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.

Recent Correspondence

Continuing from our last post (regarding Speedrail) Larry Sakar writes:

This was the aftermath of the 8/24/49 collision at Soldiers Home. Car 1143 with motorman Ralph Janus was an all steel car. That was the one that backed up. Car 1119 with motorman LeRoy Equitz was a car that was wood with I think steel sheets surrounding it. That was true of nearly all of the 1100-series TM single cars except 1142-1145. Those 4 were all steel. Equitz was speeding going twice as fast as he should have been given that he had a yellow caution signal. As you came downhill and into the Calvary Cemetery cut, the r.o.w. made a sharp curve beneath the Hawley Rd. overpass and then continued downhill. That and the Mitchell Blvd. overpass at the east end of the cut limited the view ahead. Equitz didn’t spot the 1143 until it was too late.

The newspaper picture I’m attaching looks forward from the front or what was left of the front of 1119 to the back of 1143. Note the telescoping. That’s the floor of 1143 in front of the fireman who is bending over on the right. Had anyone been sitting in the smoking compartment of 1143 they would have been killed. Luckily, no one was.

The Calvary Cemetery cut is the only part of the abandoned r.o.w. that remains relatively unchanged today. Here are some photos of it over the years.

Thanks for sharing!

Larry again:

Here’s more about that accident, Dave as well as a view of the 65 as it looked upon arrival in Milwaukee. Note no front end “LVT” design.

I promised Scott (Greig) that I would look into the Speedrail accident of 9/5/50 to see if the newspaper accounts identified the crew of car 1121. In the July, 2017 comments, Scott thought that the motorman of car 1121 was Ralph Janus who was motorman of car 1143 which backed up for the missed passenger at Soldiers Home station on 8/24/49 and was rammed from behind by car 1119 with motorman LeRoy Equitz. I thought it was someone by the name of Eugene Thompson.

According to the Milwaukee Journal article, “Speedrail Dead Now 10; Line Has New Collision” (MKE Journal 9/5/50 P.1) the motorman of car 1121 was Eugene Thompson. The motorman of car 64 which 1121 ran into was Virgil McCann. There was one passenger aboard car 64, Ewald Rintelmann, age 50 of Hales Corners whom the article says was “shaken and bruised.” I hoped that the other two crew members aboard car 1121 would be identified but they weren’t. It only mentions that there were “2 other men aboard the freight car.” At least not in this article or the following day. As I mentioned previously, I recall the late Speedrail motorman Don Leistikow saying it was a father and son, one of whom was the conductor and the other the brakeman. The article reported that Maeder “initially blamed the accident on ‘slick, moisture covered tracks’.” The accident happened 1000 feet south of the West Jct. station.

The 9-5-50 article is also where we hear of the 8 or 9 year old boy Maeder saw “standing awfully close to the landing at Oklahoma Ave.,” who drew his attention away from the Nachod signal. “Ordinarily, you keep you eye on the light for more than an instant,” Maeder said. “On Saturday, however, I noticed a small boy about 8 or 9, standing awfully close to the tracks at Oklahoma av. landing. When I noticed, in a quick look, that I had the white light, my thoughts turned to the more immediate danger of the small boy and I turned my eyes from the light to the boy.”

I’ll give Maeder credit for coming up with a good story to explain his failure to keep an eye on the signal but that’s all. He makes no mention of the fact that Speedrail supervisor John Heberling was stationed at Oklahoma Ave. and that he had set the switch so that Maeder’s train went into the siding. Nor does he mention that he ordered Heberling to immediately reset the switch and let him out of the siding when the latter wanted to take time to call the dispatcher and see where Equitz was at. Neither John Heberling nor any of the fans gathered around Maeder on the front platform ever reported seeing a small boy playing or standing near the tracks.

When Maeder refers to “the landing,” I am guessing he was referring to the station platform. Oklahoma Ave. station was on the bridge over Oklahoma Ave.

About 3 years ago I had a phone conversation with George Wolter, the assigned motorman on Maeder’s train. I asked if it was true that Maeder took control of the train shortly after leaving the Public Service Building outbound to Hales Corners. He confirmed that Maeder said, “Go and have a seat. I’ll take it from here,” when they got to 6th & Michigan Sts. I asked if Maeder had given him a reason and he said, “Well we got caught in a traffic jam on 6th St.” I said, “OK but what does that have to do with anything?” Maeder taking over operation of the train wasn’t going to change the fact that you were caught in street traffic. I mean he wasn’t Moses. He couldn’t lift up his switch iron and demand that the traffic part and let his train pass in the name of the Lord.”

I know that was a rather sarcastic remark but Wolter’s excuse for Maeder was utterly ridiculous. Wolter said, “I will swear to my dying day that I saw that signal at Oklahoma Ave. and it was white.” That was the end of the conversation. His statement contradicts what he told the DA and testified to at the Coroner’s inquest. His exact statement at that time was that he was just coming up front having “gone back to the rear car for a while.”

This was when he spotted the roof of Equitz’s train coming up over the top of the hill ahead of the northbound train. He said he DID NOT see the signal at Oklahoma Ave.! I think his testimony at the time carries far more weight than the way he remembered events more than 60 years later. I should also point out that had he been so inclined the DA could have charged Wolter with negligence since PSC rules required that a qualified motorman had to be present at all times when someone who was not qualified was operating the train. He had absolutely no business being in the rear car of 39-40.

Don Leistikow said that had he been the motorman he would have stood right next to Maeder whether he liked it or not. He would have been the scheduled motorman and this was officially his train. He was the person responsible for it. As Don pointed out the PSC regulations did not make an exception just because you owned the company. Based on the way the DA went after Maeder and statements made by the DA as early as 9-5 when he said he had concluded that based on the evidence he’d gathered that Maeder went thru a red signal. And it was obvious that he wasn’t buying Maeder’s story about safety concerns. Maeder’s frequent sessions with railfans in his office, seeking their input while ignoring Tennyson the VP of operations, fits the pattern of someone who on 9/2 saw an opportunity to bask in the admiration of his fellow model railroaders and railfans and just couldn’t pass up such a “golden opportunity” to show off by being at the controls of duplex 39-40. Tennyson said as much in my book and reluctantly, I would have to agree with him.

I am sure our readers will appreciate this important bit of history on what was a very serious tragedy.

Finally, Larry asks:

One thing that has puzzled me for a long time is why the CTA was so anti-streetcar. It seems to me that they would have wanted to keep the PCC’s running on at least the 22-Clark-Wentworth, the 36-Broadway-State and the 49-Western Ave. Weren’t those 3 lines some of the busiest crosstown streetcar routes? It’s always seemed to me, not knowing much more than the basics about the CSL and CTA that it appeared to be terribly wasteful to junk all of those mostly new St. Louis Car PCC’s. Yes, I know that a lot of parts went into the 6000 series “L” cars but did they really recoup their investment?

I know there have been books written about the CSL but has anyone ever thought about writing a comprehensive history of it say for CERA? Dave Stanley told me that when CTA acquired CSL it was broke. Was the CRT in any better shape, financially?

In a way it’s too bad the CTA wasn’t selling off the PCC’s in 1949.Both the Waukesha and Hales Corners lines had turning loops so their being single ended would not have been a problem though whether Maeder could have afforded them, I have serious doubts.

TM did not have turning loops on any of the streetcar lines and that is part of the reason S.B. Way was not interested in buying PCC’s for Milwaukee. It would have meant constructing loops at the ends of the car lines or buying double ended PCC’s. I know of only 2 systems that had double ended PCC’s; PE and Dallas. Of course by the time the first PCC’s rolled off the production line for the Brooklyn & Queens, TM had pretty much turned its back on streetcars in favor of trolleybuses.

The Chicago Transit Authority purchased the Surface Lines in 1947 for $75m. However, the CSL had $30m in cash on hand in a renewal account, so the actual amount spent was only $45m.

While the underlying companies behind the CSL facade were bankrupt, this was more of a technical bankruptcy, a situation that the City of Chicago wanted to maintain since they had by the mid-1940s decided that municipal ownership was the only way forward. Otherwise, contemporary accounts indicate that CSL could have emerged from bankruptcy during WWII.

CSL could have done better, except that its fares were being kept artificially low by the Illinois Commerce Commission. When the CTA took over, there were numerous fare increases in its first decade of operation since the agency had the power to set its own rates.

By contrast, the Chicago Rapid Transit Company was a financial basket case that could barely pay its bills. During the transition to CTA ownership between 1945 and 1947, the most that CRT could spend for new railcars was $100k, while the Surface Lines had millions on hand for such purchases. CRT ordered four articulated sets while CSL ordered the 600 postwar PCCs plus other buses.

CSL was very much a pro-streetcar operator, but in the years prior to 1947, had been expanding service using motor buses and trolley buses, including some initial conversions of lightly-used streetcar routes to bus.

The City of Chicago commissioned a transportation study in 1937 that suggested replacing half the trolleys with buses. This still would have meant purchasing 1500 new streetcars.

As the years went on, this amount kept being decreased in the plans, from 1500 to 1000 to 800, and ultimately it became 600.

While the CTA still planned to order an additional 200 PCCs in their 10-Year Plan, published in 1947, this did not come to pass, and the first general manager of CTA, Walter J. McCarter, was hired in part because of his success in “rubberizing” the Cleveland streetcar system.

So, while CSL was pro-streetcar, increasingly the City of Chicago was pro-bus, and when municipal ownership came to be, the new CTA reflected the attitudes of the City.

The war had put off some bus substitutions and equipment purchases, so there was a backlog of conversions in the pipeline by that time. This led to a more rapid switch from streetcar to bus than might have been the case otherwise.

The difficulty in abandoning lightly-used lines also worked against CSL, and to some extent CSL and CRT competed with each other. Once CTA took over, they could rationalize both systems to work better together.

Still, even as late as 1949, CTA was at least considering purchasing 200 more PCCs, and retaining service on as many as 11 streetcar lines. The 600 PCCs were brand new, and the 83 prewar cars plus the 100 Sedans could have provided good service for many years to come.

Around that time, however, a number of factors were already at work against the surface system in general.

First, along with increased car ownership and frequent fare increases, there was a serious drop-off in surface system ridership, to the point where it was eventually decided that buses could do the job.

Second, the CTA changed its method of accounting, allocating a portion of surface system revenue to the rapid transit. This meant that some service that were once considered profitable were suddenly seen as unprofitable.

One thing that CTA did almost immediately was work to reduce their labor costs by eliminating as many employees as possible. This became even more important in the inflationary postwar period as unionized workers demanded better pay and benefits. CTA had a chronic manpower shortage and was thus in a weak position to hold the line.

Since most streetcars were two-man, they were easy targets for substitution by one-man buses.

A 1951 consultant’s report proposed that CTA retain the PCCs, convert them to one-man, and stop purchasing electric vehicles for the surface system due to the supposedly high cost of electric power purchased from Commonwealth Edison.

By the 1950s, CTA had become convinced that maintaining ridership was a matter of providing faster service. Faster service could not easily be provided on city streets, with increasing competition from cars and trucks, but there were ways to speed up service on the rapid transit system.

The so-called PCC Conversion Program was mainly public relations. The CTA had decided it no longer wanted to operate streetcars, yet had 600 that were just a few years old, with an expected 20-year life and attendant depreciation. The main purpose of the program was to take these cars off the books in a way that would not show a loss on paper.

While frequent claims were made that supposedly the program was yielding $20,000 or more per streetcar, CTA actually received $11,000 for each of the 570 cars sold to St. Louis Car Company. In addition, there were thousands of dollars in additional costs involved with adapting and reconditioning parts. Over the five years or so of the program, the amount of costs increased, to the point where, by 1958, CTA admitted it was receiving no more than scrap value for each PCC sold.

But since these were non-standard cars, there was no market for reselling them to another city.

The Conversion Program only made sense if you believed that PCC streetcars, which were state-of-the-art and just a few years old, had absolutely no future value as transit vehicles, even though the 1951 consultant report indicated that the tracks and wire were in good shape and were worth keeping. The consultant thought that the cost of replacing the service with bus was more than the cost of keeping what they had.

CRT was in such bad shape that within a few short years, CTA decided to devote 70% of its investments in upgrading it, even though in 1947 it only had a market share of less than 20% of local ridership. As a consequence, some might argue that the surface system got the “short end of the stick,” especially after October 1, 1952 when CTA purchased the assets of the competing Chicago Motor Coach Company.

Perhaps not coincidentally, this was also the date when the CTA, having eliminated its last remaining competitor, announced the Conversion Program that spelled the end of streetcars in Chicago. It was no longer necessary to offer a “premium service” that could compete with CMC for riders.

As for a history of CSL, it would be hard for anyone to better the Chicago Surface Lines book by Alan R. Lind, especially the third edition published in 1979.

The subject is of sufficient complexity to demand a series of books, of which Chicago Streetcar Pictorial: The PCC Car Era, 1936-1958 (published as Bulletin 146 of the Central Electric Railfans’ Association in 2015), at 448 pages, including several hundred photos in color, forms an important part. I am proud to have been a co-author of that book.

My upcoming book Chicago Trolleys, although a much more modest 128 pages, will be another addition to that field.

-David Sadowski

Bonus Pictures

FYI, I found this brochure in one of the issues of Surface Service (the Chicago Surface Lines employee publication) I recently scanned:

Pre-Order Our New Book Chicago Trolleys

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

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

We are pleased to report that our new book Chicago Trolleys will be released on September 25th by Arcadia Publishing. You can pre-order an autographed copy through us today (see below). Chicago Trolleys will also be available wherever Arcadia books are sold.

Overview

Chicago’s extensive transit system first started in 1859, when horsecars ran on rails in city streets. Cable cars and electric streetcars came next. Where new trolley car lines were built, people, businesses, and neighborhoods followed. Chicago quickly became a world-class city. At its peak, Chicago had over 3,000 streetcars and 1,000 miles of track—the largest such system in the world. By the 1930s, there were also streamlined trolleys and trolley buses on rubber tires. Some parts of Chicago’s famous “L” system also used trolley wire instead of a third rail. Trolley cars once took people from the Loop to such faraway places as Aurora, Elgin, Milwaukee, and South Bend. A few still run today.

The book features 226 classic black-and-white images, each with detailed captions, in 10 chapters:

1. Early Traction
2. Consolidation and Growth
3. Trolleys to the Suburbs
4. Trolleys on the “L”
5. Interurbans Under Wire
6. The Streamlined Era
7. The War Years
8. Unification and Change
9. Trolley Buses
10. Preserving History

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781467126816
Publisher: Arcadia Publishing SC
Publication date: 09/25/2017
Series: Images of Rail
Pages: 128

Meet the Author

David Sadowski has been interested in streetcars ever since his father took him for a ride on one of the last remaining lines in 1958. He grew up riding trolley buses and “L” trains all over Chicago. He coauthored Chicago Streetcar Pictorial: The PCC Car Era, 1936–1958, and runs the online Trolley Dodger blog. Come along for the ride as we travel from one side of the city to the other and see how trolley cars and buses moved Chicago’s millions of hardworking, diverse people.

Images of Rail

The Images of Rail series celebrates the history of rail, trolley, streetcar, and subway transportation across the country. Using archival photographs, each title presents the people, places, and events that helped revolutionize transportation and commerce in 19th- and 20th-century America. Arcadia is proud to play a part in the preservation of local heritage, making history available to all.

The book costs just $21.99 plus shipping. Shipping within the US is included in the price. Shipping to Canada is just $5 additional, or $10 elsewhere.

Please note that Illinois residents must pay 10.00% sales tax on their purchases.

We appreciate your business!

For Shipping to US Addresses:

For Shipping to Canada:

For Shipping Elsewhere:

NEW – Chicago Trolleys Postcard Collection

We are pleased to report that selected images from our upcoming book Chicago Trolleys will be available on September 25th in a pack of 15 postcards, all for just $7.99. This is part of a series put out by Arcadia Publishing. Dimensions: 6″ wide x 4.25″ tall

The Postcards of America Series

Here in the 21st century, when everyone who’s anyone seems to do most of their communicating via Facebook and Twitter, it’s only natural to wax a little nostalgic when it comes to days gone by. What happened to more personal means of communication like hand-written letters on nice stationery? Why don’t people still send postcards when they move someplace new or go away on vacation?

If that line of thinking sounds familiar, then Arcadia Publishing’s Postcards of America was launched with you in mind. Each beautiful volume features a different collection of real vintage postcards that you can mail to your friends and family.

Pre-Order your Chicago Trolleys Postcard Pack today!

For Shipping to US Addresses:

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For Shipping Elsewhere:

street-railwayreview1895-002

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Recent Finds, Part 2

CTA pre-war PCCs 4016 and 4050 at Western and 79th, southern terminal of route 49. This picture was taken seconds after a similar one on page 363 of CERA Bulletin 146. That picture is dated May 1956 and is attributed to William C. Janssen.

CTA pre-war PCCs 4016 and 4050 at Western and 79th, southern terminal of route 49. This picture was taken seconds after a similar one on page 363 of CERA Bulletin 146. That picture is dated May 1956 and is attributed to William C. Janssen.

The CTA terminal at Western and 79th today.

The CTA terminal at Western and 79th today.

Here are more classic traction photos we recently acquired. While many are from Chicago, our trip this time takes us all around the country, and even across our northern border.

As always, if you have interesting tidbits of information to add, you can either post a Comment here, or drop us a line directly aat:

thetrolleydodger@gmail.com

Don’t forget, if you click on each picture with your mouse, you can bring up a larger version in your browser, and zoom in on that one too for closer inspection.

Thanks.

-David Sadowski


Chicago Area

When I got this slide, it was identified as being a station on the Garfield Park "L". However, I did some further research, and it is actually the old Austin Boulevard stop on the Douglas Park line. The house and apartment buildings in the background are still there. The Douglas branch was cut back to 54th Avenue in 1952 and the former right-of-way is now used for parking. Locals still call it the "L" Strip.

When I got this slide, it was identified as being a station on the Garfield Park “L”. However, I did some further research, and it is actually the old Austin Boulevard stop on the Douglas Park line. The house and apartment buildings in the background are still there. The Douglas branch was cut back to 54th Avenue in 1952 and the former right-of-way is now used for parking. Locals still call it the “L” Strip.

The same view today.

The same view today.

CTA 2163-2164, then brand new, in the 54th Avenue Yard, west end of the Douglas Park "L" (now the Pink Line) in 1964. The roadway at left is where the line continued before it was cut back in 1952. (Walter Broschart Photo)

CTA 2163-2164, then brand new, in the 54th Avenue Yard, west end of the Douglas Park “L” (now the Pink Line) in 1964. The roadway at left is where the line continued before it was cut back in 1952. (Walter Broschart Photo)

CTA 4002 is shown heading north on route 49 - Western on July 14, 1953. The photographer was up on the Logan Square "L" platform. The people at right are waiting for a southbound car at a safety island. In the distance, we see what was then the Bloomingdale freight spur of the Milwaukee Road, but is now part of the 606 Trail. Jim Huffman adds, "Photo #525. “CTA 4002 is shown heading north on route 49 – Western on July 14, 1953”, I feel is incorrect. 1. There is a 1955 Chevrolet on the left, precludes 1953. 2. 1-Man, Pre-War PCC were assigned in June 1955 (as well as 1-Man Post-Wars), prior to that Western used 2-Man Post-War PCCs only. Went Bus in June 1956. 3. People standing on the safety island are waiting at the end for the front door boarding of an 1-man car. Prior to 1-Man cars, they waited at the other end for the rear doors. 4. Although there is no proof, the 55 Chev looks somewhat used, I would say this is a 1956 photo."

CTA 4002 is shown heading north on route 49 – Western on July 14, 1953. The photographer was up on the Logan Square “L” platform. The people at right are waiting for a southbound car at a safety island. In the distance, we see what was then the Bloomingdale freight spur of the Milwaukee Road, but is now part of the 606 Trail. Jim Huffman adds, “Photo #525. “CTA 4002 is shown heading north on route 49 – Western on July 14, 1953”, I feel is incorrect.
1. There is a 1955 Chevrolet on the left, precludes 1953.
2. 1-Man, Pre-War PCC were assigned in June 1955 (as well as 1-Man Post-Wars), prior to that Western used 2-Man Post-War PCCs only. Went Bus in June 1956.
3. People standing on the safety island are waiting at the end for the front door boarding of an 1-man car. Prior to 1-Man cars, they waited at the other end for the rear doors.
4. Although there is no proof, the 55 Chev looks somewhat used, I would say this is a 1956 photo.”

CSL single-truck mail car H2, apparently still operational, is shown years after streetcar RPO (Railway Post Office) service ended in 1915. It was scrapped on October 2, 1942. From the looks of the autos in the background, this picture may date to the 1920s.

CSL single-truck mail car H2, apparently still operational, is shown years after streetcar RPO (Railway Post Office) service ended in 1915. It was scrapped on October 2, 1942. From the looks of the autos in the background, this picture may date to the 1920s.

CTA red Pullman 225 is shown here on a mid-1950s fantrip at the 77th Street Shops. The big man at front is Maurice Klebolt (1930-1988), who organized many such trips for the Illini Railroad Club. He later moved to San Francisco and helped start the historic trolley festival there. Car 225 is preserved at the Seashore Trolley Museum in Maine. (Chuck Wlodarczyk Photo)

CTA red Pullman 225 is shown here on a mid-1950s fantrip at the 77th Street Shops. The big man at front is Maurice Klebolt (1930-1988), who organized many such trips for the Illini Railroad Club. He later moved to San Francisco and helped start the historic trolley festival there. Car 225 is preserved at the Seashore Trolley Museum in Maine. (Chuck Wlodarczyk Photo)

On this fantrip, Maury is calling the shots. Looks like he's wearing a tie with various railroad insignias.

On this fantrip, Maury is calling the shots. Looks like he’s wearing a tie with various railroad insignias.

Car 225 under makeshift cover at Seashore (Kennebunkport, Maine) in the late 1950s. (Walter Broschart Photo)

Car 225 under makeshift cover at Seashore (Kennebunkport, Maine) in the late 1950s. (Walter Broschart Photo)

CSL 2601 is shown running on the last day of streetcar service on route 111 (111th Street), September 22, 1945. As for the exact location, Andre Kristopans says this is "probably just west of Indiana Av., looks like the school campus in background that is between King and Indiana to this day."

CSL 2601 is shown running on the last day of streetcar service on route 111 (111th Street), September 22, 1945. As for the exact location, Andre Kristopans says this is “probably just west of Indiana Av., looks like the school campus in background that is between King and Indiana to this day.”

CSL 4033 passes the Garfield Park field house on Madison in 1938.

CSL 4033 passes the Garfield Park field house on Madison in 1938.

CSL Pullman 318 is heading west on Fullerton in the mid-1930s picture. At right, you can just make out the marquee of the old Liberty Theatre, which opened in 1911 and closed in 1951. The building is now a banquet hall. Will Rogers' name is on the marquee. The photo date is given as September 8, 1937 and I guess that is possible although Rogers died in August 1935.

CSL Pullman 318 is heading west on Fullerton in the mid-1930s picture. At right, you can just make out the marquee of the old Liberty Theatre, which opened in 1911 and closed in 1951. The building is now a banquet hall. Will Rogers’ name is on the marquee. The photo date is given as September 8, 1937 and I guess that is possible although Rogers died in August 1935.

The same area today.

The same area today.

The former Liberty Theatre at 3705 W. Fullerton.

The former Liberty Theatre at 3705 W. Fullerton.

CSL 7024 is westbound on Madison just west of the Chicago River in this September 8, 1937 view. The photo caption describes this as a "noiseless streetcar," with magnetic air brakes and rubber cushioned wheels.

CSL 7024 is westbound on Madison just west of the Chicago River in this September 8, 1937 view. The photo caption describes this as a “noiseless streetcar,” with magnetic air brakes and rubber cushioned wheels.

The view from 400 W. Madison today. We are looking to the southeast.

The view from 400 W. Madison today. We are looking to the southeast.

CTA 7093 is southbound on State Street near Lake, as a route 36 Broadway-State car. The film Scaramouche, playing at the State-Lake, was released on June 27, 1952, so that is the approximate date of this picture. Note a Chicago Motor Coach Company bus at left. The State-Lake opened in 1919 and closed in 1985. It was taken over by WLS-TV for use as a studio. (Walter Hulseweder Photo)

CTA 7093 is southbound on State Street near Lake, as a route 36 Broadway-State car. The film Scaramouche, playing at the State-Lake, was released on June 27, 1952, so that is the approximate date of this picture. Note a Chicago Motor Coach Company bus at left. The State-Lake opened in 1919 and closed in 1985. It was taken over by WLS-TV for use as a studio. (Walter Hulseweder Photo)

State and Lake today.

State and Lake today.

CTA 7051 is northbound at State and Delaware as a route 36 Broadway-State car in the early 1950s. (Walter Hulseweder Photo)

CTA 7051 is northbound at State and Delaware as a route 36 Broadway-State car in the early 1950s. (Walter Hulseweder Photo)

State and Delaware today, looking south.

State and Delaware today, looking south.

CTA 1784, on route 16, has just turned from eastbound Lake Street south on Dearborn, and is passing the Selwyn Theater. A poster advertises Joan Bennett and Zachary Scott in the play Bell, Book and Candle. They took over those parts on May 9, 1952, which is the approximate date of this picture. Bell, Book and Candle was later made into a movie in 1958, starring James Stewart and Kim Novak. Michael Todd eventually bought the Harris and Selwyn later in the 1950s and they were converted into movie theaters. The facades of those two buildings have been saved and are now part of the Goodman Theater complex. (Walter Hulsweder Photo)

CTA 1784, on route 16, has just turned from eastbound Lake Street south on Dearborn, and is passing the Selwyn Theater. A poster advertises Joan Bennett and Zachary Scott in the play Bell, Book and Candle. They took over those parts on May 9, 1952, which is the approximate date of this picture. Bell, Book and Candle was later made into a movie in 1958, starring James Stewart and Kim Novak. Michael Todd eventually bought the Harris and Selwyn later in the 1950s and they were converted into movie theaters. The facades of those two buildings have been saved and are now part of the Goodman Theater complex. (Walter Hulsweder Photo)

Dearborn and Lake today.

Dearborn and Lake today.

Joan Bennett and Zachary Scott in the 1952 off-Broadway version of Bell, Book and Candle.

Joan Bennett and Zachary Scott in the 1952 off-Broadway version of Bell, Book and Candle.

Bell, Book and Candle helped inspire the later TV series Bewitched.

Bell, Book and Candle helped inspire the later TV series Bewitched.

This undated photo shows the station (car house) at Cottage Grove and 38th. It is undated, but the newest car shown here was built in 1912. So a good guess would be sometime between 1912 and the early 1920s, when streetcars were painted red to make them more visible to motorists. Several cars can be identified in this picture. From left to right, I see 5368, 5357, 5364, 5378, 5707, 5802, 5782, 5743, 5759, 5736, 5386, 5706, and 5348. All are either Brill-American-Kuhlman cars, or Nearsides. Streetcars last ran out of Cottage Grove in 1955, after which the building was demolished.

This undated photo shows the station (car house) at Cottage Grove and 38th. It is undated, but the newest car shown here was built in 1912. So a good guess would be sometime between 1912 and the early 1920s, when streetcars were painted red to make them more visible to motorists. Several cars can be identified in this picture. From left to right, I see 5368, 5357, 5364, 5378, 5707, 5802, 5782, 5743, 5759, 5736, 5386, 5706, and 5348. All are either Brill-American-Kuhlman cars, or Nearsides. Streetcars last ran out of Cottage Grove in 1955, after which the building was demolished.

A close-up of four unidentified men in the photo. Presumably, all worked out of the Cottage Grove station.

A close-up of four unidentified men in the photo. Presumably, all worked out of the Cottage Grove station.

It's April 23, 1939, and Chicago & West Towns cars 140 and 141 are operating on an early Central Electric Railfans' Association fantrip. Car 141, the lone survivor of the fleet, is now restored to operable condition at the Illinois Railway Museum.

It’s April 23, 1939, and Chicago & West Towns cars 140 and 141 are operating on an early Central Electric Railfans’ Association fantrip. Car 141, the lone survivor of the fleet, is now restored to operable condition at the Illinois Railway Museum.


New Site Additions

FYI, these Birney car pictures have been added to Our 150th Post (August 6, 2016):

Fort Collins Municipal Railway "Birney" car 21, at the intersection of Johnson and Mountain Avenues. (Ward Photo)

Fort Collins Municipal Railway “Birney” car 21, at the intersection of Johnson and Mountain Avenues. (Ward Photo)

Restored FCMR 21 as it appeared on May 14, 1995. (Mark D. Meyer Photo)

Restored FCMR 21 as it appeared on May 14, 1995. (Mark D. Meyer Photo)

FCMR 22 on October 26, 1949. Its paint scheme is described as green, red, and aluminum.

FCMR 22 on October 26, 1949. Its paint scheme is described as green, red, and aluminum.

FCMR 25 at the car barn. (Ward Photo)

FCMR 25 at the car barn. (Ward Photo)

Many other cities had Birneys, of course. Here, we see Brantford (Ontario) Municipal Railway car 137 on July 1, 1935. This was ex-Lock Haven, Pa. Electric Railway car #2. (George Slyford Photo)

Many other cities had Birneys, of course. Here, we see Brantford (Ontario) Municipal Railway car 137 on July 1, 1935. This was ex-Lock Haven, Pa. Electric Railway car #2. (George Slyford Photo)

This picture has been added to our post Badger Traction, 2016 (June 14, 2016):

In this mid-1950s view, Village of East Troy Railway freight motor M-15 is shown here in East Troy, Wisconsin, near the power station which now serves as the waiting room for the East Troy Electric Railroad museum operation. It was built by TMER&L in 1920 and is now preserved at the Illinois Railway Museum. (Walter Broschart Photo)

In this mid-1950s view, Village of East Troy Railway freight motor M-15 is shown here in East Troy, Wisconsin, near the power station which now serves as the waiting room for the East Troy Electric Railroad museum operation. It was built by TMER&L in 1920 and is now preserved at the Illinois Railway Museum. (Walter Broschart Photo)

We have added this one to The “Other” Penn Central (May 29, 2016):

Montreal Tramways had four of these unique observation cars in their fleet, which were used for sightseeing tours. Here, car #3 is at St. Joseph's Shrine on August 14, 1948. All four cars have been preserved, and car 3 is now at Exporail, the Canadian Railway Museum. A few years ago, I rode the very similar car #2 at the Seashore Trolley Museum.

Montreal Tramways had four of these unique observation cars in their fleet, which were used for sightseeing tours. Here, car #3 is at St. Joseph’s Shrine on August 14, 1948. All four cars have been preserved, and car 3 is now at Exporail, the Canadian Railway Museum. A few years ago, I rode the very similar car #2 at the Seashore Trolley Museum.

These pictures have been added to Red Arrow in West Chester (September 13, 2016):

This picture shows Red Arrow Brilliner 8 and an older car at the end of the Ardmore branch on May 15, 1949. It looks like the older car is in fantrip service, while the Brilliner is the regular service car ahead of it. The Ardmore branch was replaced by buses in 1966.

This picture shows Red Arrow Brilliner 8 and an older car at the end of the Ardmore branch on May 15, 1949. It looks like the older car is in fantrip service, while the Brilliner is the regular service car ahead of it. The Ardmore branch was replaced by buses in 1966.

Here, Red Arrow Brill Master Unit 86 is the regular service car at the end of the line in West Chester, with the older fantrip car behind it. Again, the date is May 15, 1949.

Here, Red Arrow Brill Master Unit 86 is the regular service car at the end of the line in West Chester, with the older fantrip car behind it. Again, the date is May 15, 1949.

The photo caption reads, "Two car streamline train arriving at Norristown, looking up from R. R. tracks." The date is May 12, 1935, meaning these "Bullet" cars were just a few years old.

The photo caption reads, “Two car streamline train arriving at Norristown, looking up from R. R. tracks.” The date is May 12, 1935, meaning these “Bullet” cars were just a few years old.

This picture was added to Chicago’s Pre-PCCs (May 5, 2015):

Baltimore Transit Company car 6105, shown here on route 15 - Ostend St., is one of the last modern streetcars built before PCCs took over the market. The sign on front says that September 7 will be the last day for 6 hour local rides. Perhaps that can help date the picture.

Baltimore Transit Company car 6105, shown here on route 15 – Ostend St., is one of the last modern streetcars built before PCCs took over the market. The sign on front says that September 7 will be the last day for 6 hour local rides. Perhaps that can help date the picture.


Bonus Pictures

The Lackawanna & Wyoming Valley (aka the Laurel Line) was a Scranton-area interurban powered by third rail, much as the Chicago, Aurora & Elgin was. Here, we see coach #37 in Scranton on September 9, 1950. The line quit at the end of 1952. There were no takers for these cars and all were scrapped. It has been suggested that perhaps CA&E might have benefited from buying some of these cars, although it does seem they were too long for tight turns on the Chicago "L". However, I do not know if this would have prevented them from running on the CA&E after the system was cut back to Forest Park. In any case, CA&E had previously reduced the length of other cars purchased from the Baltimore & Annapolis in 1938. What was missing in 1953, apparently, was a willingness to continue trying to operate.

The Lackawanna & Wyoming Valley (aka the Laurel Line) was a Scranton-area interurban powered by third rail, much as the Chicago, Aurora & Elgin was. Here, we see coach #37 in Scranton on September 9, 1950. The line quit at the end of 1952. There were no takers for these cars and all were scrapped. It has been suggested that perhaps CA&E might have benefited from buying some of these cars, although it does seem they were too long for tight turns on the Chicago “L”. However, I do not know if this would have prevented them from running on the CA&E after the system was cut back to Forest Park. In any case, CA&E had previously reduced the length of other cars purchased from the Baltimore & Annapolis in 1938. What was missing in 1953, apparently, was a willingness to continue trying to operate.

The Hagerstown & Frederick was a Maryland interurban in sparsely populated rural areas, a veritable real-life "Toonerville Trolley." Despite having practically no ridership, it subsisted on freight and somehow managed to survive into the mid-1950s. Here, we see freight motor #5 in Frederick, Maryland on April 11, 1954. (Gene Connelly Photo)

The Hagerstown & Frederick was a Maryland interurban in sparsely populated rural areas, a veritable real-life “Toonerville Trolley.” Despite having practically no ridership, it subsisted on freight and somehow managed to survive into the mid-1950s. Here, we see freight motor #5 in Frederick, Maryland on April 11, 1954. (Gene Connelly Photo)

In some sense, the Charles City Western in Iowa was comparable to the Hagerstown & Frederick, in that it had sparse ridership, yet managed to survive into the 1950s with freight. Here we see combine 50 in March 1937. Don's Rail Photos notes, "50 was built by McGuire-Cummings in 1915. It became Iowa Terminal 101 in December 1964. It was sent to Mount Pleasant and restored as CCW 50. It was then sent to Boone & Scenic Valley RR." Vintage audio of the Charles City Western in operation can be heard on Railroad Record Club disc #28, which is available on compact disc via our Online Store.

In some sense, the Charles City Western in Iowa was comparable to the Hagerstown & Frederick, in that it had sparse ridership, yet managed to survive into the 1950s with freight. Here we see combine 50 in March 1937. Don’s Rail Photos notes, “50 was built by McGuire-Cummings in 1915. It became Iowa Terminal 101 in December 1964. It was sent to Mount Pleasant and restored as CCW 50. It was then sent to Boone & Scenic Valley RR.” Vintage audio of the Charles City Western in operation can be heard on Railroad Record Club disc #28, which is available on compact disc via our Online Store.

The Omaha & Council Bluffs Street Railway operated between Nebraska and Iowa. Here, car 814 is shown in Council Bluffs in September 1936, unloading passengers next to a natty-looking 1935 V8 Ford Sedan Delivery, advertising Old gold cigarettes. I assume this car was built by O&CB in 1908 and was rebuilt in 1932, possibly to convert it to one-man service. If so, riders would board at the rear and pay as they left through the front. Note the "people catcher" device at front.

The Omaha & Council Bluffs Street Railway operated between Nebraska and Iowa. Here, car 814 is shown in Council Bluffs in September 1936, unloading passengers next to a natty-looking 1935 V8 Ford Sedan Delivery, advertising Old gold cigarettes. I assume this car was built by O&CB in 1908 and was rebuilt in 1932, possibly to convert it to one-man service. If so, riders would board at the rear and pay as they left through the front. Note the “people catcher” device at front.


Recent Correspondence

Virginia Sammis writes:

I wrote you once before, and I was hoping you might be able to help me again. I am still trying to find CSL employee photos. I had a researcher in Chicago spend some hours looking at the CHM archives of the CSL newsletter and she did find Gustav Johnson’s brief obituary in there for 1946. But very few photos. Do you know of any other place I might find photos of employees of CSL?

(She had written some months ago, looking for information on Gustav Johnson, who emigrated to America around 1880, worked for the Chicago Surface Lines, and died in 1946.)

The employee newsletter would have been the best bet. However, I do know a genealogist, and I can ask her to see what she can find out.

In the CTA era, which started in October 1947, the newsletter ran more pictures of retirees, of which there were many. However, we are talking about several thousands of people working there at any one given time, so the odds of finding one person are not good.

If you know which routes, or which car houses (aka “stations”) he might have worked at, that would help.

I just got a picture (see elsewhere in this post) showing four guys standing outside the car barn at Cottage Grove and 38th, taken in the early 20th century, but have no way of knowing who the people in the picture are.

I will run your request in my blog, and see what other people might suggest.

Ms. Sammis replied:

This is what his obituary said:
“Gustave Johnsen, 84, motorman from Devon, died 11-22-46, after along illness. He had been with the company for 35 years.”

It was actually spelled Gustav Johnson. Does that mean that he would have reported to work every day at the Devon Station at 6454 N. Clark St/Devon St.? Also, can you confirm that a “motorman” was the engineer on the trolley and the “conductor” collected the fares?

Thank you for your help David. I am determined to find a photograph of Gustav SOMEWHERE!

Yes, that means he worked out of the Devon station, or car house. And yes, the motorman operated the streetcar, while the conductor collected the fares. We have run lots of pictures in previous posts showing streetcars at or near Devon station. You can find those by typing Devon into the search window at the top of this page.

Thanks.

-David Sadowski


Our resident South Side expert M. E. writes:

Your latest post, Recent Finds Part 2, includes a photo of the carbarn at 38th and Cottage Grove. This photo obviates my wild guess that perhaps the photo ostensibly of the 69th and Ashland carbarn instead might have been the 38th & Cottage barn. (See our previous post Recent Finds, December 2, 2016.)

In the new photo, https://thetrolleydodger.files.wordpress.com/2016/12/dave511.jpg , the bay numbers under the Chicago City Railway logo are 7 and 6. In the previous photo, https://thetrolleydodger.files.wordpress.com/2016/12/dave4891.jpg , the bay number under the logo is 4.

This observation, together with the Campbell barn label (Campbell is nowhere near Cottage Grove), cements my opinion that you are correct saying the previous photo is of the 69th and Ashland carbarn.

None of which solves the mysteries of why there are so many 4 Cottage Grove cars at the 69th and Ashland barn, and how they got there from Cottage Grove.

It’s a mystery, alright… hopefully one we will eventually clear up, thanks!


Kenneth Gear writes:

Hi David. I’ve been falling behind on my reading lately and just today read the latest Trolley Dodger “Recent Finds 2”.

I was very interested in the photo of Hagerstown & Frederick Railway freight motor # 5.

Back in 2008 while chasing and photographing the Maryland Midland RR train UBHF from Union Bridge to Highfield, I was surprised to find H&F freight motor #5 displayed at the former site of the H&F Thurmont Station along Main Street.

It was apparently under going restoration at the time. The building in the background is a former H&F electric sub station. I’m not sure how this restoration has progressed in the ensuing years, but here is the photo I took back on March 9, 2008:

hagerstown-and-frederrick-rr-freight-motor-at-power-sub-station-thurmont-md-3-9-08

Thanks! Good to know this car was saved. Here’s what Don’s Rail Photos says: “5 was built by H&F in 1920. It was retired in 1955 and went to Shade Gap Electric Ry. It then was returned to home by H&F Ry Historical Society.”

About the line in general, Don Ross adds:

“It’s hard to describe the H&F since it seems to be more of a country trolley than an interurban line. Yet they did operate freight service and covered some 76 miles of line in western Maryland. It was the last passenger interurban east of Chicago. The H&F was a consolidation of several lines dating back to 1902. They joined together in 1913. Abandonments began in 1932. In 1938 the main line was cut so that there were two separate sections, one at Hagerstown, and the other at Frederick. The Hagerstown line finally quit in 1947, but the Frederick to Thurmont passenger service lasted until February 20, 1954. Freight service was later dieselized but lasted only until 1958.”

I checked and it looks like the car went from the Rockhill Trolley Museum to Thurmont in 2006. The car is now owned by the City and there are trucks under the body.

As for the Shade Gap name, here is how the Wikipedia explains it:

The museum operates what has been historically referred to as the Shade Gap Electric Railway to demonstrate the operable pieces in its collection. “Shade Gap” refers to the name of a branch of the East Broad Top Railroad, from whom the museum leases it property.

-David Sadowski


Charles Turek writes:

re: Recent Finds, Part 2 – image dave513.jpg

Having grown up at 27th & Harvey in Berwyn, IL, effective walking distance from Austin/Cermak in the 1950s, I can confirm the station is, indeed, Austin on the Douglas Park line. The distinctive chain gate, which was atypical for the line, was my first clue. I used to find this gate fascinating to watch and enjoyed hearing the pulleys (in the towers on each side of Austin) crank it up and down. This was a very busy area in those days and the chain gate was effective in stopping traffic in both lanes that would otherwise attempt to get past standard gates to make the signals at Cermak Road. Nonetheless, the gateman who holed up in the little house in front of the station was still necessary.

Love your web pages and visit them often.


Stained Glass from New York’s Third Avenue El

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FYI, to raise money to help fund the original research we do on this site, we are selling two unique artifacts— decorative stained glass, circa 1878, from stations on the old IRT Third Avenue El in New York, which was torn down in 1955. We purchased these several years ago from a noted New York collector.

You can check out our eBay auction here. This may be your only opportunity to own a true piece of history from that fabled line, which has yet to be replaced more than 60 years after it was abandoned.

Thanks.


New Book Project

We are now working on a new paperback book Chicago Trolleys, that we expect will be published in 2017. Original research does cost money, so please consider making a donation to cover our costs. We will keep you updated as we progress, and thank you in advance for your help.


Help Support The Trolley Dodger

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This is our 170th post, and we are gradually creating a body of work and an online resource for the benefit of all railfans, everywhere. To date, we have received over 228,000 page views, for which we are very grateful.

You can help us continue our original transit research by checking out the fine products in our Online Store. You can make a contribution there as well.

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

We thank you for your support.

Chicago’s Pre-PCCs

CSL 7001 at Clark and Ridge in 1938. (M. D. McCarter Collection)

CSL 7001 at Clark and Ridge in 1938. (M. D. McCarter Collection)

The PCC (short for Presidents’ Conference Committee) streetcar has been in continuous use since 1936, a remarkable 79 years. It literally saved the North American streetcar from extinction, but its development took several years and it did not appear in a vacuum. The presidents of several transit companies banded together in 1929 to develop a new, modern streetcar that could compete with buses and automobiles. The first production PCCs were made in 1936, the last in 1952.

The Chicago Surface Lines played an important part in the PCC’s development. Chicago ultimately had 683 PCCs, the largest fleet purchased new by any city, but in actuality CSL had 785 modern cars in all. There were 100 Peter Witt streetcars built in 1929 by a combination of CSL, Brill, and Cummings Car Co., and two experimental pre-PCCs, 4001 (built by Pullman-Standard) and 7001 (Brill), which dated to 1934.

The Peter Witt car was developed by its namesake in Cleveland around 1914 and set the standard for streetcars for the next 20 years. (Chicago’s batch were also referred to as “sedans.”) During the late 1920s and early 1930s, there was a similar type of car known as the “Master Unit*” made by Brill (Pullman-owned Osgood-Bradley made a similar model called the “Electromobile.”)

In conjunction with the 1933-34 Chicago World’s Fair, also known as A Century of Progress, CSL commissioned two experimental streetcars, the 4001 and 7001, with advanced features. (You can read an excellent and very comprehensive history of those cars on the Hicks Car Works blog.)

Of the two cars, the 4001 was more radical in both design and construction, with a streamlined all-aluminum body, but probably the less successful of the two. Both were taken out of service in 1944.  The 4001 is the only pre-PCC car to survive, and is now preserved at the Illinois Railway Museum.  The 7001 was scrapped by CTA in 1959.

Ironically, the 7001, made by J. G. Brill, was closer to the eventual design of the PCC car, although ultimately Brill did not build any true PCCs. The company had a policy not to pay patent royalties to other companies, and refused to do so with PCC technology owned by the Transit Research Corp. (TRC).

In 1935, Capital Transit ordered 20 pre-PCC cars for Washington D. C. based on the design of car 7001, but shorter. The order was split between Brill and St. Louis Car Company. This was an important step, since these were more than simply experimental units. Car 1053 managed to survive the end of streetcar service in Washington DC in 1962, until September 28, 2003 when it was destroyed in a fire at the National Capital Trolley Museum in Maryland.

There were also two additional 1934 experimental cars, the PCC Model A and B, which were used for field testing. The Model A was built in 1929 by Twin Coach and purchased second-hand to test new components. It was tested in Brooklyn circa 1934-35 and was scrapped in 1939.

The streamlined Model B incorporated all the latest PCC developments and was tested in Chicago, arguably the first PCC car operated here. While in use in Brooklyn, the PCC Model B dewired and was involved in an accident with a truck after its brakes failed. This led to the brake systems being redesigned for the first PCCs. The Model B was kept in storage for some time, and although the front end was repaired, it was never again used in service and was scrapped in the early 1950s.

By 1936, the first production PCCs were ready to go and the first one was delivered to Brooklyn and Queens Transit on May 28, 1936. However, Pittsburgh Railways put the first PCC into scheduled public service in August.

Brill’s decision not to build true PCCs ultimately proved fatal. Their 1938-41 “Brilliner” was considered somewhat inferior to the PCC car and few were built. 30 single-ended cars went to Atlantic City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Cincinnati, while 10 double-ended cars were built for Philadelphia Suburban Transportation Co., where they continued in service into the early 1980s.

These were the last streetcars made by Brill, who had once dominated the industry. Most PCCs were built by the St. Louis Car Company, with a smaller share from Pullman-Standard.

We hope that you will enjoy these pictures of these pre-PCC cars, the ones that laid the groundwork for the “car that fought back,” which continues to serve faithfully and well in a number of North American cities, and hopefully will continue to do so for a long time to come.

-David Sadowski

*According to History of the J. G. Brill Company by Debra Brill, page 173, the Master Unit model was officially introduced in January 1929:

“The idea was to produce standardized cars.  Both ends of the car were to be identical in construction.  Height and width of the car, size and number of windows, seat width and therefore aisle width were to be the same for every unit of a specific type.  The cars were offered in single-or double-truck, and single-or double-end style, with doors located at the ends or with a combination end door and center door.  Master Units could be constructed with steel or aluminum, the difference in weight being about 5,000 pounds.  Interestingly, the cars had curved lower sides very much like the curve used on the lower panels of the Kuhlman and Brill-built cars of a few years previously.  There was nothing patentable about the Master Unit: it was merely a standardized design.

To Brill’s disappointment, buyers did not appear in large numbers.  Only seventy-eight Master Units were built in all, with just two constructed exactly to Brill’s specifications.”

Here is an article about Scranton car 505, one of the last surviving Osgood-Bradley Safety Cars, also known as “Electromobiles,” now in the process of being restored at the Electric City Trolley Museum.  An Electromobile was also the last trolley to run in New York City.

Here is an interesting blog post about the effort to restore the 505.

Here is a video showing a model of an Electromobile:

As an added bonus, as streetcars prepare to return to service in Washington D. C., here are some vintage films showing a variety of streetcars in action, including both PCCs, the 1935 pre-PCCs, and even some older types:

Frank Hicks, of the excellent Hicks Car Works blog, writes:

Very nice job on the Pre-PCC post on your blog!  It’s a great post with some outstanding photos, and of course I appreciate the “plug” as well.

Several of the photos you posted I had never seen before.  The photo of the 4001 in service is really nice; shots of the car in regular use are really pretty rare.  It was quite the “hangar queen” when it was on the CSL.  And the Model B interior shot is fascinating!  I think I saw that rear-end shot somewhere once but I don’t know that I’d ever seen a photo of the car’s interior.  What I found most fascinating is that it appears the car was designed to have left-hand doors fitted in the middle, Boston style (and likely so that it could be used or tested out in Boston, as I think Boston is the only city that had PCCs with this feature).  Close examination of the interior shot shows an inset panel across from the center doors and I bet it was designed for doors to be put there if desired.  It would be interesting to know more about the Model B.  I’m not even sure whether it was set up for one-man or two-man service; the photo makes it clear that there was no conductor’s station forward of the center doors, like the CSL cars had, but it’s possible there was a conductor behind the motorman (I think this was how Brooklyn set up its PCC cars).  Or it could have just been a one-man car.

Anyway, thank you for posting these photos and for posting such large scans of them – fascinating stuff!

CTA Peter Witt 3330 on route 4. These cars were shifted to Cottage Grove from Clark-Wentworth in 1947 after postwar PCCs took over that line.

CTA Peter Witt 3330 on route 4. These cars were shifted to Cottage Grove from Clark-Wentworth in 1947 after postwar PCCs took over that line.

CTA 6282 unloads passengers in the early 1950s. Note the postwar Pullman PCC at rear.

CTA 6282 unloads passengers in the early 1950s. Note the postwar Pullman PCC at rear.

CSL 6300 on route 4 - Cottage Grove in the early CTA era.

CSL 6300 on route 4 – Cottage Grove in the early CTA era.

CSL "Sedan" 6299 on route 4 - Cottage Grove.

CSL “Sedan” 6299 on route 4 – Cottage Grove.

A unique lineup at the 1934 American Transit Association convention in Cleveland. From left, we have the PCC Model A; CSL 4001; CSL 7001, and the PCC Model B. (Krambles-Peterson Archive)

A unique lineup at the 1934 American Transit Association convention in Cleveland. From left, we have the PCC Model A; CSL 4001; CSL 7001, and the PCC Model B. (Krambles-Peterson Archive)

The PCC Model B at Navy Pier. (Chicago Architectural Photographing Co.)

The PCC Model B at Navy Pier. (Chicago Architectural Photographing Co.)

The PCC Model B being demonstrated at Navy Pier. (CSL Photo)

The PCC Model B being demonstrated at Navy Pier. (CSL Photo)

The PCC Model B interior. (Chicago Architectural Photographing Co.)

The PCC Model B interior. (Chicago Architectural Photographing Co.)

CSL 7001 under construction at the Brill plant in 1934.

CSL 7001 under construction at the Brill plant in 1934.

CSL 7001 under construction at the Brill plant in 1934.

CSL 7001 under construction at the Brill plant in 1934.

CSL 7001 on route 36 Broadway-State in 1934.

CSL 7001 on route 36 Broadway-State in 1934.

CSL 7001 at State and Van Buren in 1934.

CSL 7001 at State and Van Buren in 1934.

CSL 7001 at State and Chicago, in World's Fair service, at 9 am on August 29, 1934. (George Krambles Photo)

CSL 7001 at State and Chicago, in World’s Fair service, at 9 am on August 29, 1934. (George Krambles Photo)

CSL 4001 at South Shops on October 23, 1938. (George Krambles Photo)

CSL 4001 at South Shops on October 23, 1938. (George Krambles Photo)

CSL 4001, signed for route 4 Cottage Grove, at South Shops on October 23, 1938. (M. D. McCarter Collection)

CSL 4001, signed for route 4 Cottage Grove, at South Shops on October 23, 1938. (M. D. McCarter Collection)

CSL 4001 in service, probably around 1934.

CSL 4001 in service, probably around 1934.

CSL 4001 on route 22, Clark-Wentworth, probably in the late 1930s.

CSL 4001 on route 22, Clark-Wentworth, probably in the late 1930s.

CSL 4001, sporting a good sized dent, at South Shops. (CSL Photo)

CSL 4001, sporting a good sized dent, at South Shops. (CSL Photo)

CSL 4001 at Kedzie and Van Buren on May 13, 1946. By this time, the car had been out of service for two years. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

CSL 4001 at Kedzie and Van Buren on May 13, 1946. By this time, the car had been out of service for two years. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

Capital Transit 1056, a product of the St. Louis Car Co., as it looked in 1935 when new.

Capital Transit 1056, a product of the St. Louis Car Co., as it looked in 1935 when new.

Car 7501, the only Baltimore "Brilliner," in August 1941. Note the so-called "tavern" doors. This car was a sample in anticipation of a larger order that never came. It ran in service from 1939 to 1956. (Jeffrey Winslow Photo)

Car 7501, the only Baltimore “Brilliner,” in August 1941. Note the so-called “tavern” doors. This car was a sample in anticipation of a larger order that never came. It ran in service from 1939 to 1956. (Jeffrey Winslow Photo)

A modern Baltimore "Peter Witt" streetcar, built by Brill in 1930, alongside a PCC, made in 1936 by St. Louis Car Company.

A modern Baltimore “Peter Witt” streetcar, built by Brill in 1930, alongside a PCC, made in 1936 by St. Louis Car Company.

DC Transit pre-PCC streamlined streetcar at the National Capital Trolley Museum in 1993. Part of a 20-car order in 1935, split between Brill and St Louis Car Company. This is a St. Louis Car Company product. Sadly this car was lost to a carbarn fire at the museum in 2003. (John Smatlak Photo)

DC Transit pre-PCC streamlined streetcar at the National Capital Trolley Museum in 1993. Part of a 20-car order in 1935, split between Brill and St Louis Car Company. This is a St. Louis Car Company product. Sadly this car was lost to a carbarn fire at the museum in 2003. (John Smatlak Photo)

1053 interior. (John Smatlak Photo)

1053 interior. (John Smatlak Photo)

1053 interior. (John Smatlak Photo)

1053 interior. (John Smatlak Photo)

Scranton Transit 508, an "Electromobile," was built by Osgood-Bradley Co in 1929. It was another attempt at a modern standardized streetcar in the pre-PCC era.

Scranton Transit 508, an “Electromobile,” was built by Osgood-Bradley Co in 1929. It was another attempt at a modern standardized streetcar in the pre-PCC era.

Baltimore Peter Witt 6146. Don's Rail Photos says it was "built by Brill in 1930 and retired in 1955." Sister car 6119 is at the Baltimore Streetcar Museum, while 6144 is at Seashore. These were some of the most modern cars around, prior to the PCCs.

Baltimore Peter Witt 6146. Don’s Rail Photos says it was “built by Brill in 1930 and retired in 1955.” Sister car 6119 is at the Baltimore Streetcar Museum, while 6144 is at Seashore. These were some of the most modern cars around, prior to the PCCs.

Baltimore Transit Company car 6105, shown here on route 15 - Ostend St., is one of the last modern streetcars built before PCCs took over the market. The sign on front says that September 7 will be the last day for 6 hour local rides. Perhaps that can help date the picture.

Baltimore Transit Company car 6105, shown here on route 15 – Ostend St., is one of the last modern streetcars built before PCCs took over the market. The sign on front says that September 7 will be the last day for 6 hour local rides. Perhaps that can help date the picture.

Indianapolis Railways 146, shown here on a special run in 1949, was a Brill "Master Unit" but appears very similar to the Baltimore Peter Witts. This car was built in 1933, one of the last streetcars built before the PCC era. Brill tried to sell street railways on standardized cars (hence the name "Master Units") but as you might expect, no two orders were identical.

Indianapolis Railways 146, shown here on a special run in 1949, was a Brill “Master Unit” but appears very similar to the Baltimore Peter Witts. This car was built in 1933, one of the last streetcars built before the PCC era. Brill tried to sell street railways on standardized cars (hence the name “Master Units”) but as you might expect, no two orders were identical.