Railroad Record Club Treasure Hunt, Part 2

1 Selection of Steventon tapes mostly unreleased

1 Selection of Steventon tapes mostly unreleased

Following up on our recent post William A. Steventon’s Railroad Record Club (September 24, 2018), guest author Kenneth Gear continues with a detailed rundown on his latest discoveries.

I have been interested in historic preservation for a long time, and it’s not every day that anyone comes across original material such as this. Suddenly, out of nowhere it seems, previously unknown, unissued audio recordings have emerged for some long-vanished steam and electric railroads, along with 16mm motion picture film, and various artifacts related to the Railroad Record Club’s 42 issued LPs, in their various forms. It seems like a miracle that somehow, it all survived to be rescued from oblivion.

Getting this done involved a tremendous financial sacrifice on Ken’s part, as he is of modest means. I hope that he will be able to recoup at least some of his substantial investment in the future. I am sure he will appreciate any contributions you may be able to offer him, towards the cost of transferring some of these reel-to-reel tapes and 16mm movie films to digital.

You can find Part 1 here: Railroad Record Club Treasure Hunt (July 30, 2017)

-David Sadowski

PS- Our new book Building Chicago’s Subways is now available for immediate shipment.  If you already pre-ordered it, your copy is already on its way to you.  We are excited to have had the opportunity to tell the story of this exciting chapter in Chicago history.  Details on how to order are at the end of this post.

Railroad Record Club Treasure Hunt, Part 2

It’s been over a year since I acquired a large portion of the William Steventon estate. The Railroad Record Club items that I purchased last year have enabled David and I to piece together a fairly complete history of the RRC and to more fully appreciate the time and effort Mr. Steventon put into producing these records. The homemade 78rpm records alone proved to be an invaluable resource. Not only did they provide us with some wonderful recordings, most of which hadn’t been heard in over fifty years, they revealed the pre-history of the club and offered a glimpse into the infancy of railroad field recording.

We were able to hear the very first railroad recording Steventon made– B&O trains at Riverdale, Maryland in 1953. We also finally completed our quest to get a copy of every single released RRC record digitized and put on CDs. We are now only in need of two samplers, the 5th and 6th years. More interesting information was garnered from examining original record jacket artwork and paste up boards, as well as the metal print blocks. We were also able to compile a list of records re-issued on 12″ stock and find out what was necessary for it to happen and the cost of doing it.

Photographs from his personal collection were scanned and published in the Trolley Dodger for all to enjoy. I think the effort that went into keeping all this material from ending up in a dumpster was well worth the time and expense and I’m happy to have been involved.

In spite of this, I knew the job was only half finished. There was much more that needed to be saved and time was running out. Those tapes I wrote about under the heading “what I left behind” in the first treasure hunt story needed to be preserved. There were still a big box of photos, reams of correspondence, the metal master discs for the 12″ reissues and lots and lots of sealed records.

The estate dealer was quite adamant that this stuff had to go…and quickly! I purchased all that I could, but I certainly could not afford to buy anything else and asked for some time to raise the money. As I tried to come up with the extra cash needed, months went by and the emails ceased. For a while it seemed that all this great material would be lost. Still, I squirreled away what money I could when I could and slowly, much too slowly, I approached his asking price. With the funds in hand, I emailed the estate dealer putting in the subject line that I HAD the money for the remaining Steventon estate items. Even as I composed that email I couldn’t be sure that the entire lot wasn’t already in some land fill rotting away. He answered me the next day, but it seemed a lot longer then that to me. His first two sentences were a relief:  

Ken, good to hear from you.  Yes, it is all as we left it a year ago.

There was one complication that needed to be addressed. I could not make the trip up to him in Wisconsin this year as I had done before. All the items would have to be shipped to me in New Jersey.

The estate dealer was agreeable to packing up the items and doing the weighing and making the transportation arrangements, but again there was a complication. This was his busy season and he would be working extensively out of town.  He would not be able to devote much time to this effort for the next few weeks. A little progress was made here and there through the rest of June and I purchased boxes and packing material in July. I was a little apprehensive about shipping old open reel tapes and vinyl records during the hottest part of the summer anyway, so I just had to be patient. In early August progress was made and on the 13th I received the long-awaited email:

The last box is packed.  You’ll have a pallet coming that’s right around 400 pounds, perhaps a touch over.  Nine boxes to be delivered to the YRC terminal. 

Several more delays would still be encountered, not the lest of which was the local hardware store’s forklift needing repairs. The hardware store, for a $20 fee, would be used to lift the pallet onto the truck. At last, in early September, with all hurdles cleared, a newly-repaired forklift placed the shipment on to the truck. Finally, the second half of the Steventon estate’s Railroad Record Club items were on their way to me.

A few days later I heading to the local YRC terminal to receive the long-awaited shipment. After some paperwork in the office, I backed a borrowed ¾-ton pick-up truck to the indicated bay. Soon a forklift lowered the last of the Railroad Record Club items from the Steventon estate into the truck bed. I now had a night of treasure hunting to look forward to!

I had sort of “cherry picked” the first half of the estate, so I knew that a great unexpected find was rather doubtful, but I did come across a few surprises.

THE TAPES

2 Tapes appear to be in good condition

2 Tapes appear to be in good condition

3 Tape with hand written track listing

3 Tape with hand written track listing

4 More unreleased Steventon audio

4 More unreleased Steventon audio

5 Lots of interesting material on these tapes

5 Lots of interesting material on these tapes

6 Still more intersting tapes

6 Still more intersting tapes

7 Unreleased audio this is why I bought the whole lot

7 Unreleased audio this is why I bought the whole lot

8 Steventon tapes

8 Steventon tapes

9 More Stevnton tapes

9 More Stevnton tapes

10 Even more tapes

10 Even more tapes

11 Small reels -the master tapes for the 78rpm records

11 Small reels -the master tapes for the 78rpm records

12 Another view of the Small reels -the master tapes for the 78rpm records

12 Another view of the Small reels -the master tapes for the 78rpm records

13 A box full of the Small reels -the master tapes for the 78rpm records

13 A box full of the Small reels -the master tapes for the 78rpm records

14 Close up of the 78rpm record master tapes

14 Close up of the 78rpm record master tapes

15 Another Close up of the 78rpm record master tapes

15 Another Close up of the 78rpm record master tapes

16 78rpm master tapes showing condition of tapes-not too bad

16 78rpm master tapes showing condition of tapes-not too bad

17 close up of 78rpm master tape showing condition

17 close up of 78rpm master tape showing condition

18 BC Electric and Montreal & South Counties tapes with Steventon letter

18 BC Electric and Montreal & South Counties tapes with Steventon letter

19 Montreal & South Counties tape with Steventon letter

19 Montreal & South Counties tape with Steventon letter

20 BC Electric tape with Steventon letter

20 BC Electric tape with Steventon letter

21 Close up of the BC Electric and Montreal & South Counties tapes

21 Close up of the BC Electric and Montreal & South Counties tapes

22 Railroad Record Club Master tapes

22 Railroad Record Club Master tapes

23 Master tape for record 26

23 Master tape for record 26

24 A stack of 22 Railroad Record Club Master tapes

24 A stack of 22 Railroad Record Club Master tapes

25 master tape Railroad Record Club number 16

25 master tape Railroad Record Club number 16

26 master tape Railroad Record Club number 15

26 master tape Railroad Record Club number 15

27 master tape Railroad Record Club with memo

27 master tape Railroad Record Club with memo

28 master tape Railroad Record Club number 17

28 master tape Railroad Record Club number 17

29 master tape Railroad Record Club number 18

29 master tape Railroad Record Club number 18

30 Note on box containing master tape Railroad Record Club number 18

30 Note on box containing master tape Railroad Record Club number 18

31 Two master tapes for record number 3

31 Two master tapes for record number 3

32 Two master tapes for record number 3 showing condition

32 Two master tapes for record number 3 showing condition

33 master tape Railroad Record Club number 7

33 master tape Railroad Record Club number 7

34 master tapes Railroad Record Club number 10

34 master tapes Railroad Record Club number 10

35 master tape Railroad Record Club number 23 with memo

35 master tape Railroad Record Club number 23 with memo

36 master tape Railroad Record Club number 17

36 master tape Railroad Record Club number 17

The reel to reel tapes that I had left behind last year were the real reason I went to all this trouble and expense to acquire the rest of the estate. I’m sure I did not get any of the tapes that were actually in Steventon’s recorder when he was trackside, but they may no longer exist. Perhaps he transferred these “field tapes” to newer tape stock, in an effort to preserve them and some of these duplicates are what I received. There is at least one recording I know he made that is not among my tapes. In the liner notes of Record Number 20, Steventon writes that the cab ride onboard NYC # 1441 with his father at the throttle was edited down from over two hours of tape. I would have been very happy to find 4 or 5 reels of tape marked “cab ride with Dad” but it was not to be. What I did find, however, is some very good and interesting stuff, most of which has never been released on a Railroad Record Club LP.

One tape that was a bit of a surprise was a 4″ reel of tape marked NYS&W. Of all the railroads in the New York area, why the Susquehanna? If he recorded this tape while in New York to ride and record the Queensboro Bridge trolley, which had to be prior to April 1957 when that line shut down, then why not record PRR K-4s on the New York & Long Branch which lasted until October of that year? Or all those electric locomotives on the NYC and NYNH&H? Perhaps he did record some or all these railroads and I just don’t have the tapes. Anything is possible, but I have found no evidence that he ever did. I’ll just have to wait until I have the NYS&W tape put on CD to find out just what the attraction may have been.

Other interesting finds include three 5″ reels of a fan trip operated by the Northern Pacific Railroad on June 20, 1957. 4-8-4 # 2686 pulled the train from St. Paul, MN to Staples. One tape is labeled “NP 2686-LV MPLS,” the second NP 2686 coal dock stop,” and the last, “NP 2686 LV Staples.” There was also a negative of the NP 2686 at Staples found among the photographs. Other steam and/or diesel tapes are labeled “CPR,” “NKP Ft. Wayne,” “N&W,” and “Soo Line.”

The traction fans among us will be happy to know there is plenty for them. The CNS&M has several tapes devoted to it. One tape is marked “CNS&M switching at Rondout and Mundelein”. There is a cut on Record 26 of locomotive # 459 switching at Rondout, but not at Mundelein. Another North Shore tape is marked “Mundelein Run” and another simply ” Mundelein”. One more CNS&M tape has “Electroliner” written on the box.

There is a tape marked “ITS 202”, apparently Steventon preferred Illinois Traction System to Illinois Terminal. On Record 25 Steventon wrote in the liner notes, “We had just arrived (at Harristown, IL) on interurban No. 202 where we had made an “on train” recording east from Springfield. We alighted and watched the 202 fade into the distance. This was the last sight and sound we had of the Illinois Terminal as an interurban. The “on train” recording of 202 and a streamliner is scheduled for release at a later date.” It never was. I don’t know about the streamliner recording, I may or may not have it, but I will consider it a privilege to be involved with releasing the 202 recording for him.

There are also tapes of the Cedar Rapids & Iowa City (CRANDIC), Charles City Western, Toledo & Eastern, and Capital Transit. Canadian traction fans are not overlooked either. There is a 5″ reel of the Niagara, St. Catharines & Toronto Railway. There are also two 5″ reels, one each, of the BC Electric and the Montreal & Southern Counties. These two tapes were recorded by Eugene Van Dusen, and the accompanying letter to Steventon, plus a copy of it sent to Elwin Purington, were found among some RRC papers I have. Another reel of tape not recorded by Steventon is “Cincinnati Street Railway Car 187 12/13/51.” Finding this was a nice surprise. I don’t know who did record it, but Steventon did not start making recordings until 1953.

Here is the entire list of the tape reels, excluding 21/2″ reels which I’ll list separately, and the master tapes for the LPs,

REEL TO REEL TAPES

INFORMATION MARKED ON TAPE BOXES

4″ reels:

1. NYS&W

5″ reels:

1. CPR-J. Van Brocklin
2. Soo Line
3. T&E NKP Diesel-NKP Ft. Wayne
4. N&W
5. N&W from Salem
6. N&W Billy + Larry on end
7. NP 2686 Lv Mpls-6/20/57
8. NP 2686 coal dock stop
9. NP 2686 Lv Staples
10. B. C. Electric
11. Montreal & Southern Counties
12. Potomac Edison #5
13. Potomac Edison H&F last run radio program
14. CNS&M -switching at Rondout and Mundelein
15. Mundelein Run
16. Capital Transit co 1151
17. ITS car 202
18. Cedar Rapids and Iowa City 5/31/53
19. CCW 5/18/54*
20. CCW CC to Colwell
21. Toledo & Eastern
22. PRR GG-1s

7″ reels:

1. Railroading in Spooner Wisconsin
2. CNS&M Electroliner
3. N. St. C & Toronto
4. Johnstown Traction and Altoona & Logan Valley
5. Cincinnati Street Railway car 187 12/13/51

The next bunch of tapes are smaller reels. These 21/2″ reels are in their original manufacture’s boxes and are marked only with a Railroad name and a catalog number. The catalog numbers correspond with the catalog numbers on the 10″ 78rpm acetate records that I acquired with the first half of the estate. As producing these records was a very time-consuming task, Steventon saved time by making a master tape for each record. The master tape would contain his spoken introductions followed by the train sounds. I bought over sixty of these small master tapes, and a large number have never been put on the regular Railroad Record Club releases. They contain sounds of railroads I was completely unaware Steventon ever recorded, such as L&N, Southern, and Virginian. This collection also contains the Queensboro Bridge trolley, the IND subway, and the Third Avenue EL recordings Steventon made in New York City.

21/2″ reels:

1. Potomac Edison, 4 reels
2. Shenandoah Central, 2 reels
3. Capital Transit, 3 reels
4. Altoona & Logan Valley, 2 reels
5. B&O, 9 reels
6. Shaker Heights RT, 3 reels
7. PRR, 5 reels
8. NKP, 1 reel
9. St. Louis PS, 1 reel
10. Illinois Terminal, 2 reels
11. ICRR 3 reels
12. N&W, 1 reel
13. WM Rwy, 1 reel
14. Baltimore Transit, 2 reels
15. Senate Subway, 1 reel
16. Scranton Transit, 1 reel
17. Rochester Subway, 1 reel
18. CB&Q, 2 reels
19. Niagara, St. C & T, 2 reels
20. Virginian, 2 reels
21. Southern, 2 reels
22. Queensboro Bridge, 2 reels
23. Wabash, 1 reel
24. Third Ave. EL, 2 reels
25. Soo Line, 5 reels
26. L&N, 2 reels
27. St. Elizabeth Hospital, 1 reel (used steam switcher to move coal hoppers)
28. Omaha Road, 1 reel
29. NYC IND Subway, 1 reel
30. Unidentified, 4 reels

This is not a complete set of all the master tapes made for the 78rpm records to be sure, but it’s most of them. I consider it a small miracle that any survive at all! I am not an audio expert, but in my opinion, uninformed as it may be, these tapes appear to be in reasonably good condition. I would think that the tapes would be able to withstand a few more plays, enough to be digitized at least. Neither David nor I have the equipment to attempt this and I think it would be ill advised of us to try anyway. The tapes are old and were not stored in archival conditions. I’m sure the prudent course of action is to entrust any work on them to a professional.

The last batch of tapes are the master tapes made for the released Railroad Record Club LPs. There are different size reels, some tapes are only of one side of the LP while others have both sides on the same reel. Some are in good condition and some are not. Some I have multiple copies of and a few of the LPs I have no tapes for, Rather then make a complete list of every reel I will simply list the few LPs I have NO master tapes for.

No master tapes:

RRC 21
RRC 24
RRC 29
RRC 31
RRC SP-2
RRC SP-4
RRC SP-6

Most of these reels are 7″ with only a few smaller or larger. The most interesting master tapes are the reels for RRC 3 EBT/D&RGW. There are two 7″ reels that most likely have the original release version of the record, the one with William Steventon’s narration. There are also two 5″ reels, one marked “sounds only” and the other labeled “Narrative.” Since Steventon removed his voice from the 12″reissue of the record, the “Narrative” tape must contain just the voice of Elwin Purington doing the new narration.

I’m not sure just what to do with these master tapes. Some are in rough shape and all these sounds are on the released Railroad Record Club LPs. It certainly would be a considerable expense to digitize them all and no new sounds would be gained. For now, I’ll store them in the best possible conditions that I can provide and perhaps one day a clear path of action will present itself.

MOVIE FILMS

1 Steventon Film that should be all trains

1 Steventon Film that should be all trains

2 Capital Transit B&W Night Film

2 Capital Transit B&W Night Film

3 Steventon film

3 Steventon film

4 Pennsy and B&O film

4 Pennsy and B&O film

5 Back of Kodachrome box

5 Back of Kodachrome box

6 Front of kodachrome box

6 Front of kodachrome box

I found several rolls of 16mm movie film within the boxes of audio tapes. Fortunately, Steventon was very good at labeling everything. He inserted little slips of paper into the film boxes listing the contents of the films. Unfortunately, the majority are family home movies. Most are of Steventon’s son Seth. His first day of school, Christmases, and birthday parties. There were six 100-foot reels that should be all trains.

16mm movies;

1. 100-foot reel but only about 50 feet of film. Labeled “Pennsy Fan Trip and B&O near Riverdale.”
2. 100-foot reel, full, labeled “Canada Term”. I’m not sure what that is supposed to indicate. I unspooled a few feet of film and the first few frames are without a doubt a steeple cab locomotive.
3. 100-foot reel, full, B&W, labeled “Cap Transit Night Film.”
4. 100-foot reel, full, labeled “EBT Reel 1.”
5. 100-foot reel, full, labeled “EBT Reel 2.”
6. 100-foot reel, full, labeled “Negative 1R Freight” Also written on box “bad footage.”

PRINT BLOCKS

1 Selection of print blocks

1 Selection of print blocks

2 More print blocks

2 More print blocks

3 Still more print blocks

3 Still more print blocks

4. Print block for very early RRC traction logo

4. Print block for very early RRC traction logo

5. Railroad Record Club logo print block

5. Railroad Record Club logo print block

6 Another style Railroad Record Club logo print block

6 Another style Railroad Record Club logo print block

7 Interurban car fron LP Sound Scrapbook-Traction

7 Interurban car fron LP Sound Scrapbook-Traction

8 Interurban car fron LP Sound Scrapbook-Traction in two sizes

8 Interurban car fron LP Sound Scrapbook-Traction in two sizes

9 PRR steamer from 1st edition of RRC 10 in two sizes

9 PRR steamer from 1st edition of RRC 10 in two sizes

10 D&RGW locomotive from the 1st edition of the LP the Siverton Train

10 D&RGW locomotive from the 1st edition of the LP the Siverton Train

11A Print block for NKP LP

11A Print block for NKP LP

12 Ad for RRC 25

12 Ad for RRC 25

13 Ad for RRC 25 reversed

13 Ad for RRC 25 reversed

14 Print block for large ad

14 Print block for large ad

15 Print block for large ad reversed

15 Print block for large ad reversed

16 Ad for traction watch fobs

16 Ad for traction watch fobs

17 Ad for steam LPs

17 Ad for steam LPs

18 Ad for steam LPs reversed

18 Ad for steam LPs reversed

19 Strange RRC ad

19 Strange RRC ad

20 Strange RRC ad printed version

20 Strange RRC ad printed version

I also acquired a good number of print blocks, which are mostly quite small and were used in the RRC advertisements.  I have a bunch of print blocks of the LP covers, all about the size of a postage stamp. They were used in ads and in the catalogs. There are a few complete ads that mostly feature a single record release. One large ad of interest is a very 1960’s, almost psychedelic illustration of a steam locomotive looming over a record player. Smoke is shooting from it’s stack and entwined within the billows of smoke are such things as a whistle blowing, a box cab electric locomotive, and a steam train. LPs are seen flying through the air and the words “steam and electric recordings” in twisted snake-like lettering fills the upper portion. Wild and unexpected. I would certainly like to know if this ad ever appeared anywhere in print.

I did not make a list of these small print blocks, there are just too many. I did photograph a representative selection of them. These photos will give a good idea of what is in the collection.

RECORDS

1 41 copies of RRC 3

1 41 copies of RRC 3

2 18 copies of RRC 5

2 18 copies of RRC 5

3 RCA test pressing for Sound Scrapbook Steam showing notation on upper left of sleeve

3 RCA test pressing for Sound Scrapbook Steam showing notation on upper left of sleeve

4 RCA test pressing for Illinois Terminal one of only 3 good discs

4 RCA test pressing for Illinois Terminal one of only 3 good discs

5 Back of RCA test pressing for Illinois Terminal

5 Back of RCA test pressing for Illinois Terminal

6 Close up of RCA test pressing for Illinois Terminal

6 Close up of RCA test pressing for Illinois Terminal

7 Close up of RCA test pressing for NKP

7 Close up of RCA test pressing for NKP

8 RCA test pressing for CN showing damage

8 RCA test pressing for CN showing damage

9 Metal press stamp

9 Metal press stamp

10 Metal press stamp with cardboard sleeve

10 Metal press stamp with cardboard sleeve

11 RRC Nashville Metal press stamp

11 RRC Nashville Metal press stamp

12 Metal press stamps in cardboard sleeves for RRC4 B&O

12 Metal press stamps in cardboard sleeves for RRC4 B&O

13 3 RRC Nashville Metal press stamps

13 3 RRC Nashville Metal press stamps

14 Metal press stamp for RRC LP

14 Metal press stamp for RRC LP

15 Railroad Record Club SP-4 boxes and sleeves

15 Railroad Record Club SP-4 boxes and sleeves

16 Record jackets for each of the 3 records in the SP-4 set

16 Record jackets for each of the 3 records in the SP-4 set

17 Label for 1st edition of record 1 side 1 of RRC-SP4

17 Label for 1st edition of record 1 side 1 of RRC-SP4

18 Label for 2nd edition of record 1 side 1 of RRC-SP4

18 Label for 2nd edition of record 1 side 1 of RRC-SP4

19 Label for 3rd edition of record 1 side 1 of RRC-SP4

19 Label for 3rd edition of record 1 side 1 of RRC-SP4

Since the estate dealer would only sell me the tapes unless I bought the entire lot, including the remainder of the RRC LP stock, I had no choice but to buy them. I’ll admit I would not have wanted to see all these mint condition, still sealed LPs go in the trash, but what am I going to do with them and where am I going to store them? These questions I’m still contemplating. However, these concerns are secondary to preserving and digitizing the tapes. I have a few options, I can rent a table at a few railroadiania swap meets, contact a few local hobby stores and see if they are willing to sell some, and David and I have been thinking of making them available through the blog.

I’ll have to carefully consider my options. It would be nice to make a little of my money back and put it towards digitizing tapes. For the record, here is a list of the 12″ remasters. They are all still sealed and, for the most part, in mint condition. A few may have a bend or crease in the jackets and a few copies of RRC 20 have brown water stains in the lower right corner.

12″ remaster LPs:

41 copies of RRC 3, EBT/D&RGW
18 copies of RRC 5, D7rgw
36 copies of RRC 8 CN
29 copies of RRC 3 15, CB&Q
34 copies of RRC 16, Westside Lumber
25 copies of RRC 20, NYC/C&IM (6 copies have water damage)
15 copies of RRC 26, CNS&M Freight
22 copies of RRC 29, NKP 779

Included with the unsold record stock were several mint copies of the original 10″ LPs:

10″ LPs:
1 copy RRC 2, WCF&N
1 copy RRC 4, B&O
2 copies of RRC 5, D&RGW
1 copy RRC 7, N&W
1 copy RRC 8, CN
1 copy RRC 10, PRR
1 copy RRC 16, Westside Lumber
1 copy RRC 17, Soo Line
1 copy RRC 19, DM&IR
1 copy RRC 20, NYC/C&IM
8 copies of RRC 28, Charles City Western
1 copy RRC 29, NKP 779
1 copy RRC SP-2 NP 2626

Twenty-four RCA test pressing were included in the sale, ten 12″ pressings and fourteen 10″. All these pressings are stamped on one side only and on the paper sleeve of two of the 12″ pressings there is a hand-written note: “Masters will be 12 inch”. This is the one rather disheartening part of the story. All but three of these test pressings are in very poor condition. The accrete has flaked off in large chips. When I removed the disc from the paper sleeve to determine its condition, a black snowfall often resulted. I’m not sure what to do with these, they are really just trash now. I will photograph the label of each one for my archive but after that, I just don’t know. The three good discs are two 12″ pressings for both sides of RRC 15, CB&Q. It’s lucky that the only undamaged 12″ RCA test pressings are for the two sides of the same record. The one good 10″ disc is for side 2 of RRC 25, Illinois Terminal.

The metal stamping plates vary in condition. I was able to inspect these plates while at the dealer’s property last July, so I knew what to expect. I turned them down last year to save my money for what I considered the good stuff, the artwork and 78rpm records. All the original RCA stamp plates were lost in 1973, necessitating the 12″ remaster program. These plates are the Nashville-made stamps made in the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s. As I remember it, all 17 master plates were in the dealer’s warehouse. I only looked at them briefly but the top few were scratched and dented. Now, if I wanted the tapes, I had to buy them. Here I did a little dealing. Since these plates were a bit heavier than the records and I was paying for shipment by the pound, I convinced the dealer to choose a few of the stamps that were in the best condition. Those in poor condition he would not charge me for and he could discard them. The archivist in me wanted to save them all, but compromises must occasionally be made.

In all I got twelve of these stamps, five are 14″ and 7 are 12″.

I ended up with a bunch of returned records as well. Numbering somewhere around fifteen or twenty, these records were returned by buyers dissatisfied with them.  Most of them have a note attached with the buyer’s name and his complaint. Things such as scratches, surface noise, and various clicks and pops were the most often cited reasons for the return.

An interesting find was various copies of the records that comprise the three-record set of SP-4. I was able to put together a set of each of the three pressings this set had. A surprise was a set of these records not in the display box that they came in, but in three separate record jackets. Each jacket had the same drawing of CSS&SB MU #108 that appeared on the box lid. Perhaps this was some sort of test printing or the original idea for the jackets. I may never know but I’m sure it is a unique set.

PHOTOGRAPHS

NP 4-8-4 2686

NP 4-8-4 2686

CA&E Elgin train on street in Aurora IL 1931

CA&E Elgin train on street in Aurora IL 1931

Capital Transit PCC and bus Catholic University

Capital Transit PCC and bus Catholic University

D&RGW 476 locomotive featured on SP-1

D&RGW 476 locomotive featured on SP-1

D&RGW 481

D&RGW 481

Des Moines & Central Iowa car 1710

Des Moines & Central Iowa car 1710

EBT 15 on a rainy day very likely while record 3 was being recorded

EBT 15 on a rainy day very likely while record 3 was being recorded

Evansville & Ohio Valley car 134

Evansville & Ohio Valley car 134

Ill Terminal car 285

Ill Terminal car 285

Ill Terminal local on Caldwell Hill East Pearia about 1936

Ill Terminal local on Caldwell Hill East Pearia about 1936

Indiana box car 550

Indiana box car 550

Indiana RR 752 waiting for loads at mine scale

Indiana RR 752 waiting for loads at mine scale

Indiana RR car 64

Indiana RR car 64

Indiana RR car 93 at Anderson IN September 4 1938

Indiana RR car 93 at Anderson IN September 4 1938

Indiana RR Vigo with rails ripped out.

Indiana RR Vigo with rails ripped out.

Interstate car 711 ex-IPSC 427 September 3 1939

Interstate car 711 ex-IPSC 427 September 3 1939

Interstate car 711 on shop siding west of Greencastle June 3 1939

Interstate car 711 on shop siding west of Greencastle June 3 1939

Interurban car 44 and REA truck Rosslyn VA

Interurban car 44 and REA truck Rosslyn VA

MC&CL RR car 34

MC&CL RR car 34

MC&CL Steeple cab 52

MC&CL Steeple cab 52

Nice right of way photo but no info other than date March 31 1936

Nice right of way photo but no info other than date March 31 1936

S T F Co RR 54 Farmington MO

S T F Co RR 54 Farmington MO

Unidentified car and person

Unidentified car and person

Unidentified steeple cab locomotive

Unidentified steeple cab locomotive

Unidentified steeple cab locomotive photo 2

Unidentified steeple cab locomotive photo 2

Waterloo Cedar Falls & Northern car 100 this car is featured on RRC 2

Waterloo Cedar Falls & Northern car 100 this car is featured on RRC 2

Here again I had to do a little dealing. I went quickly through the box of Steventon photos last year, choosing about 20 photos to purchase. The box contained a mix of railroad photos and family snap shots. The family photos outnumbered the trains. Again, I did not want to pay for, or have the added weight of photos that were just going to be tossed away. Steventon’s son was the one who sold all this family history in the first place, so I saw no reason to try and get it back to him. The dealer agreed to sort the photos and sell and ship only railroad photos. He would discard the unwanted photos.

In all there are 135 photos of railroad equipment, mostly traction subjects. Some have complete caption information, and some have nothing. There are 23 photos of active traction right-of-ways but no caption information. 24 photos of abandoned traction right-of-ways have no captions. I cannot be sure if it is a “before” and “after” series of 27 photos. I also received 11 steam negatives, the aforementioned NP 4-8-4 # 2686 (two almost identical shots at Staples, MN) and several D&RGW narrow gauge roster photos. There is one EBT negative and a shot of a steam tractor.  I haven’t had time to scan all of these photos yet, but they will appear in the Trolley Dodger as I do. For now, here are a few scans to whet your appetite.

DOCUMENTS

Stack of prints of Soo 2715

Stack of prints of Soo 2715

VHS VIDEO TAPES 

There was one last surprise waiting for me. There are eight VHS video tapes in the estate lot, seven of which were professionally produced programs of traction subjects, several of which Steventon provided audio for. One tape on a store-bought blank was labeled simply “Railroad Programs”. I thought it was most likely a tape of TV shows about trains, but I popped it in the player just to see. It turned out to be a recording of a presentation that Steventon made to a local historical society. The video quality is bad, but you can hear everything he says perfectly.

It’s all really basic stuff, what you would expect him to present to a general audience. Such things as the appeal of a steam locomotive, the nicknames of various railroad job positions like “Hogger” for engineer etc.  He then gets into the “sound portion” of his talk. He has a reel to reel tape player with him, and he explains the use of whistle signals and then plays a cut of a B&O EM-1 from Record number 4, noting the “two longs-a short-and another long” signal for a road crossing. He then goes into how a steam locomotive gains traction. Here he plays the sequence of SOO Line 2718 backing off the wye track from the intro record. He stops the tape at places to note the change in the locomotive’s sound and what that indicates to the engineer. Next, he talks about the use of torpedoes as a signaling device and plays a cut from Record number 8. He never says that these sounds are from his records. In fact, he never mentions that he ever sold records and the Railroad Record Club is not once referenced.

He eventually brings out a chart of steam locomotive wheel arrangements.  He walks out of frame with it, but you can still hear what he is saying. At some point someone thinks to pan the camera around, but the view is only the back of the chart!

By the time he finishes with the chart, the program has gone on for about 40 minutes. Now he introduces “Whistle ‘Round the Bend” and plays the entire record, all 30 minutes. While the camera never moves during this, and Steventon just sits there listening, it’s a bit of a poignant moment. The video quality, as I said, is poor, and he is in the center of a wide shot, but it’s still possible to see that he is moved by the words and sounds he his hearing.

While little information is given about how, where, or when the sounds he played were recorded a little more personal stuff is revealed. He tells of the day in 1936 that his mother died. His father was at work and needed to get home. The NYC put every opposing train on the siding and he had green signals the whole way. He also tells us that he was a sickly child and his father took him onboard the locomotive with him, even against the rules, because he wanted to spend time with him, and make William happy, as the doctors said he may not survive into adulthood.  With this video I was able to “know” William Steventon just a little bit better.

As I have these tapes put on to CD, they will be offered for sale in the online store. I bought these tapes not to just save them from destruction, but to have them made available to everyone who may be interested. I think that is perhaps the best way to ensure these historic sounds are preserved. Not just as a tribute to the people who recorded them who are now gone, but to ensure these sounds will endure to instruct and entertain future railfans long after we are gone too.

-Kenneth Gear

New Steam Audio CD:

FTS
Farewell To Steam
Mister D’s Machine
# of Discs – 1
Price: $14.99

Farewell To Steam
On February 6, 1955 the Santa Fe Railway ran a railfan train from Los Angeles to Barstow and back for the Railway Club of Southern California. This was Santa Fe’s last run powered by a steam locomotive over this route. The engine was a 4-8-4, #3759. We have used the original, rare 1955 mono version of this recording, and not the later 1958 reissue that had a bunch of echo added to create a fake stereo effect.

Mister D’s Machine
When diesel locomotives replaced steam in the 1950s, they offered a multitude of different sounds. This original 1963 stereo recording showcases the many sounds of diesels on the San Joaquin and Los Angeles Divisions of the Southern Pacific, including the Tahachappi Loop, an engineering feat that made modern railroading famous.

As with all of our recordings, this CD comes with the complete, original liner notes.

Total time – 72:56

Order Our New Book Building Chicago’s Subways

There are three subway anniversaries this year 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!

Bibliographic information:

Title Building Chicago’s Subways
Images of America
Author David Sadowski
Edition illustrated
Publisher Arcadia Publishing (SC), 2018
ISBN 1467129380, 9781467129381
Length 128 pages

Chapter Titles:
01. The River Tunnels
02. The Freight Tunnels
03. Make No Little Plans
04. The State Street Subway
05. The Dearborn-Milwaukee Subway
06. Displaced
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)

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

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William A. Steventon’s Railroad Record Club

William Steventon

William Steventon

Today’s post is the first of two by Kenneth Gear, long a friend of this blog. We have great news to report– Ken has finally been able to purchase all the remaining Railroad Record Club items from the dealer that purchased them many years ago from the estate of William A. Steventon, who died 25 years ago.

Ken details all that in another post, Railroad Record Club Treasure Hunt, Part 2. These new discoveries have enabled him to offer what is, to my knowledge, the first-ever comprehensive and factual history of William A. Steventon’s Railroad Record Club.

Thanks in great part to Ken’s dedication and persistence, you can find practically all the RRC’s 10″ and 12″ output, now digitized on compact discs for the 21st century, in our Online Store. We thank him for these efforts, and hope you will too.

-David Sadowski

INTRODUCTION

As regular readers of this blog know, David and I have been gathering bits and pieces of information about the Railroad Record Club and its founder, William A. Steventon. We wanted to get a better understanding of what went into making these records, and to put together a history of the club. David started the ball rolling in April 2015 when he wrote the first Trolley Dodger post about it. As soon as I read that post I jumped aboard having been interested in the subject for some time. Together we finally managed to accumulate enough separate fragments of the story so that when we put it all together, it formed an accurate outline of the events leading up to the formation of the club and offered some insight into its operation. We were also able to build a brief biological sketch of Mr. Steventon.

Separately David and I looked for any resource that might reveal some small bit of new information. We read liner notes, club newsletters, and we looked through back issues of magazines in search of RRC ads. We collected order blanks, and I purchased copies of records I already owned because they had club inserts tucked away in the jackets. I researched the meaning of the matrix codes engraved in the lead out grooves of the LPs to more accurately date them. We studied artwork and found some of Steventon’s personal correspondences.  Everything came together when I purchased a large collection of Railroad Record Club items from Steventon’s estate. Combing through this material finally gave us enough information so that David and I could piece together the Railroad Record Club story you are about to read.

There are still unanswered questions to be sure and there are also missing recordings. We haven’t been able to secure copies of the 5th and 6th year sampler records. We also can only speculate on how, to whom, and at what cost these sampler records were distributed.

If any readers have any RRC material, please contact David. We only ask for a scan of any paper work or leads you may be able to offer as to who might be able to help. Thank you.

I have recently been able to purchase the last of the Steventon estate items I left behind last year (more on that in A Railroad Record Club Treasure Hunt, Part 2) and with luck David and I will be able to put together a few more pieces of the Railroad Record Club puzzle.

WILLIAM STEVENTON & THE RAILROAD RECORD CLUB 

William A. Steventon was born in 1921 in Mount Carmel, Illinois, son of a locomotive engineer on the Big Four Railroad (New York Central). As a child he spent much of his time around the red brick passenger station and wooden freight house across from Main Street. The family eventually moved to Cairo, Illinois and there he would often ride in the locomotive cab with his father. In the liner notes to Record number 20- NYC/C&IM while describing an in-cab recording made with his father at the throttle, Steventon reminisces about his boyhood days spent there:

“It is strange that this recording should remind me of something that I had almost forgotten. If I hadn’t heard my father pull a whistle cord in 50 years, and in the distance I should hear a certain whistle, I would know that it was him. This recording also reminds me of the many times I had waited as a youngster for him to whistle near Cherry switch to let us know he was coming home from a north-end run. It reminds me of the many times I have walked down Washington Street in Cairo and heard him whistling in the yards.”

After serving in World War II Steventon married and took a government job. He and his wife settled in the Washington DC area and it is here that the Railroad Record Club story begins.

It all began when Steventon’s wife gave him a record of Railroad sound effects as a Christmas gift, most likely in 1952. While he was interested in the concept of recorded train sounds, he was very dissatisfied with this record. He was convinced that the sounds were not those of actual trains, that they were train “effects” created in a recording studio.  He wanted sound recordings of REAL trains. He purchased one of the new reel to reel tape recorders that had recently become available and in March 1953, set out to make his first railroad sound recordings.

First recording

First recording

The first recording he made was along the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad at the Riverdale, Maryland passenger station (MP 32.4 on the Washington Branch). As best as can be determined, the first train he recorded was # 523 the “MARYLANDER” powered by an EMD diesel (he did not make note of the locomotive number). His second train was powered by steam but in his haste to hear the recording immediately after making it, he accidently partially erased it! He wrote about his frustration in an article for TRACTION & MODELS Magazine:

“When we made our very first recording in 1953 we took the equipment to Riverdale, Maryland and recorded a steamer thundering past the B&O station. When it was gone we stopped the recorder, rewound the tape and played it back. Nothing happened-the tape was silent. we waited thinking that the steamer wasn’t within “hearing distance” as yet, but when it became evident that we should be hearing the sound, we investigated.  In our enthusiasm to “get recording” we had failed to become familiar with our equipment. Instead of pushing the playback key, we had pushed the record key and were erasing the sound we had just recorded.”

That partially erased recording, as well as the others he made that night, were discovered on a 78rpm acetate record in his estate. It is included on the Trolley Dodger Railroad Record Club Rarities Steam & Diesel CD.

During the next few years, Steventon made numerous railroad sound recordings, both in and around Washington DC and on trips to visit family in Illinois. Near Washington DC he recorded the streetcars of the Capital Transit Company, steam & diesels on the B&O, and Pennsy GG-1s. He even recorded the sounds of the Senate Subway. He made trips to Maryland to record the Western Maryland, the Hagerstown & Frederick interurban cars and freight box motors, and he rode and recorded the Baltimore streetcars. In Pennsylvania he recorded mainline steam on the PRR, revenue steam on the East Broad Top, and made extensive recordings of the Johnstown Traction Company and the Altoona & Logan Valley. In Illinois he captured the sounds of the New York Central, Chicago & Illinois Midland, Nickel Plate, Illinois Central, and Chicago Burlington & Quincy among others. He did recordings of the passenger and freight operations of the Midwestern electric railways including the Illinois Terminal, Chicago North Shore & Milwaukee, Chicago Aurora & Elgin and even recorded an entire run of Chicago South Shore & South Bend M.U. car # 108 from Chicago to South Bend. In Iowa he added the Waterloo, Cedar Falls & Northern, Southern Iowa, Cedar Rapids & Iowa City and Charles City Western. In his travels he made recordings of the Pacific Electric, Shaker Heights Rapid Transit, Wabash, Soo Line, Denver & Rio Grande Western narrow gauge, and Norfolk & Western. In a 1958 newspaper interview he stated he had traveled to fifteen states to record train sounds. It is quite an extensive output and not all of it has been pressed into vinyl or released on tape or CD.

All this recording did not come easily. Dragging the equipment from home to car and from car to trackside required the help of at least one other person. Steventon wrote about the difficulty of using this bulky equipment in the field:

“We had a 12-volt auto battery for the primary power source, a 12 v.d.c. to 110 v.a.c. rotary converter, a reel to reel recorder plus a satchel of extra equipment, tapes, and assorted material. Two men could struggle with all this equipment, but it required three men to carry everything with any degree of ease and mobility. In addition, we normally carried a battery charger for use with keeping the battery up to par during the night. This could be left in the auto during the day but was a very necessary part of our total equipment requirement.”

It is a wonder anyone was able to record anything, considering the burden it must have been to get all this stuff trackside. It makes one grateful for the ability to record high quality sound and high definition video with just a tiny cell phone as we can do today.

Steventon eventually took a job as manager of the Cream Valley Telephone Company and he and his wife moved to Hawkins, Wisconsin. There he would continue to make railroad sound recordings, start a family. and create the Railroad Record Club.

Doing all this traveling and making these recordings invariably put him in contact with like-minded people. It is safe to assume that they would want to trade and share the recordings they made with each other. In the mid-1950s this was no easy task. Modern home audio systems, as we think of them now, simply did not exist. The problem was made even worse if recordings were to be shared or sold to someone who did not make recordings themselves and therefore did not own a reel to reel tape player/recorder. While most people at the time did not own a tape player, a phonograph could be found in most homes.

Steventon pre-RRC 78rpm records

Steventon pre-RRC 78rpm records

If Steventon wanted to give or sell his recordings to many other people, they would have to be put onto phonograph records. This too, wouldn’t be easy. The solution was to procure a portable disc cutter. These machines became available for home use starting in about 1929 and were most often used to record things off the radio. The standard record format of the time was a disc ten inches in diameter and made of aluminum covered with acetate. The 78rpm playing speed yielded no more than five minutes of content per side. These records had to be made in real time and the record blanks were quite heavy compared to a modern vinyl record. To distill more and varied content on these homemade records, he spliced together all sorts of bits and pieces and recorded brief introductions to tell listeners what they were about to hear. He conceived a catalog numbering system and had rubber stamps made for the most popular titles, the rest having hand-written labels. Steventon produced an extraordinary amount of records this way. Finding a sizable collection of these acetate records in the Steventon estate reveled just how extensive the output was. Although a complete catalog listing of these records can not presently be made, the following partial list is still very impressive.

01. Potomac Edison (aka Hagerstown & Frederick)
02. Shenandoah Central
03. Capital Transit
04. Johnstown Traction
05. Altoona & Logan Valley
06. Baltimore & Ohio
07. Shaker Heights Rapid Transit
08. Claude Mahoney Radio Program about NRHS fantrip (1953)
09. Pennsylvania Railroad
10. Nickel Plate Road
11. St. Louis Public Service
12. Illinois Terminal
13. Illinois Central
16. Norfolk & Western
17. Western Maryland Railway
18. Baltimore Transit
19. Senate Subway (Washington, DC)
21. Rochester Subway
22. East Broad Top
23. Chicago, Burlington & Quincy
24. Chicago & Illinois Midland
25. Niagara, St. Catharines & Toronto
26. Virginian
28. Queensboro Bridge
29. Wabash
30. 3rd Avenue Elevated
31. Minneapolis, St Paul & Sault Ste Marie
32. Louisville & Nashville
34. St Elizabeth’s Hospital (hospital in Washington DC that used a 0-4-0T to move coal from the B&O.)
37. Independent Subway

It is worth noting that this numbering sequence is totally different from the later one adopted for the 10” records issued later.

Things were apparently going well for Steventon’s railroad record enterprise for a while but things were about to change. Long playing 33 1/3 rpm records made of lighter materials and with improved sound were beginning to gain in popularity. Record blanks and parts for the disc cutter would undoubtedly become harder to get. Steventon needed to have his records made by a professional record pressing company to continue selling them. Steventon would have to make new master tapes for each release because the new records, although still 10”, could hold fifteen minutes of sound on each side-a full half-hour altogether. This would be the equivalent of more then five of the old acetates. He would forgo, for the most part, his spoken introductions and provide printed notes on the cardboard record jackets. These notes could be pretty sparse at first, containing little more than the railroad and locomotive number.

RRC intro record

RRC intro record

RRC INTRO old SP5

RRC INTRO old SP5

Bill Steventon recording compressor noise on CNS&M interurban

Bill Steventon recording compressor noise on CNS&M interurban

Eventually he began to write extensive notes on separate sheets of paper that were inserted into the record jackets. In time, the first completed master tape was sent off to the RCA Custom Record facility in Indianapolis, Indiana and soon afterward the first official Railroad Record Club LP came into being. The record was titled simply INTRODUCTORY RECORD and carried no catalog number. Side one contained the sounds of Soo Line 4-6-2 # 2718 powering an August, 1955 fan trip between Minneapolis, Minnesota and Rice Lake, Wisconsin. Illinois Central 0-8-0 # 3509 switching at Centralia, Illinois was featured on the flip side. A look at the first four characters in the matrix code engraved into the lead-out grooves of a first edition of this record, G8OL, gives the following information: First is the date code-G indicates the record was manufactured in 1956, then the label code-8 showing it was a custom job that was re-recorded from the client’s source material. Next is the category code-O meaning it is a phonograph record, and the fourth character-L denoted the size, speed & groove, 10”, mono, & 331/3 rpm. The final numbers 0479 for side one and 0480 on side two were simply sequence numbers. The Introductory Record was therefore available for sale sometime in 1956 or perhaps 1957.

He made the decision to sell these new records not as a regular mail order business, but as a club. The club membership idea may have been the direct result of the expense associated with this new endeavor. He had to have the records pressed by RCA which required metal master plates to be made. Cardboard record jackets had to be purchased and be printed with photographs or drawings. Tape stock had to be bought for the making of the new master tapes. All in all, this must have been a considerable expense. Selling the records through a club meant that the members were required to purchase a set number of records and paying for them in advance, thereby guaranteeing he would get some return on all this investment. The club worked like this: Four records would be offered per year. Members could buy the records at the discounted price of $4 each providing they maintained membership by purchasing at least three of the selections. Membership expired upon the purchase of one year’s group. There were no membership dues, but records were paid for in advance to provide the necessary money to have the metal masters made.  Special pressings could be purchased at club prices but were not counted toward the three-record minimum. Non-members could buy individual LPs at $5.25 each. $4.00 for a LP record sounds like a bargain but remember those $4 in 1958 had the same buying power as $34.72 in 2018! These Records weren’t cheap. According to a 1958 interview he gave to the Milwaukee Sentinel, the club started off very well. The article stated that there were some 200 club members through out the United States and several foreign countries including New Zealand, Australia, England and Canada. It goes on to state he has already sold 1,000 records.

Steventon continued to sell his records through the yearly club membership plan until October 1965 when the club membership requirement was withdrawn. The records would now be sold separately and at the same price to everyone.

From 1957 with the release of the Introductory record until October 1965 when the last regularly scheduled production of a Railroad Record Club release (Record number 32-New York Central) was offered, Steventon produced thirty-two regular club releases and three special pressings. One more release, SP-4-CSS&SB would be released later that year. Afterwards, Steventon released Records Numbers 33-36 and special pressings numbers SP-5 (a reissue of the introductory record) and the last all new Railroad Record Club record in 1983, number SP-6 Milwaukee Road box cab electrics. Each record was simply numbered in the order it was produced.

RAILROAD RECORD CLUB TITLES
0 Soo Line, Illinois Central (Introductory Record)
1 Wabash Railroad, Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha
2 Waterloo, Cedar Falls & Northern, Southern Iowa Railway
3 Denver, Rio Grande & Western, East Broad Top
4 Baltimore and Ohio
5 Denver & Rio Grande Western
6 Potomac Edison (Hagerstown & Frederick)
7 Norfolk & Western, Illinois Central (Also includes a bit of Illinois Terminal Railroad)
8 Canadian National (aka Canadian Railroading in the Days of Steam)
9 Winston-Salem Southbound
10 Pennsylvania Railroad
11 Shaker Heights Rapid Transit
12 Duluth Missabe & Iron Range
13 Nickel Plate Road
14 Pacific Electric
15 Chicago, Burlington & Quincy
16 Westside Lumber Company
17 Minneapolis & St Paul, Sault Ste Marie Railway
18 Chicago, North Shore & Milwaukee
19 Duluth, Missabe & Iron Range
20 Chicago & Illinois Midland – New York Central
21 Duluth & Northeastern
22 Buffalo Creek & Gauley
23 Pennsylvania Trolleys
24 Canadian Pacific
25 Illinois Terminal Railroad
26 Chicago, North Shore & Milwaukee (freight)
27 Capital Transit Company
28 Charles City Western – Waterloo, Cedar Falls & Northern
29 Nickel Plate Road
30 Sound Scrapbook, Traction
31 Sound Scrapbook, Steam
32 New York Central
33 Chicago, South Shore & South Bend (freight)
34 Chicago, South Shore & South Bend (freight)
35 Milwaukee & Suburban Transport, Chicago, North Shore & Milwaukee
36 Chicago, Aurora & Elgin, Chicago Transit Authority

Special Pressings
SP1 The Silverton Train
SP2 Northern Pacific 2626 Memorial Album
SP3 Whistle ‘Round the Bend
SP4 Chicago, South Shore & South Bend Railroad (passenger)
SP5 Soo Line, Illinois Central
SP6 The Milwaukee Road (electric freight)

He also produced several “sampler” records which contain short snippets of tracks from the LP records.

THE RAILROAD RECORD CLUB SAMPLERS

1st & 2nd Year Sampler:  (short excerpts from records 1 to 4 on side one & records 5 to 8 on side two)
3rd & 4th Year Sampler: (short excerpts from records 9 to 12 on side one & records 13 to 16 on side two)
5th Year Sampler: (short excerpts from records 17 to 20 recorded on one side only)
6th Year Sampler: (short excerpts from records 21 to 24 recorded on one side only)
7th & 8th Year Sampler: (short excerpts from records 25 to 28 on side one & records 29 to 32 on side two)

Among these forty-two LPs there are some real gems. He certainly started off strong with Record Number one. On side two there is one of his best “sound picture” type recordings. It features Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha 2-8-0 # 219 switching in the yards at Spooner, Wisconsin on a dark misty night in October of 1955. This was one of his favorite audio sequences and he described it like this in the record’s reissue liner notes:

“Close your eyes and imagine you are in a Pullman berth. Your passenger train has stopped at the station and you are sleepily listening to this nearby switching movement.” And from the notes to the original release: “That night in October of 1955 was very dark, moonless and misting heavily. The sulfuric, yet nostalgic odor of coal smoke drifted sluggishly over the Spooner, Wisconsin yards as the sound of exhausts and squealing brakes seeped through the murky atmosphere. A dim yellow light at the south end of the station platform rocked in the wind, flicking shadows to and fro over the moving cars.” 

If you don’t feel the dampness, smell the coal smoke, or find that you need to shake off a chill while listening to this, you’re just not trying.

There are so many remarkable sound sequences on these LPs that it would be impossible to list them all, Some of the most interesting ones include:  a D&RGW narrow gauge train with a mid-train helper on Cumbres Pass on Record number 3, the B&O EM-1 stopping and starting sequences on Record Number 4, a PRR 4-8-2 on slick rail on Record number 10, the cab rides in CSS&SB freight motors on Record numbers 33 and 34, the list goes on and on.

William Steventon did not exclusively use his own recordings on the Railroad Record Club LPs. In the second year of the club he began to utilize the talents of his friends, and the most notable of the group was Elwin D. Purington. Mr. Purington’s considerable recording talents added greatly to the quality of Steventon’s releases. Three records were entirely comprised of his recordings and they are three of the best. Record number 8-Canadian National (re-released as “Canadian Railroading in The Days Of Steam”) is one of Steventon’s favorites, and SP-2 the Northern Pacific 2626 memorial album Steventon called “a masterpiece.”  He provided the sounds for side one of Record number 12-DM&IR and his recordings of the CMSt.P&P electric freight locomotives are featured on Record SP-6.  He also did the narration on Number 3-East Broad Top and SP-3-Whistle ‘Round the Bend. Thomas A. Hosick recorded the train sounds for Record number 9-Winston-Salem Southbound, and John L. Wise contributed to Record number 10-PRR. Harold O. Lewis did some fine recording work that was used on three LPs, Record number 16-Westside Lumber, number 24-Canadian Pacific, and number 31-Sound Scrapbook-Steam. Eugene Van Dusen made all but the final three cuts for Record Number 32-NYC, and finally A. L. Shade, another top-notch sound recorder of trains, added his talents to Record numbers 13-Nickel Plate, 29-NKP 779 and 22-Buffalo Creek & Gauley.

Excellent HM Pech cover RRC 5

Excellent HM Pech cover RRC 5

Marginal HM Pech cover 1st edition of Record number 8

Marginal HM Pech cover 1st edition of Record number 8

RRC 19

RRC 19

The sounds on these LPs were great right from the start, but it took awhile for the record jackets to evolve into something interesting and appealing. At first the record jackets had little in the way of cover art, nothing more than a small photo or two plus a few paragraphs of text. Eventually sketches of the featured locomotive pulling a train were added, usually draw by an artist who signed his work HM Pech. These drawings could range from excellent (Record number 5) to marginal (1st edition of Record number 8). All mediocrity was removed for good when the cover art for Record number 19 was revealed. The cover of this record is a very nice accomplishment. The drawing of DM&IR 2-8-8-4 # 222 is perfect in every way. This great drawing combined with an appealing layout makes for a wonderful cover. A new visual benchmark for the Railroad Record Club had been reached and there was no going back. The drawing was done by Marshall P. (Pat) McMahon. He worked for the Minneapolis Star Tribune as an illustrator. His drawings of railroad equipment are flawless. The detail is meticulously rendered and drawn with precision and skill. Mr. McMahon would from here on out, be the main artist used by Steventon to illustrate the record jackets. When second editions of previously released records were pressed, McMahon would be called upon to create a new cover drawing. Every one is a vast improvement over what had come before. He also got the call to do new drawings when the records began to be reissued on 12″ discs, and he even did at least one drawing that Steventon sold prints of (Soo Line steamer # 2715). He would go on to do cover illustrations for thirty record jackets for the club! Rounding out the list of artists employed by the Railroad Record Club: Ernie Towler did a fine pencil sketch of a Shay locomotive for the 12″ reissue of Record Number 16-Westside Lumber and he did the cover of the reissue of number 15-CB&Q. Herb Mott did a painting of a boy watching a steam train passing for the cover of SP-3-Whistle ‘Round the Bend. This record has the distinction of being the only one with a full color cover.

RRC 17 Steventon enjoyed being here Hawkins WI Soo station

RRC 17 Steventon enjoyed being here Hawkins WI Soo station

RRC 17 1st edition drawing Hawkins WI Soo station

RRC 17 1st edition drawing Hawkins WI Soo station

RRC 20

RRC 20

Advertising had to be done, and ads were placed in several railroad and modeling magazines including Trains and Model Railroad Craftsman. Such tag lines as “Authentic steam and electric railway recordings,” “Sounds you like to hear steam-traction,” and “Out of the past and into your home” were used. A mailing list was maintained, and announcements and sales information mailed directly to those on it. Records were sold in hobby stores, and Steventon sent LPs  to railroad historical societies that coincided with the group’s interests. He even devised a unique “Audition Set Program”. To audition a set of records a request form had to be filled out. A choice could be made as to which records were wanted but a choice of pre-selected LPs could be made by choosing ” all steam” or “all traction” or both. A “random” selection could be made giving the customer the choice of titles and number of records. A deposit in the following amounts had to be sent: “all steam” consisting of 25 10″ records-$100.00, “all traction” consisting of 15 10″ records-$60.00 and “random” $4.00 each. After listening, the records were to be returned with (hopefully) a purchase order. The money for the purchased records would be deducted from the deposit and the remainder returned with the record order.

Eventually Steventon branched out and began to sell all types of things. His biggest sideline was selling photographs. The photo catalog alone was 40 pages! He sold 16mm, 8mm and super 8 traction movies, books, records from other producers, he even had a line of railroad logo watch fobs! In one sales flyer he was trying to unload his old adding machine, a Sears model No. 871.58251 (he wanted $40 for it postpaid).

After 1965, when The Railroad Record Club stopped functioning as a club, not much else changed. Steventon continued to release records and in fact had plans to release many more. In a 1966 newsletter Steventon makes mention of future planned releases, unfortunately not all of them were produced. He writes: “Future releases will be made on the basis of availability of time and material. At this writing an “on train” recording of the old 1000 series Chicago South Shore & South Bend locomotives is in production. No release date has been set.” (Records number 33 & 34). He continues: “Other material for future work includes many steam and electric lines including the Shenandoah Central (never produced), Baltimore & Ohio (never produced) Chicago Aurora & Elgin (Record Number 36), Chicago Transit Authority (record number 36) Queensboro Bridge (never produced) and others.”

This newsletter also announces the first Railroad Record Club selection ever to be released on 12” discs-Special Pressing number 4.  “On December 21, 1965 a new milestone was established with the release of a set of three 12-inch 33 1/3 rpm recordings of the complete run of interurban No. 108 from Chicago to South Bend. Approximately two hours playing time and conveniently arranged for automatic playing sequence. Prepared and recommended for the devoted traction enthusiast.”

Through the rest of the 1960s and into the 1970s Steventon successfully sold his records. Some of the most popular selections had second and even third editions pressed, and the covers and liner notes continued to evolve, The liner notes were becoming more extensive and contained more information, not just about the equipment recorded, but somewhat personal stuff as well. For example, on record number 17, the entirety of side one contains the sounds of the activities going on inside the Hawkins, Wisconsin Soo Line station. Although Steventon writes in the third person he conveys his pleasure at being there. The sound of the telegraph, talking with the agent, the rumble of trains going past, the whole “atmosphere” he loved. “Plant your feet on the desk” he writes, “lean back in your chair and you’re the agent at this small village station.” He wrote fond boyhood memories in the notes to Record number 20 and revealed in those same notes just how he felt about diesel locomotives. He wrote that while recording a C&IM 0-8-0 switcher going about her chores, he was “dismayed” and “disgusted” when a GM&O RS-1 came onto the scene.  He included the diesel on the record however, noting that the steamer and the diesel sharing the stage made for an interesting recording. As he puts it: “Actually this could be considered as the tug-of-war between two types of motive power as to which will dominate the railroad scene”. At this point, he had to be dismayed to know steam would be the loser. Eventually his negative view of diesels must have softened a bit because in 1988, when he revised the notes to Record number 20, he removed the word “disgusted” although he continued to be “dismayed”. Steventon never released an LP that was entirely diesel sounds. He recorded diesels with some degree of regularity, as his first recording was of one. In his estate there was an open reel tape labeled “Nickel Plate Diesels” and on those acetate records there are plenty of B&O diesels. Perhaps he thought his record buying customers wouldn’t want to spend money to hear those “disgusting” machines. Rarely is the sound of a diesel included on any of the records.

The Railroad Record Club continued steadily along until early in 1973. A situation then developed that could not be easily overcome, in fact, it never would be completely. Early in that year RCA informed Steventon that they would no longer press his records. In club announcements concerning this situation Steventon wrote “In February of 1973 they (RCA) notified us that all of their custom work was being discontinued.” If RCA would not press his records, he would just have to find another company that would. That plan quickly died when another, more devastating difficulty was discovered. RCA had lost or destroyed all the Club’s metal master discs at its Indianapolis plant. Without those master discs new records could not be pressed by anyone. Steventon was stopped cold.  If he wanted to continue selling his previously released records, new master discs would have to be made. By the early 1970s 7” singles and 12” albums were the standards and the old 10” format was on the way out. New master discs would have to be made and they would have to be 12”.  Steventon managed to surmount these obstacles. He found a new company to work with, Nashville Record Productions of Nashville, Tennessee.

Even as the process of remastering and pressing new records progressed, Steventon was cautious with his expectations. He wrote carefully in a flyer about the remastering: “Due to a shortage of raw material record pressings may become difficult to obtain. Consequently we have no guarantee that our complete line can be produced, but will re-issue each record as conditions permit.”  Interested parties were mailed a “Railroad Record Club Advance Notice Mailing Card.” On this card selections were to be made as to which records the recipient wanted to be notified of when the 12” reissue was being readied. The recipient could then purchase the record at a pre-production discounted price.  Progress was made, albeit very slowly. The RCA masters were lost in the winter of 1973 but by summer 1976, only two records had been reissued. The first two being number 10-PRR and the second Number 8-CN now titled “Canadian Railroading in The Days Of Steam.” Steventon could not simply reissue the records numerically starting at number one and progressing from there. This was a very expensive undertaking and he needed to release the most popular titles first. At first, he considered having all the records remastered at once and getting a press run of each. This idea was dropped when the cost turned out to be more then $30,000! He decided to go back to his original club plan where he required a set amount of those pre-production advance payments to come in. Once there was sufficient interest shown for a certain record, as calculated from the advance mailing cards, he would announce that it was being readied for remastering. He would only send an order to Nashville when enough of the pre-production money came in to justify it.

In a telling reply to an inquiry from a customer wanting to know why a certain record, number 36, was still unavailable, Steventon spelled it out clearly:

“The program of re-mastering was started in ’73 after RCA lost our metal masters. The pre-production offer is used to generate funds to pay for the re-mastering process. As a rule of thumb it takes about 125 pre-payments to cover these costs. Experience has shown that roughly only 50% of those who ask to be notified on a new selection actually follow through with an order. Thus we need 250 requests to start the program. As of this date (March 29, 1989) only 99 have shown an interest in record 36, CA&E. The pressing firm in TN has just notified us of another increase in production costs. Dollar wise we are now talking $1100 to $1200 to re-master and get the first press run. The RR club is not a profit venture – we only ask to break even. In 1987 we operated at a loss of $444.10. 1988 was better with a modest net income of $119.75. We need EVERY bit of interest shown to keep the program rolling – it is a tough job!”

It was a tough job to be certain and it was also a very slow one. An order blank from November 1984 shows only eight remastered records, Number 4-B&O, 7-N&W/IC, 8-CN, 10-PRR, 19-DM&IR, 29-NKP 779 and SP-5-SOO/IC the ex-intro record. Also for sale at that time was a second pressing of SP-4 the CSS&SB three record set. Also listed on this order blank was a brand new record. Even with the remastering difficulties going on the Railroad Record Club managed to release one last all-new record. This last hurrah was special pressing number 6-The Milwaukee Road- Box Cab Electric Locomotives on the Coast Division, recorded by Elwin Purington in stereo. On the jacket SP-6 is touted as the “30th Anniversary Issue 1953-1983.” Another fine McMahon drawing graced the cover.

As each 12” reissue was produced, Steventon would revise and update the liner notes. If the record had an existing McMahon illustration it was transferred to the new jacket in the same size it appeared on the 10” jacket, but with a wide white border. If a reissue did not have a previously drawn McMahon picture, one would be commissioned. These black and white record jackets were distinctive and attractive. On the reissues the audio content was always identical to the 10” version, since the same master tapes were used. There was one exception, however. Although the railroad sounds were exactly the same, on the original release of Record number 3-EBT/D&RGW, Steventon had recorded spoken introductions to each of the EBT tracks, just as he had done for the old 78 acetate records in fact, they are exactly the same.  Steventon wanted these introductions removed to correct a mistake and instead of simply taking them off and writing the information into the liner notes, he had Elwin Purington re-record them.

The long and expensive remastering project continued into 1990. A test pressing for Record number 16-Westside Lumber had a memo attached that read: “Record No. 16, Westside Lumber Co. Record pressing approved if “blips” at approximately 3 min, 36 seconds into side one and continuing for about 6 or 7 seconds were corrected. Card returned 1/10/90.”  Not all of the surviving test pressings have dates on the jackets, but it is obvious that this one had to be among the last. By the early 1990s’ compact discs were already poised to topple vinyl records as the standard audio format. Steventon simply choose not to upgrade to yet another new format. Record number 16 being reissued in 1990, proves that Steventon worked at remastering the records almost to the end of his life. He died in 1993, just three years after the test pressing date for Record number 16. The long, expensive, and difficult remastering program started in 1973 and continued into at least 1990. In all only 17 of the 40 10” records were reissued on 12″ discs.

RAILROAD RECORD CLUB RECORDS REISSUED IN 12″ FORMAT
#1-WABASH (10″ 3rd Edition Cover Art)
#3-D&RGW/EBT (New Cover Art)
#4-B&O (New Cover Art)
#5-D&RGW
#7-N&W/IC (New Cover Art)
#8-CN (New Cover Art) Title changed to “Canadian Railroading In The Days Of Steam”
#10-PRR (10″ 2nd Edition Cover Art)
#15-CB&Q (New Cover Art)
#16-Westside Lumber (New Cover Art) Cover changed from a photograph to a pencil sketch
#17-Soo (New Cover Art)
#18-CNS&M (10″ 2nd Edition Cover Art)
#19-DM&IR
#20-C&IM/NYC
#26-CNS&M (Freight)
#29-NKP 779
#SP-2-NP 2626 (Same photo used on both 10″ & 12″ record covers but reproduced smaller on the reissue)
#SP-4-CSS&SB (passenger) 3 record set was only released on 12″ stock in display box
#SP-5-Soo/IC Formally the introductory record (New Cover Art)
#SP-6-MILW Box Cabs (Only released in 12″ format)
17 records reissued from 10″ to 12″
2 records only released on 12″

The Railroad Record Club didn’t completely die with William Steventon. His son Seth revived the club some years after his father’s death by putting the entire line of records on cassette tapes. By this time, however, CDs were the favored format and the effort was shelved.

Because of William A. Steventon’s commitment to recording the vanishing sounds of a passing era on American railroads, and just as importantly, making those recordings available to all who were interested, we can today hear the sounds of a Hagerstown & Frederick interurban car speeding past a lonely country crossing. We can experience the sonic thunder of a New York Central 4-6-4 blasting out of Mount Carmel, Illinois with a whistle full of water. We can ride along in the cab of a CSS&SB freight motor on its trip out of Michigan city, and we can enjoy the work of the other talented railroad recordists whose work Steventon put on his records. We can even listen to that whining rotary converter in Harristown, Illinois.

-Kenneth Gear

New Steam Audio CD:

FTS
Farewell To Steam
Mister D’s Machine
# of Discs – 1
Price: $14.99

Farewell To Steam
On February 6, 1955 the Santa Fe Railway ran a railfan train from Los Angeles to Barstow and back for the Railway Club of Southern California. This was Santa Fe’s last run powered by a steam locomotive over this route. The engine was a 4-8-4, #3759. We have used the original, rare 1955 mono version of this recording, and not the later 1958 reissue that had a bunch of echo added to create a fake stereo effect.

Mister D’s Machine
When diesel locomotives replaced steam in the 1950s, they offered a multitude of different sounds. This original 1963 stereo recording showcases the many sounds of diesels on the San Joaquin and Los Angeles Divisions of the Southern Pacific, including the Tahachappi Loop, an engineering feat that made modern railroading famous.

As with all of our recordings, this CD comes with the complete, original liner notes.

Total time – 72:56

Pre-Order Our New Book Building Chicago’s Subways

There are three subway anniversaries this year 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!

Bibliographic information:

Title Building Chicago’s Subways
Images of America
Author David Sadowski
Edition illustrated
Publisher Arcadia Publishing (SC), 2018
ISBN 1467129380, 9781467129381
Length 128 pages

Chapter Titles:
01. The River Tunnels
02. The Freight Tunnels
03. Make No Little Plans
04. The State Street Subway
05. The Dearborn-Milwaukee Subway
06. Displaced
07. Death of an Interurban
08. The Last Street Railway
09. Subways and Superhighways
10. Subways Since 1960

Building Chicago’s Subways will be published on October 1, 2018. Order your copy today, and it will be shipped on or about that date. 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:

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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)

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)

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Never Too Late

Former Chicago Surface Lines mail car 6, built in 1891, as it looked on May 25, 1958. This car is now at the Fox River Trolley Museum, where it was recently vandalized. You can see a black-and-white photo of this car, taken at the same time as this one, in our previous post Throwback Thursday (January 7, 2016). To see a picture of West Chicago Street Railway car 4, also taken the same day, there's one in our post Chicago Streetcars In Color (February 22, 2015).

Former Chicago Surface Lines mail car 6, built in 1891, as it looked on May 25, 1958. This car is now at the Fox River Trolley Museum, where it was recently vandalized. You can see a black-and-white photo of this car, taken at the same time as this one, in our previous post Throwback Thursday (January 7, 2016). To see a picture of West Chicago Street Railway car 4, also taken the same day, there’s one in our post Chicago Streetcars In Color (February 22, 2015).

Recent news reports that eight historic railcars at the Fox River Trolley Museum were vandalized to the tune of perhaps as much as $150,000 brought back some memories.

Back in 1961, when I was six years old, my family took a Sunday drive out to the Chicago Aurora & Elgin’s Wheaton Yards to take one last look at their fleet. We had read in the news that efforts to save the CA&E had failed, and that the entire line was being abandoned forever.

I never did get to ride the CA&E, which stopped running passenger service in 1957. But I did at least get to see the railcars on their home turf in Wheaton. I distinctly recall being gratified that they did not appear to be vandalized. I did not see any broken windows.

Not all of these cars were saved, but some did make it off the property and several lived to run again in museum service in various parts of the country. (We ran some pictures of the “hospital train” in our post Trolley Dodger Mailbag, 1-29-2016.)

That anything at all got saved was, in my humble opinion, a miracle. Now it is true that in the waning days of traction, there were fans who “liberated” various bits and pieces of trolleys that were destined for the scrap heap. Their goal was to preserve history, not desecrate it. In some cases, these original parts have since been put back onto historic equipment, or are now in the collections of railroad museums. At least they were saved for future generations.

Railroad museums across the country depend on small groups of dedicated volunteers. Occasionally, entire museum operations have either failed or have been obliged to relocate. The sad situation faced by the Indiana Transportation Museum, which was recently evicted from its home in Noblesville, is but the latest example.

Let’s take a closer look at Aurora, Elgin & Fox River car 304. This fine specimen of a 1920s interurban car, which returned to run on the small surviving portion of its home rails at the Fox River Trolley Museum, was damaged by the two young vandals. It is not just a piece of equipment that was injured. This was a senseless attack on the history of an entire region.

While this blog is not affiliated with the Fox River Trolley Museum, we wholeheartedly support their efforts, and historic preservation. Insurance, unfortunately, will only cover a small portion of the cost of replacing all the broken glass and other damage. The bulk of funds will have to come from private donations.

The museum has begun a fundraising campaign, which must be successful. I realize many of us are angry about this senseless destruction, but let’s turn our anger into something constructive.

We are but the current caretakers of precious artifacts of the past. If we fail to preserve them, it will be a loss to all who come after us. We can all lament that a couple of young kids did a tremendous amount of harm here, but it’s never too late for the rest of us to do the right thing, right now.

-David Sadowski

The Toonerville Trolley That Meets All the Trains

We recently acquired the original artwork for this January 17, 1938 Toonerville Trolley comic panel by the great Fontaine Fox (1884-1964).

We recently acquired the original artwork for this January 17, 1938 Toonerville Trolley comic panel by the great Fontaine Fox (1884-1964).

In a time when trolley lines criss-crossed this country, and were a part of everyday life for Americans, there was even a railfan comic strip. Or, better put, a comic strip by a railfan, Fontaine Fox.

His “Toonerville Trolley” comic ran in newspapers from 1913 until he retired in 1955. Over time, he even grew to resemble the “Skipper,” his own creation. Fox even answered his voluminous fan mail using letterhead he had printed up for the Toonerville Electric Railway Company.

Here is what the Filson (Kentucky) Historical Society has to say about Fontaine Fox:

Fontaine Talbot Fox III, creator of the famous Toonerville Trolley, was born in Louisville, Kentucky in 1884. He started his career as a reporter for the Louisville Herald, but soon abandoned this course to pursue his true passion of drawing cartoons. During a visit to the small town of Pelham, New York, Fox received inspiration for what would become one of the nation’s most beloved comics. While in Pelham, he rode on the local trolley car, where the conductor’s unhurried manner and penchant for gossiping with his passengers gave Fox the idea for his own comic strip. By 1915, the resulting comic series, Toonerville Folks, had come to the attention of the Wheeler Syndicate and was soon published in newspapers across the nation.

The Filson’s collections contain a number of items documenting the life and career of this celebrated cartoonist, including photographs of Fox and his family, as well as some of his correspondence and several scrapbooks with clippings of his cartoons. Notable among Fox’s papers are a collection of twenty-one original pen and ink cartoons from his beloved Toonerville Folks. Set in the fictional town of Toonerville, the single-paneled cartoon featured a rickety trolley car and a glimpse into suburban life in the early twentieth century. Fox created a cast of characters that charmed a nation: the Terrible-Tempered Mr. Bang, the Powerful Katrinka, Mickey (Himself) McGuire (the town bully), Aunt Eppie Hogg (the fattest woman in three counties), and of course the Skipper, who piloted the beloved trolley car. Toonerville Folks ran in hundreds of newspapers nationwide for over forty years, until Fox’s retirement in 1955. His comics would become an inspiration for a future generation of cartoonists.

Actually, it was a single panel cartoon six days a week. On Sunday, it was in color, in multiple panels. The strip had various names, including The Toonerville Trolley That Meets All the Trains and Toonerville Folks. Eventually, the adventures of the “Skipper” and his rickety trolley car only took up a part of the action, as Fox developed a variety of memorable characters for Toonerville.

Blake A. Bell
writes an excellent blog called Historic Pelham, and has written extensively about Fox, the Toonerville Trolley, and its connection to the area.

While the phrase “Toonerville Trolley” eventually became synonymous with any rural streetcar or interurban running on poorly maintained track, Pelham, NY, its inspiration, is actually a suburb, located 14 miles from Midtown Manhattan in Westchester County. It is near the city of New Rochelle, made famous as the home of Rob and Laura Petrie on the Dick Van Dyke Show (1961-1966).

The Toonerville Trolley ran in over 200 daily newspapers in its heyday, and was popular enough to inspire numerous motion pictures. The first series, circa 1920-21, was silent and produced by the Betzwood Studios in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania (more on that in our book review section). You can watch one of those films here.

Next, a young Mickey Rooney (1920-2014) later starred in 78 short films based on the Toonerville character Mickey McGuire, made between 1927 and 1934. This was Mickey Rooney’s first big break in show business. He even attempted, unsuccessfully, to legally change his name to Mickey McGuire.

There were also some Toonerville Trolley animated shorts, made in 1936 by Van Beuren Studios, which can be seen on Youtube. Here is one example:

By the late 1930s, trolley lines were starting to disappear from the American scene. On July 31, 1937 the Pelham Manor “H” trolley line ran its last. Fontaine Fox used the popularity of his comic strip to turn this into a major event.

From Historical Treasures of Westchester County:

On July 31, 1937, the H-Line Trolley that inspired Fontaine Fox was shut down for good – replaced by a bus line. That day the Village of Pelham Manor hosted a celebration attended by about 8,000 people for the last run of the “Toonerville Trolley”.

This “pass,” signed by Fontaine Fox who attended the event, entitled the bearer to ride the trolley car during its last trip. That trip took hours to travel only a couple of miles due to the crowds and the antics of local residents dressed as various characters from the “Toonerville Folks” comic strip.

The Hagerstown & Frederick interurban, which we have featured in a variety of posts, is an example of a country interurban that was frequently called a “Toonerville Trolley.” Its last passenger interurban ran on February 20, 1954.

Perhaps inspired by this, around this time Fontaine Fox bowed to the inevitable, and “retired” the trolley from his strip, replacing it with a bus. But such was the popularity of the old contraption that I believe he brought it back, prior to the strip’s demise in 1955 with Fox’s retirement. He donated some of his original artwork to a trolley museum.

As a tribute to Fontaine Fox, here we present an entire month’s worth of daily Toonerville panels, from June 1927. You will note that only some of the dailies include the trolley and Skipper (who, apparently, was based on real-life Pelham operator James (“Old Jim”) Bailey, who lived in the Bronx). Charles A. Lindbergh (1902-1974) made his historic non-stop flight from New YHork to Paris on May 20-21, 1927 and “Lindbergh mania” is reflected in many of the strips shown here, suggesting that Fox was working on some of these panels not long before they appeared in newspapers.

Fontaine Fox in retirement:

Book Reviews



Montgomery County Trolleys
by Mike Szilagyi, with a Foreword by Andrew W. Maginnis
Arcadia Publishing, 2018

We recently received a copy of Montogomery County Trolleys from the author, as we had provided a couple of images he used in the book. Otherwise, chances are we might not have seen this fine addition to Arcadia’s Images of Rail series, which we are also involved with (see below for information on Building Chicago’s Subways, and our Online Store for copies of Chicago Trolleys).

Author Mike Szilagyi was no stranger to us, as we had corresponded concerning a different book project he was involved with as mapmaker. This was eventually published as Riding the Bell: Lehigh Valley Transit’s Liberty Bell Route by Ron Ruddell, Bulletin 147 of the Central Electric Railfans’ Association (2015).

Naturally, the maps Mr. Szilagyi made for this new book are excellent. But the entire thing is well done, from the scope the author set out to cover, the organization of the chapters, picture selection, text, and captions.

Here is a capsule description:

Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, was once served by 140 miles of trolley lines. In the first half of the 20th century, a wide array of trolley cars rolled over Montgomery County’s rails, from quaint open streetcars rumbling through borough streets to sleek 80-mile-an-hour trolleys sailing across open fields in Upper Gwynedd and Hatfield Townships. The cars had zero emissions, and some lines were powered by renewable hydroelectric power. Taking the trolley was a convenient, affordable option for those travelling and commuting in Montgomery County, nearby Philadelphia, and points beyond. Freight was also carried on board trolleys, with prompt parcel delivery service. Fortunately, many years ago, dedicated trolley fans had the foresight to aim their cameras at these unique vehicles, providing rare glimpses not just of the trolleys but also of Montgomery County’s rapidly changing landscapes.

Mike Szilagyi’s interest in trolleys was sparked at a young age by the sight of big green streamliners gliding down Old York Road near his grandmother’s house in the Logan neighborhood of Philadelphia. Today, Szilagyi lives and works in Montgomery County, where he plans and designs bicycle paths and serves on the North Wales Historic Commission.

This volume’s foreword was written by noted transit historian and longtime Montgomery County resident Andrew W. Maginnis.

In addition to detailed captions for each photograph, the book offers a brief history of transportation in Montgomery County, placing the trolley era in its historical context. The timeline of travel may be very generally summed up as:

dirt roads – canals – railroads – trolleys – motor vehicles

Rather than each mode supplanting the previous, there were varying degrees of overlap between them. That said, the use of animals for motive power was there from the beginning, only fading as motor vehicles gained prominence in the 1910s and 1920s. The bicycle came on the scene in a big way in the 1890s, never really completely disappeared, and is today enjoying widespread resurgence.

By concentrating on Montgomery County, the author is able to provide tremendous variety, as he was therefore able to include the Lehigh Valley Transit’s Liberty Bell interurban, the Philadelphia & Western High-Speed Line to Norristown, numerous small-town trolleys, and even a bit of Philadelphia streetcars (Route 6 went into the county). Although very little of this remains, back in the day I did manage to ride Bullets and Strafford cars on the Norristown line (which still operates, with more modern equipment) as well as PCCs on SEPTA’s Route 6, which was replaced by buses in January 1986, subjects covered in this book.

Montgomery County Trolleys is dedicated to the memory of the late Harry Foesig (1897-2003) whose long life spanned parts of three centuries. He was co-author, along with Dr. Harold E. Cox, of Trolleys of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania (1968). This was an obvious inspiration for this new volume, which can be thought of as a kind of “spiritual descendant” of that earlier tome. That book also included some excellent maps, rendered by Foesig.

Anyone who has an interest in the subject, and the rich heritage of Keystone-state traction, would do well to pick up copies of each. While the earlier book is long out of print, you should have little difficulty in finding a used copy at a reasonable price. Mine only cost about $10, which is perhaps about half what you should expect to pay for Montgomery County Trolleys.

Interestingly, longtime railfan Andrew W. Maginnis contributed to both books, 50 years apart. Perhaps the 50-year anniversary was also a factor that motivated the author to put this new collection together, just as I was inspired by some anniversaries to do my new book (see below).

-David Sadowski

Pre-Order Our New Book Building Chicago’s Subways

There are three subway anniversaries this year 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!

Bibliographic information:

Title Building Chicago’s Subways
Images of America
Author David Sadowski
Edition illustrated
Publisher Arcadia Publishing (SC), 2018
ISBN 1467129380, 9781467129381
Length 128 pages

Chapter Titles:
01. The River Tunnels
02. The Freight Tunnels
03. Make No Little Plans
04. The State Street Subway
05. The Dearborn-Milwaukee Subway
06. Displaced
07. Death of an Interurban
08. The Last Street Railway
09. Subways and Superhighways
10. Subways Since 1960

Building Chicago’s Subways will be published on October 1, 2018. Order your copy today, and it will be shipped on or about that date. 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:

Help Support The Trolley Dodger

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This is our 215th 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 422,000 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.

DONATIONS

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.

A Traction Photo Album, Part 3

J G Brill Master Unit Car #80 at Scranton, PA. 8-5-09.

J G Brill Master Unit Car #80 at Scranton, PA. 8-5-09.

Today’s post features more classic traction photographs by guest contributor Kenneth Gear. This is the third installment in a virtual career retrospective, covering 40 years of railfanning.

Ken has long been a friend of this blog. He has contributed greatly to our understanding of the Railroad Record Club of Hawkins, Wisconisn, and it is thanks largely to him that we have been able to share all 40 RRC LPs with you, digitally remastered on CDs and sounding better than ever.

We thank Ken for that, and for sharing these great images with our readers.

Click on these links to see Part 1 and Part 2 in this series.

-David Sadowski

Metra/ICG Highliners

Photo 1. RTA/ ICG Highliner MU trains pass near the Randolph Street Terminal, Chicago, IL. 6-23-82.

Photo 1. RTA/ ICG Highliner MU trains pass near the Randolph Street Terminal, Chicago, IL. 6-23-82.

RTA/ ICG Highliner #407 near the Randolph Street Terminal, Chicago, IL. 6-23-82.

RTA/ ICG Highliner #407 near the Randolph Street Terminal, Chicago, IL. 6-23-82.

Metra Electric Highliner #224 at the Vermont Avenue Station, Blue Island IL 3-25-03.

Metra Electric Highliner #224 at the Vermont Avenue Station, Blue Island IL 3-25-03.

Canadian National Box Cab

CN Box cabs #6714, # 6715, & #6722 at Montreal, Que. 6-14-85.

CN Box cabs #6714, # 6715, & #6722 at Montreal, Que. 6-14-85.

CN Box cabs #6714, # 6715, & #6722 at Montreal, Que. 6-14-85.

CN Box cabs #6714, # 6715, & #6722 at Montreal, Que. 6-14-85.

CN Box cabs 6710 & 6711 at Montreal photographed from the Amtrak MONTREALER approaching Central Station.

CN Box cabs 6710 & 6711 at Montreal photographed from the Amtrak MONTREALER approaching Central Station.

EX-NYNH&H 4400 “Washboard” MU

Ex-NH 4400 "Washboard" MUs in the dead line at New Haven, CT on March17, 1984 awaiting scrapping.

Ex-NH 4400 “Washboard” MUs in the dead line at New Haven, CT on March17, 1984 awaiting scrapping.

National Capitol Trolley Museum

Third Avenue Railway System car 678 still wears her bicentennial paint scheme as she sits outside the car barn at the National Capital Trolley Museum in May of 1989. The car has since been repainted in the TARS color scheme of red and white.

Third Avenue Railway System car 678 still wears her bicentennial paint scheme as she sits outside the car barn at the National Capital Trolley Museum in May of 1989. The car has since been repainted in the TARS color scheme of red and white.

DC Transit PCC #1101, 8-5-89.

DC Transit PCC #1101, 8-5-89.

DC Transit PCC #1101, 8-5-89.

DC Transit PCC #1101, 8-5-89.

Electric City Trolley Museum

J G Brill Master Unit Car #80 at Scranton, PA. 8-5-09.

J G Brill Master Unit Car #80 at Scranton, PA. 8-5-09.

Pennsylvania Trolley Museum

Pittsburgh Railways DE City Low-floor car #4398 at Washington, PA. 9-27-13.

Pittsburgh Railways DE City Low-floor car #4398 at Washington, PA. 9-27-13.

Pittsburgh Railways DE City Low-floor car #4398 at Washington, PA. 9-27-13.

Pittsburgh Railways DE City Low-floor car #4398 at Washington, PA. 9-27-13.

Conrail

Conrail E-33 #4602 leads a long freight through the Metropark station at Iselin, NJ. 8-14-78. From my very first roll of color slide film.

Conrail E-33 #4602 leads a long freight through the Metropark station at Iselin, NJ. 8-14-78. From my very first roll of color slide film.

Conrail E-44 #4430 leads a westbound train at the Metropark station, Iselin, NJ. From my very first roll of 35mm slide film.

Conrail E-44 #4430 leads a westbound train at the Metropark station, Iselin, NJ. From my very first roll of 35mm slide film.

Conrail sold E-44 #4464 to NJ Transit in 1983 for use as work train power. The locomotive never turned a wheel for NJT and it is shown here at the Ex-CNJ yard at Elizabethport, NJ. 5-25-83.

Conrail sold E-44 #4464 to NJ Transit in 1983 for use as work train power. The locomotive never turned a wheel for NJT and it is shown here at the Ex-CNJ yard at Elizabethport, NJ. 5-25-83.

Conrail sold E-44 #4464 to NJ Transit in 1983 for use as work train power. The locomotive never turned a wheel for NJT and it is shown here at the Ex-CNJ yard at Elizabethport, NJ. 5-25-83.

Conrail sold E-44 #4464 to NJ Transit in 1983 for use as work train power. The locomotive never turned a wheel for NJT and it is shown here at the Ex-CNJ yard at Elizabethport, NJ. 5-25-83.

Odds and Ends: Miscellaneous Traction:

New Orleans Streetcar

In 1982 I was in New Orleans, LA making an overnight connection between Amtrak’s CRESENT and the SUNSET LIMITED. In the general vicinity of the Amtrak station I took several photos of the streetcars. All of the streetcar photos were taken in the vicinity of Lee Circle.

All of these cars were built by Perley Thomas in 1924.

Car #904 New Orleans, LA. 6-1-82.

Car #904 New Orleans, LA. 6-1-82.

Car #904 New Orleans, LA. 6-1-82.

Car #904 New Orleans, LA. 6-1-82.

Car #911.

Car #911.

Car #923.

Car #923.

Car #953.

Car #953.

Car 968.

Car 968.

Car 968.

Car 968.

Car #971.

Car #971.

New York City Transit Authority

R-36

I wanted to include this photo in spite of the fact that the subject is Amtrak SSB-1200 #550 at Q Tower at Sunnyside, Queens, New York. I hope it will be of interest to traction fans because of the IRT subway train of NYCTA R-36 "Redbirds" passing overhead in the background. 6-20-87.

I wanted to include this photo in spite of the fact that the subject is Amtrak SSB-1200 #550 at Q Tower at Sunnyside, Queens, New York. I hope it will be of interest to traction fans because of the IRT subway train of NYCTA R-36 “Redbirds” passing overhead in the background. 6-20-87.

R-42

A "W" train of R-42 cars near the Ditmers Boulevard station in Astoria Queens, New York, 4-19-05.

A “W” train of R-42 cars near the Ditmers Boulevard station in Astoria Queens, New York, 4-19-05.

A "W" train of R-42 cars near the Ditmers Boulevard station in Astoria Queens, New York, 4-19-05.

A “W” train of R-42 cars near the Ditmers Boulevard station in Astoria Queens, New York, 4-19-05.

R-21

The NYCTA Car Repair yard at 207th Street in New York as seen from a boat in the Harlem River in 1986. Visible just behind the fence are two R-21 garbage motors. These cars were tasked with the removal of trash from the subway. The two shown here G7208 and G7206 have both been retired and most likely scrapped.

The NYCTA Car Repair yard at 207th Street in New York as seen from a boat in the Harlem River in 1986. Visible just behind the fence are two R-21 garbage motors. These cars were tasked with the removal of trash from the subway. The two shown here G7208 and G7206 have both been retired and most likely scrapped.

Apparently retired and not too far from being scrapped is R-21 #7086 at the 207th Street Car Repair yard.

Apparently retired and not too far from being scrapped is R-21 #7086 at the 207th Street Car Repair yard.

R-38

Retired R-38s #4002 & #4003 at the 207th Street Car Repair yard.

Retired R-38s #4002 & #4003 at the 207th Street Car Repair yard.

R-32A

Starting in 1988 and continuing to 1990, NYCTA sent most of the R-32 cars to Morrison Knudsen at Hornell, NY for overhaul. Conrail brought the rebuilt cars loaded onto flat cars down the River Line to Greenville yard in Jersey City, New Jersey. From there the New York Cross Harbor Railroad car floated them back to New York City. On February 13, 1990 several of the rebuilt R-32a cars, including #3613 head out, were sitting in Greenville yard awaiting a boat ride home.

Starting in 1988 and continuing to 1990, NYCTA sent most of the R-32 cars to Morrison Knudsen at Hornell, NY for overhaul. Conrail brought the rebuilt cars loaded onto flat cars down the River Line to Greenville yard in Jersey City, New Jersey. From there the New York Cross Harbor Railroad car floated them back to New York City. On February 13, 1990 several of the rebuilt R-32a cars, including #3613 head out, were sitting in Greenville yard awaiting a boat ride home.

Starting in 1988 and continuing to 1990, NYCTA sent most of the R-32 cars to Morrison Knudsen at Hornell, NY for overhaul. Conrail brought the rebuilt cars loaded onto flat cars down the River Line to Greenville yard in Jersey City, New Jersey. From there the New York Cross Harbor Railroad car floated them back to New York City. On February 13, 1990 several of the rebuilt R-32a cars, including #3613 head out, were sitting in Greenville yard awaiting a boat ride home.

Starting in 1988 and continuing to 1990, NYCTA sent most of the R-32 cars to Morrison Knudsen at Hornell, NY for overhaul. Conrail brought the rebuilt cars loaded onto flat cars down the River Line to Greenville yard in Jersey City, New Jersey. From there the New York Cross Harbor Railroad car floated them back to New York City. On February 13, 1990 several of the rebuilt R-32a cars, including #3613 head out, were sitting in Greenville yard awaiting a boat ride home.

Starting in 1988 and continuing to 1990, NYCTA sent most of the R-32 cars to Morrison Knudsen at Hornell, NY for overhaul. Conrail brought the rebuilt cars loaded onto flat cars down the River Line to Greenville yard in Jersey City, New Jersey. From there the New York Cross Harbor Railroad car floated them back to New York City. On February 13, 1990 several of the rebuilt R-32a cars, including #3613 head out, were sitting in Greenville yard awaiting a boat ride home.

Starting in 1988 and continuing to 1990, NYCTA sent most of the R-32 cars to Morrison Knudsen at Hornell, NY for overhaul. Conrail brought the rebuilt cars loaded onto flat cars down the River Line to Greenville yard in Jersey City, New Jersey. From there the New York Cross Harbor Railroad car floated them back to New York City. On February 13, 1990 several of the rebuilt R-32a cars, including #3613 head out, were sitting in Greenville yard awaiting a boat ride home.

Eventually NYCHR Alco S-1s 25 & 22 came across the float bridge and coupled to the flat car containing the subway cars. The immaculate Alcos then loaded the car of R-32As onto the car float for a trip across the bay to Brooklyn.

Eventually NYCHR Alco S-1s 25 & 22 came across the float bridge and coupled to the flat car containing the subway cars. The immaculate Alcos then loaded the car of R-32As onto the car float for a trip across the bay to Brooklyn.

End of the line: NYCTA R-10 cars face a very bleak future at Greenville yard, Jersey City, NJ.

End of the line: NYCTA R-10 cars face a very bleak future at Greenville yard, Jersey City, NJ.

Staten Island Rapid Transit Operating Authority:

R-44

R-44 cars at Great Kills, NY.

R-44 cars at Great Kills, NY.

R-44 cars at the terminal in Tottenville, NY.

R-44 cars at the terminal in Tottenville, NY.

R-44 cars at the terminal in Tottenville, NY.

R-44 cars at the terminal in Tottenville, NY.

Staten Island S-1 #821 & R-44 cars at Annadale. The Alco was leading an Electric Railroaders Association "Farewell to the Alcos" fan trip on October 25, 2008.

Staten Island S-1 #821 & R-44 cars at Annadale. The Alco was leading an Electric Railroaders Association “Farewell to the Alcos” fan trip on October 25, 2008.

Staten Island Railway Alco S-2 #821 & S-1 #407 make way for an approaching train of R-44 cars at Tottenville, NY in October of 2008.

Staten Island Railway Alco S-2 #821 & S-1 #407 make way for an approaching train of R-44 cars at Tottenville, NY in October of 2008.

R-44 car #421 in the shop at Clifton, NY.

R-44 car #421 in the shop at Clifton, NY.

R-33 De-Icer

SIRTOA R-33 De-Icer car #RD344 at Clifton, NY.

SIRTOA R-33 De-Icer car #RD344 at Clifton, NY.

SIRTOA R-33 De-Icer car #RD344 at Clifton, NY.

SIRTOA R-33 De-Icer car #RD344 at Clifton, NY.

SEPTA – City Transit Division

PCC

SEPTA Kawasaki car #9023 & PCC #2129 at the Elmwood Avenue car barn in Philadelphia, PA in January of 1992.

SEPTA Kawasaki car #9023 & PCC #2129 at the Elmwood Avenue car barn in Philadelphia, PA in January of 1992.

SEPTA PCC car #2129 at the CSX/SEPTA grade crossing at Main Street in Darby, PA.

SEPTA PCC car #2129 at the CSX/SEPTA grade crossing at Main Street in Darby, PA.

SEPTA PCC car #2129 at the CSX/SEPTA grade crossing at Main Street in Darby, PA.

SEPTA PCC car #2129 at the CSX/SEPTA grade crossing at Main Street in Darby, PA.

SEPTA PCC car #2129 at 49th Street & Woodland Avenue in West Philadelphia PA. This car was built by the St Louis Car Company in 1948. It is now preserved by the Pikes Peak Historical Street Railway at Colorado Springs, CO.

SEPTA PCC car #2129 at 49th Street & Woodland Avenue in West Philadelphia PA. This car was built by the St Louis Car Company in 1948. It is now preserved by the Pikes Peak Historical Street Railway at Colorado Springs, CO.

SEPTA Kawasaki car #9017, PCC #2129, & GM RTS bus (model T8W603) #8043 at Darby, PA in 1992.

SEPTA Kawasaki car #9017, PCC #2129, & GM RTS bus (model T8W603) #8043 at Darby, PA in 1992.

PCC #2129 at the 80th & Eastwick loop in Philadelphia, which is the end of the Route 36. This photo was taken on January 25, 1992, the car was used on a Wilmington Chapter NRHS charter this day.

PCC #2129 at the 80th & Eastwick loop in Philadelphia, which is the end of the Route 36. This photo was taken on January 25, 1992, the car was used on a Wilmington Chapter NRHS charter this day.

SEPTA PCC #2054 built by St Louis Car in 1941. Philadelphia, PA. 5-7-95.

SEPTA PCC #2054 built by St Louis Car in 1941. Philadelphia, PA. 5-7-95.

SEPTA PCC #2711 at the Elmwood Depot, Philadelphia, PA.

SEPTA PCC #2711 at the Elmwood Depot, Philadelphia, PA.

SEPTA PCC #2728 in Philadelphia Transportation Company colors at Philadelphia, PA in 1995.

SEPTA PCC #2728 in Philadelphia Transportation Company colors at Philadelphia, PA in 1995.

On May 7, 1995 Wilmington Chapter NRHS chartered SEPTA PCC #2799 in a Red Arrow paint scheme and PCC #2728 in the colors of the Philadelphia Transportation. The two brightly colored cars were posed side by side on Girard Avenue at 63rd Street in the Philadelphia neighborhood of Haddington.

On May 7, 1995 Wilmington Chapter NRHS chartered SEPTA PCC #2799 in a Red Arrow paint scheme and PCC #2728 in the colors of the Philadelphia Transportation. The two brightly colored cars were posed side by side on Girard Avenue at 63rd Street in the Philadelphia neighborhood of Haddington.

SEPTA motor flat #W-61 & PCC #2054 at Philadelphia, PA.

SEPTA motor flat #W-61 & PCC #2054 at Philadelphia, PA.

Work Cars

SEPTA motor flat #W-61 at Philadelphia, PA. 1-25-92.

SEPTA motor flat #W-61 at Philadelphia, PA. 1-25-92.

SEPTA crane #W-56 at Elmwood.

SEPTA crane #W-56 at Elmwood.

Motor flat # W-62 at Elmwood.

Motor flat # W-62 at Elmwood.

Kawasaki Streetcar

Line up of SEPTA Kawasaki cars at the Elmwood Avenue car barn in Philadelphia, PA. 1-25-92.

Line up of SEPTA Kawasaki cars at the Elmwood Avenue car barn in Philadelphia, PA. 1-25-92.

SEPTA Kawasaki car #9003 departs the Elmwood depot, 5-7-95.

SEPTA Kawasaki car #9003 departs the Elmwood depot, 5-7-95.

SEPTA Kawasaki car #9023 at Philadelphia, PA.

SEPTA Kawasaki car #9023 at Philadelphia, PA.

SEPTA Kawasaki car at 49th Street & Woodland Avenue in West Philadelphia, PA in 1992.

SEPTA Kawasaki car at 49th Street & Woodland Avenue in West Philadelphia, PA in 1992.

AEM-7

SEPTA AEM-7 #2304 laying over for the weekend at Trenton, NJ. 2-9-02.

SEPTA AEM-7 #2304 laying over for the weekend at Trenton, NJ. 2-9-02.

SEPTA AEM-7 #2307 at Conshohocken, PA in 1992.

SEPTA AEM-7 #2307 at Conshohocken, PA in 1992.

Interior of the cab of SEPTA AEM-7 #2307.

Interior of the cab of SEPTA AEM-7 #2307.

SEPTA AEM-7 2307 in the yard at West Trenton NJ. It will soon power a fan trip excursion around the Philadelphia area. 3-29-92.

SEPTA AEM-7 2307 in the yard at West Trenton NJ. It will soon power a fan trip excursion around the Philadelphia area. 3-29-92.

The Philadelphia Chapter NRHS arranged this over & under shot of SEPTA AEM-7 #2307 & P&W N-5 #451 at Norristown, PA on March 29, 1992.

The Philadelphia Chapter NRHS arranged this over & under shot of SEPTA AEM-7 #2307 & P&W N-5 #451 at Norristown, PA on March 29, 1992.

AEM-7 2307 at West Trenton, NJ.

AEM-7 2307 at West Trenton, NJ.

SEPTA Regional Rail:

Blueliner

SEPTA Ex-Reading Blueliner MU train on a Philadelphia Chapter NRHS special during a photo stop at Glenside, PA on June 5,1988.

SEPTA Ex-Reading Blueliner MU train on a Philadelphia Chapter NRHS special during a photo stop at Glenside, PA on June 5,1988.

SEPTA Blueliner #9128 at Wissahickon, PA. Number 9128 has been preserved by the Reading Technical and Historical Society at Hamburg, PA. According to their website this MU, Reading Class EPb was built as an 80 seat steel coach by Harlan & Hollingsworth (subsidiary of Bethlehem Steel) in 1932 and converted into a MU trailer.

SEPTA Blueliner #9128 at Wissahickon, PA. Number 9128 has been preserved by the Reading Technical and Historical Society at Hamburg, PA. According to their website this MU, Reading Class EPb was built as an 80 seat steel coach by Harlan & Hollingsworth (subsidiary of Bethlehem Steel) in 1932 and converted into a MU trailer.

SEPTA Ex-Reading class EPb Blueliner MU #9116 in 1988.

SEPTA Ex-Reading class EPb Blueliner MU #9116 in 1988.

The engineer's Controls of SEPTA Blueliner MU #9119.

The engineer’s Controls of SEPTA Blueliner MU #9119.

Inside Blueliner MU #9114.

Inside Blueliner MU #9114.

SEPTA Blueliners on a fan trip passing the Ex-PRR interlocking tower at Overbrook, PA on the famed Pennsy Mainline. 6-5-88.

SEPTA Blueliners on a fan trip passing the Ex-PRR interlocking tower at Overbrook, PA on the famed Pennsy Mainline. 6-5-88.

SEPTA Blueliner #9129 at Elm Street Station in Norristown, PA in 1989.

SEPTA Blueliner #9129 at Elm Street Station in Norristown, PA in 1989.

SEPTA Blueliner #9129 at Elm Street Station in Norristown, PA in 1989.

SEPTA Blueliner #9129 at Elm Street Station in Norristown, PA in 1989.

Blueliner #9129 departs from the upper level of 30th Street Station Philadelphia, PA.

Blueliner #9129 departs from the upper level of 30th Street Station Philadelphia, PA.

Silverliners

A train of SEPTA Silverliner IV MUs departs Cornwall Heights, PA. 1-10-10.

A train of SEPTA Silverliner IV MUs departs Cornwall Heights, PA. 1-10-10.

SEPTA Silverliner II #9004 (Ex-RDG) at the Philadelphia Airport Station in 1988.

SEPTA Silverliner II #9004 (Ex-RDG) at the Philadelphia Airport Station in 1988.

SEPTA Silverliner III #238 on a R-1 Airport line train at the Philadelphia Airport station.

SEPTA Silverliner III #238 on a R-1 Airport line train at the Philadelphia Airport station.

SEPTA Silverliner III #227 at West Trenton NJ. 3-29 -92. This MU was built by St Louis car in 1967.

SEPTA Silverliner III #227 at West Trenton NJ. 3-29 -92. This MU was built by St Louis car in 1967.

A 3 car train of SEPTA Siverliners crossing the Delaware River at Morrisville, PA in January of 2010.

A 3 car train of SEPTA Siverliners crossing the Delaware River at Morrisville, PA in January of 2010.

SEPTA Silverliner II #263 & Silverliner IV #182 at Lansdale, PA in April of 1993.

SEPTA Silverliner II #263 & Silverliner IV #182 at Lansdale, PA in April of 1993.

Silverliner IV #333 departing the upper level of 30th Street Station Philadelphia, PA in 1988.

Silverliner IV #333 departing the upper level of 30th Street Station Philadelphia, PA in 1988.

SEPTA Silverliner IV #368 on a R-5 train arriving at the Upper Level of 30th Street Station, Philadelphia PA. 4-25-93.

SEPTA Silverliner IV #368 on a R-5 train arriving at the Upper Level of 30th Street Station, Philadelphia PA. 4-25-93.

Chicago Trolleys

On the Cover: Car 1747 was built between 1885 and 1893 by the Chicago City Railway, which operated lines on the South Side starting in April 1859. This is a single-truck (one set of wheels) open electric car; most likely a cable car, retrofitted with a trolley and traction motor. The man at right is conductor William Stevely Atchison (1861-1921), and this image came from his granddaughter. (Courtesy of Debbie Becker.)

On the Cover: Car 1747 was built between 1885 and 1893 by the Chicago City Railway, which operated lines on the South Side starting in April 1859. This is a single-truck (one set of wheels) open electric car; most likely a cable car, retrofitted with a trolley and traction motor. The man at right is conductor William Stevely Atchison (1861-1921), and this image came from his granddaughter. (Courtesy of Debbie Becker.)

Check out our new book Chicago Trolleys. Signed copies are available through our Online Store.

This book makes an excellent gift and costs just $17.99 plus shipping. That’s $4.00 off the list price.

Help Support The Trolley Dodger

gh1

This is our 212th 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 408,000 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.

DONATIONS

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.

A Traction Photo Album, Part 1

Photo 1. A train of Ex-DL&W MUs, which appears to have recently received a fresh coat of Pullman green paint, depart the Hoboken (NJ) Terminal 10-2-82.

Photo 1. A train of Ex-DL&W MUs, which appears to have recently received a fresh coat of Pullman green paint, depart the Hoboken (NJ) Terminal 10-2-82.

Kenneth Gear is no stranger to this blog, as we have featred his photos a few times before.* Starting with this post, he offers a sort of career retrospective of his best work over the last 40 years.

We thank him for sharing these wonderful pictures. Part 1 includes Amtrak, New Jersey Transit GG-1s, and ex-Lackawanna MUs, all electric. As Ken says, it’s an “eclectic group of electric motive power!”

Watch this space for future installments.

Enjoy!

-David Sadowski

*To see more of Ken’s photos, check out these previous posts:
Night Beat, Jersey Style (June 4, 2016)
Trolley Dodger Mailbag, 10-31-2016
Iowa Traction (December 6, 2016)
An Interurban Legacy (March 4, 2017)
Railroad Record Club Treasure Hunt (July 30, 2017)

Annual Fundraiser

Thanks to you, our readers, we just had a successful fundraiser. We will be here for yet another year. If you contributed, we are particularly grateful.

We are fortunate to have readers who are sharing their material with us. Otherwise, we have to purchase everything that you see here, or see in our books. The need for help is ongoing.

It’s no secret that we are working on another book for publication later this year. More details will be forthcoming when they are available.

If you enjoy reading this blog, and want to see it continue, we hope you will consider supporting it via a donation.  You can also purchase items from our Online Store. With your help, we cannot fail.

A Traction Photo Album


By Kenneth Gear

Recently I’ve been scanning some of the slides I’ve photographed over the years. I’m attempting to catalog them into some logical, easily retrievable order. Not such an easy task considering I have shot well over 70,000 slides since I started in 1977. In the process of scanning the slides I was somewhat surprised to realize that a lot of the equipment I photographed is now retired, scrapped or in museums. Of course the GG-1s are gone as well as the Ex-Lackawanna DC electric MU cars- no surprise there, but Amtrak HHP-8s and NJ Transit ALP-44s! It doesn’t seem like their time should have passed yet. NJT has recently solicited bids for new MUs to replace the Arrow MU car fleet and newer PA-5 cars now take commuters through the “tubes” under the Hudson to and from New York. I’m glad I rode and photographed what I did when I did.

I thought readers of the Trolley Dodger might be interested in seeing some of these images so I put together a bit of a photo album to share. I’ve included photos of the equipment no longer in service as well as some of the locomotives and MUs that are out on the rails at this moment serving the traveling public. I also included some slides I shot of fan trips, shop tours, and equipment displays that I attended over the years. Since my photos of the Iowa Traction steeple cabs and the night shots I took of electric railroad operations have already been featured in past installments of this blog, I did not include any here. The photos are categorized by railroad and equipment type. I hope everyone enjoys the photos.

Amtrak

Photo 1. An Amtrak GG-1 arrives at the Metropark station in Iselin, New Jersey in 1978.

Photo 1. An Amtrak GG-1 arrives at the Metropark station in Iselin, New Jersey in 1978.

Photo 2. I took this photo of an Amtrak train powered by two GG-1s in Edison, New Jersey on December 1, 1980. I was only 17 years old at the time and was using an Electra 135 range finder camera. It was aperture priority so I could not select the shutter speed. I was told that on a sunny day to use an aperture of F5.6 or F8, which I did. I loaded a roll of Kodachrome 64 slide film into the camera and headed trackside to the Edison station. This being one of the fastest pieces of track in the whole country, combined with a camera that automatically picked shutter speeds and, using ASA 64 film, meant the results were going to be predictable. Most of the trains appeared as blurry messes! I was disappointed with this shot and stored it away for many years. I now like the shot very much! It has just the right amount of blur to convey motion but not enough to ruin the shot. Even the newspaper on the platform is being carried along in the wind with just the right amount of motion blur. The word AMTRAK on the side of the second G is blurred just enough to remain legible.

Photo 2. I took this photo of an Amtrak train powered by two GG-1s in Edison, New Jersey on December 1, 1980. I was only 17 years old at the time and was using an Electra 135 range finder camera. It was aperture priority so I could not select the shutter speed. I was told that on a sunny day to use an aperture of F5.6 or F8, which I did. I loaded a roll of Kodachrome 64 slide film into the camera and headed trackside to the Edison station. This being one of the fastest pieces of track in the whole country, combined with a camera that automatically picked shutter speeds and, using ASA 64 film, meant the results were going to be predictable. Most of the trains appeared as blurry messes!
I was disappointed with this shot and stored it away for many years. I now like the shot very much! It has just the right amount of blur to convey motion but not enough to ruin the shot. Even the newspaper on the platform is being carried along in the wind with just the right amount of motion blur. The word AMTRAK on the side of the second G is blurred just enough to remain legible.

Photo 3. Amtrak GG-1 #918 at Lancaster PA October 3, 1978.

Photo 3. Amtrak GG-1 #918 at Lancaster PA October 3, 1978.

Photo 4. In another of my motion blurred action shots, an Amtrak Metroliner MU train speeds through Edison, NJ on December 1, 1979.

Photo 4. In another of my motion blurred action shots, an Amtrak Metroliner MU train speeds through Edison, NJ on December 1, 1979.

Photo 5. Amtrak Metroliner MU #817 leads a westbound train at Edison, NJ in 1978.

Photo 5. Amtrak Metroliner MU #817 leads a westbound train at Edison, NJ in 1978.

Photo 6. Metroliner #823 crossing the DOCK drawbridge and arriving at Penn Station Newark, NJ.

Photo 6. Metroliner #823 crossing the DOCK drawbridge and arriving at Penn Station Newark, NJ.

Photo 7. Amtrak E-60C #972 speeding through Edison, NJ in December of 1979. I couldn't stop the fast motion of the trains with the camera I had, so I decided to try to make the best of it by using the motion blur to convey a sense of speed and power. This is one more of only a few of the "blur" shots that I actually like.

Photo 7. Amtrak E-60C #972 speeding through Edison, NJ in December of 1979. I couldn’t stop the fast motion of the trains with the camera I had, so I decided to try to make the best of it by using the motion blur to convey a sense of speed and power. This is one more of only a few of the “blur” shots that I actually like.

Photo 8. A tour of Amtrak's Sunnyside Yard in Queens, New York City on June 20, 1987 officered a rare opportunity to photograph behind the scenes operations there. This photo shows Amtrak E-60 950 at the engine house awaiting attention.

Photo 8. A tour of Amtrak’s Sunnyside Yard in Queens, New York City on June 20, 1987 officered a rare opportunity to photograph behind the scenes operations there. This photo shows Amtrak E-60 950 at the engine house awaiting attention.

Photo 9. Amtrak E-60 #608 on train #88 the SILVER METEOR passing the Hell Gate Fire train. The fire train is used to fight fires on the elevated approaches and main span of the Hell Gate Bridge where it would be very difficult for the NYFD to reach.

Photo 9. Amtrak E-60 #608 on train #88 the SILVER METEOR passing the Hell Gate Fire train. The fire train is used to fight fires on the elevated approaches and main span of the Hell Gate Bridge where it would be very difficult for the NYFD to reach.

Photo 10. Amtrak E-60 #608 on Train #88 SILVER METEOR is being cleaned and stocked at Sunnyside.

Photo 10. Amtrak E-60 #608 on Train #88 SILVER METEOR is being cleaned and stocked at Sunnyside.

Photo 11. An eclectic group of Amtrak electric motive power at Sunnyside yard, Queens, NY. 6-20-87.

Photo 11. An eclectic group of Amtrak electric motive power at Sunnyside yard, Queens, NY. 6-20-87.

Photo 12. Amtrak E-60 #609 powers Train #91 the SILVER STAR at Holmesburg Junction, PA. 2-9-02.

Photo 12. Amtrak E-60 #609 powers Train #91 the SILVER STAR at Holmesburg Junction, PA. 2-9-02.

Photo 13. Amtrak E-60 MA #608 on Train #91 SILVER STAR at Penn Station Newark, NJ. 9-7-02.

Photo 13. Amtrak E-60 MA #608 on Train #91 SILVER STAR at Penn Station Newark, NJ. 9-7-02.

Photo 14. Amtrak E-60MA #600 on Track A at Newark, NJ Penn Station.

Photo 14. Amtrak E-60MA #600 on Track A at Newark, NJ Penn Station.

Photo 15. Amtrak E-60MA #600 & NJ Transit ALP-44 #4423 at Newark, NJ Penn Station 2-2-02.

Photo 15. Amtrak E-60MA #600 & NJ Transit ALP-44 #4423 at Newark, NJ Penn Station 2-2-02.

Photo 16. Amtrak AEM-7 #943 & E-60s #955 and #953 at New Haven, CT. 3-17-84.

Photo 16. Amtrak AEM-7 #943 & E-60s #955 and #953 at New Haven, CT. 3-17-84.

hoto 17. Amtrak AEM-7 #900 at New Haven, CT in May of 1986. Prior to the extension of electrification from New Haven to Boston in 2000, Amtrak trains switched from electric locomotives to Diesel before continuing to Boston. The reverse was done for New York Bound trains. Number 900 has cut off a train from New York and is heading to the motor storage yard.

hoto 17. Amtrak AEM-7 #900 at New Haven, CT in May of 1986. Prior to the extension of electrification from New Haven to Boston in 2000, Amtrak trains switched from electric locomotives to Diesel before continuing to Boston. The reverse was done for New York Bound trains. Number 900 has cut off a train from New York and is heading to the motor storage yard.

Photo 18. In October of 1997 I made a trip to Rye, New York to photograph Amtrak and Metro-North trains under the New Haven Railroad's unique triangular catenary. The first photo I took was of the train I arrived on, the FAST MAIL powered by Amtrak AEM-7 #932.

Photo 18. In October of 1997 I made a trip to Rye, New York to photograph Amtrak and Metro-North trains under the New Haven Railroad’s unique triangular catenary. The first photo I took was of the train I arrived on, the FAST MAIL powered by Amtrak AEM-7 #932.

Photo 19. Amtrak AEM-7s 908 & 918 under the triangular catenary.

Photo 19. Amtrak AEM-7s 908 & 918 under the triangular catenary.

Photo 20. One more at Rye, Amtrak AEM-7 #904 is New Haven bound. More triangular catenary photos in the Metro-North section.

Photo 20. One more at Rye, Amtrak AEM-7 #904 is New Haven bound. More triangular catenary photos in the Metro-North section.

Photo 21. AEM-7 #909 at HUNTER Tower, Newark, NJ. 2-16-97.

Photo 21. AEM-7 #909 at HUNTER Tower, Newark, NJ. 2-16-97.

Photo 22. Amtrak AEM-7s 926 & 929 meet at speed in the rain at the Jersey Avenue station in New Brunswick, NJ. November 1991.

Photo 22. Amtrak AEM-7s 926 & 929 meet at speed in the rain at the Jersey Avenue station in New Brunswick, NJ. November 1991.

Photo 23. AEM-7 #933 at speed. Linden, NJ. March 1, 1992.

Photo 23. AEM-7 #933 at speed. Linden, NJ. March 1, 1992.

Photo 24. AEM-7 #929 departs Newark, NJ Penn Station 10-29-83.

Photo 24. AEM-7 #929 departs Newark, NJ Penn Station 10-29-83.

Photo 25. Amtrak AEM-7s 924 & 940 power Keystone Train 644 at Harrison NJ in 2002.

Photo 25. Amtrak AEM-7s 924 & 940 power Keystone Train 644 at Harrison NJ in 2002.

Photo 26. Amtrak AEM-7 912 W/B photographed from a boat on the Passaic River at Kearny NJ.

Photo 26. Amtrak AEM-7 912 W/B photographed from a boat on the Passaic River at Kearny NJ.

Photo 27. AEM-7 #928 on Train #170 at Old Saybrook, CT. 4-19-05.

Photo 27. AEM-7 #928 on Train #170 at Old Saybrook, CT. 4-19-05.

Photo 28 Amtrak AEM-7AC #948 on Keystone Train #661 crossing the Delaware River on the Ex-PRR bridge opened in 1903. Morrisville, PA. 1-10-10.

Photo 28 Amtrak AEM-7AC #948 on Keystone Train #661 crossing the Delaware River on the Ex-PRR bridge opened in 1903. Morrisville, PA. 1-10-10.

Photo 29. AEM-7ACs 939 & 919 on Train #162 crossing the Delaware River at Morrisville, PA.

Photo 29. AEM-7ACs 939 & 919 on Train #162 crossing the Delaware River at Morrisville, PA.

Photo 30. Amtrak #AEM-7 932 at Cornwall Heights, PA. January 10, 2010.

Photo 30. Amtrak #AEM-7 932 at Cornwall Heights, PA. January 10, 2010.

Photo 31. HHP-8 #651 on Train #93 at Old Saybrook, CT. High maintenance costs and low reliability doomed these locomotives to barely ten years of service on Amtrak.

Photo 31. HHP-8 #651 on Train #93 at Old Saybrook, CT. High maintenance costs and low reliability doomed these locomotives to barely ten years of service on Amtrak.

Photo 32. Amtrak HHP-8 #650 on Train #173 at Old Saybrook, CT. 4-19-05.

Photo 32. Amtrak HHP-8 #650 on Train #173 at Old Saybrook, CT. 4-19-05.

Photo 33. HHP-8 #660 powers Train #137 at Old Saybrook, CT in this overhead view.

Photo 33. HHP-8 #660 powers Train #137 at Old Saybrook, CT in this overhead view.

Photo 34 Amtrak HHP-8 #658 with Train #163 at Secaucus Junction, NJ. 9-6-03.

Photo 34 Amtrak HHP-8 #658 with Train #163 at Secaucus Junction, NJ. 9-6-03.

Photo 35. Amtrak HHP-8 #655 is passing a PATH train at Harrison, NJ in 2002.

Photo 35. Amtrak HHP-8 #655 is passing a PATH train at Harrison, NJ in 2002.

Photo 36. Amtrak Acela power car #2028 and a PATH train of PA-3 & PA-4 cars at Harrison NJ.

Photo 36. Amtrak Acela power car #2028 and a PATH train of PA-3 & PA-4 cars at Harrison NJ.

Photo 37. Amtrak's leased X-2000 trainset was assigned to Express Metroliner #223 on April 27, 1993. It is shown here flying though Edison, NJ.

Photo 37. Amtrak’s leased X-2000 trainset was assigned to Express Metroliner #223 on April 27, 1993. It is shown here flying though Edison, NJ.

New Jersey Transit GG-1s

Photo 1. NJDOT GG-1 #4882 awaits her next assignment at South Amboy, NJ in 1980.

Photo 1. NJDOT GG-1 #4882 awaits her next assignment at South Amboy, NJ in 1980.

Photo 2. The crossing guard takes a little break from manually operating the gates as NJDOT GG-1 #4882 waits for it's next train at South Amboy, NJ in the summer of 1980.

Photo 2. The crossing guard takes a little break from manually operating the gates as NJDOT GG-1 #4882 waits for it’s next train at South Amboy, NJ in the summer of 1980.

Photo 3 NJDOT GG-1 #4883 retains her yellow stripe that was applied in PRR days. South Amboy, NJ. 7-24-81.

Photo 3 NJDOT GG-1 #4883 retains her yellow stripe that was applied in PRR days. South Amboy, NJ. 7-24-81.

Photo 4. Ex- PRR GG-1 #4883 departs South Amboy, NJ bound for Penn Station New York.

Photo 4. Ex- PRR GG-1 #4883 departs South Amboy, NJ bound for Penn Station New York.

Photo 5. GG-1 #4873 crossing RIVER drawbridge across the Raritan Bay between Perth Amboy and South Amboy, NJ. 5-4-82.

Photo 5. GG-1 #4873 crossing RIVER drawbridge across the Raritan Bay between Perth Amboy and South Amboy, NJ. 5-4-82.

Photo 6. NJDOT GG-1 #4881 crossing RIVER drawbridge into South Amboy, NJ.

Photo 6. NJDOT GG-1 #4881 crossing RIVER drawbridge into South Amboy, NJ.

Photo 7. In 1981 NJ Transit restored GG-1 #4877 and painted her in the classic PRR Tuscan red and gold five stripe scheme. She looked great in the summer sunshine at South Amboy, NJ.

Photo 7. In 1981 NJ Transit restored GG-1 #4877 and painted her in the classic PRR Tuscan red and gold five stripe scheme. She looked great in the summer sunshine at South Amboy, NJ.

Photo 8. NJT restored Pennsylvania GG-1 #4877 and Ex-Southern E-8 #4330 at South Amboy on July 24, 1981. I have never visited Ivy City yard near Washington DC where PRR GG-1s were serviced along with passenger power from connecting Southern railroads, but I imagine this scene is not unlike what it looked like there before the coming of Amtrak.

Photo 8. NJT restored Pennsylvania GG-1 #4877 and Ex-Southern E-8 #4330 at South Amboy on July 24, 1981. I have never visited Ivy City yard near Washington DC where PRR GG-1s were serviced along with passenger power from connecting Southern railroads, but I imagine this scene is not unlike what it looked like there before the coming of Amtrak.

Photo 9. Doubling-up on the Pennsylvania RR heritage, GG-1s 4877 and 4883 show off their PRR lineage in two different paint schemes.

Photo 9. Doubling-up on the Pennsylvania RR heritage, GG-1s 4877 and 4883 show off their PRR lineage in two different paint schemes.

Photo 10. NJT GG-1 #4877 heads light to the station at South Amboy to couple onto a New York bound train from Bay Head that was just brought in by a couple of E-8 diesels.

Photo 10. NJT GG-1 #4877 heads light to the station at South Amboy to couple onto a New York bound train from Bay Head that was just brought in by a couple of E-8 diesels.

Photo 11. Now coupled to the train and with the brake test completed, GG-1 #4877 is about to leave the station.

Photo 11. Now coupled to the train and with the brake test completed, GG-1 #4877 is about to leave the station.

Photo 12. GG-1 #4883, South Amboy NJ at sunset. 5-4-82.

Photo 12. GG-1 #4883, South Amboy NJ at sunset. 5-4-82.

Photo 13. NJT GG-1 #4882 is about to depart South Amboy early on the cold morning of January 13, 1983. I'm sure the passengers were very happy to have that steam heat. Before the end of the year, the Gs will be replaced by Ex-Amtrak E-60s.

Photo 13. NJT GG-1 #4882 is about to depart South Amboy early on the cold morning of January 13, 1983. I’m sure the passengers were very happy to have that steam heat. Before the end of the year, the Gs will be replaced by Ex-Amtrak E-60s.

Photo 14. NJT GG-1 4876 in the weeds at the South Amboy, NJ Engine Terminal. 11-7-81.

Photo 14. NJT GG-1 4876 in the weeds at the South Amboy, NJ Engine Terminal. 11-7-81.

Photo 15. GG-1 #4876 with tip-toe pantographs at the South Amboy Engine Terminal.

Photo 15. GG-1 #4876 with tip-toe pantographs at the South Amboy Engine Terminal.

Photo 16. NJT GG-1s in the fog at South Amboy. 5-25-83.

Photo 16. NJT GG-1s in the fog at South Amboy. 5-25-83.

NJ Transit ex-Lackawanna DC Electric MUs

Photo 1. A train of Ex-DL&W MUs, which appears to have recently received a fresh coat of Pullman green paint, depart the Hoboken (NJ) Terminal 10-2-82.

Photo 1. A train of Ex-DL&W MUs, which appears to have recently received a fresh coat of Pullman green paint, depart the Hoboken (NJ) Terminal 10-2-82.

Photo 2. A train of DC electric MUs under the Bush trainshed of the Hoboken Terminal in 1980.

Photo 2. A train of DC electric MUs under the Bush trainshed of the Hoboken Terminal in 1980.

Photo 3. Ex-DL&W MUs sit in the Hoboken yards looking as gloomy as the weather. At this time Conrail was operating the New Jersey Commuter trains for the state's Department of Transportation.

Photo 3. Ex-DL&W MUs sit in the Hoboken yards looking as gloomy as the weather. At this time Conrail was operating the New Jersey Commuter trains for the state’s Department of Transportation.

Photos 4, 5, & 6. On March 25, 1980 I was treated to a tour of the Hoboken MU shed. This was the shop located near the passenger terminal where the Ex-DL&W cars were maintained. This shop was closed and eventually tore down after the opening of NJ Transit's new Meadows Maintenance Complex in Kearny, NJ.

Photos 4, 5, & 6. On March 25, 1980 I was treated to a tour of the Hoboken MU shed. This was the shop located near the passenger terminal where the Ex-DL&W cars were maintained. This shop was closed and eventually tore down after the opening of NJ Transit’s new Meadows Maintenance Complex in Kearny, NJ.

Photo 7. Stacked pantographs at MU shed in Hoboken, NJ.

Photo 7. Stacked pantographs at MU shed in Hoboken, NJ.

Photo 8. NJ Transit catenary inspection car #3408 on display at Hoboken Terminal during the "Hoboken/Try Transit Festival on October 2, 1982. It was originally a DL&W combine. A dome was installed in the roof of the baggage section and a platform with chairs provided inspectors a great view of the wires.

Photo 8. NJ Transit catenary inspection car #3408 on display at Hoboken Terminal during the “Hoboken/Try Transit Festival on October 2, 1982. It was originally a DL&W combine. A dome was installed in the roof of the baggage section and a platform with chairs provided inspectors a great view of the wires.

Photo 9 NJT Catenary inspection car 3408 again on display at a festival in Hoboken this time on September 27, 1986. It once again wears the Pullman green paint that the DL&W used on the MU fleet.

Photo 9 NJT Catenary inspection car 3408 again on display at a festival in Hoboken this time on September 27, 1986. It once again wears the Pullman green paint that the DL&W used on the MU fleet.

Photo 10. Catenary inspection car #3408 once more. This time in company with other Ex-DL&W MUs facing the afternoon sun at Hoboken, NJ.

Photo 10. Catenary inspection car #3408 once more. This time in company with other Ex-DL&W MUs facing the afternoon sun at Hoboken, NJ.

Photo 11. Looking a little shabby, Ex-DL&W MUs depart Hoboken Terminal. 10-3-81.

Photo 11. Looking a little shabby, Ex-DL&W MUs depart Hoboken Terminal. 10-3-81.

Photo 12. NJ Transit DC MU Motor car at Hoboken, NJ. 1-25-81.

Photo 12. NJ Transit DC MU Motor car at Hoboken, NJ. 1-25-81.

Photo 13. Interior of one of the refurbished Ex-DL&W MU cars.

Photo 13. Interior of one of the refurbished Ex-DL&W MU cars.

Photo 14. Big changes are coming! In 1982, along with the work to convert the 3000 Volt DC current to 25,000 volt 60 hertz AC, NJT was building a new TERMINAL tower. A train of MUs depart Hoboken passing the new tower still under construction.

Photo 14. Big changes are coming! In 1982, along with the work to convert the 3000 Volt DC current to 25,000 volt 60 hertz AC, NJT was building a new TERMINAL tower. A train of MUs depart Hoboken passing the new tower still under construction.

Photo 15. NJDOT/Conrail Ex-DL&W MU on a Gladstone Line train at Summit, NJ in January of 1981. At this time Gladstone Branch trains departed Hoboken coupled to the rear of Morristown trains. At Summit the Gladstone section was uncoupled and departed as a separate train. Today's ARROW MUs are semi-permanently coupled preventing this type of operation. Gladstone passengers must now change trains at Summit, no more one seat ride.

Photo 15. NJDOT/Conrail Ex-DL&W MU on a Gladstone Line train at Summit, NJ in January of 1981. At this time Gladstone Branch trains departed Hoboken coupled to the rear of Morristown trains. At Summit the Gladstone section was uncoupled and departed as a separate train. Today’s ARROW MUs are semi-permanently coupled preventing this type of operation. Gladstone passengers must now change trains at Summit, no more one seat ride.

Photo 16. Another view of the Ex-DL&W MUs on a Gladstone Branch train at Summit, NJ. 1-25-81.

Photo 16. Another view of the Ex-DL&W MUs on a Gladstone Branch train at Summit, NJ. 1-25-81.

Photo 17, 18, & 19. The scenic highlight of the Gladstone branch is the high bridge over the Passaic River at Millington, NJ. Here are three photos of the Ex-DL&W MUs crossing the bridge in August of 1984, just before the DC current was shut off and all of these cars retired.

Photo 17, 18, & 19. The scenic highlight of the Gladstone branch is the high bridge over the Passaic River at Millington, NJ. Here are three photos of the Ex-DL&W MUs crossing the bridge in August of 1984, just before the DC current was shut off and all of these cars retired.

Photo 20. The Pyle-National headlight & Westinghouse Pneuphonic horn of an Ex-DL&W MU.

Photo 20. The Pyle-National headlight & Westinghouse Pneuphonic horn of an Ex-DL&W MU.

Photo 21. A train of Ex-DL&W MUs arrives at Bernardsville, NJ in October of 1982. Work on converting the DC current the MU train is being powered by, to the AC current needed by the Arrow MU replacements, is in evidence. Work equipment on the siding track will spell doom for the venerable DC cars. There is still some time left. The DC MUs will not finally give up the rails they have been polishing since 1930 for almost two more years. The cars will last until August of 1984 but not all is lost, 156 (97 trailers, 59 motors) will be preserved.

Photo 21. A train of Ex-DL&W MUs arrives at Bernardsville, NJ in October of 1982. Work on converting the DC current the MU train is being powered by, to the AC current needed by the Arrow MU replacements, is in evidence. Work equipment on the siding track will spell doom for the venerable DC cars. There is still some time left. The DC MUs will not finally give up the rails they have been polishing since 1930 for almost two more years. The cars will last until August of 1984 but not all is lost, 156 (97 trailers, 59 motors) will be preserved.

Photo 22. NJ Transit DC MUs departs Bernardsville, NJ into the gloom of an October evening and an uncertain future.

Photo 22. NJ Transit DC MUs departs Bernardsville, NJ into the gloom of an October evening and an uncertain future.

Photo 23. After the day's work the commuters on this train likely feel as weary as the train of Ex-DL&W MUs look. Hoboken, NJ. 3-25-80.

Photo 23. After the day’s work the commuters on this train likely feel as weary as the train of Ex-DL&W MUs look. Hoboken, NJ. 3-25-80.

Photo 24. Just before the end of DC operation, the Tri-State chapter of the National Railway Historical Society organized a "farewell" excursion of the Ex-DL&W MUs. Polar car #3454 carried the white EXTRA flags at a photo stop at Bay Street Station, Montclair, NJ on August 19, 1984.

Photo 24. Just before the end of DC operation, the Tri-State chapter of the National Railway Historical Society organized a “farewell” excursion of the Ex-DL&W MUs. Polar car #3454 carried the white EXTRA flags at a photo stop at Bay Street Station, Montclair, NJ on August 19, 1984.

Photo 25. Whatever adhesive was used to apply the LACKAWANNA lettering to the Polar car was certainly not up to the task. "K WANNA" #3454 is shown during a photo stop at Montclair, NJ.

Photo 25. Whatever adhesive was used to apply the LACKAWANNA lettering to the Polar car was certainly not up to the task. “K WANNA” #3454 is shown during a photo stop at Montclair, NJ.

A Recent Find

Color photos from the 1948-49 Chicago Railroad Fair are not that common, especially ones like this with replica cable grip car 532, which was actually built by the Chicago Surface Lines in 1934. It can be seen today at the Museum of Science and Industry. Here is how it looked on September 25, 1949. (James J. Buckley Photo)

Color photos from the 1948-49 Chicago Railroad Fair are not that common, especially ones like this with replica cable grip car 532, which was actually built by the Chicago Surface Lines in 1934. It can be seen today at the Museum of Science and Industry. Here is how it looked on September 25, 1949. (James J. Buckley Photo)

We spent two or three hours cleaning up this image in Photoshop. It was full of crud, but it’s practically spotless now.

-David Sadowski

Chicago Trolleys

On the Cover: Car 1747 was built between 1885 and 1893 by the Chicago City Railway, which operated lines on the South Side starting in April 1859. This is a single-truck (one set of wheels) open electric car; most likely a cable car, retrofitted with a trolley and traction motor. The man at right is conductor William Stevely Atchison (1861-1921), and this image came from his granddaughter. (Courtesy of Debbie Becker.)

On the Cover: Car 1747 was built between 1885 and 1893 by the Chicago City Railway, which operated lines on the South Side starting in April 1859. This is a single-truck (one set of wheels) open electric car; most likely a cable car, retrofitted with a trolley and traction motor. The man at right is conductor William Stevely Atchison (1861-1921), and this image came from his granddaughter. (Courtesy of Debbie Becker.)

Check out our new book Chicago Trolleys. Signed copies are available through our Online Store.

This book makes an excellent gift and costs just $17.99 plus shipping. That’s $4.00 off the list price.

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Badgered

Chicago, South Shore & South Bend car 30 was built in 1926 by Pullman, and retired in the early 1980s. It, and several of its sister cars, are an important part of East Troy's fleet.

Chicago, South Shore & South Bend car 30 was built in 1926 by Pullman, and retired in the early 1980s. It, and several of its sister cars, are an important part of East Troy’s fleet.

There’s plenty of traction action going on nowadays in Wisconsin, the Badger State. We just spent an eventful weekend checking it out.

On Friday, we stopped by Kenosha for a ride on their two-mile streetcar loop. 4616, the Cincinnati tribute car, was out on the line that day.

On Saturday, I spent some time in Milwaukee, where track construction on Phase 1 of their new modern streetcar line is well underway. A few blocks of track are already in place on St. Paul Street.

The 2.5 mile-long line begins near the Milwaukee Intermodal Station (Amtrak), and heads east into the historic Third Ward. It will cross the Milwaukee River, but as of this writing no work has been done to add tracks to the existing bridge on St. Paul.

From the Third Ward, home of the Milwaukee Public Market, the line heads north into the Lower East Side, via two one-way routes, before turning north and east to its initial terminus at Burns Commons.

Here is a map showing the planned lines. Cars will be stored underneath nearby highway 94.

This is the first time I have seen new streetcar construction. I’m used to seeing decades-old tracks, long buried under asphalt, being torn out. The idea that this line will be completed sometime within the next two years is an exciting prospect.

Here is a recently discovered video, showing the final day of service on Route 10, Milwaukee’s last streetcar line, on March 1, 1958:

On Sunday, we headed out to the East Troy Electric Railroad, to ride on the last remaining original interurban trackage in Wisconsin.

South Shore Line car 30, which is one that was never lengthened and modernized, was out that day, as was Twin cities Rapid Transit 1583. The two 4000s are out of service and being worked on, as are the two Milwaukee cars.

We rode 1583 last year (see our previous post Badger Traction, 2016).

This was our first time riding a South Shore Line car at East Troy, and they seem to do quite well there. The South Shore cars, which were capable of high speeds, used 1500 volt DC current on their home tracks, but now have to make do with just 600. This is not a problem, as top speed on this demonstration railroad is about 15-20 mph.

The South Shore cars are wider than the line was designed for, which means tighter clearances with the line poles. If you do travel there, be sure not to stick anything out the windows.

While tourist trolleys and railroad museums are important and deserve your support, I for one will be glad when Wisconsonites will be able to use a streetcar for its original intended purpose, which is to get from one place to another.

-David Sadowski

Don's Rail Photos: "4616 was built by St Louis Car Co in 1950, #1674, and completed by Canadian Car & Foundry in 1951, #1912, as TTC 4515, Class A8. It was rebuilt in 1991 as 4616, Class A15. It was sold to Vintage Electric Streetcar Co in 1996 and sold to KTL as 4616. It was painted in a Cincinnati Street Ry scheme."

Don’s Rail Photos: “4616 was built by St Louis Car Co in 1950, #1674, and completed by Canadian Car & Foundry in 1951, #1912, as TTC 4515, Class A8. It was rebuilt in 1991 as 4616, Class A15. It was sold to Vintage Electric Streetcar Co in 1996 and sold to KTL as 4616. It was painted in a Cincinnati Street Ry scheme.”

At left, the Milwaukee Intermodal Station.

At left, the Milwaukee Intermodal Station.