CTA prewar PCC 4021, the only survivor of 83 such cars, as it appeared in January 1960, three-and-a-half years after it was retired. The red streetcar behind it is presumably 460. Both cars were saved by the CTA for many years, and are now at the Illinois Railway Museum.
May Day is a traditional celebration of spring in many cultures. It is also a celebration of workers around the world. In this post, we celebrate transit workers and the people they serve, who are on the front lines of the challenges we face today. Here are some historic transit photos we have collected recently. We hope that you will enjoy them.
PS- We will be back with another batch of new finds for our next post, our 250th.
In August 1957, CTA Met car 2920 approaches the eastern end of the Kenwood “L” branch at 42nd Place. This was one of the only locations along the line that used steel structure. The great majority of trackage was on Chicago Junction Railway embankment. There was a yard at this end of the line that had not been used in many years. Service was abandoned on Kenwood soon after this picture was taken. The photographer was standing on the nearby embankment.
By September 1959, the Chicago Aurora & Elgin interurban line had been completely abandoned. Passenger service ended abruptly in July 1957, and the last freight trains ran in early 1959. Here is what one of the Maywood stations (11th Avenue) looked like while the tracks were still in place.
This photo of CA&E 409 and train was taken between 1953 and 1957 at the DesPlaines Avenue terminal in Forest Park. Once the interurban stopped running downtown, due to construction of the Congress Expressway (now Eisenhower), trains looped here. CTA trains made a different loop on a wooden elevated structure just to the west of the station. (Steve Hyett Photo)
CA&E’s Batavia Junction in June 1963. Tracks have been removed by this time. We are looking down the Aurora branch, while Batavia trains curved off here to the right.
CA&E 423 at the Wells Street Terminal in December 1951. We are looking north along Franklin.
CTA crane car S-344 at the 61st Street Lower Yard. This was a point of intersection between Chicago’s streetcar and elevated systems. Don’s Rail Photos adds, “S-344 was built by McGuire-Cummings in 1910 as Chicago Railways 2. It was renumbered N2 in 1913 and became CSL N2 in 1914. It was rebuilt as X4 in 1946 and rebuilt as S344 in 1958. It was sold to Electric Railway Historical Society in 1963 and donated to Illinois Railway Museum in 1973.” Our resident South side expert M. E. writes, “Your caption says this yard was an intersection of the streetcar system and the L system. Perhaps, but its main purpose was to be a junction of the railroads and city transit. For instance, the newest equipment would arrive by rail and then be transferred to the streetcar or L system. It would not surprise me to believe that, when the Green Hornet streetcars were being converted to L cars in St. Louis, the transfer to the railroads occurred here, and the opposite happened when the finished L cars were returned to Chicago.”
From the looks of it, this shows one of a handful of charter trips on the Chicago Aurora & Elgin that took place in 1958, after passenger service had been abandoned. This trip was sponsored by the Illini Railroad Club, and we are at the Lombard station.
This picture shows the CA&E right of way east of Wheaton on March 14, 1957, less than four months before passenger service was abandoned.
CA&E 422 is “at speed” on the Aurora branch west of Wheaton on March 28, 1957. Given the slow film speed of the time, many photographers pressed the shutter button before moving trains got too close, lest their pictures end up with motion blur.
Here is what a portion of the CA&E Batavia branch right of way looked like on March 28, 1957.
I am not sure of its original location, seen here, but there is a sign just like this at the Illinois Railway Museum now.
Philadelphia Suburban Transportation (aka Red Arrow) Brilliner #9 on the Ardmore line in July 1959. Buses replaced trolleys here in 1966.
This is the Chicago Loop “L” looking west along Lake Street in August 1957. Trains on the Loop ran in a counterclockwise direction. We see trains of 6000s (rear) and 4000s (near). The 6000s are a westbound Douglas Park train, operating at this time via a portion of Lake– the same path that Pink Line trains take today. It is taking a jog around the old Tower 18, which was replaced in 1969 in conjunction with the through-routing of the Lake and Dan Ryan lines.
The first steel cars on the CA&E were built by Pullman in 1923. This picture was taken between that date and 1926, when the Wells Street Terminal was renovated and expanded, with the addition of two more floors to the facade facing Wells Street. The terminal continued in use until 1953.
CA&E 401 on Broadway and Downer Place in downtown Aurora in the late 1920s.
The same location today.
The date on the back of this photo is April 1, 1953, although the date in the caption is March 23, which was a Monday. I am not sure just which station this was near, along the ground-level portion of the CTA Ravenswood (now Brown Line) “L”. This train was only going as far as Fullerton, which suggests this accident may have happened at night, at a time when Ravenswood trains did not go all the way to the Loop. (The turnback point for this was later moved to Belmont.)
From the Wikipedia: “The Chicago, Aurora and DeKalb Railroad was a 29-mile (47 km) interurban line which operated from 1906 to 1923 and connected the cities of Aurora and DeKalb, Illinois. The line made connections in Aurora with the Aurora, Elgin and Fox River Electric Company, the Chicago, Aurora and Elgin Railroad, and the Aurora, Plainfield and Joliet Railway. Entry into Aurora was made via streetcar trackage of the Aurora, Elgin and Fox River Electric. Over the course of its history, the railroad used internal combustion, steam, and finally electric traction as motive power.”
CA&E postwar cars 453 and 451, two of an order of ten, at the Wheaton Yards.
Chicago North Shore & Milwaukee train #410 at Green Bay Junction, led by car 773, in 1953. Zach E. adds, “The lead car is not 773, but one of the 3 “Cincinnati Buckets”, 720, 726, or 730.”
NSL car 717 heads up a two car train on the Skokie Valley Route. (Photo by S. K. Bolton, Jr.)
Three North Shore Line cars, including 161. (S. K. Bolton, Jr. Photo)
North Shore Line car 712.
This looks like an Illinois Terminal car, but that is all the information I have about it.
CA&E 316. (Malcolm D. McCarter Photo)
CA&E car 417, built by Pullman in 1923.
I have no info on this photo, but if I had to guess, I would say these are North Shore Line wood cars, of the type that were eventually sold to the CA&E in 1946.
CA&E 451. (Railway Negative Exchange Photo)
Between 1939 and 1942, the North Shore Line let the fledgling Central Electric Railfans’ Association use one of their old wooden cars (#300) as a club car, for meetings and excursions. The date on the back of this photo is April 11, 1943, but I don’t think any fantrips were taking place on the Chicago interurbans at that time, as there was a war going on.
CA&E 321 at Laramie Yards in Chicago. (Edward Frank, Jr. Photo)
The back of the preceding photo, hand inscribed by Edward Frank, Jr.
The Logan Square Terminal of the Metropolitan “L”, in a photo postcard postmarked 1908. The iconic Illinois Centennial Monument was not erected until ten years later.
A Met “L” conductor, possibly circa 1910. Notice how the stool he is sitting on has been repaired using some twine. This may possibly have been taken at Logan Square.
A pair of CTA 4000s at Marion Street in Oak Park, along the old ground-level portion of the Lake Street “L”, in May 1958. We are looking west. (J. W. Vigrass Photo)
CTA PCC 7225, signed for Route 36 -Broadway-State, and red car 690, probably in 1954. But which station (car barn) is this? (J. W. Vigrass Photo) Our resident South side expert M. E. adds, “My guess is the Vincennes/77th barn. Reason #1: All the trackage. It was a very wide barn. Reason #2: The PCC car’s destination sign reads State-84. There was a turnaround loop at 84th and State, a little more than a mile from this barn. By the way, the words on the roof line of the barn read “Chicago Surface Lines”.”
CTA red cars on the scrap line in 1954. (J. W. Vigrass Photo)
CTA salt car AA59 in 1954. Don’s Rail Photos: “AA59, salt car, was built by St Louis Car Co in 1903 as CUTCo 4837. It was renumbered 1308 in 1913 and became CSL 1308 in 1914. It was rebuilt as (a) salt car in January 1934 and renumbered AA59 on April 15, 1948. It was retired on September 27, 1956.” (J. W. Vigrass Photo)
I am not sure what number CTA car this is, in this 1954 photo, or why it is painted green instead of red. (J. W. Vigrass Photo) Steve D. adds, “Alan R. Lind scribed the last survivor of the 2501-2625 series, which is what this car is, was 2605. It was sent to Devon Station 1948, and scrapped 1954. Somewhere during this span, it somehow got a Mercury Green paint job. But I am certain this is the unknown car.” Don Ross notes, “2605 was built by St Louis Car Co in 1901. It was stored at Devon Barn in 1948 and scrapped there in 1954.”
CTA 144 at 77th and Vincennes on May 25, 1958. The occasion was the final streetcar fantrip in Chicago, less than a month before the last line (Wentworth) was converted to buses. (J. W. Vigrass Photo)
The Lake Street “L” near Cicero Avenue in May 1958. (J. W. Vigrass Photo)
A two-car CTA traiin of 6000s is running on temporary trackage in Van Buren Street in May 1958. The following month, the Garfield Park line was replaced with the new Congress rapid transit line. (J. W. Vigrass Photo)
The CTA’s Loomis Junction in September 1958, looking west. Here is where Douglas Park trains went up a ramp to connect to the existing “L” structure, while Congress trains continued to the right. (J. W. Vigrass Photo)
A downtown photo stop on the May 25, 1958 streetcar fantrip. These later trips were held on weekends, since in these years, the CTA substituted buses for streetcars on some of the remaining lines. So, the fans could have all the photo stops they wanted. It was also typical to pair one of the older red cars with a PCC. On this trip, the 144 was paired with car 4384. (J. W. Vigrass Photo)
Another picture of the final CTA streetcar fantrip on May 25, 1958. Red car 144 (now at the Illinois Railway Museum) is somewhere along the Wentworth line on Chicago’s south side. (J. W. Vigrass Photo) Our resident South Side expert M. E. adds, “”Somewhere on the Wentworth line” has to be along Vincennes between 81st and 73rd, and most likely between the 77th St. barn and 73rd. (At 73rd, the car line curved north onto Wentworth.) The street width of Vincennes was noticeably wider than the width of Wentworth.” The sequence of shots taken by the photographer would suggest the car is northbound. There is the Hamilton Park Laundry (7416 S. Vincennes) at the left of the picture. Hamilton Park is located just a few blocks west of Vincennes, between 74th and 72nd.
The same location today.
A CTA work car in 1954. (J. W. Vigrass Photo)
CTA work car W-4 in 1954. Don’s Rail Photos: “W4, work car. was built by Chicago Rys in 1908 as CRy 53. It was renumbered W4 in 1913 and became CSL W4 in 1914. It was retired on May 17, 1958.” (J. W. Vigrass Photo)
CTA red cars (and one that was repainted green) on the scrap line in 1954. Visible in this photo, from left to right, are 3141, 3179, and 3151. Sister car 3142 is now at the Illinois Railway Museum. (J. W. Vigrass Photo)
CTA red car 417 in February 1954. (J. W. Vigrass Photo)
The view from an eastbound Douglas-Milwaukee CTA “L” train, going down the ramp at Loomis Junction to run on the then-new Congress median line, in September 1958. (J. W. Vigrass Photo)
Another photo from the May 25, 1958 CTA fantrip featuring red car 144. (J. W. Vigrass Photo) Our resident South Side expert M. E. adds, “Methinks this is at 81st and Halsted, the south end of the Wentworth line. The only way to reverse direction was to make a wye — to turn from westbound on 81st to northbound on Halsted, then to run backwards (southbound on Halsted) across 81st St., and finally to turn from facing north on Halsted onto eastbound 81st. I think thus because there is only one trolley wire crossing the intersection, and I see only one track. This would place car 144 north of 81st St., going backwards to the south side of 81st.”
A two car Evanston Express train, including car 45, at State and Lake. Cars in the 1-50 series were delivered in 1960, so this photo cannot be any earlier than that. We are looking west. The date may be June 1961. (J. W. Vigrass Photo)
In June 1961, photographer J. W. Vigrass captured this shot of a southbound Howard train at right, with a North Shore Line Electroliner heading north at left, and a northbound Howard train at center. Overhead wire is visible on the fourth track, for use by freight trains that were operated by the CTA until 1973. Southbound North Shore trains also used this power source at times.
A close-up of the previous picture.
CTA 6101-6102 heading up a four-car fantrip train in November 1985, for “Trolleyfest.” After being stored at the Fox River Trolley Museum for many years, 6101-6102 are back on CTA property, and it is hoped they will someday run again. (Gregory Markey Photo)
A northbound North Shore Line train at Howard Street.
The same Trolleyfest fantrip train seen in a previous picture, with one of the four sets of articulated 51-54 cars coupled to it (formerly 5001-5004), is on the Paulina Connector in November 1985. At the time, this was a single track connection between parts of the rapid transit system, used only for shop moves. Now, this has been renovated and is part of the Pink Line route. The old Chicago Stadium, home of the Bulls and Blackhawks, is at rear. It has since been demolished and replaced by the United Center.
This photo was unfortunately partially light struck. This was not an uncommon occurrence when paper-backed roll film was used. Once again, this is North shore Line wooden car 300, some time during the 1939-42 period when it was used by Central Electric Railfans’ Association as a club car, for excursions and meetings. From the looks of things, this is winter.
A close-up of the previous picture. I believe the gentleman at center is a young George Krambles, CERA Member #1, then in his early 20s.
Carl Oberfranc writes:
I’ve just completed my 4th or 5th view of every posting from January 2015 forward, and I can’t thank you and your contributors enough for sharing these wonderful memories of Chicago-area transportation. I fond myself spending as much time focusing on the street scenes of cars, stores, etc. as I do the primary subject matter. Wonderful memories of what Chicago and surrounding areas looked like in my lifetime (starting in the mid-‘50s), and the world of my parents’ lifetimes.
I grew up in Glen Ellyn, so I have a special fondness for the Sunset Lines. I have very early memories of the tracks still being in place just before removal. In the late 60s, a friend and I would spend many days hiking the mostly undeveloped Prairie Path all the way to Elmhurst, or along the Elgin and Aurora branches. Spent many hours climbing on the bridge over the C&NW in Wheaton (the old ties were the only flooring at that time) and watching the freight trains pass below.
I was born in Oak Park, and spent nearly every Saturday there visiting Grandparents and other relatives in the 1960s. One location was on South Grove Ave., just a few doors south of South Blvd. I remember walking over to the Lake St. L crossing shack at Kenilworth with some other kids and talking with the CTA gate attendant. This was probably no more than a few months before the line was relocated to the C&NW embankment. The pictures of the Forest Park gas holder and the old concrete grain silos are bring back a lot of wonderful memories.
I wanted share scans of some CA&E photos I purchased in the early days of eBay (apologies for the quality). I can’t remember the seller at this point, nor can I be sure who the original photographer would be, but many of them have stamped info on the back that says, “Charles A. Brown, Wilkinsonville, MA.” Hopefully this rings a bell with one of your readers.
I don’t think any of these duplicate what you’ve already posted to your site. In fact, the only CA&E corresponding car I’ve noticed is the color photo of #30 from your January, 2019 post. Compare/contrast with my B&W image that shows previous damage to the bottom of the vertical wood slats.
Thanks again to you and your contributors for a great site!
Glad that you like the site, and thanks very much for sharing these great photos with our readers.
CA&E 302 in Wheaton, 1940.
CA&E 318 on an early fantrip.
A CA&E Chicago Express in Berkeley.
Ron Geppert writes:
I ran across the following original check which I acquired during my TT collecting days and wonder if you would appreciate having it or maybe just the jpg is adequate for your use.
I am sure our readers will appreciate seeing this. Thanks for sharing it.
Keep those cards and letters coming in, folks!
Now Available On Compact Disc
Railroad Record Club – North Shore Line Rarities 1955-1963
# of Discs – 1
Railroad Record Club – North Shore Line Rarities 1955-1963
Newly rediscovered and digitized after 60 years, most of these audio recordings of Chicago, North Shore and Milwaukee interurban trains are previously unheard, and include on-train recordings, run-bys, and switching. Includes both Electroliners, standard cars, and locomotives. Recorded between 1955 and 1963 on the Skokie Valley Route and Mundelein branch. We are donating $5 from the sale of each disc to Kenneth Gear, who saved these and many other original Railroad Record Club master tapes from oblivion.
Total time – 73:14
Railroad Record Club Traction Rarities – 1951-58
From the Original Master Tapes
# of Discs- 3
Railroad Record Club Traction Rarities – 1951-58
From the Original Master Tapes
Our friend Kenneth Gear recently acquired the original Railroad Record Club master tapes. These have been digitized, and we are now offering over three hours of 1950s traction audio recordings that have not been heard in 60 years.
Properties covered include:
Potomac Edison (Hagerstown & Frederick), Capital Transit, Altoona & Logan Valley, Shaker Heights Rapid Transit, Pennsylvania Railroad, Illinois Terminal, Baltimore Transit, Niagara St. Catharines & Toronto, St. Louis Public Transit, Queensboro Bridge, Third Avenue El, Southern Iowa Railway, IND Subway (NYC), Johnstown Traction, Cincinnati Street Railway, and the Toledo & Eastern
$5 from the sale of each set will go to Kenneth Gear, who has invested thousands of dollars to purchase all the remaining artifacts relating to William A. Steventon’s Railroad Record Club of Hawkins, WI. It is very unlikely that he will ever be able to recoup his investment, but we support his efforts at preserving this important history, and sharing it with railfans everywhere.
Potomac Edison (Hagerstown & Frederick):
01. 3:45 Box motor #5
02. 3:32 Box motor #5, May 24, 1953
03. 4:53 Engine whistle signals, loco #12, January 17, 1954
04. 4:13 Loco #12
05. 0:56 PCC car 1557, Route 20 – Cabin John line, July 19, 1953
Altoona & Logan Valley:
07. 4:00 Master Unit car #74, August 8, 1953
Shaker Heights Rapid Transit:
08. 4:17 Car 306 (ex-AE&FRE), September 27, 1953
Pennsylvania Railroad GG-1s:
11. 4:35 August 27, 1954
13. 5:02 Streamliner #300, northward from Edwardsville, February 14, 1955
14. 12:40 Car #202 (ex-1202), between Springfield and Decatur, February 1955
15. 4:56 Car 5706, January 16, 1954
16. 4:45 Car 5727, January 16, 1954
Niagara, St. Catharines & Toronto:
17. 4:19 Interurbans #83 and #80, October 1954
18. 5:20 #80, October 1954
Total time: 79:30
St. Louis Public Service:
01. 4:34 PCCs #1708, 1752, 1727, 1739, December 6, 1953
Queensboro Bridge Company (New York City):
02. 5:37 Cars #606, 605, and 601, December 31, 1954
Third Avenue El (New York City):
04. 5:07 December 31. 1954
05. 4:47 Cars #1797, 1759, and 1784 at 59th Street, December 31, 1954
Southern Iowa Railway:
06. 4:46 Loco #400, August 17, 1955
07. 5:09 Passenger interurban #9
IND Subway (New York City):
08. 8:40 Queens Plaza station, December 31, 1954
Last Run of the Hagerstown & Frederick:
09. 17:34 Car #172, February 20, 1954 – as broadcast on WJEJ, February 21, 1954, with host Carroll James, Sr.
Total time: 61:31
Altoona & Logan Valley/Johnstown Traction:
01. 29:34 (Johnstown Traction recordings were made August 9, 1953)
Cincinnati Street Railway:
02. 17:25 (Car 187, Brighton Car House, December 13, 1951– regular service abandoned April 29, 1951)
Toledo & Eastern:
03. 10:36 (recorded May 3-7, 1958– line abandoned July 1958)
04. 16:26 sounds recorded on board a PCC (early 1950s)
Total time: 74:02
Total time (3 discs) – 215:03
The Trolley Dodger On the Air
We appeared on WGN radio in Chicago in November 2018, discussing our book Building Chicago’s Subways on the Dave Plier Show. You can hear our 19-minute conversation here.
Chicago, Illinois, December 17, 1938– Secretary Harold Ickes, left, and Mayor Edward J. Kelly turn the first spadeful of earth to start the new $40,000,000 subway project. Many thousands gathered to celebrate the starting of work on the subway.
Order Our New Book Building Chicago’s Subways
There were three subway anniversaries in 2018 in Chicago:
60 years since the West Side Subway opened (June 22, 1958)
75 years since the State Street Subway opened (October 17, 1943)
80 years since subway construction started (December 17, 1938)
To commemorate these anniversaries, we have written a new book, Building Chicago’s Subways.
While the elevated Chicago Loop is justly famous as a symbol of the city, the fascinating history of its subways is less well known. The City of Chicago broke ground on what would become the “Initial System of Subways” during the Great Depression and finished 20 years later. This gigantic construction project, a part of the New Deal, would overcome many obstacles while tunneling through Chicago’s soft blue clay, under congested downtown streets, and even beneath the mighty Chicago River. Chicago’s first rapid transit subway opened in 1943 after decades of wrangling over routes, financing, and logistics. It grew to encompass the State Street, Dearborn-Milwaukee, and West Side Subways, with the latter modernizing the old Garfield Park “L” into the median of Chicago’s first expressway. Take a trip underground and see how Chicago’s “I Will” spirit overcame challenges and persevered to help with the successful building of the subways that move millions. Building Chicago’s subways was national news and a matter of considerable civic pride–making it a “Second City” no more!
Title Building Chicago’s Subways
Images of America
Author David Sadowski
Publisher Arcadia Publishing (SC), 2018
ISBN 1467129380, 9781467129381
Length 128 pages
01. The River Tunnels
02. The Freight Tunnels
03. Make No Little Plans
04. The State Street Subway
05. The Dearborn-Milwaukee Subway
07. Death of an Interurban
08. The Last Street Railway
09. Subways and Superhighways
10. Subways Since 1960
Building Chicago’s Subways is in stock and now available for immediate shipment. Order your copy today! All copies purchased through The Trolley Dodger will be signed by the author.
The price of $23.99 includes shipping within the United States.
For Shipping to US Addresses:
For Shipping to Canada:
For Shipping Elsewhere:
Redone tile at the Monroe and Dearborn CTA Blue Line subway station, showing how an original sign was incorporated into a newer design, May 25, 2018. (David Sadowski Photo)
Help Support The Trolley Dodger
This is our 249th 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 618,000 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.