Labor Day weekend is just around the corner, and I for one am thankful for all our reader contributions to this site. Today, we are featuring more great historic photos from Jack Bejna and Larry Sakar.
I hope that you will appreciate their efforts.
On a personal note, we received a few “author’s copies” of Chicago Trolleys this week. For the first time, I could hold the book in my hand.
It has been an honor and a privilege to write this new book. As with any such endeavor, there is always a lot of blood, sweat, toil, and tears involved. But in a sense, what had been my book is now your book. Now that it is finished, it belongs to you, the reader, and the people of Chicago.
I would like to thank all the various people who contributed photos to the book. In particular, numerous images came from the collections of George Trapp, who has so generously shared them with this blog in the past.
Being a very modest person, he did not even ask for an individual “by-line” for each picture, just a “thank you” in the Acknowledgements. But I want to give credit where credit is due. Thanks in large part to George Trapp, Chicago Trolleys is a much better book than would otherwise be the case, for which I am most appreciative.
PS- You can save $4 by pre-ordering Chicago Trolleys before Tuesday, September 5th. Right now, as part of our special introductory offer, we are providing free shipping within the United States. The shipping rates for books ordered starting on the 5th will be increased by $4 per book, so get your orders in today. Books will be shipped on or about the September 25th release date.
Jack Bejna writes:
The Fifth Avenue Terminal (original name) was built by the West Side elevated Railroad in 1904 to provide a terminal for rush hour L train traffic. In 1905, the terminal also started hosting trains of the CA&E railroad. In the early days over 100 rush hour trains were common. The terminal had four tracks serving two platforms and was the only downtown Chicago terminal ever used by the CA&E. When the CA&E stopped using the terminal in 1953 because of construction of the Congress Street Expressway and the resulting loss of the CTA Garfield Park elevated line, the terminal was closed and later demolished in 1955.
Photos of the terminal and adjacent tracks are few and far between, and for the most part the quality of the photos is less than what I hoped to find. Never the less, here are a number of Photoshopped images of the terminal, tracks, and trains I was able to find. As an aside, the bridge over the Chicago River (2 parallel spans) was the first Scherzer Rolling Lift Bridge installed anywhere.
1950 Speedrail Disaster
Larry Sakar writes:
Saturday, September 2nd marks the 67th anniversary (to the exact day) of the 1950 Speedrail accident during the NMRA convention in Milwaukee. I’ve put together a group of pictures for The Trolley Dodger of and related to that event.
One question that readers might ask is why, if Maeder and is motorman decided to play it safe by going into a siding, as they were 22 minutes behind schedule, that the fatal crash happened just 10 minutes later?
After pulling out of Greenwood Jct. Maeder continued north. He was not planning on stopping at Oklahoma Ave., as he claimed he had been given clearance all the way to West Jct. by the dispatcher. However, Senior motorman John Heberling had the siding lined for Maeder’s train so he had to pull in. Heberling was in charge of training new motorman and had been a long time TMER&L employee. He knew Trip #4 with heavy duplex 1192-93 was due southbound within a few minutes so he thought it best to check with the dispatcher and make sure it was OK for Maeder to proceed. Maeder had a fit, and ordered Heberling to reset the siding and let him out at once! One does not argue with the head of the company if one wants to remain employed there so John did as he was told. No more than 15 seconds after Maeder left he heard the wailing of interurban horns and instantly knew what happened. He looked up at the Nachod signal on the pole across Oklahoma Avenue and saw that it was red. Heberling had no idea that Maeder had received clearance to West Jct. nor did he know that Tennyson had changed Maeder’s orders that all trains call-in from every siding to what he (Tennyson) had set up previous to 9/2 and supposedly had agreed on with Maeder. Those orders called for trains to call-in only if they got into trouble. LeRoy Equitz, motorman of 1192-93 was told this when he stopped at West Jct. But when he stopped at Brookdale siding northbound Tennyson did not tell Maeder he had changed the orders. I think if he had Maeder would have fired him on the spot! So Maeder thought Equitz would wait at West Jct. having been told by the dispatcher that he was on the way north. Unfortunately, Equitz was told only to go by signal indication. Having gotten the white light at West Jct. he headed south. If Maeder had not extended the photo stop at Hillcrest loop in Hales Corners where he arrived behind schedule and despite agreeing that there would be no photo stops northbound then “giving in” when the fans on his train asked for one, he would not have been behind schedule. He didn’t want to disappoint his fellow railfans and model railroaders. So I guess you could say it was a very unfunny comedy of errors that had fatal results. Both Maeder and Tennyson were to blame at least as I see it. Much of this was the “last straw” in the feud that had been going on between them since October of 1949.
Larry Sakar adds (regarding the picture above):
I’m not sure who those people are rummaging around in the wreck. It’s hard to believe the site wouldn’t have been cordoned off to prevent looting. Perhaps they were police personnel who were rounding up personal belongings. It’s not in any of the pictures I sent you but in some shots of the wreck looking north you see a second heavy duplex behind 1192-93. That is duplex 1184-85 trip #5 from Milwaukee. The passengers aboard that car were told about the accident when they reached West Jct. The train then proceeded slowly toward the wreck site where the able bodied NMRA members got off and walked to the wreck site to lend assistance in the rescue efforts. You know it had to be a horrible sight.
Once all of the trapped injured and dead had been removed from the wreck 1184-85 coupled on to 1193 the rear car on Equitz’s southbound car and tried to pull the wreck apart. It did not succeed. A Wisconsin National Guard tow truck had to pull the wreck apart. 1192-93 was covered with a tarp and hauled down to the Public Service Bldg. in the dark of night. It was initially kept in the back of the building where passengers boarding cars for Waukesha, West Jct. or Hales Corners could not see it. Once all of the investigations were completed it was again transported in the dark of night to the Waukesha Gravel Pit.
1192-93 figured into Speedrail history unwantedly on December 20th, 1950. Two teenaged vandals trespassing at the gravel pit went inside the train. The boys got cold so the geniuses decided they’d warm up by starting a fire in the rear car (1193).. he fire got out of hand and they were lucky to escape the car. The fire gutted 1193. I don’t know if Trustee Bitker pursued criminal charges against them but he certainly should have if he didn’t.
Down Three Dark Streets
I recently watched the 1954 crime drama Down Three Dark Streets, a pretty solid film starring Broderick Crawford, and noticed some interesting shots of the short Pacific Electric subway and the Glendale-Burbank double-end PCCs. This film was released about a year before the line was abandoned.
FBI agents are tailing a gangster’s moll as she tries to shake them on her way to her boyfriend’s hideout. She goes down into the PE subway terminal, gets on one car, switches to another, and then rides out to the end of the line.
In this film, at least, the double-end PCCs have a foghorn, reminding me of the “Blimp” cars. Not sure if this was ture in real life. At one point, an FBI agent refers to the “number three interurban,” although I doubt that the PE called it anything other than the Glendale-Burbank line.
The PCCs are shown really zipping along. Car 5000 is visible. Don’s Rail Photos says: “5000 was built by Pullman-Standard in October 1940, #W6642. It was retired in 1956 and was sold as Ferrocarril Gen Urquiza M.1500 and made modifications in 1959. It was retired in short time.” After having been stored in the samp subway tunnel for three or four years, the PCCs had badly deteriorated even though they were only used in service for about 15 years.
Here are some screen-shots:
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. Introductory Special: Order before September 5, and 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:
For Shipping to Canada:
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:
For Shipping to Canada:
For Shipping Elsewhere:
Help Support The Trolley Dodger
This is our 193rd 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 316,000 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.
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.
10 thoughts on “The Fruits of Our Labors”
The picture of the Speedrail door brought reminders. Lee Brehmer was a nice kid who was active with the IERM in the 1955 period. He went on to the army and was at Fort Eustis, VA. I was there for annual reserve training in 1956 or 1957 and Lee was there on active service. We got together there, but one evening I had other plans. Lee was sent out to do guard duty at the helicopter pad. He was found dead in the morning. That was one of those things when you wonder if you should have done something else. He was buried at a cemetery off 27th and the Lakeside Belt. We thought it would be a nice place for Lee.
I am very sorry to hear that. Thanks for sharing.
David, thank you for another great posting. In the second photo in the Fifth Avenue terminal series of photos, there is a ghost sign of the “IN ER SEAL” (Nabisco) logo on the brick wall at right. That ghost sign is still there today:
Here is a link to the history of that logo:
David, your comments on the movie “Down Three Dark Streets” reminds me of another Film Noir of 1950 vintage, “Outside the Wall”. This movie starred Richard Basehart as a just-sprung convict as he tries to adapt to life in Philadelphia after being released from Eastern State Penitentiary in Philly…one scene shows him walking around near Broad Street Station and Philadelpha City Hall…interesting to see what we in Philadelpha call “Center City”(the main downtown area) as it looked in late 1949 (the time of the filming). It’s available on YouTube, in segments.
Down Three Dark Streets is on YouTube, but it may get pulled. It is also available on DVD and streaming video from Amazon.
Were the upper two floors of the Wells st Terminal just a false front, or were there an actual thin building between the street and the end of the tracks?
Not at all a false front. There was a bridge from the Quincy and Wells Outer Loop platform to the third floor, which contained a waiting room. There were also ticket agents and the usual public conveniences, though I frankly don’t remember the exact details of what was where. Of course, most arriving CA&E passengers departed at Canal Street, which afforded free passage to Met “L” trains.
Great picture of the Dallas doubled ended PCC on it’s original home trackage in Big D. These cars had been referred to by some in the Boston MTA crew as “Texas Rangers”. http://www.heritagetrolley.org/images/PCCBrochure.pdf
My Dad’s parents lived at 98th and West National Ave an unincorporated area in 1950 just outside the Milwaukee suburb of West Allis, Wisconsin. From their yard grandma and grandpa had an unobstructed panoramic view to the west of the Speedrail right of way under which passed National Avenue, at this point looking like a simple two lane concrete county highway. If outside one could readily hear and see the the trains as they made their way to Hales Corners or downtown Milwaukee. My grandmother had been doing laundry that Saturday morning and was hanging clothes to dry outside when this tragic accident occurred, she was a strong woman but was upset for days afterward.