Besides our usual crop of classic traction photos, this time we also have exciting news about two new products related to the Railroad Record Club. Our good friend Ken Gear has been hard at work on collecting all things related to the late William Steventon’s railroad audio recordings and releases.
The result is a new book on disc, A Guide To the Railroad Record Club (see article below). This was quite a project and labor of love on Ken’s part!
Kenneth Gear‘s doggedness and determination resulted in his tracking down and purchasing the surviving RRC master tapes a few years back, and he has been hard at work having them digitized, at considerable personal expense, so that you and many others can enjoy them with today’s technology. We have already released a few RRC Rarities CDs from Ken’s collection.
When Ken heard the digitized version of RRC LP #08, Canadian National: Canadian Railroading in the Days of Steam, recorded by the late Elwin Purington, he was surprised to find the original tapes were more than twice the length of the 10″ LP. The resulting LP had been considerably edited down to the limited space available, 15 minutes per side.
The scenes were the same, but each was greatly shortened. Now, on compact disc, it is possible to present the full length recordings of this classic LP, which was one of Steventon’s best sellers and an all-around favorite, for the very first time.
Even better, a considerable part of the proceeds of these releases, both available through our Online Store or through the links below, will go to defray some of the thousands of dollars Ken has spent in trying to preserve this history for future generations. Chances are, without his efforts, the Steventon Railroad Record Club collection of tapes and other artifacts would have ended up in a dumpster by now, for lack of interest on anyone’s part in saving them.
For this, Ken deserves the thanks of anyone who enjoys hearing these historic recordings.
PS- You might also like our Trolley Dodger Facebook auxiliary, a private group that now has 643 members.
Kenneth Gear now has a Facebook group for all things related to the Railroad Record Club, and other railroad audio recordings. Again, it is a private group.
Auction for Jim Martin’s North Shore Line Sign
Jim Martin is a great guy, and you may have seen some of the North Shore Line videos he has posted to YouTube, taken from his original color 8mm movies. He recently contacted us, as he wants to sell an original porcelain-on-metal North Shore Line sign he purchased from legendary Chicago bookseller Owen Davies in 1962. (You can read more about Owen Davies here.)
This must have been from a Shore Line Route station, since the North Shore Line was still in operation at that time. You can find out more about this eBay auction here. Although we are running the auction and providing our “good offices,” 100% of the proceeds will go to Jim.
It ends at 9:02 PM Central Time on Friday, December 17th. Good luck with your bids.
Now Available – A Guide to the Railroad Record Club E-Book:
$10 from the sale of each RRC E-Book will go to Kenneth Gear to repay him for some of his costs in saving this important history.
As many Trolley Dodger readers are aware David and I have been trying to preserve the legacy of William Steventon’s Railroad Record Club. To that end we have collected all the released LPs and reissued them on CDs. We have posted many RRC traction photographs in this blog, put together a history of the club and gathered biographical information about William Steventon and his recording associates.
We uncovered some interesting information about the techniques and equipment used to make field recordings in the pre-digital age and the process of producing the LPs. I acquired the William Steventon estate and discovered a veritable treasure trove of unreleased audio, master tapes, original artwork commissioned for the album jackets, test pressings, movie films and numerous artifacts from all phases of the record making procedure from field tape to released LP.
Despite all that we accomplished we still had one very important question to answer. Now that we had all this material, how do we make it available to everyone who would be interested.
Much audio has been donated to museums and historical societies and CDs are offered for sale in the online store. The history of the club and the story of my efforts to buy the estate have appeared in this blog, but still, that didn’t seem to be enough. We wanted to do more. This wonderful historical material deserves more.
David finally hit on the perfect idea, he suggested that I write an eBook. This format would allow us to present not only a more detailed history of the club and an updated account of my purchase of the estate, but it could also include audio files, photo scans and movie files. Virtually all the Railroad Record Club archive could be gathered into one place!
I began to put the eBook together over a year ago. I rewrote the RRC history that appeared in this blog adding a lot of newly discovered data. Next, I revised my account of the estate purchase and wrote and entirely new chapter detailing the preservation efforts and the cost it entailed. I made lists of every single object acquired and made notes on condition. I spent many days photographing every item including scores of record jackets, labels, pressing plates and test pressings from the many editions of each LP. Countless hours were spent scanning documents, personal letters, magazine ads and articles. Photographs from the collection needed scanning and retouching. All this had to be cataloged and organized and information from many different sources had to be interpreted and fit into the timeline of RRC milestones. A lot of time and effort went into making the Railroad Record Club archive available on a convenient and inexpensive data disc electronic book.
In addition to all of the above, I have compiled what I think is an invaluable resource for RRC enthusiasts. The eBook has a compendium section that contains details about every released record. Each LP’s entry has all the accumulated information we have so far been able to discover about a particular record. Details such as the original release date, reissue date, differences in the various edition jackets and liner notes, master tape specifics and recording dates are listed. There are photo scans of each of the LP’s jackets, labels, test pressings, print blocks, master tapes, pressing plates and artwork. An “Additional Information” section is included for each record detailing any interesting facts we uncovered about the recordist, railroad equipment or notable incidents occurring during the field recording. Best of all each record’s entry has bonus audio tracks that may include unreleased recordings, audio salvaged from ancient homemade records, radio programs and/or railroad sounds from tapes that were in Steventon’s personal collection. Here are a two sample photos of record labels and the “data sheet” entry for Record Number SP-6.
RAILROAD RECORD CLUB
RECORD NUMBER: SP-6
TITLE: THE MILWAUKEE ROAD
Box Cab Locomotives On The Coast Division
RELEASED ON 12 INCH DISC ONLY
NRP MATRIX CODE: NR 15567
YEAR OF FIRST PRESSING: 1983
JACKET ILLUSTRATION NOTES:
1st edition jacket has a drawing of CMSt.P&P box cab locomotive No. 10500 by Marshall (Pat) McMahon. Caption under drawing reads “No. 10500, later E-25 on Houser Way Renton, WA in the 1930’s. Drawn from a photo by James A. Turner in the warren W. Wing collection.”
Back has liner notes.
2nd edition jacket identical to 1st edition
SURVIVING MASTER TAPE(S):
None in the William Steventon estate.
DOCUMENT/PHOTO FOLDER CONTENTS:
(There may exist other editions and variations then those pictured)
1st edition jacket front and back
1st and 2nd edition labels
NRP test pressing labels side 1 and 2
McMahon CMSt.P&P box cab artwork
SOUND FOLDER CONTENTS:
Short excerpt from the unofficial sampler.
Elwin Purington CMSt.P&P box cab bonus track.
Sound folder notes:
In 1965 William Steventon ceased operating the Railroad Record Club as an actual “club.”
From then on all records were sold individually with no minimum to buy. He also stopped producing the sampler records at this time and no sampler records were made after the 8th year (1964).
To continue where Steventon left off an unofficial special pressings sampler has been made for this eBook. Excerpts of approximately 3 minutes each have been added to the sounds folders of the special pressings records.
This track was recorded by and is narrated by Elwin Purington. The recordings were made at Black River Junction near Seattle, Washington in 1960. The audio was taken from a tape-recorded letter Purington made to Steventon in 1961. These are some of Purington’s earliest stereo recordings and are very realistic. The air horn on those box cab monsters might blow you right out of your chair!
The scene opens as a long train arrives at Black River Junction powered by a set of the old box cabs. Various switching maneuvers are made in the yard. Then the cars are taken north on the wye and a “flying switch” is made and the caboose is moved over to the head end of the locomotives. The caboose’s high pitched air whistle is heard as the train, caboose now leading, crosses a road. Now heading east the train does more switching work. With all local work completed the caboose is put back where it belongs and the train heads out on the south leg of the wye towards Tacoma.
On the jacket front this record is advertised as the 30th anniversary issue 1953-1983. Steventon always dated the beginning of the Railroad Record Club to 1953, the year he made his first railroad recordings.
With the exception for two tracks on side 1, this is the only RRC record recorded in true stereo.
This was the last all new Railroad Record Club release.
Steventon first heard these Milwaukee Road box cab recordings in 1961. It would be 22 years before the recordings were finally released on vinyl.
Elsewhere on the eBook are scans of traction photographs that were sold by the Railroad Record Club.
There is a movie file containing William Steventon’s railroad home movies with footage of the PRR, B&O, N&W and NY Central among others. Traction fans will certainly enjoy scenes of the Washington D. C. Capital Transit streetcars and freight operations. A few screenshots follow:
Every known Steventon recording date, location and subject railroad has been collected and organized into a list.
Record ideas that never came to be are discussed and some interesting facts about the records and the people that recorded them are revealed.
William Steventon endured health problems from an early age and his father, an engineer on the New York Central, broke company rules by allowing young William in the cab with him for fear that the child may die without them having spent enough time together.
Record Number 9 was recorded by Thomas A. Hosick. He was co-inventor of the low-pollution, Eliptocline automotive steam vapor engine and was featured in a 1966 cover story in Popular Science magazine.
William Steventon had the assistance of an CNS&M train accident victim in securing permission to make recordings on board North Shore trains.
Record SP-6 was the last all new RRC record and the only one recorded in stereo.
Many other previously unknown facts about the 37-year history of the Railroad Record Club have been painstakingly collected and combined with rare audio and video, vintage ads, photographs, catalogs and much more. A more complete look at the Railroad Record Club would be impossible to produce.
Despite all the work and research that went into compiling this archive, profit and return on investment was not the driving force. Preservation was! It is our belief that the best way to ensure that the legacy of the RRC continues to educate and entertain for years to come is to get it into as many hands as possible. That is why we are offering this incredible amount of material for the low price of $19.99. Each part of this eBook is worth that price on its own. Hours of vintage railroad audio, two video programs and scores of traction photos are included for that one low price. The compendium will prove to be a much-used resource to anyone who is a Railroad Record Club devotee. Even if you have little interest in the RRC itself, the audio and video alone is an outstanding bargain. Please consider purchasing a copy and help David and I preserve the work that William Steventon and all his contributors worked so hard to create.
Railroad Record Club #08 Deluxe Edition: Canadian National: Canadian Railroading in the Days of Steam, Recorded by Elwin Purington
The Complete Recording From the Original Master Tapes
Canadian National. Steaming giants pound high iron on mountain trails, rumble over trestles, hit torpedos and whistle for many road crossings. Mountain railroading with heavy power and lingering whistles! Includes locomotives 3566, 4301, 6013, 3560.
Total time – 72:57
$5 from the sale of RRC08D CD will go to Kenneth Gear to repay him for some of his costs in saving this important history.
Chicago’s Lost “L”s Online Presentation
We recently gave an online presentation about our book Chicago’s Lost “L”s for the Chicago Public Library, as part of their One Book, One Chicago series. You can watch it online by following this link.
The Trolley Dodger On the Air
We appeared on the Dave Plier Show on WGN radio on July 16, 2021, to discuss Chicago’s Lost “L”s. You can hear that discussion here.
Our Latest Book, Now Available:
Chicago’s Lost “L”s
From the back cover:
Chicago’s system of elevated railways, known locally as the “L,” has run continuously since 1892 and, like the city, has never stood still. It helped neighborhoods grow, brought their increasingly diverse populations together, and gave the famous Loop its name. But today’s system has changed radically over the years. Chicago’s Lost “L”s tells the story of former lines such as Garfield Park, Humboldt Park, Kenwood, Stockyards, Normal Park, Westchester, and Niles Center. It was once possible to take high-speed trains on the L directly to Aurora, Elgin, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The L started out as four different companies, two starting out using steam engines instead of electricity. Eventually, all four came together via the Union Loop. The L is more than a way of getting around. Its trains are a place where people meet and interact. Some say the best way to experience the city is via the L, with its second-story view. Chicago’s Lost “L”s is virtually a “secret history” of Chicago, and this is your ticket. David Sadowski grew up riding the L all over the city. He is the author of Chicago Trolleys and Building Chicago’s Subways and runs the online Trolley Dodger blog.
The Images of America series celebrates the history of neighborhoods, towns, and cities across the country. Using archival photographs, each title presents the distinctive stories from the past that shape the character of the community today. Arcadia is proud to play a part in the preservation of local heritage, making history available to all.
Title Chicago’s Lost “L”s
Images of America
Author David Sadowski
Publisher Arcadia Publishing (SC), 2021
ISBN 1467100007, 9781467100007
Length 128 pages
01. The South Side “L”
02. The Lake Street “L”
03. The Metropolitan “L”
04. The Northwestern “L”
05. The Union Loop
06. Lost Equipment
07. Lost Interurbans
08. Lost Terminals
09. Lost… and Found
Each copy purchased here will be signed by the author, and you will also receive a bonus facsimile of a 1926 Chicago Rapid Transit Company map, with interesting facts about the “L” on the reverse side.
The price of $23.99 includes shipping within the United States.
For Shipping to US Addresses:
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For Shipping Elsewhere:
A Tribute to the North Shore Line
To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the demise of the fabled North Shore Line interurban in January 2013, Jeffrey L. Wien and Bradley Criss made a very thorough and professional video presentation, covering the entire route between Chicago and Milwaukee and then some. Sadly, both men are gone now, but their work remains, making this video a tribute to them, as much as it is a tribute to the Chicago North Shore & Milwaukee.
Jeff drew on his own vast collections of movie films, both his own and others such as the late William C. Hoffman, wrote and gave the narration. Bradley acted as video editor, and added authentic sound effects from archival recordings of the North Shore Line.
It was always Jeff’s intention to make this video available to the public, but unfortunately, this did not happen in his lifetime. Now, as the caretakers of Jeff’s railfan legacy, we are proud to offer this excellent two-hour program to you for the first time. The result is a fitting tribute to what Jeff called his “Perpetual Adoration,” which was the name of a stop on the interurban.
Jeff was a wholehearted supporter of our activities, and the proceeds from the sale of this disc will help defray some of the expenses of keeping the Trolley Dodger web site going.
Total time – 121:22
# of Discs – 1
Price: $19.99 (Includes shipping within the United States)
This is our 282nd 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 830,000 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.
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