Over the years, I have seen many poor quality duplicate slides with this view, looking to the northwest, with a Garfield Park “L” train crossing the Met bridge over the Chicago River, with Union Station in the background. However, this was scanned from an original red border Kodachrome slide, circa 1955-58. The name of the photographer is not known. This must be a Garfield train, and the results are stunning. Douglas cars were re-routed over the Lake Street “L” in 1954. Logan Square trains began running via the Milwaukee-Dearborn Subway in 1951.
Here we have another bevy of classic traction photos for your enjoyment. All are from our collections, and nearly all were scanned from the original slides and negatives. Then, they were painstakingly worked over in Photoshop to make them look their best.
These views shine a light on the past, but also help illuminate our present and our future. We chose these images because we think they are important. They show some things that still exist, and other things that don’t.
By studying the past, we can learn from it, and the lessons we learn will help us make the decisions that will determine what gets preserved and improved in the future– and what goes by the wayside, into the dustbin of history.
When faced with the darkness of the present times, we could all use more light.
We have an exciting new Compact Disc available now, with audio recorded on the last Chicago Streetcar in 1958. There is additional information about this towards the end of this post, and also in our Online Store.
Our friend Kenneth Gear now has a Facebook group for the Railroad Record Club. If you enjoy listening to audio recordings of classic railroad trains, whether steam, electric, or diesel, you might consider joining.
Work on our North Shore Line book is ongoing. Donations are needed in order to bring this to a successful conclusion. You will find donation links at the top and bottom of each post. We thank you in advance for your time and consideration.
A North Shore Line Electroliner stops on a curve during the early 1950s, while a woman wearing a long skirt and heels departs. This looks like North Chicago Junction.
Don’s Rail Photos: (Caboose) “1003 was built by American Car & Foundry Co in 1926. It was rebuilt without a cupola but restored when it was acquired IRM.” Here is how part of it looked in the early 1950s.
One of the two ex-North Shore Line Electroliners is shown in Philadelphia in December 1963, prior to being repainted as a Red Arrow Liberty Liner.
Although this was scanned from a duplicate slide, this is an excellent and well known shot, showing the last day fantrip on the North Shore Line’s Shore Line Route in July 1955. The location is Kenilworth, and we are looking mainly to the south, and a bit towards the west. The town’s famous fountain, paid for by the Chicago and Milwaukee Electric, the NSL’s predecessor, is at left. It was designed by noted architect George W. Maher (1864-1926), who lived in the area. The Chicago and North Western’s tracks are at right (now Union Pacific).
A northbound Electroliner, just outside of Milwaukee in July 1962. (Jim Martin Photo)
Car 170 is an NSL Lake Bluff local at the east end of the line on December 23, 1962. The tracks going off to the right connected to what was left of the old Shore Line Route. After the 1955 abandonment, a single track was retained for freight and for access to the Highwood Shops. (Jim Martin Photo)
Once the NSL abandonment was formally approved, in May 1962, there was a flurry of fantrip activity soon after. In June 1962, this trip was popular enough that two trains were used. Here they are on the Mundelein branch, posed side by side. One of the Liners made a rare appearance here. (Jim Martin Photo)
An Electroliner has gone past the east end of the Mundelein branch on a June 1962 fantrip, and is now on the single remaining track of the old Shore Line Route, which continued to Highwood (and ended in Highland Park). (Jim Martin Photo)
A three-car North Shore Line train in Lake Bluff on a snowy day on December 23, 1962. (Jim Martin Photo)
North Shore Line car 714, freshly painted, is at the Milwaukee Terminal on June 16, 1962. (Richard H. Young Photo)
The North Shore Line’s Mundelein Terminal on September 7, 1959.
David A. Myers recently sent me this picture, which shows him making an audio recording during the last run of the North Shore Line, in the early morning hours of January 21, 1963. He still has the tape and I hope someday he will have it digitized.
No information came with this black and white negative, but the location is Highwood. Diners 415 and 419 are present. 419 was out of service by 1949, and 415 was converted to a Silverliner the following year, so that helps date the picture. Car 150, built in 1915, is at the right, along with a Merchandise Despatch car. This picture could be from 1947 or even earlier.
Jim Martin caught this meet between both Electroliners at North Chicago Junction in May 1962.
An Electroliner in Lake Bluff in January 1963. This and the following image were consecutive shots taken by the same (unknown) photographer.
The photographer (possibly Emery Gulash) had but one chance to press the shutter button at precisely the right moment, and he nailed it with this classic view of westbound Electroliner train 803 at Lake Bluff in January 1963. This is what noted photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson had in mind when he wrote about the “decisive moment.” Douglas Noble: “Northbound crossing Rockland Road / IL 176 in Lake Bluff.”
CTA 53 (originally 5003), seen here at Skokie Shops in July 1971, was one of four such articulated sets ordered by the Chicago Rapid Transit Company and delivered in 1947-48. They were the first tangible evidence of the postwar modernization yet to come, under the management of the new Chicago Transit Authority. They were important cars, as the bridge between the 4000 and 6000 series, but were not that successful operationally on their own, even though they were the first Chicago “L” cars to utilize PCC technology. As it turned out, articulation was more of a dead end than a new beginning here, but these cars did pave the way for further refinements that were realized in the 6000s. As oddball equipment, they were eventually relegated to the Skokie Swift, where they lived out their lives until their mid-1980s retirement.
CTA trolleybus 9510 heads west on Roosevelt Road at Ogden Avenue at 6:50 pm on June 16, 1966.
CTA trolleybus 9499 is southbound on Kedzie at 59th Street on September 10, 1963.
CTA 3311, a one-man car, is at the east end of one of the south side routes in the early 1950s. Andre Kristopans: “3311 is at 67th and South Shore on 67th/69th route.”
A CTA single car unit heads north at Isabella Avenue in Evanston in September 1965. This station, closed in 1973, was a short distance from the end of the Evanston branch (Linden Avenue, Wilmette).
CTA PCC 7101, a product of the St. Louis Car Company, on September 2, 1955. Not sure of the exact location. Our resident south side expert M.E. adds: “As for where this location is, I can more likely tell you where it isn’t. It isn’t on route 49, Western Ave., which was built up everywhere. It isn’t on route 22, Clark-Wentworth, which was also built up everywhere. I thought it might be on route 4, Cottage Grove, just south of 95th, where the streetcar tracks ran in the street for a few blocks before entering private right-of-way. However, I see no sign of the Illinois Central railroad embankment that ran next to Cottage Grove Ave. So that leaves one possibility: Route 36, Broadway-State. Some of that route ran through sparse areas, particularly along 119th St. between Michigan Ave. and Morgan St. My best guess is that this view is on 119th St., looking east from east of Halsted St. Notice the building shadow at the bottom, which means the sun was behind the building, to the south. Ergo, the streetcar is going east. Another reason I think this is 119th St. is the presence of exactly one motor vehicle. 119th St. was far out in those days; buildings were few in number, not just along 119th St. but also route 8A South Halsted (bus). The only “bustling” area that far out was around 119th and Halsted (and west to Morgan), where there were industries like foundries, mills, etc. In fact, I think the only reasons the streetcar line continued to run that far south were (1) to accommodate the people who worked in those industries, and (2) to service the Roseland business district at 111th and Michigan.”
CTA “L” car #1 is at the west end of the Green Line in Oak Park, probably in the 1990s. This car is now on display at the Chicago History Museum.
CTA PCC 4385 is southbound on Clark Street at North Water Street in May 1958, running on Route 22A – Wentworth. (Jeffrey L. Wien Photo)
A northbound CTA Englewood-Howard “A” train, made up of curved-door 6000-series “L” cars, heads into the State Street Subway at the south portal in August 1982.
A southbound CTA Ravenswood “B” train, made up of wooden “L” cars, approaches the Sedgwick station on April 10, 1957.
A two-car mid-day CTA Evanston Express “L” train, made up of single-car units 39 and 47, heads east on Van Buren between LaSalle and State on August 14, 1964. During this period, Loop trains all ran counter-clockwise and there was a continuous platform running from LaSalle to State. The platform sections between stations were removed in 1968.
A northbound CTA Evanston Express train, made up of 4000s, is north of Lawrence Avenue on July 22, 1968. Miles Beitler: “In photo aad017a, the Evanston Express is northbound on the local track between Rosemont Avenue and Sheridan Road (around 6300-6400 north). Granville tower is visible in the distance. PM northbound Evanston Express trains switched to the local track at Granville in order to serve Loyola and Morse stations. (AM trains did not do this.) I believe that sometime in the 1980s or 1990s, to speed up service, Loyola and Morse were no longer served by Evanston Expresses, and the trains remained on the outside express track all the way to Howard.” Andre Kristopans adds, “For years after AM rush until noon Evanston trains used local tracks all the way as Granville tower only manned AM rush. Also AM rush expresses usually crossed over NB as express track was used to lay up trains midday south of Howard. SB expresses always used local tracks to Granville as SB express track did not have 3rd rail north of Granville until 1970s sometime.” Miles Beitler replies, “That is not correct. Third rail was installed on the southbound express track between Howard and Granville at least by 1964, and even before that the expresses ran on that portion using overhead wire.”
A close-up of the previous image, showing Granville Tower.
CTA PCC 7160 is northbound on Clark Street, approaching the loop at Howard Street, on July 5, 1957. (Edward S. Miller Photo)
The Washington station in the State Street Subway in Chicago on July 6, 1975.
CTA single-car unit 39 is southbound at Isabella on August 13, 1964, operating on the Evanston Shuttle.
CTA red Pullman 281 is heading westbound into the turnaround loop at 63rd Place and Narragansett in early 1953. Towards the end of streetcar service on Route 63, older red cars replaced PCCs, which were shifted over to run on Cottage Grove. This residential neighborhood, sparsely populated then, is now completely built up.
CTA salt car AA101 at South Shops, circa 1955-57. Don’s Rail Photos: “AA101, salt car, was built by South Chicago City Ry in 1907 as SCCRy 335. It was rebuilt in 1907 and became C&SCRy 834 in 1908. It was renumbered 2849 in 1913 and became CSL 2849 in 1914. It was later converted as a salt car and renumbered AA101 in 1948. It was retired on December 14, 1956.”
The view looking north along Halsted Street at 42nd Street on Chicago’s south side, from a real photo postcard. The message on the back was dated August 24, 1910. Postal postcards were a new thing in the early 1900s and were very popular. Some, like this, were made by contact printing from the original photo negative. The Union Stock Yards were at left, and you can see the Halsted Station on then-new Stock Yards “L” branch (opened in 1908) in the distance. Automobiles were not yet common, and you can spot a man riding a horse to the left of streetcar 5150. This car was built by Brill in 1905, and was modernized in 1908. When this picture was taken, it was operated by the Chicago City Railway, as the Surface Lines did not come into existence until 1914.
A close-up from the previous photo.
This Skokie Swift sign graced the Dempster Street terminal of what is now the CTA Yellow Line for many years. It is now at the Illinois Railway Museum. Here is how it looked in September 1985. The original running time was more like 6 1/2 minutes when the line opened in 1964, but things got slowed down a bit in the interests of safety, since there are several grade crossings.
CTA single-car unit #1 at the Skokie Swift terminal at Dempster on June 11, 1965. It was built by St. Louis Car Company in 1960 and had high-speed motors. It was sent to General Electric in 1974 and used to test equipment. Since 2016 it has been at the Seashore Trolley Museum in Maine, but it would require a lot of work (and parts) to restore.
We are looking east along the Indiana Avenue “L” station around 1955. The wooden “L” car at back is a spare, being stored on what had once been the main line track up until 1949. The Kenwood branch ran east from here until 1957. The Stockyards branch went west from here. (C. Foreman Photo)
We are looking east from the CTA’s Indiana Avenue “L” station on September 2, 1955. A northbound Howard “B” train, made up of new curved-door 6000s, approaches on what had once been the middle express track. This was changed in 1949, when the CTA made a major revamp of north-south service. Numerous little-used stations were closed, and A/B “skip stop” service introduced, in an effort to speed things up. Since the express track was no longer needed, the CTA used part of it here to establish a pocket track for Kenwood branch trains, which became a shuttle operation. Sean Hunnicutt adds, “6405-06 are at the front.” Andre Kristopans adds, “At Indiana the layup track was the old LOCAL track, the middle in use was the express.” Northbound “L” trains switched over to what had been the express track (middle) just south of Indiana Avenue. I should have made that clear in the caption, thanks.
Milwaukee Electric articulated unit 1190 is on Main Street in Waukesha, Wisconsin on June 12, 1949. (William C. Hoffman Photo) One commenter adds, “Both photos taken by William C. Hoffman in Waukesha are actually on W. Broadway, just south of Main St. All buildings are still standing.”
Milwaukee Electric heavyweight car 1119 is on Main Street on June 12, 1949. (William C. Hoffman Photo) One commenter adds, “Both photos taken by William C. Hoffman in Waukesha are actually on W. Broadway, just south of Main St. All buildings are still standing.”
Milwaukee streetcar 972 at the Harwood Avenue terminal in Wauwatosa, circa 1955-58. (W. H. Higginbotham Photo)
The Public Service Building in downtown Milwaukee, located at 4th and Michigan, had been the former rapid transit terminal until 1951. Here is how it appeared on August 23, 1964. (William C. Hoffman Photo) Larry Sakar: “this is the southeast corner of the PSB at 3rd (not 4th) and Michigan Sts. You are looking southeast. Greyhound would continue using the PSB until February, 1965 when it moved to its own, brand new terminal on the northeast corner of North 7th & W. Michigan Sts. In addition to the 3 story terminal on the Michigan St side (the station had about a dozen angled spaces that the buses pulled into. Spaces 1 and 2 were used solely by Wisconsin Coach Lines buses to Waukesha, Racine & Kenosha and for a short time Port Washington. Atop the bus terminal was (and still is) a 2 story parking garage. On the Wisconsin Avenue side Greyhound constructed a 20 story office building. In 2006 when the Amtrak station was remodeled and a bus area added to the west of it in what had been a freight yard (became) a new bus station (outdoor platforms only). Today the entire complex is the Milwaukee Intermodal station.”
Milwaukee streetcar 953 is at the west end of the long Wells Street viaduct (at 44th), circa 1955-58. (W. H. Higginbotham Photo)
A Milwaukee Route 10 streetcar is on the Wells Street viaduct on September 5, 1954. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
A Miller Brewery Company beer wagon at the base of the Wells Street viaduct on September 6, 1954. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
Route 10 streetcar 953 heads east on Wells Street in Milwaukee, having just passed the Pabst theater, on June 25, 1956. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
The same location in 2019.
The caption on this slide says, “M&S body replica at Fond du Lac station, August 4, 1957.”
Two Milwaukee streetcars, including 861, on Howell during a National Railway Historical Society fantrip on September 3, 1955. (Paul Kutta Photo) Larry Sakar: “Photo aad021a is correct. That is Howell Avenue where the streetcar is laying over. More specifically, it is the intersection of South Howell Ave, and East Howard Ave which was the end of the line for Route 11 Vliet-Howell and later just Howell when streetcars came off of Vliet St. For a while in the 40’s streetcars went about a mile farther south on Howell Avenue to the intersection of East Bolivar Ave. Before this became part of the city of Milwaukee this was the Town of Lake. This area was given the name Tippecanoe. If you would turn a bit more east, today on the southeast corner of Howell & Howard there is a branch of the Milwaukee Public Library appropriately called Tippecanoe. Library. MPL calls their branches, “Neighborhood libraries”.”
Milwaukee streetcar 903 is in white and green as the “Stay Alive” car on Route 10 on October 2, 1953. Larry Sakar: “This is car 943 the Milwaukee Safety Commission green and white car. Dave Stanley and some of the other Milwaukee TM fans I know have said that if streetcars had lasted until July of 1975 when the Milwaukee County Transit System took over M&STC this is what they’d have looked like sans the safety message. Here is the great irony involving car 943. It didn’t practice what it preached. It was wrecked in 1955 at 4th & Wells Sts. downtown when it collided with a city of Milwaukee garbage truck. OOPS!”
A Milwaukee Road Hiawatha train in Milwaukee in 1954. Larry Sakar: “aad013a is the original Milwaukee Road station at North 4th & W. Everett Streets. The easternmost part of the trainshed was kiddie-corner from the southwest corner of the Public Service Bldg. but the station building was at 4th St. fAcing the park that is still there.Over the years that park has had lord knows how many different names. Today it is called Zeidler Union Park. However the Zeidler for whom it’s named is not Frank who was Mayor of Milqwaukee from 1948-1960. The park is named for Frank’s older brother, Carl who was Mayor for just two years 1940 to the outbreak of WWII on 12-7-41. He was in the U.S. Naval; Reserve and was called to Active Duty early in 1942. He was killed in action when the ship he was on was torpedoed and sunk by a Japanese submarine. in 1943. Carl was a Democrat. Frank was a Socialist. The site of the Everett St. Milwaukee Road station is now I794. That row of smaller buildings to the right of the train belonged to the Railway Express Agency. After he was no longer employed as a towerman, the late Don Ross went to work for REA. Remember, when express died out on passenger trains they became REA Air Express but they didn’t last.”
A Chicago Aurora & Elgin freight train, led by electric locos 4005 and 4006, is at Lakewood on March 17, 1957. (James J. Buckley Photo)
Pacific Electric blimp car 401 is signed for San Pedro. We have no other information on this original red border Kodachrome slide, but PE service to San Pedro was replaced by bus on January 2, 1949.
The caption on this September 11, 1977 photo in New York City says, “Jamaica Avenue, 160th Street – Last train.” Bill Wasik writes, “Re the 9/11/1977 NYC photo: Exploring New York City a few months after moving there in 1977, I entered an uptown-bound subway train at a station near the New York Stock Exchange, intending to take a short ride north to Midtown Manhattan. Minutes later, I had to change my plans when the train suddenly emerged in sunlight on the Lower East Side and began to cross the Williamsburg Bridge heading east to Brooklyn. With nothing better to do on a nice late summer afternoon, I decided to take this “J” train to the end of the line, which at the time was near where the car shown in this photo is stopped. The setting here was an ancient elevated structure that ran above the Jamaica Avenue shopping district in Queens, apparently on the day Jamaica Line service (once known as the Broadway Elevated) was cut back from 160th Street west to Queens Boulevard. The structure shown here was demolished around 1980, with bus service and the 1988 opening of the Archer Avenue rapid transit lines eventually replacing portions of the old Broadway El west to 121st Street in Queens.”
Vintage District of Columbia streetcar 303 and trailer 1512 are on a May 1959 fantrip. There are no wires here, as underground conduit was used for power in DC. Don’s Rail Photos: “303 was built by American Car Co in 1898 as Capital Traction Co 303. It is now at the Smithsonian.”
Boston MTA PCC 3219 is about to descend into the Tremont subway entrance at Pleasant Street on April 23, 1960. This portal was closed on November 19, 1961 and sealed up. It is presently the location of Elliot Norton Park, although there have been proposals to reuse the portal.
The same location in 2020.
Baltimore Transit PCC 7102 is on route 8 – Irvington on November 2, 1963, in a view taken out of the front window of a PCC going the opposite way. Streetcar service in Baltimore ended the next day, but light rail returned to the city in 1992.
One of the two Liberty Liners (ex-North Shore Line Electroliners) on the Red Arrow’s Norristown High-Speed Line in March 1964. (David H. Cope Photo)
A two-car train of Bullets, near the Philadelphia city limits, in this October 26, 1946 photo by David H. Cope.
A Philadelphia and Western Bullet car is near the Norristown terminal on May 14, 1949.
Open car 20 on the Five Mile Beach Electric Railway in Wildwood, New Jersey on August 26, 1934. This car still exists and is now owned by the Liberty Historic Railway. In 2019 the body of car 20 was sent to Gomaco for restoration, in hopes it can operation once again in the future.
New Compact Disc, Now Available:
The Last Chicago Streetcars 1958
# of Discs – 1
Until now, it seemed as though audio recordings of Chicago streetcars were practically non-existent. For whatever reason, the late William A. Steventon does not appear to have made any for his Railroad Record Club, even though he did make other recordings in the Chicago area in 1956.
Now, audio recordings of the last runs of Chicago streetcars have been found, in the collections of the late Jeffrey L. Wien (who was one of the riders on that last car). We do not know who made these recordings, but this must have been done using a portable reel-to-reel machine.
These important recordings will finally fill a gap in transit history. The last Chicago Transit Authority streetcar finished its run in the early hours of June 21, 1958. Now you can experience these events just as Chicagoans did.
As a bonus, we have included Keeping Pace, a 1939 Chicago Surface Lines employee training program. This was digitally transferred from an original 16” transcription disc. These recordings were unheard for 80 years.
Total time – 74:38
Chicago’s Lost “L”s Online Presentation
We recently gave an online presentation about our book Chicago’s Lost “L”s for the Chicago Public Library, as part of their One Book, One Chicago series. You can watch it online by following this link.
The Trolley Dodger On the Air
We appeared on the Dave Plier Show on WGN radio on July 16, 2021, 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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