New Railroad Record Club Discs

RRC23

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.

Some of the cars on this CD are also preserved. Charles City Western car 50, now 100 years old, still operates in Iowa on the Boone & Scenic Valley Railway & Museum. Box motor OX is at the Northern Ohio Railway Museum. SHRT car 306 (formerly of the Aurora, Elgin & Fox River Electric) is now being restored at the Illinois Railway Museum.

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.

-David Sadowski

RRC30


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RRC23 RRC30

RRC #23 and 30
Pennsylvania Trolleys
Sound Scrapbook – Traction
# of Discs – 1
Price: $14.95

Record #23:
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.

Johnstown Traction car 311 is now preserved at the Rockhill Trolley Museum in Pennsylvania.

Record #30:
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


Screen Shot 05-06-15 at 12.28 AMRRC28

RRC #11 and 28
Shaker Heights Rapid Transit
Charles City Western
Waterloo, Cedar Falls & Northern
# of Discs – 1
Price: $14.95

Record #11:
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.

Record #28:
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


RRC03 RRC16

RRC #03 and 16
East Broad Top Railroad and Coal Company
Denver and Rio Grande Western
Westside Lumber Company
# of Discs – 1
Price: $14.95

Record #03:
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.

Record #16:
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


RRC20CoverRRSounds

RRC #20 and RRS
New York Central
Chicago and Illinois Midland
# of Discs – 1
Price: $14.95

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.

Record #RRS:
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.

Total time – 55:37


Chicago’s Pre-PCCs

CSL 7001 at Clark and Ridge in 1938. (M. D. McCarter Collection)

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.

-David Sadowski

*According to History of the J. G. Brill Company by Debra Brill, page 173, the Master Unit model was officially introduced in January 1929:

“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 article about Scranton car 505, one of the last surviving Osgood-Bradley Safety Cars, also known as “Electromobiles,” now in the process of being restored at the Electric City Trolley Museum.  An Electromobile was also the last trolley to run in New York City.

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:

Frank Hicks, of the excellent Hicks Car Works blog, writes:

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 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.

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 6300 on route 4 – Cottage Grove in the early CTA era.

CSL "Sedan" 6299 on route 4 - Cottage Grove.

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)

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 at Navy Pier. (Chicago Architectural Photographing Co.)

The PCC Model B being demonstrated at Navy Pier. (CSL Photo)

The PCC Model B being demonstrated at Navy Pier. (CSL Photo)

The PCC Model B interior. (Chicago Architectural Photographing Co.)

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 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 on route 36 Broadway-State in 1934.

CSL 7001 at State and Van Buren 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 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 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, 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 in service, probably around 1934.

CSL 4001 on route 22, Clark-Wentworth, probably in the late 1930s.

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, 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)

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.

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)

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.

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)

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)

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.

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 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.

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.

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.