Holiday Spirit

Here's Eric Bronsky's 2017 holiday card. Alluding to some Comments that were made about a different picture in our last post (Reader Showcase, 12-11-2017), we are certain that this image of the new Chicago Transit Authority "L" station at Washington and Wabash has been worked over in Photoshop. But such is our desire to see North Shore Line trains running again, that we freely admit we believe it must be true!*

Here’s Eric Bronsky’s 2017 holiday card. Alluding to some Comments that were made about a different picture in our last post (Reader Showcase, 12-11-2017), we are certain that this image of the new Chicago Transit Authority “L” station at Washington and Wabash has been worked over in Photoshop. But such is our desire to see North Shore Line trains running again, that we freely admit we believe it must be true!*

Christmas Eve is here once again, and we’re sharing some holiday joy from our readers. Thanks to everyone who let us use their pictures. Whatever your beliefs, we hope for a joyous holiday season for all.

-David Sadowski

From John F. Bromley:

From Kenneth Gear:

From Alan Wickens:

Alan Wickens produces a monthly magazine about Wellington, New Zealand’s (now former) trolleybus system. This was the November ‘special’ to mark the very last day of trolleybus operation there. Click this link to read it.

From Bob Carroll:

Pittsburgh, 1975.

Pittsburgh, 1975.

From Charles Seims:

Jack Bejna writes:

Here’s an early Xmas present for the blog. My favorite CA&E cars are by far the original several orders of woodies, especially before they lost their original window configuration. It’s too bad we didn’t have modern cameras to capture these wooden beauties in all their original configuration. Merry Christmas and a great New Year as well.

And I know I join our readers in wishing the same to you as well, thanks!

CA&E 12 was built by Niles in 1902.

CA&E 12 was built by Niles in 1902.

CA&E 14, built by Niles in 1902.

CA&E 14, built by Niles in 1902.

CA&E 24, built by Niles in 1902.

CA&E 24, built by Niles in 1902.

CA&E 26, built by Niles in 1902.

CA&E 26, built by Niles in 1902.

CA&E 30, built by Stephenson in 1902.

CA&E 30, built by Stephenson in 1902.

CA&E 34, built by Stephenson in 1902.

CA&E 34, built by Stephenson in 1902.

CA&E 46, built by Stephenson in 1902.

CA&E 46, built by Stephenson in 1902.

CA&E 48 as new. It was built by Stephenson in 1902.

CA&E 48 as new. It was built by Stephenson in 1902.

CA&E 54 was built by Stephenson in 1902.

CA&E 54 was built by Stephenson in 1902.

CA&E 103, a trailer, was built by Stephenson in 1902.

CA&E 103, a trailer, was built by Stephenson in 1902.

Recent Finds

Here are three Red Border Kodachrome slides we recently acquired, plus one circular:

A train of CTA 4000s prepares to head east at DesPlaines Avenue, west end of the Garfield Park "L", on May 26, 1956.

A train of CTA 4000s prepares to head east at DesPlaines Avenue, west end of the Garfield Park “L”, on May 26, 1956.

A two-car Chicago Aurora & Elgin train loops at DesPlaines Avenue in Forest Park on May 26, 1956, while a CTA Route 17 bus waits in the background. That was the replacement service for the Westchester branch of the "L", which uit in 1951.

A two-car Chicago Aurora & Elgin train loops at DesPlaines Avenue in Forest Park on May 26, 1956, while a CTA Route 17 bus waits in the background. That was the replacement service for the Westchester branch of the “L”, which uit in 1951.

On July 4, 1953, we are looking north from the stairway to the CTA's "L" station at State and Van Buren. Streetcars are still running on State Street, via tracks laid in concrete about ten years before when the State Street subway was built. The nearby subway entrances are in their original configuration. State did not get those "preying mantis" street lights until 1959.

On July 4, 1953, we are looking north from the stairway to the CTA’s “L” station at State and Van Buren. Streetcars are still running on State Street, via tracks laid in concrete about ten years before when the State Street subway was built. The nearby subway entrances are in their original configuration. State did not get those “preying mantis” street lights until 1959.

Unfortunately, one tour that you can't take via interurban any longer...

Unfortunately, one tour that you can’t take via interurban any longer…

Santa Is Coming…

The Santa Maria Valley Railroad, that is, in vintage 1959 recordings prepared for the Railroad Record Club of Hawkins, Wisconsin, but previously unissued, now digitally remastered for your enjoyment on compact disc:

From the introduction to the record:

This is Pete Brett. What you are about to hear is a recording of the Santa Maria Valley Railroad in 1959. Engine number 21, Mikado type, 2-8-2, oil burning.

Regular service in 1959, on the Santa Maria Valley, freight only. My recording depicts a composite of different recordings, of different operations. Our train switches in Santa Maria, some switching operation at the John Inglis Frozen Food Company, just outside Santa Maria, which we’ll hear some sounds of mechanical reefers, along with whistles.

Some on-line recordings, as the train proceeds to Betteravia Junction. There, some of the cars are cut out, the engine backs up to Betteravaia, switches, drops off some cars, picks some up, goes back to Betteravia Junction, picks up the rest of the train; we proceed on to Guadalupe, and our junction with the Southern Pacific. There, some switching operations, as some cars are dropped off, others picked up. Later on, the train returns to Betteravaia Junction. Once again, the train splits in two, part of it going to Betteravia, the switching operation there, the train then proceeding on to Santa Maria.

Santa Maria Valley Railroad, 1959.

The remainder of the CD includes 14 additional steam railroad tracks recorded by William A. Steventon, for use in a presentation he gave, demonstrating various types of sounds involved in basic railroad operations.

Total Time: 70:26

A History of the Santa Maria Valley Railroad

From the railroad’s website:

The Santa Maria Valley Railroad (SMVRR.com) has a rich and interesting history, and can be credited, at least in large part, with the Santa Maria Valley becoming an economic powerhouse by building up primarily the agricultural and industrial segments of its economy.

The Santa Maria Valley Railroad commenced construction on July 11, 1911 by an English oil syndicate to haul oil and asphalt from Roadamite to Guadalupe. The SMVRR reached Santa Maria on October 7, 1911 and was completed to Roadamite on November 5, 1911. The SMVRR took over switching operations for Union Sugar Plant. The railroad was initially successful but in the 1920s the sugar plant closed and the railroad drifted into bankruptcy in 1925.

Captain G. Allan Hancock purchased the railroad in 1925 in a bankruptcy auction on the steps of the Santa Barbara County Courthouse and proceeded to build many industries which complemented the railroad. Captain Hancock built a state of the art, fully-equipped engine house to maintain his locomotives and equipment. He invested heavily in the railroad, installing new ties and new rail, and buying locomotives. Captain Hancock developed agriculture in the Santa Maria Valley, introducing new irrigation methods, and invested heavily in packing sheds, an ice plant, and Rosemary Farms. By the mid 1930s the SMVRR was hauling many carloads of sugar beets to the Union Sugar Plant in Betteravia, and crude oil and vegetables out of the valley. The SMVRR was one of the busiest shortline railroads on the west, hauling over 20,000 carloads per year.

At the start of World War II, the SMVRR purchased the old Pacific Coast (narrow gauge) Railroad right-of-way to the Airbase, now the location of the Santa Maria Airport. The Airbase Branch is actually the oldest railroad right-of-way on the SMVRR system, originally constructed in April 1882. In fact, the Airbase Branch is the only Pacific Coast right-of-way still in operation as a railroad.

Roadamite ceased operations in the late 1940s and the line was abandoned from Sisquoc to Roadamite in 1949. The last major track construction was in 1950 when the Battles Branch was built to service a refinery.

The SMVRR was one of the last railroads on the West Coast to run main line steam locomotives. On February 24, 1962, the last run of steam engine 21, with Captain Hancock at the throttle and Walt Disney in the cab, occurred. The SMVRR had purchased its first diesel-electric locomotives, the GE 70-tonners, in 1948. The GE 70-tonners proved to be excellent work horses for the SMVRR and they eventually displaced the steam locomotives.

Captain Hancock passed away in 1965. Two Hancock family trusts took over the SMVRR: the Marian Mullen Trust, controlled by Hancock’s third wife Marian Hancock; and the Rosemary Trust, the descendants of Rosemary, Hancock’s only daughter. Through the years many of the loose carload merchandise business went to trucking and by the late 1970s the fresh vegetable market was gone. Oil produced in the valley eventually left the rails. In August 1993, Holly Sugar closed down the sugar plant in Betteravia. This resulted in the loss of 90% of the railroad’s remaining traffic. The Hancock Trusts eventually concentrated on their more lucrative real estate holdings and the railroad continued to lose its customer base.

The Rosemary Trust took complete control of the railroad in 1999 and worked to turn the fortunes around for the railroad. An intense marketing campaign brought some new customers aboard. The railroad divested its right-of-way east of Highway 101 in Santa Maria and the main line trackage was reduced to 14 miles.

In October 2006 the SMVRR was purchased by the Coast Belle Rail Corporation from the descendants of the Hancock family, ending more than 80 years of control by the Hancock Family. New ownership embarked on a daunting task of rebuilding the line and rebuilding the customer base. To raise public and customer awareness and to raise much needed capital, the SMVRR hosted special events and dinner excursions.

On November 9, 2006 the SMVRR chartered the private car Silver Lariat for a freight customer appreciation excursion. That night was the first public excursion since 1962. On December 9, 2006 the SMVRR held its first ever public open house, the first of several events to reintroduce the public to the railroad. On the weekend of April 5, 2008 the former SMVRR Railbus No. 9 made a cameo appearance during a Motorcar Operators West excursion.

In September 2008 the SMVRR moved its yard and office facilities out of downtown Santa Maria and relocated at the former sugar plant in Betteravia. The new location offers full transload services with team track, dock track and ramp track as well as many acres of on-ground storage.

In July 2016, the SMVRR Headquarters relocates to its new Osburn Yard.

Today, history continues to be made. The past two years were the busiest since the sugar beet plant closed in 1993. New customers have come on board as well as current customers increasing their carloadings. The SMVRR is now a full-service shortline railroad company, performing contract switching, contract track repairs and inspections, and car repairs.

Friends of the Santa Maria Valley Railroad

The Friends of the Santa Maria Valley Railroad (Friends-SMVRR.org) was formed in 2007 to preserve the history of the Santa Maria Valley Railroad and to educate its members on the current railroad industry. Tours and lectures cover the current railroad business, railroad safety, as well as the history of the railroad.

On May 13, 2017, the San Luis Obispo Railroad Museum opened an exhibit entitled, “Two Centuries…One Dream”, the story of the Santa Maria Valley Railroad.

Here are some pictures taken on the occasion of the last steam operation on the Santa Maria Valley on February 24, 1962. I would expect that the “Ward” in one picture was Ward Kimball (1914-2002), one of Disney’s “Nine Old Men”:

A dream that fortunately did not come true: CHICAGO'S LOOP ELEVATED TRACKS TO GO January 4, 1974 - This is a view looking south of the Elevated tracks of Chicago's CTA system on Wabash Avenue. This section along with other portions that formed "The Loop" is scheduled to be taken down sometime in the future with the building of a subway that is to take its place.

A dream that fortunately did not come true:

CHICAGO’S LOOP ELEVATED TRACKS TO GO
January 4, 1974 – This is a view looking south of the Elevated tracks of Chicago’s CTA system on Wabash Avenue. This section along with other portions that formed “The Loop” is scheduled to be taken down sometime in the future with the building of a subway that is to take its place.

*Here’s the original message Eric sent out with his card:

40 years ago, who would have imagined that Chicago’s Loop ‘L,’ long reviled as an eyesore and a deterrent to urban revitalization, would one day be viewed as an iconic landmark? The turnaround began soon after the city axed a harebrained scheme to tear down the ‘L’ and replace it with a single subway route under Franklin Street. Property values adjacent to the structure have since risen, and in mild weather you can even dine at a sidewalk café in the shadow of the ‘L’ (Mort’s Deli once offered “‘L’-egant dining under the cars”).

To date, the 120-year-old Loop ‘L’ structure has been restored and all except two of the aging stations have been renovated or replaced. Most recently, Washington/Wabash, a completely new and accessible ‘L’ station with wide platforms beneath a striking glass-and-steel canopy with LED lighting replaced two historic but obsolete stations at Randolph and Madison Streets.

In the spirit of CTA’s annual Holiday Train and Elves’ Workshop Train, and also the “Heritage Fleet,” we digitally enhanced the new Washington/Wabash station with some red-and-green stuff. The North Shore train is grafted from an original photo by William E. Robertson. The elf (someone you know?) is waiting for the train to Santa’s workshop. You might need to enlarge the image to spot some of the other oddities. It’s sort of like a “What’s wrong with this picture” … or should we say, “What’s right with this picture?”

— Eric

Chicago Trolleys

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

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

Check out our new book Chicago Trolleys. Signed copies are available through our Online Store.

HOLIDAY SPECIAL! This book makes an excellent gift. For a limited time only, we have reduced the price to just $17.99 plus shipping. That’s $4.00 off the regular price.

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6 thoughts on “Holiday Spirit

  1. That enhanced photo reminded me of a comment I read in Chicago Magazine, years ago, which suggested the CTA acquire some CNS&M and C&AE cars and maintain them for charters. Expensive as it would be, that would be a great expansion of the Heritage Fleet.

    Here’s to a Merry Christmas, and a better New Year in 2018!

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  2. Wonderful addition to the holiday. Neither Dear Wife nor I are exactly up to par and we need some cheering up. This wonderful blog and Eric’s wonderful Christmas card were just the ticket.

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  3. Restoration of the North Shore Line to Chicago’s “L” tracks is a start. But Christmas in Chicago will never be the same without Marshall Field & Company’s grand State Street store and having lunch with my mother and sister in the Walnut Room with its glorious, huge Christmas tree, the lunch finale being an ice cream snowman. By the way, who plays the elf on the “L” platform? He looks vaguely familiar. All aboard to Kenwood!

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