Trolley Dodger Mailbag, 3-20-2016

The building in question at about 6242 S. Wabash Ave. in Chicago.

The building in question at about 6242 S. Wabash Ave. in Chicago.

Old Chicago City Railway Building

Marcin Sienkiel writes:

I’m from Poland and I interested a streetcar in Chicago. I have question about old bulding on S Wabash Str., near E 63rd Str. Is it old horse streetcar barn? On portal is wrote C.C.Ry.C – Does it mean: Chicago City Railway Company?
https://www.google.pl/maps/@41.7807066,-87.6236948,3a,26.4y,268.49h,89.68t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sykVd2dGms0KaYSbC-MfF8Q!2e0!7i13312!8i6656?hl=pl

And I have question to Mr. Sadowski:
Are you speak Polish (your name is very Polish;)? Because my English is very bad and easier when I will be writing in Polish.

Thank you and have nice day.

My grandparents on my father’s side came to America from Poland in the early 1900s. Their children were forbidden from speaking Polish at home. My dad only knew a few words. My aunt could understand it, but couldn’t speak it.

While I don’t know any Polish, I do see that this building, whatever it was, is not listed as a car barn on this useful web site:

http://www.chicagorailfan.com/rosctaxi.html

Fortunately, members of the Chicagotransit Yahoo discussion group came up with a lot of useful information:

George Foelschow:

Interesting question. Marcin must have very sharp eyes to note the portal inscription. It would seem the streetcar loop on the east side of State Street north of 63rd (site of the 1950 PCC disaster) would be behind this facility. 63rd Street was not a cable car line, so it may well date from the horse car era .The door dimensions may well be a clue, since horse cars were generally smaller than electric cars. Fire insurance maps, not at my finger tips, would be useful. (Chicago’s horse car system represents a book that hasn’t been written yet.)

Perhaps a few clues can be found in the dates when transit service began in the vicinity of this building, which is located just north of 63rd Street on Wabash, which is near State.

63rd Street did not have horse car service in this area. But according to http://www.chicagorailfan.com:

1898 – electric streetcar service introduced State St. to Halsted
1899 – electric streetcar service introduced State St. to Cottage Grove

As for State Street, horse car service was extended south to 63rd in 1882, and then converted to cable car operation in 1887. North of 63rd, cable cars remained in service until July 22, 1906.

Electric streetcar service was introduced between 63rd St. and 71st St. in 1898. As of July 1, 1901, this service was extended south to 81st Street, replacing a battery operated streetcar.

According to Cable Railways of Chicago by George W. Hilton (ERHS bulletin 10, page 5)* cable car service south of 39th was run from a powerhouse at 52nd and State. The Chicago City Railway’s main car house for the cable operation on State was located at 39th Street. There was another car barn at 61st and State.

So, it’s possible the building in question was used by CCR’s horse car operation between 1882 and 1887.

However, it’s possible that it may also have been used for trolleys starting in 1898. Some of the first Chicago streetcars were actually cable trailers that were electrified.

This is at least possible because the building would be strategically located to serve both 63rd and State. However, once cable service ended in 1906, it might have been necessary to use other car barns (“stations”) instead.

Interesting that this building is still standing after all these years.

*Available in The Complete ERHS Collection, an E-book published by Central Electric Railfans’ Association. Trolley Dodger Press is not affiliated with Central Electric Railfans’ Association.

Dennis McClendon:

The 1926 fire insurance map shows the building as Chicago Surface Lines Wrecking Wagon House.

The 1895 fire insurance map shows the property on Wabash without a building, but has a small structure at 6235 State, labeled as Conductor’s Room. This was the end of track for the State Street cable car line.

Chicago’s Street Railways in 1890

An adjacent building and all other buildings on State are labeled S, for Store. The few facing Wabash are marked D, for Dwelling.

My 1906 CSL track map shows a building there, identified only as Company Property.

Screenshot 2016-03-19 13.38.30

Another reader adds:

Several years ago Dave Diamond of IRM showed me some photos that he had taken of the building located near Wabash and 63rd that had a CCRys entablature on it. He said that his research found that the building had been used for horsecar supplies and later was used by CSL as a storage facility. I do not know whether it still exists. I doubt that it is owned by the CTA at this time.

So, there you have it. There are two possibilities here. On the one hand, if the building actually dates back to horse car days, it would have been built around 1882 and used for this purpose until 1887. That would not explain why there is no building shown on an 1895 map.

Another theory would be that the building was built around 1898 and was used in some fashion when streetcar service was instituted on both State and 63rd in this area. If it was in fact used as a car barn, this was short-lived since the rapid expansion of electric streetcar service would have rendered this inadequate by 1906. Some of the first streetcars used here were actually retrofitted cable trailers.

In 1914, the Chicago City Railway Company became a part of Chicago Surface Lines, which was like an umbrella agency. CSL continued to use the building for various purposes. Chances are, it was then owned by the successor Chicago Transit Authority starting in 1947. With the rapid consolidation of CTA facilities, it would not surprise me if the building was sold during the 1950s.

This was also the general vicinity of the horrific May 25, 1950 crash between a PCC streetcar and a gasoline truck, the subject of an earlier post.

-David Sadowski

PS- We have added videos to three previous posts:

Traction in Milwaukee

More Chicago PCC Photos – Part Seven

Alphabet Soup

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A close-up of the area from a 1941 CSL track map, which can be found in our E-book Chicago's PCC Streetcars: The Rest of the Story, available from our Online Store. It looks like there were tracks leading to this building.

A close-up of the area from a 1941 CSL track map, which can be found in our E-book Chicago’s PCC Streetcars: The Rest of the Story, available from our Online Store. It looks like there were tracks leading to this building.

From a previous post, here is a picture showing one of those retrofitted cable trailers in streetcar service:

Chicago City Railway car 2169 on the 75th Street route. According to Central Electric Railfans' Association bulletin 27 (July 1941), this car was part of an order of 69 closed cable trailer cars (with double door in bulkheads) built by Wells-French in 1896. These cars were electrified in 1908, and most were renumbered. My guess is we are at 75th and South Chicago. This picture would have been taken between 1908 and 1914, when CCR became part of the Chicago Surface Lines. If I am reading B-27 correctly, this car would originally have been numbered 2129. It was scrapped after CSL was formed. Bob Lalich adds, "I agree, Chicago City Railway car 2169 is at 75th and South Chicago Ave. It appears that the Grand Crossing grade separation project was underway, judging by the construction shacks."

Chicago City Railway car 2169 on the 75th Street route. According to Central Electric Railfans’ Association bulletin 27 (July 1941), this car was part of an order of 69 closed cable trailer cars (with double door in bulkheads) built by Wells-French in 1896. These cars were electrified in 1908, and most were renumbered. My guess is we are at 75th and South Chicago. This picture would have been taken between 1908 and 1914, when CCR became part of the Chicago Surface Lines. If I am reading B-27 correctly, this car would originally have been numbered 2129. It was scrapped after CSL was formed. Bob Lalich adds, “I agree, Chicago City Railway car 2169 is at 75th and South Chicago Ave. It appears that the Grand Crossing grade separation project was underway, judging by the construction shacks.”


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New From Trolley Dodger Records

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Red Arrow Lines 1967: Straffords and Bullets
# of Discs – 1
Price: $14.95

This disc features rare, long out-of-print audio recordings of two 1967 round trips on the Philadelphia & Western (aka “Red Arrow Lines”) interurban between Philadelphia and Norristown, the famous third rail High-Speed Line. One trip is by a Strafford car and the other by one of the beloved streamlined Bullets. The line, about 13 miles long and still in operation today under SEPTA, bears many similarities to another former interurban line, the Chicago Transit Authority‘s Yellow Line (aka the “Skokie Swift”). As a bonus feature, we have included audio of an entire ride along that five mile route, which was once part of the North Shore Line.

Total time – 53:08


P1060550

AFR
Steam Sounds of America’s First Railroad
(Baltimore & Ohio)
# of Discs – 1
Price: $14.95

This set represents the only professionally produced audio recordings of a large assortment of Baltimore and Ohio steam locomotives. Every type of steam power operated by the B&O in the 1950s is included. This release is for the serious railfan and railroad historian who want to accurately hear regular revenue steam motive power operations. No excursion or railfan trips have been included. All recordings are from 1952-1955.

Total time – 66:54


P1060549 P1060551

RRC #21 and SIC
Duluth and Northeastern
Steam in Colorado
# of Discs – 1
Price: $14.95

Railroad Record Club #21:
The Duluth and Northeastern Railroad, as of 1961 when this recording was made, was an all steam short line operating from Cloquet to Saginaw, Minnesota, a distance of approximately 11.5 miles. Its primary industry was the Northwest Paper Company mill at Cloquet where it handled loads to and from the interchange at Saginaw with the Duluth, Missabe and Iron Range. It also connected with the N. P., G. N. and C. M. ST. P & P., at Cloquet. We hear from locomotives No. 27 (2-8-0) and 29 (0-8-0).

Record #SIC:
Steam in Colorado (1958) presents five great railroads, depicting the passing of an era. Roads represented are the Union Pacific, Burlington, Colorado & Southern, Rio Grande and Great Western. Steam in Colorado portrays the daily tasks of the “Iron Horse” in high country and each track has been carefully selected for the listener’s enjoyment. All aboard!

Total time – 61:55


5 thoughts on “Trolley Dodger Mailbag, 3-20-2016

  1. I think, and stress think, that during the 1970’s this building was used as a garage for the Dept. of Streets & Sanitation’s district asphalt patching crews. Ergo, the Arctic Blue paint on the doors. (I was working the far north side at this time.) I will check my notes in my basement next week. I do not know who at Streets & San. is keeping the facilities records and history’s since my retirement.

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  2. By the 1920’s this building was indeed used by a wreck wagon (which were motorized first of all CSL equipment – in the late teens or very early 20’s, as were the line wagons). The diagram shows a track leading TOWARDS this building, but does not appear to show track ENTERING a building. Note too that the doors face WABASH (the next street east) and not State. From the looks of it, I would say 1890’s construction, so we are talking cable-car days. Most likely it was built as a wrecker/line wagon house as it would have been centrally located to the CCRy system at the time.

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