Stephen L. Meyers, 1925-2015

Steve at Trainfest with his wife Sandy.

Steve at Trainfest with his wife Sandy.

Steven L. Meyers passed away on April 8 after a brief illness. He was born in New York City in 1925 and became enamored with the streetcar lines serving the various boroughs. During WWII he served in the Pacific. He moved to Evanston, IL in 1963 and enjoyed a long career in exporting and customs.

Over the years, Steve assembled a substantial collection of New York streetcar photos and documents. He authored three popular books:

Breezers: A Lighthearted History of the Open Trolley Car in America

Manhattan’s Lost Streetcars (Images of Rail)

Lost Trolleys of Queens and Long Island (Images of Rail)

Steve was involved with several railfan organizations. An HO traction modeler, Steve was a member of the NorthWest Traction Group.

-Eric Bronsky

PS- While I cannot say that I knew Mr. Meyers well, we had corresponded a bit and talked on the phone a few times. He was part of that “Greatest Generation” of railfans, whose contributions to our hobby will be remembered for a long time to come. Steve was a longtime member of both the Electric Railroaders’ Association and Central Electric Railfans’ Association.

He was a curmudgeon who did not suffer fools gladly, and gave as well as he got, and it is our loss that he is gone. He also wrote three excellent books that I have enjoyed reading, and amassed a tremendous collection of information on New York-area traction lines that I hope will find a good home.

Before his death, Steve wrote an extensive history of the Metropolitan Traction Company (later called Metropolitan Street Railway Company, which became part of New York Railways Company), which remains unpublished. I hope that it will eventually see the light of day.

Mr. Meyers had agreed to participate in a slide program that I have been working on, but sadly, it was not meant to be.

When I traveled to the Seashore Trolley Museum last summer, I was able to purchase a copy of Mr. Meyers’ book Breezers in their gift shop. It turns out to have been a presentation copy that Mr. Meyers gave to another notable author, the late O. R. Cummings, who wrote perhaps 50 books specializing in Northeast traction. Sadly, both men have departed, but they have left us a legacy that will remain.

Those of us transit historians of today should never forget that we are standing on the shoulders of giants like O. R. Cummings and Stephen L. Meyers.

-David Sadowski

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Kiddieland Videos

Our last post The Kiddielands of Chicago has been very well received, so we thought you might also like these videos we shot on October 3, 2009. These show some of the last rides ever taken at Kiddieland. By this time, the park was already closed to the public, as this was “employee appreciation day,” for the benefit of people who had worked there over the years.

In addition, here are some additional Kiddieland videos.

Enjoy!

-David Sadowski

The Kiddielands of Chicago

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There was a time when the Chicago area was dotted with several small amusement parks for children, the largest and most fondly remembered being Kiddieland in Melrose Park, at the corner of North and First Avenues. I made my first trip there in 1959 when I was all of four years old.

The miniature train ride, naturally, held out a special fascination, and Kiddieland had a roster of steam and diesel locomotives. Originally, the train went quite a distance around the perimeter of the park, but was unfortunately shortened somewhere along the way as the property got subdivided to create a driving range.

Being a kid in the 1950s and 1960s was a bit simpler than it is today. Kiddileand had a kiddie fire truck, made from a VW pickup, and if your parents arranged for it, it would drive out to your neighborhood to pick up you and your pals and bring you there so you could spend money. There weren’t any seat belts, so presumably if you fell out of the truck along the way to the park, that was your own damn fault and I doubt there was much that anyone would have done about it.

There were once a number of other small children’s amusement parks in the Chicagoland area, including Kiddie Town in Harwood Heights (adjacent to the Harlem Irving Plaza shopping center), Hollywood Kiddieland in Lincolnwood*, Playland Park in Justice, Adventureland in Addison, and Fairyland in Lyons. I’m sure there were others, but these are the ones that I recall. All are long gone.

There was a time after World War II when the US had many small amusement parks and outdoor drive-in movie theaters, but they are a vanishing breed. As cities expanded, developers moved in and purchased their land for strip malls, housing developments, and shopping centers.

The king of all local amusement parks had to be Riverview at Western and Belmont, where you could “laugh your troubles away.” I was fortunate also to have visited Riverview several times as a kid, and even rode on the parachute jump once, a scary but thrilling experience if there ever was one. After the park closed in 1967 it quickly passed into myth and legend.

Kiddieland too has passed into local legend, fondly remembered. It had an admirable safety record, but that was not always the case for its competitors, as this Chicago Tribune article about Playland shows.

There were other difficulties. The owners of Kiddieland sued Hollywood Kiddieland, accusing them of copying their name to trade off their good reputation.

Internet searches turned up some vintage home movies of Playland Park and Fairyland:

I also found some great articles about Hollywood Kiddieland and Kiddie Town. These pictures show that some amusement parks were not all sweetness and light, with uncut grass and dirt trails. But, based on how so many people have fond memories of these places, they made an incredible impression on young minds.

After Kiddieland closed on September 27, 2009, they held an “employee appreciation day” on October 3rd, to give anyone who had worked there over the years a chance to experience the park one last time. Since my brother Bill had worked there in 1971-72, we went there together, and I took the various Kiddieland pictures in this post.

I heard they were going to keep the famous sign, but did not discover where it had ended up until recently. I happened by the Melrose Park Public Library on 19th Avenue, just north of Lake Street, and there it was on the side of the building. Or there part of it was, at any rate, since the pole and many of the lights somehow were lost in the transition.

I’m glad that at least this much of Kiddieland was saved, but the overall effect of the sign (which does light up at night) will never be the same as it was when it was complete, and rotating, with an amusement park behind it, and the smell of popcorn and cotton candy.

Other parts of Kiddieland had an even better fate. The Little Dipper roller coaster is now at Six Flags Great America in Gurnee, and at least one of the miniature steam engines is at the Hesston Steam Museum in Indiana. I rode it in September 2010. It’s actually quite a nice ride, and much longer than Kiddieland had in the final years. They have a big to-do every Labor Day weekend, and it’s well worth the trip.

-David Sadowski

PS- Some readers also mention Kiddieville in Niles.

You can also see more local amusement park photos here.

*I am informed that Hollywood Kiddieland was actually located in Chicago, on the border with Lincolnwood, which was to the north.

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@Hesston Steam Museum, September 5, 2010.

@Hesston Steam Museum, September 5, 2010.

@Hesston Steam Museum, September 5, 2010.

@Hesston Steam Museum, September 5, 2010.

@Hesston Steam Museum, September 5, 2010.

@Hesston Steam Museum, September 5, 2010.

Kiddieland plaque at the Melrose Park Public Library.

Kiddieland plaque at the Melrose Park Public Library.

Kiddieland sign at the Melrose Park Public Library.

Kiddieland sign at the Melrose Park Public Library.

Kiddieland sign at the Melrose Park Public Library.

Kiddieland sign at the Melrose Park Public Library.

Chicago Streetcars in Black-and-White, Part 4

CSL 864 is westbound on Irving Park at Elston. (Edward Frank, Jr. Photo)

CSL 864 is westbound on Irving Park at Elston. (Edward Frank, Jr. Photo)

This is the fourth installment in our ongoing series Chicago Streetcars in Black-and-White.   You can find the other three installments (and the others we have done in color) by typing “Chicago streetcars” in the search window for this blog.

We offer you another generous selection 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 have interesting information to share about these locales, we look forward to hearing from you. When referring to individual photos, please use either the car number or image number.

I am continually amazed at how expert our readers are at identifying mystery locations.

-David Sadowski

Irving Park Road and Elston as it appears today.

Irving Park Road and Elston as it appears today.

CSL 6004. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

CSL 6004. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

CSL 5659 on route 9 - Ashland. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

CSL 5659 on route 9 – Ashland. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

December 2, 1936 - "42 trolleys burn in $500,000 blaze. Forty two passenger and service trolley cars of the Chicago and West Towns Railway Company were destroyed when fire swept through the car barns in Oak Park, Ill., western suburb of Chicago. Busses will be used until the trolley cars can be replaced."

December 2, 1936 – “42 trolleys burn in $500,000 blaze. Forty two passenger and service trolley cars of the Chicago and West Towns Railway Company were destroyed when fire swept through the car barns in Oak Park, Ill., western suburb of Chicago. Busses will be used until the trolley cars can be replaced.”

The site of the former Chicago & West Towns streetcar barn as it looks today. A Dominick's Finer Foods was built here in the 1980s, after Pace had purchased the West Towns and moved the bus garage elsewhere. Dominck's closed in late 2013 and the building is being converted into a Pete's Fresh Market.

The site of the former Chicago & West Towns streetcar barn as it looks today. A Dominick’s Finer Foods was built here in the 1980s, after Pace had purchased the West Towns and moved the bus garage elsewhere. Dominck’s closed in late 2013 and the building is being converted into a Pete’s Fresh Market.

CTA 509 on July 22, 1953.

CTA 509 on July 22, 1953.

CTA 202 on July 23, 1953.

CTA 202 on July 23, 1953.

CSL 3299 on route 73 - Armitage. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

CSL 3299 on route 73 – Armitage. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

CSL 3216, westbound on 51st at Wallace. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

CSL 3216, westbound on 51st at Wallace. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

CSL 3105. Bill Shapotkin says, "Believe this car is westbound on 18th St approaching Canal Street. Note Continental Paper (left) -- still there and still getting rail service (by NS?). View looks east." (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

CSL 3105. Bill Shapotkin says, “Believe this car is westbound on 18th St approaching Canal Street. Note Continental Paper (left) — still there and still getting rail service (by NS?). View looks east.” (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

CSL 3057 on route 17, the Kedzie through route, at Belmont. The Kennedy Expressway now runs past this spot on elevation. The through route was replaced by buses on December 4, 1949.

CSL 3057 on route 17, the Kedzie through route, at Belmont. The Kennedy Expressway now runs past this spot on elevation. The through route was replaced by buses on December 4, 1949.

George Foelschow writes, CSL 2811 "is on page 29 of the Lind book, identified as 134th Street (where it ducks under the Illinois Central tracks)." (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

George Foelschow writes, CSL 2811 “is on page 29 of the Lind book, identified as 134th Street (where it ducks under the Illinois Central tracks).” (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

CSL 3298 on route 78 - Montrose, possibly during WWII. By this time, the western portion of the route was handled by trolley buses. Andre Kristopans adds that this "MIGHT be Montrose & Pulaski. Building on corner is heavily altered, but window arrangement does match." Richard Poemape writes, " the photo that you have for CSL 3298 on Route 78 - Montrose was taken at the intersection of Montrose and Clark. The building in the background is on the N/W corner."

CSL 3298 on route 78 – Montrose, possibly during WWII. By this time, the western portion of the route was handled by trolley buses. Andre Kristopans adds that this “MIGHT be Montrose & Pulaski. Building on corner is heavily altered, but window arrangement does match.” Richard Poemape writes, ” the photo that you have for CSL 3298 on Route 78 – Montrose was taken at the intersection of Montrose and Clark. The building in the background is on the N/W corner.”

CSL 1850. Bill Shapotkin adds, "westbound on Harrison Street between the South Branch of the Chicago River and Canal Street." (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

CSL 1850. Bill Shapotkin adds, “westbound on Harrison Street between the South Branch of the Chicago River and Canal Street.” (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

Andre Kristopans writes, "Car 1400 is on 21st/Fulton route, not Cermak. I would hazard a guess as to location being Monroe and Clinton, with car about to turn east to south." (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

Andre Kristopans writes, “Car 1400 is on 21st/Fulton route, not Cermak. I would hazard a guess as to location being Monroe and Clinton, with car about to turn east to south.” (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

Bob Lalich writes, "CSL 5705 is southbound at 100th and Ewing, emerging from the PRR viaduct. The NYC and B&O viaducts can also be seen in the background." (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

Bob Lalich writes, “CSL 5705 is southbound at 100th and Ewing, emerging from the PRR viaduct. The NYC and B&O viaducts can also be seen in the background.” (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

CSL 5793 at Cottage Grove and 26th on route 4. (M. D. McCarter Collection)

CSL 5793 at Cottage Grove and 26th on route 4. (M. D. McCarter Collection)

CSL 6025 at Kedzie and Bryn Mawr. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

CSL 6025 at Kedzie and Bryn Mawr. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

Bob Lalich says, "CTA “sedan” 3333 is turning west on 93rd St from Baltimore Ave. The IC South Chicago Branch can be seen in the background."

Bob Lalich says, “CTA “sedan” 3333 is turning west on 93rd St from Baltimore Ave. The IC South Chicago Branch can be seen in the background.”

CSL 745 at 4544 W. 26th, according to the address on the building at rear. (Robert W. Gibson Photo) Bill Shapotkin adds, "Yes, your location (a #60 -- Blue Island car at the end-of-line at 26th St/Kenton Ave) is correct. Have not been there in a long time -- but have heard that the building in background still stands (but would not bet the house on it without checking). Train at left is on the BRC."

CSL 745 at 4544 W. 26th, according to the address on the building at rear. (Robert W. Gibson Photo) Bill Shapotkin adds, “Yes, your location (a #60 — Blue Island car at the end-of-line at 26th St/Kenton Ave) is correct. Have not been there in a long time — but have heard that the building in background still stands (but would not bet the house on it without checking). Train at left is on the BRC.”

CSL 3301. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

CSL 3301. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

CSL 5722 is northbound on Stony Island at 69th. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

CSL 5722 is northbound on Stony Island at 69th. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

CTA 6101 is southbound on Kedzie at Elston. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

CTA 6101 is southbound on Kedzie at Elston. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

Bob Lalich writes that CSL 2619 is "northbound at the corner of 132nd and Brandon in Hegewisch. Photo is looking north." (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

Bob Lalich writes that CSL 2619 is “northbound at the corner of 132nd and Brandon in Hegewisch. Photo is looking north.” (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

CSL 1836 is "eastbound on Harrison at Ogden," according to Andre Kristopans. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

CSL 1836 is “eastbound on Harrison at Ogden,” according to Andre Kristopans. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

Andre Kristopans says,"1560 is a pull-in to Blue island car house going west on Blue island at Leavitt – car in background is at the south end of 18th St line on Leavitt at Blue Island."

Andre Kristopans says,”1560 is a pull-in to Blue island car house going west on Blue island at Leavitt – car in background is at the south end of 18th St line on Leavitt at Blue Island.”

CSL 1539. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

CSL 1539. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

Bob Lalich writes, “CSL 1407 is WB on 87th St having just passed Holland Road. The railroad viaduct in the background carries the tracks of the BRC and the freight tracks of the C&WI. Joe Diaz was standing on the viaduct of the C&WI passenger tracks when he took the photo.” (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

CSL 1400. Bill Shapotkin writes, "eastbound on Harrison at Canal Street (note Grand Central station in distance). Building immediately at right is still standing." (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

CSL 1400. Bill Shapotkin writes, “eastbound on Harrison at Canal Street (note Grand Central station in distance). Building immediately at right is still standing.” (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

CSL 5716 at Dorchester and 63rd, on the Windsor Park route. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

CSL 5716 at Dorchester and 63rd, on the Windsor Park route. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

CSL 2729 is "westbound on Pershing west of Cottage Grove. Car in background is a Pershing car at end of his route. Note Lincoln/Wrightwood sign – I would say this is a Lincoln/Indiana car pulling out via Pershing to Indiana to go north," according to Andre Kristopans. The sign advertising Jay McShann at the Savoy helps date this picture to 1946. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

CSL 2729 is “westbound on Pershing west of Cottage Grove. Car in background is a Pershing car at end of his route. Note Lincoln/Wrightwood sign – I would say this is a Lincoln/Indiana car pulling out via Pershing to Indiana to go north,” according to Andre Kristopans. The sign advertising Jay McShann at the Savoy helps date this picture to 1946. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)