Railroad Record Club Treasure Hunt

Kenneth Gear, author of today’s post, has long been a friend of this blog. Since we began writing about William A. Steventon and the Railroad Record Club of Hawkins, Wisconin (see our previous posts A Railroad Record Club Discography and Revisiting the Railroad Record Club), Ken has been very helpful in obtaining recordings in our quest to reissue the entire RRC oeuvre for the digital age.

Recently, following up on a lead for some RRC material, Ken traveled from New Jersey to the Midwest. The discoveries he is sharing with you today are the result.

This represented a tremendous investment of time and money for Ken who, like myself is of very modest means. Since there is only a very limited market for railroad audio (the whole world, apparently, being transfixed with video), chances are we will never be able to recoup Ken’s costs.

He does not care about that, since his main interest is in preserving these historic recordings for future generations.  Ken is doing this for the love of it, not the money.

Thanks to Ken, we will now be able to reach our goal of remastering all 41 issued Railroad Record Club recordings onto compact discs. We will let you know when that work is done. The only ones we don’t have now are some of the samplers.

One unexpected benefit of his quest is the discovery of additional unissued steam and electric RRC recordings, detailed below.

Due to the limits of Ken’s budget, he was unfortunately not yet able to purchase what appear to be the original RRC master tapes. If you are interested in making a contribution to that worthwhile effort, please let us know.

Any donations received will help Ken negotiate for their purchase, and make it possible to preserve these fine recordings for future generations of railfans. They are currently at risk of being lost forever.

It is remarkable that this collection somehow managed to stay intact for 24 years after Steventon’s death.

We thank you in advance for your help.

-David Sadowski

PS- The disc labeled Indiana Railroad is actually Steventon reciting a history of the Hoosier interurban. Since it quit in 1941, that predates the development of audio tape recorders in the early 1950s. A few fans had wire recorders in the late 1940s (these were developed in Germany prior to the war). Prior to that time, the only way to make a “field recording” was with a portable disc cutter. Those were available starting around 1929.

My Railroad Record Club Treasure Hunt

by Kenneth Gear

Some months ago David received a very intriguing email. It came from an estate auctioneer who wrote that he was in possession of a large collection of items from the estate of William Steventon, founder of the Railroad Record Club. He had seen the Trolley Dodger CDs for sale online and figured David would be interested in the collection. The auctioneer had these items in storage, where they had been for many years, and he now wanted to dispose of them. He asked David if he would be interested in buying these items or if he knew of anyone who might.

Knowing my keen interest in all things related to the RRC, David forwarded the email to me.

We were quite excited about the offer. What could this collection consist of? Had we hit the mother lode of RRC material? The possibilities were almost endless- photos, art work, even movies! The most satisfying find for me would be, of course, coming across some unreleased Steventon railroad audio. If there were some, would the 60 plus year old tapes be salvageable? Were they stored properly? As endless as the possibilities for great finds were, it was equally possible that disappointment could lie ahead.

At the very least it seemed very likely that we would be able fill the holes in the Trolley Dodger CD reissuing catalog. We were still in need of records 22, 31 & 32 plus the elusive sampler records.

Emails went back and forth between the three of us and eventually concrete plans were hammered out.

My friend and fellow railfan photographer Chris Hughes and I usually make several road trips a year in pursuit of short line railroads to photograph. This year, and as a favor to me, it was decided to find some photographic subjects conveniently close to were the Railroad Record Club items were stored. I wasn’t going to let this opportunity slip by without at least seeing the collection. On July 20th Chris and I set off from New Jersey heading for the Midwest, some short line RRs, and the possibility of a RRC gold mine!

The Day Arrives!

Anticipation was running high as I approached the building that housed the collection. Some of the items were laid out on a table and there were large boxes containing many copies of the same record, all still sealed in plastic and all were the 12″ reissues editions. What immediately caught my attention was that each box had beside it the metal print block for the cover of the LP contained in the box. There were other print blocks on the table as well, not every one had a box of LPs to go with it. This was the real deal for sure. Where else would the original print blocks come from but the Steventon estate.

I wanted the print blocks but was less interested in buying the LPs. I really didn’t want to get saddled with scores of records that I would have to find a place to store and later try to sell. A deal was struck and I got the print blocks but not the LPs. So far so good.

LIST OF PRINT BLOCKS PURCHASED
 full covers with titles and other lettering:
#1 Wabash
#4 B&O
#8 CN
#10 PRR
#18 CNS&M
#19 DM&IR
#20 C&IM/NYC
#21 D&NW
#22 BC&G
#23 Pennsy Trolleys
#24 CP
#25 Ill Term
#26 NKP 779
#27 Capital Trans
#28 Iowa Trolleys
#29 CNS&M Freight
#30 Sound Scrapbook-Traction
#31 Sound Scrapbook-Steam
#32 NYC
#33 & 34 CSS&SB freight
#35 Milwaukee Trans
#36 Chicago Trans
#SP-1 Silverton
#SP-2 NP 2626 (both front and back photos) 
OTHER PRINT BLOCKS
1st EDITIONS-TRAIN ONLY- NO LETTERING:
Intro SOO
#2 WCF&N
#3 EBT
#4 B&O
#5 D&RGW
#6 H&F
#7 N&W
#8 CN
#9 WSSB
#11 SHRT
#12 DM&IR
#13 NKP
#14 PE
#15 CB&Q
#17 SOO
#18 CNS&M
Not from a RRC record cover: BRILL 27-E truck

Next up was what appeared to be Mr. Steventon’s personal collection of RRC albums (for some unknown reason number 23 was missing). The records were in plain white jackets and did not have any of the liner notes or cover art with them. Just a hand written number in the upper right hand corner of the jacket, corresponding to the record contained therein. The records were a mix of 10 and 12 inch stock. It could be that Steventon upgraded his own collection with the 12″ remasters as they were pressed and that the 10″ records in his collection never got the 12″ treatment. If true, then we can finally know exactly which of the records were reissued and those that were not. It seems likely, but we will need to look a little deeper into this. Interestingly a few of the plain white jackets have a hand written “delete schedule” on them. This I’m sure is some whittling down of the tracks to fit in the allotted time of the record. Photos of two of them follow. Also found was a sampler record. I always thought there were 6 of these records but it turns out that each year only has one side of a disc. Therefore it’s not 6 records, but only 3. 1 down and 2 to go.

Along with these LPs came a large stack of test pressings. I wasn’t sure of just what may be on them, perhaps the deleted audio written of in those delete schedules. They went into the back of the SUV with Steventon’s personal RRC records. Things were getting very interesting!

The stack of test pressings consisted of 44 12″ records from the Nashville Record Productions and 4 10″ pressings from RCA Custom Records.

Also, I saved perhaps 50 10″ empty record jackets that were heading to a dumpster. I’m glad I did because I was able to find the jackets for 22 BC&G, 31 Sound Scrapbook-Steam & 32 NYC. I got those records from Steventon’s personal collection, but they did not, as I said, have any liner notes or jackets with them.

So no more suspense- yes unreleased Steventon railroad audio was indeed found!

It came in the form of “Audiodisc” record blanks that Steventon cut at home. For convenience’s sake, or perhaps to keep his tapes safe, he transferred field recordings on to these “record at home” discs. 25 of these discs were offered to me and I snatched them right up. Later at home, I discovered that 21 have railroad sounds on them. The rest were radio shows and a relative who was apparently proficient at playing the piano.

These discs are 10″ and play at 78rpm. They contain about 6 minutes of audio when fully utilized but not all are. Frustratingly some records, in spite of the label being marked “Western Maryland” or “Pennsylvania RR”, are blank on one side or contain just a fraction of the audio it could hold. There is plenty of good stuff here and the condition of most of the records are surprisingly good in my opinion. Here are some of the highlights:

One of the best finds is a record marked “B&O-1st Recording” It seems I have found a record of William Steventon’s first recordings! From the article he wrote for TRACTION & MODELS we know he accidentally erased his very first recording of a B&O steamer while trying to play it back. So perhaps this is actually his second attempt. The record contains B&O steam & Diesel sounds recorded at the station in Riverdale, MD on March 31, 1953. Trains include number 523 “Marylander” and number 17 “Cleveland Night Express” among others.

He would return to the B&O many times, with recordings being made at both Riverdale and Silver Springs, MD. I have records of B&O trains recorded in July, August, and September 1953. Some of these recordings include the station announcements for trains number 9 “Chicago Express” and Train 5 “Capitol Limited” . There is one great sequence (too short) of an on-train recording behind B&O 5066 powering local train #154. Also there is a very good recording of a 5300 series loco on a heavy drag freight. Even early on he sure knew how to capture the sound of steam.

There are recordings of steam on the Shenandoah Central (loco # 12) IC # 3619 at Christopher, IL, PRR at Mill Creek, PA, C&IM, and on the EBT. Some of this material may have been included on the released albums, but here William Steventon himself provides commentary and the sounds may be edited differently. Steventon gives information about almost every cut in his distinctive, Walter Winchell-like voice. Other interesting sounds are those of PRR GG-1s recorded on August 22, 1954. They were recorded at, as Steventon puts it, a “country crossing”. Plenty of that toneless yet somehow appealing GG-1 horn blowing is included.

Potomac Edison box motor # 5 has several sides of these records devoted to it. Without checking, I’d say there is more of the sounds of the cab ride on these discs than what eventually made it on to Record #6. There is some Shaker Heights RT as well. Plenty of Johnstown Traction and Altoona & Logan Valley too. This may or may not have been released.

There is definitely some unreleased traction sound here. One full record contains the sounds of the Baltimore Transit company. One side is a ride on car # 5727 on the Lorraine Line and the other side is car # 5706 on the Ellicott City Line. Both recorded on January 16, 1954 This recording is in wonderful shape too.

More fine unreleased traction sounds include a nice recording of the St. Louis Public Service. Recorded in December of 1953 it includes both on board and trackside recordings of PCC cars on the University Line.

There is also some Washington DC Capital Transit stuff I don’t think made it to Record 27.

There are some unidentified traction sounds on an unmarked disc. The record starts with William Steventon telling a story about a blanket someone gave his father that had pictures of locomotives on it (his father was an engineer on the NYC). The story abruptly ends without concluding and the sounds of motor hum, gears, and door buzzers start. It sounds to me as if the recording was made at a subway station. We know Steventon made recordings in the IRT subway in New York and this may very well be it. The other side has more unidentified traction sound that may been the Queensboro Bridge recordings that were mentioned in the RRC newsletter David posted in this blog some time ago. Maybe someone knows for sure what all this sound really is. One other record worth noting is titled “Claude Mahoney.” Playing the record reveled that he was a radio commentator in the Washington DC area. This is both parts of a two-part show about riding an NRHS fantrip from Washington DC to Harrisburg, PA by way of Hagerstown on October 4, 1953. No train sounds are included but it is interesting in itself, especially if you enjoy old time radio broadcasts.

All of these records will soon be sent off to David for him to transfer to digital. Hopefully he can clean up and restore some of the sounds that right now, are degraded with surface noise and various clicks, pops, and hisses. I’m sure there is enough good sound to fill out a CD and it sure will make a great Railroad Record Club “bonus tracks” CD.

Another interesting aspect of the Railroad Record Club story is that some years after William Steventon’s death in 1993, his son Seth made an effort to reissue the entire RRC catalog on cassette tapes. David and I made inquiries about this to several people without much success. It’s likely the project was abandoned before much headway was achieved.

Evidence of Seth’s attempts were included in the estate. All of the records were converted to cassette and cover art and liner notes were put on cards for every record. Four completed tapes were in the collection and so are many of the cards.

Next I purchased 10 cover art paste-up boards. These are what was used to make the print blocks. A few actually contain the original art work. It seems Steventon would have the lettering glued to the same canvas board that the artist drew the picture on. They are not all originals, but several are. This was a bit of luck I would have never thought possible. On a few, such as the BC&G drawing for number 22 and the trolley picture for #23, the glued-on lettering has fallen off. This has revealed more of the drawing than we record owners have ever seen.



COVER ART 

# 1 WAB (12″remaster cover)

# 3 EBT (12″remaster cover)

# 4 B&O (12″remaster cover) Original Drawing

# 19 DM&IR (12″remaster cover) Original Drawing

# 22 BC&G (12″remaster cover) Original Drawing

# 23 Pennsylvania Trolleys Original Drawing

# 24 CP Original Drawing

# SP-3 Whistle/Bend Original Painting

# SP-4 CSS&SB

# SP-5 Soo (12″remaster cover) 

 

One other original drawing was found hiding among the others. It is of WCF&N interurban car # 100. This drawing did not appear on any RRC record jacket. The car is featured on Record 2. The first edition of the record had a cover that featured a photograph of the car. The second edition had a drawing of it, but it is not the one I have. Both of these editions were on 10″ stock. There is no way of knowing for sure but maybe a 12″ reissue of number 2 was in the works and this was to be the cover illustration. It’s possible. It could also be that this was a gift to Steventon or he commissioned it simply because he liked the car. Who knows?

Several boxes of photos were for sale as well. Both finances and cargo space were starting to reach their limits so I had to choose only a few to buy. As time allows I will scan and email all of the photos to David and he can include them in future Trolley Dodger posts. For now, I’ve scanned a few photos that in some way relate to the Railroad Record Club.

Photo 1. I was looking for a good photo of William Steventon, preferably in a railroad setting or with audio equipment in the field or at home. Nothing was found but this photo of him I think is quite good.

Photo 2 & 3. I found a copy of the photo that was used in the TRACTION & MODELS magazine article, the one that shows him making a recording of a North Shore Line interurban car. It has been posted in this blog before but this is a much better scan. It was made from an actual photograph and not a magazine reproduction as posted before. The shot is somewhat wider too. Because it is a good scan it is possible to crop the photo to a point where you can get a good look at all that recording equipment he needed. Imagine having to cart all that stuff around. Think of this next time you shoot audio AND video on your tiny Smartphone!

Photo 4. As was stated before, William Steventon’s father Seth was an engineer on the Big 4 (New York Central). This is very likely him in the cab of NYC 6879. Photo is dated 1915.

Photos 5 & 6. These two are good photos to keep in mind while listening to Record # 20 C&IM/NYC. The in cab recording Steventon made while aboard NYC # 1441 with his father as engineer was recorded while switching in this yard. While this photo was not taken at the time the sound recording was made (sound recording made December 9, 1953, these photos were taken on February 12, 1948) and is of a different locomotive (NYC # 1169), the setting is the same- the yard at Cairo, IL. In the liner notes of this record Steventon writes about the sound of the locomotive being “amplified by the huge empty lumber shed we were paralleling at the time.” That huge empty lumber shed is plainly visible in the wider shot of # 1169. Seth was again the engineer at the throttle.

Photo 7. Seth in the cab of Shenandoah Central # 12. This is the locomotive that is on one of the unreleased audiodisc records. It was very likely taken on the same day as that the sound recordings were made.

Photo 8. When I saw this picture in the box with a bunch of others, it stood out too me. Why I wasn’t sure until I took a closer look. It is of Charles City Western car # 50. What made it stand out was that the angle and position of the car is exactly as the car appears on the cover of record 28. Remove the car barn and some of the background, take away the bit of freight car to the left, add a few clouds in the sky and you have the record cover! It would be hard to convince me that the record cover drawing is not based on this photo.

Photo 9. CCW car 50 as it appears on RRC record # 28’s cover. Compare the two.

A few interesting documents were found as well. There was a large box of correspondence to and from the Club. Apparently Mr. Steventon threw very little away. If you ever wrote to him or ordered a record from him, chances are your letter or envelope are in that box! I looked briefly for anything from me but no luck. I would have needed more time to do a good search.

What I left Behind

There were more treasures to be found in that darkened building for sure. Time, storage space, and money, the bane I’m sure of every collector, shook me from my excitation. No more space and no more money meant no more discoveries.

While I’m very happy with what I got, there is still more. All those boxes of records I turned down and all those wonderful photos I couldn’t afford. I would hate to find out they had to be trashed.

The most glaring oversight on my part were the boxes of reel to reel tapes I saw. I did look at them and even took some photos, but it all appeared to be master tapes for the records. All these sound I was positive were safely cut into vinyl.

After getting home and closely looking at those photos I can now see that there was unreleased railroad audio there too. Such titles as L&N, NKP Diesel, IRT Subway, IND Subway, 3rd Avenue El and the Queensboro Bridge Trolley, among others, now jumped out at me. Perhaps there might be a way to save this material as well.

I had a great time making these discoveries, and I’m very happy that David should be able to make CDs of these sounds so they can be shared with all who are interested. After not being heard in decades, it feels great to be a part of the effort to bring these lost Railroad Record Club sounds into the light of day.

Recent Correspondence

Continuing from our last post (regarding Speedrail) Larry Sakar writes:

This was the aftermath of the 8/24/49 collision at Soldiers Home. Car 1143 with motorman Ralph Janus was an all steel car. That was the one that backed up. Car 1119 with motorman LeRoy Equitz was a car that was wood with I think steel sheets surrounding it. That was true of nearly all of the 1100-series TM single cars except 1142-1145. Those 4 were all steel. Equitz was speeding going twice as fast as he should have been given that he had a yellow caution signal. As you came downhill and into the Calvary Cemetery cut, the r.o.w. made a sharp curve beneath the Hawley Rd. overpass and then continued downhill. That and the Mitchell Blvd. overpass at the east end of the cut limited the view ahead. Equitz didn’t spot the 1143 until it was too late.

The newspaper picture I’m attaching looks forward from the front or what was left of the front of 1119 to the back of 1143. Note the telescoping. That’s the floor of 1143 in front of the fireman who is bending over on the right. Had anyone been sitting in the smoking compartment of 1143 they would have been killed. Luckily, no one was.

The Calvary Cemetery cut is the only part of the abandoned r.o.w. that remains relatively unchanged today. Here are some photos of it over the years.

Thanks for sharing!

Larry again:

Here’s more about that accident, Dave as well as a view of the 65 as it looked upon arrival in Milwaukee. Note no front end “LVT” design.

I promised Scott (Greig) that I would look into the Speedrail accident of 9/5/50 to see if the newspaper accounts identified the crew of car 1121. In the July, 2017 comments, Scott thought that the motorman of car 1121 was Ralph Janus who was motorman of car 1143 which backed up for the missed passenger at Soldiers Home station on 8/24/49 and was rammed from behind by car 1119 with motorman LeRoy Equitz. I thought it was someone by the name of Eugene Thompson.

According to the Milwaukee Journal article, “Speedrail Dead Now 10; Line Has New Collision” (MKE Journal 9/5/50 P.1) the motorman of car 1121 was Eugene Thompson. The motorman of car 64 which 1121 ran into was Virgil McCann. There was one passenger aboard car 64, Ewald Rintelmann, age 50 of Hales Corners whom the article says was “shaken and bruised.” I hoped that the other two crew members aboard car 1121 would be identified but they weren’t. It only mentions that there were “2 other men aboard the freight car.” At least not in this article or the following day. As I mentioned previously, I recall the late Speedrail motorman Don Leistikow saying it was a father and son, one of whom was the conductor and the other the brakeman. The article reported that Maeder “initially blamed the accident on ‘slick, moisture covered tracks’.” The accident happened 1000 feet south of the West Jct. station.

The 9-5-50 article is also where we hear of the 8 or 9 year old boy Maeder saw “standing awfully close to the landing at Oklahoma Ave.,” who drew his attention away from the Nachod signal. “Ordinarily, you keep you eye on the light for more than an instant,” Maeder said. “On Saturday, however, I noticed a small boy about 8 or 9, standing awfully close to the tracks at Oklahoma av. landing. When I noticed, in a quick look, that I had the white light, my thoughts turned to the more immediate danger of the small boy and I turned my eyes from the light to the boy.”

I’ll give Maeder credit for coming up with a good story to explain his failure to keep an eye on the signal but that’s all. He makes no mention of the fact that Speedrail supervisor John Heberling was stationed at Oklahoma Ave. and that he had set the switch so that Maeder’s train went into the siding. Nor does he mention that he ordered Heberling to immediately reset the switch and let him out of the siding when the latter wanted to take time to call the dispatcher and see where Equitz was at. Neither John Heberling nor any of the fans gathered around Maeder on the front platform ever reported seeing a small boy playing or standing near the tracks.

When Maeder refers to “the landing,” I am guessing he was referring to the station platform. Oklahoma Ave. station was on the bridge over Oklahoma Ave.

About 3 years ago I had a phone conversation with George Wolter, the assigned motorman on Maeder’s train. I asked if it was true that Maeder took control of the train shortly after leaving the Public Service Building outbound to Hales Corners. He confirmed that Maeder said, “Go and have a seat. I’ll take it from here,” when they got to 6th & Michigan Sts. I asked if Maeder had given him a reason and he said, “Well we got caught in a traffic jam on 6th St.” I said, “OK but what does that have to do with anything?” Maeder taking over operation of the train wasn’t going to change the fact that you were caught in street traffic. I mean he wasn’t Moses. He couldn’t lift up his switch iron and demand that the traffic part and let his train pass in the name of the Lord.”

I know that was a rather sarcastic remark but Wolter’s excuse for Maeder was utterly ridiculous. Wolter said, “I will swear to my dying day that I saw that signal at Oklahoma Ave. and it was white.” That was the end of the conversation. His statement contradicts what he told the DA and testified to at the Coroner’s inquest. His exact statement at that time was that he was just coming up front having “gone back to the rear car for a while.”

This was when he spotted the roof of Equitz’s train coming up over the top of the hill ahead of the northbound train. He said he DID NOT see the signal at Oklahoma Ave.! I think his testimony at the time carries far more weight than the way he remembered events more than 60 years later. I should also point out that had he been so inclined the DA could have charged Wolter with negligence since PSC rules required that a qualified motorman had to be present at all times when someone who was not qualified was operating the train. He had absolutely no business being in the rear car of 39-40.

Don Leistikow said that had he been the motorman he would have stood right next to Maeder whether he liked it or not. He would have been the scheduled motorman and this was officially his train. He was the person responsible for it. As Don pointed out the PSC regulations did not make an exception just because you owned the company. Based on the way the DA went after Maeder and statements made by the DA as early as 9-5 when he said he had concluded that based on the evidence he’d gathered that Maeder went thru a red signal. And it was obvious that he wasn’t buying Maeder’s story about safety concerns. Maeder’s frequent sessions with railfans in his office, seeking their input while ignoring Tennyson the VP of operations, fits the pattern of someone who on 9/2 saw an opportunity to bask in the admiration of his fellow model railroaders and railfans and just couldn’t pass up such a “golden opportunity” to show off by being at the controls of duplex 39-40. Tennyson said as much in my book and reluctantly, I would have to agree with him.

I am sure our readers will appreciate this important bit of history on what was a very serious tragedy.

Finally, Larry asks:

One thing that has puzzled me for a long time is why the CTA was so anti-streetcar. It seems to me that they would have wanted to keep the PCC’s running on at least the 22-Clark-Wentworth, the 36-Broadway-State and the 49-Western Ave. Weren’t those 3 lines some of the busiest crosstown streetcar routes? It’s always seemed to me, not knowing much more than the basics about the CSL and CTA that it appeared to be terribly wasteful to junk all of those mostly new St. Louis Car PCC’s. Yes, I know that a lot of parts went into the 6000 series “L” cars but did they really recoup their investment?

I know there have been books written about the CSL but has anyone ever thought about writing a comprehensive history of it say for CERA? Dave Stanley told me that when CTA acquired CSL it was broke. Was the CRT in any better shape, financially?

In a way it’s too bad the CTA wasn’t selling off the PCC’s in 1949.Both the Waukesha and Hales Corners lines had turning loops so their being single ended would not have been a problem though whether Maeder could have afforded them, I have serious doubts.

TM did not have turning loops on any of the streetcar lines and that is part of the reason S.B. Way was not interested in buying PCC’s for Milwaukee. It would have meant constructing loops at the ends of the car lines or buying double ended PCC’s. I know of only 2 systems that had double ended PCC’s; PE and Dallas. Of course by the time the first PCC’s rolled off the production line for the Brooklyn & Queens, TM had pretty much turned its back on streetcars in favor of trolleybuses.

The Chicago Transit Authority purchased the Surface Lines in 1947 for $75m. However, the CSL had $30m in cash on hand in a renewal account, so the actual amount spent was only $45m.

While the underlying companies behind the CSL facade were bankrupt, this was more of a technical bankruptcy, a situation that the City of Chicago wanted to maintain since they had by the mid-1940s decided that municipal ownership was the only way forward. Otherwise, contemporary accounts indicate that CSL could have emerged from bankruptcy during WWII.

CSL could have done better, except that its fares were being kept artificially low by the Illinois Commerce Commission. When the CTA took over, there were numerous fare increases in its first decade of operation since the agency had the power to set its own rates.

By contrast, the Chicago Rapid Transit Company was a financial basket case that could barely pay its bills. During the transition to CTA ownership between 1945 and 1947, the most that CRT could spend for new railcars was $100k, while the Surface Lines had millions on hand for such purchases. CRT ordered four articulated sets while CSL ordered the 600 postwar PCCs plus other buses.

CSL was very much a pro-streetcar operator, but in the years prior to 1947, had been expanding service using motor buses and trolley buses, including some initial conversions of lightly-used streetcar routes to bus.

The City of Chicago commissioned a transportation study in 1937 that suggested replacing half the trolleys with buses. This still would have meant purchasing 1500 new streetcars.

As the years went on, this amount kept being decreased in the plans, from 1500 to 1000 to 800, and ultimately it became 600.

While the CTA still planned to order an additional 200 PCCs in their 10-Year Plan, published in 1947, this did not come to pass, and the first general manager of CTA, Walter J. McCarter, was hired in part because of his success in “rubberizing” the Cleveland streetcar system.

So, while CSL was pro-streetcar, increasingly the City of Chicago was pro-bus, and when municipal ownership came to be, the new CTA reflected the attitudes of the City.

The war had put off some bus substitutions and equipment purchases, so there was a backlog of conversions in the pipeline by that time. This led to a more rapid switch from streetcar to bus than might have been the case otherwise.

The difficulty in abandoning lightly-used lines also worked against CSL, and to some extent CSL and CRT competed with each other. Once CTA took over, they could rationalize both systems to work better together.

Still, even as late as 1949, CTA was at least considering purchasing 200 more PCCs, and retaining service on as many as 11 streetcar lines. The 600 PCCs were brand new, and the 83 prewar cars plus the 100 Sedans could have provided good service for many years to come.

Around that time, however, a number of factors were already at work against the surface system in general.

First, along with increased car ownership and frequent fare increases, there was a serious drop-off in surface system ridership, to the point where it was eventually decided that buses could do the job.

Second, the CTA changed its method of accounting, allocating a portion of surface system revenue to the rapid transit. This meant that some service that were once considered profitable were suddenly seen as unprofitable.

One thing that CTA did almost immediately was work to reduce their labor costs by eliminating as many employees as possible. This became even more important in the inflationary postwar period as unionized workers demanded better pay and benefits. CTA had a chronic manpower shortage and was thus in a weak position to hold the line.

Since most streetcars were two-man, they were easy targets for substitution by one-man buses.

A 1951 consultant’s report proposed that CTA retain the PCCs, convert them to one-man, and stop purchasing electric vehicles for the surface system due to the supposedly high cost of electric power purchased from Commonwealth Edison.

By the 1950s, CTA had become convinced that maintaining ridership was a matter of providing faster service. Faster service could not easily be provided on city streets, with increasing competition from cars and trucks, but there were ways to speed up service on the rapid transit system.

The so-called PCC Conversion Program was mainly public relations. The CTA had decided it no longer wanted to operate streetcars, yet had 600 that were just a few years old, with an expected 20-year life and attendant depreciation. The main purpose of the program was to take these cars off the books in a way that would not show a loss on paper.

While frequent claims were made that supposedly the program was yielding $20,000 or more per streetcar, CTA actually received $11,000 for each of the 570 cars sold to St. Louis Car Company. In addition, there were thousands of dollars in additional costs involved with adapting and reconditioning parts. Over the five years or so of the program, the amount of costs increased, to the point where, by 1958, CTA admitted it was receiving no more than scrap value for each PCC sold.

But since these were non-standard cars, there was no market for reselling them to another city.

The Conversion Program only made sense if you believed that PCC streetcars, which were state-of-the-art and just a few years old, had absolutely no future value as transit vehicles, even though the 1951 consultant report indicated that the tracks and wire were in good shape and were worth keeping. The consultant thought that the cost of replacing the service with bus was more than the cost of keeping what they had.

CRT was in such bad shape that within a few short years, CTA decided to devote 70% of its investments in upgrading it, even though in 1947 it only had a market share of less than 20% of local ridership. As a consequence, some might argue that the surface system got the “short end of the stick,” especially after October 1, 1952 when CTA purchased the assets of the competing Chicago Motor Coach Company.

Perhaps not coincidentally, this was also the date when the CTA, having eliminated its last remaining competitor, announced the Conversion Program that spelled the end of streetcars in Chicago. It was no longer necessary to offer a “premium service” that could compete with CMC for riders.

As for a history of CSL, it would be hard for anyone to better the Chicago Surface Lines book by Alan R. Lind, especially the third edition published in 1979.

The subject is of sufficient complexity to demand a series of books, of which Chicago Streetcar Pictorial: The PCC Car Era, 1936-1958 (published as Bulletin 146 of the Central Electric Railfans’ Association in 2015), at 448 pages, including several hundred photos in color, forms an important part. I am proud to have been a co-author of that book.

My upcoming book Chicago Trolleys, although a much more modest 128 pages, will be another addition to that field.

-David Sadowski

Bonus Pictures

FYI, I found this brochure in one of the issues of Surface Service (the Chicago Surface Lines employee publication) I recently scanned:

Pre-Order Our New Book Chicago Trolleys

On the Cover: Car 1747 was built between 1885 and 1893 by the Chicago City Railway, which operated lines on the South Side starting in April 1859. This is a single-truck (one set of wheels) open electric car; most likely a cable car, retrofitted with a trolley and traction motor. The man at right is conductor William Stevely Atchison (1861-1921), and this image came from his granddaughter. (Courtesy of Debbie Becker.)

On the Cover: Car 1747 was built between 1885 and 1893 by the Chicago City Railway, which operated lines on the South Side starting in April 1859. This is a single-truck (one set of wheels) open electric car; most likely a cable car, retrofitted with a trolley and traction motor. The man at right is conductor William Stevely Atchison (1861-1921), and this image came from his granddaughter. (Courtesy of Debbie Becker.)

We are pleased to report that our new book Chicago Trolleys will be released on September 25th by Arcadia Publishing. You can pre-order an autographed copy through us today (see below). Chicago Trolleys will also be available wherever Arcadia books are sold.

Overview

Chicago’s extensive transit system first started in 1859, when horsecars ran on rails in city streets. Cable cars and electric streetcars came next. Where new trolley car lines were built, people, businesses, and neighborhoods followed. Chicago quickly became a world-class city. At its peak, Chicago had over 3,000 streetcars and 1,000 miles of track—the largest such system in the world. By the 1930s, there were also streamlined trolleys and trolley buses on rubber tires. Some parts of Chicago’s famous “L” system also used trolley wire instead of a third rail. Trolley cars once took people from the Loop to such faraway places as Aurora, Elgin, Milwaukee, and South Bend. A few still run today.

The book features 226 classic black-and-white images, each with detailed captions, in 10 chapters:

1. Early Traction
2. Consolidation and Growth
3. Trolleys to the Suburbs
4. Trolleys on the “L”
5. Interurbans Under Wire
6. The Streamlined Era
7. The War Years
8. Unification and Change
9. Trolley Buses
10. Preserving History

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781467126816
Publisher: Arcadia Publishing SC
Publication date: 09/25/2017
Series: Images of Rail
Pages: 128

Meet the Author

David Sadowski has been interested in streetcars ever since his father took him for a ride on one of the last remaining lines in 1958. He grew up riding trolley buses and “L” trains all over Chicago. He coauthored Chicago Streetcar Pictorial: The PCC Car Era, 1936–1958, and runs the online Trolley Dodger blog. Come along for the ride as we travel from one side of the city to the other and see how trolley cars and buses moved Chicago’s millions of hardworking, diverse people.

Images of Rail

The Images of Rail series celebrates the history of rail, trolley, streetcar, and subway transportation across the country. Using archival photographs, each title presents the people, places, and events that helped revolutionize transportation and commerce in 19th- and 20th-century America. Arcadia is proud to play a part in the preservation of local heritage, making history available to all.

The book costs just $21.99 plus shipping. Shipping within the US is included in the price. Shipping to Canada is just $5 additional, or $10 elsewhere.

Please note that Illinois residents must pay 10.00% sales tax on their purchases.

We appreciate your business!

For Shipping to US Addresses:

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For Shipping Elsewhere:

NEW – Chicago Trolleys Postcard Collection

We are pleased to report that selected images from our upcoming book Chicago Trolleys will be available on September 25th in a pack of 15 postcards, all for just $7.99. This is part of a series put out by Arcadia Publishing. Dimensions: 6″ wide x 4.25″ tall

The Postcards of America Series

Here in the 21st century, when everyone who’s anyone seems to do most of their communicating via Facebook and Twitter, it’s only natural to wax a little nostalgic when it comes to days gone by. What happened to more personal means of communication like hand-written letters on nice stationery? Why don’t people still send postcards when they move someplace new or go away on vacation?

If that line of thinking sounds familiar, then Arcadia Publishing’s Postcards of America was launched with you in mind. Each beautiful volume features a different collection of real vintage postcards that you can mail to your friends and family.

Pre-Order your Chicago Trolleys Postcard Pack today!

For Shipping to US Addresses:

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This is our 190th post, and we are gradually creating a body of work and an online resource for the benefit of all railfans, everywhere. To date, we have received over 307,000 page views, for which we are very grateful.

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Your financial contributions help make this web site better, and are greatly appreciated.

Larry Sakar, TM, and Speedrail

Lehigh Valley Transit 1100 on a New York Central flat car at Riverside Yard in Allentown PA. Don's Rail Photos: "1100 was built by Cincinnati Car in August 1929, #3025, as Dayton & Troy Ry 201. It was returned to Cincinnati Car in 1932, and in 1938 it was sold to LVT as 1100. In 1949 it was sold to Milwaukee Rapid Transit & Speedrail. It was in such bad condition that it was not rehabilitated and was scrapped in 1952." It seems likely that the 1100 was sold to Speedrail for use as a parts car. The photo date is given as February 14, 1948, but this may be wrong, as this was more than a year prior to the abandonment of the Easton Limited interurban line, where this car ran. However, it may have been out of service for some time.

Lehigh Valley Transit 1100 on a New York Central flat car at Riverside Yard in Allentown PA. Don’s Rail Photos: “1100 was built by Cincinnati Car in August 1929, #3025, as Dayton & Troy Ry 201. It was returned to Cincinnati Car in 1932, and in 1938 it was sold to LVT as 1100. In 1949 it was sold to Milwaukee Rapid Transit & Speedrail. It was in such bad condition that it was not rehabilitated and was scrapped in 1952.” It seems likely that the 1100 was sold to Speedrail for use as a parts car. The photo date is given as February 14, 1948, but this may be wrong, as this was more than a year prior to the abandonment of the Easton Limited interurban line, where this car ran. However, it may have been out of service for some time.

Today, we are featuring some recent correspondence with Larry Sakar, author of the 1991 book Speedrail: Milwaukee’s Last Rapid Transit?. This has long been a collector’s item– try finding a copy at a reasonable price, and you will see what I mean.

Larry has continued his research in the 26 years since this book came out, and has a new book in the works. Larry is very outspoken, and doesn’t pull any punches. Perhaps that is because he knows his subject so well.

Meanwhile, this Wednesday, I sent off the corrected proofs of our own book Chicago Trolleys to the publisher. That means our part in it is now pretty much done, except perhaps for answering any questions that the proofreaders might have. Then it will go to press and the publication date is September 25.

If any of you have ever written a book, you may know that it is something akin to wrestling an alligator. However, now I believe I’ve got the alligator wrestled to the ground, and am very happy with the finished product. Chances are, you will be too.

-David Sadowski

Larry A. Sakar writes:

I just discovered your site and saw the 3 color photos of LVT 1100 & 1102 loaded onto flat cars for the trip to Milwaukee (Odds and Ends, May 5, 2017). The Feb., 1948 date is not correct. Speedrail did not exist in 1948. It began on 9/2/49 after Jay Maeder bought the Waukesha line from Northland Greyhound for $110!

I know because I’m Larry Sakar, author of “Speedrail Milwaukee’s Last Rapid Transit?” published by Interurban Press in 1991.

Cars 1100 & 1102 were purchased sometime in late October by Jay Maeder who went to Allentown for the purpose of buying additional Cincinnati Curved side lightweight cars to go with the 6 purchased by Ed Tennyson, Speedrail’s VP of operations in Sept. 1949 from Shaker Heights Rapid Transit (cars 60-65). SHRT sold Tennyson the 6 cars for $500 each and he leased them back to Speedrail. The sale was supposed to be contingent on Mr. Maeder putting up the additional $2300 for spare parts. Whether or not he did I have never been able to find out.

Maeder paid $750 each for 1100 & 1102 which were supposedly the best 2 of the 4 cars (1100-1103). You are absolutely correct about the refurbishing of 1102 into MRT car 66 which premiered on 3/31/51 and served only for 3 months before Speedrail ended all operations on 6/30/51. As part of the rehabilitation it exchanged trucks with car 64 which was wrecked in the collision with e-TM 1121 serving as Speedrail’s freight motor. That happened just 3 days after the terrible and fatal accident on the NMRA fan trip of 9/2/50. The 3 man crew on 1121 finished switching the C&NW Ry. interchange just south of West Jct. early that day and were in a hurry to get home so they ignored the proper procedure for entering the mainline from the C&NW interchange and smacked into car 64 bashing in a significant portion of the front platform. They did not have to worry about getting home early after that. All 3 were terminated. But it caused Travelers Insurance to pull the plug on Speedrail’s liability insurance because of 2 serious accidents in 3 days and also because Maeder was 6 months behind in paying the premiums. He had used money set aside for insurance to buy Shaker Heights cars 300 & 301! As President and sole stockholder he could do what he wanted. The money was used to buy equipment and not for any personal purposes thus making it perfectly legal but also perfectly stupid!

To the best of my knowledge Maeder never intended to use car 1100 for spare parts. That only happened because it was dead on arrival in Milwaukee and would not run period. 1102 blew a motor on arrival and had to be sent to TMER&T’s Cold Spring shops for repair. Cold Spring was marking up costs by 100%! The small shops facility in the Public Service building terminal could not do major repairs.

I don’t know if you would be interested but I have just completed a new manuscript entitled, “The Complete History of the Milwaukee Rapid Transit Line from TMER&L to Speedrail.” There are 146 pages of text plus an additional 160 pages of photos and documents. Of these there are 37 pages of color photos.

The money to pay for refurbishing 1102 into 66 came from the sale of 14 surplus ex-TM 1100 series cars to Afram Brothers Scrap Metal Company in Milwaukee. This all took place several months after Bruno V. Bitker the federal bankruptcy trustee dismissed Jay Maeder. The seats put in what became car 66 came from some of those 1100’s. It also switched trucks with the damaged car 64.

I think if Maeder had remained in charge he would never have sold those surplus 1100’s. He had a sentimental attachment to TM which he first discovered in 1926 when he attended St. John’s Military Academy in Delafield, Wisconsin for his senior year of high school. Delafield was a stop on the Milwaukee-Watertown line.

Thanks and continue the great work. You have a fantastic website.

Thanks for writing, and also for all this wonderful information. As you are well aware I am sure, the information people write on slides, prints, negs, etc. is not always 100% accurate. I appreciate your corrections.

Lehigh Valley Transit purchased four Cincinnati curved-side cars second-hand in 1938 for the Easton Limited interurban line. Unfortunately, these cars were underpowered, and not really up to the task of working this hilly route. They were sharp-looking cars as LVT renovated them, but could not maintain the schedules of the cars they replaced. So it is no great surprise that by the time Speedrail got two of them in 1949, they were in bad shape.

Larry replied:

Yes, I do know that incorrect info often turns up in both pics and books. My 1991 Speedrail book has errors but when I wrote it in 1988 it was based on the best information I had at the time. I never dreamed that after it came out I’d be contacted by Jay Maeder’s daughter Jane and would be the recipient of several boxes of documents her father left behind. She and her late brother Jay Jr. decided that I should have them as they would never do anything with them. Neither of them knew much about Speedrail other than that their father once “owned a railroad”.

That reminds me. I saw the discussion as to whether Jay Maeder ever lived in Texas. No he didn’t but his daughter Jane Maeder Walsh lives in Houston. And Jay Sr. is survived by a lot of grandchildren. I didn’t know Jay Jr. drew that cartoon but I’m not surprised. He was an authority on the Dick Tracy comic strip having authored two books on the subject. I only spoke to him one time while he was working for the New York Daily News and was writing a column called “Lounge Lizard” which reviewed NYC lounge acts. I’ve had a lot of contact with Jane.

I wanted to scream when I got the last shipment of documents in 2012. At the bottom of the box was a scrapbook – the kind with the brown pages like many of us had as kids where we glued things in with Muselix glue. That’s what I expected to see when I opened it but instead found blank pages. Then I looked again. What he did, David, was rip out newspaper clippings related to Speedrail. Then he’d rip out the date and using a nail like the ones you get with picture hooks, would attach it to the clipping. But instead of placing the clippings on the pages he literally shoved them into the spines of each page. Well, after 60 years as I’m sure you know the newsprint deteriorated and the dates fell off as the paper deteriorated. Newsprint is notorious for that. Consequently, I ended up with about 25 clippings where the event could have happened anytime in the 22 months Speedrail existed.

You’re 100% right that the 9-2-50 accident is still controversial. I would say that in terms of blame 80% goes to Maeder and 20% to Tennyson. The Maeder/Tennyson working relationship had been deteriorating ever since the fall of 1949 when Maeder bought the Local Rapid Transit line (Milwaukee-West Junction-Hales Corners) without ever bringing the matter before the Speedrail Board (such as it was). Tennyson was opposed. He told me that when he went to Cleveland on 9/12/49 and met with Maeder’s Cleveland Attorney, Frank Taplin, Taplin told him, “Ed, whatever you do do not let Jay buy that Local Rapid Transit line. He will lose his shirt!” Tennyson was there to buy the 6 Shaker Heights curved side cars. Anyway, according to what he told me, when he found out what Maeder had done he went to the third member of the board, Oliver A. Grootemaat Speedrail’s general counsel and secretary. He said Grootemaat told him, “Maeder owns all the stock. He can do whatever he wants.!”

As for 9-2-50 Tennyson told me Maeder had asked him to draw up a schedule and rules for the 5 NMRA fan trips which he did. On the morning of 9/2 he discovered the trains were running late and that’s when he called the so-called dispatcher, Joe Bellon at the Public Service Building to find out what was going on. It was then that he found out that Maeder and one of the senior motormen, Gerald Greer had spent the night before drawing up “anticipatory train orders” that required every train to call from every siding. Also, the rules were that photo stops were to be made southbound to Hales Corners only. And anyone who did not come when time was up for the photo stop would be left behind. When Maeder’s train got to Hillcrest loop in Hales Corners the fans asked for a photostop going back to Milwaukee. Maeder should have said “NO” but he went along with it. So Tennyson called Bellon and told him to go back to the original orders where trains were to operate by schedule and timetable and only call if they ran into trouble. Maeder had called from Hillcrest to report they’d be stopping for a photostop northbound but from that point on he wasn’t heard from again. In order to allow the regularly scheduled southbound Hales Corners pass Maeder pulled in to Greenwood Jct., a siding never used which was the connection to the Lakeside Belt Line. It was seldom if ever used and once the M-R-K (Milwaukee-Racine Kenosha Line) was abandoned in Dec. of 1947 it was useless.

As a result of the reversal of orders Equitz assumed Maeder would hold at Oklahoma Ave. for him to pass. Maeder, still operating under his revised orders expected the dispatcher would tell Equitz he’d cleared Maeder’s train all the way to West Jct. The end result was that 10 people were killed because two guys didn’t get along. I do think Maeder went thru a red signal. And I also feel he had no business running the train especially since it was discovered he was color blind. If he’d been familiar with the Nachod signals that should not have made a difference. The position of the lights would have shown if the signal was red or white. Maeder was too occupied by all of the railfans gathered around him and he didn’t give the signal more than a quick glance, something you could not do with Nachod signals.

Maeder made an idiot of himself at the Coroner’s inquest. When the DA asked him why his train was running late he objected. the DA asked why he objected to his train being labeled as late and he replied, “My train was an extra train. Extra trains cannot be late. They can only be behind schedule.” HUH?? What’s the difference? Isn’t being behind schedule being late? He also testified that he and the regular motorman George Wolter weren’t relying on the signals. “They were a help but we weren’t relying on them”, is what he testified. Yes, Maeder was exonerated in court but only because the law on 4th Degree Manslaughter required it to be a deliberate act. I seriously doubt if he would be as lucky today not to mention that he personally would face a ton of lawsuits. And though he was exonerated in court he could and did not fare as well in the one court he could do nothing about, the court of public opinion. Bitker clearly didn’t want him around anymore. Tennyson said Bitker banned Maeder from the property but I don’t know if that’s true.

The Rapid Transit book I’ve completed contains photos you’ve never seen before. One of my sources is John Schoenknecht the head of the Waukesha County Historical Society and he has supplied me with some really great photos.

I see Bill Shapotkin comments quite regularly. I’ve known Bill since 1986. Great guy!

This is all great stuff. Who is publishing your book? I see that Interurbans Press put out your Speedrail volume.

Larry:

Interurbans Press did put out the Speedrail book. They published one or two books after that and went out of business. Mac Sebree, the owner retired and sold the company to video producer PENTREX. PENTREX had no interest in selling or publishing books. They bought Interurban Press for one thing and one thing only – their videos. And even if they were still around I’d be extremely reluctant to deal with them again! At the time they accepted the book they had purchased PTJ Publications which was in Waukesha. PTJ as you may know was the original publisher of Passenger Train Journal.

 In 1988 home computers and the Internet did not exist. But since they had the office in Waukesha I begged and pleaded for them to do the book there even though the normally did all books in Glendale, CA. Mike Schaefer was part of PTJ Publications and he was the person I wanted to edit and layout the book. I pointed out that it would be much easier for all concerned should any problems arise. I couldn’t hop a plane to Glendale, CA.  just like that. I was working. But driving out to Waukesha would be no problem. What I didn’t know until later was that “bad blood” existed between Mike and this Paul Hammond who ran things in Glendale. Interurban Press interpreted my request as taking sides. I was trying to do what I felt would be best especially since I knew Mike knew the subject which the California people did not. Interurban Press refused.

The book was to have been published in 1989 but a tragedy at the Waukesha office delayed it by two years. A young staff member was engaged to be married. Something happened and the engagement was called off. He become despondent and went out to Butler and killed himself by stepping in front of an on-coming C&NW train. Horrible! Anyway they resumed work on it and things seemed to go well from there. I don’t know how it works today but back then you received 3 final drafts. The first two showed the space where the photos would be and the caption but not the actual photo. The final proof was called the blue line. So the blue line arrives in the mail and I absolutely exploded. What was supposed to be a photo of the 9-2-50 Speedrail wreck was a photo of the 8-24-49 Soldiers Home wreck. I probably didn’t even need long distance I was so angry. Their excuse: “Well, we just assumed that the wrecks were one and the same.” YOU ASSUMED?? So I had to quickly run out to Waukesha. They had the Milwaukee Journals for the day of and days after the 9-2-50 wreck. With the space already dedicated we had to choose that really bad picture that appears in the book. It was the only one that fit.

There were any number of other things that happened over those 2-3 years (1988-1991). I can’t tell you how many times they told me they “expected to take a loss” on the book and discouraging things like that. Loss nothing! It sold out all of the first printing in 18 months. I had thought about pitching it to Kalmbach but didn’t think I’d stand much of a chance being an unknown at the time. I was right. In 1999 a couple of years after the video, “Rapid Transit in Milwaukee From TMER&L to Speedrail” was put out by TMER&THS of which I was Secretary and Treasurer we decided to write a companion book to the video. Jack Gervais was co-authoring it with me. He was handling everything up to Speedrail and I was writing from Speedrail to the end. When we finished it in 2000 I tried pitching it to Kalmbach now that I had a book published. They turned it down. They were full of compliments about it being well written and all but felt it was too limited as a subject and would not sell the way a book on a more popular subject like the Milwaukee Road would. Gervais then contacted Larry Plachno. I did not want to deal with him as I’d heard a great deal of negative things about him from Bill Shapotkin. Well we did end up driving all the way to Polo, Illinois only to have Plachno open the binder, look at a few pages and go, “Tsk, Tsk, Tsk! I have a problem with you people already” HUH? “All this quoting. Don’t you know a good historian never quotes. He paraphrases.” I politely took the binder, shut it, said, “Thank you for your time, Mr. Plachno. That may be your philosophy for writing books but it isn’t mine!” In the intro to the new book I address that. I don’t believe in paraphrasing because that puts my interpretation on what was said. I quote and I let my readers decide how to interpret what was said. 

So in terms of a publisher I don’t have one and I’ve no idea of who I could give it to. I’m not looking to make money from this. The Maeder family designated me “Keeper of the Flame” where Speedrail is concerned. They entrusted what Jay left behind because they feel I would know best how to make use of it. I take that both as a compliment and a responsibility to preserve this history. That is my goal, here. Norm Carlson is a perfect example of someone who understands that. I have worked with him quite a few times and enjoyed it. He’s a professional and “First & Fastest” is the high quality publication it is because of his dedication. Browsing thru your site I see much the same thing, David. You obviously have a real feel for preserving this history and those are the type of people I like to work with. I really enjoy the Trolley Dodger site.

The Speedrail book was written as a way to promote TMER&THS Inc. I quit the group 14 years ago so this book has absolutely no connection to them or any other group. I am a member of Shore Line. Norm has been very gracious in publishing my articles. I’m also writing for “Landmark,” the publication of the Waukesha County Historical Society. My goal is to leave behind a historical record so that someday someone can come along and view this history. 

I saw your comment that maybe if things had been just a little different Speedrail might still be around today. Actually, David, sad to say, Speedrail was dead before it began. The following chapters from my book and  a page from a city of Milwaukee subcommittee in March, 1945 will show you what Milwaukee thought of the Rapid Transit. Once the city caught what I call “expressway fever” and they decided the Rapid Transit line west from downtown was the place for the East-West Freeway they stopped at nothing to get it. Maeder owned the track, overhead wire, cars and bridges but not the land on which those tracks sat. That remained Wisconsin Electric Power Co. property. Shaker Heights did not have that problem. Maeder wrongly assumed that Milwaukee would rally to support his efforts to save the Rapid Transit as happened in Shaker Heights. It was the Waukesha riders who rallied to support it. Milwaukee could’ve card less except for Mayor Zeidler, of course. More to follow soon.

The photo I sent you earlier today which shows a guy up on a stage addressing a crowd of people goes with the chapter”The First Public Pledge Meeting.” The date is 6-27-51. The place was Kuney’s dance hall in the Town of Calhoun. I think the man on stage is Edwin Knappe but am not sure. You’ll read about him and the Calhoun Farms Riders Group in the chapter about them. Kuney’s is still there today if you think I should put in a present day picture. There’s nothing special about it. Calhoun Farms was to the north and west of the Calhoun Road stop on the Waukesha line. There’s a historical marker which explains about it and the area of Calhoun which is east of Waukesha. It even mentions the Rapid Transit. I have pictures of that too.

One of the people you’ll see quoted in the Speedrail section fairly often is former Speedrail motorman Don Leistikow. I’d say that at least 50% of what I learned about Speedrail over the years came from Don. I’m attaching his famous “Skunk” story. I think you” get a laugh out of it. Don was quite a story teller. He passed away a couple of years ago at the age of 85 and is sorely missed.

While I never actually met Don L. Leistikow, I did correspond with him a bit, and I almost met him once.  I went out to East Troy onetime and took some pictures, and after I posted them to the web, someone identified him in one of the pictures.  What a nice man.

Larry:

NSL fans may be interested to know that after being vacant for the last 47 years the site of the North Shore’s Harrison St. shops at S. 5th St. and W. Harrison Ave. (remember NSL called it “street” but Harrison is actually an avenue) is finally being redeveloped. Sadly, not for traction purposes. A private charter school whose name I can’t remember is building on the property all the way to where it dead-ends above the KK River and Cleveland Ave. and extending west on Harrison Ave. to the southeast corner of S. 6th St. It’s a huge, multi-story facility. Back in 2005 when I visited the site of the shops with Norm Carlson of the Shore Line interurban Historical Society and Walter Keevil of CERA I noticed that the city of Milwaukee had paved S. 5th St. from the point where the private right-of-way began on the south side of the street all the way to the fence and concrete barrier that mark where the NSL’s bridge over the river began. Let’s face it. Vacant lots do not generate property tax revenue. The dilapidated shops building stood until about 1970. I remember a Milwaukee Journal editorial cartoon and article in 1968 urging its demolition because it presented a bad image of Milwaukee to drivers coming in (northbound) on I-94 which sits below the east end of the property. The school is supposed to open for the fall 2018-2019 semester next year.

I’m sure most NSL fans don’t know this. After the 6th and Michigan station in downtown Milwaukee was razed in May or June of 1964 somebody came up with the ideas of building a tourist tower on the south end of the property at about the point where NSL trains entered and left the elevated platforms that were attached to the south end of the terminal. Here is an artists rendering of what it was going to look like from the Milwaukee Journal of 11-22-64. Of course it ever happened. What did happen was this. In the summer of 1965 the church whose denomination I have forgotten that was on the north side of Wisconsin Ave. between N. 10th & N. 11th Sts. was being forced to move. The entire block on both sides of the street was disappearing, literally. The I-43 freeway was and does cross beneath the “Avenue” at this point. So the church spent almost $2 million to buy the entire 4 square blocks where the NSL station had stood. That encompassed W. Michigan St. on the north. W. Clybourn St. on the south. N. 5th St. on the east and N. 6th St. on the west. The plan was to build the church and some sort of shopping area around it. I say the “plan” because that too never happened. I remember a wooden sign erected on the station site facing W. Michigan St. that said, “Future home of…” and it named the congregation. For the next 33 years the property sat vacant. Then in 1998 Time Insurance Co. which had been located on the corner of N. 5th St. and W. Wells St. downtown built their new corporate headquarters on the site. A check of the Milwaukee city directory shows the building there as of 1998. The Wells St. building was sold to make way for Milwaukee’s first downtown convention center which was called “MECCA – the Milwaukee Exposition Convention Center and Arena.” It was judged as the boxiest and ugliest building ever built in Milwaukee and it too fell to the wrecking ball when the new, and very underused, downtown convention center was constructed along Wisconsin Ave. between N. 4th & N. 6th Sts. Why the church was never built and how Time Insurance acquired the property (sale, foreclosure??) is something I have been unable to find out. The congregation disappears from the Milwaukee city directory in 1966. Perhaps they moved to one of the suburbs or merged with another congregation. If any of the NSL fans know I’d be very interested in the details. Time Insurance has since been thru all kinds of mergers and the building now says Securant Insurance.

In the summer of 1971 I went to the site of Ryan Tower on the abandoned NSL r.o.w. I didn’t drive back then so it meant to very lengthy bus rides from my home on Milwaukee’s northwest side. and a long walk up Ryan Rd. from the end of the Rt. 66 bus line. I knew I was at the right spot when I got to the crossing with the C&NW’s new line. And that was the only way I knew. The NSL was gone with nary a trace. I had to walk a block or so north before I came across the abandoned NSL r.o.w. As I continued north there much to my surprise was the NSL’s Carrollville substation still standing 8 years after the abandonment. I took this picture of it on 8-17-71 using a Polaroid camera I’d gotten for Christmas the previous year. My ANSCO 8-shot box camera took better pictures than that Polaroid! And then you always had the chore of having to spread this smelly fixer on the photo to keep it from curling up. So please forgive the quality of the pictures.

Larry’s Human Interest Stories

I’ll be glad to write this. There are four of them, all involving people who had they been where they had planned to be might not have lived another day.

What I have found in the 52 years I have been studying and researching the Rapid Transit and Speedrail is that fate and coincidence seem to play a major role. For example, take how I got to know Jane Maeder Walsh, Jay’s daughter. In 1991 when the Speedrail book came out she had a daughter who was a student at Carroll College (now University) in Waukesha. Jane was living in Atlanta at the time but decided to come to Waukesha for a visit. While there she decided to go to the Waukesha Public Library and see what she could find out about “the railroad that my father owned.” At first, all the librarian was able to find was a folder containing a few newspaper clippings from the Waukesha Freeman, Waukesha’s daily newspaper. Then she remembered that the library had just received a new book about Speedrail. She gave it to Jane to browse through there since she obviously would not be able to borrow it.

A short time later, on a Saturday morning my phone rang. The lady on the other end asked if I was the person who wrote the Speedrail book. I said I was. She said, “My name is Jane Walsh. I know that name doesn’t mean anything to you until I tell you my maiden name. It is Maeder and Jay Maeder was my father.” I kind of held my breath for a second thinking the next thing I’d hear was that she didn’t like the things Tennyson said about her father and she was going to sue me. Quite to the contrary she wanted to know where she could go to buy copies of the book. I put her in touch with one of the local hobby shops that I knew was carrying it and she bought half a dozen copies for her family. I didn’t hear from her for quite a while after that until the day she and her brother discovered a box of material relating to Speedrail, long forgotten, left behind by her father. She said that she and her brother had no interest in it and asked if I would want it? Are you kidding? Over the course of the next few years they found other boxes of things. She e-mailed Jay Jr. and asked if he wanted it. He replied, “Are we still in touch with that Sakar guy?” Jane said she had talked to me about it and I’d said I wanted it if her brother didn’t. Jay Jr. then replied, “Let’s face it… neither you nor I will ever make anything out of this stuff. I say, let’s make him keeper of the flame. Larry will know what to do with it.” That was a great honor that they had confidence that I could make use of the material.

We still keep in touch by e-mail from time to time. My friend and colleague Chris Barney and I paid to have copies made of that picture of her father walking alongside car 60 flagging it on the inaugural Speedrail fan trip of 10-16-49. We sent them to her and she was thrilled. It’s the only picture she has of her father with “his railroad.”

You might remember that on the 9-2-50 the motorman of the 1192-93 heavy duplex that collided with Maeder’s train (39-40) was LeRoy Equitz. In the fall of 1971, I got a job as a student library aide at the main library in downtown Milwaukee. One night I was sitting in the lunchroom on break with a brother and sister who also worked there. Terry, the brother struck up a conversation with me. “We hear you like trains.” I said, “Well yes. I do like trains but my main interest is streetcars and interurbans.” They had no clue as to what either of those were. Terry said, “Our uncle was a train engineer.” I said, Oh really, where?” He said, “Right here in Milwaukee.” I asked which railroad he worked for, thinking it had to be either the Milwaukee Road or the C&NW. Terry said neither one sounded like the one their uncle had mentioned. I asked when he worked as an engineer and he said, “In the ’50’s.” Then he continued. “Our uncle was involved in an accident and ended up losing a foot because of it.” Suddenly, my curiosity was on high, so to speak.” So I said, “This accident. Could it have been in 1950 itself?” Terry said, “Come to think of it, yes. He did say 1950.” So I continued, “And this accident, could it possibly have been on Labor Day weekend in 1950?” BINGO! He said that it was. That’s when I said, “Don’t tell me your uncle’s name. Let me guess it. Is it LeRoy Equitz?” The brother and sister sat there for a second in amazement. “Yes. How on earth did you know that?” Of course I explained about Speedrail and told them which newspaper and dates to look at if they wanted more information. As I recall, LeRoy was still living but he had moved away some years earlier. I don’t recall to where so I never had an opportunity to talk to him.

You ask yourself what were the odds that I’d end up working with the niece and nephew of LeRoy Equitz. And I have found that to be the case so often in this hobby. So call it fate, destiny, coincidence. There are times when you can’t help but feel this was meant to be.

Thanks for taking the time to write this and your other reminiscences. I’d like to share these with my readers.

Naturally, I won’t use any of the material you sent me from your upcoming book, but is there anything else that you would not want me to run in my blog?

Larry:

Please feel free to use any of the material I’ve sent you for the Trolley Dodger. Anything and everything I write is for the enjoyment and/or information of others. What’s the point of keeping what I’ve learned over the years to myself? That benefits no one!

I saw the piece in The Trolley Dodger on the late Maury Klebolt. From 1983 to 1987 I went out to SFO every September for the Historic Market Street streetcar festival. I used to see Maury at the Market and Duboce storage facility below the former San Francisco mint. He was very involved with that Market Street Railway group. I seem to recall that he acquired a couple of streetcars for them. I wasn’t acquainted with him but had stories about his fan trips from the late Jack Gervais who apparently knew him. Bill Shapotkin also told me some stories about him.

By the way I kind of chuckle every time I see a Joe L. Diaz photo of a CSL “Sedan”. My good friend Dave Stanley knew Joe very well, along with a number of other well-known Chicago fans like the late Bob Gibson. I met both Dave and Bill Shapotkin in 1986. Both Dave and Bill told me Joe would have a fit when someone called those cars “Sedans.” It would provoke an “Ooh, they weren’t called that” response. I knew him by sight but I didn’t actually know him as such. I remember seeing him at CERA meetings in the back of the room selling books. That was back in the days when CERA met at the old Midland Hotel. I believe that’s now called the Blackhawk Hotel. I was a CERA member in the ’90’s but didn’t keep up my membership. Going to meetings meant having to drive to either Kenosha and take METRA which also meant leaving the meeting early to catch the 9:00pm train back to Kenosha and then an 11:00pm one hour drive back to Milwaukee. I never cared for night driving. Then in 2009 I lost all of the sight in my left eye as a result of diabetic retinopathy, which I didn’t know I had until it was too late. Since then I have been advised not to drive at night or on the highway or expressway. I no longer have the necessary depth perception and bright light, especially headlights coming at me blind me. Amtrak experimented with a late night (first 11:00pm then changed to 10:30pm) train to Milwaukee but they never promoted it so the ridership never materialized. Now the last train to Milwaukee leaves Chicago at 8:45pm.

I knew a lot of really nice guys in Chicago all of whom I have not seen nor spoken with in at least 15 years. Bruce Moffat and Ray DeGroote are two who come to mind. I always called Ray the Rick Steeves of the traction world. In any Ray DeGroote program you could always count on a money lesson, a geography lesson and a culture lesson. When I was the program director for TMER&THS from 1989 to 1995, I used to refer to Ray as “our world traveler”. The last time I saw Bruce was on a CERA fan trip on METRA Electric in the ’90’s. Bill Shapotkin was the trip director. At the first photo stop GK wanted a photo with the other car host and myself. Bruce took the picture but to this day I’ve never seen it.

I haven’t seen all of the issues of The Trolley Dodger but here are some Milwaukee streetcar photos from my collection that I think readers might enjoy.

Every now and then you get a photo that really has you stumped trying to figure out where it was taken. That’s what happened with this photo given to me by Bob Genack. I saw the RT 35 Route sign and stupidly assumed this had to be somewhere on the 35th Street route. But what really threw me a curve was the “35th St.” sign in the destination sign box below the big roof Route sign. If this was a northbound car it should have said “Burleigh,” and if southbound “St. Paul”. After puzzling over it I looked it over with a magnifying glass to see if I could detect any business names. And there in the left background was the solution. This is a time exposure so it’s a “ghosted” image. But if you look closely you will see a TM heavy duplex. OK. Now I see what this was all about. This is a TM posed, company photo. The 943 isn’t on 35th St. It’s on Michigan Street. You can’t see it but the Public Service Building is just out of the right hand side of the picture. The duplex is inbound from Sheboygan on N. 3rd St. It will turn left onto Michigan St. go one block east and then turn right onto N. 2nd St. to enter the PSB terminal. Those aren’t passengers standing waiting for the streetcar. They are TM company employees posing for the picture. The 943 looks brand new so I’m thinking this was taken in about 1928 or 1929. OK TM, you fooled me.

Streetcar advertising was a frequent occurrence on TM. But unlike the buses of today where the advertising is put on mylar sheets and then attached to the bus with a heat gun, and it is simply peeled off when the time is up, in streetcar days the car was actually repainted. Here’s one of the all-time classic examples of a repainted Milwaukee streetcar that is from the Milwaukee & Suburban Transport Corp. days. M&STC bought TMER&T at the end of 1952 and took over operation of the system on Jan. 1, 1953. They continued to use “The Transport Company” as their shortened name. M&STC lasted until July, 1975 when Milwaukee finally municipalized its transit system when M&STC was purchased by Milwaukee County. That is when the present-day Milwaukee County Transit System was born. But the “Transport Company” name had become so ingrained in the minds of Milwaukeeans that many continued to call it “The Transport Company” for quite some time after the county took over. Now everyone refers to it as MCTS.

Anyway, in 1955, car 943 was chosen to be repainted with a “safety message” from the Milwaukee Safety Commission. Isn’t it a bit ironic that the car advertising safety was involved in an accident downtown at 4th and Wells Streets in a collision with a city garbage truck? I guess the car didn’t heed its own message! The close-up b&w shot was taken at the Farwell Ave. terminal where Rt. 10 streetcars and Rt. 21-North Ave. trolleybuses laid over. The trolley bus service on Rt. 21 North Ave. lasted until 1961 or 1962 when it was converted to diesel bus operation using the new 1500 series GM new look fishbowl buses M&STC had purchased for that purpose. A portion of Rt. 10 east of Jackson & Wells Sts. downtown was eventually abandoned and most of the route from Jackson & Wells Strees east covered by Rt. 30 Sherman Blvd. buses.

Next up are 2 beautiful color photos of 943 in its “safety commission” paint job taken by Don Ross (Don’s Rail Photos. In the close-up shot, the car is on a fan trip at S. 81st St. and W. Greenfield Ave. which was Route 18-National Ave. That line ended at S. 92nd St. & W. Lapham Ave. Before West Junction was rebuilt Rt. 10 cars ran all the way out there via the private right-of-way which continued all the way out there. Prior to the construction of the Milwaukee Rapid Transit Line between 1925 & 1930, interurbans also used that r.o.w. Today the r.o.w. is still there going west from 92nd & Lapham and is used by We Energies vehicles to get to West Jct. so that the power lines can be serviced. In the second, more distant photo 943 is crossing W. Wisconsin Ave. on the p.r.o.w. that paralleled N. 52nd St. from Wells to the entrance to the Calvary Cemetery cut, later the stop for Milwaukee County Stadium from 1953 to 1957. Streetcars were gone by the opening of the baseball season in 1958.

The TM 900-series streetcars were an updated version of the 800-series built in 1920. The earliest 900’s were identical to the 800’s in all respects except one. The center motorman’s window on an 800 is narrower than on a 900. Other than that there was little if any difference. But by the time the group of cars from 976 seen here at Cold Spring shops to 985 were built, the interiors now had leather seats vs. rattan for all previous cars, and this group of 10 was unique in that they had that sort of visor/sun shield over the center window. One car in this group survives today. Car 978 was saved by former Milwaukeean Al Buetschle on behalf of the Wauwatosa Kiwanis Club. They wanted a streetcar for outdoor display in Hart Park which is just to the east of the Wauwatosa end of the No. 10 line at Harwood Ave. and State Streets. Al loved the cars with the front visor and that is why he chose the 978. The car is now the property of the East Troy Electric RR and is currently undergoing an extensive rehabilitation. There is a very involved history of how the car was acquired and what happened to it over the years which I wrote for a fan publication in 1998. Al now lives in Oakley, Ca. a city in Contra Costa, County 60 miles northeast of San Francisco.

As I mentioned the 800’s had a narrower center window than the 900’s. You can see that in this photo of car 870 at the end of Rt. 40 at Kinnickinnic & St. Francis Aves. in St. Francis. The area doesn’t look much different today save for the absence of the streetcar. St. Francis is a suburb of Milwaukee on the southeast side.

Here’s a second shot of an 800 seen at the end of Rt. 11 at Howell & Howard Aves. probably in the 1950’s. Rt. 11 was converted to bus operation in 1956 and was Milwaukee’s second to last streetcar line.

At the start I mentioned “mystery” photos, and to close out here is one such example. I know where this is and I think this is probably in the 20’s or 30’s. What I can’t figure out is what a 600 series car (at least that’s what it looks like with that roof destination sign in the middle) is doing on Rt. 12 – 12th St. or why the destination sign says Center. Center is Center St. which was home to the Rt. 22 streetcar line. Rts. 21 & 22 were some of the earliest conversions from streetcar to trackless trolley. I question the destination because Rt. 12 cars usually operated all the way to 27th & Hopkins Streets. In the late 1920’s a transfer station was constructed here. It was a smaller version of the one at Farwell & North Aves. When Rt. 12 was converted to diesel bus operation the building was torn down and became a parking lot for the nearby A.O. Smith Corp. At last report the streetcar tracks are still in the pavement.

Thanks so much for this and your other recent messages. You have given me plenty of material to work with here. I am sure our readers, especially those in the Milwaukee area, will love reading this.

Who knows, it might even help you find a publisher!

This excerpt from a 1945 Milwaukee freeway report shows how even then, planners intended to take the Rapid Transit Line right-of-way for highway use.  The bottom photo, of course, was a composite.

This excerpt from a 1945 Milwaukee freeway report shows how even then, planners intended to take the Rapid Transit Line right-of-way for highway use.The bottom photo, of course, was a composite.

An earlier version of this post mistakenly identified this photo. Here, M&DSTC car 943 is going eastbound on the famous Wells Street trolley viaduct on a 1955 fantrip.

An earlier version of this post mistakenly identified this photo. Here, M&DSTC car 943 is going eastbound on the famous Wells Street trolley viaduct on a 1955 fantrip.

Book Review:

The Street Railways of Grand Rapids
By Carl Bajema and Tom Maas
Bulletin 148 of Central Electric Railfans’ Association*
Hardcover with dust jacket, 304 pages

The authors present a fascinating and very thorough account of street railway service in Grand Rapids, Michigan, covering the years up to 1935, when the system was abandoned in favor of buses. There was quite a variety of service in the area, including horse cars, cable cars, steam dummies, streetcars of various types, and interurbans connecting to other cities such as Holland. The authors coverall these ably and thoroughly.

This book has just been issued in a very limited edition, and chances are it will not be reprinted once the first edition has sold out, which I am sure it will. CERA Bulletins have a well-deserved reputation for excellence, and this book does not disappoint.

Having had a few discussions about this book with Mr. Bajema myself, when it was in its early stages, I can attest that it presented a considerable challenge. After all, Grand Rapids streetcar service ended in 1935, and anyone old enough to have ridden one, and remember it, would be close to 90 years old by now.

Color photography was still in its infancy in 1935. Fortunately, there are ways to add color to such a book, including color postcards, yellowed newspaper clippings, and maps. All these are present in abundance.

Another challenge is the lack of corporate records for the operator. And then, there is the matter of a roster, which is pretty much de rigueur for a book such as this.

Complicating matters, the Grand Rapids system used names for their cars instead of numbers, which makes it very difficult to put forward a complete roster.

The names of all such cars as of 1927 are given. Interestingly, though, the one Grand Rapids photo we have posted on this blog is not included in the book. It shows the F. W. Wurtzburg, named after a local department store. Since this photo probably dates to the 1930s, perhaps the name was applied after 1927.

This book should interest anyone who likes streetcars in general, or lives in Michigan in particular. It is available from the publisher. At 304 pages, it is also somewhat larger than the typical 224-page CERA length.

The general approach the authors have taken here could also be applied to other subjects of a similar vintage, such as the Chicago, Ottawa and Peoria, an Illinois interurban which quit in 1934.

It is somewhat ironic that Grand Rapids was at the forefront of innovation in the 1920s, but just a decade later, was also among the first cities of its size to completely replace streetcars with buses.  But there is a connection– the need to innovate was born out of necessity.

Read the book, and you’ll find out why.

-David Sadowski

The "F. W. Wurtzburg," built by St. Louis Car Company in 1926. This type of lightweight city car helped the Grand Rapids Railroad win the prestigious Coffin Medal in 1926. (James B. M. Johnson Photo)

The “F. W. Wurtzburg,” built by St. Louis Car Company in 1926. This type of lightweight city car helped the Grand Rapids Railroad win the prestigious Coffin Medal in 1926. (James B. M. Johnson Photo)

*Please note that The Trolley Dodger is not affiliated with Central Electric Railfans’ Association.

Product Review

This picture shows the lightbox with the light turned off.

This picture shows the lightbox with the light turned off.

Tracing Light box Dbmier A4S USB Powered Light Pad Artcraft Tracing LED Light Board for Drawing, Tracing, Sketching, Animation Active Area 8.27″ X 12.20″

Here is a new product that should interest anyone who works with photographic negatives or transparencies. It is a modern version of a lightbox, using LED technology. It is powered by a USB cord that can connect to a computer. I expect you can get an adapter that will allow you to use AC power. Otherwise, you would be limited to using it in the vicinity of your computer.

In years past, there have been various lightboxes on the market. Some had conventional light bulbs, and others used florescent lighting. All were somewhat problematic and all were also bulkier than this ultra-thin model, which has three levels of brightness and puts out white light (which many of the older lightboxes did not).

The old type lightboxes also put out a lot of heat, which this one does not.  It’s a 21st century solution to a 20th century problem, but better late than never!

It is available for a very attractive price. I highly recommend it, and gain nothing financially if anyone does buy one. I only wish a product like this had been available 30 years ago.

-David Sadowski

Recent Correspondence

Bruce Fastow writes:

Perhaps you can guide me. I own a Johnson fare box similar to the one attached. Can you tell me how I can take the top off so I can clean out the hopper? My kids put paper in the unit.

 

Chances are, one of our readers knows the answer and can help, thanks.

Pre-Order Our New Book Chicago Trolleys

On the Cover: Car 1747 was built between 1885 and 1893 by the Chicago City Railway, which operated lines on the South Side starting in April 1859. This is a single-truck (one set of wheels) open electric car; most likely a cable car, retrofitted with a trolley and traction motor. The man at right is conductor William Stevely Atchison (1861-1921), and this image came from his granddaughter. (Courtesy of Debbie Becker.)

On the Cover: Car 1747 was built between 1885 and 1893 by the Chicago City Railway, which operated lines on the South Side starting in April 1859. This is a single-truck (one set of wheels) open electric car; most likely a cable car, retrofitted with a trolley and traction motor. The man at right is conductor William Stevely Atchison (1861-1921), and this image came from his granddaughter. (Courtesy of Debbie Becker.)

We are pleased to report that our new book Chicago Trolleys will be released on September 25th by Arcadia Publishing. You can pre-order an autographed copy through us today (see below). Chicago Trolleys will also be available wherever Arcadia books are sold.

Overview

Chicago’s extensive transit system first started in 1859, when horsecars ran on rails in city streets. Cable cars and electric streetcars came next. Where new trolley car lines were built, people, businesses, and neighborhoods followed. Chicago quickly became a world-class city. At its peak, Chicago had over 3,000 streetcars and 1,000 miles of track—the largest such system in the world. By the 1930s, there were also streamlined trolleys and trolley buses on rubber tires. Some parts of Chicago’s famous “L” system also used trolley wire instead of a third rail. Trolley cars once took people from the Loop to such faraway places as Aurora, Elgin, Milwaukee, and South Bend. A few still run today.

The book features 221 classic black-and-white images, each with detailed captions, in 10 chapters:

1. Early Traction
2. Consolidation and Growth
3. Trolleys to the Suburbs
4. Trolleys on the “L”
5. Interurbans Under Wire
6. The Streamlined Era
7. The War Years
8. Unification and Change
9. Trolley Buses
10. Preserving History

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781467126816
Publisher: Arcadia Publishing SC
Publication date: 09/25/2017
Series: Images of Rail
Pages: 128

Meet the Author

David Sadowski has been interested in streetcars ever since his father took him for a ride on one of the last remaining lines in 1958. He grew up riding trolley buses and “L” trains all over Chicago. He coauthored Chicago Streetcar Pictorial: The PCC Car Era, 1936–1958, and runs the online Trolley Dodger blog. Come along for the ride as we travel from one side of the city to the other and see how trolley cars and buses moved Chicago’s millions of hardworking, diverse people.

Images of Rail

The Images of Rail series celebrates the history of rail, trolley, streetcar, and subway transportation across the country. Using archival photographs, each title presents the people, places, and events that helped revolutionize transportation and commerce in 19th- and 20th-century America. Arcadia is proud to play a part in the preservation of local heritage, making history available to all.

The book costs just $21.99 plus shipping. Shipping within the US is included in the price. Shipping to Canada is just $5 additional, or $10 elsewhere.

Please note that Illinois residents must pay 10.00% sales tax on their purchases.

We appreciate your business!

For Shipping to US Addresses:

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NEW – Chicago Trolleys Postcard Collection

We are pleased to report that selected images from our upcoming book Chicago Trolleys will be available on September 25th in a pack of 15 postcards, all for just $7.99. This is part of a series put out by Arcadia Publishing. Dimensions: 6″ wide x 4.25″ tall

The Postcards of America Series

Here in the 21st century, when everyone who’s anyone seems to do most of their communicating via Facebook and Twitter, it’s only natural to wax a little nostalgic when it comes to days gone by. What happened to more personal means of communication like hand-written letters on nice stationery? Why don’t people still send postcards when they move someplace new or go away on vacation?

If that line of thinking sounds familiar, then Arcadia Publishing’s Postcards of America was launched with you in mind. Each beautiful volume features a different collection of real vintage postcards that you can mail to your friends and family.

Pre-Order your Chicago Trolleys Postcard Pack today!

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Help Support The Trolley Dodger

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This is our 189th post, and we are gradually creating a body of work and an online resource for the benefit of all railfans, everywhere. To date, we have received over 305,000 page views, for which we are very grateful.

You can help us continue our original transit research by checking out the fine products in our Online Store.

As we have said before, “If you buy here, we will be here.”

We thank you for your support.

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In order to continue giving you the kinds of historic railroad images that you have come to expect from The Trolley Dodger, we need your help and support. It costs money to maintain this website, and to do the sort of historic research that is our specialty.

Your financial contributions help make this web site better, and are greatly appreciated.

Surface Service

FYI, we recently acquired 41 more copies of Surface Service, the Chicago Surface Lines employee magazine that was published from 1923 to 1947. Here are the front and back covers from these issues. (Back covers are missing from two issues. We will eventually find replacements.)

Surface Service is full of interesting tidbits of information on CSL operations. Many individual employees are mentioned, especially old-timers and retirees. They frequently ran old photos sent in by current or former employees. Back in CSL days, there was no mandatory retirement age, and some employees worked well into their 70s.

There are perhaps 700 pages of material in these 41 issues, and all this is being added to our E-book Chicago’s PCC Streetcars: The Rest of the Story, available in our Online Store. This joins 34 issues of Surface Service that we had previously scanned.

In addition, this post features more recent photo finds, and another great batch of classic Chicago Aurora & Elgin pictures courtesy of Jack Bejna.

-Enjoy!

-David Sadowski

Recent Finds

We ran this photo some time ago in Chicago Surface Lines Photos, Part Seven (February 26, 2016):

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 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.”

Now we have another picture, taken at the same location:

CSL 5094 is clearly a Wallce-Racine car in this picture, which supports the idea that this is Root and Halsted, with the Stock Yards "L" in the background. Note the old Bowman dailry milk truck at right. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

CSL 5094 is clearly a Wallce-Racine car in this picture, which supports the idea that this is Root and Halsted, with the Stock Yards “L” in the background. Note the old Bowman dailry milk truck at right. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

I would say this photo of prewar PCC 4047 was taken circa 1948, when the loop at 63rd Place and Narragansett was brand new. Formerly, double-ended cars ran to Oak Park Avenue a half-mile west of here.

I would say this photo of prewar PCC 4047 was taken circa 1948, when the loop at 63rd Place and Narragansett was brand new. Formerly, double-ended cars ran to Oak Park Avenue a half-mile west of here.

CTA 4019 is westbound on private right-of-way on 63rd Place, near the Narragansett loop. You would hardly recognize the location today, as it is in the middle of a quiet residential neighborhood. This prewar PCC, in "tiger stripes," still has a CSL logo on it.

CTA 4019 is westbound on private right-of-way on 63rd Place, near the Narragansett loop. You would hardly recognize the location today, as it is in the middle of a quiet residential neighborhood. This prewar PCC, in “tiger stripes,” still has a CSL logo on it.

CTA 4023 at 63rd and Narragansett.

CTA 4023 at 63rd and Narragansett.

CTA postwar PCC 7261 at the west end of the 63rd Street line (63rd Place and Narragansett).

CTA postwar PCC 7261 at the west end of the 63rd Street line (63rd Place and Narragansett).

This picture (and the previous one) appears to have been taken in the latter days of streetcar service on 63rd. By then, most service was provided by red Pullmans, but some two-man postwar PCC cars were there too (such as 7261, seen here). The prewar PCCs had by this time been converted to one-man and were moved over to Cottage Grove.

This picture (and the previous one) appears to have been taken in the latter days of streetcar service on 63rd. By then, most service was provided by red Pullmans, but some two-man postwar PCC cars were there too (such as 7261, seen here). The prewar PCCs had by this time been converted to one-man and were moved over to Cottage Grove.

This picture of South Shore Line cars 25 and 38 at Randolph Street is dated 1954, but an earlier date seems likely as there is no sign of the Prudential Building. Construction began on August 12, 1952, and the building was topped off on November 16, 1954. There was also a large sign advertising Pabst beer, not visible in this picture. Perhaps it had already been removed by the time this picture was taken. (Walter Hulseweder Photo)

This picture of South Shore Line cars 25 and 38 at Randolph Street is dated 1954, but an earlier date seems likely as there is no sign of the Prudential Building. Construction began on August 12, 1952, and the building was topped off on November 16, 1954. There was also a large sign advertising Pabst beer, not visible in this picture. Perhaps it had already been removed by the time this picture was taken. (Walter Hulseweder Photo)

Recent Correspondence

Jack Bejna writes:

Here’s the latest, The Chicago Aurora & Elgin Railway ordered 10 cars to be built by the Niles Car Company in 1906, numbered 300-308 plus a parlor-buffet to be named Florence. CA&E 305 was rebuilt as parlor-buffet 600 in 1929, later rebuilt again and renumbered 436 Florence Florence was rebuilt into parlor car 601 in 1923 no image found. Florence was rebuilt again in 1929 and renumbered 435. Thanks again for your website and all of the interesting stories within.

We are very appreciative of all the great pictures that Mr. Bejna shares with out readers.

Car 600 (ex-305).

Car 600 (ex-305).

Car 436 at the Wheaton Shops (ex-car 600).

Car 436 at the Wheaton Shops (ex-car 600).

Car 435 at Wheaton Shops (ex-parlor car 601).

Car 435 at Wheaton Shops (ex-parlor car 601).

Car 308 (Niles, 1906). This picture looks like it was taken near Laramie on Chicago's west side.

Car 308 (Niles, 1906). This picture looks like it was taken near Laramie on Chicago’s west side.

Car 307 (Niles, 1906).

Car 307 (Niles, 1906).

Car 306 (Niles, 1906) at the Elgin terminal.

Car 306 (Niles, 1906) at the Elgin terminal.

Car 304 (Niles, 1906).

Car 304 (Niles, 1906).

Car 303 (Niles, 1906).

Car 303 (Niles, 1906).

Car 302 (Niles, 1906).

Car 302 (Niles, 1906).

Car 301 (Niles, 1906).

Car 301 (Niles, 1906).

Car 300 (Niles, 1906).

Car 300 (Niles, 1906).

Car 32 (Stephenson, 1902) at Glen Ellyn.

Car 32 (Stephenson, 1902) at Glen Ellyn.

Pre-Order Our New Book Chicago Trolleys

On the Cover: Car 1747 was built between 1885 and 1893 by the Chicago City Railway, which operated lines on the South Side starting in April 1859. This is a single-truck (one set of wheels) open electric car; most likely a cable car, retrofitted with a trolley and traction motor. The man at right is conductor William Stevely Atchison (1861-1921), and this image came from his granddaughter. (Courtesy of Debbie Becker.)

On the Cover: Car 1747 was built between 1885 and 1893 by the Chicago City Railway, which operated lines on the South Side starting in April 1859. This is a single-truck (one set of wheels) open electric car; most likely a cable car, retrofitted with a trolley and traction motor. The man at right is conductor William Stevely Atchison (1861-1921), and this image came from his granddaughter. (Courtesy of Debbie Becker.)

We are pleased to report that our new book Chicago Trolleys will be released on September 25th by Arcadia Publishing. You can pre-order an autographed copy through us today (see below). Chicago Trolleys will also be available wherever Arcadia books are sold.

Overview

Chicago’s extensive transit system first started in 1859, when horsecars ran on rails in city streets. Cable cars and electric streetcars came next. Where new trolley car lines were built, people, businesses, and neighborhoods followed. Chicago quickly became a world-class city. At its peak, Chicago had over 3,000 streetcars and 1,000 miles of track—the largest such system in the world. By the 1930s, there were also streamlined trolleys and trolley buses on rubber tires. Some parts of Chicago’s famous “L” system also used trolley wire instead of a third rail. Trolley cars once took people from the Loop to such faraway places as Aurora, Elgin, Milwaukee, and South Bend. A few still run today.

The book features 221 classic black-and-white images, each with detailed captions, in 10 chapters:

1. Early Traction
2. Consolidation and Growth
3. Trolleys to the Suburbs
4. Trolleys on the “L”
5. Interurbans under Wire
6. The Streamlined Era
7. The War Years
8. Unification and Change
9. Trolley Buses
10. Preserving History

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781467126816
Publisher: Arcadia Publishing SC
Publication date: 09/25/2017
Series: Images of Rail
Pages: 128

Meet the Author

David Sadowski has been interested in streetcars ever since his father took him for a ride on one of the last remaining lines in 1958. He grew up riding trolley buses and “L” trains all over Chicago. He coauthored Chicago Streetcar Pictorial: The PCC Car Era, 1936–1958, and runs the online Trolley Dodger blog. Come along for the ride as we travel from one side of the city to the other and see how trolley cars and buses moved Chicago’s millions of hardworking, diverse people.

Images of Rail

The Images of Rail series celebrates the history of rail, trolley, streetcar, and subway transportation across the country. Using archival photographs, each title presents the people, places, and events that helped revolutionize transportation and commerce in 19th- and 20th-century America. Arcadia is proud to play a part in the preservation of local heritage, making history available to all.

The book costs just $21.99 plus shipping. Shipping within the US is included in the price. Shipping to Canada is just $5 additional, or $10 elsewhere.

Please note that Illinois residents must pay 10.00% sales tax on their purchases.

We appreciate your business!

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NEW – Chicago Trolleys Postcard Collection

We are pleased to report that selected images from our upcoming book Chicago Trolleys will be available on September 25th in a pack of 15 postcards, all for just $7.99. This is part of a series put out by Arcadia Publishing. Dimensions: 6″ wide x 4.25″ tall

The Postcards of America Series

Here in the 21st century, when everyone who’s anyone seems to do most of their communicating via Facebook and Twitter, it’s only natural to wax a little nostalgic when it comes to days gone by. What happened to more personal means of communication like hand-written letters on nice stationery? Why don’t people still send postcards when they move someplace new or go away on vacation?

If that line of thinking sounds familiar, then Arcadia Publishing’s Postcards of America was launched with you in mind. Each beautiful volume features a different collection of real vintage postcards that you can mail to your friends and family.

Pre-Order your Chicago Trolleys Postcard Pack today!

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