The Latest Thing in Houses (1946)


Following up on our earlier post Lost and Found: Chicago Streetcar #1137, I found this 1946 article in the Chicago Tribune archives. It gives some of the “back story” to how a Chicago streetcar body could end up being used as part of a house in the middle of Wisconsin.

Perhaps the people who bought car 1137 read this article, since the Tribune was distributed throughout the Midwest, and as a result, purchased one of the streetcar bodies. The one pictured in the article is part of the same series as theirs.

Given that the article says that 100 streetcar bodies were sold to the same scrap dealer for potential resale for use as sheds, chicken coops, and cottages, it’s possible there may still be a few more of these out there, waiting to be discovered in the future.

Over the years, several streetcar and interurban bodies have been unearthed in such fashion, and a few have even been restored and are once again in operable condition. Chicago & West Towns car 141, now at the Illinois Railway Museum, is but one such example.

Sheboygan Light Power & Railway wooden interurban car 26 is another such successful restoration, and this car now operates at the East Troy Electric Railroad in Wisconsin, on the last remaining original trackage from the Badger State’s interurban network.

These cars were superfluous because plans were already afoot in 1946 to eliminate all the old red streetcars in Chicago and replace them with buses. In some cases, the Surface Lines had retired some of these cars many years previously, and there was no chance they would be used again, not even in work service.

You can read a History of CSL car 2843 on the excellent Hicks Car Works blog. That will give you some idea of how a few of these old streetcars have somehow managed to survive to the present time against all odds.

-David Sadowski

Chicago Tribune, March 5, 1946:


Street Cars Sold at $300 Per to Homeless

Some Chicago area residents turned to discarded street cars yesterday for a solution to their housing problems.

Within a few hours after the first street car offered for sale was displayed at the scrap metal yard at 1220 Lake st., the proprietor, Frank Steiner, reported 21 had been sold, mostly to persons who will convert them to living quarters.

Steiner said he had arranged to buy 100 of the discarded cars from the Chicago Surface lines. They are offered for sale without mechanical equipment, wheels or seats at $300 delivered in Chicago. Out of town purchasers must pay $1 a mile from the Chicago city limits to the destination.

The First Purchasers

The first purchasers were James and Elsie Neykodem, Downers Grove, who plan to live in the car until they can build a home. Then the car will become a chicken house. At present they are living with relatives in Downers Grove.

Another buyer explained she had sold her home and was unable to find a place to live. She’ll put the street car on 1 1/2 acres of ground she owns and live in it until more suitable quarters can be found.

Six cars went to a buyer who will offer them for rent in his trailer camp. Two will become lunch stands and one a gasoline storage building at a factory.

The car put on display yesterday had been hauled by truck from the Surface Lines’ car barn at North and Cicero avs.

Court Denies Injunction

Circuit Judge Philip J. Finnegan refused yesterday to grant a temporary injunction, asked for by property owners, to restrain the city from placing trailers and prefabricated houses in Edison Park Manor, at the southwest corner of Touhy and Overhill avs. Atty. Walter V. Schaeger, representing the Chicago Housing authority, said the first temporary dwelling unit there probably will be ready for occupancy in 10 days.

In effect, Judge Finnegan upheld action of the city council which approved temporary housing at the site at its meeting Thursday. No date had been set for the petitioners’ request for a permanent injunction, and he denied theor request for immediate denial of the permanent injunction so that an appeal could be filed.

The petitioners had contended the temporary homes would depreciate the value of established residences and that the city zoning ordinance would be violated, but the judge held no permanent injury would result.

5 thoughts on “The Latest Thing in Houses (1946)

  1. Once streetcar conversions started in 1945, the oldest and smallest cars (1101-1423 series by definition) were almost immediately surplus and needed to be gotten rid of ASAP. $300 dollars for a carbody in 1946 was not all that cheap, either.

  2. I met the Doedens, the original owners of Sheboygan car #26, old friends of my sister in Milwaukee, on a visit there some years ago. Car #26 was a family summer lake house and they had just embarked on their project to restore the house to its original glory as an interurban car. Of course, I donated to the cause, which eventually ran into six figures, as I recall. They had no idea what they were in for, raising funds, seeking grants, hiring restorers, and finding a new home at East Troy. I last visited them at Milwaukee’s annual Trainfest, where they staffed the East Troy museum’s booth. Anyone planning to attend Trainfest should visit the museum’s booth. They are a charming and personable couple, not to mention tireless.

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