CTA Pullman 143 changing ends at Grand and Harlem in July 1949. It appears that the motorman is just about ready to head east and switch over to the other track. Before the advent of shopping centers, this was one of the busiest shopping districts in the entire city. Note the 1949 Ford just to the right of the streetcar, with some sort of advertising sign on top. My Dad had a ’49 Ford, but I doubt he ever put any advertising on it. (C. Edward Hedstrom Photo)
Everyone wants to go home for the holidays, even if just in spirit. So, for this, our latest batch of classic views of Chicago streetcars, we have made sure to include some pictures from our old stomping grounds.
I grew up near Grand and Harlem on Chicago’s west side, in the Mont Clare neighborhood, then one of the busier shopping areas outside of the Loop. The Grand Avenue streetcar stopped running in 1951, three years before I was born, so I don’t remember that. Today, however, we have not one but two photos showing the west end of the line. I can assure you that such pictures are rare indeed.
I do fondly recall the Grand trolley bus, which terminated at Grand and Noridca, an off-street loop about two blocks east of Harlem, which the CTA still uses for various bus routes (65 – Grand and 74 – Fullerton). The #90 – Harlem bus used to terminate here, but now goes south all the way to the CTA Green Line in Forest Park. I’ve been told that the CTA would have preferred to put the loop closer to Harlem, but this was the closest point at which the necessary land was available.
I recall walking over to Grand and Harlem along with my mother and siblings to go shopping on many occasions. With the rise of various shopping centers within easy driving distance, the Grand and Harlem area went into a gradual decline in the 1970s and 80s, resulting in many empty storefronts and, eventually, demolished buildings.
The great Montclare theatre opened around 1929, prospered for decades, and eventually sputtered into permanent closure in the mid-80s. It is now but a memory along with many other local landmarks of my youth. We saw films all the time at the Mont Clare, which at one time had an expensive organ. I even worked there for six weeks in 1970 as an usher, and some years later, my sister worked at the candy counter.
We also have a few pictures of the route 16 – Lake streetcar. Again, I am too young to remember this (it quit six months before I was born) but I certainly recall riding the Lake Street “L” many times when it still ran at ground level for the two-and-a-half miles west of Laramie.
Nowadays, the CTA doesn’t even offer bus service on Lake Street, which was at one time an important route. For a time, CTA used special narrow buses to navigate around the “L” support columns on Lake. Streetcars, of course, could operate on much closer clearances, since they were on rails.
Fortunately, we still have our memories and these great pictures, which date to the “red car” era in Chicago.
As always, if you can help identify locations, or have interesting facts or reminiscences to add, don’t hesitate to drop us a line. You can leave comments on this post, or write us directly at:
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New Addition to Our Collection of Traction Audio CDs – Toronto Streetcars
It’s always a good day when we can expand our offerings of traction audio CDs. We have several additional steam titles that are coming down the pike, but there just happen to have been a lot fewer audio recordings made of streetcars and interurbans in the classic era.
We thank collector Kenneth Gear for sharing a 1962 recording of Toronto streetcars (described below) with us. This features Peter Witts and PCCs.
It has been our intent to pair up traction LPs on CDs, to give our customers the best value for their money. The only traction CD in our collection that still was not paired up with another recording is Interurban Memories, which has audio from both Pacific Electric and the North Shore Line recorded circa 1959-60, the waning days of both these great interurbans.
Combining these two LPs onto a single CD results in a running time of more than 73 minutes, at no additional cost to you. All our traction CDs are new 2015 digital remasters, using the modern technology, from the best available sources. In some cases, we have compared multiple versions of the same recording in order to pick the best one to use.
We are glad to make these long out-of-print public domain recordings available once again at very reasonable prices. Many of these “orphan works” of long-gone enterprises like the Railroad Record Club have been rescued from the dustbin of history and are now sounding better than ever. Eventually, we hope to have all the Railroad Record Club recordings available once again.
IM & TS
The Sounds of Toronto Streetcars
# of Discs – 1
Interurban Memories features Hi-Fi audio of the Pacific Electric and the North Shore Line in their twilight years 1959-1960. The Sounds of Toronto Streetcars was recorded in 1962.
You will hear sounds at trackside and on board trains. The North Shore Line portion, from 1960, includes a run from Skokie (Dempster Street) to Edison Court. The Pacific Electric recordings were made on the line between L. A. and Long Beach, including the Watts Local that quit in late 1959. You will hear both the Blimps and the Hollywood Cars.
The Toronto streetcar audio recordings include both a Peter Witt car and a PCC. While streetcars still do run in Toronto, both these types of cars have long since been replaced with more modern equipment.
Both these recordings were originally issued on LP by record companies that have long been out of business.
Total time – 73:42
CTA 927 at Grand and Harlem, then the west end of route 65 – Grand. Note the S. S. Kresge dime store at right. There were once three different dime stores in this shopping area (Kresge’s, Neisner’s, and Woolworth’s). There were still two of these when I was growing up. All are long gone now. The buildings at right, which were probably built circa 1910-1915, have since been torn down and there is a Chase Bank facility there now. Behind the streetcar, you can just catch a glimpse of Ablin Drugs, a local landmark for many decades. There is an Alden’s department store visible. They were considerably downmarket from stores like Marshall Field’s. This picture was probably taken in July 1949. Alden’s and Ablin’s were in suburban Elmwood Park. There is a Caputo’s Fresh Market on that corner now. (C. Edward Hedstrom Photo)
The corner of Grand and Harlem, looking to the southwest into Elmwood Park. A West Towns bus is turning west on Grand; a double-ended CTA route 65 streetcar is parked in the street, and will soon head back east; and a CTA route 90 – Harlem bus is parked at the corner and will then make a right turn and head north. Note that the trolley seems to have parked far enough off from Harlem to permit cars to make left turns. In 1951, the streetcar was replaced with a trolley bus that terminated a couple blocks east of here at Grand and Nordica, which then became the transfer point for the CTA Harlem bus. In the 1980s, the West Towns was purchased by Pace and this bus route became today’s route 307. Nowadays the CTA #90 bus continues south of here to the Green Line in Oak Park. (Illinois Digital Archives Photo)
National was a popular grocery chain in postwar Chicago. This is how their new location at 1705 N. Harlem Avenue (a few blocks south of Grand ) looked on July 18, 1949, three days before opening. The building eventually became an Osco Drug and was torn down several years ago when Osco moved to a new building on the next block north. (Bob Kotalik Photo)
This is what the the area near Grand and Nordica looked like before things got very built up. Service was extended west to Harlem in 1911. The date given for this picture is 1916, but by then at least some of the retail buildings at Grand and Harlem had already been built. We are looking to the west. In the late 1800s, this area had been farmland. Local pioneer Harriet Sayre’s house was located not far from here at the corner of Grand and Sayre. I recall seeing it demolished in 1960 to make way for a bank. A few blocks to the south, Sayre elementary school opened in 1929. My father went to school there, and I also went there through the fifth grade. (Illinois Digital Archives Photo)
The Grand Avenue streetcar at the end of the line in 1921. 72nd Avenue was later renamed Harlem. (Illinois Digital Archives Photo)
A 1960 CTA photo of the Grand and Nordica off-street bus loop. Route 65 – Grand trolley buses began operating from here in 1951, as did route 90 – Harlem buses. 74B West Fullerton buses began using the loop on December 12, 1955.
This image from http://www.trolleybuses.net, credited to the Scalzo collection, shows a Grand trolleybus, Marmon 9437, at Grand and Nordica on October 12, 1968. There was a grocery next to the loop, which later became a thrift store.
Marmon 9437 westbound on Grand at Newland on September 7, 1969, again from http://www.trolleybuses.net and the Scalzo collection. From 1954 to 1964, my family lived just south of here on Medill. The Rambler dealer later became AMC, then Jeep, Chrysler-Jeep and is now demolished. We are a short distance from the Grand-Nordica loop.
The CTA bus loop at Grand and Noridca as it appears today. The two halves of the loop are bisected by retail, which once included the Terminal Grill, which had pictures of Grand Avenue streetcars hanging on the wall. From 1951 to 1973, CTA route 65 trolley buses turned back here.
CSL 1616 heads west towards Lake and Austin, while running parallel to a ramp just west of Laramie that will bring the Lake Street “L” down to ground level. Both lines will then run side-by-side for a few blocks. At rear, an eastbound “L” train is changing over from overhead wire to third rail. By 1961, the changeover point had been moved further west as part of the process that eventually relocated this portion of “L” to the nearby Chicago & North Western embankment. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)
A contemporary view looking east on Lake Stret just west of Laramie. Until October 1962, the “L” descended onto the left portion of Lake Street and ran at ground level to Forest Park.
CSL 1627, heading west on route 16 – Lake, prepares to cross the ground-level tracks of the Lake Street “L” at Pine Avenue, one block east of Central. It will then proceed just over half a mile before turning back at Austin Boulevard. This is also where Lake Street itself takes the same jog. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)
Lake and Pine today, the same general view as the previous photo.
CTA 6172 passes under the Chicago & North Western overpass near the west end of route 16 – Lake in June 1952. We are facing south, and the streetcar would also have just crossed the Lake Street “L” tracks on the other side of the viaduct. The ground-level portion of Lake was elevated onto the embankment in 1962. Route 16 ended a short distance west of here at Austin Boulevard, the city limits.
Pine Avenue at Lake Street, looking south. This is the same view as in the previous photo showing where the Lake streetcar went under the C&NW embankment until the end of May, 1954.
CSL 3144 is eastbound on route 16 – Lake, just west of where the line passed under the C&NW.
The view today looking west on Lake Street at Pine Avenue, where Lake and its streetcar crossed under the C&NW embankment. This is approximately the same view as the previous photo.
In 1946, my grandparents on my mother’s side bought a wooden frame house at 6226 South Honore Street in Chicago. Previously, they had lived in Lakeview on Newport starting in 1937. This is what their block on Honore looked like in 1946. The jalopy at left, which looks like a Model A Ford, was their car and must have been the oldest one on the block. The house remained in the family until the early 1970s when my uncle sold it. It has since been demolished, as have most of the other homes on this block. They lived just north of 63rd Street, which had a busy streetcar line, and less than a mile away from Loomis, west end of the Englewood branch of the south side “L”. In 1969 the “L” was extended west a few blocks to Ashland, a more logical place to transfer to buses.
CTA Pullman 133, eastbound on 63rd Place private right-of-way between Narrangansett and Central on the 63rd Street line.
PCC 7023 heads west on the mile-long private right-of-way at the west end of the 63rd Street line. This is a built-up residential neighborhood today.
CTA prewar PCC 7012 at the west end of the 63rd Street line (63rd Place and Narragansett). Not sure which direction we are facing.
A view of the CTA bus loop at 6400 West 63rd Place as it appears today. The wooden frame building at right looks very much like one in the previous prictrue. According to Andre Kristopans, the loop was reduced in size to make room for the new Chicago Public Library branch at rear.
CTA 3167 and 479 at Cermak and Kenton on May 16, 1954, by the massive Western Electric plant. 479 was there on a “farewell to red cars” fantrip sponsored by Central Electric Railfans’ Association, which was organized by Bernard Rossbach.
CTA regular service car 3167, painted green, is at Cermak and Kenton, west end of route 21. Red cars 479 and 473, at the rear, are on the famous CERA “farewell to red cars fantrip.” The date is May 16, 1954, two weeks before the end of red car service in Chicago.
CTA 1728 and 3127 at Cermak and Kenton in May 1952. This was the western end of route 21 – Cermak.
CTA 1724 is westbound at Ogden and Cicero on June 24, 1951.
CTA Pullman 144 in fantrip service, April 1956. Regular use of these cars had ended nearly two years before. This car is now preserved in operating condition at the Illinois Railway Museum. George Trapp adds, “144 is actually westbound on Devon at Ravenswood, (the) photographer must have been on the
Chicago & NorthWestern’s viaduct. Track curving off to the left was used by Route 36 Broadway cars, by this date the State end had been bustituted. Out of sight was a track curving from eastbound Devon to northbound
Ravenswood used by Western pull ins to Devon Depot. Eastbound track on Devon between Ravenswood and Clark not used for regular service after Dec. 1947.”
CTA 3207 is signed for the 93rd-95th route on June 27, 1948. This was early in the CTA era, and this car does not appear to have either a CTA or CSL logo on its side. M. E. writes, “CTA 3207 is signed for the 93rd-95th route on June 27, 1948.” The railroad on the right is the east-west line (I believe the Rock Island) that ran at about 94th Place. If this picture had been taken about a block behind the current camera location, it would show the north-south railroad that crosses the east-west railroad. So this view faces east and is situated at about 94th Place and a block west of Stony Island Ave. The streetcar is heading west. The 93rd-95th line wiggled a bit in this area. It went west on 93rd St. to Stony Island Ave., south on Stony Island to about 94th St., west a half-block or so, south another half-block (the streetcar trackage at the left of the picture), then west alongside the east-west railroad. It is this last-mentioned turn that is photographed.”
Andre Kristopans: “Regarding the PROW west of Stony Island – there are THREE railroads to the right – nearest is the Belt Ry of Chicago, furthest is the Rock Island, both heading for South Chicago, and coming into the middle from the right is the Chicago & Western Indiana from State Line. The CWI crossed the RI and the Nickel Plate (New York Chicago & St Louis) which headed north towards the NYC at 75th St at what was called Pullman Junction. Also, the reason for the PROW was because before Calumet Yard was built by the Nickel Plate about 1950, their yard was between 83rd and 93rd, and thus 93rd St was never put thru.”
CTA 5309 is running a charter on the 59th-61st Street line, July 4, 1949 (date of an ERA fantrip). (Charles K. Willhoft Photo) M. E. writes, “Based on the L in the background, this picture shows either the Englewood L station at State St. south of 59th St. or the Jackson Park L station at 61st St. and Prairie Ave. If the former, this view faces north on State St. from about 61st St. If the latter, this view faces west on 61st St. from about 600 east.” Another reader says, “I do not believe that this is 61st and State because the street is too narrow to be State Street. Take a look at (Bill) Hoffman’s photos of State & 62nd Place on route 36 (in CERA Bulletin 146) and you can see how wide State Street was and is today. “
CTA 5257 at 79th and Western on July 31, 1948. (C. Edward Hedstrom Photo)
CTA 3262, signed for route 28, is at the Vincennes Avenue shops on July 4, 1949. (Charles K. Willhoft Photo) This picture may have been taken during an ERA fantrip. One of our readers opines, “Burnside Station at 93rd & Drexel (possibly).”
CTA 3232 is on route 67 at 71st and California, the west end of the line.
CTA Pullman 187 is southbound on route 9 – Ashland in a winter wonderland. M. E. writes, “The only at-grade railroad crossing I know of on Ashland Ave. is the one at 89th St., trackage used by Rock Island Beverly branch commuter trains (Metra trackage today) and the daily B&O Capitol Limited. Because the streetcar’s destination sign reads Ashland and 69th, this car is probably heading north on Ashland.”
CTA 523 on a Madison Street shoo-fly, during construction of lower Wacker Drive in the early 1950s. (C. Edward Hedstrom Photo)
CTA Pullman 426 on route 52 – Kedzie-California on July 23, 1953, at California-Roscoe.
CTA 255 on Route 52 – Kedzie-California, with its two-man crew on July 23, 1953, at California-Roscoe.
CTA Pullman 509, an Ashland car at Southport-Clark.
CSL 1731 at Armitage Station (car house) in War Bond livery, July 1942.
CTA 6297 stops to let off passengers just south of the Loop. The sign advertising the Stevens Hotel should provide a clue as to the location. This is now the Hilton Chicago, located at 720 S. Michigan, but of course no streetcars ran on Michigan downtown. (The second trolley pole you see at rear is on another streetcar that is hidden from view by this one.) M. E. writes, “These cars, called Sedans, ran on Cottage Grove Ave., sometimes in conjunction with the pre-war PCC cars. The Cottage Grove route downtown used Wabash Ave. Now let’s talk about the big buildings. The two big buildings at the left are the back side of the Stevens Hotel, which fronted on Michigan Ave. The sign advertising the Stevens Hotel is on a separate building along Wabash. Another factor is the intersecting street, which must be Balbo (700 South). Balbo ran along the north side of the Stevens Hotel. Ergo, this picture is at Wabash and Balbo, facing southeast, and the streetcar is southbound.”
CSL 6177 southbound at State and Wacker on July 26, 1939. George Trapp: “Photo of car 6177 on State just south of Wacker, car is empty and is probably laying over as it’s on the northbound track. After closure of old State Street bridge it was a good place for short turn State Downtown cars to lay over. Side sign says State-Michigan.”
CSL 1910 at the eastern end of the Chicago Avenue line in April, 1941.
CTA 5457 at 79th and Western on May 29, 1949. Note the PCC in the nearby loop at rear. M. E. writes, “The PCC loop was at the south end of the Western Ave. streetcar line. The loop itself was on the east side of Western at about 78th Place. Car 5457 is at the end of the westbound track on 79th St. east of Western. The trolley has been reversed and the car is ready to head back east on 79th St. To the left of car 5457 is the intersection of 79th and Western.”
CSL 2802 on a charter, possibly a July 4, 1949 fantrip held by the Electric Railroaders’ Association on various south side lines. Bill Shapotkin writes: “Believe this pic is in the streetcar terminal next to the 63/Halsted ‘L’ station (where the C&IT cars and later busses of South Suburban Safeway and Suburban transit began their runs). View looks east.” M. E. adds, “Bill Shapotkin is correct. This view faces east along 63rd Place on the south side of the 63rd and Halsted (Englewood) L station, which was east of Halsted. One small nit about Bill’s text: The bus lines were named Suburban Transit System and South Suburban Safeway Lines.”
C&IT stands for the Chicago & Interurban Traction Company. Don’s Rail Photos says, “The Chicago & Interurban Traction Company was incorporated in February 1912, taking over all trackage outside Chicago in March 1912 (all trackage in the City of Chicago went to the Chicago City Railway Company). C&IT interurban service continued from the south side Engelwood Elevated Station at 63rd and Halsted (trackage in Chicago was leased along with the shops at 88th and Vincennes) to Kankakee.” Samuel Insull took over the C&IT in 1922 and tried to revive the line, but when the competing Illinois Central elevated much of their line and electrified, the C&IT could not compete and interurban service was abandoned in 1927.
The “L” station at 63rd and Halsted as it looks today.