of here. The Eisenhower expressway runs through here now. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

Car 1677 is most likely being used for training in the Van Buren tunnel under the Chicago River in this scene. The Met "L" is in the background. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

Car 1677 is most likely being used for training in the Van Buren tunnel under the Chicago River in this scene. The Met “L” is in the background. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

Dearborn Station as it appeared in the mid-1920s. This picture was most likely taken on a glass plate negative.

Dearborn Station as it appeared in the mid-1920s. This picture was most likely taken on a glass plate negative.

According to Andre Kristopans, "The #5 with 3376 is looking SE on South Chicago at Commercial. Note the railroad lift bridges in the distance, past 95th. Also, the bus behind the car is a Chicago & Calumet District bus running on the route that partially replaced the joint CSL/HWEC carlines to Hammond and East Chicago, though the bus route ended up going thru Whiting and then east to Gary, with connections at 119th and Indianapolis for Hammond and East Chicago." (Joe L. Diaz Collection)

According to Andre Kristopans, “The #5 with 3376 is looking SE on South Chicago at Commercial. Note the railroad lift bridges in the distance, past 95th. Also, the bus behind the car is a Chicago & Calumet District bus running on the route that partially replaced the joint CSL/HWEC carlines to Hammond and East Chicago, though the bus route ended up going thru Whiting and then east to Gary, with connections at 119th and Indianapolis for Hammond and East Chicago.” (Joe L. Diaz Collection)

CSL 1776, in patriotic garb, at West Shops in 1944. Those 17-year-olds who decided to study electronic engineering would be 88 years old today.

CSL 1776, in patriotic garb, at West Shops in 1944. Those 17-year-olds who decided to study electronic engineering would be 88 years old today.

Fixing a Hole Called Block 37

Most Chicagoans are probably not aware of what “Block 37” is downtown, or that less than 10 years ago, the City spent $400m on creating the empty shell underground for a “super” subway station to provide express service to both Midway and O’Hare airports.

Chances are this ambitious goal will always be an unrealized dream, since the amount of money required to bring it about is likely many times greater than any potential benefit such express trains would provide.

Occasionally, there is media coverage of the empty station. About a year ago, Crain’s Chicago Business published pictures of the empty station, and it was recently the subject of an NBC-5 investigative report.

However, being underground, the failed Block 37 superstation at 108 North State Street is mainly “out of sight, out of mind.” What’s lacking right now is a clear idea of how this “boondoggle” can be developed for public benefit in the future.

While the “superstation” was intended to provide a connection between Chicago’s State Street and Dearborn subways, located a block apart, it seems unlikely that it will be developed for rapid transit use in the foreseeable future. However, I would agree with the CTA that it remains a “valuable asset,” although perhaps in a different way than originally intended.

When faced with a lemon, why not look for ways to make lemonade?

Searching for inspiration, I suggest the Second City look no further than the New York Transit Museum, which is located in the unused 1936 IND Court Street subway station in downtown Brooklyn.  NYC has transformed this unique location, which would otherwise be just another “hole in the ground,” into an important educational and cultural attraction.

Chicago has long been known as the “Crossroads of America,” but if you’re looking for museum exhibits about this rich history, you’ll have to look outside the Loop.  There are some static exhibits at the Chicago History Museum and the Museum of Science and Industry.  The Illinois Railway Museum, which calls itself a “Museum in Motion,” is 65 miles away in Union, beyond exurbia, and the Fox River Trolley Museum in South Elgin is not much closer.

Chicago, once “hog butcher to the world,” increasingly relies on tourism as an economic engine, and over the decades new cultural institutions have sprung up to drive that motor.  For example, the Museum of Broadcast Communications started out in the Chicago Cultural Center in 1987, and it took 25 years before it had its own building.  Over time, it has developed into a major local institution.

The unused space in Block 37 would make an ideal location for a Chicago Museum of Transportation, with exhibits honoring our long, rich history as a mid-American “hub” on land, in the water, and in the air.  It could pay homage to our rail heritage, our historic train terminals, our streetcars, cable cars, rapid transit and interurban trains and our busy highways and airports.

Its connections to Chicago’s subways make it an ideal location that could be reached easily from all parts of the city.  These same connections would help facilitate displaying some of Chicago’s historic “L” and subway cars.  Here, at least, there is already a building on top of the site.

As many of Chicago’s subway stations, now approaching 75 years old, get older and are being renovated, we are losing more and more of the original “Art Deco” styling they once had.  Some have lamented this loss, and its replacement by a hodge-podge of different unrelated styles, as one station after another gets a makeover with a different theme.

A Block 37 museum would provide an ideal place to preserve and display some of this original station architecture before it is too late and all of it is gone forever.

I’m not saying that any of this would be easy, but worthwhile things hardly ever are.  It would take years of planning and effort, millions of dollars in fundraising, and a partnership between the public and private sectors.

This development would preserve the possibility of future use as an actual transit station, should that become feasible at some time in the future.  It would make a real contribution to the cultural life of the city, bringing visitors and tourists downtown.

The alternative could be that 10 or 20 years from now, we will see more of these stories about the deep, dark expensive hole in the ground in Chicago’s Loop, and the questions will linger about what we need to do to fill that void.

-David Sadowski

 

 

 

 

 

Chicago Streetcars In Color

This must be car 3142, which was saved by ERHS and is now in operating condition at the Illinois Railway Museum. In this September 10, 1959 scene, there are still a few PCCs left on the property at South Shops, including car 4400. (Clark Frazier Photo)

This must be car 3142, which was saved by ERHS and is now in operating condition at the Illinois Railway Museum. In this September 10, 1959 scene, there are still a few PCCs left on the property at South Shops, including car 4400. (Clark Frazier Photo)

Following up on our earlier post Chicago Streetcars in Black-and-White, here are nearly 40 more pictures in color.  Because they are in color, they naturally skew towards the last 10 years or so of service, leading up to that fateful morning on June 21, 1958, when the last Chicago streetcar ran:

We hope that you enjoy these glimpses of a bygone era. We have provided what information we have on the locations and circumstances. If you can help fill in some additional details, let us know.

-David Sadowski

Pullman PCC 4090 heads west on Monroe on route 20 - Madison.

Pullman PCC 4090 heads west on Monroe on route 20 – Madison.

Pullman PCC 4063, on route 22 – Clark-Wentworth, meets red car 6118, signed for route 42 at Clark and Halsted.  Route 42 was an incorrect designation for this location, and the sign should read 8 instead.

Pullman PCC 4063, on route 22 – Clark-Wentworth, meets red car 6118, signed for route 42 at Clark and Halsted. Route 42 was an incorrect designation for this location, and the sign should read 8 instead.

“Sedan” 6296 on route 4 – Cottage Grove. The Chicago Surface Lines built one-third of this 100-car order themselves in 1929, not an unusual practice at the time. Bob Lalich says we are “just south of 95th St. The Rock Island, C&WI and BRC elevation can be seen in the background.”

Red Pullman 322 at an unidentified location.

Red Pullman 322 at an unidentified location.

Unless my eyes are failing me, this looks like work car X-3 at South shops.

Unless my eyes are failing me, this looks like work car X-3 at South shops.

An older streetcar being used as a snow sweeper.

An older streetcar being used as a snow sweeper.

Car 3345 by the Illinois Central on route 4 - Cottage Grove.

Car 3345 by the Illinois Central on route 4 – Cottage Grove.

4019 on route 4 - Cottage Grove.

4019 on route 4 – Cottage Grove.

Red Pullman 697 on Roosevelt Road.

Red Pullman 697 on Roosevelt Road.

Car 7217, just prior to being scrapped, at South Shops on September 10, 1959. (Clark Frazier Photo)

Car 7217, just prior to being scrapped, at South Shops on September 10, 1959. (Clark Frazier Photo)

This appears to be the temporary end of the line for route 73 - Armitage, as the bridge is out behind car 3297.

This appears to be the temporary end of the line for route 73 – Armitage, as the bridge is out behind car 3297.

Work car F-305 at South Shops on September 10, 1959. This was purchased by the Electric Railway Historical Society and soon moved to their site in Downers Grove. (Clark Frazier Photo)

Work car F-305 at South Shops on September 10, 1959. This was purchased by the Electric Railway Historical Society and soon moved to their site in Downers Grove. (Clark Frazier Photo)

An 8000-series trailer from the 1920s, being used as a storage shed.

An 8000-series trailer from the 1920s, being used as a storage shed.

Here, we are at about 4600 west 63rd street looking west. Car 4013, heading east, wears the CSL "tiger stripes" introduced in 1945. Bill Shapotkin adds, "That caption is correct. I might add that "is" at 4600 West and the tracks are those of the BRC. By the way, as an aside, if you ride the Rt #63 bus, the stop here is called out as "4600 West." No street name (which would otherwise be Kenton) is given."

Here, we are at about 4600 west 63rd street looking west. Car 4013, heading east, wears the CSL “tiger stripes” introduced in 1945. Bill Shapotkin adds, “That caption is correct. I might add that “is” at 4600 West and the tracks are those of the BRC. By the way, as an aside, if you ride the Rt #63 bus, the stop here is called out as “4600 West.” No street name (which would otherwise be Kenton) is given.”

Although car 4410 appears to be going uphill, this is Chicago and not Pittsburgh. It's the photographer who is tilted in this October 1956 view.

Although car 4410 appears to be going uphill, this is Chicago and not Pittsburgh. It’s the photographer who is tilted in this October 1956 view.

A nice shot of 4388 pulling out of Limits on July 24, 1957.

A nice shot of 4388 pulling out of Limits on July 24, 1957.

7018 heading south on Wabash at Balbo in the early 1950s.

7018 heading south on Wabash at Balbo in the early 1950s.

Car 5105 in the Burnside yard.

Car 5105 in the Burnside yard.

Peter Witt car 6285, built in 1929, on Cottage Grove at 115th. Some called them “Sedans.”

Prewar PCC heads south on route 49 - Western on June 13, 1956, shortly before the line was converted to bus.

Prewar PCC heads south on route 49 – Western on June 13, 1956, shortly before the line was converted to bus.

It appears that car 4406is making a backup move in this October 21, 1956 photo. That may indicate we are at the south end of route 22, where there was a “wye” in traffic.

Car 585 on route 56 - Milwaukee near Downtown. Bill Shapotkin adds, "This pic of a Milwaukee Ave streetcar is at the Milwaukee Ave bridge over the MILW/PRR near Des Plaines St. Believe the view looks N/W. Note the long-standing MILW freight house on the right."

Car 585 on route 56 – Milwaukee near Downtown. Bill Shapotkin adds, “This pic of a Milwaukee Ave streetcar is at the Milwaukee Ave bridge over the MILW/PRR near Des Plaines St. Believe the view looks N/W. Note the long-standing MILW freight house on the right.”

PCC 7175 is southbound at Clark and Glenlake in this wintry scene.

PCC 7175 is southbound at Clark and Glenlake in this wintry scene.

Red Pullman 473, on the famous May 16, 1954 CERA fantrip, turns back at Lake and Austin.

Red Pullman 473, on the famous May 16, 1954 CERA fantrip, turns back at Lake and Austin.

Car 1780 runs under the Lake Street “L” at Karlov on route 16.

Car 3144, a sister of the 3142 preserved at the Illinois Railway Museum, runs parallel to the outer end of the Lake Street “L” where it ran on the ground prior to 1962. Streetcar service on route 16 ended in May 1954. A CTA 4000 is visible at rear. Both cars are using overhead wire.

Prewar PCC 4029 running parallel to the Illinois Central electric on the south end of route 4 (Cottage Grove).

Prewar PCC 4029 running parallel to the Illinois Central electric on the south end of route 4 (Cottage Grove).

Postwar PCC 4377 heads south on Clark in the mid-1950s. The Clark Theatre, the Bamboo Inn, and the Blue Note are visible on the next block.

Postwar PCC 4377 heads south on Clark in the mid-1950s. The Clark Theatre, the Bamboo Inn, and the Blue Note are visible on the next block.

7038 heads south at Western and 14th. A “Qunoset hut” is at left. This is a type of prefabricated building that was in wide use during and after WWII.

Prewar PCC 4029 is shown heading south on a section of Cottage Grove between 33rd and 35th that had already been sold by the city to developers and was already off-limits to car and truck traffic. CTA was given six-month extensions on streetcar service through this area before the route was bussed in June 1955.

Prewar PCC 4029 is shown heading south on a section of Cottage Grove between 33rd and 35th that had already been sold by the city to developers and was already off-limits to car and truck traffic. CTA was given six-month extensions on streetcar service through this area before the route was bussed in June 1955.

From the address on the Edward Don warehouse at rear, we can tell this picture of PCC 4115 was taken on Clark just north of Cermak.

From the address on the Edward Don warehouse at rear, we can tell this picture of PCC 4115 was taken on Clark just north of Cermak.

Prewar PCC 4027 at an unknown location. Likely possibilities are routes 4, 49, or 63. Tony Waller writes, "Image 243 is on 63rd St. Look at the pre-war PCC. It’s door arrangement is that of two-man car. Cottage Grove and Western only had pre-war PCCs in one man operation."

Prewar PCC 4027 at an unknown location. Likely possibilities are routes 4, 49, or 63. Tony Waller writes, “Image 243 is on 63rd St. Look at the pre-war PCC. It’s door arrangement is that of two-man car. Cottage Grove and Western only had pre-war PCCs in one man operation.”

It's not the best slide, and hard to make out, but the signs say car 4406 is chartered and it is signed for Devon and Ravenswood.

It’s not the best slide, and hard to make out, but the signs say car 4406 is chartered and it is signed for Devon and Ravenswood.

6148 at Halsted and Clark. The car is signed for route 42, Halsted-Downtown.

6148 at Halsted and Clark. The car is signed for route 42, Halsted-Downtown.

Postwar PCC 7142 pulls into the Clark-Howard loop in the mid-1950s. The white line indicates the swing of the car.

Postwar PCC 7142 pulls into the Clark-Howard loop in the mid-1950s. The white line indicates the swing of the car.

West Chicago Street Railway #4 was pulled out for pictures on May 25, 1958, the occasion of the final fantrip on Chicago's streetcar system.

West Chicago Street Railway #4 was pulled out for pictures on May 25, 1958, the occasion of the final fantrip on Chicago’s streetcar system.

Car 3220 on the 67th Street line. Bill Shapotkin adds, "This picture is E/B in 67th St, having just x/o under the IC. View looks W-N/W."

Car 3220 on the 67th Street line. Bill Shapotkin adds, “This picture is E/B in 67th St, having just x/o under the IC. View looks W-N/W.”

Not a streetcar, but an old trolley bus being used as a shed at South Shops on September 10, 1959. (Clark Frazier Photo)

Not a streetcar, but an old trolley bus being used as a shed at South Shops on September 10, 1959. (Clark Frazier Photo)

A Century of Progress – In Color and In Motion

official-pictures

Our recent post about transportation to and from the 1933-34 Chicago World’s Fair (aka A Century of Progress) jogged my memory a bit.  I recall reading a while back about the discovery of early color films from the fair, taken in 1933.

There had been color films of a sort prior to 1933, however most of these were much less successful “two-color” processes, which showed red and green but not blue.  For a list of early two-color Hollywood films prior to 1935, go here.  (The technically minded can also delve into great detail on the early Kodak color processes here.)

During 1933, there were experimental versions of either Technicolor or Kodacolor being tested, but these products were not commercially available until 1935.  A national spectacle, attracting millions of visitors, the fair was an obvious event to try out the new three-color films on.

Chicago’s second World’s Fair was also more colorful than its first one in 1893.  The World’s Columbian Exposition featured a neoclassical “White City,” while the 1933 version had multi-colored buildings and lighting of a more modern style.

Fortunately, some color footage from the 1933 edition of A Century of Progress has survived, and can be seen in some of the video links later in this post.  Without these films, our only evidence of color at the fair would be hand-colored postcards, posters, and such.

By comparison, by 1939-40, the time of the New York World’s Fair, 16mm Kodachrome movie film was available to the amateur market.  Consequently, there is a tremendous amount of color footage showing that fair.

The films include footage of the impressive Sky Ride, an aerial cable car that transported visitors to Northerly Island, which was built on landfill in 1928.  Fairgoers were transported nearly 2,000 feet at an altitude of 215 feet above ground.  The cable tram was suspended between to 628-foot high towers at the ends, with observation decks, the highest such points in the city.

Each streamlined “gondola” gave out wisps of steam from its tail, in a manner not unlike the rocket ships in the contemporary Buck Rogers comic strip, which first appeared in 1929.  (The competing Flash Gordon comic strip by Alex Raymond did not begin until January 7, 1934.  You can read some of those early strips here.  The movie serial versions of these comics did not appear until after the Chicago fair had closed.)

Apparently, each gondola was named after a different character in the extremely popular but controversial Amos ‘n’ Andy radio program, which had its roots in Chicago.  (While I have read that there were 12 such gondola cars, I’ve only seen pictures of three, named “Amos,” “Andy,” and “Brother Crawford.”)

Both my parents visited the Chicago World’s Fair.  My late father described how he had been stuck on one of the aerial cable cars for several hours when it broke down mid-flight.  My mother, who is now 86, still recalls her trips to the fair when she was 5 or 6 years old.  As you can see from the film footage, it was the type of event that many Chicagoans dressed up for in their finest clothes.

There were other novel modes of transportation at A Century of Progress.  Although the Chicago Surface Lines brochure in our earlier post shows a Dirigible or Zeppelin in the air (and one did visit Chicago in 1933) the films show a Goodyear Blimp in frequent use at the fair.

There was also an experimental auto on display, the streamlined three-wheeled “Dymaxion” car designed by Buckminster Fuller.  Unfortunately, interest in this car was quelled after it was involved in a fatal car crash, although the driver of the Dymaxion was not at fault.

The Chicago World’s Fair had an influence on the city that extended far beyond the 1930s.  Many of its scientific exhibits wound up at the Museum of Science and Industry, where they can be seen today.

The fair site was used for the successful 1948-49 Chicago Railroad Fair, which was also headed up by Lenox Lohr. Among its many exhibits, this fair featured an actual operating San Francisco cable car– the last cable car to be operated in Chicago to date.

While an attempt to continue the railroad fair for a third year was deemed a failure, this did lead to the Chicago Tribune‘s Col. Robert R. McCormick to envision a permanent site for summer exhibitions and fairs on the lakefront.

After years of discussion and planning, this effort resulted in the creation of McCormick Place, which opened in 1960.  Rebuilt after a disastrous 1967 fire, McCormick Place is now the largest convention center in North America.  Since A Century of Progress and the Chicago Railroad Fair successfully brought millions of people to Chicago’s lakefront, it was considered an excellent location for McCormick Place.

As a result, it is perhaps the most important legacy of those earlier fairs.  You can also read more about the genesis of McCormick Place in the book Political Influence by Edward C. Banfield, which we mentioned in an earlier post.

There are still a few traces of the World’s Fair, if you know where to look for them.  Five experimental houses from the fair were moved by barge across Lake Michigan to Beverly Shores, Indiana in 1935, where they remain today, now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, comprising the A Century of Progress Architectural District.

Finally, using the final Youtube link below, you can listen to the rousing Chicago Worlds Fair Centennial Celebration March (1933) by composer Carl Mader.

 -David Sadowski

PS- Walt Disney (who was born in Chicago) is known to have visited the 1933-34 Chicago World’s Fair several times (one of at five such fairs he visited in his lifetime), and after watching some of these videos, it’s not difficult to see how A Century of Progress could have influenced Disneyland.

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The CTA, the CA&E, and “Political Influence”

CA&E 453 in a winter scene on the old Met “L” main line. Here, we are looking east from Halsted. (Truman Hefner Photo)

Always on the lookout for new sources of information about electric railway history, I recently stumbled on one in an unlikely place- a book about politics.

Political Influence by Edward C. Banfield, originally published in 1961 by the Free Press of Glencoe, “examines the structures and dynamics of influence in determining who actually makes the decisions on vital issues in a large metropolitan area.”  The book takes an in-depth look at how political influence was applied in the Chicagoland area during the 1950s.

In his introduction to the 2003 edition, James Q. Wilson writes:

Banfield wanted to know how concrete issues were really decided, and so he studied six major controversies in Chicago and drew his conclusions about influence from his detailed account of who did what for (or to) whom.

Civic disputes in Chicago, he concluded, did not result from struggles for votes, competing ideologies, or the work of a shadowy power elite; they rose instead from the maintenance and enhancement needs of large organizations.  One organization (say, a hospital) wanted something, another organization (say, a rival hospital) opposed it.  The resulting conflict had to be managed by an outside authority if it were to be settled at all, and in Chicago, politicians did most of the managing.  But that management was hardly dictatorial.  Though Chicago politics was organized around a powerful political machine, the machine did not simply impose its will.  Instead, the mayor let every interest get its say, postponed decisions until some common ground could be found, and then nudged the contestants in the right direction.

Banfield devotes chapter 4 (pages 91-125) to the Chicago Transit Authority and attempts to convince the state legislature to subsidize it circa 1956-57.  According the the author, these efforts were intertwined with trying to save the Chicago, Aurora & Elgin interurban.

The CA&E lost both riders and money due to construction of the Congress (now Eisenhower) expressway, starting in 1953.  The project was expected to take five years, and CTA service in the expressway median opened on June 22, 1958.  But by 1956, the railroad’s management wanted out, and the choices were either to sell or abandon service and liquidate.

At the time, the only public agency that could have operated “The Great Third Rail” was the Chicago Transit Authority, itself only about a decade old.  Formed by combining the Chicago Rapid Transit Company and the Chicago Surface Lines, the CTA had started out with high hopes that an aggressive program of modernization would yield cost savings that would eventually make it possible to lower fares for their so-called “OWNERiders.”

Unfortunately, things did not turn out that way.  The new CTA bus routes in outlying areas lost money, and over its first decade, ridership declined by nearly 50%.  There were various reasons for the decline, including the rise in automobile ownership, fewer people working on Saturdays, the effects of several fare increases, and service reductions.

Unlike the New York transit system, which received a government subsidy of $100m per year during the 1950s, Chicago got none, and had to sink or swim out of the farebox.

CTA fares had increased gradually, but this also brought ridership losses.  The main way CTA saved money was through reductions in personnel, mainly by replacing two-man streetcars with buses.  But the last of the old red cars ran on May 30, 1954, and the governing Chicago Transit Board did not expect to see any additional savings from the elimination of PCC streetcars.

Banfield noted:

The heads of CTA’s operating divisions reported to a general manager, who in turn reported to Gunlock.  Gunlock and the general manager (Walter J. McCarter) together prepared the agenda for board meetings.  Although the board played an active role in the determination of general policy, it was Gunlock and the manager who ran the organization.

CTA Chairman Virgil E. Gunlock realized that government subsidies were needed, or CTA would risk going into an irreversible decline.  His opinions are summarized in Chicago’s Mass Transportation Dilemma, a presentation he gave to the Illinois Road Builders Association at the Palmer House in December 1957.

The CTA rapid transit system had contracted about 25% by the mid-1950s, and wanted to extend service through the medians of the planned Northwest (Kennedy) and South (Dan Ryan) expressways.  Shortly after Mayor Richard J. Daley took office in 1955, he asked Gunlock to prepare a “wish list” of potential new projects, so they could be prioritized, in the hope that new ways could be found to pay for them.

Chicago’s four major daily newspapers were in favor of subsidies, and so were most civic leaders.  But the CTA was not universally liked by the public, especially by those who used it, which tended to undermine prospects for government aid, since opinions were divided.

It was into this mix that CA&E threw in the towel and offered to put the entire railroad up for sale.

Daley and Gunlock hoped to use this to their advantage.  If the CTA could take over CA&E service, it was thought, this could win over crucial suburban support, resulting in government funding that could help transit in both the city and suburbs.

As we now know, things did not work out this way.

Mayor Daley had a good working relationship with Republican Governor William Stratton.  They tried to help each other out politically by supporting each others projects in their respective “spheres of influence.”

However, while Stratton supported state funding to purchase the CA&E (reported price: $6m), and was willing to exempt the CTA from paying certain taxes and fees, he backed off on additional tax revenues for CTA once it became clear that DuPage and Kane County officials did not support it.

So while Daley, Gunlock, Stratton and even County Board President Dan Ryan Jr. were all on friendly terms in their discussions on this issue, and generally agreed on what to do, in the political climate of 1957, nothing could be done.

Banfield cites four main reasons for this failure to act in time to save the “Roarin’ Elgin,” which I will list in brief:

1. The “country towns”– that part of Cook County which lay outside of Chicago proper– opposed being taxed to support a transportation system which did not serve them directly.

2. Organized highway users were another important class of opponents.  They had been trying for years to establish the principle that gasoline tax receipts should never be used for other than highway purposes.

3. The commuters of Kane and DuPage counites, although favoring measures to keep CA&E running, were very much opposed to paying a tax for that purpose.  Politicians from those counties met with Governor Stratton one evening in the Executive Mansion to tell him that their constituents “just won’t sit still for a tax increase of any kind.”  The state, they said, would be responsible for any suspension of passenger service and, therefore, it should provide any subsidy that might be needed.

The Governor expressed surprise.  He had supposed that continuing CA&E service was a matter of great importance to Kane and DuPage counties.  If it were so important, he said, surely the local people would be willing to contribute one cent a gallon toward it.

CTA supporters had hoped that Kane and DuPage counties’ interest in CA&E would lead them to support a plan for the general improvement of CTA.  It was clear now that this was not the case and that, in fact, if it cost them a few dollars, the western suburbs would not support even that part of the plan which would serve only them.

Some observers believed that the Governor had interested himself in CTA only because he wanted to help the CA&E commuters.  If this was so, his interest would probably now cease since it was apparent that the commuters were not really vitally concerned.

4. Many weekly newspapers in the more than eighty communities into which Chicago was divided opposed any kind of subsidy for CTA.

As a result, these legislative efforts failed.  As a result, the Chicago, Aurora & Elgin was allowed to “temporarily” suspend passenger service at midday on July 3, 1957, stranding thousands of riders downtown, without a way to get home.

This served the short-term purposes of the railroad, the state, and the county, since it allowed quick removal of the CA&E tracks in the vicinity of the DesPlaines river, which was necessary for construction of a vital link in the Congress expressway connecting the city and suburban sections.

Within a short period of weeks, Cook County gave CA&E a check for $1.2m just for this short section of right-of-way between DesPlaines and First Avenues.  Most probably, this amount was inflated to account for the $700k in losses from 1953 to 1957 that CA&E wanted to be reimbursed for.

Legislative efforts resumed in 1959, and again it seemed that CA&E was close to being saved.  The railroad had been kept largely intact, and freight service continued.  CTA anticipated a takeover, and even went so far as to put in a new track connection at the DesPlaines avenue terminal, where CA&E trains would exchange passengers with Congress “A” trains.  You can see pictures of that unused connection here.

The 1961 CTA Annual Report includes an aerial view of the DesPlaines yard, and the completed track connection to what could have been a restored CA&E service is clearly visible– but never used.  With the final abandonment of the railroad in 1961, all this was scrapped and removed, except for a short stretch of right-of-way that now serves CTA as a “tail track” for storing “L” cars.

All reminders of “what might have been.”

Mr. Banfield sums things up on page 271:

In the Transit Authority case, the Mayor, the Governor and the President of the County Board acted as agents of the affected interests in arranging the compromise; they did not try to impose a solution of their own upon these interests, and when the Governor found out that the compromise was not popular with his suburban supporters, he immediately dropped it.

In other words, even these notables could not muster enough “political influence” to save the Chicago, Aurora & Elgin.  Much of the CA&E right-of-way west of Maywood has been preserved as the Illinois Prairie Path.

Fortunately, the lessons learned from its demise helped pave the way for saving the transit system we have today, which would not be possible without your tax dollars and mine.

-David Sadowski

PS- You will also find a very thorough and informative discussion of how McCormick Place came to be in this book.  I recommend it.

Brand-new "flat door" cars 6003-6004 are shown to good advantage at the North Water Terminal in 1950. (Clark Equipment Co. Photo)

Brand-new “flat door” cars 6003-6004 are shown to good advantage at the North Water Terminal in 1950. (Clark Equipment Co. Photo)

In this view, from the 1961 CTA annual Report, we see the western end of the DesPlaines terminal, and the relocated, never used CA&E tracks behind it.

In this view, from the 1961 CTA annual Report, we see the western end of the DesPlaines terminal, and the relocated, never used CA&E tracks behind it.

Looking west from Halsted, CA&E 458 heads up a four car train of postwar units.

Looking west from Halsted, CA&E 458 heads up a four car train of postwar units.

CA&E 318 at Glen Oak on a fantrip. According to Don's Rail Photos, "318 was built by Jewett Car Co in 1914. It had steel sheating and was modernized in 1944. It was sold to Wisconsin Electric Raiway Historical Society in 1962. It was wrecked in transit and the parts were sold to IRM to restore 321."

CA&E 318 at Glen Oak on a fantrip. According to Don’s Rail Photos, “318 was built by Jewett Car Co in 1914. It had steel sheating and was modernized in 1944. It was sold to Wisconsin Electric Raiway Historical Society in 1962. It was wrecked in transit and the parts were sold to IRM to restore 321.”

141 at Batavia Junction. CA&E purchased this car from the North Shore Line in 1946. According to Don's Rail Photos, "141 was built by American Car Co in March 1910, #844, as Chicago &Milwaukee Electric 141. It was rebuilt in 1914 and retired in 1954.

141 at Batavia Junction. CA&E purchased this car from the North Shore Line in 1946. According to Don’s Rail Photos, “141 was built by American Car Co in March 1910, #844, as Chicago &Milwaukee Electric 141. It was rebuilt in 1914 and retired in 1954.”

CA&E 418 in Batavia on March 15, 1952.

CA&E 418 in Batavia on March 15, 1952.

CA&E 318 near Whaton on a Central Electric Railfans' Association fantrip, October 24, 1940.

CA&E 318 near Whaton on a Central Electric Railfans’ Association fantrip, October 24, 1940.

CA&E 425 at Glen Oak on a September 2, 1940 CERA fantrip.

CA&E 425 at Glen Oak on a September 2, 1940 CERA fantrip.

A pass from an early CERA fantrip.

A pass from an early CERA fantrip.

CA&E 460 in Elgin on May 14, 1953. This car is preserved in operating condition at the Illinois Railway Museum.

CA&E 460 in Elgin on May 14, 1953. This car is preserved in operating condition at the Illinois Railway Museum.

Track Work @Clark & Van Buren, 1954

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Interesting pictures of Chicago streetcars are still coming out of the woodwork more than 56 years after the last car ran in the early hours of June 21, 1958. Today, we present a sequence of photos showing track work under the Loop “L” at Clark and Van Buren on Saturday, July 17, 1954.

We see postwar Chicago PCC 4089, a Pullman product. Photos of the Pullmans are scarce, since they were the first cars scrapped starting in 1953 (although only being a few years old). Parts from 570 of the 600 postwar cars were used by St. Louis Car Co. in building a like number of the curved-door 6000-series rapid transit cars.

We also see crane car X3. Don’s Rail Photos says, “X3 was built by Chicago Rys in 1909 as CRys 66. It was renumbered W16 in 1913 and became CSL W16 in 1914. It was rebuilt as X3 in 1928.”

For a view of how things looked up on the “L” platform near this location at around this time, you can see a nice photo, complete with another sign from the Victoria Hotel, here on the CERA Members Blog.

According to the Chicago Tribune, July 17 was a very warm summer day, with a high of 88 degrees. You can see this in the summer shirts worn by the workers.

From the looks of PCC car 4089, it would appear that it had been involved in a few fender-benders on Chicago’s long and very busy #22 Clark-Wentworth route.

Less than four years after these pictures were taken, what author James D. Johnson called the “Century of Chicago Streetcars” (to quote the title of his 1964 book) came to an end. But on one warm Saturday in 1954, shown in these pictures, the wire was still up and tracks were being maintained.

-David Sadowski

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West Towns Streetcars in Color

One of our readers writes, "the 141 crossing the IHB tracks at Oak Street in LaGrange Park. The car is headed westbound, the train is southbound, possibly entering the sidings that are just south of Oak. The Trolley turned south and paralleled the IHB down to the CB&Q tracks where it turned west along Hillgrove. The home under construction in the background is the second or third house north of Oak on the west side of Beach. "

One of our readers writes, “the 141 crossing the IHB tracks at Oak Street in LaGrange Park. The car is headed westbound, the train is southbound, possibly entering the sidings that are just south of Oak. The Trolley turned south and paralleled the IHB down to the CB&Q tracks where it turned west along Hillgrove. The home under construction in the background is the second or third house north of Oak on the west side of Beach. “

The Chicago & West Towns, while not an extremely large streetcar operator, played an important role in the development of many of Chicago’s western suburbs in the first half of the 20th century. You can see a map of the West Towns car lines here, and a list of important dates in its operations here.

Central Electric Railfans’ Association put out the best and most comprehensive history of the West Towns in 2006, and you can read more about it here.

We have written about the Chicago & West Towns Railways before on the CERA Members Blog (see these posts here and here) but nearly all those photos were in black-and-white. Since streetcar service was abandoned in April 1948, color pictures are scarce.

Color film was expensive in 1948, and most fans did not have a 35mm camera to shoot it with. So we can be thankful for those railfans who did have the wherewithal to shoot Kodachrome slides, which give us an idea of what life was like in an earlier and simpler time.

Today we offer you rarely seen color pictures of West Towns streetcars. Even better, several of them show car 141, the sole survivor of the fleet. You can read about how this car was preserved and lovingly restored here. The Electric Railway Historical Society bought the car body in 1959, after it had been used as a storage shed, and donated it to the Illinois Railway Museum in 1973. You can ride that car at the museum.

While we are not sure of all the exact locations in these images, most of them seem to be on the line that ran between LaGrange and Cicero. Perhaps our keen-eyed readers can help identify some of these areas.

In a few cases, we have presented “then and now” photos, so you can see that while a lot has changed in the nearly 70 years that trolleys have been gone, but there are still a few things that remain from the old days.

When the Chicago Transit Authority was just getting started, they looked into the possibility of purchasing the West Towns, and I believe they entered into negotiations, but it never happened. The West Towns completed its conversion to buses in 1948 and remained a private operator until 1981. These services are operated today as part of the Pace suburban bus system.

-David Sadowski

The corner of Lincoln and Beach as it looks today in LaGrange Park. Lincoln ends in a cul-de-sac near the railroad tracks at rear. We are not far from where image 471 was taken.

The corner of Lincoln and Beach as it looks today in LaGrange Park. Lincoln ends in a cul-de-sac near the railroad tracks at rear. We are not far from where image 471 was taken.

Chicago & West Towns Railways car 112 heads south at Harlem and Cermak on August 17, 1947.

Chicago & West Towns Railways car 112 heads south at Harlem and Cermak on August 17, 1947.

If the building at right is a car barn, this may be Harlem and Cermak. If so, car 112 would be turning east onto Cermak.

If the building at right is a car barn, this may be Harlem and Cermak. If so, car 112 would be turning east onto Cermak.

This may show the 111 heading west, preparing to cross First Avenue to reach the Brookfield Zoo.

This may show the 111 heading west, preparing to cross First Avenue to reach the Brookfield Zoo.

The 159 may be on on the LaGrange line, heading east towards Cermak and Kenton.

The 159 may be on on the LaGrange line, heading east towards Cermak and Kenton.

The 111 at the Brookfield Zoo parking lot.

The 111 at the Brookfield Zoo parking lot.

The 141 somewhere along the route between LaGrange and Cermak Road.

The 141 somewhere along the route between LaGrange and Cermak Road.

The corner of Lincoln and Blanchan in Brookfield as it looks today. This is the approximate location of image 466.

The corner of Lincoln and Blanchan in Brookfield as it looks today. This is the approximate location of image 466.

The apartment building at 9436 Lincoln in Brookfield. It can be seen in image 466 to the right of the West Towns streetcar.

The apartment building at 9436 Lincoln in Brookfield. It can be seen in image 466 to the right of the West Towns streetcar.

This house is visible in image 466. Our approximate location is 3528 Cleveland in Brookfield.

This house is visible in image 466. Our approximate location is 3528 Cleveland in Brookfield.

The 141 at Cermak and Kenton, the border between Cicero and Chicago. Here riders could change to the Chicago Surface Lines route 21 streetcar for points east. In the background, we see the Western Electric plant.

The 141 at Cermak and Kenton, the border between Cicero and Chicago. Here riders could change to the Chicago Surface Lines route 21 streetcar for points east. In the background, we see the Western Electric plant.

Car 128 near Cermak and Kenton.

Car 128 near Cermak and Kenton.

Cermak and Kenton as it looks today.

Cermak and Kenton as it looks today.

The 141 may be heading east, crossing the Illinois Central near 26th and Harlem. The streetcar briefly diverted from the roadway to make this crossing.

The 141 may be heading east, crossing the Illinois Central near 26th and Harlem. The streetcar briefly diverted from the roadway to make this crossing.

This shows where the West Towns crossed the Illinois Central near 26th and Harlem.

This shows where the West Towns crossed the Illinois Central near 26th and Harlem.

Car 128 in zoo service, heading south on DesPlaines at 31st.

Car 128 in zoo service, heading south on DesPlaines at 31st.

DesPlaines and 31st as it looks today, looking north. The West Towns streetcar ran where the grassy median is today, and continued a few blocks further south, before turning west to cross the DesPlaines River and First Avenue before reaching the Brookfield Zoo.

DesPlaines and 31st as it looks today, looking north. The West Towns streetcar ran where the grassy median is today, and continued a few blocks further south, before turning west to cross the DesPlaines River and First Avenue before reaching the Brookfield Zoo.

This may be Harlem and Cermak, looking north, with the car barn to the left.

This may be Harlem and Cermak, looking north, with the car barn to the left.

This photo may show a southbound car on Harlem Avenue between 22nd and 26th.

This photo may show a southbound car on Harlem Avenue between 22nd and 26th.

The 141 heading west, crossing Salt Creek.

The 141 heading west, crossing Salt Creek.

An aerial view showing where the West Towns crossed the DesPlaines River (just north of Park Place).

An aerial view showing where the West Towns crossed the DesPlaines River (just north of Park Place).

Car 126 at an unidentified location.

Car 126 at an unidentified location.