The photographer (possibly Emery Gulash) had but one chance to press the shutter button at precisely the right moment, and he nailed it with this classic view of westbound Electroliner train 803 at Lake Bluff in January 1963. This is what noted photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson had in mind when he wrote about the “decisive moment.” Douglas Noble: “Northbound crossing Rockland Road / IL 176 in Lake Bluff.”
This is our first post in nearly two months. We have been hard at work on our next book, The North Shore Line. In addition, I worked 16 straight days as an election judge during the recent primary here.
Each of these posts involves a tremendous amount of hard work that may not be apparent to the causal observer. First, we have to scan the negatives, prints, and slides that you see here. Then, they have to be worked over in Photoshop to get the color and density right, and remove any scratches, crud, and other blemishes that have accumulated over the decades since these pictures were taken. This can take hours for just a single photograph, but we think the results are well worth it.
Our goal is to present definitive versions of these classic photos in an online archive for all to enjoy. We see our stuff showing up all over Facebook and other parts of the Internet all the time, and, recently, even in books and magazines put out by others.
It would be nice if, in all cases, we received some credit for our contributions. When people ask permission to use our work, it is freely granted, but all we ask is that we are properly credited, that the original photographer is credited, and that the small watermark we place on these images is not cropped out.
We don’t think this is too much to ask. Meanwhile, we hope you will enjoy this latest batch of classic photographs.
Our friend Kenneth Gear now has a Facebook group for the Railroad Record Club. If you enjoy listening to audio recordings of classic railroad trains, whether steam, electric, or diesel, you might consider joining.
Work on our North Shore Line book is ongoing. Donations are needed in order to bring this to a successful conclusion. You will find donation links at the top and bottom of each post. We thank you in advance for your time and consideration.
The Chicago Surface Lines had a collection of historic streetcars, starting in the 1920s. These were used for parades and the opening of new lines. Some of the restoration work, such as this car, was more fanciful than authentic, as this car was never part of the West Chicago Street Railway, nor was it #4. Don’s Rail Photos: “4 was built by Pullman in 1895, #840, as North Chicago Street RR 922. It became Chicago Union Traction Co 4022 in 1899 and became Chicago Surface Lines 4022 in 1914. It was rebuilt as WCStRy 4 in 1933. It went to Illinois Railway Museum in 1985.” The CTA inherited this collection, and various cars were trotted out during shops tours in the 1950s. Once streetcar service ended in 1958, these cars were put into storage, and were finally donated to museums in the mid-1980s.
Brooklyn-Queens Transit PCC 1066 is signed for Coney Island in the early 1950s.
A train of CTA curved-door 6000s is at Howard Street in June 1977.
A southbound North Shore Line train, with 711 in the lead, is at Morse on the “L” in June 1959.
North Shore Line cars 157 and 252 are on a June 16, 1962 fantrip. Here, we see the train at the Root River bridge near Racine, Wisconsin. (Richard H. Young Photo)
This is a South Shore Line portable substation at Michigan City, Indiana on July 10, 1977.
Philadelphia Suburban Transportation Company (aka Red Arrow) cars 16 and 20 in May 1965, signed for the Media line. Kenneth Achtert: “Appears to be outbound at Springfield Rd. I would assume this is on a fantrip from the number of random individuals around the right-of-way (most likely a run-by since they are scattered about); also, the Media destination would not be standard operating procedure for two-car trains. The trains were typically scheduled to Springfield (Woodland Ave.) with only single cars going all the way to Media.” Jeff Didlake says, “I agree with Ken Achtert’s thoughts that this is a fan trip, but I believe the location is the Scenic Rd. station on the Media Line. The track is on a slight curve and a hint of the red brick high rise Drexelline Apts. is in the background. I know this station well as I managed to ruin a good tire and wheel while pulling into the parking lot there on a poorly maintained Springfield Twp. sewer inlet grate.”
On June 11, 1962, a two-car North Shore Line train, headed by 731, is bound for Mundelein near Lake Bluff. (Richard H. Young Photo)
North Shore Line combine 251 is near Racine, Wisconsin on February 6, 1962.
The interior of Queensborough Bridge Railway car 601 in the mid-1950s. This was an Electromobile, built around 1929 by Osgood-Bradley.
North Shore Line car 733 awaiting scrapping at South Upton Junction on October 26, 1963, several months after abandonment.
North Shore Line Silverliner 758 is at Edison Court in Waukegan during the summer of 1958. This was an important station, where cars were routinely added and cut from trains.
Philadelphia PCC 2142 is signed for Route 6 on September 15, 1957. Mark A. Jones writes, “That picture is of the northbound terminus of route 6 across from Willow Grove Park. 2142 is headed south to Broad and Olney.” Kenneth Achtert adds, “2142 is at Willow Grove Park, the end of the Route 6. The amusement park is hidden behind the trees.”
North Shore Line loco 455 is working the Niles Gas Spur in the Weber Industrial District, Skokie, Illinois, probably in the late 1950s. (Bob Geis Photo)
Chicago Surface Lines one-man car 6241 is at the east end of Route 43 in the 1940s. You can see a pedestrian bridge leading to the nearby Illinois Central Electric commuter station behind the streetcar.
A North Shore Line train at Winnetka Road on the Skokie Valley Route. The business at left is John H. Davies and Son, general contractors.
A three-car North Shore Line train heads south over the 6th Street Bridge, probably in the 1940s.
North Shore Line cars 716 and 409 at Highwood, possibly in the early 1940s. 409 started out as a dining car motor before it was converted to coach in 1942.
North Shore Line loco 455 heads up a freight train that is crossing over to the northbound track near Oakton on the Skokie Valley Route.
A three-car train of North Shore Line Silverliners prepares to cross the North Shore Channel, probably in the 1950s.
To get a shot like this in the 1940s, a photographer had to be extremely lucky, patient, or both. While a two-car CRT Lake Street “L” train heads east, going up the ramp towards Laramie, it passes a westbound CSL Route 16 streetcar. Two conductors on the “L” are lowering the trolley poles, as this was the switchover point to third rail. Streetcar service on Lake Street ended in 1954, and the outer portion of the Lake Street “L” was shifted over to the nearby C&NW embankment in 1962.
CTA PCC 7148 is at 71st and Ashland in June 1953. (Vic Wagner Photo) Our resident south side expert M. E. notes, “I don’t doubt this photo is at 71st and Ashland. (The street sign says Ashland.) So this photo is near the 69th and Ashland carbarn. I think this streetcar had been heading south on Ashland to 71st, and here it is turning west on 71st St. for what would be a short distance. Then it will turn north and into the carbarn.”
CTA one-man streetcar 3228 is on 79th Street at the crossing with the Illinois Central in April 1951. (Vic Wagner Photo)
The view looking north along State Street at 63rd in April 1953. The PCCs are running on Route 36, while the red Pullman is eastbound on Route 63. This was near the end of streetcar service on 63rd Street, and older red cars had replaced newer PCCs, which were shifted to run on Route 4 – Cottage Grove. At right, you can see where some buildings were destroyed by fire on May 25, 1950, after a PCC collided with a gasoline truck. 34 people were killed. The photographer was standing on a railroad viaduct and probably wanted to document the intersection of two streetcar lines before one of them changed to buses. (Vic Wagner Photo)
About the image above, M. E. adds:
Your caption reads: “This was near the end of streetcar service on 63rd Street, and older red cars had replaced newer PCCs, which were shifted to run on Route 4 – Cottage Grove.” My hangup is with the term “newer PCCs”. Yes, they were newer than the red cars, but they were not newer than the PCCs on State St. in the photo. The PCCs that ran on 63rd St. were those that Chicago Surface Lines acquired in 1936 to run on Madison St. Those PCCs were also called “pre-war PCCs”. So perhaps your caption might better say “older red cars had replaced the pre-war PCCs, which were shifted …”
I give you credit for pointing out where a State St. PCC car collided with a gasoline truck. I remember that like it happened yesterday. I also credit the photographer for a terrific action photo.
Also, about this photo:
(1) In the distance is the State St. station on the Englewood L, situated south of 59th St. I spy two more State St. PCC cars at or near the L station. This illustrates how busy the north/south PCC car lines were. The Chicago Surface Lines, then the CTA, ordered a total of 600 post-war PCCs, and they were all needed on just five north/south lines — 36 Broadway/State, 22 Clark/Wentworth, 8 Halsted, 42 Halsted/Archer/Clark, and 49 Western. (The pre-war PCCs were still on 20 Madison.)
(2) You mentioned that the photographer was standing on a railroad viaduct. That viaduct spanned State St. just south of 63rd St. The photographer was at the eastern edge of a big freight yard paralleling the New York Central right of way. It is this same freight yard that was used, three blocks east, to deliver new PCC cars, then (later) L cars, to the CTA. The L cars were transferred to the CTA via the L track that ran from the southbound Jackson Park line south past 63rd St. and then down into a ground-level freight yard.
(3) That freight yard also spanned 63rd St., so the westbound red car shown in the photo is about to go underneath the freight yard until it emerges past the New York Central (and Nickel Plate) passenger train tracks, adjacent to the entrance to Englewood Union Station. Past the station, 63rd St. ran under more tracks, first the Rock Island, then the Pennsylvania, both of which also served Englewood Union Station. All told, the trip between State St. and almost to Wentworth Av. was mostly dark 24 hours a day.
(4) The billboard at the left in the photo advertises the ’53 Ford. Assuming this photo was taken in late spring or early summer of 1953 (judging by the clothing on pedestrians and the green foliage), I don’t see any ’53 Fords in the photo.
Buses replaced streetcars on 63rd Street on May 24, 1953, so the picture can’t be from after that, thanks.
The CTA off-street loop on Halsted Street, just south of 79th, in August 1953. Pullman PCC 4368 is operating on Route 8, while the red Pullman is signed for Halsted-Downtown (Route 42). By this stage, the Pullman PCCs, although no more than seven years old, were being retired and sent to St. Louis Car Company for scrapping and parts re-use in new PCC “L” cars. Service was being supplemented by older red cars. Streetcar service on Halsted ended in May 1954. (Vic Wagner Photo) Our resident south side expert M. E. adds, “Notice how busy this terminal was. I count at least four streetcars, and perhaps a fifth if I detect another trolley pole behind the last PCC car. This terminal also served South Halsted and Halsted / Vincennes / 111th St. buses, which used the paved lane in the terminal.”
CTA one-man streetcar 3261 is at the east end of Route 79, at 79th and Brandon near Chicago’s lakefront, in September 1951. (Vic Wagner Photo)
Milwaukee Electric (Speedrail) car 1121 operated on a North Shore Line fantrip on December 4, 1949. Here it is with one of the Electroliners near Racine, Wisconsin.
The pass for Central Electric Railfans’ Association fantrip #36, which used freight equipment on the Chicago Aurora and Elgin on August 10, 1941.
The Chicago and North Western station at Lake Forest in the early 1900s, from a real photo postcard. The Chicago and Milwaukee electric (which became the North Shore Line in 1916) ran just beyond those large trees, and had a handsome station of its own just out of view to the right.
This picture was taken during Fall 1962, in the waning days of the ground-level operation of the Lake Street “L”. The new elevated station on the nearby C&NW embankment has been built and the changeover took place on October 28th of that year. This view looks west along South Boulevard at Marion Street in Oak Park. Crossing gates were manually operated.
On February 19, 1956, a northbound Electroliner has stopped at Kenosha and is presumably on a fantrip. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
Speedrail curved-side car 61 is on Michigan at 6th Street in Milwaukee on September 2, 1950, passing by the north side of the North Shore Line’s Milwaukee Terminal. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
Milwaukee and Suburban Transport streetcar 954 is westbound on Route 10 in August 1957.
On June 12, 1955, Milwaukee and Suburban Transport streetcar 999 is on a bridge over the Chicago & North Western Railway at Howell Avenue. This was a Central Electric Railfans’ Association fantrip. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
North Shore Line Silverliner 766 is about to cross the Glencoe gauntlet, a short single-track section on the otherwise double-tracked Shore Line Route. The occasion was an August 9, 1953 fantrip. This short bridge over a ravine was not deemed strong enough to support the weight of two trains passing each other, so it was made single-tracked. This also permitted a tight curve to be straightened out a bit. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
North Shore Line car 155 is on the tail end of a fantrip train, turning onto Greenleaf Avenue in Wilmette, heading east on a July 24, 1955 Central Electric Railfans’ Association fantrip. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
North Shore Line freight loco 456 and caboose 1002 are at the scale house in Rondout during January 1963. (Photo attributed to Emery Gulash)
North Shore Line freight loco 456 and caboose 1002 are at the scale house in Rondout during January 1963. (Photo attributed to Emery Gulash)
North Shore Line cars 157 and 252 are on a June 16, 1962 fantrip. We have posted pictures from this trip before. There is another in this post, taken by Richard H. Young, but this one may be by Emery Gulash.
Don’s Rail Photos: “1796 was built by American Car & Foundry in 1907 as NEWRy 287, #5098, as trailer. It was renumbered 1287 in 1913 and rebuilt as motor 1796. It became CRT 1796 in 1923 and was sold to Gaylord Container in Louisiana…” One side of this “L” car was removed, and it was used to transport large rolls of paper. Although Don’s says this car was scrapped in 1966, that is incorrect and the date was actually 1973. Parts were salvaged from this car to help restore sister car 1797 at the Illinois Railway Museum. 1796 could not be saved since the body was no longer structurally sound. I have July 1958 as the date when the CTA sold this car, and this picture was taken by William C. Hoffman in October 1963.
This was scanned from an original North Shore Line 8×10″ nitrate negative, taken circa 1930, and in the collections of Robert Heinlein. Determining the location presented many challenges, yet this has now been determined with the aid of other fans. The car is 714, and it is signed as a Chicago Local on the Shore Line Route. Since the North Shore tracks are not adjacent to the Chicago and North Western, we must be north of North Chicago Junction. We cannot be south of Highland Park, as there is freight present here. A sign on the high-level platform indicates that freight trains have to come to a stop, most likely to make sure part of the platform gets flipped up for the sake of clearances. A similar arrangement existed at high-level stations of the Chicago Aurora and Elgin. As all the Shore Line tracks in Waukegan ran on the street, that pretty much narrows it down to North Chicago. The Thomas J. Killian Plumbing Supply company building at left clinches it, and the location is between 16th and 17th Streets, looking north. The Chicago and North Western’s tracks were a short distance east of here, to the right out of view of this photo. (Courtesy of Kevin Heinlein)
A close-up view of car 714, which seems to be painted orange.
The freight siding for the Thomas J. Killian Plumbing Supply Company.
This was also scanned from an original North Shore Line 8×10″ nitrate negative in the collections of Robert Heinlein, and was taken at the same time as the previous photo and shows a slightly different view of the same scene. (Courtesy of Kevin Heinlein)
Ray DeGroote Turns 92
Ray DeGroote celebrated his 92nd birthday on July 15th. Here he is about two weeks earlier, at our celebratory lunch.
I dedicated my last book Chicago’s Lost “L”s to my friend Raymond DeGroote, Jr., as the “Dean of Chicago Railfans.” He turned 92 recently. Ray has traveled the world, and has taken thousands of great photos, many of which have been used in books, magazines, and in his excellent slideshows over the years.
And he’s still at it– Ray recently returned from a trip to San Diego for the Electric Railroaders’ Association annual convention. Since returning, other friends have treated him to lunch, and he reports he is “well fed.”
Here are a few of Ray’s classic photos of the North Shore Line:
We are at Indian Hill on the Shore Line Route on July 24, 1955, just prior to abandonment. Cars 175 and 413 are in regular service, while 155 is on a Central Electric Railfans’ Association fantrip, and has temporarily been shunted to a siding. The tracks in this area were grade-separated circa 1938-43 by a project partially funded by the Federal government. (Raymond DeGroote, Jr. Photo)
A fantrip train made up of Silverliners is on Greenleaf Avenue in Wilmette on February 20, 1955. This trip was sponsored by the Illini Railroad Club. (Raymond DeGroote, Jr. Photo)
North Shore Line loco 459 and caboose 1006 are at Lake Bluff on January 19, 1963. (Raymond DeGroote, Jr. Photo)
The “KX” here most likely refers to Kodachrome X, first released by Kodak in 1962, with a film speed of 64. The original Kodachrome had a film speed of ASA/ISO 10, which was bumped up to 25 in 1961 with the release of Kodachrome II.
The unrestored interior of North Shore Line car 151 on September 4, 1961. (Raymond DeGroote, Jr. Photo)
The interior of North Shore Line car 160 on January 12, 1963. Interestingly, it had been refurbished in November 1962, even though abandonment was at hand. This car was purchased by the Illinois Railway Museum, where it remains today. (Raymond DeGroote, Jr. Photo)
North Shore Line car 714’s interior on June 17, 1962. This car is now at the Illinois Railway Museum. (Raymond DeGroote, Jr. Photo)
The interior of North Shore Line Silverliner 755 on September 4, 1961. After abandonment, this car went to the Seashore Trolley Museum in Maine. (Raymond DeGroote, Jr. Photo)
Max Hensley sent us this scan of a 1890 specimen $1,000 bond for the West Chicago Street Railroad Tunnel Company. This cable car tunnel was built in 1893 and crossed the Chicago River near Van Buren Street. Like the other river tunnels, it was eventually enlarged and dug deeper around 1911 for streetcar use. But of the three such tunnels (the others being on Washington and LaSalle Streets), Van Buren was used the least, and does not seem to have seen much action after 1924, except for training use. These tunnels still exist but the approaches have been filled in.
The river tunnels are also discussed at length in my book Building Chicago’s Subways.
We were in Milwaukee on July 13th to help a friend move some things. We did stop by Burns Commons for a few minutes to catch a few pictures (and one video) of Milwaukee’s modern streetcar at its northern terminus:
Did Not Win
Try as we might, our resources are limited. Here are some interesting items that we were not able to purchase, but are still worth a second look:
This desktop ink blotter dates to circa 1919-20, as the North Shore Line is already running via the “L”, but had not yet opened their new Milwaukee Terminal. The line to Mundelein is shown, as it had been extended there as of 1905. But prior to 1925, it was called Rockefeller, and later, the area was known rather generically as “Area.” When using a fountain pen, you would wipe off excess ink on the backside of blotters such as this, which measured about 6″ wide.
This real photo postcard view of the Elgin and Belvedere Electric Company was most likely taken on its inaugural run in early 1907. Mike Franklin has identified the location as Belvedere, as that is the First M. E. Church at rear. Car 201 was built by the St. Louis Car Company in 1906. (Thanks to J. J. Sedelmaier for tweaking this image.)
Here is what the late Don Ross wrote about the Elgin and Belvedere:
This line was built in 1906 and opened in 1907 between Elgin and Belvidere, 36 miles, to connect the Rockford lines with the Chicago lines. It was under the management of Bion J. Arnold, who was the most distinguished expert in city transit between 1900 and 1925. In 1927 the Rockford to Belvidere segment of the Rockford & Interurban was merged to form the Elgin Belvidere & Rockford. Rockford lightweight interurbans were used, but this was not financially satisfactory. The cars were returned to Rockford Public Service, and the old E&B cars were remodeled for one man service. But it was too late. Competition from the parallel Chicago & North Western and from the automobile caused the line to quit service on March 9, 1930. Arnold purchased two Manhattan Elevated steam locomotives and scrapped the line by himself. It was not completed until the mid to late 1930s.
In 1956, I was checking on ownership of an abandoned C&NW right-of-way for the Illinois Railway Museum, and I stopped in the county clerk’s office in Woodstock. The clerk became curious and then suggested that we might be interested in a piece of property which was on the delinquent tax rolls. It was 50 feet wide and 7 miles long. After paying the taxes for two years, a quit claim was filed and this has become the home of the IRM at Union, IL.
We ran some Elgin and Belvedere photos in a previous post, taken in the mid-1930s by the late Edward Frank, Jr., showing the interurban’s rolling stock in dead storage, waiting for buyers that never materialized.
Keep those cards and letters coming in, folks!
Stan Griffith Audio Recordings of the North Shore Line
# of Discs – 1
The late Stanwood C. Griffith (1926-2013) was an interesting character who is probably best known for building the two-foot gauge Rock River Valley Traction, a miniature electric railway that is large enough to ride on. He began building it on private property in a mysterious wooded area somewhere near Rockford, IL around 1950. Work continues on it to this day, and there are several videos of it on YouTube.
We only recently found out that he recorded some North Shore Line audio. Even better, what he did record is different than the other known recordings by William A. Steventon and Brad Miller.
Mr. Griffith made the only known recordings of the Shore Line Route, which quit in 1955. Steventon didn’t record NSL until the following year, and the Miller recordings are circa 1960.
This recording has some occasional narration. At one point, Griffith notes that the trolley bus wires in Kenosha are gone. Trolley buses ran there until 1952, so this dates the recordings to circa 1952-55.
He also recorded North Shore Line street running in Milwaukee, which is also unique as far as I am aware. There are also recordings of Milwaukee streetcars on this CD.
Total time – 52:36
Chicago’s Lost “L”s Online Presentation
We recently gave an online presentation about our book Chicago’s Lost “L”s for the Chicago Public Library, as part of their One Book, One Chicago series. You can watch it online by following this link.
The Trolley Dodger On the Air
We appeared on the Dave Plier Show on WGN radio on July 16, 2021, to discuss Chicago’s Lost “L”s. You can hear that discussion here.
Our Latest Book, Now Available:
Chicago’s Lost “L”s
From the back cover:
Chicago’s system of elevated railways, known locally as the “L,” has run continuously since 1892 and, like the city, has never stood still. It helped neighborhoods grow, brought their increasingly diverse populations together, and gave the famous Loop its name. But today’s system has changed radically over the years. Chicago’s Lost “L”s tells the story of former lines such as Garfield Park, Humboldt Park, Kenwood, Stockyards, Normal Park, Westchester, and Niles Center. It was once possible to take high-speed trains on the L directly to Aurora, Elgin, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The L started out as four different companies, two starting out using steam engines instead of electricity. Eventually, all four came together via the Union Loop. The L is more than a way of getting around. Its trains are a place where people meet and interact. Some say the best way to experience the city is via the L, with its second-story view. Chicago’s Lost “L”s is virtually a “secret history” of Chicago, and this is your ticket. David Sadowski grew up riding the L all over the city. He is the author of Chicago Trolleys and Building Chicago’s Subways and runs the online Trolley Dodger blog.
The Images of America series celebrates the history of neighborhoods, towns, and cities across the country. Using archival photographs, each title presents the distinctive stories from the past that shape the character of the community today. Arcadia is proud to play a part in the preservation of local heritage, making history available to all.
Title Chicago’s Lost “L”s Images of America Author David Sadowski Edition illustrated Publisher Arcadia Publishing (SC), 2021 ISBN 1467100007, 9781467100007 Length 128 pages
Chapters: 01. The South Side “L” 02. The Lake Street “L” 03. The Metropolitan “L” 04. The Northwestern “L” 05. The Union Loop 06. Lost Equipment 07. Lost Interurbans 08. Lost Terminals 09. Lost… and Found
Each copy purchased here will be signed by the author, and you will also receive a bonus facsimile of a 1926 Chicago Rapid Transit Company map, with interesting facts about the “L” on the reverse side.
The price of $23.99 includes shipping within the United States.
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Trolley Dodger Records is making considerable progress towards our goal of releasing the entire output of the long-gone Railroad Record Company on compact discs. Today, we announce the availability of six more RRC LPs in digital form. Now there are just seven remaining RRC LPs that we are still looking for (see the list at the end of this post).
We have found several of these titles thanks to the generosity of collector Kenneth Gear.
Most of the 40 or so RRC discs were 10″ records with a running time of about 30 minutes apiece. Therefore, we have paired up various RRC recordings, since two will fit on a single CD. So, today we are offering three new CD collections. One previous release has been expanded.
Perhaps the rarest Railroad Record Company LP of them all is #23, Pennsylvania Trolleys. This disc showcases two of the smaller trolley systems in the Keystone State, as they existed in the early 1950s– Altona & Logan Valley and Johnstown Traction. We are excited to add this to our list of available titles as one of the “crown jewels” of the RRC collection, of which there are many.
This has been paired with RRC #30, Sound Scrapbook – Traction. This includes additional recordings from Johnstown Traction and the Altoona & Logan Valley, and adds to them the Rochester Subway, the old US Senate Subway, Grand River Railway, and Scranton Transit.
It’s worth noting that Johnstown Traction car 311, featured on these recordings, is now preserved at the Rockhill Trolley Museum.
Even by 1953-54, when these recordings were made, it was apparent that the traction era in many of the smaller cities of Pennsylvania was fast coming to an end. The last Altoona & Logan Valley streetcar ran on August 7, 1954, and the final Scranton trolley on December 18, 1954. Johnstown, the smallest US city ever to purchase new PCC streetcars, was the last to go on June 11, 1960.
Today, there is an effort underway by the Electric City Trolley Museum to restore Scranton car 505, an “Electromobile” built in 1929 by Osgood-Bradley. Its sister car 506 can be heard operating in Scranton on these recordings.
The Altoona & Logan Valley recordings on discs 23 and 30 feature car 74, which was also an Osgood-Bradley Electromobile, built in 1930. There is a picure of the car on Don’s Rail Photos:
Unless you are a Canadian traction fan, you may not know much about the Grand River Railway, an Ontario electric interurban. Passenger service was abandoned on April 23, 1955. While we do not know when the Grand River audio was recorded for RRC disc #30, most likely it was around this time. There were two final fantrips, the last of which took place on May 1, 1955. Electric freight service continued until October 1, 1961. According to the Wikipedia, parts of the old Grand River right-of-way are going to be used in the next few years for light rail.
RRC LP #28, with both Charles City Western and Waterloo, Cedar Falls & Northern, has been added to our previous CD release of #11, Shaker Heights Rapid Transit, a Cleveland area interurban.
Sadly, WCF&N car 100, which survived that interurban operation, was itself destroyed in an unfortunate fire on November 24, 1967 at the Iowa Terminal Railroad. As Don’s Rail Photos notes, “It had been the only car saved from the WCF&N roundhouse fire on October 31, 1954, when the other two cars of its class burned.” While the car itself is gone, at least these audio recordings remain.
Turning to steam, we have paired RRC LPs #03 and 16, since they are both narrow gauge recordings. These feature the Denver, Rio Grande & Western, East Broad Top Railroad, and the Westside Lumber Company.
RRC #20, which mainly features New York Central steam from the early 1950s, was almost entirely recorded in the state of Illinois. Here is where these records bring some unexpected personal stories to light.
The late William A. Steventon, founder of the Railroad Record Club, was the son of a railroad man. This record includes audio of his father operating a New York Central steam engine for the very last time in his career.
Although the RRC was based out of Hawkins, Wisconsin, Steventon himself grew up in Mt. Carmel, Illinois, in the southern part of the state, very close to the Indiana border. Therefore it should be no surprise that Steventon’s voice, as featured in the narration on the East Broad Top recordings, has a decided southern Indiana twang.
The liner notes to the Altoona & Logan Valley recordings were written by Walter Evans, who was blind from birth, but very much tuned in to the sound of Altoona trolleys. His recollections of these streetcars dated back to 1916.
I did some Internet searches and determined that Mr. Evans was born in 1910 and died in 1999, apparently living his whole life in the Altoona, Pennsylvania area. He taught at a school for the blind and retired in 1975 after having done this for 31 years.
RRC #20, which also has steam recordings of the Chicago & Illinois Midland in addition to New York Central, has been paired with an LP called Railroad Sounds. This late 1950s release came from another obscure and long defunct small record label, and includes both steam and diesel sounds from the Illinois Central.
Following up on an earlier post, one of our readers reports that the model of Chicago Surface Lines car 7001 was imported to this country by Ken Kidder. You can read more about his line of models here. Apparently, Mr. Kidder worked in the shoe department of a San Francisco department store. He was, it seems, more concerned with getting these fine models into people’s hands than he was in making money.
We are still looking for the following Railroad Record Club recordings, which are needed to complete our collection:
#19 – Duluth, Missabe & Iron Range
#21 – Duluth & Northeastern
#22 – Buffalo Creek & Gauley
#31 – Sound Scrapbook – Steam
#32 – New York Central
#33, 34 – South Shore Line (freight)
All other RRC recordings, including LPs #1-19, 20, 23-30, 35-36, plus Special releases 1-6, are available now in our Online Store. These come with free shipping within the United States.
Help Support The Trolley Dodger
This is our 96th post, and we are gradually creating a body of work and an online resource for the benefit of all railfans, everywhere. To date, we received more than 91,000 page views from more than 26,800 individuals.
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RRC #23 and 30
Sound Scrapbook – Traction
# of Discs – 1
Car No. 311 of the Johnstown Traction Company running in city streets, going over switches, and the thump of the compressor. You can almost “feel” the sway of the car over low joints! Side Two is car No. 74 of the Altoona and Logan Valley on track work in Altoona.
A wide selection of traction sounds including Rochester Subway, Senate Subway, Grand River Railway, Scranton Transit, Altoona & Logan Valley and the Johnstown Traction Company compressors, air horns, flange squeal, and even trolley seats being turned.
Total time – 61:22
RRC #11 and 28
Shaker Heights Rapid Transit
Charles City Western
Waterloo, Cedar Falls & Northern
# of Discs – 1
Shades of the past with Shaker Heights Rapid Transit Nos. 30 and 306 sporting air horns and whistles from the Lake Shore Electric and Cincinnati & Lake Erie. Box Motor OX on rusty rail with lots of whistling. Even line car 101 puts in its appearance! If you like traction, you’ll like this.
An “on train” recording of Charles City Western No. 50 on the Colwell branch. A whistle that varies in pitch, controller notching and motor hum. Waterloo, Cedar Falls & Northern city car 381 leaving the Waterloo station for Cedar Falls. Also loco 184 and compressors on No. 100.
Total time – 64:45
RRC #03 and 16
East Broad Top Railroad and Coal Company
Denver and Rio Grande Western
Westside Lumber Company
# of Discs – 1
Trackside recordings of the East Broad Top while it was still a common carrier. Scenes from Rockhill Furnace to Robertsdale, including an upgrade struggle near Kimmel. Side Two is a trackside scene of No. 499 and 481 fighting upgrade at Cumbres Pass on the Denver and Rio Grande Western.
The exhaust of a Shay is soft and rapid. Here are soft, stuttering exhausts and whistles echoing along rocky hills. This is lumber transport in rough country with Westside Lumber Company Nos. 8, 9, and 10 picturing the indestructible Shay in action!
Total time – 68:48
RRC #20 and RRS New York Central
Chicago and Illinois Midland
# of Discs – 1
Record #20: New York Central locomotives 5382, 1599, 3140 and an “on train” switching scene at Cairo, Illinois on the 1441. Side Two is Chicago & Illinois Midland No. 701 southbound, and the No. 540 switching. Gulf, Mobile & Ohio diesel No. 1110 presents an unusual program with the 540.
The steam and diesel sounds of a vanishing era… they become dimmer and dimmer as the sounds of a new and greater power age grow to be more of a reality with every passing day. They are part of the romance of America that will always be with us, in spite of atomic power and new technical wonders. for here, through the process of full frequency range recording, every nuance of this sound world of railroading is captured with earth-shaking dynamism. Here is a galvanic auditory experience for high fidelity enthusiasts to enjoy as they contemplate the rich pageantry of railroading and its mighty impact on the growth of an industrial world. Featuring the sounds of the New Orleans Division of the Illinois Central Railroad.
CSL 7001 at Clark and Ridge in 1938. (M. D. McCarter Collection)
The PCC (short for Presidents’ Conference Committee) streetcar has been in continuous use since 1936, a remarkable 79 years. It literally saved the North American streetcar from extinction, but its development took several years and it did not appear in a vacuum. The presidents of several transit companies banded together in 1929 to develop a new, modern streetcar that could compete with buses and automobiles. The first production PCCs were made in 1936, the last in 1952.
The Chicago Surface Lines played an important part in the PCC’s development. Chicago ultimately had 683 PCCs, the largest fleet purchased new by any city, but in actuality CSL had 785 modern cars in all. There were 100 Peter Witt streetcars built in 1929 by a combination of CSL, Brill, and Cummings Car Co., and two experimental pre-PCCs, 4001 (built by Pullman-Standard) and 7001 (Brill), which dated to 1934.
The Peter Witt car was developed by its namesake in Cleveland around 1914 and set the standard for streetcars for the next 20 years. (Chicago’s batch were also referred to as “sedans.”) During the late 1920s and early 1930s, there was a similar type of car known as the “Master Unit*” made by Brill (Pullman-owned Osgood-Bradley made a similar model called the “Electromobile.”)
In conjunction with the 1933-34 Chicago World’s Fair, also known as A Century of Progress, CSL commissioned two experimental streetcars, the 4001 and 7001, with advanced features. (You can read an excellent and very comprehensive history of those cars on the Hicks Car Works blog.)
Of the two cars, the 4001 was more radical in both design and construction, with a streamlined all-aluminum body, but probably the less successful of the two. Both were taken out of service in 1944. The 4001 is the only pre-PCC car to survive, and is now preserved at the Illinois Railway Museum. The 7001 was scrapped by CTA in 1959.
Ironically, the 7001, made by J. G. Brill, was closer to the eventual design of the PCC car, although ultimately Brill did not build any true PCCs. The company had a policy not to pay patent royalties to other companies, and refused to do so with PCC technology owned by the Transit Research Corp. (TRC).
In 1935, Capital Transit ordered 20 pre-PCC cars for Washington D. C. based on the design of car 7001, but shorter. The order was split between Brill and St. Louis Car Company. This was an important step, since these were more than simply experimental units. Car 1053 managed to survive the end of streetcar service in Washington DC in 1962, until September 28, 2003 when it was destroyed in a fire at the National Capital Trolley Museum in Maryland.
There were also two additional 1934 experimental cars, the PCC Model A and B, which were used for field testing. The Model A was built in 1929 by Twin Coach and purchased second-hand to test new components. It was tested in Brooklyn circa 1934-35 and was scrapped in 1939.
The streamlined Model B incorporated all the latest PCC developments and was tested in Chicago, arguably the first PCC car operated here. While in use in Brooklyn, the PCC Model B dewired and was involved in an accident with a truck after its brakes failed. This led to the brake systems being redesigned for the first PCCs. The Model B was kept in storage for some time, and although the front end was repaired, it was never again used in service and was scrapped in the early 1950s.
By 1936, the first production PCCs were ready to go and the first one was delivered to Brooklyn and Queens Transit on May 28, 1936. However, Pittsburgh Railways put the first PCC into scheduled public service in August.
Brill’s decision not to build true PCCs ultimately proved fatal. Their 1938-41 “Brilliner” was considered somewhat inferior to the PCC car and few were built. 30 single-ended cars went to Atlantic City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Cincinnati, while 10 double-ended cars were built for Philadelphia Suburban Transportation Co., where they continued in service into the early 1980s.
These were the last streetcars made by Brill, who had once dominated the industry. Most PCCs were built by the St. Louis Car Company, with a smaller share from Pullman-Standard.
We hope that you will enjoy these pictures of these pre-PCC cars, the ones that laid the groundwork for the “car that fought back,” which continues to serve faithfully and well in a number of North American cities, and hopefully will continue to do so for a long time to come.
“The idea was to produce standardized cars. Both ends of the car were to be identical in construction. Height and width of the car, size and number of windows, seat width and therefore aisle width were to be the same for every unit of a specific type. The cars were offered in single-or double-truck, and single-or double-end style, with doors located at the ends or with a combination end door and center door. Master Units could be constructed with steel or aluminum, the difference in weight being about 5,000 pounds. Interestingly, the cars had curved lower sides very much like the curve used on the lower panels of the Kuhlman and Brill-built cars of a few years previously. There was nothing patentable about the Master Unit: it was merely a standardized design.
To Brill’s disappointment, buyers did not appear in large numbers. Only seventy-eight Master Units were built in all, with just two constructed exactly to Brill’s specifications.”
Here is an interesting blog post about the effort to restore the 505.
Here is a video showing a model of an Electromobile:
As an added bonus, as streetcars prepare to return to service in Washington D. C., here are some vintage films showing a variety of streetcars in action, including both PCCs, the 1935 pre-PCCs, and even some older types:
Very nice job on the Pre-PCC post on your blog! It’s a great post with some outstanding photos, and of course I appreciate the “plug” as well.
Several of the photos you posted I had never seen before. The photo of the 4001 in service is really nice; shots of the car in regular use are really pretty rare. It was quite the “hangar queen” when it was on the CSL. And the Model B interior shot is fascinating! I think I saw that rear-end shot somewhere once but I don’t know that I’d ever seen a photo of the car’s interior. What I found most fascinating is that it appears the car was designed to have left-hand doors fitted in the middle, Boston style (and likely so that it could be used or tested out in Boston, as I think Boston is the only city that had PCCs with this feature). Close examination of the interior shot shows an inset panel across from the center doors and I bet it was designed for doors to be put there if desired. It would be interesting to know more about the Model B. I’m not even sure whether it was set up for one-man or two-man service; the photo makes it clear that there was no conductor’s station forward of the center doors, like the CSL cars had, but it’s possible there was a conductor behind the motorman (I think this was how Brooklyn set up its PCC cars). Or it could have just been a one-man car.
Anyway, thank you for posting these photos and for posting such large scans of them – fascinating stuff!
CTA Peter Witt 3330 on route 4. These cars were shifted to Cottage Grove from Clark-Wentworth in 1947 after postwar PCCs took over that line.
CTA 6282 unloads passengers in the early 1950s. Note the postwar Pullman PCC at rear.
CSL 6300 on route 4 – Cottage Grove in the early CTA era.
CSL “Sedan” 6299 on route 4 – Cottage Grove.
A unique lineup at the 1934 American Transit Association convention in Cleveland. From left, we have the PCC Model A; CSL 4001; CSL 7001, and the PCC Model B. (Krambles-Peterson Archive)
The PCC Model B at Navy Pier. (Chicago Architectural Photographing Co.)
The PCC Model B being demonstrated at Navy Pier. (CSL Photo)
The PCC Model B interior. (Chicago Architectural Photographing Co.)
CSL 7001 under construction at the Brill plant in 1934.
CSL 7001 under construction at the Brill plant in 1934.
CSL 7001 on route 36 Broadway-State in 1934.
CSL 7001 at State and Van Buren in 1934.
CSL 7001 at State and Chicago, in World’s Fair service, at 9 am on August 29, 1934. (George Krambles Photo)
CSL 4001 at South Shops on October 23, 1938. (George Krambles Photo)
CSL 4001, signed for route 4 Cottage Grove, at South Shops on October 23, 1938. (M. D. McCarter Collection)
CSL 4001 in service, probably around 1934.
CSL 4001 on route 22, Clark-Wentworth, probably in the late 1930s.
CSL 4001, sporting a good sized dent, at South Shops. (CSL Photo)
CSL 4001 at Kedzie and Van Buren on May 13, 1946. By this time, the car had been out of service for two years. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)
Capital Transit 1056, a product of the St. Louis Car Co., as it looked in 1935 when new.
Car 7501, the only Baltimore “Brilliner,” in August 1941. Note the so-called “tavern” doors. This car was a sample in anticipation of a larger order that never came. It ran in service from 1939 to 1956. (Jeffrey Winslow Photo)
A modern Baltimore “Peter Witt” streetcar, built by Brill in 1930, alongside a PCC, made in 1936 by St. Louis Car Company.
DC Transit pre-PCC streamlined streetcar at the National Capital Trolley Museum in 1993. Part of a 20-car order in 1935, split between Brill and St Louis Car Company. This is a St. Louis Car Company product. Sadly this car was lost to a carbarn fire at the museum in 2003. (John Smatlak Photo)
1053 interior. (John Smatlak Photo)
1053 interior. (John Smatlak Photo)
Scranton Transit 508, an “Electromobile,” was built by Osgood-Bradley Co in 1929. It was another attempt at a modern standardized streetcar in the pre-PCC era.
Baltimore Peter Witt 6146. Don’s Rail Photos says it was “built by Brill in 1930 and retired in 1955.” Sister car 6119 is at the Baltimore Streetcar Museum, while 6144 is at Seashore. These were some of the most modern cars around, prior to the PCCs.
Baltimore Transit Company car 6105, shown here on route 15 – Ostend St., is one of the last modern streetcars built before PCCs took over the market. The sign on front says that September 7 will be the last day for 6 hour local rides. Perhaps that can help date the picture.
Indianapolis Railways 146, shown here on a special run in 1949, was a Brill “Master Unit” but appears very similar to the Baltimore Peter Witts. This car was built in 1933, one of the last streetcars built before the PCC era. Brill tried to sell street railways on standardized cars (hence the name “Master Units”) but as you might expect, no two orders were identical.