Andre Kristopans is well-known in railfan circles as one of the most knowledgeable transit historians in the United States, certainly the foremost concerning buses used here in Chicago. He recently shared a complete list of Chicago PCC delivery dates and scrapping dates with The Trolley Dodger, which we added to our e-book Chicago’s PCC Streetcars: The Rest of the Story, available through our Online Store.
E-book Update Service
One advantage an electronic book has over a printed one is that it can be improved upon. We have always intended that to be the case with Chicago’s PCC Streetcars: The Rest of the Story.
If you have already purchased a copy of this e-book, and wish to get the most updated version, we can send you a link so that you can download it at no additional charge via Dropbox. Dropbox is a free service that allows people to transfer large files via the Internet. The book is about an 850mb download. Even better, as further improvements are made the updated files can be automatically downloaded onto your computer via Dropbox if you wish.
Besides the list of delivery and scrapping dates, we have also added about 25 more photos to the book since it was first published, plus a system map for the Chicago Motor Coach Company. We have additional updates planned for the future, and want to make sure that whenever you purchase your copy, you will be assured of having access to these updates as they become available.
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All the images used in this post are recent additions to our E-book.
Chicago PCC Q&A with Andre Kristopans
Studying Andre’s list brought up a number of different issues, which we discussed with him in the following exchange:
DS: Were the cars that had fareboxes installed the same ones that were converted to one man, or did some two-man cars also get some?
AK: All cars that were going to be around for a while got at least the pedestals for fareboxes installed. One thing I am not certain of is when CTA decided to get rid of the fare registers and replace them with (used) J-boxes. I know the buses all got fareboxes around this time, but I don’t know if, or when, the 2-man PCC’s did. Would have been by conductor’s station.
DS: What is a J-box?
AK: J-boxes were the 1940’s fareboxes that were only able to take quarters and tokens. Made by Johnson Farebox as model J, they actually showed up at CTA in around 1950 as they were bought second-hand from somewhere unknown (and later sold off after CTA went to exact fare in 1969!). The more modern ones from the 1960’s that were bigger and took all types of coins were Johnson type K’s. Johnson later became Keene Farebox.
DS: Also, how would this list be affected by the postwar PCCs that were renumbered? (The list is in my e-book—there were 13 such cars.)
I believe the renumberings were caused by CTA having entered into contracts with St. Louis Car Company that specified certain car numbers for shipment as part of the so-called “conversion program.” Then, for whatever reasons, CTA wanted to send a different car instead of one that was specified, so they took another one and renumbered it to fit the sequence of cars being shipped.
AK: Exactly. CTA had no official record of any renumberings. What it was loaded on the flatcar with was how it was entered on the property card.
DS: Later on, I think the contract wording was changed in later orders so that CTA was allowed to substitute.
AK: The numbers are very specific in the AFR’s – these cars under this AFR*.
DS: We already know what the renumberings were. Roy Benedict had the information, which had been compiled by the late James J. Buckley.
Most of the cars were renumbered in 1956-57, but there were also a couple in 1954.
So there would be a “first” 7210 and a “second” 7210, etc. etc., and I would expect that the information on your list of scrappings would somehow correlate with the renumbering list.
AK: Remember though as far as property accounting department was concerned, this NEVER HAPPENED! This was done by S&E** at South Shops on an ad-hoc basis, with downtown never being the wiser! Some railroads were notorious for this, Milwaukee Road being probably the worst offender, as when HQ sent a work order to shops to “scrap 800 and 801”, shops would find two dead ones, renumber them 800 and 801, renumber the “real” 800 and 801 to the numbers they picked out, and sent a notice back to HQ “800, 801 scrapped”. Now where it got really funny was when they picked two replacements that were of a different though similar model, and the “rescued” ones stuck around for years to railfans’ delight!
DS: If as I recall the later contracts with St. Louis Car Co. were revised to allow for substitutions of different cars, this would mean somebody was aware of the renumberings. I think I read this when I studied the Chicago Transit Board minutes from the 1950s.
AK: Maybe, but nothing was ever recorded on the property cards, which I copied.
DS: Interesting that car 7213, the last car to run, actually was shipped off to St. Louis as part of the contract that built the 1-50 cars, while the other 25 cars that were still on the property simply were sold for scrap.
It is also interesting that the 4391, the one postwar car that was saved, was designated for scrapping along with one other car, while an additional 20 were scrapped as part of a later order.
AK: Bus scrapping is an even more convoluted matter – why a vehicle goes on a specific AFR is sometimes hard to understand. I suspect 4391 was retired “early” because it had some sort of failure. Not necessarily anything major at that point, but something happened to it. When IRM restored it to operation, they probably had to fix more than a few problems, and one of them was likely the reason car was retired.
DS: Is it possible that CTA held off on selling the final 20 until they were certain that there was no chance that CTA would get control of part of the CA&E? I know there was a 1956 plan where service would have been temporarily operated between Forest Park and Wheaton using some prewar PCCs, with construction of a turning loop in Wheaton.
AK: That was one really sad episode. CTA was willing, CA&E was willing, but not without subsidy, and the towns along the line could not agree on who would pay how much. The off-line town like Addison refused to pay anything, but online towns said residents of off-line towns used the line too, so those towns should pay too. So in the end nothing happened.
DS: CTA’s efforts to operate a portion of CA&E continued through 1959. The idea was to use PCCs for about 18 months, which would have bought the CTA time to order new rapid transit cars that presumably would have been able to operate downtown over the new Congress rapid transit line.
I assume these cars would have been versions of the 1-50 single car units, with possibly more plush seats and high-speed motors.
AK: Most likely not “high speed” as CTA would have most likely run all-stops, with a stop every mile or so. Basically would have been just another “L” route.
DS: CTA spent several years working with various manufacturers to test and develop high-speed trucks. It seems that construction of the Congress rapid transit line led to a lot of interest, among the public and various officials, in having rapid transit cars that could go as fast as the autos on an expressway.
CTA held a public hearing in the early part of 1958 in conjunction with the purchase of the final 100 cars in the PCC conversion program, and the only negative comments were that these were not going to be high-speed cars. CTA officials pointed out that high-speed cars would only provide a small amount of time savings over regular cars, and that they did not want to waste the perfectly good motors being salvaged from 100 PCC streetcars.
CTA’s experiments with high-speed motors continued after this and eventually resulted in the 2000-series cars delivered in 1964.
If CTA had been able to extend service over a larger portion of the abandoned North Shore Line, they would have ordered more cars, high-speed versions of the single car units, pretty much the same as the 1-4 cars used to provide initial service on the Skokie Swift.
I guess the high-speed motors weren’t really perfected yet when CTA might have taken over portions of the CA&E. Simply extending service west of Forest Park using existing equipment would have been the simplest and made the most sense. Not sure why CTA felt it necessary to propose operating it as a feeder operation using PCCs.
AK: Here is another tidbit:
The Pullmans came with B-3 trucks and GE motors and St Louises with B-2’s and WH motors. Before they were shipped to SLCC the Pullmans and St Louis swapped trucks and motors as the B-3’s were considered less suitable for high speed operation. However, only 288 B-2’s were actually used, as 6489-6490 which should have had B-2’s came with B-3’s.
Later, of course, B-3’s were indeed used under 6491-6720 and 5-50, though it is true that these cars did indeed vibrate more at higher speeds, such as on the O’Hare Extension.
As far as I can figure the following groups were swapped out:
4102-4371 (270) swapped with 7115-7274 (160), 4372-4411 (38), 7045-7114 (69), plus trucks/motors from the three retired cars 7078, 4381, 4394
4062-4101 (40) swapped with 4052-4061, 7035-7044 (20), with last 20 going with original trucks/motors as trades on 6491-6510. Now where the two extra sets of GE motors for 6489-6490 came from is a good question, possibly spares.
Later “L” cars, 6511-6720 and 1-50 came with B-3’s and GE’s, except of course 1-4, of which 1-2 were GE, 3-4 were WH. Also, for a while 6483-6488 had GE motors, too, swapped with 23-26, 29-30 when they went into Skokie Swift service.
DS: If you read the narrative about how PCC 4391 was saved (which is also reproduced in CERA Bulletin 146):
It says that there were 18 cars that were in operable condition at the end of service, which CTA put out for bid, and two cars that were not in operating condition, which were a separate bid. You could bid on them as a whole lot or otherwise.
That would seem to imply that 4391 was one of the two cars that were inoperable. Maybe the narrative about the 18 cars really should read 20 cars, to match your list.
AK: I do believe so!
DS: However, according to CERA B-146, car 4391 was operated on the last day, as the third-to last car in service.
AK: Just because a car ran on the last day does not mean the motorman didn’t put in a defect ticket after pulling in.
DS: According to the narrative, the ERHS crowd wanted to buy 4391 from the scrap dealer, who had failed in his attempt to sell the cars to Mexico City. His next idea was to scrap the cars and sell components to Belgium.
CTA still had some damaged cars that it needed to sell, and so the ERHS people bought 7218 and swapped it for the 4391.
The 7218 appears on your list but with a somewhat higher work order than the final batch of PCCs operated on Wentworth. Did the CTA change their numbering sequence for these work orders at some point?
AK: Yes – after the AFR’s in the 19000’s, they went back to 10000’s.
DS: You had also at one point mentioned that you heard that part of the 7078 body (damaged in a May 25, 1950 crash with a gasoline truck, the so-called “Green Hornet Streetcar Disaster” of the book by the same name) was actually used to put another car together that was seriously damaged. Any idea which car this might have been?
AK: The one that wrapped itself around the safety island at State/Root (the number escapes me at the moment).
Found this online in a forum:
“Parts from 7078 were used to rebuild car 7205, which wrapped itself around a pole at State and Root the previous summer (1949) after splitting a switch.”
“I often wonder which of its parts were used to rebuild 7205. That car suffered a gash right in the middle by the center exit doors resulting in a badly bent frame. Maybe they cut the frame off 7078 as well as some body panels and grafted them onto 7205.”
Probably correct, in that 7078 basically burned above the floor line and the frame appears to have survived relatively intact. Also, in that era (and really much later, into the 1980’s) repairs were done locally and if things didn’t come out exactly “as new”, that was not a problem. For instance, there was a Gary Transit fishbowl that got into a major wreck of some sort in the late 70’s and when they fixed it (themselves), they couldn’t quite get the left side of the body straight, so it had a definite “dip” in the sliversiding near the back door. But nobody seemed to mind.
Another thing that I discovered, while perusing the Chicago Transit Board minutes, is how much information they contained early in the CTA era, and how little was included later on.
Early in the CTA’s history, it seems as though the Chicago City Council was voting to approve each and every bus substitution on a streetcar line, but later on, the CTA was acting pretty much on its own regarding a lot of these decisions.
In 1952, as I recall, there was a local judge who said that CTA, having been created by act of legislature and a referendum of voters, was pretty much a law unto itself as regards what type of service to offer the public, and how much. So, if they wanted people to ride the North Avenue trolley bus, instead of the Humboldt Park “L”, the public had no recourse through the courts.
So when CTA decided in 1955 to end the Broadway-State through-route and substitute buses on southern half, the City seemed to be caught somewhat by surprise. Newspapers reported that the City had not been given time to study the matter. CTA said they were going ahead with it anyway because the new employee “pick” had already been made.
When they did the same thing to Clark-Wentworth in 1957, apparently there was no public outcry. Despite the fear in 1955 that this might inconvenience 5000 riders, who in theory took advantage of the through-route, the 1957 change was done with very little fanfare.
And when CTA approved the conversion of Wentworth to bus, this was done about two weeks before it took effect.
AK: This was one of the big deals that was highly touted when CTA was formed – that it was not beholden to the state or the city but could do pretty much as it pleased. In the early days, CTA went to the trouble of asking the city’s “acquiescence” on conversions, as it did after involve streets and who was obligated to maintain and plow them. However, at some point around 1950 or 1951 amid the mass abandonments, CTA got the city to agree to a mass takeover of responsibility for maintenance, so CTA no longer felt obligated to ask for city “approvals”. By 1955, the system was pretty well stabilized, and there was little talk of protesting changes, because there weren’t many.
DS: One of the cost savings claimed from substituting buses for streetcars came about by convincing the State legislature to exempt CTA from having to pay fuel taxes. They were unsuccessful in obtaining a subsidy, but they were able to do this much.
*Authorization For Retirement. (AFE is Authorization For Expenditure.)
**Shops & Equipment – the official name of the Shops Department.
Here are some examples of Johnson fareboxes: