Here are some of our recent photographic finds, which include some very rare scenes. In addition, we have some interesting correspondence, and great Chicago Aurora & Elgin pictures courtesy of Jack Bejna.
PS- We note with great regret the passing of Al Reinschmidt, who was an occasional poster on the Chicagotransit Yahoo discussion group (as “Buslist”), and also left a few comments on this blog. We learned of his passing from the Illinois Railway Museum Facebook page:
We are saddened to report the passing of one of our regular volunteers, Al Reinschmidt. Al was a civil engineer known as one of the foremost experts on rail design and performance and worked on high speed rail projects around the world. At IRM he volunteered in our restoration shop and as a streetcar motorman but he was probably best known to visitors as one of the regular announcers at our Day Out With Thomas event and as the reader of “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” during Happy Holiday Railway. His kindness, geniality and vast store of knowledge will be missed.
Our deepest condolences go out to his family and friends. He will be missed by all who knew him.
In about 20 day’s time, our annual bill to fund this site and its web domain comes due. That comes to $400, or just over $1 per day for the entire year. So far, we have collected $60 of the required amount. If you have already contributed, we are particularly grateful.
If you enjoy reading this blog, and want to see it continue, we hope you will consider supporting it via a donation. You can also purchase items from our Online Store. With your help, we cannot fail.
John Smatlak writes:
I really enjoyed seeing that photo of CSL 6268 is at the east end of the 43rd – Root line. This location was of course just a block away from the terminus of the Kenwood branch of the L. Here is a photo your readers may enjoy taken 11-12-28 of the L terminal and the Chicago Junction freight tracks that passed under the L at that location. Thanks!
J.J. Sedelmaier writes:
Does ANYone have shots of the Calvary stop on the “L” while still in service, prior to the opening of South Boulevard in 1930?
I think we may have something (see above).
YES !! I saw this last week ! So exciting ! The best shot so far, and I’ve been searching for decades !! Thanks for the heads-up David !!
The funny thing is, the photographer, whoever it was, doesn’t seem to have been trying to take a picture of the Calvary station at all. Otherwise, they surely would have moved in a lot closer first. It is a picture of a largely empty street, that just happens to show the station in the distance, which at the time was probably considered fairly unimportant.
Here are the shots I have here. I took the 1970’s pics. Bruce Moffat took the 1994 pics. The 1931 shot is a company photo that I got from Malcolm D. MacCarter in the mid-90s.
In addition, here is a classic shot that Mr. Sedelmaier shared with us:
These photos have been added to our post The Fairmount Park Trolley (November 7, 2017), which included several other photos of the Five Mile Beach Electric Railway in Wildwood, New Jersey:
Miles Beitler writes:
I was doing some online research recently and followed a link to a photo on your blog. The photo was posted under “Chicago Rapid Transit Photos, Part 6” and included the following in the caption:
“Here’s an interesting streetscape that could not be duplicated today. According to the back of the picture, it shows the view looking east from South Boulevard and Austin, on the eastern edge of Oak Park. The Lake Street “L”, where it ran on the ground, had a very narrow right-of-way that the 6000s, with their bulging sides, could not fit in.”
I have read similar comments posted by others, i.e., that the reason no 6000s were used on the Lake Street “L” is that the cars were too wide. While it’s true that the curved body 6000s were wider than the 4000s and wood cars, the difference was slight — not more than a foot at their widest point. So I don’t think that would explain why they weren’t used. I think a more logical explanation is that the ground level portion of the Lake Street “L” used trolley wire, and none of the original 6000s had trolley poles. (I believe that the only exception was one experimental high performance trainset (6127-6130) that was used in Evanston Express service.) You will note that the original “baldy” 4000s also were not used in Lake Street service for the same reason. The steel roofs of those 4000s made it very difficult to retrofit them with trolley poles.
By the time the western portion of the line was elevated and converted to third rail in 1962, the high performance 2000s were already ordered. So the CTA probably decided to just keep using the older cars until the 2000s arrived. Cars 1-50 did have trolley poles, but those cars were not received until shortly before the elevation of the Lake Street “L” at which time they would not have been needed anyway, so they were used on the Evanston line instead, and later some were used on the Skokie Swift.
Does this make sense, or am I all wet?
Either way, keep up your fantastic blog!
Thanks for writing. You have made an interesting hypothesis, which deserves consideration.
First of all, I have heard enough stories regarding the tight clearances on the ground-level portion of Lake to believe there was some sort of clearance problem that prevented the use of curved-sided rapid transit cars there. The most logical explanation so far is that this involved the gatemen’s shantys.
Having ridden the Lake Street “L” numerous times prior to the October 28, 1962 relocation of the outer portion of the route onto the C&NW embankment, I can assure you that clearances were very tight, as two tracks and platforms were shoehorned into a side street, which continued to have two-way auto traffic.
There was a fantrip on Lake during 1960 using one of the single-car units in the 1-50 series, and while this train did venture down to the lower level of Hamlin Yard, it apparently made no effort to go west of Laramie. You would think they would have done so had this been possible. (See photo above.)
Similar clearance restrictions have existed on other parts of the system. Skokie Swift cars that had pan trolleys fitted were not allowed to go downtown, and cars with poles cannot go into the Kimball subway. (At the moment, this restriction would only apply to 4271-4272.)
That being said, let us take a step back and review how the Lake Street “L” fit in with the strategic thinking of various planners over the decades.
In 1937, the City of Chicago proposed building an aerial highway on the Lake Street “L” structure, and some other “L”s such as Humboldt Park. In theory this would have been something like the West Side Elevated Highway in New York City, which was built between 1929 and 1951 and which partially collapsed in 1973.
Express bus service would have replaced the rapid transit line, as would have a beefed-up Garfield Park “L” in this plan. We can be glad this was not built.
By 1939, this plan was abandoned in favor of the Congress Parkway Expressway that was built starting a decade later, and opened in stages between 1955 and 1960.
The City was proposing various subways all over town, in addition to the State Street and Dearborn-Milwaukee tubes that were built starting in 1938. One goal was to tear down the Loop “L”, starting with the Lake and Wabash legs.
The Lake Street “L” would have been diverted into a subway connection just west of the Loop that of course was never built. Neither was a connection built to divert the Lake “L” into the Congress line via an elevated connection near Kedzie, or Kostner, although the CTA was still intent on doing these things as of 1948.
There is some question whether the entire Lake Street “L” might have been abandoned early in the CTA era, if not for the innovation of A/B “skip stop” service that was begun in 1948. This was so successful that it was gradually used on other parts of the CTA system.
When and how were curved-side “L” cars developed? It seems likely this idea, like many others, came from New York, where some experimental 1930s BMT railcars such as the so-called “Green Hornet” had mildly curved sides.
In Chicago, curved sides appeared on ten interurbans, #451-460 for the Chicago Aurora & Elgin, designed in 1941 but not built by St. Louis Car Company until 1945, as well as the two North Shore Line Electroliners.
These were followed by four experimental sets of articulated rapid transit cars $5001-5004, delivered in 1947-48. Except for the curved sides, largely patterned after the BMT “Bluebirds: from 1939-40.
Chicago’s Initial System of Subways was designed to allow for longer and wider cars, closer to New York standards. The City may have hoped these standards could gradually be applied to the entire system, but it was not to be.
When the Chicago Transit Authority took over from the Chicago Rapid Transit Company in 1947, one primary goal was to purchase enough new steel railcars to allow the Dearborn-Milwaukee subway to open. Another goal was to get rid of the wooden “L” cars, which were getting very old and were not permitted in the subways.
When the first 6000s were delivered starting in 1950, they were first used on Douglas, but that was for test purposes. After another year or two, CTA switched things around, so the new 6000s were used in the State Street subway, and the 4000s on the more lightly used Dearborn-Milwaukee.
Meanwhile, the last wood cars were used on Lake around 1955. The last wooden :”L” cars were used in service in 1957, by which time there were enough new 6000s on hand to permit their retirements.
But else what was happening on Lake during the 1950s? By 1951-5, CTA appears to have figured out that the “problem” portion of Lake was the outer end, not the parts east of Laramie. The first suggestion was to truncate the line to Laramie, but this did not go over well in Oak Park, so the various parties got together, and the embankment plan was the result.
These plans were finalized around 1958. The relocation took place in 1962, at which time the CTA probably hoped to have taken delivery on what became the 2000-series. But there were so many changes and innovations in these cars that delivery did not occur until 1964.
So yes, it does not appear that it was ever a high priority for the CTA to use 6000s on the ground-level portion of Lake. Wood cars were replaced by 4000s around 1955, which was considered a service improvement, and within three years from that, plans were afoot to relocate service anyway.
However, if the CTA had really wanted to run 6000s on Lake, I expect changes could have been made in the locations of whatever obstacles prevented it, and additional cars could have been equipped with trolley poles, as was done for Evanston.
I doubt these would have been single-car units, though, since those were intended for “off peak” one-man operation on Evanston, something which I don’t think would have been suitable on Lake.
As it was, I don’t recall seeing 6000s on Lake much before 1979. In the wake of that year’s blizzard, which shut down the line west of Laramie for a week, so many of the newer cars had burned-out motors that it became necessary to use the older 6000s.
I hope this answers your questions.
Miles Beitler again:
Dave, you obviously know FAR more about Chicago transit than I do. You could probably give Graham Garfield some stiff competition.
I believe you recently wrote a book about trolleys. I grew up not far from the terminal of the Clark Street car line at Howard Street and I remember riding the Green Hornets to the local branch of the Chicago public library. I also remember visiting my cousins who lived a block away from the Devon car barn and seeing all of the streetcars stored there. However, I’m more interested in the “L” and interurban history. I spent my childhood watching the North Shore Line trains, and I was fortunate enough to ride an Electroliner to Racine, Wisconsin about a year before the NSL folded.
Have you given or considered giving presentations about Chicago transit at schools, libraries, etc.? WTTW channel 11 might also like to use you as a resource on Chicago transit history or for the production of programs on the subject, similar to the ones produced by Geoffrey Baer over the past 25 years.
There are a number of people, several in fact, who qualify as experts on Chicago transit. We all tend to know each other to some extent, as we’re interested in many of the same things.
I don’t feel like I am competing with any of the other “experts.” We have each found our own niche, and have different contributions to make. In fact, this blog is only successful because it is based on sharing and cooperation.
Actually, I have given a number of presentations to various groups over the years.
WTTW actually did feature the Chicago PCC book I co-authored once on Chicago Tonight. You can read about it in our post A Window to the World of Streetcars (June 2, 2016).
Our pictures do get around. Several photos that I posted to the Internet ended up being featured in an article called Displaced, which tried to determine what happened to the people who were living in the path of the Congress expressway when it was built. (See our post Some Thoughts on Displaced, August 30, 2016.)
Who knows when or where our stuff will show up in the future. We’ll just have to wait and see.
Ron Smolen adds:
In your last post this comment was posted in the sections about 6000s on Lake street:
“You will note that the original “baldy” 4000s also were not used in Lake Street service for the same reason. The steel roofs of those 4000s made it very difficult to retrofit them with trolley poles.”
TRUE… however, near the end of the Baldies operations, I do recall seeing LIVE and in photos
some single baldies that were placed in trains with 4000 pole equipped cars that DID operate in regular service to Harlem under wire.
Ron adds that, according to www.chicago-l.org, “baldy” 4000s ran on Lake from 1959 to 1964, paired with pole-equipped “plushies.”
Jack Bejna writes:
A Tale of Two Pictures
A short time ago there was a question raised by a reader about changing original photographs with Photoshop, thereby eliminating the original intent of the image. As an example of what I do, refer to the first image of CA&E 209. From my experience of working with CA&E images, I believe that the image was captured at the Laramie Freight House area, but of course that is only a guess. My goal is to try to improve the original image and enhance the background while preserving the original intent of the photographer when the image was captured. With this image I decided to place Car 209 in a typical situation, that is, on one of the storage tracks behind the freight house. Further, I like the look of the Niles wood cars so I added the front of sister car 207 to present an unblocked image of Car 209. I spent the rest of my efforts on improving the photograph itself with Photoshop. The final result is pretty much the way I think it looked at the time and represents a cleaner roster shot of a classic Niles interurban.
Moving right along with the CA&E roster, here are some images of the work cars and locomotives that kept the railroad running.
CA&E Express Cars – Line Cars – Locomotives – Tool Cars
CA&E rostered a variety of Motors to fit the job at hand. First, the Newspaper Special, obviously a motor that probably spent time doing whatever job was needed in addition to delivering newspapers. I’ve never found a number for this car or any record of when or how it was retired.
Next, express cars 9, 11, & 15 illustrate the differences in length, configuration, etc., in the CA&E roster. Line cars 11 and 45 are next. Car 45 was purchased from the Chicago & Interurban Traction when the line quit in 1927. When Car 45 was retired it was replaced by car 11, rebuilt as a line car.
Locomotive 3 was built as a double ended plow and was used as a work motor by removing the plows.
Next up are the CA&E locomotives, including 2001-2002 built by GE in 1920, 3003-3004 built by BLW-WH in 1923-4, and 4005-4006 built by Oklahoma Railway in 1929.
Finally, Tool Cars 7 and B are shown. Tool Car B was rebuilt from a boxcar.
Here are a few more CA&E freight motors. First is an image of 5-15 in a winter scene. Before the railroad purchased 2001-2002 these two cars were commonly used as locomotives on the freight trains. Second is tool car in an unusual paint scheme. I’m glad they didn’t paint all the motors like this! Finally, here is a scene of Line Car 45 in action on a line relocation in Aurora.
Here’s a real gem that I came across searching the Internet. CA&E had a fire in the early days that destroyed many of their records, photographs, etc., so much of the early days is lost forever. Somehow this image survived somewhere, and we are able to see what express car 4 looked like, albeit with a lot of Photoshop help. I have no idea who built it or when, and how long it lasted.
As always, we thank Jack for sharing these wonderful photos.
Hello. I’m doing some reading about bus history. In 1921, Fageol launched Safety Coach and then, Model 20 and 40. Then the Twin Coach style.
I found it very interesting that they always adopted a design style similar to trains and not cars.
Well, we are the product of our time. Back in 1920 when the Fageols designed their first bus, what style reference did they have? Trains, of course.
But it’s interesting because their first “bus”, the Safety Coach, had a vehicle body. Not related to train. Some years later, they created the Twin Coach with a train looking style.
Would you provide me some info about bus/train design inspiration?
I forwarded this to Andre Kristopans, who knows much more than I ever could about bus history. Here is his reply:
At least part of the deal was that early intercity coaches often replaced branch line trains or directly competed with them. So, why not make something sort of train-like? As for the 40s, they sort of mimic what a “modern” streetcar looked like in the 1920s. Why not? Imitation can be a big compliment. By the 930s some elements of streetcar design such as rear door in very rear were replaced by designs more practical for a bus like a rear door 3/4 way back. But then new streetcars like PCCs started mimicking buses!
Kenneth Gear writes:
Another Railroad Record Club mystery solved!
Remember a year or so ago we saw RRC records for sale on eBay that were stamped “This is an audition set record and is the property of the Railroad Record Club?” We speculated that Steventon may have sent records to radio stations in an attempt to get them played on air. Well, that was not the case.
Along with the RRC catalog I received with the RRC #10 record I recently purchased was a two page notice of an “audition set program” the club was offering. The notice explains the whole program so I won’t go into detail about it since you can read it right from the notice. Interesting stuff and another RRC question answered!
The catalog was the same one that you posted in the Trolley Dodger.
This audition thing couldn’t have worked out very well. For every new order that it generated, there were likely problems with people not returning the records or paying for them.
I can see how Steventon wanted to bend over backwards to get people to hear these things, but this seems like a lot of extra work, with probably not enough reward.
Thanks very much for your detective work.
Frank Kennedy writes:
Thank you so much for the trolley book, David. Not only is it a great gift, it is a work of such devotional power. There looks to be years of searching for appropriate photographs in all of this. I really don’t know what to say except thank you for the hours future spent in great reading.
This is probably the nicest thing anyone has ever said about me. I didn’t respond right away, because it left me speechless.
Work on the book, from the initial proposal to the book being published, was actually less than a year. But if I think about it, I spent much of my life preparing to write such a book.
PS- Frank Kennedy is the founder of the Chicagotransit Yahoo discussion group.
Check out our new book Chicago Trolleys. Signed copies are available through our Online Store.
This book makes an excellent gift and costs just $17.99 plus shipping. That’s $4.00 off the list price.
Help Support The Trolley Dodger
This is our 205th post, and we are gradually creating a body of work and an online resource for the benefit of all railfans, everywhere. To date, we have received over 358,000 page views, for which we are very grateful.
You can help us continue our original transit research by checking out the fine products in our Online Store.
As we have said before, “If you buy here, we will be here.”
We thank you for your support.
In order to continue giving you the kinds of historic railroad images that you have come to expect from The Trolley Dodger, we need your help and support. It costs money to maintain this website, and to do the sort of historic research that is our specialty.
Your financial contributions help make this web site better, and are greatly appreciated.