Chicago Rapid Transit Mystery Photos

There is probably no way anyone could guess it, but this picture in CTA car 2787 was taken on the last day of Humboldt Park “L” service, May 3, 1952.

(Editor’s Note- Now that the contest has ended, you can find the same pictures with descriptive information added to the captions here. We thank everyone who participated.)

The Trolley Dodger has reached a milestone, with 20,000 page views in our first 90 days. To help celebrate that, we present 20 mystery photos, showing some very rare Chicago Rapid Transit scenes.

Over the next four days, we invite our readers to tell us some interesting things about these photos– where they were taken, what they show, and whatever tidbits of information you have to share.

The contest ends at midnight Central Time on April 25, 2015.
Send your answers to thetrolleydodger@gmail.com and we will update the captions with the best submissions once the contest has ended.

The photo at top is not part of the contest. When referring to individual photos, please use the image numbers provided in the captions. As always, clicking on each image will bring up a larger view in your browser.

We thank you in advance for your participating. Have fun figuring all this out.

-David Sadowski

PS- I’ll give you a clue. Chances are the pictures that have a piece of fuzz at the top of the frame were most likely taken around the same time, by the same unknown photographer.

You can read most of the submissions in the Comments section below. Here are some that were sent via e-mail:

Bill Wasik writes:

Congratulations on your successful launch, and thanks for posting hi-res jpegs that give us a better chance to ID these vintage shots. With the help of Google Maps, here are my guesses:

#800 – Garfield L – view west toward Pulaski?
#801 – ?
#802 – Jackson L – 63rd & S. Harvard Ave, view southwest toward 63rd St. No buildings shown here remain standing.
#803 – Douglas L –
#804 – Loop, Wabash & Randolph, view south.
#805 – Stock Yards line and Swift slaughterhouse, birthplace of the “disassembly line” and inspiration to Henry Ford to invent the automobile assembly line.
#806 – more Stock Yards
#807 – Ravenswood L – view east at N. Rockwell. A faded trackside sign on the upholstering shop in this photo reads “Canton Hand Laundry.” Remarkably, this sign remains visible today, 70 years after this vintage shot was taken, demonstrating the durability of lead paint and linseed oil.
#808 – Humboldt L – view northwest at Damen & Milwaukee. Riding this line could mean a nice afternoon in the park and visit to the soda fountain at Mid-City? Dairy on North Avenue, or, more likely, a visit to Dr. Orloff, the family dentist on North & California, across from Walgreens and the Crystal Theater.
#809 – Lake St. L – Oak Park.
#810 – Jackson L, south at 62nd St.
#811 – 63rd & Harvard, southwest.
#812 – 63rd, near Harvard, northeast.
#813 – Garfield L, west.
#814 – Lake near Wells, looking east.
#815 – Ravenswood L terminus, Lawrence & Kimball.
#816 – Loop, Wabash, next to Field’s.
#817 – 63rd & S. Harvard.
#818 – Logan Square terminal in 1950, with new cars to test in the final months of the Milwaukee-Van Buren run along Paulina.
#819 – not shown
#820 – Garfield L running at grade on Van Buren, view east, maybe near Western. Probably late 1953, just after the L structure was closed.

Anyway, thanks again for your great site. Keep up the good work.

David Streeter writes:

I’m sure you figured out for yourselves that 805 and 806 are on the Stock
Yards branch and 809 is on the Lake Street line. 804 and 817 are
self-evident. I think 802 and 811 are at the same location (and therefore
probably the same date) as 817.

I also think 807 is on the Ravenswood at Rockwell; the two buildings
across the street appear to still be there today. I suspect 815 is at
Kimball, at the end of the Ravenswood.

I’m going to hazard a guess that 820 is the Garfield running on the ground
while the Congress Expressway is being built. Someone more knowledgeable
(or older) than I will probably recognize the water tank on the far right
edge.

I’d be very interested to know where some of the others are.

William Shapotkin writes:

Here are my tries at locating the ‘L’ photos. In identifying these locations, I did NOT use a map (figuring that if I knew it as well as I thought I did, no map was needed). That said, here are my offerings:

800 — Marshfield Ave looking west. That’s a W/B CA&E train of North Shore woods. This is before clearing for the expressway started.

801 — Kimball Yard looking north. (The bus is working a S/B trip on Rt # 82 — Kimball-Homan).

802 — Englewood ‘L’ looking west from Harvard station.

803 — Douglas Pk ‘L’ looking east from Oak Park Ave.

804 — Randolph/Wabash looking south.

805 — Stock Yards (looking west from Halsted?)

806 — Stock Yards (looking east from Halsted?).

807 — Ravenswood looking east from Kedzie Station.

808 — North/Dament looking north off S/B platform.

809 — Lake St (somewhere betw Central Ave and Oak Pk Ave).

810 — Indiana Ave — that is a Kenwood shuttle sitting in the pocket. View looks east.

811 — Same as image #802 (but with a N/B Normal Pk trn approaching).

812 — Kenwood ‘L’ — a S/B train is heading off to 42nd Pl terminal.

813 — Same as Image 800, but with a S/B Logan Square (or Humbolt Pk) train at right.

814 — Adams/Wabash looking south.

815 — Kimball/Lawrence terminal.

816 — Somewhere on the Loop (not sure of location).

817 — 63rd/Harvard on Englewood. Is that a N/B Normal Pk train in the station?

818 — Logan Square terminal.

820 — W/B Garfield Pk train (which will connect with CA&E’s 6:12 out of Des Plaines Ave). This, of course on the Van Buren St trackage. Location uncertian.

Ok, how good/bad did I do?

buslist@yahoo.com writes:

Kind of easy actually.

#800 looking west at the CA&E platform at Marshfield with ex NS equipment.
#801 looking towards Kimball shops and terminal on the Ravenswood (the ACF Brill C44 bus really gives it away)
#802 from the outbound platform at Harvard on the Englewood
#803 Oak Park ave on the Douglas branch.
#804 Randolph on the east side of the loop (read the station sign)
#805 looking west from the Exchange station on the Stock Yards branch
#806 looking east from the Halsted station on the Stock Yards branch
#807 on the Rave I think Rockwell.
#808 Damen on the Logan Square.
#809 reasonably sure that’s the west end of the Austin station on the Lake St.
#810 looking east @ Indiana Ave.
#811 see # 802
#812 looking SE from the Ellis & Lake Park station on the Kenwood
#813 see #800
#814 Clark/Lake on the loop.
#815 Kimball
#816 few clues here unless you know your buildings, guess on the Wabash side of the loop.
#817 Harvard on the Englewood.
#818 Logan Square terminal
#819 on Van Buren surface tracks. At Ashland? Certainly not west of there!

Cliff Burnstein writes:

805-806 Stockyards branch.
807- Francisco station on the Ravenswood.
810 42d and Indiana
815 Kimball station (Kimball and Lawrence), end of the line on the Ravenswood.
818 Logan Square end of the line, Milwaukee Av and Kedzie.c. 1951.
820 harrison and Ashland on the garfield, c. 1954.

Image #800

Image #800

Image #801

Image #801

Image #802

Image #802

Image #803

Image #803

Image #804

Image #804

Image #805

Image #805

Image #806

Image #806

Image #807

Image #807

Image #808

Image #808

Image #809

Image #809

Image #810

Image #810

Image #811

Image #811

Image #812

Image #812

Image #813

Image #813

Image #814

Image #814

Image #815

Image #815

Image #816

Image #816

Image #817

Image #817

Image #818 (Charles K. Willhoft Photo)

Image #818 (Charles K. Willhoft Photo)

Image #820

Image #820

7 thoughts on “Chicago Rapid Transit Mystery Photos

  1. #810 is looking East at Indiana Ave. The tracks straight ahead are the Kenwood Branch, those curving to the right the Jackson Park, Englewood, (Normal?) mainline.
    #809 is the outer end of the Lake St L before it was moved up to the C&NW embankment shown at right.
    #803 and #811 are at Harvard just south of 63rd on the Englewood Branch. In the far background is the interlocking tower for the Normal Park Branch.
    #817 is also at 63rd&Harvard but the single car shown above is now at the platform.
    820 appears to be on the “temporary” grade level Garfield Park “shoofly” during the construction of the Congress median.
    #815 seems to be at Ravenswood terminal.
    # 812 is the Kenwood Branch near the terminal. Note IC Electric catenary structure in background.
    #804 and #816 Randolph & Wabash–direct connection to Marshall Fields.
    #800 and # 813 Marshfield Jct
    #805 and #806 at point where Stockyards Branch become a loop.
    #803 is on the outer end of the Douglas Park. The question is whether this is west of the current terminal.
    #807 is clearly on the Ravenswood, but I can’t call the cross street.
    #814 State and Lake?
    #818 Logan Square
    #801 could also be on the outer Douglas
    808 stumped

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  2. Haven’t a clue on locations, but the piece of fuzz likely indicates a John Stern photo. I have negatives he made from all over the eastern USA in the late 1940s that bear this mark (or worse) that needed to be digitally removed. There was something in his camera that caused the problem. Be thankful these were taken AFTER he cleared most of it away.

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  3. 800 – looking west at Marshfield Met Main with CAE train at auxiliary platform
    801 – looking NW into Kimball yard Ravenswood. SB Kimball bus on left
    802 – looking west from west end of Harvard station Englewood toward Stewart Jct
    803 – train coming into Oak Park Av terminal Douglas
    804 – Randolph/Wabash with Garfield local to Desplaines on Inner
    805 – looking west from Exchange station Stock Yards
    806 – looking east from Exchange Stock Yards
    807 – Ravenswood train crossing Kedzie WB
    808- NB Logan Sq train leaving Damen
    809 – EB Lake train coming into Austin
    810 – Kenwood shuttle at Indiana pocket
    811 – Normal Park shuttle between Harvard Englewood and Stewart Jct – appears inbound
    812 – Kenwood shuttle EB leaving Lake Park/Ellis approaching 42nd Pl terminal
    813 – CA&E at Marshfield auxiliary platform (same location as 800)
    814 – Lake train at State/Lake
    815 – Kimball terminal Ravenswood
    816 – Lake train at Randolph/Wabash Inner
    817 – Normal Park shuttle about to leave Harvard Englewood
    818 – 6000’s at Logan Square
    820 – Garfiel;d “CA&E COnnection” express on Van Buren at possibly Oakley?

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  4. Major error on my part: I thought the deadline was today, not yesterday, so I am too late for the contest, but here are some additional thoughts some may find of interest. The contest entries seem to concentrate on location, whereas I am more interested in the cars pictured. As for dates, The hint leads me to believe that those pictures were taken in 1949. See the
    rightmost billboard in #816. To me that is the most valuable picture, because it shows one of the original Lake Street line cars, 3161 built in 1909 by Brill. Although it is one of the last wooden cars purchased, it seems to be in rather bad shape. Unlike the wooden cars of the other three original lines which were painted pullman green, Lake Street cars were painted Tuscan red. Here are some further comments.

    #800–Wooden cars acquired by the Chicago, Aurora and Elgin second hand from the North Shore Line at Marshfield Jct, a very busy place. Train is eastbound, picture is looking west. Tracks curving to the north went to the Logan Square and Humboldt Park branches, while tracks curving to the south went to the Douglas Park branch. When these tracks were removed in 1953 to make room for the Eisenhower Expressway, the north and south tracks were connected to form what was later called “the Paulina Connector.”

    #801–The yard at the end of the Ravenswood Branch. Kimball Av Station is just off the left edge of the picture.

    #802–Same location as #811. The woman on the sidewalk is probably dead by now, and the two children, if still alive, are in their 70’s.

    #803–As noted by André, near end of Douglas Park line. Cars are very old Metropolitan cars.

    #804–Nearest car is 2871 (originally Metropolitan car 871) built by Pullman in 1906. Notice the so called “monitor” roof found on all the later Metropolitan cars. The train is moving counter-clockwise on the inner loop, as was the custom until 1969. Train is a local to Desplaines Av. No cars will continue to 5th Avenue Maywood. About every third train or so would be a three car train signed for Maywood, Bellwood and Westchester. To go beyond Desplaines Avenue would require getting on the first car, since it would be split from the other two at Laramie Avenue, continuing as an express train to Desplaines Avenue and on to 5th Avenue, Maywood, on which I lived. To go beyond Roosevelt Station would require changing trains to a shuttle that could take you as far as 22nd and Mannheim Road, which was the middle of nowhere at that time. The back two cars would travel on with a new motorman as a local to Desplaines Avenue, where it would turn back towards the loop.

    #805–Very old South Side gate car headed east towards Exchange Station, looking west towards same bridge as in #806. From the shadows, it appears to be around noon.

    #806–Newer car than in #805 heading east towards bridge. Just about everything in this picture is long gone. Shadows indicate this picture was also taken around noon.

    #807–I think André is correct on this one unless the station is Rockwell rather than Kedzie. I say that because of the Rockwell Upholstering Service on the window at 4649.

    #808–Nearer car is 2100 built by Pullman in 1894. Train is leaving Damen station headed northwest.

    #809–Note trolley poles because the train, coming into Austin, is running at grade. In 1962 the Line was moved up onto the embankment, which is where it runs today with third rail power. Picture is looking west. The car number is in the range [1700–1734]. It was originally made for the Northwestern line by the Saint Louis Car Company in 1903 and did not acquire the initial ‘1’ in its number until 1913. Those cars were transferred to the Lake Street line early on.

    #810–By this time the Kenwood Line had been demoted to a shuttle. Notice the remains of where the Kenwood Line used to have a double track connection to the main line. The car would appear to date back to the 19th century. View is looking east.

    #811–Same location as #802, but this time we have a car in the picture. 223 was made by Jewett in 1902 for the South Side Line, then known as the ”alley L’.

    #812–See André.

    #813–Chicago, Aurora and Elgin car 144 was acquired second hand from the North Shore Line, for which it was built by the American Car Company (not to be confused with the American Car And Foundry Company) as NSL 403. The number was changed because the CA&E already had a steel car numbered 403. Same Location as #800, for which I have further comments about Marshall Jct.

    #814–The car is from the same set as the car in picture #809. It is Westbound on the inner loop at the State and Lake station. Picture is looking east.

    #815–Nearer car is 392, originally made for the South Side Line in 1905 by American Car and Foundry. The car behind it seems to be from the same set. From the shadows, it appears to be early morning. Location is near that of picture #801.

    #816–To me this is by far the most valuable picture in the set because it shows on of the original Lake Street cars. Pictures of any of the Wooden cars bought by the Lake Street Line are almost as scarce as hens’ teeth. Unlike the wooden cars of the other three lines which were painted Pullman green, Lake Street wooden cars came from the factory painted Tuscan red. 3161 was built by Brill in 1909 for the Lake Street Line as number 161. It was among the latest of the wooden cars, though it appears to be in bad physical shape in the picture. The picture is taken from the same station as #804, but from a point further south. Look at the buildings in the picture to confirm this. Notice that the controls ore on the left side. This is because the Lake Street Line ran left-handed until 1913. In #816 it appears as painted brindle brown and burnt orange in 1939. The majority of wooden cars were never repainted after that.

    #817–Car 205 was built by Jewett in 1900 for the South Side Line. It is about to leave the station for the Normal Park branch, which was abandoned not long after this picture was taken. Pictures #802 and #811 were taken from the west end of the platform for this station.

    #818–CTA 6066 was built by the Saint Louis Car Company in 1950 which means this picture is later than most of the others. My guess would be around 1954.

    #819–Car 2787 was built by Barney and Smith for the Metropolitan as number 787. It is not part of the official contest. The picture is dated May 3, 1952, which was the last day of Humbolt Park service. Notice how nicely the young man on the right is dressed.

    #820–Wow does this picture ever bring back memories! This is what I and my friends at the time sarcastically called the “street light express.” The date is almost certainly in 1953. Notice the so-called monitor roof, typical of Metropolitan cars 2790 and higher (originally 790 and higher) on the car, and the sign reading “meets 6:12 CA&E” To facilitate the building of the Eisenhower Expressway, then called the “Congress Street Expressway,” From early 1953 until 1959, the Garfield Park branch descended for about 2½ miles to run by (actually in) Van Buren street at grade. Here is how it worked. There were originally two street car tracks in the street. The northernmost one (to the left in the picture) was not used. A fence was built along the south rail. You can see the rail in the cross street. the South track was fitted with third rails because the cars inherited from the Metropolitan, like the one seen here did not have trolley poles, and another track was built, also with third rails in the south portion of the street. This ate up over half of Van Buren Street, as you can see. At every cross street, such as the one pictured, the traffic lights were set like this. The traffic signals worked normally most of the time, but when a train pulled up to the street, this was sensed and the pattern was changed. The signals first went through a complete cycle of lights for Van Buren Street and the cross street. Then both streets were given a red light. At that point the train was given a quick burst of power and then it coasted (v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y) across the street and then continued on. The Chicago, Aurora and Elgin, to which the sign refers, would have none of this nonsense and therefore all of its trains turned back west at Desplaines Avenue. People had to change trains at Desplaines Avenue. It took what seemed like forever to get downtown at the snail’s pace effected by all those at grade crossings!

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  5. I agree 807 is Rockwell. Incline down from Western in background.

    Kenwood and Stock yards shuttle shots are relatively early – 1949 or 1950 probably as cars are still S Side. Later both got Met 28-2900’s. Normal Park was gone before Met cars arrived on south side. Supposedly Northwestern 17-1800’s landed on shuttles too at one point, around 1956, but can’t swear to this. In any event, Stock Yards was by far the busier at the end, as it was replaced by a dedicated Mon-Sat “Stock Yards Limited” bus from Indiana station to Swift’s, in addition to rush hour trips off the regular 43rd-Root bus, while Kenwood only needed a single extra bus on Pershing during weekday rush hours as a replacement service. Towards the end, Kenwood station houses had been abandoned, with plywood “tunnels” built between front door and stairs for passenger entrance and agent’s booths (manned AM rush only) with no lights, heat, or phone on platform. When I first started at CTA in 1977, met a woman agent who had actually worked Kenwood in its last days and told me of the appalling conditions on the line. No wonder nobody would ride the thing. It was worse than Humboldt Park, which was the victim of extreme “benign neglect”.

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