Now here’s something you don’t see every day… the 69th Street station on the Normal Park “L”, in color. This short branch closed in 1954.
For most Chicago-area railfans, January 21, 1963 is a day, to paraphrase Franklin D. Roosevelt, that will “live in infamy,” for that is when the Chicago North Shore and Milwaukee, the North Shore Line, breathed its last.
But January 21 is also the date when we started this blog in 2015. This is our seventh anniversary, and I think we have had seven full years of good luck.
In that time, our posts have received 841,000 page views, and over time we have become more and more of a resource for those who are interested in the history of electric traction.
As this is our anniversary post, we pulled out all the stops, and have lots of classic images for you to enjoy. As the 21st is also the 59th anniversary of the North Shore Line abandonment, we have plenty of pictures that pay tribute to that lost interurban.
As we have shared our images with you, you in turn have shared many things with us. We have learned a lot by working together. It has been a great ride here so far, and we can only hope that the next seven years will turn out as well.
Our friend Kenneth Gear now has a Facebook group for the Railroad Record Club. If you enjoy listening to audio recordings of classic railroad trains, whether steam, electric, or diesel, you might consider joining.
Our Next Book
FYI, I recently made a new book proposal to my publisher and it has been accepted. I signed the agreement on the 18th, and with any luck, it will come out later this year.
There is still a lot of hard work to be done, but I will do my best to produce something that is new and different than that which is already out there, and makes a real contribution to our understanding of the past.
One thing working in my favor is there are plenty of great pictures to choose from, and the subject is already legendary.
Here is a summary:
The North Shore Line
As late as 1963, you could take a high-speed streamlined train from Chicago’s Loop elevated, 90 miles north to Milwaukee. This was the Chicago, North Shore and Milwaukee, commonly known as the North Shore Line.
From humble beginnings in the 1890s, as a streetcar line in Waukegan, Illinois, the North Shore Line grew to become, in the words of historian William D. Middleton, a “super interurban.” It reached its peak in the 1920s, under Samuel Insull, when the railroad won the prestigious Charles A. Coffin medal no less than three times.
Besides connecting Milwaukee and Chicago, the North Shore Line served Racine, Kenosha, Waukegan, Lake Bluff, Winnetka, Wilmette, and Evanston. A new Skokie Valley Route, built by Insull, opened in 1926 and helped establish Skokie, Glenview, Northfield, and Northbrook.
The railroad had a branch line serving Libertyville and Mundelein, city streetcars in Waukegan and Milwaukee, and was a pioneer in offering “piggyback” freight service.
Hobbled by the Depression and forced into bankruptcy, the North Shore Line rebounded during the war years with two fast new trains called “Electroliners.” It was finally done in by the automobile, highways, and a lack of government subsidies—but it left a remarkable legacy.
Our Annual Fundraiser
Since we started this blog in 2015, we have posted over 13,500 images. This is our 284th post.
Each year, around this time, we must renew our WordPress subscription, our domain registration, and pay other bills associated with maintaining this site, so it is time for our Annual Fundraiser.
The Trolley Dodger blog can only be kept going with the help of our devoted readers. Perhaps you count yourself among them.
If you have already contributed in the past, we thank you very much for your help. Meanwhile, our goal for this fundraiser is just $700, which is only a fraction of what it costs us each year. The rest is made up from either the profits from the items we sell, which are not large, or out of our own pocket, which is not very large either.
There are links at the top and bottom of this page, where you can click and make a donation that will help us meet our goal again for this coming year, so we can continue to offer you more classic images in the future, and keep this good thing we have going.
We thank you in advance for your time and consideration. To date, we have raised $350, which is halfway to our goal. We will also have considerable expenses coming up relating to research for our next book.
On May 11, 1958, William C. Hoffman took this picture looking north along Halsted at the (then) Congress Expressway. Service on the Garfield Park “L” would continue until June 22nd, when it was replaced by the new Congress rapid transit line at left. A passerby admires the new, as-yet unopened station entrance. The Met “L” here had been four tracks, but two were removed by the time this picture was taken, as they were in the highway footprint. The expressway opened in late 1955 in this area.
The old and the new are on display in this 1958 view of the Halsted station on the CTA’s Congress median line. In the background, the old Met “L” is still standing, but would soon be demolished.
North Shore Line 458 heads up a southbound freight train, probably in the early-to-mid 1950s. At first, I thought this location was in Skokie, from the sign on the building. But further research shows this picture was taken in Waukegan, between Washington and Cornelia Streets. The building at right was a former North Shore Line merchandise dispatch (they spelled it “despatch”) station, by this time being rented out to a produce dealer. Don’s Rail Photos: “458 was built by the Spokane Portland & Seattle in January 1941 as Oregon Electric Ry. 50. It was purchased by the North Shore in December 1947 and was completed as 458 on January 27, 1948.”
A northbound Electroliner heading away from the photographer in Waukegan, most likely in the early-to-mid 1950s. In the distance, you can see another North Shore car on a side track.
A close-up of the previous image. Zach E. writes: “Regarding the two photos of 458 and the Electroliner at Washington St. in Waukegan. The cars in the background are standard coaches, not MD cars. There was a storage track there often occupied by cars laying over on the east side of the mainline there between Cornelia and Brookside Ave.”
CTA PCC 4057 is heading northbound on Western Avenue near Roscoe in June 1956, passing by the entrance to Riverview Park, shortly before the end of streetcar service on Route 49. (Robert Selle Photo)
The Chicago and Milwaukee Electric was the predecessor of the North Shore Line. Car 133 is at the Kenosha station in this early 1900s view.
The Chicago Aurora and Elgin began using this off-street terminal in Aurora in 1939. This picture was taken from a nearby bridge in 1951.
Look at what we have here– the Turtle Wax Turtle, a local landmark that stood on top of a building at Madison, Ogden, and Ashland from 1956 to 1963. The slide mount dates it to the late 50s, probably 1956-58. And which “L” is this taken from? Well, since it is daylight and it is 9:13, I would say that is AM, and we are looking south from the Lake Street “L” at Ashland. It would have been visible from the Paulina “L”, which had closed in 1951, and from the Garfield Park “L”, but that structure had already been torn down by 1956. I remember seeing this thing any number of times when I was a kid.
The Turtle Wax Turtle.
One of the two Liberty Liners (ex-Electroliners) on the Norristown High-Speed Line, where they ran from 1964 to 1976.
Britton I. Budd (1871-1965) was a talented and able executive who held many responsible positions in the transit industry, including president of the North Shore Line. When Samuel Insull took over the North Shore Line, he tapped Budd to implement a modernization program. And when the line fell into bankruptcy in 1932, Budd became one of the receivers, a position he held until 1937.
The North Shore logo from a 1942 timetable.
This appeared on the cover of a 1921 issue of the North Shore Bulletin, a small magazine given out to riders.
This is part of a number of photos someone took out of the front window of a CTA “L” train in the 1950s, along the Garfield Park line. We have published some of these in previous posts. Not all of them seem to have been taken at the same time. This one appears to be circa 1957, and the location is along the temporary right-of-way in Van Buren Street.
Here, the “L” train the photographer was riding in was descending a ramp towards the ground-level trackage in Van Buren Street. The cross street in the distance is California Avenue. There is a sign on the front of the oncoming train, which I believe indicates which Chicago Aurora and Elgin connecting train riders could catch in Forest Park.
The Garfield Park “L” on Van Buren Street at California Avenue, but this time, circa 1954. The old “L” has already been removed, except for the bridge over a nearby railroad.
A close-up of the previous image, showing construction on the nearby railroad embankment that crosses the highway at 2600 West. The old Met “L” bridge had not yet been dismantled.
On the Illinois Railway Museum main line, North Shore Line cars can operate in something approximating their former lives in revenue service prior to the 1963 abandonment. We see car 251 in February 1991. (Mike Raia Photo)
Lehigh Valley Transit ran freight as well as passenger service between Allentown, PA and Philadelphia. Even after passenger service was cut back to Norristown in 1949, they continued to operate freight via the Philadelphia and Western. Here we see car C16 in 1950, near the end of its days. Interurban service was abandoned the following year. Don’s Rail Photos: “C16 was built by Jewett Car in 1912 as 800. It was rebuilt as C16 in 1935.”
Lehigh Valley Transit car 1002, circa 1950. Don’s Rail Photos: “1002 was built by Cincinnati Car in June 1930, #3050, as C&LE 126. It was sold to LVT as 1002 in 1938 and scrapped in 1952.”
A pair of Lehigh Valley Transit cars meet a Philadelphia Bullet car at the Norristown terminal, circa 1951. LVT ceased running their Liberty Bell Limited cars there in 1949, for a variety of reasons. It reduced their expenses, but it probably also reduced revenues as their riders now had to change trains at Norristown. But the LVT cars were getting worn out and there were problems with the motors on the lightweight high-speed interurban cars LVT had acquired from the Cleveland and Lake Erie in 1938. Towards the end, LVT had to rely more and more on their older cars, such as the 700-series ones seen here. To the left (north), there was a ramp descending to ground level. This terminal has since been replaced by a newer one nearby.
The Chicago and North Western station in Evanston, during steam days in the early 1900s.
We ran another picture of this scene in a previous post, taken from a different view. The occasion was a Chicago streetcar fantrip using car 2802, and the location is at 63rd and Halsted on the Englewood branch of the “L”. There was an off-street area where riders could change for buses to different locations and, in an older era, interurbans as well. I do not know precisely when this picture was taken, but if I had to guess, I would say sometime in the 1940s.
Here is the other picture we previously ran of car 2802:
CSL 2802 on a charter, possibly a July 4, 1949 fantrip held by the Electric Railroaders’ Association on various south side lines. Bill Shapotkin writes: “Believe this pic is in the streetcar terminal next to the 63/Halsted ‘L’ station (where the C&IT cars and later busses of South Suburban Safeway and Suburban transit began their runs). View looks east.” M. E. adds, “Bill Shapotkin is correct. This view faces east along 63rd Place on the south side of the 63rd and Halsted (Englewood) L station, which was east of Halsted. One small nit about Bill’s text: The bus lines were named Suburban Transit System and South Suburban Safeway Lines.” C&IT stands for the Chicago & Interurban Traction Company. Don’s Rail Photos says, “The Chicago & Interurban Traction Company was incorporated in February 1912, taking over all trackage outside Chicago in March 1912 (all trackage in the City of Chicago went to the Chicago City Railway Company). C&IT interurban service continued from the south side Engelwood Elevated Station at 63rd and Halsted (trackage in Chicago was leased along with the shops at 88th and Vincennes) to Kankakee.” Samuel Insull took over the C&IT in 1922 and tried to revive the line, but when the competing Illinois Central elevated much of their line and electrified, the C&IT could not compete and interurban service was abandoned in 1927.
A Wabash Railroad display at the 1948-49 Chicago Railroad Fair along the lakefront.
The Chicago and Eastern Illinois exhibit at the 1948-49 Chicago Railroad Fair.
North Shore Line combine 255. 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.” As there are seats visible, this picture dates to circa 1942-46.
Atlantic City Brilliner 215 at a traffic signal, while on private right-of-way, on October 13, 1955, which must be shortly before streetcar service ended there.
Pittsburgh Railways PCC 1262 is on Wood Street in downtown Pittsburgh on September 19, 1962.
Chicago Transit Authority PCC 4321 is on 77th Street on July 30, 1948.
This is the Ballston Terminal Railroad, which Frank Hicks calls “a fairly unusual little interurban in upstate New York,” in the early 1900s. More info here.
Here, we see Frank Cheney on CA&E car 434 at the Seashore Trolley Museum on October 12, 1963. From their web site: “No. 434 of the Chicago, Aurora & Elgin – “The Great Third Rail” – was outshopped by the Cincinnati Car Company in 1927 as one of a group of 15 ordered shortly after Insull acquired control of the railway. Of all steel construction, the car is 55 feet long overall, is powered by four 140 horsepower motors, and has a seating capacity of 52, including 10 in a smoking compartment. Interior appointments include rotating bucket seats, toilet facilities and neatly finished paneling. The car is equipped with trolley poles that were primarily for yard service and limited street running on the CA&E, since the line used third rail current collection not only on the elevated, but on its own cross country surface routes as well. Moved on its own wheels coupled in a freight train from the CA&E shops in Wheaton, Illinois, to Kennebunk in the fall of 1962, No. 434 was trucked to the Museum in the spring of 1963 and was quickly readied for operation, given its good condition.”
North Shore Line car 168 is in North Chicago, being stored after abandonment, on October 19, 1963. It was built by Jewett in 1917. It did not survive.
Some of these interurban cars sure got around after they were retired from their original roads. Here we see North Shore Line car 411 on the Long Island Railroad. Don’s Rail Photos: “411 was built as a trailer observation car by Cincinnati Car in June 1923 #2640. It was out of service in 1932. 411 It was rebuilt as a two motor coach by closing in the open platform and changing the seating 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.”
An 0-series Shinkansen “Bullet” train in Tokyo, Japan in June 1968. The North Shore Line’s Electroliners influenced the design of these high-speed trains.
This is the Downey’s station (West Great Lakes) in October 1961.
I assume this may also be at Downeys, in October 1961.
Sailors and others aboard a North Shore Line train in October 1961.
A builder’s photo of Chicago and Milwaukee Electric (later the North Shore Line) car 305. Don’s Rail Photos: “303 thru 305 were built by American Car in 1910 and were almost identical. In 1939 they became sleet cutters and were retired and scrapped in 1940.”
North Shore Line streetcar 510. Don’s Rail Photos: “510 and 511 were not really city cars, but were purchased for use on the Mundelein line. They were typical Cincinnati Car lightweights built in 1922. After more of the steel interurbans were received in the next few years, they were replaced by the heavy cars which were thru routed to Chicago. The cars were stored until they were scrapped in 1940.”
North Shore Line wood car 301 at the Highwood Shops in the 1930s. Don’s Rail Photos: “300 thru 302 were built by Jewett in 1909 as mainline coaches. As the steel cars arrived, they were downgraded to local and school tripper service. In 1936 they became sleet cutters. 301 and 302 were retired in 1939 and scrapped in 1940.” (Edward Frank, Jr. Photo)
North Shore Line Birney car 334 in Milwaukee. Don’s Rail Photos: “334 was built by Cincinnati Car Co in December 1922, #2625. It was retired in 1947 and scrapped in April 1948.” (Donald Ross Photo)
North Shore Line electric loco 458 at the Highwood Shops on September 3, 1963, several months after abandonment. None of the NSL locos were saved, due to the high scrap value they had. (Bill Volkmer Photo)
Chicago Aurora & Elgin wood car 137 at the Wheaton Shops on August 6, 1939, during which time it was leased from the North Shore Line. There were several such cars that were purchased by the CA&E in 1946, making them the last passenger cars acquired by the interurban. It was built by the Jewett Car Company in 1907. (La Mar M. Kelley Photo)
Doug Iverson writes:
David, just heard about your latest adventure into the publishing arena. Hope everything goes well. I would be honored and extremely pleased if you could use this photo of my dad heading to board the North Shore in Racine in the 1940s.
My dad’s name was Nathan Norman Iverson. He was born in Forks, Washington on the Olympic Peninsula and traveled to Racine on the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad better known as The Milwaukee Road. As he did most of his traveling during the depression he “rode the rails” trying to cure his wanderlust. In Racine he met my mother and she calmed his wandering spirit. He loved to travel. He always said “Traveling was always more fun than being there.”
I grew up in Racine with The North Shore flying through town in both directions every hour on the half hour.
Thanks for sharing! A remarkable story.
Marty Robinson writes:
Thanks David for your anniversary post. It elicited several memories for me: riding the North Shore Line from Downey into Chicago numerous times while at Great Lakes in 1950/51 at boot camp and electronics school. And a mention of the Railroad Fair, where I worked as a 16-year-old as a conductor on the Deadwood Central.
Glad you enjoyed it, thanks! Marty is front row, center in this 1948 photo from the Chicago Railroad Fair.
Did Not Win
Resources are limited, and we can’t win all the auctions for interesting pictures. Here are some that are still worth another look:
The interior of a Silverliner in 1963.
This is apparently a Chicago area train, but which one? The type of slide mount would indicate a date in the range 1955-58. But the headline visible, on a copy of the Chicago Daily News, refers to the selection of a site for the University of Illinois campus in Chicago. That determination was not made final until 1961. It’s been suggested that this may be the GM&O, but it could also be a Chicago & North Western train known as The 400, which ran between Chicago and Minneapolis. The 400 got its name because the travel time between cities was about 400 minutes. At any rate, it’s an air conditioned car. Mitch Markovitz: “Regarding the parlor car interior. It’s definitely the interior of GM&O parlor “Bloomington,” and not a C&NW parlor. C&NW parlors had parlor chairs from Coach and Car, and the chairs seen in the photo are those from Heywood-Wakefield, in the “Sleepy Hallow model.””
The original Kedzie Avenue station on the Ravenswood “L” (today’s CTA Brown Line) in the early 1970s, not long before it was damaged by fire. We are looking west.
Trolleys to Milwaukee by John Gruber
A copy of this long out-of-print 32-page book is being offered for sale on eBay for $50. One of the fans on the Facebook North Shore Line group lives in Australia and is interested in this book, but international shipping is expensive. So I offered to scan my copy for their benefit. You might enjoy it too.
John E. Gruber (1936-2018) was a notable and very talented photographer, as evidenced in these very striking pictures.
A Guide to the Railroad Record Club E-Book
William A. Steventon recording the sounds of the North Shore Line in April 1956. (Kenneth Gear Collection)
Our good friend Ken Gear has been hard at work on collecting all things related to the late William Steventon’s railroad audio recordings and releases. The result is a new book on disc, A Guide To the Railroad Record Club. This was quite a project and labor of love on Ken’s part!
Kenneth Gear has written and compiled a complete history of William Steventon‘s Railroad Record Club, which issued 42 different LPs of steam, electric, and diesel railroad audio, beginning with its origins in 1953.
This “book on disc” format allows us to present not only a detailed history of the club and an updated account of Kenneth Gear’s purchase of the William Steventon estate, but it also includes audio files, photo scans and movie files. Virtually all the Railroad Record Club archive is gathered in one place!
$10 from the sale of each RRC E-Book will go to Kenneth Gear to repay him for some of his costs in saving this important history.
Now Available on Compact Disc:
RRC08D Railroad Record Club #08 Deluxe Edition: Canadian National: Canadian Railroading in the Days of Steam, Recorded by Elwin Purington The Complete Recording From the Original Master Tapes Price: $15.99
Kenneth Gear‘s doggedness and determination resulted in his tracking down and purchasing the surviving RRC master tapes a few years back, and he has been hard at work having them digitized, at considerable personal expense, so that you and many others can enjoy them with today’s technology. We have already released a few RRC Rarities CDs from Ken’s collection.
When Ken heard the digitized version of RRC LP #08, Canadian National: Canadian Railroading in the Days of Steam, recorded by the late Elwin Purington, he was surprised to find the original tapes were more than twice the length of the 10″ LP. The resulting LP had been considerably edited down to the limited space available, 15 minutes per side.
The scenes were the same, but each was greatly shortened. Now, on compact disc, it is possible to present the full length recordings of this classic LP, which was one of Steventon’s best sellers and an all-around favorite, for the very first time.
Canadian National. Steaming giants pound high iron on mountain trails, rumble over trestles, hit torpedos and whistle for many road crossings. Mountain railroading with heavy power and lingering whistles! Includes locomotives 3566, 4301, 6013, 3560.
Total time – 72:57
$5 from the sale of RRC08D CD will go to Kenneth Gear to repay him for some of his costs in saving this important history.
Chicago’s Lost “L”s Online Presentation
We recently gave an online presentation about our book Chicago’s Lost “L”s for the Chicago Public Library, as part of their One Book, One Chicago series. You can watch it online by following this link.
The Trolley Dodger On the Air
We appeared on the Dave Plier Show on WGN radio on July 16, 2021, to discuss Chicago’s Lost “L”s. You can hear that discussion here.
Our Latest Book, Now Available:
Chicago’s Lost “L”s
From the back cover:
Chicago’s system of elevated railways, known locally as the “L,” has run continuously since 1892 and, like the city, has never stood still. It helped neighborhoods grow, brought their increasingly diverse populations together, and gave the famous Loop its name. But today’s system has changed radically over the years. Chicago’s Lost “L”s tells the story of former lines such as Garfield Park, Humboldt Park, Kenwood, Stockyards, Normal Park, Westchester, and Niles Center. It was once possible to take high-speed trains on the L directly to Aurora, Elgin, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The L started out as four different companies, two starting out using steam engines instead of electricity. Eventually, all four came together via the Union Loop. The L is more than a way of getting around. Its trains are a place where people meet and interact. Some say the best way to experience the city is via the L, with its second-story view. Chicago’s Lost “L”s is virtually a “secret history” of Chicago, and this is your ticket. David Sadowski grew up riding the L all over the city. He is the author of Chicago Trolleys and Building Chicago’s Subways and runs the online Trolley Dodger blog.
The Images of America series celebrates the history of neighborhoods, towns, and cities across the country. Using archival photographs, each title presents the distinctive stories from the past that shape the character of the community today. Arcadia is proud to play a part in the preservation of local heritage, making history available to all.
Title Chicago’s Lost “L”s Images of America Author David Sadowski Edition illustrated Publisher Arcadia Publishing (SC), 2021 ISBN 1467100007, 9781467100007 Length 128 pages
Chapters: 01. The South Side “L” 02. The Lake Street “L” 03. The Metropolitan “L” 04. The Northwestern “L” 05. The Union Loop 06. Lost Equipment 07. Lost Interurbans 08. Lost Terminals 09. Lost… and Found
Each copy purchased here will be signed by the author, and you will also receive a bonus facsimile of a 1926 Chicago Rapid Transit Company map, with interesting facts about the “L” on the reverse side.
The price of $23.99 includes shipping within the United States.
For Shipping to US Addresses:
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A Tribute to the North Shore Line
To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the demise of the fabled North Shore Line interurban in January 2013, Jeffrey L. Wien and Bradley Criss made a very thorough and professional video presentation, covering the entire route between Chicago and Milwaukee and then some. Sadly, both men are gone now, but their work remains, making this video a tribute to them, as much as it is a tribute to the Chicago North Shore & Milwaukee.
Jeff drew on his own vast collections of movie films, both his own and others such as the late William C. Hoffman, wrote and gave the narration. Bradley acted as video editor, and added authentic sound effects from archival recordings of the North Shore Line.
It was always Jeff’s intention to make this video available to the public, but unfortunately, this did not happen in his lifetime. Now, as the caretakers of Jeff’s railfan legacy, we are proud to offer this excellent two-hour program to you for the first time. The result is a fitting tribute to what Jeff called his “Perpetual Adoration,” which was the name of a stop on the interurban.
Jeff was a wholehearted supporter of our activities, and the proceeds from the sale of this disc will help defray some of the expenses of keeping the Trolley Dodger web site going.
Total time – 121:22
# of Discs – 1 Price: $19.99 (Includes shipping within the United States)
Help Support The Trolley Dodger
This is our 284th 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 841,000 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.
As we have said before, “If you buy here, we will be here.”
We thank you for your support.
In order to continue giving you the kinds of historic railroad images that you have come to expect from The Trolley Dodger, we need your help and support. It costs money to maintain this website, and to do the sort of historic research that is our specialty.
Your financial contributions help make this web site better, and are greatly appreciated.
The conductor on this gate car, on a westbound Douglas Park train at Western Avenue, is waiting to receive the bell signal from the next car, so he can pass it along. Before “L” trains had door control wired up between cars, this is how the system worked. There were many more conductors– a three car train of wooden “L” cars had two conductors, plus the motorman. The date was February 9, 1954. (William C. Hoffman Photo) Andre Kristopans: “One detail – each train had one motorman and one conductor. Conductor worked between first two cars (or in only car if there was only one). The rest of the men were classified as “guards” and had a slightly lower pay rate. Motorman and conductor stayed together all day, guards worked dependent on train length that trip. They were apparently mostly part timers that only worked the longer rush trains, though for instance on North-South where trains were four cars midday at least one guard worked all day.”
Spring is finally here, and the temps are gradually getting warmer. But here at the Trolley Dodger, we feel we’re getting warmer in other ways as well– in the sense that we’re on to something.
After more than six years, we’re getting closer to what I hoped this site could be when it started. Maybe we’re finally realizing some of our true potential, I don’t know. I will leave such determinations to our readers.
But when I started my first transit blog (this is actually the second), someone opined it was long on potential, and short on execution. And I had to agree that this was so. Hey, nobody knows everything about a subject, and we learn as we go along.
And in six plus years, I feel we have improved both the content of this site (our image library) and the information that we provide. And it does seem to fill a need that was out there. I base that on how often our own articles and pictures come up when I do Internet searches on subjects, and the number of times we see our own pictures re-shared on Facebook.
When folks do share our images on Facebook, though, there are a few things that I would ask. First, do not crop out the watermark on our images that identifies them as having come from here. Second, please provide the correct caption information. Too many times, I have seen either partial, or sometimes even incorrect captions placed on our photos when shared.
Finally, please credit the original photographer, when the name of that person is known.
Today, we have a large number of outstanding classic photos for your consideration. Even better, all of them are from our own collections. Some we purchased, and others are scans of original 35mm slides taken by the late William C. Hoffman.
We recently received the Hoffman collection as part of an overall gift of photographs collected and shot by the late Jeffrey L. Wein, a friend for over 40 years. We thank him for his generosity.
You may have seen duplicate slides over the years from some of these Hoffman shots. Bill Hoffman was an avid photographer, and while not always the best from a technical standpoint, he got many shots that are unique and were either missed, or overlooked, by others.
Bill Hoffman’s strong suit was in documenting things that were fast disappearing, those scenes of everyday life that others took for granted. While many of his pictures are not tack-sharp, at least here, we are working with the “best evidence,” the original slides themselves, and not duplicates.
I don’t know what kind of camera equipment he used back in the day, but after he passed away in the late 1980s, a friend gave me Bill Hoffman’s last camera, which was a screw-mount Leica IIIg, a model from 1957.
Meanwhile, after taking a pause due to the pandemic, work will soon resume on our next book Chicago’s Lost “L”s, scheduled to appear on July 12. It has now reached the proofing stage, and there are still a few changes that need to be made.
Arcadia Publishing has priced this at $23.99, and we are doing our best to make sure that you, the reader, will get an excellent value for your money. We will begin our pre-sale at the beginning of June, and each copy purchased from our Online Store will also include a bonus item, as well as being autographed.
PS- If you want to see even more transit-related content than we can share here, check out our Trolley Dodger Facebook group, which currently has 242 members.
CTA 3156, seen here on the Stock Yards branch in the early 1950s, was built by Brill in 1909 for the Lake Street “L”. After it was no longer needed there, it was used on this shuttle operation in the early-to-mid 1950s, still sporting at least one trolley pole. I am not sure of the exact location here, but it is nearby Agar’s Meats and on a section of “L” that was double-tracked. The men in the foreground were either on the roof of a nearby building, or perhaps on the Chicago Junction Railway embankment, if that was close by. (Wendell E. Grove Photo)
On June 6, 1954, the National Railway Historical Society held a fantrip to say goodbye to trolley service on the Red Arrow interurban to West Chester, PA. Cars 14, 20, and 68 were used, and after 20 broke down, it was towed by 68. This was a photo stop, and the slide identifies the location as either “Milltown” or “Mill farm,” the handwriting is hard to make out.
We actually ran another picture from the same photo stop in a previous post:
Cars 14, 20 and 68 at a photo stop along the West Chester line on the June 6, 1954 NRHS fantrip.
Red Arrow Brill-built “Master Unit” 77, signed for the Sharon Hill line, in the early 1950s. This car, built in 1932, has been preserved, but the last report I have is that it is stored inoperable by the Middletown and Hummelstown Railroad.
Ardmore junction was a favorite spot for photographers on the Red Arrow Lines, as the Norristown High-Speed Line crossed over the trolley line to Ardmore. Many photos such as this were posed on fantrips, up until the end of 1966, when buses replaced rail on the Ardmore branch. The date and circumstances of this photo are not known, other than that it was taken in 1961. Car 66 was built by Brill in 1927, and has been preserved at the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum since 1970.
Over the years, Boston has phased out nearly all the street running on its Green Line trolley system, except for a bit of the E line, which now terminates at Heath. Here, on October 30, 1982, Clark Frazier captured this view of MBTA “picture window” PCC 3314, built by Pullman-Standard in 1951, on Huntington Avenue, going by Mission Park on its way to Arborway as part of a two-car train. Although service on the E line was truncated to Heath, trolleys still run at this location today.
Here is a view of the Lake Street “L” looking north from Garfield Park in September 1963. This was a time between the elevation of the west portion of the line in 1962, and the arrival of the new 2000-series “L” cars in 1964. The line was operated using 4000s, which by then had their trolley poles removed, as Lake was now operated with third rail only. These cars are in mid-day storage on a third track. The following year, a new yard opened in Forest Park, making this kind of storage unnecessary.
Johnstown, PA was the smallest city to operate PCC cars, and was a favorite of photographers, but I don’t recall seeing a lot of winter pictures. Here, Johnstown Traction 412, with its distinctive Pepsi bottlecap advertising on the front, is at the Roxbury Loop on March 14, 1959. Streetcar service ended the following year. (Bill Volkmer Photo)
Officials from Skokie and the CTA cut the ribbon at Dempster Street on April 20, 1964, inaugurating Skokie Swift service on file miles of trackage formerly owned by the North Shore Line interurban, which had quit service just over a year before. This is today’s Yellow Line and is now operated using third rail power rather than overhead wire.
We ran a different picture from this event in a previous post:
On April 20, 1964, CTA and local officials cut the ribbon at Dempster, commencing service on the new five-mile-long Skokie Swift line. This represented but a small portion of the Chicago North Shore and Milwaukee interurban that abandoned service on January 21, 1963. The Chicago Transit Authority had to purchase about half of the Swift route anyway, as their connection to Skokie Shops went over NSL tracks. The CTA decided to offer an express service between Dempster and Howard stations, and put in a large parking lot. Service was put into place using existing equipment at the lowest possible cost. The late George Krambles was put in charge of this project, which received some federal funding as a “demonstration” service, at a time when that was still somewhat unusual. But CTA officials at the time indicated that they would still have started the Swift, even without federal funds. I was nine years old at the time, and rode these trains on the very first day. I can assure you they went 65 miles per hour, as I was watching the speedometer. Needless to say, the experiment was quite successful, and service continues on what is now the Yellow Line today, with the addition of one more stop at Oakton. (Richard Hofer Photo, David Stanley Collection)
A two-car South Shore Line train, made up of cars 103 and 24, has made it to downtown Chicago during a blizzard in January 1979.
This is the back end of a westbound two-car train of 2000s on the Douglas Park “L” in July 1966, approaching the Laramie Avenue station in Cicero. Laramie was closed in 1992, but was reopened in 2002-2003, while the nearby 54th Avenue station was being redone. The station house at Laramie has been declared historic and is the last remaining one of its type, and has been preserved, although no longer used.
A close-up of the previous picture, giving a better view of the Laramie Avenue station, with 54th Avenue off in the distance.
A remnant of the Laramie station, as it looks today.
Pittsburgh PCC 1646 on Arlington Avenue in Pittsburgh on April 25, 1974. This trackage serves as a bypass route for a nearby transit tunnel, and I actually have rode on it twice– the first time was in 1985, when for a short time, it became an actual route, and then again in 2014, on a fantrip. (Joseph Saitta Photo)
North Shore Line combine car 255 on June 1, 1962. Note the variations in paint color on this car, ranging from a dark green to a bluish green. That should be enough to drive would-be modelers crazy in their quest for authenticity. 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.”
A train of CTA 2000s on the then-new Dan Ryan line in November 1969 at 79th Street. (Rick Burn Photo)
A South Shore Line train at 130th and the under construction Calumet Superhighway in April 1952. (James P. Shuman Photo)
Since this shows a Logan Square “L” train on the Met main line, just west of the Loop, it must have been taken between August 1950 (when the 6000s were introduced) and February 1951 (when the Dearborn-Milwaukee Subway opened).
This June 1975 photo of a pair of derelict CTA 4000s was, and remains, somewhat of a mystery. The location is marked as “Forest Glen Yard,” which is actually the name of a bus yard on Chicago’s northwest side. I posted this to our Facebook group, in hopes someone might help identify the location. Three possibilities were suggested: CTA Skokie Shops, Michigan City on the South Shore Line, and Joliet. The nearby freight yard and the orange caboose are clues. According to Andre Kristopans, that’s Chuck Tauscher at right. In his prime, he was an excellent photographer. (S. Downey Photo)
A close-up of the late Charles Tauscher, from the previous photo.
I really have no information about this photo, other than that it might be Mexico City. If I had to guess a date, I would say the early 1960s. What attracted me to it is that you don’t see a lot of photos showing a streetcar and a trolley bus together.
In a previous post, we ran a photo of the Logan Square interlocking tower, taken by the late Roger Puta on April 9, 1966, shortly before this tower was replaced by a new one that continued in use until the line was extended in 1970. Another, similar photo turned up recently, and I bought it. Imagine my surprise when it turns out to have been taken mere minutes after the first one! Although I cannot say for certain, this one may also have been taken by Roger Puta. I believe the man at left is his friend Rick Burn, whose name is written on the back of the slide. However, if that is him, he could hardly have taken the picture, and due to the great similarity with the other shot, it’s entirely possible that Roger Puta took this one as well.
Here is the other photo by Roger Puta:
CTA interlocking tower at Logan Square Terminal, Chicago, IL on April 9, 1966 Roger Puta photograph Roger wrote, “The last mechanical interlocking on the CTA and will be replaced with a new tower.”
South Shore Line trains at the Randolph Street Terminal in August 1965. This terminal has since been completely redone and is now underground, beneath Millennium Park.
On May 25, 1958 there was a fantrip on Chicago’s last remaining streetcar line (Wentworth), less than a month before the final run. This included a tour of South Shops at 77th and Vincennes, and the CTA Historical Collection was trotted out one last time for photos, of which there are many circulating. This batch was taken by J. W. Vigrass. The collection was eventually moved to the Lawndale car barn, where it languished until the 1980s, when it was parsed out to various museums.
CTA PCC 7207 is on Ravenswood near Devon Station (car barn) in the 1950s.
This is the third “L” photo I have, taken at this location, which at first was a mystery, but eventually turned out to be an annex (since demolished) just north of the Merchandise Mart. All three photos may have been taken at the same time, and by the same photographer, in the 1930s. This one shows North Shore Line cars 768 and 769.
This is a Brooklyn PCC car, one of a hundred in use from 1936 to 1956. It is signed for Route 68 and could be heading to the Brooklyn Bridge. Other than that, I have no information.
Stereo images were popular around 1900, and when placed in the proper viewer (sometimes called a “stereopticon”) provided a 3-D effect. This is the left picture from a stereo pair, showing cable cars on Madison Street in downtown Chicago. Some say that the Loop got its name from the paths taken by downtown cable cars, but research has shown the term came into popular use because of the “L’ and the Union Loop, completed in 1897. There are no overhead wires in view here, and none were permitted downtown until 1906. The tracks at left may have been used by horse car lines, since there is no trough for a cable.
The right image of the stereo pair.
This picture shows a Chicago PCC at the Pullman plant in Massachusetts. Chances are excellent that this is car 4062, the first of 310 that Pullman would build for Chicago, starting in 1946.
This is a rare agent’s stub for what is known as an “Interline ticket,” used for one trip involving two different railroads. In this case, it seems the trip involved the Monon Railroad and the Chicago North Shore and Milwaukee, aka the North Shore Line. The passenger may have been a new recruit during World War II, as this ticket was apparently requested by the US government.
CRT 4096 is part of a Normal Park Express. This picture may have been taken on the south side. This car was part of the original order of 4000s, which came with a center door that was never actually used in service. It was closed off to provide more seating. These cars were known as “Baldies,” as opposed to the second 4000s order, the “Plushies.” Our resident south side expert M.E. writes: “This picture must have been taken underneath the pedestrian bridge at the Indiana Ave. station when the shoppers’ specials were running express from 43rd St. into the Loop. The shoppers’ specials ran only northbound. Returning southbound, they were local trains using the local southbound track, which is the track next to the platform at Indiana Ave.. This is the only circumstance I can think of in which a sign would say “Express Normal Pk”. Notice that the Normal Park car is the last car in the train. West of the Harvard station on the Englewood line, Normal Park cars were always attached as the last car of northbound mainline Englewood trains and detached from being the last car on southbound mainline Englewood trains. That arrangement lasted until 1949.”
CRT wood car 1136 is part of a Howard Street Express. The location might be the same as the previous picture.
CRT 4415, a “Plushie,” is part of a Howard Street Express. The nickname came from the plush seats used on these cars. “L” cars wore flags on certain holidays such as the 4th of July.
North Shore Line Electroliner set 801-802 is heading northbound at Loyola on Chicago’s north side “L”. If the train had been southbound, there would be overhead wire, then in use by freight locomotives. This Electroliner set is currently undergoing restoration at the Illinois Railway Museum.
North Shore Line 743 in a pocket track at Edison Court.
Photos showing North Shore Line trains being scrapped after the 1963 abandonment are rare– and this is not one of them. This is car 416, built in 1916 by Cincinnati Car Company, and rebuilt in 1942. It was scrapped shortly after this picture was taken at North Chicago on January 21, 1956, after the car had been damaged in a fire.
Atlantic City once had an interurban known as the Shore Fast Line. Interestingly, it inspired one of the four railroad names in the game Monopoly, the “Short Line.” In the early 1930s, Charles Todd, an early Monopoly player, got tired of trying to fit Shore Fast Line on his handmade Monopoly board, and “shortened” it as a joke. Charles Darrow copied it verbatim, and began to market this version of Atlantic City Monopoly commercially, and the rest is history.
South Shore Line car 100 wore patriotic colors during World War II, and helped promote the sale of War Bonds. A different picture of this car appeared in my 2017 book Chicago Trolleys.
CRT Shopper’s Specials Timetables, 1923-24
Chicago’s “L” system started out as four separate companies, that gradually came together as a single system. This evolution reached its fruition in 1924, when all four entities were combined into the Chicago Rapid Transit Company as part of the Samuel Insull empire.
From about 1913 on, the “L” had been operated more or less as a single unit, but the four underlying companies were still there. As part of this unification process, new all-steel state of the art rapid transit cars were ordered, the 4000-series, in two distinct batches. These were the first “L” cars intended for use on all lines– previously, all cars had been at least partially made from wood, and were ordered for use on one of the four independent “L” lines.
The first 4000s were built circa 1913-15, and the second group from 1923-24. When the later 4000s were put into service, the Insull interests instituted a mid-day “Shopper’s Special” express service on five lines in time for the 1923 Christmas season.
We were fortunate recently to be able to purchase three rare 1923-24 timetables for this service. This type of service was most successful on the Evanston line over the years. The Chicago Transit Authority re-introduced a “Shopper’s Special” as a mid-day Evanston Express in the late 1950s, and this lasted into the early 1990s.
Photos by William C. Hoffman
Bill Hoffman used a Leica iiig camera similar to this for many years.
On October 22, 1953, work was far along on dismantling the former CTA Garfield Park “L” station at Western and Congress. Remarkably, trains ran on this line less than a month before this picture was taken. The tracks at ground level were a bypass route for Western Avenue streetcars, to facilitate construction of a new bridge over the eventual Congress (now Eisenhower) expressway. The view looks to the north. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
An interior view of CTA wood car 1813, built by ACF in 1907. This picture was taken on a May 1, 1955 fantrip, while the train was on the Van Buren Street temporary ground level trackage, where the Garfield Park “L” ran from 1953 to 1958 during construction of the nearby Congress rapid transit line. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
In a previous post, we ran a picture of car 1813 (not by Bill Hoffman), probably taken on the same May 1, 1955 fantrip:
CRT 1813 is part of a two-car train at Sedgwick. The flags may indicate this was a fantrip. (George Trapp Collection)
Bill Hoffman took this picture on July 8, 1954, to compare “old” (left) and “new” types of third rail collection shoes on CTA 6000-series “L” cars. This photo was taken at 43rd Street.
Steel wheels, trolley poles, and coupling detail of CTA high performance cars 6129-6130 at Sedgwick on December 11, 1955. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
On July 21, 1950, a CTA Grafield Park “L” train approaches Marshfield from the west, while a westbound Chicago Aurora & Elgin train is at the station. The tracks curving off to the left are for the Douglas Park branch (today’s Pink Line), (William C. Hoffman Photo)
Chicago Rapid Transit 3023 is southbound at Chicago Avenue on April 6, 1946. Note the tower behind the train, which controlled switching. North of here there were four tracks instead of two. (William C. Hoffman Photo)