Christmas in July

Santa Claus arrives by trolley at the Baltimore Streetcar Museum, sometime in the 1970s. It probably wasn't July, though. (John Engleman Photo)

Santa Claus arrives by trolley at the Baltimore Streetcar Museum, sometime in the 1970s. It probably wasn’t July, though. (John Engleman Photo)

It recently felt like Christmas in July, when I received a large batch of vintage 35mm color negatives taken by John Engleman of Maryland for scanning and sharing here. Even more fitting, Santa Claus actually does appear in some of the photos!

While we are based in Chicago, and most of our posts feature transit from this area, we do have many readers in other locales. This first installment of photos taken by Mr. Engleman is mainly from out east (Baltimore, Washington D.C., and Philadelphia) and dates to the 1970s. In addition there are some diesel photos, including passenger trains, and I strongly suspect some are from before the Amtrak era. There are also a few pictures of Seattle trolley buses.

Mr. Engleman is an excellent photographer and I hope you will enjoy the photos he has so generously shared with us. My personal favorites are the ones that show car 6119, the 1930 Baltimore Peter Witt. This was the state of the art in streetcar design, prior to development of the PCC car.

I would like to thank City Lit Books in Logan Square for inviting me to appear at their shop last Saturday to give a presentation about my new book Chicago’s Lost “L”s. I would also like to thank everyone who attended and purchased a copy.

-David Sadowski

PS- If you enjoy reading these posts, you might consider joining our Trolley Dodger Facebook Group as well. We currently have 401 members.

Recent Finds

As my friend J. J. Sedelmaier pointed out, this photo of a North Shore Line Electroliner on the north side "L" must have been taken in the early part of 1941, as it shows the train's pilot in its original configuration, prior to being enlarged.

As my friend J. J. Sedelmaier pointed out, this photo of a North Shore Line Electroliner on the north side “L” must have been taken in the early part of 1941, as it shows the train’s pilot in its original configuration, prior to being enlarged.

Eric Bronsky writes: "I own the original Kodachromes of two of the North Shore photos that appeared in the blog earlier this week. A while back, I enhanced and sharpened the attached image in Photoshop. The photographer was William E. Robertson. I cannot confirm the year because the slide mount is neither dated nor captioned. If you post it, please credit William E. Robertson photo, Eric Bronsky Collection. The other original I have is the Shore Line Route view looking south along St. Johns Ave. in Highland Park. David, a belated thank you for the copy of your Chicago's Lost "L's book. It is absolutely fascinating. Many of these places and things were gone before I became aware of them."

Eric Bronsky writes: “I own the original Kodachromes of two of the North Shore photos that appeared in the blog earlier this week. A while back, I enhanced and sharpened the attached image in Photoshop. The photographer was William E. Robertson. I cannot confirm the year because the slide mount is neither dated nor captioned. If you post it, please credit William E. Robertson photo, Eric Bronsky Collection.
The other original I have is the Shore Line Route view looking south along St. Johns Ave. in Highland Park.
David, a belated thank you for the copy of your Chicago’s Lost “L’s book. It is absolutely fascinating. Many of these places and things were gone before I became aware of them.”

I recently bought this early real photo postcard, showing a Jackson Park "L" train crossing the Illinois Central when it still used steam (pre-1926). This is the second one of these I have, and interestingly, it has less cropping than the first version I had (which is in my new book Chicago's Lost "L"s). Why is this? Well, this is a real photo made from the original negative, and not something made on a printing press. So every time a batch of these were produced, someone had to position the negative, and there was the potential to do it differently each batch. You can almost make out the car numbers here... 17, 274, and maybe 250.  Don's Rail Photos: "17 was built by Jackson & Sharpe in 1892 as SSRT 17 as a steam trailer. It was rebuilt as a MU motor car in 1898. It became CERy 17 in 1913 and retired on January 8, 1924." "274 was built by Jewett in 1905 as SSRT 274. It became CERy 274 in 1913 and became CRT 274 in 1924. It was retired on June 7, 1957." The South Side cars were not renumbered when the four "L" companies were consolidated.

I recently bought this early real photo postcard, showing a Jackson Park “L” train crossing the Illinois Central when it still used steam (pre-1926). This is the second one of these I have, and interestingly, it has less cropping than the first version I had (which is in my new book Chicago’s Lost “L”s). Why is this? Well, this is a real photo made from the original negative, and not something made on a printing press. So every time a batch of these were produced, someone had to position the negative, and there was the potential to do it differently each batch. You can almost make out the car numbers here… 17, 274, and maybe 250. Don’s Rail Photos: “17 was built by Jackson & Sharpe in 1892 as SSRT 17 as a steam trailer. It was rebuilt as a MU motor car in 1898. It became CERy 17 in 1913 and retired on January 8, 1924.” “274 was built by Jewett in 1905 as SSRT 274. It became CERy 274 in 1913 and became CRT 274 in 1924. It was retired on June 7, 1957.” The South Side cars were not renumbered when the four “L” companies were consolidated.

The Photography of John Engleman:

Red Arrow Lines in Media PA

Red Arrow car 73 (built by Brill in 1926) is now preserved at the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum. Their web site notes, “Car 73 was refurbished in 1972 by the transit authority (SEPTA) and the local business association as the centerpiece of a “Media Mall” promotion in that suburban community – the regular streetcar would turn back at the edge of town, and riders would transfer to 73 for the trip along State Street. After the novelty (and funding) wore off regular trolley service was resumed in Media and car 73 was retained for charter and work service until it was declared surplus by SEPTA and acquired by PTM in 1990.”

I think that is what we see here.

Philadelphia Streetcars

It is apparent that some sort of horsing around was going on with a PCC car on New Year’s Eve one year.

National Capital Trolley Museum (Silver Springs, MD)

Johnstown, PA was the smallest city to operate PCC streetcars in the classic era, and it ran streetcars until 1960. Johnstown Traction car 352, which appears in some of these pictures, was built by St. Louis Car Company in 1925 and preserved for many years at the National Capital Trolley Museum. Unfortunately, it was destroyed in an accidental fire in 2003, along with some of the other trams seen here.

Baltimore Streetcar Museum

Seattle Trolley Buses

M. E. writes, "A group of old (but still employed) and retired Seattle trolley bus drivers and mechanics has for many years maintained and offered rides on three trolley buses from the 1930s and 1940s. I rode on a couple of those trips. They were outstanding bargains, about $5 for several hours of touring many Seattle neighborhoods. It was much fun to see heads turn when the old buses went by. The web site for this group is http://www.mehva.org . Sad to report that it appears they ran into insurance liability problems and had to cancel their excursions in 2020. Nothing yet thus far in 2021. Seattle also had acquired several old trams from Melbourne, Australia (which still has a huge tram network), and ran those trams for about a mile underneath the elevated Aurora Freeway through downtown. Alas, maybe 10+ years ago they stopped running this service. More recently, Seattle tore down the freeway."

M. E. writes, “A group of old (but still employed) and retired Seattle trolley bus drivers and mechanics has for many years maintained and offered rides on three trolley buses from the 1930s and 1940s. I rode on a couple of those trips. They were outstanding bargains, about $5 for several hours of touring many Seattle neighborhoods. It was much fun to see heads turn when the old buses went by. The web site for this group is http://www.mehva.org . Sad to report that it appears they ran into insurance liability problems and had to cancel their excursions in 2020. Nothing yet thus far in 2021.
Seattle also had acquired several old trams from Melbourne, Australia (which still has a huge tram network), and ran those trams for about a mile underneath the elevated Aurora Freeway through downtown. Alas, maybe 10+ years ago they stopped running this service. More recently, Seattle tore down the freeway.”

Diesel Trains

It’s hard to tell when some of these were taken, but I did spot a 1969 license plate on a vehicle in a couple of shots.

This photo was taken at one of the two terminals in Seattle. It is probably the King St. station, the one that is still operating. The white building in the background is the Smith Tower, which was the tallest building west of the Mississippi when it was built in 1914. Although I don't know the situation today, several years ago the elevators in Smith Tower still had human operators in the cars. But all they did was push buttons for floors.

M. E. writes, “This photo was taken at one of the two terminals in Seattle. It is probably the King St. station, the one that is still operating. The white building in the background is the Smith Tower, which was the tallest building west of the Mississippi when it was built in 1914. Although I don’t know the situation today, several years ago the elevators in Smith Tower still had human operators in the cars. But all they did was push buttons for floors.”

Again, I would like to thank John Engleman for sharing all these great classic photos with our readers. Keep those cards and letters coming in, folks!

-David Sadowski

The Trolley Dodger On the Air

On July 16th, I was invited to appear on the Dave Plier Show on WGN radio, to discuss Chicago’s Lost “L”s. You can hear that discussion here.

Our Latest Book, Now Available:

Chicago’s Lost “L”s

From the back cover:

Chicago’s system of elevated railways, known locally as the “L,” has run continuously since 1892 and, like the city, has never stood still. It helped neighborhoods grow, brought their increasingly diverse populations together, and gave the famous Loop its name. But today’s system has changed radically over the years. Chicago’s Lost “L”s tells the story of former lines such as Garfield Park, Humboldt Park, Kenwood, Stockyards, Normal Park, Westchester, and Niles Center. It was once possible to take high-speed trains on the L directly to Aurora, Elgin, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The L started out as four different companies, two starting out using steam engines instead of electricity. Eventually, all four came together via the Union Loop. The L is more than a way of getting around. Its trains are a place where people meet and interact. Some say the best way to experience the city is via the L, with its second-story view. Chicago’s Lost “L”s is virtually a “secret history” of Chicago, and this is your ticket. David Sadowski grew up riding the L all over the city. He is the author of Chicago Trolleys and Building Chicago’s Subways and runs the online Trolley Dodger blog.

The Images of America series celebrates the history of neighborhoods, towns, and cities across the country. Using archival photographs, each title presents the distinctive stories from the past that shape the character of the community today. Arcadia is proud to play a part in the preservation of local heritage, making history available to all.

Title Chicago’s Lost “L”s
Images of America
Author David Sadowski
Edition illustrated
Publisher Arcadia Publishing (SC), 2021
ISBN 1467100007, 9781467100007
Length 128 pages

Chapters:
01. The South Side “L”
02. The Lake Street “L”
03. The Metropolitan “L”
04. The Northwestern “L”
05. The Union Loop
06. Lost Equipment
07. Lost Interurbans
08. Lost Terminals
09. Lost… and Found

Each copy purchased here will be signed by the author, and you will also receive a bonus facsimile of a 1926 Chicago Rapid Transit Company map, with interesting facts about the “L” on the reverse side.

The price of $23.99 includes shipping within the United States.

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NEW DVD:

A Tribute to the North Shore Line

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the demise of the fabled North Shore Line interurban in January 2013, Jeffrey L. Wien and Bradley Criss made a very thorough and professional video presentation, covering the entire route between Chicago and Milwaukee and then some. Sadly, both men are gone now, but their work remains, making this video a tribute to them, as much as it is a tribute to the Chicago North Shore & Milwaukee.

Jeff drew on his own vast collections of movie films, both his own and others such as the late William C. Hoffman, wrote and gave the narration. Bradley acted as video editor, and added authentic sound effects from archival recordings of the North Shore Line.

It was always Jeff’s intention to make this video available to the public, but unfortunately, this did not happen in his lifetime. Now, as the caretakers of Jeff’s railfan legacy, we are proud to offer this excellent two-hour program to you for the first time.  The result is a fitting tribute to what Jeff called his “Perpetual Adoration,” which was the name of a stop on the interurban.

Jeff was a wholehearted supporter of our activities, and the proceeds from the sale of this disc will help defray some of the expenses of keeping the Trolley Dodger web site going.

Total time – 121:22

# of Discs – 1
Price: $19.99 (Includes shipping within the United States)

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7 thoughts on “Christmas in July

  1. I’ve said it before, and it’s worth repeating: The people who ended or curtailed trolley and train service in America did us a disservice. Now we will spend literally trillions of dollars to restore, nationwide, service that was once the norm.

  2. What are the European cars in the museum pictures?

    The red cars are distinctly Viennese, and a zoom in on the green car reveals GVB, which turns out to be Amsterdam.
    Of note, both of these are standard guage.

    Also, I see a few single ended cars on a dead end track, did the museum backpole them all the way?

    • Found this online: “In the early morning hours of September 28, 2003, the National Capital Trolley Museum in Wheaton, MD suffered a major carhouse fire in which 8 historic streetcars and the carhouse were destroyed. Among the cars lost were Capital Transit No. 1053, a 1935 pre-PCC streamliner, Johnstown Traction Co. Car No 352, two DC snow sweepers, one built in 1899, and several Austrian Trams.” So they were Austrian trams, it seems. And yes, if a single-ended car goes all the way out to the end of track, it has to back up all the way. This is why East Troy got rid of their PCC cars– no loop at the end.

  3. I would guess a date for the diesel train assortment of pictures as 1970. Amtrak was formed in April 1971, so that rules out the Southern Pacific passenger train being later than 1971. Burlington Northern was formed in 1970 and was only in the passenger business for about 1 year, so these pictures have to be from 1970, but no later than April 1971.

    • That dates the Burlington Northern pictures, at least. Thanks. And when you say, in the passenger business, I think you mean intercity rail. BNSF still operates commuter rail passenger service in the Chicago area, under contract from Metra.

    • However, these railroads continued passenger traffic locally in Chicagoland until the RTA began service in the mid 70’s. I can remember boarding the Burlington Northern at the LaVergne (Berwyn) station in 1973 to seee my Dad in Hinsdale Hospital. Even today, BNSF and other Railroads are providing passenger service funded by the RTA.

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