Chicago Railways Pullman 513. This picture dates to between 1909 and 1920. I was fortunate to purchase this photo postcard recently, and cleaned up many of the imperfections in Photoshop. The caption on back reads, “Uncle Herbert Phipps, Chicago. This was taken during the summer. Your humble is stood with his hand(s) crossed. I look older in the picture than what I do in person. This picture reminds me of my grandfather. He looked a good deal like I do here.” This may be the same person: “Born in New Whittington, Derbyshire, England on 7 May 1876 to George Phipps. Herbert Phipps married Frances Jane Fox and had 5 children. He passed away on 18 Oct 1928 in Chicago, Cook, Illinois, USA.” See the Recent Correspondence section for more discussion about this picture.
October is often full of surprises, especially during an election year. Here are some surprisingly good traction photos for your enjoyment. Some, we were fortunate enough to purchase. We missed out on others, but they are still worth including. We also have some excellent Chicago streetcar pictures from the collections of William Shapotkin, plus some interesting correspondence from our readers. We thank all our contributors.
As always, if you have questions or comments about anything you see here, we are glad to hear from you. It helps to refer to individual photos by their file name, which you can find by hovering your mouse over the image.
PS- We have received more than 100,000 page views this year. This is the sixth straight year we have done this. We are very grateful for our readers. Thank you for stopping by.
Facebook Auxiliary Group
It seems we always have things left over after each new post. So, we thought it would be a good idea to create a Facebook auxiliary group for The Trolley Dodger. You can find it here. People can post pictures, links, have discussions, etc. etc., thanks.
The Merchandise Mart station, looking south, on September 26, 1944. Those tracks at left went to the old North Water Terminal. This version of the image is a composite made up by combining the scans from two different prints, and shows slightly more of the overall scene than either would individually.
Chicago Aurora & Elgin 317 at Wheaton Yards on June 28, 1957. Passenger service ended on July 3rd. (Paul Stringham Photo)
CA&E 430 and 315 at Wheaton Yards on August 7, 1954.
North Shore Line four-truck loco 459 at Pettibone Yards in North Chicago, IL on October 23, 1954. (Robert Selle Photo) Sderailway notes, “North Shore Line freight motor 459, one of two large four truck motors purchased from Oregon Electric, 459 was built in 1941 and sold to the North Shore Line in 1946. The large motors supplemented NSL’s smaller, slower, lower horse powered fleet of steeple cabs. With 459 being only 5 years old when purchased from OE it seems with only 17 years more years in NSL service, it still had a lot of “life” left in it.”
CTA subway wash car S-108 is in front of trailer 1199 at the “L” supply yards at 63rd and South Park on January 9, 1954. (Robert Selle Photo)
Robert Selle captured this picture of Milwaukee Road steam locomotive 163 (4-6-2) pulling a commuter train just north of Lake Street in downtown Chicago on August 18, 1953. My family moved to the Mont Clare neighborhood in 1954, and we lived a block from the Milwaukee Road. My mother would hang her wash out to dry behind where we lived, and she told me her clothes were dirtied by the smoke from the steam engines (which were fast disappearing from the scene).
Erie Lackawanna 3357 on the Gladstone branch in New Jersey on October 4, 1970. These cars somewhat resembled the Illinois Central Electric commuter trains built in 1936. The 3357 was built by Pullman in 1920 as a trailer and was retired in 1984. The inly information I could find is that it may be stored inoperable at Steamtown in Scranton, PA. The Gladstone Branch, currently operated by NJ Transit, had many of the attributes of an old-fashioned interurban, and our good friend Kenneth Gear has written about it on this site. (James C. Herold Photo)
The North Shore Line interurban operated city streetcars in Milwaukee and Waukegan. Here’s what Don’s Rail Photos tells us about this car: “313 and 315 were built by St. Louis Car in 1915 as 313 and 315 of the Empire State Ry for service in Oswego, NY. After only two years, they were sold to the North Shore in June 1918. 313 was rebuilt to one man service on March 12, 1919, and retired in 1941. 315 was rebuilt on February 24, 1919, and retired in 1940. Both were scrapped in 1945.” Don Ross adds, “North Shore 313 was taken at Waukegan. I don’t think it never ran in Milwaukee. We had the 2 door Birneys and 2 350s in Milwaukee until Waukegan quit. We got the 250s and the Birneys were dumped. The 500s were for Milwaukee but switched to Waukegan when the Birneys came.”
Chicago Rapid Transit 3048 at Marion Street in Oak Park, part of a Lake Street “L” train in the 1940s. Don’s Rail Photos: “3001 thru 3100 were built by Gilbert in 1893 as Lake Street Elevated RR 1 thru 100. In 1913 they were renumbered 3001 thru 3100 and became Chicago Rapid Transit 3001 thru 3100 in 1923.”
Brill built experimental pre-PCC 7001 in 1934, signed for Broadway-State. The picture can be dated because it ran direct service to A Century of Progress during the second season of this Chicago World’s Fair.
Likewise, this picture of CSL 7001 can be dated to 1936, since it is signed as part of the opening ceremonies for the new Ashland Avenue bridge, which connected both parts of the Ashland car line. As the new PCCs weren’t delivered until later in the year, 7001 was CSL’s newest car and thus was featured along with a parade of historical equipment. As we have shown in other posts, the interior was similar to the pre-PCC cars built in 1935 for Washington, DC. It was retired in 1944 and unfortunately, scrapped in 1959.
More That Got Away
The Trolley Dodger competes with many other people to buy images for this site. Here are some that we noticed recently that slipped through our fingers. As they say, you can’t win ’em all.
North Shore Line observation parlor car 420.
The CRT Laramie Shops, adjacent to the ground-level “L” station. We are looking east.
CRT 4322, signed for Garfield Park and Maywood, is at Mannheim and 22nd Street in Westchester, according to the eagle-eyed Mitch Markovitz.
A Chicago Rapid Transit Company one-car train on the Niles Center (Skokie) line.
The north portal of the State Street Subway, probably in the 1940s.
A train of wooden “L” cars rounds the curve at Sedgwick.
An eastbound two-car train of CTA 4000s on the Lake Street “L” in 1964.
Chicago Surface Lines 563 on Madison Street in 1928, in front of the old Northwestern Station.
Old and new control towers at Logan Square in 1966.
The CTA Canal Street station on the Met main line, probably in the early 1950s. “L” cars and CA&E interurbans are present.
A CA&E maintenance of way vehicle at the Wheaton Shops.
MTA 3323 is a double-ended PCC built by Pullman for the Dallas system in 1945. It was sold to Boston in 1959, as more cars were needed once the new Riverside line opened.
Chicago Surface Lines 5377 was built by Brill-Kuhlman in 1907. This photo postcard was purchased by Jeff Marinoff.
Red Arrow car 19 has just departed the end of the line of the Ardmore line on June 11, 1966, about six months before buses replaced rail here.
This is where the trolley line ended in Ardmore. It has been turned into a pocket park and parking lot.
MBTA 3271 running as part of a multiple unit train on Tremont Street in Newton, MA on May 30, 1982. This may be a fantrip, as regular streetcar service on these tracks ended in 1969. Seeing a car signed for Route A – Watertown is quite rare, as the lettered routes were just being introduced around the time Watertown was bussed. The tracks and overhead remained in place for many years, for access to the Watertown car house, but have since been removed. The Watertown line fell victim to a car shortage in the late 1960s. It also had to cross an expressway and run against one-way traffic, another factor.
The same location today.
Red Arrow car 24 is at Darby and Brookline Roads in Havertown, PA on May 29, 1958, on the Ardmore line.
The same location today.
The interior of New Orleans Public Service 924 on April 19, 1958, as photographed by Bob Selle. Note the ugly signs, evidence of the racial segregation of the time.
On July 15, 1955 C&NW 4-6-2 #511 pulls a commuter train in Chicago. Bi-levels were pulled by steam, but here we see steam right next to some bi-levels.
CTA 45 and 46 are part of a work train in Evanston on May 30, 1994.
CTA 22 and 32 are part of a work train in Evanston on May 30, 1994.
CA&E 34 and many others at the Wheaton yard in 1962, after abandonment of the railroad, but before the equipment was disposed of.
Logan Square yard in 1966.
A North Shore Line train stops at Zion, illinois for a photo stop in June 1961. The religious community here made the interurban put in a much larger station than ridership required, because they believed their community would grow rapidly.
Two “L” trains pass at the Merchandise Mart station circa 1955.
Kodak did not stamp the processing date on slides until around 1958, but this appears to be around 1955 from the autos. The Garfield Park “L” crossing over the Chicago River near Union Station. We are looking to the northwest.
Chicago Aurora & Elgin 309 appears to be on a fantrip. Not sure of the location.
Red Arrow car 22 is at Sheldon and Spring Avenue in September 1965 on the Ardmore line. At the end of 1966, it was converted to buses.
The same location today.
A CTA Garfield Park train heads west on Van Buren at Western. Streetcars crossed here until June 1956. Tracks are still evident, but I don’t see any wire, so this could be after that.
Don’s Rail Photos” “S-347 was built by Cincinnati Car in 1922, #2660, as 4323. It was rebuilt on February 26, 1965, as S-347 and sold to Indiana Transportation in June 1979.” Perhaps this picture was taken in Indiana. The museum has since lost this location.
CTA 7180 is about to depart the terminal loop just south of Howard Street on Clark. Where the PCCs are is now a restaurant patio area.
A westbound Garfield Park train at Sacramento. You can see the beginnings of the temporary ramp at this location, which connected to the ground-level right-of-way used in Van Buren Street from 1953 to 1958. That was north of the old right-of-way. Sacramento was one of two points where the old “L” crossed the right-of-way of the Congress Expressway, then under construction.
CTA 7169 is southbound on Route 22 Clark-Wentworth. Perhaps this is somewhere on the south side, as I don’t recall such a hill on the north side. Andre Kristopans: “PCC on hill is a pullout heading east on 69th at Parnell.” On the other hand, our resident south side expert M.E. writes, “No scenes along Wentworth or Vincennes looked like this. So right away I thought this photo had to be along 81st St. Sure enough — read the street sign at the left: 81st and Parnell.” Robert Lalich: “M.E. is correct on the location of CTA 7169. The street sign plainly shows 81st and Parnell. The WB car is about to duck under the C&WI tracks. Two of the three buildings on the left are still there.”
This is the Isabella station on the Evanston branch (today’s CTA Purple Line) in 1970. That’s a two-car train of 4000s. Note the lack of third rail.
Some fans are shooting a South Shore Line freight in Gary, Indiana. The car looks like about a 1936 Lincoln Zephyr.
Don’s Rail Photos: “South Shore Line 1126 was a work motor built by Niles in 1908 as CLS&SB 73. In 1927 it was rebuilt into work motor 1126. In 1941 it was sold and converted to a house. In 1994 it was purchased for restoration from a buyer who had picked it up the month before for back taxes. He really did not want the car, just the land. Bob Harris began restoration in 2005.” The sign says South Bend Limited.
Fort Dodge, Des Moines & Southern (Iowa) car 82 in 1947. That car at left is probably from the late 1920s, though.
This Kodachrome slide is from 1943 and shows the Five Mile Beach Electric Railway in Wildwood, NJ, which converted to buses the following year. This is a resort town and business was hurt during the war, as there were nighttime blackouts.
North Shore Line 178 at Harrison Street in Milwaukee in 1955. Don’s Rail Photos: “178 was built by Cincinnati Car in September 1920, #2455.”
A Des Moines, Iowa streetcar in the 1940s.
A westbound Lake Street “A” train, when the outer portion of that line ran at ground level west of Laramie. This is somewhere in Oak Park, perhaps between Home Avenue and Kenilworth.
From the Collections of William Shapotkin:
All the pictures in this section have been graciously shared by our good friend Bill Shapotkin.
CSL 106 in May 1947.
CTA 123 at Kedzie and Van Buren in December 1948.
CSL 204 in December 1946.
CTA 5512 at 79th and Wentworth in January 1948. Correction- Robert Lalich writes, “Photo rbk612 shows car 5512 crossing the B&O Brookdale Branch at 79th and Oglesby.”
CSL 6013 at Kedzie and Bryn Mawr in 1946.
CSL 5087 at State and 13th in June 1939, during construction of the State Street Subway.
CSL 1994 at Division and Lavergne in May 1943.
CSL 1825 at West Shops.
CSL 1398 at 21st and Marshall Boulevard on July 6, 1946.
CTA 225 on Route 9 – Ashland. This car went to the Seashore Trolley Museum in 1957, where it remains today.
CSL 401 at Cicero and Belden in May 1946.
CTA 117 on North Avenue by the Chicago River in April 1949.
CTA 6209 on Route 93 by the Belt Railway, between Kenwood and Harper on August 13, 1948. M.E. notes, “The destination sign begins with “89 Avenue”, so this car is running east. Lind’s book confirms the eastern terminus was at 89th and Avenue O.”
CTA 6050 on Route 55 just south of Lake Street.
CTA 7217 on Route 36 – Broadway-State. (Robert W. Gibson Photo)
CTA 4401 at Skokie Shops in 1972, after retirement.
CSL 2919 at 26th and Halsted in 1946.
CSL 1423 on 26th Street on September 27, 1946. (Gordon E. Lloyd Photo)
CTA 214 on Belmont at Western Avenue, with Riverview amusement park in the background. The tall structure is the parachute jump. I rode that once (the park closed after the 1967 season). This picture was taken on December 31, 1948.
CSL 1007 at Wabash and 8th Street. The 8th Street Theater at right is where the WLS National Barn Dance did their weekly broadcast for several years. (Heier Industrial Photo)
CTA 177 on Halsted on February 22, 1954, running northbound at the intersection of Halsted, Grand, and Milwaukee.
CTA 4405 on Clark Street at Chicago Avenue. Bill Barber writes, “I believe this photo in your Oct 12th email is misdated. The blue station wagon in front of the PCC is a 1956 Plymouth and the yellow and white car immediately behind the PCC is a 1955 Chevy. Considering that new automobile models were introduced, at that time, in September of the year before the actual model year, the earliest that this photo could be is late 1955.”
CTA 1752 at Cottage Grove and Cermak on September 8, 1951.
The South Shore Line in East Chicago, Indiana, when it ran on the street. In 1956, this trackage was relocated to run parallel to the new Indiana Toll Road. Robert Lalich: “Photo 683 was taken at White Oak and Chicago Ave in East Chicago. The train is WB and is about to curve to the north onto private right of way before crossing the B&OCT near Columbia Ave. Notice the unusual placement of flashers on the left to warn westbound motorists.”
Since we posted this picture, two people have identified it as Kedzie and Van Buren.
CTA sprinkler D-203.
CTA Peter Witt 3375 at Wabash and 18th, running on Route 4 in 1948.
The unrestored version of the postcard shown at the top of this post.
This postcard of Pullman streetcar 513 generated some discussion with our friend Jeff Marinoff, and additional comments from some others.
Jeff Marinoff writes:
Here is the info I received from Walter Keevil on Chicago Railway Company car # 513:
It is car 513 at a very early date. The number is readable on the side of the car as well as the front, though the middle digit is washed out on the front. There were three digit car numbers from 101 to 999. 513 was a Large or Old Pullman delivered in 1908-09 to Chicago Railway Co. before CSL took over management. The cars were originally painted a ‘medium’ green with red sash and doors so the photo shows everything black. The numbers were gold which also appears very dark. The well known red and cream didn’t come until 1920. I don’t know when the car numbers on the sides were moved to the center instead of the ends. The car in the photo looks a bit beat up, not the way CSL kept its cars until WW II.
Andre Kristopans adds:
Noticed that too, rather shabby condition. Maybe during WW1? Suppose maintenance went down on account of war and Spanish Flu at the same time.
Sandy Terman adds:
Regarding photo 513. Appears the big Pullmans were manufactured w/o the eight roof ventilators (4 on each side of the top hat) and w/o boarding air doors which were installed on the 500 series in later years. Question is why were the vents not manufactured on the baby Pullmans that were very similar?
We recently received an interesting comment on our previous post The Green Hornet Streetcar Disaster (May 19, 2015). It was directed at Craig Allen Cleve, who authored a book by that title, so we forwarded it to him and he in turn replied.
Bren Sheriff writes:
Mr. Cleve, The NAACP has owned 11 contiguous lots on the east side of State Street between 62nd and 63rd for over 30 years; the lot addresses are 6209-6251 S State. I bet there is a story behind how the donor acquired the lots and why they made the decision to donate them to the NAACP. Unfortunately, no one in the unit knows. In your research did you come across any land ownership info. The public records online only go back to 1988. Perhaps I’ll get down to look at the original entry books.
We are contemplating developing the lots and putting up a memorial plaque. Not that it matters, but how many victims, both the 34 dead and 50 injured, were Black?
I am one of the few folks that I know that can remember this tragic accident. The reason I remember it so well is because my family went through several hours of anguish waiting to hear from my mother; she often rode the State Street Green Hornet home from work.
My mom worked at Spiegel’s on 35th near Morgan, we lived on 69th and Michigan; she often rode home on the State Street line. On the day of the accident she decided to go shopping for a graduation gift for my cousin, she had not told my aunt. When she was not home by 6pm, as usual, it concerned my aunt. However, all of us were put into a panic when the thick dark plumes of smoke rose from the enflamed accident site and filled the sky. One of our neighbors told us that there had been an accident on State between a street car and gasoline truck.
My cousin and a friend got on their bikes and rode over to State Street to try to see the site, unsuccessfully – it had been cordoned off. On their way home they saw my mom walking from Wentworth to Michigan on 69th Street. Seeing her enter the back gate was one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen, even to this day.
She is now 95 and aphasic. Over the years, we never discussed that day nor the horrific accident.
Craig Allen Cleve replies:
Hello, Ben. Thanks for your question. I’ll do my best to answer your questions.
1. Regarding the properties along the east side of the 6200 block of S. State St., I never looked into records regarding ownership. In hindsight, it might have been worthwhile, considering reports that about 120 people were left homeless after the fire. There were only five structures that were completely destroyed, including the large tenement adjacent to the entrance to the turnaround loop. I’m guessing absentee landlords and severe overcrowding. I never researched ownership of the land post fire;
2. Thirty-three people died in the blaze, although several papers reported thirty-four. This was most likely due to the frightful condition of the bodies, particularly those who died at the rear of the trolley. Subsequent examinations put the number at thirty-three;
3. Of the 33, to my best recollection, the following victims were African-American: Marietta Catlin Minnnie Banks Dade Clara Dobson Bertha Dowdell George Dowdell Alean Fisher Floreine Foster Marie A. Franklin Tishie Mae Johnson Daisy Palmer Luella Phillips Julia Piercefield Annie Richardson Mamie Robinson Rosa Saunders Earl Sue Sharp Ollie Smith Dorothy Townsend Douglas Turner
That’s about 60%. A good portion of those folks were on their way to Princeton Park, located at about 91st. St. and Wentworth Ave. Princeton Park was a housing development which targeted middle-class blacks in its ad campaigns.
4. I happy to hear that if the land is developed, that the idea of a memorial of some kind is at least being considered. Please let me know if I can help in any way. I hope this info was helpful.
Jon Roma writes:
David, in a recent post to The Trolley Dodger (The End of Summer – September 1, 2020), you have two news photographs of a derailment on the Rapid Transit at Wabash and Van Buren in May 1942. Attached is the article and pictures from the Chicago Daily Tribune from the following day’s newspaper (May 14, 1942).
I’m not certain how a fire a block away from Tower 12 caused this derailment, but my educated guess is that the disruption threw the towerman off his game, leading him to inadvertently throw a switch under a train, jackknifing it into the tower. One CRT employee was killed in this.
Thanks for sharing! The caption on one of the two press photos we posted also mentions that some trains were being rerouted because of the fire. That could also have been a factor in the interlocking switches not getting set correctly.
Wally Weart writes:
As I grew up in Chicago post WW II, many of these pictures bring back lots of memories, I grew up on the North Side but had family on the South Side so I was able to see a lot of Chicago streetcars and “L”s. I rode all the interurbans in the Midwest that were still operating. Please keep up your work, I really enjoy it.
We will do our best, thanks. Keep those cards and letters coming in, folks!
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.
RGTS Rio Grande to Silverton: A Sound Portrait of Mountain Railroading Price: $14.99
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. Chicago, Illinois, December 17, 1938– Secretary Harold Ickes, left, and Mayor Edward J. Kelly turn the first spadeful of earth to start the new $40,000,000 subway project. Many thousands gathered to celebrate the starting of work on the subway. Order Our New Book Building Chicago’s Subways
There were three subway anniversaries in 2018 in Chicago: 60 years since the West Side Subway opened (June 22, 1958) 75 years since the State Street Subway opened (October 17, 1943) 80 years since subway construction started (December 17, 1938)
To commemorate these anniversaries, we have written a new book, Building Chicago’s Subways.
While the elevated Chicago Loop is justly famous as a symbol of the city, the fascinating history of its subways is less well known. The City of Chicago broke ground on what would become the “Initial System of Subways” during the Great Depression and finished 20 years later. This gigantic construction project, a part of the New Deal, would overcome many obstacles while tunneling through Chicago’s soft blue clay, under congested downtown streets, and even beneath the mighty Chicago River. Chicago’s first rapid transit subway opened in 1943 after decades of wrangling over routes, financing, and logistics. It grew to encompass the State Street, Dearborn-Milwaukee, and West Side Subways, with the latter modernizing the old Garfield Park “L” into the median of Chicago’s first expressway. Take a trip underground and see how Chicago’s “I Will” spirit overcame challenges and persevered to help with the successful building of the subways that move millions. Building Chicago’s subways was national news and a matter of considerable civic pride–making it a “Second City” no more!
Title Building Chicago’s Subways Images of America
Author David Sadowski
Publisher Arcadia Publishing (SC), 2018
ISBN 1467129380, 9781467129381
Length 128 pages Chapter Titles: 01. The River Tunnels 02. The Freight Tunnels 03. Make No Little Plans 04. The State Street Subway 05. The Dearborn-Milwaukee Subway 06. Displaced 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. For Shipping to US Addresses: For Shipping to Canada: For Shipping Elsewhere: 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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As rush hour came to a close on the evening of May 25, 1950, one of Chicago’s new fast, colorful, streamlined streetcars—known as a Green Hornet—slammed into a gas truck at State Street and 62nd Place. The Hornet’s motorman allegedly failed to heed the warnings of a flagger attempting to route it around a flooded underpass, and the trolley, packed with commuters on their way home, barreled into eight thousand gallons of gasoline. The gas erupted into flames, poured onto State Street, and quickly engulfed the Hornet, shooting flames two hundred and fifty feet into the air. More than half of the passengers escaped the inferno through the rear window, but thirty-three others perished, trapped in front of the streetcar’s back door, which failed to stay open in the ensuing panic. It was Chicago’s worst traffic accident ever—and the worst two-vehicle traffic accident in U.S. history.
Unearthing a forgotten chapter in Chicago lore, The Green Hornet Streetcar Disaster tells the riveting tale of this calamity. Combing through newspaper accounts as well as the Chicago Transit Authority’s official archives, Craig Cleve vividly brings to life this horrific catastrophe. Going beyond the historical record, he tracks down individuals who were present on that fateful day on State and 62nd: eyewitnesses, journalists, even survivors whose lives were forever changed by the accident. Weaving these sources together, Cleve reveals the remarkable combination of natural events, human error, and mechanical failure that led to the disaster, and this moving history recounts them—as well as the conflagration’s human drama—in gripping detail.
I realize that discussion of crashes and wrecks is always going to be controversial and not to everyone’s liking.
Ultimately, at least some good did come this horrific accident. Now, emergency exit doors that open outward are installed on transit vehicles all across the country.
In that sense, the 1950 disaster was every bit as important and historic as the 1903 Iroquois Theatre fire, which resulted in numerous safety improvements in theaters– but not in transit vehicles.
However, it seems that not all lessons from 1950 were learned right away. When the CTA began converting some of their PCC streetcars to one-man operation in 1951, their initial design did not include a rear door. It was only when the City of Chicago insisted on a rear door for emergency exit that one was added.
It does not appear as though the 1950 accident had any effect on CTA’s decision to eliminate streetcars and replace them with buses. That change in policy had already been put into effect with the hiring of general manager Walter J. McCarter in 1947.
I commend CERA for courageously scheduling this program. After all, they say that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
PS- We will follow up this post with two more this week featuring many classic photos of Chicago’s PCC streetcars in action.
The grand jury announces their findings after holding an inquest into the 1950 streetcar disaster.
Several nearby buildings burned to the ground in the aftermath to the accident.
CTA 7080 at State and 62nd in June 1950, near the site of the tragic collision between car 7078 and a gasoline truck, which took place on May 25.