More Color Restorations

Chicago, Aurora & Elgin interurban car 460 at Trolleyville USA in July 1963. This was part of an order of 10 cars built by St. Louis Car Company in 1945-46. Brookins managed to save four of these cars.

Chicago, Aurora & Elgin interurban car 460 at Trolleyville USA in July 1963. This was part of an order of 10 cars built by St. Louis Car Company in 1945-46. Brookins managed to save four of these cars.

Time was, faded-out color slides, usually old Ektachromes from around 1956 that had turned red, were considered a “lost cause,” suitable only for converting to black-and-white. But today’s software and digital technology has made it possible to bring many of these old images back to life, with spectacular results.

However, we tackle an even more intractable problem today- Anscochrome, a “grade Z” cheaper alternative to Kodak film that appealed to thrifty photographers back in the 1950s and 60s. These images have not held up well over the years, exhibiting color shifts that are all over the place. In some cases, it may not be possible to make these pictures look 100% normal, even with all the tools in our digital toolbox.

We have also included some faded Ektachrome slides, and even one Kodachrome example. For many years, Kodachrome was the benchmark, the “gold standard” against which all other slide films had to be judged, in terms of dye stability and color accuracy.

By the 1990s, Fujichrome Velvia had caught up to Kodachrome in terms of sharpness, color, and resistance to fading. With the rise of digital photography, demand for Kodachrome slide film gradually declined, to the point where Kodak discontinued it, and the last roll was developed in 2010. It used a considerably more complicated and difficult developing process than other slide films.

Most pictures in today’s post were shot on Anscochrome in the early 1960s, at two early railway museum operations in Ohio, Trolleyville USA and the Ohio Railway Museum. Presumably, they were taken by the same unidentified photographer.

The former operation is now history, after an aborted effort to re-establish it in Cleveland, while the latter has had its problems over the years. (As of this writing, the Ohio Railway Museum has not yet opened for the 2016 season, with an August 21 date scheduled.)

Trolleyville USA was a labor of love for the late Gerald E. Brookins, who owned a trailer park in Olmsted Township, Ohio. He built an operating trolley to bring people who lived in the trailer park to his general store. Starting around 1954, Mr. Brookins developed an extensive collection of equipment, and was responsible for saving many streetcars and interurbans from what would have been certain destruction.

While the Brookins concern no longer exists, much of its collection lives on in a variety of other places, such as the Illinois Railway Museum. (To see a list of equipment owned at various times by the Ohio Railway Museum, go here.)

In addition, there are a few interesting shots taken on other electric railways of the 1950s and 60s. I have only included a few of the “before” pictures, but except for the two shots from 1972, all of the originals looked just as bad as the samples shown.

These images will give you a good idea of what these two early museum operations were like in the 1960s. Recently, we learned that North Shore Line car 154 (a sister to the 160 at Union), built in 1915 and now 101 years old, has deteriorated so much in outdoor storage at the Ohio railway Museum that it is going to be scrapped.

Norfolk and Western steam engine 578, shown in operation below, last ran in 1978.

This makes the point that historic preservation will likely always be two steps forward and one step backward, in spite of everyone’s best efforts. However, there is also good news– Chicago “L” car 24, built in 1898, is far along in its restoration at IRM, and recently ran under its own power for the first time in more than 50 years.

In a few instances, we show the process of color restoration step-by-step. Of course, we can only work with what’s already there to begin with. There is a difference between color restoration such as this, and “colorizing” a black-and-white image. To see examples of colorized railfan images, you can check out Rick Foss‘ work on his Facebook page.

Enjoy!

-David Sadowski

PS- This article is intended to be a brief introduction to the subject of color-correcting badly faded images. It’s been pointed out to me that several of these still have a definite color cast.

In most cases, I spent only a few minutes working on each one. Otherwise, this post would still be far off in the future. Sometimes it is necessary to work for hours on a single image to make it look “right,” if it can be made to look that way.

However, using the right tools, including Photoshop, even the worst of the images shown here is a definite improvement on its badly faded original. It’s remarkable that ANY of these pictures can be color-corrected, all things considered.

In some cases, you may get lucky, and it may take a few brief minutes to make your problem picture look 100% better.

Chances are, I will continue to work on these as time permits, and will post improved versions of some images in future.

As always, you can leave a Comment on this post, or contact us directly at:

thetrolleydodger@gmail.com


Trolleyville USA (most pictures taken in July 1963):

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Here is Chicago, Aurora & Elgin car 36 at Trolleyville sometime in mid-1962. This car left Wheaton on April 14, 1962, and had already been repainted by January 1, 1963, so this picture must have been taken between those dates.

Here is Chicago, Aurora & Elgin car 36 at Trolleyville sometime in mid-1962. This car left Wheaton on April 14, 1962, and had already been repainted by January 1, 1963, so this picture must have been taken between those dates.

This is CA&E car 36 after being repainted at Trolleyville sometime during 1962.

This is CA&E car 36 after being repainted at Trolleyville sometime during 1962.

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These last two pictures were taken a few years later, circa 1972:

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Ohio Railway Museum, circa 1965:

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Montreal and Southern Counties interurban (quit in 1956):

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Chicago North Shore & Milwaukee (North Shore Line, including a CERA fantrip:

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The location of this photo has puzzled even some experts. However, one of our regular readers may have the answer: "I think that it is looking north on the old Shore Line route post abandonment say in 1957 or 1958 when brush had grown up on the right of way. I would say that the location is where the old Lake Bluff Shore Line station was located, you can see a part of the old platform on the left side of the photo. If you go to that location today, the North Shore bike path curves slightly just south of where the Mundelein-Lake Bluff shuttle used to pass under the CNW. One track of the Shore Line route was retained from North Chicago Jct to the Highwood Shops until the last day of service. That was how they got cars to the Highwood Shops to be serviced and painted. The train is on the remaining track that led south to Highwood."

The location of this photo has puzzled even some experts. However, one of our regular readers may have the answer: “I think that it is looking north on the old Shore Line route post abandonment say in 1957 or 1958 when brush had grown up on the right of way. I would say that the location is where the old Lake Bluff Shore Line station was located, you can see a part of the old platform on the left side of the photo. If you go to that location today, the North Shore bike path curves slightly just south of where the Mundelein-Lake Bluff shuttle used to pass under the CNW. One track of the Shore Line route was retained from North Chicago Jct to the Highwood Shops until the last day of service. That was how they got cars to the Highwood Shops to be serviced and painted. The train is on the remaining track that led south to Highwood.”

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South Shore Line/Illinois Central Electric:

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Red Ektachromes

Noted railfan Ray DeGroote recently celebrated his 86th birthday. In his honor, I have attempted to color-correct an Ektacrhome slide he shot in 1955.

The original Ektachrome had a film speed of 32, slow by today’s standards, but preferable to its contemporary, Kodachrome 10. Unfortunately, the dyes used in early Ektachrome were unstable. This problem was corrected by the early 1960s.

Ray DeGroote took this picture at the old CTA Garfield Park "L" Laramie stop on May 1, 1955. We are looking to the west. About 30 years later, he had a duplicate slide made for me. That's what I scanned. Chances are, the original slide looks even more red than this today.

Ray DeGroote took this picture at the old CTA Garfield Park “L” Laramie stop on May 1, 1955. We are looking to the west. About 30 years later, he had a duplicate slide made for me. That’s what I scanned. Chances are, the original slide looks even more red than this today.

First, I brought the image up in Photoshop, and let the program try to color-correct the image automatically. As you can see, it already looks better but still has a ways to go.

First, I brought the image up in Photoshop, and let the program try to color-correct the image automatically. As you can see, it already looks better but still has a ways to go.

Next, I added some yellow to remove an overall blue cast. But due to how the original color dyes had faded, the resulting image is lacking in color intensity. It looks "flat." Keep in mind that the amount of red had to be greatly reduced to match the intensity of the greens and blues, which were greatly diminished.

Next, I added some yellow to remove an overall blue cast. But due to how the original color dyes had faded, the resulting image is lacking in color intensity. It looks “flat.” Keep in mind that the amount of red had to be greatly reduced to match the intensity of the greens and blues, which were greatly diminished.

Here, I increased the overall color saturation and tweaked the color balance a bit. The picture looks better now, but we are not yet satisfied.

Here, I increased the overall color saturation and tweaked the color balance a bit. The picture looks better now, but we are not yet satisfied.

Finally, I boosted the color saturation again. This seems to me about the best result. The sky is blue, the grass is green, and the top of the railcars are close to a neutral grey. While the platforms may be slightly red, they may have looked that way, and meanwhile the lighter parts of the CTA cars look slightly cyan. Since we do not want to add any more red back into the picture, this is where we stop and say we are done.

Finally, I boosted the color saturation again. This seems to me about the best result. The sky is blue, the grass is green, and the top of the railcars are close to a neutral grey. While the platforms may be slightly red, they may have looked that way, and meanwhile the lighter parts of the CTA cars look slightly cyan. Since we do not want to add any more red back into the picture, this is where we stop and say we are done.

I also corrected a couple of Ektachrome slides from 1959 that have shifted to red. They show D.C. Transit car 766 in fantrip service. These are extreme cases, and it wasn’t possible to bring the color back to 100% normal for these two slides:

Don’s Rail Photos says:

766 was built by Kuhlman Car Co in 1918 as Capital Traction Co 27. It was rebuilt in 1931 and became Capital Transit 766 in 1934. It is now at the National Capital Trolley Museum.

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Here’s a picture showing Pacific Electric 1543 and others in a yard in the Los Angeles area on August 11, 1959:

Here is the original faded slide.

Here is the original faded slide.

Here, we have applied the auto color function in Photoshop. It has taken us part of the way, but we are not done yet.

Here, we have applied the auto color function in Photoshop. It has taken us part of the way, but we are not done yet.

We have reduced the amount of red further, and increased color saturation a bit. The picture is starting to look better.

We have reduced the amount of red further, and increased color saturation a bit. The picture is starting to look better.

Finally, we boosted the contrast a bit to give the image some "snap." Now we are finished. The dirt is red, but that is probably how things looked, since the sky is blue, without any trace of red.

Finally, we boosted the contrast a bit to give the image some “snap.” Now we are finished. The dirt is red, but that is probably how things looked, since the sky is blue, without any trace of red.


Faded Kodachrome

Yes, Virginia, there is such a thing as a faded Kodachrome slide. This 1939 photo of the Trylon and Perisphere at the New York World's Fair has shifted to magenta over the years. Apparently, the dyes in the earliest Kodachromes were nowhere near as stable as they soon became.

Yes, Virginia, there is such a thing as a faded Kodachrome slide. This 1939 photo of the Trylon and Perisphere at the New York World’s Fair has shifted to magenta over the years. Apparently, the dyes in the earliest Kodachromes were nowhere near as stable as they soon became.

We have eliminated the magenta cast, but now there hardly seems to be any color at all. It's almost monochrome now.

We have eliminated the magenta cast, but now there hardly seems to be any color at all. It’s almost monochrome now.

Here, we have boosted color saturation and have added some yellow. Unfortunately, it looks like we have gone too far, since the sky is now beginning to turn yellow as well.

Here, we have boosted color saturation and have added some yellow. Unfortunately, it looks like we have gone too far, since the sky is now beginning to turn yellow as well.

Here, we have backed off a bit on color saturation and while there is still a bit of yellow in the sky, the image overall looks much better than it originally did.

Here, we have backed off a bit on color saturation and while there is still a bit of yellow in the sky, the image overall looks much better than it originally did.


Recent Correspondence

Spence Ziegler writes, regarding the Illinois Central Electric suburban service (now the Metra Electric):

Dates of all of the station closures, last run of the turnaround trains (Hyde Park, 72nd St., Burnside) and on what date the original Blue Island Coach yard closed and when the CJ/CR&I viaduct was removed. Any information would greatly be appreciated. Thank you in advance.

We will try to find answers to your questions, thanks.


Help Support The Trolley Dodger

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This is our 151st 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 185,000 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. You can make a contribution there as well.

As we have said before, “If you buy here, we will be here.”

We thank you for your support.

Trolley Dodger Mailbag, 3-27-2016

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Chicago, Ottawa & Peoria

Tim McGuire writes:

I’m attaching a photo of my grandfather, Arthur Defenbaugh from Streator, who was a conductor on the Streator to Ottawa branch, with his engineer, standing in front of their trolley. I don’t know when or where the picture was taken. We think it was Streator. I believe it was in the late 20’s as this is a metal trolley car. The trolley car number appears to be 18. I read on your website that you don’t have many operational era photos for the CO&P. I thought you would enjoy it.

If you have information about my grandfather or the other gentleman, please let me know.

 

Arthur Ingram Defenbaugh was born on October 6, 1881, and died in July 1972, aged 90. It appears he spent most of his working life as a farmer. His wife died in 1926 and it does not appear he ever remarried.

If any of our readers have additional information, please let us know, thanks.


Toronto Peter Witt Car 2766

Dave Barrett recently did some volunteer work on Toronto’s sole remaining Peter Witt streetcar (whiich is now 93 years old) at Hillcrest shops, to get the car ready for the annual Beaches Easter parade. He has generously shared his photos of car 2766 with us:

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CTA Kenwood, Stock Yards and Normal Park Shuttles

M. E. writes:

In this note I want to comment about photos of Indiana Ave. and Harvard Ave. in Chicago Rapid Transit Photos, Part Three (March 23, 2016).

You show the South Side L Indiana Ave. station in two pictures. I saw Andre Kristopans’ comment at the bottom, and I learned something from his comment: I had no idea the middle track west of the station was used for storing spare Stock Yards L cars. But I am sure Andre is correct.

The first photo shows a bigger scope. Let me start with the platform at the right.

Notice that the section of wood nearest the track looks newer than the wood under the cover. This is because the newer wood was constructed over the third track that went through the station. Yes, there were three tracks on the north / south main. The three tracks actually continued east of the station, then south on the north / south main to just north of the 43rd St. station, where the easternmost track merged into the middle track.

Also, prior to (I think) 1949, the Kenwood L did not end at Indiana Ave. Instead, it went downtown onto the Loop. I’m not sure where it went from the Loop — some sources say to Ravenswood, others say to Wilson. My own experience is that the Englewood ran to Ravenswood, and the Jackson Park ran to Howard, through the State St. subway. And I think the Kenwood ran to Wilson. There were several smaller stations north of Indiana that were serviced by the Kenwood L. The Englewood and Jackson Park were supposed to be express through that area but were frequently delayed by being behind Kenwood trains.

Back at the Indiana station, both the Kenwood trains and the Englewood / Jackson Park trains used the two outer tracks of the three-track main. South/east-bound Kenwood trains crossed over from the southernmost main track to the Kenwood L structure to head east.

Later, when the Kenwood was cut back to shuttle service from Indiana to 42nd Place, the wood was added to cover most of the north/westernmost outer main track, leaving (at the east end of the platform) the terminal for the Kenwood shuttle. As I recall, that space could accommodate two cars. When Kenwood cars needed service, they turned south onto the easternmost main track, merged into the northbound main near 43rd St., switched over to the southbound main, and made their way to the Jackson Park yards at 61st St. and lower 63rd St.

So the photo shows two main tracks through the station, which had been the middle and south/westernmost tracks of the three-track setup.

Regarding the platform at the left, you see that the Stock Yards L terminated on the south side of that platform. Its only connection to the rest of the L system was the set of switches west of the Indiana station.

The Indiana station had an overhead bridge connecting the two platforms, thus enabling north/west-bound customers to access the Stock Yards L, and south/east-bound customers to access the Kenwood shuttle.

Now, on to the picture showing the Normal Park L shuttle. I think it was in 1949 that the CTA relegated the Normal Park line to shuttle service. Before that, the Normal Park cars were hitched onto the rear of Englewood trains. So people riding the Englewood L southbound had to be alert that the last car would be split off and go to 69th and Normal. If someone was in the wrong car, he/she could move between cars, which is apparently taboo today.

The structures along the sides of the L track are where the connections were made and unmade. Workers were stationed there to do this. Yes, even in frigid weather. And with live third rails. OSHA would have had a fit. The motormen of northbound Normal Park trains rode the trains into the Harvard station, then down and under to the southbound platform, then onto the last car of incoming southbound trains.

You also see in the distance the switch tower where the Normal Park line branched off to the south.

When the Normal Park line became shuttle service, northbound trains went into the Harvard station. The motorman quickly changed ends, then immediately (so as not to delay northbound Englewood trains) proceeded to the switch over to the south/west-bound track. You can see this switch next to the bigger structure.

In the photo, I have no idea why the motorman of the Normal Park car is standing in the walkway between the tracks. Perhaps this picture was deliberately posed.

This photo was taken from the southwest end of the south/west-bound L platform at Harvard. The address on the food shop below is 6316 S. Harvard. Busy 63rd St. was just to the right, and a block south at 64th St. and Harvard Ave. was St. Bernard’s Hospital, which I believe is still there. Two blocks east of the Harvard L station was Englewood Union Station (New York Central, Nickel Plate, Pennsylvania, Rock Island), and three blocks west was the other Englewood train station (Erie, Monon, Wabash, Chicago and Eastern Illinois, Chicago and Western Indiana). Plus, there were several streetcar lines. All told, for a fan of anything on rails, it was nirvana.

 


Chicago or Copenhagen?

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I recently wrote to the Chicagotransit Yahoo discussion group about the above photo:

There’s a photo negative on eBay that is identified as showing a couple streetcars at the 1933-34 Chicago World’s Fair. Yet I don’t recognize where this could have been taken there.

I know that Chicago Surface Lines had a couple of line extensions built to bring people to the fair, but was not aware of any trolleys on the grounds themselves.

Is the photo misidentified, and if so, what does it actually show? To me, it looks like it could have been taken in Europe.

Dennis McClendon wrote:

The famous Copenhagen church (Grundtvigskirke) just behind the trams might be a good clue.

 

Pardon my stupidity, but I assume you mean the famous Copenhagen church in Copenhagen, and not one that was moved, brick by brick, to the 1933-34 Chicago World’s Fair?

I wonder what it was about this picture that made the seller guess that it was taken in Chicago. For transit on the fair grounds themselves, I am pretty sure they used buses of a type similar to those used at the 1939-40 New York World’s Fair.

Dennis McClendon replied:

The Century of Progress grounds stretched for three miles along the lakefront, from Roosevelt to 39th. Greyhound got the concession for motorized transport within the fairgrounds, driving these open-air trailer conveyances along a portion of Leif Eriksen Drive that later was part of South Lake Shore Drive.

Within the exhibits area, where motorized vehicles weren’t allowed, you could ride in a pushchair, providing summer employment to dozens of high school and college students.

 

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Similar buses (actually, they look more like trucks) were also used at the 1939-40 NY World’s Fair. As it tuns out, they were not the same vehicles. This is explained in an article from Hemmings Motor News.

Apparently, the Chicago buses used at the fair were one-offs made by General Motors.

There were at least two types of buses used at the New York World’s Fair, a “tractor train” and a more streamlined bus. Neither looks much like the ones used in Chicago. The streamlined buses were made by Yellow Coach.

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After the fair ended in 1940, some of the streamlined buses were used to transport WAACs.

After the fair ended in 1940, some of the streamlined buses were used to transport WAACs.

The question has been raised as to whether or not the Chicago buses were then sold to Bowen Motor Coach for use at the Texas Centennial Exposition in 1936. You can see pictures of the Texas buses below, and there is also a quick view of them in a video clip here.

At this point, it’s not clear whether they were the same buses that were used in Chicago with a bit of new sheet metal attached, or simply similar buses built later by General Motors.

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A Greyhound Bus' tram drives in front of Chrysler motors Building at the Chicago World's Fair. (Photographer Unknown/www.bcpix.com)

A Greyhound Bus’ tram drives in front of Chrysler motors Building at the Chicago World’s Fair. (Photographer Unknown/www.bcpix.com)

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Buses purported to be those from the 1933-34 World's Fair, shown in Texas in 1939, where they were owned by the Bowen Bus Company.

Buses purported to be those from the 1933-34 World’s Fair, shown in Texas in 1939, where they were owned by the Bowen Bus Company.

A Bowen bus at the Texas Centennial Exposition in 1936. (J. Elmore Hudson Photo)

A Bowen bus at the Texas Centennial Exposition in 1936. (J. Elmore Hudson Photo)

The west facade of Grundtvigskirken today. Photo by Hans Andersen - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=266140

The west facade of Grundtvigskirken today. Photo by Hans AndersenOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=266140


FYI, we have added another Liberty Bell Limited photo to our recent post Alphabet Soup (March 15, 2016):

LVT 1006 heads from Norristown to Philadelphia over the P&W in June 1949.

LVT 1006 heads from Norristown to Philadelphia over the P&W in June 1949.


“Keeping Pace” – A Rare Chicago Surface Lines Recording

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We have a unique opportunity to buy a 16″ transcription disc made by the Chicago Surface Lines‘ public relations department in 1939. Chances are, this is a 30-minute radio program promoting CSL, most likely played a few times on local radio stations, and has been unheard since then. The script was written by Hollis Farley Peck (1909-1971).

For all we know, this recording may include the sounds of Chicago streetcars, which would be very rare.

It will not be easy to play this record due to the large (16″) size. Although this is a 33 1/3 rpm record, it used the same technology as the 78 rpm records of its time. The current LP system of vinyl records did not come about until 1948.

Such large recordings were necessary to provide a longer running time than a standard 78 rpm record, which could only last about 3:20. I assume that each side of this transcription disc has 15 minutes on it.

Once I have the record, I plan to consult with the Museum of Broadcast Communications here in Chicago. Possibly they may have the necessary equipment for playing it. If a successful recording can be made, we will digitally remaster it and issue it on a compact disc.

If MBC can help us, we may donate the original disc to the museum for their collection. After all, this is local history.

However, before we can do that, we first have to complete the purchase. If you can help contribute to the $60 cost of this rare recording, your donation will be greatly appreciated.

Thanks.

-David Sadowski


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 possible and are greatly appreciated.

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Specialized equipment is required to play a 16" transcription disc. This is one such turntable made by Esoteric Sound.

Specialized equipment is required to play a 16″ transcription disc. This is one such turntable made by Esoteric Sound.

A 1936 phonograph for playing transcription discs. This one played records from the inside out, with a maximum running time of one hour per side.

A 1936 phonograph for playing transcription discs. This one played records from the inside out, with a maximum running time of one hour per side.


Help Support The Trolley Dodger

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This is our 130th 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 141,000 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. You can make a donation there as well.

As we have said before, “If you buy here, we will be here.”

We thank you for your support.


A Century of Progress – In Color and In Motion

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Our recent post about transportation to and from the 1933-34 Chicago World’s Fair (aka A Century of Progress) jogged my memory a bit.  I recall reading a while back about the discovery of early color films from the fair, taken in 1933.

There had been color films of a sort prior to 1933, however most of these were much less successful “two-color” processes, which showed red and green but not blue.  For a list of early two-color Hollywood films prior to 1935, go here.  (The technically minded can also delve into great detail on the early Kodak color processes here.)

During 1933, there were experimental versions of either Technicolor or Kodacolor being tested, but these products were not commercially available until 1935.  A national spectacle, attracting millions of visitors, the fair was an obvious event to try out the new three-color films on.

Chicago’s second World’s Fair was also more colorful than its first one in 1893.  The World’s Columbian Exposition featured a neoclassical “White City,” while the 1933 version had multi-colored buildings and lighting of a more modern style.

Fortunately, some color footage from the 1933 edition of A Century of Progress has survived, and can be seen in some of the video links later in this post.  Without these films, our only evidence of color at the fair would be hand-colored postcards, posters, and such.

By comparison, by 1939-40, the time of the New York World’s Fair, 16mm Kodachrome movie film was available to the amateur market.  Consequently, there is a tremendous amount of color footage showing that fair.

The films include footage of the impressive Sky Ride, an aerial cable car that transported visitors to Northerly Island, which was built on landfill in 1928.  Fairgoers were transported nearly 2,000 feet at an altitude of 215 feet above ground.  The cable tram was suspended between to 628-foot high towers at the ends, with observation decks, the highest such points in the city.

Each streamlined “gondola” gave out wisps of steam from its tail, in a manner not unlike the rocket ships in the contemporary Buck Rogers comic strip, which first appeared in 1929.  (The competing Flash Gordon comic strip by Alex Raymond did not begin until January 7, 1934.  You can read some of those early strips here.  The movie serial versions of these comics did not appear until after the Chicago fair had closed.)

Apparently, each gondola was named after a different character in the extremely popular but controversial Amos ‘n’ Andy radio program, which had its roots in Chicago.  (While I have read that there were 12 such gondola cars, I’ve only seen pictures of three, named “Amos,” “Andy,” and “Brother Crawford.”)

Both my parents visited the Chicago World’s Fair.  My late father described how he had been stuck on one of the aerial cable cars for several hours when it broke down mid-flight.  My mother, who is now 86, still recalls her trips to the fair when she was 5 or 6 years old.  As you can see from the film footage, it was the type of event that many Chicagoans dressed up for in their finest clothes.

There were other novel modes of transportation at A Century of Progress.  Although the Chicago Surface Lines brochure in our earlier post shows a Dirigible or Zeppelin in the air (and one did visit Chicago in 1933) the films show a Goodyear Blimp in frequent use at the fair.

There was also an experimental auto on display, the streamlined three-wheeled “Dymaxion” car designed by Buckminster Fuller.  Unfortunately, interest in this car was quelled after it was involved in a fatal car crash, although the driver of the Dymaxion was not at fault.

The Chicago World’s Fair had an influence on the city that extended far beyond the 1930s.  Many of its scientific exhibits wound up at the Museum of Science and Industry, where they can be seen today.

The fair site was used for the successful 1948-49 Chicago Railroad Fair, which was also headed up by Lenox Lohr. Among its many exhibits, this fair featured an actual operating San Francisco cable car– the last cable car to be operated in Chicago to date.

While an attempt to continue the railroad fair for a third year was deemed a failure, this did lead to the Chicago Tribune‘s Col. Robert R. McCormick to envision a permanent site for summer exhibitions and fairs on the lakefront.

After years of discussion and planning, this effort resulted in the creation of McCormick Place, which opened in 1960.  Rebuilt after a disastrous 1967 fire, McCormick Place is now the largest convention center in North America.  Since A Century of Progress and the Chicago Railroad Fair successfully brought millions of people to Chicago’s lakefront, it was considered an excellent location for McCormick Place.

As a result, it is perhaps the most important legacy of those earlier fairs.  You can also read more about the genesis of McCormick Place in the book Political Influence by Edward C. Banfield, which we mentioned in an earlier post.

There are still a few traces of the World’s Fair, if you know where to look for them.  Five experimental houses from the fair were moved by barge across Lake Michigan to Beverly Shores, Indiana in 1935, where they remain today, now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, comprising the A Century of Progress Architectural District.

Finally, using the final Youtube link below, you can listen to the rousing Chicago Worlds Fair Centennial Celebration March (1933) by composer Carl Mader.

 -David Sadowski

PS- Walt Disney (who was born in Chicago) is known to have visited the 1933-34 Chicago World’s Fair several times (one of at five such fairs he visited in his lifetime), and after watching some of these videos, it’s not difficult to see how A Century of Progress could have influenced Disneyland.

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The Chicago World’s Fair, by Streetcar

In this Chicago Surface Lines brochure, visitors were encouraged to see Chicago by streetcar, trolley bus, and, apparently, Zeppelin.

In this Chicago Surface Lines brochure, visitors were encouraged to see Chicago by streetcar, trolley bus, and, apparently, Zeppelin.

Chicago’s second World’s Fair took place in 1933 and 1934, and celebrated “A Century of Progress” since the city’s founding. Coming, as it did, in the depths of the Great Depression, this was a bold (and successful) venture, under the able leadership of Lenox Lohr (1891-1968). Chicago’s fair made a profit, while the later 1939-40 New York World’s Fair lost money.

Getting the 48,469,227 fair visitors back and forth to the lakefront site was a tremendous undertaking, and the Chicago Surface Lines played an important role. The fair opened on May 27, 1933, and it quickly became apparent that transportation needed improvement.

Two streetcar line extensions, among the last ones in Chicago, were hurriedly undertaken. The Roosevelt Road extension was the more elaborate of the two, since there were more obstacles in its path, namely the Illinois Central train station and tracks. The IC tracks were below grade, since they were built at the original ground level Downtown, which was raised several feet after the 1871 Chicago Fire.*

Chicago’s new Mayor Edward Joseph Kelly (1876-1950) took the controls of the first streetcar over the viaduct on August 1st, and posed for a good many press photos along the way. The two line extensions, from Roosevelt and Cermak, were retained for about 20 years, and continued to serve the Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium, Adler Planetarium, and Soldier Field. They both had turnaround loops, to permit the use of single-ended as well as double-ended cars.

CSL had two modern experimental streetcars built, and used them to shuttle visitors to and from the fair. Of the two, at least part of car 4001 has survived to this day, while 7001 was perhaps more influential on the eventual design of the highly successful PCC cars, starting in 1936. The general configuration of this single-ended car, and its door arrangement, were followed on Chicago’s 683 PCCs.

Today, we present a Chicago Surface Lines brochure touting their service to the World’s Fair and all parts of Chicago. Along with this, we have some additional photos showing the Roosevelt Road extension. You can find some additional pictures of this operation in later days in one of our earlier posts. There is also a photo showing car 7001 on State Street in 1934, in World’s Fair service.

After the CTA converted the Roosevelt Road streetcar line to bus, the extension to the “Museum Loop” operated as a shuttle between August 12, 1951 to April 12, 1953, when it was abandoned, and eventually demolished. There’s a picture of the route 12A shuttle operation on the CERA Members Blog, here. (The same blog also shows the last known picture of car 7001, shortly before it was scrapped in 1959.)

The last route 21 – Cermak streetcar ran on May 30, 1954.

PCCs occasionally did run to the Museum Loop during special events, for example, on April 26, 1951, when General Douglas MacArthur (1880-1964) made a personal appearance after his dismissal by President Harry S Truman. You can read more about that historic event here.

Northerly Island, the site of A Century of Progress, was built on landfill. After the fair, it was used as Meigs Field, an airport for small planes, from 1948 to 2003.

Now that planning is underway for the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art to be built in the “Museum Campus” area, various ideas have been floated for improving transit in this area. These proposals include a streetcar line.

So, when it comes to Chicago’s lakefront, what goes around may yet come around- especially if it’s a streetcar.

-David Sadowski

*This is approximately correct.  It would be difficult to determine what “ground” level truly was when the City was first settled, since Chicago was built on a swamp.  Ground level was raised 10 feet downtown in the 1860s to permit the easy installation of a sewer system, and there have been numerous additions via landfill, especially east of Michigan Avenue, which was originally the shoreline. You would apparently have to go as far south as Jackson Park before the Lake Michigan shoreline is in its pre-development location.

For more information, go here.

1939-40 New York World’s Fair

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It’s worth mentioning that when New York put on their World’s Fair in 1939-40, they built a rapid transit extension of the IND subway system to reach the south end of the site. This operation was called the World’s Fair Railroad, and required payment of a second 5-cent fare. This branch line was constructed at a cost of $1.2m.

This extension ran partly through Jamaica yard, and went 8,400 feet beyond it, for a total length of just under two miles.

The privately owned BMT and IRT subway/elevated systems shared service on what is now the 7 line, and fairgoers could get there via the Willets Point station, which now serves Citi Field, home of the New York Mets. The regular fare was charged, and these trains reached the north end of the site.

The Long Island Rail Road opened a station along their line adjacent to Willets Point, which remains in use today.

After the fair closed, the World’s Fair Railroad spur was dismantled and removed, the only such IND service to suffer this fate. During the course of the fair, New York City took over operation of both the IRT and BMT, unifying the three subway operations under municipal ownership.

No rapid transit extensions were provided for the 1964-65 World’s Fair, which took place on the same location. However, there was a monorail for moving people around within the fair site itself.

A CSL map showing how the Roosevelt Road and Cermak Road streetcar lines were extended to new loops serving A Century of Progress.

A CSL map showing how the Roosevelt Road and Cermak Road streetcar lines were extended to new loops serving A Century of Progress.

The Roosevelt Road extension to the World's Fair site is under construction in this June 24, 1933 view. The Illinois Central station lies between here and what we now call the "Museum Campus."

The Roosevelt Road extension to the World’s Fair site is under construction in this June 24, 1933 view. The Illinois Central station lies between here and what we now call the “Museum Campus.”

From the looks of things, this picture was also taken on June 24, 1933.

From the looks of things, this picture was also taken on June 24, 1933.

It's August 1, 1933. The World's Fair extension along Roosevelt Road is now completed, and Mayor Edward Kelly (posing for pictures) is at the controls of the first service car. Kelly had succeeded Anton Cermak as mayor earlier that year after the latter was assassinated in Miami.

It’s August 1, 1933. The World’s Fair extension along Roosevelt Road is now completed, and Mayor Edward Kelly (posing for pictures) is at the controls of the first service car. Kelly had succeeded Anton Cermak as mayor earlier that year after the latter was assassinated in Miami.

A close-up of the previous scene.

A close-up of the previous scene.

The first service car over the Illinois Central viaduct, with Mayor Kelly at the throttle, in a picture taken at 9:30 am on August 1, 1933.

The first service car over the Illinois Central viaduct, with Mayor Kelly at the throttle, in a picture taken at 9:30 am on August 1, 1933.

An artist's rendering of CSL experimental pre-PCC streetcar 4001, built by Pullman. It entered service in 1934 and was retired in 1944. Its body shell is preserved at the Illinois Railway Museum.

An artist’s rendering of CSL experimental pre-PCC streetcar 4001, built by Pullman. It entered service in 1934 and was retired in 1944. Its body shell is preserved at the Illinois Railway Museum.

An artist's rendering of CSL experimental pre-PCC streetcar 7001, built by Brill. It entered service in 1934 and was retired in 1944. It was scrapped in 1959. Note that the car is signed for Clark-Wentworth, the busiest line on the Chicago system. Ironically, while this design resembles the PCC car of 1936, Brill refused to license the patented PCC technology, and as a result, was driven out of the streetcar market within a five years, after building but a few dozen "Brilliners."

An artist’s rendering of CSL experimental pre-PCC streetcar 7001, built by Brill. It entered service in 1934 and was retired in 1944. It was scrapped in 1959.
Note that the car is signed for Clark-Wentworth, the busiest line on the Chicago system.
Ironically, while this design resembles the PCC car of 1936, Brill refused to license the patented PCC technology, and as a result, was driven out of the streetcar market within a five years, after building but a few dozen “Brilliners.”

A side view of pre-PCC car 7001, showing how the general arrangement of doors was quite similar to that used on the later Chicago PCCs. (CSL Photo)

A side view of pre-PCC car 7001, showing how the general arrangement of doors was quite similar to that used on the later Chicago PCCs. (CSL Photo)

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CSL 7001, as it appeared on March 18, 1939.

CSL 7001, as it appeared on March 18, 1939.

Chicago Mayor Edward Kelly presides over the opening ceremonies for A Century of Progress at Soldier Field, May 27, 1933.

Chicago Mayor Edward Kelly presides over the opening ceremonies for A Century of Progress at Soldier Field, May 27, 1933.

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