Railroad Record Club Treasure Hunt, Part 2

1 Selection of Steventon tapes mostly unreleased

1 Selection of Steventon tapes mostly unreleased

Following up on our recent post William A. Steventon’s Railroad Record Club (September 24, 2018), guest author Kenneth Gear continues with a detailed rundown on his latest discoveries.

I have been interested in historic preservation for a long time, and it’s not every day that anyone comes across original material such as this. Suddenly, out of nowhere it seems, previously unknown, unissued audio recordings have emerged for some long-vanished steam and electric railroads, along with 16mm motion picture film, and various artifacts related to the Railroad Record Club’s 42 issued LPs, in their various forms. It seems like a miracle that somehow, it all survived to be rescued from oblivion.

Getting this done involved a tremendous financial sacrifice on Ken’s part, as he is of modest means. I hope that he will be able to recoup at least some of his substantial investment in the future. I am sure he will appreciate any contributions you may be able to offer him, towards the cost of transferring some of these reel-to-reel tapes and 16mm movie films to digital.

You can find Part 1 here: Railroad Record Club Treasure Hunt (July 30, 2017)

-David Sadowski

PS- Our new book Building Chicago’s Subways is now available for immediate shipment.  If you already pre-ordered it, your copy is already on its way to you.  We are excited to have had the opportunity to tell the story of this exciting chapter in Chicago history.  Details on how to order are at the end of this post.

Railroad Record Club Treasure Hunt, Part 2

It’s been over a year since I acquired a large portion of the William Steventon estate. The Railroad Record Club items that I purchased last year have enabled David and I to piece together a fairly complete history of the RRC and to more fully appreciate the time and effort Mr. Steventon put into producing these records. The homemade 78rpm records alone proved to be an invaluable resource. Not only did they provide us with some wonderful recordings, most of which hadn’t been heard in over fifty years, they revealed the pre-history of the club and offered a glimpse into the infancy of railroad field recording.

We were able to hear the very first railroad recording Steventon made– B&O trains at Riverdale, Maryland in 1953. We also finally completed our quest to get a copy of every single released RRC record digitized and put on CDs. We are now only in need of two samplers, the 5th and 6th years. More interesting information was garnered from examining original record jacket artwork and paste up boards, as well as the metal print blocks. We were also able to compile a list of records re-issued on 12″ stock and find out what was necessary for it to happen and the cost of doing it.

Photographs from his personal collection were scanned and published in the Trolley Dodger for all to enjoy. I think the effort that went into keeping all this material from ending up in a dumpster was well worth the time and expense and I’m happy to have been involved.

In spite of this, I knew the job was only half finished. There was much more that needed to be saved and time was running out. Those tapes I wrote about under the heading “what I left behind” in the first treasure hunt story needed to be preserved. There were still a big box of photos, reams of correspondence, the metal master discs for the 12″ reissues and lots and lots of sealed records.

The estate dealer was quite adamant that this stuff had to go…and quickly! I purchased all that I could, but I certainly could not afford to buy anything else and asked for some time to raise the money. As I tried to come up with the extra cash needed, months went by and the emails ceased. For a while it seemed that all this great material would be lost. Still, I squirreled away what money I could when I could and slowly, much too slowly, I approached his asking price. With the funds in hand, I emailed the estate dealer putting in the subject line that I HAD the money for the remaining Steventon estate items. Even as I composed that email I couldn’t be sure that the entire lot wasn’t already in some land fill rotting away. He answered me the next day, but it seemed a lot longer then that to me. His first two sentences were a relief:  

Ken, good to hear from you.  Yes, it is all as we left it a year ago.

There was one complication that needed to be addressed. I could not make the trip up to him in Wisconsin this year as I had done before. All the items would have to be shipped to me in New Jersey.

The estate dealer was agreeable to packing up the items and doing the weighing and making the transportation arrangements, but again there was a complication. This was his busy season and he would be working extensively out of town.  He would not be able to devote much time to this effort for the next few weeks. A little progress was made here and there through the rest of June and I purchased boxes and packing material in July. I was a little apprehensive about shipping old open reel tapes and vinyl records during the hottest part of the summer anyway, so I just had to be patient. In early August progress was made and on the 13th I received the long-awaited email:

The last box is packed.  You’ll have a pallet coming that’s right around 400 pounds, perhaps a touch over.  Nine boxes to be delivered to the YRC terminal. 

Several more delays would still be encountered, not the lest of which was the local hardware store’s forklift needing repairs. The hardware store, for a $20 fee, would be used to lift the pallet onto the truck. At last, in early September, with all hurdles cleared, a newly-repaired forklift placed the shipment on to the truck. Finally, the second half of the Steventon estate’s Railroad Record Club items were on their way to me.

A few days later I heading to the local YRC terminal to receive the long-awaited shipment. After some paperwork in the office, I backed a borrowed ¾-ton pick-up truck to the indicated bay. Soon a forklift lowered the last of the Railroad Record Club items from the Steventon estate into the truck bed. I now had a night of treasure hunting to look forward to!

I had sort of “cherry picked” the first half of the estate, so I knew that a great unexpected find was rather doubtful, but I did come across a few surprises.

THE TAPES

2 Tapes appear to be in good condition

2 Tapes appear to be in good condition

3 Tape with hand written track listing

3 Tape with hand written track listing

4 More unreleased Steventon audio

4 More unreleased Steventon audio

5 Lots of interesting material on these tapes

5 Lots of interesting material on these tapes

6 Still more intersting tapes

6 Still more intersting tapes

7 Unreleased audio this is why I bought the whole lot

7 Unreleased audio this is why I bought the whole lot

8 Steventon tapes

8 Steventon tapes

9 More Stevnton tapes

9 More Stevnton tapes

10 Even more tapes

10 Even more tapes

11 Small reels -the master tapes for the 78rpm records

11 Small reels -the master tapes for the 78rpm records

12 Another view of the Small reels -the master tapes for the 78rpm records

12 Another view of the Small reels -the master tapes for the 78rpm records

13 A box full of the Small reels -the master tapes for the 78rpm records

13 A box full of the Small reels -the master tapes for the 78rpm records

14 Close up of the 78rpm record master tapes

14 Close up of the 78rpm record master tapes

15 Another Close up of the 78rpm record master tapes

15 Another Close up of the 78rpm record master tapes

16 78rpm master tapes showing condition of tapes-not too bad

16 78rpm master tapes showing condition of tapes-not too bad

17 close up of 78rpm master tape showing condition

17 close up of 78rpm master tape showing condition

18 BC Electric and Montreal & South Counties tapes with Steventon letter

18 BC Electric and Montreal & South Counties tapes with Steventon letter

19 Montreal & South Counties tape with Steventon letter

19 Montreal & South Counties tape with Steventon letter

20 BC Electric tape with Steventon letter

20 BC Electric tape with Steventon letter

21 Close up of the BC Electric and Montreal & South Counties tapes

21 Close up of the BC Electric and Montreal & South Counties tapes

22 Railroad Record Club Master tapes

22 Railroad Record Club Master tapes

23 Master tape for record 26

23 Master tape for record 26

24 A stack of 22 Railroad Record Club Master tapes

24 A stack of 22 Railroad Record Club Master tapes

25 master tape Railroad Record Club number 16

25 master tape Railroad Record Club number 16

26 master tape Railroad Record Club number 15

26 master tape Railroad Record Club number 15

27 master tape Railroad Record Club with memo

27 master tape Railroad Record Club with memo

28 master tape Railroad Record Club number 17

28 master tape Railroad Record Club number 17

29 master tape Railroad Record Club number 18

29 master tape Railroad Record Club number 18

30 Note on box containing master tape Railroad Record Club number 18

30 Note on box containing master tape Railroad Record Club number 18

31 Two master tapes for record number 3

31 Two master tapes for record number 3

32 Two master tapes for record number 3 showing condition

32 Two master tapes for record number 3 showing condition

33 master tape Railroad Record Club number 7

33 master tape Railroad Record Club number 7

34 master tapes Railroad Record Club number 10

34 master tapes Railroad Record Club number 10

35 master tape Railroad Record Club number 23 with memo

35 master tape Railroad Record Club number 23 with memo

36 master tape Railroad Record Club number 17

36 master tape Railroad Record Club number 17

The reel to reel tapes that I had left behind last year were the real reason I went to all this trouble and expense to acquire the rest of the estate. I’m sure I did not get any of the tapes that were actually in Steventon’s recorder when he was trackside, but they may no longer exist. Perhaps he transferred these “field tapes” to newer tape stock, in an effort to preserve them and some of these duplicates are what I received. There is at least one recording I know he made that is not among my tapes. In the liner notes of Record Number 20, Steventon writes that the cab ride onboard NYC # 1441 with his father at the throttle was edited down from over two hours of tape. I would have been very happy to find 4 or 5 reels of tape marked “cab ride with Dad” but it was not to be. What I did find, however, is some very good and interesting stuff, most of which has never been released on a Railroad Record Club LP.

One tape that was a bit of a surprise was a 4″ reel of tape marked NYS&W. Of all the railroads in the New York area, why the Susquehanna? If he recorded this tape while in New York to ride and record the Queensboro Bridge trolley, which had to be prior to April 1957 when that line shut down, then why not record PRR K-4s on the New York & Long Branch which lasted until October of that year? Or all those electric locomotives on the NYC and NYNH&H? Perhaps he did record some or all these railroads and I just don’t have the tapes. Anything is possible, but I have found no evidence that he ever did. I’ll just have to wait until I have the NYS&W tape put on CD to find out just what the attraction may have been.

Other interesting finds include three 5″ reels of a fan trip operated by the Northern Pacific Railroad on June 20, 1957. 4-8-4 # 2686 pulled the train from St. Paul, MN to Staples. One tape is labeled “NP 2686-LV MPLS,” the second NP 2686 coal dock stop,” and the last, “NP 2686 LV Staples.” There was also a negative of the NP 2686 at Staples found among the photographs. Other steam and/or diesel tapes are labeled “CPR,” “NKP Ft. Wayne,” “N&W,” and “Soo Line.”

The traction fans among us will be happy to know there is plenty for them. The CNS&M has several tapes devoted to it. One tape is marked “CNS&M switching at Rondout and Mundelein”. There is a cut on Record 26 of locomotive # 459 switching at Rondout, but not at Mundelein. Another North Shore tape is marked “Mundelein Run” and another simply ” Mundelein”. One more CNS&M tape has “Electroliner” written on the box.

There is a tape marked “ITS 202”, apparently Steventon preferred Illinois Traction System to Illinois Terminal. On Record 25 Steventon wrote in the liner notes, “We had just arrived (at Harristown, IL) on interurban No. 202 where we had made an “on train” recording east from Springfield. We alighted and watched the 202 fade into the distance. This was the last sight and sound we had of the Illinois Terminal as an interurban. The “on train” recording of 202 and a streamliner is scheduled for release at a later date.” It never was. I don’t know about the streamliner recording, I may or may not have it, but I will consider it a privilege to be involved with releasing the 202 recording for him.

There are also tapes of the Cedar Rapids & Iowa City (CRANDIC), Charles City Western, Toledo & Eastern, and Capital Transit. Canadian traction fans are not overlooked either. There is a 5″ reel of the Niagara, St. Catharines & Toronto Railway. There are also two 5″ reels, one each, of the BC Electric and the Montreal & Southern Counties. These two tapes were recorded by Eugene Van Dusen, and the accompanying letter to Steventon, plus a copy of it sent to Elwin Purington, were found among some RRC papers I have. Another reel of tape not recorded by Steventon is “Cincinnati Street Railway Car 187 12/13/51.” Finding this was a nice surprise. I don’t know who did record it, but Steventon did not start making recordings until 1953.

Here is the entire list of the tape reels, excluding 21/2″ reels which I’ll list separately, and the master tapes for the LPs,

REEL TO REEL TAPES

INFORMATION MARKED ON TAPE BOXES

4″ reels:

1. NYS&W

5″ reels:

1. CPR-J. Van Brocklin
2. Soo Line
3. T&E NKP Diesel-NKP Ft. Wayne
4. N&W
5. N&W from Salem
6. N&W Billy + Larry on end
7. NP 2686 Lv Mpls-6/20/57
8. NP 2686 coal dock stop
9. NP 2686 Lv Staples
10. B. C. Electric
11. Montreal & Southern Counties
12. Potomac Edison #5
13. Potomac Edison H&F last run radio program
14. CNS&M -switching at Rondout and Mundelein
15. Mundelein Run
16. Capital Transit co 1151
17. ITS car 202
18. Cedar Rapids and Iowa City 5/31/53
19. CCW 5/18/54*
20. CCW CC to Colwell
21. Toledo & Eastern
22. PRR GG-1s

7″ reels:

1. Railroading in Spooner Wisconsin
2. CNS&M Electroliner
3. N. St. C & Toronto
4. Johnstown Traction and Altoona & Logan Valley
5. Cincinnati Street Railway car 187 12/13/51

The next bunch of tapes are smaller reels. These 21/2″ reels are in their original manufacture’s boxes and are marked only with a Railroad name and a catalog number. The catalog numbers correspond with the catalog numbers on the 10″ 78rpm acetate records that I acquired with the first half of the estate. As producing these records was a very time-consuming task, Steventon saved time by making a master tape for each record. The master tape would contain his spoken introductions followed by the train sounds. I bought over sixty of these small master tapes, and a large number have never been put on the regular Railroad Record Club releases. They contain sounds of railroads I was completely unaware Steventon ever recorded, such as L&N, Southern, and Virginian. This collection also contains the Queensboro Bridge trolley, the IND subway, and the Third Avenue EL recordings Steventon made in New York City.

21/2″ reels:

1. Potomac Edison, 4 reels
2. Shenandoah Central, 2 reels
3. Capital Transit, 3 reels
4. Altoona & Logan Valley, 2 reels
5. B&O, 9 reels
6. Shaker Heights RT, 3 reels
7. PRR, 5 reels
8. NKP, 1 reel
9. St. Louis PS, 1 reel
10. Illinois Terminal, 2 reels
11. ICRR 3 reels
12. N&W, 1 reel
13. WM Rwy, 1 reel
14. Baltimore Transit, 2 reels
15. Senate Subway, 1 reel
16. Scranton Transit, 1 reel
17. Rochester Subway, 1 reel
18. CB&Q, 2 reels
19. Niagara, St. C & T, 2 reels
20. Virginian, 2 reels
21. Southern, 2 reels
22. Queensboro Bridge, 2 reels
23. Wabash, 1 reel
24. Third Ave. EL, 2 reels
25. Soo Line, 5 reels
26. L&N, 2 reels
27. St. Elizabeth Hospital, 1 reel (used steam switcher to move coal hoppers)
28. Omaha Road, 1 reel
29. NYC IND Subway, 1 reel
30. Unidentified, 4 reels

This is not a complete set of all the master tapes made for the 78rpm records to be sure, but it’s most of them. I consider it a small miracle that any survive at all! I am not an audio expert, but in my opinion, uninformed as it may be, these tapes appear to be in reasonably good condition. I would think that the tapes would be able to withstand a few more plays, enough to be digitized at least. Neither David nor I have the equipment to attempt this and I think it would be ill advised of us to try anyway. The tapes are old and were not stored in archival conditions. I’m sure the prudent course of action is to entrust any work on them to a professional.

The last batch of tapes are the master tapes made for the released Railroad Record Club LPs. There are different size reels, some tapes are only of one side of the LP while others have both sides on the same reel. Some are in good condition and some are not. Some I have multiple copies of and a few of the LPs I have no tapes for, Rather then make a complete list of every reel I will simply list the few LPs I have NO master tapes for.

No master tapes:

RRC 21
RRC 24
RRC 29
RRC 31
RRC SP-2
RRC SP-4
RRC SP-6

Most of these reels are 7″ with only a few smaller or larger. The most interesting master tapes are the reels for RRC 3 EBT/D&RGW. There are two 7″ reels that most likely have the original release version of the record, the one with William Steventon’s narration. There are also two 5″ reels, one marked “sounds only” and the other labeled “Narrative.” Since Steventon removed his voice from the 12″reissue of the record, the “Narrative” tape must contain just the voice of Elwin Purington doing the new narration.

I’m not sure just what to do with these master tapes. Some are in rough shape and all these sounds are on the released Railroad Record Club LPs. It certainly would be a considerable expense to digitize them all and no new sounds would be gained. For now, I’ll store them in the best possible conditions that I can provide and perhaps one day a clear path of action will present itself.

MOVIE FILMS

1 Steventon Film that should be all trains

1 Steventon Film that should be all trains

2 Capital Transit B&W Night Film

2 Capital Transit B&W Night Film

3 Steventon film

3 Steventon film

4 Pennsy and B&O film

4 Pennsy and B&O film

5 Back of Kodachrome box

5 Back of Kodachrome box

6 Front of kodachrome box

6 Front of kodachrome box

I found several rolls of 16mm movie film within the boxes of audio tapes. Fortunately, Steventon was very good at labeling everything. He inserted little slips of paper into the film boxes listing the contents of the films. Unfortunately, the majority are family home movies. Most are of Steventon’s son Seth. His first day of school, Christmases, and birthday parties. There were six 100-foot reels that should be all trains.

16mm movies;

1. 100-foot reel but only about 50 feet of film. Labeled “Pennsy Fan Trip and B&O near Riverdale.”
2. 100-foot reel, full, labeled “Canada Term”. I’m not sure what that is supposed to indicate. I unspooled a few feet of film and the first few frames are without a doubt a steeple cab locomotive.
3. 100-foot reel, full, B&W, labeled “Cap Transit Night Film.”
4. 100-foot reel, full, labeled “EBT Reel 1.”
5. 100-foot reel, full, labeled “EBT Reel 2.”
6. 100-foot reel, full, labeled “Negative 1R Freight” Also written on box “bad footage.”

PRINT BLOCKS

1 Selection of print blocks

1 Selection of print blocks

2 More print blocks

2 More print blocks

3 Still more print blocks

3 Still more print blocks

4. Print block for very early RRC traction logo

4. Print block for very early RRC traction logo

5. Railroad Record Club logo print block

5. Railroad Record Club logo print block

6 Another style Railroad Record Club logo print block

6 Another style Railroad Record Club logo print block

7 Interurban car fron LP Sound Scrapbook-Traction

7 Interurban car fron LP Sound Scrapbook-Traction

8 Interurban car fron LP Sound Scrapbook-Traction in two sizes

8 Interurban car fron LP Sound Scrapbook-Traction in two sizes

9 PRR steamer from 1st edition of RRC 10 in two sizes

9 PRR steamer from 1st edition of RRC 10 in two sizes

10 D&RGW locomotive from the 1st edition of the LP the Siverton Train

10 D&RGW locomotive from the 1st edition of the LP the Siverton Train

11A Print block for NKP LP

11A Print block for NKP LP

12 Ad for RRC 25

12 Ad for RRC 25

13 Ad for RRC 25 reversed

13 Ad for RRC 25 reversed

14 Print block for large ad

14 Print block for large ad

15 Print block for large ad reversed

15 Print block for large ad reversed

16 Ad for traction watch fobs

16 Ad for traction watch fobs

17 Ad for steam LPs

17 Ad for steam LPs

18 Ad for steam LPs reversed

18 Ad for steam LPs reversed

19 Strange RRC ad

19 Strange RRC ad

20 Strange RRC ad printed version

20 Strange RRC ad printed version

I also acquired a good number of print blocks, which are mostly quite small and were used in the RRC advertisements.  I have a bunch of print blocks of the LP covers, all about the size of a postage stamp. They were used in ads and in the catalogs. There are a few complete ads that mostly feature a single record release. One large ad of interest is a very 1960’s, almost psychedelic illustration of a steam locomotive looming over a record player. Smoke is shooting from it’s stack and entwined within the billows of smoke are such things as a whistle blowing, a box cab electric locomotive, and a steam train. LPs are seen flying through the air and the words “steam and electric recordings” in twisted snake-like lettering fills the upper portion. Wild and unexpected. I would certainly like to know if this ad ever appeared anywhere in print.

I did not make a list of these small print blocks, there are just too many. I did photograph a representative selection of them. These photos will give a good idea of what is in the collection.

RECORDS

1 41 copies of RRC 3

1 41 copies of RRC 3

2 18 copies of RRC 5

2 18 copies of RRC 5

3 RCA test pressing for Sound Scrapbook Steam showing notation on upper left of sleeve

3 RCA test pressing for Sound Scrapbook Steam showing notation on upper left of sleeve

4 RCA test pressing for Illinois Terminal one of only 3 good discs

4 RCA test pressing for Illinois Terminal one of only 3 good discs

5 Back of RCA test pressing for Illinois Terminal

5 Back of RCA test pressing for Illinois Terminal

6 Close up of RCA test pressing for Illinois Terminal

6 Close up of RCA test pressing for Illinois Terminal

7 Close up of RCA test pressing for NKP

7 Close up of RCA test pressing for NKP

8 RCA test pressing for CN showing damage

8 RCA test pressing for CN showing damage

9 Metal press stamp

9 Metal press stamp

10 Metal press stamp with cardboard sleeve

10 Metal press stamp with cardboard sleeve

11 RRC Nashville Metal press stamp

11 RRC Nashville Metal press stamp

12 Metal press stamps in cardboard sleeves for RRC4 B&O

12 Metal press stamps in cardboard sleeves for RRC4 B&O

13 3 RRC Nashville Metal press stamps

13 3 RRC Nashville Metal press stamps

14 Metal press stamp for RRC LP

14 Metal press stamp for RRC LP

15 Railroad Record Club SP-4 boxes and sleeves

15 Railroad Record Club SP-4 boxes and sleeves

16 Record jackets for each of the 3 records in the SP-4 set

16 Record jackets for each of the 3 records in the SP-4 set

17 Label for 1st edition of record 1 side 1 of RRC-SP4

17 Label for 1st edition of record 1 side 1 of RRC-SP4

18 Label for 2nd edition of record 1 side 1 of RRC-SP4

18 Label for 2nd edition of record 1 side 1 of RRC-SP4

19 Label for 3rd edition of record 1 side 1 of RRC-SP4

19 Label for 3rd edition of record 1 side 1 of RRC-SP4

Since the estate dealer would only sell me the tapes unless I bought the entire lot, including the remainder of the RRC LP stock, I had no choice but to buy them. I’ll admit I would not have wanted to see all these mint condition, still sealed LPs go in the trash, but what am I going to do with them and where am I going to store them? These questions I’m still contemplating. However, these concerns are secondary to preserving and digitizing the tapes. I have a few options, I can rent a table at a few railroadiania swap meets, contact a few local hobby stores and see if they are willing to sell some, and David and I have been thinking of making them available through the blog.

I’ll have to carefully consider my options. It would be nice to make a little of my money back and put it towards digitizing tapes. For the record, here is a list of the 12″ remasters. They are all still sealed and, for the most part, in mint condition. A few may have a bend or crease in the jackets and a few copies of RRC 20 have brown water stains in the lower right corner.

12″ remaster LPs:

41 copies of RRC 3, EBT/D&RGW
18 copies of RRC 5, D7rgw
36 copies of RRC 8 CN
29 copies of RRC 3 15, CB&Q
34 copies of RRC 16, Westside Lumber
25 copies of RRC 20, NYC/C&IM (6 copies have water damage)
15 copies of RRC 26, CNS&M Freight
22 copies of RRC 29, NKP 779

Included with the unsold record stock were several mint copies of the original 10″ LPs:

10″ LPs:
1 copy RRC 2, WCF&N
1 copy RRC 4, B&O
2 copies of RRC 5, D&RGW
1 copy RRC 7, N&W
1 copy RRC 8, CN
1 copy RRC 10, PRR
1 copy RRC 16, Westside Lumber
1 copy RRC 17, Soo Line
1 copy RRC 19, DM&IR
1 copy RRC 20, NYC/C&IM
8 copies of RRC 28, Charles City Western
1 copy RRC 29, NKP 779
1 copy RRC SP-2 NP 2626

Twenty-four RCA test pressing were included in the sale, ten 12″ pressings and fourteen 10″. All these pressings are stamped on one side only and on the paper sleeve of two of the 12″ pressings there is a hand-written note: “Masters will be 12 inch”. This is the one rather disheartening part of the story. All but three of these test pressings are in very poor condition. The accrete has flaked off in large chips. When I removed the disc from the paper sleeve to determine its condition, a black snowfall often resulted. I’m not sure what to do with these, they are really just trash now. I will photograph the label of each one for my archive but after that, I just don’t know. The three good discs are two 12″ pressings for both sides of RRC 15, CB&Q. It’s lucky that the only undamaged 12″ RCA test pressings are for the two sides of the same record. The one good 10″ disc is for side 2 of RRC 25, Illinois Terminal.

The metal stamping plates vary in condition. I was able to inspect these plates while at the dealer’s property last July, so I knew what to expect. I turned them down last year to save my money for what I considered the good stuff, the artwork and 78rpm records. All the original RCA stamp plates were lost in 1973, necessitating the 12″ remaster program. These plates are the Nashville-made stamps made in the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s. As I remember it, all 17 master plates were in the dealer’s warehouse. I only looked at them briefly but the top few were scratched and dented. Now, if I wanted the tapes, I had to buy them. Here I did a little dealing. Since these plates were a bit heavier than the records and I was paying for shipment by the pound, I convinced the dealer to choose a few of the stamps that were in the best condition. Those in poor condition he would not charge me for and he could discard them. The archivist in me wanted to save them all, but compromises must occasionally be made.

In all I got twelve of these stamps, five are 14″ and 7 are 12″.

I ended up with a bunch of returned records as well. Numbering somewhere around fifteen or twenty, these records were returned by buyers dissatisfied with them.  Most of them have a note attached with the buyer’s name and his complaint. Things such as scratches, surface noise, and various clicks and pops were the most often cited reasons for the return.

An interesting find was various copies of the records that comprise the three-record set of SP-4. I was able to put together a set of each of the three pressings this set had. A surprise was a set of these records not in the display box that they came in, but in three separate record jackets. Each jacket had the same drawing of CSS&SB MU #108 that appeared on the box lid. Perhaps this was some sort of test printing or the original idea for the jackets. I may never know but I’m sure it is a unique set.

PHOTOGRAPHS

NP 4-8-4 2686

NP 4-8-4 2686

CA&E Elgin train on street in Aurora IL 1931

CA&E Elgin train on street in Aurora IL 1931

Capital Transit PCC and bus Catholic University

Capital Transit PCC and bus Catholic University

D&RGW 476 locomotive featured on SP-1

D&RGW 476 locomotive featured on SP-1

D&RGW 481

D&RGW 481

Des Moines & Central Iowa car 1710

Des Moines & Central Iowa car 1710

EBT 15 on a rainy day very likely while record 3 was being recorded

EBT 15 on a rainy day very likely while record 3 was being recorded

Evansville & Ohio Valley car 134

Evansville & Ohio Valley car 134

Ill Terminal car 285

Ill Terminal car 285

Ill Terminal local on Caldwell Hill East Pearia about 1936

Ill Terminal local on Caldwell Hill East Pearia about 1936

Indiana box car 550

Indiana box car 550

Indiana RR 752 waiting for loads at mine scale

Indiana RR 752 waiting for loads at mine scale

Indiana RR car 64

Indiana RR car 64

Indiana RR car 93 at Anderson IN September 4 1938

Indiana RR car 93 at Anderson IN September 4 1938

Indiana RR Vigo with rails ripped out.

Indiana RR Vigo with rails ripped out.

Interstate car 711 ex-IPSC 427 September 3 1939

Interstate car 711 ex-IPSC 427 September 3 1939

Interstate car 711 on shop siding west of Greencastle June 3 1939

Interstate car 711 on shop siding west of Greencastle June 3 1939

Interurban car 44 and REA truck Rosslyn VA

Interurban car 44 and REA truck Rosslyn VA

MC&CL RR car 34

MC&CL RR car 34

MC&CL Steeple cab 52

MC&CL Steeple cab 52

Nice right of way photo but no info other than date March 31 1936

Nice right of way photo but no info other than date March 31 1936

S T F Co RR 54 Farmington MO

S T F Co RR 54 Farmington MO

Unidentified car and person

Unidentified car and person

Unidentified steeple cab locomotive

Unidentified steeple cab locomotive

Unidentified steeple cab locomotive photo 2

Unidentified steeple cab locomotive photo 2

Waterloo Cedar Falls & Northern car 100 this car is featured on RRC 2

Waterloo Cedar Falls & Northern car 100 this car is featured on RRC 2

Here again I had to do a little dealing. I went quickly through the box of Steventon photos last year, choosing about 20 photos to purchase. The box contained a mix of railroad photos and family snap shots. The family photos outnumbered the trains. Again, I did not want to pay for, or have the added weight of photos that were just going to be tossed away. Steventon’s son was the one who sold all this family history in the first place, so I saw no reason to try and get it back to him. The dealer agreed to sort the photos and sell and ship only railroad photos. He would discard the unwanted photos.

In all there are 135 photos of railroad equipment, mostly traction subjects. Some have complete caption information, and some have nothing. There are 23 photos of active traction right-of-ways but no caption information. 24 photos of abandoned traction right-of-ways have no captions. I cannot be sure if it is a “before” and “after” series of 27 photos. I also received 11 steam negatives, the aforementioned NP 4-8-4 # 2686 (two almost identical shots at Staples, MN) and several D&RGW narrow gauge roster photos. There is one EBT negative and a shot of a steam tractor.  I haven’t had time to scan all of these photos yet, but they will appear in the Trolley Dodger as I do. For now, here are a few scans to whet your appetite.

DOCUMENTS

Stack of prints of Soo 2715

Stack of prints of Soo 2715

VHS VIDEO TAPES 

There was one last surprise waiting for me. There are eight VHS video tapes in the estate lot, seven of which were professionally produced programs of traction subjects, several of which Steventon provided audio for. One tape on a store-bought blank was labeled simply “Railroad Programs”. I thought it was most likely a tape of TV shows about trains, but I popped it in the player just to see. It turned out to be a recording of a presentation that Steventon made to a local historical society. The video quality is bad, but you can hear everything he says perfectly.

It’s all really basic stuff, what you would expect him to present to a general audience. Such things as the appeal of a steam locomotive, the nicknames of various railroad job positions like “Hogger” for engineer etc.  He then gets into the “sound portion” of his talk. He has a reel to reel tape player with him, and he explains the use of whistle signals and then plays a cut of a B&O EM-1 from Record number 4, noting the “two longs-a short-and another long” signal for a road crossing. He then goes into how a steam locomotive gains traction. Here he plays the sequence of SOO Line 2718 backing off the wye track from the intro record. He stops the tape at places to note the change in the locomotive’s sound and what that indicates to the engineer. Next, he talks about the use of torpedoes as a signaling device and plays a cut from Record number 8. He never says that these sounds are from his records. In fact, he never mentions that he ever sold records and the Railroad Record Club is not once referenced.

He eventually brings out a chart of steam locomotive wheel arrangements.  He walks out of frame with it, but you can still hear what he is saying. At some point someone thinks to pan the camera around, but the view is only the back of the chart!

By the time he finishes with the chart, the program has gone on for about 40 minutes. Now he introduces “Whistle ‘Round the Bend” and plays the entire record, all 30 minutes. While the camera never moves during this, and Steventon just sits there listening, it’s a bit of a poignant moment. The video quality, as I said, is poor, and he is in the center of a wide shot, but it’s still possible to see that he is moved by the words and sounds he his hearing.

While little information is given about how, where, or when the sounds he played were recorded a little more personal stuff is revealed. He tells of the day in 1936 that his mother died. His father was at work and needed to get home. The NYC put every opposing train on the siding and he had green signals the whole way. He also tells us that he was a sickly child and his father took him onboard the locomotive with him, even against the rules, because he wanted to spend time with him, and make William happy, as the doctors said he may not survive into adulthood.  With this video I was able to “know” William Steventon just a little bit better.

As I have these tapes put on to CD, they will be offered for sale in the online store. I bought these tapes not to just save them from destruction, but to have them made available to everyone who may be interested. I think that is perhaps the best way to ensure these historic sounds are preserved. Not just as a tribute to the people who recorded them who are now gone, but to ensure these sounds will endure to instruct and entertain future railfans long after we are gone too.

-Kenneth Gear

New Steam Audio CD:

FTS
Farewell To Steam
Mister D’s Machine
# of Discs – 1
Price: $14.99

Farewell To Steam
On February 6, 1955 the Santa Fe Railway ran a railfan train from Los Angeles to Barstow and back for the Railway Club of Southern California. This was Santa Fe’s last run powered by a steam locomotive over this route. The engine was a 4-8-4, #3759. We have used the original, rare 1955 mono version of this recording, and not the later 1958 reissue that had a bunch of echo added to create a fake stereo effect.

Mister D’s Machine
When diesel locomotives replaced steam in the 1950s, they offered a multitude of different sounds. This original 1963 stereo recording showcases the many sounds of diesels on the San Joaquin and Los Angeles Divisions of the Southern Pacific, including the Tahachappi Loop, an engineering feat that made modern railroading famous.

As with all of our recordings, this CD comes with the complete, original liner notes.

Total time – 72:56

Order Our New Book Building Chicago’s Subways

There are three subway anniversaries this year in Chicago:
60 years since the West Side Subway opened (June 22, 1958)
75 years since the State Street Subway opened (October 17, 1943)
80 years since subway construction started (December 17, 1938)

To commemorate these anniversaries, we have written a new book, Building Chicago’s Subways.

While the elevated Chicago Loop is justly famous as a symbol of the city, the fascinating history of its subways is less well known. The City of Chicago broke ground on what would become the “Initial System of Subways” during the Great Depression and finished 20 years later. This gigantic construction project, a part of the New Deal, would overcome many obstacles while tunneling through Chicago’s soft blue clay, under congested downtown streets, and even beneath the mighty Chicago River. Chicago’s first rapid transit subway opened in 1943 after decades of wrangling over routes, financing, and logistics. It grew to encompass the State Street, Dearborn-Milwaukee, and West Side Subways, with the latter modernizing the old Garfield Park “L” into the median of Chicago’s first expressway. Take a trip underground and see how Chicago’s “I Will” spirit overcame challenges and persevered to help with the successful building of the subways that move millions. Building Chicago’s subways was national news and a matter of considerable civic pride–making it a “Second City” no more!

Bibliographic information:

Title Building Chicago’s Subways
Images of America
Author David Sadowski
Edition illustrated
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)

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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William A. Steventon’s Railroad Record Club

William Steventon

William Steventon

Today’s post is the first of two by Kenneth Gear, long a friend of this blog. We have great news to report– Ken has finally been able to purchase all the remaining Railroad Record Club items from the dealer that purchased them many years ago from the estate of William A. Steventon, who died 25 years ago.

Ken details all that in another post, Railroad Record Club Treasure Hunt, Part 2. These new discoveries have enabled him to offer what is, to my knowledge, the first-ever comprehensive and factual history of William A. Steventon’s Railroad Record Club.

Thanks in great part to Ken’s dedication and persistence, you can find practically all the RRC’s 10″ and 12″ output, now digitized on compact discs for the 21st century, in our Online Store. We thank him for these efforts, and hope you will too.

-David Sadowski

INTRODUCTION

As regular readers of this blog know, David and I have been gathering bits and pieces of information about the Railroad Record Club and its founder, William A. Steventon. We wanted to get a better understanding of what went into making these records, and to put together a history of the club. David started the ball rolling in April 2015 when he wrote the first Trolley Dodger post about it. As soon as I read that post I jumped aboard having been interested in the subject for some time. Together we finally managed to accumulate enough separate fragments of the story so that when we put it all together, it formed an accurate outline of the events leading up to the formation of the club and offered some insight into its operation. We were also able to build a brief biological sketch of Mr. Steventon.

Separately David and I looked for any resource that might reveal some small bit of new information. We read liner notes, club newsletters, and we looked through back issues of magazines in search of RRC ads. We collected order blanks, and I purchased copies of records I already owned because they had club inserts tucked away in the jackets. I researched the meaning of the matrix codes engraved in the lead out grooves of the LPs to more accurately date them. We studied artwork and found some of Steventon’s personal correspondences.  Everything came together when I purchased a large collection of Railroad Record Club items from Steventon’s estate. Combing through this material finally gave us enough information so that David and I could piece together the Railroad Record Club story you are about to read.

There are still unanswered questions to be sure and there are also missing recordings. We haven’t been able to secure copies of the 5th and 6th year sampler records. We also can only speculate on how, to whom, and at what cost these sampler records were distributed.

If any readers have any RRC material, please contact David. We only ask for a scan of any paper work or leads you may be able to offer as to who might be able to help. Thank you.

I have recently been able to purchase the last of the Steventon estate items I left behind last year (more on that in A Railroad Record Club Treasure Hunt, Part 2) and with luck David and I will be able to put together a few more pieces of the Railroad Record Club puzzle.

WILLIAM STEVENTON & THE RAILROAD RECORD CLUB 

William A. Steventon was born in 1921 in Mount Carmel, Illinois, son of a locomotive engineer on the Big Four Railroad (New York Central). As a child he spent much of his time around the red brick passenger station and wooden freight house across from Main Street. The family eventually moved to Cairo, Illinois and there he would often ride in the locomotive cab with his father. In the liner notes to Record number 20- NYC/C&IM while describing an in-cab recording made with his father at the throttle, Steventon reminisces about his boyhood days spent there:

“It is strange that this recording should remind me of something that I had almost forgotten. If I hadn’t heard my father pull a whistle cord in 50 years, and in the distance I should hear a certain whistle, I would know that it was him. This recording also reminds me of the many times I had waited as a youngster for him to whistle near Cherry switch to let us know he was coming home from a north-end run. It reminds me of the many times I have walked down Washington Street in Cairo and heard him whistling in the yards.”

After serving in World War II Steventon married and took a government job. He and his wife settled in the Washington DC area and it is here that the Railroad Record Club story begins.

It all began when Steventon’s wife gave him a record of Railroad sound effects as a Christmas gift, most likely in 1952. While he was interested in the concept of recorded train sounds, he was very dissatisfied with this record. He was convinced that the sounds were not those of actual trains, that they were train “effects” created in a recording studio.  He wanted sound recordings of REAL trains. He purchased one of the new reel to reel tape recorders that had recently become available and in March 1953, set out to make his first railroad sound recordings.

First recording

First recording

The first recording he made was along the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad at the Riverdale, Maryland passenger station (MP 32.4 on the Washington Branch). As best as can be determined, the first train he recorded was # 523 the “MARYLANDER” powered by an EMD diesel (he did not make note of the locomotive number). His second train was powered by steam but in his haste to hear the recording immediately after making it, he accidently partially erased it! He wrote about his frustration in an article for TRACTION & MODELS Magazine:

“When we made our very first recording in 1953 we took the equipment to Riverdale, Maryland and recorded a steamer thundering past the B&O station. When it was gone we stopped the recorder, rewound the tape and played it back. Nothing happened-the tape was silent. we waited thinking that the steamer wasn’t within “hearing distance” as yet, but when it became evident that we should be hearing the sound, we investigated.  In our enthusiasm to “get recording” we had failed to become familiar with our equipment. Instead of pushing the playback key, we had pushed the record key and were erasing the sound we had just recorded.”

That partially erased recording, as well as the others he made that night, were discovered on a 78rpm acetate record in his estate. It is included on the Trolley Dodger Railroad Record Club Rarities Steam & Diesel CD.

During the next few years, Steventon made numerous railroad sound recordings, both in and around Washington DC and on trips to visit family in Illinois. Near Washington DC he recorded the streetcars of the Capital Transit Company, steam & diesels on the B&O, and Pennsy GG-1s. He even recorded the sounds of the Senate Subway. He made trips to Maryland to record the Western Maryland, the Hagerstown & Frederick interurban cars and freight box motors, and he rode and recorded the Baltimore streetcars. In Pennsylvania he recorded mainline steam on the PRR, revenue steam on the East Broad Top, and made extensive recordings of the Johnstown Traction Company and the Altoona & Logan Valley. In Illinois he captured the sounds of the New York Central, Chicago & Illinois Midland, Nickel Plate, Illinois Central, and Chicago Burlington & Quincy among others. He did recordings of the passenger and freight operations of the Midwestern electric railways including the Illinois Terminal, Chicago North Shore & Milwaukee, Chicago Aurora & Elgin and even recorded an entire run of Chicago South Shore & South Bend M.U. car # 108 from Chicago to South Bend. In Iowa he added the Waterloo, Cedar Falls & Northern, Southern Iowa, Cedar Rapids & Iowa City and Charles City Western. In his travels he made recordings of the Pacific Electric, Shaker Heights Rapid Transit, Wabash, Soo Line, Denver & Rio Grande Western narrow gauge, and Norfolk & Western. In a 1958 newspaper interview he stated he had traveled to fifteen states to record train sounds. It is quite an extensive output and not all of it has been pressed into vinyl or released on tape or CD.

All this recording did not come easily. Dragging the equipment from home to car and from car to trackside required the help of at least one other person. Steventon wrote about the difficulty of using this bulky equipment in the field:

“We had a 12-volt auto battery for the primary power source, a 12 v.d.c. to 110 v.a.c. rotary converter, a reel to reel recorder plus a satchel of extra equipment, tapes, and assorted material. Two men could struggle with all this equipment, but it required three men to carry everything with any degree of ease and mobility. In addition, we normally carried a battery charger for use with keeping the battery up to par during the night. This could be left in the auto during the day but was a very necessary part of our total equipment requirement.”

It is a wonder anyone was able to record anything, considering the burden it must have been to get all this stuff trackside. It makes one grateful for the ability to record high quality sound and high definition video with just a tiny cell phone as we can do today.

Steventon eventually took a job as manager of the Cream Valley Telephone Company and he and his wife moved to Hawkins, Wisconsin. There he would continue to make railroad sound recordings, start a family. and create the Railroad Record Club.

Doing all this traveling and making these recordings invariably put him in contact with like-minded people. It is safe to assume that they would want to trade and share the recordings they made with each other. In the mid-1950s this was no easy task. Modern home audio systems, as we think of them now, simply did not exist. The problem was made even worse if recordings were to be shared or sold to someone who did not make recordings themselves and therefore did not own a reel to reel tape player/recorder. While most people at the time did not own a tape player, a phonograph could be found in most homes.

Steventon pre-RRC 78rpm records

Steventon pre-RRC 78rpm records

If Steventon wanted to give or sell his recordings to many other people, they would have to be put onto phonograph records. This too, wouldn’t be easy. The solution was to procure a portable disc cutter. These machines became available for home use starting in about 1929 and were most often used to record things off the radio. The standard record format of the time was a disc ten inches in diameter and made of aluminum covered with acetate. The 78rpm playing speed yielded no more than five minutes of content per side. These records had to be made in real time and the record blanks were quite heavy compared to a modern vinyl record. To distill more and varied content on these homemade records, he spliced together all sorts of bits and pieces and recorded brief introductions to tell listeners what they were about to hear. He conceived a catalog numbering system and had rubber stamps made for the most popular titles, the rest having hand-written labels. Steventon produced an extraordinary amount of records this way. Finding a sizable collection of these acetate records in the Steventon estate reveled just how extensive the output was. Although a complete catalog listing of these records can not presently be made, the following partial list is still very impressive.

01. Potomac Edison (aka Hagerstown & Frederick)
02. Shenandoah Central
03. Capital Transit
04. Johnstown Traction
05. Altoona & Logan Valley
06. Baltimore & Ohio
07. Shaker Heights Rapid Transit
08. Claude Mahoney Radio Program about NRHS fantrip (1953)
09. Pennsylvania Railroad
10. Nickel Plate Road
11. St. Louis Public Service
12. Illinois Terminal
13. Illinois Central
16. Norfolk & Western
17. Western Maryland Railway
18. Baltimore Transit
19. Senate Subway (Washington, DC)
21. Rochester Subway
22. East Broad Top
23. Chicago, Burlington & Quincy
24. Chicago & Illinois Midland
25. Niagara, St. Catharines & Toronto
26. Virginian
28. Queensboro Bridge
29. Wabash
30. 3rd Avenue Elevated
31. Minneapolis, St Paul & Sault Ste Marie
32. Louisville & Nashville
34. St Elizabeth’s Hospital (hospital in Washington DC that used a 0-4-0T to move coal from the B&O.)
37. Independent Subway

It is worth noting that this numbering sequence is totally different from the later one adopted for the 10” records issued later.

Things were apparently going well for Steventon’s railroad record enterprise for a while but things were about to change. Long playing 33 1/3 rpm records made of lighter materials and with improved sound were beginning to gain in popularity. Record blanks and parts for the disc cutter would undoubtedly become harder to get. Steventon needed to have his records made by a professional record pressing company to continue selling them. Steventon would have to make new master tapes for each release because the new records, although still 10”, could hold fifteen minutes of sound on each side-a full half-hour altogether. This would be the equivalent of more then five of the old acetates. He would forgo, for the most part, his spoken introductions and provide printed notes on the cardboard record jackets. These notes could be pretty sparse at first, containing little more than the railroad and locomotive number.

RRC intro record

RRC intro record

RRC INTRO old SP5

RRC INTRO old SP5

Bill Steventon recording compressor noise on CNS&M interurban

Bill Steventon recording compressor noise on CNS&M interurban

Eventually he began to write extensive notes on separate sheets of paper that were inserted into the record jackets. In time, the first completed master tape was sent off to the RCA Custom Record facility in Indianapolis, Indiana and soon afterward the first official Railroad Record Club LP came into being. The record was titled simply INTRODUCTORY RECORD and carried no catalog number. Side one contained the sounds of Soo Line 4-6-2 # 2718 powering an August, 1955 fan trip between Minneapolis, Minnesota and Rice Lake, Wisconsin. Illinois Central 0-8-0 # 3509 switching at Centralia, Illinois was featured on the flip side. A look at the first four characters in the matrix code engraved into the lead-out grooves of a first edition of this record, G8OL, gives the following information: First is the date code-G indicates the record was manufactured in 1956, then the label code-8 showing it was a custom job that was re-recorded from the client’s source material. Next is the category code-O meaning it is a phonograph record, and the fourth character-L denoted the size, speed & groove, 10”, mono, & 331/3 rpm. The final numbers 0479 for side one and 0480 on side two were simply sequence numbers. The Introductory Record was therefore available for sale sometime in 1956 or perhaps 1957.

He made the decision to sell these new records not as a regular mail order business, but as a club. The club membership idea may have been the direct result of the expense associated with this new endeavor. He had to have the records pressed by RCA which required metal master plates to be made. Cardboard record jackets had to be purchased and be printed with photographs or drawings. Tape stock had to be bought for the making of the new master tapes. All in all, this must have been a considerable expense. Selling the records through a club meant that the members were required to purchase a set number of records and paying for them in advance, thereby guaranteeing he would get some return on all this investment. The club worked like this: Four records would be offered per year. Members could buy the records at the discounted price of $4 each providing they maintained membership by purchasing at least three of the selections. Membership expired upon the purchase of one year’s group. There were no membership dues, but records were paid for in advance to provide the necessary money to have the metal masters made.  Special pressings could be purchased at club prices but were not counted toward the three-record minimum. Non-members could buy individual LPs at $5.25 each. $4.00 for a LP record sounds like a bargain but remember those $4 in 1958 had the same buying power as $34.72 in 2018! These Records weren’t cheap. According to a 1958 interview he gave to the Milwaukee Sentinel, the club started off very well. The article stated that there were some 200 club members through out the United States and several foreign countries including New Zealand, Australia, England and Canada. It goes on to state he has already sold 1,000 records.

Steventon continued to sell his records through the yearly club membership plan until October 1965 when the club membership requirement was withdrawn. The records would now be sold separately and at the same price to everyone.

From 1957 with the release of the Introductory record until October 1965 when the last regularly scheduled production of a Railroad Record Club release (Record number 32-New York Central) was offered, Steventon produced thirty-two regular club releases and three special pressings. One more release, SP-4-CSS&SB would be released later that year. Afterwards, Steventon released Records Numbers 33-36 and special pressings numbers SP-5 (a reissue of the introductory record) and the last all new Railroad Record Club record in 1983, number SP-6 Milwaukee Road box cab electrics. Each record was simply numbered in the order it was produced.

RAILROAD RECORD CLUB TITLES
0 Soo Line, Illinois Central (Introductory Record)
1 Wabash Railroad, Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha
2 Waterloo, Cedar Falls & Northern, Southern Iowa Railway
3 Denver, Rio Grande & Western, East Broad Top
4 Baltimore and Ohio
5 Denver & Rio Grande Western
6 Potomac Edison (Hagerstown & Frederick)
7 Norfolk & Western, Illinois Central (Also includes a bit of Illinois Terminal Railroad)
8 Canadian National (aka Canadian Railroading in the Days of Steam)
9 Winston-Salem Southbound
10 Pennsylvania Railroad
11 Shaker Heights Rapid Transit
12 Duluth Missabe & Iron Range
13 Nickel Plate Road
14 Pacific Electric
15 Chicago, Burlington & Quincy
16 Westside Lumber Company
17 Minneapolis & St Paul, Sault Ste Marie Railway
18 Chicago, North Shore & Milwaukee
19 Duluth, Missabe & Iron Range
20 Chicago & Illinois Midland – New York Central
21 Duluth & Northeastern
22 Buffalo Creek & Gauley
23 Pennsylvania Trolleys
24 Canadian Pacific
25 Illinois Terminal Railroad
26 Chicago, North Shore & Milwaukee (freight)
27 Capital Transit Company
28 Charles City Western – Waterloo, Cedar Falls & Northern
29 Nickel Plate Road
30 Sound Scrapbook, Traction
31 Sound Scrapbook, Steam
32 New York Central
33 Chicago, South Shore & South Bend (freight)
34 Chicago, South Shore & South Bend (freight)
35 Milwaukee & Suburban Transport, Chicago, North Shore & Milwaukee
36 Chicago, Aurora & Elgin, Chicago Transit Authority

Special Pressings
SP1 The Silverton Train
SP2 Northern Pacific 2626 Memorial Album
SP3 Whistle ‘Round the Bend
SP4 Chicago, South Shore & South Bend Railroad (passenger)
SP5 Soo Line, Illinois Central
SP6 The Milwaukee Road (electric freight)

He also produced several “sampler” records which contain short snippets of tracks from the LP records.

THE RAILROAD RECORD CLUB SAMPLERS

1st & 2nd Year Sampler:  (short excerpts from records 1 to 4 on side one & records 5 to 8 on side two)
3rd & 4th Year Sampler: (short excerpts from records 9 to 12 on side one & records 13 to 16 on side two)
5th Year Sampler: (short excerpts from records 17 to 20 recorded on one side only)
6th Year Sampler: (short excerpts from records 21 to 24 recorded on one side only)
7th & 8th Year Sampler: (short excerpts from records 25 to 28 on side one & records 29 to 32 on side two)

Among these forty-two LPs there are some real gems. He certainly started off strong with Record Number one. On side two there is one of his best “sound picture” type recordings. It features Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha 2-8-0 # 219 switching in the yards at Spooner, Wisconsin on a dark misty night in October of 1955. This was one of his favorite audio sequences and he described it like this in the record’s reissue liner notes:

“Close your eyes and imagine you are in a Pullman berth. Your passenger train has stopped at the station and you are sleepily listening to this nearby switching movement.” And from the notes to the original release: “That night in October of 1955 was very dark, moonless and misting heavily. The sulfuric, yet nostalgic odor of coal smoke drifted sluggishly over the Spooner, Wisconsin yards as the sound of exhausts and squealing brakes seeped through the murky atmosphere. A dim yellow light at the south end of the station platform rocked in the wind, flicking shadows to and fro over the moving cars.” 

If you don’t feel the dampness, smell the coal smoke, or find that you need to shake off a chill while listening to this, you’re just not trying.

There are so many remarkable sound sequences on these LPs that it would be impossible to list them all, Some of the most interesting ones include:  a D&RGW narrow gauge train with a mid-train helper on Cumbres Pass on Record number 3, the B&O EM-1 stopping and starting sequences on Record Number 4, a PRR 4-8-2 on slick rail on Record number 10, the cab rides in CSS&SB freight motors on Record numbers 33 and 34, the list goes on and on.

William Steventon did not exclusively use his own recordings on the Railroad Record Club LPs. In the second year of the club he began to utilize the talents of his friends, and the most notable of the group was Elwin D. Purington. Mr. Purington’s considerable recording talents added greatly to the quality of Steventon’s releases. Three records were entirely comprised of his recordings and they are three of the best. Record number 8-Canadian National (re-released as “Canadian Railroading in The Days Of Steam”) is one of Steventon’s favorites, and SP-2 the Northern Pacific 2626 memorial album Steventon called “a masterpiece.”  He provided the sounds for side one of Record number 12-DM&IR and his recordings of the CMSt.P&P electric freight locomotives are featured on Record SP-6.  He also did the narration on Number 3-East Broad Top and SP-3-Whistle ‘Round the Bend. Thomas A. Hosick recorded the train sounds for Record number 9-Winston-Salem Southbound, and John L. Wise contributed to Record number 10-PRR. Harold O. Lewis did some fine recording work that was used on three LPs, Record number 16-Westside Lumber, number 24-Canadian Pacific, and number 31-Sound Scrapbook-Steam. Eugene Van Dusen made all but the final three cuts for Record Number 32-NYC, and finally A. L. Shade, another top-notch sound recorder of trains, added his talents to Record numbers 13-Nickel Plate, 29-NKP 779 and 22-Buffalo Creek & Gauley.

Excellent HM Pech cover RRC 5

Excellent HM Pech cover RRC 5

Marginal HM Pech cover 1st edition of Record number 8

Marginal HM Pech cover 1st edition of Record number 8

RRC 19

RRC 19

The sounds on these LPs were great right from the start, but it took awhile for the record jackets to evolve into something interesting and appealing. At first the record jackets had little in the way of cover art, nothing more than a small photo or two plus a few paragraphs of text. Eventually sketches of the featured locomotive pulling a train were added, usually draw by an artist who signed his work HM Pech. These drawings could range from excellent (Record number 5) to marginal (1st edition of Record number 8). All mediocrity was removed for good when the cover art for Record number 19 was revealed. The cover of this record is a very nice accomplishment. The drawing of DM&IR 2-8-8-4 # 222 is perfect in every way. This great drawing combined with an appealing layout makes for a wonderful cover. A new visual benchmark for the Railroad Record Club had been reached and there was no going back. The drawing was done by Marshall P. (Pat) McMahon. He worked for the Minneapolis Star Tribune as an illustrator. His drawings of railroad equipment are flawless. The detail is meticulously rendered and drawn with precision and skill. Mr. McMahon would from here on out, be the main artist used by Steventon to illustrate the record jackets. When second editions of previously released records were pressed, McMahon would be called upon to create a new cover drawing. Every one is a vast improvement over what had come before. He also got the call to do new drawings when the records began to be reissued on 12″ discs, and he even did at least one drawing that Steventon sold prints of (Soo Line steamer # 2715). He would go on to do cover illustrations for thirty record jackets for the club! Rounding out the list of artists employed by the Railroad Record Club: Ernie Towler did a fine pencil sketch of a Shay locomotive for the 12″ reissue of Record Number 16-Westside Lumber and he did the cover of the reissue of number 15-CB&Q. Herb Mott did a painting of a boy watching a steam train passing for the cover of SP-3-Whistle ‘Round the Bend. This record has the distinction of being the only one with a full color cover.

RRC 17 Steventon enjoyed being here Hawkins WI Soo station

RRC 17 Steventon enjoyed being here Hawkins WI Soo station

RRC 17 1st edition drawing Hawkins WI Soo station

RRC 17 1st edition drawing Hawkins WI Soo station

RRC 20

RRC 20

Advertising had to be done, and ads were placed in several railroad and modeling magazines including Trains and Model Railroad Craftsman. Such tag lines as “Authentic steam and electric railway recordings,” “Sounds you like to hear steam-traction,” and “Out of the past and into your home” were used. A mailing list was maintained, and announcements and sales information mailed directly to those on it. Records were sold in hobby stores, and Steventon sent LPs  to railroad historical societies that coincided with the group’s interests. He even devised a unique “Audition Set Program”. To audition a set of records a request form had to be filled out. A choice could be made as to which records were wanted but a choice of pre-selected LPs could be made by choosing ” all steam” or “all traction” or both. A “random” selection could be made giving the customer the choice of titles and number of records. A deposit in the following amounts had to be sent: “all steam” consisting of 25 10″ records-$100.00, “all traction” consisting of 15 10″ records-$60.00 and “random” $4.00 each. After listening, the records were to be returned with (hopefully) a purchase order. The money for the purchased records would be deducted from the deposit and the remainder returned with the record order.

Eventually Steventon branched out and began to sell all types of things. His biggest sideline was selling photographs. The photo catalog alone was 40 pages! He sold 16mm, 8mm and super 8 traction movies, books, records from other producers, he even had a line of railroad logo watch fobs! In one sales flyer he was trying to unload his old adding machine, a Sears model No. 871.58251 (he wanted $40 for it postpaid).

After 1965, when The Railroad Record Club stopped functioning as a club, not much else changed. Steventon continued to release records and in fact had plans to release many more. In a 1966 newsletter Steventon makes mention of future planned releases, unfortunately not all of them were produced. He writes: “Future releases will be made on the basis of availability of time and material. At this writing an “on train” recording of the old 1000 series Chicago South Shore & South Bend locomotives is in production. No release date has been set.” (Records number 33 & 34). He continues: “Other material for future work includes many steam and electric lines including the Shenandoah Central (never produced), Baltimore & Ohio (never produced) Chicago Aurora & Elgin (Record Number 36), Chicago Transit Authority (record number 36) Queensboro Bridge (never produced) and others.”

This newsletter also announces the first Railroad Record Club selection ever to be released on 12” discs-Special Pressing number 4.  “On December 21, 1965 a new milestone was established with the release of a set of three 12-inch 33 1/3 rpm recordings of the complete run of interurban No. 108 from Chicago to South Bend. Approximately two hours playing time and conveniently arranged for automatic playing sequence. Prepared and recommended for the devoted traction enthusiast.”

Through the rest of the 1960s and into the 1970s Steventon successfully sold his records. Some of the most popular selections had second and even third editions pressed, and the covers and liner notes continued to evolve, The liner notes were becoming more extensive and contained more information, not just about the equipment recorded, but somewhat personal stuff as well. For example, on record number 17, the entirety of side one contains the sounds of the activities going on inside the Hawkins, Wisconsin Soo Line station. Although Steventon writes in the third person he conveys his pleasure at being there. The sound of the telegraph, talking with the agent, the rumble of trains going past, the whole “atmosphere” he loved. “Plant your feet on the desk” he writes, “lean back in your chair and you’re the agent at this small village station.” He wrote fond boyhood memories in the notes to Record number 20 and revealed in those same notes just how he felt about diesel locomotives. He wrote that while recording a C&IM 0-8-0 switcher going about her chores, he was “dismayed” and “disgusted” when a GM&O RS-1 came onto the scene.  He included the diesel on the record however, noting that the steamer and the diesel sharing the stage made for an interesting recording. As he puts it: “Actually this could be considered as the tug-of-war between two types of motive power as to which will dominate the railroad scene”. At this point, he had to be dismayed to know steam would be the loser. Eventually his negative view of diesels must have softened a bit because in 1988, when he revised the notes to Record number 20, he removed the word “disgusted” although he continued to be “dismayed”. Steventon never released an LP that was entirely diesel sounds. He recorded diesels with some degree of regularity, as his first recording was of one. In his estate there was an open reel tape labeled “Nickel Plate Diesels” and on those acetate records there are plenty of B&O diesels. Perhaps he thought his record buying customers wouldn’t want to spend money to hear those “disgusting” machines. Rarely is the sound of a diesel included on any of the records.

The Railroad Record Club continued steadily along until early in 1973. A situation then developed that could not be easily overcome, in fact, it never would be completely. Early in that year RCA informed Steventon that they would no longer press his records. In club announcements concerning this situation Steventon wrote “In February of 1973 they (RCA) notified us that all of their custom work was being discontinued.” If RCA would not press his records, he would just have to find another company that would. That plan quickly died when another, more devastating difficulty was discovered. RCA had lost or destroyed all the Club’s metal master discs at its Indianapolis plant. Without those master discs new records could not be pressed by anyone. Steventon was stopped cold.  If he wanted to continue selling his previously released records, new master discs would have to be made. By the early 1970s 7” singles and 12” albums were the standards and the old 10” format was on the way out. New master discs would have to be made and they would have to be 12”.  Steventon managed to surmount these obstacles. He found a new company to work with, Nashville Record Productions of Nashville, Tennessee.

Even as the process of remastering and pressing new records progressed, Steventon was cautious with his expectations. He wrote carefully in a flyer about the remastering: “Due to a shortage of raw material record pressings may become difficult to obtain. Consequently we have no guarantee that our complete line can be produced, but will re-issue each record as conditions permit.”  Interested parties were mailed a “Railroad Record Club Advance Notice Mailing Card.” On this card selections were to be made as to which records the recipient wanted to be notified of when the 12” reissue was being readied. The recipient could then purchase the record at a pre-production discounted price.  Progress was made, albeit very slowly. The RCA masters were lost in the winter of 1973 but by summer 1976, only two records had been reissued. The first two being number 10-PRR and the second Number 8-CN now titled “Canadian Railroading in The Days Of Steam.” Steventon could not simply reissue the records numerically starting at number one and progressing from there. This was a very expensive undertaking and he needed to release the most popular titles first. At first, he considered having all the records remastered at once and getting a press run of each. This idea was dropped when the cost turned out to be more then $30,000! He decided to go back to his original club plan where he required a set amount of those pre-production advance payments to come in. Once there was sufficient interest shown for a certain record, as calculated from the advance mailing cards, he would announce that it was being readied for remastering. He would only send an order to Nashville when enough of the pre-production money came in to justify it.

In a telling reply to an inquiry from a customer wanting to know why a certain record, number 36, was still unavailable, Steventon spelled it out clearly:

“The program of re-mastering was started in ’73 after RCA lost our metal masters. The pre-production offer is used to generate funds to pay for the re-mastering process. As a rule of thumb it takes about 125 pre-payments to cover these costs. Experience has shown that roughly only 50% of those who ask to be notified on a new selection actually follow through with an order. Thus we need 250 requests to start the program. As of this date (March 29, 1989) only 99 have shown an interest in record 36, CA&E. The pressing firm in TN has just notified us of another increase in production costs. Dollar wise we are now talking $1100 to $1200 to re-master and get the first press run. The RR club is not a profit venture – we only ask to break even. In 1987 we operated at a loss of $444.10. 1988 was better with a modest net income of $119.75. We need EVERY bit of interest shown to keep the program rolling – it is a tough job!”

It was a tough job to be certain and it was also a very slow one. An order blank from November 1984 shows only eight remastered records, Number 4-B&O, 7-N&W/IC, 8-CN, 10-PRR, 19-DM&IR, 29-NKP 779 and SP-5-SOO/IC the ex-intro record. Also for sale at that time was a second pressing of SP-4 the CSS&SB three record set. Also listed on this order blank was a brand new record. Even with the remastering difficulties going on the Railroad Record Club managed to release one last all-new record. This last hurrah was special pressing number 6-The Milwaukee Road- Box Cab Electric Locomotives on the Coast Division, recorded by Elwin Purington in stereo. On the jacket SP-6 is touted as the “30th Anniversary Issue 1953-1983.” Another fine McMahon drawing graced the cover.

As each 12” reissue was produced, Steventon would revise and update the liner notes. If the record had an existing McMahon illustration it was transferred to the new jacket in the same size it appeared on the 10” jacket, but with a wide white border. If a reissue did not have a previously drawn McMahon picture, one would be commissioned. These black and white record jackets were distinctive and attractive. On the reissues the audio content was always identical to the 10” version, since the same master tapes were used. There was one exception, however. Although the railroad sounds were exactly the same, on the original release of Record number 3-EBT/D&RGW, Steventon had recorded spoken introductions to each of the EBT tracks, just as he had done for the old 78 acetate records in fact, they are exactly the same.  Steventon wanted these introductions removed to correct a mistake and instead of simply taking them off and writing the information into the liner notes, he had Elwin Purington re-record them.

The long and expensive remastering project continued into 1990. A test pressing for Record number 16-Westside Lumber had a memo attached that read: “Record No. 16, Westside Lumber Co. Record pressing approved if “blips” at approximately 3 min, 36 seconds into side one and continuing for about 6 or 7 seconds were corrected. Card returned 1/10/90.”  Not all of the surviving test pressings have dates on the jackets, but it is obvious that this one had to be among the last. By the early 1990s’ compact discs were already poised to topple vinyl records as the standard audio format. Steventon simply choose not to upgrade to yet another new format. Record number 16 being reissued in 1990, proves that Steventon worked at remastering the records almost to the end of his life. He died in 1993, just three years after the test pressing date for Record number 16. The long, expensive, and difficult remastering program started in 1973 and continued into at least 1990. In all only 17 of the 40 10” records were reissued on 12″ discs.

RAILROAD RECORD CLUB RECORDS REISSUED IN 12″ FORMAT
#1-WABASH (10″ 3rd Edition Cover Art)
#3-D&RGW/EBT (New Cover Art)
#4-B&O (New Cover Art)
#5-D&RGW
#7-N&W/IC (New Cover Art)
#8-CN (New Cover Art) Title changed to “Canadian Railroading In The Days Of Steam”
#10-PRR (10″ 2nd Edition Cover Art)
#15-CB&Q (New Cover Art)
#16-Westside Lumber (New Cover Art) Cover changed from a photograph to a pencil sketch
#17-Soo (New Cover Art)
#18-CNS&M (10″ 2nd Edition Cover Art)
#19-DM&IR
#20-C&IM/NYC
#26-CNS&M (Freight)
#29-NKP 779
#SP-2-NP 2626 (Same photo used on both 10″ & 12″ record covers but reproduced smaller on the reissue)
#SP-4-CSS&SB (passenger) 3 record set was only released on 12″ stock in display box
#SP-5-Soo/IC Formally the introductory record (New Cover Art)
#SP-6-MILW Box Cabs (Only released in 12″ format)
17 records reissued from 10″ to 12″
2 records only released on 12″

The Railroad Record Club didn’t completely die with William Steventon. His son Seth revived the club some years after his father’s death by putting the entire line of records on cassette tapes. By this time, however, CDs were the favored format and the effort was shelved.

Because of William A. Steventon’s commitment to recording the vanishing sounds of a passing era on American railroads, and just as importantly, making those recordings available to all who were interested, we can today hear the sounds of a Hagerstown & Frederick interurban car speeding past a lonely country crossing. We can experience the sonic thunder of a New York Central 4-6-4 blasting out of Mount Carmel, Illinois with a whistle full of water. We can ride along in the cab of a CSS&SB freight motor on its trip out of Michigan city, and we can enjoy the work of the other talented railroad recordists whose work Steventon put on his records. We can even listen to that whining rotary converter in Harristown, Illinois.

-Kenneth Gear

New Steam Audio CD:

FTS
Farewell To Steam
Mister D’s Machine
# of Discs – 1
Price: $14.99

Farewell To Steam
On February 6, 1955 the Santa Fe Railway ran a railfan train from Los Angeles to Barstow and back for the Railway Club of Southern California. This was Santa Fe’s last run powered by a steam locomotive over this route. The engine was a 4-8-4, #3759. We have used the original, rare 1955 mono version of this recording, and not the later 1958 reissue that had a bunch of echo added to create a fake stereo effect.

Mister D’s Machine
When diesel locomotives replaced steam in the 1950s, they offered a multitude of different sounds. This original 1963 stereo recording showcases the many sounds of diesels on the San Joaquin and Los Angeles Divisions of the Southern Pacific, including the Tahachappi Loop, an engineering feat that made modern railroading famous.

As with all of our recordings, this CD comes with the complete, original liner notes.

Total time – 72:56

Pre-Order Our New Book Building Chicago’s Subways

There are three subway anniversaries this year in Chicago:
60 years since the West Side Subway opened (June 22, 1958)
75 years since the State Street Subway opened (October 17, 1943)
80 years since subway construction started (December 17, 1938)

To commemorate these anniversaries, we have written a new book, Building Chicago’s Subways.

While the elevated Chicago Loop is justly famous as a symbol of the city, the fascinating history of its subways is less well known. The City of Chicago broke ground on what would become the “Initial System of Subways” during the Great Depression and finished 20 years later. This gigantic construction project, a part of the New Deal, would overcome many obstacles while tunneling through Chicago’s soft blue clay, under congested downtown streets, and even beneath the mighty Chicago River. Chicago’s first rapid transit subway opened in 1943 after decades of wrangling over routes, financing, and logistics. It grew to encompass the State Street, Dearborn-Milwaukee, and West Side Subways, with the latter modernizing the old Garfield Park “L” into the median of Chicago’s first expressway. Take a trip underground and see how Chicago’s “I Will” spirit overcame challenges and persevered to help with the successful building of the subways that move millions. Building Chicago’s subways was national news and a matter of considerable civic pride–making it a “Second City” no more!

Bibliographic information:

Title Building Chicago’s Subways
Images of America
Author David Sadowski
Edition illustrated
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 will be published on October 1, 2018. Order your copy today, and it will be shipped on or about that date. 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:

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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)

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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Recent Finds, 8-16-2017

Chicago Aurora & Elgin wood car 301 sports a new paint job at Wheaton Yard in August 1959, two years after the end of passenger service. It sits forlornly while waiting for a buyer that never came. Fortunately, some other cars were saved.

Chicago Aurora & Elgin wood car 301 sports a new paint job at Wheaton Yard in August 1959, two years after the end of passenger service. It sits forlornly while waiting for a buyer that never came. Fortunately, some other cars were saved.

We have been hard at work since our last post. Here are lots of great, classic pictures for your consideration.

In addition, we have new CD titles, which include about six hours of classic train audio. This means we have now digitized the complete Railroad Record Club collection and have made these long out-of-print recordings available to a new generation of fans. For each hour of CD audio, there is at least 10 hours of work involved. I hope that you will enjoy the results.

Our new book Chicago Trolleys is now 100% finished and has gone to press. There is also a set of 15 postcards available for a very reasonable price, using selected images from the book. The details are at the end of this post.

Enjoy!

-David Sadowski

CTA one-man streetcar 3144 heads east on Route 16 - Lake Street somewhere between Laramie and Pine Street, while a two-car train of 400-series "L" cars runs at ground level parallel to the streetcar. The time must be near the end of red car service here, which was May 30, 1954, as that is a 1953 or 1954 Cadillac at left. The C&NW signal tower on the embankment is still there today, at about Pine Street, which is where streetcars crossed the "L" to run north of the embankment for a few blocks before terminating at Austin Boulevard, the city limits.

CTA one-man streetcar 3144 heads east on Route 16 – Lake Street somewhere between Laramie and Pine Street, while a two-car train of 400-series “L” cars runs at ground level parallel to the streetcar. The time must be near the end of red car service here, which was May 30, 1954, as that is a 1953 or 1954 Cadillac at left. The C&NW signal tower on the embankment is still there today, at about Pine Street, which is where streetcars crossed the “L” to run north of the embankment for a few blocks before terminating at Austin Boulevard, the city limits.

CTA 1777 is on Lake Street heading east near Laramie, next to the ramp that once took the Lake Street "L" up to steel structure. A few of the older red trolleys were repainted in this color scheme by CTA, but I don't know anyone who found this very attractive when compared to what it replaced. The total distance where streetcars and "L" cars ran side-by-side was only a few blocks.

CTA 1777 is on Lake Street heading east near Laramie, next to the ramp that once took the Lake Street “L” up to steel structure. A few of the older red trolleys were repainted in this color scheme by CTA, but I don’t know anyone who found this very attractive when compared to what it replaced. The total distance where streetcars and “L” cars ran side-by-side was only a few blocks.

The same location today, at about 5450 West Lake Street.

The same location today, at about 5450 West Lake Street.

A two-car train of CTA 4000s at the west end of the Lake Street "L" in Forest Park. This picture was probably taken circa 1961-62, since you can see that at right, work is already underway on expanding the embankment to create space for a rail yard. On October 28, 1962, the out end of Lake was relocated to the C&NW embankment at left.

A two-car train of CTA 4000s at the west end of the Lake Street “L” in Forest Park. This picture was probably taken circa 1961-62, since you can see that at right, work is already underway on expanding the embankment to create space for a rail yard. On October 28, 1962, the out end of Lake was relocated to the C&NW embankment at left.

Here, we see the Garfield Park "L" temporary tracks on Van Buren at Loomis, looking east on July 1, 1956. Construction on the adjacent Congress Expressway (now Eisenhower) is pretty far along. This operation would continue until the opening of the Congress median line on June 22, 1958.

Here, we see the Garfield Park “L” temporary tracks on Van Buren at Loomis, looking east on July 1, 1956. Construction on the adjacent Congress Expressway (now Eisenhower) is pretty far along. This operation would continue until the opening of the Congress median line on June 22, 1958.

At left, we can see Chicago Pullman 225 under a makeshift shelter at the Seashore Trolley Museum. 225 went there in 1957, but offhand, I'm not sure when the UK double-decker tram made the trip across the Atlantic.

At left, we can see Chicago Pullman 225 under a makeshift shelter at the Seashore Trolley Museum. 225 went there in 1957, but offhand, I’m not sure when the UK double-decker tram made the trip across the Atlantic.

A night shot from the National Tramway Museum in Crich (UK), which is home to more than 60 trams built between 1900 and 1950.

A night shot from the National Tramway Museum in Crich (UK), which is home to more than 60 trams built between 1900 and 1950.

CTA's line car S-606 at the Dempster terminal of the Skokie Swift (today's Yellow Line). According to Don's Rail Photos, "S-606 was built by Cincinnati in January 1923, #2620, as Chicago North Shore & Milwaukee 606. In 1963 it became CTA S-606 and burned in 1978. The remains were sold to the Indiana Transportation Museum." (Photo by Bob Harris) Bob Harris adds, "By the way, the body of 606 is back in Illinois. When CLS&SB #73 comes out of the restoration shop, 606 goes in. We have the Cincinnati Car Company drawings. But since 606 was virtually destroyed in the November 26, 1977 fire, this will be more of a re-creation rather than a restoration."

CTA’s line car S-606 at the Dempster terminal of the Skokie Swift (today’s Yellow Line). According to Don’s Rail Photos, “S-606 was built by Cincinnati in January 1923, #2620, as Chicago North Shore & Milwaukee 606. In 1963 it became CTA S-606 and burned in 1978. The remains were sold to the Indiana Transportation Museum.” (Photo by Bob Harris) Bob Harris adds, “By the way, the body of 606 is back in Illinois. When CLS&SB #73 comes out of the restoration shop, 606 goes in. We have the Cincinnati Car Company drawings. But since 606 was virtually destroyed in the November 26, 1977 fire, this will be more of a re-creation rather than a restoration.”

Here, we are looking south on State Street from Monroe in 1942. Construction of the State Street Subway is being finished up, with the construction of stairway entrances. New streetcar tracks have been set in concrete, while it looks like some street paving work is still going on. The famous Palmer House is at left. There are a few references to WWII visible, meaning this picture was taken after Pearl Harbor. The subway was put into regular service on October 17, 1943.

Here, we are looking south on State Street from Monroe in 1942. Construction of the State Street Subway is being finished up, with the construction of stairway entrances. New streetcar tracks have been set in concrete, while it looks like some street paving work is still going on. The famous Palmer House is at left. There are a few references to WWII visible, meaning this picture was taken after Pearl Harbor. The subway was put into regular service on October 17, 1943.

A close-up of the previous picture.

A close-up of the previous picture.

This aerial view shows the old Main Chicago Post Office and the near west side in 1946, before work started on building the Congress Expressway (now Eisenhower), which now runs right through the center of the building. That will give you an idea of just what a massive project this was. The old Metropolitan "L", parts of which were displaced by the highway, has already curved off to the left, where it can be seen crossing the Union Station train sheds. Two side-by-side bridges carried the four tracks over the Chicago River. Then, tracks split, one part going to the Wells Street Terminal, the other continuing to a connection with the Loop structure at Wells and Van Buren. Now, the CTA Blue Line subway goes underneath the post office and river.

This aerial view shows the old Main Chicago Post Office and the near west side in 1946, before work started on building the Congress Expressway (now Eisenhower), which now runs right through the center of the building. That will give you an idea of just what a massive project this was. The old Metropolitan “L”, parts of which were displaced by the highway, has already curved off to the left, where it can be seen crossing the Union Station train sheds. Two side-by-side bridges carried the four tracks over the Chicago River. Then, tracks split, one part going to the Wells Street Terminal, the other continuing to a connection with the Loop structure at Wells and Van Buren. Now, the CTA Blue Line subway goes underneath the post office and river.

A close-up of the previous picture shows the Met "L" in greater detail. An eastbound two-car "L" train and a red CSL streetcar are visible.

A close-up of the previous picture shows the Met “L” in greater detail. An eastbound two-car “L” train and a red CSL streetcar are visible.

In this picture, it looks like the Congress Expressway (now Eisenhower) has just opened, which would date the picture to November 1960. We are looking east near Oak Park Avenue. Many things are unfinished, and traffic is limited to two lanes in each direction (and already very crowded). According to Graham Garfield's excellent web site, the new Oak Park station opened on March 19, 1960, and the station house was finished on March 27, 1961.

In this picture, it looks like the Congress Expressway (now Eisenhower) has just opened, which would date the picture to November 1960. We are looking east near Oak Park Avenue. Many things are unfinished, and traffic is limited to two lanes in each direction (and already very crowded). According to Graham Garfield’s excellent web site, the new Oak Park station opened on March 19, 1960, and the station house was finished on March 27, 1961.

Chicago, North Shore & Milwaukee car 772 in 1959 at the barn lead to the Harrison Street Shops in Milwaukee..

Chicago, North Shore & Milwaukee car 772 in 1959 at the barn lead to the Harrison Street Shops in Milwaukee..

North Shore Line car 158 is a northbound Waukegan Express on the Shore Line Route at North Chicago, July 4, 1949. This was the also date of an Electric Railroaders Association (ERA) fantrip. 158 was built by Brill in 1915.

North Shore Line car 158 is a northbound Waukegan Express on the Shore Line Route at North Chicago, July 4, 1949. This was the also date of an Electric Railroaders Association (ERA) fantrip. 158 was built by Brill in 1915.

North Shore Line city streetcar 356 in the 1940s. The consensus is this shows Waukegan, as there was no curve in Milwaukee that matches the buildings in this picture. Jerry Wiatrowski adds, "This is in Waukegan! The photographer is standing on the South side of Belvidere Street looking East/Northeast. The Westbound streetcar is turning off of Marion Street (now South Genesee Street) and will shortly turn right onto South Genesee Street as it travels North thru the center of downtown Waukegan. If I recall correctly, the “s-curve” this streetcar is on was known as “Merchants curve”. The sailors that can be seen in the windows of the car are going to downtown Waukegan from the Great Lakes Naval Base, the South end of the streetcar line."

North Shore Line city streetcar 356 in the 1940s. The consensus is this shows Waukegan, as there was no curve in Milwaukee that matches the buildings in this picture. Jerry Wiatrowski adds, “This is in Waukegan! The photographer is standing on the South side of Belvidere Street looking East/Northeast. The Westbound streetcar is turning off of Marion Street (now South Genesee Street) and will shortly turn right onto South Genesee Street as it travels North thru the center of downtown Waukegan. If I recall correctly, the “s-curve” this streetcar is on was known as “Merchants curve”. The sailors that can be seen in the windows of the car are going to downtown Waukegan from the Great Lakes Naval Base, the South end of the streetcar line.”

Randolph Street looking east in the late 1940s. The RKO Palace Theatre, located at 151 West Randolph, is now the Cadillac Palace.

Randolph Street looking east in the late 1940s. The RKO Palace Theatre, located at 151 West Randolph, is now the Cadillac Palace.

CTA Pullman 106 at South Shops on September 10, 1952.

CTA Pullman 106 at South Shops on September 10, 1952.

A view of the north side of CTA's South Shops on September 10, 1952. In a previous post, we ran a picture of car 4001 taken on this trackage. That picture was taken in the 1930s, and by 1952 it appears one track had been taken out of service.

A view of the north side of CTA’s South Shops on September 10, 1952. In a previous post, we ran a picture of car 4001 taken on this trackage. That picture was taken in the 1930s, and by 1952 it appears one track had been taken out of service.

PS- Here is that photo of 4001, which we previously ran in our post More Chicago PCC Photos – Part Four (10-12-2015):

CSL 4001 may be on non-revenue trackage at the north end of South Shops. (Edward Frank, Jr. Photo)

CSL 4001 may be on non-revenue trackage at the north end of South Shops. (Edward Frank, Jr. Photo)

This picture was taken on September 9, 1952, looking north from the Main Street station on CTA's Evanston branch.

This picture was taken on September 9, 1952, looking north from the Main Street station on CTA’s Evanston branch.

On September 9, 1952, a southbound North Shore Line train, running via the Shore Line Route, stops at Foster Street in Evanston. Here, NSL had its own platform to keep passengers from transferring to the "L" without paying another fare. The stairs descended to a free area. It was not necessary to have a similar platform for northbound riders, as North Shore Line conductors would check tickets on the train.

On September 9, 1952, a southbound North Shore Line train, running via the Shore Line Route, stops at Foster Street in Evanston. Here, NSL had its own platform to keep passengers from transferring to the “L” without paying another fare. The stairs descended to a free area. It was not necessary to have a similar platform for northbound riders, as North Shore Line conductors would check tickets on the train.

A view from the 15th floor of the YMCA Hotel on Wabash Avenue on September 9, 1952.

A view from the 15th floor of the YMCA Hotel on Wabash Avenue on September 9, 1952.

Another view from the same location.

Another view from the same location.

From the door configuration, you can tell that this prewar Chicago PCC has been converted to one-man operation. It is running on Route 4 - Cottage Grove in this blow-up of the previous image.

From the door configuration, you can tell that this prewar Chicago PCC has been converted to one-man operation. It is running on Route 4 – Cottage Grove in this blow-up of the previous image.

CTA work car L-203 and various PCCs parked behind South Shops on September 10, 1952.

CTA work car L-203 and various PCCs parked behind South Shops on September 10, 1952.

A CSL trailer being used as an office at South Shops on September 10, 1952.

A CSL trailer being used as an office at South Shops on September 10, 1952.

Here, one-man car 3266 is on the south side (Route 67). The car is at Harvard, heading westbound, and I believe the destination sign reads 79th and California. On the other hand, our resident south side expert M. E. writes: "In pict662.jpg , your caption says "I believe the destination sign reads 79th and California." No, it is 71st and California. Route 67 was known as 67th-69th-71st; abbreviated, just 69th, because that was the longest stretch. In fact, you might want to revise the caption to note that the photo is at 69th and Harvard."

Here, one-man car 3266 is on the south side (Route 67). The car is at Harvard, heading westbound, and I believe the destination sign reads 79th and California. On the other hand, our resident south side expert M. E. writes: “In pict662.jpg , your caption says “I believe the destination sign reads 79th and California.” No, it is 71st and California. Route 67 was known as 67th-69th-71st; abbreviated, just 69th, because that was the longest stretch. In fact, you might want to revise the caption to note that the photo is at 69th and Harvard.”

69th and Harvard today, looking east.

69th and Harvard today, looking east.

CTA 6193, a "169" or Broadway-State car, was built by Cummings in 1923. It was converted to one-man operation in 1949 and has suffered some damage in this September 10, 1952 view at South Shops.

CTA 6193, a “169” or Broadway-State car, was built by Cummings in 1923. It was converted to one-man operation in 1949 and has suffered some damage in this September 10, 1952 view at South Shops.

CTA 4314 and 4304 on the west side of South Shops, September 10, 1952. On the other hand, M. E. writes: "In pict664.jpg, you say "on the west side of South Shops." No, this has to be the east side of South Shops. That's because South Shops was on the east side of Vincennes, so its west side faced Vincennes. There is no Vincennes in this photo." We were just going by the information written in the negative envelope that came with this image, which turns out to be incorrect. Gosh darn those out-of-town photographers!!

CTA 4314 and 4304 on the west side of South Shops, September 10, 1952. On the other hand, M. E. writes: “In pict664.jpg, you say “on the west side of South Shops.” No, this has to be the east side of South Shops. That’s because South Shops was on the east side of Vincennes, so its west side faced Vincennes. There is no Vincennes in this photo.” We were just going by the information written in the negative envelope that came with this image, which turns out to be incorrect. Gosh darn those out-of-town photographers!!

CTA 4314 and 4304 on the east side of South Shops, September 10, 1952.

CTA 4314 and 4304 on the east side of South Shops, September 10, 1952.

CTA prewar PCC 4047 and postwar car 7038 at South Shops on September 10, 1952.

CTA prewar PCC 4047 and postwar car 7038 at South Shops on September 10, 1952.

Two CTA freight locos at South Shops, September 10, 1952.

Two CTA freight locos at South Shops, September 10, 1952.

A CTA freight loco, possibly L-201, at South Shops on September 10, 1952.

A CTA freight loco, possibly L-201, at South Shops on September 10, 1952.

A CTA wood car at 42nd Place, end of the Kenwood branch, during the 1950s. (Walter Broschart Photo)

A CTA wood car at 42nd Place, end of the Kenwood branch, during the 1950s. (Walter Broschart Photo)

A two car train of singles just north of Main Street in Evanston. #27 is the lead car.

A two car train of singles just north of Main Street in Evanston. #27 is the lead car.

A CTA single-car unit under wire on the Evanston branch, just north of Main Street. This might be car 47.

A CTA single-car unit under wire on the Evanston branch, just north of Main Street. This might be car 47.

A CTA single-car unit heads south from Isabella on the Evanston branch, sometime between 1961 and 1973.

A CTA single-car unit heads south from Isabella on the Evanston branch, sometime between 1961 and 1973.

A train of 4000s, signed for Jackson Park via the Subway, in 1947. If I am reading the sign correctly, this is 31st Street, a station the CTA closed in 1949. There was also apparently a Chicago White Sox home game when this picture was taken. M. E. writes: "pict673.jpg features a Jackson Park train at 31st St. Notice three tracks. The middle track was used, although I am unsure under what circumstances. One possibility that comes to mind is that the Kenwood line (until it became a shuttle out of Indiana Ave.) ran on this trackage into the Loop and up to Wilson. The Kenwood was a local. The Englewood and Jackson Park trains sometimes bypassed the Kenwood locals using the middle track. There were switches up and down the line to enable moving to and from the middle track. Another possibility is that at one point the North Shore ran trains south as far as 63rd and Dorchester (1400 East) on the Jackson Park line. Perhaps some CNS&M trains used the middle track. One impossibility is that the Englewood and Jackson Park trains used the middle track the whole way from south of Indiana Ave. to the Loop. I say this was not possible because all the stations on this line were on the outer sides of the outside tracks. I don't recall any Englewood or Jackson Park trains running express on the middle track along this stretch. By the way, prior to the 1949 changes, only the Jackson Park line ran north to Howard. The Englewood ran to Ravenswood (to Lawrence and Kimball)."

A train of 4000s, signed for Jackson Park via the Subway, in 1947. If I am reading the sign correctly, this is 31st Street, a station the CTA closed in 1949. There was also apparently a Chicago White Sox home game when this picture was taken. M. E. writes: “pict673.jpg features a Jackson Park train at 31st St. Notice three tracks. The middle track was used, although I am unsure under what circumstances. One possibility that comes to mind is that the Kenwood line (until it became a shuttle out of Indiana Ave.) ran on this trackage into the Loop and up to Wilson. The Kenwood was a local. The Englewood and Jackson Park trains sometimes bypassed the Kenwood locals using the middle track. There were switches up and down the line to enable moving to and from the middle track.
Another possibility is that at one point the North Shore ran trains south as far as 63rd and Dorchester (1400 East) on the Jackson Park line. Perhaps some CNS&M trains used the middle track.
One impossibility is that the Englewood and Jackson Park trains used the middle track the whole way from south of Indiana Ave. to the Loop. I say this was not possible because all the stations on this line were on the outer sides of the outside tracks. I don’t recall any Englewood or Jackson Park trains running express on the middle track along this stretch.
By the way, prior to the 1949 changes, only the Jackson Park line ran north to Howard. The Englewood ran to Ravenswood (to Lawrence and Kimball).”

A close-up of the previous picture.

A close-up of the previous picture.

North Shore Line city streetcar 509 in August 1941. Don's Rail Photos says, "509 was built by St Louis Car in 1909. It was rebuilt to one man and transferred to Waukegan on November 3, 1922. It was used as a waiting room at 10th Street, North Chicago, for a short time in 1947, until a new station could be built at the truncated north end of the Shore Line Route. It was sold for scrap in 1949."

North Shore Line city streetcar 509 in August 1941. Don’s Rail Photos says, “509 was built by St Louis Car in 1909. It was rebuilt to one man and transferred to Waukegan on November 3, 1922. It was used as a waiting room at 10th Street, North Chicago, for a short time in 1947, until a new station could be built at the truncated north end of the Shore Line Route. It was sold for scrap in 1949.”

North Shore Line wood car 304, built by American Car in 1910, as it looked in June 1938. It became a sleet cutter in 1939 and was scrapped the following year.

North Shore Line wood car 304, built by American Car in 1910, as it looked in June 1938. It became a sleet cutter in 1939 and was scrapped the following year.

Gary Railways 19 at Indiana Harbor on May 1, 1938 during the very first fantrip of Central Electric Railfans' Association. This car was built by Cummings in 1927. (LaMar M. Kelley Photo)

Gary Railways 19 at Indiana Harbor on May 1, 1938 during the very first fantrip of Central Electric Railfans’ Association. This car was built by Cummings in 1927. (LaMar M. Kelley Photo)

Gary Railways 22 on May 10, 1940.

Gary Railways 22 on May 10, 1940.

Gary Railways 21 in 1938, signed for 22nd Avenue. It was built by Cummings in 1927.

Gary Railways 21 in 1938, signed for 22nd Avenue. It was built by Cummings in 1927.

Northern Indiana Railways 216 in South Bend, Indiana on June 25, 1939. The occasion was Central Electric Railfans' Association fantrip #9, which brought people here via the South Shore Line. This deck roof car was built by Kuhlman in 1923.

Northern Indiana Railways 216 in South Bend, Indiana on June 25, 1939. The occasion was Central Electric Railfans’ Association fantrip #9, which brought people here via the South Shore Line. This deck roof car was built by Kuhlman in 1923.

Gary Railways 5, a 1925 Kuhlman product, is shown at Indiana Harbor on May 1, 1938, date of the very first Central Electric Railfans' Association fantrip. (LaMar M. Kelley Photo)

Gary Railways 5, a 1925 Kuhlman product, is shown at Indiana Harbor on May 1, 1938, date of the very first Central Electric Railfans’ Association fantrip. (LaMar M. Kelley Photo)

Here, we see New Castle Electric Street Railway 352 in Grant Street at the Erie/B&O/P&LE station in New Castle, PA on August 24, 1941. This was a Birney car, a 1919 National product that, to these eyes, reminds me of the Osgood-Bradley Electromobiles of ten years later. All streetcar service in this area was discontinued on December 11, 1941. (W. Lupher Hay Photo)

Here, we see New Castle Electric Street Railway 352 in Grant Street at the Erie/B&O/P&LE station in New Castle, PA on August 24, 1941. This was a Birney car, a 1919 National product that, to these eyes, reminds me of the Osgood-Bradley Electromobiles of ten years later. All streetcar service in this area was discontinued on December 11, 1941. (W. Lupher Hay Photo)

The Queensboro Bridge trolley, which last ran on April 7, 1957, making it New York City's final (to date) streetcar. Our new audio collection has a "mystery track" on it that may or may not be the Queensboro Bridge trolley. You be the judge. It takes a serious railfan to distinguish an Osgood Bradley Electromobile, as we see here, from the very similar Brill Master Unit. Parts from sister car 601 are now being used to help the Electric City Trolley Museum Association restore Scranton Transit car 505.

The Queensboro Bridge trolley, which last ran on April 7, 1957, making it New York City’s final (to date) streetcar. Our new audio collection has a “mystery track” on it that may or may not be the Queensboro Bridge trolley. You be the judge.
It takes a serious railfan to distinguish an Osgood Bradley Electromobile, as we see here, from the very similar Brill Master Unit. Parts from sister car 601 are now being used to help the Electric City Trolley Museum Association restore Scranton Transit car 505.

Indianapolis Railways 175 was a Brill "Master Unit" built in 1934. These were among the last cars built by Brill prior to the pre-PCCs. Brill's idea behind the "Master Unit" was to create a standardized car, but as it turned out, no two orders placed were exactly alike.

Indianapolis Railways 175 was a Brill “Master Unit” built in 1934. These were among the last cars built by Brill prior to the pre-PCCs. Brill’s idea behind the “Master Unit” was to create a standardized car, but as it turned out, no two orders placed were exactly alike.

North Shore Line city streetcar 352 at Harrison Street Shops in Milwaukee, June 1941.

North Shore Line city streetcar 352 at Harrison Street Shops in Milwaukee, June 1941.

Philadelphia Suburban Transportation Co. (aka Red Arrow) 13, a 1949 product of St. Louis Car Co., in side-of-the-road operation on West Chester Pike, June 2, 1954. Buses replaced trolleys a few days later to allow for the widening of this important thoroughfare.

Philadelphia Suburban Transportation Co. (aka Red Arrow) 13, a 1949 product of St. Louis Car Co., in side-of-the-road operation on West Chester Pike, June 2, 1954. Buses replaced trolleys a few days later to allow for the widening of this important thoroughfare.

Here, Red Arrow 61 approaches the 69th Street Terminal in Upper Darby, sometime in the 1930s. Car 61 was a Brill product from about 1927. Note the man wearing a straw hat, which is something people used to do on hot days.

Here, Red Arrow 61 approaches the 69th Street Terminal in Upper Darby, sometime in the 1930s. Car 61 was a Brill product from about 1927. Note the man wearing a straw hat, which is something people used to do on hot days.

North Shore Line car 760 in Milwaukee. Don's Rail Photos says: "760 was built by Standard Steel Car Co in 1930. It was modernized in 1945 and rebuilt as (a) Silverliner on September 23, 1952." Since photographer LaMar M. Kelley died on January 5, 1948 (see below), this picture cannot be later than that date.

North Shore Line car 760 in Milwaukee. Don’s Rail Photos says: “760 was built by Standard Steel Car Co in 1930. It was modernized in 1945 and rebuilt as (a) Silverliner on September 23, 1952.” Since photographer LaMar M. Kelley died on January 5, 1948 (see below), this picture cannot be later than that date.

We don't often know much about the people who took some of these historic photographs. But here is an obituary of LaMar M. Kelley appeared in the February 1948 issue of Central Headlight, an employee publication of the New York Central railroad. I also found this online (even though it gets the date wrong): "Lamar M. Kelly (d. 1947) of Elkhart IN worked as a helper at the sand house and coal pockets at Elkhart . He was crippled by polio and devoted most his time to rail photography. He traded negatives with Jerry Best who considered Kelley's work to be of varied quality. Kelley died suddenly in a workplace accident in 1947. His negative collection was sold piecemeal." I object to the author's use of the word "crippled," which implies limitations in someone's life that are more than just physical disabilities. Personally, I think LaMar M. Kelley's photography was quite good, and that he led a life of great accomplishment in his 50 short years.

We don’t often know much about the people who took some of these historic photographs. But here is an obituary of LaMar M. Kelley appeared in the February 1948 issue of Central Headlight, an employee publication of the New York Central railroad. I also found this online (even though it gets the date wrong): “Lamar M. Kelly (d. 1947) of Elkhart IN worked as a helper at the sand house and coal pockets at Elkhart . He was crippled by polio and devoted most his time to rail photography. He traded negatives with Jerry Best who considered Kelley’s work to be of varied quality. Kelley died suddenly in a workplace accident in 1947. His negative collection was sold piecemeal.” I object to the author’s use of the word “crippled,” which implies limitations in someone’s life that are more than just physical disabilities. Personally, I think LaMar M. Kelley’s photography was quite good, and that he led a life of great accomplishment in his 50 short years.

"View of two passenger interurban cars on side track for local southbound loading at Edison Court, Waukegan, Ill. Note sign on post, "Save Your North Shore Line." Photo taken circa 1960 by Richard H. Young. Ultimately, these efforts failed, but the demise of the North Shore Line (and the Chicago Aurora & Elgin) helped spur the Federal Government into action to begin subsidizing transit across the country.

“View of two passenger interurban cars on side track for local southbound loading at Edison Court, Waukegan, Ill. Note sign on post, “Save Your North Shore Line.” Photo taken circa 1960 by Richard H. Young. Ultimately, these efforts failed, but the demise of the North Shore Line (and the Chicago Aurora & Elgin) helped spur the Federal Government into action to begin subsidizing transit across the country.

As new streetcar tracks are being laid in Milwaukee, it is important to know what we once had that was lost. Here, the North Shore Line terminal in downtown Milwaukee is being reduced to rubble in 1964, a year after passenger service ended. If only we could have found some way to keep what we had, we wouldn't now need to build so much. An important lesson in life-- it is better to create than it is to destroy.

As new streetcar tracks are being laid in Milwaukee, it is important to know what we once had that was lost. Here, the North Shore Line terminal in downtown Milwaukee is being reduced to rubble in 1964, a year after passenger service ended. If only we could have found some way to keep what we had, we wouldn’t now need to build so much. An important lesson in life– it is better to create than it is to destroy.

Recent Correspondence

Jack Bejna writes:

Here’s the latest. The Chicago Aurora & Elgin Railway ordered 5 cars to be built by the G C Kuhlman Car Company in 1909, numbered 311-315. The wood siding extended down to cover the previously exposed side sill channel, enhancing the look of these classic beauties.

The final wooden car order was placed with the Jewett Car Company in 1914 for six cars numbered 316-321. Car 318 was unique, with the sides being steel up to the belt line, the only wood car built this way. In the 1920s cars 319-321 were upgraded with more powerful motors and thereafter they were used together and/or with trailers.

I don’t know how you manage to put out an interesting, informative post every month, so thanks again for your website and all of the interesting stories within.

And we, in turn, really enjoy seeing these wonderful pictures that you have managed to make look better than ever, using all your skills and hard work.

Larry Sakar writes:

Hi Dave,

I just returned from my 6500 mile Amtrak trip to San Francisco, LA & Portland. I took the Hiawatha from Milwaukee to Chicago and connected to #5 the California Zephyr. Spent 2 days in SFO then took train 710 the San Joaquin to Bakersfield where they bus you to LA. The bus takes I-5 for most of the 100 mile trip to LA. As we got close to LA we were coming into Glendale and looking to my right I saw the abandoned PE r.o.w. where it crossed Fletcher Dr. There’s a picture that has been reproduced numerous times of a 3 car train of PCC’s crossing the bridge over Fletcher Dr. I thought the abandoned North Shore Line r.o.w. here in Milwaukee was high up but the PE r.o.w. is twice as high. The LA Downtown Hotel where I stayed was a block away from what used to be the Subway Terminal Bldg. at 4th & Hill.

When I was leaving the next day I rode the Red Cap’s motorized vehicle to the platform from the Metropolitan lounge. the lounge which is exclusively for 1st Class (sleeping car) passengers is on the second floor of LAUPT (Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal). They travel down a ramp and in the process cross the light rail tracks. We had to stop at the crossing for the passage of a Gold Line train headed to Pasadena and Cucamonga. Bit by bit LA is rebuilding the PE at a cost of billions! So far lines to Long Beach, Pasadena and Santa Monica have been rebuilt. Light rail has become very big in LA.

Two days later on my way back to Portland Union Station my taxi was traveling eight alongside a Portland MAX light rail train. In SFO the F-Line streetcars to Fisherman’s Wharf were packed to the rafters. Articulated buses were operating in place of the JKLM & N light rail lines that run in the Market St. subway. The new cars that are replacing the present BREDA cars were being tested. Saw BART when the Zephyr stopped in Richmond, CA. I know they have new cars coming but they don’t appear to be there as yet. BART is experiencing a significant increase in crime on its lines. Same holds true for Portland. In fact the Portland city council voted to ban anyone convicted of a serious crime on any of its light rail lines, buses or the Portland streetcar for life.

Coming home from Portland on the Portland section of the Empire Builder we heard that the previous day’s train was hit at a crossing (don’t know where) by a water truck. The 24 year old driver smashed thru the crossing gates and slammed into the second Genesis engine destroying it, the baggage car and part of the Superliner crew car behind it. No one was injured, luckily. The cause of the accident was the truck driver texting on his cell phone and not paying attention to driving. He’ll have lots of time to text now as I’m sure he’ll be fired. He’ll lose his CDL (Commercial Drivers License) and I’m sure the trucking company’s insurance carrier will be suing him for the damages they have to pay to Amtrak.

The day I was heading up the California coast from LA to Portland our train was held for almost an hour at LA for late connecting San Diego to LA (Pacific Surfliner) train 763 which is a guaranteed connection to #14. The train hit and killed some guy who was walking on the tracks north of San Diego and south of San Juan Capistrano.

It was a great trip and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

Thanks for sharing!

FYI, Larry Sakar comments:

Hi Dave,

Fantastic posts! Those poor CA&E cars died a slow death rotting away in Wheaton yards until everything was finally scrapped in 1961.

I enjoyed the aerial shots of Canal St. station on the Metropolitan “L” (CTA). It’s not a station that seems to have been photographed a lot but there is a giant wall-sized shot of it on display in the Clinton St. CTA blue line subway station which replaced it. In the days of the “Met” there was a passageway from the south end of Union Station to the “L”. It’s still there and I understand it leads to the present day parking garage south of the station.

In the caption for that shot of the 2 car train of 4000’s on the Lake St. “L”, I don’t think the Lake St. “L” goes to Forest Park. The Green Line as it’s known today ends in Oak Park unless it’s been extended.

Looking at that North Shore Line city car photo I’d guess that is somewhere in Waukegan – Merchant’s curve perhaps? The only place in Milwaukee that had that kind of a curve was where the NSL went between 5th & 6th Sts. None of the buildings in this photo seem to match the ones that were along that curve. The curve was reconstructed after the NSL quit and is now the way you get on to southbound I-94 at Greenfield Ave. The factory building seen in so many of the photos of NSL trains on that curve still stands. Some sort of auto repair facility has been built in front of it. I just rode over that curve last Saturday in the taxi that was taking me home from the Milwaukee Intermodal station downtown. Here’s a Bob Genack photo I have showing that curve. Larry Sakar

Thanks… actually, the Lake Street “L” ground-level operation did cross Harlem Avenue into Forest Park, and there was actually a station there a short distance west which was technically the end of the line.  But few people got on there, the great majority using Marion Street instead.  The Harlem station on the embankment has entrances at Marion and on the west side of Harlem, and thus serves both Oak Park and Forest Park.

An Early History of the Railroad Record Club

Kenneth Gear and I have some new theories about the early history of the Railroad Record Club. This is based on careful study of the new material featured in our recent post Railroad Record Club Treasure Hunt (July 30, 2017).

One of the homemade 78 rpm records Ken recently bought was marked as having William A. Steventon‘s first recordings. These were dated March 24, 1953.

In a 1958 newspaper interview, Steventon said his wife had given him a tape recorder for Christmas in 1953. He probably meant to say 1952, and it took him a few months to get used to operating it.

Steventon always said that the club started in 1953. However, this seemed odd since he did not issue his first 10″ 33 1/3 rpm records until some years later. The 36 numbered discs came out at the rate of four per year from 1958 through 1966.

There was an Introductory Record, which was probably issued in 1957, and a few “special” releases, the most notable of which (SP-4) documents an entire 1962 trip of the South South Shore Line in real time on three 12″ discs as a box set. That was Steventon’s masterpiece.

In 1967, RCA Custom Records closed up shop, and it was not until some years later that Steventon began reissuing some of his recordings on 12″, using a different pressing plant in Nashville. But what was the Railroad Record Club doing from 1953 through 56?

Apparently, during those years, Steventon was distributing 78 rpm records made using a portable disc cutter. These had been available for home use starting in about 1929, and were often used to record things off the radio.

A few enterprising individuals like the late Jerry Newman took such machines to jazz clubs. This is how he made several recordings of Charlie Christian jamming at Minton’s Playhouse in Harlem in 1941.

In similar fashion, a portable disc cutter was used to record Duke Ellington and his Orchestra in Fargo, North Dakota in 1940. You can read about that here.

While Steventon was using a tape recorder, made portable by being hooked up to an auto battery, tape was not yet an effective way to distribute recordings in 1953. Very few people had such machines.

But most people did have record players, and the standard format of the time was 78 rpm, which yielded at most five minutes per side on 10″ aluminum discs covered with acetate. “Long Playing” 33 1/3 rpm records were a new format, just beginning to gain popularity.

No doubt Steventon dated the RRC’s beginnings to 1953, since that is when he began making recordings, but it is alsolikely that is when he started distributing them. Using a homemade disc cutter meant the records were made in real time. As things gained in popularity, this would have taken up more and more of his time.

To distill much longer recordings to fit the five minute limit, Steventon spliced together all sorts of bits and pieces, and recorded brief introductions later, to tell listeners what they were about to hear.

Some of the homemade discs that Ken purchased have numbers on them. Others have stamped titles, which would indicate to me that Steventon was making them in quantity, and had rubber stamps made for the most popular titles.

These early records were distributed using a number sequence that is totally different than the later one adopted for the 10″ records issued in 1958 or later. Here is a partial list of these early releases:

01. Potomac Edison (aka Hagerstown & Frederick)
02. Shenandoah Central
03. Capital Transit
04. Johnstown Traction
05. Altoona & Logan Valley
06. Baltimore & Ohio
07. Shaker Heights Rapid Transit
08. Claude Mahoney Radio Program about NRHS fantrip (1953)
09. Pennsylvania Railroad
10. Nickel Plate Road
11. St. Louis Public Service
15. Baltimore Transit
16. Norfolk & Western
17. Western Maryland Railway
22. East Broad Top
24. Chicago & Illinois Midland

In this period (1953-55), Steventon was living in Washington, D.C., so many of his recordings were made in that area. He was originally from Mount Carmel, Illinois, which is near the Indiana border. That explains his Hoosier accent as heard on his introductions.

Over time, Steventon branched out, making recordings in other cities when he was on vacation. Regarding his traction recordings, he generally preferred to tape the older equipment, since these made all the right noises. It was more difficult to make successful recordings of PCC cars, since they were much quieter by design, but he did do some.

The success of these records surely inspired Steventon to have records made in quantity by a pressing plant, the RCA Custom Records Division. By 1957, the 33 1/3 rpm format had become the norm, and this permitted about 15 minutes per side on a 10″ record. The resulting disc could hold as much sound as three of the 78s, and weighed a lot less, saving on postage.

Eventually, Steventon began including detailed liner notes with his records, and largely abandoned the spoken introductions.

The 1958 newspaper article mentioned above said that Steventon had sold 1000 records in the previous year. Without his previous experience with homemade records, it is unlikely that Steventon would have records pressed commercially.

We have now cleaned up and digitized many of these early recordings, which are now available under the title Railroad Record Club Rarities. The Traction recordings fill two discs, and the Steam and Diesel tracks are on a single disc. More details are below.

Sometimes, in the absence of written records, or spoken introductions, it is only possible to identify certain recordings through a bit of detective work. As an example, on one recording, the only clues we have are Steventon’s brief mention of riding cars 80 and 83.

This narrows down considerably the list of possible locations. The most likely is the Philadelphia Suburban Transporation Company, also known as the Red Arrow Lines. Cars 80 and 83, which fortunately have survived, were 1932 Brill-built “Master Units.”

We know that Steventon made recordings of similar cars. On one of the Altoona discs, he even refers to an Osgood Bradley Electromobile at one point as a “Master Unit.”

Car 80 still runs to this day at the Electric City Trolley Museum in Scranton, PA., so there are YouTube recordings that I compared with this one. They sound very much the same.

Finally, the Steventon recording shows cars 80 and 83 running at speed, frequently blowing the horn, very much in interurban mode. The longest Red Arrow route, and the most interurban in character, was the West Chester line, which was largely side-of-the-road operation along West Chester Pike.

The final trolley trips on West Chester took place on June 6, 1954. We have written about this before– see Red Arrow in West Chester, September 13, 2016. Buses replaced trolleys so that West chester Pike could be widened.

The National Railway Historical Society held a fantrip after the last revenue runs were made. We know that Steventon participated in NRHS events, since one of the 78 rpm records he distributed features a radio program that discusses a 1953 NRHS excursion.

So, the most logical conclusion is that this rare recording was made by Steventon in 1953 or 1954, and documents the Red Arrow line to West Chester. This recording is included on Railroad Record Club Rarities – Traction.

While we are happy to report that we have finally achieved our long-sought goal of digitizing the Railroad Record Club’s later output, it seems very likely there are still more of these early recordings waiting to be discovered.

-David Sadowski

Now Available on Compact Disc

RRC-RT
Railroad Record Club Rarities – Traction!
# of Discs – 2
Price: $19.95

Railroad Record Club Rarities – Traction!
These are rare recordings, which date to 1953-55 and predate the 10″ LPs later issued by the Railroad Record Club. Many are previously unissued, and some are available here in a different (and longer) format than later releases, often including William A. Steventon’s spoken introductions. We have used the best available sources, and while some recordings sound excellent, others have some imperfections. But all are rare, rare, rare!

Includes Altoona & Logan Valley, Baltimore Transit, Capital Transit (Washington D.C.), Johnstown Traction, Pennsylvania GG-1s, Potomac Edison (Hagerstown & Frederick), Red Arrow, St. Louis Public Service, Shaker Heights Rapid Transit, and South Shore Line Electric Freight.

Total time – 149:52


RRC-RSD
Railroad Record Club Rarities – Steam and Diesel!
# of Discs – 1
Price: $14.95

Railroad Record Club Rarities – Steam and Diesel
These are rare recordings, made by William A. Steventon between 1953 and 1955, and include his earliest recordings. These predate the regular output of the Railroad Record Club. Many are previously unissued, and some are available here in a different (and longer) format than later releases, often including William A. Steventon’s spoken introductions. In general, audio quality is good, but some recordings have imperfections. However, the best available sources have been used, and you won’t find them anywhere else. Much of this material has not been heard in over 60 years.

Includes: Baltimore & Ohio, Chicago & Illinois Midland, East Broad Top, Illinois Central, Nickel Plate road, Pennsylvania Railroad, Shenadoah Central, and even a 1953 radio broadcast by Claude Mahoney that discusses an NRHS fantrip.

Total time – 69:36


RRC #22 and 31
Buffalo Creek & Gauley
Sound Scrapbook – Steam!
# of Discs – 1
Price: $14.95

Railroad Record Club #22 and 31:

The Buffalo Creek and Gauley Railroad (BC&G) was a railroad chartered on April 1, 1904 and ran along Buffalo Creek in Clay County, West Virginia. The original Buffalo Creek and Gauley ended service in 1965.

The BC&G was one of the last all-steam railroads, never operating a diesel locomotive to the day it shut down in 1965. Its primary purpose was to bring coal out of the mountains above Widen to an interchange with the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad at Dundon. These recordings were made in 1960.

Sound Scrapbook – Steam! covers several different steam railroads, including Canadian National, National Railways of Mexico, McCloud River Railway, Union Pacific, Southern Pacific, Westside Lumber Company, Duluth Missabe & Iron Range, and Pickering Lumber Corp.

Total time – 62:43


RRC #32, Sampler for Years 3 & 4, and Steam Whistles and Bells
# of Discs – 1
Price: $14.95

RRC #32, Sampler for Years 3 & 4, and Steam Whistles and Bells
This disc features the New York Central, recorded in 1954-55. It’s mainly steam, but with some diesel. In addition, the Railroad Record Club Sampler for years 3 and 4 includes selections from discs 9 through 16. Finally, we have included a very rare circa 1955 recording, Steam Whistles and Bells, which covers several properties across the country.

Total time – 72:07


Pre-Order Our New Book Chicago Trolleys

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

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

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

Overview

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

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

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

Product Details

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

Meet the Author

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

Images of Rail

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

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

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

We appreciate your business!

For Shipping to US Addresses:

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For Shipping Elsewhere:

NEW – Chicago Trolleys Postcard Collection

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

The Postcards of America Series

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

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

Pre-Order your Chicago Trolleys Postcard Pack today!

For Shipping to US Addresses:

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For Shipping Elsewhere:

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Help Support The Trolley Dodger

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This is our 191st 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 311,000 page views, for which we are very grateful.

You can help us continue our original transit research by checking out the fine products in our Online Store.

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

We thank you for your support.

DONATIONS

In order to continue giving you the kinds of historic railroad images that you have come to expect from The Trolley Dodger, we need your help and support. It costs money to maintain this website, and to do the sort of historic research that is our specialty.

Your financial contributions help make this web site better, and are greatly appreciated.

Revisiting the Railroad Record Club

An RRC insert, found inside a vintage 1965 LP.

An RRC insert, found inside a vintage 1965 LP.

Following up on our earlier post about the Railroad Record Club (April 12), we found some interesting documents inside one of the many steam and traction LPs they issued in the 1950s and 60s. These date to late 1965.

The RRC Newsletter shows that record #32 came out late in 1965, and the five “special” pressings were also out by then. There is a mention that the company that pressed their records (RCA) was getting out of the business soon, but this may simply mean that they no longer wanted to make 10″ records, which were going out of favor.

The remaining four RRC tiles #33-36 most likely came out in 1966, since the club had been putting out four records per year. Those were also issued on 10″ LPs, but after that, the Railroad Record Club only put out reissues on 12″ vinyl.

There is also a description of a pressing error, where RCA apparently mismatched some of the two Nickel Plate Road LPs. RRC sold these to the public but unfortunately did not mark them as such.

Some recordings that were never issued are mentioned, including one of the Queensboro Bridge trolley, which last ran on April 7, 1957. Perhaps there is still rare traction audio out there waiting to be rediscovered.

Here is a video of that trolley*:

In response to your requests for more RRC titles on CD, we have added eight more steam titles to our Online Store. Nearly all of these have two RRC titles together on single compact disc.

To give you an idea of the relative value of cost, fifty years ago versus today, we made a comparison using one of those online inflation calculators. Each 10″ LP cost $4.00 in 1965, which is the equivalent of $30.30 now.

By comparison, we are offering two RRC discs in most cases for just $14.95.

The special South Shore Line 3-disc box set cost $12.49 when first issued, which would be nearly $100 in today’s money. We have the same title on two discs for only $19.95.

In addition to the Railroad Record Club recordings, we have also transferred a few other public domain recordings to compact disc.

We are still looking for a copy of RRC #23, which features Pennsylvania traction. There are vintage 1950s recordings of both the Johnstown Traction and the Altoona & Logan Valley streetcars on that disc. If you have a copy of this rare title that you would be willing to share with us, we would be glad to transfer it to compact disc and send you back your original along with a copy.

Thanks.

-Ye Olde Editor

*The narration is by prolific author Vincent F. Seyfried (1918-2012). He does get one thing wrong, however. The trolleys used on the Queensboro Bridge operation in its last days were built in 1930, not 1948.

Car 601, an “Electromobile” built by Osgood-Bradley, survived until 2009. It had been allowed to deteriorate for many years in storage, but at least parts from this car will help restore others.

The RRC Newsletter from late 1965.

The RRC Newsletter from late 1965.

The RRC Order Form from late 1965. LPs cost $4.00, which is the equivalent of $30.30 today. The $12.49 cost of the 3-disc South Shore Line recording would equate to $94.62 now.

The RRC Order Form from late 1965. LPs cost $4.00, which is the equivalent of $30.30 today. The $12.49 cost of the 3-disc South Shore Line recording would equate to $94.62 now.

RRC sold more than just records.

RRC sold more than just records.

There was a pressing error in 1965, and some of the two Nickel Plate LPs got mixed up. RRC sold these errors to the public and left it up to the purchaser to take note of the mistake.

There was a pressing error in 1965, and some of the two Nickel Plate LPs got mixed up. RRC sold these errors to the public and left it up to the purchaser to take note of the mistake.

Several new RRC steam titles are now available in our Online Store.

Several new RRC steam titles are now available in our Online Store.

A Railroad Record Club Discography

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The Railroad Record Club was started in the early 1950s by William Steventon (1921-1993), a farmer living near Hawkins, Wisconsin.  He issued a total of 37 10″ records (each containing about 30 minutes of audio) in his original series between about 1955 and 1965. In most years, four titles were issued.

One fan reports, “The Railroad Record Club was a hobby operation. Bill would edit tapes either sent to him by his friends, or from his own work, make a master tape, and send it off RCA’s custom record plant.”

Most records featured steam locomotives, but there were some traction recordings as well.  All of these included sounds that were once familiar to all, but were already fast disappearing from the American scene.  The recordings of the Railroad Record Club are an important part of the historical record, and supplement the films and photographs taken at the time.

Eventually, some of the original discs were reissued on 12″.  There were also some samplers made.

Hard information about the RRC seems to be lacking on the Internet, but I did find this article from the March 6, 1958 issue of the Milwaukee Sentinel:

TOWN STILL HEARS TRAIN ‘CHUG-CHUG’

HAWKINS, Wis., March 5 (Special) – The chug-chug of coal burning locomotives pulling up steep grades and the lonesome wail of the steam whistle can still be heard in this Rusk County village.  This is despite the fact that Soo Line train engines running through Hawkins have been dieselized for a number of years.  These sounds, instead, come from some 200,000 feet of tape recording made by William A. Steventon, manager of the Cream Valley Telephone Co. here.

200 CLUB MEMBERS

Steventon is the organizer of the Railroad Record Club, which has some 200 members throughout the United States and in several foreign countries.  During 1957 he sold 1,000 records in America, New Zealand, Australia, England and Canada.

Steventon got into this fascinating sideline in 1953 when his bride-to-be gave him a record of railroad sounds for Christmas.  It was of imitation noises, recorded in a studio.  This sounds like an unusual gift, until you learn that Steventon is the son of a locomotive engineer and climbed up on a chair to watch the trains go past his home in Mt. Carmel, Ill., as soon as he could walk.

TOY TRAINS AT 4

He got his first toy electric train when he was four years old.  As a teenager in the 1930s, he started building scale model electric trains.  Electric trains particularly fascinated Steventon.  He collected pictures of interurban lines throughout the country, also visiting as many of them as he could.

He now has seven complete model train sets and is working on another.  He hopes to get into steam locomotives later.  When he finishes building his new home east of Hawkins, Steventon plans to set up a system of tracks for his train.

When Steventon, working then for the government in Washington, D. C., got the sound recording for Christmas, he decided to record the real McCoy.

VISITED 15 STATES

Since then he has recorded steam and electric trains in 15 states– from New York to California, even in Chicago’s smoky Loop.  As you sit in Steventon’s office listening to the huff and puff of the engine and the clickety-clack of wheels over rail joints, you almost feel the sway of the cars.

Some recordings offered by Steventon to club members include sounds no longer heard on railroads such as the Illinois Terminal, Johnstown Traction, Potomac Edison, Waterloo, Cedar Falls & Northern, Shaker Heights Rapid Transit, Denver and Rio Grande Western, New York Central and the Duluth, Mesabi and Iron Range.  Club members are required to buy three of four records offered each year at a reduced rate.

ONE DESCRIBED

Here is his description of one record:

“One side will consist  of locomotive switching at Spooner, Wis.  Did you ever ride a sleeper and stop at some division point in the wee hours and listen to a nearby switch engine doing yeard work in a misting rain?  This is just such a recording.

“The other side will have the last steamer on the Wabash doing yard work at Bluffs, Ill.  This recording was made from the train and captures all the thrilling sounds of the air pump, clanging firebox door, exhaust and whistles.  This steamer has been retired since the spring of 1955, but lives on in this recording.”

Steventon said one woman in Maine wrote him that records her son has purchased “were so realistic that smoke from the trains got my curtains dirty.”

So, it appears Steventon dated the founding of the club to Christmas 1953, although I don’t think any records were issued before 1955.  The first introductory record was unnumbered, and the ones that followed ran from 1-36.  There were at least six special pressings in the early 1970s, and various samplers that presumably gave club members and record dealers some idea of what they could order each year.  Some records were reissued in 12″ format, and the club seems to have kept going until around 1986.

Here is what I assume to be a more or less complete Railroad Record Club discography. As far as I know, this is the first and only such discography that you will find online.

-David Sadowski

RAILROAD RECORD CLUB TITLES
0 Soo Line, Illinois Central (Introductory Record)
1 Wabash Railroad, Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha
2 Waterloo, Cedar Falls & Northern, Southern Iowa Railway
3 Denver, Rio Grande & Western, East Broad Top
4 Baltimore and Ohio
5 Denver & Rio Grande Western
6 Potomac Edison (Hagerstown & Frederick)
7 Norfolk & Western, Illinois Central (Also includes a bit of Illinois Terminal Railroad)
8 Canadian National (aka Canadian Railroading in the Days of Steam)
9 Winston-Salem Southbound
10 Pennsylvania Railroad
11 Shaker Heights Rapid Transit
12 Duluth Missabe & Iron Range
13 Nickel Plate Road
14 Pacific Electric
15 Chicago, Burlington & Quincy
16 Westside Lumber Company
17 Minneapolis & St Paul, Sault Ste Marie Railway
18 Chicago, North Shore & Milwaukee
19 Duluth, Missabe & Iron Range
20 Chicago & Illinois Midland – New York Central
21 Duluth & Northeastern
22 Buffalo Creek & Gauley
23 Pennsy Trolleys
24 Canadian Pacific
25 Illinois Terminal Railroad
26 Chicago, North Shore & Milwaukee (freight)
27 Capital Transit Company
28 Charles City Western – Waterloo, Cedar Falls & Northern
29 Nickel Plate Road
30 Sound Scrapbook, Traction
31 Sound Scrapbook, Steam
32 New York Central
33 Chicago, South Shore & South Bend (freight)
34 Chicago, South Shore & South Bend (freight)
35 Milwaukee & Suburban Transport, Chicago, North Shore & Milwaukee (Disc says No. 36)
36 Chicago, Aurora & Elgin, Chicago Transit Authority (Disc says No. 35)

Special Pressings
SP1 The Silverton Train
SP2 Northern Pacific 2626 Memorial Album
SP3 Whistle ‘Round the Bend
SP4 Chicago, South Shore & South Bend Railroad (passenger)
SP5 Soo Line, Illinois Central
SP6 The Milwaukee Road (electric freight)

Samplers
S1 1st & 2nd Years -1-4, 5-8
S2 3rd & 4th Years – 9-12, 13-16
S3 5th Year – 17-20
S4 6th Year – 21-24
S5 7th & 8th Years – 25-28, 29-32
S6 9th year – 33-36

PS- Eric Bronsky writes:

As it turns out, I acquired a bunch of recordings many years ago and still have my copy of that Club’s 1965-1970 catalog. Scans are attached. The detailed description of each record should help you to fill in any gaps. You’re welcome to share these images through your blog.

I recall Bill Steventon’s apology for having to raise the price of all 10″ records to $4.00 (postpaid)! In those days the price increase seemed steep because I was earning only $3.00/hour.

I also saved several Record Club newsletters from various years up to 1986 and a 1971 catalog from Mobile Fidelity Records, which produced the original Interurban Memories album. All-Nation Hobby Shop once had a “record department” which sold RR sound recordings from several sources. “Traction Ted” Seifert was in charge of this.

RRRC 01

RRRC 02

RRRC 03

RRRC 04

RRRC 05

RRRC 06

RRRC 07

Railroad Record Club disc #13.

Railroad Record Club disc #13.

PS- You can now purchase some of these historic recordings on compact disc through our Online Store. We also posted a follow-up article about the RRC that you can read here.