CTA’s 6000s Run Again

The historic train approaches Adams and Wabash.

The historic train approaches Adams and Wabash.

October 1st was the 72nd anniversary of when the Chicago Transit Authority took over operating the elevated and most of the surface transit lines. To celebrate this milestone, the CTA held a Customer Appreciation Day event in the Loop, using newly repatriated historic “L” cars 6711 and 6712. Built in 1959, this pair had been at the National Museum of Transportation in St. Louis since the 1990s.

This type of “L” car was once synonymous with the CTA, as these are part of a series of all-new rapid transit cars introduced in the 1950s. There were a total of 770 such cars built in various configurations and delivered between 1950 and 1959. They replaced wooden “L” cars, many of which were half a century old upon retirement.

Being metal-bodied, the 6000-series cars were designed to operate in Chicago’s new subways as well as its famous elevated lines. The first batch of such cars finally made it possible to open the Dearborn-Milwaukee Subway in 1951. The State Street Subway had opened in 1943, prior to the creation of the Chicago Transit Authority, using existing steel cars built in the early 1920s.

While October 1, 1947 is the date when the CTA finally took charge of local transit, its origins naturally go back further than that. The City of Chicago was always intimately involved in local transit matters, even in the era of private ownership which came crashing down into bankruptcy during the Great Depression.

Then-Mayor Edward J. Kelly spearheaded efforts to build Chicago’s first subways, and his “go-to guy” in this regard was Philip Harrington (1886-1949). In the late 1930s, he became head of the City’s Department of Subways and Superhighways, and was also the principal author of a comprehensive transportation plan known locally as the “Green Book”. (One thing that is not certain, is whether there is any connection between the green binding of this book, and the later adoption of green as the more-or-less official CTA color in early days.)

When the Chicago Transit Authority officially came into being on June 28, 1945, Harrington was unanimously chosen as its first Chairman. What followed was a two-year transition period, where the CTA became a functioning entity and prepared for the official takeover which eventually came, after, under the management of the courts, the existing private owners of the Chicago Rapid Transit and Chicago Surface Lines companies were bought out.  (CTA purchased the assets of the Chicago Motor Coach Company five years later, completing the process of transit unification.)

During this time, while CRT and CSL were still in charge, the CTA, operating in an unofficial capacity, was really calling the shots, deciding what new equipment would be ordered, and where it would run once delivered.

Given that Philip Harrington died 70 years ago, it is remarkable that his son Michael is still with us (I believe he is about 84 years old), and took part in the first trip on these historic cars. I spoke briefly with him, and promised to send him copies of my two Arcadia books, which deal with the turbulent times when his father played such an important role. As a child, Michael Harrington was a witness to events such as the opening of Chicago’s first subway in 1943.

You can read an appreciation of Philip Harrington here.

WBEZ, Chicago’s public radio station, was on the scene talking to people who came out to ride this special train. I was interviewed by a reporter for a few minutes and answered various questions.

I was asked what was so special about the 6000-series cars. They were state of the art when new, and had advanced technology for their time, including improved acceleration and braking, and were quieter than what they replaced, even though the old stuff made “all the right noises.”  (The older 4000-series cars have a very distinctive sound, which many people find pleasant and comes from the gearing.)

They had comfortable seats, especially compared to some of today’s equipment, but one thing they did not have was air conditioning. You had to open the windows, and if the weather was right, a nice refreshing breeze wafted through. A trip through the subway, however, was very LOUD with the windows open, an experience that thankfully modern riders don’t get to have.

As light-weight cars, though, the 6000s did “shake, rattle, and roll” and their riding qualities led some fans to dub them “Spam Cans.” But for various reasons, the final cars in this series, of which 6711-6712 are examples, were a bit heavier than the first ones, and hence rode better also.

Andy Warhol famously said that “In the future, everybody will be famous for 15 minutes.” But while I did end up on the radio yesterday, I’m not even sure I got 15 seconds out of the segment on these rides, which totaled less than a minute. You can hear it here.

I applaud the CTA for expanding their collection of historic railcars by bringing some of them back from museums. New York City has several entire trains of older cars it can run, and events such as these are very popular and create tremendous goodwill.  It’s important that organizations have a sense of the history that has made them great.

The 6000s were always my favorite “L” cars, and riding them once again brought back many memories. Some people were probably riding them for the first time, based on the looks of various people on our train. I hope you will enjoy our short photo essay, followed by a few of our recent photo finds.

-David Sadowski

PS- We regret to report the recent passing of Father Philip F. Cioffi at age 63. Father Phil, as we all knew him, was widely known as one of the “nice guys” in the railfan field, and had served on the boards of various organizations over the years. He will be missed. You can read his obituary here.

From 11 am to 12:30 pm, tickets were required, along with payment of a regular CTA fare. People were able to register online. We were in group one. From 12:30 until 2, anyone could ride the historic cars.

From 11 am to 12:30 pm, tickets were required, along with payment of a regular CTA fare. People were able to register online. We were in group one. From 12:30 until 2, anyone could ride the historic cars.

The ticketed trips began and ended at Washington and Wabash, CTA's newest Loop station, which replaced two others.

The ticketed trips began and ended at Washington and Wabash, CTA’s newest Loop station, which replaced two others.

There were separate areas for both boarding and leaving the historic train.

There were separate areas for both boarding and leaving the historic train.

Meanwhile, regular service continued on the Loop.

Meanwhile, regular service continued on the Loop.

Michael Harrington, son of the late Philip Harrington (1886-1949), first Chairman of the Chicago Transit Authority from 1945-49, talks to a WBEZ reporter.

Michael Harrington, son of the late Philip Harrington (1886-1949), first Chairman of the Chicago Transit Authority from 1945-49, talks to a WBEZ reporter.

Cameras are out as our train arrives.

Cameras are out as our train arrives.

The view out the back window.

The view out the back window.

The operator's cab, with the controller, which handles both acceleration and braking.

The operator’s cab, with the controller, which handles both acceleration and braking.

I am not sure what the purpose is of this structure, which the CTA has built on part of the platform of a former station at Randolph and Wells.

I am not sure what the purpose is of this structure, which the CTA has built on part of the platform of a former station at Randolph and Wells.

We are looking west along Lake Street at Wells. The structure at right is called Tower 18, which controls this busy intersection, once the busiest of its type in the world. This is the third such tower building at this location.

We are looking west along Lake Street at Wells. The structure at right is called Tower 18, which controls this busy intersection, once the busiest of its type in the world. This is the third such tower building at this location.

Graham Garfield is CTA's General Manager, RPM (Red and Purple Lines Modernization Project) Operations & Communication Coordination. He also serves as the CTA's historian, and was a conductor on this trip. Nowadays, CTA trains are run by only one person, but this trip was handled the old fashioned way, and Graham was outfitted as usual in a period-correct uniform.

Graham Garfield is CTA’s General Manager, RPM (Red and Purple Lines Modernization Project) Operations & Communication Coordination. He also serves as the CTA’s historian, and was a conductor on this trip. Nowadays, CTA trains are run by only one person, but this trip was handled the old fashioned way, and Graham was outfitted as usual in a period-correct uniform.

Having dropped off the riders from trip one, 6711-6712 head down to the end of the platform at Washington and Wabash to pick people up for the second go-round.

Having dropped off the riders from trip one, 6711-6712 head down to the end of the platform at Washington and Wabash to pick people up for the second go-round.

Adams and Wabash.

Adams and Wabash.

Recent Finds

Here is an example of some early "flat door" 6000s running in the 1950s, on the outer portions of the old Garfield Park "L". I am not sure whether this picture was taken in Forest Park, just east of DesPlaines Avenue (near where the "L" crossed the B&OCT), or along the south edge of Columbus Park a few miles further east.

Here is an example of some early “flat door” 6000s running in the 1950s, on the outer portions of the old Garfield Park “L”. I am not sure whether this picture was taken in Forest Park, just east of DesPlaines Avenue (near where the “L” crossed the B&OCT), or along the south edge of Columbus Park a few miles further east.

This picture, taken on June 16, 1947, shows a Birney car owned by the North Shore Line at the Harrison Street shops in Milwaukee. The tiny streetcar was built by Cincinnati Car Company in 1922, and was used in city streetcar service on the 5th-6th Streets line by the interurban.

This picture, taken on June 16, 1947, shows a Birney car owned by the North Shore Line at the Harrison Street shops in Milwaukee. The tiny streetcar was built by Cincinnati Car Company in 1922, and was used in city streetcar service on the 5th-6th Streets line by the interurban.

Here is Chicago, Aurora & Elgin car 406 on a Central Electric Railfans' Association fantrip on August 8, 1954. Photographer Bob Selle notes, "View from abandoned power house-- second story. At Glenwood Park station. Photo stop between Batavia and the Junction." (In other words, on the Batavia branch.)

Here is Chicago, Aurora & Elgin car 406 on a Central Electric Railfans’ Association fantrip on August 8, 1954. Photographer Bob Selle notes, “View from abandoned power house– second story. At Glenwood Park station. Photo stop between Batavia and the Junction.” (In other words, on the Batavia branch.)

It's August 8, 1954, again on a CERA fantrip, and CA&E car 406 is making a photo stop on the line between Wheaton and Aurora in this Bob Selle view. The way people are walking about along the tracks, with unprotected electric third rail, would never be allowed today for safety and liability reasons.

It’s August 8, 1954, again on a CERA fantrip, and CA&E car 406 is making a photo stop on the line between Wheaton and Aurora in this Bob Selle view. The way people are walking about along the tracks, with unprotected electric third rail, would never be allowed today for safety and liability reasons.

After passenger service on the CA&E ended abruptly on July 3, 1957, there were still a few fantrips held. Here is one such train on October 26, 1958. We see cars 430, 403(?), and 453 east of First Avenue near Maywood. The conductor in this Bob Selle photo is climbing aboard at a switch. Presumably, this is as far east as CA&E trains could go at the time, since what is now I-290 was under construction where the interurban once crossed the DesPlaines River. The CA&E's bridge was dutifully moved to the north a bit, and new tracks leading to the DesPlaines terminal built by 1959, with no trains ever to run on them.

After passenger service on the CA&E ended abruptly on July 3, 1957, there were still a few fantrips held. Here is one such train on October 26, 1958. We see cars 430, 403(?), and 453 east of First Avenue near Maywood. The conductor in this Bob Selle photo is climbing aboard at a switch. Presumably, this is as far east as CA&E trains could go at the time, since what is now I-290 was under construction where the interurban once crossed the DesPlaines River. The CA&E’s bridge was dutifully moved to the north a bit, and new tracks leading to the DesPlaines terminal built by 1959, with no trains ever to run on them.

Lake and Pine

As the years go by, there are fewer and fewer places where you can see Chicago streetcar tracks. One such place is the viaduct at Lake and Pine. This is where Route 16 streetcars of the Chicago Surface Line (and later, Chicago Transit Authority) crossed over from one side of the Chicago & North Western viaduct to the other. There were many pictures taken at this location, where Lake Street “L” trains also ran on the ground. Streetcar service here ended in May 1954, and the “L” was relocated onto the embankment in October 1962.

We have published numerous pictures taken at this location, and a few years ago, we even went back and shot some pictures of rail. You can see those here.

Recently, the tracks were removed from the eastern half of the viaduct. Here’s how things looked as of September 25th.

Now Available On Compact Disc
CDLayout33p85
RRCNSLR
Railroad Record Club – North Shore Line Rarities 1955-1963
# of Discs – 1
Price: $15.99

Railroad Record Club – North Shore Line Rarities 1955-1963
Newly rediscovered and digitized after 60 years, most of these audio recordings of Chicago, North Shore and Milwaukee interurban trains are previously unheard, and include on-train recordings, run-bys, and switching. Includes both Electroliners, standard cars, and locomotives. Recorded between 1955 and 1963 on the Skokie Valley Route and Mundelein branch. We are donating $5 from the sale of each disc to Kenneth Gear, who saved these and many other original Railroad Record Club master tapes from oblivion.
Total time – 73:14
[/caption]


Tape 4 switching at Roudout + Mundeline pic 3Tape 4 switching at Roudout + Mundeline pic 2Tape 4 switching at Roudout + Mundeline pic 1Tape 3 Mundeline Run pic 2Tape 3 Mundeline Run pic 1Tape 2 Mundeline pic 3Tape 2 Mundeline pic 2Tape 2 Mundeline pic 1Tape 1 ElectrolinerTape 1 Electroliner pic 3Tape 1 Electroliner pic 2Notes from tape 4Note from tape 2

RRC-OMTT
Railroad Record Club Traction Rarities – 1951-58
From the Original Master Tapes
# of Discs- 3
Price: $24.99


Railroad Record Club Traction Rarities – 1951-58
From the Original Master Tapes

Our friend Kenneth Gear recently acquired the original Railroad Record Club master tapes. These have been digitized, and we are now offering over three hours of 1950s traction audio recordings that have not been heard in 60 years.
Properties covered include:

Potomac Edison (Hagerstown & Frederick), Capital Transit, Altoona & Logan Valley, Shaker Heights Rapid Transit, Pennsylvania Railroad, Illinois Terminal, Baltimore Transit, Niagara St. Catharines & Toronto, St. Louis Public Transit, Queensboro Bridge, Third Avenue El, Southern Iowa Railway, IND Subway (NYC), Johnstown Traction, Cincinnati Street Railway, and the Toledo & Eastern
$5 from the sale of each set will go to Kenneth Gear, who has invested thousands of dollars to purchase all the remaining artifacts relating to William A. Steventon’s Railroad Record Club of Hawkins, WI. It is very unlikely that he will ever be able to recoup his investment, but we support his efforts at preserving this important history, and sharing it with railfans everywhere.
Disc One
Potomac Edison (Hagerstown & Frederick):
01. 3:45 Box motor #5
02. 3:32 Box motor #5, May 24, 1953
03. 4:53 Engine whistle signals, loco #12, January 17, 1954
04. 4:13 Loco #12
Capital Transit:
05. 0:56 PCC car 1557, Route 20 – Cabin John line, July 19, 1953
06. 1:43
Altoona & Logan Valley:
07. 4:00 Master Unit car #74, August 8, 1953
Shaker Heights Rapid Transit:
08. 4:17 Car 306 (ex-AE&FRE), September 27, 1953
09. 4:04
10. 1:39
Pennsylvania Railroad GG-1s:
11. 4:35 August 27, 1954
12. 4:51
Illinois Terminal:
13. 5:02 Streamliner #300, northward from Edwardsville, February 14, 1955
14. 12:40 Car #202 (ex-1202), between Springfield and Decatur, February 1955
Baltimore Transit:
15. 4:56 Car 5706, January 16, 1954
16. 4:45 Car 5727, January 16, 1954
Niagara, St. Catharines & Toronto:
17. 4:19 Interurbans #83 and #80, October 1954
18. 5:20 #80, October 1954
Total time: 79:30
Disc Two
St. Louis Public Service:
01. 4:34 PCCs #1708, 1752, 1727, 1739, December 6, 1953
Queensboro Bridge Company (New York City):
02. 5:37 Cars #606, 605, and 601, December 31, 1954
03. 5:17
Third Avenue El (New York City):
04. 5:07 December 31. 1954
05. 4:47 Cars #1797, 1759, and 1784 at 59th Street, December 31, 1954
Southern Iowa Railway:
06. 4:46 Loco #400, August 17, 1955
07. 5:09 Passenger interurban #9
IND Subway (New York City):
08. 8:40 Queens Plaza station, December 31, 1954
Last Run of the Hagerstown & Frederick:
09. 17:34 Car #172, February 20, 1954 – as broadcast on WJEJ, February 21, 1954, with host Carroll James, Sr.
Total time: 61:31
Disc Three
Altoona & Logan Valley/Johnstown Traction:
01. 29:34 (Johnstown Traction recordings were made August 9, 1953)
Cincinnati Street Railway:
02. 17:25 (Car 187, Brighton Car House, December 13, 1951– regular service abandoned April 29, 1951)
Toledo & Eastern:
03. 10:36 (recorded May 3-7, 1958– line abandoned July 1958)
Capital Transit:
04. 16:26 sounds recorded on board a PCC (early 1950s)
Total time: 74:02
Total time (3 discs) – 215:03



The Trolley Dodger On the Air
We appeared on WGN radio in Chicago last November, discussing our book Building Chicago’s Subways on the Dave Plier Show. You can hear our 19-minute conversation here.
Chicago, Illinois, December 17, 1938-- Secretary Harold Ickes, left, and Mayor Edward J. Kelly turn the first spadeful of earth to start the new $40,000,000 subway project. Many thousands gathered to celebrate the starting of work on the subway. Chicago, Illinois, December 17, 1938– Secretary Harold Ickes, left, and Mayor Edward J. Kelly turn the first spadeful of earth to start the new $40,000,000 subway project. Many thousands gathered to celebrate the starting of work on the subway.
Order Our New Book Building Chicago’s Subways

There were three subway anniversaries in 2018 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:

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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)

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