Electroliner Restoration Update

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.

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.

ELECTROLINER UPDATE

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
Union, IL
60180

Thanks!

-Tom Sharratt

PS- The Electroliner fundraiser also has a Facebook page you can check out.

Editor’s Note: You can contact Tom directly at: tssharratt@mwt.net

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.

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 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 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.

This shows the motorman’s cabin gauge.

Another shot of the liner on display in 2013.

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 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 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.

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)

(Rod Turner Photo)

An Electroliner at the Milwaukee terminal in 1949. (Trolley Dodger Collection - Photographer Unknown)

An Electroliner at the Milwaukee terminal in 1949. (Trolley Dodger Collection – Photographer Unknown)

Chicago Cable Cars and Streetcar RPOs

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

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.

CSL car #6, a small single truck streetcar RPO from 1891, is preserved at the Fox River Trolley Museum.

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.

The first memo is on Chicago City Railway Co. stationary and is dated November 13, 1893:

Mr. Jos(eph) Gillett.

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.

Respect(fully)

F. Bundy

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.

-David Sadowski

PS- You can read the book Mail By Rail: the Story of the Postal Transportation Service here.  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

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)

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.

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.

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.

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 – Wentworth Avenue line, 7-1-1909.

Chicago streetcar RPO cancellation - North Clark St. line, 11-13-1902.

Chicago streetcar RPO cancellation – North Clark St. line, 11-13-1902.

Chicago streetcar RPO cancellation - Milwaukee Avenue line, 2-26-1906.

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.

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.

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).

This commemorative mailing gives November 11, 1929 as the last day of streetcar RPO service in the United States (not counting interurbans).


DVD04FrontDVD04Back

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*:

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.

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


Reader Mailbag, 5-25-15

ftwaynebridge

From Daniel Baker:

“Relic of the Interurban”

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.

We welcome the Indiana Railroad Yahoo discussion group to our distribution list. Here is a video showing the Indiana Railroad interurban in color:

winterscene

Kenneth Gear writes:

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.

Our recent post about bookseller Owen Davies prompted many great responses from our readers:

Verne Brummel of Fitchburg, Wisconsin writes:

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."

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.

-David Sadowski

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).

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.

Click here for more information.

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Chicago’s Prewar PCCs

CSL 4040 is eastbound at Madison and Laramie on October 23, 1938. (M. D. McCarter Collection)

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 then renamed 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.

To give you some background information on Chicago’s first batch of PCCs, here is an interesting article from the December 1936 issue of Armour Engineer and Alumnus. The Armour Institute is now the Illinois Institute of Technology.

Author Ralph H. Rice was Principal Assistant Engineer in charge of the work of the Board of Supervising Engineers, a partnership between the City of Chicago and the Chicago Surface Lines.

According to the Wikipedia page on the Chicago Surface Lines:

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.

El Paso has put out a request for proposals to rebuild several prewar PCCs of about the same vintage as Chicago’s.  These have been stored in the desert for 40 years.

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.

-David Sadowski

CSL 4002 and crew at Madison and Austin on July 16, 1938. (M. D. McCarter Collection)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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 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 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 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 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 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 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 4022 at Kedzie and Van Buren. (CSL Photo)

CSL 4027, eastbound on Madison near Canal, on May 6, 1937. (George Krambles 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 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 7011 at Madison and Austin on July 16, 1938. (M. D. McCarter Collection)

CSL 7017 at Madison and Austin in 1938.

CSL 7017 at Madison and Austin in 1938.

CSL 4003 at Madison and Lavergne. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

CSL 4003 at Madison and Lavergne. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

CSL 4022 in experimental colors at Madison and Austin.

CSL 4022 in experimental colors at Madison and Austin.

CTA 4010 at 63rd and Central Park. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

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.

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 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 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 4009 at West Shops. (CSL Photo)

CSL 4007 at Madison and Austin in 1939. (M. D. McCarter Collection)

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)

CSL 7016 and a line truck at the Madison and Austin loop. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

CSL 4008 eastbound on 63rd Street in 1947.

CSL 4008 eastbound on 63rd Street in 1947.

The Green Hornet Streetcar Disaster

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This Friday’s (May 23rd) Central Electric Railfans’ Association program features author Craig Allen Cleve, who will discuss his book The Green Hornet Streetcar Disaster.  The following Monday is the 65th anniversary of that tragic accident, where a Chicago Transit Authority PCC car derailed and ran headlong into a gasoline truck.

Cleve’s book is described as follows:

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.

You can read more about the accident here.

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.

-David Sadowski

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.

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.

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.

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.

Hoosier Traction 2015

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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 the Hoosier 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.

Please consider joining us for this year’s event.

Wm Shapotkin
Auditorium Manager
Hoosier Traction Meet

Owen Davies, Bookseller Extraordinaire

Owen Davies in 1951.

Owen Davies in 1951.

A typical Owen Davies Bookseller advertisement, from the February 1, 1970 Chicago Tribune.

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.)

The Chicago Tribune’s Will Leonard profiled Owen Davies in his Tower Ticker column on August 10, 1951:

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.

Once Davies published a volume himself.  It bore the descriptive tho not dashing title: “Interurban Cars Operating in Ohio, Indiana and Michigan During the Year 1906.”  It contained floor plans, side elevations and tables of dimensions of 22 cars whose trolleys used to hum along the Ft. Wayne, Van Wert & Lima, the Scioto Valley, the Dayton, Covington and Piqua, and the Cincinnati, Milford and Loveland.  Rail fans who have yet to shave bought almost as many copies as did Ohioans and Hoosiers who were voting in 1906.

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.

-David Sadowski

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.

Here also are some additional reminiscences of Owen Davies and his store on the Classic Trains magazine web site.

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.

The townhouse at 1214 N. LaSalle as it looks today.

1944 advertisement circular.

1944 advertisement circular.

1944 advertisement circular.

1944 advertisement circular.

1944 advertisement circular.

1944 advertisement circular.

An Owen Davies flyer for one of his publications, 1963.

An Owen Davies flyer for one of his publications, 1963.

An Owen Davies catalog circa 1963.

An Owen Davies catalog circa 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.

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 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.

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.