In this classic July 1963 shot, South Shore Line car 25 is parked at the east end of the line in downtown South Bend, across from the Hotel LaSalle. Service was cut back to Bendix at the outskirts of town in 1970, and later extended to the local airport. Don’s Rail Photos adds, “25 was built by Pullman in 1927. It was lengthened and air conditioned, and got picture windows in 1947.”
Chicagoans of a certain age might recall Night Beat, a WGN-TV late night news show that aired after the Late Movie between 1958 and 1983. For much of that time, baritone Carl Greyson was the announcer.*
We begin today’s post with our very own Night Beat of sorts, an exhibit of some fine night photography from the early 1960s. We rightly celebrate 3/4 views of streetcars taken on days with bright sunshine and cloudless skies, but there is also something to be said for those few railfan shutterbugs who experimented and documented what some cities call “Owl Service.”
Back in the days of film and manually set cameras, many photographers operated using the “sunny f/16” rule, or some variation thereof, where your shutter speed corresponds to the film speed, and your lens opening is f/16 on a bright sunny day. So, with ISO 64 film, this gives a setting of 1/60th of a second at f/16, and you can extrapolate from there (i.e., this is equivalent to 1/125th at f/11, 1/250th at f/8, etc.).
But this relationship begins to fail when you are talking about longer exposures. It is an effect called “reciprocity failure.” Now, your general idea of reciprocity might be that if I scratch your back, you’ll scratch mine. But for our purposes, this means that photographic materials may not behave in a predictable manner when used outside of the norm.
So, long exposure times of several seconds may not give predictable results. There are other problems with night shots, including the different colors of mixed light sources (incandescent plus fluorescent), and problems with determining the proper exposure when light sources have such a wide range of brightness.
This means you really can’t follow any special rule for available light photography at night; it’s really a matter of trial and error. The best method is to steady your camera on a tripod and experiment with different exposures, in hopes that perhaps one image out of the lot might turn out really well.
What we have here are some excellent shots, taken by an unknown photographer who was good at this sort of thing and was willing to travel the country. Chances are, for every acceptable photo, there were several that ended up in the circular file.
Here’s to those unnamed Night Owls who prowled around in the 1960s and covered the traction Night Beat.
*You can hear the classic 1970s Night Beat theme here. A fuller version of the theme, which many associate with Chicago night life, can be heard in a 1977 special that featured actor Bill Bixby. Supposedly, the music was composed by Dave Grusin, although nobody seems to know for sure what the piece was called, or where it originated.
A two-car train of 6000s prepares to head east from the DesPlaines Avenue terminal on the CTA Congress branch in April 1964. This was the station arrangement from 1959 until the early 1980s. As I recall, the entrance at right in front of the train led to a narrow sidewalk where you had to cross the tracks in order to access the platform, hardly an ideal setup. At right there was a parking lot, and a few streaks of light show you where I-290 is located. The tracks today are in pretty much the same exact location, however.
I believe this July 1963 picture shows the South Shore Line station at Roosevelt Road. Frank Hicks writes, “Chicago South Shore & South Bend 504. This interurban freight trailer has a more unusual history than most. It was built for ISC as an interurban combine, and ran on that system’s lines in Indiana for five years until ISC became part of the great Indiana Railroad system. IR rebuilt the three cars of the 375-377 series into railway post office cars and put them to use in this unusual capacity. The three RPO’s survived on IR until the end of interurban service in 1941, at which time all three were sold to the only other interurban line then operating in Indiana: the South Shore. The South Shore converted 376 into a line car while 375 and 377 became express package trailers. These cars were designed to run in passenger trains and had control lines so that they could be run mid-train; they were often used to transport newspapers. Car 504 was retired in 1975 and acquired by IRM, which has repainted it and put it on display.” (Editor’s Note: car 377 became 504.)
This slide showing one of the North Shore Line Electroliners is dated January 1963, and who knows, it may have been taken on that last frigid night. Jerry Wiatrowski writes, “The unidentified picture of the Electroliner was taken at North Chicago Junction. The train is Southbound coming off of the Waukegan bypass to Edison Court and Milwaukee.”
When this April 1964 picture was taken at the 69th Street Terminal in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, the Red Arrow Lines were still privately held, and the Ardmore trolley was still running. Two and a half years later, it would be replaced by bus service. 1941-era Brilliner #1, a Sharon Hill car, is in the station.
It’s August 1963 in Boston, and MTA PCC 3243 stands ready for another trip on the Green Line. Phil Bergen writes, “The night view of the Boston PCC that appears in today’s posting was taken at Riverside terminal. Although picture window PCCs were originally used on this line, other PCCs were added to meet the demand. The side roll sign, once enlarged, indicates this is a Riverside car, and the terminal itself is the only place where there were multiple tracks.” The Riverside line started running on July 4, 1959 and occupies a right-of-way once used by a steam commuter railroad. It is considered a pioneer in what we today call “light rail.”
From 1949 until 1963, the North Shore Line had the CTA’s Roosevelt Road station all to itself, as this July 1962 picture of car 752 shows. Don’s Rail Photos: “752 was built by Standard Steel Car in 1930. It was modernized in 1940.”
The North Shore Line terminal in Milwaukee in January 1963.
A North Shore Line train stops at Edison Court in January 1963.
A Toronto subway train in August 1963.
Toronto Peter Witt 2766 at Vincent Loop in November 1964. (R. McMann Photo)
TTC crane C-2 at work at Queen Street and Eastern Avenue in October 1966. (R. McMann Photo)
A postcard view of C-2 at work in 1967.
Originally, I thought this was early 1960s night shot showed a CTA single-car unit in the 1-50 series, and those cars were used on the Congress-Douglas-Milwaukee line. But as Andre Kristopans has pointed out, the doors on those cars were closer to the ends than this one, which he identifies as being part of the 6511-6720 series. It just looks like there’s one car, since the other “married pair” behind it is not illuminated. This picture was most likely taken at the end of the line at DesPlaines Avenue.
From left to right, we see New Orleans Public Service cars 930, 934, and 900 in the barn. All were built by Perley-Thomas Car Co in 1924, and are signed for the St. Charles line. New Orleans is practically unique in North America, in that it never modernized its fleet with PCCs, yet has maintained uninterrupted service with vintage equipment. (Even the newer cars New Orleans has now are “retro” styled.) The date of this photo is not known.
A South Shore Line train at the old Gary station in August 1970.
South Shore Line car 110 laying over at South Bend, Indiana in July 1963. This was the east end of the line until 1970, when service was cut back to the outskirts of town, and South Bend street running was eliminated. In 1992, service was extended to the South Bend International Airport, 3 miles northwest of downtown South Bend.
This remarkable picture was taken at the North Shore Line’s Milwaukee terminal in January 1963. for all we know, this may be the last night of operation. If so, the temperature was below zero.
A Dayton (Ohio) trolley bus at night in September 1972.
The next three photos have been added to our previous post Love For Selle (June 8, 2016):
Caption: “3 cars on North Shore Line northbound at Kenilworth (714 on rear of train), July 13, 1955. This was shortly before the end of service on the Shore Line Route. (Bob Selle Photo) Don’s Rail Photos: “714 was built by Cincinnati Car Co in 1926, #2890. It is modernized in 1939 and preserved in 1963 by the Illinois Railway Museum.”
This looks like a 1952 Chevrolet 4-door Fleetline fastback to me, which would be a somewhat rare model with only a few thousand produced. The fastback, which had enjoyed a brief vogue starting around 1941, was dropped for the 1953 model year.
It’s May 30, 1958 and Chicago Surface Lines car 1467 (former CTA salt car AA72) is at the Electric Railway Historical Society site on Plainfield Road in Downer’s Grove. Don’s Rail Photos says this “Bowling Alley” car “was built by CUTCo in 1900 as CUT 4516. It was rebuilt as 1467 in 1911 and became CSL 1467 in 1914. It was rebuilt as salt car and renumbered AA72 on April 15, 1948. It was retired on February 28, 1958. It was sold to Electric Railway Historical Society in 1959 and went to Illinois Railway Museum in 1973.” Actually it must have been sold earlier, as the negative envelope has written on it “owned now by ERHS!” (Bob Selle Photo)
North Shore Line cars 411 and 715 at an unidentified location. Don’s Rail Photos says, “411 was built as a trailer observation car by Cincinnati Car in June 1923 #2640. It was out of service in 1932. 411 got the same treatment on February 25, 1943, and sold to Trolley Museum of New York in 1963. It was sold to Wisconsin Electric Railway & Historical Society in 1973 and sold to Escanaba & Lake Superior in 1989.” As for the other car, Don says, “715 was built by Cincinnati Car Co in 1926, #2890. It is modernized in 1939 and purchased by Mid-Continent Railroad Museum in 1963. It was sold to Wisconsin Electric Railway Museum in 1967 and then sold to Fox River Trolley in 1988.”
North Shore Line car 255 is laying over on middle storage track at the Roosevelt Road station on the Chicago “L”. Don’s Rail Photos”: “255 was built by Jewett in 1917. It had all of the seats removed in the 1920s to provide a full length baggage car which ran in passenger trains. It was used for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra to move equipment to Ravinia. On July 2, 1942, the 40 seats were replaced. Then on December 1, 1946, the seats were again removed. In addition to the Symphony, the car was used for sailors’ baggage from Great Lakes.” (C. Edward Hedstrom, Jr. Photo)
CSL “Little” Pullman 985 at Wabash and Roosevelt in September 1936. It was built in 1910. It appears to be on through route 3 – Lincoln-Indiana, which operated from 1912 to 1951.
CSL “Big” Pullman 144 on Cermak Road, September 19, 1934. Don’s Rail Photos: “144 was built by Pullman in 1908. It was acquired by Illinois Railway Museum in 1959.” It is rare to find pictures of the 144 in actual service as opposed to some 1950s fantrip.
A close-up of the car in the last photo. It closely resembles two very similar, low-production front wheel drive cars on the market circa 1930, the Cord L-29 and the even rarer Ruxton. However, Dan Cluley seems to have correctly identified this as a 1930 Checker Model M. The auto on the other side of the streetcar looks like an early 1930s Auburn, which was also built by Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg, headquartered in Auburn, Indiana.
The 1930 Checker Model M.
This is a 1929 Ruxton Model A Baker-Raulang Roadster.
And this is a 1930 Cord L-29 Convertible.
An early 1930s Auburn with fancy hood ornament.
Chicago Surface Lines 5241 on 111th Street near Vincennes on August 3, 1947. The sign on the front of the car indicates this was on through route 8. According to http://www.chicagrailfan.com, “Various Through Route combinations existed throughout the early history of this route. Original Through Route operated between Grace/Halsted and 63rd/Stony Island via Halsted and 63rd St. Beginning in 1912, some Halsted service, mainly route 42 Halsted-Downtown service, began operating south of 79th St. via Vincennes and 111th St. to Sacramento, over what now is the 112 route. While for most of through service continuing north on Halsted, the south terminal remained 79th St. Effective 5/24/31, the through Halsted service generally turned around at 111th/Sacramento, with the downtown service generally turning at 79th St. Through service south of 79th St. discontinued 12/4/49, when segment south of 79th St. was converted to buses.” (John F. Bromley Collection) Our resident South Side expert M. E. adds, “The caption begins: “Chicago Surface Lines 5241 on 111th Street near Vincennes on August 3, 1947.” Not quite. 111th St. approaches Vincennes Ave. only from the east. The car line on 111th St. was not route 8. Instead, route 8 was on Vincennes. Vincennes Ave. continued south of 111th one block to Monterey Ave., whereupon route 8 cars turned right onto Monterey, then about three blocks later, onto 111th St. heading west. (To see all this on a map, use maps.google.com and plug in ‘60643 post office’.) As for the photo, I’d say this car is on Vincennes, heading south, anywhere between 109th and Monterey. I say 109th because route 8 left its private right-of-way (which started at 89th St.) at 107th St. and ran south from 107th on the street.”
This July 1963 view shows the Wabash leg of Chicago’s Loop “L” between Van Buren and Jackson. We are looking north, so the buildings behind the train of CTA 4000s are on the west side of the street. As you can see by the sign advertising Baldwin pianos and organs, this was once Chicago’s “Music Row.” The flagship Rose Records location was near here, as were Carl Fischer, the Guitar Gallery, American Music World and many others. The Chicago Symphony is still nearby, but nearly all the other music-related retailers are now gone from this area. You can just catch a glimpse of the iconic Kodak sign that still graces Central Camera under the “L”. The old North Shore Line station, which closed about six months before this picture was taken, would have been up the street on the right just out of view. Until 1969 trains operated counterclockwise around the Loop on both tracks, so we are looking at the back end of this Lake Street “B” train. Adams and Wabash station is at the far right of the picture.
Enlarging a small section of the slide shows the Kodak sign in front of Central Camera at 230 S. Wabash.
Central Camera today. The Kodak sign is still there.
The corner of Wabash and Jackson today.
Two of the buildings in the 1963 photograph were torn down to make a parking lot, while the building to their right is still there.
If you are curious about just what a Birney car is, you can read the definitive account by Dr. Harold E. Coxhere.
Fort Collins Municipal Railway Birney car 20 in Colorado. There were three lines, and all three cars met in the town center once an hour so riders could transfer. Service ended in 1951, but a portion of one line was restored to service in the 1980s. Don’s Rail Photos says, “20 was built by American Car Co. in April 1919, #1184. It was sold in 1951 and moved to the Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer in Minden, NE. and has been on static display there ever since.” (Joseph P. Saitta Photo)
Feel the Birn(ey)! After service in Fort Collins ended in 1951, car 26 was sold to the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. But prior to being put on static display, it operated in a Detroit parade of street railway equipment in August 1953. Don’s Rail Photos: “26 was built by American Car Co. in November 1922, #1324 as CERy 7. It was sold as FCM 26 it in 1924. It was sold to Henry Ford Museum and moved to Michigan in 1953 where it is on static display. It was operated several times on the trackage of the Department of Street Railways.” (C. Edward Hedstrom Photo) To read more about 26’s Michigan sojourn, click here.
Laurel Line (Lackawanna and Wyoming Valley Railroad) car 37 at the G.E. plant on the Minooka branch on May 9, 1948. The occasion was an ERA (Electric Railroader’s Association) fantrip. Nearly all this Scranton, Pennsylvania interurban was third-rail operated on private right-of-way, something it had in common with the Chicago, Aurora & Elgin. Some have wondered if the Laurel Line’s fleet of steel cars, which ended service at the end of 1952, could have been used on the CA&E. They appear to have been too long to operate on the Chicago “L” system, but I do not know if such clearance issues would have kept them from running west of Forest Park. As it was, all these cars were scrapped, and ironically, some thought was given later to restoring a CA&E curved-side car as an ersatz Laurel Line replica. Wisely, it was decided against this.
The next three photos have been added to our earlier post Chicago’s Pre-PCCs (May 5, 2015):
Scranton Transit 508, an “Electromobile,” was built by Osgood-Bradley Co in 1929. It was another attempt at a modern standardized streetcar in the pre-PCC era.
Baltimore Peter Witt 6146. Don’s Rail Photos says it was “built by Brill in 1930 and retired in 1955.” Sister car 6119 is at the Baltimore Streetcar Museum, while 6144 is at Seashore. These were some of the most modern cars around, prior to the PCCs.
Indianapolis Railways 146, shown here on a special run in 1949, was a Brill “Master Unit” but appears very similar to the Baltimore Peter Witts. This car was built in 1933, one of the last streetcars built before the PCC era. Brill tried to sell street railways on standardized cars (hence the name “Master Units”) but as you might expect, no two orders were identical.
Lehigh Valley Transit’s Liberty Bell Limited lightweight high-speed car 1001 (ex-Cincinnati & Lake Erie 128) at the 69th Street Terminal on the Philadelphia & Western, September 21, 1949. Soon after this picture was taken, LVT passenger service was cut back to Norristown.
PE double-end PCCs 5006 and 5012 at West Hollywood car house on September 8, 1946. These were used on the Glendale-Burbank line, which was “light rail” before the term ever existed. Service was abandoned in 1955 and I’ll bet Angelinos wish they had it back today. (Norman Rolfe Photo)
Pacific Electric double-end PCC 502x is boarded up for a trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina. Don’s Rail Photos says this car was “built by Pullman-Standard in October 1940, #W6642. It was retired in 1956 and was sold as FGU M.1523 and made modifications in 1959. It was retired in short time.” You can see some additional pictures of these cars as they appeared in 1959 after being damaged by dripping lime deposits in the damp PE Subway here.
Brilliner 9 on the Red Arrow’s Ardmore line in May 1965. About 18 months later, this line was converted to bus.
A Septa Bullet car at the Norristown (Pennsylvania) terminal in August 1986.
Not all Bullets were double-ended, or built for the Philadelphia & Western. Here we see Bamberger Railroad car 125 in Salt Lake City on September 4, 1950. A single-end Bullet car, it originally came from the Fonda Johnstown & Gloversville. Don’s Rail Photos says, “125 was built by Brill in 1932, #22961. It was sold as Bamberger RR 125 in 1939 and retired in 1952. The body was sold to Utah Pickle Co.” We ran a picture of sister car 129 in our previous post Trolley Dodgers (January 15, 2016).
Here is another photo of Chicago, Aurora & Elgin wood car 315. Don’s Rail Photos says, “315 was built by Kuhlman Car Co in 1909, #404. It was modernized at an unknown date and sold to Rockhill Trolley Museum in 1962.”
D. C. Transit 1484 on route 30. Streetcar service in Washington ended in 1962, but recently started up again.
Capital Transit Company PCC 1101 in Washington, D. C., with the U. S. Capitol in the background. From the looks of the car in the background, this picture was probably taken in the mid1950s. Don’t ask me why there are two different spellings of capitol/capital.
WGN’s Late Movie “open,” seen above, used a simple title image and not the sophisticated graphics of today. If you heard Dave Brubeck‘s “Take Five” coming out of your TV set in the 1960s or 70s, that most likely meant you were about to watch the Late Movie. (The afternoon “Early Show” movie on our local CBS station WBBM-TV used Leroy Anderson‘s “The Syncopated Clock” as their theme.) To see a clip of what the Late Movie open looked and sounded like, click here. Take Five was written by Paul Desmond, alto sax player in Brubeck’s combo. If you are wondering who the man in the kaleidoscope image is, that’s British actor/comedian Terry-Thomas.
In the days before 24 hour a day television, most stations went off the air late at night. Some went completely off the air, leaving nothing but static and white noise, while others broadcast test patterns. This was perhaps the most popular type used and should be familiar to anyone of a certain age.
Barry Shanoff writes:
I was born and raised in Chicago, and left in 1975, at age 32, for the Washington, DC area where I have lived ever since. I recently discovered your website, and I enjoy what you have posted.
I have an extensive collection of Chicago transit memorabilia, including vintage CSL, CA&E and CNS&M items, that I am interested in selling. In particular, I have a CTA Rapid Transit sign roll as pictured and described in the attachments to this message.
Rather than posting the items on eBay or consigning them to an auction firm, I’d like to first offer them to Chicago area enthusiasts.
The price sign roll is $325 plus shipping. My guess is that it weighs about four pounds with the mailing tube. Shipping costs will depend on the destination. Best if a would-be buyer contacts me and we complete the arrangements via e-mail or phone.
As for my CTA and interurban material, I don’t have photos of the timetables and brochures, but I can put together a list with prices. Discounts for multi-item purchases. Anyone interested in this or that item can contact me and I will provide a cover photo.
You can contact Barry at: email@example.com
Phil Bergen writes:
Big fan of your site, though I’ve only been to Chicago once (1973) and am fascinated by the multiplicity of transit historically and today in Chicago.
Long-time subscriber to First & Fastest. several years ago I wrote to then-editor Roy Benedict suggesting an article for a fictional one-day fan trip around Chicago in a past year of his choice, for an out-of-towner, one that would show a variety of neighborhoods, equipment, and could be done in a day. I created one myself for Boston that ran in Roll Sign.
Mr. Benedict replied with interest in my proposal, but I never heard more about it. With your knowledge and wealth of photos, it might be something to try.
Thanks for your work. I belong to CERA and have enjoyed your PCC book very much. So full of material that it is sometime hard to hold such a tome!!
Glad you like the site and the PCC book. I’ll give your article proposal some thought.
Sometimes these things come together in unusual ways. There are times when I don’t really know what a post is about until it’s finished. Take this one, for example. On the one hand, it’s mainly about night photography, but the additional pictures, oddly enough seem to include quite a lot of preserved equipment, more so than you would expect. You could make quite a list of them. Then again, there are many things in this post that are “paired.” There is a picture of a North Shore car at Roosevelt Road at night, but also one in the day, and so on.
My general idea is to use pictures to tell a story. Often times, the individual pictures are like pieces of a mosaic or jigsaw puzzle. I fiddle around with them and rearrange them until they seem to fit together, and hopefully have some deeper meaning.
My understanding is that Roy Benedict does not have any current involvement with First & Fastest and has not for some years, although naturally I don’t speak for him. The current person to talk to regarding article ideas for that magazine would be Norm Carlson, who does excellent work. It’s a fine publication and sets a high standard for others to follow.
The Chicago PCC book was a labor of love for everyone who collaborated on it. At first, the idea was just for a standard-length picture book, but after we had collected a lot of material, we realized that quite a lot would have to be left out. So, the book grew in length, and at the same time we gradually decided there were other things that needed to go into the book, in order to tell the whole story.
So, the final product is twice standard length, and includes a lot of the history and background material that helps the reader put Chicago’s PCC era into context. It’s somewhere in between a picture book and a more scholarly text, and it seems a very worthwhile addition to the slim shelf of Chicago streetcar books. In the year since its release, it appears to have found an audience.
PS- Keep those cards and letters coming in, folks. You can either leave a Comment directly on this post, or contact us at:
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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:
Jan 1951: 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
4372-4411 77th 7136-7181 Devon 7182-7224 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.
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.
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:
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:
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:
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
Keep those cards and letters coming in, folks! Especially if they have a streetcar RPO postmark (see below). You can reach us either by leaving a comment on this post, or at:
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New From Trolley Dodger Press:
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.
Our latest E-book American Streetcar R.P.O.s collects 12 books on this subject (over 1000 pages in all) onto a DVD data disc that can be read on any computer using Adobe Acrobat Reader, which is free software. All have been out of print for decades and are hard to find. In addition, there is an introductory essay by David Sadowski.
The rolling stock, routes, operations, and cancellation markings of the various American street railway post office systems are covered in detail. The era of the streetcar R.P.O. was relatively brief, covering 1893 to 1929, but it represented an improvement in mail handling over what came before, and it moved a lot of mail. In many places, it was possible to deposit a letter into a mail slot on a streetcar or cable car and have it delivered across town within a short number of hours.
These operations present a very interesting history, but are not well-known to railfans. We feel they deserve greater scrutiny, and therefore we are donating $1 from each sale of this item to the Mobile Post Office Society, in support of their efforts.
The iconic facade of Central Camera, one of the last remaining old-style camera stores in the Midwest.
Today we will explore the close relationship between railfans, their cameras, and their favorite camera stores. Nowadays, photography has truly become both easy and democratic, in the sense that most people now carry around with them a cell phone that is capable of taking surprisingly good pictures. You see the results immediately, so there is a very short learning curve. If your picture doesn’t come out as intended, you simply take another.
‘Twas not always thus.
Chances are most railfans became photographers out of sheer necessity. They were fascinated by railroads and wanted to study pictures of them, yet had no idea where to find such pictures. So, they bought a camera and went out and made every mistake imaginable.
They learned by doing, and over time, many railfans became excellent photographers, whose work is on a par with, and every bit as important, as any other shutterbug’s.
Pieritz Brothers office supply store in Oak Park, in business since 1895, has a sign in the window that says, “If you buy here, we will be here.” The same is true of camera stores, which were once commonplace but have now largely disappeared from the American scene.
Perhaps in the future everyone will order their goods online and have them delivered to their door by drone aircraft, but time was, if you needed to buy film, have film developed, buy a camera, or learn how to operate it, you went to your friendly neighborhood camera shop.
There was a time when cameras were not commodities, and people depended on the experience and expertise of the over-the-counter sales person, who would spend time going over the features and even critique their pictures.
In my own Chicago neighborhood, there was the Montclare Camera Company, on the same block as the Montclare Theatre. In the early 1960s, when I was in grade school, perhaps 25% of a camera store’s business involved home movies.
It was a common thing to joke about back then how your friends or relatives would invite you over to their place for an evening of really bad home movies of their latest vacation or someone’s backyard birthday party. You could only record about three minutes of film on an entire reel. For some reason, the market for home movies had largely dried up even before portable video camcorders became available.
In the early 20th century, enlargers were not commonplace. If you took your roll of film to the photofinisher, a camera shop or drug store, they would make contact prints of your black-and-white film that were the same size as the original negative. To yield a decent sized print, the film had to be very large as a result. Sometimes these large negatives can yield extremely sharp images today.
Many people would take these prints and put them into photo albums purchased at their local dime store, often using paper corners to adhere them to the black paper. By the 1930s, railfans began trading and selling photos to each other. In some cases, they put together elaborate dossiers about certain railroads, complete with original photos and clippings from newspapers and magazines. Others tried to compile complete sets of “roster shots” showing entire fleets of streetcars and interurbans.
Among these early railfans is the venerable Malcolm McCarter, last living survivor of the original 10 founding members of the Illinois Railway Museum. He has been selling railfan photographs for 76 years now and may very well still print them himself, from his vast collection of negatives. You will find his catalog online here.
There was so much to ride at one time, and yet those years must have been, in some sense, depressing. There was one abandonment after another, a nearly endless litany of bad news. We can be thankful for those early fans who were involved, in one way or another, in historic preservation, either through the fledgling railway museums, documenting things through photographs, or both.
Fortunately some of these same fans have lived long enough to see electric railways undergo a world-wide renaissance, with new systems and extensions cropping up all over. Their hard work in preserving this history has now been more than validated.
The changeover from black-and-white to color photography meant a change in approach. When shooting black-and-white, you can expose for the shadows and often retain the highlights, while the opposite is true with color slide film. An overexposed black-and-white negative may still be printable, but with reduced contrast. An overexposed slide will have washed out highlights.
Naturally, over the years, railfan photographers had their favorite camera stores. The biggest and best in Chicago were downtown.
Altman’s was legendary and was like a “Noah’s Ark” of camera stores, with two of every camera or lens imaginable– one to show and one to go. I am sure there are still many Chicagoans “of a certain age” who have fond memories of Shutan, Helix, Standard Photo, Lion Photo, Terminal Photo, and many others that are now gone by the wayside.
And of these, Central Camera on Wabash somehow remains, after 116 years in business. It has become part of history itself.
The book collects the work of many unheralded railfan photographers who all turned out to be, in their own way, both transit historians and historic preservationists.
As a co-author, I was recently pleased to discover that Central Camera is now selling copies of the Chicago Streetcar Pictorial and has one on display in their front window, alongside the old Kodak Six-Twenty folding camera, the twin-lens Rolleiflexes, Leicas and such.
Yes, I know that in the long run, it is an uphill battle to keep up with the Amazons of the world. But even in the 21st century, shouldn’t there be enough room left in this world for a few old-fashioned camera stores?
As the sign says, “If you buy here, we will be here.”
PS- You can help keep our own doors open by checking out the many fine offerings in our Online Store. You can also make a donation there. We thank you for your support.
A typical folding camera of the early 20th century, this Kodak Autographic camera too very large size 116 black-and-white roll film. The “autographic” feature allowed the photographer to write notes on the actual film negative itself through a door on the back of the camera. The roll film was protected by a paper backing.
This streamlined Bakelite Kodak Bantam camera, which used size 828 film, was the state of the art in 1938 but few railfans could afford to buy one.
Thousands of railfans across America got their start with an inexpensive Argus C3, commonly referred to as “the Brick.”
Truman Hefner took many great pictures with a German Karomat camera similar to this one, which has a high-quality Schneider lens.
The late Bill Hoffman’s last camera was a late 1950s screw-mount Leica IIIg similar to this one. After his passing in the late 1980s, I received his Leica as a gift.
My own first camera, a Kodak Brownie Holiday Flash camera, circa 1963. It took size 127 roll film, then the most popular format on the market.
A Kodak Brownie 8mm movie camera.
For many years, Ray DeGroote took pictures with a German circa-1965 Kodak Retina Reflex III like this one. The gridlike patch at top left is a chemical-based light meter.
Even when there is no other dating information on an original 35mm Kodachrome slide, it can be dated to some extent by the type of mount used.
Chicago Streetcar Pictorial: The PCC Car Era, 1936-1958, published by Central Electric Railfans’ Association, can now be purchased at Central Camera. (Trolley Dodger Press is not affiliated with either Central Camera or Central Electric Railfans’ Association.)
One anonymous railfan’s album on clippings, titled “Roads which have Chicago as their first name.” This title is written out twice, followed by “except CNS&M in separate album.” Interestingly, the album has a section on the Aurora, Elgin & Fox River Electric, which does not have Chicago in its first name.
Chicago, Aurora & Elgin car 408 is in pretty sad shape in this photo taken just prior to its scrapping in 1962. It was a sister car to 409, which was sold to Trolleyville USA and came to the Illinois Railway Museum in 2009. We can be fortunate that there were enterprising railfan photographers who documented the last days of the “Roarin’ Elgin.”
Car 102 of the the Elgin Belvidere & Rockford sits forlornly in Marengo in this June 1937 photograph. By then, the line, which quit service on March 9, 1930, had been abandoned for more than seven years. Owner Bion J. Arnold kept these cars in storage in the futile hope that a buyer could be found. We can thank the unknown photographer who preserved this small slice of history.
Elgin Belvidere & Rockford car 203 was built by St. Louis Car Company in 1906. It was 31 years old when this photo was taken in 1937 in Marengo. A portion of the Elgin & Belvidere interurban right-of-way now serves as the main line for the Illinois Railway Museum in Union. An original Elgin & Belvidere motorman lived long enough to operate a car over the new right of way when the museum began operations here in the 1960s.