Alan R. Lind, 1940-2015

Alan R. Lind's monumental Chicago Surface Lines: An Illustrated History, was first published by Transport History Press in 1974. This is the expanded Third Edition from 1979.

Alan R. Lind’s monumental Chicago Surface Lines: An Illustrated History, was first published by Transport History Press in 1974. This is the expanded Third Edition from 1979.

It is my great sorrow to report that legendary railfan author Alan R. Lind died on May 30 in Park Forest, Illinois, at the age of 75. There is a very brief obituary here.

Mr. Lind was best known as the author of Chicago Surface Lines: An Illustrated History, which appeared in three different editions between 1974 and 1979.

I can’t say that I knew the man personally, but I think anyone who ever read a copy of the CSL book probably feels as if they have lost a close friend. It’s hard to imagine now, because times have changed, but when I first spotted a copy of the “Lind book,” as people tend to call it, I could hardly believe it was possible. This was a crucial event in my gradual discovery of what Ray DeGroote refers to as the “intelligence network” of railfanning.

To a young man such as myself, in the basement of the legendary Kroch’s and Brentano’s bookstore on Wabash Avenue in Chicago, Lind’s CSL book looked like something that had come from another planet— a planet where people actually appreciated streetcars, instead of wanting simply to get rid of them and replace them with rubber-tired buses.

The late James D. Johnson (later known as Julie Johnson) had published A Century Of Chicago Streetcars, 1858-1958 in 1964, just six years after the last Chicago streetcar ran. This was a good start, although nowhere near as voluminous or comprehensive as Lind’s singular achievement.

Both Johnson and Lind helped to rescue the Chicago streetcar from the “dustbin of history,” where it had been consigned to oblivion effective June 21, 1958. The Lind book set a standard against which all such later books had to be judged, and it has been a classic for more than 40 years now.

Using the technology of its time, the author was unable to include any color photographs in this handsome volume. Recent improvements in technology have finally made it possible to create an all-color Chicago streetcar book. This has at last been realized with the publication earlier this month of Chicago Streetcar Pictorial: The PCC Car Era, 1936-1958, as Bulletin 146 by the Central Electric Railfans’ Association. I am proud to say that I am a co-author of B-146.

During the course of our research, I wrote Mr. Lind a letter, letting him know what we were trying to accomplish, and asking if he had any useful information he might have learned since the publication of his book that he might want to share with us. Unfortunately, he never wrote back.

So while I am fairly certain he did know that such a book was in the works, he did not live quite long enough to see it come to fruition. I regret he will not be able to give us his opinion about it.

Sir Issac Newton once said that “If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Anyone who presumes to write a book about Chicago streetcars can hardly do otherwise.

And of these various giants, there is no one who looms larger in his chosen field than the late Alan R. Lind.

-David Sadowski

PS- Mr. Lind was also author of:

From Horsecars to Streamliners: An Illustrated History of the St. Louis Car Company – 1978

Twin City Rapid Transit Pictorial – 1984

Limiteds Along the Lakefront: The Illinois Central in Chicago – 1986

From the Lakes of the Gulf- The Illinois Central Story – 1993

The Chicago Surface Lines logo on experimental pre-PCC car 4001, as it looked in 1951 when the car was in storage at South Shops.

The Chicago Surface Lines logo on experimental pre-PCC car 4001, as it looked in 1951 when the car was in storage at South Shops.

9 thoughts on “Alan R. Lind, 1940-2015

  1. I have both the Johnson and Lind books. Admittedly the Lind book is not in pristine condition as would be the case of any reference book. While the author may have passed his contribution to Chicago and transit shall live on.

  2. Within the last two years, I was fortunate to find a couple of special copies of the Lind book for CERA. The first is a Third Edition from 1979, still new in its original shrink wrap.

    The second was the personal copy of the late East Coast author Joseph P. Saitta and included all sorts of handwritten notations. Unfortunately, his handwriting was such that they are very difficult to decipher.

  3. Sad to hear Mr. Lind died. I first saw his CSL book at the Chicago Public Library at Michigan and Randolph in ’74. I was amazed at the inforation and photos presented by it. Even though I was a poor high school kid, I scraped together the $17.50 to buy it at Kroch’s. At that time, Jim Johnson’s book was long out of print and a “collector’s item” with copies selling for big bucks.

    The “Lind Book” was such a valuable reference to me that I wore out the dust jacket within 6 months. I still cherish it today.

    Let’s not forget Mr. Lind’s other books on the history of the St. Louis Car Company and operations of the ICRR passenger trains in the Chicago Division.

  4. When it comes to important reference books like Lind’s CSL and CERA’s B-146, serious students should consider having three copies: one for constant reference which ends up getting quite worn, the second as a reference backup for the shelf or coffee table, and the third as an investment, since these inevitably become collector’s items and greatly appreciate in value. My favorite is CERA B-106, “The Great Third Rail”. The original softcover is threadbare, but I have others, including the hardback.

  5. It was my pleasure to know Al as a colleague in the media training profession. In addition to being a brilliant writer and researcher, he was a superb teacher, a bit eccentric in style, but always compelling and effective. I have the first edition of Chicago Surface Lines and peruse it on occasion, as it reminds me of my frequent use of streetcars growing up in the 30s and 40s.

  6. Some years ago, I purchased and read Alan Lind’s book, The History of the Illinois Central Railroad. Unfortunately, I lent the book to a friend but never got it back. I am an author, researching for my second book, and I need this book which seems to be out of print. Does anyone have it? If so, would you lend it to me? I PROMISE TO RETURN IT! Sandra McKay, Author of A Place For Me, a historical novl based on my grandmother’s story who rode the Orphan Train.

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