All in all, I would have to say this is an amazing photograph. It shows Five Mile Beach Electric Railway car 22 on June 30, 1943, in the middle of World War II, and just two years before streetcars were abandoned in this coastal town (Wildwood) in New Jersey. From what I have read, the war and the resulting nightly blackouts negatively affected tourism and contributed to the demise of the streetcars here. With such an early abandonment, color photos of this operation are very rare, indeed, and the colors on this Red Border Kodachrome have held up quite well. A sign on the car advertises Marty Bohn and His Floor Show at the “Nut Club.” The blackouts were not without reason, as German submarines were just offshore, and sometimes crew members would sneak ashore.
I am both humbled and grateful beyond measure that my late friend Jeffrey Wien made me the beneficiary of his extensive photographic collection (except for his motion picture films, which he donated to the Chicago Film Archives).
Naturally, I would rather that he still be around to enjoy his collection, comment on my posts, and point out where I got something wrong, or help identify some locations. But unfortunately, we don’t get to choose in these matters.
I think the best way I can honor his memory is to keep up the work of historic preservation and education that meant so much to him.
While this post may not have an overall theme, it is full of legends and legacies. It is thanks to the hard work and sacrifice of many people, Jeff included, that anything at all has been saved from the electric railways of the past. Some of the photos here were taken after the North Shore Line quit, and show various railcars sitting around, waiting to be saved or scrapped. There are also pictures of the fledgling and somewhat ramshackle early days of the Illinois Electric Railway Museum, at its original and temporary home in North Chicago.
You if had told one of the founders of what is now IRM back then all the progress that has been made since at Union, they hardly could have believed it possible. Institutions like IRM are saving this history and preserving it for future generations, while also making it possible to have some of the same experiences riding the equipment in the collection, that people enjoyed in the past.
If we can maintain the same spirit, all this important history will be our legacy to those who come after us. I am intent on doing my part.
PS- We thank Jack Bejna, Andre Kristopans, William Shapotkin, and Colin Wisner for contributing to this post.
We also have a Facebook auxiliary for The Trolley Dodger where you can participate further. It is a private group, so unfortunately you won’t be able to see the content unless you join. It is free. As of this writing, we have 183 members.
From Jeff Wien’s Collection
The North Shore Line ticket cabinet from the Dempster Street station in Skokie. It still has the tickets in it.
I will have to straighten this out, as the tickets were jostled when the cabinet was moved. The balls were apparently placed behind the tickets.
This metal route sign hung on the side of a wooden Metropolitan “L” car, and was of a type in use for a half-century prior to the opening of the Dearborn-Milwaukee Subway in 1951. Remarkably, it has survived for 70 years since it last could have been used in service. The sign was reversible, and the other side says Humboldt Park.
A fare counter from a Chicago streetcar. There was a Chicago streetcar 3351, a Peter Witt that was scrapped around 1952, but I am not certain that these didn’t have their own numbers.
This metal sign appears to show the original version of the CTA’s “Metropolitan Transit” logo, first introduced in 1958. By then, the agency wanted the public to know that it served more than just Chicago.
The North Shore Line eventually joined the Insull Empire that, by the mid-1920s, included all three major Chicago interurbans and the “L”. So it should not be too much of a surprise that the North Shore had its own rider publication for a few years, with leaflet holders presumably made by the same firm as the “L”s. The North Shore Line version is said to be rare, as many were melted down for scrap during WWII.
Leaflet holders from 4000-series “L” cars. The Elevated News was published by the Chicago Elevated Railways Collateral Trust, formed in 1913 as a voluntary association by the four independent (or at least they started that way) “L” firms. The 4000-series, which eventually ran to 455 cars, was the first designed for use on all the various “L” lines. The title of their rider publication was changed to Rapid Transit News in 1924, coincident with the formation of the Chicago Rapid Transit Company. The Chicago Transit Authority had its own publication, the Rider’s Reader, for a few years starting in 1948.
This leaflet holder is marked as having come from CTA PCC 7213, the last Chicago streetcar that ran on June 21, 1958.
Although Chicago had a total of 600 postwar PCC streetcars, this was too much for a single manufacturer to produce in the immediate postwar era, so the order was divided between Pullman (310) and St. Louis Car Company (290). The “Read As You Ride” leaflet holder at left came from a St. Louis PCC (7213), while the one at right may have come from a Pullman. Their interiors were painted different colors.
Jeff’s collection included a leaflet holder from another city. Several cities had “Public Service” in their streetcar operator’s names, so offhand, I am not sure which city this came from. (Frank J. Flörianz Jr. says it is from New Jersey.)
I found this clipping that Jeff cut out of the Chicago Tribune in 1978 inside the “Read As You Ride” leaflet holder from PCC 7213, the last Chicago streetcar.
There were a few cities besides New York, Chicago, Boston, and Philadelphia to have some sort of elevated electric railways, and Kansas City was among them. Here, Kansas City Public Service car 785 is descending from the 8th Street “L” at Baltimore Avenue on September 3, 1952. I was fortunate to win this original Red Border Kodachrome slide, because I had lost an auction for it once before when someone sold it. Kansas City abandoned streetcars in 1957, but has since reopened a modern streetcar line. (Edward S. Miller Photo)
A single CRT wooden “L” car is at the Dempster Street terminal in Skokie, probably in the 1940s. This “L” branch was replaced by buses in 1948, but returned in 1964 in the form of the Skokie Swift (today’s Yellow Line), a year after the North Shore Line (who owned these tracks) ended all service.
This is one of the experimental “Bluebird” articulated compartment car trains (probably the prototype) being tested on the Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit system circa 1939. BMT ordered 50 of these units from the Clark Equipment Company, intended to be “fast locals” to mix with slower express trains on El lines. But when the City of New York purchased BMT in 1940, they cancelled the order, except for five units that had already been built. They lived out the rest of their days as oddball equipment before being scrapped in 1956. But the Bluebirds were the first rapid transit cars to use PCC technology, and were a major influence on the four articulated 5000s that CRT ordered at the end of World War II.
The former Chicago Aurora & Elgin station in Villa Park still exists and is a local landmark. But here we see it under construction in 1929. The Ovaltine plant at left has since been converted to residential.
I spent some time cleaning up this image, which was part of a stereo pair meant to be viewed in 3-D using a handheld device called a “stereopticon.” It shows Chicago’s Loop “L” circa 1905, and this is the original left-hand running, bi-directional configuration, before it was changed in 1913. So the train at right is moving towards us, while the train at left is moving away from us. The view looks west along Van Buren Street, and that is the old Tower 12 at left. A Metropolitan “L” train is on the inner Loop, while a Lake Street train trails a Northwestern “L” train on the outer Loop. At this stage, only the Lake trains would have needed trolley poles. The station at Van Buren and State is visible in the distance.
A Stereopticon viewer.
Chicago Surface Lines car 2802 is on a charter trip on June 12, 1940. This was apparently a fan favorite, as we have previously published a photo of the same car on a 1941 fantrip.
North Shore Line car 709 at the Branford Trolley Museum in Connecticut in October 30, 1966, just three and a half years after the interurban quit. The location given is Farm River Road. Don’s Rail Photos: “709 was built by Cincinnati Car Co in 1924, #2725. It was sold to Branford Trolley Museum in 1963.”
This is another remarkable photograph, showing Monongahela West Penn car 320 at night in June 1946. Such night shots were very difficult to achieve back then, due to the slow film speed of the time (this is Kodachrome 10, as in ASA/ISO 10). About the only way to take such a picture would have been with a very long exposure, with the camera resting on a tripod. (Dr. H. Blackbunn Photo)
South Shore Line cars 105 and 1 in April 1963.
Another great night shot, this time it’s Illinois Terminal 473 on the line that ran from St. Louis to Granite City in the 1950s. This was IT’s final passenger line and was abandoned in June 1958, on the same weekend that the last Chicago streetcar ran.
CTA PCC 4406, a product of the St. Louis Car Company, at Clark and Archer in April 1954. (William Shapotkin Collection)
This is DesPlaines Avenue in Forest Park, the end of the CTA Congress rapid transit line. The license plates would indicate a date of 1961, perhaps in the Fall since that is a 1962 Chevy in the parking lot. The various signs on the Leyden Motor Coach bus might confuse you, but on the side, it is marked “OSA” meaning this is a fantrip. (William Shapotkin Collection) Bill Shapotkin writes: “Unable to read the bus number, bus OSA operated trips on 06/17/61 (trip #2) using Leyden bus #95 and on 03/18/62 (trip #10) using Leyden buses #90, 157 and 164. If you can identify the fleet number, that would cement down the details.” This is bus #90, so that makes the date March 18, 1962.
CTA 6053 is at the rear of a northbound Ravenswood All-Stop train approaching Armitage in August 1986. The two center tracks lead down to the State Street Subway. (William Shapotkin Collection)
A southbound CTA Englewood train (lead car: 2033) has met a northbound Howard train at Armitage station in April 1985, and is descending into the State Street Subway. (William Shapotkin Collection)
North Shore Line former merchandise dispatch car 215 at the Harrison Shops in Milwaukee on July 7, 1953. Don’s Rail Photos: “215 was built by Cincinnati Car in October 1922, #2605. The loading doors (were moved) from the ends to the center. It was demotorized and used as a tool car.”
On May 22, 1944, Illinois Governor Dwight H. Green (1897-1958) poses with officials from the Illinois State Militia, next to a 1700-series Chicago Surface Lines car promoting that branch of the military during World War II. Green served two terms as governor from 1941-49 before his defeat by Democrat Adlai Stevenson.
While I don’t have the negative that goes with this Chicago Sun photo file slip, it does at least identify some of the notables in the negative I do have. The Chicago Sun was a morning newspaper, started in 1941 by the Field family. It bought the Chicago Times in 1948 and the paper has been the Chicago Sun-Times ever since (although no longer owned by Field Enterprises).
North Shore Line cars 192 and 187 at Highwood in September 1963, looking much worse the wear, nine months after abandonment. But in actuality, these cars had been retired some years earlier. Don’s Rail Photos: “187 was built by Cincinnati Car in August 1920, (order) #2450. It was retired on December 31, 1955. It was scrapped at Rondout on January 29, 1964. 192 was built by Cincinnati Car in August 1920, #2450. It was retired on December 31, 1955. It was scrapped at Rondout on January 29, 1964.” Apparently these cars were considered surplus after the abandonment of the Shore Line Route in 1955.
This photo is a bit of a mystery. It is dated September 1963, which means these are probably North Shore Line cars in dead storage at Highwood, awaiting disposition. However, that doesn’t explain the Shore Line Route sign, as that portion of the Interurban had been abandoned in 1955. And after the 1963 abandonment, a lot of these signs were scarfed up by fans and were missing from the trains that were scrapped. Don’s Rail Photos: “(Combine) 256 was built by Jewett in 1917. It seems to be the only one which retained its original configuration.” It did not survive. The fate of the Silverliner at right is not known.
On June 16, 1962, the late Maury Klebolt talks to the North Shore Line train crew during a fantrip at Harrison Street in Milwaukee. This must have been an Illini Railroad Club excursion. There were many such trips during the last year of the interurban’s existence. (Richard H. Young Photo)
A close-up of Maury Klebolt (1930-1988). Not sure who is at left.
CTA Pullman PCC 4077 heads southbound at 2600 N. Clark Street in the early 1950s. It may be running on either Route 22 or 36. The Pullmans had almost entirely disappeared from service by the end of 1954, for the so-called “PCC Conversion Program.”
The same location today.
The Illinois Electric Railway Museum in North Chicago in September 1963, shortly before the collection was moved to its permanent location in Union. From left to right, we see Milwaukee streetcar 966, a Milwaukee Electric interurban car (either 1129 or 1135), and Indiana Railroad car 65.
This September 1963 (or at least, that’s when the film was processed) view of the Illinois Electric Railway Museum is not the sharpest, but it does show, from left to right, CTA snow sweeper E223, Illinois Terminal 101, one of the Chicago Aurora & Elgin interurbans, and a Milwaukee Electric car.
North Shore Line Silverliner 409 at Roosevelt Road on august 4, 1956. Don’s Rail Photos: “409 was built by Cincinnati Car in May 1923, #2465, as a dining car motor. In 1942 it was rebuilt as a coach and rebuilt as a Silverliner on March 30, 1955. Since it had no bulkhead between smoking and non-smoking sections, it was our favorite car to be used for meetings of the Milwaukee Division of the Electric Railroaders Association in Milwaukee. The North Shore was very cooperative in making sure that the car was in the location shown on meeting nights.” The 409 is now at the Illinois Railway Museum. (C. G. Parsons Photo)
This amazing real photo postcard sold on eBay for $77.89. I unfortunately was not aware of the auction. It shows the Ridgeland “L” station on South Boulevard in Oak Park. The postcard was mailed in 1909 and hence can’t be any later than that. Work is already underway to elevate the Chicago & North Western tracks at left. The Lake Street “L” itself would join it on the embankment in 1962.
NYCTA Brooklyn PCC 1049 is running on the 72 Smith Line to the Brooklyn Bridge in this undated photo, taken between 1946 and 1956. According to the information on the half frame slide mount, this is on 10th Avenue at 17th Street, at the 9th Avenue Depot. Half frame had a brief vogue in the early 1950s, as a way to double the number of pictures on a 35mm roll, while still maintaining some level of quality. But most photographers back then didn’t need twice as many pictures on a roll. In the long run, it Kodak downsized their film over time, from sizes 126 to 110 and Disc, in order to make bigger profits. But sharpness was reduced in turn, and full-frame 25mm is still with us today. These 1950s Brooklyn PCCs appear to have had about as many dents as their Chicago cousins. (R. Fillman Photo)
The Magic of Clark Frazier
Clark Frazier is an excellent photographer who has been active since around 1956. Among the first 35mm slides that I took home from Jeff’s collection were over 100 that he had purchased from Mr. Frazier over the last few years. Even better, Mr. Frazier did a lot of traveling, so his work covers many different cities. In his retired years, Jeff loved purchasing excellent slides that not only reflected his own type of shooting, but filled in gaps in his collection– views that he was unable to capture himself, or places he couldn’t get to before something ceased operating. For example, in this representative sampling, I am not certain that Jeff was able to visit Washington D.C. prior to the abandonment of streetcars there in 1962, and I don’t think he could get to San Francisco in time to ride the “Iron Monsters” before they were all taken out of service around 1957. So here they are.
DC Transit 1572 on Route 70 at Georgia and Alaska on February 7, 1959. (Clark Frazier Photo)
DC Transit 1566 inbound on Route 82 at Riverdale on September 1, 1958. (Clark Frazier Photo)
SF Muni 77 turn back meets 130 on Geary Boulevard in 1956. Hope that dog made it across the street safely. (Clark Frazier Photo)
DC Transit 1322 at the Department of the Interior on Route 82, on September 2, 1958. (Clark Frazier Photo)
DC Transit 1567 on Route 82 on Rhode Island Avenue, September 1, 1958. (Clark Frazier Photo)
Boston MTA 3311 and 3305 are stuck in the snow at Riverside after a “Noreaster” on March 4, 1960. (Clark Frazier Photo)
SF Muni 139 turns left from Geary onto 33rd Avenue in 1956. (Clark Frazier Photo)
St. Louis Public Service PCC 1628 arrives at South Broadway carhouse on August 23, 1958. (Clark Frazier Photo)
DC Transit 1555 from Cabin John in Brookmont on June 7, 1959. (Clark Frazier Photo)
SF Muni 195 on the C Line at Geary and Van Ness in January 1957. (Clark Frazier Photo)
SF Muni 205 and 1014 at the end of the N Line in 1957. (Clark Frazier Photo)
SF Muni 176 outbound on the N Line to the beach in 1957. (Clark Frazier Photo)
DC Transit 1469 is on Rhode Island Avenue (Route 82) in Maryland, August 11, 1958. (Clark Frazier Photo)
SF Muni 199 at 46th and Vicente on the L line on September 9, 1957. (Clark Frazier Photo)
El Paso 1500 backs up at the Cotton Street Carbarn on June 12, 1959. (Clark Frazier Photo)
DC Transit 1321 at the Soldier’s Home end of Route 74 on February 7, 1959. (Clark Frazier Photo)
SF Muni 156 is an inbound J Line car at Market and Duboce in 1957. (Clark Frazier Photo)
SF Muni 178 is heading to the beach on Carl Street (N Line) in 1957. Don’s Rail Photos: “178, K Type, was built by Bethlehem Shipbuilding Co in 1923.” From wrm.org: “The Bay Area Electric Railway Association purchased the 178 from the Muni in February of 1959, and moved it to Marysville, California, for storage on a Sacramento Northern spur for occasional operation on the electrified trackage in the Marysville-Yuba City area. It was moved to Rio Vista Junction in August, 1964 to join the rest of the BAERA collection. 178 returned to San Francisco in 1982 to be part of the Trolley Festival on Market Street while the City rebuilt it’s cable cars lines. In 1983 the 178 returned to the Western Railway Museum and still operates today.” (Clark Frazier Photo)
SF Muni 105 on the B (Geary) Line at Leavenworth Street in 1956. (Clark Frazier Photo)
DC Transit (ex-Capital Traction) 303 at the Mt. Rainier Loop on September 1, 1958. Don’s Rail Photos: “303 was built by American Car Co in 1898 as Capital Traction Co 303. It is now at the Smithsonian (National Museum of American History).” The 303 was retired from regular service in 1913 but was kept for charter use until the end of DC streetcar service in 1962. (Clark Frazier Photo)
SF Muni 206 is on the C Line at 2nd Avenue and Cornwall in 1956. (Clark Frazier Photo)
SF Muni 188 is running on the K Line on Market Street between 5th and 6th in 1957. (Clark Frazier Photo)
DC Transit 1399 on Route 90, at Pennsylvania Avenue SE, on June 7, 1959. (Clark Frazier Photo)
DC Transit 1288 at Friendship Heights, running on Route 30, on June 7, 1959. (Clark Frazier Photo)
Chicago Rapid Transit Route Descriptions
“L” operations were rather complex prior to the October 1, 1947 takeover by the Chicago Transit Authority, so much so that Chicago Rapid Transit Company maps typically made no attempt to explain them. There were pocket guides published over the years by third parties that included explanations, but often these were considerably out of date by the time of publication.
Here, courtesy of Andre Kristopans, are the various CRT route descriptions that describe the service in place at the time when CTA assumed control. The dates vary from 1940 to 1946 because service hadn’t been altered on those lines by October 1, 1947.
“L” service “grew like Topsy” in the early years, as the saying goes, reflecting its origins as four separate companies, operating independently. There were expresses and locals, and by 1913, some trains through-routed from the north and south sides, some trains ending or originating at the four downtown stub-end terminals, and the several branch lines. Trains were split at some locations, with one part going one way, the other part a different way.
Powering the Metropolitan West Side Elevated
We recently acquired the August, 1895 edition of Power magazine, which featured a three-page article describing the then-new Metropolitan West Side Elevated‘s Loomis Street power plant. The Met was the first of Chicago’s four “L”s to operate exclusively with electricity. The South Side and Lake Street “L”s began life with steam locomotives. The Met was greatly influenced by the success of the experimental Columbian Intramural Railway at the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893.
In 1895, there was no such thing as commercially available electricity on this kind of scale. You had to make your own.
I spent the morning talking to a friend over zoom and doodling this, Indiana Railroad Car 65. I showed the drawing to him and he was kind of impressed.
Thanks! In case you don’t know him, Colin is a very talented young man who enjoys searching the former Chicago, Aurora & Elgin right-of-way in search of artifacts that have until now been overlooked. He has found, among many other things, a small section of third rail.
Jack Bejna writes:
I enjoyed the latest post as I always do. I really like the shot of the Highwood Shops and since I have some time this morning I decided to help out the image by getting rid of the bad portion. Hope you like it!
ps: I never took the time to get over to the shops and get some pictures, so I rely on you for keeping the memories of the North Shore alive! Thanks for your great work.
Thanks! Our regular readers are probably familiar with Jack’s great work, which has graced these pages many times in the past, and will hopefully do so in the future.
From our resident South Side expert M.E.:
First, Happy New Year, a bit late because your last few postings were so heavily weighted toward the north side, I had nothing to comment on. But I have a few things today.
This is the schedule sheet for south side service. At the bottom of the page is “Stock Yard Services”. Notice the heading “Jackson Pk.” and its associated train times. According to the route description, two morning trains ran from Jackson Park to Indiana Av., then onto the Stock Yards tracks. And two evening trains ran from the Stock Yards to Indiana Ave., then to Jackson Park. This is the first time I have heard of any trains doing that.
I had always thought the switches west of Indiana made it difficult to get between the main line and the Stock Yards line. But this schedule sheet piqued my curiosity, so I dug out my CERA Bulletin 115, which has great trackage maps toward the back. Plate 8, Detail 15, page 235, illustrating the trackage at Indiana Ave. in 1914, shows there were usable switches between the Stock Yards and main lines. Those switches could have still existed in April 1946 — the date of this schedule — because Plate 8 also shows the switch arrangement starting in 1949 (the one I remember), which would not have worked well to switch between the two lines.
The date April 1946 is after World War II, so even if this route was put in place during the war, it continued after the war. Interesting.
This sheet verifies that Englewood trains ran to Ravenswood. That is the route I first rode on the Rapid Transit Lines.
For Further Reading
Several issues of The Elevated News and Rapid Transit News from the 1920s can be read here via Google Books. You can even download the entire book.
These publications include important historical information that might not be available otherwise. To cite a couple of examples, here are excerpts from the May 1, 1926 issue of Rapid Transit News.
First, we had a recent discussion here (see Our Sixth Anniversary, January 21, 2021) that mentioned an underground passageway that connected Union Station to the Canal Street “L” station on the Met main line. Well, this is not only mentioned in Rapid Transit News, but there is both a map and a photo. We also learn that it was used by 8,000 people per day.
Second, there is a progress report on the new “L” service to Bellwood and Westchester, then set to open, including a picture of the tower that controlled movements on this branch off the Chicago, Aurora & Elgin main line.
Keep those cards and letters coming in, folks.
PS- We have added the two nocturnal shots to our previous post Night Beat (June 21, 2016). If you like this style of photography, you might want to check it out.
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
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Lehigh Valley Transit express freight car C7. built by Jewett in 1913, is seen here at the Fairview car barn in the 1940s.
Here are some of our recent photographic finds, which include some very rare scenes. In addition, we have some interesting correspondence, and great Chicago Aurora & Elgin pictures courtesy of Jack Bejna.
We are saddened to report the passing of one of our regular volunteers, Al Reinschmidt. Al was a civil engineer known as one of the foremost experts on rail design and performance and worked on high speed rail projects around the world. At IRM he volunteered in our restoration shop and as a streetcar motorman but he was probably best known to visitors as one of the regular announcers at our Day Out With Thomas event and as the reader of “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” during Happy Holiday Railway. His kindness, geniality and vast store of knowledge will be missed.
Our deepest condolences go out to his family and friends. He will be missed by all who knew him.
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Lehigh Valley Transit cars 701 (left) and 812 (right) on a fantrip, some time prior to the 1951 abandonment of interurban service on the Liberty Bell route.
CSL 6268 is at the east end of the 43rd – Root line (approximately 1146 E. 43rd Street) in the 1940s. In the background, you can see a pedestrian bridge over the nearby Illinois Central Electric tracks. 6268 was known as a Multiple Unit caar. Don’s Rail Photos says, “6268 was built by Cummings Car Co in 1926. It was rebuilt as one man service in 1932.” (Joe L. Diaz Photo)
The same location today.
John Smatlak writes:
I really enjoyed seeing that photo of CSL 6268 is at the east end of the 43rd – Root line. This location was of course just a block away from the terminus of the Kenwood branch of the L. Here is a photo your readers may enjoy taken 11-12-28 of the L terminal and the Chicago Junction freight tracks that passed under the L at that location. Thanks!
“Though still carrying a faded passenger car paint scheme, and sporting a South Chicago – Sheffield route sign, CSL #2828 has long since entered work service to pull cars around the shops.” Don’s Rail Photos: “2828 was built by Kuhlman Car Co in July 1904, #242, as CERy 123. It became C&SC Ry 813 in 1908 and renumbered 2828 in 1913. It became CSL 2828 in 1914 and scrapped in 1946.” (Joe L. Diaz Photo)
CTA prewar PCC 7033 at 115th and Cottage Grove, the south end of Route 4, circa 1952-55. In the background, you can see the adjacent Illinois Central Electric embankment.
CTA prewar PCC 4034, presumably at 71st and Ashland.
The old Larrabee “L” station at North Avenue. This station was also called Larrabee and Ogden, after Ogden was extended north between 1926 and 1930. It was closed by the CTA in 1949 as part of a service revision.
These old wooden “L” cars may be in storage at Skokie Shops, before the facilities were expanded.
This view looks north towards the Wilson “L” yard and shops. You can see the interlocking tower, and at left, part of the ramp down to Buena Yard, which was used for freight. Dan Cluley writes, “Looking at the Wilson Shops photo, am I correct that those are some of the piggyback flat cars in between the grass and the L structure?” I asked an expert. Here’s what J. J. Sedelmaier says: “It’s absolutely the NSL Ferry-Truck equipment! That’s the old Wilson Shops building in the background and that’s the north end of Montrose Yards and transfer station.” Bill Shapotkin says this is Montrose Tower.
Wilson Yard and Shops. Note the North Shore Line freight station at lower left. (J. J. Sedelmaier Collection)
Although this is not the sharpest picture, it does show the Austin Boulevard station on the Garfield park “L”, probably circa 1954. We are looking east. To the left, you can see the southern edge of Columbus Park. At the far left, temporary tracks are already being built, which the “L” would shift to in this area on August 29, 1954. This is the present site of the Eisenhower Expressway.
Here, we are looking east along Van Buren, just west of Paulina. The tracks in the foreground are the temporary Garfield Park “L” right of way. The Congress (later Eisenhower) expressway is under construction to the right, with the Douglas Park “L” in the background. This photo was probably taken in early 1954. The Garfield Park “L” west of Paulina has already been demolished, but the Marshfield station still appears intact. This could not be removed until the Douglas line was re-reouted over the Lake Street “L”.
CTA 6123-6124 on the outer end of the Douglas Park line, probably in the early 1950s.
This is an unusual picture, as it shows the Calvary “L” station in Evanston, which was a flag stop in both directions. Located opposite the entrance to Calvary cemetery, this station closed in 1931 and was replaced by South Boulevard a few blocks north. This view looks north from the southern edge of the cemetery. As you can see, the platforms appear relatively short. They were removed in the 1930s, but the rest of the station was not demolished until 1995. This photo probably dates to around 1930.
A close-up of the Calvary station.
J.J. Sedelmaier writes:
Does ANYone have shots of the Calvary stop on the “L” while still in service, prior to the opening of South Boulevard in 1930?
I think we may have something (see above).
YES !! I saw this last week ! So exciting ! The best shot so far, and I’ve been searching for decades !! Thanks for the heads-up David !!
The funny thing is, the photographer, whoever it was, doesn’t seem to have been trying to take a picture of the Calvary station at all. Otherwise, they surely would have moved in a lot closer first. It is a picture of a largely empty street, that just happens to show the station in the distance, which at the time was probably considered fairly unimportant.
Here are the shots I have here. I took the 1970’s pics. Bruce Moffat took the 1994 pics. The 1931 shot is a company photo that I got from Malcolm D. MacCarter in the mid-90s.
This January 12, 1931 photo shows the South Boulevard station under construction. It was in a better location from the standpoint of patronage, and replaced the Calvary station a few blocks away (which you can see in the distance). (Chicago Rapid Transit Company Photo)
A close-up of the previous image, showing the Calvary station in the distance.
The entrance to the former Calvary station, as it appeared in 1970 when it was being used by a monument company. (J. J. Sedelmaier Photo)
A side view of the former Calvary station in 1970. The platforms were removed in the 1930s and hardly any photos exist showing them in service. (J. J. Sedelmaier Photo)
Bruce Moffat took this picture on February 15, 1994 just before the station entrance was demolished.
The interior of the former Calvary “L” station as it appeared on February 15, 1994. (Bruce Moffat Photo)
In addition, here is a classic shot that Mr. Sedelmaier shared with us:
On July 23, 1955, John D. Emery, then president of the Evanston Historical Society, purchased the last Shore Line ticket sold at the Church Street station from agent George Kennedy. The ticket window was closed the following day (Sunday), and the last Shore Line train ran in the early hours of July 25 (Monday). The ticket remains in the Historical Society collection. Emery was later (1962-1970) the mayor of Evanston, during which time he vetoed an anti-discrimination housing ordinance. (Evanston Photographic Service/J.J. Sedelmaier Collection Photo)
(J.J. Sedelmaier Collection)
Chicago & Calumet District Transit Company (aka Hammond, Whiting & East chicago) car 70 in Hammond. In our post More Hoosier Traction (September 2, 2015), we ran another photo that appears to have been taken at the same time as this. If so, the date is February 1939. There is some damage to this old print, in the area around car 70’s headlight. Trolley service here ended in 1940. (Richard J. Anderson Photo)
Chicago North Shore and Milwaukee wood car 300 on a fantrip on the streets of Waukegan circa 1940. From 1939 until 1942, the North Shore Line allowed Central Electric Railfans’ Association to use 300 as their “club car.” Here, we see it parked in front of Immaculate Conception school.
North Shore Line car 731 (and train) at the Wisconsin State Fair, possibly circa 1930. In order to access the fairgrounds, North Shore Line cars had to get there via the Milwaukee Electric. Incompatibilities between the two interurbans’ wheel profiles resulted in wheel damage to the NSL.
The North Shore Line in Highland Park, circa 1930. Here, we are looking north along the Shore Line Route, which quit in 1955. NSL tracks ran parallel to the nearby Chicago & North Western commuter line, which would be to the left of this view.
The information on the back of this picture says we are looking south from Central Avenue in Highland Park. At right, thiee are North Shore Line tracks on the old Shore Line Route. A small shelter is visible at right. This picture is circa 1930. The area the North Shore Line once occupied is now a parking lot.
The same location today.
These photos have been added to our post The Fairmount Park Trolley (November 7, 2017), which included several other photos of the Five Mile Beach Electric Railway in Wildwood, New Jersey:
Five Mile Beach electric Railway car 27 at Atlantic and Oak Avenues in Wildwood, on the Angelsea-Crest line, June 1945. A bus is also visible. (Walter Hulseweder Photo)
Five Mile Beach electric Railway cars 22 and 27 at the Wildwood carhouse on May 30, 1945, shortly before abandonment. (Walter Hulseweder Photo)
Five Mile Beach Electric Railway car 30 in the car barn, circa the mid-1940s. (Walter Broschart Photo)
On June 26, 1960 a pair of CTA single-car units went out on a portion of the Lake Street “L”, but apparently did not go on the ground-level portion of the route. Here, we see the train heading westbound at Clinton and Lake. (Charles L. Tauscher Photo)
Miles Beitler writes:
I was doing some online research recently and followed a link to a photo on your blog. The photo was posted under “Chicago Rapid Transit Photos, Part 6” and included the following in the caption:
“Here’s an interesting streetscape that could not be duplicated today. According to the back of the picture, it shows the view looking east from South Boulevard and Austin, on the eastern edge of Oak Park. The Lake Street “L”, where it ran on the ground, had a very narrow right-of-way that the 6000s, with their bulging sides, could not fit in.”
I have read similar comments posted by others, i.e., that the reason no 6000s were used on the Lake Street “L” is that the cars were too wide. While it’s true that the curved body 6000s were wider than the 4000s and wood cars, the difference was slight — not more than a foot at their widest point. So I don’t think that would explain why they weren’t used. I think a more logical explanation is that the ground level portion of the Lake Street “L” used trolley wire, and none of the original 6000s had trolley poles. (I believe that the only exception was one experimental high performance trainset (6127-6130) that was used in Evanston Express service.) You will note that the original “baldy” 4000s also were not used in Lake Street service for the same reason. The steel roofs of those 4000s made it very difficult to retrofit them with trolley poles.
By the time the western portion of the line was elevated and converted to third rail in 1962, the high performance 2000s were already ordered. So the CTA probably decided to just keep using the older cars until the 2000s arrived. Cars 1-50 did have trolley poles, but those cars were not received until shortly before the elevation of the Lake Street “L” at which time they would not have been needed anyway, so they were used on the Evanston line instead, and later some were used on the Skokie Swift.
Does this make sense, or am I all wet?
Either way, keep up your fantastic blog!
Thanks for writing. You have made an interesting hypothesis, which deserves consideration.
First of all, I have heard enough stories regarding the tight clearances on the ground-level portion of Lake to believe there was some sort of clearance problem that prevented the use of curved-sided rapid transit cars there. The most logical explanation so far is that this involved the gatemen’s shantys.
Having ridden the Lake Street “L” numerous times prior to the October 28, 1962 relocation of the outer portion of the route onto the C&NW embankment, I can assure you that clearances were very tight, as two tracks and platforms were shoehorned into a side street, which continued to have two-way auto traffic.
There was a fantrip on Lake during 1960 using one of the single-car units in the 1-50 series, and while this train did venture down to the lower level of Hamlin Yard, it apparently made no effort to go west of Laramie. You would think they would have done so had this been possible. (See photo above.)
Similar clearance restrictions have existed on other parts of the system. Skokie Swift cars that had pan trolleys fitted were not allowed to go downtown, and cars with poles cannot go into the Kimball subway. (At the moment, this restriction would only apply to 4271-4272.)
That being said, let us take a step back and review how the Lake Street “L” fit in with the strategic thinking of various planners over the decades.
In 1937, the City of Chicago proposed building an aerial highway on the Lake Street “L” structure, and some other “L”s such as Humboldt Park. In theory this would have been something like the West Side Elevated Highway in New York City, which was built between 1929 and 1951 and which partially collapsed in 1973.
Express bus service would have replaced the rapid transit line, as would have a beefed-up Garfield Park “L” in this plan. We can be glad this was not built.
By 1939, this plan was abandoned in favor of the Congress Parkway Expressway that was built starting a decade later, and opened in stages between 1955 and 1960.
The City was proposing various subways all over town, in addition to the State Street and Dearborn-Milwaukee tubes that were built starting in 1938. One goal was to tear down the Loop “L”, starting with the Lake and Wabash legs.
The Lake Street “L” would have been diverted into a subway connection just west of the Loop that of course was never built. Neither was a connection built to divert the Lake “L” into the Congress line via an elevated connection near Kedzie, or Kostner, although the CTA was still intent on doing these things as of 1948.
There is some question whether the entire Lake Street “L” might have been abandoned early in the CTA era, if not for the innovation of A/B “skip stop” service that was begun in 1948. This was so successful that it was gradually used on other parts of the CTA system.
When and how were curved-side “L” cars developed? It seems likely this idea, like many others, came from New York, where some experimental 1930s BMT railcars such as the so-called “Green Hornet” had mildly curved sides.
In Chicago, curved sides appeared on ten interurbans, #451-460 for the Chicago Aurora & Elgin, designed in 1941 but not built by St. Louis Car Company until 1945, as well as the two North Shore Line Electroliners.
These were followed by four experimental sets of articulated rapid transit cars $5001-5004, delivered in 1947-48. Except for the curved sides, largely patterned after the BMT “Bluebirds: from 1939-40.
Chicago’s Initial System of Subways was designed to allow for longer and wider cars, closer to New York standards. The City may have hoped these standards could gradually be applied to the entire system, but it was not to be.
When the Chicago Transit Authority took over from the Chicago Rapid Transit Company in 1947, one primary goal was to purchase enough new steel railcars to allow the Dearborn-Milwaukee subway to open. Another goal was to get rid of the wooden “L” cars, which were getting very old and were not permitted in the subways.
When the first 6000s were delivered starting in 1950, they were first used on Douglas, but that was for test purposes. After another year or two, CTA switched things around, so the new 6000s were used in the State Street subway, and the 4000s on the more lightly used Dearborn-Milwaukee.
Meanwhile, the last wood cars were used on Lake around 1955. The last wooden :”L” cars were used in service in 1957, by which time there were enough new 6000s on hand to permit their retirements.
But else what was happening on Lake during the 1950s? By 1951-5, CTA appears to have figured out that the “problem” portion of Lake was the outer end, not the parts east of Laramie. The first suggestion was to truncate the line to Laramie, but this did not go over well in Oak Park, so the various parties got together, and the embankment plan was the result.
These plans were finalized around 1958. The relocation took place in 1962, at which time the CTA probably hoped to have taken delivery on what became the 2000-series. But there were so many changes and innovations in these cars that delivery did not occur until 1964.
So yes, it does not appear that it was ever a high priority for the CTA to use 6000s on the ground-level portion of Lake. Wood cars were replaced by 4000s around 1955, which was considered a service improvement, and within three years from that, plans were afoot to relocate service anyway.
However, if the CTA had really wanted to run 6000s on Lake, I expect changes could have been made in the locations of whatever obstacles prevented it, and additional cars could have been equipped with trolley poles, as was done for Evanston.
I doubt these would have been single-car units, though, since those were intended for “off peak” one-man operation on Evanston, something which I don’t think would have been suitable on Lake.
As it was, I don’t recall seeing 6000s on Lake much before 1979. In the wake of that year’s blizzard, which shut down the line west of Laramie for a week, so many of the newer cars had burned-out motors that it became necessary to use the older 6000s.
I hope this answers your questions.
Miles Beitler again:
Dave, you obviously know FAR more about Chicago transit than I do. You could probably give Graham Garfield some stiff competition.
I believe you recently wrote a book about trolleys. I grew up not far from the terminal of the Clark Street car line at Howard Street and I remember riding the Green Hornets to the local branch of the Chicago public library. I also remember visiting my cousins who lived a block away from the Devon car barn and seeing all of the streetcars stored there. However, I’m more interested in the “L” and interurban history. I spent my childhood watching the North Shore Line trains, and I was fortunate enough to ride an Electroliner to Racine, Wisconsin about a year before the NSL folded.
Have you given or considered giving presentations about Chicago transit at schools, libraries, etc.? WTTW channel 11 might also like to use you as a resource on Chicago transit history or for the production of programs on the subject, similar to the ones produced by Geoffrey Baer over the past 25 years.
There are a number of people, several in fact, who qualify as experts on Chicago transit. We all tend to know each other to some extent, as we’re interested in many of the same things.
I don’t feel like I am competing with any of the other “experts.” We have each found our own niche, and have different contributions to make. In fact, this blog is only successful because it is based on sharing and cooperation.
Actually, I have given a number of presentations to various groups over the years.
Our pictures do get around. Several photos that I posted to the Internet ended up being featured in an article called Displaced, which tried to determine what happened to the people who were living in the path of the Congress expressway when it was built. (See our post Some Thoughts on Displaced, August 30, 2016.)
Who knows when or where our stuff will show up in the future. We’ll just have to wait and see.
Ron Smolen adds:
In your last post this comment was posted in the sections about 6000s on Lake street:
“You will note that the original “baldy” 4000s also were not used in Lake Street service for the same reason. The steel roofs of those 4000s made it very difficult to retrofit them with trolley poles.”
TRUE… however, near the end of the Baldies operations, I do recall seeing LIVE and in photos some single baldies that were placed in trains with 4000 pole equipped cars that DID operate in regular service to Harlem under wire.
Ron adds that, according to www.chicago-l.org, “baldy” 4000s ran on Lake from 1959 to 1964, paired with pole-equipped “plushies.”
Jack Bejna writes:
A Tale of Two Pictures
A short time ago there was a question raised by a reader about changing original photographs with Photoshop, thereby eliminating the original intent of the image. As an example of what I do, refer to the first image of CA&E 209. From my experience of working with CA&E images, I believe that the image was captured at the Laramie Freight House area, but of course that is only a guess. My goal is to try to improve the original image and enhance the background while preserving the original intent of the photographer when the image was captured. With this image I decided to place Car 209 in a typical situation, that is, on one of the storage tracks behind the freight house. Further, I like the look of the Niles wood cars so I added the front of sister car 207 to present an unblocked image of Car 209. I spent the rest of my efforts on improving the photograph itself with Photoshop. The final result is pretty much the way I think it looked at the time and represents a cleaner roster shot of a classic Niles interurban.
Moving right along with the CA&E roster, here are some images of the work cars and locomotives that kept the railroad running. -Jack
CA&E rostered a variety of Motors to fit the job at hand. First, the Newspaper Special, obviously a motor that probably spent time doing whatever job was needed in addition to delivering newspapers. I’ve never found a number for this car or any record of when or how it was retired.
Next, express cars 9, 11, & 15 illustrate the differences in length, configuration, etc., in the CA&E roster. Line cars 11 and 45 are next. Car 45 was purchased from the Chicago & Interurban Traction when the line quit in 1927. When Car 45 was retired it was replaced by car 11, rebuilt as a line car.
Locomotive 3 was built as a double ended plow and was used as a work motor by removing the plows.
Next up are the CA&E locomotives, including 2001-2002 built by GE in 1920, 3003-3004 built by BLW-WH in 1923-4, and 4005-4006 built by Oklahoma Railway in 1929.
Finally, Tool Cars 7 and B are shown. Tool Car B was rebuilt from a boxcar.
Here are a few more CA&E freight motors. First is an image of 5-15 in a winter scene. Before the railroad purchased 2001-2002 these two cars were commonly used as locomotives on the freight trains. Second is tool car in an unusual paint scheme. I’m glad they didn’t paint all the motors like this! Finally, here is a scene of Line Car 45 in action on a line relocation in Aurora.
Here’s a real gem that I came across searching the Internet. CA&E had a fire in the early days that destroyed many of their records, photographs, etc., so much of the early days is lost forever. Somehow this image survived somewhere, and we are able to see what express car 4 looked like, albeit with a lot of Photoshop help. I have no idea who built it or when, and how long it lasted.
As always, we thank Jack for sharing these wonderful photos.
Hello. I’m doing some reading about bus history. In 1921, Fageol launched Safety Coach and then, Model 20 and 40. Then the Twin Coach style.
I found it very interesting that they always adopted a design style similar to trains and not cars.
Well, we are the product of our time. Back in 1920 when the Fageols designed their first bus, what style reference did they have? Trains, of course.
But it’s interesting because their first “bus”, the Safety Coach, had a vehicle body. Not related to train. Some years later, they created the Twin Coach with a train looking style.
Would you provide me some info about bus/train design inspiration?
I forwarded this to Andre Kristopans, who knows much more than I ever could about bus history. Here is his reply:
At least part of the deal was that early intercity coaches often replaced branch line trains or directly competed with them. So, why not make something sort of train-like? As for the 40s, they sort of mimic what a “modern” streetcar looked like in the 1920s. Why not? Imitation can be a big compliment. By the 930s some elements of streetcar design such as rear door in very rear were replaced by designs more practical for a bus like a rear door 3/4 way back. But then new streetcars like PCCs started mimicking buses!
Kenneth Gear writes:
Another Railroad Record Club mystery solved!
Remember a year or so ago we saw RRC records for sale on eBay that were stamped “This is an audition set record and is the property of the Railroad Record Club?” We speculated that Steventon may have sent records to radio stations in an attempt to get them played on air. Well, that was not the case.
Along with the RRC catalog I received with the RRC #10 record I recently purchased was a two page notice of an “audition set program” the club was offering. The notice explains the whole program so I won’t go into detail about it since you can read it right from the notice. Interesting stuff and another RRC question answered!
The catalog was the same one that you posted in the Trolley Dodger.
This audition thing couldn’t have worked out very well. For every new order that it generated, there were likely problems with people not returning the records or paying for them.
I can see how Steventon wanted to bend over backwards to get people to hear these things, but this seems like a lot of extra work, with probably not enough reward.
Thanks very much for your detective work.
Frank Kennedy writes:
Thank you so much for the trolley book, David. Not only is it a great gift, it is a work of such devotional power. There looks to be years of searching for appropriate photographs in all of this. I really don’t know what to say except thank you for the hours future spent in great reading.
This is probably the nicest thing anyone has ever said about me. I didn’t respond right away, because it left me speechless.
Work on the book, from the initial proposal to the book being published, was actually less than a year. But if I think about it, I spent much of my life preparing to write such a book.
On the Cover: Car 1747 was built between 1885 and 1893 by the Chicago City Railway, which operated lines on the South Side starting in April 1859. This is a single-truck (one set of wheels) open electric car; most likely a cable car, retrofitted with a trolley and traction motor. The man at right is conductor William Stevely Atchison (1861-1921), and this image came from his granddaughter. (Courtesy of Debbie Becker.)
Check out our new book Chicago Trolleys. Signed copies are available through our Online Store.
This book makes an excellent gift and costs just $17.99 plus shipping. That’s $4.00 off the list price.
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