In this classic July 1963 shot, South Shore Line car 25 is parked at the east end of the line in downtown South Bend, across from the Hotel LaSalle. Service was cut back to Bendix at the outskirts of town in 1970, and later extended to the local airport. Don’s Rail Photos adds, “25 was built by Pullman in 1927. It was lengthened and air conditioned, and got picture windows in 1947.”
Chicagoans of a certain age might recall Night Beat, a WGN-TV late night news show that aired after the Late Movie between 1958 and 1983. For much of that time, baritone Carl Greyson was the announcer.*
We begin today’s post with our very own Night Beat of sorts, an exhibit of some fine night photography from the early 1960s. We rightly celebrate 3/4 views of streetcars taken on days with bright sunshine and cloudless skies, but there is also something to be said for those few railfan shutterbugs who experimented and documented what some cities call “Owl Service.”
Back in the days of film and manually set cameras, many photographers operated using the “sunny f/16” rule, or some variation thereof, where your shutter speed corresponds to the film speed, and your lens opening is f/16 on a bright sunny day. So, with ISO 64 film, this gives a setting of 1/60th of a second at f/16, and you can extrapolate from there (i.e., this is equivalent to 1/125th at f/11, 1/250th at f/8, etc.).
But this relationship begins to fail when you are talking about longer exposures. It is an effect called “reciprocity failure.” Now, your general idea of reciprocity might be that if I scratch your back, you’ll scratch mine. But for our purposes, this means that photographic materials may not behave in a predictable manner when used outside of the norm.
So, long exposure times of several seconds may not give predictable results. There are other problems with night shots, including the different colors of mixed light sources (incandescent plus fluorescent), and problems with determining the proper exposure when light sources have such a wide range of brightness.
This means you really can’t follow any special rule for available light photography at night; it’s really a matter of trial and error. The best method is to steady your camera on a tripod and experiment with different exposures, in hopes that perhaps one image out of the lot might turn out really well.
What we have here are some excellent shots, taken by an unknown photographer who was good at this sort of thing and was willing to travel the country. Chances are, for every acceptable photo, there were several that ended up in the circular file.
Here’s to those unnamed Night Owls who prowled around in the 1960s and covered the traction Night Beat.
*You can hear the classic 1970s Night Beat theme here. A fuller version of the theme, which many associate with Chicago night life, can be heard in a 1977 special that featured actor Bill Bixby. Supposedly, the music was composed by Dave Grusin, although nobody seems to know for sure what the piece was called, or where it originated.**
**It’s been identified! The piece is called “Gadabout,” composed by William Loose and Emil Cadkin. It was part of the CPM (Carlin Production Music) Library of music licensed to television broadcasters and producers who needed themes and incidental music. In turn, it may previously have been part of the Capitol Hi-“Q” Library that preceded it. The details, and some alternate versions, are in this Facebook video.
A two-car train of 6000s prepares to head east from the DesPlaines Avenue terminal on the CTA Congress branch in April 1964. This was the station arrangement from 1959 until the early 1980s. As I recall, the entrance at right in front of the train led to a narrow sidewalk where you had to cross the tracks in order to access the platform, hardly an ideal setup. At right there was a parking lot, and a few streaks of light show you where I-290 is located. The tracks today are in pretty much the same exact location, however.
I believe this July 1963 picture shows the South Shore Line station at Roosevelt Road. Frank Hicks writes, “Chicago South Shore & South Bend 504. This interurban freight trailer has a more unusual history than most. It was built for ISC as an interurban combine, and ran on that system’s lines in Indiana for five years until ISC became part of the great Indiana Railroad system. IR rebuilt the three cars of the 375-377 series into railway post office cars and put them to use in this unusual capacity. The three RPO’s survived on IR until the end of interurban service in 1941, at which time all three were sold to the only other interurban line then operating in Indiana: the South Shore. The South Shore converted 376 into a line car while 375 and 377 became express package trailers. These cars were designed to run in passenger trains and had control lines so that they could be run mid-train; they were often used to transport newspapers. Car 504 was retired in 1975 and acquired by IRM, which has repainted it and put it on display.” (Editor’s Note: car 377 became 504.)
This slide showing one of the North Shore Line Electroliners is dated January 1963, and who knows, it may have been taken on that last frigid night. Jerry Wiatrowski writes, “The unidentified picture of the Electroliner was taken at North Chicago Junction. The train is Southbound coming off of the Waukegan bypass to Edison Court and Milwaukee.”
When this April 1964 picture was taken at the 69th Street Terminal in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, the Red Arrow Lines were still privately held, and the Ardmore trolley was still running. Two and a half years later, it would be replaced by bus service. 1941-era Brilliner #1, a Sharon Hill car, is in the station.
It’s August 1963 in Boston, and MTA PCC 3243 stands ready for another trip on the Green Line. Phil Bergen writes, “The night view of the Boston PCC that appears in today’s posting was taken at Riverside terminal. Although picture window PCCs were originally used on this line, other PCCs were added to meet the demand. The side roll sign, once enlarged, indicates this is a Riverside car, and the terminal itself is the only place where there were multiple tracks.” The Riverside line started running on July 4, 1959 and occupies a right-of-way once used by a steam commuter railroad. It is considered a pioneer in what we today call “light rail.”
From 1949 until 1963, the North Shore Line had the CTA’s Roosevelt Road station all to itself, as this July 1962 picture of car 752 shows. Don’s Rail Photos: “752 was built by Standard Steel Car in 1930. It was modernized in 1940.”
The North Shore Line terminal in Milwaukee in January 1963.
A North Shore Line train stops at Edison Court in January 1963.
A Toronto subway train in August 1963.
Toronto Peter Witt 2766 at Vincent Loop in November 1964. (R. McMann Photo)
TTC crane C-2 at work at Queen Street and Eastern Avenue in October 1966. (R. McMann Photo)
A postcard view of C-2 at work in 1967.
Originally, I thought this was early 1960s night shot showed a CTA single-car unit in the 1-50 series, and those cars were used on the Congress-Douglas-Milwaukee line. But as Andre Kristopans has pointed out, the doors on those cars were closer to the ends than this one, which he identifies as being part of the 6511-6720 series. It just looks like there’s one car, since the other “married pair” behind it is not illuminated. This picture was most likely taken at the end of the line at DesPlaines Avenue.
From left to right, we see New Orleans Public Service cars 930, 934, and 900 in the barn. All were built by Perley-Thomas Car Co in 1924, and are signed for the St. Charles line. New Orleans is practically unique in North America, in that it never modernized its fleet with PCCs, yet has maintained uninterrupted service with vintage equipment. (Even the newer cars New Orleans has now are “retro” styled.) The date of this photo is not known.
A South Shore Line train at the old Gary station in August 1970.
South Shore Line car 110 laying over at South Bend, Indiana in July 1963. This was the east end of the line until 1970, when service was cut back to the outskirts of town, and South Bend street running was eliminated. In 1992, service was extended to the South Bend International Airport, 3 miles northwest of downtown South Bend.
This remarkable picture was taken at the North Shore Line’s Milwaukee terminal in January 1963. for all we know, this may be the last night of operation. If so, the temperature was below zero.
A Dayton (Ohio) trolley bus at night in September 1972.
This is another remarkable photograph, showing Monongahela West Penn car 320 at night in June 1946. Such night shots were very difficult to achieve back then, due to the slow film speed of the time (this is Kodachrome 10, as in ASA/ISO 10). About the only way to take such a picture would have been with a very long exposure, with the camera resting on a tripod. (Dr. H. Blackbunn Photo)
Another great night shot, this time it’s Illinois Terminal 473 on the line that ran from St. Louis to Granite City in the 1950s. This was IT’s final passenger line and was abandoned in June 1958, on the same weekend that the last Chicago streetcar ran.
The next three photos have been added to our previous post Love For Selle (June 8, 2016):
Caption: “3 cars on North Shore Line northbound at Kenilworth (714 on rear of train), July 13, 1955. This was shortly before the end of service on the Shore Line Route. (Bob Selle Photo) Don’s Rail Photos: “714 was built by Cincinnati Car Co in 1926, #2890. It is modernized in 1939 and preserved in 1963 by the Illinois Railway Museum.”
This looks like a 1952 Chevrolet 4-door Fleetline fastback to me, which would be a somewhat rare model with only a few thousand produced. The fastback, which had enjoyed a brief vogue starting around 1941, was dropped for the 1953 model year.
It’s May 30, 1958 and Chicago Surface Lines car 1467 (former CTA salt car AA72) is at the Electric Railway Historical Society site on Plainfield Road in Downer’s Grove. Don’s Rail Photos says this “Bowling Alley” car “was built by CUTCo in 1900 as CUT 4516. It was rebuilt as 1467 in 1911 and became CSL 1467 in 1914. It was rebuilt as salt car and renumbered AA72 on April 15, 1948. It was retired on February 28, 1958. It was sold to Electric Railway Historical Society in 1959 and went to Illinois Railway Museum in 1973.” Actually it must have been sold earlier, as the negative envelope has written on it “owned now by ERHS!” (Bob Selle Photo)
North Shore Line cars 411 and 715 at an unidentified location. Don’s Rail Photos says, “411 was built as a trailer observation car by Cincinnati Car in June 1923 #2640. It was out of service in 1932. 411 got the same treatment on February 25, 1943, and sold to Trolley Museum of New York in 1963. It was sold to Wisconsin Electric Railway & Historical Society in 1973 and sold to Escanaba & Lake Superior in 1989.” As for the other car, Don says, “715 was built by Cincinnati Car Co in 1926, #2890. It is modernized in 1939 and purchased by Mid-Continent Railroad Museum in 1963. It was sold to Wisconsin Electric Railway Museum in 1967 and then sold to Fox River Trolley in 1988.”
North Shore Line car 255 is laying over on middle storage track at the Roosevelt Road station on the Chicago “L”. Don’s Rail Photos”: “255 was built by Jewett in 1917. It had all of the seats removed in the 1920s to provide a full length baggage car which ran in passenger trains. It was used for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra to move equipment to Ravinia. On July 2, 1942, the 40 seats were replaced. Then on December 1, 1946, the seats were again removed. In addition to the Symphony, the car was used for sailors’ baggage from Great Lakes.” (C. Edward Hedstrom, Jr. Photo)
CSL “Little” Pullman 985 at Wabash and Roosevelt in September 1936. It was built in 1910. It appears to be on through route 3 – Lincoln-Indiana, which operated from 1912 to 1951.
CSL “Big” Pullman 144 on Cermak Road, September 19, 1934. Don’s Rail Photos: “144 was built by Pullman in 1908. It was acquired by Illinois Railway Museum in 1959.” It is rare to find pictures of the 144 in actual service as opposed to some 1950s fantrip.
A close-up of the car in the last photo. It closely resembles two very similar, low-production front wheel drive cars on the market circa 1930, the Cord L-29 and the even rarer Ruxton. However, Dan Cluley seems to have correctly identified this as a 1930 Checker Model M. The auto on the other side of the streetcar looks like an early 1930s Auburn, which was also built by Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg, headquartered in Auburn, Indiana.
The 1930 Checker Model M.
This is a 1929 Ruxton Model A Baker-Raulang Roadster.
And this is a 1930 Cord L-29 Convertible.
An early 1930s Auburn with fancy hood ornament.
Chicago Surface Lines 5241 on 111th Street near Vincennes on August 3, 1947. The sign on the front of the car indicates this was on through route 8. According to http://www.chicagrailfan.com, “Various Through Route combinations existed throughout the early history of this route. Original Through Route operated between Grace/Halsted and 63rd/Stony Island via Halsted and 63rd St. Beginning in 1912, some Halsted service, mainly route 42 Halsted-Downtown service, began operating south of 79th St. via Vincennes and 111th St. to Sacramento, over what now is the 112 route. While for most of through service continuing north on Halsted, the south terminal remained 79th St. Effective 5/24/31, the through Halsted service generally turned around at 111th/Sacramento, with the downtown service generally turning at 79th St. Through service south of 79th St. discontinued 12/4/49, when segment south of 79th St. was converted to buses.” (John F. Bromley Collection) Our resident South Side expert M. E. adds, “The caption begins: “Chicago Surface Lines 5241 on 111th Street near Vincennes on August 3, 1947.” Not quite. 111th St. approaches Vincennes Ave. only from the east. The car line on 111th St. was not route 8. Instead, route 8 was on Vincennes. Vincennes Ave. continued south of 111th one block to Monterey Ave., whereupon route 8 cars turned right onto Monterey, then about three blocks later, onto 111th St. heading west. (To see all this on a map, use maps.google.com and plug in ‘60643 post office’.) As for the photo, I’d say this car is on Vincennes, heading south, anywhere between 109th and Monterey. I say 109th because route 8 left its private right-of-way (which started at 89th St.) at 107th St. and ran south from 107th on the street.”
This July 1963 view shows the Wabash leg of Chicago’s Loop “L” between Van Buren and Jackson. We are looking north, so the buildings behind the train of CTA 4000s are on the west side of the street. As you can see by the sign advertising Baldwin pianos and organs, this was once Chicago’s “Music Row.” The flagship Rose Records location was near here, as were Carl Fischer, the Guitar Gallery, American Music World and many others. The Chicago Symphony is still nearby, but nearly all the other music-related retailers are now gone from this area. You can just catch a glimpse of the iconic Kodak sign that still graces Central Camera under the “L”. The old North Shore Line station, which closed about six months before this picture was taken, would have been up the street on the right just out of view. Until 1969 trains operated counterclockwise around the Loop on both tracks, so we are looking at the back end of this Lake Street “B” train. Adams and Wabash station is at the far right of the picture.
Enlarging a small section of the slide shows the Kodak sign in front of Central Camera at 230 S. Wabash.
Central Camera today. The Kodak sign is still there.
The corner of Wabash and Jackson today.
Two of the buildings in the 1963 photograph were torn down to make a parking lot, while the building to their right is still there.
If you are curious about just what a Birney car is, you can read the definitive account by Dr. Harold E. Coxhere.
Fort Collins Municipal Railway Birney car 20 in Colorado. There were three lines, and all three cars met in the town center once an hour so riders could transfer. Service ended in 1951, but a portion of one line was restored to service in the 1980s. Don’s Rail Photos says, “20 was built by American Car Co. in April 1919, #1184. It was sold in 1951 and moved to the Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer in Minden, NE. and has been on static display there ever since.” (Joseph P. Saitta Photo)
Feel the Birn(ey)! After service in Fort Collins ended in 1951, car 26 was sold to the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. But prior to being put on static display, it operated in a Detroit parade of street railway equipment in August 1953. Don’s Rail Photos: “26 was built by American Car Co. in November 1922, #1324 as CERy 7. It was sold as FCM 26 it in 1924. It was sold to Henry Ford Museum and moved to Michigan in 1953 where it is on static display. It was operated several times on the trackage of the Department of Street Railways.” (C. Edward Hedstrom Photo) To read more about 26’s Michigan sojourn, click here.
Laurel Line (Lackawanna and Wyoming Valley Railroad) car 37 at the G.E. plant on the Minooka branch on May 9, 1948. The occasion was an ERA (Electric Railroader’s Association) fantrip. Nearly all this Scranton, Pennsylvania interurban was third-rail operated on private right-of-way, something it had in common with the Chicago, Aurora & Elgin. Some have wondered if the Laurel Line’s fleet of steel cars, which ended service at the end of 1952, could have been used on the CA&E. They appear to have been too long to operate on the Chicago “L” system, but I do not know if such clearance issues would have kept them from running west of Forest Park. As it was, all these cars were scrapped, and ironically, some thought was given later to restoring a CA&E curved-side car as an ersatz Laurel Line replica. Wisely, it was decided against this.
The next three photos have been added to our earlier post Chicago’s Pre-PCCs (May 5, 2015):
Scranton Transit 508, an “Electromobile,” was built by Osgood-Bradley Co in 1929. It was another attempt at a modern standardized streetcar in the pre-PCC era.
Baltimore Peter Witt 6146. Don’s Rail Photos says it was “built by Brill in 1930 and retired in 1955.” Sister car 6119 is at the Baltimore Streetcar Museum, while 6144 is at Seashore. These were some of the most modern cars around, prior to the PCCs.
Indianapolis Railways 146, shown here on a special run in 1949, was a Brill “Master Unit” but appears very similar to the Baltimore Peter Witts. This car was built in 1933, one of the last streetcars built before the PCC era. Brill tried to sell street railways on standardized cars (hence the name “Master Units”) but as you might expect, no two orders were identical.
Lehigh Valley Transit’s Liberty Bell Limited lightweight high-speed car 1001 (ex-Cincinnati & Lake Erie 128) at the 69th Street Terminal on the Philadelphia & Western, September 21, 1949. Soon after this picture was taken, LVT passenger service was cut back to Norristown.
PE double-end PCCs 5006 and 5012 at West Hollywood car house on September 8, 1946. These were used on the Glendale-Burbank line, which was “light rail” before the term ever existed. Service was abandoned in 1955 and I’ll bet Angelinos wish they had it back today. (Norman Rolfe Photo)
Pacific Electric double-end PCC 502x is boarded up for a trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina. Don’s Rail Photos says this car was “built by Pullman-Standard in October 1940, #W6642. It was retired in 1956 and was sold as FGU M.1523 and made modifications in 1959. It was retired in short time.” You can see some additional pictures of these cars as they appeared in 1959 after being damaged by dripping lime deposits in the damp PE Subway here.
Brilliner 9 on the Red Arrow’s Ardmore line in May 1965. About 18 months later, this line was converted to bus.
A Septa Bullet car at the Norristown (Pennsylvania) terminal in August 1986.
Not all Bullets were double-ended, or built for the Philadelphia & Western. Here we see Bamberger Railroad car 125 in Salt Lake City on September 4, 1950. A single-end Bullet car, it originally came from the Fonda Johnstown & Gloversville. Don’s Rail Photos says, “125 was built by Brill in 1932, #22961. It was sold as Bamberger RR 125 in 1939 and retired in 1952. The body was sold to Utah Pickle Co.” We ran a picture of sister car 129 in our previous post Trolley Dodgers (January 15, 2016).
Here is another photo of Chicago, Aurora & Elgin wood car 315. Don’s Rail Photos says, “315 was built by Kuhlman Car Co in 1909, #404. It was modernized at an unknown date and sold to Rockhill Trolley Museum in 1962.”
D. C. Transit 1484 on route 30. Streetcar service in Washington ended in 1962, but recently started up again.
Capital Transit Company PCC 1101 in Washington, D. C., with the U. S. Capitol in the background. From the looks of the car in the background, this picture was probably taken in the mid1950s. Don’t ask me why there are two different spellings of capitol/capital.
WGN’s Late Movie “open,” seen above, used a simple title image and not the sophisticated graphics of today. If you heard Dave Brubeck‘s “Take Five” coming out of your TV set in the 1960s or 70s, that most likely meant you were about to watch the Late Movie. (The afternoon “Early Show” movie on our local CBS station WBBM-TV used Leroy Anderson‘s “The Syncopated Clock” as their theme.) To see a clip of what the Late Movie open looked and sounded like, click here. Take Five was written by Paul Desmond, alto sax player in Brubeck’s combo. If you are wondering who the man in the kaleidoscope image is, that’s British actor/comedian Terry-Thomas.
In the days before 24 hour a day television, most stations went off the air late at night. Some went completely off the air, leaving nothing but static and white noise, while others broadcast test patterns. This was perhaps the most popular type used and should be familiar to anyone of a certain age.
Barry Shanoff writes:
I was born and raised in Chicago, and left in 1975, at age 32, for the Washington, DC area where I have lived ever since. I recently discovered your website, and I enjoy what you have posted.
I have an extensive collection of Chicago transit memorabilia, including vintage CSL, CA&E and CNS&M items, that I am interested in selling. In particular, I have a CTA Rapid Transit sign roll as pictured and described in the attachments to this message.
Rather than posting the items on eBay or consigning them to an auction firm, I’d like to first offer them to Chicago area enthusiasts.
The price sign roll is $325 plus shipping. My guess is that it weighs about four pounds with the mailing tube. Shipping costs will depend on the destination. Best if a would-be buyer contacts me and we complete the arrangements via e-mail or phone.
As for my CTA and interurban material, I don’t have photos of the timetables and brochures, but I can put together a list with prices. Discounts for multi-item purchases. Anyone interested in this or that item can contact me and I will provide a cover photo.
You can contact Barry at: email@example.com
Phil Bergen writes:
Big fan of your site, though I’ve only been to Chicago once (1973) and am fascinated by the multiplicity of transit historically and today in Chicago.
Long-time subscriber to First & Fastest. several years ago I wrote to then-editor Roy Benedict suggesting an article for a fictional one-day fan trip around Chicago in a past year of his choice, for an out-of-towner, one that would show a variety of neighborhoods, equipment, and could be done in a day. I created one myself for Boston that ran in Roll Sign.
Mr. Benedict replied with interest in my proposal, but I never heard more about it. With your knowledge and wealth of photos, it might be something to try.
Thanks for your work. I belong to CERA and have enjoyed your PCC book very much. So full of material that it is sometime hard to hold such a tome!!
Glad you like the site and the PCC book. I’ll give your article proposal some thought.
Sometimes these things come together in unusual ways. There are times when I don’t really know what a post is about until it’s finished. Take this one, for example. On the one hand, it’s mainly about night photography, but the additional pictures, oddly enough seem to include quite a lot of preserved equipment, more so than you would expect. You could make quite a list of them. Then again, there are many things in this post that are “paired.” There is a picture of a North Shore car at Roosevelt Road at night, but also one in the day, and so on.
My general idea is to use pictures to tell a story. Often times, the individual pictures are like pieces of a mosaic or jigsaw puzzle. I fiddle around with them and rearrange them until they seem to fit together, and hopefully have some deeper meaning.
My understanding is that Roy Benedict does not have any current involvement with First & Fastest and has not for some years, although naturally I don’t speak for him. The current person to talk to regarding article ideas for that magazine would be Norm Carlson, who does excellent work. It’s a fine publication and sets a high standard for others to follow.
The Chicago PCC book was a labor of love for everyone who collaborated on it. At first, the idea was just for a standard-length picture book, but after we had collected a lot of material, we realized that quite a lot would have to be left out. So, the book grew in length, and at the same time we gradually decided there were other things that needed to go into the book, in order to tell the whole story.
So, the final product is twice standard length, and includes a lot of the history and background material that helps the reader put Chicago’s PCC era into context. It’s somewhere in between a picture book and a more scholarly text, and it seems a very worthwhile addition to the slim shelf of Chicago streetcar books. In the year since its release, it appears to have found an audience.
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24 thoughts on “Night Beat”
I enjoy reading your blog and look forward to each new post. I especially liked those night photos – keep ’em coming !
Glad you like it, thanks. What we can do in the future, as always, depends on the financial support we receive from our readers.
The unidentified picture of the Electroliner was taken at North Chicago Junction. The train is Southbound coming off of the Waukegan bypass to Edison Court and Milwaukee.
Thanks! I updated the caption.
Capital vs. Capitol. My high school English teacher, Miss Stickling, could define the difference, which she was quite adamant about. “Capitol” refers only to the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. “Capital” refers to capital cities, whether Washington or Springfield AND to capital buildings in state capitals. We students were inevitably tested on the difference.
I guess I missed that day in school, thanks. By George, I think he’s got it– that was simply capital, er capitol, sir.
pic310: I don’t think this is at Van Buren. There are too many tracks between the platforms. My best guess is that we are looking south at 12th Street. There are 4 tracks between the platforms, with space in between for the removed (sometime after 1963) center platform. Above the 504 is the east-west overpass just south of 11th St. Between that and the stair on the left can be seen parts of a catenary support and the east-west walkway that connects to the elevated station above the far end of the right platform, but not visible in this photo. The stairs connect with a second walkway that only connects to the station. In the background, about half-way between the 504 and the left edge of the photo can be seen the pedestrian ramp that crosses the northbound lanes of Lake Shore Drive to the Field Museum.
Most of the structures can be seen on 1963 (center platform present) and 1968 (center platform removed) aerial photos. Hopefully, some of our IC experts can add to or correct this.
You may be right. I figured it was either Van Buren or Roosevelt. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find many pictures of how these stations used to look for the sake of comparison. Both have been rebuilt in recent years.
Re pic310. An added comment…. IRR 375 became CSS&SB 503 and resides today under cover in a park in Scottsburg IN. She sits on a track that was on the floor of the paint shop of the IRR maintenance facility next to Lake Iola. The building is gone, but that piece of track and the 503 live on. All three RPO’s are thus preserved.
That’s good to know, thanks!
Man, “Night Beat”…
All of the sudden I feel old.
HI David, I really enjoyed the night photos in the latest TrolleyDodger installment. Your description of night photography as being more or less a trial and error endeavor is very true. I’ve taken many railfan photos at night and while using Kodachrome film, was never sure that I got even a decent photo until the slides were processed. Many times upon viewing the slides my efforts fell short of what I had hoped. No matter how much experience I accumulated, there was always a mistake to be made and I think I may have made them all! On the other hand, when everything came together-lighting, composition & focusing- the results very gratifying and encouraged me to yet again pack up the camera, tripod, flashbulbs & flashlight and head to the railroad yards in the dead of night.
One of my favorite places to go was the NJ Transit lay-up yard at Gladstone, NJ. There is a public road that intersects the yard giving me a safe and legal place to photograph from. Also plenty of yard lights and various types of passenger equipment to photograph also added to the appeal of the place. Dover, NJ and Hoboken Terminal were also good places to go.
If you’d like I can scan some of these slides, the electric MUs and locomotives (in keeping with the traction subject matter) and send them to you for posting in the TrolleyDoger . Perhaps others who roamed the darkness with camera and tripod and photographed electric railroad operations could send you their work as well. I’d love to see what others accomplished on their “Night Beats”!
Yes, we would love to see your slides. Very likely, they can be made to look even better than ever once scanned, thanks.
Re: The possible role played by the Sedans in the termination of Chicago streetcar operations
To The Trolley Dodger:
I was only seven when the Chicago streetcars quit, but I still have memories of riding them. Best of all was a 1957 excursion with my mother to Lincoln Park Zoo from 81st & Halsted. We came home via the 151 bus and the Rock Island commuter train, however.
While looking through the numerous Trolley Dodger photo sets, I came across one with several recently rebuilt and repainted Chicago “Sedan” cars sitting, apparently, at South Shops. Years ago I came across material whose source I can’t recall. It seemed to show that there was a battle within CTA between pro and anti-streetcar forces. I don’t know if you will have any of this material, but I’ll tell you here what I recall of it. I was reminded of it when I saw that photo of the Sedans rebuilt for one-man operations and painted Everglade green and cream.
The first point was the fact that some of the original CTA bond money went for new equipment for CSL in lieu of cash. This was for the 600 PCC cars and the simultaneous order of new motor and trolley buses. The thought that was expressed in my long-forgotten source was that CSL personnel moving into positions at CTA (remember this was pre-McCarter) were convinced that there was a future for streetcars to such an extent that they were confident that the entire rapid transit system could be replaced by fast-accelerating PCCs. Hence, very little new equipment for the Chicago Rapid Transit company was purchased with the bond money (only the four experimental articulated trainsets). The pro-streetcar people were proposing the “Social Good” of getting rid of the noisy, unsightly, blight-inducing elevated structure. That view of elevated structure was commonly held at the time.
The second point is more indicative of a battle within the CTA bureaucracy between McCarter and the pro-streetcar personnel. The source had stated that in addition to pre-and post-war PCCs, the Peter Witt cars or “Sedans” as they were called in Chicago, also would have remained in service at least somewhat longer than all the pre-1929 red streetcars. They were shifted from Clark-Wentworth and Madison to Cottage Grove-Pullman when the first batch of post-war PCCs arrived (In James Johnson’s CSL book, there is a photo of one on Cottage Grove/South Chicago.).
The Sedans had leather seats inside, and much faster acceleration than the older red streetcars. Their only difference from PCCs was their noisier operation. The caption for the map on page 38 of the CERA book is in error, as there was no plan to put PCCs on Cottage Grove at that time (1950). The Sedans were regarded by CTA at the time as modern streetcars, having two of the three characteristics of a modern streetcar.
This source stated that it was a battle over the Sedans that held the fate of of Chicago’s streetcars! The conversion of the pre-war PCCs (and a few post-war cars) to one-man operation was a step embraced by the pro-streetcar people to reduce operating costs. Eventually, all of the post-war PCCs would have been rebuilt, as part of the program proposed by the Deleuw Cather consultant study.
However, the Sedans were included in the program by the pro-streetcar elements. They were to be assigned to 63rd St., which was being operated by old red streetcars after the pre-war PCCs were taken off to be rebuilt for one-man service. Reportedly there were howls from the community, first by the return of the old red cars after several years of modern service, and then seeing their PCCs assigned to Cottage Grove.
The conversion work on the Sedans began after they were replaced on Cottage Grove by the pre-war PCCs in May 1952. The caption on the photo said that 25 were so completed. The rebuild program halted after 25 or so had been so altered (the hand of McCarter?). Meanwhile the howls from the community along 63rd St. continued. Finally, CTA proposed a meeting with the 63rd St. businessmen’s group where they could vote on alternatives. The meeting was held in October of 1952.
Two Sedans thoroughly rebuilt on the interior, set up for one man operation, with additional seats replacing the conductor’s position and two of the center doors, and painted in CTA’s new darker Everglade green and cream color scheme were used to gather up all the members of the businessmen’s group in a special charter move. One car started at the east end of the route (Stoney Island Ave.) and one from the west (Narragansett Ave.); picking up the business owners and bringing them to a private banquet hall centrally located along 63rd St. (Western Ave. is the central point, but it may have been in the then-busy 63rd & Halsted shopping district.)
At the luncheon meeting, the businessmen were offered the alternative of rebuilt Sedans similar to what they had ridden, or buses. PCCs were off the table. The businessmen voted for buses. No doubt Walter McCarter trumpeted the vote as a victory for his point of view.
The result of that October 1952 meeting was felt within CTA immediately. Two post-war PCCs were sent to Pullman and St. Louis Car Co. respectively; to determine if they could be directly rebuilt into rapid transit cars. An internal staff study at CTA commenced about the future of Chicago streetcars. Released in January 1953, it stated that street congestion was hampering streetcar operations and that buses replace them all as fast as possible. The 1,000 bus order was placed with Flexible for propane buses, and the back-up plan to use parts salvaged from the post-war PCCs for building new rapid transit cars was developed.
As for the Sedans? The 25 rebuilt for one-man operation never ran a mile in revenue service. Amazingly, some of the nonrebuilt cars were taken out of their five-month storage and placed in service on 63rd St.; running alongside Red Pullmans and a few post-war PCCs diverted from Western Ave. after peak periods (with buses taking over on weekends and holidays). They were used there until full bus service on the route began in May, 1953.
Thank you for your very interesting note. I have a lot to say in reply, but rather than confine it to the Comments section of this post, I think it would be better to use this for a new post, which will naturally include what you wrote. Look for it in the next day or so.
I think the auto you have tentatively identified as a Cord is actually a Checker Model M Taxi.
Although these would have been much more common than a Cord at that time, I suspect far fewer have survived to the present day.
Looks like you’re right. That would explain the number on the side if the car (taxicab). It’s almost uncanny how much alike these three different makes of cars look in a side view, isn’t it? Great detective work! If you’re curious about the unusual headlights on these cars, they are called Woodlites.
There were 4400 Cord L-29s made, but only 500 Ruxtons. Not sure how many Checker Model Ms were made, but it could have easily been as much as 10,000.
I also see that E. L. Cord had a financial interest in Checker during this period. In the 1930s, Checkers used Lycoming engines, which were also used in A-C-D cars. This could also help explain the styling similarity with contemporary Cords.
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