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.

Mulligan Stew

This amazing picture is taken from a postcard, which the seller identified as Chicago. The general consensus is that it's Herald Square in Manhattan, with the 33rd St. station on the old 6th Avenue El, and  that's a streetcar powered by conduit.

This amazing picture is taken from a postcard, which the seller identified as Chicago. The general consensus is that it’s Herald Square in Manhattan, with the 33rd St. station on the old 6th Avenue El, and that’s a streetcar powered by conduit.

Not every post has to have an over-arching theme. Today we offer a “Mulligan stew” of various pictures that interest us, in hopes they will have the same effect on you. (Mulligan stew was something hobos prepared. Anyone who wanted to eat had to put something into the pot.)

In golf parlance, to “take a Mulligan” means to get a do-over without penalty. How this term originated is not known, but perhaps you will be able to help us solve a few mysteries without needing more than one shot.

-David Sadowski

The next three images are from the Tipton Genealogy photostream on Flickr.

A Tipton interurban from the Indiana Union Traction of Indiana, June 29, 1909.

A Tipton interurban from the Indiana Union Traction of Indiana, June 29, 1909.

Indiana Railroad car 407, the

Indiana Railroad car 407, the “Winchester.” This heavyweight interurban was built by Cincinnati Car Co. in 1913 for the Union Traction of Indiana.

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Indiana Railroad lightweight high-speed car 55 in Indianapolis on June 29, 1940. The Indiana state capital is in the background. This car survives at the Seashore Trolley Museum as Lehigh Valley Transit car 1030. Railfan George F. Kuschel (1910-2010), who took this photo, was originally from Michigan.

Indiana Railroad lightweight high-speed car 55 in Indianapolis on June 29, 1940. The Indiana state capital is in the background. This car survives at the Seashore Trolley Museum as Lehigh Valley Transit car 1030. Railfan George F. Kuschel (1910-2010), who took this photo, was originally from Michigan.

What a difference a year makes.  The same car (but a different end), now restyled for LVT service on the Liberty Bell Limited in September 1941.

What a difference a year makes. The same car (but a different end), now restyled for LVT service on the Liberty Bell Limited in September 1941.

A turn-of-the-century view of Washington, D. C., showing how streetcars were powered by an underground conduit. From a glass plate negative.

A turn-of-the-century view of Washington, D. C., showing how streetcars were powered by an underground conduit. From a glass plate negative.

DC streetcars at Washington Union Station, designed by Daniel Burnham. It opened in 1907. From a glass plate negative.

DC streetcars at Washington Union Station, designed by Daniel Burnham. It opened in 1907. From a glass plate negative.

Before the invention of Kodachrome in the mid-1930s, sometimes the only way to tell what color some cars were painted is by looking at old postcards such as this one, showing the Lake Street

Before the invention of Kodachrome in the mid-1930s, sometimes the only way to tell what color some cars were painted is by looking at old postcards such as this one, showing the Lake Street “L” in Chicago.

A station along the Stockyards

A station along the Stockyards “L” branch in 1915. Note the use of signs to indicate where cars of different lengths should stop. Not sure how widespread this practice was at the time.

This old Chicago Daily News photo is identified as being at the end of a cable car route, where horses were used to move the cars around. However, the Chicago Auto Show is being advertised, which would help date this photo.

This old Chicago Daily News photo is identified as being at the end of a cable car route, where horses were used to move the cars around. However, the Chicago Auto Show is being advertised, which would help date this photo.

Not sure when this Chicago Surface Lines ticket dates from, but CSL only existed from 1914-1947 so that does narrow it down a bit.

Not sure when this Chicago Surface Lines ticket dates from, but CSL only existed from 1914-1947 so that does narrow it down a bit.

A new 5000-series Chicago rapid transit car being delivered by truck in March 2015. (Diana Koester Photo)

A new 5000-series Chicago rapid transit car being delivered by truck in March 2015. (Diana Koester Photo)

The Latest Thing in Houses (1946)

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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:

CLANG! CLANG! HERE’S THE LATEST THING IN HOUSES

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.

Chicago’s Postwar PCCs

CSL 4062 in "Pre-View" service, westbound on Harrison at Holden Court on September 17, 1946. (Thomas H. Desnoyers Photo)

CSL 4062 in “Pre-View” service, westbound on Harrison at Holden Court on September 17, 1946. (Thomas H. Desnoyers Photo)

Following up on our previous post about Chicago’s prewar PCC streetcars, here are some classic views of the 600 postwar PCCs delivered to Chicago Surface Lines and the Chicago Transit Authority between 1946 and 1948.

The design of these cars was derived from, and improved upon, those of the 83 prewar PCCs Chicago put into service in 1936-37. CSL experimented with various door arrangements on car 4051, which was tested in service on route 56 – Milwaukee Avenue in 1941.

The City of Chicago developed a transit modernization plan in the late 1930s, calling for the purchase of 1000 modern streetcars to replace CSL’s aging fleet. However, these plans would have to wait until the end of World War II to become a reality. Construction of new streetcars was put off “for the duration” as materials were needed for the war effort.

The Chicago Transit Authority was created by act of the Illinois legislature and approved by voters in Cook County in 1945. CTA took over both CSL and the Chicago Rapid Transit Company on October 1, 1947. However, the Chicago Transit Board, the CTA’s governing body, felt it had a mandate to make improvements even before the takeover.

CSL had a substantial fund set aside for equipment purchases that had been building up for years. The Surface Lines had been under the control of the courts for many years, as it was technically bankrupt. The fledgling CTA had no difficulty in persuading the CSL and the courts to order 600 new PCC streetcars for Chicago in 1945. Due to the size of this order, it was split between Pullman (310 cars) and St. Louis Car Company (290).

The September 12, 1946 Chicago Tribune reported:

First of 600 New Street Cars Arrives in City

The first of the city’s new green and cream colored 1946 streamlined streetcars, which will be in use by the end of the month on the Clark-Wentworth line, was inspected yesterday by management officers of the Chicago Surface lines.

The management group of four trustees and Federal Judge Michael L. Igoe, who has jurisdiction over the reorganization proceedings of the Surface lines company, were taken for a ride in the streamliner, the first of 600 cars on order.

Several new features captured the fancy of the inspectors. Coming in for the most praise were the crank operated windows. For tall persons, windows have been placed above the regular side windows.

Aisles are three inches wider. Another innovation is a no glare windshield which eliminates need for the curtain behind the motorman.

In addition to the Clark-Wentworth line, the cars will also be in use on Broadway-State, Western av. and 63d street lines.

Eventually, the postwar PCCs also ran on the Cottage Grove, Halsted, and Madison lines. Prior to being introduced on Clark-Wentworth, car 4062, the first one delivered, was run in “Pre-View” service in a downtown loop.

The September 16, 1946 Tribune reported:

NEWEST STREET CAR WILL BE IN SERVICE IN LOOP FOR 2 DAYS

Loop visitors will have an opportunity today and tomorrow to inspect Chicago’s first post-war street car which the Chicago Surface Lines has received out of 600 ordered. The new car will operate during the two days in an area bounded by Wabash av. and State, Lake, and Harrison sts.

The public has been invited by surface lines officials to make short trips free of charge to get firsthand information on the new car. It will operate from 9 a. m. to 9 p. m.

The new car, which will be placed on the Madison st. run soon, seats 58 persons and operation is all-electric. The heating system uses only the high temperatures generated by braking.

While the new PCCS were very popular with the public, a “sea change” in management philosophy was already in the offing, even before the Chicago Transit Authority took over the Surface Lines on October 1, 1947, as this Tribune editorial from November 20, 1946 shows:

THE STREET CAR IS DEAD

About all that has happened to the straphangers of this city in the last year is that the Chicago Motor Coach drivers went out on a strike nearly two months ago and are still out. The bus riders, who are a small minority of local transportation passengers, seem to be getting to and from work, tho not without greater inconvenience than they suffered on the buses. Instead of sardining themselves into buses, they sardine themselves into street cars or the “L.”

If the latter systems were offering anything like acceptable service to the public, the strike might prove fatal to the bus company. Its patrons would learn that they could get to work for 8 cents on the street car instead of a dime on the bus. As it is, they undoubtedly will be back on their old corners the first morning they read that the bus strike has been settled.

There isn’t a single form of local transportation in Chicago whose service today isn’t disgraceful. The street car service is the worst altho some elevated patrons might dispute this. The surface lines are, insofar as service to the public is concerned, leaderless. They remain in their second decade of federal court receivership. The court evidently thinks the management is running the company, and the management seems to think the court is. The physical properties are run down, and, still worse, are obsolete.

The street car is dead. With the exception of a few long haul, heavy traffic routes, street cars, which came in before paved streets, are obsolete. They should be replaced by buses. The surface lines themselves recognize this in their extensions of lines. They put in buses because property owners will no longer consent to have street cars run past their doors.

Street cars depreciate property values on every street on which they run. Buses improve them. That has been the almost universal experience in New York, where the street car has virtually disappeared from Manhattan. The deteriorating effect of the street car has been demonstrated in Chicago. The beneficial effect of buses has not been so well proved here for lack of substitution.

street cars, experts assert, can carry more people over a given route than can buses. Very well, then, keep the street cars on perhaps a half dozen heavily traveled routes. The new, high speed, relatively quiet cars that the company is now buying can serve those routes and the thousands of old rattletraps that it is using elsewhere can be junked and replaced with buses. Trolley buses can be justified if they are cheaper than gasoline buses. Their use on certain streets might be permitted, but they, too, are a detriment to adjoining property, altho not as great a one as the rail cars.

This is a good summation of the prevailing philosophy that both CSL and CTA had in 1946. Soon, however, the Chicago Transit Board hired Walter J. McCarter as the first CTA general manager, and even before the 1947 takeover, he had made public his anti-streetcar sentiments.

The last Chicago streetcar ran in the early hours of June 21, 1958. Today, the last surviving postwar Chicago streetcar, #4391, survives in operating condition at the Illinois Railway Museum.

As streetcars undergo a renaissance in many cities throughout the country, there is much more that can be said about Chicago’s PCCs. Please consider purchasing a copy of our new publication Chicago’s PCC Streetcars: The Rest of the Story from our Trolley Dodger Online Store.

This new electronic book will be released on June 21, 2015, the 57th anniversary of when the last Chicago streetcar ran.

-David Sadowski

CTA 4087 at Madison and Franklin on October 1, 1949. (M. D. McCarter Collection)

CTA 4087 at Madison and Franklin on October 1, 1949. (M. D. McCarter Collection)

CTA 4380 at Harrison and Dearborn on June 3, 1958. (Thomas H. Desnoyers Photo)

CTA 4380 at Harrison and Dearborn on June 3, 1958. (Thomas H. Desnoyers Photo)

CTA 7073 eastbound at 115th and Cottage Grove on June 6, 1952. (Thomas H. Desnoyers Photo)

CTA 7073 eastbound at 115th and Cottage Grove on June 6, 1952. (Thomas H. Desnoyers Photo)

CTA 4106 at Madison and Franklin on October 1, 1949.

CTA 4106 at Madison and Franklin on October 1, 1949.

CSL 7065 at South Shops in 1947. (M. D. McCarter Collection)

CSL 7065 at South Shops in 1947. (M. D. McCarter Collection)

CTA 7196 in Wentworth service, circa 1957-58.

CTA 7196 in Wentworth service, circa 1957-58.

CTA 4076 at Madison and Franklin in July 1953. (Thomas H. Desnoyers Photo)

CTA 4076 at Madison and Franklin in July 1953. (Thomas H. Desnoyers Photo)

CSL 4062 in "Pre-View" service, northbound on State near Monroe in September 1946. (CSL Photo)

CSL 4062 in “Pre-View” service, northbound on State near Monroe in September 1946. (CSL Photo)

CSL 4083 at Clark and Roosevelt on May 11, 1947. (M. D. McCarter Collection)

CSL 4083 at Clark and Roosevelt on May 11, 1947. (M. D. McCarter Collection)

CSL 4137 at Clark and Roosevelt on May 11, 1947. (M. D. McCarter Collection)

CSL 4137 at Clark and Roosevelt on May 11, 1947. (M. D. McCarter Collection)

CTA 4363 on Schreiber at Paulina in July, 1948. (M. D. McCarter Collection)

CTA 4363 on Schreiber at Paulina in July, 1948. (M. D. McCarter Collection)

CTA 4345 on August 1, 1953.

CTA 4345 on August 1, 1953.

CTA 4073 at the Madison and Austin loop in July 1951.

CTA 4073 at the Madison and Austin loop in July 1951.

CTA 7258 passes an older car on the State Street bridge. The Chicago Sun-Times building had not yet been built.

CTA 7258 passes an older car on the State Street bridge. The Chicago Sun-Times building had not yet been built.

CTA 7269 at 63rd Place and Narragansett on November 23, 1952. (Thomas H. Desnoyers Photo)

CTA 7269 at 63rd Place and Narragansett on November 23, 1952. (Thomas H. Desnoyers Photo)

CTA 7225 on Clark at Polk on August 26, 1954. (Harold A. Smith Photo)

CTA 7225 on Clark at Polk on August 26, 1954. (Harold A. Smith Photo)

CTA 4159 on Schreiber near Clark on August 1, 1953.

CTA 4159 on Schreiber near Clark on August 1, 1953.

CTA 4066 at Madison and Franklin on October 24, 1948.

CTA 4066 at Madison and Franklin on October 24, 1948.

CTA 7106 at State and Roosevelt on August 6, 1954. (Harold A. Smith Photo)

CTA 7106 at State and Roosevelt on August 6, 1954. (Harold A. Smith Photo)

CTA 4374 on Dearborn at Congress on June 10, 1958. (Thomas H. Desnoyers Photo)

CTA 4374 on Dearborn at Congress on June 10, 1958. (Thomas H. Desnoyers Photo)

CSL 4062 eastbound on Madison near Central Park. (CSL Photo)

CSL 4062 eastbound on Madison near Central Park. (CSL Photo)

CSL 4120 eastbound on 5th Avenue at Independence Boulevard. (Edward Frank Jr. Photo)

CSL 4120 eastbound on 5th Avenue at Independence Boulevard. (Edward Frank Jr. Photo)

CSL 4065 eastbound on Harrison at 5th. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

CSL 4065 eastbound on Harrison at 5th. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

CTA 4065 southbound on route 36 Broadway-State, then the longest streetcar line in North America.

CTA 4065 southbound on route 36 Broadway-State, then the longest streetcar line in North America.

CTA 7171 passes the Devon Station (car house) on its way to 81st and Halsted. This picture was taken circa 1955-57.

CTA 7171 passes the Devon Station (car house) on its way to 81st and Halsted. This picture was taken circa 1955-57.

Lost and Found: Chicago Streetcar #1137

The full length of CSL interurban car, No. 1137, can be seen. The rear of the car is in the foreground. Rail experts say the car was built by the St. Louis Car Company between 1905 and 1906 for what would become the Chicago Transit Authority. Credit: WLUK/Bill Miston

The full length of CSL interurban car, No. 1137, can be seen. The rear of the car is in the foreground. Rail experts say the car was built by the St. Louis Car Company between 1905 and 1906 for what would become the Chicago Transit Authority.
Credit: WLUK/Bill Miston

Shared from http://fox11online.com/2015/06/04/weyauwega-couple-uncovers-piece-of-history-in-backyard/

Editor’s Note: This is, of course, a Chicago Surface Lines streetcar, not an interurban. According to Don’s Rail Photos, #1137 is part of a batch of Small St. Louis Cars, series #1101-1425. “These cars were built by St. Louis Car in 1903 and 1906 for Chicago Union Traction Co. They are similar to the Robertson design without the small windows. Cars of this series were converted to one man operation in later years and have a wide horizontal stripe on the front to denote this. A number of these cars were converted to sand and salt service and as flangers.”

According to Andre Kristopans, car 1137 was disposed of by Chicago Surface Lines in April 1946. There was a housing shortage at the time, and people were actually living in old streetcars. Some were bought by GIs, returning from World War II. All the undergear would have been removed for salvage as scrap.

We certainly hope that this newly discovered Chicago streetcar can be preserved. It would be a real shame if it has survived for more than a century, just to be reduced to kindling now.

Weyauwega is located in the middle of Wisconsin.

Weyauwega couple uncovers piece of Chicago transit history in backyard

WEYAUWEGA – A Weyauwega couple knew they had some work to do on their retirement home when they purchased it a year ago.

But what Bill and Sharon Krapil found in their backyard took them somewhat by surprise.

“I heard stories from people in my family too,” said Sharon. “They said a man lived in here, for a while, and they said, I think it’s a train car, they actually never said a trolley car.”

Krapil found that out earlier this week when construction crews began to carefully peel away the sides of the old building, with the knowledge that something was underneath.

“It’s like history stepping out of time, into my backyard,” she said of the car, now fully revealed.

Turns out sisters who grew up in the small, sleepy city, Mary Jane Baehman and Rita Kraus, know it fairly well. The two came over as word spread about the house, er, trolley’s unveiling.

“What did you call it?” FOX 11’s Bill Miston asked Baehman of the home she knew growing up.

“The trolley,” said Baehman. “But (the owners) were Bill and Florence Haberkamp, they were the people that resided here and owned it at that time.”

That was more than 60 years ago.

Baehman says her family would regularly visit the small home to watch the Friday night boxing fights, as the Haberkamps had a television. She remembers her father smoking cigars with Bill Haberkamp.

What was the front of the car was even converted into a small bathroom, complete with a bathtub and toilet, which Baehman says – not surprisingly – wasn’t used often.

“That, of course, was the kitchen,” said Baehman, as we toured the cleared out interior of the car. “There was a sitting room here and the TV sat on a little stand right here, and a couple chairs and then, right where you’re standing was the bunk beds.”

Propped up on stones and cinder blocks, the trolley still had Krapil wondering, how did the red No. 1137 wooden car get here?

That question led us to the National Railroad Museum in Ashwaubenon.

“So just looking at it here, I would probably place it in the early 1900s, maybe the teens,” said Bob Lettenberger, the museum’s education director.

Lettenberger is the guy you want to talk to when you need to know too much about all things trains – or in this case, an interurban street car.

“There was a time when you could get on an interurban here in Green Bay and get all the way out to Albany, New York,” he said, adding that the ride would probably be far worse than if you were to take a bus today.

Lettenberger says railroad maps don’t show an interurban system running in Weyauwega during the first half of the 20th century, when the systems were still in operation.

“They were very popular for the time and while they were popular, there were a good deal of them running around the U.S., when the service stopped, it became surplus.”

And quite easy for someone to pick up – either for free or a small price.

There aren’t many markings left on the trolley to give Lettenberger an idea of where it originated from, save for the car’s number and what’s left of a partial logo on the side with and overlapping ‘S’ and ‘L’ surrounded by – what appears to be an ‘O’.

“Based on pure conjecture,” said Lettenberger, “I see red paint, I see S & L, I think St. Louis?”

Turns out, we were on the right track, but wrong stop. After some more digging, we later found out the ‘O’ is actually a ‘C’ – part of the logo for the Chicago Surface Lines company.

Built in 1905 or 1906 by the St. Louis Car Company, car 1137 was purchased and operated by CSL – the predecessor to the Chicago Transit Authority, or CTA.

In fact, the Illinois Railway Museum in Union, Ill. has two cars that are restored and in operation today.

Lettenberger says there are likely many more across the state – just not on the rails.

“They make great hunting cabins, they were playhouses for kids, as you see, with this one, it was somebody’s actual residence,” he said. “They’ve cropped up all over the place.”

Like on Krapil’s property. The thing is, she doesn’t want it. Now, she’s trying to figure out who, if anyone would be interested in taking it off her hands – and soon. She’s already paid for the site demolition and needs to get a plan in place by Monday at the latest.

“We can’t afford to put money into it, I really would like to see it preserved,” said Krapil. “If someone is interested and taking it out and restoring it, I would be very happy, because it’s like a piece of Americana.”

Update

As of October 2015, the future of 1137 is still in doubt. You can read more about it here.

Sharon Krapil says there were long-held rumors a train car was behind the walls of the wooden structure in her back yard. Credit: Sharon Krapil

Sharon Krapil says there were long-held rumors a train car was behind the walls of the wooden structure in her back yard.
Credit: Sharon Krapil

Construction crews began to carefully peel away the exterior of the home, as there were suspicions about what was actually behind them. Credit: Sharon Krapil

Construction crews began to carefully peel away the exterior of the home, as there were suspicions about what was actually behind them.
Credit: Sharon Krapil

The rear of the trolley car was converted into a kitchen, closet and back porch. Here the three-fold doors are seen on the trolley's right, rear side. Credit: WLUK/Bill Miston

The rear of the trolley car was converted into a kitchen, closet and back porch. Here the three-fold doors are seen on the trolley’s right, rear side.
Credit: WLUK/Bill Miston

Not much of the original markings are seen on the trolley. Here, stencils rail experts date to the 1930s or 40s, warn riders to not get on or off moving cars. Credit: WLUK/Bill Miston

Not much of the original markings are seen on the trolley. Here, stencils rail experts date to the 1930s or 40s, warn riders to not get on or off moving cars.
Credit: WLUK/Bill Miston

The rear of the trolley car was converted into a kitchen, closet and back porch. Here, the back door can be seen on the left of the photo. Credit: WLUK/Bill Miston

The rear of the trolley car was converted into a kitchen, closet and back porch. Here, the back door can be seen on the left of the photo.
Credit: WLUK/Bill Miston

The bright red, wooden car has few markings detailing who made it, or what rail company used it. Here a logo is seen with what appears to be an overlapping S and L, surrounded by an O. It is actually a C, the symbol for the Chicago Surface Lines company. The predecessor to the Chicago Transit Authority, or CTA. Rail experts say the car was made by the St. Louis Car Company between 1905 and 1906 for the CSL. Credit: WLUK/Bill Miston

The bright red, wooden car has few markings detailing who made it, or what rail company used it. Here a logo is seen with what appears to be an overlapping S and L, surrounded by an O. It is actually a C, the symbol for the Chicago Surface Lines company. The predecessor to the Chicago Transit Authority, or CTA. Rail experts say the car was made by the St. Louis Car Company between 1905 and 1906 for the CSL.
Credit: WLUK/Bill Miston

The front of the trolley car is boarded up, as it was turned into a small bathroom, complete with a bathtub and toilet. Credit: WLUK/Bill Miston

The front of the trolley car is boarded up, as it was turned into a small bathroom, complete with a bathtub and toilet.
Credit: WLUK/Bill Miston

The original wooden and rattan seats were likely removed when the car was converted into a living space. A view looking through the living area towards the kitchen is pictured. Credit: WLUK/Bill Miston

The original wooden and rattan seats were likely removed when the car was converted into a living space. A view looking through the living area towards the kitchen is pictured.
Credit: WLUK/Bill Miston

The original wooden and rattan seats were likely removed when the car was converted into a living space. A view looking through the bedroom, towards the bathroom is seen. Longtime Weyauwega residents say the couple who lived in the home had bunk beds to conserve space. Credit: WLUK/Bill Miston

The original wooden and rattan seats were likely removed when the car was converted into a living space. A view looking through the bedroom, towards the bathroom is seen. Longtime Weyauwega residents say the couple who lived in the home had bunk beds to conserve space.
Credit: WLUK/Bill Miston

The original wooden and rattan seats were likely removed when the car was converted into a living space. A view looking towards the bathroom is seen. Credit: Sharon Krapil

The original wooden and rattan seats were likely removed when the car was converted into a living space. A view looking towards the bathroom is seen.
Credit: Sharon Krapil

The front of the trolley car is boarded up, as it was turned into a small bathroom, complete with a bathtub and toilet. Credit: Sharon Krapil

The front of the trolley car is boarded up, as it was turned into a small bathroom, complete with a bathtub and toilet.
Credit: Sharon Krapil

The rear of the trolley car was converted into a kitchen, closet and back porch. Here, the back door can be seen in the center of the photo. Credit: WLUK/Bill Miston

The rear of the trolley car was converted into a kitchen, closet and back porch. Here, the back door can be seen in the center of the photo.
Credit: WLUK/Bill Miston

A view of the house is seen, looking at the front of the former trolley. Credit: Sharon Krapil

A view of the house is seen, looking at the front of the former trolley.
Credit: Sharon Krapil

As construction crews removed more walls of the old home, more of the building's substructure - built on an old trolley car cabin - could be seen. Credit: Sharon Krapil

As construction crews removed more walls of the old home, more of the building’s substructure – built on an old trolley car cabin – could be seen.
Credit: Sharon Krapil

Chicago’s PCC Streetcars: The Rest of the Story

P1050326

Trolley Dodger Press is proud to announce the publication of Chicago’s PCC Streetcars: The Rest of the Story, an E-book on data disc.

At its peak, the Chicago Surface Lines operated 3100 streetcars over the largest such system in the world. This included 683 modern PCC streetcars, which ran between 1936 and 1958.

The publication this month of Chicago Streetcar Pictorial: the PCC Era, 1936-1958 by Central Electric Railfans’ Association is an important addition to the historical record. This lavishly illustrated 448-page book includes hundreds of great pictures of Chicago’s PCC streetcars and is a must-have for all serious railfans. If you have not already done so, we urge you to purchase a copy directly from CERA, before it is completely sold out.*

Besides being a picture book, CERA Bulletin 146 includes a detailed history of the rise and fall of the modern streetcar in Chicago. However, as comprehensive as this book is, Chicago streetcars are such a vast subject that it is likely impossible for anyone to have the “last word.” Even in a book as large as this, there were many things that inevitably had to be left out.

With this in mind, David Sadowski, co-author of B-146, has put together a companion volume, an unofficial supplement that helps tell the “rest of the story” about Chicago’s PCC cars. This is an E-Book on a DVD data disc that can be be read on a computer, using Acrobat Reader.

Chicago’s PCC Streetcars: The Rest of the Story includes more than 448 pages of information, including informative essays, hundreds of great photographs, detailed track maps, and a variety of supporting documents. These include the Chicago Transit Authority‘s 1947 modernization program, various CTA annual reports, the 1951 consultant report that recommended Chicago keep its PCCs, and a 1954 Transit Research Study by Werner W. Schroeder, member and vice chairman of the Chicago Transit Board.

The essays examine, among other things, the PCC conversion plan, through which the CTA “recycled” parts from 570 of 600 postwar PCC cars for use on a like number of new rapid transit cars. The author also looks into the circumstances under which Chicago could have retained some sort of streetcar system, the failed effort to build a streetcar subway, CTA’s 1952 takeover of the Chicago Motor Coach Co. bus routes, plans to use the PCCs on the Chicago, Aurora & Elgin, and how transit unification brought about the demise of the streetcar system we did have.

Read this book, and you too will have the “rest of the story!”

For release on June 21, 2015, the 57th anniversary of when the last Chicago streetcar ran.

This title can be pre-ordered now in our Online Store.

A pair of CTA

A pair of CTA “curved door” PCC rapid transit cars being delivered via the North Shore Line in the 1950s. These used parts salvaged from scrapped Chicago PCC streetcars.

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