Track Work @Clark & Van Buren, 1954


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












8 thoughts on “Track Work @Clark & Van Buren, 1954

  1. interesting how much man power and how little machinery was used and the pride that showed in almost everyones expression. it also shows the lingering affects of racism in even 1950’s Chicago as almost all of the laborers are minority and almost if not all of the “skilled” laborer and supervisors were white men.
    of course not a woman to be seen either.

    is quite a neat slice of American history and of Chicago rail system upkeep even towards the end of rail service

  2. There was track replacement being done almost to the very end. The newspapers were keeping the pressure on CTA, going as far as showing daily pictures of collapsing track. Not surprising, since the last system-wide rebuildings were in the teens, with basically repairs as needed since then.

  3. The fourth and fifth pictures from the top show the thermite-welding process devices being used to weld sections of the girder-rail together.

Leave a Reply