By 1932, with the onset of the Great Depression, it was no longer possible for private companies to make a reasonable profit operating public transit in Chicago. Revenues were insufficient to cover the expenses of offering convenient and frequent service to the public, especially when fares were kept artificially low through government regulation.
That the Chicago Surface Lines and Chicago Rapid Transit Company competed with each other, to some extent, only made the situation worse. Unifying the two companies became a civic priority, but several attempts to create a privately owned Chicago Transit Company failed in the 1930s and early 1940s.
Meanwhile, the City of Chicago built our first rapid transit subway between 1938 and 1943, with 45% funded by the Federal Government as a jobs program. With the end of World War II looming, Illinois politicians created the Chicago Transit Authority in 1945 as a semi-independent governmental body to operate local transit in nearly all of Cook County. This was approved by voters in a referendum.
The fledgling CTA started out as an offshoot of the City’s Department of Subways and Superhighways. The transition period between 1945 and 1947 saw the City, via the CTA, stage-manage transit matters while CSL and CRT continued to operate under the supervision of the bankruptcy courts.
The CTA was charged with streamlining and modernizing local transit, which was long overdue. While given no taxing authority, it could sell bonds backed by future transit revenues.
October 1, 2022 marks 75 years since the CTA took over the operations of CSL and CRT. By any standard, it has done a remarkable job and continues to do so. To celebrate this anniversary, the CTA brought several pieces of historic equipment to the Loop to give the public a taste of how transit ran in the past.
We were there to record these events in pictures and videos for your enjoyment. Cars 4271-4272 were built in 1923 and have been on the property for nearly a century now. They were last used in regular service in 1973 on the Evanston Express. Cars 6711-6712 date to 1959 and were used in regular service until 1992. They spent several years at a musdeum in St. Louis before returning to the CTA a few years ago.
New Book Update
FYI we recently turned in a second draft of our upcoming book The North Shore Line to Arcadia Publishing. I am pleased to report that the book has been expanded to 160 pages (from 128), a 25% increase. A publication date of February 20, 2023 has been announced, and we will begin our pre-sale on November 20 of this year.
PS- You might also like our Trolley Dodger Facebook auxiliary, a private group that now has 974 members.
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.
CTA at 75 Celebration
CTA at 75 Posters
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
Publisher Arcadia Publishing (SC), 2021
ISBN 1467100007, 9781467100007
Length 128 pages
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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