Chicago Horsecar Replica For Sale

Although the auction description does not mention it, replica car 10 was also used at the Chicago Railroad Fair.  This picture was taken by Charles Cushman (1896-1972) in 1949.  (Charles W. Cushman Collection, University Archives, at Indiana University, Bloomington.)

Although the auction description does not mention it, replica car 10 was also used at the Chicago Railroad Fair. This picture was taken by Charles Cushman (1896-1972) in 1949. (Charles W. Cushman Collection, University Archives, at Indiana University, Bloomington.)

Bonham’s auction house recently announced that they will be selling some historic railroad items from the collections of Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry. While we, of course, have no connection with either institution, we thought our readers would enjoy reading about the replica cable car that is being offered. There are links just in case anyone is interested in pursuing this further.

There is an authentic horse car at the Illinois Railway Museum, built in 1859. We have published a couple pictures of this car being used by the Chicago Surface Lines in 1925 and 1936, celebrating streetcar line extensions.

We can also share a bit of the backstory behind how and why this railcar was made. According to a 1938 article in Surface Service magazine, the “house organ” of the Chicago Surface Lines, the heads of CSL and MSI (Julius Rosenwald?) got together around 1929, and CSL agreed to donate a couple of historic items to the museum, which was then just getting started. (The other is cable car 532, still on display at MSI. There is another similar cable car replica at the Illinois Railway Museum.)

Let’s hope that this car, although a replica, stays in the Chicago area. It was actually used at both the Century of Progress 1933-34 World’s Fair and the 1948-49 Chicago Railroad Fair.

-David Sadowski

What follows is from Bonham’s:

Never to be repeated, early railway locomotives and cars from the Museum of Science and Industry – highly significant to America’s history and heritage – are to be sold in Philadelphia

Bonhams is honored to present five significant pieces of transportation history from the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago. These wonderful artifacts have been housed at the museum on full-time display for over 80 years and will now be sold at Bonhams’ “Preserving the Automobile” auction at the Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum in Philadelphia on October 5th.

…Other artifacts from the museum include the exact replica 1859 horse car “Archer Avenue No. 10” that was donated to the museum by the Chicago City Railway Company in 1930. These beautiful, craftsman-built, horse-drawn rail cars were operated in congested urban areas, such as Chicago, Philadelphia and New York, where steam locomotive transportation was impractical. They were the antecedent of the electric streetcar that later dominated urban public transport.

Lot 201
From the collection of the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago

Built for the 1933-34 Century of Progress Fair in Chicago
c.1929 Chicago City Railway Built ‘1870 Archer Avenue No. 10’ Horsecar
US$ 25,000 – 35,000
£16,000 – 22,000
To be sold without reserve

Auction 22793:
Preserving the Automobile
An Auction at the Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum

5 Oct 2015 14:00 EDT

Philadelphia, Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum

Built for the 1933-34 Century of Progress Fair in Chicago
c.1929 Chicago City Railway Built ‘1870 Archer Avenue No. 10’ Horsecar

The horse drawn streetcar, typically contracted as ‘horsecar,’ was a significant early step in the evolution of urban transport. In this context, the term ‘car’ refers specifically to a railway vehicle and does not imply an internal combustion engine automobile (now commonly known as a ‘car’).

As cities in America grew during the first half of the 19th century, the working population began to live ever further from their places of employment, shopping and entertainment. Greater distances and larger numbers of people on the move increased the need for pay as you go urban transport, and so private companies emerged to supply transport using omnibuses on fixed routes and schedules. An omnibus was a compact horse-drawn coach. Chicago’s first commercial omnibus service was operated by Frank Parmelee beginning in 1853. (Parmelee’s business evolved and in later years his name was associated with Parmelee Transfer service that provided over-the-road connections between all of the City’s six primary railroad passenger terminals. By World War I, Parmelee had begun to use motor vehicles).

The horsecar was an important advancement to the omnibus. This innovation allowed a single horse to draw a heavier vehicle while providing a smoother and more comfortable ride. Among the drawbacks of the horsecar operation were that the mode was severely limited where cars encountered ascending grades, while busy lines required many more horses than cars because it was only possible to work horses for a few hours a day. In some instances mules were preferred over horses because of their greater stamina. By one estimate, Chicago street railways employed 8,400 horses in 1893.

The horsecar led to development of the steam-dummy (a small streetcar powered by an on-board steam engine) and later to the cable car, which was drawn by an underground cable. British-born Andrew Smith Hallidie was the San Francisco cable manufacturer credited with melding key cable innovations and establishing the city’s Clay Street Hill Railroad in 1873, the world’s first urban cable hauled street railway. This set important precedents that resulted in an urban transit revolution emulated across San Francisco and in approximately 30 cities across the United States and around the world.

More significant was the development of the electrically powered streetcar, commonly known in America as trolley car or trolley, which describes the wheel at the end of the pole, used to run along the overhead wire to draw electricity for propulsion. While ‘trolley’ is occasionally used as a synonym for a streetcar in the United States, the term should only be correctly applied to electric cars with trolley poles.

Various inventors had dabbled with electric streetcars in the mid-1880s, but it was in 1887-1888 that electrical genius Frank Julian Sprague successfully demonstrated a practical electric street railway in Richmond, Virginia. Electric operation was cheaper and simpler than cable hauled lines, and allowed streetcar lines to practically cover much greater distances than possible with horses. Within a year of Sprague’s demonstration, hundreds of new electric streetcar schemes were being considered and by 1900 most American cities and many small towns were connected by electric railways. Since horsecar street railways they already had an established route structure and track infrastructure, often they upgraded existing lines with electrification.
Often, companies that began as horsecar lines upgraded their operations.

The overwhelming cost and operating advantages of electric operation rapidly displayed horsecars on city streets. By 1900, the horsecar had vanished from most cities. In Chicago, some horsecar and cable car routes survived until 1906 owing to a regulation or law that prohibited the erection of overhead wires in downtown areas. Once this obstacle was overcome the electric streetcar prevailed. Nationally, horsecars disappeared very quickly from the scene and despite their early prevalence very few were preserved for posterity.


Chicago Horse Car No. 10 is a replica constructed by the Chicago City Railway at its South Shops for the Chicago Museum of Science & Industry during 1929 and 1930 and is believed to be the second object donated to the museum. Although a replica, the car is an accurate rendition of a period street railway vehicle. At the time of construction, it had been less than 25 years since similar horse cars had worked Chicago streets and thus the cars were still in the living memory of men working for the company.

The replica was intended to represent one of Chicago’s first horse cars built in 1859. This is a comparatively small car, measuring about 9 feet 9 inches tall, 7 feet ½ inches wide,16 feet and 1 ½ inches long. It weighs 4,560 lbs. The car was designed for one-man operation with a single horse drawing it. Average speed would have been between 3-5 mph. It had space for 18 seated passengers.

Passengers are believed to have entered via a door at the back of the car and paid their fare by dropping a coin into a slot that delivered it by gravity to the driver. This clever system was intended to avoid unnecessarily distracting the driver while the car was in motion. The car uses a ‘Bob-tail’ design, so-called because it only has a platform at the drivers’ end. The driver rode on the small exterior platform at the front of the car that was covered by a roof extension. Other than horse reins, his only other control was a hand brake consisting of a metal arm used to slow and stop the car and prevent it from colliding with the horse, or rolling backward when on an upgrade. Other equipment includes a stovepipe exhaust stack from the passenger compartment, although there doesn’t appear to have been a stove installed in this replica.

In its early years the replica was displayed as Archer Avenue No. 10 of the Chicago City Railway Company. It was one of three replica streetcars used as part of a larger exhibit to demonstrate the evolution of urban transport in Chicago. The other two cars were replicas of the cable-hauled grip car and its trailer. (Between 1892 and 1906 Chicago had a cable car system, similar to that still in use in San Francisco, that was the most extensive of its kind in the world). Horsecar No. 10 was among the exhibits at the ‘Wings of a Century’ pageant for the Chicago Century of Progress Exposition held during 1933 and 1934.

As an authentic replica, Chicago Horsecar No. 10 can provide a key element to any urban transport exhibit since it bridges the gap between the horse-drawn omnibus and the electric streetcar. This piece is significant to both Chicago history and to the greater story of urban transportation in North America. It also demonstrates the comparatively primitive expectations of the traveling public at the time of the American Civil War. Comfort levels and travel speeds were much lower than today. Imagine riding to work every morning and home every evening squashed into a vehicle like this one?






















Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry in the 1950s. (Charles W. Cushman Collection, University Archives, at Indiana University, Bloomington.)

Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry in the 1950s. (Charles W. Cushman Collection, University Archives, at Indiana University, Bloomington.)

Cable trailer 209, now in the collection of the Illinois Railway Museum, was most likely built by Chicago Surface Lines in 1934, although it may contain some original parts. The caption on the back of this photos says the car is “old” and probably built around 1892, but this appears to be incorrect. This photo was taken on October 23, 1938, date of a Surface Lines fantrip that included a shops tour. (Alfred Seibel Photo)


As indicated in the special notice above, this lot will require special arrangements for viewing and collection. Please contact Samantha Hamill in the NY Motorcars department (+1 212 461 6514, to arrange a viewing and for further information. Please note that this lot may not come with its original base.


FYI, the horsecar replica sold for $38k:

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