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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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
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.
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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