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:

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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From the Collections of Bill Shapotkin

On August 13, 1971 Chicago Rock Island & Pacific #303 and 125 are backing into Blue Island (Burr Oak) yard. Bill Shapotkin adds, "The train is a ROCK Mainline Suburban train (if it had operated via Beverly, it would be west of the depot (to left)."

On August 13, 1971 Chicago Rock Island & Pacific #303 and 125 are backing into Blue Island (Burr Oak) yard. Bill Shapotkin adds, “The train is a ROCK Mainline Suburban train (if it had operated via Beverly, it would be west of the depot (to left).”

Today, we feature more classic photos of buses, trolleys, and trains, courtesy of Bill Shapotkin, long a friend of this blog. Mr. Shapotkin should be well-known to many of you from his longtime activities as a transit historian, author, and the many informative programs he has given over the years.

Today’s sampling from the Shapotkin Collection includes some rare pictures of Chicago & North Western RDCs (Budd Rail Diesel Cars), which were self-propelled and ran in Chicago area commuter train service for a short period of time in the 1950s. They replaced steam-powered trains and were in turn replaced by the familiar push-pull diesel bi-levels still in use today.

In addition, there are several pictures of Grand Central Station, a Chicago landmark in use between 1890 and 1969, which was torn down in 1971. We have some interesting correspondence, plus some new images of our own.

Enjoy!

-David Sadowski

PS- We have done our part to make these old images look as good as they possibly can. The C&NW RDC pictures were all shot around 1956 on early Ektachrome film, whose dyes turned out to be unstable and quickly shifted to red. (Technically, the red layer was relatively stable, while the green and blue layers faded.)

It used to be some people thought these sorts of images were only suitable for use as black-and-whites. But with modern technology, it is possible, to some extent, to bring back the original colors. This was easier to do on some than others, but the results look much better than you might expect. If you have ever seen one of these early red Ektachromes, you will know what I mean. Modern films are much more stable and resistant to dye fading.

I would be remiss without mentioning Bill has been involved for many years with the annual Hoosier Traction meet, which takes place in September:

It is that time of year again — the 35th annual gathering of the Hoosier Traction Meet is being held Fri-Sat, Sept 7-8 in Indianapolis, IN. The meet includes two full days of interesting presentations on a variety of subjects, as well as our “Exhibition Room” of vendors — with everything from transfers to track charts available. Book now and you can join us for just $25.00 ($40.00 at the door). We recommend that once you book hotel accommodations as early as possible, as there is an event scheduled at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway that same weekend. By calling the number of the Waterfront Inn (where our event is being held), by mentioning that you are with the Hoosier Traction Meet, you should be able to register at our group rate.

For those of you would are unable to attend both days, we have a special “Saturday Only” rate of just $15.00 ($25.00 at the door). As many of our Friday presentations are repeated on Saturday, you will be able to partake of a wide variety of subjects and presenters.

We hope you are able to join us for what many consider to be THE electric railway gathering in the country…see you there!

Thanking you in advance,

Bill Shapotkin

The Milwaukee Road's Elgin terminal in August 1970. Bill Shapotkin adds, "The MILW depot in Elgin was built 1948. It is the second depot constructed at the same site. View looks south from Chicago St."

The Milwaukee Road’s Elgin terminal in August 1970. Bill Shapotkin adds, “The MILW depot in Elgin was built 1948. It is the second depot constructed at the same site. View looks south from Chicago St.”

Chicago & Milwaukee Electric 354, built in 1928 by the St. Louis Car Company, is seen at the Illinois Railway Museum in May 1977. It ran in Milwaukee and Waukegan as a North Shore Line city streetcar.

Chicago & Milwaukee Electric 354, built in 1928 by the St. Louis Car Company, is seen at the Illinois Railway Museum in May 1977. It ran in Milwaukee and Waukegan as a North Shore Line city streetcar.

The Chessie Steam Special in Wellsboro, IN on June 17, 1978.

The Chessie Steam Special in Wellsboro, IN on June 17, 1978.

The Chessie Steam Special in Wellsboro, IN on June 17, 1978.

The Chessie Steam Special in Wellsboro, IN on June 17, 1978.

The Chessie Steam Special in Wellsboro, IN on June 17, 1978.

The Chessie Steam Special in Wellsboro, IN on June 17, 1978.

The Chessie Steam Special in Wellsboro, IN on June 17, 1978.

The Chessie Steam Special in Wellsboro, IN on June 17, 1978.

The Chessie Steam Special in Peru, IN on June 17, 1978.

The Chessie Steam Special in Peru, IN on June 17, 1978.

The Chessie Steam Special in Wellsboro, IN on June 17, 1978.

The Chessie Steam Special in Wellsboro, IN on June 17, 1978.

Minneapolis & St. Louis "doodlebug" GE 29, was used as a railway post office (RPO). According to http://www.rrpicturearchives.net/, " Number GE-29 was built in 1931, body by Saint Louis Car Company (c/n 1550), the power plant was 400 horsepower EMC Winton Model 148 gasoline engine (c/n 491) coupled to GE electrical gear. I don't know who is responsible for the boxy structure on the roof but it's likely the cooling system for the prime mover. This unit went by the name 'Montgomery' (painted above the rear truck) and was repowered in August 1950 with a Caterpillar 400 horsepower Model D diesel."

Minneapolis & St. Louis “doodlebug” GE 29, was used as a railway post office (RPO). According to http://www.rrpicturearchives.net/, ” Number GE-29 was built in 1931, body by Saint Louis Car Company (c/n 1550), the power plant was 400 horsepower EMC Winton Model 148 gasoline engine (c/n 491) coupled to GE electrical gear. I don’t know who is responsible for the boxy structure on the roof but it’s likely the cooling system for the prime mover. This unit went by the name ‘Montgomery’ (painted above the rear truck) and was repowered in August 1950 with a Caterpillar 400 horsepower Model D diesel.”

CTA bus 4606 is at the Roosevelt/Monitor Loop in October 1992 (same one used by trackless trolleys a few years earlier). The view looks E-N/E (toward Monitor Avenue). I don't know much about the GM Fishbowl next to it, however.

CTA bus 4606 is at the Roosevelt/Monitor Loop in October 1992 (same one used by trackless trolleys a few years earlier). The view looks E-N/E (toward Monitor Avenue). I don’t know much about the GM Fishbowl next to it, however.

A Milwaukee Road dome car near Union Station in Chicago.

A Milwaukee Road dome car near Union Station in Chicago.

Milwaukee Road equipment in downtown Chicago.

Milwaukee Road equipment in downtown Chicago.

Pace buses in Elgin, June 2003.

Pace buses in Elgin, June 2003.

A westbound NYC passenger train as it approaches LaSalle Street Station in November 1963. At right is the CRI&P's coach yard. The view looks south from the Roosevelt Road bridge. (John Szwajkart Photo)

A westbound NYC passenger train as it approaches LaSalle Street Station in November 1963. At right is the CRI&P’s coach yard. The view looks south from the Roosevelt Road bridge. (John Szwajkart Photo)

Chicago, IL. NYC loco #7300 is seen as it passes the CRI&P coachyard. The view looks south from the Roosevelt Road bridge in November 1963. (John Szwajkart Photo)

Chicago, IL. NYC loco #7300 is seen as it passes the CRI&P coachyard. The view looks south from the Roosevelt Road bridge in November 1963. (John Szwajkart Photo)

Metra Milwaukee District loco 124 is pushing an eastbound train towards Union Station in Chicago. The view looks east from DesPlaines Street. August 1995. (Dan Munson Photo)

Metra Milwaukee District loco 124 is pushing an eastbound train towards Union Station in Chicago. The view looks east from DesPlaines Street. August 1995. (Dan Munson Photo)

Loco 604 leads a northbound (timetable: westbound) Metra/Milwaukee District passenger train out of Union Station in Chicago. The view looks south-southwest off the Lake Street bridge over the south branch of the Chicago River. July 19, 1990. (Dan Munson Photo)

Loco 604 leads a northbound (timetable: westbound) Metra/Milwaukee District passenger train out of Union Station in Chicago. The view looks south-southwest off the Lake Street bridge over the south branch of the Chicago River. July 19, 1990. (Dan Munson Photo)

Control cab 3244 brings up the reat of a westbound Metra/Rock Island train at Joliet Union Station. The view looks west in December 1990. (Paul D. Schneider Photo)

Control cab 3244 brings up the reat of a westbound Metra/Rock Island train at Joliet Union Station. The view looks west in December 1990. (Paul D. Schneider Photo)

Joliet, IL: Loco 163 is seen pushing an eastbound Metra/Rock Island suburban train across the ATSF/IC (ex-ICG, former GM&O, nee C&A) diamonds at Union Station. The view looks south in December 1990. (Paul D. Schneider Photo)

Joliet, IL: Loco 163 is seen pushing an eastbound Metra/Rock Island suburban train across the ATSF/IC (ex-ICG, former GM&O, nee C&A) diamonds at Union Station. The view looks south in December 1990. (Paul D. Schneider Photo)

The imposing clock tower of Grand Central Station, in operation from 1890 to 1969. Located at the southwest corner of Wells and Harrison, it was demolished in 1971. This view looks northwest. (Ron Peisker Photo)

The imposing clock tower of Grand Central Station, in operation from 1890 to 1969. Located at the southwest corner of Wells and Harrison, it was demolished in 1971. This view looks northwest. (Ron Peisker Photo)

The Wells Street side of Grand Central Station in Chicago. The view looks north along Wells Street in the 1960s. (Ron Peisker Photo)

The Wells Street side of Grand Central Station in Chicago. The view looks north along Wells Street in the 1960s. (Ron Peisker Photo)

In the 1960s, and auto is parked on Wells Street in front of Grand Central Station. The view looks to the west-northwest across Wells Street. (Ron Peisker Photo)

In the 1960s, and auto is parked on Wells Street in front of Grand Central Station. The view looks to the west-northwest across Wells Street. (Ron Peisker Photo)

Looking west from the clock tower at Grand Central Station in the 1960s. Through these windows are various railroad offices. The building at left in the background is the CGW freight house. (Ron Peisker Photo)

Looking west from the clock tower at Grand Central Station in the 1960s. Through these windows are various railroad offices. The building at left in the background is the CGW freight house. (Ron Peisker Photo)

Grand Central Station, Chicago is viewed from the west side of Franklin Street from a point north of Harrison Street. The view looks southwest. (Ron Peisker Photo)

Grand Central Station, Chicago is viewed from the west side of Franklin Street from a point north of Harrison Street. The view looks southwest. (Ron Peisker Photo)

Looking north on Holden Court in March 2000, under the South Side "L", we are looking north under the St. Charles Air Line bridge. (William Shapotkin Photo)

Looking north on Holden Court in March 2000, under the South Side “L”, we are looking north under the St. Charles Air Line bridge. (William Shapotkin Photo)

A westbound B&O freight train prepares to cross the IHB at the Illinois/Indiana state line. The view looks east in September 1959. (John Szwajkart Photo)

A westbound B&O freight train prepares to cross the IHB at the Illinois/Indiana state line. The view looks east in September 1959. (John Szwajkart Photo)

This is 91st St Tower in November 1949 -- protecting the PRR/ROCK Xing on the ROCK's Suburban (now Beverly) Branch. The tracks heading off to the upper right are the ROCK. Tracks heading off to the upper left are the PRR.

This is 91st St Tower in November 1949 — protecting the PRR/ROCK Xing on the ROCK’s Suburban (now Beverly) Branch. The tracks heading off to the upper right are the ROCK. Tracks heading off to the upper left are the PRR.

This billboard, advertising SouthShore Freight, is located west of Indianapolis Boulevard north of the Indiana Toll Road in East Chicago, IN. The view looks west. June 28, 2018. (William Shapotkin Photo)

This billboard, advertising SouthShore Freight, is located west of Indianapolis Boulevard north of the Indiana Toll Road in East Chicago, IN. The view looks west. June 28, 2018. (William Shapotkin Photo)

C&NW cab-coach 152 in Chicago, north of the Clinton Street Tower on August 2, 1978.

C&NW cab-coach 152 in Chicago, north of the Clinton Street Tower on August 2, 1978.

An eastbound C&NW train is passing under the CGW bridge on July 9, 1968. Bill Shapotkin adds, "This photo was taken in Lombard east of Grace St. Today, a Great Western Trail x/o over the UP (C&NW) at the same location. View looks west."

An eastbound C&NW train is passing under the CGW bridge on July 9, 1968. Bill Shapotkin adds, “This photo was taken in Lombard east of Grace St. Today, a Great Western Trail x/o over the UP (C&NW) at the same location. View looks west.”

C&NW cab car 254 at Davis Street in Evanston on July 18, 1976.

C&NW cab car 254 at Davis Street in Evanston on July 18, 1976.

C&NW GP7 is at an unknown location, on a morning train running between Milwaukee and Madison, Wisconsin in March 1954. Bill Shapotkin: "This location is West Allis, WI just west of Belden Tower (the freight line to Butler is in background). View looks N/E."

C&NW GP7 is at an unknown location, on a morning train running between Milwaukee and Madison, Wisconsin in March 1954. Bill Shapotkin: “This location is West Allis, WI just west of Belden Tower (the freight line to Butler is in background). View looks N/E.”

C&NW KO Tower in Lake Bluff, IL on May 5, 1977.

C&NW KO Tower in Lake Bluff, IL on May 5, 1977.

C&NW 1653 at Kenmore station, Chicago.

C&NW 1653 at Kenmore station, Chicago.

The C&NW commuter stop in Zion, July 30, 1966.

The C&NW commuter stop in Zion, July 30, 1966.

The C&NW commuter stop in Zion, July 30, 1966.

The C&NW commuter stop in Zion, July 30, 1966.

The C&NW commuter stop in Zion, July 30, 1966.

The C&NW commuter stop in Zion, July 30, 1966.

The C&NW commuter stop in Zion, July 30, 1966.

The C&NW commuter stop in Zion, July 30, 1966.

The C&NW commuter stop in Zion, July 30, 1966.

The C&NW commuter stop in Zion, July 30, 1966.

The C&NW commuter stop in Zion, July 30, 1966.

The C&NW commuter stop in Zion, July 30, 1966.

C&NW RDC cars in Park Ridge, IL.

C&NW RDC cars in Park Ridge, IL.

C&NW RDC cars southbound departing Kenmore station (Granville Avenue) in Chicago.

C&NW RDC cars southbound departing Kenmore station (Granville Avenue) in Chicago.

C&NW 1531 in Kenmore station, Chicago in May 1956.

C&NW 1531 in Kenmore station, Chicago in May 1956.

C&NW RDC cars, southbound at Kenmore station, Chicago, 1956.

C&NW RDC cars, southbound at Kenmore station, Chicago, 1956.

C&NW RDC cars in Waukegan, IL.

C&NW RDC cars in Waukegan, IL.

C&NW RDC car 9933 just north of Thome Avenue in August 1956.

C&NW RDC car 9933 just north of Thome Avenue in August 1956.

Chicago Surface Lines 6213. Tony Waller adds, "The photo of the red streetcar on route 95 captioned as being at 93rd and Anthony Ave. is actually at 93rd and Exchange Ave. The streetcar line westbound turned from Exchange onto 93rd. Anthony Ave. parallels the PRR/NYC viaducts (and now the Skyway bridge alignment) that is in the near distance; crossing the streetcar line at a perpendicular angle."

Chicago Surface Lines 6213. Tony Waller adds, “The photo of the red streetcar on route 95 captioned as being at 93rd and Anthony Ave. is actually at 93rd and Exchange Ave. The streetcar line westbound turned from Exchange onto 93rd. Anthony Ave. parallels the PRR/NYC viaducts (and now the Skyway bridge alignment) that is in the near distance; crossing the streetcar line at a perpendicular angle.”

CTA 6213 at 95th and State in 1949.

CTA 6213 at 95th and State in 1949.

CSL 6212 on Route 93 near Blackstone, west of Stony Island on August 13, 1947.

CSL 6212 on Route 93 near Blackstone, west of Stony Island on August 13, 1947.

Here, we are looking north (from 31st Street) under the South Side "L" mainline. Note supports at left - that portion of the structure dates back to 1892. The pillars and structure at right was added when a third main (express) track was added. June 28, 2018. (William Shapotkin Photo)

Here, we are looking north (from 31st Street) under the South Side “L” mainline. Note supports at left – that portion of the structure dates back to 1892. The pillars and structure at right was added when a third main (express) track was added. June 28, 2018. (William Shapotkin Photo)

A southbound Englewood train approaches 31st Street on the South Side "L" main line. The view looks north from 31st Street. June 28, 2018. (William Shapotkin Photo)

A southbound Englewood train approaches 31st Street on the South Side “L” main line. The view looks north from 31st Street. June 28, 2018. (William Shapotkin Photo)

A southbound CTA Englewood train has just crossed over 31st Street on the South Side "L" main line. The view looks south across 31st. June 28, 2018. (William Shapotkin Photo)

A southbound CTA Englewood train has just crossed over 31st Street on the South Side “L” main line. The view looks south across 31st. June 28, 2018. (William Shapotkin Photo)

A southbound CTA Englewood train has just crossed over 31st Street on the South Side "L" main line. The view looks south across 31st. June 28, 2018. (William Shapotkin Photo)

A southbound CTA Englewood train has just crossed over 31st Street on the South Side “L” main line. The view looks south across 31st. June 28, 2018. (William Shapotkin Photo)

A southbound CTA Jackson Park train makes its stop at the 35th Street "L" station. The view looks north. June 28, 2018. (William Shapotkin Photo)

A southbound CTA Jackson Park train makes its stop at the 35th Street “L” station. The view looks north. June 28, 2018. (William Shapotkin Photo)

A westbound Metra train in Blue Island on June 26, 1992. (R. Bullermann Photo)

A westbound Metra train in Blue Island on June 26, 1992. (R. Bullermann Photo)

Metra loco #104 is seen heading a westbound Metra/Milwaukee District suburban train out from Union Station in August 1995. The view looks east from DesPlaines Street. (Dan Munson Photo)

Metra loco #104 is seen heading a westbound Metra/Milwaukee District suburban train out from Union Station in August 1995. The view looks east from DesPlaines Street. (Dan Munson Photo)

A 7900-series CTA bus, working a westbound trip on Route 31 - 31st, is westbound in 31st Street approaching the South Side "L" main line. The view looks east. June 28, 2018. (William Shapotkin Photo)

A 7900-series CTA bus, working a westbound trip on Route 31 – 31st, is westbound in 31st Street approaching the South Side “L” main line. The view looks east. June 28, 2018. (William Shapotkin Photo)

A 7900-series CTA bus, working a westbound trip on Route 31 - 31st, is westbound in 31st Street approaching the South Side "L" main line. The view looks east. June 28, 2018. (William Shapotkin Photo)

A 7900-series CTA bus, working a westbound trip on Route 31 – 31st, is westbound in 31st Street approaching the South Side “L” main line. The view looks east. June 28, 2018. (William Shapotkin Photo)

CTA bus 1158, working an eastbound trip on Route 103 - West 103rd, is eastbound in 103rd Street, approaching the Metra Rock Island tracks at Hale Avenue. The view looks west. June 28, 2018. (William Shapotkin Photo)

CTA bus 1158, working an eastbound trip on Route 103 – West 103rd, is eastbound in 103rd Street, approaching the Metra Rock Island tracks at Hale Avenue. The view looks west. June 28, 2018. (William Shapotkin Photo)

CTA bus 1158, working an eastbound trip on Route 103 - West 103rd, is eastbound in 103rd Street, makes a stop before crossing over the Metra Rock Island tracks at Hale Avenue. The view looks west. June 28, 2018. (William Shapotkin Photo)

CTA bus 1158, working an eastbound trip on Route 103 – West 103rd, is eastbound in 103rd Street, makes a stop before crossing over the Metra Rock Island tracks at Hale Avenue. The view looks west. June 28, 2018. (William Shapotkin Photo)

CTA bus 1158, working an eastbound trip on Route 103 - West 103rd, is eastbound in 103rd Street, crossing over the Metra Rock Island tracks at Hale Avenue. The view looks west. June 28, 2018. (William Shapotkin Photo)

CTA bus 1158, working an eastbound trip on Route 103 – West 103rd, is eastbound in 103rd Street, crossing over the Metra Rock Island tracks at Hale Avenue. The view looks west. June 28, 2018. (William Shapotkin Photo)

CTA bus 1158, working an eastbound trip on Route 103 - West 103rd, is eastbound in 103rd Street, having just crossed over the Metra Rock Island tracks at Hale Avenue. The view looks east. June 28, 2018. (William Shapotkin Photo)

CTA bus 1158, working an eastbound trip on Route 103 – West 103rd, is eastbound in 103rd Street, having just crossed over the Metra Rock Island tracks at Hale Avenue. The view looks east. June 28, 2018. (William Shapotkin Photo)

CTA bus 1094, working a westbound trip on Route 103 - West 103rd, is westbound in 103rd Street at Hale Avenue and the Metra Rock Island tracks. View looks northeast. June 28, 2018. (William Shapotkin Photo)

CTA bus 1094, working a westbound trip on Route 103 – West 103rd, is westbound in 103rd Street at Hale Avenue and the Metra Rock Island tracks. View looks northeast. June 28, 2018. (William Shapotkin Photo)

CTA bus 1094, working a westbound trip on Route 103 - West 103rd, is westbound in 103rd Street, having just crossed over Hale Avenue and Metra Rock Island tracks. The view looks northwest. June 8, 2018. (William Shapotkin Photo)

CTA bus 1094, working a westbound trip on Route 103 – West 103rd, is westbound in 103rd Street, having just crossed over Hale Avenue and Metra Rock Island tracks. The view looks northwest. June 8, 2018. (William Shapotkin Photo)

My Metra title slide... nice, eh? December 1990. (Paul D. Schneider Photo)

My Metra title slide… nice, eh? December 1990. (Paul D. Schneider Photo)

A close-up of Metra 126 and its brethren in December 1990. (Paul D. Schneider Photo)

A close-up of Metra 126 and its brethren in December 1990. (Paul D. Schneider Photo)

Recent Site Additions

This picture was added to our recent post The Magic of Jack Bejna (August 4, 2018):

Don's Rail Photos says, (North Shore Line) "213 was built by Cincinnati in March 1920, #2445, as a merchandise despatch car. In 1940 it was rebuilt as a disc harrow ice cutter. It was retired in 1955 and sold to CHF as their 242. It was donated to Illinois Railway Museum in 1964." Here, we see the car at the Chicago Hardware Foundry Company in February 1960. This was also then the location of the Illinois Electric Railway Museum.

Don’s Rail Photos says, (North Shore Line) “213 was built by Cincinnati in March 1920, #2445, as a merchandise despatch car. In 1940 it was rebuilt as a disc harrow ice cutter. It was retired in 1955 and sold to CHF as their 242. It was donated to Illinois Railway Museum in 1964.” Here, we see the car at the Chicago Hardware Foundry Company in February 1960. This was also then the location of the Illinois Electric Railway Museum.

Chicago Streetcar Tracks Exposed

Exposed streetcar tracks are a rare sight in Chicago nowadays. We recently took some pictures of some on Western Avenue under a viaduct just north of 18th Street, in the northbound lane.

-David Sadowski

While we were in the neighborhood, we took this picture of an inbound CTA Orange Line train on Archer:

Recent Finds

CTA 2029-2030 on the turnaround loop at the DesPlaines Avenue terminal in October 1964. We are looking west. Here, you can see the close proximity of the Chicago Great Western tracks to the right. These have since been removed, and the area turned into a bike path connecting with the Illinois Prairie Path at First Avenue in Maywood.

CTA 2029-2030 on the turnaround loop at the DesPlaines Avenue terminal in October 1964. We are looking west. Here, you can see the close proximity of the Chicago Great Western tracks to the right. These have since been removed, and the area turned into a bike path connecting with the Illinois Prairie Path at First Avenue in Maywood.

On July 12, 1955 we see Pittsburgh Railways car 4398 at the Drake Loop. It is signed for the Washington interurban, which continued for several miles from here until interurban service was cut back a few years before this picture was taken. Don's Rail Photos adds, "4398 was built by St. Louis Car Co. in 1916." This car was retired in 1956 and has been at the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum in (fittingly) Washington, PA ever since. Service to the Drake Loop ended in 1999, when the last PCC streetcars were retired. In its last few years, it had operated as a shuttle. You can read more about the final days of the Drake Loop here. (C. Foreman Photo)

On July 12, 1955 we see Pittsburgh Railways car 4398 at the Drake Loop. It is signed for the Washington interurban, which continued for several miles from here until interurban service was cut back a few years before this picture was taken. Don’s Rail Photos adds, “4398 was built by St. Louis Car Co. in 1916.” This car was retired in 1956 and has been at the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum in (fittingly) Washington, PA ever since. Service to the Drake Loop ended in 1999, when the last PCC streetcars were retired. In its last few years, it had operated as a shuttle. You can read more about the final days of the Drake Loop here. (C. Foreman Photo)

We recently acquired this World War II-era brochure promoting the Chicago Aurora & Elgin interurban’s services as a way to get around in spite of wartime gasoline rationing and tire shortages:

Here is an article about the new Chicago Subway, from the May 1943 issue of Trains magazine. (For information about our new book Building Chicago’s Subways, see the end of this post).

Recent Correspondence

Mark Batterson
writes:

We recently purchased the Navy Yard Car Barn, built in 1891 by the Washington and Georgetown Railroad Company. It was one of four streetcar barns in DC. We’d like to celebrate the history of streetcars in our buildout of the space. I know you’ve got some amazing images in your collection. Is there a way to purchase some of those? We’re also trying to purchase an old DC streetcar. Thought I’d ask if you know where we might be able to find one?

Thanks so much for your time and consideration.

Thanks for writing.

FYI, there is a web page that lists the current whereabouts (as of 2014) of all surviving DC trolley cars:

http://www.bera.org/cgi-bin/pnaerc-query.pl?sel_allown=DC+Transit&match_target=&Tech=Yes&pagelen=200

After the DC system quit in 1963, some PCC cars were shipped overseas and others were heavily modified for use in the Tandy Subway operation, which no longer exists. The bulk of remaining equipment is in museums.

Unfortunately, there were a few DC streetcars that were preserved at first, but were later destroyed. These include the Silver Sightseer PCC and pre-PCC car 1053.

We can offer prints from some of the images on this site, but not others… only the ones we own the rights to. We specialize in the Chicago area, and as a result, do not have that many DC images. But perhaps some of our readers can point you in the right direction for those. (If anyone reads this and can help, write to me and I can put you in touch with Mr. Batterson.

-David Sadowski

Chicago Rapid Transit Company Door Controls

A picture appeared in our last post The Magic of Jack Bejna that has stirred up some correspondence:

This three-car train of Chicago Transit Authority 4000-series "L" cars is signed as a Howard Street Express in June 1949. (L. L. Bonney Photo) Our resident south side expert M. E. adds, "Methinks this photo was taken looking west at the Indiana Av. (at 40th St.) station. Because the train destination sign says Howard Express, the location has to be on the main north/south line. (Plus, this train had to originate on the Jackson Park branch, because Englewood trains at that time ran to Ravenswood.) Also, I don't recall any other three-track main anywhere else on the north/south line. Also, Indiana Ave. had the overhead walkway to get to and from the Stock Yards L, which terminated to the left of the left-hand platform in the photo. When this photo was taken, the Kenwood L ran as through service from 42nd Place, through Indiana Ave., up to Wilson Ave. Later in 1949, the Kenwood service was cut back to a shuttle ending at Indiana Ave. The inbound station platform was extended over the northernmost track, then mainline north/south service used the middle track heading downtown. A fuller explanation is at https://www.chicago-l.org/operations/lines/kenwood.html . Also of interest is that this photo shows a three-car train. Before the advent of new equipment in 1950 there were no "married pairs" of cars. Trains could be as small as a single car, which I recall seeing on the Englewood branch on Sunday mornings. Plus, the three-car train shown in the photo would have had two conductors whose job was to open the passenger entry doors (which were on the sides, at the ends of the cars) using controls situated between the cars. So conductor #1 operated the doors at the rear of car 1 and the front of car 2. Conductor #2 operated the doors at the rear of car 2 and the front of car 3. Side doors at the front of car 1 and the rear of car 3 were not used by passengers. To operate his side doors, a conductor had to stand between the cars. (Yes, in any weather.) And the conductors had to notify the motorman when to proceed. To do this, the conductors had to observe when there was no more boarding or alighting at their doors. They used a bell system to notify the motorman. Two dings meant "proceed". One ding meant "hold". The rearmost conductor started with his bell, then the next rearmost, etc., until two dings rang in the motorman's compartment, his signal to go. The longer the train, the longer it took to leave the station."

This three-car train of Chicago Transit Authority 4000-series “L” cars is signed as a Howard Street Express in June 1949. (L. L. Bonney Photo) Our resident south side expert M. E. adds, “Methinks this photo was taken looking west at the Indiana Av. (at 40th St.) station.
Because the train destination sign says Howard Express, the location has to be on the main north/south line. (Plus, this train had to originate on the Jackson Park branch, because Englewood trains at that time ran to Ravenswood.) Also, I don’t recall any other three-track main anywhere else on the north/south line. Also, Indiana Ave. had the overhead walkway to get to and from the Stock Yards L, which terminated to the left of the left-hand platform in the photo.
When this photo was taken, the Kenwood L ran as through service from 42nd Place, through Indiana Ave., up to Wilson Ave. Later in 1949, the Kenwood service was cut back to a shuttle ending at Indiana Ave. The inbound station platform was extended over the northernmost track, then mainline north/south service used the middle track heading downtown. A fuller explanation is at
https://www.chicago-l.org/operations/lines/kenwood.html .
Also of interest is that this photo shows a three-car train. Before the advent of new equipment in 1950 there were no “married pairs” of cars. Trains could be as small as a single car, which I recall seeing on the Englewood branch on Sunday mornings.
Plus, the three-car train shown in the photo would have had two conductors whose job was to open the passenger entry doors (which were on the sides, at the ends of the cars) using controls situated between the cars. So conductor #1 operated the doors at the rear of car 1 and the front of car 2. Conductor #2 operated the doors at the rear of car 2 and the front of car 3. Side doors at the front of car 1 and the rear of car 3 were not used by passengers. To operate his side doors, a conductor had to stand between the cars. (Yes, in any weather.)
And the conductors had to notify the motorman when to proceed. To do this, the conductors had to observe when there was no more boarding or alighting at their doors. They used a bell system to notify the motorman. Two dings meant “proceed”. One ding meant “hold”. The rearmost conductor started with his bell, then the next rearmost, etc., until two dings rang in the motorman’s compartment, his signal to go. The longer the train, the longer it took to leave the station.”

Recently, Jim Huffman commented:

Photo #365? 3-car train of CTA 4000s standing at the 38th St station. I differ with your explanation of the conductors door work.
1. When the CTA took over they made all the doors on the 4000s one-man operated, allowing for trains with odd number of cars . Thus, 8-cars, 4-cars, 3-cars, 1-car= only 1-conductor per train.
2. Way prior to that, the CRT used a conductor between each two cars, doing the doors as you described. 8-cars=8-conductors, etc.
3. But later, prior to the CTA, the CRT re-wired (air?) the 4000s so that a conductor between every two cars could operate all the doors on two cars. 8-cars=4-conductors etc.
4. On multi conductor trains, there was only one signal used and that was by the front conductor, not by the other conductors. Nor were there differing sounds or number of bells or buzzers! The front conductor monitored the rear conductors doors, when all were closed, then he would signal the Motorman. There usually was not much of any delay, the reason for less men was to lower labor costs, not to speed up the train.
This is from my memory & further info from conductors back then.

We replied:

You are referring to the explanation of how door controls worked on the 4000s, given by one of our readers (M. E.) in the caption for the photo called proofs365.jpg.

We had previously reproduced a CTA training brochure dated March 1950 in our post Reader Showcase, 12-11-17. By this time, the 4000s had been retrofitted into semi-permanent married pairs, so a three-car train, as shown in the June 1949 picture, no longer would have been possible.

The 1950 training brochure does mention using a buzzer to notify the next train man in one direction.

This is how Graham Garfield’s excellent web site describes the retrofit:

After the CTA ordered the first set of 6000s (6001-6200), they set about retrofitting the 4000s to make them operate more safely, economically and basically more like the forthcoming 6000s. By the time the 6000s started rolling in, the changes had been pretty much completed. In this overhaul, the 4000s were given multiple unit door control, standardized to use battery voltage for control, the trolley feed on Evanston cars was tied together so only one pole per pair was needed, and they were paired up into “semi-permanently coupled pairs” (as opposed to the “married-pairs” of the 6000s), usually in consecutive numerical order. Additionally, the destination signs (which were all still hand-operated) were changed to display either the route names (i.e. “Ravenswood” or “Lake A”) or both terminals (i.e. “Howard – Jackson Park B”) so they wouldn’t have to be changed for the reverse trip. The number of signs per car was reduced from four to two, not counting the destination board on the front. All this allowed a two-man crew to staff a train of any length.

This does not of course explain door operation prior to 1950, and I promised to do further research, by contacting Andre Kristopans.

PS- in addition to this, in a previous comment on this post, Andre Kristopans wrote, “On CRT the conductor was the man between the first and second cars. The rest were Guards. Motorman and conductor worked together all day but guards were assigned according to train length that trip.”

So, I asked Andre to explain. Here’s what he wrote:

Wood cars very simple – man between each two cars as doors were completely local control. End doors of train were not used. Steel cars more complicated. Originally same as woods – man between each two cars. Remember steels and woods were mixed. In 1940’s changed so man could control doors at both ends of cars on either side of him, so conductor between 1and 2, guards between 3 and 4, 5 and 6, 7 and 8 only. Then in 1950’s full trainlined doors. Initially one conductor for 2 or 4 car trains, working between last 2 cars, on 6 or 8 car trains conductor between cars 3 and 4, guard between last two. Guard eliminated late 50’s, conductor in sane (same?) position now controls all doors.

Thanks for the info. On the woods and early 4000s, how did the guards and conductor signal each other?

They had signal bells. First rear guard pulled the cord that rang the gong at forward end of that car. Then that guard pulled the rope by his position to signal the next guard up. When the conductor got the signal and pulled his rope, the gong by the motorman rang and he released and started up.

Yes the 4000’s evolved. Originally basically operationally identical to woods. Circa 1943 before subway, converted from line voltage control to battery control. Now they were no longer able to train with woods. Around same time changed to door control at each end controlling doors at both ends. In 1950’s full mudc, paired with permanent headlights and permanent markers (over a period of a decade or so!). Shore Line’s Baldies book shows how this happened over time if you compare photos. Large door controls early for single door control, small door controls for entire car control, then no door controls on paired sets.

This is something that has not been looked into much, but a 1970’s 4000 was VERY different from a 1930’s 4000!

Our thanks to Andre and everyone else who contributed to this post. Keep those cards and letters coming in, folks!

-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:

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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More Buses, Trolleys, and Trains

This amazing photo is from a glass plate negative we recently purchased, and shows a Chicago Union Traction streetcar RPO (railway post office) unpowered trailer car. CUT existed between 1899 and 1908, which helps date the photo. This car may previously have been a cable car trailer, before being pressed into mail service.

This amazing photo is from a glass plate negative we recently purchased, and shows a Chicago Union Traction streetcar RPO (railway post office) unpowered trailer car. CUT existed between 1899 and 1908, which helps date the photo. This car may previously have been a cable car trailer, before being pressed into mail service.

Instead of trains, planes, and automobiles, today we have a generous helping of classic bus, trolley, and train images courtesy of noted transit historian William Shapotkin. We thank Bill very much for sharing these with our readers. Even if you are not a huge fan of buses per se, and some electric traction fans aren’t, you still may appreciate seeing some of these locations, which offer views that you typically don’t see here on this blog. Many are contemporary to other streetcar pictures we have run, and show what types of equipment the CTA was running along with the “L” cars and streetcars that we often feature.

On the other hand, if you do like rubber-tired vehicles, then “hop on the bus, Gus!” And even if you don’t, chances are there are still plenty of railed vehicles here to keep you happy.

-David Sadowski

Please note: All photos in this section are from the collections of William Shapotkin.

This photo shows an old wooden Met car on the CTA's Kenwood shuttle in the 1950s. The view looks east from the Indiana Avenue station. The south side main line continues off to the right. Service on the Kenwood branch ended in 1957.

This photo shows an old wooden Met car on the CTA’s Kenwood shuttle in the 1950s. The view looks east from the Indiana Avenue station. The south side main line continues off to the right. Service on the Kenwood branch ended in 1957.

This image, showing CTA bus 3676 on Route 82A, was not identified, but it clearly shows the Logan Square "L" terminal with connecting bus transfer area in the early 1960s.

This image, showing CTA bus 3676 on Route 82A, was not identified, but it clearly shows the Logan Square “L” terminal with connecting bus transfer area in the early 1960s.

CTA buses at the Western and 79th loop.

CTA buses at the Western and 79th loop.

The old South Shore Line station in Gary, Indiana in July 1984. (Paul Johnsen Photo)

The old South Shore Line station in Gary, Indiana in July 1984. (Paul Johnsen Photo)

CTA Route 59 bus 5610 is at 59th and State on April 26, 1972.

CTA Route 59 bus 5610 is at 59th and State on April 26, 1972.

CTA trolley bus 9392 is at the Montrose and Narragansett loop in 1965. This loop has since been removed.

CTA trolley bus 9392 is at the Montrose and Narragansett loop in 1965. This loop has since been removed.

A Metra train stops at the Mont Clare station on the former Milwaukee Road West Line on April 13, 1999. The original station at this location was demolished in 1964, and my father and I sifted through the rubble. We found several tickets, some dating back to the 1880s, which we donated to a local historical society. As far as I know, these are still on display at the Elmwood Park Public Library.

A Metra train stops at the Mont Clare station on the former Milwaukee Road West Line on April 13, 1999. The original station at this location was demolished in 1964, and my father and I sifted through the rubble. We found several tickets, some dating back to the 1880s, which we donated to a local historical society. As far as I know, these are still on display at the Elmwood Park Public Library.

Chicao, IL: looking south on Holden Court (under teh south side "L") toward grade-separated crossing with the St. Charles Air Line from 15th Street in March 2000. (William Shapotkin Photo)

Chicao, IL: looking south on Holden Court (under the south side “L”) toward grade-separated crossing with the St. Charles Air Line from 15th Street in March 2000. (William Shapotkin Photo)

The Roosevelt Road streetcar extension, crossing the Illinois Central on its way back from the Field Museum and Soldier Field. The date is unknown, but service ended in 1953.

The Roosevelt Road streetcar extension, crossing the Illinois Central on its way back from the Field Museum and Soldier Field. The date is unknown, but service ended in 1953.

CTA 518 at Halsted and 75th on February 22, 1954. Streetcar service on Halsted ended three months later. (James J. Buckley Photo)

CTA 518 at Halsted and 75th on February 22, 1954. Streetcar service on Halsted ended three months later. (James J. Buckley Photo)

CTA 652 and 678 pass each other at Halsted and 75th on February 22, 1954. (James J. Buckley Photo)

CTA 652 and 678 pass each other at Halsted and 75th on February 22, 1954. (James J. Buckley Photo)

CTA 6148 at Halsted and 75th on February 22, 1954. (James J. Buckley Photo)

CTA 6148 at Halsted and 75th on February 22, 1954. (James J. Buckley Photo)

Chicago Aurora & Elgin 434 at the Seashore Trolley Museum in July 1963.

Chicago Aurora & Elgin 434 at the Seashore Trolley Museum in July 1963.

A Chicago Aurora & Elgin freight train at National Street in Elgin. The style of Kodachrome slide mount dates this picture to between 1955 and 1959. (Although passenger service ended in 1957, freight continued for nearly two more years.)

A Chicago Aurora & Elgin freight train at National Street in Elgin. The style of Kodachrome slide mount dates this picture to between 1955 and 1959. (Although passenger service ended in 1957, freight continued for nearly two more years.)

CSL 5130. Bill Shapotkin adds, "This is an E/B 31st car, having just crossing under the South Side 'L'. View looks west (from Wabash)." We ran another picture of 5130 on the same route on our previous post Spring Forward (April 19, 2018).

CSL 5130. Bill Shapotkin adds, “This is an E/B 31st car, having just crossing under the South Side ‘L’. View looks west (from Wabash).” We ran another picture of 5130 on the same route on our previous post Spring Forward (April 19, 2018).

CSL 5154. Bill Shapotkin adds, "This is a W/B 31st car at State St (South Side "L" in background). View looks east." Again, we previously ran another picture of this same car on the same route in our post Spring Forward (April 19, 2018).

CSL 5154. Bill Shapotkin adds, “This is a W/B 31st car at State St (South Side “L” in background). View looks east.” Again, we previously ran another picture of this same car on the same route in our post Spring Forward (April 19, 2018).

CTA bus 2566 is at 119th and Western, running on Route 49A.

CTA bus 2566 is at 119th and Western, running on Route 49A.

CTA bus 5723 is at the Western and 79th loop, probably in the 1960s.

CTA bus 5723 is at the Western and 79th loop, probably in the 1960s.

CTA bus 6541 is at the Western and 79th loop in 1953. Meanwhile, a postwar PCC (built by the St. Louis Car Co.) goes around the loop. Streetcar service on Western ended in June 1956. Jeff Wien writes, "The caption states that it is 1953 in this photo. I would guess 1948 not long after the loop opened. There is virtually no landscaping anywhere and the sidewalks look like they were recently laid. Later pictures of this loop showed green grass and bushes which was typical of CTA loops until they decided to asphalt over everything (ie: Clark-Arthur loop)." Andre Kristopans: "Bus 6541 at 79th/Western is definitely soon after loop opened. After 79th was converted, this spot is where 79th buses loaded, and 49A’s loaded about three bus lengths back, on the left side of the driveway (see 2578 shot following for new location)."

CTA bus 6541 is at the Western and 79th loop in 1953. Meanwhile, a postwar PCC (built by the St. Louis Car Co.) goes around the loop. Streetcar service on Western ended in June 1956. Jeff Wien writes, “The caption states that it is 1953 in this photo. I would guess 1948 not long after the loop opened. There is virtually no landscaping anywhere and the sidewalks look like they were recently laid. Later pictures of this loop showed green grass and bushes which was typical of CTA loops until they decided to asphalt over everything (ie: Clark-Arthur loop).” Andre Kristopans: “Bus 6541 at 79th/Western is definitely soon after loop opened. After 79th was converted, this spot is where 79th buses loaded, and 49A’s loaded about three bus lengths back, on the left side of the driveway (see 2578 shot following for new location).”

CTA bus 2578, running on Route 49A, is at the Western and 79th loop. When PCCs were introduced to Western Avenue in 1948, buses were substituted on the north and south ends of the line, which were spun off into extensions of Route 49. New loops were built, this being the one on the south end of the line.

CTA bus 2578, running on Route 49A, is at the Western and 79th loop. When PCCs were introduced to Western Avenue in 1948, buses were substituted on the north and south ends of the line, which were spun off into extensions of Route 49. New loops were built, this being the one on the south end of the line.

CTA bus 5066 is turning north from Leland onto Western, running Route 49B in 1958. Here, riders could change to the Ravenswood "L", today's Brown Line. The station has since been rebuilt. Jeff Wien adds, "I believe that the photo of CTA 5066 at Western & Leland was taken in 1956 rather than 1958 as stated in the caption. Route 49 was converted to motor bus in June 1956. The photo shows the streetcar tracks still exposed as well as the overhead wires in place. I would imagine that the wires would have been removed by 1958, and I seem to recall that the City paved Western Avenue not long after the streetcars were removed. The City built the obnoxious overpass at Western and Belmont shortly after the streetcars were removed in 1956."

CTA bus 5066 is turning north from Leland onto Western, running Route 49B in 1958. Here, riders could change to the Ravenswood “L”, today’s Brown Line. The station has since been rebuilt. Jeff Wien adds, “I believe that the photo of CTA 5066 at Western & Leland was taken in 1956 rather than 1958 as stated in the caption. Route 49 was converted to motor bus in June 1956. The photo shows the streetcar tracks still exposed as well as the overhead wires in place. I would imagine that the wires would have been removed by 1958, and I seem to recall that the City paved Western Avenue not long after the streetcars were removed. The City built the obnoxious overpass at Western and Belmont shortly after the streetcars were removed in 1956.”

Passengers board CTA bus 5470 at the Western and Berwyn loop on Chicago's north side. Route 49B was the northern extension of the Western line.

Passengers board CTA bus 5470 at the Western and Berwyn loop on Chicago’s north side. Route 49B was the northern extension of the Western line.

CTA bus 3528 is on Route 54B (South Cicero) on Cicero at 26th, circa the late 1950s.

CTA bus 3528 is on Route 54B (South Cicero) on Cicero at 26th, circa the late 1950s.

CTA bus 2543 is heading east on 103rd Street at Longwood Drive on Route 103 (103rd-106th Streets) in the late 1950s. The building directly behind the bus is now occupied by a Starbucks. Our resident south side expert M. E. writes, "Not showing in this picture (because of the trees) is Chicago's only castle, on the northwest corner of 103rd and Longwood. (Longwood is at the bottom of the "hill". Did you know: The land atop the "hill" is geologically called Blue Island? It begins north of 87th St. where the Dan Ryan's Woods toboggan slide was.)" On the other hand, Stu Slaymaker says, "The shot of ACF-Brill bus that is labeled, 103rd and Longwood, was actually taken at 111th and Longwood. My old neighborhood. Out of the picture behind the photographer, is the R. I. Suburban Line Morgan Park-111th station. The used car lot on the right corner, was a Texaco station in the 1960s. The trees are so lush, you can't see the Walker Branch Library, at the top of the hill."

CTA bus 2543 is heading east on 103rd Street at Longwood Drive on Route 103 (103rd-106th Streets) in the late 1950s. The building directly behind the bus is now occupied by a Starbucks. Our resident south side expert M. E. writes, “Not showing in this picture (because of the trees) is Chicago’s only castle, on the northwest corner of 103rd and Longwood. (Longwood is at the bottom of the “hill”. Did you know: The land atop the “hill” is geologically called Blue Island? It begins north of 87th St. where the Dan Ryan’s Woods toboggan slide was.)” On the other hand, Stu Slaymaker says, “The shot of ACF-Brill bus that is labeled, 103rd and Longwood, was actually taken at 111th and Longwood. My old neighborhood. Out of the picture behind the photographer, is the R. I. Suburban Line Morgan Park-111th station. The used car lot on the right corner, was a Texaco station in the 1960s. The trees are so lush, you can’t see the Walker Branch Library, at the top of the hill.”

CTA 3449 is on Route 31 (31st Street). Not sure which cross street the streetcar is on.

CTA 3449 is on Route 31 (31st Street). Not sure which cross street the streetcar is on.

CSL 3425 is on Route 31 (31st Street) at Pitney Court. However, the date provided (1946) must be wrong, since this line was not converted to bus until February 29, 1948. (Thanks to Daniel Joseph for pointing that out.)

CSL 3425 is on Route 31 (31st Street) at Pitney Court. However, the date provided (1946) must be wrong, since this line was not converted to bus until February 29, 1948. (Thanks to Daniel Joseph for pointing that out.)

CTA 5493 is heading south from the Western and Berwyn loop, on Route 49B (North Western). This picture was taken after streetcar service ended in 1956, as the tracks appear to already be paved over and overhead wires removed.

CTA 5493 is heading south from the Western and Berwyn loop, on Route 49B (North Western). This picture was taken after streetcar service ended in 1956, as the tracks appear to already be paved over and overhead wires removed.

On August 9, 1953 CTA bus 5306 heads west on Route 6 - Van Buren Street at Racine, next to new temporary Garfield Park "L" trackage that went into service the following month. at right, you can see the existing "L" structure, which was torn down the following year.

On August 9, 1953 CTA bus 5306 heads west on Route 6 – Van Buren Street at Racine, next to new temporary Garfield Park “L” trackage that went into service the following month. at right, you can see the existing “L” structure, which was torn down the following year.

CTA bus 5499 is at DesPlaines Avenue terminal in Forest Park, running on Route 17 - Westchester, which replaced the Westchester "L" in 1951.

CTA bus 5499 is at DesPlaines Avenue terminal in Forest Park, running on Route 17 – Westchester, which replaced the Westchester “L” in 1951.

CTA 2365 is operating on Route 58 - Ogden at 26th and Cicero Avenue in the late 1950s.

CTA 2365 is operating on Route 58 – Ogden at 26th and Cicero Avenue in the late 1950s.

CTA 6814 is on 115th Street at Michigan Avenue on Route 115 in the 1960s. Bill Shapotkin adds, "This view (correctly identified as 115th/Michigan) looks east."

CTA 6814 is on 115th Street at Michigan Avenue on Route 115 in the 1960s. Bill Shapotkin adds, “This view (correctly identified as 115th/Michigan) looks east.”

CTA 2718 and 2734 at 74th and Damen.

CTA 2718 and 2734 at 74th and Damen.

CTA 3620 at 54th Avenue in Cicero, the end of the line for the Douglas Park "L" (now the Pink Line).

CTA 3620 at 54th Avenue in
CTA 3620 at 54th Avenue in Cicero, the end of the line for the Douglas Park “L” (now the Pink Line).

CTA 2603 at 119th and Western, the south end of Route 49A.

CTA 2603 at 119th and Western, the south end of Route 49A.

CTA 6532 at the Western and 79th loop, running on Route 79.

CTA 6532 at the Western and 79th loop, running on Route 79.

Chicago & West Towns 848 at the DesPlaines Avenue CTA terminal on August 7, 1980. The second overpass, behind the bus, was for the Chicago Great Western freight line. That bridge and tracks have since been removed. (Ronald J. Sullivan Photo)

Chicago & West Towns 848 at the DesPlaines Avenue CTA terminal on August 7, 1980. The second overpass, behind the bus, was for the Chicago Great Western freight line. That bridge and tracks have since been removed. (Ronald J. Sullivan Photo)

Westbound Rock Island train #113 at the 91st Street depot on April 5, 1970. Our resident south side epert M. E. adds, "The caption says this view is "at the 91st Street depot." Not quite. The view faces north. The train is curving from west (along 89th St.) to south. Notice the railroad crossing signals and gates in the background. That trackage joined with the CRI&P traffic to the east. On that trackage ran the B&O Capitol Limited on its way to Washington DC, as captured in https://thetrolleydodger.files.wordpress.com/2018/07/proofs288.jpg , although in that photo the Capitol Limited is inbound to Chicago."

Westbound Rock Island train #113 at the 91st Street depot on April 5, 1970. Our resident south side epert M. E. adds, “The caption says this view is “at the 91st Street depot.” Not quite. The view faces north. The train is curving from west (along 89th St.) to south. Notice the railroad crossing signals and gates in the background. That trackage joined with the CRI&P traffic to the east. On that trackage ran the B&O Capitol Limited on its way to Washington DC, as captured in https://thetrolleydodger.files.wordpress.com/2018/07/proofs288.jpg , although in that photo the Capitol Limited is inbound to Chicago.”

The interlocking levers at the 91st Street Rock Island Tower on July 3, 1969.

The interlocking levers at the 91st Street Rock Island Tower on July 3, 1969.

The lineup board at the Rock Island 91st Street Tower on July 3, 1969.

The lineup board at the Rock Island 91st Street Tower on July 3, 1969.

The interlocking levers at the Rock Island's 61st Street Tower on January 5, 1969.

The interlocking levers at the Rock Island’s 61st Street Tower on January 5, 1969.

Tower man Roy Bliss and Assistant Tower man Jack Poehron are flagging all trains by the burned-out Rock Island 61st Street Tower on April 20, 1967. The wooden tower had opened in 1898.

Tower man Roy Bliss and Assistant Tower man Jack Poehron are flagging all trains by the burned-out Rock Island 61st Street Tower on April 20, 1967. The wooden tower had opened in 1898.

Rock Island train #11 (with engine #621) passes the burned-out 61st Street Tower on April 20, 1967, the day after the fire. 61st was the end of the four-track section running from LaSalle Street Station in downtown Chicago.

Rock Island train #11 (with engine #621) passes the burned-out 61st Street Tower on April 20, 1967, the day after the fire. 61st was the end of the four-track section running from LaSalle Street Station in downtown Chicago.

Rock Island train #19, as seen from the 61st Street Tower.

Rock Island train #19, as seen from the 61st Street Tower.

Rock Island 61st Street Tower on December 8, 1968. (Looking north at movable point crossing- RI "in" (L), NYC "out" (R).

Rock Island 61st Street Tower on December 8, 1968. (Looking north at movable point crossing- RI “in” (L), NYC “out” (R).

The Rock Island 91st Street Tower on April 5, 1970.

The Rock Island 91st Street Tower on April 5, 1970.

The Rock Island's 91st Street Tower, where the railroad crossed the PRR "Panhandle" route, as it looked on August 17, 1974. As you can see, the tower has received a new coat of paint since the last picture.

The Rock Island’s 91st Street Tower, where the railroad crossed the PRR “Panhandle” route, as it looked on August 17, 1974. As you can see, the tower has received a new coat of paint since the last picture.

Baltimore & Ohio #5, the Capitol Limited, passing by the Beverly Junction Tower one hour and 50 minutes late, on April 5, 1970.

Baltimore & Ohio #5, the Capitol Limited, passing by the Beverly Junction Tower one hour and 50 minutes late, on April 5, 1970.

CTA bus 8829 is at Ashland and 95th in 1973. Daniel Joseph adds, "If the destination sign is reliable, I believe this bus is on the #45 Ashland Downtown and not on #9 Ashland."

CTA bus 8829 is at Ashland and 95th in 1973. Daniel Joseph adds, “If the destination sign is reliable, I believe this bus is on the #45 Ashland Downtown and not on #9 Ashland.”

CTA 2528 is at Ogden and Cermak on Route 58 on April 29, 1961. Bill Shapotkin adds, "Yes, this is indeed Cermak/Ogden -- the view looks west."

CTA 2528 is at Ogden and Cermak on Route 58 on April 29, 1961. Bill Shapotkin adds, “Yes, this is indeed Cermak/Ogden — the view looks west.”

CTA 5863 at the Ashland and 95th Street terminal, south end of Route 9, on June 20, 1973. (John Le Beau Photo)

CTA 5863 at the Ashland and 95th Street terminal, south end of Route 9, on June 20, 1973. (John Le Beau Photo)

Chicago & West Towns bus 777 at the CTA DesPlaines Avenue terminal on March 17, 1974. The terminal has since been redone. The two sets of stairs on DesPlaines Avenue appear to provide a way for pedestrians to cross a busy street where there are no stoplights. (John Le Beau Photo)

Chicago & West Towns bus 777 at the CTA DesPlaines Avenue terminal on March 17, 1974. The terminal has since been redone. The two sets of stairs on DesPlaines Avenue appear to provide a way for pedestrians to cross a busy street where there are no stoplights. (John Le Beau Photo)

CTA "New Look" bus 9441, running on Route 17 - Westchester, is at the DesPlaines terminal on June 28, 1977. Since the previous picture was taken, the set of stairs on the west side of DesPlaines Avenue has been removed. Since the other stair still appears to be in use, it seems as though the CTA decided to extend the walkway to the platform area, so that commuters would not need to go up and down so many stairs.

CTA “New Look” bus 9441, running on Route 17 – Westchester, is at the DesPlaines terminal on June 28, 1977. Since the previous picture was taken, the set of stairs on the west side of DesPlaines Avenue has been removed. Since the other stair still appears to be in use, it seems as though the CTA decided to extend the walkway to the platform area, so that commuters would not need to go up and down so many stairs.

CTA 9461 is at Catalpa and Broadway, operating on Route 84 - Peterson on September 1, 1980. (Ronald J. Sullivan Photo)

CTA 9461 is at Catalpa and Broadway, operating on Route 84 – Peterson on September 1, 1980. (Ronald J. Sullivan Photo)

CTA 8417 is on Route 17 - Westchester in June 1971. (John Le Beau Photo)

CTA 8417 is on Route 17 – Westchester in June 1971. (John Le Beau Photo)

PACE 6338 is heading south on Harlem Avenue on Route 305, having just gone under the CTA Green Line "L" in December 2012. (Mel Bernero Photo)

PACE 6338 is heading south on Harlem Avenue on Route 305, having just gone under the CTA Green Line “L” in December 2012. (Mel Bernero Photo)

PACE 6225 heads west on Route 309 - Lake Street at Harlem Avenue. To the left, just out of view, is the former Marshall Field's store in Oak Park, a local landmark. It later housed a Border's bookstore, now also gone. This photo must have been taken a few years ago, as you would see some new tall buildings if you took the same picture today. Unable to move outward, Oak Park is moving "up." (John Le Beau Photo)

PACE 6225 heads west on Route 309 – Lake Street at Harlem Avenue. To the left, just out of view, is the former Marshall Field’s store in Oak Park, a local landmark. It later housed a Border’s bookstore, now also gone. This photo must have been taken a few years ago, as you would see some new tall buildings if you took the same picture today. Unable to move outward, Oak Park is moving “up.” (John Le Beau Photo)

CTA 2527 is at 25th and Laramie in Cicero, the west end of Route 58 - Ogden. The date appears to be the late 1950s.

CTA 2527 is at 25th and Laramie in Cicero, the west end of Route 58 – Ogden. The date appears to be the late 1950s.

Chicago & West Towns buses 839 and 804 are laying over in the middle of the street at Cermak and 47th Street in January 1979. This is near the border between Cicero and Chicago, and also adjacent to the old Western Electric plant.

Chicago & West Towns buses 839 and 804 are laying over in the middle of the street at Cermak and 47th Street in January 1979. This is near the border between Cicero and Chicago, and also adjacent to the old Western Electric plant.

RTA bus 8107 at the West Towns bus garage in oak Park on April 12, 1981. (John Le Beau Photo)

RTA bus 8107 at the West Towns bus garage in oak Park on April 12, 1981. (John Le Beau Photo)

RTA 8049 at the West Towns garage in Oak Park on May 28, 1978. This is now the site of a Pete's Fresh Market. (Ronald J. Sullivan Photo)

RTA 8049 at the West Towns garage in Oak Park on May 28, 1978. This is now the site of a Pete’s Fresh Market. (Ronald J. Sullivan Photo)

PACE bus 2092 is exiting from the CTA DesPlaines Avenue terminal in April 1992. Where the bus is, was once the approximate location of Chicago Great Western freight tracks, which spanned DesPlaines Avenue via a bridge and then connected with the Baltimore & Ohio Chicago Terminal tracks. That portion of the old CGW right-of-way between here and First Avenue has been paved, and provides a connection to the Prairie Path, which starts at First Avenue.

PACE bus 2092 is exiting from the CTA DesPlaines Avenue terminal in April 1992. Where the bus is, was once the approximate location of Chicago Great Western freight tracks, which spanned DesPlaines Avenue via a bridge and then connected with the Baltimore & Ohio Chicago Terminal tracks. That portion of the old CGW right-of-way between here and First Avenue has been paved, and provides a connection to the Prairie Path, which starts at First Avenue.

CTA 1806 is on Route 84 - Peterson at Western Avenue on April 21, 1957. (Michael N. Charnota Photo)

CTA 1806 is on Route 84 – Peterson at Western Avenue on April 21, 1957. (Michael N. Charnota Photo)

This slide was labeled "Oak Park," but actually, it's on the border between Elmwood Park and River Grove. PACE bus 22550 is heading west on Grand Avenue, going over the long crossing of the Metra Milwaukee District West Line on route 319 on May 8, 1993. There has een much talk over the years of grade-separating these tracks, where some accidents have occurred, but so far nothing has come of it. (Ronald J. Sullivan Photo)

This slide was labeled “Oak Park,” but actually, it’s on the border between Elmwood Park and River Grove. PACE bus 22550 is heading west on Grand Avenue, going over the long crossing of the Metra Milwaukee District West Line on route 319 on May 8, 1993. There has een much talk over the years of grade-separating these tracks, where some accidents have occurred, but so far nothing has come of it. (Ronald J. Sullivan Photo)

RTA bus 496 is at the Brookfield Zoo on December 11, 1977. Andre Kristopans adds, "Bus 496 is on an OSA (Omnibus Society of America) charter. Note the “9” covered with tape." (John Le Beau Photo)

RTA bus 496 is at the Brookfield Zoo on December 11, 1977. Andre Kristopans adds, “Bus 496 is on an OSA (Omnibus Society of America) charter. Note the “9” covered with tape.” (John Le Beau Photo)

RTA bus 8044 is at the old West Towns garage in Oak Park in March 1983.

RTA bus 8044 is at the old West Towns garage in Oak Park in March 1983.

CTA bus 4580 heads west on Harrison at Springfield on March 7, 1991.

CTA bus 4580 heads west on Harrison at Springfield on March 7, 1991.

CTA bus 1112 is at 115th and Perry in February 1983.

CTA bus 1112 is at 115th and Perry in February 1983.

South Suburban Safeway Lines bus 702 is northbound at 119th and Western, probably around 1970. Our resident south side expert M. E. adds, "South Suburban Safeway Lines went north on Western to 63rd, then east to Halsted, the heart of Englewood. Actually, east to Union, south to 63rd Place, and west to the L station at Halsted and 63rd Place, where it ended its northbound run. Southbound, it first took Halsted north to 63rd, then west to Western, etc. The other thing to notice in this picture is that Western Ave. was not as wide south of 119th. This is because the Chicago city limit is 119th, and south of that is Blue Island."

South Suburban Safeway Lines bus 702 is northbound at 119th and Western, probably around 1970. Our resident south side expert M. E. adds, “South Suburban Safeway Lines went north on Western to 63rd, then east to Halsted, the heart of Englewood. Actually, east to Union, south to 63rd Place, and west to the L station at Halsted and 63rd Place, where it ended its northbound run. Southbound, it first took Halsted north to 63rd, then west to Western, etc. The other thing to notice in this picture is that Western Ave. was not as wide south of 119th. This is because the Chicago city limit is 119th, and south of that is Blue Island.”

South Suburban Safeway Lines 714 on Western at 79th on October 4, 1975. (Michael N. Charnota Photo)

South Suburban Safeway Lines 714 on Western at 79th on October 4, 1975. (Michael N. Charnota Photo)

CTA 871, running on Route 49B North Western, is at the Western Avenue stop on the Ravenswood "L" in June 1973. (Michael N. Charnota Photo)

CTA 871, running on Route 49B North Western, is at the Western Avenue stop on the Ravenswood “L” in June 1973. (Michael N. Charnota Photo)

CTA 5567 is on Western near 63rd Street on April 20, 1972 (Route 49). Our resident south side expert M. E. adds, "Notice Cupid Candies on one corner and Fannie May Candies across the street." Jeff Weiner adds, "CTA 5567 appears to be at Western and 62nd, as the City maintained a traffic signal there for the Sears store. Until a closed-loop system was installed, the 62nd signal operated fixed-time during store hours, and went on yellow-red flash when the store was closed. After it was modernized, the operation was semiactuated, with coordination to the other signals on Western. Until it was modernized, the median signals were on concrete “blockbuster” foundations, replaced with mast arm signals afterwards."

CTA 5567 is on Western near 63rd Street on April 20, 1972 (Route 49). Our resident south side expert M. E. adds, “Notice Cupid Candies on one corner and Fannie May Candies across the street.” Jeff Weiner adds, “CTA 5567 appears to be at Western and 62nd, as the City maintained a traffic signal there for the Sears store. Until a closed-loop system was installed, the 62nd signal operated fixed-time during store hours, and went on yellow-red flash when the store was closed. After it was modernized, the operation was semiactuated, with coordination to the other signals on Western. Until it was modernized, the median signals were on concrete “blockbuster” foundations, replaced with mast arm signals afterwards.”

CTA 5978 is at the Western and 79th loop on June 20, 1973. (Ronald J. Sullivan Photo)

CTA 5978 is at the Western and 79th loop on June 20, 1973. (Ronald J. Sullivan Photo)

CTA Pullman 312 on Kedzie. Bill Shapotkin adds, "Car is working #52 -- Kedzie-California and is laying over in California at Roscoe. View looks north."

CTA Pullman 312 on Kedzie. Bill Shapotkin adds, “Car is working #52 — Kedzie-California and is laying over in California at Roscoe. View looks north.”

CTA Pullman 444 at Armitage and California in January 1950.

CTA Pullman 444 at Armitage and California in January 1950.

CTA one-man car 6184 at Lawrence and Luna in 1949.

CTA one-man car 6184 at Lawrence and Luna in 1949.

CTA 336, in June 1952, is on California Avenue at Augusta Boulevard.

CTA 336, in June 1952, is on California Avenue at Augusta Boulevard.

Chicago Surface Lines 474 is on Belmont at Clark in May 1947.

Chicago Surface Lines 474 is on Belmont at Clark in May 1947.

CSL 1644 is on Route 6 at Division and California in May 1942. The Divison and Van Buren car lines were through-routed starting in 1937.

CSL 1644 is on Route 6 at Division and California in May 1942. The Divison and Van Buren car lines were through-routed starting in 1937.

CTA 5574 at an unknown location. Jon Habermaas writes, "Photo appears to be on the Halsted route where the line is on private right of way along Vincennes Ave., paralleling the Rock Island mainline... in the background you can see the Washington Heights Rock Island depot and a cross buck along the Pennsy's Panhandle division, which crosses Vincennes Avenue and the Rock Island just south of 103rd Street. The car would be around 104th and Vincennes Ave." Our resident south side expert M. E. adds, "Mr. Habermaas's description is accurate. I will add that this private right of way started at 89th St., just south of the CRI&P Beverly branch viaduct, and ended around 107th St. where Vincennes veered farther west from the CRI&P main line. And more historically, this right-of-way originated for the Kankakee car, which had its barn at 88th and Vincennes and ran on Halsted as far north as Englewood." Andre Kristopans: "Car 5574 SB at 105th or so. You can just make out the 104th RI station in the back, and PRR crossbuck to the right in the distance." (Robert W. Gibson Photo)

CTA 5574 at an unknown location. Jon Habermaas writes, “Photo appears to be on the Halsted route where the line is on private right of way along Vincennes Ave., paralleling the Rock Island mainline… in the background you can see the Washington Heights Rock Island depot and a cross buck along the Pennsy’s Panhandle division, which crosses Vincennes Avenue and the Rock Island just south of 103rd Street. The car would be around 104th and Vincennes Ave.” Our resident south side expert M. E. adds, “Mr. Habermaas’s description is accurate. I will add that this private right of way started at 89th St., just south of the CRI&P Beverly branch viaduct, and ended around 107th St. where Vincennes veered farther west from the CRI&P main line. And more historically, this right-of-way originated for the Kankakee car, which had its barn at 88th and Vincennes and ran on Halsted as far north as Englewood.” Andre Kristopans: “Car 5574 SB at 105th or so. You can just make out the 104th RI station in the back, and PRR crossbuck to the right in the distance.” (Robert W. Gibson Photo)

CTA 1749, one of the few old streetcars repainted in green, is at Cermak and State in January 1954, running on Route 21. Note the steam engine in the background.

CTA 1749, one of the few old streetcars repainted in green, is at Cermak and State in January 1954, running on Route 21. Note the steam engine in the background.

CTA prewar PCC 4038 is eastbound on 63rd Street. PCCs ran on this line between 1948 and 1952. If the address on the building is any guide, this is probably 122 East 63rd Street.

CTA prewar PCC 4038 is eastbound on 63rd Street. PCCs ran on this line between 1948 and 1952. If the address on the building is any guide, this is probably 122 East 63rd Street.

Illinois Central Electric bi-level car 1514 at the Blue Island Yards on April 23, 1978.

Illinois Central Electric bi-level car 1514 at the Blue Island Yards on April 23, 1978.

CTA trolley bus 9553 is on its last run, a fan trip held on April 1, 1973. Here it is on Fullerton Avenue near the Milwaukee Road freight line. This was one week after trolley buses were taken out of service.

CTA trolley bus 9553 is on its last run, a fan trip held on April 1, 1973. Here it is on Fullerton Avenue near the Milwaukee Road freight line. This was one week after trolley buses were taken out of service.

CTA Marmon-Herrington trolley bus 535 at North and Cicero.

CTA Marmon-Herrington trolley bus 535 at North and Cicero.

Recent Site Addition

This photo was added to our previous post More Mystery Photos (July 29, 2016):

BEDT 0-6-0 #16 in Brooklyn, NY on October 9, 1982.

BEDT 0-6-0 #16 in Brooklyn, NY on October 9, 1982.

Chicago Subway Lecture

Samuel D. Polonetzky makes a point during his presentation at the Chicago Maritime Museum on July 25, 2018. (David Sadowski Photo)

Samuel D. Polonetzky makes a point during his presentation at the Chicago Maritime Museum on July 25, 2018. (David Sadowski Photo)

On July 25 2018, Samuel D. Polonetzky, P.E., B.Sc. gave a presentation before the Underwater Archaeological Society of Chicago, of which he is a member. The topic was “Crossing of the Chicago River by the State Street Subway.” He showed actual motion pictures of the construction of the Subway in 1938-40.

Mr. Polonetzky is a Civil Engineer who served the City of Chicago, Department of Streets & Sanitation for thirty five years, rising from Engineer-In-Training to Acting Chief Engineer. During this tenure he acquired a deep knowledge of Chicago’s public rights-of-way and the underground infrastructure. He is also an active member of the Illinois Railway Museum at Union IL and a Life Member of the American Public Works Association.

The Underwater Archaeological Society of Chicago meets in the Chicago Maritime Museum located in the Bridgeport Arts Center, 3400 S. Racine Av. Chicago Ill. 60609.

The film shown is called Streamlining Chicago (1940), and you can watch it here:

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:

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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Railroad Record Club Treasure Hunt

Kenneth Gear, author of today’s post, has long been a friend of this blog. Since we began writing about William A. Steventon and the Railroad Record Club of Hawkins, Wisconin (see our previous posts A Railroad Record Club Discography and Revisiting the Railroad Record Club), Ken has been very helpful in obtaining recordings in our quest to reissue the entire RRC oeuvre for the digital age.

Recently, following up on a lead for some RRC material, Ken traveled from New Jersey to the Midwest. The discoveries he is sharing with you today are the result.

This represented a tremendous investment of time and money for Ken who, like myself is of very modest means. Since there is only a very limited market for railroad audio (the whole world, apparently, being transfixed with video), chances are we will never be able to recoup Ken’s costs.

He does not care about that, since his main interest is in preserving these historic recordings for future generations.  Ken is doing this for the love of it, not the money.

Thanks to Ken, we will now be able to reach our goal of remastering all 41 issued Railroad Record Club recordings onto compact discs. We will let you know when that work is done. The only ones we don’t have now are some of the samplers.

One unexpected benefit of his quest is the discovery of additional unissued steam and electric RRC recordings, detailed below.

Due to the limits of Ken’s budget, he was unfortunately not yet able to purchase what appear to be the original RRC master tapes. If you are interested in making a contribution to that worthwhile effort, please let us know.

Any donations received will help Ken negotiate for their purchase, and make it possible to preserve these fine recordings for future generations of railfans. They are currently at risk of being lost forever.

It is remarkable that this collection somehow managed to stay intact for 24 years after Steventon’s death.

We thank you in advance for your help.

-David Sadowski

PS- The disc labeled Indiana Railroad is actually Steventon reciting a history of the Hoosier interurban. Since it quit in 1941, that predates the development of audio tape recorders in the early 1950s. A few fans had wire recorders in the late 1940s (these were developed in Germany prior to the war). Prior to that time, the only way to make a “field recording” was with a portable disc cutter. Those were available starting around 1929.

My Railroad Record Club Treasure Hunt

by Kenneth Gear

Some months ago David received a very intriguing email. It came from an estate auctioneer who wrote that he was in possession of a large collection of items from the estate of William Steventon, founder of the Railroad Record Club. He had seen the Trolley Dodger CDs for sale online and figured David would be interested in the collection. The auctioneer had these items in storage, where they had been for many years, and he now wanted to dispose of them. He asked David if he would be interested in buying these items or if he knew of anyone who might.

Knowing my keen interest in all things related to the RRC, David forwarded the email to me.

We were quite excited about the offer. What could this collection consist of? Had we hit the mother lode of RRC material? The possibilities were almost endless- photos, art work, even movies! The most satisfying find for me would be, of course, coming across some unreleased Steventon railroad audio. If there were some, would the 60 plus year old tapes be salvageable? Were they stored properly? As endless as the possibilities for great finds were, it was equally possible that disappointment could lie ahead.

At the very least it seemed very likely that we would be able fill the holes in the Trolley Dodger CD reissuing catalog. We were still in need of records 22, 31 & 32 plus the elusive sampler records.

Emails went back and forth between the three of us and eventually concrete plans were hammered out.

My friend and fellow railfan photographer Chris Hughes and I usually make several road trips a year in pursuit of short line railroads to photograph. This year, and as a favor to me, it was decided to find some photographic subjects conveniently close to were the Railroad Record Club items were stored. I wasn’t going to let this opportunity slip by without at least seeing the collection. On July 20th Chris and I set off from New Jersey heading for the Midwest, some short line RRs, and the possibility of a RRC gold mine!

The Day Arrives!

Anticipation was running high as I approached the building that housed the collection. Some of the items were laid out on a table and there were large boxes containing many copies of the same record, all still sealed in plastic and all were the 12″ reissues editions. What immediately caught my attention was that each box had beside it the metal print block for the cover of the LP contained in the box. There were other print blocks on the table as well, not every one had a box of LPs to go with it. This was the real deal for sure. Where else would the original print blocks come from but the Steventon estate.

I wanted the print blocks but was less interested in buying the LPs. I really didn’t want to get saddled with scores of records that I would have to find a place to store and later try to sell. A deal was struck and I got the print blocks but not the LPs. So far so good.

LIST OF PRINT BLOCKS PURCHASED
 full covers with titles and other lettering:
#1 Wabash
#4 B&O
#8 CN
#10 PRR
#18 CNS&M
#19 DM&IR
#20 C&IM/NYC
#21 D&NW
#22 BC&G
#23 Pennsy Trolleys
#24 CP
#25 Ill Term
#26 NKP 779
#27 Capital Trans
#28 Iowa Trolleys
#29 CNS&M Freight
#30 Sound Scrapbook-Traction
#31 Sound Scrapbook-Steam
#32 NYC
#33 & 34 CSS&SB freight
#35 Milwaukee Trans
#36 Chicago Trans
#SP-1 Silverton
#SP-2 NP 2626 (both front and back photos) 
OTHER PRINT BLOCKS
1st EDITIONS-TRAIN ONLY- NO LETTERING:
Intro SOO
#2 WCF&N
#3 EBT
#4 B&O
#5 D&RGW
#6 H&F
#7 N&W
#8 CN
#9 WSSB
#11 SHRT
#12 DM&IR
#13 NKP
#14 PE
#15 CB&Q
#17 SOO
#18 CNS&M
Not from a RRC record cover: BRILL 27-E truck

Next up was what appeared to be Mr. Steventon’s personal collection of RRC albums (for some unknown reason number 23 was missing). The records were in plain white jackets and did not have any of the liner notes or cover art with them. Just a hand written number in the upper right hand corner of the jacket, corresponding to the record contained therein. The records were a mix of 10 and 12 inch stock. It could be that Steventon upgraded his own collection with the 12″ remasters as they were pressed and that the 10″ records in his collection never got the 12″ treatment. If true, then we can finally know exactly which of the records were reissued and those that were not. It seems likely, but we will need to look a little deeper into this. Interestingly a few of the plain white jackets have a hand written “delete schedule” on them. This I’m sure is some whittling down of the tracks to fit in the allotted time of the record. Photos of two of them follow. Also found was a sampler record. I always thought there were 6 of these records but it turns out that each year only has one side of a disc. Therefore it’s not 6 records, but only 3. 1 down and 2 to go.

Along with these LPs came a large stack of test pressings. I wasn’t sure of just what may be on them, perhaps the deleted audio written of in those delete schedules. They went into the back of the SUV with Steventon’s personal RRC records. Things were getting very interesting!

The stack of test pressings consisted of 44 12″ records from the Nashville Record Productions and 4 10″ pressings from RCA Custom Records.

Also, I saved perhaps 50 10″ empty record jackets that were heading to a dumpster. I’m glad I did because I was able to find the jackets for 22 BC&G, 31 Sound Scrapbook-Steam & 32 NYC. I got those records from Steventon’s personal collection, but they did not, as I said, have any liner notes or jackets with them.

So no more suspense- yes unreleased Steventon railroad audio was indeed found!

It came in the form of “Audiodisc” record blanks that Steventon cut at home. For convenience’s sake, or perhaps to keep his tapes safe, he transferred field recordings on to these “record at home” discs. 25 of these discs were offered to me and I snatched them right up. Later at home, I discovered that 21 have railroad sounds on them. The rest were radio shows and a relative who was apparently proficient at playing the piano.

These discs are 10″ and play at 78rpm. They contain about 6 minutes of audio when fully utilized but not all are. Frustratingly some records, in spite of the label being marked “Western Maryland” or “Pennsylvania RR”, are blank on one side or contain just a fraction of the audio it could hold. There is plenty of good stuff here and the condition of most of the records are surprisingly good in my opinion. Here are some of the highlights:

One of the best finds is a record marked “B&O-1st Recording” It seems I have found a record of William Steventon’s first recordings! From the article he wrote for TRACTION & MODELS we know he accidentally erased his very first recording of a B&O steamer while trying to play it back. So perhaps this is actually his second attempt. The record contains B&O steam & Diesel sounds recorded at the station in Riverdale, MD on March 31, 1953. Trains include number 523 “Marylander” and number 17 “Cleveland Night Express” among others.

He would return to the B&O many times, with recordings being made at both Riverdale and Silver Springs, MD. I have records of B&O trains recorded in July, August, and September 1953. Some of these recordings include the station announcements for trains number 9 “Chicago Express” and Train 5 “Capitol Limited” . There is one great sequence (too short) of an on-train recording behind B&O 5066 powering local train #154. Also there is a very good recording of a 5300 series loco on a heavy drag freight. Even early on he sure knew how to capture the sound of steam.

There are recordings of steam on the Shenandoah Central (loco # 12) IC # 3619 at Christopher, IL, PRR at Mill Creek, PA, C&IM, and on the EBT. Some of this material may have been included on the released albums, but here William Steventon himself provides commentary and the sounds may be edited differently. Steventon gives information about almost every cut in his distinctive, Walter Winchell-like voice. Other interesting sounds are those of PRR GG-1s recorded on August 22, 1954. They were recorded at, as Steventon puts it, a “country crossing”. Plenty of that toneless yet somehow appealing GG-1 horn blowing is included.

Potomac Edison box motor # 5 has several sides of these records devoted to it. Without checking, I’d say there is more of the sounds of the cab ride on these discs than what eventually made it on to Record #6. There is some Shaker Heights RT as well. Plenty of Johnstown Traction and Altoona & Logan Valley too. This may or may not have been released.

There is definitely some unreleased traction sound here. One full record contains the sounds of the Baltimore Transit company. One side is a ride on car # 5727 on the Lorraine Line and the other side is car # 5706 on the Ellicott City Line. Both recorded on January 16, 1954 This recording is in wonderful shape too.

More fine unreleased traction sounds include a nice recording of the St. Louis Public Service. Recorded in December of 1953 it includes both on board and trackside recordings of PCC cars on the University Line.

There is also some Washington DC Capital Transit stuff I don’t think made it to Record 27.

There are some unidentified traction sounds on an unmarked disc. The record starts with William Steventon telling a story about a blanket someone gave his father that had pictures of locomotives on it (his father was an engineer on the NYC). The story abruptly ends without concluding and the sounds of motor hum, gears, and door buzzers start. It sounds to me as if the recording was made at a subway station. We know Steventon made recordings in the IRT subway in New York and this may very well be it. The other side has more unidentified traction sound that may been the Queensboro Bridge recordings that were mentioned in the RRC newsletter David posted in this blog some time ago. Maybe someone knows for sure what all this sound really is. One other record worth noting is titled “Claude Mahoney.” Playing the record reveled that he was a radio commentator in the Washington DC area. This is both parts of a two-part show about riding an NRHS fantrip from Washington DC to Harrisburg, PA by way of Hagerstown on October 4, 1953. No train sounds are included but it is interesting in itself, especially if you enjoy old time radio broadcasts.

All of these records will soon be sent off to David for him to transfer to digital. Hopefully he can clean up and restore some of the sounds that right now, are degraded with surface noise and various clicks, pops, and hisses. I’m sure there is enough good sound to fill out a CD and it sure will make a great Railroad Record Club “bonus tracks” CD.

Another interesting aspect of the Railroad Record Club story is that some years after William Steventon’s death in 1993, his son Seth made an effort to reissue the entire RRC catalog on cassette tapes. David and I made inquiries about this to several people without much success. It’s likely the project was abandoned before much headway was achieved.

Evidence of Seth’s attempts were included in the estate. All of the records were converted to cassette and cover art and liner notes were put on cards for every record. Four completed tapes were in the collection and so are many of the cards.

Next I purchased 10 cover art paste-up boards. These are what was used to make the print blocks. A few actually contain the original art work. It seems Steventon would have the lettering glued to the same canvas board that the artist drew the picture on. They are not all originals, but several are. This was a bit of luck I would have never thought possible. On a few, such as the BC&G drawing for number 22 and the trolley picture for #23, the glued-on lettering has fallen off. This has revealed more of the drawing than we record owners have ever seen.



COVER ART 

# 1 WAB (12″remaster cover)

# 3 EBT (12″remaster cover)

# 4 B&O (12″remaster cover) Original Drawing

# 19 DM&IR (12″remaster cover) Original Drawing

# 22 BC&G (12″remaster cover) Original Drawing

# 23 Pennsylvania Trolleys Original Drawing

# 24 CP Original Drawing

# SP-3 Whistle/Bend Original Painting

# SP-4 CSS&SB

# SP-5 Soo (12″remaster cover) 

 

One other original drawing was found hiding among the others. It is of WCF&N interurban car # 100. This drawing did not appear on any RRC record jacket. The car is featured on Record 2. The first edition of the record had a cover that featured a photograph of the car. The second edition had a drawing of it, but it is not the one I have. Both of these editions were on 10″ stock. There is no way of knowing for sure but maybe a 12″ reissue of number 2 was in the works and this was to be the cover illustration. It’s possible. It could also be that this was a gift to Steventon or he commissioned it simply because he liked the car. Who knows?

Several boxes of photos were for sale as well. Both finances and cargo space were starting to reach their limits so I had to choose only a few to buy. As time allows I will scan and email all of the photos to David and he can include them in future Trolley Dodger posts. For now, I’ve scanned a few photos that in some way relate to the Railroad Record Club.

Photo 1. I was looking for a good photo of William Steventon, preferably in a railroad setting or with audio equipment in the field or at home. Nothing was found but this photo of him I think is quite good.

Photo 2 & 3. I found a copy of the photo that was used in the TRACTION & MODELS magazine article, the one that shows him making a recording of a North Shore Line interurban car. It has been posted in this blog before but this is a much better scan. It was made from an actual photograph and not a magazine reproduction as posted before. The shot is somewhat wider too. Because it is a good scan it is possible to crop the photo to a point where you can get a good look at all that recording equipment he needed. Imagine having to cart all that stuff around. Think of this next time you shoot audio AND video on your tiny Smartphone!

Photo 4. As was stated before, William Steventon’s father Seth was an engineer on the Big 4 (New York Central). This is very likely him in the cab of NYC 6879. Photo is dated 1915.

Photos 5 & 6. These two are good photos to keep in mind while listening to Record # 20 C&IM/NYC. The in cab recording Steventon made while aboard NYC # 1441 with his father as engineer was recorded while switching in this yard. While this photo was not taken at the time the sound recording was made (sound recording made December 9, 1953, these photos were taken on February 12, 1948) and is of a different locomotive (NYC # 1169), the setting is the same- the yard at Cairo, IL. In the liner notes of this record Steventon writes about the sound of the locomotive being “amplified by the huge empty lumber shed we were paralleling at the time.” That huge empty lumber shed is plainly visible in the wider shot of # 1169. Seth was again the engineer at the throttle.

Photo 7. Seth in the cab of Shenandoah Central # 12. This is the locomotive that is on one of the unreleased audiodisc records. It was very likely taken on the same day as that the sound recordings were made.

Photo 8. When I saw this picture in the box with a bunch of others, it stood out too me. Why I wasn’t sure until I took a closer look. It is of Charles City Western car # 50. What made it stand out was that the angle and position of the car is exactly as the car appears on the cover of record 28. Remove the car barn and some of the background, take away the bit of freight car to the left, add a few clouds in the sky and you have the record cover! It would be hard to convince me that the record cover drawing is not based on this photo.

Photo 9. CCW car 50 as it appears on RRC record # 28’s cover. Compare the two.

A few interesting documents were found as well. There was a large box of correspondence to and from the Club. Apparently Mr. Steventon threw very little away. If you ever wrote to him or ordered a record from him, chances are your letter or envelope are in that box! I looked briefly for anything from me but no luck. I would have needed more time to do a good search.

What I left Behind

There were more treasures to be found in that darkened building for sure. Time, storage space, and money, the bane I’m sure of every collector, shook me from my excitation. No more space and no more money meant no more discoveries.

While I’m very happy with what I got, there is still more. All those boxes of records I turned down and all those wonderful photos I couldn’t afford. I would hate to find out they had to be trashed.

The most glaring oversight on my part were the boxes of reel to reel tapes I saw. I did look at them and even took some photos, but it all appeared to be master tapes for the records. All these sound I was positive were safely cut into vinyl.

After getting home and closely looking at those photos I can now see that there was unreleased railroad audio there too. Such titles as L&N, NKP Diesel, IRT Subway, IND Subway, 3rd Avenue El and the Queensboro Bridge Trolley, among others, now jumped out at me. Perhaps there might be a way to save this material as well.

I had a great time making these discoveries, and I’m very happy that David should be able to make CDs of these sounds so they can be shared with all who are interested. After not being heard in decades, it feels great to be a part of the effort to bring these lost Railroad Record Club sounds into the light of day.