Today, we feature more classic photos of buses, trolleys, and trains, courtesy of Bill Shapotkin, long a friend of this blog. Mr. Shapotkin should be well-known to many of you from his longtime activities as a transit historian, author, and the many informative programs he has given over the years.
Today’s sampling from the Shapotkin Collection includes some rare pictures of Chicago & North Western RDCs (Budd Rail Diesel Cars), which were self-propelled and ran in Chicago area commuter train service for a short period of time in the 1950s. They replaced steam-powered trains and were in turn replaced by the familiar push-pull diesel bi-levels still in use today.
In addition, there are several pictures of Grand Central Station, a Chicago landmark in use between 1890 and 1969, which was torn down in 1971. We have some interesting correspondence, plus some new images of our own.
PS- We have done our part to make these old images look as good as they possibly can. The C&NW RDC pictures were all shot around 1956 on early Ektachrome film, whose dyes turned out to be unstable and quickly shifted to red. (Technically, the red layer was relatively stable, while the green and blue layers faded.)
It used to be some people thought these sorts of images were only suitable for use as black-and-whites. But with modern technology, it is possible, to some extent, to bring back the original colors. This was easier to do on some than others, but the results look much better than you might expect. If you have ever seen one of these early red Ektachromes, you will know what I mean. Modern films are much more stable and resistant to dye fading.
I would be remiss without mentioning Bill has been involved for many years with the annual Hoosier Traction meet, which takes place in September:
It is that time of year again — the 35th annual gathering of the Hoosier Traction Meet is being held Fri-Sat, Sept 7-8 in Indianapolis, IN. The meet includes two full days of interesting presentations on a variety of subjects, as well as our “Exhibition Room” of vendors — with everything from transfers to track charts available. Book now and you can join us for just $25.00 ($40.00 at the door). We recommend that once you book hotel accommodations as early as possible, as there is an event scheduled at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway that same weekend. By calling the number of the Waterfront Inn (where our event is being held), by mentioning that you are with the Hoosier Traction Meet, you should be able to register at our group rate.
For those of you would are unable to attend both days, we have a special “Saturday Only” rate of just $15.00 ($25.00 at the door). As many of our Friday presentations are repeated on Saturday, you will be able to partake of a wide variety of subjects and presenters.
We hope you are able to join us for what many consider to be THE electric railway gathering in the country…see you there!
Thanking you in advance,
Recent Site Additions
This picture was added to our recent post The Magic of Jack Bejna (August 4, 2018):
Chicago Streetcar Tracks Exposed
Exposed streetcar tracks are a rare sight in Chicago nowadays. We recently took some pictures of some on Western Avenue under a viaduct just north of 18th Street, in the northbound lane.
While we were in the neighborhood, we took this picture of an inbound CTA Orange Line train on Archer:
We recently acquired this World War II-era brochure promoting the Chicago Aurora & Elgin interurban’s services as a way to get around in spite of wartime gasoline rationing and tire shortages:
Here is an article about the new Chicago Subway, from the May 1943 issue of Trains magazine. (For information about our new book Building Chicago’s Subways, see the end of this post).
Mark Batterson writes:
We recently purchased the Navy Yard Car Barn, built in 1891 by the Washington and Georgetown Railroad Company. It was one of four streetcar barns in DC. We’d like to celebrate the history of streetcars in our buildout of the space. I know you’ve got some amazing images in your collection. Is there a way to purchase some of those? We’re also trying to purchase an old DC streetcar. Thought I’d ask if you know where we might be able to find one?
Thanks so much for your time and consideration.
Thanks for writing.
FYI, there is a web page that lists the current whereabouts (as of 2014) of all surviving DC trolley cars:
After the DC system quit in 1963, some PCC cars were shipped overseas and others were heavily modified for use in the Tandy Subway operation, which no longer exists. The bulk of remaining equipment is in museums.
Unfortunately, there were a few DC streetcars that were preserved at first, but were later destroyed. These include the Silver Sightseer PCC and pre-PCC car 1053.
We can offer prints from some of the images on this site, but not others… only the ones we own the rights to. We specialize in the Chicago area, and as a result, do not have that many DC images. But perhaps some of our readers can point you in the right direction for those. (If anyone reads this and can help, write to me and I can put you in touch with Mr. Batterson.
Chicago Rapid Transit Company Door Controls
A picture appeared in our last post The Magic of Jack Bejna that has stirred up some correspondence:
Recently, Jim Huffman commented:
Photo #365? 3-car train of CTA 4000s standing at the 38th St station. I differ with your explanation of the conductors door work.
1. When the CTA took over they made all the doors on the 4000s one-man operated, allowing for trains with odd number of cars . Thus, 8-cars, 4-cars, 3-cars, 1-car= only 1-conductor per train.
2. Way prior to that, the CRT used a conductor between each two cars, doing the doors as you described. 8-cars=8-conductors, etc.
3. But later, prior to the CTA, the CRT re-wired (air?) the 4000s so that a conductor between every two cars could operate all the doors on two cars. 8-cars=4-conductors etc.
4. On multi conductor trains, there was only one signal used and that was by the front conductor, not by the other conductors. Nor were there differing sounds or number of bells or buzzers! The front conductor monitored the rear conductors doors, when all were closed, then he would signal the Motorman. There usually was not much of any delay, the reason for less men was to lower labor costs, not to speed up the train.
This is from my memory & further info from conductors back then.
You are referring to the explanation of how door controls worked on the 4000s, given by one of our readers (M. E.) in the caption for the photo called proofs365.jpg.
We had previously reproduced a CTA training brochure dated March 1950 in our post Reader Showcase, 12-11-17. By this time, the 4000s had been retrofitted into semi-permanent married pairs, so a three-car train, as shown in the June 1949 picture, no longer would have been possible.
The 1950 training brochure does mention using a buzzer to notify the next train man in one direction.
This is how Graham Garfield’s excellent web site describes the retrofit:
After the CTA ordered the first set of 6000s (6001-6200), they set about retrofitting the 4000s to make them operate more safely, economically and basically more like the forthcoming 6000s. By the time the 6000s started rolling in, the changes had been pretty much completed. In this overhaul, the 4000s were given multiple unit door control, standardized to use battery voltage for control, the trolley feed on Evanston cars was tied together so only one pole per pair was needed, and they were paired up into “semi-permanently coupled pairs” (as opposed to the “married-pairs” of the 6000s), usually in consecutive numerical order. Additionally, the destination signs (which were all still hand-operated) were changed to display either the route names (i.e. “Ravenswood” or “Lake A”) or both terminals (i.e. “Howard – Jackson Park B”) so they wouldn’t have to be changed for the reverse trip. The number of signs per car was reduced from four to two, not counting the destination board on the front. All this allowed a two-man crew to staff a train of any length.
This does not of course explain door operation prior to 1950, and I promised to do further research, by contacting Andre Kristopans.
PS- in addition to this, in a previous comment on this post, Andre Kristopans wrote, “On CRT the conductor was the man between the first and second cars. The rest were Guards. Motorman and conductor worked together all day but guards were assigned according to train length that trip.”
So, I asked Andre to explain. Here’s what he wrote:
Wood cars very simple – man between each two cars as doors were completely local control. End doors of train were not used. Steel cars more complicated. Originally same as woods – man between each two cars. Remember steels and woods were mixed. In 1940’s changed so man could control doors at both ends of cars on either side of him, so conductor between 1and 2, guards between 3 and 4, 5 and 6, 7 and 8 only. Then in 1950’s full trainlined doors. Initially one conductor for 2 or 4 car trains, working between last 2 cars, on 6 or 8 car trains conductor between cars 3 and 4, guard between last two. Guard eliminated late 50’s, conductor in sane (same?) position now controls all doors.
Thanks for the info. On the woods and early 4000s, how did the guards and conductor signal each other?
They had signal bells. First rear guard pulled the cord that rang the gong at forward end of that car. Then that guard pulled the rope by his position to signal the next guard up. When the conductor got the signal and pulled his rope, the gong by the motorman rang and he released and started up.
Yes the 4000’s evolved. Originally basically operationally identical to woods. Circa 1943 before subway, converted from line voltage control to battery control. Now they were no longer able to train with woods. Around same time changed to door control at each end controlling doors at both ends. In 1950’s full mudc, paired with permanent headlights and permanent markers (over a period of a decade or so!). Shore Line’s Baldies book shows how this happened over time if you compare photos. Large door controls early for single door control, small door controls for entire car control, then no door controls on paired sets.
This is something that has not been looked into much, but a 1970’s 4000 was VERY different from a 1930’s 4000!
Our thanks to Andre and everyone else who contributed to this post. Keep those cards and letters coming in, folks!
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!
Title Building Chicago’s Subways
Images of America
Author David Sadowski
Publisher Arcadia Publishing (SC), 2018
ISBN 1467129380, 9781467129381
Length 128 pages
01. The River Tunnels
02. The Freight Tunnels
03. Make No Little Plans
04. The State Street Subway
05. The Dearborn-Milwaukee Subway
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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