NSL 420 heading south at Dempster, current end of the line for the CTA Yellow Line (aka the “Skokie Swift”), which revived a small portion of the old interurban a year after service ended in January 1963.
The Trolley Dodger blog has reached another milestone with this, our 150th post since we started on January 21, 2015. As time goes on, it becomes both easier and harder to come up with new ideas. On the one hand, we have to work harder to avoid repeating ourselves, since we have already posted thousands of images to date.
On the other hand, there always seems to be more material out there to be had. So in that sense, it seems unlikely that we will ever run out of new material. However, it’s always good to remind our faithful readers that all this historical research costs real money. It costs nothing to read our blog, of course, but the quality and frequency of future posts is entirely dependent on the financial support we get from you.
We are committed to maintaining a very high quality standard in what we put out, and our goal is not only to share information, but to create something of lasting value. We will let others be the judge of whether or not we have succeeded to date, but it’s interesting to note that I often find my own posts coming up to the top of Google searches, when I am researching things.
What makes a good blog post? Well, as I have said before, in general my idea is to use pictures to tell a story. But beyond that, it becomes more difficult to put your finger on what works and what doesn’t.
I would liken it to being a chef in a restaurant who takes whatever fresh ingredients are on hand, and tries to whip them up into a tasty dish. Since our first post featured the North Shore Line, we have a generous helping of classic CNS&M images on today’s menu.
In addition, we have a sprinkling of Chicago, Aurora & Elgin photos, plus some other Chicago/Illinois material, since that is where we are from. Hopefully, all this adds up to a complete “meal,” a feast for the eyes that is also designed to make you think.
But we have not forgotten “dessert.” Our last post (More Mystery Photos, July 29, 2016) included a picture of what appeared to be a Birney car that was not, according to Frank Hicks, an actual Birney. (If anyone is interested in learning what attributes of a streetcar make it into a “true” Birney, look no further than Dr. Harold E. Cox’s book on just that subject. What constitutes a PCC car is also somewhat debatable, another area where the esteemed Dr. Cox has weighed in with an expert opinion.)
While Birney cars, due to their small size, were unsuccessful in larger cities like Chicago, there can be no doubt they were a great success in Fort Collins, Colorado, the “Birney-est” place of all. The Fort Collins Municipal Railway purchased nine such cars for use between 1919 and 1951, a couple for parts. Of these, there’s been a pretty good survival rate, with fully five cars (#s 20, 21, 22, second 25, and 26) still extant.
These cars were so beloved in the area that they never completely left, and efforts to restore a car and revive at least a small portion of service began as early as the 1970s. Service on a mile-and-a-half line began in 1984 and continue to this day, meaning that the resurrected Birney car service in Fort Collins has lasted 32 years now, the same length of time that the original service ran.
Don Ross (in Don’s Rail Photos) writes:
The last regular operation of Birney cars in the U. S. was in Fort Collins, CO. The line was originally built by the Denver & Interurban Ry in 1907. In July 1918, the D&I stopped operating the local lines. A bus system was tried, but was very unpopular. In January 1919, the voters, by an 8 to 1 majority, decided to take over the system. Four Birneys were purchased from American Car of St. Louis and began operation in May. Over the years additional cars were added and replaced. Finally, in 1951, the system was abandoned on June 30th. The city had grown beyond the car lines, and riders had gone to the automobile. Car 21 was preserved locally. Other cars were saved at other locations. A local group began to restore 21 in 1977, and operation began on Mountain Avenue on December 29, 1984. Over the next two years, 1.5 miles of track was restored for operation. For a complete story about this system, check out their web site.
But wait, there’s more! There was also a double-truck version of the Birney, so we have posted a couple pictures of Johnstown 311, a much-loved car by the fans who took it on many trips back in the day. It ran in service in Pennsylvania until 1960 and has been preserved at the Rockhill Trolley Museum.
We are featuring color photos today, and will have several new black-and-white images to share in the near future. Thanks for coming along for the ride.
PS- If you can help identify any of missing locations, or have other interesting thoughts on these pictures, don’t hesitate to drop us a line, either as a Comment here, or via:
Chicago, North Shore & Milwaukee (aka North Shore Line)
NSL 706 heads south from Dempster in this June 9, 1961 photo by Clark Frazier. This is the current terminal of the CTA Yellow Line. The area under the electrical tower at left is where the “pocket” track went, when this was the end-of-the-line for the CRT’s Niles Center Branch. This local service ended in 1948. CTA “L” service resumed here in 1964.
A solitary North Shore Line car crosses the Chicago River at Wacker Drive on the “L”.
NSL 739 and train at Lake Bluff.
NSL 737 at the Loyola curve on the CTA.
NSL 713 heads up a five-car train at Sedgwick in October 1958.
NSL 737 and head “at speed” near Sheridan Elms in Lake Forest.
NSL 735 et al at North Chicago.
“Silverliner” 756 and train in Skokie.
A southbound Electroliner at Edison Court.
NSL 182 and train at St. Mary’s Road (Thornbury Village) on the Mundelein branch on May 31, 1962. Notice the difference in right-of-way construction here, versus the main line.
NSL 743 and train at Green Bay Junction. Jerry Wiatrowski: “NSL 743 and train are on the Skokie Valley route westbound crossing the Mundelein branch at Lake Bluff. The Green Bay Road overpass can be seen in the background.” Joey Morrow: “NSL 743 is at Green Bay junction, the catenary poles are still there today. It parallels IL-176 (Rockland Ave).”
NSL “Greenliner” 751 and a Silverliner at Lake Bluff in June 1962.
A photo run-by on a February 21, 1960 North Shore Line fantrip.
I don’t know just when this picture of a North Shore Line “special” train was taken, but Gustafson Motors was located in Libertyville, along the Mundelein branch. FYI, we have several North Shore Line audio recordings available on compact disc in our Online Store, including some from the Mundelein branch. Garrett Patterson: “nsl003 would have been taken just weeks before the end of service system-wide. The 1962 Bel Air in the lot dates the photo.” One of our regular readers adds: “This was the CERA fantrip that was operated in April 1962. George Krambles operated the train in Evanston, and there are movies and slides of the train going south from Isabella going up the hill to the North Shore Channel bridge. The scene is seen in The Tribute to the North Shore Line video, which has been presented at January CERA meetings (although it is not commercially available). Of course the above photo is at Libertyville (which was a beautiful place in the country at one time).”
NSL 705 and 709 are near the Mundelein terminal on March 25, 1962.
Chicago, Aurora & Elgin
CA&E 460 and an older car are in fantrip service during the late 1950s. Nancy Grove Mollenkamp writes: “This is at West Street looking west in Wheaton. The bridge over Liberty Drive at the start of the Elgin branch is seen in the background.”
CA&E 452 at Geneva Road on March 9, 1957. Nancy Grove Mollenkamp: “This is in Winfield. I believe looking north.”
CA&E 404 is part of a two-car train at the Halsted curve on the old Garfield Park “L”, probably not long before the end of downtown service in September 1953.
CA&E 423 is part of a two-car train at Collingbourne. Nancy Grove Mollenkamp: “Collingbourne is along the Elgin branch near Raymond St. and Elgin Ave.”
One can only wish that the photographer had aimed the camera a bit lower, but nonetheless, CA&E 428 is part of a four-car train in July 1953 on the Halsted curve.
CA&E 454 at an unidentified location. Nancy Grove Mollenkamp: “This slide was identified by someone in a Wheaton FB group as being taken in 1952 at Jewell Road in Wheaton. Another person in the group said he believed it was looking south. He thinks that is Electric Avenue on the right or west.”
CA&E work motors 2001 and 2002 in service in March 1959. By this time, it had been nearly two years since the end of passenger service. Freight only continued for a few more months after this. (B. J. Misek Photo)
We are not sure of the location where this picture of CA&E 403 was taken. Presumably, the box the conductor is carrying holds work-related materials. George Foelschow: “I believe CA&E Pullman 403 and unattached car 410 or 419 are on the eastbound track at Wheaton station. Presumably the two cars, one each from Aurora and Elgin, will be joined for the trip east, and the conductor of 403 would be redundant and no doubt be on the next Fox Valley train due in a few minutes to be split. One could travel between Elgin and Aurora in the same time as a City Lines bus taking a more direct route along the Fox River.” Nancy Grove Mollenkamp: “I agree. Definitely at Wheaton station.”
CA&E 420 at Church Road (Aurora).
CA&E 424 near the end of the line, along the Fox River in Elgin. Meister Brau was a well-known Chicago beer for many years. Each spring, they would sell “Bock” beer, a stronger concoction made (I think) by scraping the bottom of the barrel. They introduced Meister Brau Lite in 1967. After Meister Brau got into financial difficulty in 1972, their brands were bought by Miller, who used Meister Brau Lite as the basis for developing Miller Lite.
CA&E 405 is part of a two-car train. Nancy Grove Mollenkamp: “This is identified by Mark Llanuza as being taken in 1956 between the College Ave station in Wheaton and Glen Ellyn. Photographer unknown.”
CA&E 317 is part of a four-car train of woods.
Chicago and Illinois
Indiana Railroad hi-speed lightweight interurban car 65 at the Illinois Electric Railway Museum in North Chicago in October 1956. It had last run in 1953 on the CRANDIC (Cedar Rapids and Iowa City) before being purchased by the museum as their first acquisition. That’s Chicago & Milwaukee Electric 354, another early purchase, behind it.
Illinois Terminal double-end PCC 457 is part of a two-car train, northbound at 19th and State in the mid-1950s. Don’s Rail Photos says, “457 was built by St Louis Car Co in 1949, #1672. It was sold for scrap to Biermann Iron & Metal Co on July 24, 1959, and was scrapped in 1964.”
The same location today.
In this undated photo, probably taken circa 1952, tracks are being laid in the southern half of Van Buren Street to create a temporary right-of-way for the Garfield Park “L”, to allow the demolition of 2 1/2 miles of the old structure that were in the way of Congress (now Eisenhower) expressway construction. At right, you can see the old Throop Street Shops. This temporary alignment was used from September 1953 to June 1958.
A two-car train of CTA 4000s heads west on temporary trackage at Van Buren and Western on July 1, 1956. This was just two weeks after streetcar service ended on Western Avenue. This picture was taken around the time that the sounds of 4000-series “L” cars were recorded on the Garfield Park “L” for Railroad Record Club LP #36, which has been digitally remastered and is now available on compact disc in our Online Store.
Western and Van Buren today, looking to the northeast.
Since CTA PCC 4406 is signed for charter service, this picture was probably taken on October 21, 1956, when this car ran on a fantrip with red Pullman 225. We have run photos from that fantrip before. You can see one in our post Chicago Surface Lines Photos, Part Six (February 22, 2016). Perhaps someone more knowledgeable than me can tell which station (car barn) this is, whether Devon or 77th. Car 4406 lasted until the end of Chicago streetcar service and had a scrap date of June 23, 1959.
A two car train of Lake Street “L” cars crosses the Chicago River with the Merchandise Mart in the background, probably in the early 1950s.
CSL/CTA Y303 is listed as a “baggage car,” although some have called it a MoW or maintenance of way car. It was retired on September 27, 1956. Don’s Rail Photos says, “Y303. baggage car, was built by C&ST in 1911 as 59. It was renumbered Y303 in 1913 and became CSL Y303 in 1914.”
This 1920s-era Chicago Surface Lines trailer was looking pretty shopworn by the 1950s, when this picture was taken at South Shops.
CSL/CTA streetcar 1497 was renumbered as AA85 for work service as a salt spreader, the configuration we see it in here in this 1950s photo. It was scrapped on September 27, 1956. This was known as a “Bowling Alley” car. Don’s Rail Photos: “1497 was built by CUTCo in 1900 as CUT 4546. It was rebuilt as 1497 in 1911 and became CSL 1497 in 1914. It was rebuilt as salt car and renumbered AA85 on April 15, 1948.”
According to Graham Garfield’s excellent web site www.chicago-l.org, “CTA work car S-328 — built by American Car & Foundry in 1907 as Northwestern Elevated trailer 1283, motorized and renumbered to 1792 in 1914 by the CER — was converted for work service and renumbered in 1958.” It was retired in August 1970 and scrapped. Wooden “L” cars were last used in regular service by the CTA in 1957. After spending their final days in work service, cars like these were replaced by retired 4000-series “L” cars. Here we see S-328 at DesPlaines Avenue terminal in June 1962. (George Niles Photo)
In this June 1962 view. we see the CTA’s DesPlaines Avenue terminal as it had been reconfigured in 1959. these very basic amenities continued n use until the station was rebuilt in the 1980s. I would assume that the pile of rubble in the foreground was related to the recent construction of a new maintenance facility here. The nearby expressway had been in operation since 1960. Presumably, the CTA bus is running route 17, which replaced the Westchester “L” branch in 1951. (George Niles Photo)
A pair of old Metropolitan “L” cars, now in work service, share space with CTA curved-door 6000s in this June 1962 view at DesPlaines Avenue. The new shops facility is at left. The large gas holder at right was a Forest Park landmark for many years. (George Niles Photo)
Authentic Birney Cars
This circa 1940 postcard shows the Ft. Collins Birneys in a different paint scheme, which is actually the one currently being used for the one operating car. Caption: “The intersection of College and Mountain Avenues is the 42nd and Broadway of Ft. Collins. It is the heart of the business district, the crossroads of the town. Where all street cars meet and all highways converge.”
Car 26 in the Fort Collins car barn in June 1948.
Fort Collins Municipal Railway Birney car 22 in the city park on April 30, 1947.
25 in reverse rush hour loop service downtown in October 1950.
21 near Colorado State University in late June 1951.
25 in southeast Fort Collins in October 1950.
21 downtown in June 1948.
25 in reverse rush hour loop service downtown in October 1950.
22 in downtown Fort Collins in October 1950.
25 in southeast Fort Collins in October 1950. Here’s what the Wikipedia has to say about the film advertised on the side of the car: “Ecstasy (Czech: Extase, German: Ekstase) is a 1933 Czech-Austrian romantic drama film directed by Gustav Machatý and starring Hedy Lamarr (then Hedy Kiesler), Aribert Mog, and Zvonimir Rogoz.” Containing some nudity, although tame by today’s standards, the film was banned in the United States until 1940, and played to adult audiences at independent theaters and art houses, without the approval of the Hays Office.
22 near Colorado State University in October 1950.
21 at the south end of town in June 1948.
21 near Colorado State University in late June 1951.
22 in northwest Fort Collins in October 1950.
24 in front of the car barn in October 1950. According to Don’s Rail Photos, “2nd 24 was built by Brill Car Co in December 1922, #21530, as Virginia Railway & Power Co 1530 It was sold as FCM 24 in 1946 but seldom operated. Parts kept second Car 25 operating.”
21 at a passing siding in northwest Fort Collins in October 1950.
Fort Collins Municipal Railway “Birney” car 21, at the intersection of Johnson and Mountain Avenues. (Ward Photo)
FCMR 22 on October 26, 1949. Its paint scheme is described as green, red, and aluminum.
FCMR 25 at the car barn. (Ward 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.
25 stored at Woodland Park, Colorado on September 4, 1953.
25 stored at Woodland Park, Colorado on September 4, 1953. This was the second car 25, the first having been scrapped. Don’s Rail Photos adds, “2nd 25 was built by Brill Car Co in December 1922, #21530, as VR&P 1520. It was sold as FCM 25 in 1946. It was sold to James Stitzel in 1953 and resided next to the former Midland Terminal depot in Victor, CO, until it was sold to a South Carolina party about 1980. It was cosmetically restored. In 1998 it was sold to the Charlotte Trolley painted as South Carolina Public Service Co 407. It was sold to Fort Colins Municipal in 2008 and is being restored as 25.”
22 on static display at Golden, Colorado in July 1963.
According to Don’s Rail Photos, “22 was built by American Car Co in April 1919, #1184. It was retired in 1951 and sold to the Rocky Mountain Railroad Club in 1952. It was on static display at the Colorado Railroad Museum though 1997. It was leased to the Colorado Springs Transportation Society and presently being restored in the former Rock Island engine house. as Colorado Springs & Interurban Ry. 135.” It is shown here in September 1972.
Restored FCMR 21 as it appeared on May 14, 1995. (Mark D. Meyer Photo)
Before the Birneys, the Ft. Collins system used conventional streetcars, as seen in this postcard from circa 1910.
Many other cities had Birneys, of course. Here, we see Brantford (Ontario) Municipal Railway car 137 on July 1, 1935. This was ex-Lock Haven, Pa. Electric Railway car #2. (George Slyford Photo)
Johnstown Traction double-truck Birney 311 on September 3, 1958. (Clark Frazier Photo) Rockhill Trolley Museum: “The first car acquired by Rockhill Trolley Museum was car #311. This car is a double truck “Birney Safety Car” built by Wason Manufacturing Co. of Springfield, MA. It was part of an order of cars for the city of Bangor, Maine, where it operated at number 14. It was sold to the Johnstown Traction Co. and went there in 1941. It served that city well, running until the end of service in 1960. Car #311 was the last Birney type car to be operated in any United States city on a regular schedule. Car 311 was chartered repeatedly by trolley fans in the 1950’s, as it was a favorite car of many.” (Clark Frazier Photo)
Johnstown Traction double-truck Birney 311 at Coopersdale on September 3, 1958. (Clark Frazier Photo) The sounds of car 311, in service during the 1950s, can be heard of Railroad Record Club LP #23, which has been digitally remastered and is now available on compact disc via our Online Store.
Here is Johnstown 311 on June 30, 1957.
NOW AVAILABLE, DIGITALLY REMASTERED ON COMPACT DISC:
# of Discs – 1
First published in 1959, and long out of print, Steam Echoes captures the unforgettable sound drama of steam engines in action. Like Whistles West, it features the recordings of E. P. Ripley, made in the waning days of steam during the 1950s.
The scenes were selected for listening pleasure as well as to create an historical document. They represent the everyday workings of our old steam friends, selected for the most interest, or the most beauty. The series are purposely kept short to preserve their brilliance. They show the steam engine in all four of the ways it may be heard at work– riding in it, on the train behind it, traveling along beside it, and standing at trackside while it goes by, or stops and takes off again.
Railroads featured include Southern Pacific, Union Pacific, and Canadian National.
Ghost Train, first issued in 1962 and also long unavailable, is a Hi-Fi stereo sound panorama of haunting memories, highlighting the final days of steam railroading. Railroads featured include the Grand Trunk Western, Norfolk & Western, Nickel Plate Road, Union Pacific, and the Reading Company. A particular highlight is a special whistle recording, demonstrating the famous “Doppler Effect” in true stereophonic sound.
Total time – 79:45
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