In 1957, CTA PCC 7271 and 7215 pass on Clark Street, just north of North Avenue. The old Plaza Hotel, located at 59 W. North Avenue, is in the background. A Hasty Tasty restaurant was located in the building, with a Pixley and Ehler’s across the street. These were “greasy spoon” chains that were known for offering cheap eats. Local mobsters were known to hang out at the Plaza. The Chicago Historical Society, now known as the Chicago History Museum, would be just to the left, out of view in this picture. The Moody Bible Institute would be out of view on the right. (Russel Kriete Photo)
In this close-up, that looks like 7215 at right. Photographer Russel A. Kreite (1923-2015), of Downers Grove, Illinois, was a member of the Photographic Society of America and had many of his photos published in books and magazines.
Chicago PCC Station Assignments
Robert Dillon writes:
For the last several months I have been over and thoroughly enjoying CERA Bulletin 146 and your compendium “Chicago’s PCC Streetcars: The Rest of the Story”. It brings back a wealth of wonderful memories from my childhood growing up in Rogers Park. I was a frequent rider on the “Clark Street Car” and was immediately smitten with the post-war PCC from the day in 1947 that I first heard the gong and witnessed an otherwise unbelievably silent arrival and breathtaking appearance of a Howard bound PCC at Clark Street and Morse Avenue.
The trivia set forth on page 429 of Bulletin 146 indicates that 400 Pullman and St Louis post-war PCCs were assigned to the Clark-Wentworth and Broadway-State routes for runs out of the Clark-Devon and 77th-Vincennes Carbarns. What I have not been able to find in any of the literature is how those 400 cars were allocated by post-war PCC manufacturer and/or by car number series to those stations. Were there an equal number of Pullmans and St. Louis PCCs at each of Clark-Devon and 77th-Vincennes? I would imagine that after 49 Western was equipped exclusively with St.Louis PCCs in 1948 the St.Louis PCCs would have predominated at Clark-Devon.
There are several other car assignment questions that arise from the PCC Trivia Page. Thus, during 1948 and 1949 when the 69th St. Carbarn was handling both Western Ave and 63rd St. PCC-assigned runs, it presumably stabled all 83 of the pre-war PCCs, but how many St. Louis post-war PCCs were also then housed at 69th Street?
It is indicated that by the end of 1948, there were a few PCC cars assigned to the Cottage Grove-38th Street Carbarn Were these pre-war or post-war PCCs (Pullman or St.Louis) and what routes were they used on?
Finally, I am aware there were a number of 8 Halsted runs out of Limits Carbarn. And, maybe some Broadway-State runs as well. That suggests there were Pullman and/or St.Louis PCCs stationed at Limits, at least during the earlier 1950s. If that is true, is there any info as to the number of Pullmans vs St. Louis PCCs at Limits?
I would be very grateful for any illumination you could provide on the questions set forth above. Or, if you could point me toward resources where I might be able to find answers that would be very much appreciated as well.
Thanks very much for all of your terrific efforts on the Chicago PCCs. I can’t begin to express how much enjoyment it has given me.
There are a few different ways we can approach these questions. First of all, it’s possible that CTA records indicating which cars were assigned to which stations (car barns) and routes may still exist and can provide the necessary information.
In the absence of that, a lot can be learned by studying photographs. This would be a statistical approach. It would take some time and effort, but a lot could be learned that way. I would have to create a spreadsheet and compile data from a large number of images.
Over time, the number of cars required for each individual route changed. In general, the numbers declined since there were substantial ridership losses during the first decade of the CTA era. Some of the brochures CTA distributed when routes were changed over from streetcars to buses give the numbers of PCCs that were in use at the time of the switch to buses.
When Madison first got PCCs in late 1936, the route needed about 100 cars as I recall. Since there were only 83 prewar PCCs made, some of the 1929 Sedans filled out the schedule. These were fast cars and could keep up with the PCCs.
By the time PCCs were taken off Madison in 1953, I doubt this many cars were needed.
This reduction in the number of cars on individual routes also helps explain why it was possible for CTA to use the postwar PCCs on more routes than the four that were originally planned. Between 1947 and 1958, ridership on the CTA’s surface system was nearly cut in half.
I would be interested to know what information our readers can share with us. Hopefully, some of our frequent contributors can weigh in on this subject, thanks.
M. E. writes:
Your latest blog update contains a question about the 38th St. car barn: Which streetcar lines were served by the PCCs kept there?
It seems to me the answer is easy: Only 4 Cottage Grove. This line received some pre-war PCC cars a few years before it was converted to bus. (I have seen photos of post-war PCCs on Cottage Grove, but that would have been short-lived.)
The other south side PCC lines used south side barns as follows:
36 Broadway-State, 22 Clark-Wentworth, 8 Halsted, and 42 Halsted-Archer-Clark (all post-war PCC lines) used the barn at 77th and Vincennes. Line 22 ran in front of the barn. Line 36 ran behind the barn a few blocks on State St., and likely used 79th St. west to Vincennes to reach the barn.. I believe Halsted cars used 79th St. east to Vincennes to reach the barn (although I am not certain).
63 63rd St. (pre-war PCC) and 49 Western (post-war PCC) used the barn at 69th and Ashland. 63rd St. cars used Ashland south to 69th to reach the barn.
When the 69th and Ashland barn closed, I’m pretty sure 63rd was no longer a streetcar line, and Western Ave. cars used 69th St. east to Wentworth, south to Vincennes, southwest to 77th and Vincennes.
Andre Kristopans has a great answer:
Prewar – 75 69th, 8 Kedzie
St Louis 40 Limits, 50 69th, 199 Devon
Pullman 225 77th, 85 Kedzie
Prewar 83 Cottage Grove
St Louis 20 Cottage Grove, 66 77th, 41 69th, 160 Devon
Pullman 215 77th, 63 Kedzie, 31 Limits
Prewar 83 Cottage Grove
St Louis 20 Cottage Grove, 74 77th, 38 69th, 155 Devon
Pullman 87 77th
Prior to 1957, assignment sheets only showed series by barn, not actual car numbers.
To get more specific than that, we would have to study photos to figure out where particular cars were assigned at various times. By 1957, all remaining cars in use were made by St. Louis Car Company in 1946-48.
Regarding 4391, the only postwar car saved, I know it spent time on Western Avenue before ending its days on Wentworth. According to the excellent Hicks Car Works blog, it was assigned to 69th station and later 77th. Therefore it was spared a lot of outdoor storage, which would have been the case at Devon.
There were various mechanical differences between the postwar Pullmans and the St. Louis cars. Some stations (car barns) were equipped to handle both types, and others were not.
These mechanical differences were spelled out in detail in a 24-page CTA troubleshooting manual for PCC operators. If anyone has a copy of this manual and can provide us with the information, we would very much appreciate it. This brochure was a greatly expanded version of one that CSL issued in 1946, which was only four pages.
The same location as above, perhaps taken a few years earlier.
Clark Street at North Avenue today. We are looking south. A bank has replaced the Pixley’s, and the Latin School of Chicago now occupies the location of the old Plaza Hotel.
1920s Mystery Photos Redux
These two pictures appeared in The Rider’s Reader (January 31, 2016):
This picture, and the next, appear to have been taken in the late 1920s or early 1930s. The banners would indicate an event, but we are not sure of the occasion. One of our readers says this is “State and Washington looking south.” This could also be circa 1926 at the time of the Eucharistic Congress.
Our readers have identified this as being “Holy Name Cathedral at State and Chicago.” The occasion may be the Eucharistic Congress in 1926.
Miles Beitler writes:
I’m writing about two unidentified photos on your trolleydodger.com blog. The captions state that the photos appear to be of State Street in the loop in the 1920s or 1930s. One reader suggested that it was part of the 1926 Eucharistic Congress.
I don’t think it was the Eucharistic Congress (which I know was held that year in Mundelein) but I do think the year was 1926. All of the flags and patriotic decorations lead me to believe that it was the celebration of the United States sesquicentennial (150th birthday) which would have been July 4, 1926.
That’s an interesting suggestion, thanks. But one picture does show a large crowd outside Holy Name Cathedral. What would that have to do with the Fourth of July?
The two photos might have nothing to do with each other except for the fact that both show patriotic decorations along State Street. I was referring to those decorations which I believe were there for the sesquicentennial.
The crowd outside Holy Name Cathedral could have been there for the Eucharistic Congress (although the Congress was held far away in Mundelein), or for a special Sesquicentennial Mass, or maybe even for the funeral of a prominent local politician or notorious gangster. But someone at Holy Name should be able to tell you.
Your blog also has a photo of a NSL Electroliner speeding through Skokie at “East Prairie Road circa 1960”, and a current photo of the CTA Yellow Line labeled “East Prairie Road looking east along the CTA Yellow Line today”. I believe the “today” photo is actually looking WEST; you can see the remnants of the Crawford Avenue station, as well as Crawford Avenue itself, one block to the west. As for the Electroliner photo, the eastbound and westbound mainline tracks are closer together near the CTA Skokie Shops than this photo indicates. So I think it might be just east of Kostner Avenue; there was a half-mile long siding along the westbound track which ended at that point, as well as a crossover between the two mainline tracks which is visible in the distance.
You may be correct about the North Shore Line picture. I will revise the caption accordingly.
The other two pictures appear to have been taken at one time and so I am inclined to think they relate to the same event, whatever it was.
Finally, Miles wrote:
I did some quick research and it seems clear that the photo of Holy Name Cathedral is indeed of the Eucharistic Congress procession. There was an outdoor mass at Soldier Field in addition to the larger one held in Mundelein. The photo of State and Washington Streets seems to depict similar decorations which may have been placed along the route to Soldier Field.
Thanks for your interesting blog and photos!
Well, thank you for all your help. As we have noted before, the information that comes with photos may or may not be correct. There were a couple of instances recently where the this info turned out not to be correct. This sometimes happened when the photographer was from out-of-town and thus was not as familiar with locations as one of the locals.
In the case of the North Shore Line photo, what’s written on the negative envelope actually matches what you say. I chose the opposite direction since I was unaware of the siding you mention. Now it all makes sense. However, further research has led me to think the photo was taken
Here is the photo in question, which originally appeared in Lost and Found (February 12, 2016):
An Electroliner at speed near Crawford looking west. This picture was taken from a passing train in 1960, three years before the North Shore Line quit. CTA’s Skokie Swift began running in 1964. (Richard H. Young Photo)
Today’s CTA Yellow Line looking west from Crawford.
Detail from an old CERA North Shore Line map, with the location of this photo indicated.
The True Colors of Chicago’s Postwar PCCs
Although signed for Clark-Wentworth, this shot of 4160 is actually on Madison in Garfield Park. (CSL Photo) George Trapp says he got this picture from the late Robert Gibson.
Pantone 151 is Swamp Holly Orange.
On the Chicagotransit Yahoo group, Damin Keenan writes:
What recommendations would you have for matching CTA’s colors using model paints?
Specifically I need Mercury Green, Croydon Cream, and Swamp Holly Orange and Mint Green and Alpine White.
Mercury Green, Croydon Cream, and Swamp Holly Orange are famous among railfans as the original color scheme adopted by the Chicago Surface Lines for their 600 postwar PCC streetcars. Some of these paints were also used on cars and trucks in that era.
FYI, I found a 1950 truck paint called Swamp Holly Orange:
Ironically, this color was associated with the Yellow Freight Lines. According to the Wikipedia:
In 1929, A.J. Harrell enlisted the help of E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company to improve highway safety by determining the vehicle color that would be the most visible on the nation’s highways. After the review was completed, it was determined that the color of the Swamp Holly Orange would be most visible from the greatest distance. Swamp Holly Orange became the color used on all company tractors.
There is also a commercially available enamel paint by that name:
However, to my eye these may look darker than what I recall seeing from photos. This was all in an era before the Pantone Matching System. Apparently, Swamp Holly Orange is Pantone 151.
You might try this for Mercury Green:
Croydon Cream is a color used on Harley-Davidson motorcycles:
Mint Green and Alpine White shouldn’t bee too hard to find, but then again, there are many variables that determine how color will look, which include indoor viewing, outdoor viewing, how many coats there are, etc. plus how much sun and weathering the paint got prior to when pictures were taken.
Even in the old days, you will notice how touch-up paints did not always match the original. That was one factor that led CTA to switch to a darker green on the PCCs in the early 1950s.
Modern paints are also, most likely, made of somewhat different ingredients than the original paints were.
You might do just as well to try and “eyeball” the color based on good quality photographs. Even in the old days, I expect there were variations in these colors, as there were in such things as “Traction Orange.”
I recall hearing a story that there was a heated argument out at IRM between some people who were wrangling over what constituted Traction Orange. Finally, they consulted an old-timer who told them that it was simply whatever was on sale at the paint store at that particular time.
Some of these issues were discussed in a blog post I wrote a while back:
Pay particular attention to the comments, thanks.
PS- Here are a few formulas for Swamp Holly Orange, from the October 1988 issue of Model Railroader:
Accu-Paint: 2 parts AP-72 D&RGW Yellow, 1 part AP-73 Chessie Yellow
Floquil: 3 parts D&RGW Yellow, 1 part Reefer Yelow
Polly S: 2 parts Reefer Yellow, 1 part Reefer Orange
Scalecoat: 1 part 15 Reefer Yellow, 1 part 39 D&RGW Old Yellow
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American Streetcar R.P.O.s: 1893-1929
Mainline Railway Post Offices were in use in the United States from 1862 to 1978 (with the final year being operated by boat instead of on rails), but for a much briefer era, cable cars and streetcars were also used for mail handling in the following 15 cities*:
New Bedford, Massachusetts
New York City
Rochester, New York
*As noted by some of our readers, this list does not include interurban RPOs.
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