In street railway parlance, when there are tracks on cross streets such as this, and cars can turn in any direction, that is called a Grand Union. Chicago had several of these, and this is the one at Madison and Clinton Streets. (Clinton is running left-right in this picture.) Bill Hoffman took this picture on September 17, 1954 from a nearby sixth-floor fire escape.
Photographers like Bill Hoffman, Truman Hefner, Joe Diaz, and Edward Frank, Jr. took their cameras with them everywhere back in the 1940s and 1950s. They were able to go to lots of interesting places, many which no longer exist. Today’s post features some of their work, plus that of other railfan shutterbugs. Most are from our own collections, and some have been generously shared by William Shapotkin.
Many of these pictures were taken at the CTA’s South Shops. 1950s streetcar fantrips often included a shops tour, and Hoffman took many pictures of whatever was out on the scrap track at that time. In addition, historic cars that had been saved were trotted out for pictures. This tradition ended after the last Chicago streetcars ran in 1958. In the mid-1980s, the CTA’s collection was parsed out between the Illinois Railway Museum and Fox River Trolley Museum, where these historic vehicles can be appreciated today.
Since 2015, we have offered an ever-expanding catalog of classic out-of-print railroad audio from the 1950s and 60s, remastered to CDs. This includes the entire Railroad Record Club output, some of which has now been remastered from the original source tapes. The proceeds from these sales help underwrite the costs of maintaining the Trolley Dodger blog. Postage costs have gone up by a lot, so as of November 15, 2021, we will have no choice but to raise the prices of our single disc CDs by $1. The price of multi-disc sets, DVDs, and books will be unaffected. Until then, you can still purchase discs through our Online Store and via eBay at current prices.
According to the information I received with this slide, this Jackson Park “L” train is going to the Metropolitan “L” Shops at Racine. But the date given (December 1950) must be wrong, as I doubt whether cars 6149-6150 had yet been delivered to the CTA, much less assigned to the North-South “L”. Perhaps a date of 1952 is more likely. (Truman Hefner Photo) George Trapp writes: “The photo of CTA 6149-6150 just east of Throop Street shops on the old Met Mainline I think was taken in September/October of 1951 judging by the brand new look of the cars. The first 200 of the 6000’s (the two orders of flat door cars) and the articulated 5000’s were delivered to 63rd lower yard then sent to Throop Street shops to be readied for service. Jackson Park reading is probably just the reading the factory sent them displaying as this series were first assigned to the Ravenswood line.”
This is the view looking east from out of the back of a westbound Stock Yards “L” train near the Indiana Avenue station. We see, at left, a northbound train of 4000s on the North-South main line, and, at right, an eastbound Stock Yards train, also made up of 4000s. There were five tracks in all here– two for the Stock Yards, and three on the main line. The date given was June 1951, but the presence of steel cars on Stock Yards could mean this picture was taken during one of the two political conventions at the International Amphitheatre in July 1952 instead. (Truman Hefner Photo)
CTA 4270 is on the single-track Stock Yards loop. The date provided (June 1950) may not be correct, as 4000s were only used on this line when there were major events happening at the nearby International Amphitheatre at 4220 S. Halsted Street, which seems to be visible at right and has a bunch of flags flying over it. In that case, the date could be July 1952, when both major political parties held their nominating conventions there. (Truman Hefner Photo)
CTA 4241 and train are on a double-track portion of the Stock Yards line. The presence of a multi-car train of 4000s would suggest that a major event was taking place at the nearby International Amphitheatre. But I am not sure about the June 1950 date– there were two major conventions in July 1952, so that’s a possibility. I’m also not certain that the car number provided with this slide is correct. (Truman Hefner Photo)
On February 12, 1950, CTA 3148 plus one are westbound at Laramie Avenue on the Lake Street “L”, about to descend to ground level. This is where the changeover from third rail to overhead wire took place back then. The changeover point was later moved to the bottom of the ramp circa 1961, when a section of temporary ramp was installed, as part of the project that resulted in the “L” being shifted onto the nearby C&NW embankment west of here in October 1962. This station was removed during the early 1990s rehab the Lake Street line received, but it was replaced by a new station within a few short years. (Truman Hefner Photo)
Work car W226 and a Western Pacific box car at the CTA materials handling yard at 39th and Halsted on April 8, 1951. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
Don’s Rail Photos: “W226, work car, was built by Chicago City Ry in 1908 as CCRy C33. It was renumbered W226 in 1913 and became CSL W226 in 1914. It was retired on January 12, 1955.” Here, we see W226 in the CTA yards at 39th and Halsted on April 8, 1951. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
CTA supply car S201 at South Shops on July 2, 1949. Don’s Rail Photos: “S201, supply car, was built by Chicago City Ry in 1908 as CCRy C45. It was renumbered S201 in 1913 and became CSL S201 in 1914. It was retired on September 27, 1956.” (William C. Hoffman Photo)
The view looking northwest at 71st and Marshfield on October 21, 1953, through Bill Hoffman’s lens, shows CTA salt cars AA103 and AA89. Don’s Rail Photos: “AA103, salt car, was built by South Chicago City Ry in 1907 as SCCRy 338. It was rebuilt in 1907 and became C&SCRy 837 in 1908. It was renumbered 2852 in 1913 and became CSL 2852 in 1914. It was later converted as a salt car and renumbered AA103 in 1948. It was retired on February 17, 1954.” And: “AA89, salt car, was built by CUT in 1900 as CUT 4552. It was rebuilt as 1503 in 1911 and became CSL 1503 in 1914. It was rebuilt as salt car and renumbered AA89 on April 15, 1948. It was retired on September 9, 1954.”
Salt cars and snow plows at South Shops on June 15, 1958. Don’s Rail Photos: “E57, sweeper, was built by Russell in 1930. It was retired on March 11, 1959.” (William C. Hoffman Photo)
CTA freight motor Y303 and Western Pacific box car 40077 at the materials handling yard at 39th and Halsted on April 8, 1951. Don’s Rail Photos: “Y303. baggage car, was built by C&ST in 1911 as 59. It was renumbered Y303 in 1913 and became CSL Y303 in 1914. It was retired on September 27, 1956.” (William C. Hoffman Photo)
Damaged CTA PCC 4055, built by the St. Louis Car Company in 1947, at South Shops on November 11, 1956. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
The late William C. Hoffman took this picture of the scrap line at South Shops on June 17, 1955. Most of these cars are Pullman-built PCCs that had recently been retired from service, and were destined to be shipped to the St. Louis Car Company for scrapping and parts recycling, as part of the so-called “PCC Conversion Program” whereby some parts were used in new 6000-series rapid transit cars. Here’s what Don’s Rail Photos has to say about work car AA104, seen at front: “AA104, salt car, was built by South Chicago City Ry in 1907 as SCCRy 339. It was rebuilt in 1907 and became C&SCRy 838 in 1908. It was renumbered 2853 in 1913 and became CSL 2853 in 1914. It was later converted as a salt car and renumbered AA104 in 1948. It was retired on December 14, 1956.” Somehow, 2843 survived, and is now in the Illinois Railway Museum collection.
North Shore Line car 718 at Lake Bluff on October 19, 1963, having been vandalized several months after the interurban was abandoned.
North Shore Line car 712 at Lake Bluff on October 19, 1963, having been vandalized several months after the interurban was abandoned.
The old Chicago & North Western station, torn down in the 1980s. (William Shapotkin Collection)
I’m not sure who the Swift is in this picture, but it isn’t the Skokie Swift. This picture appears much older than 1964, when the Swift started. Perhaps the Swift here was part of the meat-packing family. (William Shapotkin Collection)
Chicago Aurora & Elgin express motor 9 at Wheaton on April 2, 1957. Don’s Rail Photos: “9 was built by Niles Car in 1907. It was scrapped in 1959.” (William Shapotkin Collection)
CSL 2564, signed to go to Torrence and 124th. (Edward Frank, Jr. Photo, William Shapotkin Collection) Andre Kristopans: “2564 – Torrence Shuttle south of CWI crossing at 112th looking ne.”
CSL 2773 is running northbound on the Cottage Grove route, next to the Illinois Central Electric commuter rail embankment. (William Shapotkin Collection) Mike Franklin adds: “CSL 2773 is northbound on Lake Park Ave at 55th St.” And our resident South Side expert M.E. chimes in: “The destination sign reads State-Lake, which leads you to think this car is running northbound. But Cottage Grove Ave. south of 95th St. was on the east side of the Illinois Central tracks. Therefore this car has to be heading south, despite the destination sign. Also, I see only one streetcar track on the street. Ergo, I think this photo was taken at 115th and Cottage Grove, looking north. 115th was the end of the streetcar line, so the motorman had already changed the destination sign for the northbound trip. To return north, the streetcar will turn left on 115th (into the picture), east on 115th to St. Lawrence, north to 111th, west to Cottage Grove, then north.” Andre Kristopans: “2773 – Lake Park/56th looking SE.”
FYI, the picture above seems to be a better match to 55th than 115th. Compare with this picture, from one of our previous posts:
CTA trolley bus 9440, northbound on Lake Park at 56th, in October 1958. Trolley bus service ended on the 51st-55th route on June 21, 1959, exactly one year after the last Chicago streetcar ran. This was the beginning of a 14-year phase out of electric bus service.
This enlarged section of the CSL 1941 track map helps explain why there was but one streetcar track on Lake Park near 55th. M.E. writes: “The 1941 CSL track map you sent explains everything. It tells me I was correct to assume there was some sort of loop south and west of the 55th / Lake Park intersection. Keep in mind, though, that the Cottage Grove / 55th St. photo was taken earlier than 1941. The 1941 CSL map shows double trackage along Lake Park Ave., and even to the north and south. All that “new” trackage was put in place to accommodate the 28 Stony Island streetcar route, which by 1941 was running as far north and west as 47th and Cottage Grove (or maybe as far west as the mainline north/south L station at 47th and Prairie. I’m not certain). Route 28 started at 93rd and Stony Island, ran north on Stony Island to 56th St., turned left to duck under the IC tracks, then turned right on Lake Park Ave., north to 47th St., and west from there. Eventually route 28 ran even farther north, all the way into downtown, using Indiana Ave. to Cermak, west to Wabash, north to Grand, and east to Navy Pier. The 1941 CSL map segment also shows the 59th / 61st St. line, which ended at 60th St. and Blackstone Av. The route had to turn north on Blackstone because there was no viaduct on 61st St. under the IC tracks. And the route could not go north of 60th because no road crossed the Midway Plaisance (part of the city’s boulevard system) between Dorchester (1400 E.) and Stony Island (1600 E.). So the CSL did what it could to deliver its route 59 passengers as close as possible to the IC’s 59th – 60th St. station.”
CSL 5074, signed to go to both the old Dearborn Street train station and Racine and 87th. (Joe L. Diaz Photo, William Shapotkin Collection) Mike Franklin adds: “CSL 5074 is southbound on Canal St at 24th St.” Our resident South Side expert M.E. adds, “As I remember this route (44), southbound, it took Archer Ave. southwest to Canal St., south on Canal to 29th, west a block to Wallace, south to Root St., west to Halsted, south to 47th, west to Racine, south to 87th. Because it parallels a railroad; because the Pennsylvania Railroad headed straight south out of Union Station (which was also on Canal); and because the Pennsy used a bridge that looks like the one in the background, I think this scene is along Canal, somewhere between Archer and 29th.” Andre Kristopans: “5074 – Canal/24th looking n.”
CSL 2512 and another unidentified streetcar. (Edward Frank, Jr. Photo, William Shapotkin Collection) Andre Kristopans: “2512 – 106th/Indianapolis looking E.”
CSL 2518 on the far southeast side of Chicago, signed to go to Brandon and Brainard. (Joe L. Diaz Photo, William Shapotkin Collection) Andre Kristopans: “2518 – Calumet Western crossing about 129th looking N.”
Hammond, Whiting, & East Chicago car 76 is signed here to go from Indiana into the City of Chicago, an arrangement that ended in 1940. These cars were just about identical to CSL Pullmans. (William Shapotkin Collection) Andre Kristopans: “HWEC 76 – most likely Indianapolis and Exchange at end of line in East Chicago.”
Chicago & West Towns 124 is at the east end of the Madison Street line, at Austin Boulevard. Riders going into the city could change here for CSL PCC cars. (Joe L. Diaz Photo, William Shapotkin Collection)
Hammond, Whiting, & East Chicago car 74. (Edward Frank, Jr. Photo, William Shapotkin Collection) Andre Kristopans: “HWEC 74 – further study suggests Hohman near Michigan looking S – note big buildings in distance, seem to match downtown Hammond in street view, and how the power lines go way up in distance, such as crossing a railroad.” Mike Franklin writes: “Hammond, Whiting, & East Chicago car 74 is heading west bound on 119th St at New York Ave, Whiting, Indiana. Building behind the car is the Whiting Post Office (still there).”
CSL 2594. Don’s Rail Photos notes that this car, nicknamed a Robertson, was “built by St Louis Car Co in 1901. It was retired on August 1, 1947.” (Edward Frank, Jr. Photo, William Shapotkin Collection) Andre Kristopans: “2594 – 106th crossing BRC and PRR 106th east of Torrence looking E.”
Chicago & West Towns Railways car 122 is eastbound on Cermak Road at Oak Park Avenue in suburban Berwyn in 1947. (William Shapotkin Collection)
CTA one-man streetcar 1781 has just gone under the Chicago & North Western embankment at Lake Street and Pine Avenue, probably not long before the end of trolley service on Route 16 in 1954. 1781 will head west for a few blocks before reaching the end of the line at Austin Boulevard, the city limits. This picture gives a good view of the C&NW signal tower, which apparently served four tracks at that time. The tower is still there, but just with three tracks on the successor Union Pacific, as the CTA Green Line (former Lake Street “L”) has shared space there since 1962. (William Shapotkin Collection)
The same location in 2019, when the streetcar tracks were finally being removed, after having been unused for 65 years.
Chicago Surface Lines one-man car 3205. I can’t make out the route sign. (Joe L. Diaz Photo, William Shapotkin Collection) Andre Kristopans: “3205 – 51st west of Stewart – sign “55th-LAKE PARK” looking W.”
Philadelphia Transportation Company 8027 on route 38 at the Pennsylvania Railroad’s 30th Street Station. (William Shapotkin Collection) Michael Greene writes: “The picture of PTC 8027 was taken on a weekend between June 1955 and September 10 1955. From September 11 1955 to Route 38’s conversion to bus on October 17 1955, PCCs were used on the 38. The car seen on the 38 was what PTC referred to internally as an SER, an 8000-series car that had been redone inside with chrome stanchions, PCC-style lighting, cross seats up front, the wooden seats getting springing and imitation leather covering, and herringbone gearing. The cars that were not redone were called by PTC, internally, as SE, basically staying the same way as they were delivered in 1923 and 1925, aside from having a PTC logo. Those cars were used on the 38, and, after April 11 1948, on the 37, on weekdays. On Sundays (and Saturdays, at some point) remodeled cars were used on the 37 and 38, in both cases, it was until September 11 1955 that PCCs also came to the 37. Their run ended on November 6 1955 when the 37 and 36, an all-surface route, were merged.”
A Chicago & North Western train on the Northwest Line at Mayfair on Chicago’s northwest side, during construction of the Northwest (now Kennedy) Expressway on February 3, 1960. (William Shapotkin Collection) Andre Kristopans: “CNW on shoofly – Addison looking N.” (Mayfair is a neighborhood located within Albany Park on Chicago’s northwest side.) Richmond Bates: “The train on the shoofly at Mayfair has a Milwaukee Road diesel, not North Western. Train 15 was the Olympian Hiawatha. I can’t identify the specific photo location. The Milwaukee and the C&NW Wisconsin Division crossed at Mayfair which is near Montrose and the Kennedy Expressway. The photo caption mentions Addison which is about a mile away and might be considered the Irving Park neighborhood. If the photo is near the Mayfair crossing, it could be Milwaukee tracks; if it is Addison, then it must be C&NW tracks.”
I don’t know for certain, but I think this photo of one of the CTA Skokie Swift cars might date to the Blizzard of ’79. (William Shapotkin Collection)
This shows the Met main line at Halsted and Congress, during expressway construction. Here, the bridge over the highway was being built, and Halsted streetcars were using a shoofly. It looks as though a portion of the CTA “L” station is being removed here, as two of the four tracks at this location were in the expressway footprint. The station itself remained in use by Garfield Park trains until June 1958. This picture is from the early 1950s. (Edward Frank, Jr. Photo, William Shapotkin Collection)
CTA red car 3200 is on the scrap track at South Shops on January 30, 1954. Don’s Rail Photos: “3200 was built by CSL in 1923. It was given experimental multiple-unit equipment. It was rebuilt as (a) one-two man convertible car in 1936.” (William C. Hoffman Photo)
West Chicago Street Railway car 4 at South Shops on October 21, 1956. Historical cars were often trotted out for photos during fantrips, and this was no exception. This car was originally built as Chicago Union Traction 4022 in 1895. CSL had it repainted and renumbered in 1934 for the Chicago World’s Fair (A Century of Progress). This car is now at the Illinois Railway Museum. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
The interior of West Chicago Street Railway car 4, as it looked on October 21, 1956. It was originally Chicago Union Traction car 4022 and never actually operated on the West Chicago Street Railway. It was renumbered and painted this way by the Chicago Surface Lines in the 1930s. It is now at the Illinois Railway Museum. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
North Chicago Street Railway 8 was built in 1859 and pulled by horses. The last horsecars in Chicago were retired in 1906, and thereafter, this car was only used for ceremonial occasions, like parades or the opening of streetcar extensions. While CSL did build some replicas of old cars in the early 1930s, this one is the real deal, and one of the oldest such cars in existence. To show you how confusing some of this history can be, photographer Bill Hoffman wrote on the mount of this October 21, 1956 slide that this was a “replica,” which is incorrect.
The interior of replica cable car trailer 209, as it looked on October 21, 1956. While the sign inside the car says it was used on State Street between 1880 and 1906, in actuality, this was built by the Chicago Surface Lines in the early 1930s, although it includes original parts. Mail car 6 is behind this car. That one is original, but may have been renumbered. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
The Humboldt Park “L” crossing Humboldt Boulevard in 1949. Where the “L” crossed a boulevard, the Park Board insisted that the structure should be fancier than normal, and so it was here. The view looks to the northeast. (William Shapotkin Collection)
The Humboldt Park “L” at Western Avenue in 1949. The picture can be dated by one of the posters at the station. (William Shapotkin Collection)
The second annual Television and Electrical Living show took place in Chicago in October 1949. This poster is visible in the previous picture.
A 2700-series Met car at the St. Louis Avenue station on the Humboldt Park “L”, possibly circa 1949. The view looks east. (William Shapotkin Collection)
Bill Hoffman’s attempt to get a shot of bot a CTA “L” car on Van Buren and red Pullman #531 on Paulina was thwarted in this instance by a passing truck on October 20, 1953. Edward J. Maurath writes: “This picture shows the Van Buren temporary tracks used by the Garfield Park ‘L’ from 1953-1958. The front of car 2831 is partially obscured by the infamous stop light erected by the CTA to save the expense of installing crossing gates and other crossing signals. I wonder how many of your readers know how frustrating an experience riding on these temporary tracks for approximately 2½ miles was. The system worked like this. For the 2½ miles of temporary tracks there were 15 street crossings. Chicago blocked 5 of them, leaving 10 with these stop-light control systems. They worked like this: normally the light was red and the traffic light systems for the two streets (Van Buren and the cross street) worked normally. When a CTA train stooped for the red light, both street were given a normal cycle and then both streets were given a red light. Then the CTA train light turned to green and remained so until the train had crossed the street. Then the street traffic lights returned to normal use and the CTA train light turned red and remained red until the next train approached. This meant ten lengthy waits at each cross street over the 2½ miles of temporary tracks. To avoid further delays, there were no stops on this 2½ miles of track, but still the constant waiting at each of the ten cross streets was annoying, to say the least. Notice the yellow color of the stop sign for the train. That was the standard color for stop signs until 1954. Also note the color of the train which had not been painted for about 14 years, and has been described as ‘two shades of mud’.” It’s worth noting that the CTA claimed to simply be following the example of the Chicago Aurora & Elgin interurban, which ran in many places without crossing gate protection, although not in an urban area such as this. The CTA was able to speed up the Garfield Park “L” between 1953 and 1958, however, by eliminating several stops, and using faster railcars, to the point where, by the end of the operation, running time from Forest Park to Downtown was the same as it had been before the ground-level operation started.
For a few months (September 1953 to January 1954), it was possible to catch CTA red cars crossing the temporary Garfield Park “L” right-of-way at Paulina and Van Burn Streets. Photographer William C. Hoffman tried to do just that, with varying degrees of success. Here, on October 20, 1953, we see CTA Pullman 597 heading south. As you can see, the “L” on Paulina was just west of here, but was not then in use. “L” cars last ran there in February 1951, when the Milwaukee-Dearborn Subway opened. But they would soon run there again, when Douglas Park trains were rerouted via a new connection to the Lake Street “L” starting in April 1954– a connection used now by Pink Line trains. The streetcar is running on Route 9 – Ashland, but is seen on Paulina at this point, because streetcars were not permitted to operate on boulevards, which part of Ashland (between Roosevelt Road and Lake Street) was.
The two CSL experimental pre-PCC cars (4001 and 7001), used as storage sheds, at South Shops in May 16, 1954. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
This is the portal to the old Van Buren streetcar tunnel at Franklin Street on July 26, 1959. That’s a 1957 Chevy, possibly a Bel Air model. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
CSL 2605, built by St. Louis Car Company in 1902, was damaged by fire, and is shown at South Shops on May 16, 1954. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
Looking west from 78th and Perry on April 25, 1954, photographer Bill Hoffman captured this view of streetcars on the scrap line at South Shops. From left to right, a Pullman, car 2605 in bluish green, and a streetcar trailer.
CTA red Pullman 460 at South Shops in March 1958. It had been retired in 1954 and was saved for the CTA Historical Collection. In the 1980s, it went to the Illinois Railway Museum. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
The interior of CTA red Pullman 460 in March 1958. By then, it was being stored as part of the CTA Historical Collection, but now it is at the Illinois Railway Museum. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
CTA St. Louis-built PCC 7200 at 81st and Halsted in March 1958. (William C. Hoffman Photo) Andre Kristopans: “PCC 7200 – Vincennes at 81st looking NE.”
We are looking east into the lower level of Navy Pier on June 25, 1956. The tracks at right belonged to the Chicago & North Western. At one time, they were joined by Grand Avenue streetcar tracks. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
Northbound CTA 5573, built by Kuhlman in 1907, is on Paulina at Van Buren on October 29, 1950. Just short of three years later, Garfield Park “L” trains would be re-routed into the south half of Van Buren Street. The streetcar is operating on Route 9 – Ashland. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
The color films available in 1958 were very slow compared to today, and not well suited for night photography. But that didn’t stop Bill Hoffman from using Ektachrome for this shot of CTA PCC 7216 on Wentworth at Cermak in Chinatown on April 30, 1958.
CTA 4408 is on the loop at 80th and Vincennes in March 1958. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
The same location today.
William C. Hoffman captured this view looking east along 63rd Place from Mulligan Avenue on May 19, 1953. He noted on this slide that the last streetcar ran on 63rd on May 23rd. CTA had wanted to convert this line to one-man operation, but there was local opposition on the west end of the line, so buses were substituted instead. This is now a residential area, and the buses ran on 63rd Street a short distance north of here.
The same location today.
The view looking east from 63rd Place and Nagle on May 19, 1953. Red Pullman 321 is on the loop at the west end of the 63rd Street line. Until 1948, streetcar service had continued west from here, as you can see from the tracks. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
The view looking east from 63rd Place and Natchez on May 19, 1953. The tracks in the foreground ran to nearby Summit/Argo a mile or so west of here. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
CTA red Pullman 225 at Limits car barn at Clark and Schubert on a November 11, 1956 fantrip. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
The herald of Central Electric Railfans’ Association, hanging on CTA red Pullman 225 on an October 21, 1956 fantrip. When last seen, this item was in the possession of the late John Marton. Car 225 went to Seashore Trolley Museum in Maine in 1957. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
William C. Hoffman called this photo, taken at South Shops on November 11, 1956, the “twilight of the trolley.”
CTA red Pullman 225 at South Shops on October 21, 1956. This was an early Ektachrome slide that had faded to red, and I wasn’t able to bring the color back completely to normal. Ektachrome was not as sharp as Kodachrome in these days, but had a film speed of 32, faster than Kodachrome’s ASA 10. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
The interior of CTA red Pullman 225, as it looked on an October 21, 1956 fantrip. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
Don’s Rail Photos: “AA94, salt car, was built by Jewett in 1903. #148, as SCCRy 322. It became Calumet & South Chicago Ry 827 in 1908 and renumbered 2842 in 1913. It became CSL 2842 in 1914 and rebuilt as one man service in 1926. It was later converted as a salt car. It was renumbered AA94 in 1948 and retired on August 17, 1951.” Here it is at South Shops on July 2, 1949. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
“Old retired CTA streetcars at 78th and Vincennes on June 26, 1958.” When streetcar service ended in Chicago, there were approximately 26 PCCs left, none of which were used in the so-called “conversion program” that stripped parts from streetcars for use on 6000-series rapid transit cars. These PCCs, with the sole exception of 4391, we simply scrapped outright. And despite the perception that they were “old,” these cars were only between 10 and 12 years old when taken out of service. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
CTA PCC 7175 on Western Avenue on October 31, 1950. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
William C. Hoffman took this picture looking northeast into the CTA yards at South Shops on December 21, 1958, six months after the last Chicago streetcar ran. Red Pullman 144 (now at the Illinois Railway Museum) is in the distance.
Bill Hoffman took this picture of the Chicago Surface Lines logo on a work streetcar on June 15, 1958 at South Shops, less than a week before the last Chicago streetcar ran.
Experimental CSL pre-PCC streetcar 4001 being used for storage at South Shops on December 18, 1955. It is now at the Illinois Railway Museum. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
Old CTA/CSL buses and trailers awaiting scrapping at South Shops on April 10, 1955, including (from left to right) trolley bus 9114, gas bus RA-308(?), trolley bus 9071, and streetcar trailer 8013. (William C. Hoffman Photo) Andre Kristopans: “Red salt/sleet bus BA108.”
CSL trailer 9020 at South Shops on October 21, 1956. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
CSL trailer 9020 at South Shops on October 21, 1956. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
CSL trailer 8013 at South Shops in March 1958. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
CSL trailer 8023 at South Shops on November 11, 1956. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
BMT 8000 was the prototype of an intended series of 50 such articulated compartment cars, intended to be built by Clark Manufacturing in Michigan for the Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit Company in 1939. These “Bluebirds” were planned for use as “fast locals” on BMT’s elevated and subway lines, that could easily keep up with older cars running in express service. However, when the City of New York purchased BMT in 1940, they cancelled the contract, only taking delivery on this prototype and the five sets that were already under construction. They were retired and scrapped in 1956, but were the first rapid transit cars that used PCC technology, and inspired the first postwar cars built for Chicago.
Keep those cards and letters coming in, folks!
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 this 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 Edition illustrated Publisher Arcadia Publishing (SC), 2021 ISBN 1467100007, 9781467100007 Length 128 pages
Chapters: 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.
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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)
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This is our 280th 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 818,000 page views, for which we are very grateful.
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This 1953 view looks to the northwest and shows the old Canal Street station on the Metropolitan “L”, which was near Union Station. They were connected by a walkway nicknamed “Frustration Walk,” since many people would miss their train in the time it took to make the journey. The “L” here closed in 1958 and was demolished soon after. (Jon R. Roma Collection)
This is our 275th Trolley Dodger blog post, so we thought we would make this one extra special for you.
Recently, Jon R. Roma sent us some Sanborn insurance maps that were made in 1906 and 1917, mainly to show sections of the old Garfield Park “L” in greater detail. This was in response to some of our previous posts, where we discussed just where it used to run, before it was replaced by the Congress rapid transit line in 1958.
Learning from history is a process, and as historians, we are continually reaching out to the past, studying the historical record, looking for clues that will inform us today and further our understanding. Photographs, of course, are invaluable, but so are the kind of detailed maps that were made for insurance purposes long ago. They detail pretty much every structure and many of the businesses that once existed.
As an example of what you can learn from these maps, consider the one below showing the layout of old West Side Park, where the Chicago Cubs played through the 1915 season.
A story has gone around in recent years, that supposedly the expression “from out of left field” originated at West Side Park. Cook County Hospital was just north of the park, and the story goes that mental patients there would yell things out during Cubs games, which gave birth to the expression, which has taken on a meaning of something completely unexpected.
Unfortunately, there is no record of “from out of left field” being used in print with this meaning prior to the 1940s, by which time the Cubs had been in Wrigley Field for 25 years. But if you look at the Sanborn map of West Side Park, there was apparently an open area just north of the grandstands, so the hospital would have been some further distance away. I am not sure how much of the field would have been visible from the hospital anyway, so after looking at the map, the story seems unlikely.
What is more likely is how the expression could have evolved just generally from baseball lore. Occasionally, the left fielder will make a throw all the way to home plate during a game. Such a throw, coming “from out of left field,” tends to be unexpected, and it may be that over time, it took on this other meaning colloquially.
In addition, we have more electric traction, steam, and diesel photos taken around 1970 by John Engleman, some recent new photo finds of our own, and correspondence with Larry Sakar.
I guess we will always be “chasing Sanborn,” and other things like it.
We are very grateful to all our contributors. Sanborn fire insurance maps provided courtesy of the Map Library at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
This includes the Met “L” line heading to Humboldt Park and Logan Square. There was a station at Madison Street, opened in 1895, which is not delineated on this 1917 map. It closed in 1951. This section of “L” has since been rebuilt, and is now part of the CTA Pink Line.
The Met “L” branch leading to Humboldt Park and Logan Square made a bit of a jog near Ogden Avenue, an angle street. This is the section just north of Marshfield Junction.
This section of map shows the Garfield Park “L” and includes the station at Western Avenue, which was open from 1895 to 1953. When Western was widened in the 1930s, the front of the station was removed and a new Art Deco front replaced it. The same thing was done to three other “L” stations on Western. This station closed in September 1953, due to construction of the Congress Expressway, and we have featured pictures of its quick demolition in previous posts.
A close-up of the Western Avenue “L” station. I suppose the area marked “iron” refers to the station canopy.
This map includes a section of the Garfield Park “L”.
This map includes a section of the Garfield Park “L”, including part of the station at Hoyne Avenue, which was open from 1895 to 1953. The area between Van Buren and Congress is now occupied by the Eisenhower expressway. The CTA Blue Line tracks are in approximately the same location as the former Garfield Park “L”, but in the depressed highway.
This map shows part of the Garfield Park “L”, including the station at Hoyne Avenue.
This includes the old Garfield Park “L”.
This includes the Garfield Park “L”, including the station at Ogden Avenue, which was open between 1895 and 1953.
A close-up of the Garfield Park “L” station at Ogden Avenue.
The map shows the section of the Met “L” lines just west of Marshfield Junction, where all the various branch lines came together.
The Met “L” branches ran over a building that housed the Dreamland roller skating rink. When the Congress Expressway was built, a new section of “L” was built running north-south to connect the Douglas Park “L” to the tracks formerly used by the Humboldt Park and Logan Square lines prior to 1951. This became part of a new routing for Douglas that brought its trains to the Loop via the Lake Street “L”, where another new connection was built. This is the path that the CTA Pink Line follows today. Douglas trains were connected to the new Congress rapid transit line via a ramp that followed the old Douglas path starting in 1958.
The same location today.
This map shows Marshfield Junction on the Garfield Park “L”, where all the Met lines came together.
A close-up of the Marshfield Junction track arrangement and station layout. Notice that the Aurora, Elgin & Chicago (later the CA&E) had its own platform here. This station was in use from 1895 to 1954. From September 1953 to April 1954, it was only used by Douglas Park trains, as Garfield trains were re-routed to ground level tracks here in Van Buren Street.
This map includes the Laflin “L” station on the Garfield Park main line.
The Metropolitan “L” main line included a station at Laflin Avenue, which originally had two island platforms. Between 1896 and 1914, it was reconfigured with three platforms so the tracks did not have to make sharp curves around the ends of the platforms. This station was open from 1895 to 1951. Notice the complex track arrangement west of the station, which gave the Met maximum flexibility for routing their trains going downtown.
The Met “L” main line between Loomis and Laflin.
The Met “L” facilities shown here represent somewhat of a mystery. There is a general repair shop on Laflin, including maintenance of way, and “batteries” on Loomis.
When the Met “L” was built in the 1890s, they had to generate their own electric power, which they did via this massive power plant between Loomis and Throop. This map indicates that by 1917, the facility was co-owned by what is now Commonwealth Edison.
A close-up of the previous map. Note the Met had a “store house” east of the 1894 power plant.
The Met’s Throop Street Shops. The Met’s “L” station at Racine is also shown.
The Met’s Throop Street Shops are at left, and the Racine “L” station at right. Like Laflin and Halsted, it originally had two island platforms, and was reconfigured to the four side platforms you see here, in order to straighten out the tracks. This station was open from 1895 to 1954. It remained in use until Douglas Park “L” trains could be re-routed downtown via the Lake Street “L”.
The Met Main Line. From 1953-58, when the Garfield Park “L” ran on temporary trackage in part of Van Buren Street, it reconnected with the existing structure via a ramp near Aberdeen. The tracks you see here would have been at the very north end of the expressway footprint.
This section of the Met Main Line was not directly in the way of the Congress Expressway, although it was reduced from four tracks to two during the construction period. The two tracks to the south were removed. The “L” was very close to the highway at this point, though.
The Met Main Line. From 1953-58, the Garfield Park “L” ran on ground-level trackage in Van Buren Street. Douglas Park trains used the old Met structure until April 1954.
The Met Main Line had four tracks in this area, which were reduced down to two during the period from 1953-58. The Halsted “L” station was open from 1895 to 1958, when the new Congress rapid transit line opened in the adjacent expressway median. Many great photos were taken from the east end of the Halsted station, where you had a great view of a double curve.
Like Racine and Laflin, the Met’s Halsted “L” station originally had two island platforms, which meant there were sharp curves in the track at the ends of those platforms. This slowed down operations, so over a period of time leading up to 1914, those three stations were reconfigured. Halsted then had three platforms and the tracks were straightened. During the construction of the adjacent Congress Expressway in the mid-1950s, the two tracks to the south here were removed along with one of the three platforms. It was that close to the highway. However, the station itself remained in use by Garfield trains until the Congress line opened in 1958.
This map shows the Met’s Douglas Park branch heading south, and includes the Polk Street “L” station.
The Polk Street “L” station on the Douglas Park branch opened in 1896 and remains in use today by the CTA Pink Line. It was rebuilt in 1983.
This is the second West Side Park, home of the Chicago National League Ballclub from 1893 through 1915. They were not officially called the Cubs until the 1907 season. Starting in 1916, the Cubs vacated West Side Park in favor of what had been Weegham Park, which had been home to the Chicago Whales of the short-lived Federal League, now known as Wrigley Field. West Side Park was torn down in 1920. Home plate was located at the northwest corner, and it was 560 feet to center field, where there was a club house, somewhat in the manner of New York’s Polo Grounds and other early stadiums. Oftentimes, in those years, if there was a large crowd, fans stood in part of the outfield, as there were no seats there.
The Met’s Douglas Park “L” ran through this area, and is now the CTA Pink Line.
The Met’s Douglas Park “L” branch and the Roosevelt Road (formerly 12th Street) station.
The Roosevelt Road (formerly 12th Street) “L” station on the Metropolitan’s Douglas Park branch opened in 1896 and closed in 1952. In December 1951, the CTA turned it into a “partial service” station, where there was no ticket agent. You could enter the station by placing a token into a turnstyle. This experiment was short-lived, and the station was closed in May 1952.
This shows the Douglas Park “L”, today’s CTA Pink Line.
Sanborn Maps from 1906:
A key to the areas covered by this 1906 set of maps.
This map shows the Halsted station on the Lake Street “L”. It was open from 1893 until 1994. It closed during the two-year rehabilitation project for what is now the CTA Green Line and was eventually replaced by a new station at Morgan Street, which opened in 2012.
A close-up of the Halsted “L” station on the Lake Street line.