CSL Sedan 6317 at 10559 South Ewing. That bus at right is on the 103rd Street route. That’s the old Eastside Theater behind the streetcar. According to Cinema Treasures, “The Eastside Theater opened in 1922, at Ewing Avenue between 105th Street and 106th Street, in the East Side neighborhood of Chicago, not far from the Illinois-Indiana border. The Eastside Theater closed in 1951. Today, a bank is located on the site of the Eastside Theater, in a building dating from the late-1970’s.” (Joe L. Diaz Photo)
The same location today.
Here is another generous helping of classic Chicago streetcar photos from the latter part of the CSL era as well as the early days of its successor, the Chicago Transit Authority.
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:
FYI, there will be additional posts in this series coming up in the near future, so watch this space. To see previous posts, use the search window on this page.
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New From Trolley Dodger Press:
American Streetcar R.P.O.s: 1893-1929
Mainline Railway Post Offices were in use in the United States from 1862 to 1978 (with the final year being operated by boat instead of on rails), but for a much briefer era, cable cars and streetcars were also used for mail handling in the following 15 cities*:
New Bedford, Massachusetts
New York City
Rochester, New York
*As noted by some of our readers, this list does not include interurban RPOs.
Our latest E-book American Streetcar R.P.O.s collects 12 books on this subject (over 1000 pages in all) onto a DVD data disc that can be read on any computer using Adobe Acrobat Reader, which is free software. All have been out of print for decades and are hard to find. In addition, there is an introductory essay by David Sadowski.
The rolling stock, routes, operations, and cancellation markings of the various American street railway post office systems are covered in detail. The era of the streetcar R.P.O. was relatively brief, covering 1893 to 1929, but it represented an improvement in mail handling over what came before, and it moved a lot of mail. In many places, it was possible to deposit a letter into a mail slot on a streetcar or cable car and have it delivered across town within a short number of hours.
These operations present a very interesting history, but are not well-known to railfans. We feel they deserve greater scrutiny, and therefore we are donating $1 from each sale of this item to the Mobile Post Office Society, in support of their efforts.
# of Discs – 1
CSL 702, shown here in 1951, was built by the Pressed Steel Car Company in 1909. The photo caption describes this as being the last car left in the 701-750 series. (C. Edward Hedstrom Photo) Andre Kristopans: “750 is at South Shops, on what would be 78th St just east of Vincennes.”
Westbound car 3109 crosses the 18th Street bridge. This CSL Safety Car, also known as a Sewing Machine(?), was built by CSL in 1922. It was scrapped in 1948. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)
Blue Island car 3111 on the 18th Street line, at about 1738 West. (Joe L. Diaz Collection) Andre Kristopans: “3111 is on 18th Street WB, just west of Halsted where 18th had a major jog to the south. Leavitt/Blue Island was the west end of the 18th line.”
CSL Sedan 6281 at South Shops,probably when new (1929). (Chicago Surface Lines Photo)
CSL 6237 at 51st and State. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)
51st and State today. The school in the background is now called the Crispus Attucks Community Academy.
CSL 1533, signed for 16th and Kenton, on September 27, 1947, just a few days before the CTA takeover.
CSL 6139 on the 35th Street route on April 27, 1951. This was one of the “Odd 17” cars (actually 19) in the two series 3090-3091 and 6138-6154. According to Don’s Rail Photos, “6139 was built by American Car Co in February 1918, (job) #1079.”
CSL 5068 on the Wallace-Racine route, circa 1948-49, near the Santa Fe Hotel. This was a Brill-American-Kuhlman car. According to Don’s Rail Photos, “5001 thru 5200 were built by Brill in 1905, #14318, for the Chicago City Ry. where they carried the same numbers. They were rebuilt in 1908 to bring them up to the standard of the later cars.” George Foelschow: “I believe car 5068 is on Polk Street just west of State Street downtown, on the Wallace-Racine line. The Santa Fe was a modestly-appointed hotel in the South Loop and the restaurant carries a “10” on its awning. I don’t believe South Side Brills ever saw Webster Street on the North Side.”
CTA 1599 at Van Buren and Damen on September 24, 1949. This car was built by Chicago Railways in 1912. Don’s Rail Photos says, “These cars were improved versions of the Pullmans of a couple years earlier.” We are looking to the east, and the Paulina “L” is visible at rear. During construction of the Congress expressway, half of Van Buren in this area was used for ground-level rapid transit service between 1953 and 1958.
Van Buren and Damen today.
CTA Pullman 199, signed for Baltimore and 93rd.
CSL 6021 at Archer and Pitney Court on September 6, 1947. To paraphrase Don’s Rail Photos, It was “built by Brill Car Co in July 1914, (job) #19450. It was rebuilt as one-man in 1945 and restored as two-man in 1946.”
CTA 6070 on the California shuttle on December 31, 1948. Andre Kristopans: “6070 is at California and Belmont SB. The building to the left still stands, the old “Immel State Bank”, now a banquet hall.”
California and Belmont today. We are looking north.
CTA 5565 on September 10, 1949. This was known as a Brill-American-Kuhlman car. M. E. writes, “Methinks this photo is at Root St. (4130 South) and Halsted. Under that assumption, the view faces north, the L is the Stock Yards L, and the streetcar is on the 44 Wallace-Racine line, heading from westbound on Root to southbound on Halsted.”
CTA 3105 at Leavitt and Cermak on April 9, 1948. This is another Safety Car, aka a “Sewing Machine.”
Leavitt and Cermak today.
CSL 1382. To paraphrase Don’s Rail Photos, “1382 was built by St Louis Car Co in 1906 as CUT 4911. It became CSL 1382 in 1914.”
CSL 6162 on the Broadway-State line. Don’s Rail Photos says, “6162 was built by Brill Car Co in December 1922, #21686. It was rebuilt as one-man in 1949.” This was part of a group known as “169” or Broadway-State cars.
1537 and 1559 on the Taylor Street shuttle, after the mid-section of this line had been abandoned. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)
CSL 2514 crossing the Rock Island at Givins station. According to http://www.chicagorailfan.com, the “earlier station was located on the north side of 111th St. west of Laflin Ave., on the east side of the tracks. A later station was constructed south of 111th St. on the west side of Marshfield Ave., on the east side of the tracks, discontinued in 1984. Construction of Interstate Highway 57 may have affected the station location.” This was part of a series called “Robertson” Rebuild Cars, built in 1901 by St. Louis Car Company. (Joe L. Diaz Photo) Andre Kristopans adds, “RI Givins station at the end was a small (maybe 10×20) cinder block structure south of 111th. It hung around for many years after no more trains stopped there until being demolished circa 2000.”
Where the Rock Island crosses 111th today, just west of I-57.
CSL 5649 at Division and Western. This was another Brill-American-Kuhlman car. (Krambles-Peterson Archive)
CSL 3189 at Cottage Grove and 38th. This was known as a “Sun Parlor” car and was built by CSL in 1923.
CTA Pressed Steel car 730. It was built in 1909 to the same specs as the Pullmans.
CSL’s Navy tribute car during World War II. (Seth Bramson Collection)
CSL’s War Bond car during World War II. This picture was probably taken around 1942 on State Street while the streetcar tracks were being redone as part of the subway construction project.
CSL 922, probably circa 1915. This was known as a “Little” Pullman and was built in 1910. (Seth Bramson Collection) Andre Kristopans: “922 – very early shot indeed. Note car is still in all green, not red and cream. Also note a date that looks like “3-22-15”? date painted on panel under front door. I imagine this is a paint date. Also note car has no side route signs. It is sitting at West Shops.”
CSL Pullman 677 on the outer end of Milwaukee Avenue on March 4, 1946. (John F. Bromley Collection) Andre Kristopans: “677 – Most likely on Milwaukee north of Central where many cars turned back. Originally turnback point was Gale St, right where Jefferson Park terminal now is, but later was moved to Central.”
CSL Pullman 696 at the Museum Loop in Grant Park in April 1940. (John F. Bromley Collection)
CSL Pullman 431 on Cicero Avenue, February 22, 1940. (John F. Bromley Collection)