B-146 Arrives

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My copy of Chicago Streetcar Pictorial: the PCC Car Era 1936-1958, Bulletin 146 from Central Electric Railfans’ Association arrived in today’s post. The publication of this voluminous, comprehensive 448-page book, lavishly illustrated with several hundred great photos, is surely a cause for celebration among all railfans.

I am proud to be co-author of this book, and am very grateful to CERA for publishing it, especially at such a bargain price.  I have seen many other books sell for about the same money as this, but offering only half or even one-quarter of its pages.

On top of this, each copy comes with the Chicago Streetcar Memories DVD, produced by Chicago Transport Memories, LLC, as well as a reproduction of the 1936 Chicago Surface Lines brochure that introduced the “Streamliners.”

Even if you only have a passing interest in streetcars, you still may enjoy this book.  It provides a very thorough and detailed record of what Chicago was like between 1936 and 1958.  Students of “urban archeology” and the “Forgotten Chicago” should have a field day with this book.

The modern streamlined streetcar was itself a beautiful piece of architecture on wheels.  The wide variety of settings it traveled through, captured in so many wonderful photos, produce a winning combination.

Kudos go to my co-author Jeff Wien, who originally conceived of this book some years ago, and to Bradley Criss, who put in a superhuman effort to match the color and density on hundreds of different pictures, and to remove thousands and thousands of scratches and other imperfection from 60-year-old images.  Some individual pictures had more than a thousand scratches on them, each in need of removal.  The photo reproduction in this book is the best of its type that I have ever seen.

If you are already getting a copy of B-146, then you too will soon enough know what I am talking about.  It is one thing to talk about a book in the abstract, and another thing entirely to hold the finished copy in your hands.  It makes a tremendous impression.

If you do not already have a copy on order, I urge you to purchase one.  You can buy yours online directly from CERA.  I would not wait too long, otherwise a book of this quality and value will most likely sell out before too long.  Many past CERA publications are now collector’s items, and this one will likely be one too.

At CERA’s 75th Anniversary Banquet in September 2013, when we first announced this book, I said that we wanted to put it out within the living memory of those people who were fortunate enough to actually ride on Chicago streetcars.  The publication of B-146 makes good on that promise.

In addition, some of the photographers whose work is featured in its pages are still alive, and can enjoy the fruits of their labors on the printed page, side by side with the work of many other legendary figures who are unfortunately are no longer with us.  I would like to thank everyone who took pictures for the book.

Lastly, I would like to thank the members of Central Electric Railfans’ Association for making all this possible, and for their patience during the time it took to produce it.  This book, which is the first full-length bulletin about Chicago streetcars put out by CERA, which was founded in 1938, gives the modern Chicago streetcar its due and rescues it at last from the dustbin of history.

Fortunately, you can ride the last surviving example of a postwar Chicago streetcar, CTA 4391, at the Illinois Railway Museum, a true “museum in motion.”

-David Sadowski

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Chicago’s streetcars had a great champion in the Chicago Surface Lines.  We celebrate the Chicago PCC by quoting from this CSL brochure, published in November 1939:

Vital to You!

What is–what always has been–the greatest single factor in the growth and development of Chicago?

One of the popular radio quiz programs might well pop that question.

And the answer is easy:

CHICAGO’S STREET RAILWAY SYSTEM is the greatest single factor in the growth and development of the city– and you can check that with the experts!

Many things have happened in the 80 years that have passed since the first horse car line brought the benefits of public transportation to the modest city that was Chicago.

In the romance of surface transportation there is the history of today’s great city. The first car line was the forerunner of State street’s famed shopping district of today. The city had growing pains and the transportation lines were extended, improved, and extended again and again. These extensions made possible the growth of all the important business and residential districts that now dot the city. Wherever the extensions were built there were big increases in property values.

Today, Chicago’s busy population of 3,600,000 requires extensive transportation– good transportation. The Chicago Surface Lines provides it. Its street cars and buses carry more than three-fourths of the people who use local transportation facilities. Its role today is the role it has played through all the years– the dominant transportation service of the city.

The Chicago Surface Lines provides transportation for 2,000,000 riders daily. It is the carrier of “His Majesty”– the Chicago Citizen. If its service were halted for a day chaos would reign, business would be paralyzed. Happily, there are no interruptions of this vital service.

Its gridiron of track and bus routes covers the city so thoroughly that 98 per cent of the people of Chicago live within three blocks of one or more Surface Lines routes. More than 3,500 street cars and 300 gasoline and trolley buses roll over the 1,260 miles of routes to serve Chicagoans day and night.

The Surface Lines is among the largest employers in the city. It carries more than 15,000 persons on its rolls and last year paid more than $27,847,436, which played a significant part in the business of Chicago. More than 60 cents of every dollar collected by the Surface Lines goes out in the form of pay checks and thence into the pockets of the butcher, the baker, the grocery man, the landlord– to the benefit of all Chicago.

The Surface Lines is essential to not only one of the many communities in Chicago. It is important to ALL persons and to ALL communities.

All sections of the city are served by one, two, three or more lines. It is possible to go from one section to another quickly, conveniently and economically on payment of a single fare.

THE CHICAGO SURFACE LINES IS NOT ONLY THE BIGGEST STREET CAR SYSTEM IN THE WORLD– IT IS THE MOST COMPREHENSIVE AND THE BEST.

USE IT OFTEN.


Once you have read your copy of B-146, you might be interested in Chicago’s PCC Streetcars: The Rest of the Story, the latest publication from Trolley Dodger Press.

*Trolley Dodger Press is not affiliated with Central Electric Railfans’ Association.

5 thoughts on “B-146 Arrives

  1. I haven’t received my copy yet, since shipping to the Left Coast can sometimes be slow. No bullet trains, yet. My appetite has been whetted, though by all the advance word. I can appreciate that no comprehensive accurate history of Chicago of streetcars has ever been published, and likely never will be. I know that CERA enacted and financed such a project some years ago, but it never came to fruition. The Transport History Press volume, in several editions, is an important reference, but has been criticized as incomplete and inaccurate in places.

    One hopes that CERA might publish a companion photo volume on the CSL era of “standard” (pre-PCC) streetcars. An abundance of source material exists.

    I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the existence of the sole postwar PCC that exists is due to one person, Jeff Wien.

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    • Thanks for giving me credit for saving the 4391, but the truth is that it was Glenn Andersen who was responsible for saving PCC 4391. In B-146, we have included a detailed account of the process that was engaged in by Glenn Andersen and the Electric Railway Historical Society to save the car. This fascinating article was written by Frank Hicks of IRM based upon his discussions over the years with Glenn Andersen. My involvement was more from the standpoint of photographically documenting the progress of the restoration of 4391 over the years from 1958 to 1975. B-146 is an attempt to document the modern PCC streetcar era in Chicago.

      Jeff Wien

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      • Jeff, thank you for that. I have always associated you with PCC 4391. I just took delivery of the volume this morning (June 18) and am completely blown away by it. It will, no doubt be the standard reference on the PCC era of surface rail transportation in Chicago.

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