The Roebuck Stops Here

This 1939 view looks east on Congress from State St.. That's Sears at left. The 'L' station in the foreground is the Old Congress St. stub terminal, and the Congress & Wabash 'L' station is directly behind it. After the Congress stub was no longer needed for rush-hour rapid transit service, the North Shore Line continued to use it as a baggage terminal. (Eric Bronsky Collection)

This 1939 view looks east on Congress from State St.. That’s Sears at left. The ‘L’ station in the foreground is the Old Congress St. stub terminal, and the Congress & Wabash ‘L’ station is directly behind it. After the Congress stub was no longer needed for rush-hour rapid transit service, the North Shore Line continued to use it as a baggage terminal. (Eric Bronsky Collection)

From guest contributor Eric Bronsky:

Sears has been in the news lately. The onetime catalog/mail order champion is fading fast. I was never a fan of Sears, but I was curious to see what this company has brought to the table over the years. One thing led to another and I ended up writing a piece about Sears’ State Street stores (that’s right, there were two Sears flagships in downtown Chicago). I illustrated it with my own photography plus some great historic images from my collection (including the monorail ride in Sears’ toy department).

The file ended up being too big to send as an email attachment, so I posted it online. To view, click on this link:

The Roebuck Stops Here

As a bonus, here are then-and-now photos of Congress Street.

Here's the same view in November, 2015. During the 1950s, Congress St. was rebuilt into an artery feeding the Congress (now Eisenhower or I-290) Expressway. Street widening required cutting through Sears (and other buildings) to build arcaded sidewalks. The Congress & Wabash 'L' station was razed during the '50s and the stub terminal followed in 1964. CTA Green and Orange Line trains currently run on the 'L' visible in the distance. The building which once housed Sears is now Robert Morris Center. CERA meetings are currently held in University Center, the building at right.

Here’s the same view in November, 2015. During the 1950s, Congress St. was rebuilt into an artery feeding the Congress (now Eisenhower or I-290) Expressway. Street widening required cutting through Sears (and other buildings) to build arcaded sidewalks. The Congress & Wabash ‘L’ station was razed during the ’50s and the stub terminal followed in 1964. CTA Green and Orange Line trains currently run on the ‘L’ visible in the distance. The building which once housed Sears is now Robert Morris Center. CERA meetings are currently held in University Center, the building at right.

Several major department stores along State Street once had direct connections to ‘L’ stations on Wabash and subway stations along State. The first downtown Sears established a direct basement-level entrance to the Van Buren & Congress mezzanine of the Jackson & State station in 1943. When that store closed, this station entrance also closed. The basement arcade of the building at 22 W. Madison / 2 N. State (the Boston Store until 1948) had a subway entrance, but the new Sears store never used that entrance and it remained sealed. Macy’s (formerly Marshall Field’s) connection to the State St. subway is the last remaining department store entrance.

Of course, you are welcome to share this with others! You may also print out The Roebuck Stops Here or download it to save on your computer.

— Eric

Selected FSA/OWI Photos, 1935-45

The Library of Congress has uploaded a great many photos taken between 1935 and 1945 by the Farm Security Administration and the Office of War Information. You can search through their collections here.

We have selected some Chicago-area photos from this archive to share with you. These are mainly the ones that are, in some fashion, transportation related, although I have also included a few that aren’t. I hope that you will enjoy them.

There is not a lot of information provided with each photo, but our readers should be able to figure out most of the locations without too much difficulty. I think the picture showing sidewalks in an area where there aren’t any houses yet may be Westchester, where development started in the late 1920s and was delayed until after the end of World War II by the Great Depression.

The pictures of the “L” are from the south side. You should have no difficulty recognizing the Maxwell Street market, the Stockyards, etc. etc. The train station pictures are from Union Station. One photo shows the Illinois Central electric suburban commuter service, today’s Metra Electric.

I only found a few streetcar pictures in the archive. It may not be possible to determine where some were taken due to the fog.

-David Sadowski

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Finally, here are a few from Milwaukee, circa WWII. I believe these may show the old Milwaukee Electric interurban right-of-way going west of the city, which was known as the “Rapid Transit” line. Portions of this are now taken up by an expressway.

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Help Support The Trolley Dodger

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This is our 121st post, and we are gradually creating a body of work and an online resource for the benefit of all railfans, everywhere. To date, we have received over 127,000 page views, for which we are very grateful.

You can help us continue our original transit research by checking out the fine products in our Online Store. You can make a donation there as well.

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New From Trolley Dodger Press:

P1060517

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*:

Baltimore
Boston
Brooklyn
Chicago
Cincinnati
Cleveland
New Bedford, Massachusetts
New York City
Philadelphia
Pittsburgh
Rochester, New York
St. Louis
San Francisco
Seattle
Washington, D.C.


*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


The CA&E in Black-and-White

#1 - CA&E 460 in Elgin on May 14, 1953. Nowadays, 460 can be found operating at the Illinois Railway Museum.

#1 – CA&E 460 in Elgin on May 14, 1953. Nowadays, 460 can be found operating at the Illinois Railway Museum.

Following up on our two recent posts that featured nearly 100 color photos of the Chicago, Aurora & Elgin, we end July with 25 classic black-and-white views of that fabled interurban railroad.

We have also included a few related pictures, a couple from the Aurora, Elgin & Fox River Electric, and a Metropolitan West Side “L” car on the CA&E Batavia branch.

A portion of the AE&FRE right-of-way is now occupied by the Fox River Trolley Museum in South Elgin. Former AE&FRE car 304, sister to the 301 shown here, has found its way back to its original rails, and you can ride it at the museum. Meanwhile, the Illinois Railway Museum in Union has the largest collection of CA&E cars anywhere.

Historical color pictures are naturally more popular than black-and-white, but are naturally limited to the era when Kodachrome and other slide films were available. Personally, I find there is much to appreciate in these black-and-white photos, which often date to an older era that predates the availability of color. The original negatives were usually larger than 35mm, which means the picture has the potential of being a lot sharper than a slide.

We hope that you will enjoy this trip down memory lane. If these images inspire you to add your own insights or comments, do not hesitate to write to us, either using the “comments” function here, or to:

thetrolleydodger@gmail.com

Thanks.

-David Sadowski

PS- We thank Don Ross and Don’s Rail Photos for providing much of the information on the history of individual cars via his very comprehensive web site.

#2 - A three-car CA&E train heads west over Union Station, having just left Wells Street Terminal. (B. H. Nichols Photo)

#2 – A three-car CA&E train heads west over Union Station, having just left Wells Street Terminal. (B. H. Nichols Photo)

#3 - CA&E freight motor 15 at Wheaton on February 1, 1954. (Arthur B. Johnson Photo)

#3 – CA&E freight motor 15 at Wheaton on February 1, 1954. (Arthur B. Johnson Photo)

#4 - Aurora, Elgin & Fox River #49 at Coleman on September 1, 1940, with the Illinois Central overhead. This was one of the earlier CERA fantrips. By then, the line was freight-only, although still operating under wire. (Roy Bruce Photo)

#4 – Aurora, Elgin & Fox River #49 at Coleman on September 1, 1940, with the Illinois Central overhead. This was one of the earlier CERA fantrips. By then, the line was freight-only, although still operating under wire. (Roy Bruce Photo)

#5 - Aurora, Elgin & Fox River Electric 301 in 1929. According to Don's Rail Photos, "301 was built by St Louis Car in 1924, (order) #1308. In 1936 it was sold to CI/SHRT as 301 and to Speedrail in May 1950. It was scrapped in 1952."

#5 – Aurora, Elgin & Fox River Electric 301 in 1929. According to Don’s Rail Photos, “301 was built by St Louis Car in 1924, (order) #1308. In 1936 it was sold to CI/SHRT as 301 and to Speedrail in May 1950. It was scrapped in 1952.”

#6 - CA&E snow plow 3 at Wheaton Shops. According to Don's Rail Photos, "3 was built in the company shops in 1909 as a plow."

#6 – CA&E snow plow 3 at Wheaton Shops. According to Don’s Rail Photos, “3 was built in the company shops in 1909 as a plow.”

#7 - CA&E 10. According to Don's Rail Photos, "10 was built by Niles Car in 1902. It was rebuilt with a baggage compartment in 1910. It was later removed, but then reinstalled in April 1933 for funeral service. It was wrecked September 10, 1948, and scrapped." (James B. M. Johnson Photo)

#7 – CA&E 10. According to Don’s Rail Photos, “10 was built by Niles Car in 1902. It was rebuilt with a baggage compartment in 1910. It was later removed, but then reinstalled in April 1933 for funeral service. It was wrecked September 10, 1948, and scrapped.” (James B. M. Johnson Photo)

#8 - Metropolitan West Side Elevated car 800 and train at Glenwood Park on the CA&E Batavia branch on a charter. This car was built by Barney & Smith in 1901 and was renumbered to 2800 in 1913. This photo must predate that renumbering.

#8 – Metropolitan West Side Elevated car 800 and train at Glenwood Park on the CA&E Batavia branch on a charter. This car was built by Barney & Smith in 1901 and was renumbered to 2800 in 1913. This photo must predate that renumbering.

#9 -CA&E line car 11. According to Don's Rail Photos, "11 was built by Brill in 1910, (order) #16483. It was rebuilt to a line car in 1947 and replaced 45. It was acquired by Railway Equipment Leasing & Invenstment Co in 1962 and came to Fox River Trolley Museum in 1984. It was lettered as Fox River & Eastern.

#9 -CA&E line car 11. According to Don’s Rail Photos, “11 was built by Brill in 1910, (order) #16483. It was rebuilt to a line car in 1947 and replaced 45. It was acquired by Railway Equipment Leasing & Invenstment Co in 1962 and came to Fox River Trolley Museum in 1984. It was lettered as Fox River & Eastern.

#10 - CA&E 603 at Wheaton on April 2, 1957. Don's Rail Photos says, "In 1937, the CA&E needed additional equipment. Much was available, but most of the cars suffered from extended lack of maintenance. Finally, 5 coaches were found on the Washington Baltimore & Annapolis which were just the ticket. 35 thru 39, built by Cincinnati Car in 1913, were purchased and remodeled for service as 600 thru 604. The ends were narrowed for service on the El. They had been motors, but came out as control trailers. Other modifications included drawbars, control, etc. A new paint scheme was devised. Blue and grey with red trim and tan roof was adopted from several selections. They entered service between July and October in 1937. "

#10 – CA&E 603 at Wheaton on April 2, 1957. Don’s Rail Photos says, “In 1937, the CA&E needed additional equipment. Much was available, but most of the cars suffered from extended lack of maintenance. Finally, 5 coaches were found on the Washington Baltimore & Annapolis which were just the ticket. 35 thru 39, built by Washington Baltimore & Annapolis in 1913, were purchased and remodeled for service as 600 thru 604. The ends were narrowed for service on the El. They had been motors, but came out as control trailers. Other modifications included drawbars, control, etc. A new paint scheme was devised. Blue and grey with red trim and tan roof was adopted from several selections. They entered service between July and October in 1937. “

#11 - Although this is a double exposure, it does show an unnumbered wooden interurban, ex-Chicago, North Shore & Milwaukee in Wheaton in 1946. It was part of the 129-144 series, the last passenger cars purchased by CA&E. Don's Rail Photos says, "In 1936, the CA&E leased 11 surplus cars from the CNS&M. These cars were modified for service by raising the coupler height, installing electric heat instead of the coal-fired hot water heaters, modifying the control, and adding jumper receptacles and other minor fittings to allow them to train with the other CA&E cars. Since these were 50 mile per hour cars, and the CA&E cars wer 60 MPH cars, they were soon operated only in trains of their own kind rather than mixed in with other cars. In 1945 they were returned to the North Shore where they operated briefly. They were purchased in 1946 and last ran in regular service in September, 1953."

#11 – Although this is a double exposure, it does show an unnumbered wooden interurban, ex-Chicago, North Shore & Milwaukee in Wheaton in 1946. It was part of the 129-144 series, the last passenger cars purchased by CA&E. Don’s Rail Photos says, “In 1936, the CA&E leased 11 surplus cars from the CNS&M. These cars were modified for service by raising the coupler height, installing electric heat instead of the coal-fired hot water heaters, modifying the control, and adding jumper receptacles and other minor fittings to allow them to train with the other CA&E cars. Since these were 50 mile per hour cars, and the CA&E cars wer 60 MPH cars, they were soon operated only in trains of their own kind rather than mixed in with other cars. In 1945 they were returned to the North Shore where they operated briefly. They were purchased in 1946 and last ran in regular service in September, 1953.”

#12 - CA&E 402 at Laramie in March 1946, with CRT 2893 at left. 402 was built by Pullman in 1923 as one of the first steel cars on the CA&E.

#12 – CA&E 402 at Laramie in March 1946, with CRT 2893 at left. 402 was built by Pullman in 1923 as one of the first steel cars on the CA&E.

#13 - The Chicago & North Western station at Wheaton. CA&E paralleled C&NW in this area and its tracks are off to the left.

#13 – The Chicago & North Western station at Wheaton. CA&E paralleled C&NW in this area and its tracks are off to the left.

#14 - CA&E wood cars 310 and 309 at Batavia station on a May 19, 1957 fantrip. According to Don's Rail Photos, 309 and 310 were built by Hicks Car Works in 1907 and modernized in October 1941. Car 309 was acquired by the Illinois Railway Museum in 1962.

#14 – CA&E wood cars 310 and 309 at Batavia station on a May 19, 1957 fantrip. According to Don’s Rail Photos, 309 and 310 were built by Hicks Car Works in 1907 and modernized in October 1941. Car 309 was acquired by the Illinois Railway Museum in 1962.

#15 - Car 134 under a 90 foot stretch of trolley wire at State Road on the Batavia branch on August 31, 1941. According to Don's Rail Photos, "134 was built by Jewett Car Co in 1907 as Chicago & Milwaukee Electric 134. It was rebuilt in 1914 retired in 1948." When this picture was taken, this car was being leased by CA&E from the North Shore Line.

#15 – Car 134 under a 90 foot stretch of trolley wire at State Road on the Batavia branch on August 31, 1941. According to Don’s Rail Photos, “134 was built by Jewett Car Co in 1907 as Chicago & Milwaukee Electric 134. It was rebuilt in 1914 retired in 1948.” When this picture was taken, this car was being leased by CA&E from the North Shore Line.

#16 - CA&E 453 at Des Plaines Avenue terminal in August 1955. Cars 451-460 were ordered in 1941 but delayed by war. They were built by St. Louis Car Co. in 1945-46 and are considered the last "standard" interurban cars built in the US, although this is a somewhat debatable point.

#16 – CA&E 453 at Des Plaines Avenue terminal in August 1955. Cars 451-460 were ordered in 1941 but delayed by war. They were built by St. Louis Car Co. in 1945-46 and are considered the last “standard” interurban cars built in the US, although this is a somewhat debatable point.

#17 - CA&E 312 (described as "part steel") just west of Wheaton in August 1952 on the way to Aurora. This appears to be the same location (Childs Street) as Photo #88 in Part 2 of our recent CA&E Mystery Photos Contest. Randy Hicks: "the lead car is the 309; the train is eastbound."

#17 – CA&E 312 (described as “part steel”) just west of Wheaton in August 1952 on the way to Aurora. This appears to be the same location (Childs Street) as Photo #88 in Part 2 of our recent CA&E Mystery Photos Contest.
Randy Hicks: “the lead car is the 309; the train is eastbound.”

#18 - CA&E 318 in Warrenville on a July 4, 1956 fantrip. Don's Rail Photos says, "318 was built by Jewett Car Co in 1914. It had steel sheating and was modernized in 1944. It was sold to Wisconsin Electric Raiway Historical Society in 1962. It was wrecked in transit and the parts were sold to IRM to restore 321." Randy Hicks: "the second car on this fantrip was the 300. This car was not preserved, but its seats were acquired by North Freedom and are now at IRM."

#18 – CA&E 318 in Warrenville on a July 4, 1956 fantrip. Don’s Rail Photos says, “318 was built by Jewett Car Co in 1914. It had steel sheating and was modernized in 1944. It was sold to Wisconsin Electric Raiway Historical Society in 1962. It was wrecked in transit and the parts were sold to IRM to restore 321.”
Randy Hicks: “the second car on this fantrip was the 300. This car was not preserved, but its seats were acquired by North Freedom and are now at IRM.”

#19 - CA&E 422 at Wheaton in February 1952.

#19 – CA&E 422 at Wheaton in February 1952.

#20 - CA&E 406 at State Road on the Batavia branch in 1954.

#20 – CA&E 406 at State Road on the Batavia branch in 1954.

#21 - CA&E 404 and 453 at Forest Park sometime between 1953 and 1957.

#21 – CA&E 404 and 453 at Forest Park sometime between 1953 and 1957.

#22 - CA&E 460 at Lakewood in 1954.

#22 – CA&E 460 at Lakewood in 1954.

#23 - CA&E 10. This car was wrecked on September 10, 1948 so this photo must predate that. Randy Hicks: "the 10 is at the end of the train; the next car is the 320. I doubt this was a fantrip, as I’ve never seen five (or more) cars used for this purpose."

#23 – CA&E 10. This car was wrecked on September 10, 1948 so this photo must predate that.
Randy Hicks: “the 10 is at the end of the train; the next car is the 320. I doubt this was a fantrip, as I’ve never seen five (or more) cars used for this purpose.”

#24 -CA&E 417 at Batavia Junction.

#24 -CA&E 417 at Batavia Junction.

#25 - CA&E 406 in Aurora. (R. J. Anderson Photo)

#25 – CA&E 406 in Aurora. (R. J. Anderson Photo)