We have been hard at work since our last post. Here are lots of great, classic pictures for your consideration.
In addition, we have new CD titles, which include about six hours of classic train audio. This means we have now digitized the complete Railroad Record Club collection and have made these long out-of-print recordings available to a new generation of fans. For each hour of CD audio, there is at least 10 hours of work involved. I hope that you will enjoy the results.
Our new book Chicago Trolleys is now 100% finished and has gone to press. There is also a set of 15 postcards available for a very reasonable price, using selected images from the book. The details are at the end of this post.
PS- Here is that photo of 4001, which we previously ran in our post More Chicago PCC Photos – Part Four (10-12-2015):
Jack Bejna writes:
Here’s the latest. The Chicago Aurora & Elgin Railway ordered 5 cars to be built by the G C Kuhlman Car Company in 1909, numbered 311-315. The wood siding extended down to cover the previously exposed side sill channel, enhancing the look of these classic beauties.
The final wooden car order was placed with the Jewett Car Company in 1914 for six cars numbered 316-321. Car 318 was unique, with the sides being steel up to the belt line, the only wood car built this way. In the 1920s cars 319-321 were upgraded with more powerful motors and thereafter they were used together and/or with trailers.
I don’t know how you manage to put out an interesting, informative post every month, so thanks again for your website and all of the interesting stories within.
And we, in turn, really enjoy seeing these wonderful pictures that you have managed to make look better than ever, using all your skills and hard work.
Larry Sakar writes:
I just returned from my 6500 mile Amtrak trip to San Francisco, LA & Portland. I took the Hiawatha from Milwaukee to Chicago and connected to #5 the California Zephyr. Spent 2 days in SFO then took train 710 the San Joaquin to Bakersfield where they bus you to LA. The bus takes I-5 for most of the 100 mile trip to LA. As we got close to LA we were coming into Glendale and looking to my right I saw the abandoned PE r.o.w. where it crossed Fletcher Dr. There’s a picture that has been reproduced numerous times of a 3 car train of PCC’s crossing the bridge over Fletcher Dr. I thought the abandoned North Shore Line r.o.w. here in Milwaukee was high up but the PE r.o.w. is twice as high. The LA Downtown Hotel where I stayed was a block away from what used to be the Subway Terminal Bldg. at 4th & Hill.
When I was leaving the next day I rode the Red Cap’s motorized vehicle to the platform from the Metropolitan lounge. the lounge which is exclusively for 1st Class (sleeping car) passengers is on the second floor of LAUPT (Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal). They travel down a ramp and in the process cross the light rail tracks. We had to stop at the crossing for the passage of a Gold Line train headed to Pasadena and Cucamonga. Bit by bit LA is rebuilding the PE at a cost of billions! So far lines to Long Beach, Pasadena and Santa Monica have been rebuilt. Light rail has become very big in LA.
Two days later on my way back to Portland Union Station my taxi was traveling eight alongside a Portland MAX light rail train. In SFO the F-Line streetcars to Fisherman’s Wharf were packed to the rafters. Articulated buses were operating in place of the JKLM & N light rail lines that run in the Market St. subway. The new cars that are replacing the present BREDA cars were being tested. Saw BART when the Zephyr stopped in Richmond, CA. I know they have new cars coming but they don’t appear to be there as yet. BART is experiencing a significant increase in crime on its lines. Same holds true for Portland. In fact the Portland city council voted to ban anyone convicted of a serious crime on any of its light rail lines, buses or the Portland streetcar for life.
Coming home from Portland on the Portland section of the Empire Builder we heard that the previous day’s train was hit at a crossing (don’t know where) by a water truck. The 24 year old driver smashed thru the crossing gates and slammed into the second Genesis engine destroying it, the baggage car and part of the Superliner crew car behind it. No one was injured, luckily. The cause of the accident was the truck driver texting on his cell phone and not paying attention to driving. He’ll have lots of time to text now as I’m sure he’ll be fired. He’ll lose his CDL (Commercial Drivers License) and I’m sure the trucking company’s insurance carrier will be suing him for the damages they have to pay to Amtrak.
The day I was heading up the California coast from LA to Portland our train was held for almost an hour at LA for late connecting San Diego to LA (Pacific Surfliner) train 763 which is a guaranteed connection to #14. The train hit and killed some guy who was walking on the tracks north of San Diego and south of San Juan Capistrano.
It was a great trip and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
Thanks for sharing!
FYI, Larry Sakar comments:
Fantastic posts! Those poor CA&E cars died a slow death rotting away in Wheaton yards until everything was finally scrapped in 1961.
I enjoyed the aerial shots of Canal St. station on the Metropolitan “L” (CTA). It’s not a station that seems to have been photographed a lot but there is a giant wall-sized shot of it on display in the Clinton St. CTA blue line subway station which replaced it. In the days of the “Met” there was a passageway from the south end of Union Station to the “L”. It’s still there and I understand it leads to the present day parking garage south of the station.
In the caption for that shot of the 2 car train of 4000’s on the Lake St. “L”, I don’t think the Lake St. “L” goes to Forest Park. The Green Line as it’s known today ends in Oak Park unless it’s been extended.
Looking at that North Shore Line city car photo I’d guess that is somewhere in Waukegan – Merchant’s curve perhaps? The only place in Milwaukee that had that kind of a curve was where the NSL went between 5th & 6th Sts. None of the buildings in this photo seem to match the ones that were along that curve. The curve was reconstructed after the NSL quit and is now the way you get on to southbound I-94 at Greenfield Ave. The factory building seen in so many of the photos of NSL trains on that curve still stands. Some sort of auto repair facility has been built in front of it. I just rode over that curve last Saturday in the taxi that was taking me home from the Milwaukee Intermodal station downtown. Here’s a Bob Genack photo I have showing that curve. Larry Sakar
Thanks… actually, the Lake Street “L” ground-level operation did cross Harlem Avenue into Forest Park, and there was actually a station there a short distance west which was technically the end of the line. But few people got on there, the great majority using Marion Street instead. The Harlem station on the embankment has entrances at Marion and on the west side of Harlem, and thus serves both Oak Park and Forest Park.
An Early History of the Railroad Record Club
Kenneth Gear and I have some new theories about the early history of the Railroad Record Club. This is based on careful study of the new material featured in our recent post Railroad Record Club Treasure Hunt (July 30, 2017).
One of the homemade 78 rpm records Ken recently bought was marked as having William A. Steventon‘s first recordings. These were dated March 24, 1953.
In a 1958 newspaper interview, Steventon said his wife had given him a tape recorder for Christmas in 1953. He probably meant to say 1952, and it took him a few months to get used to operating it.
Steventon always said that the club started in 1953. However, this seemed odd since he did not issue his first 10″ 33 1/3 rpm records until some years later. The 36 numbered discs came out at the rate of four per year from 1958 through 1966.
There was an Introductory Record, which was probably issued in 1957, and a few “special” releases, the most notable of which (SP-4) documents an entire 1962 trip of the South South Shore Line in real time on three 12″ discs as a box set. That was Steventon’s masterpiece.
In 1967, RCA Custom Records closed up shop, and it was not until some years later that Steventon began reissuing some of his recordings on 12″, using a different pressing plant in Nashville. But what was the Railroad Record Club doing from 1953 through 56?
Apparently, during those years, Steventon was distributing 78 rpm records made using a portable disc cutter. These had been available for home use starting in about 1929, and were often used to record things off the radio.
A few enterprising individuals like the late Jerry Newman took such machines to jazz clubs. This is how he made several recordings of Charlie Christian jamming at Minton’s Playhouse in Harlem in 1941.
While Steventon was using a tape recorder, made portable by being hooked up to an auto battery, tape was not yet an effective way to distribute recordings in 1953. Very few people had such machines.
But most people did have record players, and the standard format of the time was 78 rpm, which yielded at most five minutes per side on 10″ aluminum discs covered with acetate. “Long Playing” 33 1/3 rpm records were a new format, just beginning to gain popularity.
No doubt Steventon dated the RRC’s beginnings to 1953, since that is when he began making recordings, but it is alsolikely that is when he started distributing them. Using a homemade disc cutter meant the records were made in real time. As things gained in popularity, this would have taken up more and more of his time.
To distill much longer recordings to fit the five minute limit, Steventon spliced together all sorts of bits and pieces, and recorded brief introductions later, to tell listeners what they were about to hear.
Some of the homemade discs that Ken purchased have numbers on them. Others have stamped titles, which would indicate to me that Steventon was making them in quantity, and had rubber stamps made for the most popular titles.
These early records were distributed using a number sequence that is totally different than the later one adopted for the 10″ records issued in 1958 or later. Here is a partial list of these early releases:
01. Potomac Edison (aka Hagerstown & Frederick)
02. Shenandoah Central
03. Capital Transit
04. Johnstown Traction
05. Altoona & Logan Valley
06. Baltimore & Ohio
07. Shaker Heights Rapid Transit
08. Claude Mahoney Radio Program about NRHS fantrip (1953)
09. Pennsylvania Railroad
10. Nickel Plate Road
11. St. Louis Public Service
15. Baltimore Transit
16. Norfolk & Western
17. Western Maryland Railway
22. East Broad Top
24. Chicago & Illinois Midland
In this period (1953-55), Steventon was living in Washington, D.C., so many of his recordings were made in that area. He was originally from Mount Carmel, Illinois, which is near the Indiana border. That explains his Hoosier accent as heard on his introductions.
Over time, Steventon branched out, making recordings in other cities when he was on vacation. Regarding his traction recordings, he generally preferred to tape the older equipment, since these made all the right noises. It was more difficult to make successful recordings of PCC cars, since they were much quieter by design, but he did do some.
The success of these records surely inspired Steventon to have records made in quantity by a pressing plant, the RCA Custom Records Division. By 1957, the 33 1/3 rpm format had become the norm, and this permitted about 15 minutes per side on a 10″ record. The resulting disc could hold as much sound as three of the 78s, and weighed a lot less, saving on postage.
Eventually, Steventon began including detailed liner notes with his records, and largely abandoned the spoken introductions.
The 1958 newspaper article mentioned above said that Steventon had sold 1000 records in the previous year. Without his previous experience with homemade records, it is unlikely that Steventon would have records pressed commercially.
We have now cleaned up and digitized many of these early recordings, which are now available under the title Railroad Record Club Rarities. The Traction recordings fill two discs, and the Steam and Diesel tracks are on a single disc. More details are below.
Sometimes, in the absence of written records, or spoken introductions, it is only possible to identify certain recordings through a bit of detective work. As an example, on one recording, the only clues we have are Steventon’s brief mention of riding cars 80 and 83.
This narrows down considerably the list of possible locations. The most likely is the Philadelphia Suburban Transporation Company, also known as the Red Arrow Lines. Cars 80 and 83, which fortunately have survived, were 1932 Brill-built “Master Units.”
We know that Steventon made recordings of similar cars. On one of the Altoona discs, he even refers to an Osgood Bradley Electromobile at one point as a “Master Unit.”
Car 80 still runs to this day at the Electric City Trolley Museum in Scranton, PA., so there are YouTube recordings that I compared with this one. They sound very much the same.
Finally, the Steventon recording shows cars 80 and 83 running at speed, frequently blowing the horn, very much in interurban mode. The longest Red Arrow route, and the most interurban in character, was the West Chester line, which was largely side-of-the-road operation along West Chester Pike.
The final trolley trips on West Chester took place on June 6, 1954. We have written about this before– see Red Arrow in West Chester, September 13, 2016. Buses replaced trolleys so that West chester Pike could be widened.
The National Railway Historical Society held a fantrip after the last revenue runs were made. We know that Steventon participated in NRHS events, since one of the 78 rpm records he distributed features a radio program that discusses a 1953 NRHS excursion.
So, the most logical conclusion is that this rare recording was made by Steventon in 1953 or 1954, and documents the Red Arrow line to West Chester. This recording is included on Railroad Record Club Rarities – Traction.
While we are happy to report that we have finally achieved our long-sought goal of digitizing the Railroad Record Club’s later output, it seems very likely there are still more of these early recordings waiting to be discovered.
Now Available on Compact Disc
Railroad Record Club Rarities – Traction!
# of Discs – 2
Railroad Record Club Rarities – Traction!
These are rare recordings, which date to 1953-55 and predate the 10″ LPs later issued by the Railroad Record Club. Many are previously unissued, and some are available here in a different (and longer) format than later releases, often including William A. Steventon’s spoken introductions. We have used the best available sources, and while some recordings sound excellent, others have some imperfections. But all are rare, rare, rare!
Includes Altoona & Logan Valley, Baltimore Transit, Capital Transit (Washington D.C.), Johnstown Traction, Pennsylvania GG-1s, Potomac Edison (Hagerstown & Frederick), Red Arrow, St. Louis Public Service, Shaker Heights Rapid Transit, and South Shore Line Electric Freight.
Total time – 149:52
Railroad Record Club Rarities – Steam and Diesel!
# of Discs – 1
Railroad Record Club Rarities – Steam and Diesel
These are rare recordings, made by William A. Steventon between 1953 and 1955, and include his earliest recordings. These predate the regular output of the Railroad Record Club. Many are previously unissued, and some are available here in a different (and longer) format than later releases, often including William A. Steventon’s spoken introductions. In general, audio quality is good, but some recordings have imperfections. However, the best available sources have been used, and you won’t find them anywhere else. Much of this material has not been heard in over 60 years.
Includes: Baltimore & Ohio, Chicago & Illinois Midland, East Broad Top, Illinois Central, Nickel Plate road, Pennsylvania Railroad, Shenadoah Central, and even a 1953 radio broadcast by Claude Mahoney that discusses an NRHS fantrip.
Total time – 69:36
RRC #22 and 31
Buffalo Creek & Gauley
Sound Scrapbook – Steam!
# of Discs – 1
Railroad Record Club #22 and 31:
The Buffalo Creek and Gauley Railroad (BC&G) was a railroad chartered on April 1, 1904 and ran along Buffalo Creek in Clay County, West Virginia. The original Buffalo Creek and Gauley ended service in 1965.
The BC&G was one of the last all-steam railroads, never operating a diesel locomotive to the day it shut down in 1965. Its primary purpose was to bring coal out of the mountains above Widen to an interchange with the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad at Dundon. These recordings were made in 1960.
Sound Scrapbook – Steam! covers several different steam railroads, including Canadian National, National Railways of Mexico, McCloud River Railway, Union Pacific, Southern Pacific, Westside Lumber Company, Duluth Missabe & Iron Range, and Pickering Lumber Corp.
Total time – 62:43
RRC #32, Sampler for Years 3 & 4, and Steam Whistles and Bells
# of Discs – 1
RRC #32, Sampler for Years 3 & 4, and Steam Whistles and Bells
This disc features the New York Central, recorded in 1954-55. It’s mainly steam, but with some diesel. In addition, the Railroad Record Club Sampler for years 3 and 4 includes selections from discs 9 through 16. Finally, we have included a very rare circa 1955 recording, Steam Whistles and Bells, which covers several properties across the country.
Total time – 72:07
Pre-Order Our New Book Chicago Trolleys
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.
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
Publisher: Arcadia Publishing SC
Publication date: 09/25/2017
Series: Images of Rail
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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