Railroad Record Club Treasure Hunt, Part 2

1 Selection of Steventon tapes mostly unreleased

1 Selection of Steventon tapes mostly unreleased

Following up on our recent post William A. Steventon’s Railroad Record Club (September 24, 2018), guest author Kenneth Gear continues with a detailed rundown on his latest discoveries.

I have been interested in historic preservation for a long time, and it’s not every day that anyone comes across original material such as this. Suddenly, out of nowhere it seems, previously unknown, unissued audio recordings have emerged for some long-vanished steam and electric railroads, along with 16mm motion picture film, and various artifacts related to the Railroad Record Club’s 42 issued LPs, in their various forms. It seems like a miracle that somehow, it all survived to be rescued from oblivion.

Getting this done involved a tremendous financial sacrifice on Ken’s part, as he is of modest means. I hope that he will be able to recoup at least some of his substantial investment in the future. I am sure he will appreciate any contributions you may be able to offer him, towards the cost of transferring some of these reel-to-reel tapes and 16mm movie films to digital.

You can find Part 1 here: Railroad Record Club Treasure Hunt (July 30, 2017)

-David Sadowski

PS- Our new book Building Chicago’s Subways is now available for immediate shipment.  If you already pre-ordered it, your copy is already on its way to you.  We are excited to have had the opportunity to tell the story of this exciting chapter in Chicago history.  Details on how to order are at the end of this post.

Railroad Record Club Treasure Hunt, Part 2

It’s been over a year since I acquired a large portion of the William Steventon estate. The Railroad Record Club items that I purchased last year have enabled David and I to piece together a fairly complete history of the RRC and to more fully appreciate the time and effort Mr. Steventon put into producing these records. The homemade 78rpm records alone proved to be an invaluable resource. Not only did they provide us with some wonderful recordings, most of which hadn’t been heard in over fifty years, they revealed the pre-history of the club and offered a glimpse into the infancy of railroad field recording.

We were able to hear the very first railroad recording Steventon made– B&O trains at Riverdale, Maryland in 1953. We also finally completed our quest to get a copy of every single released RRC record digitized and put on CDs. We are now only in need of two samplers, the 5th and 6th years. More interesting information was garnered from examining original record jacket artwork and paste up boards, as well as the metal print blocks. We were also able to compile a list of records re-issued on 12″ stock and find out what was necessary for it to happen and the cost of doing it.

Photographs from his personal collection were scanned and published in the Trolley Dodger for all to enjoy. I think the effort that went into keeping all this material from ending up in a dumpster was well worth the time and expense and I’m happy to have been involved.

In spite of this, I knew the job was only half finished. There was much more that needed to be saved and time was running out. Those tapes I wrote about under the heading “what I left behind” in the first treasure hunt story needed to be preserved. There were still a big box of photos, reams of correspondence, the metal master discs for the 12″ reissues and lots and lots of sealed records.

The estate dealer was quite adamant that this stuff had to go…and quickly! I purchased all that I could, but I certainly could not afford to buy anything else and asked for some time to raise the money. As I tried to come up with the extra cash needed, months went by and the emails ceased. For a while it seemed that all this great material would be lost. Still, I squirreled away what money I could when I could and slowly, much too slowly, I approached his asking price. With the funds in hand, I emailed the estate dealer putting in the subject line that I HAD the money for the remaining Steventon estate items. Even as I composed that email I couldn’t be sure that the entire lot wasn’t already in some land fill rotting away. He answered me the next day, but it seemed a lot longer then that to me. His first two sentences were a relief:  

Ken, good to hear from you.  Yes, it is all as we left it a year ago.

There was one complication that needed to be addressed. I could not make the trip up to him in Wisconsin this year as I had done before. All the items would have to be shipped to me in New Jersey.

The estate dealer was agreeable to packing up the items and doing the weighing and making the transportation arrangements, but again there was a complication. This was his busy season and he would be working extensively out of town.  He would not be able to devote much time to this effort for the next few weeks. A little progress was made here and there through the rest of June and I purchased boxes and packing material in July. I was a little apprehensive about shipping old open reel tapes and vinyl records during the hottest part of the summer anyway, so I just had to be patient. In early August progress was made and on the 13th I received the long-awaited email:

The last box is packed.  You’ll have a pallet coming that’s right around 400 pounds, perhaps a touch over.  Nine boxes to be delivered to the YRC terminal. 

Several more delays would still be encountered, not the lest of which was the local hardware store’s forklift needing repairs. The hardware store, for a $20 fee, would be used to lift the pallet onto the truck. At last, in early September, with all hurdles cleared, a newly-repaired forklift placed the shipment on to the truck. Finally, the second half of the Steventon estate’s Railroad Record Club items were on their way to me.

A few days later I heading to the local YRC terminal to receive the long-awaited shipment. After some paperwork in the office, I backed a borrowed ¾-ton pick-up truck to the indicated bay. Soon a forklift lowered the last of the Railroad Record Club items from the Steventon estate into the truck bed. I now had a night of treasure hunting to look forward to!

I had sort of “cherry picked” the first half of the estate, so I knew that a great unexpected find was rather doubtful, but I did come across a few surprises.

THE TAPES

2 Tapes appear to be in good condition

2 Tapes appear to be in good condition

3 Tape with hand written track listing

3 Tape with hand written track listing

4 More unreleased Steventon audio

4 More unreleased Steventon audio

5 Lots of interesting material on these tapes

5 Lots of interesting material on these tapes

6 Still more intersting tapes

6 Still more intersting tapes

7 Unreleased audio this is why I bought the whole lot

7 Unreleased audio this is why I bought the whole lot

8 Steventon tapes

8 Steventon tapes

9 More Stevnton tapes

9 More Stevnton tapes

10 Even more tapes

10 Even more tapes

11 Small reels -the master tapes for the 78rpm records

11 Small reels -the master tapes for the 78rpm records

12 Another view of the Small reels -the master tapes for the 78rpm records

12 Another view of the Small reels -the master tapes for the 78rpm records

13 A box full of the Small reels -the master tapes for the 78rpm records

13 A box full of the Small reels -the master tapes for the 78rpm records

14 Close up of the 78rpm record master tapes

14 Close up of the 78rpm record master tapes

15 Another Close up of the 78rpm record master tapes

15 Another Close up of the 78rpm record master tapes

16 78rpm master tapes showing condition of tapes-not too bad

16 78rpm master tapes showing condition of tapes-not too bad

17 close up of 78rpm master tape showing condition

17 close up of 78rpm master tape showing condition

18 BC Electric and Montreal & South Counties tapes with Steventon letter

18 BC Electric and Montreal & South Counties tapes with Steventon letter

19 Montreal & South Counties tape with Steventon letter

19 Montreal & South Counties tape with Steventon letter

20 BC Electric tape with Steventon letter

20 BC Electric tape with Steventon letter

21 Close up of the BC Electric and Montreal & South Counties tapes

21 Close up of the BC Electric and Montreal & South Counties tapes

22 Railroad Record Club Master tapes

22 Railroad Record Club Master tapes

23 Master tape for record 26

23 Master tape for record 26

24 A stack of 22 Railroad Record Club Master tapes

24 A stack of 22 Railroad Record Club Master tapes

25 master tape Railroad Record Club number 16

25 master tape Railroad Record Club number 16

26 master tape Railroad Record Club number 15

26 master tape Railroad Record Club number 15

27 master tape Railroad Record Club with memo

27 master tape Railroad Record Club with memo

28 master tape Railroad Record Club number 17

28 master tape Railroad Record Club number 17

29 master tape Railroad Record Club number 18

29 master tape Railroad Record Club number 18

30 Note on box containing master tape Railroad Record Club number 18

30 Note on box containing master tape Railroad Record Club number 18

31 Two master tapes for record number 3

31 Two master tapes for record number 3

32 Two master tapes for record number 3 showing condition

32 Two master tapes for record number 3 showing condition

33 master tape Railroad Record Club number 7

33 master tape Railroad Record Club number 7

34 master tapes Railroad Record Club number 10

34 master tapes Railroad Record Club number 10

35 master tape Railroad Record Club number 23 with memo

35 master tape Railroad Record Club number 23 with memo

36 master tape Railroad Record Club number 17

36 master tape Railroad Record Club number 17

The reel to reel tapes that I had left behind last year were the real reason I went to all this trouble and expense to acquire the rest of the estate. I’m sure I did not get any of the tapes that were actually in Steventon’s recorder when he was trackside, but they may no longer exist. Perhaps he transferred these “field tapes” to newer tape stock, in an effort to preserve them and some of these duplicates are what I received. There is at least one recording I know he made that is not among my tapes. In the liner notes of Record Number 20, Steventon writes that the cab ride onboard NYC # 1441 with his father at the throttle was edited down from over two hours of tape. I would have been very happy to find 4 or 5 reels of tape marked “cab ride with Dad” but it was not to be. What I did find, however, is some very good and interesting stuff, most of which has never been released on a Railroad Record Club LP.

One tape that was a bit of a surprise was a 4″ reel of tape marked NYS&W. Of all the railroads in the New York area, why the Susquehanna? If he recorded this tape while in New York to ride and record the Queensboro Bridge trolley, which had to be prior to April 1957 when that line shut down, then why not record PRR K-4s on the New York & Long Branch which lasted until October of that year? Or all those electric locomotives on the NYC and NYNH&H? Perhaps he did record some or all these railroads and I just don’t have the tapes. Anything is possible, but I have found no evidence that he ever did. I’ll just have to wait until I have the NYS&W tape put on CD to find out just what the attraction may have been.

Other interesting finds include three 5″ reels of a fan trip operated by the Northern Pacific Railroad on June 20, 1957. 4-8-4 # 2686 pulled the train from St. Paul, MN to Staples. One tape is labeled “NP 2686-LV MPLS,” the second NP 2686 coal dock stop,” and the last, “NP 2686 LV Staples.” There was also a negative of the NP 2686 at Staples found among the photographs. Other steam and/or diesel tapes are labeled “CPR,” “NKP Ft. Wayne,” “N&W,” and “Soo Line.”

The traction fans among us will be happy to know there is plenty for them. The CNS&M has several tapes devoted to it. One tape is marked “CNS&M switching at Rondout and Mundelein”. There is a cut on Record 26 of locomotive # 459 switching at Rondout, but not at Mundelein. Another North Shore tape is marked “Mundelein Run” and another simply ” Mundelein”. One more CNS&M tape has “Electroliner” written on the box.

There is a tape marked “ITS 202”, apparently Steventon preferred Illinois Traction System to Illinois Terminal. On Record 25 Steventon wrote in the liner notes, “We had just arrived (at Harristown, IL) on interurban No. 202 where we had made an “on train” recording east from Springfield. We alighted and watched the 202 fade into the distance. This was the last sight and sound we had of the Illinois Terminal as an interurban. The “on train” recording of 202 and a streamliner is scheduled for release at a later date.” It never was. I don’t know about the streamliner recording, I may or may not have it, but I will consider it a privilege to be involved with releasing the 202 recording for him.

There are also tapes of the Cedar Rapids & Iowa City (CRANDIC), Charles City Western, Toledo & Eastern, and Capital Transit. Canadian traction fans are not overlooked either. There is a 5″ reel of the Niagara, St. Catharines & Toronto Railway. There are also two 5″ reels, one each, of the BC Electric and the Montreal & Southern Counties. These two tapes were recorded by Eugene Van Dusen, and the accompanying letter to Steventon, plus a copy of it sent to Elwin Purington, were found among some RRC papers I have. Another reel of tape not recorded by Steventon is “Cincinnati Street Railway Car 187 12/13/51.” Finding this was a nice surprise. I don’t know who did record it, but Steventon did not start making recordings until 1953.

Here is the entire list of the tape reels, excluding 21/2″ reels which I’ll list separately, and the master tapes for the LPs,

REEL TO REEL TAPES

INFORMATION MARKED ON TAPE BOXES

4″ reels:

1. NYS&W

5″ reels:

1. CPR-J. Van Brocklin
2. Soo Line
3. T&E NKP Diesel-NKP Ft. Wayne
4. N&W
5. N&W from Salem
6. N&W Billy + Larry on end
7. NP 2686 Lv Mpls-6/20/57
8. NP 2686 coal dock stop
9. NP 2686 Lv Staples
10. B. C. Electric
11. Montreal & Southern Counties
12. Potomac Edison #5
13. Potomac Edison H&F last run radio program
14. CNS&M -switching at Rondout and Mundelein
15. Mundelein Run
16. Capital Transit co 1151
17. ITS car 202
18. Cedar Rapids and Iowa City 5/31/53
19. CCW 5/18/54*
20. CCW CC to Colwell
21. Toledo & Eastern
22. PRR GG-1s

7″ reels:

1. Railroading in Spooner Wisconsin
2. CNS&M Electroliner
3. N. St. C & Toronto
4. Johnstown Traction and Altoona & Logan Valley
5. Cincinnati Street Railway car 187 12/13/51

The next bunch of tapes are smaller reels. These 21/2″ reels are in their original manufacture’s boxes and are marked only with a Railroad name and a catalog number. The catalog numbers correspond with the catalog numbers on the 10″ 78rpm acetate records that I acquired with the first half of the estate. As producing these records was a very time-consuming task, Steventon saved time by making a master tape for each record. The master tape would contain his spoken introductions followed by the train sounds. I bought over sixty of these small master tapes, and a large number have never been put on the regular Railroad Record Club releases. They contain sounds of railroads I was completely unaware Steventon ever recorded, such as L&N, Southern, and Virginian. This collection also contains the Queensboro Bridge trolley, the IND subway, and the Third Avenue EL recordings Steventon made in New York City.

21/2″ reels:

1. Potomac Edison, 4 reels
2. Shenandoah Central, 2 reels
3. Capital Transit, 3 reels
4. Altoona & Logan Valley, 2 reels
5. B&O, 9 reels
6. Shaker Heights RT, 3 reels
7. PRR, 5 reels
8. NKP, 1 reel
9. St. Louis PS, 1 reel
10. Illinois Terminal, 2 reels
11. ICRR 3 reels
12. N&W, 1 reel
13. WM Rwy, 1 reel
14. Baltimore Transit, 2 reels
15. Senate Subway, 1 reel
16. Scranton Transit, 1 reel
17. Rochester Subway, 1 reel
18. CB&Q, 2 reels
19. Niagara, St. C & T, 2 reels
20. Virginian, 2 reels
21. Southern, 2 reels
22. Queensboro Bridge, 2 reels
23. Wabash, 1 reel
24. Third Ave. EL, 2 reels
25. Soo Line, 5 reels
26. L&N, 2 reels
27. St. Elizabeth Hospital, 1 reel (used steam switcher to move coal hoppers)
28. Omaha Road, 1 reel
29. NYC IND Subway, 1 reel
30. Unidentified, 4 reels

This is not a complete set of all the master tapes made for the 78rpm records to be sure, but it’s most of them. I consider it a small miracle that any survive at all! I am not an audio expert, but in my opinion, uninformed as it may be, these tapes appear to be in reasonably good condition. I would think that the tapes would be able to withstand a few more plays, enough to be digitized at least. Neither David nor I have the equipment to attempt this and I think it would be ill advised of us to try anyway. The tapes are old and were not stored in archival conditions. I’m sure the prudent course of action is to entrust any work on them to a professional.

The last batch of tapes are the master tapes made for the released Railroad Record Club LPs. There are different size reels, some tapes are only of one side of the LP while others have both sides on the same reel. Some are in good condition and some are not. Some I have multiple copies of and a few of the LPs I have no tapes for, Rather then make a complete list of every reel I will simply list the few LPs I have NO master tapes for.

No master tapes:

RRC 21
RRC 24
RRC 29
RRC 31
RRC SP-2
RRC SP-4
RRC SP-6

Most of these reels are 7″ with only a few smaller or larger. The most interesting master tapes are the reels for RRC 3 EBT/D&RGW. There are two 7″ reels that most likely have the original release version of the record, the one with William Steventon’s narration. There are also two 5″ reels, one marked “sounds only” and the other labeled “Narrative.” Since Steventon removed his voice from the 12″reissue of the record, the “Narrative” tape must contain just the voice of Elwin Purington doing the new narration.

I’m not sure just what to do with these master tapes. Some are in rough shape and all these sounds are on the released Railroad Record Club LPs. It certainly would be a considerable expense to digitize them all and no new sounds would be gained. For now, I’ll store them in the best possible conditions that I can provide and perhaps one day a clear path of action will present itself.

MOVIE FILMS

1 Steventon Film that should be all trains

1 Steventon Film that should be all trains

2 Capital Transit B&W Night Film

2 Capital Transit B&W Night Film

3 Steventon film

3 Steventon film

4 Pennsy and B&O film

4 Pennsy and B&O film

5 Back of Kodachrome box

5 Back of Kodachrome box

6 Front of kodachrome box

6 Front of kodachrome box

I found several rolls of 16mm movie film within the boxes of audio tapes. Fortunately, Steventon was very good at labeling everything. He inserted little slips of paper into the film boxes listing the contents of the films. Unfortunately, the majority are family home movies. Most are of Steventon’s son Seth. His first day of school, Christmases, and birthday parties. There were six 100-foot reels that should be all trains.

16mm movies;

1. 100-foot reel but only about 50 feet of film. Labeled “Pennsy Fan Trip and B&O near Riverdale.”
2. 100-foot reel, full, labeled “Canada Term”. I’m not sure what that is supposed to indicate. I unspooled a few feet of film and the first few frames are without a doubt a steeple cab locomotive.
3. 100-foot reel, full, B&W, labeled “Cap Transit Night Film.”
4. 100-foot reel, full, labeled “EBT Reel 1.”
5. 100-foot reel, full, labeled “EBT Reel 2.”
6. 100-foot reel, full, labeled “Negative 1R Freight” Also written on box “bad footage.”

PRINT BLOCKS

1 Selection of print blocks

1 Selection of print blocks

2 More print blocks

2 More print blocks

3 Still more print blocks

3 Still more print blocks

4. Print block for very early RRC traction logo

4. Print block for very early RRC traction logo

5. Railroad Record Club logo print block

5. Railroad Record Club logo print block

6 Another style Railroad Record Club logo print block

6 Another style Railroad Record Club logo print block

7 Interurban car fron LP Sound Scrapbook-Traction

7 Interurban car fron LP Sound Scrapbook-Traction

8 Interurban car fron LP Sound Scrapbook-Traction in two sizes

8 Interurban car fron LP Sound Scrapbook-Traction in two sizes

9 PRR steamer from 1st edition of RRC 10 in two sizes

9 PRR steamer from 1st edition of RRC 10 in two sizes

10 D&RGW locomotive from the 1st edition of the LP the Siverton Train

10 D&RGW locomotive from the 1st edition of the LP the Siverton Train

11A Print block for NKP LP

11A Print block for NKP LP

12 Ad for RRC 25

12 Ad for RRC 25

13 Ad for RRC 25 reversed

13 Ad for RRC 25 reversed

14 Print block for large ad

14 Print block for large ad

15 Print block for large ad reversed

15 Print block for large ad reversed

16 Ad for traction watch fobs

16 Ad for traction watch fobs

17 Ad for steam LPs

17 Ad for steam LPs

18 Ad for steam LPs reversed

18 Ad for steam LPs reversed

19 Strange RRC ad

19 Strange RRC ad

20 Strange RRC ad printed version

20 Strange RRC ad printed version

I also acquired a good number of print blocks, which are mostly quite small and were used in the RRC advertisements.  I have a bunch of print blocks of the LP covers, all about the size of a postage stamp. They were used in ads and in the catalogs. There are a few complete ads that mostly feature a single record release. One large ad of interest is a very 1960’s, almost psychedelic illustration of a steam locomotive looming over a record player. Smoke is shooting from it’s stack and entwined within the billows of smoke are such things as a whistle blowing, a box cab electric locomotive, and a steam train. LPs are seen flying through the air and the words “steam and electric recordings” in twisted snake-like lettering fills the upper portion. Wild and unexpected. I would certainly like to know if this ad ever appeared anywhere in print.

I did not make a list of these small print blocks, there are just too many. I did photograph a representative selection of them. These photos will give a good idea of what is in the collection.

RECORDS

1 41 copies of RRC 3

1 41 copies of RRC 3

2 18 copies of RRC 5

2 18 copies of RRC 5

3 RCA test pressing for Sound Scrapbook Steam showing notation on upper left of sleeve

3 RCA test pressing for Sound Scrapbook Steam showing notation on upper left of sleeve

4 RCA test pressing for Illinois Terminal one of only 3 good discs

4 RCA test pressing for Illinois Terminal one of only 3 good discs

5 Back of RCA test pressing for Illinois Terminal

5 Back of RCA test pressing for Illinois Terminal

6 Close up of RCA test pressing for Illinois Terminal

6 Close up of RCA test pressing for Illinois Terminal

7 Close up of RCA test pressing for NKP

7 Close up of RCA test pressing for NKP

8 RCA test pressing for CN showing damage

8 RCA test pressing for CN showing damage

9 Metal press stamp

9 Metal press stamp

10 Metal press stamp with cardboard sleeve

10 Metal press stamp with cardboard sleeve

11 RRC Nashville Metal press stamp

11 RRC Nashville Metal press stamp

12 Metal press stamps in cardboard sleeves for RRC4 B&O

12 Metal press stamps in cardboard sleeves for RRC4 B&O

13 3 RRC Nashville Metal press stamps

13 3 RRC Nashville Metal press stamps

14 Metal press stamp for RRC LP

14 Metal press stamp for RRC LP

15 Railroad Record Club SP-4 boxes and sleeves

15 Railroad Record Club SP-4 boxes and sleeves

16 Record jackets for each of the 3 records in the SP-4 set

16 Record jackets for each of the 3 records in the SP-4 set

17 Label for 1st edition of record 1 side 1 of RRC-SP4

17 Label for 1st edition of record 1 side 1 of RRC-SP4

18 Label for 2nd edition of record 1 side 1 of RRC-SP4

18 Label for 2nd edition of record 1 side 1 of RRC-SP4

19 Label for 3rd edition of record 1 side 1 of RRC-SP4

19 Label for 3rd edition of record 1 side 1 of RRC-SP4

Since the estate dealer would only sell me the tapes unless I bought the entire lot, including the remainder of the RRC LP stock, I had no choice but to buy them. I’ll admit I would not have wanted to see all these mint condition, still sealed LPs go in the trash, but what am I going to do with them and where am I going to store them? These questions I’m still contemplating. However, these concerns are secondary to preserving and digitizing the tapes. I have a few options, I can rent a table at a few railroadiania swap meets, contact a few local hobby stores and see if they are willing to sell some, and David and I have been thinking of making them available through the blog.

I’ll have to carefully consider my options. It would be nice to make a little of my money back and put it towards digitizing tapes. For the record, here is a list of the 12″ remasters. They are all still sealed and, for the most part, in mint condition. A few may have a bend or crease in the jackets and a few copies of RRC 20 have brown water stains in the lower right corner.

12″ remaster LPs:

41 copies of RRC 3, EBT/D&RGW
18 copies of RRC 5, D7rgw
36 copies of RRC 8 CN
29 copies of RRC 3 15, CB&Q
34 copies of RRC 16, Westside Lumber
25 copies of RRC 20, NYC/C&IM (6 copies have water damage)
15 copies of RRC 26, CNS&M Freight
22 copies of RRC 29, NKP 779

Included with the unsold record stock were several mint copies of the original 10″ LPs:

10″ LPs:
1 copy RRC 2, WCF&N
1 copy RRC 4, B&O
2 copies of RRC 5, D&RGW
1 copy RRC 7, N&W
1 copy RRC 8, CN
1 copy RRC 10, PRR
1 copy RRC 16, Westside Lumber
1 copy RRC 17, Soo Line
1 copy RRC 19, DM&IR
1 copy RRC 20, NYC/C&IM
8 copies of RRC 28, Charles City Western
1 copy RRC 29, NKP 779
1 copy RRC SP-2 NP 2626

Twenty-four RCA test pressing were included in the sale, ten 12″ pressings and fourteen 10″. All these pressings are stamped on one side only and on the paper sleeve of two of the 12″ pressings there is a hand-written note: “Masters will be 12 inch”. This is the one rather disheartening part of the story. All but three of these test pressings are in very poor condition. The accrete has flaked off in large chips. When I removed the disc from the paper sleeve to determine its condition, a black snowfall often resulted. I’m not sure what to do with these, they are really just trash now. I will photograph the label of each one for my archive but after that, I just don’t know. The three good discs are two 12″ pressings for both sides of RRC 15, CB&Q. It’s lucky that the only undamaged 12″ RCA test pressings are for the two sides of the same record. The one good 10″ disc is for side 2 of RRC 25, Illinois Terminal.

The metal stamping plates vary in condition. I was able to inspect these plates while at the dealer’s property last July, so I knew what to expect. I turned them down last year to save my money for what I considered the good stuff, the artwork and 78rpm records. All the original RCA stamp plates were lost in 1973, necessitating the 12″ remaster program. These plates are the Nashville-made stamps made in the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s. As I remember it, all 17 master plates were in the dealer’s warehouse. I only looked at them briefly but the top few were scratched and dented. Now, if I wanted the tapes, I had to buy them. Here I did a little dealing. Since these plates were a bit heavier than the records and I was paying for shipment by the pound, I convinced the dealer to choose a few of the stamps that were in the best condition. Those in poor condition he would not charge me for and he could discard them. The archivist in me wanted to save them all, but compromises must occasionally be made.

In all I got twelve of these stamps, five are 14″ and 7 are 12″.

I ended up with a bunch of returned records as well. Numbering somewhere around fifteen or twenty, these records were returned by buyers dissatisfied with them.  Most of them have a note attached with the buyer’s name and his complaint. Things such as scratches, surface noise, and various clicks and pops were the most often cited reasons for the return.

An interesting find was various copies of the records that comprise the three-record set of SP-4. I was able to put together a set of each of the three pressings this set had. A surprise was a set of these records not in the display box that they came in, but in three separate record jackets. Each jacket had the same drawing of CSS&SB MU #108 that appeared on the box lid. Perhaps this was some sort of test printing or the original idea for the jackets. I may never know but I’m sure it is a unique set.

PHOTOGRAPHS

NP 4-8-4 2686

NP 4-8-4 2686

CA&E Elgin train on street in Aurora IL 1931

CA&E Elgin train on street in Aurora IL 1931

Capital Transit PCC and bus Catholic University

Capital Transit PCC and bus Catholic University

D&RGW 476 locomotive featured on SP-1

D&RGW 476 locomotive featured on SP-1

D&RGW 481

D&RGW 481

Des Moines & Central Iowa car 1710

Des Moines & Central Iowa car 1710

EBT 15 on a rainy day very likely while record 3 was being recorded

EBT 15 on a rainy day very likely while record 3 was being recorded

Evansville & Ohio Valley car 134

Evansville & Ohio Valley car 134

Ill Terminal car 285

Ill Terminal car 285

Ill Terminal local on Caldwell Hill East Pearia about 1936

Ill Terminal local on Caldwell Hill East Pearia about 1936

Indiana box car 550

Indiana box car 550

Indiana RR 752 waiting for loads at mine scale

Indiana RR 752 waiting for loads at mine scale

Indiana RR car 64

Indiana RR car 64

Indiana RR car 93 at Anderson IN September 4 1938

Indiana RR car 93 at Anderson IN September 4 1938

Indiana RR Vigo with rails ripped out.

Indiana RR Vigo with rails ripped out.

Interstate car 711 ex-IPSC 427 September 3 1939

Interstate car 711 ex-IPSC 427 September 3 1939

Interstate car 711 on shop siding west of Greencastle June 3 1939

Interstate car 711 on shop siding west of Greencastle June 3 1939

Interurban car 44 and REA truck Rosslyn VA

Interurban car 44 and REA truck Rosslyn VA

MC&CL RR car 34

MC&CL RR car 34

MC&CL Steeple cab 52

MC&CL Steeple cab 52

Nice right of way photo but no info other than date March 31 1936

Nice right of way photo but no info other than date March 31 1936

S T F Co RR 54 Farmington MO

S T F Co RR 54 Farmington MO

Unidentified car and person

Unidentified car and person

Unidentified steeple cab locomotive

Unidentified steeple cab locomotive

Unidentified steeple cab locomotive photo 2

Unidentified steeple cab locomotive photo 2

Waterloo Cedar Falls & Northern car 100 this car is featured on RRC 2

Waterloo Cedar Falls & Northern car 100 this car is featured on RRC 2

Here again I had to do a little dealing. I went quickly through the box of Steventon photos last year, choosing about 20 photos to purchase. The box contained a mix of railroad photos and family snap shots. The family photos outnumbered the trains. Again, I did not want to pay for, or have the added weight of photos that were just going to be tossed away. Steventon’s son was the one who sold all this family history in the first place, so I saw no reason to try and get it back to him. The dealer agreed to sort the photos and sell and ship only railroad photos. He would discard the unwanted photos.

In all there are 135 photos of railroad equipment, mostly traction subjects. Some have complete caption information, and some have nothing. There are 23 photos of active traction right-of-ways but no caption information. 24 photos of abandoned traction right-of-ways have no captions. I cannot be sure if it is a “before” and “after” series of 27 photos. I also received 11 steam negatives, the aforementioned NP 4-8-4 # 2686 (two almost identical shots at Staples, MN) and several D&RGW narrow gauge roster photos. There is one EBT negative and a shot of a steam tractor.  I haven’t had time to scan all of these photos yet, but they will appear in the Trolley Dodger as I do. For now, here are a few scans to whet your appetite.

DOCUMENTS

Stack of prints of Soo 2715

Stack of prints of Soo 2715

VHS VIDEO TAPES 

There was one last surprise waiting for me. There are eight VHS video tapes in the estate lot, seven of which were professionally produced programs of traction subjects, several of which Steventon provided audio for. One tape on a store-bought blank was labeled simply “Railroad Programs”. I thought it was most likely a tape of TV shows about trains, but I popped it in the player just to see. It turned out to be a recording of a presentation that Steventon made to a local historical society. The video quality is bad, but you can hear everything he says perfectly.

It’s all really basic stuff, what you would expect him to present to a general audience. Such things as the appeal of a steam locomotive, the nicknames of various railroad job positions like “Hogger” for engineer etc.  He then gets into the “sound portion” of his talk. He has a reel to reel tape player with him, and he explains the use of whistle signals and then plays a cut of a B&O EM-1 from Record number 4, noting the “two longs-a short-and another long” signal for a road crossing. He then goes into how a steam locomotive gains traction. Here he plays the sequence of SOO Line 2718 backing off the wye track from the intro record. He stops the tape at places to note the change in the locomotive’s sound and what that indicates to the engineer. Next, he talks about the use of torpedoes as a signaling device and plays a cut from Record number 8. He never says that these sounds are from his records. In fact, he never mentions that he ever sold records and the Railroad Record Club is not once referenced.

He eventually brings out a chart of steam locomotive wheel arrangements.  He walks out of frame with it, but you can still hear what he is saying. At some point someone thinks to pan the camera around, but the view is only the back of the chart!

By the time he finishes with the chart, the program has gone on for about 40 minutes. Now he introduces “Whistle ‘Round the Bend” and plays the entire record, all 30 minutes. While the camera never moves during this, and Steventon just sits there listening, it’s a bit of a poignant moment. The video quality, as I said, is poor, and he is in the center of a wide shot, but it’s still possible to see that he is moved by the words and sounds he his hearing.

While little information is given about how, where, or when the sounds he played were recorded a little more personal stuff is revealed. He tells of the day in 1936 that his mother died. His father was at work and needed to get home. The NYC put every opposing train on the siding and he had green signals the whole way. He also tells us that he was a sickly child and his father took him onboard the locomotive with him, even against the rules, because he wanted to spend time with him, and make William happy, as the doctors said he may not survive into adulthood.  With this video I was able to “know” William Steventon just a little bit better.

As I have these tapes put on to CD, they will be offered for sale in the online store. I bought these tapes not to just save them from destruction, but to have them made available to everyone who may be interested. I think that is perhaps the best way to ensure these historic sounds are preserved. Not just as a tribute to the people who recorded them who are now gone, but to ensure these sounds will endure to instruct and entertain future railfans long after we are gone too.

-Kenneth Gear

New Steam Audio CD:

FTS
Farewell To Steam
Mister D’s Machine
# of Discs – 1
Price: $14.99

Farewell To Steam
On February 6, 1955 the Santa Fe Railway ran a railfan train from Los Angeles to Barstow and back for the Railway Club of Southern California. This was Santa Fe’s last run powered by a steam locomotive over this route. The engine was a 4-8-4, #3759. We have used the original, rare 1955 mono version of this recording, and not the later 1958 reissue that had a bunch of echo added to create a fake stereo effect.

Mister D’s Machine
When diesel locomotives replaced steam in the 1950s, they offered a multitude of different sounds. This original 1963 stereo recording showcases the many sounds of diesels on the San Joaquin and Los Angeles Divisions of the Southern Pacific, including the Tahachappi Loop, an engineering feat that made modern railroading famous.

As with all of our recordings, this CD comes with the complete, original liner notes.

Total time – 72:56

Order Our New Book Building Chicago’s Subways

There are three subway anniversaries this year 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!

Bibliographic information:

Title Building Chicago’s Subways
Images of America
Author David Sadowski
Edition illustrated
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)

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)

Help Support The Trolley Dodger

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William A. Steventon’s Railroad Record Club

William Steventon

William Steventon

Today’s post is the first of two by Kenneth Gear, long a friend of this blog. We have great news to report– Ken has finally been able to purchase all the remaining Railroad Record Club items from the dealer that purchased them many years ago from the estate of William A. Steventon, who died 25 years ago.

Ken details all that in another post, Railroad Record Club Treasure Hunt, Part 2. These new discoveries have enabled him to offer what is, to my knowledge, the first-ever comprehensive and factual history of William A. Steventon’s Railroad Record Club.

Thanks in great part to Ken’s dedication and persistence, you can find practically all the RRC’s 10″ and 12″ output, now digitized on compact discs for the 21st century, in our Online Store. We thank him for these efforts, and hope you will too.

-David Sadowski

INTRODUCTION

As regular readers of this blog know, David and I have been gathering bits and pieces of information about the Railroad Record Club and its founder, William A. Steventon. We wanted to get a better understanding of what went into making these records, and to put together a history of the club. David started the ball rolling in April 2015 when he wrote the first Trolley Dodger post about it. As soon as I read that post I jumped aboard having been interested in the subject for some time. Together we finally managed to accumulate enough separate fragments of the story so that when we put it all together, it formed an accurate outline of the events leading up to the formation of the club and offered some insight into its operation. We were also able to build a brief biological sketch of Mr. Steventon.

Separately David and I looked for any resource that might reveal some small bit of new information. We read liner notes, club newsletters, and we looked through back issues of magazines in search of RRC ads. We collected order blanks, and I purchased copies of records I already owned because they had club inserts tucked away in the jackets. I researched the meaning of the matrix codes engraved in the lead out grooves of the LPs to more accurately date them. We studied artwork and found some of Steventon’s personal correspondences.  Everything came together when I purchased a large collection of Railroad Record Club items from Steventon’s estate. Combing through this material finally gave us enough information so that David and I could piece together the Railroad Record Club story you are about to read.

There are still unanswered questions to be sure and there are also missing recordings. We haven’t been able to secure copies of the 5th and 6th year sampler records. We also can only speculate on how, to whom, and at what cost these sampler records were distributed.

If any readers have any RRC material, please contact David. We only ask for a scan of any paper work or leads you may be able to offer as to who might be able to help. Thank you.

I have recently been able to purchase the last of the Steventon estate items I left behind last year (more on that in A Railroad Record Club Treasure Hunt, Part 2) and with luck David and I will be able to put together a few more pieces of the Railroad Record Club puzzle.

WILLIAM STEVENTON & THE RAILROAD RECORD CLUB 

William A. Steventon was born in 1921 in Mount Carmel, Illinois, son of a locomotive engineer on the Big Four Railroad (New York Central). As a child he spent much of his time around the red brick passenger station and wooden freight house across from Main Street. The family eventually moved to Cairo, Illinois and there he would often ride in the locomotive cab with his father. In the liner notes to Record number 20- NYC/C&IM while describing an in-cab recording made with his father at the throttle, Steventon reminisces about his boyhood days spent there:

“It is strange that this recording should remind me of something that I had almost forgotten. If I hadn’t heard my father pull a whistle cord in 50 years, and in the distance I should hear a certain whistle, I would know that it was him. This recording also reminds me of the many times I had waited as a youngster for him to whistle near Cherry switch to let us know he was coming home from a north-end run. It reminds me of the many times I have walked down Washington Street in Cairo and heard him whistling in the yards.”

After serving in World War II Steventon married and took a government job. He and his wife settled in the Washington DC area and it is here that the Railroad Record Club story begins.

It all began when Steventon’s wife gave him a record of Railroad sound effects as a Christmas gift, most likely in 1952. While he was interested in the concept of recorded train sounds, he was very dissatisfied with this record. He was convinced that the sounds were not those of actual trains, that they were train “effects” created in a recording studio.  He wanted sound recordings of REAL trains. He purchased one of the new reel to reel tape recorders that had recently become available and in March 1953, set out to make his first railroad sound recordings.

First recording

First recording

The first recording he made was along the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad at the Riverdale, Maryland passenger station (MP 32.4 on the Washington Branch). As best as can be determined, the first train he recorded was # 523 the “MARYLANDER” powered by an EMD diesel (he did not make note of the locomotive number). His second train was powered by steam but in his haste to hear the recording immediately after making it, he accidently partially erased it! He wrote about his frustration in an article for TRACTION & MODELS Magazine:

“When we made our very first recording in 1953 we took the equipment to Riverdale, Maryland and recorded a steamer thundering past the B&O station. When it was gone we stopped the recorder, rewound the tape and played it back. Nothing happened-the tape was silent. we waited thinking that the steamer wasn’t within “hearing distance” as yet, but when it became evident that we should be hearing the sound, we investigated.  In our enthusiasm to “get recording” we had failed to become familiar with our equipment. Instead of pushing the playback key, we had pushed the record key and were erasing the sound we had just recorded.”

That partially erased recording, as well as the others he made that night, were discovered on a 78rpm acetate record in his estate. It is included on the Trolley Dodger Railroad Record Club Rarities Steam & Diesel CD.

During the next few years, Steventon made numerous railroad sound recordings, both in and around Washington DC and on trips to visit family in Illinois. Near Washington DC he recorded the streetcars of the Capital Transit Company, steam & diesels on the B&O, and Pennsy GG-1s. He even recorded the sounds of the Senate Subway. He made trips to Maryland to record the Western Maryland, the Hagerstown & Frederick interurban cars and freight box motors, and he rode and recorded the Baltimore streetcars. In Pennsylvania he recorded mainline steam on the PRR, revenue steam on the East Broad Top, and made extensive recordings of the Johnstown Traction Company and the Altoona & Logan Valley. In Illinois he captured the sounds of the New York Central, Chicago & Illinois Midland, Nickel Plate, Illinois Central, and Chicago Burlington & Quincy among others. He did recordings of the passenger and freight operations of the Midwestern electric railways including the Illinois Terminal, Chicago North Shore & Milwaukee, Chicago Aurora & Elgin and even recorded an entire run of Chicago South Shore & South Bend M.U. car # 108 from Chicago to South Bend. In Iowa he added the Waterloo, Cedar Falls & Northern, Southern Iowa, Cedar Rapids & Iowa City and Charles City Western. In his travels he made recordings of the Pacific Electric, Shaker Heights Rapid Transit, Wabash, Soo Line, Denver & Rio Grande Western narrow gauge, and Norfolk & Western. In a 1958 newspaper interview he stated he had traveled to fifteen states to record train sounds. It is quite an extensive output and not all of it has been pressed into vinyl or released on tape or CD.

All this recording did not come easily. Dragging the equipment from home to car and from car to trackside required the help of at least one other person. Steventon wrote about the difficulty of using this bulky equipment in the field:

“We had a 12-volt auto battery for the primary power source, a 12 v.d.c. to 110 v.a.c. rotary converter, a reel to reel recorder plus a satchel of extra equipment, tapes, and assorted material. Two men could struggle with all this equipment, but it required three men to carry everything with any degree of ease and mobility. In addition, we normally carried a battery charger for use with keeping the battery up to par during the night. This could be left in the auto during the day but was a very necessary part of our total equipment requirement.”

It is a wonder anyone was able to record anything, considering the burden it must have been to get all this stuff trackside. It makes one grateful for the ability to record high quality sound and high definition video with just a tiny cell phone as we can do today.

Steventon eventually took a job as manager of the Cream Valley Telephone Company and he and his wife moved to Hawkins, Wisconsin. There he would continue to make railroad sound recordings, start a family. and create the Railroad Record Club.

Doing all this traveling and making these recordings invariably put him in contact with like-minded people. It is safe to assume that they would want to trade and share the recordings they made with each other. In the mid-1950s this was no easy task. Modern home audio systems, as we think of them now, simply did not exist. The problem was made even worse if recordings were to be shared or sold to someone who did not make recordings themselves and therefore did not own a reel to reel tape player/recorder. While most people at the time did not own a tape player, a phonograph could be found in most homes.

Steventon pre-RRC 78rpm records

Steventon pre-RRC 78rpm records

If Steventon wanted to give or sell his recordings to many other people, they would have to be put onto phonograph records. This too, wouldn’t be easy. The solution was to procure a portable disc cutter. These machines became available for home use starting in about 1929 and were most often used to record things off the radio. The standard record format of the time was a disc ten inches in diameter and made of aluminum covered with acetate. The 78rpm playing speed yielded no more than five minutes of content per side. These records had to be made in real time and the record blanks were quite heavy compared to a modern vinyl record. To distill more and varied content on these homemade records, he spliced together all sorts of bits and pieces and recorded brief introductions to tell listeners what they were about to hear. He conceived a catalog numbering system and had rubber stamps made for the most popular titles, the rest having hand-written labels. Steventon produced an extraordinary amount of records this way. Finding a sizable collection of these acetate records in the Steventon estate reveled just how extensive the output was. Although a complete catalog listing of these records can not presently be made, the following partial list is still very impressive.

01. Potomac Edison (aka Hagerstown & Frederick)
02. Shenandoah Central
03. Capital Transit
04. Johnstown Traction
05. Altoona & Logan Valley
06. Baltimore & Ohio
07. Shaker Heights Rapid Transit
08. Claude Mahoney Radio Program about NRHS fantrip (1953)
09. Pennsylvania Railroad
10. Nickel Plate Road
11. St. Louis Public Service
12. Illinois Terminal
13. Illinois Central
16. Norfolk & Western
17. Western Maryland Railway
18. Baltimore Transit
19. Senate Subway (Washington, DC)
21. Rochester Subway
22. East Broad Top
23. Chicago, Burlington & Quincy
24. Chicago & Illinois Midland
25. Niagara, St. Catharines & Toronto
26. Virginian
28. Queensboro Bridge
29. Wabash
30. 3rd Avenue Elevated
31. Minneapolis, St Paul & Sault Ste Marie
32. Louisville & Nashville
34. St Elizabeth’s Hospital (hospital in Washington DC that used a 0-4-0T to move coal from the B&O.)
37. Independent Subway

It is worth noting that this numbering sequence is totally different from the later one adopted for the 10” records issued later.

Things were apparently going well for Steventon’s railroad record enterprise for a while but things were about to change. Long playing 33 1/3 rpm records made of lighter materials and with improved sound were beginning to gain in popularity. Record blanks and parts for the disc cutter would undoubtedly become harder to get. Steventon needed to have his records made by a professional record pressing company to continue selling them. Steventon would have to make new master tapes for each release because the new records, although still 10”, could hold fifteen minutes of sound on each side-a full half-hour altogether. This would be the equivalent of more then five of the old acetates. He would forgo, for the most part, his spoken introductions and provide printed notes on the cardboard record jackets. These notes could be pretty sparse at first, containing little more than the railroad and locomotive number.

RRC intro record

RRC intro record

RRC INTRO old SP5

RRC INTRO old SP5

Bill Steventon recording compressor noise on CNS&M interurban

Bill Steventon recording compressor noise on CNS&M interurban

Eventually he began to write extensive notes on separate sheets of paper that were inserted into the record jackets. In time, the first completed master tape was sent off to the RCA Custom Record facility in Indianapolis, Indiana and soon afterward the first official Railroad Record Club LP came into being. The record was titled simply INTRODUCTORY RECORD and carried no catalog number. Side one contained the sounds of Soo Line 4-6-2 # 2718 powering an August, 1955 fan trip between Minneapolis, Minnesota and Rice Lake, Wisconsin. Illinois Central 0-8-0 # 3509 switching at Centralia, Illinois was featured on the flip side. A look at the first four characters in the matrix code engraved into the lead-out grooves of a first edition of this record, G8OL, gives the following information: First is the date code-G indicates the record was manufactured in 1956, then the label code-8 showing it was a custom job that was re-recorded from the client’s source material. Next is the category code-O meaning it is a phonograph record, and the fourth character-L denoted the size, speed & groove, 10”, mono, & 331/3 rpm. The final numbers 0479 for side one and 0480 on side two were simply sequence numbers. The Introductory Record was therefore available for sale sometime in 1956 or perhaps 1957.

He made the decision to sell these new records not as a regular mail order business, but as a club. The club membership idea may have been the direct result of the expense associated with this new endeavor. He had to have the records pressed by RCA which required metal master plates to be made. Cardboard record jackets had to be purchased and be printed with photographs or drawings. Tape stock had to be bought for the making of the new master tapes. All in all, this must have been a considerable expense. Selling the records through a club meant that the members were required to purchase a set number of records and paying for them in advance, thereby guaranteeing he would get some return on all this investment. The club worked like this: Four records would be offered per year. Members could buy the records at the discounted price of $4 each providing they maintained membership by purchasing at least three of the selections. Membership expired upon the purchase of one year’s group. There were no membership dues, but records were paid for in advance to provide the necessary money to have the metal masters made.  Special pressings could be purchased at club prices but were not counted toward the three-record minimum. Non-members could buy individual LPs at $5.25 each. $4.00 for a LP record sounds like a bargain but remember those $4 in 1958 had the same buying power as $34.72 in 2018! These Records weren’t cheap. According to a 1958 interview he gave to the Milwaukee Sentinel, the club started off very well. The article stated that there were some 200 club members through out the United States and several foreign countries including New Zealand, Australia, England and Canada. It goes on to state he has already sold 1,000 records.

Steventon continued to sell his records through the yearly club membership plan until October 1965 when the club membership requirement was withdrawn. The records would now be sold separately and at the same price to everyone.

From 1957 with the release of the Introductory record until October 1965 when the last regularly scheduled production of a Railroad Record Club release (Record number 32-New York Central) was offered, Steventon produced thirty-two regular club releases and three special pressings. One more release, SP-4-CSS&SB would be released later that year. Afterwards, Steventon released Records Numbers 33-36 and special pressings numbers SP-5 (a reissue of the introductory record) and the last all new Railroad Record Club record in 1983, number SP-6 Milwaukee Road box cab electrics. Each record was simply numbered in the order it was produced.

RAILROAD RECORD CLUB TITLES
0 Soo Line, Illinois Central (Introductory Record)
1 Wabash Railroad, Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha
2 Waterloo, Cedar Falls & Northern, Southern Iowa Railway
3 Denver, Rio Grande & Western, East Broad Top
4 Baltimore and Ohio
5 Denver & Rio Grande Western
6 Potomac Edison (Hagerstown & Frederick)
7 Norfolk & Western, Illinois Central (Also includes a bit of Illinois Terminal Railroad)
8 Canadian National (aka Canadian Railroading in the Days of Steam)
9 Winston-Salem Southbound
10 Pennsylvania Railroad
11 Shaker Heights Rapid Transit
12 Duluth Missabe & Iron Range
13 Nickel Plate Road
14 Pacific Electric
15 Chicago, Burlington & Quincy
16 Westside Lumber Company
17 Minneapolis & St Paul, Sault Ste Marie Railway
18 Chicago, North Shore & Milwaukee
19 Duluth, Missabe & Iron Range
20 Chicago & Illinois Midland – New York Central
21 Duluth & Northeastern
22 Buffalo Creek & Gauley
23 Pennsylvania Trolleys
24 Canadian Pacific
25 Illinois Terminal Railroad
26 Chicago, North Shore & Milwaukee (freight)
27 Capital Transit Company
28 Charles City Western – Waterloo, Cedar Falls & Northern
29 Nickel Plate Road
30 Sound Scrapbook, Traction
31 Sound Scrapbook, Steam
32 New York Central
33 Chicago, South Shore & South Bend (freight)
34 Chicago, South Shore & South Bend (freight)
35 Milwaukee & Suburban Transport, Chicago, North Shore & Milwaukee
36 Chicago, Aurora & Elgin, Chicago Transit Authority

Special Pressings
SP1 The Silverton Train
SP2 Northern Pacific 2626 Memorial Album
SP3 Whistle ‘Round the Bend
SP4 Chicago, South Shore & South Bend Railroad (passenger)
SP5 Soo Line, Illinois Central
SP6 The Milwaukee Road (electric freight)

He also produced several “sampler” records which contain short snippets of tracks from the LP records.

THE RAILROAD RECORD CLUB SAMPLERS

1st & 2nd Year Sampler:  (short excerpts from records 1 to 4 on side one & records 5 to 8 on side two)
3rd & 4th Year Sampler: (short excerpts from records 9 to 12 on side one & records 13 to 16 on side two)
5th Year Sampler: (short excerpts from records 17 to 20 recorded on one side only)
6th Year Sampler: (short excerpts from records 21 to 24 recorded on one side only)
7th & 8th Year Sampler: (short excerpts from records 25 to 28 on side one & records 29 to 32 on side two)

Among these forty-two LPs there are some real gems. He certainly started off strong with Record Number one. On side two there is one of his best “sound picture” type recordings. It features Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha 2-8-0 # 219 switching in the yards at Spooner, Wisconsin on a dark misty night in October of 1955. This was one of his favorite audio sequences and he described it like this in the record’s reissue liner notes:

“Close your eyes and imagine you are in a Pullman berth. Your passenger train has stopped at the station and you are sleepily listening to this nearby switching movement.” And from the notes to the original release: “That night in October of 1955 was very dark, moonless and misting heavily. The sulfuric, yet nostalgic odor of coal smoke drifted sluggishly over the Spooner, Wisconsin yards as the sound of exhausts and squealing brakes seeped through the murky atmosphere. A dim yellow light at the south end of the station platform rocked in the wind, flicking shadows to and fro over the moving cars.” 

If you don’t feel the dampness, smell the coal smoke, or find that you need to shake off a chill while listening to this, you’re just not trying.

There are so many remarkable sound sequences on these LPs that it would be impossible to list them all, Some of the most interesting ones include:  a D&RGW narrow gauge train with a mid-train helper on Cumbres Pass on Record number 3, the B&O EM-1 stopping and starting sequences on Record Number 4, a PRR 4-8-2 on slick rail on Record number 10, the cab rides in CSS&SB freight motors on Record numbers 33 and 34, the list goes on and on.

William Steventon did not exclusively use his own recordings on the Railroad Record Club LPs. In the second year of the club he began to utilize the talents of his friends, and the most notable of the group was Elwin D. Purington. Mr. Purington’s considerable recording talents added greatly to the quality of Steventon’s releases. Three records were entirely comprised of his recordings and they are three of the best. Record number 8-Canadian National (re-released as “Canadian Railroading in The Days Of Steam”) is one of Steventon’s favorites, and SP-2 the Northern Pacific 2626 memorial album Steventon called “a masterpiece.”  He provided the sounds for side one of Record number 12-DM&IR and his recordings of the CMSt.P&P electric freight locomotives are featured on Record SP-6.  He also did the narration on Number 3-East Broad Top and SP-3-Whistle ‘Round the Bend. Thomas A. Hosick recorded the train sounds for Record number 9-Winston-Salem Southbound, and John L. Wise contributed to Record number 10-PRR. Harold O. Lewis did some fine recording work that was used on three LPs, Record number 16-Westside Lumber, number 24-Canadian Pacific, and number 31-Sound Scrapbook-Steam. Eugene Van Dusen made all but the final three cuts for Record Number 32-NYC, and finally A. L. Shade, another top-notch sound recorder of trains, added his talents to Record numbers 13-Nickel Plate, 29-NKP 779 and 22-Buffalo Creek & Gauley.

Excellent HM Pech cover RRC 5

Excellent HM Pech cover RRC 5

Marginal HM Pech cover 1st edition of Record number 8

Marginal HM Pech cover 1st edition of Record number 8

RRC 19

RRC 19

The sounds on these LPs were great right from the start, but it took awhile for the record jackets to evolve into something interesting and appealing. At first the record jackets had little in the way of cover art, nothing more than a small photo or two plus a few paragraphs of text. Eventually sketches of the featured locomotive pulling a train were added, usually draw by an artist who signed his work HM Pech. These drawings could range from excellent (Record number 5) to marginal (1st edition of Record number 8). All mediocrity was removed for good when the cover art for Record number 19 was revealed. The cover of this record is a very nice accomplishment. The drawing of DM&IR 2-8-8-4 # 222 is perfect in every way. This great drawing combined with an appealing layout makes for a wonderful cover. A new visual benchmark for the Railroad Record Club had been reached and there was no going back. The drawing was done by Marshall P. (Pat) McMahon. He worked for the Minneapolis Star Tribune as an illustrator. His drawings of railroad equipment are flawless. The detail is meticulously rendered and drawn with precision and skill. Mr. McMahon would from here on out, be the main artist used by Steventon to illustrate the record jackets. When second editions of previously released records were pressed, McMahon would be called upon to create a new cover drawing. Every one is a vast improvement over what had come before. He also got the call to do new drawings when the records began to be reissued on 12″ discs, and he even did at least one drawing that Steventon sold prints of (Soo Line steamer # 2715). He would go on to do cover illustrations for thirty record jackets for the club! Rounding out the list of artists employed by the Railroad Record Club: Ernie Towler did a fine pencil sketch of a Shay locomotive for the 12″ reissue of Record Number 16-Westside Lumber and he did the cover of the reissue of number 15-CB&Q. Herb Mott did a painting of a boy watching a steam train passing for the cover of SP-3-Whistle ‘Round the Bend. This record has the distinction of being the only one with a full color cover.

RRC 17 Steventon enjoyed being here Hawkins WI Soo station

RRC 17 Steventon enjoyed being here Hawkins WI Soo station

RRC 17 1st edition drawing Hawkins WI Soo station

RRC 17 1st edition drawing Hawkins WI Soo station

RRC 20

RRC 20

Advertising had to be done, and ads were placed in several railroad and modeling magazines including Trains and Model Railroad Craftsman. Such tag lines as “Authentic steam and electric railway recordings,” “Sounds you like to hear steam-traction,” and “Out of the past and into your home” were used. A mailing list was maintained, and announcements and sales information mailed directly to those on it. Records were sold in hobby stores, and Steventon sent LPs  to railroad historical societies that coincided with the group’s interests. He even devised a unique “Audition Set Program”. To audition a set of records a request form had to be filled out. A choice could be made as to which records were wanted but a choice of pre-selected LPs could be made by choosing ” all steam” or “all traction” or both. A “random” selection could be made giving the customer the choice of titles and number of records. A deposit in the following amounts had to be sent: “all steam” consisting of 25 10″ records-$100.00, “all traction” consisting of 15 10″ records-$60.00 and “random” $4.00 each. After listening, the records were to be returned with (hopefully) a purchase order. The money for the purchased records would be deducted from the deposit and the remainder returned with the record order.

Eventually Steventon branched out and began to sell all types of things. His biggest sideline was selling photographs. The photo catalog alone was 40 pages! He sold 16mm, 8mm and super 8 traction movies, books, records from other producers, he even had a line of railroad logo watch fobs! In one sales flyer he was trying to unload his old adding machine, a Sears model No. 871.58251 (he wanted $40 for it postpaid).

After 1965, when The Railroad Record Club stopped functioning as a club, not much else changed. Steventon continued to release records and in fact had plans to release many more. In a 1966 newsletter Steventon makes mention of future planned releases, unfortunately not all of them were produced. He writes: “Future releases will be made on the basis of availability of time and material. At this writing an “on train” recording of the old 1000 series Chicago South Shore & South Bend locomotives is in production. No release date has been set.” (Records number 33 & 34). He continues: “Other material for future work includes many steam and electric lines including the Shenandoah Central (never produced), Baltimore & Ohio (never produced) Chicago Aurora & Elgin (Record Number 36), Chicago Transit Authority (record number 36) Queensboro Bridge (never produced) and others.”

This newsletter also announces the first Railroad Record Club selection ever to be released on 12” discs-Special Pressing number 4.  “On December 21, 1965 a new milestone was established with the release of a set of three 12-inch 33 1/3 rpm recordings of the complete run of interurban No. 108 from Chicago to South Bend. Approximately two hours playing time and conveniently arranged for automatic playing sequence. Prepared and recommended for the devoted traction enthusiast.”

Through the rest of the 1960s and into the 1970s Steventon successfully sold his records. Some of the most popular selections had second and even third editions pressed, and the covers and liner notes continued to evolve, The liner notes were becoming more extensive and contained more information, not just about the equipment recorded, but somewhat personal stuff as well. For example, on record number 17, the entirety of side one contains the sounds of the activities going on inside the Hawkins, Wisconsin Soo Line station. Although Steventon writes in the third person he conveys his pleasure at being there. The sound of the telegraph, talking with the agent, the rumble of trains going past, the whole “atmosphere” he loved. “Plant your feet on the desk” he writes, “lean back in your chair and you’re the agent at this small village station.” He wrote fond boyhood memories in the notes to Record number 20 and revealed in those same notes just how he felt about diesel locomotives. He wrote that while recording a C&IM 0-8-0 switcher going about her chores, he was “dismayed” and “disgusted” when a GM&O RS-1 came onto the scene.  He included the diesel on the record however, noting that the steamer and the diesel sharing the stage made for an interesting recording. As he puts it: “Actually this could be considered as the tug-of-war between two types of motive power as to which will dominate the railroad scene”. At this point, he had to be dismayed to know steam would be the loser. Eventually his negative view of diesels must have softened a bit because in 1988, when he revised the notes to Record number 20, he removed the word “disgusted” although he continued to be “dismayed”. Steventon never released an LP that was entirely diesel sounds. He recorded diesels with some degree of regularity, as his first recording was of one. In his estate there was an open reel tape labeled “Nickel Plate Diesels” and on those acetate records there are plenty of B&O diesels. Perhaps he thought his record buying customers wouldn’t want to spend money to hear those “disgusting” machines. Rarely is the sound of a diesel included on any of the records.

The Railroad Record Club continued steadily along until early in 1973. A situation then developed that could not be easily overcome, in fact, it never would be completely. Early in that year RCA informed Steventon that they would no longer press his records. In club announcements concerning this situation Steventon wrote “In February of 1973 they (RCA) notified us that all of their custom work was being discontinued.” If RCA would not press his records, he would just have to find another company that would. That plan quickly died when another, more devastating difficulty was discovered. RCA had lost or destroyed all the Club’s metal master discs at its Indianapolis plant. Without those master discs new records could not be pressed by anyone. Steventon was stopped cold.  If he wanted to continue selling his previously released records, new master discs would have to be made. By the early 1970s 7” singles and 12” albums were the standards and the old 10” format was on the way out. New master discs would have to be made and they would have to be 12”.  Steventon managed to surmount these obstacles. He found a new company to work with, Nashville Record Productions of Nashville, Tennessee.

Even as the process of remastering and pressing new records progressed, Steventon was cautious with his expectations. He wrote carefully in a flyer about the remastering: “Due to a shortage of raw material record pressings may become difficult to obtain. Consequently we have no guarantee that our complete line can be produced, but will re-issue each record as conditions permit.”  Interested parties were mailed a “Railroad Record Club Advance Notice Mailing Card.” On this card selections were to be made as to which records the recipient wanted to be notified of when the 12” reissue was being readied. The recipient could then purchase the record at a pre-production discounted price.  Progress was made, albeit very slowly. The RCA masters were lost in the winter of 1973 but by summer 1976, only two records had been reissued. The first two being number 10-PRR and the second Number 8-CN now titled “Canadian Railroading in The Days Of Steam.” Steventon could not simply reissue the records numerically starting at number one and progressing from there. This was a very expensive undertaking and he needed to release the most popular titles first. At first, he considered having all the records remastered at once and getting a press run of each. This idea was dropped when the cost turned out to be more then $30,000! He decided to go back to his original club plan where he required a set amount of those pre-production advance payments to come in. Once there was sufficient interest shown for a certain record, as calculated from the advance mailing cards, he would announce that it was being readied for remastering. He would only send an order to Nashville when enough of the pre-production money came in to justify it.

In a telling reply to an inquiry from a customer wanting to know why a certain record, number 36, was still unavailable, Steventon spelled it out clearly:

“The program of re-mastering was started in ’73 after RCA lost our metal masters. The pre-production offer is used to generate funds to pay for the re-mastering process. As a rule of thumb it takes about 125 pre-payments to cover these costs. Experience has shown that roughly only 50% of those who ask to be notified on a new selection actually follow through with an order. Thus we need 250 requests to start the program. As of this date (March 29, 1989) only 99 have shown an interest in record 36, CA&E. The pressing firm in TN has just notified us of another increase in production costs. Dollar wise we are now talking $1100 to $1200 to re-master and get the first press run. The RR club is not a profit venture – we only ask to break even. In 1987 we operated at a loss of $444.10. 1988 was better with a modest net income of $119.75. We need EVERY bit of interest shown to keep the program rolling – it is a tough job!”

It was a tough job to be certain and it was also a very slow one. An order blank from November 1984 shows only eight remastered records, Number 4-B&O, 7-N&W/IC, 8-CN, 10-PRR, 19-DM&IR, 29-NKP 779 and SP-5-SOO/IC the ex-intro record. Also for sale at that time was a second pressing of SP-4 the CSS&SB three record set. Also listed on this order blank was a brand new record. Even with the remastering difficulties going on the Railroad Record Club managed to release one last all-new record. This last hurrah was special pressing number 6-The Milwaukee Road- Box Cab Electric Locomotives on the Coast Division, recorded by Elwin Purington in stereo. On the jacket SP-6 is touted as the “30th Anniversary Issue 1953-1983.” Another fine McMahon drawing graced the cover.

As each 12” reissue was produced, Steventon would revise and update the liner notes. If the record had an existing McMahon illustration it was transferred to the new jacket in the same size it appeared on the 10” jacket, but with a wide white border. If a reissue did not have a previously drawn McMahon picture, one would be commissioned. These black and white record jackets were distinctive and attractive. On the reissues the audio content was always identical to the 10” version, since the same master tapes were used. There was one exception, however. Although the railroad sounds were exactly the same, on the original release of Record number 3-EBT/D&RGW, Steventon had recorded spoken introductions to each of the EBT tracks, just as he had done for the old 78 acetate records in fact, they are exactly the same.  Steventon wanted these introductions removed to correct a mistake and instead of simply taking them off and writing the information into the liner notes, he had Elwin Purington re-record them.

The long and expensive remastering project continued into 1990. A test pressing for Record number 16-Westside Lumber had a memo attached that read: “Record No. 16, Westside Lumber Co. Record pressing approved if “blips” at approximately 3 min, 36 seconds into side one and continuing for about 6 or 7 seconds were corrected. Card returned 1/10/90.”  Not all of the surviving test pressings have dates on the jackets, but it is obvious that this one had to be among the last. By the early 1990s’ compact discs were already poised to topple vinyl records as the standard audio format. Steventon simply choose not to upgrade to yet another new format. Record number 16 being reissued in 1990, proves that Steventon worked at remastering the records almost to the end of his life. He died in 1993, just three years after the test pressing date for Record number 16. The long, expensive, and difficult remastering program started in 1973 and continued into at least 1990. In all only 17 of the 40 10” records were reissued on 12″ discs.

RAILROAD RECORD CLUB RECORDS REISSUED IN 12″ FORMAT
#1-WABASH (10″ 3rd Edition Cover Art)
#3-D&RGW/EBT (New Cover Art)
#4-B&O (New Cover Art)
#5-D&RGW
#7-N&W/IC (New Cover Art)
#8-CN (New Cover Art) Title changed to “Canadian Railroading In The Days Of Steam”
#10-PRR (10″ 2nd Edition Cover Art)
#15-CB&Q (New Cover Art)
#16-Westside Lumber (New Cover Art) Cover changed from a photograph to a pencil sketch
#17-Soo (New Cover Art)
#18-CNS&M (10″ 2nd Edition Cover Art)
#19-DM&IR
#20-C&IM/NYC
#26-CNS&M (Freight)
#29-NKP 779
#SP-2-NP 2626 (Same photo used on both 10″ & 12″ record covers but reproduced smaller on the reissue)
#SP-4-CSS&SB (passenger) 3 record set was only released on 12″ stock in display box
#SP-5-Soo/IC Formally the introductory record (New Cover Art)
#SP-6-MILW Box Cabs (Only released in 12″ format)
17 records reissued from 10″ to 12″
2 records only released on 12″

The Railroad Record Club didn’t completely die with William Steventon. His son Seth revived the club some years after his father’s death by putting the entire line of records on cassette tapes. By this time, however, CDs were the favored format and the effort was shelved.

Because of William A. Steventon’s commitment to recording the vanishing sounds of a passing era on American railroads, and just as importantly, making those recordings available to all who were interested, we can today hear the sounds of a Hagerstown & Frederick interurban car speeding past a lonely country crossing. We can experience the sonic thunder of a New York Central 4-6-4 blasting out of Mount Carmel, Illinois with a whistle full of water. We can ride along in the cab of a CSS&SB freight motor on its trip out of Michigan city, and we can enjoy the work of the other talented railroad recordists whose work Steventon put on his records. We can even listen to that whining rotary converter in Harristown, Illinois.

-Kenneth Gear

New Steam Audio CD:

FTS
Farewell To Steam
Mister D’s Machine
# of Discs – 1
Price: $14.99

Farewell To Steam
On February 6, 1955 the Santa Fe Railway ran a railfan train from Los Angeles to Barstow and back for the Railway Club of Southern California. This was Santa Fe’s last run powered by a steam locomotive over this route. The engine was a 4-8-4, #3759. We have used the original, rare 1955 mono version of this recording, and not the later 1958 reissue that had a bunch of echo added to create a fake stereo effect.

Mister D’s Machine
When diesel locomotives replaced steam in the 1950s, they offered a multitude of different sounds. This original 1963 stereo recording showcases the many sounds of diesels on the San Joaquin and Los Angeles Divisions of the Southern Pacific, including the Tahachappi Loop, an engineering feat that made modern railroading famous.

As with all of our recordings, this CD comes with the complete, original liner notes.

Total time – 72:56

Pre-Order Our New Book Building Chicago’s Subways

There are three subway anniversaries this year 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!

Bibliographic information:

Title Building Chicago’s Subways
Images of America
Author David Sadowski
Edition illustrated
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 will be published on October 1, 2018. Order your copy today, and it will be shipped on or about that date. All copies purchased through The Trolley Dodger will be signed by the author.

The price of $23.99 includes shipping within the United States.

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Redone tile at the Monroe and Dearborn CTA Blue Line subway station, showing how an original sign was incorporated into a newer design, May 25, 2018. (David Sadowski Photo)

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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An Interurban Legacy

A modern EMU carries passengers on the CSS&SB while a vintage steeple cab hauls freight on the Iowa Traction.

(Editor’s Note: Today’s post is by guest contributor Kenneth Gear, long a friend of this blog.)

The demise of America’s electric railways, its interurban and trolley lines, was swift and merciless. What the financial hardships of the Great Depression didn’t destroy, the automobile finished off by the end of the 1960s.

All that remains of some of these railways, if anything remains, is a bike trail on the right of way, some preserved equipment, photographs, or sound recordings on record albums.

In some cases, however, rail service managed to continue, where a few freight customers remained the railroad could survive on a starvation diet. Abandoning all but a few miles of track, deactivation of the electric traction system, and the use of diesel locomotives kept the railroad from completely disappearing.

This, with the exception of the South Shore Line for passengers and Iowa Traction for freight, is how most of the common carrier remnants of the age of electric railways look today.

In my railfan travels I have made an effort to seek out and photograph these survivors. While I haven’t gotten every one on my list I did visit a few and I’d like to share to the photos. In some cases I was only able to get a few locomotive roster shots but other times, I was lucky enough to find a moving train and follow to various places along the line. I also photographed railroads that were never part of an electric railway but, coincidentally or not, share their corporate title with some long gone traction company. I included these photos as well.

I have cobbled together (mostly from Wikipedia) a brief history of each the railways.

THE RAILROADS I’VE PHOTOGRAPHED:

Baltimore & Annapolis

Cedar Rapids & Iowa City

Chicago South Shore & South Bend

Greenville & Western

Piedmont & Northern

South Brooklyn

Southern Indiana

Tulsa Sapulpa Union

IN NAME ONLY

Western New York & Pennsylvania

Indiana Rail Road

Shore Fast Line

The Baltimore & Annapolis Railroad ran between Annapolis and Clifford Maryland.

B&A electric passenger operation between the two cities continued until 1950, at which time the rail line became solely a freight carrier, operating buses for passenger service. Freight service to Annapolis continued until June 1968 when the Severn River Trestle was declared unsafe. In the 1980s the line was completely shut down. The right of way now serves as part of the Baltimore light rail system and as the Baltimore & Annapolis Trail.

I happened to stumble upon Baltimore & Annapolis SW-9 87 while railfanning the Carolina Southern RR at Chadbourn, NC. This locomotive was built by EMD in 1953. June 22, 1998.

The Cedar Rapids and Iowa City Railway is also known as the Crandic. The Crandic began operations in 1904, providing interurban service between Cedar Rapids and Iowa City, Iowa. While freight was important to the Crandic in the early years, it was better known for its passenger interurban operations. After passenger operations were discontinued in 1953, freight became the primary source of traffic for the Crandic. At the same time, the electric-powered locomotives were replaced with diesel models.

In August of 2006 while on my way to Mason City, IA to photograph Iowa Traction, I stopped off to see what I could find in Cedar Rapids. Near 8th Avenue SW I spotted Cedar Rapids & Iowa City SW-900 #99 switching the ADM plant.

Chicago South Shore and South Bend Railroad, America’s last interurban, began in 1901 as the Chicago & Indiana airline railroad, a streetcar route between East Chicago and Indiana Harbor. By 1908 its route had reached South Bend via Michigan City. The company leased the Kensington & Eastern Railroad (an Illinois Central subsidiary) to gain access to Chicago. Passenger service between South Bend and Chicago began in 1909. The Lake Shore added freight service in 1916. It was renamed the Chicago South Shore and South Bend Railroad in 1925 when Samuel Insull acquired it. The post-World War II decline in traffic hurt the company, and it was bought by the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway in 1967. In 1977 the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District (NICTD) began subsidizing the passenger operations and in 1984 the Venango River Corporation (VRC) purchased the South Shore from the C&O. Venango declared bankruptcy in 1989. In 1990 Anacostia & Pacific Company acquired the South Shore. The NICTD purchased the passenger assets.

Because the freight and passenger operations of this railroad are conducted (pun intended) by different entities, I think it is not off topic to include it on my list of former electric railway. after all, the freight trains are diesel powered.

CSS&SB South Shore Freight GP-38-2s 2004/2009 & 2003 at the Carroll Avenue shops in Michigan City IN. (10-15-09)

South Shore Freight GP38-2s 2002/2007 running lite on 11th Street in Michigan City IN on a rainy October 15, 2009.

The Piedmont & Northern Railway was a heavy electric interurban company operating over two disconnected divisions in North and South Carolina. Unlike similar interurban systems the Piedmont & Northern survived the great depression and was later absorbed into the Seaboard Coast line in 1969 and eventually absorbed by CSX. The North Carolina Department of Transportation bought 12 miles of the railroad from Mt. Holly, NC to Gastonia, NC in May 2010 and awarded a contract to Patriot Rail Corporation to restore the track and operate trains. Iowa Pacific took over operation of the line on August 1, 2015.

By the time I visited the P&N, Patriot Rail had already given up on the railroad and nothing was running. I found Piedmont & Northern GP-15-1s # 1434 & 1451 at Renlo, NC. The locomotives had no work to do but at least they were sitting in good sunlight in a wide open area and I was able to get good roster shots. Knowing the engines weren’t going anywhere anytime soon, I ventured back at nightfall with my night photo kit and popped off a few flashbulbs. (October 5, 2014)

Another short line operating on Ex-P&N tracks is the Greenville & Western.

The Greenville & Western Railroad operates on twelve miles of the former Southern division of the Piedmont & Northern Railway between Pelzer and Belton, SC. In 1910 the Greenville Spartanburg & Anderson Railway was formed to build an interurban railroad between its namesake cities. The Pelzer-Belton segment was built as part of its mainline from Greenwood to Greenville between 1910-1912. This line became part of the P&N in 1914, SCL in 1968 and CSX in 1986. CSX sought to abandon the line from Belton to Pelzer but the abandonment was rejected by the Surface Transportation Board. Effective October 21, 2006 GRLW assumed ownership and operation of the line.

Photo Captions (numbered in upper left corner):

1. Greenville & Western GP-9s # 3751 & 3752 about to depart the ethanol plant at Cheddar and head to the CSX interchange at Pelzer, SC.

2, 3, & 4. Greenville & Western GP-9s # 3751 & 3752 power an ethanol train at Williamston, SC. October 8, 2014.

5. Not much of the Ex-P&N’s interurban past is evident today but at Belton, SC there is some side of the road running that harkens to the past. GRLW GP-9s are in the yard waiting for the next trip out.

6 & 7. Greenville & Western GP-9s # 3751 & 3752 at Belton. Both units are ex-B&O and look grand in GRLW’s classy paint scheme.

8. The Greenville & Western interchanges with the Pickens RR in the Belton yard. Here Pickens U18B # 9504 delivers a cut of cars late in the afternoon of October 8, 2014.

9. Greenville & Western GP-9 # 3752 was built by EMD in July of 1957 and is Ex-B&O # 6554.

10. Greenville & Western GP-9 # 3751 takes three cars to Cheddar as it passes through Belton.

11. Greenville & Western GP-9 # 3751 at Cheddar, SC This locomotive was built by EMD in May of 1957 and is Ex-B&O # 6513. (October 8, 2014)

12. On another day, Greenville & Western GP-9 # 3751 again passes through Belton on it’s way to Cheddar, SC. (October 9, 2014)

The South Brooklyn Railway started as The South Brooklyn Railroad and Terminal Company and was incorporated September 30, 1887 to build from the end of the Brooklyn Bath & West End Railroad (West End Line) at 38th Street and 9th Avenue northwest to the foot of 38th Street, and was leased to the BB&WE, allowing BB&WE trains to run to the 39th Street Ferry. Then the Prospect Park and South Brooklyn Railroad connected the Culver Line to the South Brooklyn Railroad in 1890, and the latter was bought by the Long Island Rail Road in 1893. The LIRR obtained the South Brooklyn Railway & Terminal Company lease on the land in 1897 and used steam powered locomotives. As these locomotives could not be used for freight operations, the line was electrified in 1899. After foreclosure of the South Brooklyn Railroad & Terminal Company in December 1899, the company was reorganized as the South Brooklyn Railway on January 13, 1900.

The Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company acquired the railway on August 31, 1902, but the LIRR still ran the trains until 1903 or 1905. After the cessation of LIRR operations, the BRT started passenger service and transferred freight service to a subsidiary, Brooklyn Heights Railroad, which provided freight service with three locomotives, with a fourth delivered in 1907. It carried mail for the United States Postal Service, as well as lumber, cement, sand, stone, ashes, pipe, marble for headstones, and granite for curbstones. On February 28, 1907, the South Brooklyn Railway and the Brooklyn Heights Railroad were split from each other, but both were still owned by the BRT. The South Brooklyn Railway was a separate subsidiary company that carried both passengers and freight. In 1913, all of the BRT’s lines were reorganized, and all ownership of freight operations was transferred to the South Brooklyn Railway. The railway, along with the other non-rapid transit properties were transferred to the New York City Board of Transportation on June 1, 1940. In 1946 the railway purchased two Whitcomb ex-US Army diesel locomotives. Operations were transferred to the New York City Transit Authority on June 15, 1953. Passenger service ended on October 31, 1958, and thereafter the South Brooklyn Railway started using the surface trackage solely for freight. In 1960, two more diesel electric locomotives were bought. On December 27, 1961, the line was de-electrified, due to the high cost of refurbishing the overhead trolley wire. Electric locomotives #4, 5, 6, and 7, which had third rail conduction shoes, were given to the NYCTA for subway and elevated operation. In 1994, the last non-NYCTA customer on the line closed; the South Brooklyn Railway was then used almost exclusively for subway connections to the LIRR.

Photo Captions (numbered in upper left corner):

1, 2, & 3 When I took these photos of the South Brooklyn Railway they still had on line freight customers that needed service. GE 50T locomotives # N2 & N1 deliver one car to the Bush interchange yard for pick up by the New York Cross Harbor RR.

4. N2 has cut away from N1 while the NYCH crew, with Alco S-1 # 22, is in the background coupling up to the lone car that SBK delivered.

5, 6, & 7. SBK GE 50T N1 and NYCH Alco S-1 # 22 are side by side at the Bush interchange yard, Bush Junction, Brooklyn, NY in May of 1992.

8. SBK GE 50T # N1 at Bush Junction in Brooklyn, NY. Note the interesting array of trackage in the pavement of 2nd Avenue. The street trackage is used by the NYCH RR to return to Bush Terminal a few blocks away.

9. On June 5, 1993 the New York Cross Harbor RR held an open house and yard tour at Bush Terminal. South Brooklyn 50T N1 was on hand that day and was posed with freight cars (box cars for recycling materials) at the entrance of the yard.

10. SBK 50T # N1 takes the box cars a short distance and drops them at the recycling plant.

11. SBK N1 and N2 travel lite along the street trackage heading back to home rails. On the way the tracks cut through the corner of the Bush terminal building at 41st Street & 2nd Avenue. NYCH follows behind.

12. SBK 50Ts # N2 and N1 with a cut of NYCTA R30 subway cars heading for scrap. Bush interchange yard, Brooklyn NY 6-5-93.

13. SBK 50T N1 with scrap NYCTA R30 subway cars.

14. South Brooklyn 50Ts N2 & N1 at Bush interchange yard with the Manhattan skyline in the distance. Brooklyn NY.

15. SBK GE 50Ts N2 & N1 and NYCH S-1 22 at the Bush interchange yard Brooklyn NY. (6-5-93)

The Southern Indiana Railroad was once part of the Indiana Railroad. It started as the Indianapolis and Louisville Traction Company organized to build track between Seymour and Sellersburg as part of the Interstate Public Service Company interurban line which extended from Indianapolis to Louisville. The track was completed in 1907. It was the first railway in the country to operate on a 1200 volt high tension, direct current system. The Indiana Railroad abandoned operations and the last train operated on October 31, 1939. The Southern Indiana RR began operations the same year on the six miles of track between Speed and Watson, IN where an interchange is made with CSX. The Railroad is now owned by Essroc Cement Company. (From Lake Iola Interurban Site historic marker and THE AMERICAN SHORTLINE RAILWAY GUIDE)

Photo Captions (numbered in upper left corner):

1, 2, 3, & 4. When I arrived in Speed, Indiana early on the morning of October 7, 2015 the Southern Indiana Railroad was already hard at work switching the ESSROC Cement plant. SIND S-2M # 103 (Ex-Pickens RR # 7 and was repowered by GE with a Cummins engine) is looking great in it’s traction orange paint. The tracks being embedded in the pavement of the cement plant’s driveway almost gives the appearance of street tracks, another nod to this railroad’s interurban past.

5. On the road…SIND S-2M # 103 is crossing Utica Street in Sellersburg. The road’s enginehouse is located here a short distance away.

6. S-2M 103 is on the move near Jeffersonville, IN

7. Southern Indiana S-2M 103 travels through the back yards of Watson on it’s way to the CSX interchange.

8. Another view of Southern Indiana S-2M 103 at Watson.

9. To me this photo has a very strong traction “feel” to it. With the traction orange locomotive, pole line, and side of the street running all that is missing is over head wire and a trolley pole. S-2M 103 is arriving at the CSX interchange at Watson.

10. Southern Indiana S-2M 103 at Watson, IN 10-7-15.

11. Southern Indiana S-2M # 103 crossing Watson Depot Road in Watson, IN.

12. with the Interchange work is finished number 103 heads back to speed lite.

The Tulsa-Sapulpa Union Railway got it’s start in 1907 with the incorporation of the Sapulpa and Interurban Railway. The line operated as an interurban streetcar line using trolley cars around Sapulpa, Oklahoma. By 1917 the line underwent bankruptcy and reorganization, being incorporated as the Sapulpa Electric Interurban Railway. This same year the line was extended north to connect with the Oklahoma Union Railway out of Tulsa. In 1933 the railway once again hit upon tough times and was in receivership and operated under the name Oklahoma Union Salvage Company. The company was purchased in 1934 by George F. Collins who owned and operated a Sapulpa glass plant known as the Liberty Glass Company. The line has remained in the Collins family’s control since that time forward. It was at this time the line became a freight railroad operation only with the glass plant being one of its principal customers. The line continued to be powered by electric overhead wire using freight box motors for motive power. In 1934 the name was changed to the Sapulpa Union Railway Company and to the Tulsa-Sapulpa Union Railway in 1943. The electric overhead wires came down in 1960 with the purchase of diesel electric locomotives. The line continues to operate serving industry between Sapulpa and Tulsa, Oklahoma. (condensed from the TSU Rwy. website)

Photo Captions (numbered in upper left corner):

1. Tulsa Sapulpa Union Railway sign at the enginehouse in Sapulpa, OK.

2. Tulsa Sapulpa Union SW-1200 # 108 switching the Sinclair refinery in Tulsa OK on September 26, 2008.

3 & 4. Tulsa Sapulpa Union SW-1200 # 108 is crossing 37th Street SW in Tulsa, OK.

5 & 6. A couple more shots of Tulsa Sapulpa Union SW-1200 # 108 switching the Sinclair Refinery.

7. Number 108 with the City of Tulsa in the background.

8, 9, & 10. Tulsa Sapulpa Union SW-7 1905 (formerly #107) at the engine house in Sapulpa, Oklahoma. (9-26-08)

Western New York & Pennsylvania

Although this ALCO powered railroad operates on former Erie and Pennsylvania railroad trackage, it bears the name of a former interurban line that once operated in the same area. The Western New York & Pennsylvania Traction Company began operations in 1894 and connected Olean, NY and Allegany, PA. The line ceased operation in 1921.

1. WNY&P M-630 # 631 at the Olean, NY locomotive facility.

2. WNY&P C-430 # 430 at Olean, NY

3. WNY&P C-630 # 630 Olean NY 10-3-09



Indiana Railroad

This railroad operates tracks once belonging to the Illinois Central and Milwaukee Road. Nonetheless its locomotives carry the name of that famous Midwest Interurban– the Indiana Railroad. IR hung on for a few years after the depression but in 1941 a wreck with fatalities south of Indianapolis put an abrupt end to the last operation of interurbans in Indiana (other than the South Shore Line).

1. Indiana Rail Road SD40-2 # 42 leads train HWPAT at Jasonville, IN. (6-7-09)

2. There is no missing the Indiana Rail Road name in logo on Indiana SD40-2 # 42.

3. An SD-9043MAC on a unit coal train is not what immediately springs to most railfan’s mind when interurban railways are mentioned. However, with the name of a former traction company emblazoned on the locomotive, that was exactly what I was thinking about while watching this train. Indiana Rail Road # 9005 and 9006 power a coal train at Switz City IN.

Shore Fast Line Railroad

This New Jersey short line started running trains on former Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines and Central Railroad of New Jersey tracks owned by NJ Transit and Conrail in 1983. Interestingly, the management decided to name the railroad for, and paint the locomotives in the paint scheme of, the Atlantic City & Shore Railway known as the Shore Fast Line. The Shore Fast Line was an electric interurban railroad running from Atlantic City to Ocean City, NJ, by way of the mainland communities of Pleasantville, Northfield, Linwood and Somers Point. The line ran from 1907 until 1948. The Shore Fast Line short line railroad changed ownership and its corporate name in 1991 becoming the Southern Railroad of New Jersey.

1. Shore Fast Line SW-1200 # 1145 at Winslow Junction, NJ. (5-30-90)

2, 3, & 4. Shore Fast Line U30B # 2884 at Winslow Junction, NJ. 5-15-91 The triangles on the nose of the 2884 are the same as the ones that were painted on the ends of the AC&S Railways streetcars!

Bob Reuter adds:

The B&A engine shown (#87) was only used for a very short time, the number of the unit is actually the year it was acquired. Attached is a photo of unit #50 which was used for almost the entire time the B&A used diesel. This photo was taken in 1977 as it rolled out of the shop in its brand new paint scheme. (This engine is currently at the B&O railroad museum.)

Photo credit: Bob Reuter

Former employee of the B&A RR

Recent Correspondence

Dan Bosque writes:

I am researching a family group that lived at the intersection of Larretta Ct (aka Loretta Ct) and Tilden Street (later renamed Carpenter) in Chicago. This area was surrounded by Aberdeen, Van Buren, Morgan and Congress (now the Eisenhower Expressway).

The time period of interest is 1900 to 1940 during which the Garfield Park branch of the L train ran along Tilden, perhaps along properties on the south of Tilden Street.

Would someone have photos of the tracks in this area that might show buildings in the background?

Beside an image, I’m trying to get a sense of living along narrow streets with lots of residents and a train going through the neighborhood repeatedly.

I did find a photo showing the end to Tilden at Racine with a streetcar on Rancine going under the elevated tracks. It showed a Tilden street sign but not anything for Tilden street. If the Google car was there, I’d move it’s position ahead and point it left.

We have (in previous posts) run various pictures of the Metropolitan “L” on the near west side. If you type “Garfield” in the search window at the top of this page, these should come up. Otherwise, we’ll see if our readers have more pictures to share, thanks.

Miles Beitler writes:

I just found these 1950s railfan videos. They include action shots of CTA 6000s, 4000s, wood cars, PCC streetcars, Red Rocket streetcars, buses, North Shore Line and CA&E trains, Diesel and Steam locomotives, Illinois Central and South Shore trains. Also you can see the CTA yards at Laramie, Logan Square, and Wilson.

Thanks very much. These videos should be of particular interest to our readers.

Some of these films were made circa 1952-54, since red Chicago streetcars are seen running in service. The CA&E portions were taken prior to September 20, 1953, when service was cut back to Forest Park. There are also shots of Milwaukee streetcars.

The South Shore Line video includes film of East Chicago street running, which was relocated adjacent to the Indiana Toll Road in 1956. You can tell this is East Chicago, because it’s double-tracked. The South Shore’s other street running in Michigan City and South Bend was almost entirely single-track.

Alan R. writes:

I was wondering if you had any information or photos concerning the Grand Trunk Western Railroad that ran commuter service within Chicago up until at least 1935. My main interest is the Main Line-Illinois, which ran on what has been freight rail lines since then I believe, with limited commuter service until 1971. Here’s a link to where I found out about these trains. These were probably not trolleys but I’m not sure. There is one station building remaining at Chicago Lawn which I’ve seen along with the steps of the station at 59th St. Further along that line there are probably more station buildings standing. Any photos from anywhere on this line would be incredible imo.

http://www.chicagorailfan.com/msgtw.html

I am not an expert on the Grand Trunk Western, which was never electrified, always being either steam or diesel, so I asked a couple friends for their thoughts.

Andre Kristopans:

Well, I don’t know a heck of a lot about GTW commuter service, but I do know a little. Service ran until the 1950’s apparently with a couple of trains each way between Dearborn Station and Harvey. There was a station at 63rd/Central Park that was in use for thru trains until 1971 as far as I know. There were other stations that still existed into the 1970’s such as the one in Harvey (at Racine?) and one at Central Park and 82nd or so. But now the only ones are remnants at 59th and 63rd. By the way, that was a very late elevation, after WW2.

Bill Shapotkin:

As for the GTW suburban service, here is what I have/know:

Operated until 1934 (to Harvey). Until circa 1917, it operated all the way to Valparaiso, IN. Indeed, the stairs to the 59th St station are still standing (as per a Google Earth view a few days ago), as is the depot (which has served as a home for at least two unsuccessful restaurants over the years at 63rd).

There were numerous other stops as well. There are signs (evidence) of the Ashland station (platform railings). A trip along the line about 6 years ago revealed little other evidence of stations, except that the depot at Griffith remains (it has been moved and is part of the museum there). The depot at Sedley, IN (now a private home) remains, as does the depot at Valparaiso (which I understand has been recently removed).

I have pix of the depot at Eldson (51st St). Have a photocopy of a timetable (back when service ran to Valpo).

Have been at virtually all the station locations along the line…with pix at each (as they exist today). For whatever reason, the station at Harvey (which I understand stood until the early 1970s) managed to be very camera-shy (interestingly, pix of the nearby B&OCT station is Harvey do exist).

The GTW intercity trains (which made their last trips on Friday, April 30, 1971 (Amtrak eve) did serve both the stations at 63rd (known as “Chicago Lawn”) and Valparaiso.

We thank both Andre and Bill for sharing this.

One of our regular readers writes:

Here is a four minute clip of an action sequence from the 1953 film “City That Never Sleeps” which was mostly filmed on location in Chicago. I thought you might be interested since the action takes place on the L tracks with two 4000-series trains traveling in opposite directions.

In this scene, gangster Hayes Stewart — who has just murdered Chicago Police detective John Kelly — is pursued by officer John Kelly, Jr., the victim’s son. The part of Hayes Stewart was played by actor William Talman. He started his career playing criminal types, but is best known for his portrayal of district attorney Hamilton Burger in the “Perry Mason” TV series. The part of patrolman John Kelly, Jr. was played by Gig Young, a charismatic actor who unfortunately never achieved his true potential.

In the film, the dispatcher gives the location as “between Kinzie and the river just east of Wells” which would indicate the old North Water Street terminal or possibly the Merchandise Mart. However, that was artistic license; the actual spot where this was filmed was between Grand and Division on the “Evergreen Connector” portion of the Logan Square line. With the opening of the Milwaukee-Dearborn subway in 1951, this portion of the L was no longer used in revenue service, but it was retained for equipment transfers since it was the only connection between the Logan Square route and the rest of the L system.

I continue to enjoy your website. Keep it up.

I assume that when this was filmed, the third rail was turned off. When actor Bill Talman fell onto the third rail, it looks like he was holding some sort of prop in his hands which made it look like an electric spark. Perhaps if he had given up smoking sooner, he might have been able to outrun the policeman.

Thanks… and thanks also to Kenneth Gear for another great post! Keep those cards and letters coming in.

-David Sadowski

PS- Work continues on our upcoming book Chicago Trolleys, which is now in the layout and proofreading stage. Lots of work has been done on the text, and the final selection of photos has been made. We will keep you advised as things progress.

street-railwayreview1895-002

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Our 150th Post

NSL 420 heading south at Dempster, current end of the line for the CTA Yellow Line (aka the "Skokie Swift"), which revived a small portion of the old interurban a year after service ended in January 1963.

NSL 420 heading south at Dempster, current end of the line for the CTA Yellow Line (aka the “Skokie Swift”), which revived a small portion of the old interurban a year after service ended in January 1963.

The Trolley Dodger blog has reached another milestone with this, our 150th post since we started on January 21, 2015. As time goes on, it becomes both easier and harder to come up with new ideas. On the one hand, we have to work harder to avoid repeating ourselves, since we have already posted thousands of images to date.

On the other hand, there always seems to be more material out there to be had. So in that sense, it seems unlikely that we will ever run out of new material. However, it’s always good to remind our faithful readers that all this historical research costs real money. It costs nothing to read our blog, of course, but the quality and frequency of future posts is entirely dependent on the financial support we get from you.

We are committed to maintaining a very high quality standard in what we put out, and our goal is not only to share information, but to create something of lasting value. We will let others be the judge of whether or not we have succeeded to date, but it’s interesting to note that I often find my own posts coming up to the top of Google searches, when I am researching things.

What makes a good blog post? Well, as I have said before, in general my idea is to use pictures to tell a story. But beyond that, it becomes more difficult to put your finger on what works and what doesn’t.

I would liken it to being a chef in a restaurant who takes whatever fresh ingredients are on hand, and tries to whip them up into a tasty dish. Since our first post featured the North Shore Line, we have a generous helping of classic CNS&M images on today’s menu.

In addition, we have a sprinkling of Chicago, Aurora & Elgin photos, plus some other Chicago/Illinois material, since that is where we are from. Hopefully, all this adds up to a complete “meal,” a feast for the eyes that is also designed to make you think.

But we have not forgotten “dessert.” Our last post (More Mystery Photos, July 29, 2016) included a picture of what appeared to be a Birney car that was not, according to Frank Hicks, an actual Birney. (If anyone is interested in learning what attributes of a streetcar make it into a “true” Birney, look no further than Dr. Harold E. Cox’s book on just that subject. What constitutes a PCC car is also somewhat debatable, another area where the esteemed Dr. Cox has weighed in with an expert opinion.)

While Birney cars, due to their small size, were unsuccessful in larger cities like Chicago, there can be no doubt they were a great success in Fort Collins, Colorado, the “Birney-est” place of all. The Fort Collins Municipal Railway purchased nine such cars for use between 1919 and 1951, a couple for parts. Of these, there’s been a pretty good survival rate, with fully five cars (#s 20, 21, 22, second 25, and 26) still extant.

These cars were so beloved in the area that they never completely left, and efforts to restore a car and revive at least a small portion of service began as early as the 1970s. Service on a mile-and-a-half line began in 1984 and continue to this day, meaning that the resurrected Birney car service in Fort Collins has lasted 32 years now, the same length of time that the original service ran.

Don Ross (in Don’s Rail Photos) writes:

The last regular operation of Birney cars in the U. S. was in Fort Collins, CO. The line was originally built by the Denver & Interurban Ry in 1907. In July 1918, the D&I stopped operating the local lines. A bus system was tried, but was very unpopular. In January 1919, the voters, by an 8 to 1 majority, decided to take over the system. Four Birneys were purchased from American Car of St. Louis and began operation in May. Over the years additional cars were added and replaced. Finally, in 1951, the system was abandoned on June 30th. The city had grown beyond the car lines, and riders had gone to the automobile. Car 21 was preserved locally. Other cars were saved at other locations. A local group began to restore 21 in 1977, and operation began on Mountain Avenue on December 29, 1984. Over the next two years, 1.5 miles of track was restored for operation. For a complete story about this system, check out their web site.

But wait, there’s more! There was also a double-truck version of the Birney, so we have posted a couple pictures of Johnstown 311, a much-loved car by the fans who took it on many trips back in the day. It ran in service in Pennsylvania until 1960 and has been preserved at the Rockhill Trolley Museum.

We are featuring color photos today, and will have several new black-and-white images to share in the near future. Thanks for coming along for the ride.

Bon Appétit!

-David Sadowski

PS- If you can help identify any of missing locations, or have other interesting thoughts on these pictures, don’t hesitate to drop us a line, either as a Comment here, or via:

thetrolleydodger@gmail.com


Chicago, North Shore & Milwaukee (aka North Shore Line)

NSL 706 heads south from Dempster in this June 9, 1961 photo by Clark Frazier. This is the current terminal of the CTA Yellow Line. The area under the electrical tower at left is where the "pocket" track went, when this was the end-of-the-line for the CRT's Niles Center Branch. This local service ended in 1948. CTA "L" service resumed here in 1964.

NSL 706 heads south from Dempster in this June 9, 1961 photo by Clark Frazier. This is the current terminal of the CTA Yellow Line. The area under the electrical tower at left is where the “pocket” track went, when this was the end-of-the-line for the CRT’s Niles Center Branch. This local service ended in 1948. CTA “L” service resumed here in 1964.

A solitary North Shore Line car crosses the Chicago River at Wacker Drive on the "L".

A solitary North Shore Line car crosses the Chicago River at Wacker Drive on the “L”.

NSL 739 and train at Lake Bluff.

NSL 739 and train at Lake Bluff.

NSL 737 at the Loyola curve on the CTA.

NSL 737 at the Loyola curve on the CTA.

NSL 713 heads up a five-car train at Sedgwick in October 1958.

NSL 713 heads up a five-car train at Sedgwick in October 1958.

NSL 737 and head "at speed" near Sheridan Elms in Lake Forest.

NSL 737 and head “at speed” near Sheridan Elms in Lake Forest.

NSL 735 et al at North Chicago.

NSL 735 et al at North Chicago.

"Silverliner" 756 and train in Skokie.

“Silverliner” 756 and train in Skokie.

A southbound Electroliner at Edison Court.

A southbound Electroliner at Edison Court.

NSL 182 and train at St. Mary's Road (Thornbury Village) on the Mundelein branch on May 31, 1962. Notice the difference in right-of-way construction here, versus the main line.

NSL 182 and train at St. Mary’s Road (Thornbury Village) on the Mundelein branch on May 31, 1962. Notice the difference in right-of-way construction here, versus the main line.

NSL 743 and train at Green Bay Junction. Jerry Wiatrowski: "NSL 743 and train are on the Skokie Valley route westbound crossing the Mundelein branch at Lake Bluff. The Green Bay Road overpass can be seen in the background." Joey Morrow: "NSL 743 is at Green Bay junction, the catenary poles are still there today. It parallels IL-176 (Rockland Ave)."

NSL 743 and train at Green Bay Junction. Jerry Wiatrowski: “NSL 743 and train are on the Skokie Valley route westbound crossing the Mundelein branch at Lake Bluff. The Green Bay Road overpass can be seen in the background.” Joey Morrow: “NSL 743 is at Green Bay junction, the catenary poles are still there today. It parallels IL-176 (Rockland Ave).”

NSL "Greenliner" 751 and a Silverliner at Lake Bluff in June 1962.

NSL “Greenliner” 751 and a Silverliner at Lake Bluff in June 1962.

A photo run-by on a February 21, 1960 North Shore Line fantrip.

A photo run-by on a February 21, 1960 North Shore Line fantrip.

I don't know just when this picture of a North Shore Line "special" train was taken, but Gustafson Motors was located in Libertyville, along the Mundelein branch. FYI, we have several North Shore Line audio recordings available on compact disc in our Online Store, including some from the Mundelein branch. Garrett Patterson: "nsl003 would have been taken just weeks before the end of service system-wide. The 1962 Bel Air in the lot dates the photo." One of our regular readers adds: "This was the CERA fantrip that was operated in April 1962. George Krambles operated the train in Evanston, and there are movies and slides of the train going south from Isabella going up the hill to the North Shore Channel bridge. The scene is seen in The Tribute to the North Shore Line video, which has been presented at January CERA meetings (although it is not commercially available). Of course the above photo is at Libertyville (which was a beautiful place in the country at one time)."

I don’t know just when this picture of a North Shore Line “special” train was taken, but Gustafson Motors was located in Libertyville, along the Mundelein branch. FYI, we have several North Shore Line audio recordings available on compact disc in our Online Store, including some from the Mundelein branch. Garrett Patterson: “nsl003 would have been taken just weeks before the end of service system-wide. The 1962 Bel Air in the lot dates the photo.” One of our regular readers adds: “This was the CERA fantrip that was operated in April 1962. George Krambles operated the train in Evanston, and there are movies and slides of the train going south from Isabella going up the hill to the North Shore Channel bridge. The scene is seen in The Tribute to the North Shore Line video, which has been presented at January CERA meetings (although it is not commercially available). Of course the above photo is at Libertyville (which was a beautiful place in the country at one time).”

NSL 705 and 709 are near the Mundelein terminal on March 25, 1962.

NSL 705 and 709 are near the Mundelein terminal on March 25, 1962.


Chicago, Aurora & Elgin

CA&E 460 and an older car are in fantrip service during the late 1950s. Nancy Grove Mollenkamp writes: "This is at West Street looking west in Wheaton. The bridge over Liberty Drive at the start of the Elgin branch is seen in the background."

CA&E 460 and an older car are in fantrip service during the late 1950s. Nancy Grove Mollenkamp writes: “This is at West Street looking west in Wheaton. The bridge over Liberty Drive at the start of the Elgin branch is seen in the background.”

CA&E 452 at Geneva Road on March 9, 1957. Nancy Grove Mollenkamp: "This is in Winfield. I believe looking north."

CA&E 452 at Geneva Road on March 9, 1957. Nancy Grove Mollenkamp: “This is in Winfield. I believe looking north.”

CA&E 404 is part of a two-car train at the Halsted curve on the old Garfield Park "L", probably not long before the end of downtown service in September 1953.

CA&E 404 is part of a two-car train at the Halsted curve on the old Garfield Park “L”, probably not long before the end of downtown service in September 1953.

CA&E 423 is part of a two-car train at Collingbourne. Nancy Grove Mollenkamp: "Collingbourne is along the Elgin branch near Raymond St. and Elgin Ave."

CA&E 423 is part of a two-car train at Collingbourne. Nancy Grove Mollenkamp: “Collingbourne is along the Elgin branch near Raymond St. and Elgin Ave.”

One can only wish that the photographer had aimed the camera a bit lower, but nonetheless, CA&E 428 is part of a four-car train in July 1953 on the Halsted curve.

One can only wish that the photographer had aimed the camera a bit lower, but nonetheless, CA&E 428 is part of a four-car train in July 1953 on the Halsted curve.

CA&E 454 at an unidentified location. Nancy Grove Mollenkamp: "This slide was identified by someone in a Wheaton FB group as being taken in 1952 at Jewell Road in Wheaton. Another person in the group said he believed it was looking south. He thinks that is Electric Avenue on the right or west."

CA&E 454 at an unidentified location. Nancy Grove Mollenkamp: “This slide was identified by someone in a Wheaton FB group as being taken in 1952 at Jewell Road in Wheaton. Another person in the group said he believed it was looking south. He thinks that is Electric Avenue on the right or west.”

CA&E work motors 2001 and 2002 in service in March 1959. By this time, it had been nearly two years since the end of passenger service. Freight only continued for a few more months after this. (B. J. Misek Photo)

CA&E work motors 2001 and 2002 in service in March 1959. By this time, it had been nearly two years since the end of passenger service. Freight only continued for a few more months after this. (B. J. Misek Photo)

We are not sure of the location where this picture of CA&E 403 was taken. Presumably, the box the conductor is carrying holds work-related materials. George Foelschow: "I believe CA&E Pullman 403 and unattached car 410 or 419 are on the eastbound track at Wheaton station. Presumably the two cars, one each from Aurora and Elgin, will be joined for the trip east, and the conductor of 403 would be redundant and no doubt be on the next Fox Valley train due in a few minutes to be split. One could travel between Elgin and Aurora in the same time as a City Lines bus taking a more direct route along the Fox River." Nancy Grove Mollenkamp: "I agree. Definitely at Wheaton station."

We are not sure of the location where this picture of CA&E 403 was taken. Presumably, the box the conductor is carrying holds work-related materials. George Foelschow: “I believe CA&E Pullman 403 and unattached car 410 or 419 are on the eastbound track at Wheaton station. Presumably the two cars, one each from Aurora and Elgin, will be joined for the trip east, and the conductor of 403 would be redundant and no doubt be on the next Fox Valley train due in a few minutes to be split. One could travel between Elgin and Aurora in the same time as a City Lines bus taking a more direct route along the Fox River.” Nancy Grove Mollenkamp: “I agree. Definitely at Wheaton station.”

CA&E 420 at Church Road (Aurora).

CA&E 420 at Church Road (Aurora).

CA&E 424 near the end of the line, along the Fox River in Elgin. Meister Brau was a well-known Chicago beer for many years. Each spring, they would sell "Bock" beer, a stronger concoction made (I think) by scraping the bottom of the barrel. They introduced Meister Brau Lite in 1967. After Meister Brau got into financial difficulty in 1972, their brands were bought by Miller, who used Meister Brau Lite as the basis for developing Miller Lite.

CA&E 424 near the end of the line, along the Fox River in Elgin. Meister Brau was a well-known Chicago beer for many years. Each spring, they would sell “Bock” beer, a stronger concoction made (I think) by scraping the bottom of the barrel. They introduced Meister Brau Lite in 1967. After Meister Brau got into financial difficulty in 1972, their brands were bought by Miller, who used Meister Brau Lite as the basis for developing Miller Lite.

CA&E 405 is part of a two-car train. Nancy Grove Mollenkamp: "This is identified by Mark Llanuza as being taken in 1956 between the College Ave station in Wheaton and Glen Ellyn. Photographer unknown."

CA&E 405 is part of a two-car train. Nancy Grove Mollenkamp: “This is identified by Mark Llanuza as being taken in 1956 between the College Ave station in Wheaton and Glen Ellyn. Photographer unknown.”

CA&E 317 is part of a four-car train of woods.

CA&E 317 is part of a four-car train of woods.


Chicago and Illinois

Indiana Railroad hi-speed lightweight interurban car 65 at the Illinois Electric Railway Museum in North Chicago in October 1956. It had last run in 1953 on the CRANDIC (Cedar Rapids and Iowa City) before being purchased by the museum as their first acquisition. That's Chicago & Milwaukee Electric 354, another early purchase, behind it.

Indiana Railroad hi-speed lightweight interurban car 65 at the Illinois Electric Railway Museum in North Chicago in October 1956. It had last run in 1953 on the CRANDIC (Cedar Rapids and Iowa City) before being purchased by the museum as their first acquisition. That’s Chicago & Milwaukee Electric 354, another early purchase, behind it.

Illinois Terminal double-end PCC 457 is part of a two-car train, northbound at 19th and State in the mid-1950s. Don's Rail Photos says, "457 was built by St Louis Car Co in 1949, #1672. It was sold for scrap to Biermann Iron & Metal Co on July 24, 1959, and was scrapped in 1964."

Illinois Terminal double-end PCC 457 is part of a two-car train, northbound at 19th and State in the mid-1950s. Don’s Rail Photos says, “457 was built by St Louis Car Co in 1949, #1672. It was sold for scrap to Biermann Iron & Metal Co on July 24, 1959, and was scrapped in 1964.”

The same location today.

The same location today.

In this undated photo, probably taken circa 1952, tracks are being laid in the southern half of Van Buren Street to create a temporary right-of-way for the Garfield Park "L", to allow the demolition of 2 1/2 miles of the old structure that were in the way of Congress (now Eisenhower) expressway construction. At right, you can see the old Throop Street Shops. This temporary alignment was used from September 1953 to June 1958.

In this undated photo, probably taken circa 1952, tracks are being laid in the southern half of Van Buren Street to create a temporary right-of-way for the Garfield Park “L”, to allow the demolition of 2 1/2 miles of the old structure that were in the way of Congress (now Eisenhower) expressway construction. At right, you can see the old Throop Street Shops. This temporary alignment was used from September 1953 to June 1958.

A two-car train of CTA 4000s heads west on temporary trackage at Van Buren and Western on July 1, 1956. This was just two weeks after streetcar service ended on Western Avenue. This picture was taken around the time that the sounds of 4000-series "L" cars were recorded on the Garfield Park "L" for Railroad Record Club LP #36, which has been digitally remastered and is now available on compact disc in our Online Store.

A two-car train of CTA 4000s heads west on temporary trackage at Van Buren and Western on July 1, 1956. This was just two weeks after streetcar service ended on Western Avenue. This picture was taken around the time that the sounds of 4000-series “L” cars were recorded on the Garfield Park “L” for Railroad Record Club LP #36, which has been digitally remastered and is now available on compact disc in our Online Store.

Western and Van Buren today, looking to the northeast.

Western and Van Buren today, looking to the northeast.

Since CTA PCC 4406 is signed for charter service, this picture was probably taken on October 21, 1956, when this car ran on a fantrip with red Pullman 225. We have run photos from that fantrip before. You can see one in our post Chicago Surface Lines Photos, Part Six (February 22, 2016). Perhaps someone more knowledgeable than me can tell which station (car barn) this is, whether Devon or 77th. Car 4406 lasted until the end of Chicago streetcar service and had a scrap date of June 23, 1959.

Since CTA PCC 4406 is signed for charter service, this picture was probably taken on October 21, 1956, when this car ran on a fantrip with red Pullman 225. We have run photos from that fantrip before. You can see one in our post Chicago Surface Lines Photos, Part Six (February 22, 2016). Perhaps someone more knowledgeable than me can tell which station (car barn) this is, whether Devon or 77th. Car 4406 lasted until the end of Chicago streetcar service and had a scrap date of June 23, 1959.

A two car train of Lake Street "L" cars crosses the Chicago River with the Merchandise Mart in the background, probably in the early 1950s.

A two car train of Lake Street “L” cars crosses the Chicago River with the Merchandise Mart in the background, probably in the early 1950s.

We ran a black-and-white picture of CSL/CTA sweeper E57 in our post Chicago Surface Lines Work Cars – Part 2 (September 7, 2015).

We ran a black-and-white picture of CSL/CTA sweeper E57 in our post Chicago Surface Lines Work Cars – Part 2 (September 7, 2015).

CSL/CTA Y303 is listed as a "baggage car," although some have called it a MoW or maintenance of way car. It was retired on September 27, 1956. Don's Rail Photos says, "Y303. baggage car, was built by C&ST in 1911 as 59. It was renumbered Y303 in 1913 and became CSL Y303 in 1914."

CSL/CTA Y303 is listed as a “baggage car,” although some have called it a MoW or maintenance of way car. It was retired on September 27, 1956. Don’s Rail Photos says, “Y303. baggage car, was built by C&ST in 1911 as 59. It was renumbered Y303 in 1913 and became CSL Y303 in 1914.”

This 1920s-era Chicago Surface Lines trailer was looking pretty shopworn by the 1950s, when this picture was taken at South Shops.

This 1920s-era Chicago Surface Lines trailer was looking pretty shopworn by the 1950s, when this picture was taken at South Shops.

CSL/CTA streetcar 1497 was renumbered as AA85 for work service as a salt spreader, the configuration we see it in here in this 1950s photo. It was scrapped on September 27, 1956. This was known as a "Bowling Alley" car. Don's Rail Photos: "1497 was built by CUTCo in 1900 as CUT 4546. It was rebuilt as 1497 in 1911 and became CSL 1497 in 1914. It was rebuilt as salt car and renumbered AA85 on April 15, 1948."

CSL/CTA streetcar 1497 was renumbered as AA85 for work service as a salt spreader, the configuration we see it in here in this 1950s photo. It was scrapped on September 27, 1956. This was known as a “Bowling Alley” car. Don’s Rail Photos: “1497 was built by CUTCo in 1900 as CUT 4546. It was rebuilt as 1497 in 1911 and became CSL 1497 in 1914. It was rebuilt as salt car and renumbered AA85 on April 15, 1948.”

According to Graham Garfield's excellent web site www.chicago-l.org, "CTA work car S-328 -- built by American Car & Foundry in 1907 as Northwestern Elevated trailer 1283, motorized and renumbered to 1792 in 1914 by the CER -- was converted for work service and renumbered in 1958." It was retired in August 1970 and scrapped. Wooden "L" cars were last used in regular service by the CTA in 1957. After spending their final days in work service, cars like these were replaced by retired 4000-series "L" cars. Here we see S-328 at DesPlaines Avenue terminal in June 1962. (George Niles Photo)

According to Graham Garfield’s excellent web site www.chicago-l.org, “CTA work car S-328 — built by American Car & Foundry in 1907 as Northwestern Elevated trailer 1283, motorized and renumbered to 1792 in 1914 by the CER — was converted for work service and renumbered in 1958.” It was retired in August 1970 and scrapped. Wooden “L” cars were last used in regular service by the CTA in 1957. After spending their final days in work service, cars like these were replaced by retired 4000-series “L” cars. Here we see S-328 at DesPlaines Avenue terminal in June 1962. (George Niles Photo)

In this June 1962 view. we see the CTA's DesPlaines Avenue terminal as it had been reconfigured in 1959. these very basic amenities continued n use until the station was rebuilt in the 1980s. I would assume that the pile of rubble in the foreground was related to the recent construction of a new maintenance facility here. The nearby expressway had been in operation since 1960. Presumably, the CTA bus is running route 17, which replaced the Westchester "L" branch in 1951. (George Niles Photo)

In this June 1962 view. we see the CTA’s DesPlaines Avenue terminal as it had been reconfigured in 1959. these very basic amenities continued n use until the station was rebuilt in the 1980s. I would assume that the pile of rubble in the foreground was related to the recent construction of a new maintenance facility here. The nearby expressway had been in operation since 1960. Presumably, the CTA bus is running route 17, which replaced the Westchester “L” branch in 1951. (George Niles Photo)

A pair of old Metropolitan "L" cars, now in work service, share space with CTA curved-door 6000s in this June 1962 view at DesPlaines Avenue. The new shops facility is at left. The large gas holder at right was a Forest Park landmark for many years. (George Niles Photo)

A pair of old Metropolitan “L” cars, now in work service, share space with CTA curved-door 6000s in this June 1962 view at DesPlaines Avenue. The new shops facility is at left. The large gas holder at right was a Forest Park landmark for many years. (George Niles Photo)


Authentic Birney Cars

This circa 1940 postcard shows the Ft. Collins Birneys in a different paint scheme, which is actually the one currently being used for the one operating car. Caption: "The intersection of College and Mountain Avenues is the 42nd and Broadway of Ft. Collins. It is the heart of the business district, the crossroads of the town. Where all street cars meet and all highways converge."

This circa 1940 postcard shows the Ft. Collins Birneys in a different paint scheme, which is actually the one currently being used for the one operating car. Caption: “The intersection of College and Mountain Avenues is the 42nd and Broadway of Ft. Collins. It is the heart of the business district, the crossroads of the town. Where all street cars meet and all highways converge.”

Car 26 in the Fort Collins car barn in June 1948.

Car 26 in the Fort Collins car barn in June 1948.

Fort Collins Municipal Railway Birney car 22 in the city park on April 30, 1947.

Fort Collins Municipal Railway Birney car 22 in the city park on April 30, 1947.

25 in reverse rush hour loop service downtown in October 1950.

25 in reverse rush hour loop service downtown in October 1950.

21 near Colorado State University in late June 1951.

21 near Colorado State University in late June 1951.

25 in southeast Fort Collins in October 1950.

25 in southeast Fort Collins in October 1950.

21 downtown in June 1948.

21 downtown in June 1948.

25 in reverse rush hour loop service downtown in October 1950.

25 in reverse rush hour loop service downtown in October 1950.

22 in downtown Fort Collins in October 1950.

22 in downtown Fort Collins in October 1950.

25 in southeast Fort Collins in October 1950. Here's what the Wikipedia has to say about the film advertised on the side of the car: "Ecstasy (Czech: Extase, German: Ekstase) is a 1933 Czech-Austrian romantic drama film directed by Gustav Machatý and starring Hedy Lamarr (then Hedy Kiesler), Aribert Mog, and Zvonimir Rogoz." Containing some nudity, although tame by today's standards, the film was banned in the United States until 1940, and played to adult audiences at independent theaters and art houses, without the approval of the Hays Office.

25 in southeast Fort Collins in October 1950. Here’s what the Wikipedia has to say about the film advertised on the side of the car: “Ecstasy (Czech: Extase, German: Ekstase) is a 1933 Czech-Austrian romantic drama film directed by Gustav Machatý and starring Hedy Lamarr (then Hedy Kiesler), Aribert Mog, and Zvonimir Rogoz.” Containing some nudity, although tame by today’s standards, the film was banned in the United States until 1940, and played to adult audiences at independent theaters and art houses, without the approval of the Hays Office.

22 near Colorado State University in October 1950.

22 near Colorado State University in October 1950.

21 at the south end of town in June 1948.

21 at the south end of town in June 1948.

21 near Colorado State University in late June 1951.

21 near Colorado State University in late June 1951.

22 in northwest Fort Collins in October 1950.

22 in northwest Fort Collins in October 1950.

24 in front of the car barn in October 1950. According to Don's Rail Photos, "2nd 24 was built by Brill Car Co in December 1922, #21530, as Virginia Railway & Power Co 1530 It was sold as FCM 24 in 1946 but seldom operated. Parts kept second Car 25 operating."

24 in front of the car barn in October 1950. According to Don’s Rail Photos, “2nd 24 was built by Brill Car Co in December 1922, #21530, as Virginia Railway & Power Co 1530 It was sold as FCM 24 in 1946 but seldom operated. Parts kept second Car 25 operating.”

21 at a passing siding in northwest Fort Collins in October 1950.

21 at a passing siding in northwest Fort Collins in October 1950.

Fort Collins Municipal Railway "Birney" car 21, at the intersection of Johnson and Mountain Avenues. (Ward Photo)

Fort Collins Municipal Railway “Birney” car 21, at the intersection of Johnson and Mountain Avenues. (Ward Photo)

FCMR 22 on October 26, 1949. Its paint scheme is described as green, red, and aluminum.

FCMR 22 on October 26, 1949. Its paint scheme is described as green, red, and aluminum.

FCMR 25 at the car barn. (Ward Photo)

FCMR 25 at the car barn. (Ward Photo)

Feel the Birn(ey)! After service in Fort Collins ended in 1951, car 26 was sold to the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. But prior to being put on static display, it operated in a Detroit parade of street railway equipment in August 1953. Don's Rail Photos: "26 was built by American Car Co. in November 1922, #1324 as CERy 7. It was sold as FCM 26 it in 1924. It was sold to Henry Ford Museum and moved to Michigan in 1953 where it is on static display. It was operated several times on the trackage of the Department of Street Railways." (C. Edward Hedstrom Photo) To read more about 26's Michigan sojourn, click here.

Feel the Birn(ey)! After service in Fort Collins ended in 1951, car 26 was sold to the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. But prior to being put on static display, it operated in a Detroit parade of street railway equipment in August 1953. Don’s Rail Photos: “26 was built by American Car Co. in November 1922, #1324 as CERy 7. It was sold as FCM 26 it in 1924. It was sold to Henry Ford Museum and moved to Michigan in 1953 where it is on static display. It was operated several times on the trackage of the Department of Street Railways.” (C. Edward Hedstrom Photo) To read more about 26’s Michigan sojourn, click here.

25 stored at Woodland Park, Colorado on September 4, 1953.

25 stored at Woodland Park, Colorado on September 4, 1953.

25 stored at Woodland Park, Colorado on September 4, 1953. This was the second car 25, the first having been scrapped. Don's Rail Photos adds, "2nd 25 was built by Brill Car Co in December 1922, #21530, as VR&P 1520. It was sold as FCM 25 in 1946. It was sold to James Stitzel in 1953 and resided next to the former Midland Terminal depot in Victor, CO, until it was sold to a South Carolina party about 1980. It was cosmetically restored. In 1998 it was sold to the Charlotte Trolley painted as South Carolina Public Service Co 407. It was sold to Fort Colins Municipal in 2008 and is being restored as 25."

25 stored at Woodland Park, Colorado on September 4, 1953. This was the second car 25, the first having been scrapped. Don’s Rail Photos adds, “2nd 25 was built by Brill Car Co in December 1922, #21530, as VR&P 1520. It was sold as FCM 25 in 1946. It was sold to James Stitzel in 1953 and resided next to the former Midland Terminal depot in Victor, CO, until it was sold to a South Carolina party about 1980. It was cosmetically restored. In 1998 it was sold to the Charlotte Trolley painted as South Carolina Public Service Co 407. It was sold to Fort Colins Municipal in 2008 and is being restored as 25.”

22 on static display at Golden, Colorado in July 1963.

22 on static display at Golden, Colorado in July 1963.

According to Don's Rail Photos, "22 was built by American Car Co in April 1919, #1184. It was retired in 1951 and sold to the Rocky Mountain Railroad Club in 1952. It was on static display at the Colorado Railroad Museum though 1997. It was leased to the Colorado Springs Transportation Society and presently being restored in the former Rock Island engine house. as Colorado Springs & Interurban Ry. 135." It is shown here in September 1972.

According to Don’s Rail Photos, “22 was built by American Car Co in April 1919, #1184. It was retired in 1951 and sold to the Rocky Mountain Railroad Club in 1952. It was on static display at the Colorado Railroad Museum though 1997. It was leased to the Colorado Springs Transportation Society and presently being restored in the former Rock Island engine house. as Colorado Springs & Interurban Ry. 135.” It is shown here in September 1972.

Restored FCMR 21 as it appeared on May 14, 1995. (Mark D. Meyer Photo)

Restored FCMR 21 as it appeared on May 14, 1995. (Mark D. Meyer Photo)

Before the Birneys, the Ft. Collins system used conventional streetcars, as seen in this postcard from circa 1910.

Before the Birneys, the Ft. Collins system used conventional streetcars, as seen in this postcard from circa 1910.

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Many other cities had Birneys, of course. Here, we see Brantford (Ontario) Municipal Railway car 137 on July 1, 1935. This was ex-Lock Haven, Pa. Electric Railway car #2. (George Slyford Photo)

Many other cities had Birneys, of course. Here, we see Brantford (Ontario) Municipal Railway car 137 on July 1, 1935. This was ex-Lock Haven, Pa. Electric Railway car #2. (George Slyford Photo)

Johnstown Traction double-truck Birney 311 on September 3, 1958. (Clark Frazier Photo) Rockhill Trolley Museum: "The first car acquired by Rockhill Trolley Museum was car #311. This car is a double truck "Birney Safety Car" built by Wason Manufacturing Co. of Springfield, MA. It was part of an order of cars for the city of Bangor, Maine, where it operated at number 14. It was sold to the Johnstown Traction Co. and went there in 1941. It served that city well, running until the end of service in 1960. Car #311 was the last Birney type car to be operated in any United States city on a regular schedule. Car 311 was chartered repeatedly by trolley fans in the 1950's, as it was a favorite car of many." (Clark Frazier Photo)

Johnstown Traction double-truck Birney 311 on September 3, 1958. (Clark Frazier Photo) Rockhill Trolley Museum: “The first car acquired by Rockhill Trolley Museum was car #311. This car is a double truck “Birney Safety Car” built by Wason Manufacturing Co. of Springfield, MA. It was part of an order of cars for the city of Bangor, Maine, where it operated at number 14. It was sold to the Johnstown Traction Co. and went there in 1941. It served that city well, running until the end of service in 1960. Car #311 was the last Birney type car to be operated in any United States city on a regular schedule. Car 311 was chartered repeatedly by trolley fans in the 1950’s, as it was a favorite car of many.” (Clark Frazier Photo)

Johnstown Traction double-truck Birney 311 at Coopersdale on September 3, 1958. (Clark Frazier Photo) The sounds of car 311, in service during the 1950s, can be heard of Railroad Record Club LP #23, which has been digitally remastered and is now available on compact disc via our Online Store.

Johnstown Traction double-truck Birney 311 at Coopersdale on September 3, 1958. (Clark Frazier Photo) The sounds of car 311, in service during the 1950s, can be heard of Railroad Record Club LP #23, which has been digitally remastered and is now available on compact disc via our Online Store.

Here is Johnstown 311 on June 30, 1957.

Here is Johnstown 311 on June 30, 1957.


NOW AVAILABLE, DIGITALLY REMASTERED ON COMPACT DISC:

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SEGT
Steam Echoes
Ghost Train
# of Discs – 1
Price: $14.95

Steam Echoes:
First published in 1959, and long out of print, Steam Echoes captures the unforgettable sound drama of steam engines in action. Like Whistles West, it features the recordings of E. P. Ripley, made in the waning days of steam during the 1950s.

The scenes were selected for listening pleasure as well as to create an historical document. They represent the everyday workings of our old steam friends, selected for the most interest, or the most beauty. The series are purposely kept short to preserve their brilliance. They show the steam engine in all four of the ways it may be heard at work– riding in it, on the train behind it, traveling along beside it, and standing at trackside while it goes by, or stops and takes off again.

Railroads featured include Southern Pacific, Union Pacific, and Canadian National.

Ghost Train:
Ghost Train, first issued in 1962 and also long unavailable, is a Hi-Fi stereo sound panorama of haunting memories, highlighting the final days of steam railroading. Railroads featured include the Grand Trunk Western, Norfolk & Western, Nickel Plate Road, Union Pacific, and the Reading Company. A particular highlight is a special whistle recording, demonstrating the famous “Doppler Effect” in true stereophonic sound.

Total time – 79:45


Help Support The Trolley Dodger

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Ringing “The Bell”

LVT interurbans 1006 and 702 at Perkasie on February 11, 1951. 702 was in fantrip service.

LVT interurbans 1006 and 702 at Perkasie on February 11, 1951. 702 was in fantrip service.

Lehigh Valley Transit

Today, we review a new book about the Liberty Bell Limited, a classic Pennsylvania interurban line that carried passengers between Philadelphia and Allentown until abandonment in the early hours of September 7, 1951. President George H. W. Bush once mistakenly referred to September 7th as Pearl Harbor Day, but to Keystone Traction enthusiasts, it will always be a day that will live in infamy.

Along with our book review, we offer a generous selection of classic Lehigh Valley Transit photos from our own collections– mostly from the Liberty Bell route, but with a few from the Easton Limited, LVT’s “other” interurban, and even a city car to boot.

P1060347

Riding the Bell: Lehigh Valley Transit’s Liberty Bell Route by Ron Ruddell
Bulletin 147 of Central Electric Railfans’ Association

There have been many books written about the famed Liberty Bell Limited over the years, including some excellent ones, but Riding the Bell, available now from Central Electric Railfans’ Association* and their dealers, is sure to stand the test of the time as the best and most comprehensive of the lot.

This is not the first time that the “Bell Route” has been covered in a CERA publication, of course. A roster appeared during World War II, and a 1000-series lightweight graced the cover of Trolley Sparks, the organization’s newsletter, when the line was still running.

The late author Ronald DeGraw included much information about LVT in his excellent book Pig & Whistle: The Story of the Philadelphia & Western Railway, published by CERA in 2007 as their 140th bulletin. However, that coverage only pertained to LVT’s use of the P&W line to Norristown, which became the Bell’s main route to Philadelphia in the early 1900s.

Author Ron Ruddell headed up a group of Pennsylvania traction historians, who labored for ten years to create a book equal to their subject. I am glad to say they have succeeded in spades. A tremendous amount of information has been put into Riding the Bell‘s 224 pages, and it would be hard to put anything else into it without needing to take out something just as important.

The 1950s were the twilight years of Keystone Traction, at least outside of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. The LVT Liberty Bell Limited was, in some ways, the last great interurban in the eastern United States. It has been gone for 64 years now, meaning you would have to be a few years older than that to have ridden it, even as a youth.

Many Chicago-area railfans made a pilgrimage to ride it, but not all were so lucky. Ray DeGroote, still going strong at 85, did not get there until a few weeks after the interurban quit in 1951. He was able to ride and document the still-extensive LVT city streetcar system, and he saw the interurban cars in dead storage, but could not ride them. It was “one that got away.”

The Bell line is fondly remembered and riding it must have been, in some ways, like riding the world’s largest roller coaster. The area between Allentown and Philadelphia is not flat, with grades that certainly put a strain on LVT’s traction motors. It also included quite a lot of variety, with burst of high speeds, followed by numerous stops in many small towns. Several of the station buildings in these towns still exist.

Luckily for us, Lehigh Valley Transit must be about the most well-documented operation ever, perhaps even more so than the Pacific Electric or the three great Chicago-area interurbans. When it comes to photographs, there is literally an embarrassment of riches, and as a result, the book is full of fine photos, some in color. An attempt has been made not to duplicate ones that were already featured in previous LVT books.

As a subject, LVT operations covered so much ground that this book does not even attempt to document their extensive city lines or the Easton Limited, LVT’s shorter interurban. Those are wisely left to future authors and future books.

Faced with a need to either modernize or abandon rail service in 1938, LVT took the daring step of updating the Liberty Bell fleet. This task was made even more daunting due to a very constrained budget, which meant buying new PCCs or other such equipment was out of the question.

Fortunately, some relatively new (circa 1930) lightweight high-speed interurban cars were available at a relatively low cost, as the Cincinnati & Lake Erie had just been abandoned. 13 cars were purchased for the Bell, along with four Cincinnati curved-side cars for the Easton Limited, and LVT attractively modernized them.

The new cars were a hit with the public, and ridership increased. The facelift was never intended to be permanent, but was hoped to buy the interurban another five years of usefulness before the inevitable switch to bus. It ended up lasting for 12, a testament to the build quality and durability of these cars.

There were many unfortunate problems along the way. The ex-C&LE lightweights could not be coupled together. More passengers meant running additional trains in second and third sections. Inevitably, this led to a horrific accident in 1942, which was not the only such collision.

After one of the C&LE cars was destroyed in a fire, LVT purchased one additional lightweight car, which had been built for the Indiana Railroad. This was rebuilt into club car 1030, which became the standout of the fleet and one of the few Liberty Bell cars that has been preserved.

Wartime rationing of gasoline and tires also increased ridership. The wear and tear of all that hill climbing really did a number on those traction motors. Schedules had to be adjusted in the interest of safety, and running times between Allentown and Philadelphia increased.

What really would have helped LVT would have been some more of those ex-Indiana Railroad cars, which were very similar to the C&LE “Red Devils” but could be coupled together in as many as three cars at a time. More than two dozen of these cars were available circa 1940-41 but ended up being unsold and were scrapped just prior to the outbreak of World War II. They would have been quite useful to LVT.

Only two such Indiana Railroad lightweights were saved– car 55, which became LVT 1030, and car 65, which was sold to CRANDIC (Cedar Rapids and Iowa City) and eventually made its way to the Illinois Railway Museum, its first acquisition. Oddly enough, they were made by two different builders.

The end of the war in 1945 meant a steep drop-off in interurban ridership. By then, the handwriting was really on the wall for the Bell line, but the end did not come for another few years yet.

There was a piecemeal abandonment. For a variety of reasons, well covered in this book and in Pig & Whistle, service was cut back to Norristown. The Liberty Bell Limited never had a direct route to center city Philadelphia throughout its history.

Consideration was given to cutting service back to Lansdale, where the Bell could connect to Reading (now SEPTA) suburban commuter trains to Philadelphia, but this would have necessitated building a turnaround loop for the single-end cars. Since the Bell’s days were numbered anyway, LVT decided to simply let service continue as far as Norristown and the P&W.

By 1951, LVT had really let maintenance slide, to the point where, in September, only a few of the lightweight interurban cars were still operable. As soon as they could get approval for abandonment, the end was swift. Fortunately, the fans caught wind of it and the railroad allowed them to ride one last time. The rails began to come up the very next morning.

In some ways, this abandonment has some parallels in what happened a few years later to the Chicago, Aurora & Elgin. They decided not to continue running trains to Chicago’s downtown over the CTA Garfield Park “L” temporary trackage in 1953, due to expressway construction. In CA&E’s case, however, they kept up the equipment right to the end, as did the Chicago, North Shore & Milwaukee, which quit in 1963.

When CA&E got a local judge to allow their “temporary” abandonment of passenger service on July 3, 1957, they ceased operations immediately, stranding thousands of riders who had to scramble for a way home.

In LVT’s case, they offered a replacement bus service. Unfortunately, while the interurban could run in a straight line between towns, the bus had to follow a more convoluted path at right angles. As more and more highways were built in Pennsylvania, even the bus ridership evaporated, and the interurban bus quit without any fanfare in 1956.

While electric rail transit is undergoing a renaissance in many places around the world today, the chance that anything like a Liberty Bell service might return to the Lehigh Valley is very slim indeed. The cost would simply be too great, compared to the number of potential passengers.

But until it does, the spirit of this historic interurban is conjured up very well  in this great new volume by Ron Ruddell. Hats off to him, and to the team that worked so long and hard to make this book possible. I would also like to single out John Nicholson, who acted as project coordinator for CERA in bringing this very worthy book over the finish line. Publishing any book like this is a very complicated effort.

The layout, by the veteran team of Jack and Ad Sowchin, is handsome and attractive. CERA merits a lot of credit as well for publishing this wonderful addition to the historical record.

Even if you do not live in Pennsylvania, the book may interest you. The Bell was one of the classic interurbans and, in one way or another, it had many connections to the Midwest.

It is highly recommended, and I urge you to purchase a copy if you have not done so already. Only limited quantities of such books are made, and once they run out, the prospect of them being reprinted is unlikely for a variety of reasons.

Many previous CERA books have become collector’s items and cost more to buy used than they did when new. I will not be surprised when this book sells out and if you don’t purchase your copy today, you may have difficulty picking one up in the future.

In addition to this book, there are also some excellent Liberty Bell videos on the market, and those will really give you an idea of what the line was all about, after you have whetted your appetite by feasting on Riding the Bell.

-David Sadowski

PS- You can also experience some of the twilight of Keystone Traction via one of our recently released audio CDs, featuring 1950s-era Hi-Fi recordings of Johnstown Traction, Altoona & Logan Valley, and Scranton Transit, available from our Online Store.  Just look for the Railroad Record Club disc with LPs 23 and 30 on it.

*Trolley Dodger Press is not affiliated with Central Electric Railfans’ Association.


Help Support The Trolley Dodger

This is our 102nd 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 99,000 page views from over 28,500 individuals.

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.

As we have said before, “If you buy here, we will be here.”

We thank you for your support.


LVT 812 at 69th Street terminal in Upper Darby on August 12, 1934. Most people refer to this as Philadelphia, but it is just outside the city limits. Don's Rail Photos says, "812 was built by St Louis Car in 1901 as 159. It was rebuilt as 999 in 1914 and rebuilt as 812 in 1921. It was scrapped in November 1951."

LVT 812 at 69th Street terminal in Upper Darby on August 12, 1934. Most people refer to this as Philadelphia, but it is just outside the city limits. Don’s Rail Photos says, “812 was built by St Louis Car in 1901 as 159. It was rebuilt as 999 in 1914 and rebuilt as 812 in 1921. It was scrapped in November 1951.”

LVT 808 in Allentown on April 22, 1934. Don's Rail Photos: "808 was built by Jewett Car in 1913. It was rebuilt as C15 in 1935." The C-series cars were used for interurban freight.

LVT 808 in Allentown on April 22, 1934. Don’s Rail Photos: “808 was built by Jewett Car in 1913. It was rebuilt as C15 in 1935.” The C-series cars were used for interurban freight.

LVT 805 at 69th Street terminal in Upper Darby. This car was built by Jewett circa 1912-13. Apparently this car has been preserved and is privately owned but not operable.

LVT 805 at 69th Street terminal in Upper Darby. This car was built by Jewett circa 1912-13. Apparently this car has been preserved and is privately owned but not operable.

LVT 812 in the Easton town circle on June 30, 1947, making a rare appearance on LVT's "other" interurban, the Easton Limited by way of a fantrip. (James Maloney, Jr. Photo)

LVT 812 in the Easton town circle on June 30, 1947, making a rare appearance on LVT’s “other” interurban, the Easton Limited by way of a fantrip. (James Maloney, Jr. Photo)

LVT 812 on Broad Street in Bethlehem on June 30, 1947. The occasion was a fantrip. Many fans considered it a real shame that the 812 was not saved. Other than the 1030, it was the "jewel of the fleet." (James Maloney, Jr. Photo)

LVT 812 on Broad Street in Bethlehem on June 30, 1947. The occasion was a fantrip. Many fans considered it a real shame that the 812 was not saved. Other than the 1030, it was the “jewel of the fleet.” (James Maloney, Jr. Photo)

LVT 1007 at Perkasie on November 12, 1939.

LVT 1007 at Perkasie on November 12, 1939.

LVT 1020 at 69th Street terminal in 1939, shortly after being modernized. Don's Rail Photos: "1020 was built by Cincinnati Car in April 1930, #3055, as C&LE 113. It was renumbered 413 in 1932 and sold to LVT as 1020 in 1938. It was scrapped in 1951."

LVT 1020 at 69th Street terminal in 1939, shortly after being modernized. Don’s Rail Photos: “1020 was built by Cincinnati Car in April 1930, #3055, as C&LE 113. It was renumbered 413 in 1932 and sold to LVT as 1020 in 1938. It was scrapped in 1951.”

Another view of 1020 taken at the same time as the previous photo. Jim Boylan adds, "Location is the wye where the Victory Ave. bus garage is now, across the tracks from the P&W's 72nd St. Shops."

Another view of 1020 taken at the same time as the previous photo. Jim Boylan adds, “Location is the wye where the Victory Ave. bus garage is now, across the tracks from the P&W’s 72nd St. Shops.”

LVT 702, 704, and 710 are southbound on a fantrip at West Point on April 15, 1951. This was the first and only time a matched set of three 700-series cars were operated as a multiple unit. Shortly after this, the 710, looking pretty shabby here, was scrapped.

LVT 702, 704, and 710 are southbound on a fantrip at West Point on April 15, 1951. This was the first and only time a matched set of three 700-series cars were operated as a multiple unit. Shortly after this, the 710, looking pretty shabby here, was scrapped.

LVT 702 at Locust Siding on February 11, 1951.

LVT 702 at Locust Siding on February 11, 1951.

LVT 1009 at Hatfield on May 9,1951. (William D. Slade Photo)

LVT 1009 at Hatfield on May 9,1951. (William D. Slade Photo)

From this scene, it would appear that a Liberty Bell Limited lightweight is backing up to the LVT downtown terminal in Allentown. Meanwhile, LVT city streetcar 900 passes by. Don's Rail Photos says, "900 was built by Brill Car Co in February 1917, (order) #20206. It was (later) rebuilt." Looks like an LVT employee is crossing the street.

From this scene, it would appear that a Liberty Bell Limited lightweight is backing up to the LVT downtown terminal in Allentown. Meanwhile, LVT city streetcar 900 passes by. Don’s Rail Photos says, “900 was built by Brill Car Co in February 1917, (order) #20206. It was (later) rebuilt.” Looks like an LVT employee is crossing the street.

An LVT 1100-series lightweight interurban, still looking shiny, in the Easton town square circa 1939. These Cincinnati curved-side cars were built in 1929 for the Dayton & Troy. They were repossessed in 1932 and remained at the Cincinnati Car Company plant until sold to LVT in 1938. After the Easton Limited was bussed in 1949, two of the four cars were sold to Speedrail in Milwaukee, where one operated briefly as car 66. Unfortunately all four cars were scrapped.

An LVT 1100-series lightweight interurban, still looking shiny, in the Easton town square circa 1939. These Cincinnati curved-side cars were built in 1929 for the Dayton & Troy. They were repossessed in 1932 and remained at the Cincinnati Car Company plant until sold to LVT in 1938. After the Easton Limited was bussed in 1949, two of the four cars were sold to Speedrail in Milwaukee, where one operated briefly as car 66. Unfortunately all four cars were scrapped.

LVT 812 heading towards Allentown on the Liberty Bell Limited.

LVT 812 heading towards Allentown on the Liberty Bell Limited.

An LVT 1000-series car delivers newspapers (probably dailies from Philadelphia) in Allentown.

An LVT 1000-series car delivers newspapers (probably dailies from Philadelphia) in Allentown.

LVT 1030, the so-called "Golden Calf" of the fleet, on a National Railway Historical Society fantrip on September 28, 1941. This club car was just being introduced into regular service at this time, and had been extensively rebuilt from Indiana Railroad car 55. Don's Rail Photos: "1030 was built by American Car & Foundry in 1931, #1203, as Indiana RR 55. It was rebuilt in 1934 (as a club car) and rebuilt as C&LE 1030 in 1941. It was acquired by Seashore Trolley Museum in 1951."

LVT 1030, the so-called “Golden Calf” of the fleet, on a National Railway Historical Society fantrip on September 28, 1941. This club car was just being introduced into regular service at this time, and had been extensively rebuilt from Indiana Railroad car 55. Don’s Rail Photos: “1030 was built by American Car & Foundry in 1931, #1203, as Indiana RR 55. It was rebuilt in 1934 (as a club car) and rebuilt as C&LE 1030 in 1941. It was acquired by Seashore Trolley Museum in 1951.”

LVT 1103 on the Easton Limited interurban. From the looks of the cars, this picture probably dates to around 1939. (Larry Gaillard Photo)

LVT 1103 on the Easton Limited interurban. From the looks of the cars, this picture probably dates to around 1939. (Larry Gaillard Photo)

LVT 1007 making a fantrip photo stop on the Liberty Bell Limited. A fan with a box camera is jumping off.

LVT 1007 making a fantrip photo stop on the Liberty Bell Limited. A fan with a box camera is jumping off.

CRANDIC 111, shown here on June 10, 1953, was another ex-Cinicinnati & Lake Erie lightweight interurban car. While all the ones that went to LVT were scrapped, some of the ones that went to CRANDIC were saved. Don's Rail Photos:"111 was built by Cincinnati Car in 1930, #3055, as C&LE 111. It was sold to Crandic in 1939 and kept the same number. In 1954 it was sold to an individual and stored at Emporia, KS, until 1973. It was then donated to the Bay Area Electric Railway Association at Rio Vista, CA. It has been restored as Crandic 111."

CRANDIC 111, shown here on June 10, 1953, was another ex-Cinicinnati & Lake Erie lightweight interurban car. While all the ones that went to LVT were scrapped, some of the ones that went to CRANDIC were saved. Don’s Rail Photos:”111 was built by Cincinnati Car in 1930, #3055, as C&LE 111. It was sold to Crandic in 1939 and kept the same number. In 1954 it was sold to an individual and stored at Emporia, KS, until 1973. It was then donated to the Bay Area Electric Railway Association at Rio Vista, CA. It has been restored as Crandic 111.”

One other Indiana Railroad high-speed car had a second life, in addition to 55. Car 65 became Cedar Rapids and Iowa City 120, shown here on June 10, 1953. From Don's Rail Photos: "120 was built by Pullman in 1931, #6399, as Indiana Railroad 65. It was sold to the Crandic as 120 in 1941. In 1954 it was purchased as the first car of the Illinois Electric Railway Museum and restored as IRR 65." The last official run of a CRANDIC passenger train occurred on May 30, 1953.

One other Indiana Railroad high-speed car had a second life, in addition to 55. Car 65 became Cedar Rapids and Iowa City 120, shown here on June 10, 1953. From Don’s Rail Photos: “120 was built by Pullman in 1931, #6399, as Indiana Railroad 65. It was sold to the Crandic as 120 in 1941. In 1954 it was purchased as the first car of the Illinois Electric Railway Museum and restored as IRR 65.” The last official run of a CRANDIC passenger train occurred on May 30, 1953.

LVT 1001, 701, 1008 and 702 at Fairview car barn in Allentown on January 6, 1952, shortly before being scrapped.

LVT 1001, 701, 1008 and 702 at Fairview car barn in Allentown on January 6, 1952, shortly before being scrapped.

LVT 1006 in the scrap line at Bethlehem Steel on January 23, 1952.

LVT 1006 in the scrap line at Bethlehem Steel on January 23, 1952.

LVT 1030 loaded on a flat car at Riverside Yard on January 30, 1952, headed to Boston, and, eventually, the Seashore Trolley Museum in Maine, where it remains today in operable condition.

LVT 1030 loaded on a flat car at Riverside Yard on January 30, 1952, headed to Boston, and, eventually, the Seashore Trolley Museum in Maine, where it remains today in operable condition.

Machine-generated Liberty Bell Limited tickets.

Machine-generated Liberty Bell Limited tickets.

Lehigh Valley Transit's Liberty Bell Limited lightweight high-speed car 1001 (ex-Cincinnati & Lake Erie 128) at the 69th Street Terminal on the Philadelphia & Western, September 21, 1949. Soon after this picture was taken, LVT passenger service was cut back to Norristown.

Lehigh Valley Transit’s Liberty Bell Limited lightweight high-speed car 1001 (ex-Cincinnati & Lake Erie 128) at the 69th Street Terminal on the Philadelphia & Western, September 21, 1949. Soon after this picture was taken, LVT passenger service was cut back to Norristown.