Milwaukee Rapid Transit

SR 60 laying over @ Waukesha loop Spring, 1950

SR 60 laying over @ Waukesha loop Spring, 1950

With construction well underway on the new Milwaukee streetcar, and Milwaukee Transit Day (October 7th) fast approaching at the Illinois Railway Museum, this seems like an opportune time for guest contributor Larry Sakar to share more of his research with us.

Larry is the author of Speedrail: Milwaukee’s Last Rapid Transit? We thank him for his generosity in sharing these pictures and information with our readers.

-David Sadowski

PS- FYI, all copies of Chicago Trolleys that were purchased during the pre-order have been mailed. Yesterday was the official release date for the book, and it is now in stock and autographed copies are available for immediate shipment. We hope that you will enjoy this new work (more information at the end of this post).

Larry Sakar writes:

The Trolley Dodger is getting a lot of notice. A friend of mine who does not have a computer has heard about it, most likely from Bill Shapotkin or Andre Kristopans. When something is well done, people notice, so I’m not surprised.

I promised you some pictures of the former TM station in Kenosha at 8th Ave. & 55th St. These 2 photos were taken by Ray DeGroote in September 1963 probably just days before the building was torn down. The passageway beneath the portico was where TM interurbans pulled in. They then curved to the right in the photo, on their way back to Milwaukee crossed Sheridan Rd. on the long elevated trestle, and then came parallel to the C&NW RR’s mainline between Chicago & Milwaukee. From around 1952 or ’53 to the end in Sept.’63 the former waiting room was a pizza restaurant – Vena’s Pizzeria.

Former TM Kenosha station 9-63 Ray DeGroote

Former TM Kenosha station 9-63 Ray DeGroote

Former TM Kenosha Station 9-63 Ray DeGroote note freight tracks.

Former TM Kenosha Station 9-63 Ray DeGroote note freight tracks.

When Speedrail acquired the 6-60 series curved side lightweight cars from Shaker Heights Rapid Transit in October 1949, they were shipped to Milwaukee via the Nickel Plate Road (CMSTP&STL) to Chicago, where the NKP flat cars were interchanged with the Milwaukee Road. The MILW brought them to The Transport Co.’s. Cold Spring shops where they were unloaded and given a thorough inspection. First to arrive was car 65 on 10-6-49. Shaker Heights had painted it in an experimental green and yellow paint scheme to improve visibility at grade crossings. Sometime between 10-7-49 and 10-23-49 someone repainted the front end of car 65 in an obvious effort to emulate the “Liberty Bell Limited” design on the LVT 1000 series high speed cars. No one knows who did it or when. First we see 65 coming down the Michigan St. hill eastbound on the shakedown runs over both the Waukesha & Hales Corners lines on 10-7-49. In the second shot, note that the front has been repainted white with the quasi-LVT design and air horns placed where they are on an LVT 1000 series car. The second shot is in the 25th St. curve next to the tanks of the Milwaukee Gas Light Co. Today I-94 the East-West Freeway occupies the r.o.w.

SHRT60 arriving from Cleveland 10-49 Lew Martin

SHRT60 arriving from Cleveland 10-49 Lew Martin

SR 65 @ 6th & Michigan on 10-7-49 shakedown trip.

SR 65 @ 6th & Michigan on 10-7-49 shakedown trip.

SR 65 @ 25th St, curve 10-23-49

SR 65 @ 25th St, curve 10-23-49

Harper SR fan trip 10-49 schedule

Harper SR fan trip 10-49 schedule

I believe car 60 was the last to arrive from Shaker Heights. First we see it on the Milwaukee Division ERA fan trip of 10-16-49 crossing Brookdale Dr. In 2016 my friend and colleague Chris Barney took these 2 photos of Brookdale Dr. as it looks today.

SR 60 inaugural fan trip Brookdale 10-16-49

SR 60 inaugural fan trip Brookdale 10-16-49

Brookdale Dr xing on H.C. line in 2016 C.N.Barney

Brookdale Dr xing on H.C. line in 2016 C.N.Barney

Lots of absolutely fantastic material in this collection I just inherited. Look at these 2 documents. Without saying a word, there’s a very clear picture of the way things were being run at Speedrail in April of 1950! Owing $8000+ to TMER&T was definitely not the way to go!

Collection Letter from TMER&T attys against MRT&S 4-5-50

Collection Letter from TMER&T attys against MRT&S 4-5-50

Dunning letter to MRT&S from TMER&T re: overdue payments 3-8-50

Dunning letter to MRT&S from TMER&T re: overdue payments 3-8-50

Talk about valuable information, in this collection I just inherited was a list, no actually there were 2 lists. A railfan but not too likely the friend who gave me the collection walked down the scrap line out at the Waukesha gravel pit on March 1, 1952 and again two weeks later March 16, 1952. He wrote down the number of every car in the scrap line. This info is valuable because a year earlier the trustee sold 13 of the TM 1100 series heavy interurban cars to Afram Brothers Scrap Metal Co. in Milwaukee. Obviously, Speedrail was desperate for money so why not sell off what was no longer being used? $2,000 (approximate figure) went to pay for the transformation of LVT 1102 into Milwaukee Rapid Transit 66, the so-called, “last hope car.”

Notice, I did not say Speedrail 66. Legally, it was still The Milwaukee Rapid Transit & Speedrail Company but when Bruno V. Bitker took over as the court-appointed trustee, he ordered the Speedrail name painted out on the curved-side lightweight (60 series) car as well as removed from all timetables and tickets. He made it very clear that the Speedrail name immediately brought to mind the 9-2-50 fatal accident. That is also one of the reasons Jay Maeder was dismissed. From then on everything just said “Rapid Transit 234 W. Everett St.”

You may notice, by the way, that when I write the Speedrail corporate name I always capitalize “THE.” Maeder insisted on it because “The” in TMER&L was always capitalized and anything TM did was what he wanted to do as well. There is no better evidence of that than the first Speedrail timetable dated `10-16-49 which said “TM Speedrail”. Here are the covers of Speedrail’s very first and very last timetables, and for the Waukesha Transit Lines bus which replaced it, a fact you’ll notice they made sure to put on their timetable. Waukesha Transit Lines eventually became Wisconsin Coach Lines. They are still in business but are now part of the Coach USA system.

TM SR Timetable 10-16-49

TM SR Timetable 10-16-49

Rapid Transit TT West Jct. 6-4-51

Rapid Transit TT West Jct. 6-4-51

WTL Replacing the SR 7-1-51

WTL Replacing the SR 7-1-51

WTL Bus schedule 7-1-51

WTL Bus schedule 7-1-51

Here are the pictures I took at both the TM and North Shore stations on 4-5-72. I mentioned in a previous post that for many years after the TM M-R-K – Milwaukee-Racine-Kenosha was abandoned in 1947 the freight tracks used by Motor Transport Co. were still embedded in pavement. Here they are on 4-5-72.

TM Kenosha Station looking north 4-5-72

TM Kenosha Station looking north 4-5-72

Motor Transport Co. tracks TM Kenosha Sta. 4-5-72

Motor Transport Co. tracks TM Kenosha Sta. 4-5-72

The next 2 photos at the TM Kenosha station site show the point where the long elevated bridge over Sheridan Rd. began. The large building to the left was the Barr Furniture Co. which has since been torn down. The very last photo I just scanned shows the sign created by Kenosha radio broadcaster Lou Rugani to commemorate where TM’s Kenosha station used to stand at 8th Ave. & 55th St. Just one problem with the sign. The Don Ross photo on the sign shows the Racine, not the Kenosha station.

TM Kenosha Station next to Barr Furniture 4-5-72

TM Kenosha Station next to Barr Furniture 4-5-72

Sign commemorating TM Kenosha station

Sign commemorating TM Kenosha station

From the TM station I walked out to the North Shore Line’s Kenosha station which is on 22nd Ave & 63rd St. if I recall correctly. I knew it was still standing but I didn’t expect it to be behind a stockade fence. I do not know why it was fenced off on 3 sides.

The first photo shows the northbound platform looking northeast. You can see the fence. The track area had been paved with asphalt but other than that the station appeared unchanged in the 9 years since abandonment.

NSL Kenosha Station 4-5-72 northbound platform

NSL Kenosha Station 4-5-72 northbound platform

I then snapped a series of 3 pictures of the southbound platform starting at it’s north end, then the middle of it and last the south end of that southbound platform. All of that changed some years later when the station became a restaurant. They added a banquet room to the north end of the station which ruined its historic Arthur U. Gerber appearance. Then they extended the restaurant over the track area and removed the southbound platform entirely.

NSL Kenosha Station south end southbound platform 4-5-72

NSL Kenosha Station south end southbound platform 4-5-72

NSL Kenosha Station Southbound platform 4-5-72

NSL Kenosha Station Southbound platform 4-5-72

NSL Kenosha Station 4-5-72 Southbound platform

NSL Kenosha Station 4-5-72 Southbound platform

The last NSL picture shows the abandoned NSL r.o.w. just north of Ryan Rd. I had just taken the picture when I noticed a large building in the distance. It turned out to be the Carrollville substation.

Abandoned NSL r.o.w. north of Ryan Road Carrollville substation distant 1971

Abandoned NSL r.o.w. north of Ryan Road Carrollville substation distant 1971

Here is something I think you will enjoy. This picture appeared in a much smaller version in the Speedrail book. This is a much larger, more detailed print. These seats were installed by Shaker Heights when they acquired the curved side cars from Inter City Rapid Transit in 1940. They had purchased some of the very first Cincinnati curved side lightweights built from Kentucky Traction & Terminal but never placed them in service because their small motors made them unable to maintain the speed necessary for the 2 SHRT lines. They were kept on a storage track at Shaker’s Kingsbury Run shops and used for spare parts when the ICT cars arrived. That included these seats.

Interior SR 63

Interior SR 63

But there was one exception. Car 64 had green plush seats according to several people I spoke to who rode these cars on Speedrail. The Speedrail riders did not like these cars. They were glad Jay Maeder had saved the Waukesha line from the impending abandonment being sought by Northland-Greyhound but they wanted the TM 1100’s to remain in service.

Maeder became quite angry when he found out the Waukesha riders were complaining about the 60 series cars and he ran this ad in the Waukesha Freeman. Somebody should have told him you don’t bite the hand that feeds you. You never start off a communication with, “We all know…” Yes, he knew, and the railfans knew, but the average everyday rider thought these were new cars when they first saw them. One look at the interiors told them otherwise.

Maeder response to 60 series cars complaints

Maeder response to 60 series cars complaints

To give you an example of just how much the 60’s were disliked, the late Len Garver told me that one day he and his friend Jerry Fisher were riding a 60-series car to Waukesha. A lady getting off the car near Waukesha East Limits turned to the motorman and said, “Do all of these cars ride this way? I feel like I’ve just ridden over Niagara Falls in a barrel!”

Much of it had to do with car weight and height of the car above the rail. This photo from the collection of Herb Danneman illustrated the problem. Note the height of car 1138 at left with car 60 at right. This photo was taken on the Milwaukee Division ERA fan trip of 10-16-49 and is at 46th St.

TM 1138 & SR 60 meet @ 46thSt. 10-16-49. Herb Danneman coll.

TM 1138 & SR 60 meet @ 46thSt. 10-16-49. Herb Danneman coll.

Two of these pictures are ones I sent previously, but they were not the best quality. Two are ones you might never have seen before. One is pretty dramatic. Lew Martin took a picture as car 39 was rolling down the embankment of the r.o.w. after the 9-2-50 wreck. The other is of 1192 as it looked after the accident. Note how badly the front end was caved in. The photo was taken at the Waukesha Gravel pit. The car was towed out there once the investigation of the crash had been completed.

SR39 rolling off embankment 9-2-50 Lew Martin

SR39 rolling off embankment 9-2-50 Lew Martin

SR 40 after push off embankment 9-2-50

SR 40 after push off embankment 9-2-50

SR 1192 at Wauk. Grvl pit after 9-50 wreck

SR 1192 at Wauk. Grvl pit after 9-50 wreck

Remains of SR 39 dumped off r.o.w. 9-2-50 (color)

Remains of SR 39 dumped off r.o.w. 9-2-50 (color)

The one picture of the Speedrail crash that I did have showed the wreck before the cars were rolled off the right-of-way. How long was it before the tracks were cleared? A few hours, perhaps?

I don’t recall any of the newspapers giving specifics as to how long it took to clear the wreck, much less to cut apart what was left of car 39 and all of car 40. I believe one account did say the tracks had been cleared by late afternoon which to me means about 4:00 or 5:00 pm. The biggest problem they had was trying to get the cars separated. Trip #5, the last one of the day with duplex 1184-85 hooked up to 1193, the rear car of the heavy duplex, attempted to pull them apart but couldn’t. A heavy duty National Guard wrecker was then brought in and it was able to do it. Ironic, isn’t it that when Hyman-Michaels was scrapping the cars at the gravel pit in 1952 they used 1184-85 as their office car. It’s the one with the sign saying attached to its front that said “No Trespassing. Property of Milwaukee Rapid Transit and Speed Rail Co.”  Someone recently asked me why they separated the Speedrail name into two words. I guess only Hyman-Michaels Co. would have known.

Firemen trying to pry wrecked SR cars apart on 9-2-50 from MJ 9-3-50

Firemen trying to pry wrecked SR cars apart on 9-2-50 from MJ 9-3-50

I know they were serious about prosecuting anyone caught trespassing on the property. Al Buetschle, whom I mentioned in a recent post as the person who saved Milwaukee streetcar 978 went out to the gravel pit soon after scrapping began. He tried to get close enough to where the scrappers were working so he could get some good pictures. He tried hiding in the brush and weeds close to the tracks and they caught him. He was warned that if they ever caught him again he would be turned over to the Waukesha County Sheriff. After that, he discovered that walking up the C&NW RR tracks west from Springdale Rd. which were adjacent to the gravel pit was the “safe” way to gain entry without detection. The other was by going out there on Sundays. The scrappers did not work on Sundays and the place was pretty much deserted. It was on one of these “hunts” that he “saved” the roll sign from Car 66 as well as an Ohio Brass trolley retriever. The problem with the retriever was that it was rather cumbersome. He did not drive a car in 1952 so he had to take the replacement for Speedrail “Waukesha Transit Lines” bus to and from. He was afraid if the bus driver saw it he would report him so he hid the retriever under a log. Regrettably, it wasn’t there the next time he came back. When he moved to California in 1961 the roll sign found its way to someone else and from him to the person who owns it today. I have a color slide of it taken at a train show where it was on display back in the ’80’s or ’90’s.

Springdale Road. on Waukesha Line looking east in TM days Ed Wilson

Springdale Road. on Waukesha Line looking east in TM days Ed Wilson

Abandoned TM ROW Looking east to Springdale Rd. 4-14-71 LAS

Abandoned TM ROW Looking east to Springdale Rd. 4-14-71 LAS

We have a new TM/Speedrail mystery on our hands. This is a photo of a TM or Speedrail 1100 series car eastbound on the Waukesha line at Sunny Slope Rd. The date of the photo is unknown as is the photographer. My friend and colleague Chris Barney obtained this from the Waukesha Freeman newspaper. The car is headed east on the eastbound track but look at the car. It’s running backwards!

The "mystery photo." A TM or Speedrail 1100 poss. 1142 is running backwards EB on the eastbound track at Sunny Slope Rd. J.G. Van Holten plant at right. Collection of C.N. Barney.

#1 – The “mystery photo.” A TM or Speedrail 1100 poss. 1142 is running backwards EB on the eastbound track at Sunny Slope Rd. J.G. Van Holten plant at right. Collection of C.N. Barney.

The streamlined modern type building to the right was the J.G. Van Holten Vinegar works along the westbound track. TM had a siding into the plant and delivered a brine car at least once a month. That continued into the Speedrail era. There were 2 crossover tracks both west of the crossing which the grainy quality of the photo makes impossible to see. That was where the Speedrail accident of 2-8-50 took place.

I’d like to ask my fellow TM fans for any information as to why a car would be running backwards. The switch into the plant was from the westbound track so even if the car had been switching a car in or out there would be no reason for it to be running backwards on the eastbound track.

Chris’ and my friend, Herb Danneman came up with what may be the explanation. On 2-29-52 Hyman-Michaels, the scrapper who dismantled Speedrail moved all of the cars in storage in Milwaukee to the Waukesha gravel pit for scrapping. We know for a fact that the cars operated in trains of 2 or 3 cars. TM 1142 which had been Speedrail’s freight motor from 12/50 to the end of service hauled a number of out of service 1100’s to the gravel pit. The “scrap trains” were operated westbound on the eastbound track as demonstrated in this photo by George Gloff. This is car 66 being towed by car 63. 1100’s could not couple onto curved side cars because of the difference in floor heights. That might be what’s going on here. It might have been easier just to run backwards to Milwaukee than wyeing at the gravel pit if they still could. We tried enlarging the photo to 8x`10 to see if the person standing on the rear platform is wearing a uniform which he would if this was some sort of unusual TM or Speedrail move but it only made him a shadow. We can’t tell.

The photo of 66 being towed is at Calhoun Rd. Some present-day photos at Sunny Slope and one I took there in 1971 are also included. J.G. Van Holten moved to Waterloo, Wisconsin in 1956 after a dispute with the then Town of New Berlin (now city). Seems the Van Holten company was disposing of its waste (they made both pickles and sauerkraut) in a retention pond west of the plant. That must have been a smell you’d never forget!

#2 - The Sunny Slope Rd. xing lkg. west in 5/71. Former J.G. Van Holten plant @ right. Note: power lines not in same place as #1.

#2 – The Sunny Slope Rd. xing lkg. west in 5/71. Former J.G. Van Holten plant @ right. Note: power lines not in same place as #1.

#3 - Speedrail 1142 arr. @ Wauk. Gravel pit poss. 2-29-52. C. N. Barney collection.

#3 – Speedrail 1142 arr. @ Wauk. Gravel pit poss. 2-29-52. C. N. Barney collection.

#4 - SR 66 being towed to Wauk. Gravel Pit passing Kuney's at Calhoun Rd. 2-29-52 George Gloff photo.

#4 – SR 66 being towed to Wauk. Gravel Pit passing Kuney’s at Calhoun Rd. 2-29-52 George Gloff photo.

#5 - Calhoun Rd. xing lkg west. Part of Kuney's bldg. at left. 2013 photo by C.N. Barney

#5 – Calhoun Rd. xing lkg west. Part of Kuney’s bldg. at left. 2013 photo by C.N. Barney

#6 - Sunny Slope Rd. xing lkg west 2013. That's me in the photo. C.N. Barney photo

#6 – Sunny Slope Rd. xing lkg west 2013. That’s me in the photo. C.N. Barney photo

#7 - Lkg. east from west of Sunny Slope Rd. xing 2013. C;N. Barney

#7 – Lkg. east from west of Sunny Slope Rd. xing 2013. C;N. Barney

#8 - Ex J.G. Van Holten plant hidden in the brush as seen from the U.P. RR (ex C&NW) r.o.w. 2013 C. N. Barney photo

#8 – Ex J.G. Van Holten plant hidden in the brush as seen from the U.P. RR (ex C&NW) r.o.w. 2013 C. N. Barney photo

#9 - Literal end of track on Lincoln Ave. (Waukesha East Limits), 9-26-52. Note track has been cut. John Schoenknecht collection.

#9 – Literal end of track on Lincoln Ave. (Waukesha East Limits), 9-26-52. Note track has been cut. John Schoenknecht collection.

#10 - Newspaper clipping showing 2-8-50 Speedrail accident at Sunny Slope Rd. Larry Sakar collection.

#10 – Newspaper clipping showing 2-8-50 Speedrail accident at Sunny Slope Rd. Larry Sakar collection.

Have you ever studied a picture and not noticed something obvious? I was thinking of the “mystery” photo I just sent you and that’s when it hit me. This can’t be any kind of normal passenger run. Because the car is running backwards on the eastbound track the entry door is on the wrong side. How would they board or discharge passengers? The left side of the 1100’s didn’t have any doors!

If this car was heading back to 25th St. to pick up more 1100’s for transport to the Waukesha Gravel pit, you’d want it to be backwards so you could couple to another set of cars. Then you’d be position correctly for the reverse trip to Waukesha. Running backwards like that there was absolutely no place to turn the car around except West Junction loop. They’d have run backwards to the switch that took cars from the Waukesha to the Hales Corners line which was a short distance north of the West Jct. station, then switched to the Hales Corners line where they’d now be facing south, gone around the loop and then you’d be facing north frontwards). They could not have gone all the way to the Public Service Building. First, there was no way to turn a car around there and second by Feb. 29 of 1952 the rails had tar put over them and the trolley wire had been removed from the trainshed.

I think Herb Danneman was right. This is 2-29-52 and that is car 1142.

-Larry Sakar

Postscript

Scott Greig (see Comments section below) was wondering if there was any sort of listing of which Speedrail cars went to the Waukesha Gravel Pit for scrapping. He is in luck. Among the many great documents I found in that collection Herb Danneman so generously gave me were 2 lists of cars that were in the scrap line and elsewhere on the Speedrail property on March 1, 1952 and March 16, 1952. The list was written in pencil and hard to read so I typed it up and scanned in both lists

Thanks Scott, Charles and Robert for the great comments and superb information.

-Larry

Recent Finds

CTA PCC 7199, a product of the St. Louis Car Company, is eastbound on 120th near Halsted circa 1952-55. This was the south end of Route 36 - Broadway-State. (Eugene Van Dusen Photo)

CTA PCC 7199, a product of the St. Louis Car Company, is eastbound on 120th near Halsted circa 1952-55. This was the south end of Route 36 – Broadway-State. (Eugene Van Dusen Photo)

CTA 6148, and "Odd 17" car, was built by the Surface Lines in 1919. Here we see it southbound, turning from Clark onto Halsted.

CTA 6148, and “Odd 17” car, was built by the Surface Lines in 1919. Here we see it southbound, turning from Clark onto Halsted.

CTA 1750 heads west on Randolph Street, signed for Route 16 - Lake Street, circa 1952-54. In the background, we see the Sherman House Hotel, the old Greyhound Bus Terminal, and the Garrick Television Center.

CTA 1750 heads west on Randolph Street, signed for Route 16 – Lake Street, circa 1952-54. In the background, we see the Sherman House Hotel, the old Greyhound Bus Terminal, and the Garrick Television Center.

CTA 1775 heads west on Cermak Road at Kostner circa 1952-54. This photo gives you a good view of a Chicago safety island.

CTA 1775 heads west on Cermak Road at Kostner circa 1952-54. This photo gives you a good view of a Chicago safety island.

CTA 1728 and 3127 on Route 21 - Cermak, just east of Kenton, circa 1952-54.

CTA 1728 and 3127 on Route 21 – Cermak, just east of Kenton, circa 1952-54.

Chicago Aurora & Elgin 310 and follower (309?) are on the west side of Mannheim road near Roosevelt Road on a 1950s fantrip.

Chicago Aurora & Elgin 310 and follower (309?) are on the west side of Mannheim road near Roosevelt Road on a 1950s fantrip.

CA&E 310 on a 1955 fantrip on the Mt. Carmel branch.

CA&E 310 on a 1955 fantrip on the Mt. Carmel branch.

Marion (Indiana) Railways Birney car 8. It was probably built by St. Louis Car Company circa 1922-23, and scrapped in 1947.

Marion (Indiana) Railways Birney car 8. It was probably built by St. Louis Car Company circa 1922-23, and scrapped in 1947.

Marion Railways 8 circa World War II.

Marion Railways 8 circa World War II.

New Washington and Wabash “L” Station

The new Chicago Transit Authority “L” station at Washington and Wabash recently opened. It replaces two stations, at Madison and Randolph. Having one station instead of two speeds up service on the Loop. The Madison station was closed at the beginning of the project, while Randolph remained open until the new one was ready.

This new station is very attractive and seems designed well to handle large crowds. The old Randolph station was already being cut up for scrap when I took these pictures. Not sure what happened to the large CTA logo that was added when that station was renovated in 1954.

Washington and Wabash is conveniently located near Millennium Park, and also provides easy transfer to CTA buses heading east and west.

-David Sadowski

Charlie On the M.T.A.

A period illustration for the M.T.A. song (aka Charlie on the M.T.A.).

A period illustration for the M.T.A. song (aka Charlie on the M.T.A.).

After purchasing a “Charlie Ticket” on our recent trip to Boston (see Back in Boston, September 15, 2017), that got us to thinking about the song that inspired it, generally known as Charlie On the M.T.A. We spent some time recently looking into the origins of this iconic song.

It all started in 1949, when the late Walter O’Brien ran for Mayor of Boston on the Progressive Party ticket. He had no money for advertising, but he did have some folksinging friends, who recorded several songs for his campaign, including The People’s Choice, The O’Brien Train, We Want Walter A. O’Brien, and The M.T.A. Song.

These had new lyrics set to old melodies that the folksingers, who included Bess Lomax Hawes, Al Katz, Sam Berman, Al Berman, and Jackie Steiner, were already familiar with. The M.T.A. song was set to the tune of The Ship That Never Returned, written in 1865 by Henry Clay Work.

The same song also inspired The Wreck of the Old 97.

Fare hikes were a reason to protest the newly formed M.T.A. The Massachusetts legislature had allowed the Boston Elevated Railway Company to absorb its competitors in 1922, creating a monopoly. When the company went bankrupt in 1947, the legislature bought the company, bailing out the shareholders, and formed the Massachusetts Transportation Authority (now called the MBTA).

As a result, a five cent surcharge was added to the existing ten cent fare. Since it was not easy to adapt existing fare collection equipment, riders had to pay an extra nickel when getting off the train– hence the theme of the song.

Bess Lomax Hawes, who had been in the Almanac Singers, picked the tune, while most of the new lyrics were written by Jackie Steiner. It was Hawes, however, who wrote the memorable verse about how Charlie’s wife brought him a sandwich every day and handed it to him through the window of the train as it rumbled by.

The newly recorded song made its debut on October 24, 1949. O’Brien hired a truck with a PA system and had it drive around the city, playing his campaign songs. Of these, M.T.A. was by far the most popular and enduring.

O’Brien got very few votes, but Charlie gained Boston immortality in the process.

Cut to 1955. Folksinger Richard “Specs” Simmons taught the song to Will Holt, who recorded his own version in 1957. This was on its way toward being a hit when his record company began getting complaints from the Boston area, accusing Holt of promoting a radical.

Not knowing the true origin of the song, Holt had no idea that Walter A. O’Brien was a real person.

An edited version was issued, but the damage was done. It was left to the Kingston Trio to record the best and by far most famous version of the song in 1959. They avoided controversy by changing the name of the mayoral candidate to the fictional George O’Brien.

Reportedly, when Will Holt recorded his version, he cut in Richard “Specs” Simmons for one-third of the publishing, which eventually provided him the cash to purchase a bar in San Francisco’s North Beach area, now known as Specs’ Twelve Adler Museum Cafe. He died at age 86 in October 2016.

Most other people involved with the song are no longer with us. Walter O’Brien has died. Bess Lomax Hawes, sister of Alan Lomax and daughter of John Lomax, passed away in 2009. However, Sam Berman, who sang lead on the original 1949 version, lives in Lexington and is in his early 90s. His brother Arnold, also in his 90s, may still be alive. Lyricist Jackie Steiner is also still with us.

You can listen to several versions of the song, including the 1949 original and Will Holt’s, here.

-David Sadowski

Recent Correspondence

A model of GM&O 1900.

A model of GM&O 1900.

Charles Harris of New Zealand writes:

In 1946 Ingalls Iron Works manufactured the one and only Ingalls 4-S diesel loco, tested on several railroads and then sold to GM&O. Used until 1966 and then scrapped. Used a Superior marine engine, with apparently a distinctive sound.

Do any of your recordings feature the Ingalls 4-S? and or film etc.


Kenneth Gear
replies:

I am unaware of any sound recordings of the Ingalls 4-S diesel locomotive. Since it was a one of a kind loco and surely sought out by fans, and considering it lasted to the mid-sixties, the possibility exists that someone recorded it. I’ll keep an eye (and ear) out for it, I would watch for DVDs of vintage GM&O Diesels, perhaps it was filmed at some point with a sound movie camera. If so, the footage and sound track may have ended up on a DVD release.

You might also contact the Meridian Railroad Museum in Meridian, Mississippi: 1805 Front Street, Meridian, MS 39301, phone: (601) 485-7245.

GM&O was one of the local railroads here and the staff there my know of something.

By the way, on the Yahoo Group RAILROAD RECORD FANCLUB I’ve conversed with a person named Doug Harris who also lives in New Zealand. Any relation?

Our New Book Chicago Trolleys— Now In Stock!

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 was released on September 25, 2017 by Arcadia Publishing. You can order an autographed copy through us (see below). Chicago Trolleys is also 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 230 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.

We appreciate your business!

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Praise for Chicago Trolleys

Kenneth Gear writes:

I just finished reading your book and I enjoyed it very much. Good, clear, concise, and informative writing.

I must compliment you on the choice and presentation of the photographs. It is obvious that you spent much time and effort to present these wonderful photos as perfectly restored as possible.

So many times the authors of books that are primarily “picture books” seem to have a complete disregard for the condition of the photos reproduced. I’ve often seen photos that are yellowed with age, water stained, ripped, folded, and scratched. Other times a book might contain photos that are not properly exposed, are crooked, out of focus, or the composition could have been easily corrected with a little cropping.

The photos in your book are absolutely fantastic! They are pristine, sharp, and have absolutely no blemishes at all. You also packed a lot of information into the captions as well. It’s a fine book and you should be proud, as I’m sure you are, to have your name on the cover.

NEW – Chicago Trolleys Postcard Collection

Selected images from Chicago Trolleys are now available 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.

Order your Chicago Trolleys Postcard Pack today!

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24 thoughts on “Milwaukee Rapid Transit

  1. Regarding the photo of a speedstriped 1100 running backwards near the pickle plant…I recall Don Leistikow saying that, when he worked on the freight crew for Speedrail, they frequently ran the (by his time) 1142 backwards when needed, and that the rear bulkhead had been removed from the car’s cab to increase visibility. To operate like this for a distance is cumbersome and slow (if done safely), but not impossible…it’s no different from “shoving” a freight car with a locomotive. It would also explain what looks to me like the conductor riding on the rear platform…the car’s emergency valve was on the wide cornerpost of the platform next to the door, as was the signal rope to the motorman.

    Given the location next to the pickle plant, I suspect that the crew had just dropped off a car, and was now heading back east, either all the way downtown or (more likely, in my view) to West Junction, to get off the railroad, loop the car if needed, and call the dispatcher for orders. That would have been faster in returning the car and crew to one of the interchanges or back downtown, and less likely to disrupt live service (the first rule of any extra move), than heading all the way west to the Gravel Pit or Waukesha in order to turn the car.

    Photograph #3, of 1142 passing the gravel pit, was taken during the fantrip with car 60 on October 16, 1949…notice all the fans in a photo line in the background? I have several different shots of the car passing this location on the trip, including one of the 1142 next to car 60, which was sitting on the pit spur.

    It would be interesting to know which 1100s definitely went to the Gravel Pit. From photographs, I have been able to identify six cars that went to Afram Bros (1113, 1117, 1118, 1124, 1133 and 1140)…I also have a curious photo that leads me to wonder if perhaps Afram or another yard was disappointed in how little actual scrap they got from the cars, and sent some of them back.

    A further story regarding car 66 at the Gravel Pit…I recall a fan from the Lake Geneva area by the name of Butts (Jim Butts?) managed to procure one of the former 1100 seats from the car, along with one of the brass Cincinnati Car Co. floor plates. If I remember the story right, he was attending college nearby at the time, and enlisted the help of a couple of his classmates, one of whom had a car. On the way back to the campus, they were stopped by area police…I forget the exact story, but they somehow managed to talk their way out of trouble. He still had both items when I talked to him on the phone in the 90s…unfortunately, he died some years ago, and I have no idea what became of either the seat or builders plate.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Scott,
      I can post a list of cars that went to the Waukesha Gravel Pit. In Herb Danneman’s collection there were 3 sheets consisting of 5- 8 1/2 x 11 sheets. One was dated 3/1/52. The other 3/16/52. Whoever wrote them listed every car on the scrap tracks at the Gravel Pit and those that were left in Milwaukee at 8th St. and 12th St. yards. I typed up the sheets. I’ll scan them and send them to Dave for posting. Larry

      Like

    • Hi Scott,
      This information is INVALUABLE – I was a friend of Don L., for too short a time unfortunately (2013 to 2015), but I was enraptured by his TM/Speedrail knowledge. I never did ask him about the freight end of the business…I am sure glad YOU did!! Thanks again, take care and God Bless!
      Chris Barney (friend of Larry Sakar)

      Like

      • Converting a single-ended 1100 to double-ended control was a project far beyond Speedrail’s own abilities, and as Larry’s letter from TMER&T shows, they were very much in the doghouse with TMER&T for outstanding bills, so Cold Spring was out of the question. In any event, even if such money was available to Speedrail, they would have been better served repairing the previously-damaged box motor M14, which was already set up for double-ended operation.

        Like

      • Didn’t think of that, but I suspect Maeder probably didn’t think of it and a lot of other things. And so the short, sad life of Speedrail was the result.

        Like

  2. C. Kronenwetter, of New Berlin, WI writes:

    A couple of things:

    1. On the photo of the 66 being towed past the Calhoun crossing, you can also note what I think was a sugar beet loader next to the C&NW line to the left of Kuny’s.

    2. It looks as though the Stop sign on the crossing signal is turned away from the road. I had wondered whether the scrap train runs were made without signals or crossing protection? I guess this might indicate that they were run without protection?

    3. It’s interesting that Calhoun had two sets of waiting shelters whereas the crossings west of there had only an Eastbound shelter.

    4. There are a couple of photos on the Milwaukee Electric Lines Facebook page showing the first 2 cars to arrive at the gravel pit, 1184-85 was first towing 1198-99. Did they run the the still operable cars out under their own power and then use 1142 to tow the rest, or was 1142 also used as a shuttle to return crews to Milwaukee after running cars out to Waukesha?

    Like

    • Hi Charles,
      1142 was used to haul inoperable 1100’s to the gravel pit. I have a Kalmbach photo of it pulling what I think is 1196-97 backwards and it is at the gravel pit. You can see some other cars lined up in the left background. I don’t have an answer about crossing protection. I’d guess that once the power was on the crossing signals would be working. I’d also think the block signals were functioning as well since the trolley poles were still running thru the overhead contactors on the wire.. Larry

      Like

    • Hi Charles,
      Greetings from a former New Berliner (1991-2001). I am a friend of Larry Sakar and we work together regularly on traction subjects. Obviously, the Milwaukee-Waukesha line is my favorite because it ran through New Berlin, and a strong effort was put forth by the Calhoun Farms Riders Group to save the line. That 2-29-2952 George Gloff photo of 66 being towed past Calhoun crossing has been the subject of much discussion – I think your guess of a sugar beet loader standing next to Kuney’s is a good one. Did you know Don Leistikow? He lived right off of Sunny Slope like I did, but he was closer to the Rapid Transit R.O.W. than I was. I was just north of Beloit Road, and he was just south of National Ave. Tale care and God Bless.
      Chris Barney

      Like

    • C. Kronenwetter, of New Berlin, WI continues:

      I was looking again at the photo labeled: #3 – Speedrail 1142 arr. @ Wauk. Gravel pit poss. 2-29-52. C. N. Barney collection. Some things struck me about the photo that make me question the dating::

      1. there is a large group of people on the tracks in the background, probably railfans

      2. there is no snow on the ground as there is in some of the other photos of the last runs (for example your nice photo at Calhoun Rd.)

      3. it almost looks like the signals on the eb main to the right of the car may have been illuminated? There is also what appears to be an illuminated signal closer to the substation on the left. (was this the lead into the gravel pit?)

      4. The other photos of cars being taken for scrapping show them running the wrong way on the eb main whereas this car is running normally on the wb main.

      5. while the trees look to be barren of leaves, the bushes along the side of the eb main seem to be leafy, unlikely in February.

      6. the car appears signed ‘Waukesha Local’ and has a run number on it and is carrying a headlight. Other photos I have seen of some cars arriving at the gravel pit showed no headlight, destination sign, or run number.

      Like

  3. The shot of the 1142 running backwards is mine. I was home on leave from the Navy, in uniform, in Dec, 1950 and taking traction photos. The 1142 had just delivered a tank car to the pickle plant. The conductor stopped the car and asked me if I wanted to ride to Milwaukee. Despite my car at Sunny Slope, it was an offer I could not refuse. So, I rode to the Public Service Building. The conductor remained at the rear position to assist the motorman in a backwards run. Also, the interior view of car 63 is also mine. It was in Larry’s book and credited to me. Some great shots in this latest group.
    Robert E. Heglund

    Like

    • Hi Robert,
      I didn’t remember that the picture was the larger version of what was in my book. Thank you so much for the fantastic information. I was told by Don Leistikow that car 64 had green plush seats which the other 60’s obviously did not. They had the ex Kentucky Traction & terminal seats that Shaker Heights put in when they got them. I do know the Waukesha line riders did not like the 60’s both because of the seats and the riding qualities or lack thereof . That was what prompted Mr. Maeder to run that “These Cars Will Save the Line”, ad in the Waukesha Freeman. There were many ways he could have explained why switching to these cars was necessary but this wasn’t one of them. Anytime you start off by saying, “We all know…” you’re asking for trouble! I think he forgot that regular everyday riders were not railfans and they did not know these weren’t new cars until they rode them. He needed every rider he could get and making these kinds of statements was not going to help get him there.

      Like

    • Hi Bob,
      I am a good friend of Larry Sakar, and a member of TMER&THS Since 2013, Larry and I have been researching various TM stories, one being the Milwaukee-Waukesha Rapid Transit/Speedrail line. I lived right off of Sunny Slope Road in New Berlin from 1991-2001 and remember seeing the pickle factory bldg. many times in my travels to NB and Waukesha. In 2013, Larry and I walked and photographed the RT/Speedrail R.O.W. and I partially photographed the pickle factory in a few of them. Recently, I was given a small, low-resolution copy of your photo from the NB Historical Society – we did not know the date taken or the photographer until Larry went on this site and you left your WONDERFUL comment! I was wondering – could you make a fresh 8×10 print of that magnificent photo? I will prepay for any costs involved. I am currently writing a history of the J.G. Van Holten pickle plant in NB, and would LOVE a clear, sharp copy of this photo. God Bless you, Bob!

      Like

  4. Thanks for scanning those two collection letters for posting, Larry…to me, those explain a LOT about the seemingly-adversarial relationship, at upper levels anyway, between Speedrail and both TMER&T and WEPCo.
    To me, the WEPCo notice is representative of what I think WEPCo feared all along when “that playboy from Cleveland” bought the Rapid Transit Line from Greyhound in 1949…that Maeder’s operation, totally out of their control (via their TMER&T-supplied crews, as with KMCL), was a potential liability to WEPCo’s integrated-with-rail physical plant. This accident only took down two of WEPCo’s line poles out in the sticks…imagine the consequences if it had taken place somewhere on the Rapid Transit Line itself, and brought down one of the big transmission towers overhead.
    While not directly threatened by Speedrail’s potential operating failures, TMER&T certainly deserved to be paid for their work as a contractor. Their delinquent bill of $8,053.05 in 1950 translates through usinflationcalculator.com to $82,040.53 in today’s money…nothing to sneeze at. Both Doug Traxler and Don Leistikow told me that, by their time at Speedrail, Cold Spring had a hard policy that payment for services had to come, cash in hand, along with equipment when it was delivered to the shop….small wonder. At the same time, had TMER&T really wanted to bring down Speedrail (as some in the past have suggested), I think they could have used this deadbeat-debtor situation to deny the company’s access to Cold Spring, and let them collapse by attrition.
    I suspect the October 1949 sales contract that was mentioned involved the sale of the South Milwaukee articulated cars, two sweepers, a group of “foot collector” fareboxes, and some other items, for $2000.
    Great material!!
    Scott.

    Like

    • Exactly, Scott which makes the freeway proposal that the city of Milwaukee first dreamed up in 1945 so ludicrous. I’ll send 2 pictures to Dave for posting. They’re from a 1945 city committee document entitled, “Preliminary Report of the Committee on Streets and Terminals. to the Milwaukee Metropolitan Plan Association.” At the top of the page is the Rapid Transit Line r.o.w. I’m not 100% sure where this is but I think it could be where St. Paul Ave. crossed the r.o.w. They then transposed a concrete roadway over the tracks with autos running over it with the caption “A section of the Milwaukee-Waukesha Rapid Transit electric line as it is today and as it will appear if it becomes an expressway for motor vehicles.” Oh really? Autos running beneath high tension transmission towers carrying 25k volts of electricity. And what do you suppose would have happened if one of those autos had gone out of control and hit a leg of the transmission tower sending it crashing down. Anyone anywhere near would have been electrocuted and the whole area would have been instantly blacked out.

      In 1950, another study was done by DeLeuw Cather & Co. The 1945 study called the Rapid Transit Line “a natural expressway to the west.” The 1950 study was quite specific that power lines over the r.o.w. would have to be moved because of the impracticality of operating cars underneath high tension power lines. And it further warned that if the day ever came that they wanted to add lanes it would be impossible east of 27th St. since the line was hemmed in by the Menomonee Valley on the south and the high bluff carrying Clybourn St. on the north. What happened since? The East-West Freeway (I-94) has become so jammed with traffic that having no alternative, the city narrowed the traffic lanes so an added lane could be put in.

      At the time the city bought the abandoned right of way between 8th St. and the start of the Calvary Cemetery cut in 1953 (cost $1,000,800) the city had to pay an additional half million dollars for relocation of the WEPCO power lines. The Rapid Transit could have been saved for $250,000. This shows beyond doubt what the city of Milwaukee’s priorities were then, and in the years since it hasn’t changed!

      Like

      • Larry adds:

        For whatever reason, Speedrail President and founder Jay Maeder was absolutely certain that Speedrail would be involved in transporting construction supplies for the building of Milwaukee County Stadium, and then baseball fans when Milwaukee got a team and the stadium opened for business. He seemed to be blind to the fact that the Rapid Transit Line r.o.w. which ran across the face of the stadium from east to west would be breached somewhere between 44th to 46th St. to create access from the north which at that time did not exist. And I can guarantee that he would have been expected to bear the entire cost of building a bridge or bridges over the breach. This shows you just what they did. The location would be about 46th St. if 46th St. had been a through street south of Bluemound Road.

        The final photo is where I do a lot of my research. This is the beautiful Central Library of the Milwaukee Public Library System at 8th & Wisconsin in downtown Milwaukee. Built in 1898. Designed by the architectural firm of Ferry & Class. The view looks northwest from the southeast corner of 8th & Wisconsin. Wisconsin Ave. is the street seen running across the front of the library. The round dome in the center is a beautiful 3 story rotunda. The picture was on the web in an article about the best libraries in every state.

        -Larry Sakar

        Like

  5. HI David, I forwarded the question about the Ingalls prime mover sound to Jay Winn of Vintage Railroad Audio (http://www.vintagerailroadaudio.com/Default.aspx) and here is his reply:

    Ken.. Sorry but the sound of an Ingalls 65-LX-6 prime mover as used in the GM&O 1900 does not seem to be available. Being a sound aficionado I can hazard a few logical guesses as to the sound. The prime mover was an inline 6 cylinder 4 cycle low RPM (660) diesel. This would likely sound very much like a Baldwin 608A as used in a Sharknose.. Although the 608A was 8 cylinder the low RPM (625) inline 4 Cycle.. it would sound very very similar… Probably indistinguishable to all but the most discerning listeners.. Sorry but that is the best I can do.. If I was tasked with reproducing the sound I would use a variation of the BLW 608A sound.. Jay

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  6. Just as an aside, I was doing some research on who owned what portions of the North Shore Line’s R.O.W. in the 1970’s, and found that at the time the Lake County Highway Dept. had the bulk of it.

    For a “future expressway”.

    I guess with the opening of the Amstutz Expressway, Waukegan had their “road from nowhere to north nowhere” already, and the North Shore was relegated to a pedestrian path.

    Like

    • Most of the unused R.O.W’s in Milwaukee County are the property of the Milwaukee County Expressway Commission. Way back when, they envisioned the same thing as Lake County did, turning them into ‘car and truck expressways’. It never came to fruition but the county still owns them – and to this day still has “No Trespassing” and “No Dumping” signs posted on them.

      Like

  7. I received my copy of your book earlier than the post office promised. I am pleased with the quality of the reproduction of the photos and also of the number of Joe L. Diaz’s photos you selected. Joe was one of the real characters in the Chicago railfan community.

    Like

    • Glad you are pleased. Yes, Joe Diaz was quite a character, and it is too bad he is gone. He was certainly a great photographer, and one who tried to document the streetcar era in a comprehensive fashion. I was fortunate to meet him.

      Like

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