CTA 78 is shown at the east end of the Madison-Fifth shuttle in February, 1954. But wait– wouldn’t car 78 be on the Hammond, Whiting, and East Chicago? According to Alan R. Lind’s CSL book, the CTA renumbered car 1780 to 78 in the waning days of red car service, in order to free up numbers in the 1780s for some buses. This was the only time a CSL streetcar was given a two-digit number, except for work cars.
That’s one school of thought. On the other hand, the number on the side of this car looks like 1781, and according to Andre Kristopans, it was still 1781 when scrapped. It may in fact not be a renumbering at all, just a case where either the car’s paint got touched up and obscured part of the number, or part of the number fell off and did not get replaced, since red car service was ending in a few months anyway.
At left in the background you can see Fohrman Motors, a Chicago car dealer from 1912 to 1979. Three people were killed at the dealership by a disgruntled customer on January 7, 1966. The neighborhood, not far from the construction site for the Congress (now Eisenhower) expressway, is already showing signs of urban decay. We discuss this in our post Some Thoughts on “Displaced” (August 30, 2016).
Here is Hammond, Whiting and East Chicago car 78, very similar to CSL equipment. It was built by American in 1919.
Chicago once had the largest street railway system in the world, and, as such, you would expect it to have a complicated roster. This is certainly true, but there is an additional complicating factor, in that the Chicago Surface Lines was an operating entity or association, a “brand” that functioned as the public face of several smaller constituent companies.
According to the Wikipedia:
Four companies formed the CSL: the Chicago Railways Company, Chicago City Railway, Calumet and South Chicago Railway, and Southern Street Railway. (The Chicago City Railway had a subsidiary, the Chicago & Western Railway, and 95% of the stock of the City Railway and all of the stock of the Southern, Calumet, and Western were in a collateral trust, to secure certain bonds.)
Of these, Chicago Railways and Chicago City Railway were by far the most important. Rolling stock was about 60% CRYs and 40% CCRY. As far as the public was concerned, however, everything was CSL.
In anticipation of the creation of CSL in 1914, the various rosters of its underlying companies were rationalized, and in many cases, cars were renumbered so as to avoid duplication. It also seems as though blocks of car numbers were reserved for the four firms.
New cars ordered after 1914 were, generally speaking, split 60-40 between CRYs and CCRY. This often meant that there were at least two sets of numbers assigned to one type of car, as was the case with the 1929 Sedans and 1936 prewar PCCs.
The same car order might be split between different builders. The 100 Sedans were divided up three ways, between J. G. Brill, the Cummings Car Company, and CSL itself. The groups of car “types” used by CSL did not always imply one particular builder, although they often did.
Things got even more complicated with the 600 postwar PCCs. The 310 Pullmans were technically owned by CRYs, while the 290 St. Louis Car Company cars were split into three different number groups. In part, this was due to CRYs having 60% of the order (360) and CCRY 40% (240), meaning that the St. Louies had to be split between the two companies.
I used to think that perhaps the fans had sorted out the all-time CSL roster into various car types, with nicknames for each. Interestingly, the CSL roster in Central Electric Railfans’ Association bulletin 27, issued in 1941 at the peak of the streetcar system, did not use any of these group names.
Turns out the nicknames originated within CSL, and appear on lists of car assignments used over the years. This includes the “Odd 17,” which lumped together a few small batches of cars that did not fit easily into other categories.
Even then, there were “oddball” series that weren’t even put into the Odd 17 (which actually turns out to have been 19 cars for some reason). 1424-1428, five cars built by Brill but with St. Louis Car Company trucks, are not in the Odd 17, and neither were 5701-5702.
As Ralph Waldo Emerson put it in his essay on Self-Reliance:
A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day. — ‘Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood.’ — Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.
With that in mind, we have put together a short guide, that can be used to identify CSL car types by number. Since the numbers were, to some extent, related to the underlying ownership, we have also included the company names.
A few things are worth noting. There were no regular cars numbered 1-99. This was probably due to the joint operation of the Hammond, Whiting, and East Chicago service between Chicago and Indiana.
As Don Ross writes:
HW&EC was formed in 1892 in Hammond where 2 miles of track were built. It was then extended through East Chicago and Whiting to the state line and a connection to the South Chicago City Railway. It came under SCCRy control and service was extended to 63rd and Stony Island. In 1901 a fire destroyed the Hammond Packing Co which caused such a financial impact that all but 12 cars were sold. In 1908 the SCCRy merged with the Calumet Electric Street Ry as the Calumet & South Chicago Ry which retained control of the HW&EC. Joint service was maintained using cars of both companies. After World War I the line was plagued by private auto and jitney competition and finally filed for abandonment in 1929. A new company, Calumet Railways was formed, but it failed and was replaced by C&CDT. The Indiana Harbor line was abandoned in 1934 and the remainder of the system on June 9, 1940.
The Calumet & South Chicago, which controlled the HW&EC, was one of the constituent companies of CSL and therefore, it seems an effort was made to avoid car number duplication between the HW&EC, which had cars numbered between 46 and 80, and CSL.
Here’s how the Hammond, Whiting, and East Chicago cars break out by manufacturer:
These cars were very much like Chicago Surface Lines equipment, which caused some consternation among our readers a while back, when trying to figure out a couple of “mystery photos” showing HW&EC cars in action.
Still, there are various anomalies. Even in a small batch of cars, such as the 10 single-truck Birneys CSL had, there were variations. CERA B-27 says that 2000-2005 were Birney safety cars, 2006 was “modified” (but does not say how), and 2900-2903 were “similar” to Birneys, but does not call them such, even though they were part of the same order. The 2006 was built by Chicago Surface Lines, while the other nine cars in the series were built by Brill.
Here is what Dr. Harold E. Cox wrote about them in his classic work The Birney Car (copyright 1966):
What about something like CSL mail car 6? This operated as a streetcar RPO (railway post office) for about a year into the CSL era. The car itself has been preserved and is now at the Fox River Trolley Museum in South Elgin, Illinois. Where does that fit into the CSL numbering system?
Well, the work cars had their own number sequences, preceded by a letter. So, for example, you could have car S-201, a supply car, and also have Big Pullman 201. There were many instances where work cars had the same number, but they were preceded by different letter designations, as they were in different classes.
As we have recently discussed in the Comments section of our post Chicago Surface Lines Photos, Part Eleven (September 2, 2016), CSL had a habit of storing unused cars around, often for decades. (When new equipment arrived, such as the 83 prewar PCCs, the City of Chicago mandated that an “equal value” of older equipment be scrapped.)
In some cases, this means there were cars in storage well into the CSL era that still had their old, pre-CSL numbers. We have included a picture of just one such example here, taken nearly 20 years after the creation of CSL.
In at least one other case, parts of the numbers actually fell off a car, giving the impression that it had a different number than was actually the case.
Car 2859 is another oddity. This was a replacement car, built by CSL in 1924. It was owned by the Calumet and South Chicago Railway, yet it was a “169” or Broadway-State car. Curious indeed!
Don’s Rail Photos has an excellent page for CSL car information. This has a lot more information than can be presented here, and often includes details about individual cars. Although naturally there are going to be typographical errors on such a huge and complex web site, I hope you will join me in saluting Don Ross for creating such an invaluable resource.
Here is my own modest contribution to the subject. If there are any errors, or if you can think of some way to improve this chart, please let us know. Consider this a “finding aid” for CSL car types. If you can see the car number in a photo, you can easily look up which type it is using this chart.
To create this, we have consulted not only Don’s Rail Photos, but CERA bulletins 27 (1941) and 146 (2015), The Birney Car by Dr. Harold E. Cox (1966), and Electric Railway Historical Society bulletin 8, The Hammond Whiting and East Chicago Ry. by James J. Buckley (1953).
You can even extrapolate a few things from this exercise. If more postwar PCCs had been ordered, as was originally planned, the first new Chicago Railways car would have been 4412, and 7275 for the Chicago City Railway.
Likewise, there is a large unused block of numbers after the Chicago Railways Birneys. Does this mean there were hopes to order more Birneys, which were not realized, since they proved too small for such a big city?
I guess, when there are so many factors involved, it’s too much to expect that you can make all the numbers add up, all the time. This way lies madness.
To paraphrase Emerson, since the Surface Lines was perhaps the greatest streetcar system of all time, it can also be the most misunderstood. I hope that we have made that a little easier.
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.” Note that 2169 is an unassigned CSL roster number.
Ancient CSL car 2144 at Clark and Devon, c1930-32. The side sign reads, “Base Ball.” (George Krambles Photo, Edward Frank, Jr. Collection) Note that 2144 is not an assigned CSL number.
Is Chicago City Railway 2503 the same car as CSL 2503? Andre Kristopans says yes. (See the Comments section of this post.)
Chicago Union Traction streetcar 5801, definitely not the same as CSL “Nearside” 5801.
Trailer 8000 being used as a shed. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)
West Chicago Street Railway #4 was pulled out for pictures on May 25, 1958, the occasion of the final fantrip on Chicago’s streetcar system. That is not a CSL assigned number.
Former Chicago Surface Lines mail car 6, built in 1891, as it looked on May 25, 1958. This car is now at the Fox River Trolley Museum. You can see a black-and-white photo of this car, taken at the same time as this one, in our previous post Throwback Thursday (January 7, 2016). To see a picture of West Chicago Street Railway car 4, also taken the same day, there’s one in our post Chicago Streetcars In Color (February 22, 2015).
Don’s Rail Photos says the “Sunbeam” was built by Pullman in 1891. It was used as a party car, later for storage. (Joe L. Diaz Photo) This car doesn’t even have a number!
This old Chicago Daily News photo is identified as being at the end of a cable car route, where horses were used to move the cars around. However, the Chicago Auto Show is being advertised, which would help date this photo. This car is #1325.
Chicago City Railway cable trailer 209 in October 1938. Supposedly built around 1892, it appears to be a replica built by CSL in 1934 using some original parts. It is now preserved at the Illinois Railway Museum. (Alfred Seibel Photo)
North Chicago Street Railroad horse car 8 on January 2, 1925. The occasion was the opening of the new Cicero Avenue extension. This car, built in 1859 by the John Stephenson Car Company, is preserved at the Illinois Railway Museum.
It’s August 28, 1936 on north Ashland Avenue, and time for a parade. One week earlier, streetcar service had been extended north of Cortland in one of the final extensions under CSL. Prior to this time, this portion of the route had run on Southport, two blocks to the east. North Chicago Street Railroad “Bombay roof” horsecar 8 is ahead of the experimental 1934 Brill pre-PCC car 7001. Ironically, the older car survives at the Illinois Railway Museum, while 7001 was scrapped in 1959.
This supposed Chicago City Railway horse car #10 was actually a 1930s replica. It was also used at the Chicago Railroad Fair. This picture was taken by Charles Cushman (1896-1972) in 1949. (Charles W. Cushman Collection, University Archives, at Indiana University, Bloomington.)
Tony Zadjura writes:
In need of a little advice. I am the Chairman of the Jefferson Township Historical Society, Lackawanna County PA. Our area includes Moosic Lake, which at one time had trolley service to the lake and amusement park (Gateway to the Clouds). We have recently been given a photograph of # 409 which shows Moosic Lake as its destination. A question has been raised as to whether the Moosic Lake destination sign has been added.
The trolley service to Moosic Lake terminated in 1926.
Is it possible to give a date of this car being built or first being available for use by STC in service. I am enclosing the photo in question, cropped to show the front of the car a little better. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks in advance.
Thanks for writing. According to Don’s Rail Photos, “409 was built by Osgood-Bradley Co. in 1925” for the Scranton Transit Company.
So, it is possible that this car could have operated to Moosic Lake, but not for very long.
Hope this helps.
Tony Zadjura replies:
Thanks for the quick reply. According to accounts, the trolley ride over the Moosic mountain must have been a thrill!
Keep those cards and letters coming in, folks. You can reach us at: firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a Comment on this post.
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