In street railway parlance, when there are tracks on cross streets such as this, and cars can turn in any direction, that is called a Grand Union. Chicago had several of these, and this is the one at Madison and Clinton Streets. (Clinton is running left-right in this picture.) Bill Hoffman took this picture on September 17, 1954 from a nearby sixth-floor fire escape.
Photographers like Bill Hoffman, Truman Hefner, Joe Diaz, and Edward Frank, Jr. took their cameras with them everywhere back in the 1940s and 1950s. They were able to go to lots of interesting places, many which no longer exist. Today’s post features some of their work, plus that of other railfan shutterbugs. Most are from our own collections, and some have been generously shared by William Shapotkin.
Many of these pictures were taken at the CTA’s South Shops. 1950s streetcar fantrips often included a shops tour, and Hoffman took many pictures of whatever was out on the scrap track at that time. In addition, historic cars that had been saved were trotted out for pictures. This tradition ended after the last Chicago streetcars ran in 1958. In the mid-1980s, the CTA’s collection was parsed out between the Illinois Railway Museum and Fox River Trolley Museum, where these historic vehicles can be appreciated today.
Since 2015, we have offered an ever-expanding catalog of classic out-of-print railroad audio from the 1950s and 60s, remastered to CDs. This includes the entire Railroad Record Club output, some of which has now been remastered from the original source tapes. The proceeds from these sales help underwrite the costs of maintaining the Trolley Dodger blog. Postage costs have gone up by a lot, so as of November 15, 2021, we will have no choice but to raise the prices of our single disc CDs by $1. The price of multi-disc sets, DVDs, and books will be unaffected. Until then, you can still purchase discs through our Online Store and via eBay at current prices.
According to the information I received with this slide, this Jackson Park “L” train is going to the Metropolitan “L” Shops at Racine. But the date given (December 1950) must be wrong, as I doubt whether cars 6149-6150 had yet been delivered to the CTA, much less assigned to the North-South “L”. Perhaps a date of 1952 is more likely. (Truman Hefner Photo) George Trapp writes: “The photo of CTA 6149-6150 just east of Throop Street shops on the old Met Mainline I think was taken in September/October of 1951 judging by the brand new look of the cars. The first 200 of the 6000’s (the two orders of flat door cars) and the articulated 5000’s were delivered to 63rd lower yard then sent to Throop Street shops to be readied for service. Jackson Park reading is probably just the reading the factory sent them displaying as this series were first assigned to the Ravenswood line.”
This is the view looking east from out of the back of a westbound Stock Yards “L” train near the Indiana Avenue station. We see, at left, a northbound train of 4000s on the North-South main line, and, at right, an eastbound Stock Yards train, also made up of 4000s. There were five tracks in all here– two for the Stock Yards, and three on the main line. The date given was June 1951, but the presence of steel cars on Stock Yards could mean this picture was taken during one of the two political conventions at the International Amphitheatre in July 1952 instead. (Truman Hefner Photo)
CTA 4270 is on the single-track Stock Yards loop. The date provided (June 1950) may not be correct, as 4000s were only used on this line when there were major events happening at the nearby International Amphitheatre at 4220 S. Halsted Street, which seems to be visible at right and has a bunch of flags flying over it. In that case, the date could be July 1952, when both major political parties held their nominating conventions there. (Truman Hefner Photo)
CTA 4241 and train are on a double-track portion of the Stock Yards line. The presence of a multi-car train of 4000s would suggest that a major event was taking place at the nearby International Amphitheatre. But I am not sure about the June 1950 date– there were two major conventions in July 1952, so that’s a possibility. I’m also not certain that the car number provided with this slide is correct. (Truman Hefner Photo)
On February 12, 1950, CTA 3148 plus one are westbound at Laramie Avenue on the Lake Street “L”, about to descend to ground level. This is where the changeover from third rail to overhead wire took place back then. The changeover point was later moved to the bottom of the ramp circa 1961, when a section of temporary ramp was installed, as part of the project that resulted in the “L” being shifted onto the nearby C&NW embankment west of here in October 1962. This station was removed during the early 1990s rehab the Lake Street line received, but it was replaced by a new station within a few short years. (Truman Hefner Photo)
Work car W226 and a Western Pacific box car at the CTA materials handling yard at 39th and Halsted on April 8, 1951. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
Don’s Rail Photos: “W226, work car, was built by Chicago City Ry in 1908 as CCRy C33. It was renumbered W226 in 1913 and became CSL W226 in 1914. It was retired on January 12, 1955.” Here, we see W226 in the CTA yards at 39th and Halsted on April 8, 1951. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
CTA supply car S201 at South Shops on July 2, 1949. Don’s Rail Photos: “S201, supply car, was built by Chicago City Ry in 1908 as CCRy C45. It was renumbered S201 in 1913 and became CSL S201 in 1914. It was retired on September 27, 1956.” (William C. Hoffman Photo)
The view looking northwest at 71st and Marshfield on October 21, 1953, through Bill Hoffman’s lens, shows CTA salt cars AA103 and AA89. Don’s Rail Photos: “AA103, salt car, was built by South Chicago City Ry in 1907 as SCCRy 338. It was rebuilt in 1907 and became C&SCRy 837 in 1908. It was renumbered 2852 in 1913 and became CSL 2852 in 1914. It was later converted as a salt car and renumbered AA103 in 1948. It was retired on February 17, 1954.” And: “AA89, salt car, was built by CUT in 1900 as CUT 4552. It was rebuilt as 1503 in 1911 and became CSL 1503 in 1914. It was rebuilt as salt car and renumbered AA89 on April 15, 1948. It was retired on September 9, 1954.”
Salt cars and snow plows at South Shops on June 15, 1958. Don’s Rail Photos: “E57, sweeper, was built by Russell in 1930. It was retired on March 11, 1959.” (William C. Hoffman Photo)
CTA freight motor Y303 and Western Pacific box car 40077 at the materials handling yard at 39th and Halsted on April 8, 1951. Don’s Rail Photos: “Y303. baggage car, was built by C&ST in 1911 as 59. It was renumbered Y303 in 1913 and became CSL Y303 in 1914. It was retired on September 27, 1956.” (William C. Hoffman Photo)
Damaged CTA PCC 4055, built by the St. Louis Car Company in 1947, at South Shops on November 11, 1956. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
The late William C. Hoffman took this picture of the scrap line at South Shops on June 17, 1955. Most of these cars are Pullman-built PCCs that had recently been retired from service, and were destined to be shipped to the St. Louis Car Company for scrapping and parts recycling, as part of the so-called “PCC Conversion Program” whereby some parts were used in new 6000-series rapid transit cars. Here’s what Don’s Rail Photos has to say about work car AA104, seen at front: “AA104, salt car, was built by South Chicago City Ry in 1907 as SCCRy 339. It was rebuilt in 1907 and became C&SCRy 838 in 1908. It was renumbered 2853 in 1913 and became CSL 2853 in 1914. It was later converted as a salt car and renumbered AA104 in 1948. It was retired on December 14, 1956.” Somehow, 2843 survived, and is now in the Illinois Railway Museum collection.
North Shore Line car 718 at Lake Bluff on October 19, 1963, having been vandalized several months after the interurban was abandoned.
North Shore Line car 712 at Lake Bluff on October 19, 1963, having been vandalized several months after the interurban was abandoned.
The old Chicago & North Western station, torn down in the 1980s. (William Shapotkin Collection)
I’m not sure who the Swift is in this picture, but it isn’t the Skokie Swift. This picture appears much older than 1964, when the Swift started. Perhaps the Swift here was part of the meat-packing family. (William Shapotkin Collection)
Chicago Aurora & Elgin express motor 9 at Wheaton on April 2, 1957. Don’s Rail Photos: “9 was built by Niles Car in 1907. It was scrapped in 1959.” (William Shapotkin Collection)
CSL 2564, signed to go to Torrence and 124th. (Edward Frank, Jr. Photo, William Shapotkin Collection) Andre Kristopans: “2564 – Torrence Shuttle south of CWI crossing at 112th looking ne.”
CSL 2773 is running northbound on the Cottage Grove route, next to the Illinois Central Electric commuter rail embankment. (William Shapotkin Collection) Mike Franklin adds: “CSL 2773 is northbound on Lake Park Ave at 55th St.” And our resident South Side expert M.E. chimes in: “The destination sign reads State-Lake, which leads you to think this car is running northbound. But Cottage Grove Ave. south of 95th St. was on the east side of the Illinois Central tracks. Therefore this car has to be heading south, despite the destination sign. Also, I see only one streetcar track on the street. Ergo, I think this photo was taken at 115th and Cottage Grove, looking north. 115th was the end of the streetcar line, so the motorman had already changed the destination sign for the northbound trip. To return north, the streetcar will turn left on 115th (into the picture), east on 115th to St. Lawrence, north to 111th, west to Cottage Grove, then north.” Andre Kristopans: “2773 – Lake Park/56th looking SE.”
FYI, the picture above seems to be a better match to 55th than 115th. Compare with this picture, from one of our previous posts:
CTA trolley bus 9440, northbound on Lake Park at 56th, in October 1958. Trolley bus service ended on the 51st-55th route on June 21, 1959, exactly one year after the last Chicago streetcar ran. This was the beginning of a 14-year phase out of electric bus service.
This enlarged section of the CSL 1941 track map helps explain why there was but one streetcar track on Lake Park near 55th. M.E. writes: “The 1941 CSL track map you sent explains everything. It tells me I was correct to assume there was some sort of loop south and west of the 55th / Lake Park intersection. Keep in mind, though, that the Cottage Grove / 55th St. photo was taken earlier than 1941. The 1941 CSL map shows double trackage along Lake Park Ave., and even to the north and south. All that “new” trackage was put in place to accommodate the 28 Stony Island streetcar route, which by 1941 was running as far north and west as 47th and Cottage Grove (or maybe as far west as the mainline north/south L station at 47th and Prairie. I’m not certain). Route 28 started at 93rd and Stony Island, ran north on Stony Island to 56th St., turned left to duck under the IC tracks, then turned right on Lake Park Ave., north to 47th St., and west from there. Eventually route 28 ran even farther north, all the way into downtown, using Indiana Ave. to Cermak, west to Wabash, north to Grand, and east to Navy Pier. The 1941 CSL map segment also shows the 59th / 61st St. line, which ended at 60th St. and Blackstone Av. The route had to turn north on Blackstone because there was no viaduct on 61st St. under the IC tracks. And the route could not go north of 60th because no road crossed the Midway Plaisance (part of the city’s boulevard system) between Dorchester (1400 E.) and Stony Island (1600 E.). So the CSL did what it could to deliver its route 59 passengers as close as possible to the IC’s 59th – 60th St. station.”
CSL 5074, signed to go to both the old Dearborn Street train station and Racine and 87th. (Joe L. Diaz Photo, William Shapotkin Collection) Mike Franklin adds: “CSL 5074 is southbound on Canal St at 24th St.” Our resident South Side expert M.E. adds, “As I remember this route (44), southbound, it took Archer Ave. southwest to Canal St., south on Canal to 29th, west a block to Wallace, south to Root St., west to Halsted, south to 47th, west to Racine, south to 87th. Because it parallels a railroad; because the Pennsylvania Railroad headed straight south out of Union Station (which was also on Canal); and because the Pennsy used a bridge that looks like the one in the background, I think this scene is along Canal, somewhere between Archer and 29th.” Andre Kristopans: “5074 – Canal/24th looking n.”
CSL 2512 and another unidentified streetcar. (Edward Frank, Jr. Photo, William Shapotkin Collection) Andre Kristopans: “2512 – 106th/Indianapolis looking E.”
CSL 2518 on the far southeast side of Chicago, signed to go to Brandon and Brainard. (Joe L. Diaz Photo, William Shapotkin Collection) Andre Kristopans: “2518 – Calumet Western crossing about 129th looking N.”
Hammond, Whiting, & East Chicago car 76 is signed here to go from Indiana into the City of Chicago, an arrangement that ended in 1940. These cars were just about identical to CSL Pullmans. (William Shapotkin Collection) Andre Kristopans: “HWEC 76 – most likely Indianapolis and Exchange at end of line in East Chicago.”
Chicago & West Towns 124 is at the east end of the Madison Street line, at Austin Boulevard. Riders going into the city could change here for CSL PCC cars. (Joe L. Diaz Photo, William Shapotkin Collection)
Hammond, Whiting, & East Chicago car 74. (Edward Frank, Jr. Photo, William Shapotkin Collection) Andre Kristopans: “HWEC 74 – further study suggests Hohman near Michigan looking S – note big buildings in distance, seem to match downtown Hammond in street view, and how the power lines go way up in distance, such as crossing a railroad.” Mike Franklin writes: “Hammond, Whiting, & East Chicago car 74 is heading west bound on 119th St at New York Ave, Whiting, Indiana. Building behind the car is the Whiting Post Office (still there).”
CSL 2594. Don’s Rail Photos notes that this car, nicknamed a Robertson, was “built by St Louis Car Co in 1901. It was retired on August 1, 1947.” (Edward Frank, Jr. Photo, William Shapotkin Collection) Andre Kristopans: “2594 – 106th crossing BRC and PRR 106th east of Torrence looking E.”
Chicago & West Towns Railways car 122 is eastbound on Cermak Road at Oak Park Avenue in suburban Berwyn in 1947. (William Shapotkin Collection)
CTA one-man streetcar 1781 has just gone under the Chicago & North Western embankment at Lake Street and Pine Avenue, probably not long before the end of trolley service on Route 16 in 1954. 1781 will head west for a few blocks before reaching the end of the line at Austin Boulevard, the city limits. This picture gives a good view of the C&NW signal tower, which apparently served four tracks at that time. The tower is still there, but just with three tracks on the successor Union Pacific, as the CTA Green Line (former Lake Street “L”) has shared space there since 1962. (William Shapotkin Collection)
The same location in 2019, when the streetcar tracks were finally being removed, after having been unused for 65 years.
Chicago Surface Lines one-man car 3205. I can’t make out the route sign. (Joe L. Diaz Photo, William Shapotkin Collection) Andre Kristopans: “3205 – 51st west of Stewart – sign “55th-LAKE PARK” looking W.”
Philadelphia Transportation Company 8027 on route 38 at the Pennsylvania Railroad’s 30th Street Station. (William Shapotkin Collection) Michael Greene writes: “The picture of PTC 8027 was taken on a weekend between June 1955 and September 10 1955. From September 11 1955 to Route 38’s conversion to bus on October 17 1955, PCCs were used on the 38. The car seen on the 38 was what PTC referred to internally as an SER, an 8000-series car that had been redone inside with chrome stanchions, PCC-style lighting, cross seats up front, the wooden seats getting springing and imitation leather covering, and herringbone gearing. The cars that were not redone were called by PTC, internally, as SE, basically staying the same way as they were delivered in 1923 and 1925, aside from having a PTC logo. Those cars were used on the 38, and, after April 11 1948, on the 37, on weekdays. On Sundays (and Saturdays, at some point) remodeled cars were used on the 37 and 38, in both cases, it was until September 11 1955 that PCCs also came to the 37. Their run ended on November 6 1955 when the 37 and 36, an all-surface route, were merged.”
A Chicago & North Western train on the Northwest Line at Mayfair on Chicago’s northwest side, during construction of the Northwest (now Kennedy) Expressway on February 3, 1960. (William Shapotkin Collection) Andre Kristopans: “CNW on shoofly – Addison looking N.” (Mayfair is a neighborhood located within Albany Park on Chicago’s northwest side.) Richmond Bates: “The train on the shoofly at Mayfair has a Milwaukee Road diesel, not North Western. Train 15 was the Olympian Hiawatha. I can’t identify the specific photo location. The Milwaukee and the C&NW Wisconsin Division crossed at Mayfair which is near Montrose and the Kennedy Expressway. The photo caption mentions Addison which is about a mile away and might be considered the Irving Park neighborhood. If the photo is near the Mayfair crossing, it could be Milwaukee tracks; if it is Addison, then it must be C&NW tracks.”
I don’t know for certain, but I think this photo of one of the CTA Skokie Swift cars might date to the Blizzard of ’79. (William Shapotkin Collection)
This shows the Met main line at Halsted and Congress, during expressway construction. Here, the bridge over the highway was being built, and Halsted streetcars were using a shoofly. It looks as though a portion of the CTA “L” station is being removed here, as two of the four tracks at this location were in the expressway footprint. The station itself remained in use by Garfield Park trains until June 1958. This picture is from the early 1950s. (Edward Frank, Jr. Photo, William Shapotkin Collection)
CTA red car 3200 is on the scrap track at South Shops on January 30, 1954. Don’s Rail Photos: “3200 was built by CSL in 1923. It was given experimental multiple-unit equipment. It was rebuilt as (a) one-two man convertible car in 1936.” (William C. Hoffman Photo)
West Chicago Street Railway car 4 at South Shops on October 21, 1956. Historical cars were often trotted out for photos during fantrips, and this was no exception. This car was originally built as Chicago Union Traction 4022 in 1895. CSL had it repainted and renumbered in 1934 for the Chicago World’s Fair (A Century of Progress). This car is now at the Illinois Railway Museum. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
The interior of West Chicago Street Railway car 4, as it looked on October 21, 1956. It was originally Chicago Union Traction car 4022 and never actually operated on the West Chicago Street Railway. It was renumbered and painted this way by the Chicago Surface Lines in the 1930s. It is now at the Illinois Railway Museum. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
North Chicago Street Railway 8 was built in 1859 and pulled by horses. The last horsecars in Chicago were retired in 1906, and thereafter, this car was only used for ceremonial occasions, like parades or the opening of streetcar extensions. While CSL did build some replicas of old cars in the early 1930s, this one is the real deal, and one of the oldest such cars in existence. To show you how confusing some of this history can be, photographer Bill Hoffman wrote on the mount of this October 21, 1956 slide that this was a “replica,” which is incorrect.
The interior of replica cable car trailer 209, as it looked on October 21, 1956. While the sign inside the car says it was used on State Street between 1880 and 1906, in actuality, this was built by the Chicago Surface Lines in the early 1930s, although it includes original parts. Mail car 6 is behind this car. That one is original, but may have been renumbered. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
The Humboldt Park “L” crossing Humboldt Boulevard in 1949. Where the “L” crossed a boulevard, the Park Board insisted that the structure should be fancier than normal, and so it was here. The view looks to the northeast. (William Shapotkin Collection)
The Humboldt Park “L” at Western Avenue in 1949. The picture can be dated by one of the posters at the station. (William Shapotkin Collection)
The second annual Television and Electrical Living show took place in Chicago in October 1949. This poster is visible in the previous picture.
A 2700-series Met car at the St. Louis Avenue station on the Humboldt Park “L”, possibly circa 1949. The view looks east. (William Shapotkin Collection)
Bill Hoffman’s attempt to get a shot of bot a CTA “L” car on Van Buren and red Pullman #531 on Paulina was thwarted in this instance by a passing truck on October 20, 1953. Edward J. Maurath writes: “This picture shows the Van Buren temporary tracks used by the Garfield Park ‘L’ from 1953-1958. The front of car 2831 is partially obscured by the infamous stop light erected by the CTA to save the expense of installing crossing gates and other crossing signals. I wonder how many of your readers know how frustrating an experience riding on these temporary tracks for approximately 2½ miles was. The system worked like this. For the 2½ miles of temporary tracks there were 15 street crossings. Chicago blocked 5 of them, leaving 10 with these stop-light control systems. They worked like this: normally the light was red and the traffic light systems for the two streets (Van Buren and the cross street) worked normally. When a CTA train stooped for the red light, both street were given a normal cycle and then both streets were given a red light. Then the CTA train light turned to green and remained so until the train had crossed the street. Then the street traffic lights returned to normal use and the CTA train light turned red and remained red until the next train approached. This meant ten lengthy waits at each cross street over the 2½ miles of temporary tracks. To avoid further delays, there were no stops on this 2½ miles of track, but still the constant waiting at each of the ten cross streets was annoying, to say the least. Notice the yellow color of the stop sign for the train. That was the standard color for stop signs until 1954. Also note the color of the train which had not been painted for about 14 years, and has been described as ‘two shades of mud’.” It’s worth noting that the CTA claimed to simply be following the example of the Chicago Aurora & Elgin interurban, which ran in many places without crossing gate protection, although not in an urban area such as this. The CTA was able to speed up the Garfield Park “L” between 1953 and 1958, however, by eliminating several stops, and using faster railcars, to the point where, by the end of the operation, running time from Forest Park to Downtown was the same as it had been before the ground-level operation started.
For a few months (September 1953 to January 1954), it was possible to catch CTA red cars crossing the temporary Garfield Park “L” right-of-way at Paulina and Van Burn Streets. Photographer William C. Hoffman tried to do just that, with varying degrees of success. Here, on October 20, 1953, we see CTA Pullman 597 heading south. As you can see, the “L” on Paulina was just west of here, but was not then in use. “L” cars last ran there in February 1951, when the Milwaukee-Dearborn Subway opened. But they would soon run there again, when Douglas Park trains were rerouted via a new connection to the Lake Street “L” starting in April 1954– a connection used now by Pink Line trains. The streetcar is running on Route 9 – Ashland, but is seen on Paulina at this point, because streetcars were not permitted to operate on boulevards, which part of Ashland (between Roosevelt Road and Lake Street) was.
The two CSL experimental pre-PCC cars (4001 and 7001), used as storage sheds, at South Shops in May 16, 1954. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
This is the portal to the old Van Buren streetcar tunnel at Franklin Street on July 26, 1959. That’s a 1957 Chevy, possibly a Bel Air model. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
CSL 2605, built by St. Louis Car Company in 1902, was damaged by fire, and is shown at South Shops on May 16, 1954. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
Looking west from 78th and Perry on April 25, 1954, photographer Bill Hoffman captured this view of streetcars on the scrap line at South Shops. From left to right, a Pullman, car 2605 in bluish green, and a streetcar trailer.
CTA red Pullman 460 at South Shops in March 1958. It had been retired in 1954 and was saved for the CTA Historical Collection. In the 1980s, it went to the Illinois Railway Museum. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
The interior of CTA red Pullman 460 in March 1958. By then, it was being stored as part of the CTA Historical Collection, but now it is at the Illinois Railway Museum. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
CTA St. Louis-built PCC 7200 at 81st and Halsted in March 1958. (William C. Hoffman Photo) Andre Kristopans: “PCC 7200 – Vincennes at 81st looking NE.”
We are looking east into the lower level of Navy Pier on June 25, 1956. The tracks at right belonged to the Chicago & North Western. At one time, they were joined by Grand Avenue streetcar tracks. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
Northbound CTA 5573, built by Kuhlman in 1907, is on Paulina at Van Buren on October 29, 1950. Just short of three years later, Garfield Park “L” trains would be re-routed into the south half of Van Buren Street. The streetcar is operating on Route 9 – Ashland. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
The color films available in 1958 were very slow compared to today, and not well suited for night photography. But that didn’t stop Bill Hoffman from using Ektachrome for this shot of CTA PCC 7216 on Wentworth at Cermak in Chinatown on April 30, 1958.
CTA 4408 is on the loop at 80th and Vincennes in March 1958. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
The same location today.
William C. Hoffman captured this view looking east along 63rd Place from Mulligan Avenue on May 19, 1953. He noted on this slide that the last streetcar ran on 63rd on May 23rd. CTA had wanted to convert this line to one-man operation, but there was local opposition on the west end of the line, so buses were substituted instead. This is now a residential area, and the buses ran on 63rd Street a short distance north of here.
The same location today.
The view looking east from 63rd Place and Nagle on May 19, 1953. Red Pullman 321 is on the loop at the west end of the 63rd Street line. Until 1948, streetcar service had continued west from here, as you can see from the tracks. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
The view looking east from 63rd Place and Natchez on May 19, 1953. The tracks in the foreground ran to nearby Summit/Argo a mile or so west of here. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
CTA red Pullman 225 at Limits car barn at Clark and Schubert on a November 11, 1956 fantrip. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
The herald of Central Electric Railfans’ Association, hanging on CTA red Pullman 225 on an October 21, 1956 fantrip. When last seen, this item was in the possession of the late John Marton. Car 225 went to Seashore Trolley Museum in Maine in 1957. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
William C. Hoffman called this photo, taken at South Shops on November 11, 1956, the “twilight of the trolley.”
CTA red Pullman 225 at South Shops on October 21, 1956. This was an early Ektachrome slide that had faded to red, and I wasn’t able to bring the color back completely to normal. Ektachrome was not as sharp as Kodachrome in these days, but had a film speed of 32, faster than Kodachrome’s ASA 10. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
The interior of CTA red Pullman 225, as it looked on an October 21, 1956 fantrip. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
Don’s Rail Photos: “AA94, salt car, was built by Jewett in 1903. #148, as SCCRy 322. It became Calumet & South Chicago Ry 827 in 1908 and renumbered 2842 in 1913. It became CSL 2842 in 1914 and rebuilt as one man service in 1926. It was later converted as a salt car. It was renumbered AA94 in 1948 and retired on August 17, 1951.” Here it is at South Shops on July 2, 1949. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
“Old retired CTA streetcars at 78th and Vincennes on June 26, 1958.” When streetcar service ended in Chicago, there were approximately 26 PCCs left, none of which were used in the so-called “conversion program” that stripped parts from streetcars for use on 6000-series rapid transit cars. These PCCs, with the sole exception of 4391, we simply scrapped outright. And despite the perception that they were “old,” these cars were only between 10 and 12 years old when taken out of service. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
CTA PCC 7175 on Western Avenue on October 31, 1950. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
William C. Hoffman took this picture looking northeast into the CTA yards at South Shops on December 21, 1958, six months after the last Chicago streetcar ran. Red Pullman 144 (now at the Illinois Railway Museum) is in the distance.
Bill Hoffman took this picture of the Chicago Surface Lines logo on a work streetcar on June 15, 1958 at South Shops, less than a week before the last Chicago streetcar ran.
Experimental CSL pre-PCC streetcar 4001 being used for storage at South Shops on December 18, 1955. It is now at the Illinois Railway Museum. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
Old CTA/CSL buses and trailers awaiting scrapping at South Shops on April 10, 1955, including (from left to right) trolley bus 9114, gas bus RA-308(?), trolley bus 9071, and streetcar trailer 8013. (William C. Hoffman Photo) Andre Kristopans: “Red salt/sleet bus BA108.”
CSL trailer 9020 at South Shops on October 21, 1956. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
CSL trailer 9020 at South Shops on October 21, 1956. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
CSL trailer 8013 at South Shops in March 1958. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
CSL trailer 8023 at South Shops on November 11, 1956. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
BMT 8000 was the prototype of an intended series of 50 such articulated compartment cars, intended to be built by Clark Manufacturing in Michigan for the Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit Company in 1939. These “Bluebirds” were planned for use as “fast locals” on BMT’s elevated and subway lines, that could easily keep up with older cars running in express service. However, when the City of New York purchased BMT in 1940, they cancelled the contract, only taking delivery on this prototype and the five sets that were already under construction. They were retired and scrapped in 1956, but were the first rapid transit cars that used PCC technology, and inspired the first postwar cars built for Chicago.
Keep those cards and letters coming in, folks!
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 this 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.
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A Tribute to the North Shore Line
To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the demise of the fabled North Shore Line interurban in January 2013, Jeffrey L. Wien and Bradley Criss made a very thorough and professional video presentation, covering the entire route between Chicago and Milwaukee and then some. Sadly, both men are gone now, but their work remains, making this video a tribute to them, as much as it is a tribute to the Chicago North Shore & Milwaukee.
Jeff drew on his own vast collections of movie films, both his own and others such as the late William C. Hoffman, wrote and gave the narration. Bradley acted as video editor, and added authentic sound effects from archival recordings of the North Shore Line.
It was always Jeff’s intention to make this video available to the public, but unfortunately, this did not happen in his lifetime. Now, as the caretakers of Jeff’s railfan legacy, we are proud to offer this excellent two-hour program to you for the first time. The result is a fitting tribute to what Jeff called his “Perpetual Adoration,” which was the name of a stop on the interurban.
Jeff was a wholehearted supporter of our activities, and the proceeds from the sale of this disc will help defray some of the expenses of keeping the Trolley Dodger web site going.
Total time – 121:22
# of Discs – 1 Price: $19.99 (Includes shipping within the United States)
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Photo caption: “Penn Central Railway #2 at the end of line (in) South Fork. Note motorman raising trolley to wire from window. These were center door cars. 1918.”
Railfans are probably familiar with the ill-fated Penn Central railroad, described by the Wikipedia as follows:
The Penn Central Transportation Company, commonly abbreviated to Penn Central, was an American Class I railroad headquartered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, that operated from 1968 until 1976. It was created by the 1968 merger of the Pennsylvania and New York Central railroads. The New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad was added to the merger in 1969; by 1970, the company had filed for what was, at that time, the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history.
However, you might not be aware there was another ill-fated Penn Central, a short trolley line that briefly operated about 50 years before the more famous one. I certainly knew nothing about it until recently, when a few mysterious snapshots from 1918 surfaced:
Photo caption: “Penn Central Railway #2 leaving South Fork, 1918. After several runaways, (the) borough put (a) bumping block across tracks where car is pictured.”
Photo caption: “Penn Central Railway #2 at Old Portage RR cut between Summerhill and Wilmore, 1918. Motorman on front. Line never ran long enough for crews to have uniforms. This also was a 1200 volt line getting power from Southern Cambria.”
Photo caption: “Penn Central Railway #2 at Old Portage RR Cut, 1918. Motorman and Conductor on front.”
I decided to do a bit of research. Turns out it’s an interesting story.
The web site of CamTran, a Pennsylvania bus operator, gives the following information:
Southern Cambria Railway Co. 1908-1928
The “fabulous Southern Cambria, dread of the timid traveler,” is a story of a transit line that tried to conquer the tortuous terrain of the Alleghanies. Extending from Johnstown to Nanty Glo, South Fork, and Ebensburg, the line was plagued by numerous accidents, the most tragic of which was the head-on crash of two trolleys on August 12, 1916. Twenty-seven lives were lost and 80 injured. The Southern Cambria continued operating until December 17, 1928.
South Fork-Portage Railway Co. 1912-1928
The South Fork-Portage Company was originally chartered as the Johnstown & Altoona Railway Co. with the intention of connecting the two cities by rail. But money problems narrowed the vision to a three mile trolley line between South Fork and Summerhill. In 1918, the company failed and reorganized as the Penn Central Railway Co. with the goal of extending the line to Portage. Numerous derailments resulted in the termination of the company in 1928.
Even these few facts may be subject to correction. According to Department Reports of Pennsylvania, Volume 3, Part 4, the date of reorganization was 1917, not 1918:
The captions on the 1918 snapshots make me wonder if the 1928 termination date is accurate. They indicate that the line did not run long enough for the crews to get uniforms. They also allude to the short operation being accident prone, with several runaway trains leading the local government to place a barrier across the tracks. Since there the entire fleet seems to have been two cars built in 1913 by Niles, it wouldn’t have taken much to finish it off.
There seems to have been a cozy relationship between the Penn Central and the Southern Cambria. There may have been perfectly good reasons for forming a separate entity in this case, but perhaps the Penn Central operated only briefly in 1918 and existed on paper until the demise of the Southern Cambria ten years later.
It should be remembered that interurbans were the hi-tech enterprises of their time, chronically underfunded and overextended, with a very short peak coming around the time of the first World War– just the time we are dealing with here. From all accounts, the first Penn Central was a marginal operation at best, with a quick demise.
George W. Hilton and John Fitzgerald Due, in their classic The Electric Interurban Railways in America (1960), speculated that if highways had been developed a few years earlier, there might not have been an “Interurban Era” at all.
However, I for one think America is better off today for having had such marvelous electric interurban railways as the North Shore Line, South Shore Line, Chicago, Aurora & Elgin, Pacific Electric, and Lehigh Valley Transit, among others too numerous to mention. These were giants in their field, and long stood the test of time. With a bit more help, we could have saved a great deal more of this heritage than was actually done. Still, we are undergoing a true “trolley renaissance” today, and if transported into the past, some of today’s light rail surely has much in common with the earlier interurbans.
In that sense, the word “interurban” itself has a sociological meaning that ties it to an earlier era, mainly the first half of the 20th century. Nowadays, most people who ride the South Shore Line (the last classic passenger interurban) probably think of it as commuter rail.
Perhaps the second Penn Central would have been better off choosing a different name. It seems that 50 years before the New York Central merged with the Pennsylvania Railroad, this name was already jinxed.
Electric Traction magazine reported on page 513 of their August 1918 issue:
NEW ELECTRIC LINE OPENED
The formal opening of the new line of the Penn Central Railway Company, of South Fork, Pa., from South Fork to a point beyond Summerhill, took place recently when a car traversed the line bearing officials of the company, and others who had been invited to attend the event. Without the slightest hitch the car moved over the line from South Fork to the eastern terminus, where a stop of an hour was made before the return.
The roadbed over the entire 3 1/2 miles was found to be in splendid condition and the car negotiated the distance with all the ease and comfort of a Pullman coach. Secretary and Manager O. P. Thomas was congratulated over the achievement of the company in pushing its line through as far as it has gone, and the brilliant prospects for completing the line to Portage at no very distant date.
The car is of the heavy side entrance type and ideal for suburban traffic. Practically the only heavy grade on the line is encountered immediately after leaving the South Fork terminal. From the end of the eastern terminal on to Portage the trolley company will use the old roadbed of the Pennsylvania Railroad the greater part of the distance. Grading for the balance of the lines is 90% completed and the only factors that may handicap its early completion are lack of rails and labor.
The new line will draw on a rather thickly populated territory, including South Fork, Ehrenfeld, Summerhill, Wilmore, Portage, Beaverdale, St. Michael and other places. The original charter has been extended to Gallitzin, still further paralleling the main line of the Pennsylvania Railroad. The latter has aided the trolley company in the development of it project in every way.
One car is now running regularly on the completed line; the fare is 10 cents.
Officers of the Penn Central Railway Company are: Robert Pearce, of Portage, president; Henry J. Raab, of Johnstown, vice-president; Andrew Strayer, of Johnstown, treasurer; and O. P. Thomas, of Johnstown, secretary and manager.
Forgive me if the above seems imbued with a sense of rosy, unwarranted optimism, trying to mask a sense of imminent dread and desperation. Ten cents seems to be a lot to charge for a 3 1/2 mile ride in 1918. There were many operators of the time charging a fraction of that for much longer journeys.
Why did it take five years to build a 3 1/2 mile line? Perhaps we will never know, but for part of that time, there was a war going on.
The first Penn Central turned out to be a trolley so obscure that there is nothing to be found about it on Don Ross‘ excellent and voluminous web site.
As for the rolling stock, the Electric Railway Journal reported as follows on page 768 of their April 26, 1913 issue:
NEW CENTER-ENTRANCE COMBINATION CARS
Two cars designed by W. A. Haller, of the Federal Light & Traction Company, have just been built by the Niles Car & Manufacturing Company for the South Fork-Portage Railway. This road is now under construction between South Fork and Portage by the Portage Construction Comapny, of which G. U. G. Holman is president. An extension of the line will be made as rapidly as possible so as to operate through cars crossing the mountain range between Johnstown and Altoona. Between South Fork and Johnstown the cars will run over the tracks of the Southern Cambria Railway Company.
Owing to the almost continuous climb from both Johnstown and Altoona to the summit, it was considered necessary to have cars as light as possible yet with great seating capacity to accommodate the mining population in the small coal towns though which the road runs. In fact, for a considerable portion of the distance, these mining towns are at close intervals, and the traffic at present will be primarily local. Larger cars of the same type are contemplated for through service when the road is extended. while the extreme length of the present car is only 45 ft. 7 in. and 44 ft. 7 in. over vestibules, the seating capacity is fifty-six persons. There is also a baggage compartment 8 ft. long which also can be occupied by passengers.
One of the novel features is the folding motorman’s cab, which isolates the motorman at the front end and which, when at the rear end, swings transversely with the car and supports two folding seats, increasing the seating capacity by four persons. The left sides of the center vestibule and of the baggage room also are fitted with folding slat seats as it is intended to open only the right-hand side.
Each side of the center vestibule is fitted with four pairs of two-panel folding doors glazed with clear glass from top to bottom, so that the conductor can observe the pavement from his station. These doors are operated by handles from the conductor’s station only. The step openings are covered by Edwards automatic steel trap doors.
The entire underframe, side frame and outside sheathing are of steel– the interior finish being of agasote and mahogany. Each car is equipped with four Westinghouse 1200-volt, 75-hp motors with HL double-end control and geared for a speed of 45 m.p.h.
On account of local clearances, the car is mounted with the bottoms of side sills 7 in. above the rails, the first step being 15 in. high. This may, however, be lowered to 11 in. if obstructions permit.
There were two South Fork-Portage cars, built by the Nile Car & Manufacturing company in 1913.
South Fork-Portage Railway stock, issued in 1912.
This summary, from a World War I-era McGraw Transit Directory, shows that the principals of the South Fork-Portage Railway were the same as those of the Penn Central, which is was reorganized into in 1917:
Daria Phoebe Brashear writes:
I have some clippings for you regarding the line.
Also of note, the line had no passing siding, so apparently (I recall, probably from a Ben Rohrbeck book) that one of the 2 cars was sold off at some point, having otherwise been stuck at the end of the line.
That 1915 “subway” trackage dispute probably killed the line, given they would then have had no good way to pass the PRR line’s embankment what with the old Portage Railroad right of way consumed by what became route 53.
Altoona Mirror, 24 May 13: SOUTH FORK PORTAGE RY. ON PENNSY TRACK
Valuable concessions. which will hasten the completion of the trolley line from this city to Johnstown, have been granted to the South Fork • Portage Railway Company by the Pennsylvania Railroad. The concessions have been secured by Mr. George Holeman, who is promoting the new railway. The line between South Fork and Portage is nearing completion, and cars will be operated there before many days, be(sic) those two points. Following is a summary of the agreement which has been secured from the Pennsy by Mr. Holman : “The exclusive use of the Old Portage and New Portage roadbeds between SummerhiII and Gallitzin. The use of the Pennsylvania’s own right of way and property at six places—through Cassandra borough ; a piece of land, east of Cassandra upon the main line right of way at the deep cut. between Cassandra and Lilly; a plot of land in Cresson borough, and a plot of ground between Cresson and Gallitzin.” The right is also granted to cross the P. R. R. main line at eight under-grade and five overhead crossings. together with the right to cross branch tracks at grade. Mr. Holman is to be congratulated upon the successful negotiation of this valuable right to the trolley company. He expects to be able to announce the date of the opening of the line within the next few weeks.
Altoona Times, 27 May 13: BURY CORPSE ON RIGHT OF WAY OF S. F.-P. RAILWAY
Effort Is Made To Prevent Trolley Line From Crossing Cemetery
SOUTH FORK, May 26.—In an effort to check work of the South Fork•Portage Railway company upon the property of St. James Cemetery Association for the reason, it is understood, that the right-of-way has not been paid for, interested persons are alleged to have disinterred a body from the burial ground near Summerhill last evening and buried it again just in front of the steam shovel used in constructing the trolley line. This was not accomplished however, until two foreigners, laborers for the trolley company, had been arrested for trespass.
About 9 o’clock last evening people who are protesting against the progress of the traction line over cemetery property before legal matters are adjusted went to the right-of-way and dug a grave in front of the steam shovel. They then went to that section of the burial ground known as the “potters’ field,” it is said, and disinterred the body of an unknown man, killed on the Pennsylvania Railroad tracks several months ago. Before they removed the body to the prepared grave, officials of the traction company learned of the move, and sent two foreigners to the shovel to till the grave. This was done, large stones being dropped into the hole. Undaunted, however, the other party dug a new grave close to the shovel and placed the body in it, it is said.
The two foreigners were then arrested on charges of trespass. The body was placed close to the winding roadway that leads from the township highway up through the cemetery.
Attorney Arthur C. Simler, an official of the South Fork – Portage line, said today that permission to construct the line hail been given by Bishop Eugene A. Garvey, pending the granting of a petition by the court.
“The title to all church property in the diocese is vested in the Bishop,” said Mr. Simler. He was willing that we build the line through the St.James cemetery, as the tracks are beside the township road, on a strip separated from the cemetery proper by a fence. “We have the option on the property, but can’t close up the right-of-way til we get an order from the Court for the transfer. Our petition for that must be presented during a session of a court, and it it will be presented the first Monday in June. Pending the granting of the order Bishop Garvey indicated his willingness that we proceed with the grading.”
The body will not be moved, at least not for a short time, said Mr. Simler. The steam shovel will be moved to the other end of the cemetery strip, from where work will be done toward the grave. Squire Schofield has not given the two foreigners a hearing, as an attempt is being made to settle the case.
Thomas McGuire. who made the informations against the foreigners, could not be reached today, and an effort to communicate with Father Quinn, pastor of St James Church this afternoon elicited the information that he was at the cemetery.
The body that was placed in the right-of-way was never identified, it is said. The man was thought to have been from Sharon. He was killed near South Fork by a freight train.
Harrisburg Telegraph, 17 Aug 15: Cunningham Insists on Public Utilities Co. Complying With Law
Highway Commissioner Cunningham and Chief Engineer Uhler served notice to-day by a ruling that public utilities corporations must conform with the law when dealing with the State Highway Department. The South Fork – Portage Railway Company, in Cambria county, has been endeavoring for some time past to secure right of way along a State highway route. Permission to pass beneath a subway, now occupied by the State highway, had been denied, but, through a misunderstanding, the railway company proceeded to lay tracks without a permit along this road.
Chief Engineer Uhler ordered the tracks removed and, on the failure of the company to do so, the State highway employees tore them up. Notwithstanding this, the railway company relaid the tracks and then secured a preliminary injunction in the Cambria county courts preventing the State Highway Department from removing the tracks. Officers said the work had been done without orders. Commissioner Cunningham observed that the officers of the company were responsible for the acts of subordinates.
The representatives of the company were told that unless the tracks were voluntarily removed and the preliminary injunction not acted upon, the department would be perfectly willing to take the subject into the courts for a ruling. After some argument the railway officials acceded to this demand and the tracks in dispute will be removed.
We are grateful to Daria Phoebe Brashear for sharing this information.
Editor’s Note: Benson W. Rohrbeck (1933-2015), mentioned above, authored about a dozen books on various Pennsylvania trolley lines, starting in 1964. These were self-published (by Ben Rohrbeck Traction Publications) and spiral-bound. They are an excellent resource.
Again, from Daria Phoebe Brashear:
Stephen Titchenal (Stephen@Titchenal.com)’s guess at the line (heavy yellow line). Mostly matches what I had but I’m unsure what the situation was with the first two underpasses east of Summerhill, why those were okay but the third wasn’t. My guess was that it followed the route of what’s now route 53 (thin yellow line) but the aerials from 1939 don’t obviously show such. Also a small fragment of a 1918 PRR valuation map which I don’t have publication permission for, which confirms the line ran (there) on the north side of the portage railroad, and made it to what would be the 3rd subway east of Summerhill, which is presumably the one the court case was about, which makes sense given that was the “deep” Portage Railroad cut, square in the middle of that fragment.
Given this, it seems pretty likely that that case, making the line unable to use that subway, was what did it in so early (and why it never made it to Portage.)
Of course, looking carefully, the fragment shows the trolley in the 2nd of 3 tunnels at the left. So. Yeah. I guess his map is right!
Last little bits: Since you still wonder about it on the page, I can identify the locations of all 4 pictures.
The two in the portage cut are one end of the line. The other two are in the same spot on Maple Avenue, at the other end of the line, what appears to be at Grant St.
We’re looking up the hill, northeastward out of South Fork. The Line would have logically started where the Southern Cambria connected, which was via the bridge over the PRR, now gone, but shown in this aerial, and still standing when I was in high school, complete with what were probably the bents that held the trolley wire spanning the bridge still standing 60+ years after the Southern Cambria ceased service. On the right side of the street there’s a tailor, and another building behind it, further from us, right out against the street, but on the corner we can see in one of the pictures that the building is set a bit back. It matches Maple and Grant on this image which is 50 years later… but it’s not like there was a lot of reason for South Fork to turn over heavily.
Also, if you look at the image which shows the top of the hill, note that the track appears to move from the center, toward the left, but at the same time the street is narrower and on a shelf? The grade separation is visible in the aerial.
I’ll attach Sanborn 1916s for South Fork which came from sanborn.umi.com and thus can’t be distributed today; alas the Penn State library’s scans of originals only include 1910, and Library of Congress’s aren’t online, or those would be publishable.
The trolley line ran on the north of the Portage Railroad (which is now Portage St, route 53) through the cut which is mostly still there just to the west of this point. The railroad cars were on the track to the right — that is, south — of the line outbound from South Fork, and basically just behind the car from our vantage was the other car that never ran, and then the line would have turned slightly left, northeastward, to go through the subway that Cunningham and Uhler scolded them over.
I get it, I suppose. All 3 such subways look like this.
And the problem wasn’t even just that: staying along route 53 would have involved 3 such tunnels between here and Wilmore, and staying on the south side of the PRR here would have bypassed only two of those, leaving the line to need to still somehow get under the PRR and into the middle of Wilmore. Doable, but not cheap. Or they could have bypassed all 3, missed the center of Wilmore and showed up on the south side of the PRR in Portage, but presumably they hadn’t secured usage of any right of way to have let them do that, and they apparently had already used up all their funds getting done only what they did. So that story from 1915 was, realistically, the death of the line, in spite of the opening 2 years later. All I can guess is they hoped to make a good show of opening in the hopes they’d get more funds somehow, but the era of that was over.
Looks like you have solved the mystery for sure… kudos to you, thanks!
More Mystery Photos
If you can help us identify some of these pictures, we would greatly appreciate it. You can either leave a comment on this post, or drop us a line at:
Editor’s Note: Our readers (see the Comments to this post) have helped us reach a general consensus about most of these pictures.
1. The picture of Met “L” cars was taken at the Laramie shops on the Garfield Park line.
2. The Douglas picture may show the Kenton Yard.
3. We have a difference of opinion about the gate cars in the yard, but this could very well be Linden Yard in Wilmette looking north from Maple Avenue. The contemporary view lines up well with the older photo, and this is a place where you would have expected to see gate cars. They were, of course, used throughout the CTA system but in the 1940s and 50s you would have been more likely to see Met cars in the Laramie Yard.
4. and 5. Theses two pictures likely show the Hammond, Whiting and East Chicago operation which ran until 1940. You can read more about that here. This had common ownership with the South Chicago City Railway Company, which explains why these cars look so much like Chicago’s.
6. We are now certain that the picture of car 242 shows the Chicago and Joliet Electric.
Thanks to all who contributed information.
These are Chicago Metropolitan “L” cars, but where was this picture taken? There seems to be dirt beneath the tracks, indicating we are at ground level.
That this is a CTA wooden “L” car (#2338) signed for the Douglas Park line is clear, but not the location. Where could this picture have been taken?
CRT/CTA gate cars– but where was this picture taken?
CTA’s Linden Yard as it looks today, looking north from Maple. The track layout looks much the same as in the mystery picture, with three cars side-by-side. It would make sense to see gate cars there in the 1940s and 50s when the older picture was taken.
Is this a Chicago streetcar, and if so, where was this picture taken? (Sorry for the lo-res image.)
Is this a Chicago streetcar, and if so, where was this picture taken? (Sorry for the lo-res image.)
This is car number 242 of a 1920s side of the road interurban, but which one? Could it possibly be the Chicago and Joliet Electric Railway, which connected the Chicago Surface Lines and the Chicago, Ottawa & Peoria? They did have a car 242, but I’m not sure this is the same car. Don’s Rail Photos says, “242 was built by Cummings Car & Coach Co. in 1927.” They have another picture of C&JE car 242 here for comparison. If this is that car, it would narrow down the time when this picture could have been taken to between 1927 and 1933. (We also ran a picture of car 242 in a previous post.)
A close-up of the logo on the side of car 242.
To round out today’s post, here are a few more interesting shots. No mysteries, however:
This circa 1952 photo gives a “bird’s eye view” from one of Montreal’s four open-air sightseeing trams. Car #2 is now at the Seashore Trolley Museum, in operable condition. I was fortunate enough to ride that car in 2014. You can see pictures I took of it here.
Montreal Tramways had four of these unique observation cars in their fleet, which were used for sightseeing tours. Here, car #3 is at St. Joseph’s Shrine on August 14, 1948. All four cars have been preserved, and car 3 is now at Exporail, the Canadian Railway Museum. A few years ago, I rode the very similar car #2 at the Seashore Trolley Museum.
On the back of this photo, which shows Chicago Surface Lines 4003 at the Madison-Austin loop, it was misidentified as Brooklyn. See? You can’t always trust what is written on the back of the photograph. As the man said, “trust, but verify.”
Help Support The Trolley Dodger
This is our 138th 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 over 163,000 page views, for which we are very grateful.
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As we have said before, “If you buy here, we will be here.”
Today, we pay tribute to this rich traction history with a selection of classic photos showing Milwaukee streetcars and interurbans. Much of the information we are sharing about these railcars comes from Don’s Rail Photos, an excellent online archive. Don Ross has been collecting photos since 1946 and if you have not yet checked out his web site, I hope you will do so.
Milwaukee once had an interurban system, part of which was called a “rapid transit” line. The last vestige of this once-great system was called Speedrail.
Speedrail was a valiant effort to keep service going on a shoestring, in an era before government funding for transit. Unfortunately, there was a horrific accident on September 2, 1950 that led directly to the end of the interurban on June 30, 1951. That this crash was involved a train full of railfans, many of whom had come to Milwaukee from out of town to attend a convention, made things even more tragic. Jay Maeder, head of Speedrail, was at the controls of one of the two trains, which hit head-on on a blind curve. The exact cause of the accident was never determined. You can read more about it here.
Milwaukee’s last streetcar ran in 1958. If you would like to hear the sounds of Milwaukee streetcars in action, you may be interested in our compact disc of Railroad Record Club LPs #35 and 36, which you can find in our Online Store.
This Hi-Fi recording, made in the 1950s, has been digitally remastered and sounds great. It is paired with additional vintage recordings of the Chicago, North Shore and Milwaukee, Chicago, Aurora & Elgin, plus the Chicago Transit Authority’s Garfield Park “L”.
When the Illinois Electric Railway Museum, then located in North Chicago, purchased a Chicago, Aurora & Elgin railcar after the “Roarin’ Elgin” was abandoned, the suggestion was made to use a CA&E car on a North Shore Line fantrip. And although an inspection showed that the CA&E car was, most likely, in better shape than some of the CNS&M’s existing rolling stock, IERM was unable to get permission to use the car, and this historic opportunity was lost.
However, about a dozen years before this, a similar sort of trip was run, when Milwaukee Electric interurban car 1121 ran on a fantrip over North Shore Line trackage. We are pleased to offer three photos from that trip in this post.
According to the book Kenosha on the Go, by the Kenosha Streetcar Society, page 79, this fantrip took place on Sunday, December 4, 1949, with North Shore motorman Howard A. Odinius at the controls. It had been 27 months since the abandonment of the MRK (Milwaukee-Racine-Kenosha) interurban line of KMCL (Kenosha Motor Coach Lines), which ran to downtown Kenosha. (Speedrail ran service to Waukesha.)
You can read Don Ross’ account of the fantrip here.
After Milwaukee lost its streetcars, the era of traction continued there until the North Shore Line quit in 1963, and the last Milwaukee trolley bus ran in 1965. Now, the Illinois Railway Museum has a variety of Milwaukee equipment in its extensive collections.
Let’s hope events in Milwaukee are gaining traction, and not losing it.
-Ye Olde Editor
PS- Here’s a video showing Milwaukee’s route 10 streetcar in 1957:
Milwaukee Electric car 1121 and an Electroliner near Racine on the 1949 North Shore Line fantrip. Don’s Rail Photos adds, “1121 was built by Kuhlman Car in February 1909, #405. It was rebuilt in 1927. It was equipped with GE-207B motors to allow it to pull trailers. In 1949 it was found to have the best wheels, and thus it was selected for the fantrip on the North Shore Line to Green Bay Junction near Rondout. It was also used as a freight motor after the last regular freight motor was wrecked in 1950.”
Milwaukee Electric car 1121 alongside an Electroliner (probably 803-804) at the Kenosha station. This was a 1949 fantrip where a TMER&T car was operated on part of the North Shore Line.
Don’s Rail Photos says, “1182-1183 was rebuilt from an I&C (Indianapolis & Cincinnati Traction Co.) car in 1929 and scrapped in 1952.” The car is shown at the North Side station in Milwaukee, signed for the Port Washington interurban line.
Don’s Rail Photos says, “1196-1197 was built at Cold Spring in 1929. The second car was equipped with small dining facilities but it was shortly rebuilt with a baggage compartment at the rear end. It was stored at West Allis Station after a few years. In 1942 it was rebuilt with all coach and scrapped in 1952.” This car is shown in downtown Milwaukee, signed for the Port Washington interurban line.
Milwaukee Electric Railway (The Milwaukee Electric Railway & Transport Co.) car 1137, westbound on the Rapid Transit Line, 68th Street Bridge, July 22, 1949.
Speedrail cars 300 and 65, both signed for Hales Corners. According to Don’s Rail Photos, “300 was built by St Louis Car in 1924. #1308. In 1936 it was sold to Cleveland Interurban RR as 300. CI became Shaker Heights Rapid Transit in 1944. It was sold to Milwaukee Rapid Transit & Speedrail in May 1950 as 300. It was scrapped in 1952.” Car 65 at right is a “curved side” car built by the Cincinnati Car Company. It also came by way of Shaker Heights.
Speedrail car 66, shown here on the Waukesha loop, was a Cincinnati “curved-side” car. It had formerly been used by both Lehigh Valley Transit and the Dayton and Troy. This car, after having been refurbished for Speedrail, was only in service for a short period of time before the line quit in 1951.
The tragic result of a head-on collision between two Speedrail cars on a blind curve on September 2, 1950. Heavyweight cars 1192-1193, at left, ran into lightweight articulated cars 39-40. Ten people were killed and dozens were injured.
Here is a video about the Speedrail wreck:
Milwaukee city streetcar 570 on route 15. Don’s Rail Photos adds, “570 was built by St Louis Car Co in 1911. It was one manned in 1931.”
The caption to this photo reads, “City car – Milwaukee. Last 2-man car pulling into station on last run in West Allis.” Charles Kronenwetter adds, “Car 638 appears to be coming Northbound on 84th St approaching the National Ave intersection.” Don’s Rail Photos: “638 was built at Cold Springs in 1913. It was reconditioned as a two man car in 1928.”
Don’s Rail Photos says, “589 was built by St Louis Car Co in 1911. It was rebuilt in 1927.” This car is shown at the end of one of the Milwaukee city streetcar lines in West Allis. Charles Kronoenwetter says, “589 is coming off the short section of private right-of-way which ran between Mitchell St. and Becher St. onto Becher St.”
Milwaukee city car 556 on Becher St. in West Allis. Don’s Rail Photos adds, “556 was built by St Louis Car Co in 1911. It was one manned in 1928.”
Railroad Record Club LP #35 features Hi-fi audio recordings of Milwaukee streetcars in the 1950s. We have digitized this and many other recordings, which you can find in our Online Store.