The date is October 21, 1956, and the occasion is a weekend fantrip using red Pullman 225 and postwar PCC 4406. We have posted other photos from this fantrip before. By this time, Chicago only had two streetcar lines left, and they only operated on weekdays. Car 225 is one of three Pullmans that were saved, and it is now at the Seashore Trolley Museum in Maine. Bob Lalich adds, “The photo of red Pullman 225 on a fan trip was taken at 18th and Clark. The car is SB.” The church was called Old St. John’s, and was demolished around 1962.
The same location today. The large shadow is from an “L” extension that did not exist when the previous picture was taken. It was built in 1969 for the Dan Ryan line and is now used by the Orange Line.
Here is another generous helping of classic Chicago streetcar photos. They date to the latter part of the CSL era as well as the early days of its successor, the Chicago Transit Authority. (We also have a trolley bus photo.)
As always, if you can help identify locations, or have interesting facts or reminiscences to add, don’t hesitate to drop us a line. You can leave comments on this post, or write us directly at:
FYI, there will be additional posts in this series coming up in the near future, so watch this space. To see previous posts, use the search window on this page.
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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.
# of Discs – 1 Price: $19.95
CTA 9193 is on what is billed as “Chicago’s first trackless trolley special,” March 2, 1958. Andre Kristopans: “Trolleybus 9193 is on Kedzie just north of the Sanitary & Ship Canal (about 33rd). Bridge is IC Iowa Division, background bridge is Chicago & Illinois Western. Clue was the big tank to the right. 1938 aerial photo shows this tank. Note how little traffic there is on Sunday!” The occasion was the very first Omnibus Society of America fantrip, which used a prewar trolley bus on south side areas where they had not been used in service.
The same location today, approximately 3374 S. Kedzie. There is an incline at this point leading up a bridge, behind the photographer, going over the Sanitary & Ship Canal.
CTA 5426 is on route 8 at Halsted and Lake, having just passed the “L”. The National Cash Register Company was located at 178 N. Halsted, just south of the “L”, so we are looking north.
The same scene today is almost unrecognizable. National Cash Register’s former location is now a parking lot. The “L” station at Halsted was closed in 1994, during the Green Line rebuild, and demolished in 1996. It was replaced, more or less, by the Morgan station two blocks west, which opened in 2012. Chicago’s downtown is moving west and this area is undergoing rapid change.
Chicago and Calumet District Transit Company car 59, built by St. Louis Car Company in 1901. Joint service to Hammond, Whiting, and East Chicago, Indiana was operated with the Chicago Surface Lines until June 9, 1940.
CTA Sedan 3337 is southbound on Wabash for route 4 – Cottage Grove in the early 1950s.
CTA 1771 says it is on route 60 – Blue Island in this early 1950s photo. But, as Andre Kristopans notes, “Look carefully – this is on Lake near Austin! Destination sign reads “Lake-Austin”, route # sign is set wrong!” (Walter Hulseweder Photo)
The same location today. This is around 5994 W. Lake.
CTA 5304 is eastbound on the private right-of-way at the west end of route 63, followed by prewar PCC 4002. Note how 5304 is using the front trolley pole, reversed. (R. J. Anderson Photo)
The same location today. This is about 5938 W. 63rd Place. As you can see, the middle building, once a storefront, has been converted to residential. That explains why it goes all the way out to the sidewalk. The bungalow at right looks much as it did, while the building at left has had its top redone at some point, due to deterioration of the brick, as you can see on the side of the building.
CTA 928 is on route 47 in this September 2, 1949 view. Andre Kristopans: “at end of line at 47th and Kedzie.”
47th and Kedzie today. One building is still there, but the top has been redone.
CTA salt spreader AA105, formerly car 2854, at 69th and Ashland. This car was scrapped on February 17, 1954. (C. Edward Hedstrom Collection)
In this September 12, 1951 view, CTA 982 is heading south at about 400 N. Wabash, approaching the bridge over the Chicago River. The Silver Frolics nightclub at rear, said to be run by The Outfit, closed in the early 1960s and became the second location of the famous Chez Paree. (C. Edward Hedstrom, Jr. Photo) Jim writes: ‘This is a route #38 Indiana car from Navy Pier to 51st Street its south terminal. It is not a 51st St car. #28 Stony Island cars also went to the Pier at times. After Indiana & Stony went Bus, Cottage (for awhile) was extended to Grand & Wabash to State, but not to the Pier. Cottage used the #38 Short turn front roll sign for Wabash-Grand & PCC cars were used.”
There is a modern parking garage on the site of the old Silver Frolics on Wabash today.
CTA 6180 is at 43rd and Oakenwald on August 8, 1953, the last day of streetcar service on the 43rd-Root Street line. Note the Illinois Central station at rear. (C. Edward Hedstrom Photo)
43rd and Oakenwald today.
CTA 5508 at 79th and Western on May 29, 1949. That looks like a 1948-50 Packard at left, which some have nicknamed the “pregnant elephant” styling. We can catch a glimpse of the nearby CTA turnback loop for route 49 – Western at right. (John F. Bromley Collection)
CTA 6236 at 71st and California on the 67-69-71 route on May 29, 1949. (John F. Bromley Collection)
CTA 3266 at 71st and California on the 67-69-71 route on May 29, 1949. (John F. Bromley Collection)
CTA work car R202 at 93rd and Drexel on December 30, 1947. (J. William Vigrass Photo) Andre Kristopans: “R202 is a sand car. It was used to deliver sand to the sand boxes that were located at most terminals and other places where streetcars might encounter slippery conditions. Remember, in the 1950’s streets were not salted, and all that was plowed was basically the car tracks, using mostly sweepers.”
CSL 2802 is on Anthony Avenue at Commercial Avenue in this July 13, 1941 photo. Note the Pennsylvania Railroad station at rear. (John F. Bromley Collection) Bob Laich: “The building immediately behind CSL 2802 on Anthony Avenue was PRR’s South Chicago freight station, which was built at street level. The platform for the South Chicago passenger station can be seen on the elevation in the right background.” Andre Kristopans adds, “something odd here – note “Special” sign in front window. Appears to be a charter waiting for its party off the PRR.” This must be Central Electric Railfans’ Association fantrip #35, which used this car on that date.
CSL 3212 heads up the line-up at Archer Station (car house) on October 16, 1946. (John F. Bromley Collection)
CSL 3217 is on route 73 – Armitage on July 1, 1946. (John F. Bromley Collection) Andre Kristopans: “EB passing Mozart Park at Armitage and Avers.”
CSL 5814 (route 4 – Cottage Grove) is southbound on Wabash at Roosevelt Road on June 13, 1947. At rear, you can see where the Roosevelt Road streetcar line was extended to the Museum Loop for the 1933-34 world’s fair (A Century of Progress). (J. William Vigrass Photo)
Wabash and Roosevelt Road today. Since the previous picture was taken, Roosevelt was extended east, in roughly the same location as the old CSL viaduct over the Illinois Central.
CTA 6034 is at Kedzie and Bryn Mawr, the north end of route 17, on April 16, 1949. (John F. Bromley Collection)
CTA 5802 in August 1948 at one of the Stations (car houses) serving the Cottage Grove line. As you can see, at one time CSL (and CTA) were very much interested in landscaping and beautification. (Carl Hehl Photo) Bob Lalich: “CTA 5802 in August 1948 was taken at the Burnside car barn. The IC tracks can be seen in the background. There was an article about the Burnside car barn gardens in First & Fastest a couple of years ago.” Andre Kristopans adds, “definitely the back yard at Burnside.”
CSL 1933 at Chicago Avenue and Lake Shore Drive on May 12, 1947. (John F. Bromley Collection)
CSL 287 on route 52, Kedzie-California. (John Buff Photo) Andre Kristopans: “287 looks like Kedzie at Marquette. Note trolley wire tensioners behind car that would indicate near a terminal.”
Although the photo says this is Madison, that sure looks like Chicago Union Station, which means car 701 is probably on Adams instead, heading east. (B. H. Nichols Photo) Bob Lalich: “I agree with your comment, car 701 is passing CUS on Adams.” Andre Kristopans: “701 should be on Adams EB at Canal.”
Adams and Canal today.
CTA 3250 is at the end of the line on route 67. The presence of “wings” on this car would indicate this car has probably been repainted green. (John Buff Photo)
CSL Sedan 3343 at around 7740 S. Vincennes Avenue on December 1, 1940, passing South Shops.
The same area today.
CSL Red Cross tribute car near the Wrigley Building in June 1944. This car was in the 1700-series. (Gordon Lloyd Photo)
CTA 5421 at South Shops on May 20, 1951.
CTA Pullman 848 at South Shops on May 20, 1951.
CSL 3132 on Broadway-State. Andre Kristopans adds, “just a feeling based on background buildings, but I’ll bet it’s on 119th between Halsted and Michigan.” (Comparison with other photos indicates the location is most likely 119th and Morgan.)
Gary Railways #17 and #3. The body of a sister car, #19, is preserved at the Illinois Railway Museum.
The next Hoosier Traction Meet (see below) will take place in Indianapolis on September 11 and 12, the weekend after Labor Day. We thought it would be a good idea to give that event another plug, and at the same time, this gives us an excuse to some examples of Hoosier traction from days gone by.
We are fortunate to have found some great pictures, including a couple original negatives from some of the earliest fantrips by Central Electric Railfans’ Association on Gary Railways. CERA* is one of the premier railfan organizations, and it is our considered opinion that if you are not already a member, you ought to become one.
In general the Chicago Surface Lines did not operate outside of the City of Chicago, but there was an unusual joint operation, as described by the Chicago Railfan web site:
Service into Indiana was jointly operated with the Hammond Whiting & East Chicago Railway, later Calumet Railways, and finally Chicago & Calumet District Transit Co. Originally, route duplicated Windsor Park route between 63rd St. and Stony Island and 92nd/Commercial. In 1913, route was revised to operate via South Chicago from a new terminal at 63rd St. and South Park (now King Drive), using South Park south of 63rd St. After streetcars were discontinued, Chicago & Calumet District Transit Co. continued to operate replacement bus service, while streetcar service within Illinois was replaced with South Chicago-Ewing route, which evolved into present CTA route 30.
Service into Indiana was discontinued on June 9, 1940. Fortunately, we were able to hunt up a few pictures.
Indiana Railroad car 65 was the first piece of equipment acquired by the Illinois Railway Museum (then called the Illinois Electric Railway Museum). This is a wonderful lightweight, high-speed interurban car and is a joy to ride. It has recently been fitted with reupholstered leather bucket seats.
We tracked down a picture showing sister car 63 from the IR. The only other survivor from that order is car 55, which was turned into Lehigh Valley Transit Company car 1030, now at the Seashore Trolley Museum in Maine.
Bill Shapotkin: “Gary Railways car 19 at Indiana Harbor (that is the Pennsy’s Indiana Harbor passenger station at right, by the way). taken on March 19, 1939 — the day AFTER the last day of service on the Indiana Harbor (and Hobart) lines. (See CERA Bulletin 137, Pages 229-233, which includes a similar pic to above on Page 230.)”
Gary Railways car 19 crossing the EJ&E near Valparaiso on the very first CERA fantrip, May 1, 1938. Bill Shapotkin: “This is a different vantage point to the one shown on Page 224 of CERA Bulletin 137.” The body of this car is now preserved at the Illinois Railway Museum.
Chicago Surface Lines #3219, a one-man car built by CSL, as it looked on September 8, 1940. This car had formerly been used on the line to East Chicago, Indiana, which was abandoned three months before this picture was taken. This is also known as a “maximum traction” car because of its trucks. The white stripe on the end indicated it was a one-man car. Bob Lalich says this is “106th and Indianapolis. The car is eastbound.”
Chicago and Calumet District Transit Company #70, the last car to be scrapped. It was built by the St. Louis Car Company. We see it here at the Hammond Barn on September 8, 1940. These lines were abandoned in June 1940.
Chicago and Calumet District Transit Company #70 at Hammond in February 1939.
A Chicago and Calumet District transfer.
Hammond, Whiting and East Chicago car 74.
Indiana Railroad lightweight high-speed interurban car 63 at Bluffton in 1936. (C. Edward Hedstrom, Sr. Photo) Car 65, a sister to this one, is preserved in operable condition at the Illinois Railway Museum.
PS- We occasionally add photos to old posts. Here are a couple of recent examples:
Chicago and Joliet Electric Railway #242, shown at the Archer and Cicero station in Chicago in September 1933. (Robert V. Mehlenbeck Photo) Mehlenbeck was member #11 of Central Electric Railfans’ Association. According to Don’s Rail Photos, “242 was built by Cummings Car & Coach Co in 1927.” Service on this line, which connected to the Chicago, Ottawa & Peoria, was abandoned on November 16, 1933.
CNS&M 168 heads up a three-car Chicago Local on the Shore Line Route, stopping at Linden Avenue in Wilmette. The date is February 11, 1939.
It would be interesting to know whether the train is heading north or south. Going north, it would turn west onto street running on Greenleaf Avenue before turning north to run parallel with the Chicago & North Western. Heading south, it would begin running over the Chicago “L” system’s Evanston route. I am sure one of our keen-eyed readers can provide the answer.
Val Ginter writes:
The question on the page had to do with the direction of the train. I haven’t been there in many, many years; however, it looks like the train is northbound, and will turn left–or to our right–onto Greenleaf Avenue, where it will travel in the middle of the street for about three-fourths of a mile, before turning north onto its own right-of-way and the Wilmette station. I miss that whole thing: a big bite out of the Chicagoland apple.
On the other hand, Myron Moyano says:
Relative to the direction of the train at Linden Avenue on the Shore Line Route, take a close look at the angle of the sun and also the destination sign of the lead car. The picture is looking north at a southbound train.
The building at left in the North Shore Line picture is still there, located just north of where the CTA line ends at Linden Avenue. This proves the photographer was indeed looking north and the train was heading southbound.
So now we have a real difference of opinion. They can’t both be right.
HOOSIER TRACTION 2015
This September, a group of men and women will converge upon Indianapolis, IN for the annual gathering of theHoosier Traction Meet. Considered by many to be the premier event of its kind, this conference of interested enthusiasts, historians, published authors and rail and transit professions consists of two complete days of audio/visual presentations on the history, operation and technology of electric railway and transit operations throughout the Midwest. In addition to the numerous auditorium events, there is an exhibition of electric rail and transit, where items of interest from transfers and photographs to fare boxes and operating models are for sale.
This year marks the 32nd annual Hoosier Traction Meet. Founded by Dr. Howard Blackburn, the Hoosier Traction Meet features, in addition to its auditorium events and exhibition hall, a opportunity for those interested in electric railway and transit to exchange ideas and swap stories with old acquaintances and meet new friends.
Allow me to take this opportunity to cordially invite each and every one of you to this special event — an event which has been the rail and transit highlight of my year for nearly twenty years. Attached you will find a copy of the Prospectus for this year’s gathering. Note that by mailing in your reservation in advance, the admission price is half that paid at the door — now that’s a bargain in anybody’s book! In addition, there are numerous restaurants and shops nearby, allowing plenty of opportunities to and have lunch or supper with your fellow enthusiasts.
Mr. Shapotkin is co-author of Faster Than the Limiteds:
The Story of the Chicago – New York Electric Air Line Railroad
and Its Transformation into Gary Railways
Central Electric Railfans’ Association* Bulletin 137
By Dr. Thomas R. Bullard and William M. Shapotkin
Published in 2004 – now out of print
*Trolley Dodger Press is not affiliated with Central Electric Railfans’ Association.
As an added bonus, here is some authentic 1920s jazz, courtesy of Bix Beiderbecke. Although the legendary Bix (1903-1931) hailed from Iowa, he did spend at least one summer blowing his cornet (which is now in the collection of the Chicago History Museum as far as I know) at Hudson Lake in Indiana, and I’m sure he got there via what we now know as the South Shore Line interurban.