CTA 7156 heads south on Broadway at Lawrence in Uptown on February 15, 1957, the last day of streetcar service on Broadway. The film Giant, starring James Dean, Rock Hudson, and Elizabeth Taylor, opened in the US on November 24, 1956, and was playing at the Uptown. You can see the Green Mill lounge a bit south of the Uptown. The Riviera Theater would be just out of view to the left here. A version of this image, taken from a duplicate slide, appears on page 244 of B-146, mistakenly credited to Charles L. Tauscher. (Robert Heinlein Photo)
Life is full of loose ends, and so is this post. Let’s see if we can tie a few up.
Most of what you see in this post is a tribute to Robert Heinlein and the late Jeffrey L. Wien. I spent a lot of time working on these images, because I wanted to give these gentlemen a 100% effort.
There were several slides that I scanned last year for Jeff, that I had not yet had a chance to work over in Photoshop at the time of his passing on January 6th. These were 35mm color slides he had purchased on eBay, to fill in holes in his collection. In his later years, he took great pleasure in buying images that he had not been able to take himself.
Jeff had told me on a number of occasions that I was free to post anything here from his vast collection. So I am sure he would not mind that I share these with you now, after I made them look better. In fact, I think he would be glad I followed through on this. Perhaps the best tribute I can give my friend is to continue the work of historic preservation, which meant so much to him.
Publication of CERA Bulletin 146, Chicago Streetcar Pictorial: The PCC Car Era, 1936-1958 in 2015 inadvertently created another loose end. Jeff had some duplicate slides he had acquired in 1959, several of which were used in the book. He was certain that these were pictures taken by Charles Tauscher, and this included the photo on the book’s front cover, showing a Clark-Wentworth PCC passing by Wrigley Field.
While we were working on the book, Jeff bought Tauscher’s photo collection, and was disappointed when the originals of these slides did not turn up there (although many other excellent slides did– Tauscher was a great photographer in his own right).
After the book came out, we found out the duplicate slides in question had actually been shot by Bob Heinlein. In 2016, Bob loaned us his original red border Kodachrome slides, so we could set the historical record straight. Now you can see them too, and we can finally give credit where credit is due. It seems an even dozen of these were used in B-146, but the ones that weren’t are every bit as good.
The 24 pictures of Bob’s that are here were all taken between October 1956 and September 1957, and nearly all on the north side of Chicago. By then, the only remaining streetcar lines in the city were Clark-Wentworth and Broadway. Western was replaced by buses a few months before Bob started taking these pictures.
Broadway had been de-coupled from its southerly half (State) in December 1955. Clark and Broadway shared a car barn (Devon) and a portion of their route south of Diversey, so their fates were tied together. By the end of 1957, there were no more north side streetcars, and the last remaining line (Wentworth) only made it until June 21, 1958, when 7213 became the last Chicago streetcar.
In our last post, we featured an extensive article about the Metropolitan West Side Elevated from an 1895 issue of Leslie’s Weekly. After I purchased the magazine, it took 35 days for it to show up. It spent some time, no doubt, buried in a USPS distribution center in December, probably at the bottom of the pile.
Because of the delay, the seller graciously offered to send me an 1894 Leslie’s with another article about the Chicago elevated. He did, but it turns out the article is not about the “L”, but actually details the start of the grade separation movement of steam railroads in the Chicago area, which is another subject I am interested in. You can read it here, from the September 20, 1894 issue of Leslie’s Weekly.
In addition, we have some new recent photo finds of our own. One of these was also a “loose end.” I recently received the negative of CTA streetcar 1743 downtown. I didn’t recall buying this recently. Then, I looked at the postmark on the envelope– June 15, 2020! Turns out I did buy this, and had forgotten all about it. Chances are, the envelope was put into the wrong PO Box by mistake, and whoever owns that box doesn’t regularly check their mail. But all’s well that ends well.
There are a couple of pictures from the collections of John Smatlak. We thank him for sharing these with our readers.
We are grateful for all our contributors. Keep those cards and letters coming in, folks!
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We thank our readers for making 2020 our most successful yet, with 133,246 page views, surpassing our previous record of 2016, and a 30% increase over the previous year. Each January, we ask our readers to help defray the expenses involved with file storage, web hosting, domain registration and other overhead, the “nuts and bolts” things that make this blog possible. Fortunately, thanks to all of you, we have have received $705 to date, meeting our original goal. Additional donations are always welcome, and will be used to purchase more classic images for this site. If you enjoy what you see here, and would like it to continue, please consider making a donation by clicking on this link, or the one at the top or bottom of this post.
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Robert Heinlein’s Chicago PCCs:
Wouldn’t you just know it? Without even realizing it I am sure, someone walked right into Bob Heinlein’s shot in this September 1957 view of CTA PCC 4390 (which would end up being one of the last cars used in June 1958). What to do, but wait for another car to come along, and take another picture (see Heinlein008).
Although signed for the south portion of Route 36, which was replaced by buses in December 1955, PCC 4406 is actually on Clark and 16th Streets. Since 4406 was used (along with red car 225) on a fantrip on October 21, 1956, my guess is this picture was taken on that day. It was common practice to put incorrect signs up on trips, although on most of the pictures I have seen from that trip, it says “Chartered.” (Robert Heinlein Photo)
In September 1957, CTA 7160 passes by the Rainbo building at left, located in the 4800 block of north Clark Street. A skating rink opened there that year. To the right, you see St. Boniface Catholic Cemetery. We are looking north. A version of this image, taken from a duplicate slide, appears on page 162 of B-146, where it was incorrectly credited to Charles L. Tauscher. (Robert Heinlein Photo)
CTA 7211, still in its original paint scheme, heads south at Clark Street and Irving Park Road in September 1957, near the entrance to Graceland Cemetery. A version of this image, taken from a duplicate slide, appears on page 164 of B-146, where it was incorrectly attributed to Charles L. Tauscher. (Robert Heinlein Photo)
CTA 7149, signed for Clark and Schreiber (Devon Station). Note that the route number is 22 with a red slash through it. (Robert Heinlein Photo)
CTA 7222 by Wrigley Field (Clark and Addison) in July 1957. This picture appears twice in CERA B-146, on the cover and on pages 134 and 167, taken from a duplicate slide. On page 167, it is incorrectly attributed to Charles L. Tauscher. This is the original Red Border Kodachrome. (Robert Heinlein Photo)
CTA 7164 is northbound on Clark at Addison in July 1957, crossing the Milwaukee Road tracks near Wrigley Field. A version of this photo, taken from a duplicate slide, appears on page 166 of B-146, incorrectly attributed to Charles L. Tauscher. (Robert Heinlein Photo)
In September 1957, CTA PCCs 7220 and 7211 pass each other on Clark Street at Delaware near the Newberry Library and Washington Square Park, also known locally as “Bughouse Square.” A version of this image, taken from a duplicate slide, appears on page 181 of B-146, mistakenly attributed to Charles L. Tauscher. (Robert Heinlein Photo)
CTA 7200 is turning south from Devon onto Broadway in 1957. (Robert Heinlein Photo)
CTA 7190 heads south on State Street, crossing the Chicago River. Work on the new Chicago Sun-Times building is well underway. It opened in 1958. The following years, Field Enterprises bought the Daily News, and this building became its headquarters as well. It is now the site of the Trump International Hotel and Tower. (Robert Heinlein Photo)
CTA 7178 heads south on Clark Street near Wrigley Field in September 1957. The Milwaukee Road railroad tracks running by the ballpark were used for freight and connected with the CTA “L” just north of Irving Park Road. A version of this image, taken from a duplicate slide, appears on page 166 of B-146, where it is incorrectly attributed to Charles L. Tauscher. (Robert Heinlein Photo)
CTA 7190 at Clark and Seminary by Wrigley Field in July 1957. The “coke” advertised here wasn’t Coca-Cola, but coal, used for heating homes and businesses then, but phased out soon afterwards. A version of this image, taken from a duplicate slide, appears on page 167 of B-146, incorrectly attributed to Charles L. Tauscher. (Robert Heinlein Photo)
CTA 7189 is southbound on Clark Street just south of Irving Park Road in July 1957. The Wunders Cemetery is at right. A version of this image, taken from a duplicate slide, appears on page 165 of B-146, where it is incorrectly attributed to Charles L. Tauscher. (Robert Heinlein Photo)
CTA 7191 passing by Wrigley Field. (Robert Heinlein Photo)
CTA 7214 heads south on Route 22 – Clark-Wentworth. Since the Cubs were in the middle of a home stand, the date may very well have been September 4, 1957. The Cubbies would lose two of their three next games to the Cincinnati Redlegs (“Reds” was apparently too sensitive a name politically then) on their way to finishing the season with a record of 62 wins, 92 losses, and 2 ties. (Robert Heinlein Photo)
CTA 7180 is southbound on Clark Street, passing by the coal company that was once located next to Wrigley Field. You get a good view of the Milwaukee Road freight tracks, since abandoned, that headed north of here. This was once part of a line that offered commuter rail service on the north side. The portion north of Wilson Avenue was taken over by the “L” in the early 1900s. Originally known as the Evanston Extension, it was gradually elevated as well. (Robert Heinlein Photo)
CTA 7151 is southbound at Clark Street and Chicago Avenue, passing by what is now the former Cosmopolitan Bank Building, designed by the firm of Schmidt, Garden & Martin and built in 1920. The northern portion of the building was a 1930 addition, and was redone in 1995, in a style matching the original portion. (Robert Heinlein Photo)
CTA 7193 is northbound on Clark, just north of Ridge, at around 5961 N. Clark in July 1957. A version of this image, taken from a duplicate slide, was incorrectly credited to Charles L. Tauscher on page 158 of B-146. (Robert Heinlein Photo)
CTA 7192 at Kinzie and Dearborn in 1957. (Robert Heinlein Photo)
I was curious about this car, shown in the previous photo, so I posted it to a Facebook group devoted to 1955-56 Packards and asked, “Is this a Packard?” Apparently, it is a 1956 Clipper, produced and sold by Packard. For that year and that year only, it was its own separate brand and not branded as a Packard. But I think you would be forgiven for calling it a 1956 Packard Clipper Constellation.
The 1956 Clipper Constellation, made by Packard. From what I have read, there may only be one place, somewhere on the trunk, that identifies this as a Packard. They tried to make it a brand of its own, just for this one year. Packard merged with Studebaker, and the final two years of Packards (1957-58) were rebranded Studebakers. 1956 was the last year that Packard built its own cars.
CTA 7138 at Schreiber and Ravenswood, near Devon Station. (Robert Heinlein Photo)
CTA 7171 is northbound on Clark Street, passing Wrigley Field. (Robert Heinlein Photo)
CTA 7162 is southbound on Clark Street at LaSalle Drive in September 1957. A version of this photo, taken from a duplicate slide, appears on page 177 of B-146, mistakenly credited to Charles L. Tauscher. (Robert Heinlein Photo)
CTA 7163 is southbound at Clark, Halsted, and Barry in July 1957. A version of this photo, taken from a duplicate slide, appears on page 170 of B-146, mistakenly credited to Charles L. Tauscher. (Robert Heinlein Photo)
From the Wien-Criss Archive:
The North Shore Line’s Libertyville station on the Mundelein branch in January 1963. (Wien-Criss Archive)
NJ Transit car 6 on the Newark City Subway in July 1975. After the PCCs were replaced in 2001, this car went to the Rockhill Trolley Museum. Sister car #4 (ex-Twin Cities Rapid Transit) is now at the Illinois Railway Museum. (Wien-Criss Archive)
CTA 2554 on a westbound Douglas-Milwaukee B-train between Jefferson Park and Montrose on August 17, 1978. (Wien-Criss Archive)
Chicago North Shore & Milwaukee 764 heads up a train at North Chicago Junction on January 16, 1960. (William D. Volkmer Photo, Wien-Criss Archive)
This is the “before” version of the following slide, the raw scan prior to my working it over in Photoshop.
A North Shore Line employee’s shanty at the Milwaukee Terminal on June 17, 1962. “Cream City” is a nickname for Milwaukee. I believe a fantrip was held on that day, which helps explain the photographer at left. (Wien-Criss Archive)
The North Shore Line’s Woodridge station in August 1962. This was one of several 1920s-era stations designed in “Insull Spanish.” Only two such stations exist today, one of which is Beverly Shores on the South Shore Line. The Woodridge station was demolished after the North Shore Line shut down in 1963. (Wien-Criss Archive)
North Shore Line 714 heads up a northbound train at Loyola on July 13, 1955. Car 714 is now at the Illinois Railway Museum. (Wien-Criss Archive)
A North Shore Line train on the Shore Line Route is southbound in Winnetka in September 1954. This section was grade-separated in 1940, along with the adjacent Chicago & North Western tracks, following a series of pedestrian accidents. Harold L. Ickes, Secretary of the Interior under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, approved Federal aid that paid for part of this work, in a similar fashion to Chicago’s Initial System of Subways. Ickes had lived in the area for many years. The train is moving towards the photographer, and the front is blurred due to the shutter speed that had to be used, in the days when Kodachrome was ISO 10. (Wien-Criss Archive)
One of the two Electroliners crosses the North Shore Channel on October 21, 1950. After the abandonment of the North Shore Line in 1963, this became part of the route of the CTA Skokie Swift, today’s Yellow Line. This is near the border between Skokie and Evanston. (Wien-Criss Archive)
The entrance to the South Shore Line platforms at Randolph Street Station on August 4, 1974. This has since been completely modernized, and the neon sign is now at the Illinois Railway Museum. (Douglas N. Grotjahn Photo, Wien-Criss Archive)
Chicago South Shore and South Bend 23 is at the head of a westbound train at Miller, Indiana on October 1, 1990. (Bill McCoy Photo, Wien-Criss Archive)
Although this picture was originally identified as Franklin Street, north of the Loop, it’s actually at 8th Street, south of the Loop. The clue is the Big 4 Advertising carriers storefront, which was located at 26 E. 8th Street. Thanks to John Suhayda for pointing this out. The head North Shore Line car is 420, and this photo was taken by Robert F. Collins on June 2, 1960. (Wien-Criss Archive)
North Shore Line 727 and 729 are northbound at Belmont on the CTA north side “L” on May 20, 1962. Don’s Rail Photos: “727 was built by Cincinnati Car Co in 1926, #2890. It was modernized in 1939 and sold to Iowa Chapter, National Railway Historical Society in 1963. It became Iowa Terminal RR 102 in 1967 and acquired by Iowa Trolley Museum in 1987. It was restored to some extent as CNS&M 727 and apparently returned to Iowa Terminal RR.” (Wien-Criss Archive) John Nicholson: “Off to the right behind the “L” structure Benty Hobby Supplies was still a going concern. I remember it still being in operation into the early 1980s right around the time I moved into the Lake View neighborhood. Now hobby shops are becoming as scarce as interurbans.”
North Shore Line Silverliners 770, 738, and 767 just north of Wilson Avenue on June 2, 1962. This is probably a “substitute Liner,” meaning they were temporarily taking the place of an Electroliner when one of that pair was being serviced. (Wien-Criss Archive) John Nicholson adds: “I noticed you referred to the three Silverliners pictured just north of Wilson (taken On Saturday, June 2, 1962) as a possible “substitute Electroliner.” The latest ruling from the recently-departed Mr. Horaheck was that “substitute Electroliner” is incorrect. The correct term should be “equipment substituting for a shopped Electroliner.” Since the train did not have No. 415 in the consist, it was probably just a three-car train of Silverliners.”
North Shore Line car 754 gets a bath at the Milwaukee Terminal on May 14, 1961. (Gordon E. Lloyd Photo, Wien-Criss Archive)
North Shore Line car 758 is at the rear of a northbound train at Dempster Street in Skokie in August 1962. This is now where the CTA Yellow Line ends, and the historic station building has been moved a short distance away, but has been restored. (Wien-Criss Archive)
This Seabord Coast Line streamlined diesel train #4900 was built in 1936 by St. Louis Car Company, and was an obvious influence on the design of the North Shore Line Electroliners, built five years later, The 4900 was scrapped in 1971 after Amtrak took over intercity passenger rail service. It is shown here in August 1969 and was originally Seaboard Air Line 2028. Like the Electroliners, it was one of a pair. (Wien-Criss Archive)
Pennsylvania Railroad steam train 612 at the Parkway overpass, Sea Girt, NJ, October 20, 1957. #612 was a K-4S (4-6-2) “Pacific” built in Juniata during 1917 and retired in April 1958. (Wien-Criss Archive)
Atlantic City Brilliner 205 on December 28, 1955. From http://www.nycsubway.org: “The third electrified service in Atlantic City lasted longer than the others and it was a streetcar line that made its way from a place called The Inlet at the north end of Atlantic City and operated largely along the city’s major thoroughfare, Atlantic Avenue, southward and through the communities of Ventnor, Margate and Longport. Owned and operated by the Atlantic City Transportation Company, this service was distinctive, during its final decade-and-a-half, in that its basic fleet of cars consisted in twenty-five streamlined Brilliners, the Philadelphia-based Brill Company’s competitive answer to the PCC car. Other properties purchased small fleets of similar Brilliners, but only in Atlantic City did this unique car serve as the basic rolling stock of a transit system. Until the very end of streetcar service in December of 1955, the Brilliners were supplemented by a small number of conventional Hog Island cars.” So, this picture was taken just off the Boardwalk at The Inlet, near Captain Starn’s Restaurant and Yacht Bar, one of the most famous seafood eateries in America in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s. It opened in 1940 and closed in 1979. This was part of a complex offering sailboat rides, speedboats, a fish market, and sea lions. It was featured in the 1972 film The King of Marvin Gardens. (Wien-Criss Archive)
Here is a video, with some shots of the Atlantic City Brilliners (built 1938-39), with their distinctive “tavern” doors (starts at about 9:38):
Baltimore Transit Company Brilliner 7501 on the Eastern Avenue route. It was built on December 19, 1938. Jeff was actually in Baltimore on the last day of streetcar service on November 3, 1963. Light rail transit returned to the Baltimore area in 1992. (Wien-Criss Archive)
Philadelphia Transportation Company Brilliner 2023 is north of Olney Avenue in May 1953, on a fantrip. Don’s Rail Photos: “2023 was built by Brill Car Co in April 1939, #23763-006. It was scrapped in August 1956.” Brill had been part of the group that developed the PCC car, but refused to pay patent royalties to other companies and dropped out, preferring to go their own way. It was a fatal mistake. By the time Brill introduced their PCC-lookalike, the Brilliner, in 1938, St. Louis Car Company had the PCC market sewed up, and Brill’s was viewed as an inferior product in some ways. Hence, few were sold– one to Philadelphia, one to Baltimore, 24 to Atlantic City, and 10 to Red Arrow. Brill made its last streetcar in 1941. (Wien-Criss Archive)
Philadelphia Transportation Company 6213 was known as a Nearside Peter Witt car. Here is an explanation from http://www.ectma.org/nearside.html : “The 1500 Nearside Cars represented the largest single group of cars in Philadelphia until 1948. They were aquired in five orders between 1911 and 1913 and were numbered 6000 – 7499. As originally built they had only a single double door in the front and a conductor’s booth immediately behind the motorman. A small rear door existed for emergency use only. Previous practice with double end cars was for the car to stop at the far side of intersections so passengers could board the rear platform where the conductor was stationed. The name “Nearside” derives from the fact that these new single end cars stopped for passengers at the near side of each intersection. The double door was arranged with the front leaves opening in for incoming passengers and the rear leaves opening out for exiting passengers. Between 1919 and 1921 to solve the “muzzle loading” problem, 1160 of the 1500 cars were equipped with center doors and the “Peter Witt” fare collection system with the conductor stationed in the middle of the car.” 6213 is on Route 15 – Girard Avenue, which still has a streetcar line, which is currently on hiatus while its small fleet of PCC II cars are being rebuilt. This is from a “half frame” slide. Half frame had a brief fad in the 1950s as a way to double the number of pictures on a roll, but it also had half the film area of 35mm, and therefore wasn’t as sharp. The slide mount gives the location as “Richmond Street near the Ship Yards.” This would be on the eastern portion of the line. This type of streetcar was retired here in 1957. (Wien-Criss Archive)
Atlantic City Brilliner 218. The movie poster advertises Welcome Stranger, a film starring Bing Crosby, John Garfield, and Barry Fitzgerald, released in June 1947, which may help date this photo. (Wien-Criss Archive)
Philadelphia Transportation Company Brilliner 2023 is on a charter trip at Chelten and Yorr Roads. There is a notation on this half-frame slide of “Route 52.” The Brilliner was scrapped in August 1956, so this must be before then. (Wien-Criss Archive)
This is a real photo postcard I recently bought. Chicago Surface Lines 6031 was built by Brill in July 1914. The State line was originally numbered 34 by CSL, for internal accounting purposes. When merged with Broadway in 1937, it became Route 36 – Broadway-State. Dewey, I think, was later renamed Schubert Avenue, and is a short street located at 2720 North. So Clark and Dewey would be just south of Diversey. I got rid of some of the scratches via Photoshop.
A three car train of northbound CTA woods on the Evanston Express in August 1957, just a few short months before the last of the woods was retired from regular service. Since the train is using third rail, and there are four tracks, this is somewhere south of Evanston.
I can read the sign on the right (Evanston Wilmette via L) but I wonder what the sign in the middle says?
The CTA Linden Avenue Yard in Wilmette in July 1957. We see 5000s, 6000s, and wood cars present. To the left is where the North Shore Line’s Shore Line Route continued north until the 1955 abandonment.
This photo of a pair of Philadelphia streetcars has to be from the 1940s, since Birney car #1 is present, along with 8471. The occasion was a fantrip. From the original red border Kodachrome. (Charles R. Houser, Sr. Photo)
Chicago & West Towns Railways streetcar 160 on Hillgrove Avenue at Brainard Avenue in the 1940s. This was the end of the long LaGrange line, which also served the Brookfield Zoo and had some private right-of-way.
NSL 725 at the Mundelein Terminal, which resembled the Dempster Street station in Skokie. Don’s Rail Photos: “725 was built by Cincinnati Car Co in 1926, (order) #2890. It was modernized in 1939.”
NSL 710 at Libertyville on the Mundelein branch. Don’s Rail Photos: “710 was built by Cincinnati Car Co in 1924, (order) #2725. It was purchased by American Museum of Electricity in 1963 and resold to Connecticut Trolley Museum in 1972.”
A North Shore Line Electroliner… at North Chicago Junction?
CTA Lake Street car 1743 is turning north at Randolph and Franklin on April 18, 1953.
A sign on the “L” station at Randolph and Wells, from the previous photo.
Red Arrow (Philadelphia & West Chester Traction) car 78 in Media on December 2, 1935. This car was built circa 1931-32 by Brill and is known as a “Master Unit.” It is now at the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum in Washington, PA.
Chicago Rapid Transit “Baldy” 4000’s SB at Armitage about to plunge into the subway. No date, but guessing mid-1940’s based on the presence of the tower that was built here when the subway opened (you can see the tower roof at left above the platform canopy). (John Smatlak Collection)
A two-car train of CTA woods makes a fantrip stop in the 1950s at the ground-level Buena Yard, which was an interchange point for freight between the “L” and the Milwaukee Road up until 1973. Under the “L”, you can see remnants of the former Buena station, which closed in 1949. In the distance, there is a ramp leading up to the “L”. This site is now the location of Challenger Park. (John Smatlak Collection)
I recently bought this real photo postcard, circa 1910. This is how it looked before restoration. I think the developer was not properly fixed when this was made 110 years ago, so the image has faded and may continue to do so in the future. This is the Metropolitan West Side Elevated crossing the Chicago River, not the Northwestern “L”. But perhaps the “N. W.” refers to Met trains that went to Humboldt Park and Logan Square.
The same image after restoration in Photoshop.
A close-up shows the train was probably stopped when this picture was taken.
I recently purchased a CRT map (current as of July 7, 1925), and this useful bit of history, facts, and figures was on the back.
I spent some time cleaning up this map in Photoshop today. I think it’s interesting and a bit unusual, in that is also shows the North Shore Line stops on 63rd Street (service was eventually cut back to Roosevelt Road). When my new book Chicago’s Lost “L”s comes out, I think I will include a facsimile of this map, and the historical information on the backside, with every copy purchased directly from me.
Someone on Facebook recently asked when the CTA added the “Metropolitan Transit” banner to its logo. The answer, courtesy of the CTA Transit News, is May 1958.
Erie Lackawanna 3442 at Hoboken on September 2, 1964, looking pretty spiffy, and much better than the other car in the next photo, taken 18 years later, near the end of its service life. (Dick Ganger Photo)
Erie Lackawanna coach 3515 at Hoboken, NJ on August 7, 1982. It was built by Pullman in 1930.
From the September 20, 1894 Leslie’s Weekly. There is a link to the article “Track Elevation in Chicago” in the introduction to this post.
South Shore Line freight loco 707. Don’s Rail Photos: “707 was built by Alco-General Electric in June 1931, #68270, 11193, as NYC 1242, Class R-2. It was renumbered 342 in August 1936. In July 1967 it was rebuilt as CSS&SB 707. It was scrapped in April 1976.”
A classic winter scene, with South Shore Line 103 at the helm.
South Shore Line “Little Joe” freight loco 803 in Michigan City.
South Shore Line 108 in Michigan City.
South Shore Line 101 heads up a two-car train in Michigan City.
South Shore Line 110 and train running on the street in Michigan City.
South Shore Line car 100 and freight loco 706 are identifiable in this scene that I assume is Michigan City.
South Shore Line caboose 1056.
I assume this is the South Shore yards at Michigan City.
South Shore Line car 7 in downtown Chicago.
South Shore Line car 38.
You would be forgiven for thinking that this picture of South Shore freight running down a busy street could have been taken in East Chicago, Indiana, due to the double track seen here. But comparison with other photos proves this is 11th and Franklin in Michigan City, looking west, with a bit of the South Shore Line depot visible. As for the date, I am going to say this could be 1947, since Indiana license plates were yellow that year, and appear to be a lighter color than some years that followed. There were two tracks for a stretch near the station at that time.
It might help date the picture if I can figure out what year and model this car is. It definitely looks postwar, however.
This picture, from one of our previous posts, was taken at the same location, around the same time:
The way to distinguish South Shore Line street running photos from one city to another usually includes counting the number of tracks. Only East Chicago was double tracked. However, this is Michigan City, as there are two tracks for a short distance near the station seen at rear, since many runs begin and end here. This picture, showing car 105 and train, was taken on August 6, 1948. The station building still exists but is no longer in use.
The same location today.
I unfortunately did not win the auction for this negative from 1961, but it does at least show that steam actually did operate over the new B&OCT tracks that were relocated next to I-290, the Eisenhower Expressway (during an excursion). Who knew? The loco is Grand Trunk Western #5629. The location is in Forest Park, just west of Circle Avenue (the bridge in the distance, with an auxiliary entrance to the CTA Congress median rapid transit line).
New Steam Audio CD:
FYI, we have digitally remastered another classic steam railroad audio LP to Compact Disc. Many additional titles, including the complete output of the Railroad Record Club, in our Online Store.
RGTS Rio Grande to Silverton: A Sound Portrait of Mountain Railroading Price: $14.99
These are vintage 1960 narrow gauge steam train recordings, in true stereo, and originally released on LP in 1961. It is long out of print.
01. Riding The Train To Silverton
02. Photo Run At Elk Park
03. Arriving At Silverton
04. Train Time At La Jara
05. Illini Special At Cumbres Pass
06. Doubleheader Starting At Monero
07. Eastbound Freight
08. Arriving At Chama
09. Whistles At Coxo
10. Freight With Pusher At Coxo
Gone are the nostalgic sounds of steam echoes and thundering exhausts, but the memory is immortal. May they live on in the locomotive lexicon, as a monument to the era when trains were pulled by STEAM POWER.
As with all of our recordings, this CD comes with the complete, original liner notes.
Total time – 45:49
The Trolley Dodger On the Air
We appeared on WGN radio in Chicago in November 2018, discussing our book Building Chicago’s Subways on the Dave Plier Show. You can hear our 19-minute conversation here.
Chicago, Illinois, December 17, 1938– Secretary Harold Ickes, left, and Mayor Edward J. Kelly turn the first spadeful of earth to start the new $40,000,000 subway project. Many thousands gathered to celebrate the starting of work on the subway. Order Our New Book Building Chicago’s Subways There were three subway anniversaries in 2018 in Chicago: 60 years since the West Side Subway opened (June 22, 1958) 75 years since the State Street Subway opened (October 17, 1943) 80 years since subway construction started (December 17, 1938) To commemorate these anniversaries, we have written a new book, Building Chicago’s Subways. While the elevated Chicago Loop is justly famous as a symbol of the city, the fascinating history of its subways is less well known. The City of Chicago broke ground on what would become the “Initial System of Subways” during the Great Depression and finished 20 years later. This gigantic construction project, a part of the New Deal, would overcome many obstacles while tunneling through Chicago’s soft blue clay, under congested downtown streets, and even beneath the mighty Chicago River. Chicago’s first rapid transit subway opened in 1943 after decades of wrangling over routes, financing, and logistics. It grew to encompass the State Street, Dearborn-Milwaukee, and West Side Subways, with the latter modernizing the old Garfield Park “L” into the median of Chicago’s first expressway. Take a trip underground and see how Chicago’s “I Will” spirit overcame challenges and persevered to help with the successful building of the subways that move millions. Building Chicago’s subways was national news and a matter of considerable civic pride–making it a “Second City” no more!
Title Building Chicago’s Subways Images of America
Author David Sadowski
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) Help Support The Trolley Dodger This is our 263rd 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 724,000 page views, for which we are very grateful. You can help us continue our original transit research by checking out the fine products in our Online Store. As we have said before, “If you buy here, we will be here.” We thank you for your support. DONATIONS In order to continue giving you the kinds of historic railroad images that you have come to expect from The Trolley Dodger, we need your help and support. It costs money to maintain this website, and to do the sort of historic research that is our specialty. Your financial contributions help make this web site better, and are greatly appreciated.
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.
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.
2 Tapes appear to be in good condition
3 Tape with hand written track listing
4 More unreleased Steventon audio
5 Lots of interesting material on these tapes
6 Still more intersting tapes
7 Unreleased audio this is why I bought the whole lot
8 Steventon tapes
9 More Stevnton tapes
10 Even more tapes
11 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
14 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
17 close up of 78rpm master tape showing condition
18 BC Electric and Montreal & South Counties tapes with Steventon letter
19 Montreal & South Counties tape with Steventon letter
20 BC Electric tape with Steventon letter
21 Close up of the BC Electric and Montreal & South Counties tapes
22 Railroad Record Club Master tapes
23 Master tape for record 26
24 A stack of 22 Railroad Record Club Master tapes
25 master tape Railroad Record Club number 16
26 master tape Railroad Record Club number 15
27 master tape Railroad Record Club with memo
28 master tape Railroad Record Club number 17
29 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
32 Two master tapes for record number 3 showing condition
33 master tape Railroad Record Club number 7
34 master tapes Railroad Record Club number 10
35 master tape Railroad Record Club number 23 with memo
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
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
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.
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.
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.
1 Steventon Film that should be all trains
2 Capital Transit B&W Night Film
3 Steventon film
4 Pennsy and B&O film
5 Back 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.
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.”
1 Selection of print blocks
2 More print blocks
3 Still more print blocks
4. Print block for very early RRC traction logo
5. Railroad Record Club logo print block
6 Another style Railroad Record Club logo print block
7 Interurban car fron LP Sound Scrapbook-Traction
8 Interurban car fron LP Sound Scrapbook-Traction 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
11A Print block for NKP LP
12 Ad for RRC 25
13 Ad for RRC 25 reversed
14 Print block for large ad
15 Print block for large ad reversed
16 Ad for traction watch fobs
17 Ad for steam LPs
18 Ad for steam LPs reversed
19 Strange RRC ad
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.
1 41 copies of RRC 3
2 18 copies of RRC 5
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
5 Back 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
8 RCA test pressing for CN showing damage
9 Metal press stamp
10 Metal press stamp with cardboard sleeve
11 RRC Nashville Metal press stamp
12 Metal press stamps in cardboard sleeves for RRC4 B&O
13 3 RRC Nashville Metal press stamps
14 Metal press stamp for RRC LP
15 Railroad Record Club SP-4 boxes and sleeves
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
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
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:
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.
NP 4-8-4 2686
CA&E Elgin train on street in Aurora IL 1931
Capital Transit PCC and bus Catholic University
D&RGW 476 locomotive featured on SP-1
Des Moines & Central Iowa car 1710
EBT 15 on a rainy day very likely while record 3 was being recorded
Evansville & Ohio Valley car 134
Ill Terminal car 285
Ill Terminal local on Caldwell Hill East Pearia about 1936
Indiana box car 550
Indiana RR 752 waiting for loads at mine scale
Indiana RR car 64
Indiana RR car 93 at Anderson IN September 4 1938
Indiana RR Vigo with rails ripped out.
Interstate car 711 ex-IPSC 427 September 3 1939
Interstate car 711 on shop siding west of Greencastle June 3 1939
Interurban car 44 and REA truck Rosslyn VA
MC&CL RR car 34
MC&CL Steeple cab 52
Nice right of way photo but no info other than date March 31 1936
S T F Co RR 54 Farmington MO
Unidentified car and person
Unidentified steeple cab locomotive
Unidentified steeple cab locomotive photo 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.
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.
New Steam Audio CD:
Farewell To Steam
Mister D’s Machine
# of Discs – 1
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!
Title Building Chicago’s Subways Images of America
Author David Sadowski
Publisher Arcadia Publishing (SC), 2018
ISBN 1467129380, 9781467129381
Length 128 pages
01. The River Tunnels
02. The Freight Tunnels
03. Make No Little Plans
04. The State Street Subway
05. The Dearborn-Milwaukee Subway
07. Death of an Interurban
08. The Last Street Railway
09. Subways and Superhighways
10. Subways Since 1960
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Redone tile at the Monroe and Dearborn CTA Blue Line subway station, showing how an original sign was incorporated into a newer design, May 25, 2018. (David Sadowski Photo)
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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.
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.
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
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
28. Queensboro Bridge
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 old SP5
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
Marginal HM Pech cover 1st edition of Record number 8
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.