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.
PS- Mr. Lind was also author of: