Our Annual Fundraiser
We thank our readers for making 2020 our most successful yet, with 133,246 page views, surpassing our previous record of 2016, and a 30% increase over the previous year. Each January, we ask our readers to help defray the expenses involved with file storage, web hosting, domain registration and other overhead, the “nuts and bolts” things that make this blog possible. As of this writing, we have only raised $55 of this year’s $500 goal. If you enjoy what you see here, and would like it to continue, please consider making a donation by clicking on this link, or the one at the top or bottom of this post.
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A Tribute to Jeffrey L. Wien
Like many, I was recently shocked and saddened to hear that longtime Chicago railfan Jeffrey L. Wien had died at the age of 79. I had known Jeff for more than 40 years. While I mourn his passing, this post celebrates his lifelong interest in electric railways, which was so important to him.
Some time ago, he had asked me to compose his obituary, and this is what I came up with:
Jeffrey Lawrence Wien of Chicago died from a heart attack at Rush University Medical Center on January 6, 2021 at the age of 79. He had been hospitalized for about ten days suffering from pneumonia. Jeff was born in Chicago on April 3, 1941, the son of Jerome Lester Wien and Helen Louise Kraus. He grew up on the south side of Chicago near 47th Street until 1950, when the family moved to Evanston. He was a graduate of Evanston Township High School (class of 1959) and Northwestern University (class of 1963). He served his country as a Lieutenant in Naval Intelligence from 1963 to 1967. By profession, he was an accountant, and worked for Blue Cross-Blue Shield and at Provident Hospital. He was smart, funny (with an acerbic wit), opinionated, and loyal to his friends. Although he was talented in many areas, he was very modest and never boastful. He did not suffer fools gladly, but if you knew him, he was your friend for life. He loved to travel and was an avid and accomplished photographer and filmmaker, whose work appeared in many publications. His interest in historic preservation, architecture, and nostalgia drew him to street railways, interurbans and railroads. He was a passenger on the last Chicago streetcar in 1958 and was one of the last living employees of the Chicago, North Shore and Milwaukee interurban. He was the author of Chicago Streetcar Memories, a DVD produced by Chicago Transport Memories LLC in 2009. Jeff was a co-author of the very comprehensive book Chicago Streetcar Pictorial: The PCC Car Era, 1936-1958, issued as Bulletin 146 of the Central Electric Railfans’ Association in 2015. Jeff was a voting member of the Illinois Railway Museum and a generous contributor to its activities. He was also a director and officer of Central Electric Railfans’ Association for 37 years. CERA is a not-for-profit technical and educational association founded in 1938. Along with Bradley Criss, he established the Wien-Criss Archive, an important photographic collection and resource that will continue to aid historical research in the future. Jeff will be very much missed and long remembered by everyone who knew him. He believed that life is the single most important thing, so you must protect it. He was predeceased by his spouse Bradley Scott Criss, and is survived by his sister Helen Jo Wien (Lotsoff), a niece and nephew. Interment is at the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood, Illinois. Donations can be made in Jeff’s memory to the Illinois Railway Museum CTA 4391 Restricted Fund.
Jeff became interested in streetcars at an early age. Ray DeGroote recalls answering a letter requesting more information from Jeff in 1955 while volunteering at CERA (Central Electric Railfans’ Association). They became lifelong friends, and brought Jeff in touch with what Ray has called the “intelligence network” of railfans, in those pre-Internet days. Jeff participated in his first fantrip in December 1956, one of several that were held in the declining years of Chicago streetcars, as the last lines were replaced by buses one by one.
His family lived at 48th and Woodlawn on Chicago’s south side until 1950, when they moved to the north end of Evanston. The closest “L” station was Isabella, a lightly patronized ground-level station that closed in 1973. It was made somewhat famous by being featured in the opening credits of the original Bob Newhart Show in the early 1970s.
Jeff’s initial interest was in taking 8mm color motion pictures. One roll would yield about three minutes of silent movie film. He taught himself photography by trial and error. Sometimes, people watching him would ask, incredulously, why he would want to take pictures of a streetcar?
Once Jeff discovered that the Western Avenue line would soon be replaced by buses, he did everything possible to document it, and the other remaining Chicago streetcar lines. Late in life, he could still recall how disappointed he was to discover that Western Avenue streetcars had been replaced by buses in June 1956.
This was followed by the loss of the final two north side lines in 1957 (Broadway and Clark), and finally Wentworth on the south side in 1958. In each case, Jeff rode the last car. By then, he had met other friends his own age who shared the same interest. Together, they decorated the last Chicago streetcar with crepe paper and a sign bidding farewell to Windy City trolleys. (This was no doubt inspired by “last cars” from other cities, some of which commemorated those events by decorating the cars, which the Chicago Transit Authority did not do.)
Until Jeff was 14, interurban trains of the Chicago, North Shore and Milwaukee (aka the North Shore Line) passed near to his house in Evanston on the Shore Line Route. The North Shore Line became another of Jeff’s great interests, and he rode the last southbound car on a very cold January 21, 1963 along with his sister, although not to the end of the line at Roosevelt Road. (As the hour was so late, Jeff and Helen Jo got off at Howard Street to take the Evanston shuttle back to Isabella.)
During the summer of 1961, Jeff had a summer job as a ticket-taker for the North Shore Line at the Adams and Wabash station downtown, making him one of the interurban’s last living employees. Several years ago, he purchased a rare North Shore Line ticket cabinet from the Dempster Street station on that line. It was one of his prized possessions, and I persuaded him to write an article about it, which you can read here.)
Jeff started shooting color 35mm slides in 1959. His favorite film was Kodachrome, which then had a film speed of 10, meaning it was largely restricted to sunny days. Jeff would say, “I worship the sun,” and his favorite type of photo was the “three quarter” view, taken on a sunny day. He became a master at this type of photo. He favored all-mechanical Pentax cameras, as he did not trust batteries. He learned how to expose film by using the tried and true “Sunny f/16” rule.
Many other “last rides” in different cities followed. From 1963 to 1967, Jeff served in the Navy, and was stationed in Washington, DC. He was in Baltimore when their last streetcars ran in 1963, and Los Angeles when they ended both streetcar and trolley bus service the same year. Pittsburgh and Philadelphia were also among Jeff’s favorite cities, as they both had extensive streetcar systems that were gradually reduced in size and scope over the years.
It was, for many years, a hobby with many “lasts,” but after reaching a low point in the mid-1970s, things began to turn around, with the start of the new San Diego Trolley in 1981. Soon this was joined by a host of other new “firsts,” light rail and streetcar lines across the country, and Jeff traveled to many of these places, to ride, photograph, and film them.
Jeff was an avid collector of other people’s photos in addition to his own. Ray DeGroote gave him the William C. Hoffman collection, after the latter’s death in 1988. Hoffman had extensively documented Chicago’s streetcar, interurban, and “L” lines in photographs and in movies during the 1950s, which are now invaluable historical artifacts. These, he freely shared with others.
Jeff was very active in the Central Electric Railfans’ Association, a not-for-profit technical and educational group, and served as a director for 37 years. This culminated in the 2015 publication of CERA Bulletin 146, Chicago Streetcar Pictorial: The PCC Car Era, 1936-1958, which I co-authored. For Jeff, this was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream, and the book was well received.
In the book, I wrote a tribute to Jeff, since I really thought of it as being his life’s work. I compared him to the late Richard Nickel, one of the pioneers of architectural preservation here in Chicago. Jeff was a pioneer as a transit preservationist. His influence was profound and extensive in his field. It’s fine that people will pay tribute to him now that he is gone, but I felt it was just as important to do this while he was still alive and able to read it himself.
Fantrips were one of Jeff’s major interests, and the last one he was involved with was on February 19, 2017, when CERA sponsored a trip on the CTA “L” system with four cars wrapped temporarily to celebrate the Cubs winning the 2016 World Series. This was made possible in large part by Jeff’s $2000 contribution.
He was also quite active at the Illinois Railway Museum, as one of only 100 voting members, and through his preservation activities. He helped bring Chicago Surface Lines motor coach 3407 to the museum, and in 2019, made a substantial contribution to bring Chicago Aurora & Elgin car 453 to IRM.
Along with his late partner Bradley Criss, Jeff produced two feature-length videos, Chicago Streetcar Memories, and A Tribute to the North Shore Line.
Jeff’s final activities were to add slides and negatives to his collection that either interested him, or filled gaps in his collection. Some of these were pictures that he was unable to take himself, and gave him immense pleasure. This included his purchase of a large portion of the late Bob Selle’s black-and-white negatives in 2018 and numerous rare Kodachrome slides taken by others, including the late Charles L. Tauscher.
Jeff’s was a life well lived, and a blessing to those who knew him. What follows are some highlights from Jeff’s life in our hobby. He will be sorely missed.
Jeff was amazed a few years ago, when he found out that the late Charles Keevil had shot 16mm film of the last Chicago streetcar in 1958. This was transferred to digital and released by the CTA:
Jeff and his young friends decorated car 7213, no doubt inspired by what other cities had previously done for their last runs:
Jeff and his sister Helen rode the last southbound North Shore Line train as far as Howard Street. His friend Charles Tauscher continued with it to the end of the line, and snapped this historic picture:
Here are some of our own recent photo finds:
This brochure was issued by the Chicago Surface Lines a short time before the October 1, 1947 Takeover by the Chicago Transit Authority, and spells out the locations where “walking transfers” were available between various CSL routes that were not directly adjacent to each other, and included some Chicago Rapid Transit Company stations on the “L”/Subway. But notice they did not include any such transfers to the Chicago Motor Coach lines, which continued to be privately owned for another five years after this.
New Steam Audio CD:
FYI, we have digitally remastered another classic steam railroad audio LP to Compact Disc. Many additional titles, including the complete output of the Railroad Record Club, in our Online Store.
Rio Grande to Silverton:
A Sound Portrait of Mountain Railroading
These are vintage 1960 narrow gauge steam train recordings, in true stereo, and originally released on LP in 1961. It is long out of print.
01. Riding The Train To Silverton
02. Photo Run At Elk Park
03. Arriving At Silverton
04. Train Time At La Jara
05. Illini Special At Cumbres Pass
06. Doubleheader Starting At Monero
07. Eastbound Freight
08. Arriving At Chama
09. Whistles At Coxo
10. Freight With Pusher At Coxo
Gone are the nostalgic sounds of steam echoes and thundering exhausts, but the memory is immortal. May they live on in the locomotive lexicon, as a monument to the era when trains were pulled by STEAM POWER.
As with all of our recordings, this CD comes with the complete, original liner notes.
Total time – 45:49
The Trolley Dodger On the Air
We appeared on WGN radio in Chicago in November 2018, discussing our book Building Chicago’s Subways on the Dave Plier Show. You can hear our 19-minute conversation here.
Title Building Chicago’s Subways
Images of America
Author David Sadowski
Publisher Arcadia Publishing (SC), 2018
ISBN 1467129380, 9781467129381
Length 128 pages
01. The River Tunnels
02. The Freight Tunnels
03. Make No Little Plans
04. The State Street Subway
05. The Dearborn-Milwaukee Subway
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.
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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)
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