The view of the Lake Street “L”, looking northwest at Paulina on October 20, 1953. The station that is partly visible was called Lake Street Transfer, and had not been used since 1951. Meanwhile, there is new steel added to the “L” structure here to create a new connection with the old Met “L”. This was used by Douglas Park trains from 1954-58, and Pink Line trains today. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
Life is full of things that are touted as new and improved, but today we present some things that are both old and improved– images made better through use of today’s improved technology.
Some railfans remain wedded to film technology and are suspicious of digital. Often, they say that a film image is permanent, while a digital image is not– that is represents something intangible, while a 35mm slide is something you can hold in your hand.
While it would be wonderful if film images were permanent, especially color images, after scanning tens of thousands of them, I can assure you that such is not the case. Nearly all vintage color slides show some evidence of fading over time, even Kodachrome slides. In addition, they can be scratched, become dirty, lost, or damaged.
Digital has other important advantages– you can see the picture right away, so there is a much shorter learning curve, and once you have the camera, there is no need to buy film, which can be expensive.
Earlier this year I became the custodian of my late friend Jeff Wien‘s image collection, which included those taken by the late William C. Hoffman. Some of the Hoffman slides have been circulating for many years in the form of duplicates, many of which are now 25 years old themselves.
A digital image will look the same 100 years from now as it does today. It won’t get scratched, fingerprinted, or fade over time. It can be copied numerous times, and each copy will be an exact replica of the original, perfect in every detail. On the other hand, when a slide is copied by conventional means, there is always a loss of quality with each succeeding generation.
When taken by a high quality digital camera, in general your results will also be better than with a film camera today. Chances are it will be sharper and have better color.
It will take a long time to digitize the original Hoffman slides and others now in my collection. But I have worked on some. Each of the original slides I have scanned has improved sharpness over the duplicates, but in one or two instances, I have been unable to improve the color, because the original has continued to fade or color shift in the 25 years or more since the duplicates were made. This was most evident in early Ektachrome slides from the late 1950s to early 60s, which are known for having unstable dyes.
Many of these have color shifted to red. What actually has happened is the dyes that are not red have faded badly.
This was a problem that Kodak worked quickly to solve more than 55 years ago, and should not make you concerned about the color films available today.
One of my goals is to share definitive versions of the Hoffman slides, that I hope will stand the test of time, preserving their important historical information for future generations to come.
We also have many other recent photo finds to share today, and others from the collections of William Shapotkin.
Keep those cards and letters coming in, folks!
The Chicago Surface Lines put the first of 83 prewar PCCs into service in November 1936, and all ended service in June 1956 on Route 49 – Western. This picture, showing 4004 loaded onto a flat car, with the trucks and pole removed, was probably taken in either late 1956 or early 1957, when the car was taken from South Shops to a local scrapyard.
We received no information with this medium format negative, but it shows Washington, D.C. streetcar 1557 and one other near the Capitol Building in the early 1950s. The last DC streetcar (of its original era) ran in 1962, but a new line has since started.
A close-up of 1557, showing it was signed for the Cabin John line.
One of the two North Shore Line Electroliners on its February 8, 1941 inaugural trip. This image is taken from the original negative. The location is Harmswoods.
NSL freight loco 459 at work.
An Electroliner at the Milwaukee Terminal, possibly circa 1942-46.
The view looking east along the Metropolitan “L” at Marshfield on June 6, 1950. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
North Shore Line car 251 crosses the CTA bridge over the Illinois Central tracks on May 15, 1960 on a fantrip. North Shore Line cars had traveled here as late as 1938 before they terminated at Roosevelt Road instead. The old Tower Theater is visible at left. The “L” and bridge on this portion of the Jackson Park branch has since been cut back to Cottage Grove. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
On May 15, 1960, a northbound CTA Jackson Park train is at 61st Street, while North Shore Line car 251, at left, is on a fantrip, running to places where NSL cars had not been since 1938. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
Carl Edward Hedstrom Jr. (1918-2009) congratulating Carl Edward Hedstrom Sr. (1889-1978) on his retirement as a South Shore Line engineer in Michigan City, Indiana on October 30, 1960. Senior worked for the railroad from 1921 to 1960, while Junior also worked as a motorman there from 1939 to 1983. (Michigan City News Dispatch Photo)
South Shore Line #100 at Van Buren Street, bound for South Bend.
An unidentified South Shore engineer.
South Shore Line coach #5 at Randolph Street Station in Chicago, Illinois on April 20, 1949. The motorman is Carl Edward Hedstrom, Sr. (Carl Edward Hedstrom, Jr. Photo)
A South Shore Line float in a Michigan City parade.
South Shore Line dispatcher Al Kams.
A pair of 4000s are departing from the old Randolph and Wabash “L” station on the Loop. The picture isn’t older than 1959, as the Sun-Times/Daily News Building is in the background. It could be dated further, depending on whether those cars still have their trolley poles, which I think they do. Those were only needed until 1962. The 4000s were replaced by 2000s on Lake Street starting in 1964. Until 1969, the Loop was unidirectional, running counterclockwise, so these cars are heading away from us.
CTA red Pullman 144, which is now at the Illinois Railway Museum. Not sure whether this photo was taken during a 1950s fantrip, as so many other pictures were. Mike Franklin: “Heading west on Kinzie Street just west of Dearborn. Tribune Building in the distance.”
CTA 3146 at Marion Street in Oak Park, running on the (then) ground-level portion of the Lake Street “L”. Don’s Rail Photos: “3146 was built by St. Louis Car in 1901 as LSERR 146. It was renumbered 3146 in 1913 and became CRT 3146 in 1923.”
This looks like a Met “L” line, but which one? The sign on the train is too fuzzy to read, but I can make out the word “Park,” which narrows it down to Garfield Park, Humboldt Park, or Douglas Park, and excludes Logan Square. Daniel Joseph: “My guess (is) this is at Independence Boulevard with the Garfield Park station in the background.”
This is the old Ogden Avenue station on the Garfield Park “L”, on August 22, 1953. This station closed on September 27 and the structure here was demolished soon thereafter. Garfield trains were temporarily relocated to run on ground level in Van Buren Street.
6000s at Chicago Avenue on the Ravenswood.
From the Collections of William Shapotkin
On March 25, 1962, NSL cars 771, 415, 753, and 251 are on a Central Electric Railfans’ Association fantrip at the Isabella station in Evanston, where no North Shore cars had been since the Shore Line Route was abandoned in 1955. (William C. Hoffman Photo, William Shapotkin Collection)
CSL 1266, when it was being used as a salt car.(William Shapotkin Collection)
CSL 205 is on Route 6, and is apparently westbound, heading to Van Buren and Kedzie. Streetcars were replaced by buses on this route in 1951, and from 1953-58, Garfield Park “L” trains ran on Van Buren, between Sacramento Boulevard and Aberdeen (William Shapotkin Collection) Daniel Joseph adds: “My uneducated guess this may be at Kedzie and Douglas with a #12-Roosevelt heading to the car barn. Note the divided boulevard with a parkway and West Side Park District street lamps. But I do not see a traffic signal for the part of the boulevard traveling to the left. If that street is not part of the boulevard, this could be Van Buren and Sacramento.” Since the car is signed for Route 6 – Van Buren, I am going to go with Van Buren and Sacramento.
CTA red Pullman 249 on the Kedzie route. (William Shapotkin Collection)
CSL 3245 is signed for Pershing Road (39th Street). (William Shapotkin Collection)
CSL 1682 is at Lake and Austin, west end of Route 16, with a West Towns streetcar across the border in suburban Oak Park. The Park Theater, at right, closed around 1952. (William Shapotkin Collection)
CSL 2821, signed to go to 115th and Halsted. (William Shapotkin Collection)
The Route 22 streetcar means this is Clark Street, and I believe that’s the old Astor Theater at right, so this is Clark and Madison looking south. The film Murder in the Fleet was released in 1935, but from the looks of the autos, this is a few years later, so most likely about 1938. (William Shapotkin Collection)
A nice colorized postcard view of the Met “L” twin bridges over the Chicago River. (William Shapotkin Collection)
Oddly enough, the Chicago Transit Authority used a CSL bus sign when it extended service to Skokie via Route 97 in 1948. This was CTA’s first suburban bus route, and replaced the Niles Center branch of the “L”. This picture was taken on June 4, 1950. (William C. Hoffman Photo, William Shapotkin Collection)
The view looking north along Michigan Avenue at Madison Street on December 12, 1949, shows no less than four Chicago Motor Coach buses, including a double-decker. The CTA purchased the CMC assets on October 1, 1952. (William C. Hoffman Photo, William Shapotkin Collection)
Washington and Wells, looking east, on June 8, 1950. Milwaukee Avenue buses share the street with a Chicago Motor Coach double-decker. (William C. Hoffman Photo, William Shapotkin Collection)
Washington and Clark on June 8, 1950. (William C. Hoffman Photo, William Shapotkin Collection)
On May 18, 1954, a Route 8 – Halsted streetcar shares wire with a Chicago Avenue trolley bus by the Montgomery Wards complex. We are looking west. The Halsted car is on diversion trackage. (William C. Hoffman Photo, William Shapotkin Collection)
The view looking north along Larrabee Street at Chicago Avenue, by the Montgomery Wards complex. The tower is for switching Milwaukee Road freight trains. (William C. Hoffman Photo, William Shapotkin Collection)
On May 16, 1954, red Pullmans 473 and 479 were used on a fantrip, two weeks before red cars were retired from service and replaced with buses on several routes. Streetcars were able to use trackage here on Irving Park Road in emergencies, since Route 80 had already been converted to use trolley buses.(William C. Hoffman Photo, William Shapotkin Collection)
On July 3, 1950, a CTA trolley bus operates on the 51-55 Route on 51st Street near the South Side “L”. (William C. Hoffman Photo, William Shapotkin Collection)
CTA trolley bus 234 is on Route 51-55 at 51st and Campbell on June 12, 1950, while streetcar tracks here are actually being removed. In most places they were simply paved over. The CTA later renumbered all their trolley buses, with the addition of a “9” before their existing digits. (William C. Hoffman Photo, William Shapotkin Collection)
The view looking north from the old Loop “L” station at State and Van Buren on July 25, 1954. (William C. Hoffman Photo, William Shapotkin Collection)
CTA PCC 7240 is on State Street at Van Buren, heading south on Route 36. (William C. Hoffman Photo, William Shapotkin Collection)
CTA PCC 7162 turns from south State Street to westbound Polk on April 19, 1956, on the very last piece of new streetcar track built in Chicago. (William C. Hoffman Photo, William Shapotkin Collection)
Polk and Dearborn on April 19, 1956. (William C. Hoffman Photo, William Shapotkin Collection)
Looking north along Dearborn Street on November 26, 1954, after both Clark and Dearborn were converted to one-way streets. The Monadnock Building is at left. (William C. Hoffman Photo, William Shapotkin Collection)
The off-street loop at 63rd Place and Narragansett on July 1, 1951, used by Route 63 streetcars and the bus that went west of there to Argo-Summit. (William C. Hoffman Photo, William Shapotkin Collection)
On May 16, 1954, CTA red Pullman 579 is at the Western and 79th turnaround loop on a CERA fantrip. During this period, streetcars were used on Western during weekdays only, so the fantrip cars did not impede regular traffic. (William C. Hoffman Photo, William Shapotkin Collection)
CTA PCC 7235 at Western and 41st on August 14, 1955. (William C. Hoffman Photo, William Shapotkin Collection)
Retired CSL bus BW-18 and trolley bus 9186, on the scrap line at South Shops on June 15, 1958. (William C. Hoffman Photo, William Shapotkin Collection)
On April 10, 1955, we see various vehicles awaiting scrap at South Shops, including a streetcar trailer in the 8000-series, trolley buses 9114, 9071, and sleet cutter bus BW-108. (William C. Hoffman Photo, William Shapotkin Collection)
On October 31, 1954, we see some older trolley buses, including 9114, ready for scrapping at South Shops, along with some red Pullman streetcars. (William C. Hoffman Photo, William Shapotkin Collection)
I recently visited Kenosha, Wisconsin, rode the two-mile trolley there, and sought out the former North Shore Line station. After the interurban was abandoned in 1963, the building became the Spaghetti Station for some years, and is now a school. Additions have been added to the north and west sides. Trains did not run in the side street here, but behind the part of the building that is visible now.
A Sign of the Times
This sign from the Poplar Avenue station in Elmhurst on the Chicago Aurora & Elgin, recently sold on eBay for $1424. Yes, that is a lot of money, but it is also an expression of its historical importance. Note the expert brush work, done by hand. Hopefully the sign will eventually make its way to a museum for the benefit of all.
Did Not Win
Resources are always limited, and for every image we are the successful bidders on, there are others that slip through our fingers. Here are a few that fell into the latter category.
I am not sure just where this picture was taken, showing a westbound four-car train of CA&E woods, headed up by 317. The C&NW is at left. Guesses have so far included Glen Ellyn, Lombard, and Wheaton.
Two Electroliners meet in Waukegan by William D. Volkmer, 1/16/60.
Dempster Street, Skokie 1/16/60, photographer unknown (probably also taken by William D. Volkmer, it just wasn’t marked as such).
A three-car train in Lake Bluff by William D. Volkmer, 10/8/60.
NSL 420 in Mundelein by Robert E. Bruneau, 8/20/61. Don’s Rail Photos: “420 was was built by Pullman in 1928 as an observation. It was out of service by 1932. On July 21, 1943, it reentered service as a motorized coach. It was sold to Seashore Trolley Museum in 1963.”
This postcard (with a 1910 postmark) shows that the use of “L” for elevated railway was not confined exclusively to Chicago.
A train of CTA 6000s at the old Stony Island terminal on the Jackson Park branch.
The Trolley Dodger On the Air
I recently appeared 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.
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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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