Railfan Ephemera

Closeup of CA&E wood car 309, now restored to operating condition at the Illinois Railway Museum.

Closeup of CA&E wood car 309, now restored to operating condition at the Illinois Railway Museum.

According to the Wikipedia:

Ephemera (singular: ephemeron) is any transitory written or printed matter not meant to be retained or preserved. The word derives from the Greek, meaning things lasting no more than a day. Some collectible ephemera are advertising trade cards, airsickness bags, bookmarks, catalogues, greeting cards, letters, pamphlets, postcards, posters, prospectuses, defunct stock certificates or tickets, and zines.

In library and information science, the term ephemera also describes the class of published single-sheet or single page documents which are meant to be thrown away after one use.

Today’s post features some railfan ephemera, things that were designed for transitory use, that few people would have considered worth saving. We can be thankful that they were saved, since these items can sometimes tell us important things we would not know otherwise.

There are several tidbits of information in the brochures and flyers we’re presenting today. A CTA brochure from 1949 includes a very good statement of how that agency intended to speed up rapid transit service.

An early (1959) fundraising flyer from an early version of the Illinois Railway Museum calls CA&E car 309 the “jewel” of the Roarin’ Elgin’s fleet. This car was eventually purchased by the museum and, after surviving a later fire, restored back to operating condition.

Don’s Rail Photos says, “309 was built by Hicks Locomotive Works in 1907. It was modernized in October 1941 and acquired by Illinois Railway Museum in 1962.”

You can read the 309 story on the excellent Hicks Car Works blog here.

We have several other CA&E-related items. A timetable from late 1939 pinpoints the date when the Chicago, Aurora & Elgin interurban switched their route into Aurora from street trackage to a new private right-of-way along the Fox River.

Finally, there are some vintage CTA flyers that describe how to troubleshoot various problems on the venerable 4000-series “L” cars that were, for so many years, a mainstay of the system before their retirement in 1973. Two cars from that fleet are still on the CTA property today and are occasionally run, as they were last year, when they celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Skokie Swift, today’s Yellow Line.

-David Sadowski

A flyer from the Illinois Electric Railway Museum, circa 1959, attempting to raise funds to save car 309, described as the “jewel” of the CA&E fleet.

The interior of CA&E car 300, as it appeared on February 25, 1962, shortly before this car was scrapped.

The interior of CA&E car 300, as it appeared on February 25, 1962, shortly before this car was scrapped.

CA&E 36, built by John Stephenson in 1904. After the interurban's demise, it was purchased by Trolleyville USA in Ohio. It came to the Illinois Railway Museum in 2009 where it remains in operating condition.

CA&E 36, built by John Stephenson in 1904. After the interurban’s demise, it was purchased by Trolleyville USA in Ohio. It came to the Illinois Railway Museum in 2009 where it remains in operating condition.

A flyer advertising a 1939 CA&E fantrip that included the street trackage in Aurora, shortly before this was eliminated.

A flyer advertising a 1939 CA&E fantrip that included the street trackage in Aurora, shortly before this was eliminated.

A CA&E timetable announcing a change in the right-of-way entering Aurora, effective December 31, 1939.

A CA&E timetable announcing a change in the right-of-way entering Aurora, effective December 31, 1939.

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A pass from an early CERA fantrip.

A pass from an early CERA fantrip.

Itinerary for a 1942 fantrip on the Chicago, Aurora & Elgin.

Itinerary for a 1942 fantrip on the Chicago, Aurora & Elgin.

An advertising insert for the Electric Railway Pictorial (1945).

An advertising insert for the Electric Railway Pictorial (1945).

The advert for the Electric Railway Pictorial includes what is probably a builder's photo from St. Louis Car Company, showing one of the curved-side CA&E cars delivered in 1945-46.

The advert for the Electric Railway Pictorial includes what is probably a builder’s photo from St. Louis Car Company, showing one of the curved-side CA&E cars delivered in 1945-46.

Once A/B service proved successful on the Lake Street “L”, the CTA extended it to other routes.

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Those 4000s sure got around in their day. Here is a rare shot of Chicago Rapid Transit Company "L" car 4432 heading up a train in North Shore Line street running territory on Greenleaf Avenue in Wilmette. It was probably pressed into service hauling the military during World War II.

Those 4000s sure got around in their day. Here is a rare shot of Chicago Rapid Transit Company “L” car 4432 heading up a train in North Shore Line street running territory on Greenleaf Avenue in Wilmette. It was probably pressed into service hauling the military during World War II.

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The illustration on the CTA brochure is patterned after the statue Flying Mercury by Giovanni da Bologna (1529-1608). The messenger of the gods and patron of commerce and trading, winged Mercury speeds through the skies carrying the caduceus that symbolizes both immunity during war and the practice of medicine. Bologna, working in the Medici court in Florence in 1580, composed his subject in the figura serpentine that masterfully guides the eye.

The illustration on the CTA brochure is patterned after the statue Flying Mercury by Giovanni da Bologna (1529-1608).
The messenger of the gods and patron of commerce and trading, winged Mercury speeds through the skies carrying the caduceus that symbolizes both immunity during war and the practice of medicine. Bologna, working in the Medici court in Florence in 1580, composed his subject in the figura serpentine that masterfully guides the eye.

Closeup of a 1949 CTA brochure announcing the expansion of A/B “skip stop” service to North-South routes.

Construction of a turning loop at Howard Yard, 1949-50. This photo was the subject of the correspondence that follows.

Construction of a turning loop at Howard Yard, 1949-50. This photo was the subject of the correspondence that follows.

The institution of A/B service led to other changes. As the following correspondence shows, it impacted where CTA stored rapid transit trains. As the CTA’s Tom Buck pointed out, prior to this, trains terminated at various places along the North-South line, and service was overlapping. Once “Skip Stop” service began, there was a need for improved facilities at the ends of the line.

Thus, a turning loop was installed at Howard Yard between 1949 and 1950, so that trains could be turned around quicker.

Nowadays, the term “cc” (short for carbon copy) is widely used in e-mail. But there was a time when it had a more literal meaning. Back in the days when people corresponded via typewriters, if you wanted to keep a record of letters written, you would make a carbon copy.

You would place a piece of blue carbon paper behind your stationary, and behind that, a very thin sheet. Here are two such carbon copies.

These letters date from 1975, in the years before home computers, in the days when people still wrote actual letters to each other and mailed them. Before he worked at the CTA, Tom Buck (1917-2004) wrote about transit matters for the Chicago Tribune.

-The Editor

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19 thoughts on “Railfan Ephemera

    • Let’s look at the 1949 timetable as an Aurora rider. Departure from Aurora at 8:00 am, stopping at Aurora Ave. and Batavia Junction, bypassing Warrenville (the only train of the day to do so), non-stop to Wheaton at 8:18, then non-stop to Marshfield Ave. in Chicago at 8:52, Canal St., arriving at Wells St. Terminal at 8:58. What a thrilling ride that would have been! The return trip was a bit slower, leaving Wells St. at 4:54 pm and arriving in Aurora at 5:55. This schedule must have appealed to executives working in the Loop; ordinary office drones probably could not have been on both Cannonballs.

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  1. What I have found interesting is how they managed along the Garfield Park line, with towers controlling crossovers at several stations so express trains can run around locals, and all on-sight, no block signals. And the only thing that records that and what possibilities might have been is the space for additional tracks along the Forest Park branch of the Blue Line, in the median of the Eisenhower Expressway. Cannonball, indeed!

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    • In general, the Congress alignment was intended to replace the Garfield Park “L”, which had three branches (Douglas, Garfield, and Logan/Humboldt) that met at Marshfield Junction. The CTA did not want three lines to meet at one point, and the Logan Square part was rerouted into the Dearborn-Milwaukee subway in 1951.

      As late as 1948, there were plans to route the Lake Street “L” onto the Congress line, but this junction would have been further west than Marshfield, between 3200 and 4400 West depending on what year we are talking about. The idea was to tear down the east portion of the Lake line and, eventually, the Loop “L” itself.

      However, it would seem as though the success of the A/B “skip stop” service on Lake in 1948 changed these plans, and soon CTA’s attention turned to the real problem area of Lake, which was the west end, running at ground level with numerous blind crossings at grade. This was eventually put on the C&NW embankment in 1962.

      So, between Forest Park and Laramie, where the Chicago, Aurora & Elgin owned the right of way, the original plans were for three tracks, one of which would presumably have been an express track. The Lotus Tunnel, which takes the rapid transit line into the expressway median just west of Laramie, has three portals at the west end and only two on the east. The most likely explanation is that the third track would have veered off and connected up with the existing Laramie Yard. Later plans to relocate the terminal to DesPlaines Avenue made such a connection unnecessary.

      East of Laramie, which was always rapid transit territory, would have been two tracks up to the point where the Lake line would have been brought into the median. But rather than mixing Lake and Congress trains, there would have been four tracks going east. You will note that there are two extra subway portals just east of Halsted. This is where the Lake line would have continued into a new subway.

      As built, the Congress line did not use a lot of the space allocated to it, but this has made it easier to work on the right-of-way.

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      • The “Lotus Tunnels” have always had 3 portals on both the west and east ends. The CTA has allowed one of the portals on the east end to become covered-up by vegetation and other junk. The set of 3 tunnels could have supported an express track.

        Moving east from about Francisco Ave. all the way to the set of 4 portals near Halstead St., 2 of which are used by the Blue Line, the area in the median of the expressway could have had 3 or 4 tracks. The CTA has spread out the 2 Blue Line tracks to fill the allowed space.

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      • Here is an aerial view of the east portal:

        Lotus Tunnel, east portal

        I see that since the tracks run across the highway at an angle, the tunnel for the third track is shorter than the other two. The third track would have been the logical place for an additional tunnel that would have branched off to the north, connecting the Congress line with Laramie Yard. It was originally intended to keep it, but eventually, plans were changed so these facilities were moved to DesPlaines Avenue.

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    • Yes, but the plans for the expressway were drawn up in the 1930’s, when the CA&E was still running, and they and the CRT had to deal with a two-track main on the Garfield Park line. That it didn’t happen was a sad event.

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    • CA&E seemed to go back and forth on the idea of whether to use the new Congress line. They sent a letter to their shareholders in 1952 saying that after construction, the new alignment would permit faster service downtown. On the other hand, once they stopped running downtown in September 1953, there seems to have been very little interest in resuming CA&E service to the Loop.

      However, the ridership losses CA&E experienced from 1953 to 1957 clearly demonstrated the advantages of having a one-seat ride downtown. By the time of the July 3, 1957 abandonment, it was obvious that the interurban needed to go downtown in order to remain viable.

      Even CTA’s plans to run service to Wheaton were somewhat ambivalent about this. They involved a short-term plan to run a shuttle operation between Forest park and Wheaton using some of the Prewar PCC streetcars. This would have given CTA 18 months to purchase new rapid transit cars that would have allowed for direct service to the Loop.

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      • I do recall that at one time part of then unused elevated track on the Logan Square branch was left standing to serve as layup/turnaroud tracks for the CAE in case it ever did run through the Milwaukee-Dearbourn subway, but that never happened.

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    • Thanks, David, those two photos are very interesting! The picture of the 36 was one I hadn’t seen before. Excellent detail.

      Unfortunately, it’s not quite what I need. This picture is before the 36’s rebuilding in 1946, when the streamer sash were removed and the roof was painted black. I need to know whether the car still had its dash lights and signs in the 1946-1950 period, in the blue paint scheme with black roof. About 95% of the pictures you see of similar cars in the “black and blue” paint scheme still have the dash lights, but I’d like to be sure before reinstalling them.

      The picture of the 300 is also interesting. It seems to be in remarkably good condition, except that the first aid box and wrecking tools have been stolen, and you can see some of the debris on the floor. The seats from this car were acquired by Mid-Continent for use in a steam-road coach, and were recently resold to us at IRM. So they’re still in existence.

      Randall

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