This shows the Liner (car 801A) at IRM in 2013 when the campaign began. We held an open house, arranged for special air conditioning, and gave tours/explanations of the planned restoration project. It was towed to and from the barn and displayed at the 50th Ave Platform.
Today’s post is by guest contributor Tom Sharratt, who gives an update on the ongoing project to restore the Electroliner at the Illinois Railway Museum. All photos are by Tom, unless otherwise indicated.
Progress continued during the cold and snowy winter months, a lot of it in preparation for removing the trucks from the train. In service, this was accomplished by the North Shore Line at Milwaukee’s Harrison Street Shop which built a transfer table specifically to allow removing the articulate trucks from the Liner. IRM does not have a transfer table, although there is a drop pit in the steam shop. A drop pit is not designed to do the same job as a transfer table. Removal of the trucks will mark the first of the “heavy” work projects that need to be done: repair of all motors, as required; inspection and turning or replacement of wheels, as necessary; and inspection and repairs to the trucks themselves.
As reported earlier, the pit in barn 4 has been modified with the addition of makeshift gas heating. After some fine tuning of the heating components to maximize the heat produced and developing a means of keeping the heat in the area where the work is done, volunteers succeeded in removing all electrical leads to the motors, uncoupling all air leads to the brakes, and all ground straps. The trucks are now ready to be removed from the train.
But how to remove them from the articulated train? That has been a question that has caused a lot of brainstorming over the past six months. Several options have been considered. One proposal is to “de-articulate” the cars by replacing each of the three trucks that are between cars with two individual shop trucks thereby allowing each individual car to move independently. The two end trucks would also be replaced with shop trucks. This option would have several advantages, a big one being to open the pit track for other cars that need to be worked on using the pit. The Liner is so long that if it is on the pit track, there is insufficient room for effective work on other equipment. This option, if selected, would allow one or two Liner cars to remain on the stub end of the pit track while interior work is being done, and the other cars would be moved to another barn.
It would also allow some very unique pictures of the Electroliner! When the train was moved from Pennsylvania, it had to be moved several miles over the highway on flatbeds to the nearest active rail line where the cars were mounted in pairs on two TTX cars and shipped to IRM where the train was “reassembled.” We’re not aware of any other time that the cars were separated – if anyone knows of such a case, please let us know.
Because of the difficulty and expected expense of accomplishing this work, the Museum Board decided to get three bids on how to best proceed and the estimated cost. The process of contacting possible contractors is ongoing, and it is hoped that by the end of July a decision can be made and a contract signed. Of course, we have no way of knowing at this time how soon the work may begin or how long it might take, but the process of selecting a contractor has begun.
We are able to move forward with the “heavy” work only because of our success in raising funds – we have the money to do what has been described above. There will be more expensive, specialized work to be done, in particular restoration or replacement of the air conditioning system. Donations continue to come in to support the restoration, and in the first four months of 2015 alone just over $45,000 has been received. The Electroliner campaign has raised over $550,000 since fund raising began just under two years ago!
Your continued help is needed, and you can get a nice authentic piece of the Liner by “Buying a Seat” for a donation of $300! To donate via credit card, call Jan Nunez (she works daily except Thurs/Fri) and talk to her ONLY. The number is: 815-923-4391 #2. Otherwise, use the address below.
Your donation can be made online by visiting the IRM online store.
You can also send a check to:
Campaign for the Electroliner
Illinois Railway Museum
PO BOX 427
PS- The Electroliner fundraiser also has a Facebook page you can check out.
Editor’s Note: You can contact Tom directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Here is a very early picture. Not sure who took the original – not me. The color of the fabric is redder than what we are finding under the seats as we reupholster. Of course, what we are finding is AT LEAST 52 years old, more like at least 60.
This shows some of the work we are doing on the windows. Each is being opened and cleaned, metal repaired as necessary, and the “seal” or gasket replaced. This is probably the first time this work has ever been done – my guess only. The gaskets are all in need of replacement. PROBLEM: It is a non standard seal, therefore we will have to have a die made specially which will be the biggest cost. We’ll then order enough to do all our windows with a 50% overrun to cover mistakes in installation, etc. We have talked with Rockhill Trolley Museum about sharing some of this cost as they will want to do the same thing at some point – but they are a lot further from this stage than we are. Estimated cost: $12 – 15K. We have asked for grants to pay for this work, but none have been approved yet.
This shows the motorman’s seat. Only a few swatches can be made from these – two have been sold already. If anyone is interested, get your order in soon.
This shows the motorman’s cabin gauge.
Another shot of the liner on display in 2013.
This shows the animal illustrations in the lounge car. The Red Arrow lines left these, but replaced the ones in the coaches with Liberty Bells.
This one shows a seat that will be reupholstered. You can see the material (cut) that Red Arrow installed; beneath it is the NSL fabric (I believe it was reupholstered once by the NSL.) A swatch of the red material is what will be given to those who “Buy a Seat” for $300. (Rod Turner Photo)
This is one of a number of slides that I bought from Chuck Westerman. I have no idea who took the picture. It shows combine 253 outside the Harrison Street shops. Of special interest are the planks shown in the foreground between the nearest two tracks. These are the southern most of four tracks that went into the shop, and just outside the doors. They cover the transfer table that was built especially for removing the Liners’ trucks.
(Rod Turner Photo)
An Electroliner at the Milwaukee terminal in 1949. (Trolley Dodger Collection – Photographer Unknown)
Except for a ceremonial event in 1946, the era of Chicago streetcar RPOs ended on November 21, 1915, less than two years into the CSL era. This photo was taken on October 14, 1938 by Edward Frank Jr., who described the car’s colors as tannish yellow gold with gold letters and trimmings. The location is the Lincoln Avenue car barn (aka “station”). According to Don’s Rail Photos, “H2 was built by West Chicago Street Ry in 1895 as 3. It became CRys 3 and renumbered H2 in 1913. It became CSL H2 in 1914.” Presumably it survived at least until 1938 as some sort of work car.
Most people are likely unaware that Chicago once operated an extensive network of cable cars, or that cable cars and streetcars were used as mobile post offices between 1895 and 1915.
Mainline Railway Post Offices were in use in the United States from 1862 to 1978 (with the final year being operated by boat instead of on rails), but for a much briefer era, cable cars and streetcars were also used for mail handling in the following 15 cities*:
Baltimore Boston Brooklyn Chicago Cincinnati Cleveland New Bedford, Massachusetts New York City Philadelphia Pittsburgh Rochester, New York St. Louis San Francisco Seattle Washington, D.C.
*As noted by some of our readers, this list does not include interurban RPOs.
Streetcar RPOs represented a real improvement in service in their time, but eventually were replaced by trucks as vehicles and roads improved in the early 20th century. These special trolleys collected, moved, sorted, and cancelled mail along their routes through the city. Many had slots where mail could be deposited on the street.
The Mobile Post Office Society has published several monographs on streetcar RPO operations, including one on Chicago written by John R. Mason and Raymond A. Fleming.
Chicago’s streetcar RPOs survived into the Surface Lines era, but just briefly, last being used on November 21, 1915. However, there was one later ceremonial operation during a 1946 stamp collector’s convention.
Likewise, although the last Chicago cable car ran in 1906, there was also one later operation at the 1948-49 Chicago Railroad Fair. As we discussed in an earlier post, the success of this fair is widely regarded as having led to the creation of McCormick Place on Chicago’s lakefront.
Although this short cable car demonstration line is long gone, car #524 itself, renumbered to #24, is still in service in San Francisco as of this writing. Here is a history of the car:
Built by the Mahoney Bros., San Francisco, in 1887 for the Ferries & Cliff House Railway (Powell Street Railway). The Mahoney Bros. subcontracted with Burnham-Standeford in Oakland, California, to build its cars. Assigned to the Sacramento-Clay cable car line before the Earthquake and Fire of 1906, the United Railroads transferred it back to the Powell Street cable car lines in 1907. Renumbered from original No. 534 to No. 524 by the Market Street Railway on December 16, 1929.
As a further example of how times have changed, we offer a couple of rare Chicago transit memos from 1893. Most likely lots of such memos circulated back in the days before e-mail, but few have survived.
Please read the following to the men working on the motor cars with you.
The men must work near the door where the light is and stay there, and not stay where it is dark to avoid the use of candles.
By Order of,
Wm. (William) Barthwaite (Master Mechanic)
The second note, on plain paper, is also addressed to the same individual and likely was preserved by him and his heirs:
Joe Gillet (sic?) 23/93
There is a complaint from 39 Barn that many nuts work loose from Scrapers & Sand-boxes. My orders are to prick-punch all nuts.
You will see that this is done.
I had assumed that “prick-punch all nuts” meant to tighten them some more so they don’t come loose, but it turns out I was wrong. Dan Gornstein says:
Regarding the prick punching, this is a practice of disturbing the bolt threads at the top of a tightened nut, with either a chisel or, as the name suggests, a “prick punch,” with a common name of a Center Punch.
H. Porter adds:
A “prick-punch” is taking a centerpunch and dotting the nut with it after the nut is tightened. This slighly deforms the nut making it less susceptible to vibrating loose. You can buy nuts with this slight deformity already there. Hand tools will still take them on and off.
PS- You can read the book Mail By Rail: the Story of the Postal Transportation Servicehere. On page 231, the authors cite May 6, 1950 as the date when the “last true trolley car R.P.O.” ran in America on the Pacific electric interurban.
Seth Bramson comments:
I think that interurban electric railways should be included, as they ran under wires, and two that do not appear on the list are Los Angeles (Pacific Electric operated three or four RPO routes) and the one in Maine.
I would have to look it up but there was a trolley RPO route in lower Maine, along the seacoast, I believe and there might have been one in New Hampshire. I can’t think of them right now, but I believe that there were one or two other trolley RPO routes, not shown, perhaps because they were considered interurban.
A couple of other “factoids” regarding electric mail service: Seattle’s RPO was titled “Seattle & Seattle” and operated on a pretty large circuit; Baltimore’s last trolley RPO operated into the early 1930s; Rochester’s street RPOs were titled “Car Collection Service B, C or D”—I don’t think there was an “A;” Buffalo had a horse drawn wagon service with a postmark similar to RPO but I would have to look it up; great interurbans such as the CA&E, CNS & M, CSS & SB, Texas Electric, Illinois Terminal, Sacramento Northern and others did have mail contracts but for closed pouch only, no RPOs.
Because I was working in NY at the time, and had become friendly with the great RPO collector and clerk, Sidney Fingerhood, and went down to Penn Station regularly to see the last RPO trains operate, I was invited, in early July of 1976, to ride the very last trip of the N Y & Wash RPO, all the way from NY Penn to Washington Union Station, but because I had to be at work the next day, I could only ride to Newark, but at least I can say that I was the only civilian who rode the very last trip of the last rail RPO in America. (And, yes, the comments are correct: a boat RPO on, I think, Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire did operated until 1978 or thereabouts.)
It was a great and efficient service and the terrible problems with the postal service really began after the destruction of the RPO system, the blame due, in no small part, to Eisenhower, for a good few reasons not necessary to elaborate here.
An example of a “duplex” cancellation made on a Chicago streetcar RPO in 1902.
Chicago City Railway cable trailer 209 in October 1938. Supposedly built around 1892, it appears to be a replica fabricated by CSL in 1934 using some original parts. It is now preserved at the Illinois Railway Museum. (Alfred Seibel Photo)
San Francisco Municipal Railway #524 in Chicago on August 28, 1948 at the Chicago Railroad Fair. This was the actual last cable car to operate in Chicago, and was done under the sponsorship of the Western Pacific Railroad. #524 has been renumbered #24 and is still in service in San Francisco after being extensively rebuilt by Muni in 1958. On September 2, 1956, car No. 524 also made the last trip on the Washington-Jackson line as the SF cable car network was consolidated.
A rare Chicago City Railway Company memo dated November 13, 1893, ordering a reduction in the use of candles.
An 1893 note regarding a complaint from “39 Barn,” which was located at the corner of 39th (Pershing) and Cottage Grove.
Chicago streetcar RPO cancellation – Wentworth Avenue line, 7-1-1909.
Chicago streetcar RPO cancellation – North Clark St. line, 11-13-1902.
Chicago streetcar RPO cancellation – Milwaukee Avenue line, 2-26-1906.
The Mobile Post Office Society published a 72 page monograph on the Chicago streetcar RPO service in 1983.
St. Louis cable cars on Broadway looking north from Chestnut Street, 1894.
This commemorative mailing gives November 11, 1929 as the last day of streetcar RPO service in the United States (not counting interurbans).
American Streetcar R.P.O.s: 1893-1929
Mainline Railway Post Offices were in use in the United States from 1862 to 1978 (with the final year being operated by boat instead of on rails), but for a much briefer era, cable cars and streetcars were also used for mail handling in the following 15 cities*:
New Bedford, Massachusetts
New York City
Rochester, New York
*As noted by some of our readers, this list does not include interurban RPOs.
Our latest E-book American Streetcar R.P.O.s collects 12 books on this subject (over 1000 pages in all) onto a DVD data disc that can be read on any computer using Adobe Acrobat Reader, which is free software. All have been out of print for decades and are hard to find. In addition, there is an introductory essay by David Sadowski.
The rolling stock, routes, operations, and cancellation markings of the various American street railway post office systems are covered in detail. The era of the streetcar R.P.O. was relatively brief, covering 1893 to 1929, but it represented an improvement in mail handling over what came before, and it moved a lot of mail. In many places, it was possible to deposit a letter into a mail slot on a streetcar or cable car and have it delivered across town within a short number of hours.
These operations present a very interesting history, but are not well-known to railfans. We feel they deserve greater scrutiny, and therefore we are donating $1 from each sale of this item to the Mobile Post Office Society, in support of their efforts. # of Discs – 1 Price: $19.95
Hidden away from view, this old interurban bridge has become part of the natural landscape crossing the Spy Run Creek north of downtown Fort Wayne. This particular route took the electric cars along Lima Road (Highway 3) to Garrett, Auburn, Kendallville and Waterloo. An aerial photograph shows it out of use by 1938, but the route is visible.
Daniel Baker is a photographer based in Northeast Indiana specializing in documentary, urban and landscape photography.
My local library was selling some old stuff they had been storing for years but had no use for. Among the old photographs they had for sale I found the attached photo and thought you would like to see it. The only information written on the cardboard frame was: Trolley after blizzard of March 1st 1914- Dunellen.
Dunellen NJ was on the Main line of NJ Public Service’s Union Line.
I remember the day I visited the La Salle St. store, back in February, 1971. I was on my way from Madison, WI to New Orleans, riding Milwaukee Road’s “Sioux” from Madison to Chicago Union Station, and then Illinois Central’s “Panama Limited” south from Central Station. During the 7 hour layover, I rode GM&O’s “Limited” down to Joliet, returning to Chicago on a Rock Island commuter train. From La Salle Street Station, I made the long walk up La Salle St. to the store, buying some timetables and an Official Guide from Dorothy, but wishing I could pick up a lot more. I then took a taxi back down to Central Station, with not a lot of time left to board the “Panama”.
Another correspondent named Steve says:
I forgot long ago how it was I discovered the store but I was probably 12 years old, which would have been 1961. I was already collecting maps timetables, books and transfers, but all of mine were current when I obtained them. He had boxes and boxes of vintage stuff which totally fascinated me as a young collector. In the vestibule when you walked in there would be current timetables you could take for free, frequently from Philadelphia. I am sure I still have everything I ever acquired there. I went there frequently until the store on La Salle was closed.
Years later, when I already had children of my own, I was in the Oak Park store once. It had a small shadow of the La Salle Street collection.
The same writer continued:
I remember his widow ran the store on La Salle St. for a few years after he died. I was only on the first floor-never in the basement or attic. And when I wrote my first reminiscence on this I also thought about how I wish I had more money to buy things from him.
My first purchase there consisted of a 1951 CTA Map, a 1933 CRT Map and an assortment of Chicago Cable Car transfers dating back as far as the 90s. I was in heaven.
Seth Bramson related that he had bought a North Shore Line Ticket Office porcelain elbow sign from Dorothy Davies. You can find a picture of such a sign here.
Here is an excellent promotional film made by the North Shore Line in the 1920s:
A description of the North Shore Line film “The Green Bay Trail.”
To complete our tribute to Owen Davies, here are some vintage Davies flyers and catalogs circa 1963. Davies seems to have been quite the entrepreneur, and his publishing activities look to be more extensive than I had known. Just click on each image to bring up a larger version in your browser.
Fort Wayne’s Trolleys by George K. Bradley was published by Owen Davies in 1963. Bradley was also author of Central Electric Railfans’ Association bulletins 122 (Ft. Wayne and Wabash Valley Trolleys) and 128 (Indiana Railroad– the Magic Interurban). His earlier works include Electric Railway Historical Society bulletin #6, The Northern Indiana Railways (1953).
Editor’s Note: George K. Bradley (1930-2000) was a prolific author, and his papers are collected at the Indiana Historical Society.
CSL 4040 is eastbound at Madison and Laramie on October 23, 1938. (M. D. McCarter Collection)
Continuing on from our recent article Chicago’s Pre-PCCs (May 5), by 1936 the Presidents’ Conference Committee, by thenrenamed the Electric Railway Presidents’ Conference Committee (ERPCC), had developed a streamlined modern streetcar.
Chicago was very much involved in this, and ordered 83 PCC cars in 1936. These were built by St. Louis Car Co. and were numbered 4002-4051 (owned by Chicago Railways) and 7002-7034 (for Chicago City Railway). The split numbering was due to the Chicago Surface Lines being a unified operating association made up of constituent companies.
The Settlement Ordinance of 1907 imposed various operating requirements on two of the underlying companies, the Chicago City Railway Company and Chicago Railways, and established a new bureau, the Board of Supervising Engineers (Chicago Traction), a board of engineers and accountants with responsibilities for assuring compliance with the ordinances, and setting standards for equipment and construction.
It is important to note the role played by the City of Chicago, working in partnership with the Chicago Surface Lines through the Board of Supervising Engineers, in developing the specifications for Chicago’s prewar and postwar PCC streetcars.
The Chicago cars were unique in that they were longer and wider than the standard single-ended PCCs used in other cities. They were designed for two-man operation, and had three sets of doors.
They were initially put into service on CSL route 20 – Madison, which was considered representative and offered a wide variety of operating conditions. It ran downtown and through the neighborhoods to the city limits, and also had a branch line (Madison-Fifth). Even so, the 83 PCCs put into service in 1936-37 were not enough to handle the entire schedule on Madison, which to some extent actually competed with the nearby Garfield Park “L” rapid transit line.
The prewar PCCs were popular with the riding public, and as a result, ridership increased, and the cars ran faster than those they replaced. By 1939, the City of Chicago, anticipating transit unification of the Surface Lines with the Chicago Rapid Transit Company, developed a modernization plan that called for a total of 1000 modern streetcars.
Over many years, Chicago’s trolley riders paid into a modernization fund, and by the start of World War II, millions of dollars were available for purchasing new streetcars. However, wartime shortages made this impossible until 1945.
In anticipation of placing new orders for postwar PCCs, CSL experimented with different paint schemes, door arrangements, and with forced-air ventilation, before deciding on the specifications of the 600 new cars delivered in 1946-48. (We will delve further into the postwar cars in our next installment in this series.)
With the delivery of more PCCs, the original 83 cars were shifted to other lines, ultimately running on Cottage Grove, 63rd, and Western, before being retired after nearly 20 years of service in 1956.
Could they have lasted longer? A 1951 CTA (successor to the CSL) consultant’s report stated that the cost of maintaining these cars was increasing. By the standards of the time, the CTA considered streetcars to be fully depreciated after 20 years’ use.
Although the 83 cars from 1936 had seen a lot of use, there is no doubt they could have continued in service if not for the fact that the CTA wanted to phase out streetcars as soon as possible. Similar considerations were at work when the 100 CSL Sedans (aka “Peter Witts”) were retired and scrapped in the early 1950s, after little more than two decades of service.
Other cities such as Toronto managed to keep their streetcars running for a lot longer than 20 years, under hard use.
The only other possible use that CTA had for the prewar cars in 1956 would have been to put them in use between Forest Park and Wheaton, as a “light rail” replacement for a portion of the Chicago, Aurora & Elgin interurban. Unfortunately, no funding to operate such a service was forthcoming (see our article The CTA, the CA&E, and “Political Influence”, February 18) and the CA&E was abandoned without replacement. This plan, while stillborn, may have helped influence the Skokie Swift, which began service in 1964 over five miles of abandoned North Shore Line interurban trackage.
Only one of the 83 prewar cars has been preserved. 4021 is now on static display at the Illinois Railway Museum. For many years, it was stored as part of the CTA’s Historical Collection, but the body was damaged when it was improperly handled while being moved from one location to another. Since arriving at IRM in the mid-1980s the car has been repainted and made to look a lot more presentable from the outside.
This may present a unique opportunity to help restore the last remaining prewar Chicago PCC. Since it is likely that the El Paso cars will receive all new mechanical parts, it is hoped that some of the original parts, rather than simply being discarded, could be used to help bring CSL 4021 back to operating condition in the future. Or, at least, that is my hope.
Meanwhile, I hope that you will enjoy seeing these classic pictures of Chicago’s prewar PCCs in action.
CSL 4002 and crew at Madison and Austin on July 16, 1938. (M. D. McCarter Collection)
CSL 4005 at Fifth Avenue and Jackson Boulevard and Christiana in August, 1946. (M. D. McCarter Collection)
CTA 4015 at Central Park and 63rd. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)
According to Bob Lalich, CTA 4013 is “under the Grand Trunk Western overpass at 63rd and Central Park.” (Joe L. Diaz Photo)
CTA 4026 is eastbound at 115th and Cottage Grove on June 6, 1952. (Thomas H. Desnoyers Photo)
CSL 4009, in “tiger stripes,” at West Shops. These were meant to alert motorists that the streetcars were wider than they might think. (CSL Photo)
CSL 4022, with “handlebar mustache,” at Madison and Austin on Pearl Harbor Day, December 7, 1945. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)
CSL 4035, in experimental colors, at Madison and Austin on November 2, 1946.
CSL 4020, in experimental decor, at Madison and Austin. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)
CSL 4018, in experimental paint, at Kedzie Station (carhouse) on February 9, 1946. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)
CSL 4028 on the Madison-Fifth branch line, here at Fifth Avenue and Harrison, with a Harrison car at right. (Edward Frank Jr. Photo)
CSL 4022 at Kedzie and Van Buren. (CSL Photo)
CSL 4027, eastbound on Madison near Canal, on May 6, 1937. (George Krambles Photo)
CSL 4051 at Madison and Austin, sporting an experimental door arrangement . (Robert W. Gibson Photo)
CSL 7011 at Madison and Austin on July 16, 1938. (M. D. McCarter Collection)
CSL 7017 at Madison and Austin in 1938.
CSL 4003 at Madison and Lavergne. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)
CSL 4022 in experimental colors at Madison and Austin.
CTA 4010 at 63rd and Central Park. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)
Circa 1945, we see CSL 7026 fitted with experimental forced-air ventilation of the type used in some Boston PCCs. It was not used on the postwar Chicago cars.
CSL 4020 in experimental colors at Madison and Austin in February 1946. (James J. Buckley Photo)
CSL 4028 and 4010 pass at Madison and Hamlin in early 1937, shortly after entering service. We are at the west end of Garfield Park.
CSL 4009 at West Shops. (CSL Photo)
CSL 4007 at Madison and Austin in 1939. (M. D. McCarter Collection)
CSL 7016 and a line truck at the Madison and Austin loop. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)
As rush hour came to a close on the evening of May 25, 1950, one of Chicago’s new fast, colorful, streamlined streetcars—known as a Green Hornet—slammed into a gas truck at State Street and 62nd Place. The Hornet’s motorman allegedly failed to heed the warnings of a flagger attempting to route it around a flooded underpass, and the trolley, packed with commuters on their way home, barreled into eight thousand gallons of gasoline. The gas erupted into flames, poured onto State Street, and quickly engulfed the Hornet, shooting flames two hundred and fifty feet into the air. More than half of the passengers escaped the inferno through the rear window, but thirty-three others perished, trapped in front of the streetcar’s back door, which failed to stay open in the ensuing panic. It was Chicago’s worst traffic accident ever—and the worst two-vehicle traffic accident in U.S. history.
Unearthing a forgotten chapter in Chicago lore, The Green Hornet Streetcar Disaster tells the riveting tale of this calamity. Combing through newspaper accounts as well as the Chicago Transit Authority’s official archives, Craig Cleve vividly brings to life this horrific catastrophe. Going beyond the historical record, he tracks down individuals who were present on that fateful day on State and 62nd: eyewitnesses, journalists, even survivors whose lives were forever changed by the accident. Weaving these sources together, Cleve reveals the remarkable combination of natural events, human error, and mechanical failure that led to the disaster, and this moving history recounts them—as well as the conflagration’s human drama—in gripping detail.
I realize that discussion of crashes and wrecks is always going to be controversial and not to everyone’s liking.
Ultimately, at least some good did come this horrific accident. Now, emergency exit doors that open outward are installed on transit vehicles all across the country.
In that sense, the 1950 disaster was every bit as important and historic as the 1903 Iroquois Theatre fire, which resulted in numerous safety improvements in theaters– but not in transit vehicles.
However, it seems that not all lessons from 1950 were learned right away. When the CTA began converting some of their PCC streetcars to one-man operation in 1951, their initial design did not include a rear door. It was only when the City of Chicago insisted on a rear door for emergency exit that one was added.
It does not appear as though the 1950 accident had any effect on CTA’s decision to eliminate streetcars and replace them with buses. That change in policy had already been put into effect with the hiring of general manager Walter J. McCarter in 1947.
I commend CERA for courageously scheduling this program. After all, they say that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
PS- We will follow up this post with two more this week featuring many classic photos of Chicago’s PCC streetcars in action.
The grand jury announces their findings after holding an inquest into the 1950 streetcar disaster.
Several nearby buildings burned to the ground in the aftermath to the accident.
CTA 7080 at State and 62nd in June 1950, near the site of the tragic collision between car 7078 and a gasoline truck, which took place on May 25.
Editor’s Note: Today’s post is from a guest contributor, long-time friend Bill Shapotkin:
HOOSIER TRACTION 2015
This September, a group of men and women will converge upon Indianapolis, IN for the annual gathering of theHoosier Traction Meet. Considered by many to be the premier event of its kind, this conference of interested enthusiasts, historians, published authors and rail and transit professions consists of two complete days of audio/visual presentations on the history, operation and technology of electric railway and transit operations throughout the Midwest. In addition to the numerous auditorium events, there is an exhibition of electric rail and transit, where items of interest from transfers and photographs to fare boxes and operating models are for sale.
This year marks the 32nd annual Hoosier Traction Meet. Founded by Dr. Howard Blackburn, the Hoosier Traction Meet features, in addition to its auditorium events and exhibition hall, a opportunity for those interested in electric railway and transit to exchange ideas and swap stories with old acquaintances and meet new friends.
Allow me to take this opportunity to cordially invite each and every one of you to this special event — an event which has been the rail and transit highlight of my year for nearly twenty years. Attached you will find a copy of the Prospectus for this year’s gathering. Note that by mailing in your reservation in advance, the admission price is half that paid at the door — now that’s a bargain in anybody’s book! In addition, there are numerous restaurants and shops nearby, allowing plenty of opportunities to and have lunch or supper with your fellow enthusiasts.
A typical Owen Davies Bookseller advertisement, from the February 1, 1970 Chicago Tribune.
Ask any Chicago-area railfan “of a certain age” about the late Owen Davies and his bookstore, and you are bound to hear tales of a marvelous cave-like place, packed from floor to ceiling with books and railroadiana of all conceivable types. Owen Davies himself (real name David Owen Davies) lived from 1910 to 1968, although in one form or another, his shop continued on for another 25 years.
To paraphrase Will Rogers, I don’t think my dad ever met a book store that he did not like, and in my childhood years, he took me to all sorts as he rummaged around looking for postcards, old newspapers, books, magazines, and what-not. It’s very possible I went in the Owen Davies shop at 1214 N. LaSalle, which was located in what some have described as a “ramshackle” old townhouse (however, one now valued at $1.6m). I am quite certain I visited it after it later moved to Oak Park.
There was a time when the Chicago area was simply littered with used book stores. Before there was such a thing as the World Wide Web, if you wanted to buy a book, and it was out of print, chances are the only way to find it was to make the rounds of as many shops as you could find, scouring multitudes of shelves, getting your fingers dirty. If you were lucky enough to find what you were looking for, you had to pay what the shop keeper was asking. Nowadays, you can find just about any book you want in seconds via the Internet, and can choose between multiple sellers and their various prices. We have it easy today in that respect.
How did David O. Davies become Owen Davies? Well, there is an intriguing literary allusion. In the novel Beatrice by H. Rider Haggard (1856-1925), first published in 1890, there is a character named Owen Davies, who is described as having one of the best libraries in Wales, and “gave orders to a London bookseller to forward him every new book of importance that appeared in certain classes of literature.”
Coincidence? Maybe. But it’s possible that David Davies decided that Owen Davies was a more appropriate name for a bookseller, and one who would practically corner the market in railroad books. (Another possibility, of course, is he simply did not like the first name he was given, and adopted his middle name instead, like James Paul McCartney and many other people.)
Half Minutes With Handy Merchants: Do you need a Chicago street car transfer good for a ride only on March 9, 1908? Or an 1892 timetable for the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern railroad? Or an annual pass good for all trains on the long abandoned Nevada County Narrow Gauge? Or a share of stock in the defunct Waterville & Wiscasset? Or a copy of Bradshaw’s European railway guide for 1886? The man to see is Owen Davies, a bookseller who caters almost exclusively to the demented desires of that quaint and colorful character, the rail fan.
Davies’ shop occupies the parlor and dining room of the house at 1214 N. LaSalle st., which back in the ’90s was the home of Henry L. Regensburg, grocer and society figure. Today the walls are lined with volumes narrating the history of the iron horse, the corporate complications of individual lines, the biographies of the Goulds and Fisks and Vanderbilts and lesser leaders. For decoration there are ancient travel posters, photos of vanished interurban lines zipping thru rights-of-way long since buried in woods, obsolete maps, handsomely engraved and utterly worthless stock certificates.
Did we say utterly worthless? This litter is prized by the precisians who comprise Davies’ mailing list. A transfer issued by a conductor on a Chicago cable car 45 or 50 years ago is worth 10 cents. The going price for annual passes is about a dollar, the Davies recently sold an 1858 pass good on the Galena & Chicago Union, predecessor of the Chicago & Northwestern, for $5. Timetables of the ’20s are worth a dollar or more; those of the ’80s and ’90s may range as high as $7.50 or $10. Next time you clean out the attic, take a second look at anything even remotely suggesting a former association with a railroad. Davies can find somebody to buy it.
He rides the trains himself, sheds a tear whenever a propane bus nudges another trolley line into oblivion, takes his kids on rail fan trips around belt lines in the Chicago area, and tries to convince them the horseless carriage isn’t really here to stay. Every month Davies gets out a catalog filled with warm nostalgia over the halcyon era of lines that have known better days, cold statistics about the rolling stock of railways on every continent, and prices no one but a collector of railroadiana would believe.
Davies was 41 years old when this profile appeared, but he had been in the book business for many years. How did he amass such a great collection at such a young age? It appears he grew up in it.
David Owen Davies was Chicago born and bred, although his parents were immigrants who spoke German. They divorced, and his mother Gisella (1875-1957) appears to have started the business that eventually became the used book store. In 1919, there is a record that she ran a stationary store in Chicago, and the 1930 census indicates they were running a bookstore together. Owen and Dorothy were married in 1931 and she too became active in the business.
Davies was drafted into the military in 1944, and ran a sale to liquidate some of his inventory at that time. His shop was then located at 346 N. Clark. Perhaps he set up shop at 1214 N. LaSalle after the war.
Where did he get his stock? Anywhere and everywhere, I would imagine. Advertising helped. Davies ran regular ads in newspapers and magazines looking for this type of material. I am sure that, over time, his reputation was large, and people came to him when they had things to sell.
In this pre-Internet era, the catalogs Davies sent out monthly extended the range of his work both nationally, and most likely, internationally. He also published perhaps half a dozen books himself. Some were reprints of public domain material, and some were original.
As Fred W. Frailey wrote in 1997:
The bookstore was located in a townhouse on North LaSalle Street in Chicago. I first visited it within a week of moving to Chicago in 1966 and came to know Owen and Dorothy Davies well. The selection of new and old books, public and employee timetables and odds and ends was beyond belief. Occasionally I persuaded Owen to take me to ANOTHER townhouse on North Clark Street that housed his overflow stock and I would frantically search for things to buy while Owen patiently waited.
He was a fine, gentle man and there is nobody I knew then I’d rather have given my money to. I last spoke with Owen about 1970 (Editor’s note: 1968), at a meeting of timetable collectors in downtown Chicago. A day later he was dead of a heart attack. Dorothy Davies still ran the store when I moved to Washington DC in 1974. Five or six years ago I called the store at its Oak Park locale and Doug Wornom, an employee of Owen and later of Dorothy, answered and I recall that Doug said he ran the place.
In my long life I’ve never found the equal of that store for the kind of thing I enjoy–timetables, operations information, little odds and ends. It was within walking distance of the newspaper I worked at in Chicago and a week didn’t go by that I didn’t climb those steps, knowing that if I opened enough boxes I would surely find something I simply had to call my own. The closest I’ve ever found to it is a place on lower Broadway in New York City that is open by appointment only, it seems. As soon as I send this note onward I will remember its name. . .
Alan Follett adds:
Owen Davies died of a heart attack while he and his wife Dorothy were driving home from the first annual convention of the National Association of Timetable Collectors, which was held at the Essex Inn at 11th and Michigan.
After Owen’s death, Douglas C. Wornom was brought in as manager, and for some years ran the business, first at the LaSalle Street townhouse, and later from a location in Oak Park. I’m not clear on whether he ever actually acquired an ownership interest in the bookstore.
After Owen Davies’ death in 1968, his wife continued to run the shop until about 1980, when it was moved to 200 W. Harrison in Oak Park. The store was bought by author Thomas R. Bullard (1944-93), co-author of CERA Bulletin #137, Faster Than the Limiteds (along with William Shapotkin). Dorothy Davies died in 1989 at the age of 79.
With Bullard’s untimely passing, the store closed, and its remaining stock, already much smaller than at the Chicago location, was dispersed. The Owen Davies book store is gone more than 20 years now, but it certainly has not been forgotten.
The legacy of Owen Davies lives on in the hearts and minds of all railfans and all lovers of books and used book stores, everywhere. We salute him.
PS- As an example of the dedication of Davies, his employees, and successors, here is a letter written by longtime Oak Park railfan Charles Stats after Bullard died in 1993.
In 1967, Owen Davies reprinted a short book called Chicago Elevated Railroads Consolidation of Operations, first published in 1913. In tribute to Owen Davies, we have digitized this, along with a 1928 publication of the Chicago Tunnel Company. Both are available on DVD data disc in our online store.
The townhouse at 1214 N. LaSalle as it looks today.
1944 advertisement circular.
1944 advertisement circular.
1944 advertisement circular.
An Owen Davies flyer for one of his publications, 1963.
An Owen Davies catalog circa 1963.
An Owen Davies catalog circa 1963.
Owen Davies published this reprint in 1967, a year before his untimely death at the age of 58.
The Index to the 1913 book Chicago Elevated Railroads Consolidation of Operations.
The building at 200 W. Harrison in Oak Park as it looks today. This was the home of the Owen Davies, Bookseller shop from 1980 to 1993.
CSL 2589 on Indiana private-right-of-way south of 130th Street.
This is the sixth installment in our ongoing series Chicago Streetcars in Black-and-White. You can find the other five 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. The information we provide comes generally from what’s written on the back of the print, and this may not always be totally correct. That’s where our eagle-eyed readers can help correct the historical record.
CSL 5702 at Archer-Rockwell Station (Carhouse). (Joe L. Diaz Photo)
CSL 5710. Andre Kristopans says, “SB on Coles at 79th. Tracks curving to left were used by Windsor Park cars, 5710 will curve onto 79th to the right. Note that buildings on South Shore, a block to the right, are large brick apartment buildings, while the buildings on Coles are small wooden houses.” (Joe L. Diaz Photo)
CTA 3250. According to Andre Kristopans, we are at the “70th St end of 69th carhouse.” (Robert W. Gibson Photo)
CSL 1817 is westbound on Harrison having just crossed the Chicago River. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)
CSL 5708 on the Hammond-Whiting-East Chicago route, which got cut back to the state line in 1940.
CSL 3301 is westbound on 59th Street at Stewart, having just crossed under the Pennsy. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)
Roy Benedict says, “The southbound car (CSL 2811) is passing in front of 12423 S. Michigan Avenue.” Andre Krisotpans adds,”The filling station visible behind the car with the overhang burned down in 2013.” (Joe L. Diaz Photo)
CSL 2619 on Brandon private right-of-way near 123rd Street. Bob Lalich adds, “CSL 2619 in image 896 is about to cross a short bridge just south of 126th St. Note that it has just met and passed a NB car in the siding north of the bridge. There was another siding at 122nd St on the Brandon line. I find it remarkable that there were two passing sidings located a half mile apart in the wetlands between Hegewisch and the East Side.” (Joe L. Diaz Photo)
CSL 929 and 1077 are on Balmoral at Ravenswood, and we are looking east. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)
CSL 3251 and 3276 on 61st Street near State. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)
CSL 3320 on the 67-69-71 route, “crossing South Chicago Av on Anthony,” according to Andre Kristopans. On the other hand, Bob Lalich says, “CSL 3320 is crossing South Chicago Ave on a very short street called Keefe Ave. which goes under the NYC/PRR elevation in a viaduct. Anthony runs parallel to the NYC/PRR elevation on the south.”
CSL 5708 is southbound on Exchange Avenue at 74th Street, running parallel to the Illinois Central electric suburban service (now the Metra Electric).
CSL 3280. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)
CSL 3266 is southbound on Blackstone just below the 60th Street terminal. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)
CSL 3193 is at Navy Pier on Grand Avenue east of the Outer Drive. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)
CSL 3095 is “NB turning off 21st onto Racine on Morgan-Racine-Sangamon route,” according to Andre Kristopans. Note the horse-drawn wagon near the Par-A-Dise Klub at left.
CSL 3061 on Elston at Lawrence.
Roy Benedict says, “(CSL) cars 2602 and 2606 are meeting on 111th St. west of Morgan St. as confirmed by my onsite visit on May 25, 1996.”
CSL 2571 is “WB on 111th at Cottage Grove. Pullman plant showing thru trees,” Andre Kristopans says.
CSL 2518 in a wintery scene on Chicago’s far south side. Andre Kristopans says, “probably Ewing/108th terminal. Definitely at end of line, definitely not Hegewisch.” (Joe L. Diaz Photo)
CSL 2518 is southbound on the Brandon private right-of-way at the railroad crossing at 129th Street. Bob Lalich says, “CSL 2518 is crossing the PRR Calumet River RR.” (Joe L. Diaz Photo)
CSL 1802 is turning from Harrison onto Clinton. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)
CSL 3258 is eastbound on Division at Pulaski. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)
CSL 3251is southbound on State Street at 61st. The date is early 1948, shortly after the CTA takeover, as evidenced by the sign referring to the upcoming aldermanic election. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)
CSL 2802 is westbound on 119th Street. Andre Kristopans says, “a block or so west of Morgan, about where the new Salvation Army center now is. Looks like a State/Lake car in the far background at Morgan.”
CSL 2589 on Chicago’s far south side. For some reason, “Keep to right” is scrawled on the back of the car. Andre Kristopans says, “2589 on Indiana crossing Calumet River at 132nd. This was a single track on what would be the NB lane, so the “keep to right” would have been to warn drivers that passing a SB car on left might not be a good idea.” (Joe L. Diaz Photo)
The liner notes that come with record albums are often perfunctory, giving very little information about what you’re listening to. But in the case of Side One of Railroad Record Club LP #35, the liner notes offer a wonderful description of what you hear when playing the record.
This recording was made in 1956, during the twilight years of Milwaukee’s streetcar system, on busy Route 10 going to West Allis. While the classic era of Milwaukee streetcars and trolley buses is long over, the city seems poised to start a new one, with plans for a “starter” streetcar line coming to fruition. You can read more about that effort here.
We wish we knew more about the author, identified as William F. Nedden, who must have been there for the ride, along with the reel-to-reel tape recorder that captured the long-gone sounds of Milwaukee streetcars in action.
We offered a complete Railroad Record Club discography in one of our earlier posts. As far as we know, this is the first complete listing of the 40 or so RRC recordings on the World Wide Web.
While we have yet to learn much about William F. Nedden, the good news is that this, and several other RRC LPs, have been transferred to Compact Discs and digitally remastered. You can find them in our Online Store.
Our intention is to hunt down copies of all these out-of-print public domain recordings and make them available to railfans once again after many years, and at reasonable prices. All discs come with the original liner notes such as you find here.
We will be adding several new titles in the near future. If you have copies of RRC discs that we do not have, such as RRC #23 (Pennsy Trolleys), drop us a line. We will transfer the audio to CD using the latest technology and return your original disc to you in good shape, along with a CD for your troubles.
The proceeds from the sale of these discs will be used to help offset the expense involved in running this web site, including our original research. In just over three months, we have made several hundred rare images available to you in high quality form. In our first 100 days, we received over 25,000 page views, so we must be doing something right. We can continue this work with your help and support. Donations are always welcome.
RAILROAD RECORD CLUB #35 LINER NOTES
MILWAUKEE AND SUBURBAN TRANSPORT
It is Sunday, April 29, 1956, a wet chilly and depressing day in Milwaukee. The once great Milwaukee electric interurban and streetcar system has withered away until only two streetcar lines and a few freight operations remain. Car 971, built by St. Louis in 1927, clanks up to the corner of 4th and Wells, holding down a run on the No. 10 Wells-West Allis line. By the time the recording equipment is set up, we are already at 31st and Wells, an area of stately old homes and towering trees arching over the street like a Gothic cathedral. The brakes are kicked off with their characteristic “wish,” and the 971 rumbles along to 33rd and Wells for a regular service stop. Our motorman announces the next stop, 35th Street, where one can transfer to the Rt. 35 trolley bus line. After the traffic lights change, the 971 grinds along to 37th Street where only the briefest of arterial stops is made.
Leaving 37th Street, the 971 whizzes past the electric company substation and onto a private right-of-way. The old car bumps and rolls over the specialwork of a crossing and a siding and all of a sudden we find ourselves roaring across the Menomonee River Valley on a high spindly trestle. In rapid succession, we whiz past the Miller Brewery, and over some light industry, the Menomonee River, and the Milwaukee Road tracks while in the distance can be seen the Transport Company’s Cold Spring Shops with only a few pieces of work equipment visible. After what seems like an eternity of being suspended in space, the 971 slides off the trestle and back onto solid ground again on the west side of the valley.
There are approximately six more blocks of street running left before the private right-of-way of the West Allis branch is reached at 52nd and Wells. As we once again experience the rumbling echo of the 971 off of the pavement, one service stop is made between the trestle and 32nd Street. With a certain degree of eagerness, our motorman glides up to the specialwork at 52nd and skillfully moves the car through a sharp curve to the left. Now on a private right-of-way that seems to literally run through people’s back yards, the 971 makes service stops at Wisconsin Avenue and Blue Mound Road. Leaving Blue Mound, our motorman raps the controller up to a full 8 points, and we sail along the eastern edge of Calvary Cemetery, gradually dropping downhill until the cemetery stop is made at the bottom of the hill.
As the brakes are kicked off, the 971 squeals around a sharp curve to the right and begins a stiff uphill climb to the Hawley Road station where a service stop is made. This part of the West Allis branch was always the cause of a broken heart after June 30, 1951, for on that date, interurban service into the downtown area on the Milwaukee Electric’s Rapid Transit was abandoned.
From 52nd to 68th Streets, the Rapid Transit line and the West Allis branch shared a magnificent 4 track right-of-way that featured catenary overhead, huge transmission towers straddling the tracks, and complete freedom from grade crossings. Another service stop is made at 62nd Street, and as we roar over the numerous bridges leading us to 68th Street, we can’t help but wish the interurban was still in business. As we near 68th, our tracks drop down to the street level, cross 68th, and come to a stop between the unused bridge abutments of the abandoned Rapid Transit line, which continues to the west.
We leave the 68th Street stop, and after a few blocks of devious twists and turns, we find ourselves heading due south toward our ultimate destination, 70th and Greenfield in “downtown” West Allis. Our tracks are running along the east side of South 70th Street, and as we roar over the Milwaukee Road tracks on a short bridge, the huge sprawling Allis-Chalmers plant looms up on the left. Sandwiched between the plant and the street, the 971 rockets along, seemingly oblivious to the consequences of its high (35 MPH) speed and makes one service stop before reaching the end of the line and comes to a rather anticlimactic stop. The lone passenger disembarks, the compressor furiously comes to life again, and our trip is over.
Early in the morning on Sunday, March 2, 1958, sister cars 995 and 975 made the last run of all time over the West Allis branch and the era of street car in Milwaukee vanished forever.
–William F. Nedden, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
To read about preserved Milwaukee transit equipment, go here. Milwaukee streetcar 972, a sister to the 971 featured on the Railroad Record Club recording, is preserved at the Illinois Railway Museum, while car 846 is in operable condition on the East Troy Electric Railroad.
CSL 7001 at Clark and Ridge in 1938. (M. D. McCarter Collection)
The PCC (short for Presidents’ Conference Committee) streetcar has been in continuous use since 1936, a remarkable 79 years. It literally saved the North American streetcar from extinction, but its development took several years and it did not appear in a vacuum. The presidents of several transit companies banded together in 1929 to develop a new, modern streetcar that could compete with buses and automobiles. The first production PCCs were made in 1936, the last in 1952.
The Chicago Surface Lines played an important part in the PCC’s development. Chicago ultimately had 683 PCCs, the largest fleet purchased new by any city, but in actuality CSL had 785 modern cars in all. There were 100 Peter Witt streetcars built in 1929 by a combination of CSL, Brill, and Cummings Car Co., and two experimental pre-PCCs, 4001 (built by Pullman-Standard) and 7001 (Brill), which dated to 1934.
The Peter Witt car was developed by its namesake in Cleveland around 1914 and set the standard for streetcars for the next 20 years. (Chicago’s batch were also referred to as “sedans.”) During the late 1920s and early 1930s, there was a similar type of car known as the “Master Unit*” made by Brill (Pullman-owned Osgood-Bradley made a similar model called the “Electromobile.”)
In conjunction with the 1933-34 Chicago World’s Fair, also known as A Century of Progress, CSL commissioned two experimental streetcars, the 4001 and 7001, with advanced features. (You can read an excellent and very comprehensive history of those cars on the Hicks Car Works blog.)
Of the two cars, the 4001 was more radical in both design and construction, with a streamlined all-aluminum body, but probably the less successful of the two. Both were taken out of service in 1944. The 4001 is the only pre-PCC car to survive, and is now preserved at the Illinois Railway Museum. The 7001 was scrapped by CTA in 1959.
Ironically, the 7001, made by J. G. Brill, was closer to the eventual design of the PCC car, although ultimately Brill did not build any true PCCs. The company had a policy not to pay patent royalties to other companies, and refused to do so with PCC technology owned by the Transit Research Corp. (TRC).
In 1935, Capital Transit ordered 20 pre-PCC cars for Washington D. C. based on the design of car 7001, but shorter. The order was split between Brill and St. Louis Car Company. This was an important step, since these were more than simply experimental units. Car 1053 managed to survive the end of streetcar service in Washington DC in 1962, until September 28, 2003 when it was destroyed in a fire at the National Capital Trolley Museum in Maryland.
There were also two additional 1934 experimental cars, the PCC Model A and B, which were used for field testing. The Model A was built in 1929 by Twin Coach and purchased second-hand to test new components. It was tested in Brooklyn circa 1934-35 and was scrapped in 1939.
The streamlined Model B incorporated all the latest PCC developments and was tested in Chicago, arguably the first PCC car operated here. While in use in Brooklyn, the PCC Model B dewired and was involved in an accident with a truck after its brakes failed. This led to the brake systems being redesigned for the first PCCs. The Model B was kept in storage for some time, and although the front end was repaired, it was never again used in service and was scrapped in the early 1950s.
By 1936, the first production PCCs were ready to go and the first one was delivered to Brooklyn and Queens Transit on May 28, 1936. However, Pittsburgh Railways put the first PCC into scheduled public service in August.
Brill’s decision not to build true PCCs ultimately proved fatal. Their 1938-41 “Brilliner” was considered somewhat inferior to the PCC car and few were built. 30 single-ended cars went to Atlantic City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Cincinnati, while 10 double-ended cars were built for Philadelphia Suburban Transportation Co., where they continued in service into the early 1980s.
These were the last streetcars made by Brill, who had once dominated the industry. Most PCCs were built by the St. Louis Car Company, with a smaller share from Pullman-Standard.
We hope that you will enjoy these pictures of these pre-PCC cars, the ones that laid the groundwork for the “car that fought back,” which continues to serve faithfully and well in a number of North American cities, and hopefully will continue to do so for a long time to come.
“The idea was to produce standardized cars. Both ends of the car were to be identical in construction. Height and width of the car, size and number of windows, seat width and therefore aisle width were to be the same for every unit of a specific type. The cars were offered in single-or double-truck, and single-or double-end style, with doors located at the ends or with a combination end door and center door. Master Units could be constructed with steel or aluminum, the difference in weight being about 5,000 pounds. Interestingly, the cars had curved lower sides very much like the curve used on the lower panels of the Kuhlman and Brill-built cars of a few years previously. There was nothing patentable about the Master Unit: it was merely a standardized design.
To Brill’s disappointment, buyers did not appear in large numbers. Only seventy-eight Master Units were built in all, with just two constructed exactly to Brill’s specifications.”
Here is an interesting blog post about the effort to restore the 505.
Here is a video showing a model of an Electromobile:
As an added bonus, as streetcars prepare to return to service in Washington D. C., here are some vintage films showing a variety of streetcars in action, including both PCCs, the 1935 pre-PCCs, and even some older types:
Very nice job on the Pre-PCC post on your blog! It’s a great post with some outstanding photos, and of course I appreciate the “plug” as well.
Several of the photos you posted I had never seen before. The photo of the 4001 in service is really nice; shots of the car in regular use are really pretty rare. It was quite the “hangar queen” when it was on the CSL. And the Model B interior shot is fascinating! I think I saw that rear-end shot somewhere once but I don’t know that I’d ever seen a photo of the car’s interior. What I found most fascinating is that it appears the car was designed to have left-hand doors fitted in the middle, Boston style (and likely so that it could be used or tested out in Boston, as I think Boston is the only city that had PCCs with this feature). Close examination of the interior shot shows an inset panel across from the center doors and I bet it was designed for doors to be put there if desired. It would be interesting to know more about the Model B. I’m not even sure whether it was set up for one-man or two-man service; the photo makes it clear that there was no conductor’s station forward of the center doors, like the CSL cars had, but it’s possible there was a conductor behind the motorman (I think this was how Brooklyn set up its PCC cars). Or it could have just been a one-man car.
Anyway, thank you for posting these photos and for posting such large scans of them – fascinating stuff!
CTA Peter Witt 3330 on route 4. These cars were shifted to Cottage Grove from Clark-Wentworth in 1947 after postwar PCCs took over that line.
CTA 6282 unloads passengers in the early 1950s. Note the postwar Pullman PCC at rear.
CSL 6300 on route 4 – Cottage Grove in the early CTA era.
CSL “Sedan” 6299 on route 4 – Cottage Grove.
A unique lineup at the 1934 American Transit Association convention in Cleveland. From left, we have the PCC Model A; CSL 4001; CSL 7001, and the PCC Model B. (Krambles-Peterson Archive)
The PCC Model B at Navy Pier. (Chicago Architectural Photographing Co.)
The PCC Model B being demonstrated at Navy Pier. (CSL Photo)
The PCC Model B interior. (Chicago Architectural Photographing Co.)
CSL 7001 under construction at the Brill plant in 1934.
CSL 7001 under construction at the Brill plant in 1934.
CSL 7001 on route 36 Broadway-State in 1934.
CSL 7001 at State and Van Buren in 1934.
CSL 7001 at State and Chicago, in World’s Fair service, at 9 am on August 29, 1934. (George Krambles Photo)
CSL 4001 at South Shops on October 23, 1938. (George Krambles Photo)
CSL 4001, signed for route 4 Cottage Grove, at South Shops on October 23, 1938. (M. D. McCarter Collection)
CSL 4001 in service, probably around 1934.
CSL 4001 on route 22, Clark-Wentworth, probably in the late 1930s.
CSL 4001, sporting a good sized dent, at South Shops. (CSL Photo)
CSL 4001 at Kedzie and Van Buren on May 13, 1946. By this time, the car had been out of service for two years. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)
Capital Transit 1056, a product of the St. Louis Car Co., as it looked in 1935 when new.
Car 7501, the only Baltimore “Brilliner,” in August 1941. Note the so-called “tavern” doors. This car was a sample in anticipation of a larger order that never came. It ran in service from 1939 to 1956. (Jeffrey Winslow Photo)
A modern Baltimore “Peter Witt” streetcar, built by Brill in 1930, alongside a PCC, made in 1936 by St. Louis Car Company.
DC Transit pre-PCC streamlined streetcar at the National Capital Trolley Museum in 1993. Part of a 20-car order in 1935, split between Brill and St Louis Car Company. This is a St. Louis Car Company product. Sadly this car was lost to a carbarn fire at the museum in 2003. (John Smatlak Photo)
1053 interior. (John Smatlak Photo)
1053 interior. (John Smatlak Photo)
Scranton Transit 508, an “Electromobile,” was built by Osgood-Bradley Co in 1929. It was another attempt at a modern standardized streetcar in the pre-PCC era.
Baltimore Peter Witt 6146. Don’s Rail Photos says it was “built by Brill in 1930 and retired in 1955.” Sister car 6119 is at the Baltimore Streetcar Museum, while 6144 is at Seashore. These were some of the most modern cars around, prior to the PCCs.
Baltimore Transit Company car 6105, shown here on route 15 – Ostend St., is one of the last modern streetcars built before PCCs took over the market. The sign on front says that September 7 will be the last day for 6 hour local rides. Perhaps that can help date the picture.
Indianapolis Railways 146, shown here on a special run in 1949, was a Brill “Master Unit” but appears very similar to the Baltimore Peter Witts. This car was built in 1933, one of the last streetcars built before the PCC era. Brill tried to sell street railways on standardized cars (hence the name “Master Units”) but as you might expect, no two orders were identical.