Ross Harano and the Kenwood “L”

Ross Harano as a toddler in 1945, with his uncle Susumu Okamoto, in front of the Kenwood "L" terminal at 42nd Place. (Courtesy of Ross Harano)

Ross Harano as a toddler in 1945, with his uncle Susumu Okamoto, in front of the Kenwood “L” terminal at 42nd Place. (Courtesy of Ross Harano)

I first became interested in Ross Harano and his family’s story when I came across the picture shown above in the article What happened to Chicago’s Japanese neighborhood? by Katherine Nagasawa from WBEZ radio. I wanted to learn more, and found that Mr. Harano is, as they used to say, “in the book.” I wrote him a letter, and we began a correspondence that led to the interview that follows.

Ross Harano writes:

I was born in the Fresno Assembly Center which was at the Fresno County Fair Grounds on September 17,1942. When I was one month old, my family was shipped to the Jerome, Arkansas, internment camp. We were later allowed to relocate to Chicago.

My uncle’s name was Susumu Okamoto (1919-2005) who was married to my mother’s sister. When we settled on Oakenwald from the camp in Arkansas, my parents and my mother’s 3 sisters and their husbands along with my grandparents all lived there.

It was a full house.

During the war, my uncle Susumu served with US Military Intelligence in the Pacific along with two of my mother’s brothers. Another brother served in Europe with the Japanese American 442nd Combat Infantry Battalion. He was seriously wounded in Italy and also lived with us on Oakenwald after he recovered from his wounds.

This is a uniquely American story, and also one that is uniquely Chicago, a slice of history that deserves to be remembered.

-David Sadowski

From 1949 to 1957, the CTA operated the Kenowwd branch of the "L" as a shuttle operation, and here we see three such cars at the Indiana Avenue station. By the mid-1950s, the older gate cars had been replaced by ones formerly used on the Met "L", as those lines were equipped with more modern steel cars. Not sure why there are three cars here-- Kenwood usually used one or two car trains in these days.

From 1949 to 1957, the CTA operated the Kenowwd branch of the “L” as a shuttle operation, and here we see three such cars at the Indiana Avenue station. By the mid-1950s, the older gate cars had been replaced by ones formerly used on the Met “L”, as those lines were equipped with more modern steel cars. Not sure why there are three cars here– Kenwood usually used one or two car trains in these days.

Interview with Ross Harano, July 2, 2020:

Q: Maybe we could start by going back to the beginning of your family’s history, and when they  came to this country, and we can just take it from there?

A: Well, I’m third generation Japanese-American. Both of my grandfathers came to America in 1898. They landed in Hawaii first as laborers in the sugar cane fields and later on the mainland as laborers on the Union Pacific railroad. Prior to the Japanese immigration, the Chinese came to this country as Forty Niners to search for gold and later to build the first transcontinental railroad. As the Chinese began to settle on the west coast, strong anti-Chinese sentiments resulted in the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act. Japan was the next place where the railroads looked for workers and both my grandfathers worked on the railroads and eventually settled in California where my parents were born. My father was born in Berkeley, and my mother was born in Hanford which is just outside of Fresno.

After Pearl Harbor was attacked, President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 which authorized the interment of the Japanese community into 10 concentration camps away from the west coast. We evacuated out with my mother’s family because she was pregnant with me and she had three sisters who were not married at the time to care for her. We went from Hanford to the Fresno Assembly Center which was built on the Fresno County Fairgrounds. I was born in September of ’42, and in October we were shipped to Jerome, Arkansas. There were two camps in Arkansas, one at Rohwer and one at Jerome. They were about 25 miles apart and each held 8,500 Japanese internees.

Even though my family was interned behind barbed wire, seven of my uncles volunteered to serve in the US Military. Four of them served in Europe with the Japanese American 442nd Regimental Combat Team – one was wounded in Italy and one was killed in France. Three uncles served in the Pacific in the US military intelligence. This was kept a military secret until the late ‘50s. Japanese Americans were there on the front lines intercepting Japanese messages because the Japanese didn’t know that we had translators so they didn’t speak in code on the battlefield. The Japanese Americans were on the front lines in most of the campaigns in the Pacific including Merrill’s Marauders in Burma.

The house at 4201 S. Oakenwald. (Courtesy of Ross Harano)

The house at 4201 S. Oakenwald. (Courtesy of Ross Harano)

Ross and his maternal grandfather Rihaci Mayewaki (1886-1969) in front of the Kenwood "L" terminal at 42nd Place. (Courtesy of Ross Harano)

Ross and his maternal grandfather Rihaci Mayewaki (1886-1969) in front of the Kenwood “L” terminal at 42nd Place. (Courtesy of Ross Harano)

Ross Harano and a cousin, in front of the Kenwood "L" terminal at 42nd Place. (Courtesy of Ross Harano)

Ross Harano and a cousin, in front of the Kenwood “L” terminal at 42nd Place. (Courtesy of Ross Harano)

Ross and his sled. (Courtesy of Ross Harano)

Ross and his sled. (Courtesy of Ross Harano)

Transfers from the Kenwood "L" and 43rd Street streetcar line. (Courtesy of Ross Harano)

Transfers from the Kenwood “L” and 43rd Street streetcar line. (Courtesy of Ross Harano)

This notice is from before October 1947, when the Chicago Transit Authority took over the "L" system. Fares were, if anything, being held artificially low for many years, while the system gradually deteriorated and the equipment aged. Once the CTA was in charge, they had more legal leeway to raise fares, in order to cover expenses, in the days before government subsidies. As a result, there were several fare increases in the 1950s. (Courtesy of Ross Harano)

This notice is from before October 1947, when the Chicago Transit Authority took over the “L” system. Fares were, if anything, being held artificially low for many years, while the system gradually deteriorated and the equipment aged. Once the CTA was in charge, they had more legal leeway to raise fares, in order to cover expenses, in the days before government subsidies. As a result, there were several fare increases in the 1950s. (Courtesy of Ross Harano)

In 1944 we were able to leave the camp and we eventually settled on the south side of Chicago on Oakenwald. At some point we had my mother’s three sisters and their husbands, two new baby cousins, my grandparents and my mother’s three brothers.

Q: How many people would you say were living in the same house?

A: About 14 (laughs).

Q: Things must have been kinda tight, but I suppose, you probably didn’t think about it too much, because that’s just the way things were.

A: Well it was a relatively large brick building. It was like a rowhouse where the buildings were all built next to each other with brick common walls. The upstairs had four bedrooms and one bathroom. Each bedroom had a family. When my uncle who was a carpenter returned from the Army, he built another bedroom in the basement, so we had five bedrooms. He also built another bathroom down there too, so we had two bathrooms. So, we had quite a few people in the building which was tremendous for me. I was the only child until I was four years old, so I had all my aunties and uncles to take good care of me.

CTA 6180 is at 43rd and Oakenwald on August 8, 1953, the last day of streetcar service on the 43rd-Root Street line. Note the Illinois Central station at rear. (C. Edward Hedstrom Photo)

CTA 6180 is at 43rd and Oakenwald on August 8, 1953, the last day of streetcar service on the 43rd-Root Street line. Note the Illinois Central station at rear. (C. Edward Hedstrom Photo)

And at that time, everybody was working. My mother was working at Hart, Schaffner and Marx, which was on west Van Buren near the Chicago river. And so, she would take the “L” to work every day which was very convenient since we lived across the street from the Kenwood “L” end of the line terminal. There was a 43rd Street Illinois Central stop next to us, and plus, we had the 43rd streetcar. It was a very convenient place to live in terms of getting to work and shopping, and plus, it was an interesting neighborhood.

In those days, Chicago was very segregated and African Americans were not allowed to live east of Cottage Grove. And so, the neighborhood, when we first moved in was all white. Many of our neighbors on Oakenwald were of third or fourth generation German ancestry. When the first African Americans began to move east of Cottage Grove, my neighborhood changed from white to black over the summer – like in two months. Most of my friends ended up moving to Oak Lawn which was basically farmland in those days. Oak Lawn was being developed and a lot of my friends built or bought homes in that area.

Q: What year was this, then, when the segregation ended?

A: Oh, probably about 1953, let’s see, I was in fifth grade. If you look at my grammar school pictures, you can see the change. When I graduated, my class was all black. I still keep in touch with some of my classmates from grammar school.

Q: Are they on Facebook?

A: No, I don’t do Facebook. I do emails. I have a flip phone, I don’t have one of those fancy phones.

The corner of Oakenwald and 42nd Place today.

The corner of Oakenwald and 42nd Place today.

Q: Is the house still there, that you guys lived in?

A: No, what happened is that in 1961, the City of Chicago tore down the whole neighborhood to build projects between Lake Park on the west and the Illinois Central tracks on the east and from 43rd Street north to 40th Street. Unfortunately, the projects were never successful because evidently there were two gangs that got involved and I heard that they were shooting at each other between these two buildings. And sometime in the 90s, those two projects were torn down. Actually, they were blown up and it was a big media event. Now, that whole area has been rebuilt. Oakenwald grammar school was torn down and now there are all new townhouses. So, the whole neighborhood has really changed. All the vacant lots on Oakenwald are now new townhouses.

Q: Wow. What was the address of the house you were living in?

A: 4201 S. Oakenwald. It was on the southeast corner of 42nd and Oakenwald directly across the street from the Kenwood “L” end-of-the-line station there.

Q: Had that been a wealthy neighborhood at one point in the past?

We ran a lo-fi version of this picture in a previous post. The location at first was a real mystery, but turned out to be 42nd Place, the terminal of the CTA Kenwood branch, looking west. The next photo was taken further down the platform. (We ran originally ran this with other pictures that we saw on eBay, but hadn't been able to purchase. It was relisted and we decided to buy it after all.) Ross Harano adds, "The view is looking north rather than west. The building with the chimney is Oakenwald Grammar School at 4071 S. Lake Park that I attended. The tower on the right is the "Kiosk Sphinx" that was on an estate just north of the grammar school. Geoffrey Baer had a segment on his WTTW's "Ask Geoffrey" about the wealthy family that built a Mediterranean style home with a pool and "Eiffel" tower. The property to the west of the station was owned by Nelson Coal. You can see the coal moving equipment in the photo. Nelson Coal stored mountains of coal east of the terminal tracks next to the Illinois Central Tracks. We used to play soldiers on the coal until we would be chased away by Nelson Coal workers."

We ran a lo-fi version of this picture in a previous post. The location at first was a real mystery, but turned out to be 42nd Place, the terminal of the CTA Kenwood branch, looking west. The next photo was taken further down the platform. (We ran originally ran this with other pictures that we saw on eBay, but hadn’t been able to purchase. It was relisted and we decided to buy it after all.) Ross Harano adds, “The view is looking north rather than west. The building with the chimney is Oakenwald Grammar School at 4071 S. Lake Park that I attended. The tower on the right is the “Kiosk Sphinx” that was on an estate just north of the grammar school. Geoffrey Baer had a segment on his WTTW’s “Ask Geoffrey” about the wealthy family that built a Mediterranean style home with a pool and “Eiffel” tower. The property to the west of the station was owned by Nelson Coal. You can see the coal moving equipment in the photo. Nelson Coal stored mountains of coal east of the terminal tracks next to the Illinois Central Tracks. We used to play soldiers on the coal until we would be chased away by Nelson Coal workers.”

A: No, it was sort of middle class, I suspect. The wealthy area was north of us. If you looked at Lake Park, around Oakwood Boulevard there were a lot of mansions there—big, big mansions. I remember as a kid in grammar school they were vacant, and we used to play in them before they were torn down. There was one mansion which was a Mediterranean style with a swimming pool and a replica of the Eiffel Tower which could be seen in one of the CTA pictures that you had.

Q: What happened to this Eiffel Tower replica? Is that still there, or is it gone?

A: There’s a whole long story on Ask Geoffrey (WTTW – Chicago Tonight) about it. (See link at the end of this article.)  The family made a lot of money. They built the home next to some other big mansions. Eventually, it was the last one left standing. The son had it and there was some dispute in the family so that it was eventually torn down to build an annex classroom building for the Oakenwald grammar school in 1955.

Q: Did you say that the grammar school’s not there anymore?

A: That was all torn down.

Q: Until 1949, the Kenwood “L” ran downtown, and wasn’t it such that they had these things called Kenwood-Wilson Expresses, or something like that?

A: Yes, what it was, was that there were three tracks, and so the Kenwood “L” ran as a local, so it would go to Indiana Avenue, then it would stop at I think like maybe 35th, maybe at Cermak, maybe at Roosevelt, it was a local that went around the Loop and came back. I remember riding it with my mother. She would shop at Marshall Field’s and there was an entrance to Marshall Field’s from the “L” platform. She would shop, and I would hang onto her as she walked around Marshall Field’s. And then when it became a local (shuttle) and ended at Indiana, the platform was extended to cover up the track.

Q: Right. And then from that point forward, I think they only used two tracks heading north. They weren’t using the express track anymore.

A: Correct.

Q: Do you know which trains would have used the third track, in the middle, the express track?

A: The Jackson Park and Englewood lines were using it.

Q: And then the Kenwood was the local, it went around the Loop and came back, but I saw some pictures of trains that said Kenwood-Wilson.

A: There might’ve been a Kenwood Express that ran downtown via the subway to Wilson. Maybe during Rush Hour, they ran express, I don’t know.

Q: And then the Stock Yards “L” was always a shuttle?

A: Yeah, it started at Indiana Avenue, went around a circle in the Stock Yards and came back to Indiana.

This postcard, circa 1910, shows one of the single track "L" stations that were a unique feature of the old Stockyards branch.

This postcard, circa 1910, shows one of the single track “L” stations that were a unique feature of the old Stockyards branch.

Gate car #204 at Halsted on the Stock Yards branch.

Gate car #204 at Halsted on the Stock Yards branch.

Q: Did you ever ride the Stock Yards “L”?

A: Once as a kid. I rode every train when I was a kid.

Q: Just to have the experience, you rode every line?

A: What happened was that if you were under 10 or something like that, you rode free with an adult. So, my friends and I would we would follow some adults through the ticket line. We would hop on the trains and ride ‘em. I remember we rode the Ravenswood line when it was one of the first to have the metal cars. So, we took the train up to Belmont and caught the Ravenswood line. We went all the way to the end and came back. I remember that we sat in the front. There was one seat at the front window that sat sideways and was across from the driver’s compartment. There were three of us. I remember that we all sat there making a lot of noise. It’s a wonder we didn’t get kicked off the train.

Q: It must have been quite a thrill to go down into the subway for the first time.

A: Yeah, we would ride the trains all the time just to ride the trains. We got on for nothing and we were never disorderly. During the Christmas season, we’d go downtown to Marshall Field’s and play in the toy department until a salesperson would ask us where our parents were at and we would leave. We would then work our way down to The Fair (department store), Carson Pirie Scott until we got kicked out. We would then get on the train and come home. That was our entertainment during the Christmas season—we’d play in the toy departments (laughs), there was only two or three of us at a time.

Q: You had mentioned that you got to know the people who drove the trains, the Kenwood line, especially, I would imagine, when it was a shuttle operation.

A: There were only one or two drivers at that point. There was a grocery store right next to the terminal. We just called it Fred’s. The owner’s name was Fred Mamet and I worked there from sixth grade as a stock boy, delivery boy and eventually as a butcher. And I made sandwiches for the “L” drivers and conductors so I got to know them, one of them would let me drive the train for just a very short distance.

Q: Do you remember their names?

A: I was trying to remember. This one fellow was named Dillard which was his last name. And then there was our neighbor and I don’t remember his name at all. He lived on Oakenwald. He was a driver and he’s the one who let me drive.

Q: Tell me about the Kenwood line. They had a terminal there, but I suppose there were times when they really didn’t park hardly any trains there, I think they stored them elsewhere for a while, after it became a shuttle.

A: When the trains were running downtown, the whole thing was filled. There had to be maybe ten tracks for storing and repairing the cars. I don’t remember the exact number, but there were always cars up there. But when it became a shuttle, those other tracks were always empty.

Q: And then they just used a couple of trains, going back and forth?

A: One or two at the most. At night, they just had one train running.

Q: They used both tracks, they didn’t just use one of the two tracks?

A: They used both tracks.

Q: And when they got to the ends, they would go down to a single track, just use one of the two tracks?

A: Before it was a shuttle, the tracks on both sides of the terminal platform were used. When it became a shuttle, they would switch into one track on one side of the platform.

Q: That makes sense. The stations themselves were on an embankment and were sort of different than usual “L” stations, because they had been built by some other company. I think that line opened in 1907, and it pretty much stayed the same until 1957, when they got rid of it, and they had some the oldest cars, those wooden cars. That and the Stock Yards were the last two lines to use wooden cars on the whole system.

A: I remember the ones with a platform on each side, with a gate there (laughs).

Chicago "L" car 24 (aka 1024) at the Illinois Railway Museum in 2019.

Chicago “L” car 24 (aka 1024) at the Illinois Railway Museum in 2019.

Q: Those gate cars, there is only one of those that was saved. It’s at the Illinois Railway Museum. It was originally called car 24, later they changed it to 1024, and within the last few years, they have restored that car back to its original appearance and changed it back to being car 24. That one’s out there, whenever the museum is going to open again. You can ride on that one when they have it out. It’s apparently been brought back to the way it was when it was new.

A: They had like straw seats, laminated with some sort of, it wasn’t plastic, looked like straw.

Q: I think it was cane.

A: Cane, it would be, yes. The train would pull in the station, the conductor’s first job was to reverse the seats.

Q: Are you talking about, on the gate cars?

A: Yeah.

Q: What about the other cars? The other cars they had, later, were from the Metropolitan “L”, where they weren’t needed anymore, those ones that had different roofs. Did those have reversible seats too, or not?

A: Gee, I don’t remember. I just remember, it struck me that the conductor would have to change the seats. That was the first thing they did when the train pulled into the station. And the later ones, they may not have had the reversable seats. I don’t remember.

Q: And the gate cars, did they usually use a two-car train?

A: Yeah, two cars at the most.

Q: And then, the conductor, to open and close the doors, had to stand between the two cars?

A: Correct.

Q: You can imagine what that would have been like in the wintertime. Did the conductors ride outside like that, between the two cars? Or did they go between the two cars when it went into the station?

A: They would ride in the car and when they would come to a station, they would go outside and open the gates. There would be a driver and a conductor.

Q: They continued that practice, even on the steel cars that they had from the 1920s, and it wasn’t until the early 1950s that they changed that, and tried to change it around, so the conductor didn’t have to go between the two cars like that.

A: I remember the subway. Every two cars had a conductor that opened and closed the doors. The Kenwood “L” was something when it was running downtown. There would be a lot of people getting off at Oakenwald. In fact, I remember when I was a kid, I used to have a lemonade stand in front of my house and sell lemonade to everybody when they were getting off the train.

Q: At that time, it was a very popular line?

A: The whole neighborhood, whoever worked downtown, there would be a lotta people riding it, as a kid I remember that.

Q: But later, by the time it quit, by 1957, how was the ridership then?

A: Oh, very few. Very, very few.

Q: Because it was a shuttle, or for other reasons?

A: The neighborhood was changing racially and fewer African Americans worked downtown.

My best friend Eddie Moore’s father worked at the Post Office. Another friend across the street, I think her father was a teacher. It was what I call a middle-class neighborhood in those days.

(This and the next picture) Danny Yoshida, Ross Harano and his sister Cathy In March 1951. Ross writes, "Danny is on the left. He lived on Lake Park and 38th and was a classmate at Oakenwald until he moved to 45th and Lake Park." (Both courtesy of Ross Harano)

(This and the next picture) Danny Yoshida, Ross Harano and his sister Cathy In March 1951. Ross writes, “Danny is on the left. He lived on Lake Park and 38th and was a classmate at Oakenwald until he moved to 45th and Lake Park.” (Both courtesy of Ross Harano)

Q: Right. I worked for LaSalle Photo for many years, are you familiar with that company at all? The Yamamoto family. (1700 W. Diversey)

A: Oh sure, I know LaSalle. A lot of my buddies worked there. My good friend Danny Yoshida married the daughter.

Q: Right. Now, he died?

A: Yeah, he died.

Q: What happened to him?

A: I don’t know. I lost track of him. I was at an event and I was talking to someone who turned out to be his cousin. I learned that both Danny and his younger brother, Kenny, died. I believe the sister Carole is still alive. She married a friend of mine, but I lost touch with them. I have a lot of pictures of Danny and me at Oakenwald.

Q: Was he from the neighborhood?

A: He was at Oakenwald Grammar School. Then they moved to 45th and Lake Park, so he might’ve gone to Shakespeare Grammar School after that.

Q: Small world, yeah. What I recall, of course, Bill Yamamoto, he was very much, I would say, patriotic, in the sense that he could have saved a lot of money by using Fuji chemistry and paper, but he would only use Kodak, because it was American.

A: My uncle, Earl Harano, in North Platte, Nebraska, was also in the same business, so they knew each other. My uncle had a photography studio, in North Platte, Nebraska, and he secured all the school photos in Nebraska and southern South Dakota.

If you needed a job, Bill would hire you. If your son needed a job, Bill had a job for you. I had a lot of friends working there.

Q: When they let you drive a Kenwood “L” train for a little while, that must’ve been quite a thrill.

A: Yeah, it was just a brass handled knob on this thing. There was no speed involved. The train couldn’t go that fast. It had a governor on it, anyway (laughs). I think you turned the knob to a certain point, if you wanted it to go fast, you had to do something to get it to go to the next speed. The train had two speeds—slow, and slower (laughs). By the way, each driver would bring his own brass handled knob.

Q: The brake was separate?

A: I don’t remember the brake at all.

Q: On those cars, I think it was separate—probably air brakes.

A: It might have been. I never had to use the brake because I was going so slow (laughs). I didn’t drive it that far… I just drove it between the next to the last station at Lake Park to the terminal. I didn’t drive the whole route. I just drove it a little bit, so I could tell all my buddies, “Hey! I drove the train!”

Q: You’re probably one of the last few people alive who ever did, on that line.

A: (laughs) I never told anybody except my buddies we did it. I didn’t want to get anyone in trouble.

Q: Did they have basically the same two people working there, right up until the time it quit, or did that change?

A: All I remember is that I started working at the grocery store in sixth grade so that would be about 1954. Around that time, I met the drivers and conductors. I knew the ticket-taker in the station… it was a woman. I would just hang on to an adult and go right through. It wasn’t even a turnstyle.

Q: It’s unfortunate there really aren’t a lot of pictures of the interiors of many of these stations.

A: It was a pretty big station. If you look at pictures of the station, it was a pretty big building.

Q: Did they have a newsstand in there, or not?

A: At one point, there was a newsstand but it closed when the “L” became a shuttle. There was a ticket taker in the building where you paid your fare. When you arrived, there was an outside turnstyle cage to exit. You could also exit through the terminal.

Q: There was a short portion of the Kenwood line that was on a steel structure, and it joined up with this other embankment, and also had freight trains on it, right?

A: Right. It joined up at Lake Park.

Q: How far of a distance would that have been?

A: The tracks from the 42nd Place terminal went north to 40th and curved west to join up with the embankment. So it was about two and a half blocks. Along the north side of the embankment was 40th Street.

Q: That must have been fun, to ride some of these lines that don’t exist anymore. What was it like to ride on the Stockyards line?

A: I didn’t ride it that often. It was an adventure just to see everything. You’d get on at Indiana (Avenue), you’d ride, you’d see the Stockyards. I think I was having too much fun with my friends, to pay much close attention. We didn’t get off, that’s for sure. We just stayed on it for the round trip.

Q: I suppose there was quite an odor to the place in those days, wasn’t there?

A: We lived east of there, so yeah, when the wind was blowing, you could smell it. It wasn’t that bad of a smell. But you’d smell it when you went around (on the “L”).

Q: And that was unique, because they had a single-track loop there. They had some stations where there was only one track.

A: Yep. I don’t remember that. I only remember being on a train. I wasn’t paying too much attention to the tracks or anything, and plus there was two other kids, so we were joking around a lot (laughs).

Q: Tell me then, what happened to your family when you moved away from the neighborhood, to the north side. Was that because they shut down the “L”, or were there other factors involved?

A: What happened was that the “L” was shut down in ’57, and they began to tear it down in ’61. I was at Hyde Park High School. I started there in ’56 so I took the Kenwood “L” and transferred to the Jackson Park “L” and went to the end of the line at 63rd and Stony Island. In ’57, I started taking the 43rd Street bus to Drexel, and then I caught the southbound Drexel bus. It was a #1 or #5 Jeffrey Bus which dropped me off right in front of the school on Stony Island.

Q: Your family moved to the north side?

A: In 1961, the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) purchased all the homes in the neighborhood to be torn down to construct the two high rise buildings. The CHA bought our property, which was lucky, otherwise we would’ve had a hard time selling it. We moved to Uptown only two-and-a-half blocks away from the (CTA) Red Line Argyle station. I would take the “L” everywhere. I gave my last car away to my son-in-law in 1990. I was working downtown so I took the subway every day.

Q: They recently completely rebuilt the whole Wilson Avenue station, and all the tracks around it. It was a huge project, and cost about $250m.

A: And now they’re doing a big thing. They’re gonna rebuild all the tracks along the way, get rid of the concrete bridges, and put in a steel structure to eliminate the center thing. They just started on it.

Q: Some of the stations are going to be shut down for a while. But at least they restored the lower portion of that Wilson station, bringing it back to its 1920s appearance. It was nice of them to do that, even though the whole inside is completely brand new.

A: They will have an organic food store there. The Argyle stop, when we first moved up north had two exits, one on the north side and one on the south side of Argyle. And eventually, when they redid the platform, they eliminated the south side exit.

Q: Tell me what happened to you and your family, after you moved north. You moved to Uptown for a few years…

A: We’re still in Uptown. My parents bought a 4 flat building on Argyle and we had our whole family in the building: my parents, my grandparents, my sister, my cousin, and my wife and kids lived there. Then I got wanderlust and I bought a building across the alley on Winnemac. My in-laws lived with us. It felt like a compound, like on The Godfather. We had all of our family around us, all the time, which was tremendous.

Q: What was your career, then?

A: I graduated from the University of Illinois with a degree in finance and worked in the actuarial department at CNA Insurance. And then I went out in the field and sold insurance and later ended up being vice president of the Bank of Chicago on Wilson and Broadway. When that bank was sold, I was vice-president of another community bank in Andersonville and later left banking to run an international trading group. Afterwards, I worked in government for the Attorney General of Illinois, Neil Hartigan, and later Roland Burris. Then I became president of the World Trade Center of Chicago which was at the Merchandise Mart. Then I ended up working for the State again as the Director of Trade for the State of Illinois. I retired in 2005.

Q: And what do you do to keep busy now?

A: I am the principal of a consulting group that specializes in assisting companies to export and import products and services. So I do a lot of consulting work for several companies. I’m trying to retire, but I keep getting new projects all the time.

Q: The internment of Japanese-Americans was a dark chapter in American history, one which unfortunately was affirmed by the Supreme Court, in a kind of notorious decision (Korematsu v. United States), which still, I don’t think, has been overturned since.

A: The internment of Japanese Americans in World War II is still constitutional. Fred Korematsu, Gordon Hirabayashi and Minoru Yasui were the three cases in which the US Supreme Court ruled that the internment was constitutional based upon on the grounds of military necessity.

The Supreme Court decisions have not been overturned. In 1983, however, the US District Court in San Francisco ruled that the US Government had withheld a government report that indicated that there were no cases of espionage or sabotage by the Japanese and that there was no military necessity for the Japanese American interment. The US District Court vacated the three convictions, however, the Supreme Court decisions have not been overturned. (Editor’s note: The Roberts Court essentially disavowed the Korematsu decision in the majority opinion to Trump v. Hawaii (2018), saying it had been wrongly decided.)

Q: Like I say, a dark chapter in American history, and unfortunately, now, our government is not doing good things with immigrants, and separating families, and establishing things that seem almost like concentration camps all over again.

A; Yes, the Japanese-American community has really been actively involved in protesting all of this.

I don’t know if you are aware of it, but in 1950, during the Joe McCarthy period, the Internal Security Act was passed in Congress. Title I of the Internal Security Act set up the Subversive Activity Control Board, which would be like Nazi Germany, they would have somebody on your block to report you, if they thought you were a Commie. Well, the liberals thought that this would pass, so they added Title II, which set up concentration camps in this country to be used in the event of war or insurrection within the US. The liberals thought that would be so revolting that everybody would vote against it.

But the anti-Communist mood was so bad in 1950, that if you didn’t vote for it, you felt like you weren’t coming back to Congress according to Congressman Sid Yates. He was a Northside Chicago Congressman first elected in 1948. So it was passed and vetoed by President Harry Truman. Congress voted to override his veto and ten camps were actually built in the US. Eventually, Title I was ruled unconstitutional and Title II, however, stayed on the books and was never repealed.

The original bill was known as the Nixon-Mundt Bill. We knew that Truman wouldn’t implement it, and the same for both Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy. Eventually the ten camps were turned over to the Bureau of Prisons. And then in 1968 with all the rioting and everything else going on, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) said that the Black militants had declared war on the United States and were leading an insurrection and, therefore, the Internal Security Act of 1950 would be used to round them up and herd them into these camps.

So, what happened was, the Japanese American Citizens League led the effort to repeal Title II of the Internal Security Act and in 1973, it was repealed in Congress when there was a big wave of new Democratic Congressmen elected because of President Nixon’s unpopularity just like what took place in 2018. President Nixon signed the repeal legislation in Portland, Oregon, on his way to meet Emperor Hirohito. So the original Nixon-Mundt law’s repeal legislation was signed into law by President Nixon.

Q: That’s one of the ironies of history, I guess.

A: And the true irony is that Allenwood, Pennsylvania, where all of the Watergate conspirators went, was built under the Internal Security Act of 1950.

Q: I remember that when I worked for LaSalle Photo, the government issued some sort of an apology to the people who had been interned and offered them a cash payment.

A: In the mid-1970’s the Japanese American Citizens League began to seek redress and reparations for the Japanese community that were wrongfully interned during World War II. After many years of lobbying with Congressmen and Senators, a Federal Commission was appointed to hold hearings in several cities including Chicago. The Commission reported its findings to Congress and a Redress and Reparations Bill was introduced in both the House and Senate. After several years, it was finally passed in Congress. But it took a while to convince Reagan to sign the repeal legislation in August 1988. The original estimate by the Bank of America that financial losses were $5 billion in 1988 dollars which meant about $40k for every person who was in camp. Well, they didn’t do that. They sent $20k to everyone who was still alive. So, if you were alive in August 1988, you were eligible to get $20k in reparations. Most people felt the apology letter was more important than the money. The checks were finally mailed out when Bush was President. President Bush signed the formal apology letter and there was a check attached to it.

Q: Because you were in the camps, then, you did receive this kind of payment?

A: Oh yeah, I got a check, $20k check. I cashed it. Some folks said they weren’t going to cash it, I said good luck, I cashed mine. I made a copy of it, and I also have the original letter from Bush.

Q: I remember from when I worked at LaSalle Photo, this lady I worked with, said she was going to refuse the payment.

A: Some folks felt that way, I had no problem with that. I think that when the payment was refused, the money was put into a foundation. The foundation funds were spent on educational programs about the camps and the funds were used to take care of the camps. In the camp at Rohwer, Arkansas, there’s a cemetery for the internees who died in the camps that needs to be maintained. And also, the camps are now designated as national monuments.

Q: Well, if we don’t learn from history, we are probably doomed to repeat it.

A: That’s true.

Q: A lesson that unfortunately, many people haven’t learned.

A: Yes, and what is happening today, as you know, and even with this Covid-19 situation, Asians are being picked out. Because it started in China. We’re a visible minority, so in World War II I was a Jap, in the Korean War I was a Chink, in the Vietnam War I was a Gook. People can’t tell us apart, so because of that, and the fact that our existence in the US has never been legitimatized in the history books, we’re always viewed as foreigners. People keep saying to me, “Where did you learn English?”, Hyde Park High School, “Where were you born?”, California, “Where were your parents born?”, California, “Your grandfather?”, Japan, “You’re Japanese.” Now I don’t ask anybody where they’re from. If they’re white, you never ask anybody, are you Lithuanian, Polish, Estonian, or Ukrainian, whatever. We don’t ask that. Although I do ask people, I see your last name, and I say, oh, you have a Polish background, and I’ve been to Poland, and my son-in-law’s Polish. I have a lot of friends who are Lithuanian and Ukrainian. I was very active with the Baltic ethnic groups. We keep in touch with each other.

Q: This book I am working on is going to be called Chicago’s Lost “L”s. The idea is to tell a story through pictures.

A: Frank Kruesi, who was head of the CTA way back, is a hero to me because he eliminated the A/B stops. Argyle was an “A” stop, so if you heard a train coming, you’d run like hell to get up there and sometimes and it turned out to be a “B” train that went right by you. He is a hero to me because if you hear a train coming you know it’s going to stop (laughs).

Q: You know why that came about, because when the CTA, the Rapid Transit and the Surface Lines had been competitors, more or less. The typical thing was that, in some places, they had stations every two blocks on the “L”, and people lived in the neighborhoods and they would walk to the “L”. Things started to change when people got more cars, and the CTA took over, and they were trying to consolidate everything, and develop more of a cooperative system between the buses, streetcars, and the “L”, they closed a lot of stations, to try and speed up the service, because like you say, with those old cars, there were two speeds—slow, and slower. They found that if they speeded things up, they would get more riders. The A/B thing, that started out in Oak Park on the Lake Street “L”, in 1948, and it was credited with saving that line, because otherwise, the service was pretty slow. At first it was a good thing, because there were too many stations, but over the years, they closed so many stations, that by the time they got rid of the A/B thing, it was totally unnecessary. There weren’t that many stations, and now they’ve even put a few of them back. Now maybe in some places, they have too few stations. We’ve gone back to where the trains make all the stops again.

The view from the roof of the house at 4201 S. Oakenwald. In the distance, you can see the 43rd Street station of the Illinois Central Electric commuter trains. (Courtesy of Ross Harano)

The view from the roof of the house at 4201 S. Oakenwald. In the distance, you can see the 43rd Street station of the Illinois Central Electric commuter trains. (Courtesy of Ross Harano)

A: I looked at your web site and I noticed your mentioning the South Shore “Orange” trains. They were fast. I had two friends killed by the Illinois Central trains. We used to cross the tracks, you know, to get to the park.

Q: Was that on a lower level than the rest of the neighborhood?

A: The Illinois Central tracks were slightly below level. And so, there was one kid, we used to play ice hockey together was killed by a local while I was in grammar school, so it probably had to be the early ‘50s. The other friend was hit by the South Shore “Orange” train.

Q: It’s been fascinating talking to you. A lot of your family’s history, it’s very important history, for the City of Chicago, because we value diversity here. And it’s history that I think more people ought to know.

A: I agree.

Q: Thanks so much!

Ross Harano in 2012.

Ross Harano in 2012.

Further Information:

Internment of Japanese Americans

Harano and Mayewacki Family World War II Veterans

Japanese-American Service in World War II

Korematsu v. United States

Mitsuye Endo

Jerome War Relocation Center

The McCarran Internal Security Act

WTTW segment from Chicago Tonight about the Kenwood “L”

WTTW segment from Chicago Tonight about the Kiosk Sphinx (Eiffel Tower replica)

Article about the Kiosk Sphinx

1939 Chicago Surface Lines Training Program

In 2016, we were fortunate to acquire a rare 16″ transcription disc, made in 1939 for the Chicago Surface Lines. This included an audio presentation called “Keeping Pace,” about 20 minutes long, that CSL used for employee training.

We were recently able to find someone who could play such a large disc, and now this program has been digitized and can be heard for the first time in more than 80 years. We have added it as a bonus feature to our Red Arrow Lines 1967 CD, available below and through our Online Store.

Screen Shot 03-16-16 at 06.58 PM.PNGScreen Shot 03-17-16 at 12.44 AM.PNG

RAL
Red Arrow Lines 1967: Straffords and Bullets
# of Discs – 1
Price: $14.99

This disc features rare, long out-of-print audio recordings of two 1967 round trips on the Philadelphia & Western (aka “Red Arrow Lines”) interurban between Philadelphia and Norristown, the famous third rail High-Speed Line.  One trip is by a Strafford car and the other by one of the beloved streamlined Bullets.  The line, about 13 miles long and still in operation today under SEPTA, bears many similarities to another former interurban line, the Chicago Transit Authority‘s Yellow Line (aka the “Skokie Swift”).  We have included two bonus features, audio of an entire ride along that five mile route, which was once part of the North Shore Line, and a 20-minute 1939 Chicago Surface Lines training program (“Keeping Pace”).  This was digitized from a rare original 16″ transcription disc and now can be heard again for the first time in over 80 years.

Total time – 73:32

The Trolley Dodger On the Air
We appeared on WGN radio in Chicago in November 2018, discussing our book Building Chicago’s Subways on the Dave Plier Show. You can hear our 19-minute conversation here.
Chicago, Illinois, December 17, 1938-- Secretary Harold Ickes, left, and Mayor Edward J. Kelly turn the first spadeful of earth to start the new $40,000,000 subway project. Many thousands gathered to celebrate the starting of work on the subway. Chicago, Illinois, December 17, 1938– Secretary Harold Ickes, left, and Mayor Edward J. Kelly turn the first spadeful of earth to start the new $40,000,000 subway project. Many thousands gathered to celebrate the starting of work on the subway.
Order Our New Book Building Chicago’s Subways

There were three subway anniversaries in 2018 in Chicago:
60 years since the West Side Subway opened (June 22, 1958)
75 years since the State Street Subway opened (October 17, 1943)
80 years since subway construction started (December 17, 1938)
To commemorate these anniversaries, we have written a new book, Building Chicago’s Subways.

While the elevated Chicago Loop is justly famous as a symbol of the city, the fascinating history of its subways is less well known. The City of Chicago broke ground on what would become the “Initial System of Subways” during the Great Depression and finished 20 years later. This gigantic construction project, a part of the New Deal, would overcome many obstacles while tunneling through Chicago’s soft blue clay, under congested downtown streets, and even beneath the mighty Chicago River. Chicago’s first rapid transit subway opened in 1943 after decades of wrangling over routes, financing, and logistics. It grew to encompass the State Street, Dearborn-Milwaukee, and West Side Subways, with the latter modernizing the old Garfield Park “L” into the median of Chicago’s first expressway. Take a trip underground and see how Chicago’s “I Will” spirit overcame challenges and persevered to help with the successful building of the subways that move millions. Building Chicago’s subways was national news and a matter of considerable civic pride–making it a “Second City” no more!

Bibliographic information:
Title Building Chicago’s Subways
Images of America
Author David Sadowski
Edition illustrated
Publisher Arcadia Publishing (SC), 2018
ISBN 1467129380, 9781467129381
Length 128 pages
Chapter Titles:
01. The River Tunnels
02. The Freight Tunnels
03. Make No Little Plans
04. The State Street Subway
05. The Dearborn-Milwaukee Subway
06. Displaced
07. Death of an Interurban
08. The Last Street Railway
09. Subways and Superhighways
10. Subways Since 1960
Building Chicago’s Subways is in stock and now available for immediate shipment. Order your copy today! All copies purchased through The Trolley Dodger will be signed by the author.
The price of $23.99 includes shipping within the United States.
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Redone tile at the Monroe and Dearborn CTA Blue Line subway station, showing how an original sign was incorporated into a newer design, May 25, 2018. (David Sadowski Photo) Redone tile at the Monroe and Dearborn CTA Blue Line subway station, showing how an original sign was incorporated into a newer design, May 25, 2018. (David Sadowski Photo)

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Loose Ends, Part Two

Now here is a very unusual view, taken on April 14, 1957 from the wooden trestle used by Garfield Park "L" trains to loop around at Forest Park circa 1953-59. This arrangement was necessary due to the separation of CTA and CA&E tracks, when the latter cut back service due to the Congress Expressway construction project in the city. Interurban trains turned on a loop between the CTA tracks on the east side of the terminal, while CTA trains went up and over the CA&E on the west end. To get this picture, the photographer either had to be inside a train, or on the walkway. This is only the second such picture I have seen, and the view looks to the north. In the background, you can see the Chicago Great Western freight tracks, abandoned in the early 1970s. The terminal area has been redone twice since then, and the buildings at right in the background are where a parking lot is now. The Altenheim retirement home (at left), built in 1886, is still there today at 7824 W. Madison Street. A two-car train of CTA "Baldy" 4000s negotiates the loop.

Now here is a very unusual view, taken on April 14, 1957 from the wooden trestle used by Garfield Park “L” trains to loop around at Forest Park circa 1953-59. This arrangement was necessary due to the separation of CTA and CA&E tracks, when the latter cut back service due to the Congress Expressway construction project in the city. Interurban trains turned on a loop between the CTA tracks on the east side of the terminal, while CTA trains went up and over the CA&E on the west end. To get this picture, the photographer either had to be inside a train, or on the walkway. This is only the second such picture I have seen, and the view looks to the north. In the background, you can see the Chicago Great Western freight tracks, abandoned in the early 1970s. The terminal area has been redone twice since then, and the buildings at right in the background are where a parking lot is now. The Altenheim retirement home (at left), built in 1886, is still there today at 7824 W. Madison Street. A two-car train of CTA “Baldy” 4000s negotiates the loop.

Here are more “loose ends” for your enjoyment. Most of today’s pictures were scanned a year ago as part of a much larger batch, and are from the collections of William Shapotkin, for which we are most grateful. Most of these are classic black-and-white pictures of Chicago Surface Lines streetcars.

If you have questions, comments, or additional information about any of the locations in these pictures, we would love to hear from you. As always, please refer to each image by its file name, which you can find by hovering your computer mouse over it. (For example, the image at the top of this post is rbk501.) As of July 22nd, thanks to our readers, we have updated the captions on 20 of these photos.

Enjoy!

-David Sadowski

Recent Finds

What is known today as the East Troy Electric Railroad survived to the present day due to its continued use as an electric freight line, as this scene from April 16, 1965 shows. Once part of the TMER&L interurban network, there was passenger service between East Troy and Milwaukee from 1907 to 1939. The railroad continued to operated freight for another ten years after that, and starting in 1950, the interchange line was owned and operated by East Troy. Museum operations began to be phased in as early as 1967. Here, we see line car M-15 at Mukwonago. This car is now at the Illinois Railway Museum.

What is known today as the East Troy Electric Railroad survived to the present day due to its continued use as an electric freight line, as this scene from April 16, 1965 shows. Once part of the TMER&L interurban network, there was passenger service between East Troy and Milwaukee from 1907 to 1939. The railroad continued to operated freight for another ten years after that, and starting in 1950, the interchange line was owned and operated by East Troy. Museum operations began to be phased in as early as 1967. Here, we see line car M-15 at Mukwonago. This car is now at the Illinois Railway Museum.

CSL PCC 4062, on its way toward delivery from the Pullman plant in Massachusetts to Chicago in 1946, as the city's first postwar streetcar.

CSL PCC 4062, on its way toward delivery from the Pullman plant in Massachusetts to Chicago in 1946, as the city’s first postwar streetcar.

Through a process of elimination, it can be determined that this is a rare photo of the interior of experimental CSL pre-PCC car 7001, built by Brill in 1934. The Cottage Grove destination sign means we are in Chicago, and the seat configuration is different than the 1936 PCCs. The flat back window means this is not the 4001, so this is the 7001 for sure. Interestingly, the seats looks nearly identical to those found in Washington DC pre-PCC 1053 (see the following picture). The Washington cars were built in 1935 and while the order was split between Brill and St. Louis Car Company, the seats were most likely sourced from a third vendor and were the same in all those cars (and unfortunately, none exist today).

Through a process of elimination, it can be determined that this is a rare photo of the interior of experimental CSL pre-PCC car 7001, built by Brill in 1934. The Cottage Grove destination sign means we are in Chicago, and the seat configuration is different than the 1936 PCCs. The flat back window means this is not the 4001, so this is the 7001 for sure. Interestingly, the seats looks nearly identical to those found in Washington DC pre-PCC 1053 (see the following picture). The Washington cars were built in 1935 and while the order was split between Brill and St. Louis Car Company, the seats were most likely sourced from a third vendor and were the same in all those cars (and unfortunately, none exist today).

Here are some pictures we previously posted of 7001 and 1053:

The experimental Brill-built pre-PCC 7001 as it appeared at 77th and Vincennes on September 10, 1959, shortly before it was scrapped. (Clark Frazier Photo)

The experimental Brill-built pre-PCC 7001 as it appeared at 77th and Vincennes on September 10, 1959, shortly before it was scrapped. (Clark Frazier 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)

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)

From the Collections of William Shapotkin:

CSL 6226 at Damen and 63rd in 1944.

CSL 6226 at Damen and 63rd in 1944.

CSL 6073 at Roosevelt and Wabash.

CSL 6073 at Roosevelt and Wabash.

CSL prewar PCC 4002 at Kedzie Station, pulling in after operating on the Madison-Fifth line.

CSL prewar PCC 4002 at Kedzie Station, pulling in after operating on the Madison-Fifth line.

CSL 6148.

CSL 6148.

CSL 1812, signed for Adams-Downtown.

CSL 1812, signed for Adams-Downtown.

CSL 6122,

CSL 6122,

CSL 1545.

CSL 1545.

CSL 1859 is near a construction site. But the extreme contrast of this picture offers no clue to the location. Andre Kristopans: "1859 at construction site WB on Adams at Clinton." Marty Robinson adds, "This improved view clearly show Adams on the street sign, and the sign on the building to the left says Franklin Bowling."

CSL 1859 is near a construction site. But the extreme contrast of this picture offers no clue to the location. Andre Kristopans: “1859 at construction site WB on Adams at Clinton.” Marty Robinson adds, “This improved view clearly show Adams on the street sign, and the sign on the building to the left says Franklin Bowling.”

CSL 3180.

CSL 3180.

CSL 3123 at Cermak and Prairie, east end of the Cermak route.

CSL 3123 at Cermak and Prairie, east end of the Cermak route.

CSL 2617.

CSL 2617.

CSL 6235 on the South Chicago-Ewing route. Mike adds, "6235 is heading south on Ewing just past 94th. The bar in the background still exists."

CSL 6235 on the South Chicago-Ewing route. Mike adds, “6235 is heading south on Ewing just past 94th. The bar in the background still exists.”

CSL 392 is heading to 74th and Ashland.

CSL 392 is heading to 74th and Ashland.

CSL 6243 on the Pershing Road line.

CSL 6243 on the Pershing Road line.

CSL 6248 is on the South Chicago-Ewing route. Mike adds, "6248 is heading north on Ewing across the 92nd St. Bridge. The tower in the background is visible in the photo of 6235, too. The blast furnaces of Youngstown Sheet & Tube are visible at left."

CSL 6248 is on the South Chicago-Ewing route. Mike adds, “6248 is heading north on Ewing across the 92nd St. Bridge. The tower in the background is visible in the photo of 6235, too. The blast furnaces of Youngstown Sheet & Tube are visible at left.”

CSL 793, signed to go to Damen and Blue Island, is near Diamond Lil's Tavern. Mike adds, "793 is at the corner of 18th & Damen – the Diamond Lil’s building is still standing."

CSL 793, signed to go to Damen and Blue Island, is near Diamond Lil’s Tavern. Mike adds, “793 is at the corner of 18th & Damen – the Diamond Lil’s building is still standing.”

CSL 3120 on a 1940s charter. Mike adds, "3120 is at the corner of 79th & Vincennes. The building in the background recently burned down and was demolished."

CSL 3120 on a 1940s charter. Mike adds, “3120 is at the corner of 79th & Vincennes. The building in the background recently burned down and was demolished.”

CSL 5723,

CSL 5723,

51st and South Park, circa 1929. The Willard Theater was located at 340 E. 51st Street. It closed in the 1950s, and the building is now used as a church and community center.

51st and South Park, circa 1929. The Willard Theater was located at 340 E. 51st Street. It closed in the 1950s, and the building is now used as a church and community center.

South Chicago and 93rd.

CSL 3266, running on the 59th-61st Street route. Mike adds, "3266 is heading south on Blackstone from 60th. The street has been vacated and none of the buildings remain."

CSL 3266, running on the 59th-61st Street route. Mike adds, “3266 is heading south on Blackstone from 60th. The street has been vacated and none of the buildings remain.”

The interior of CSL 1400.

The interior of CSL 1400.

CSL 1616 heads west on Lake Street in the 1940s, with the Lake Street "L" station at Laramie in the background. The "L" went down an inclined ramp and ran on the surface to Forest Park, and paralleled the streetcar line for a few blocks.

CSL 1616 heads west on Lake Street in the 1940s, with the Lake Street “L” station at Laramie in the background. The “L” went down an inclined ramp and ran on the surface to Forest Park, and paralleled the streetcar line for a few blocks.

CSL 4035, in an experimental color scheme, at Madison and Austin circa 1945-46. Several different designs were tried out just prior to the arrival of the 600 postwar PCCs, but the design chosen was not exactly like any of these.

CSL 4035, in an experimental color scheme, at Madison and Austin circa 1945-46. Several different designs were tried out just prior to the arrival of the 600 postwar PCCs, but the design chosen was not exactly like any of these.

State and Randolph, June 18, 1942.

CSL 4018 in an experimental paint scheme circa 1945-46. This is the Madison-Austin loop, west end of Route 20.

CSL 4018 in an experimental paint scheme circa 1945-46. This is the Madison-Austin loop, west end of Route 20.

CSL 6149 is southbound at Halsted and Chicago.

CSL 6149 is southbound at Halsted and Chicago.

CSL 6135 at Pershing and Ashland.

CSL 6135 at Pershing and Ashland.

CSL 3099. Mike: "3099 is at the corner of Leavitt and Coulter. The corner building still stands."

CSL 3099. Mike: “3099 is at the corner of Leavitt and Coulter. The corner building still stands.”

CSL 5733.

CSL 5733.

CSL 5612. Mike adds, "5612 is heading west on 56th from Stony Island. Bret Harte School is at left and in background are both the older and newer wings of the Windermere Hotel."

CSL 5612. Mike adds, “5612 is heading west on 56th from Stony Island. Bret Harte School is at left and in background are both the older and newer wings of the Windermere Hotel.”

CSL 1841. Not sure where Burny's Grill, at right, was located.

CSL 1841. Not sure where Burny’s Grill, at right, was located.

CSL 1836, signed to go to Van Buren and Dearborn.

CSL 1836, signed to go to Van Buren and Dearborn.

The interior of CSL 1218.

The interior of CSL 1218.

Chicago & West Towns 165, signed for Melrose Park. I am wondering if this could be on Lake Street in Maywood.

Chicago & West Towns 165, signed for Melrose Park. I am wondering if this could be on Lake Street in Maywood.

SF Muni double-end PCC 1008.

SF Muni double-end PCC 1008.

Chicago & West Towns 164 is eastbound on Lake Street in Oak Park, near Austin Boulevard.

Chicago & West Towns 164 is eastbound on Lake Street in Oak Park, near Austin Boulevard.

CSL 3286. Is this the interior of Kedzie Station?

CSL 3286. Is this the interior of Kedzie Station?

CSL 6221. Andre Kristopans: "6221 nb on S Chicago at 79th/ Stony Island."

CSL 6221. Andre Kristopans: “6221 nb on S Chicago at 79th/ Stony Island.”

CSL 1875.

CSL 1875.

CSL 5746 in July 1946.

CSL 5746 in July 1946.

CSL 5724 on the South Deering route.

CSL 5724 on the South Deering route.

CSL 5737.

CSL 5737.

CSL 3174, signed for Through Route 8 (Halsted).

CSL 3174, signed for Through Route 8 (Halsted).

CSL 1522.

CSL 1522.

CSL 6143 at Wacker Drive in downtown Chicago, heading north.

CSL 6143 at Wacker Drive in downtown Chicago, heading north.

CSL 5941. S. Terman adds, "5941 is at North/Cicero carbarn."

CSL 5941. S. Terman adds, “5941 is at North/Cicero carbarn.”

CSL 1602 under the "L" (Lake Street... or 63rd?). M.E.: "I thought I read someplace that streetcars on Lake St. had to be narrower than normal because the tracks were closer together than normal because the L support beams were so close to the tracks. That, in turn, meant the auto lanes were outside the L structure. So I suspect this picture shows 63rd St. under the Jackson Park L." On the other hand, Mike writes, "1602 is on Lake near Sangamon (the street sign is half visible at far left). That is most likely the Morgan St. station for the Lake Street elevated train in the background."

CSL 1602 under the “L” (Lake Street… or 63rd?). M.E.: “I thought I read someplace that streetcars on Lake St. had to be narrower than normal because the tracks were closer together than normal because the L support beams were so close to the tracks. That, in turn, meant the auto lanes were outside the L structure. So I suspect this picture shows 63rd St. under the Jackson Park L.” On the other hand, Mike writes, “1602 is on Lake near Sangamon (the street sign is half visible at far left). That is most likely the Morgan St. station for the Lake Street elevated train in the background.”

5243 at Randolph and State. From the looks of things, this might predate the creation of the Chicago Surface Lines.

5243 at Randolph and State. From the looks of things, this might predate the creation of the Chicago Surface Lines.

CSL 5819 at Cottage Grove and 115th.

CSL 5819 at Cottage Grove and 115th.

CSL 3191 at Clark and LaSalle.

CSL 3191 at Clark and LaSalle.

CSL 3041 at Montrose and Milwaukee (west end of the Montrose line). S. Terman adds, "Since 3041 brill is a 2 man car, its looks odd as Montrose is 1 man operation unless its a school trip." Thanks to Steve D. for correcting this location (we had thought it was Montrose and Broadway, which is how the photo was marked, see his Comment.) The view looks northwest. He speculates that there was a delay on Elston, and a two-man car from that line was diverted onto west Montrose.

CSL 3041 at Montrose and Milwaukee (west end of the Montrose line). S. Terman adds, “Since 3041 brill is a 2 man car, its looks odd as Montrose is 1 man operation unless its a school trip.” Thanks to Steve D. for correcting this location (we had thought it was Montrose and Broadway, which is how the photo was marked, see his Comment.) The view looks northwest. He speculates that there was a delay on Elston, and a two-man car from that line was diverted onto west Montrose.

The same location today.

The same location today.

CSL 1415 at Laramie and Lake, near the Lake Street "L".

CSL 1415 at Laramie and Lake, near the Lake Street “L”.

CRT 4069 is, I believe northbound at Chicago Avenue, running as a Ravenswood Express sometime between 1943 and 1949, a period when the Rave was routed through the new State Street Subway. (Edward Frank, Jr. Photo) M.E.: "As your caption says, the Ravenswood ran in the State St. subway til 1949. And then it ran through to Englewood. After 1949, when the CTA implemented A and B skip-stop service, Englewood trains went instead to Howard St., and the Ravenswood got its own service using the original L structure into the Loop. As for the destination sign on the front, this style preceded A and B service. I think it's possible this picture was taken prior to 1943. Miles Beitler: "Photo img750 puzzles me. If this was in fact a subway train, the destination sign should read “VIA SUBWAY” and the train would serve the Chicago/State subway station rather than the Chicago Avenue elevated station. Since Ravenswood express trains did use the subway until 1949, and this train obviously did not, I wonder if the photo predates the opening of the subway."

CRT 4069 is, I believe northbound at Chicago Avenue, running as a Ravenswood Express sometime between 1943 and 1949, a period when the Rave was routed through the new State Street Subway. (Edward Frank, Jr. Photo) M.E.: “As your caption says, the Ravenswood ran in the State St. subway til 1949. And then it ran through to Englewood. After 1949, when the CTA implemented A and B skip-stop service, Englewood trains went instead to Howard St., and the Ravenswood got its own service using the original L structure into the Loop. As for the destination sign on the front, this style preceded A and B service. I think it’s possible this picture was taken prior to 1943. Miles Beitler: “Photo img750 puzzles me. If this was in fact a subway train, the destination sign should read “VIA SUBWAY” and the train would serve the Chicago/State subway station rather than the Chicago Avenue elevated station. Since Ravenswood express trains did use the subway until 1949, and this train obviously did not, I wonder if the photo predates the opening of the subway.”

Chicago & West Towns 1151, eastbound on Lake Street in Oak Park, a block away from the end of the line at Austin Boulevard. The building to the north is still standing.

Chicago & West Towns 1151, eastbound on Lake Street in Oak Park, a block away from the end of the line at Austin Boulevard. The building to the north is still standing.

The same location today.

The same location today.

This is a somewhat unusual view, taken along the B&OCT tracks, just west of Central Avenue. At left, you can see the CTA's Central Avenue stop on the Congress line, now the Blue Line. The station closed in 1973 due to lack of ridership. The Eisenhower expressway would be to the left of the station, which was not served by buses, and was the only walkup (other than the Forest Park terminal) on this line, which is almost all in an open cut. We are looking mainly to the east and a bit to the north.

This is a somewhat unusual view, taken along the B&OCT tracks, just west of Central Avenue. At left, you can see the CTA’s Central Avenue stop on the Congress line, now the Blue Line. The station closed in 1973 due to lack of ridership. The Eisenhower expressway would be to the left of the station, which was not served by buses, and was the only walkup (other than the Forest Park terminal) on this line, which is almost all in an open cut. We are looking mainly to the east and a bit to the north.

A two-car train of CRT gate cars at Halsted on the Stock Yards branch of the "L". This picture can be dated to about March 1946 from the advertising posters. The Olsen and Johnson comedy team, of Hellzapoppin' fame, were appearing at the Schubert Theater in Laffing Room Only.

A two-car train of CRT gate cars at Halsted on the Stock Yards branch of the “L”. This picture can be dated to about March 1946 from the advertising posters. The Olsen and Johnson comedy team, of Hellzapoppin’ fame, were appearing at the Schubert Theater in Laffing Room Only.

When we see pictures of Western Avenue PCC cars, the question is usually, which terminal is this? Berwyn and 79th had very similar turnaround loops, built around the same time (and still used today by buses). Since the buildings at rear do not match those seen at Berwyn, I am going to say this is Western and 79th. M.E.: "This has to be 79th, for two reasons: (1) Photos I have seen of the Berwyn terminal have more vegetation. (2) In the foreground of this picture are bus lanes. I don't remember any bus service at Berwyn. On the contrary, both the 49A South Western and both lines on 79th St. (route 79 east to the lake, and route 79A west to Cicero) used this terminal."

When we see pictures of Western Avenue PCC cars, the question is usually, which terminal is this? Berwyn and 79th had very similar turnaround loops, built around the same time (and still used today by buses). Since the buildings at rear do not match those seen at Berwyn, I am going to say this is Western and 79th. M.E.: “This has to be 79th, for two reasons: (1) Photos I have seen of the Berwyn terminal have more vegetation. (2) In the foreground of this picture are bus lanes. I don’t remember any bus service at Berwyn. On the contrary, both the 49A South Western and both lines on 79th St. (route 79 east to the lake, and route 79A west to Cicero) used this terminal.”

North Shore Line streetcar 360 is signed for the Naval Station, which makes this Waukegan. Joe Stupar: "The North Shore Line streetcar 360 looks like it might be at the North end of North Av? The house looks a lot like 416 W Greenwood Av, still there."

North Shore Line streetcar 360 is signed for the Naval Station, which makes this Waukegan. Joe Stupar: “The North Shore Line streetcar 360 looks like it might be at the North end of North Av? The house looks a lot like 416 W Greenwood Av, still there.”

Not sure where this rather blurry picture of a CSL car barn is. Andre Kristopans: "The blurry carbarn shot should be Burnside, looking south on Drexel from 93rd." M.E.: "I'll hazard a guess this is the carbarn on 93rd at Drexel (900 east). I say this because I think there are railroad cars in the background. A block or so east of the Drexel barn, the 93rd St. car turned right (on Kenwood, I think) to reach a private right-of-way that crossed the railroad at grade level. Altogether an interesting operation."

Not sure where this rather blurry picture of a CSL car barn is. Andre Kristopans: “The blurry carbarn shot should be Burnside, looking south on Drexel from 93rd.” M.E.: “I’ll hazard a guess this is the carbarn on 93rd at Drexel (900 east). I say this because I think there are railroad cars in the background. A block or so east of the Drexel barn, the 93rd St. car turned right (on Kenwood, I think) to reach a private right-of-way that crossed the railroad at grade level. Altogether an interesting operation.”

A North Shore Line Electroliner is off in the distance, making a stop at... where? Scott Greig: "The southbound Electroliner with the MD car at far left is looking northeast at Downey's-Great Lakes. MD cars were commonly used to move sailors' baggage, even after LCL service ended in 1947." Joe Stupar: "The Electroliner looks like it’s at Great Lakes? Looks like a coach and an MD car in the pocket there."

A North Shore Line Electroliner is off in the distance, making a stop at… where? Scott Greig: “The southbound Electroliner with the MD car at far left is looking northeast at Downey’s-Great Lakes. MD cars were commonly used to move sailors’ baggage, even after LCL service ended in 1947.” Joe Stupar: “The Electroliner looks like it’s at Great Lakes? Looks like a coach and an MD car in the pocket there.”

CSL 3258 on the 59th-61st route. Could this be the east end of the line? M.E.: "This is definitely the east end of the 59th/61st line. It is on Blackstone Ave. (1430 E.) looking north toward the Midway Plaisance (which was between 59th St. to the north and 60th St. to the south).. Across the Midway are some buildings from the University of Chicago. Notice that both trolleys are up, and the destination sign says "Central Park", referring to Central Park Ave. (3600 W.), the line's western terminus. (As I remember, the eastbound terminal sign read "60th - Blackstone".) Google maps shows where 61st St. turned left toward where Blackstone would have been. In Google, Blackstone is labelled farther north."

CSL 3258 on the 59th-61st route. Could this be the east end of the line? M.E.: “This is definitely the east end of the 59th/61st line. It is on Blackstone Ave. (1430 E.) looking north toward the Midway Plaisance (which was between 59th St. to the north and 60th St. to the south).. Across the Midway are some buildings from the University of Chicago. Notice that both trolleys are up, and the destination sign says “Central Park”, referring to Central Park Ave. (3600 W.), the line’s western terminus. (As I remember, the eastbound terminal sign read “60th – Blackstone”.) Google maps shows where 61st St. turned left toward where Blackstone would have been. In Google, Blackstone is labelled farther north.”

A North Shore Line train "at speed," as they used to say. Not sure where this is. Joe Stupar: "The North Shore train at speed looks like it might be at 4 Mile Substation? The building looks similar, and this other photo of the south side shows a similar setup with the high tension wires coming over the building, and a simple tap with no steel structure."

A North Shore Line train “at speed,” as they used to say. Not sure where this is. Joe Stupar: “The North Shore train at speed looks like it might be at 4 Mile Substation? The building looks similar, and this other photo of the south side shows a similar setup with the high tension wires coming over the building, and a simple tap with no steel structure.”

CSL 3219 is at the east end of the 43rd Street line, adjacent to an Illinois Central electric suburban service station. This was also near the end of the line of the Kenwood branch of the "L".

CSL 3219 is at the east end of the 43rd Street line, adjacent to an Illinois Central electric suburban service station. This was also near the end of the line of the Kenwood branch of the “L”.

A pair of CAT wooden "L" cars, shown here, survived into the mid-1960s, as shown by this view of the yard at Logan Square, where 6000s and 2000s are in evidence. This dates the picture to sometime between 1964 and 1970. Andre Kristopans: "The wood work motors at Logan Square hauled the rail grinder sleds until 1965 or so." Scott Greig: "Wood "L" cars at Logan...there were several wood cars (particularly the 1809-1815 group) that lasted in work service as late as 1968, maybe even 1970. Given that there's no crane or flat cars with them, they may be a rail grinder train."

A pair of CAT wooden “L” cars, shown here, survived into the mid-1960s, as shown by this view of the yard at Logan Square, where 6000s and 2000s are in evidence. This dates the picture to sometime between 1964 and 1970. Andre Kristopans: “The wood work motors at Logan Square hauled the rail grinder sleds until 1965 or so.” Scott Greig: “Wood “L” cars at Logan…there were several wood cars (particularly the 1809-1815 group) that lasted in work service as late as 1968, maybe even 1970. Given that there’s no crane or flat cars with them, they may be a rail grinder train.”

I believe this is the Chicago & West Towns car barn, which was located in North Riverside. (Many photos list it as "Berwyn," but it's across the street from that suburb.) The West Towns had two car barns, the other at Lake and Ridgeland in Oak Park. Although both were in the 'burbs, the North Riverside one was often referred to as the "suburban" barn. The area around the Oak Park barn was a lot more built up than this.

I believe this is the Chicago & West Towns car barn, which was located in North Riverside. (Many photos list it as “Berwyn,” but it’s across the street from that suburb.) The West Towns had two car barns, the other at Lake and Ridgeland in Oak Park. Although both were in the ‘burbs, the North Riverside one was often referred to as the “suburban” barn. The area around the Oak Park barn was a lot more built up than this.

1939 Chicago Surface Lines Training Program

In 2016, we were fortunate to acquire a rare 16″ transcription disc, made in 1939 for the Chicago Surface Lines. This included an audio presentation called “Keeping Pace,” about 20 minutes long, that CSL used for employee training.

We were recently able to find someone who could play such a large disc, and now this program has been digitized and can be heard for the first time in more than 80 years. We have added it as a bonus feature to our Red Arrow Lines 1967 CD, available below and through our Online Store.

Screen Shot 03-16-16 at 06.58 PM.PNGScreen Shot 03-17-16 at 12.44 AM.PNG

RAL
Red Arrow Lines 1967: Straffords and Bullets
# of Discs – 1
Price: $14.99

This disc features rare, long out-of-print audio recordings of two 1967 round trips on the Philadelphia & Western (aka “Red Arrow Lines”) interurban between Philadelphia and Norristown, the famous third rail High-Speed Line.  One trip is by a Strafford car and the other by one of the beloved streamlined Bullets.  The line, about 13 miles long and still in operation today under SEPTA, bears many similarities to another former interurban line, the Chicago Transit Authority‘s Yellow Line (aka the “Skokie Swift”).  We have included two bonus features, audio of an entire ride along that five mile route, which was once part of the North Shore Line, and a 20-minute 1939 Chicago Surface Lines training program (“Keeping Pace”).  This was digitized from a rare original 16″ transcription disc and now can be heard again for the first time in over 80 years.

Total time – 73:32

The Trolley Dodger On the Air
We appeared on WGN radio in Chicago in November 2018, discussing our book Building Chicago’s Subways on the Dave Plier Show. You can hear our 19-minute conversation here.
Chicago, Illinois, December 17, 1938-- Secretary Harold Ickes, left, and Mayor Edward J. Kelly turn the first spadeful of earth to start the new $40,000,000 subway project. Many thousands gathered to celebrate the starting of work on the subway. Chicago, Illinois, December 17, 1938– Secretary Harold Ickes, left, and Mayor Edward J. Kelly turn the first spadeful of earth to start the new $40,000,000 subway project. Many thousands gathered to celebrate the starting of work on the subway.
Order Our New Book Building Chicago’s Subways

There were three subway anniversaries in 2018 in Chicago:
60 years since the West Side Subway opened (June 22, 1958)
75 years since the State Street Subway opened (October 17, 1943)
80 years since subway construction started (December 17, 1938)
To commemorate these anniversaries, we have written a new book, Building Chicago’s Subways.

While the elevated Chicago Loop is justly famous as a symbol of the city, the fascinating history of its subways is less well known. The City of Chicago broke ground on what would become the “Initial System of Subways” during the Great Depression and finished 20 years later. This gigantic construction project, a part of the New Deal, would overcome many obstacles while tunneling through Chicago’s soft blue clay, under congested downtown streets, and even beneath the mighty Chicago River. Chicago’s first rapid transit subway opened in 1943 after decades of wrangling over routes, financing, and logistics. It grew to encompass the State Street, Dearborn-Milwaukee, and West Side Subways, with the latter modernizing the old Garfield Park “L” into the median of Chicago’s first expressway. Take a trip underground and see how Chicago’s “I Will” spirit overcame challenges and persevered to help with the successful building of the subways that move millions. Building Chicago’s subways was national news and a matter of considerable civic pride–making it a “Second City” no more!

Bibliographic information:
Title Building Chicago’s Subways
Images of America
Author David Sadowski
Edition illustrated
Publisher Arcadia Publishing (SC), 2018
ISBN 1467129380, 9781467129381
Length 128 pages
Chapter Titles:
01. The River Tunnels
02. The Freight Tunnels
03. Make No Little Plans
04. The State Street Subway
05. The Dearborn-Milwaukee Subway
06. Displaced
07. Death of an Interurban
08. The Last Street Railway
09. Subways and Superhighways
10. Subways Since 1960
Building Chicago’s Subways is in stock and now available for immediate shipment. Order your copy today! All copies purchased through The Trolley Dodger will be signed by the author.
The price of $23.99 includes shipping within the United States.
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Redone tile at the Monroe and Dearborn CTA Blue Line subway station, showing how an original sign was incorporated into a newer design, May 25, 2018. (David Sadowski Photo) Redone tile at the Monroe and Dearborn CTA Blue Line subway station, showing how an original sign was incorporated into a newer design, May 25, 2018. (David Sadowski Photo)

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This is our 253rd 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 647,000 page views, for which we are very grateful.

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In order to continue giving you the kinds of historic railroad images that you have come to expect from The Trolley Dodger, we need your help and support. It costs money to maintain this website, and to do the sort of historic research that is our specialty.

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Our 250th Post

In the early morning hours of a very cold January 21, 1963, motorman Bill Livings removes the headlight from the final North Shore Line interurban train, after it reached the end of the line at Roosevelt Road in Chicago. This was the end of the line for the fabled interurban in a very literal sense.

In the early morning hours of a very cold January 21, 1963, motorman Bill Livings removes the headlight from the final North Shore Line interurban train, after it reached the end of the line at Roosevelt Road in Chicago. This was the end of the line for the fabled interurban in a very literal sense.

This is our 250th Trolley Dodger post, and we figured on making it something special. This time, we have a bevy of historical traction photos for your enjoyment.

If you have been along for the ride with us since this blog started, we salute you, but if you have just recently discovered us, we hope you will find much here to appreciate.

When we first started, one of our critics said this was a “good idea, but lacking in execution.” We hope to have gotten better at this, but freely admit to not knowing everything about anything. We have learned as much from our readers as they have probably learned from us, and the more we have shared with you, the more you have shared with us in turn. It’s very much a two-way street.

If we get something wrong, we can count on our readers to help set us right, so the Trolley Dodger becomes a “self-correcting mechanism” by which we all learn things together, creating an archive of information, and a resource for the future.

It seems that a lot of photos that interest me do not fit into the classic railfan photo mode. By which I mean a 3/4 Kodachrome view of the front of a railcar, taken only in bright sunlight, without a person anywhere in sight. I know photographers who won’t take anything other than this sort of picture.

I mean, I am interested in those types of photos too, and I certainly have taken some myself. But there are other things that interest me, and these include scenes of everyday life, pictures that have historical details, black-and-white photos, photos that are not technically perfect but still grab me somehow. Pictures that have people in them, that show how we lived at a moment in time.

Today’s post has all those kinds of photos. Some of the 35mm black-and-white images were obviously taken by a press photographer. I acquired the original negatives, but have no clue who took them. But there are unique photos of a former Chicago mayor, and various derailments. It might even be possible to determine the date when some of these pictures were taken, based on what you see in the picture.

It might surprise you to know that ‘L’ trains have actually fallen off the structure from time to time. Yes, there was the fateful 1977 accident at Wabash and Lake. But there were other such incidents, one of which is covered here.

There are also several color images taken around 1970, showing people riding an ‘L’ train, standing on subway platforms, and such. These offer a ‘slice of life,’ and if you want to know what the experience was of riding the trains half a century ago, this is a pretty good place to start. The great majority of fans did not take such pictures, but we can be glad that someone did.

We are currently working on a new book that we hope to complete in the near future. As you might expect, some of our research materials cost money. a lot has already been spent on this effort.

More details about that will be forthcoming, but if you would like to contribute financially, there is a link at the end of this post so that you may do so. If your contributions, in any amount, are intended to help with this book project, we will thank you by name in the book.

This is an offer we made for our last book Building Chicago’s Subways, and a number of our readers did help out, and were so thanked.

Enjoy!

-David Sadowski

Recent Finds

I recently purchased this unusual single-sided token. I had to look up what a "lamp check" is. It seems that before heading out on a run, a motorman would exchange one of these tokens for a portable headlamp. At the end of the day, it would be exchanged for the token. (For a picture of just such a headlamp, see the North Shore Line photo at the beginning of this post.)

I recently purchased this unusual single-sided token. I had to look up what a “lamp check” is. It seems that before heading out on a run, a motorman would exchange one of these tokens for a portable headlamp. At the end of the day, it would be exchanged for the token. (For a picture of just such a headlamp, see the North Shore Line photo at the beginning of this post.)

The Jackson station on the Dearborn Street Subway on August 8, 1974.

The Jackson station on the Dearborn Street Subway on August 8, 1974.

A six-car train of CTA 6000s, including two different color schemes, nears Armitage in May 1981. To the right is the ramp leading to the State Street Subway. (Mark Llanuza Photo)

A six-car train of CTA 6000s, including two different color schemes, nears Armitage in May 1981. To the right is the ramp leading to the State Street Subway. (Mark Llanuza Photo)

A train of CTA 6000s is at Jefferson Park on April 21, 1980. This was, at that time, the end of the line. A few years later, service was extended to O'Hare Airport. (Clark Frazier Photo)

A train of CTA 6000s is at Jefferson Park on April 21, 1980. This was, at that time, the end of the line. A few years later, service was extended to O’Hare Airport. (Clark Frazier Photo)

Those CTA 4000s sure did get around! Here we see a pair at the South Shore Line's yard in Michigan City, Indiana in September 1976, surely on their way to a railway museum. (Mark Llanuza Photo)

Those CTA 4000s sure did get around! Here we see a pair at the South Shore Line’s yard in Michigan City, Indiana in September 1976, surely on their way to a railway museum. (Mark Llanuza Photo)

An eastbound Chicago & North Western commuter train is seen from the Harlem Avenue Station on the Lake Street 'L' on January 12, 1963, a few months after the CTA line was relocated onto the embankment. (J. W. Vigrass Photo)

An eastbound Chicago & North Western commuter train is seen from the Harlem Avenue Station on the Lake Street ‘L’ on January 12, 1963, a few months after the CTA line was relocated onto the embankment. (J. W. Vigrass Photo)

A close-up of the previous photo. This shows part of the former Wieboldt's department store in River Forest, which opened in the 1930s. There was a double-decker parking garage, complete with control tower (which I assume was hardly ever used) and if you parked on the upper level, there was a second floor entrance that let you in near the Boy Scouts department. In the back, you can see the type of warehouse building that was prevalent in this area. Both buildings have been torn down and replaced with a more contemporary shopping center. Emerson Wakefield Sr., my grandfather, worked as an electrician for Wieboldt's during the 1930s.

A close-up of the previous photo. This shows part of the former Wieboldt’s department store in River Forest, which opened in the 1930s. There was a double-decker parking garage, complete with control tower (which I assume was hardly ever used) and if you parked on the upper level, there was a second floor entrance that let you in near the Boy Scouts department. In the back, you can see the type of warehouse building that was prevalent in this area. Both buildings have been torn down and replaced with a more contemporary shopping center. Emerson Wakefield Sr., my grandfather, worked as an electrician for Wieboldt’s during the 1930s.

CA&E 434 heads up an eastbound Chicago Express at Western Avenue in September 1948.

CA&E 434 heads up an eastbound Chicago Express at Western Avenue in September 1948.

Chicago Aurora & Elgin trains at the Wells Street Terminal in July 1953, just a few months before the interurban cut back service to Forest Park. I believe that is car 46 at the front of a train of woods. Don's Rail Photos adds, "46 was built by Stephenson in 1903. It was modernized in December 1940 and retired in 1959." The terminal did not connect directly with the Loop. Met 'L' cars turned off to the right and went to the Loop via structure on Van Buren Street. In 1955, due to construction of Lower Wacker Drive, that segment of 'L' was torn down, and CTA trains connected to the Loop via new trackage through the former Wells Street Terminal, which was no longer in use.

Chicago Aurora & Elgin trains at the Wells Street Terminal in July 1953, just a few months before the interurban cut back service to Forest Park. I believe that is car 46 at the front of a train of woods. Don’s Rail Photos adds, “46 was built by Stephenson in 1903. It was modernized in December 1940 and retired in 1959.” The terminal did not connect directly with the Loop. Met ‘L’ cars turned off to the right and went to the Loop via structure on Van Buren Street. In 1955, due to construction of Lower Wacker Drive, that segment of ‘L’ was torn down, and CTA trains connected to the Loop via new trackage through the former Wells Street Terminal, which was no longer in use.

A close-up of the last picture, showing Wells Street Terminal.

A close-up of the last picture, showing Wells Street Terminal.

A southbound Jackson Park "B" train approaches the Belmont station on July 3, 1961. At left is the Vic Theater. Notice a Ravenswood train is also entering the station on the outer track.

A southbound Jackson Park “B” train approaches the Belmont station on July 3, 1961. At left is the Vic Theater. Notice a Ravenswood train is also entering the station on the outer track.

One of the two North Shore Line Electroliners heads south from the CTA's Belmont station on the North-South main line on July 3, 1961. The station has been rebuilt, and instead of an overhead transfer bridge, you cross at mezzanine level now.

One of the two North Shore Line Electroliners heads south from the CTA’s Belmont station on the North-South main line on July 3, 1961. The station has been rebuilt, and instead of an overhead transfer bridge, you cross at mezzanine level now.

A South Shore Line train, including car 102, is at the Randolph Street Terminal on July 2, 1961. This area has been completely transformed. The station is now underground, underneath Millennium Park.

A South Shore Line train, including car 102, is at the Randolph Street Terminal on July 2, 1961. This area has been completely transformed. The station is now underground, underneath Millennium Park.

A South Shore Line train, including car 8, is at Central Station on July 2, 1961.

A South Shore Line train, including car 8, is at Central Station on July 2, 1961.

We are looking west along Washington Street at about 77 East on July 2, 1961. That is the Wabash leg of the Loop 'L'. Just out of view to the right would be the old main Chicago Public Library building, now the Cultural Center.

We are looking west along Washington Street at about 77 East on July 2, 1961. That is the Wabash leg of the Loop ‘L’. Just out of view to the right would be the old main Chicago Public Library building, now the Cultural Center.

The same location today.

The same location today.

A CTA two-car RAvenswood "A" train at Madison and Wells on July 3, 1961. Note the fire extinguisher at the front of the train.

A CTA two-car RAvenswood “A” train at Madison and Wells on July 3, 1961. Note the fire extinguisher at the front of the train.

A Chicago & North Western commuter train at Oak Park, Illinois on July 2, 1961. The train is moving away from us, as these trains use left-hand running. Also to the left you can see the ground-level tracks of the CTA Lake Street 'L'. Just over a year later, those trains were relocated to the C&NW embankment. I assume the location is Marion Street here.

A Chicago & North Western commuter train at Oak Park, Illinois on July 2, 1961. The train is moving away from us, as these trains use left-hand running. Also to the left you can see the ground-level tracks of the CTA Lake Street ‘L’. Just over a year later, those trains were relocated to the C&NW embankment. I assume the location is Marion Street here.

A North Shore Line train on the bridge over the Chicago River on Wells Street on July 2, 1961.

A North Shore Line train on the bridge over the Chicago River on Wells Street on July 2, 1961.

A South Shore Line train near the Art Institute of Chicago on July 3, 1961.

A South Shore Line train near the Art Institute of Chicago on July 3, 1961.

South Shore Line car 7 at the Fox River Trolley Museum on June 20, 1992.

South Shore Line car 7 at the Fox River Trolley Museum on June 20, 1992.

CTA 4451 at the Fox River Trolley Museum on June 20, 1992.

CTA 4451 at the Fox River Trolley Museum on June 20, 1992.

North Shore Line car 756 at the Fox River Trolley Museum on June 20, 1992.

North Shore Line car 756 at the Fox River Trolley Museum on June 20, 1992.

SF Muni PCC 1030 at the Fox River Trolley Museum on June 20, 1992.

SF Muni PCC 1030 at the Fox River Trolley Museum on June 20, 1992.

CTA 2600s at O'Hare Airport on June 25, 1992.

CTA 2600s at O’Hare Airport on June 25, 1992.

A South Shore Line train at the old Randolph Street Terminal in Chicago on May 26, 1993.

A South Shore Line train at the old Randolph Street Terminal in Chicago on May 26, 1993.

South Shore Line cars near the Art Institute on June 24, 1992.

South Shore Line cars near the Art Institute on June 24, 1992.

A South Shore Line train at Randolph on May 26, 1993.

A South Shore Line train at Randolph on May 26, 1993.

A South Shore Line train at Randolph on May 26, 1993.

A South Shore Line train at Randolph on May 26, 1993.

CTA trains are run by one person nowadays, but when this picture was taken (circa 1970) the doors were operated by conductors, and each train had a two-person crew.

CTA trains are run by one person nowadays, but when this picture was taken (circa 1970) the doors were operated by conductors, and each train had a two-person crew.

This shows the conductor's station in car 2057. Once a key was inserted, the conductor would look out the window and used buttons to control the doors to either their left or right. There was also a button to signal the motorman.

This shows the conductor’s station in car 2057. Once a key was inserted, the conductor would look out the window and used buttons to control the doors to either their left or right. There was also a button to signal the motorman.

The State Street Subway.

The State Street Subway.

6003 was one of the very first 6000s and would have been delivered in 1950.

6003 was one of the very first 6000s and would have been delivered in 1950.

The woman with the sunglasses has an interesting hairdo.

The woman with the sunglasses has an interesting hairdo.

This, and the next few pictures that follow, show Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley (1902-1976) taking part in the ceremonial introduction of the then-new CTA 2400-series rapid transit cars. The man behind the door is George Krambles, who eventually became general manager of the CTA. Not sure who the other gent is. Daley was then 74 years old and had been mayor for 21 years. He doesn't look particularly well, and in fact died from a massive heart attack later in the year, while he was at his doctor's office for a check-up. This series of cars was retired a few years ago, although some have been retained for work service, and for the CTA's historic collection. They are available for charters.

This, and the next few pictures that follow, show Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley (1902-1976) taking part in the ceremonial introduction of the then-new CTA 2400-series rapid transit cars. The man behind the door is George Krambles, who eventually became general manager of the CTA. Not sure who the other gent is. Daley was then 74 years old and had been mayor for 21 years. He doesn’t look particularly well, and in fact died from a massive heart attack later in the year, while he was at his doctor’s office for a check-up. This series of cars was retired a few years ago, although some have been retained for work service, and for the CTA’s historic collection. They are available for charters.

In this, and in the pictures that follow, it looks like demolition work is taking place at State and Lake, in conjunction with renovations at this station. Not sure of the date, but with 2400s in the picture, it can't be earlier than 1976.

In this, and in the pictures that follow, it looks like demolition work is taking place at State and Lake, in conjunction with renovations at this station. Not sure of the date, but with 2400s in the picture, it can’t be earlier than 1976.

CA&E 436. I am wondering if this might be at Laramie Yards in Chicago. Don's Rail Photos adds, "305 was built by Niles Car & Mfg Co in 1906. It was wrecked and rebuilt in 1923 as 600, a buffet-parlor car. It was again rebuilt in 1929 as a coach to match the other 400s and numbered 436. It was scrapped in 1954."

CA&E 436. I am wondering if this might be at Laramie Yards in Chicago. Don’s Rail Photos adds, “305 was built by Niles Car & Mfg Co in 1906. It was wrecked and rebuilt in 1923 as 600, a buffet-parlor car. It was again rebuilt in 1929 as a coach to match the other 400s and numbered 436. It was scrapped in 1954.”

CA&E 423, signed as an Elgin Local. Don's Rail Photos: "423 was built by Cincinnati Car Co in 1927, (order) #2055."

CA&E 423, signed as an Elgin Local. Don’s Rail Photos: “423 was built by Cincinnati Car Co in 1927, (order) #2055.”

I am not sure of the location of this CA&E car. Could this possibly be on the Batavia branch?

I am not sure of the location of this CA&E car. Could this possibly be on the Batavia branch?

This picture needed a lot of work... this is the "before."

This picture needed a lot of work… this is the “before.”

This is the "after," although I am still not done with it yet. CA&E 433 and 404 are westbound at Oak Park Avenue in suburban Oak Park. The building at left is still there today, but I-290 goes through here now, below grade.

This is the “after,” although I am still not done with it yet. CA&E 433 and 404 are westbound at Oak Park Avenue in suburban Oak Park. The building at left is still there today, but I-290 goes through here now, below grade.

Recent Correspondence

Jon Roma writes:

David, here are photos about the two towers associated with the CRT State Street subway. The negatives 95-C-223 and 95-C-224 are of the south tower, which appears to have been on the west side of the track according to the model board in the picture. Negatives 95-C-243 and 95-C-244 are of the north tower (Armitage).

The images were taken by the equipment manufacturer and are in a private collection. I have the collection owner’s permission to share, provided that there’s a credit such as “Union Switch & Signal (Zachary C. Gillihan collection)”.

These are fascinating, rare glimpses into Chicago history, and I am sure our readers are just as appreciative of you sharing them as I am.

Keep those cards and letters coming in, folks.

-David Sadowski

The interior of the State Street Subway tower at the south portal, taken on October 12, 1943. (Union Switch & Signal Photo, Zachary C. Gillihan Collection)

The interior of the State Street Subway tower at the south portal, taken on October 12, 1943. (Union Switch & Signal Photo, Zachary C. Gillihan Collection)

The interior of the State Street Subway tower at the south portal, taken on October 12, 1943. (Union Switch & Signal Photo, Zachary C. Gillihan Collection)

The interior of the State Street Subway tower at the south portal, taken on October 12, 1943. (Union Switch & Signal Photo, Zachary C. Gillihan Collection)

The interior of the State Street Subway tower at the north portal, taken on October 13, 1943. (Union Switch & Signal Photo, Zachary C. Gillihan Collection)

The interior of the State Street Subway tower at the north portal, taken on October 13, 1943. (Union Switch & Signal Photo, Zachary C. Gillihan Collection)

The interior of the State Street Subway tower at the north portal, taken on October 13, 1943. (Union Switch & Signal Photo, Zachary C. Gillihan Collection)

The interior of the State Street Subway tower at the north portal, taken on October 13, 1943. (Union Switch & Signal Photo, Zachary C. Gillihan Collection)

Now Available On Compact Disc
CDLayout33p85
RRCNSLR
Railroad Record Club – North Shore Line Rarities 1955-1963
# of Discs – 1
Price: $15.99

Railroad Record Club – North Shore Line Rarities 1955-1963
Newly rediscovered and digitized after 60 years, most of these audio recordings of Chicago, North Shore and Milwaukee interurban trains are previously unheard, and include on-train recordings, run-bys, and switching. Includes both Electroliners, standard cars, and locomotives. Recorded between 1955 and 1963 on the Skokie Valley Route and Mundelein branch. We are donating $5 from the sale of each disc to Kenneth Gear, who saved these and many other original Railroad Record Club master tapes from oblivion.
Total time – 73:14
[/caption]


Tape 4 switching at Roudout + Mundeline pic 3Tape 4 switching at Roudout + Mundeline pic 2Tape 4 switching at Roudout + Mundeline pic 1Tape 3 Mundeline Run pic 2Tape 3 Mundeline Run pic 1Tape 2 Mundeline pic 3Tape 2 Mundeline pic 2Tape 2 Mundeline pic 1Tape 1 ElectrolinerTape 1 Electroliner pic 3Tape 1 Electroliner pic 2Notes from tape 4Note from tape 2

RRC-OMTT
Railroad Record Club Traction Rarities – 1951-58
From the Original Master Tapes
# of Discs- 3
Price: $24.99


Railroad Record Club Traction Rarities – 1951-58
From the Original Master Tapes

Our friend Kenneth Gear recently acquired the original Railroad Record Club master tapes. These have been digitized, and we are now offering over three hours of 1950s traction audio recordings that have not been heard in 60 years.
Properties covered include:

Potomac Edison (Hagerstown & Frederick), Capital Transit, Altoona & Logan Valley, Shaker Heights Rapid Transit, Pennsylvania Railroad, Illinois Terminal, Baltimore Transit, Niagara St. Catharines & Toronto, St. Louis Public Transit, Queensboro Bridge, Third Avenue El, Southern Iowa Railway, IND Subway (NYC), Johnstown Traction, Cincinnati Street Railway, and the Toledo & Eastern
$5 from the sale of each set will go to Kenneth Gear, who has invested thousands of dollars to purchase all the remaining artifacts relating to William A. Steventon’s Railroad Record Club of Hawkins, WI. It is very unlikely that he will ever be able to recoup his investment, but we support his efforts at preserving this important history, and sharing it with railfans everywhere.
Disc One
Potomac Edison (Hagerstown & Frederick):
01. 3:45 Box motor #5
02. 3:32 Box motor #5, May 24, 1953
03. 4:53 Engine whistle signals, loco #12, January 17, 1954
04. 4:13 Loco #12
Capital Transit:
05. 0:56 PCC car 1557, Route 20 – Cabin John line, July 19, 1953
06. 1:43
Altoona & Logan Valley:
07. 4:00 Master Unit car #74, August 8, 1953
Shaker Heights Rapid Transit:
08. 4:17 Car 306 (ex-AE&FRE), September 27, 1953
09. 4:04
10. 1:39
Pennsylvania Railroad GG-1s:
11. 4:35 August 27, 1954
12. 4:51
Illinois Terminal:
13. 5:02 Streamliner #300, northward from Edwardsville, February 14, 1955
14. 12:40 Car #202 (ex-1202), between Springfield and Decatur, February 1955
Baltimore Transit:
15. 4:56 Car 5706, January 16, 1954
16. 4:45 Car 5727, January 16, 1954
Niagara, St. Catharines & Toronto:
17. 4:19 Interurbans #83 and #80, October 1954
18. 5:20 #80, October 1954
Total time: 79:30
Disc Two
St. Louis Public Service:
01. 4:34 PCCs #1708, 1752, 1727, 1739, December 6, 1953
Queensboro Bridge Company (New York City):
02. 5:37 Cars #606, 605, and 601, December 31, 1954
03. 5:17
Third Avenue El (New York City):
04. 5:07 December 31. 1954
05. 4:47 Cars #1797, 1759, and 1784 at 59th Street, December 31, 1954
Southern Iowa Railway:
06. 4:46 Loco #400, August 17, 1955
07. 5:09 Passenger interurban #9
IND Subway (New York City):
08. 8:40 Queens Plaza station, December 31, 1954
Last Run of the Hagerstown & Frederick:
09. 17:34 Car #172, February 20, 1954 – as broadcast on WJEJ, February 21, 1954, with host Carroll James, Sr.
Total time: 61:31
Disc Three
Altoona & Logan Valley/Johnstown Traction:
01. 29:34 (Johnstown Traction recordings were made August 9, 1953)
Cincinnati Street Railway:
02. 17:25 (Car 187, Brighton Car House, December 13, 1951– regular service abandoned April 29, 1951)
Toledo & Eastern:
03. 10:36 (recorded May 3-7, 1958– line abandoned July 1958)
Capital Transit:
04. 16:26 sounds recorded on board a PCC (early 1950s)
Total time: 74:02
Total time (3 discs) – 215:03



The Trolley Dodger On the Air
We appeared on WGN radio in Chicago in November 2018, discussing our book Building Chicago’s Subways on the Dave Plier Show. You can hear our 19-minute conversation here.
Chicago, Illinois, December 17, 1938-- Secretary Harold Ickes, left, and Mayor Edward J. Kelly turn the first spadeful of earth to start the new $40,000,000 subway project. Many thousands gathered to celebrate the starting of work on the subway. Chicago, Illinois, December 17, 1938– Secretary Harold Ickes, left, and Mayor Edward J. Kelly turn the first spadeful of earth to start the new $40,000,000 subway project. Many thousands gathered to celebrate the starting of work on the subway.
Order Our New Book Building Chicago’s Subways

There were three subway anniversaries in 2018 in Chicago:
60 years since the West Side Subway opened (June 22, 1958)
75 years since the State Street Subway opened (October 17, 1943)
80 years since subway construction started (December 17, 1938)
To commemorate these anniversaries, we have written a new book, Building Chicago’s Subways.

While the elevated Chicago Loop is justly famous as a symbol of the city, the fascinating history of its subways is less well known. The City of Chicago broke ground on what would become the “Initial System of Subways” during the Great Depression and finished 20 years later. This gigantic construction project, a part of the New Deal, would overcome many obstacles while tunneling through Chicago’s soft blue clay, under congested downtown streets, and even beneath the mighty Chicago River. Chicago’s first rapid transit subway opened in 1943 after decades of wrangling over routes, financing, and logistics. It grew to encompass the State Street, Dearborn-Milwaukee, and West Side Subways, with the latter modernizing the old Garfield Park “L” into the median of Chicago’s first expressway. Take a trip underground and see how Chicago’s “I Will” spirit overcame challenges and persevered to help with the successful building of the subways that move millions. Building Chicago’s subways was national news and a matter of considerable civic pride–making it a “Second City” no more!

Bibliographic information:
Title Building Chicago’s Subways
Images of America
Author David Sadowski
Edition illustrated
Publisher Arcadia Publishing (SC), 2018
ISBN 1467129380, 9781467129381
Length 128 pages
Chapter Titles:
01. The River Tunnels
02. The Freight Tunnels
03. Make No Little Plans
04. The State Street Subway
05. The Dearborn-Milwaukee Subway
06. Displaced
07. Death of an Interurban
08. The Last Street Railway
09. Subways and Superhighways
10. Subways Since 1960
Building Chicago’s Subways is in stock and now available for immediate shipment. Order your copy today! All copies purchased through The Trolley Dodger will be signed by the author.
The price of $23.99 includes shipping within the United States.
For Shipping to US Addresses:

For Shipping to Canada:

For Shipping Elsewhere:

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

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Railroad Record Club Treasure Hunt, Part 2

1 Selection of Steventon tapes mostly unreleased

1 Selection of Steventon tapes mostly unreleased

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

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

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

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

-David Sadowski

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

Railroad Record Club Treasure Hunt, Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE TAPES

2 Tapes appear to be in good condition

2 Tapes appear to be in good condition

3 Tape with hand written track listing

3 Tape with hand written track listing

4 More unreleased Steventon audio

4 More unreleased Steventon audio

5 Lots of interesting material on these tapes

5 Lots of interesting material on these tapes

6 Still more intersting tapes

6 Still more intersting tapes

7 Unreleased audio this is why I bought the whole lot

7 Unreleased audio this is why I bought the whole lot

8 Steventon tapes

8 Steventon tapes

9 More Stevnton tapes

9 More Stevnton tapes

10 Even more tapes

10 Even more tapes

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

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

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

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

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

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

14 Close up of the 78rpm record master tapes

14 Close up of the 78rpm record master tapes

15 Another Close up of the 78rpm record master tapes

15 Another Close up of the 78rpm record master tapes

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

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

17 close up of 78rpm master tape showing condition

17 close up of 78rpm master tape showing condition

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

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

19 Montreal & South Counties tape with Steventon letter

19 Montreal & South Counties tape with Steventon letter

20 BC Electric tape with Steventon letter

20 BC Electric tape with Steventon letter

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

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

22 Railroad Record Club Master tapes

22 Railroad Record Club Master tapes

23 Master tape for record 26

23 Master tape for record 26

24 A stack of 22 Railroad Record Club Master tapes

24 A stack of 22 Railroad Record Club Master tapes

25 master tape Railroad Record Club number 16

25 master tape Railroad Record Club number 16

26 master tape Railroad Record Club number 15

26 master tape Railroad Record Club number 15

27 master tape Railroad Record Club with memo

27 master tape Railroad Record Club with memo

28 master tape Railroad Record Club number 17

28 master tape Railroad Record Club number 17

29 master tape Railroad Record Club number 18

29 master tape Railroad Record Club number 18

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

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

31 Two master tapes for record number 3

31 Two master tapes for record number 3

32 Two master tapes for record number 3 showing condition

32 Two master tapes for record number 3 showing condition

33 master tape Railroad Record Club number 7

33 master tape Railroad Record Club number 7

34 master tapes Railroad Record Club number 10

34 master tapes Railroad Record Club number 10

35 master tape Railroad Record Club number 23 with memo

35 master tape Railroad Record Club number 23 with memo

36 master tape Railroad Record Club number 17

36 master tape Railroad Record Club number 17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

REEL TO REEL TAPES

INFORMATION MARKED ON TAPE BOXES

4″ reels:

1. NYS&W

5″ reels:

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

7″ reels:

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

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

21/2″ reels:

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

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

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

No master tapes:

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

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

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

MOVIE FILMS

1 Steventon Film that should be all trains

1 Steventon Film that should be all trains

2 Capital Transit B&W Night Film

2 Capital Transit B&W Night Film

3 Steventon film

3 Steventon film

4 Pennsy and B&O film

4 Pennsy and B&O film

5 Back of Kodachrome box

5 Back of Kodachrome box

6 Front of kodachrome box

6 Front of kodachrome box

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

16mm movies;

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

PRINT BLOCKS

1 Selection of print blocks

1 Selection of print blocks

2 More print blocks

2 More print blocks

3 Still more print blocks

3 Still more print blocks

4. Print block for very early RRC traction logo

4. Print block for very early RRC traction logo

5. Railroad Record Club logo print block

5. Railroad Record Club logo print block

6 Another style Railroad Record Club logo print block

6 Another style Railroad Record Club logo print block

7 Interurban car fron LP Sound Scrapbook-Traction

7 Interurban car fron LP Sound Scrapbook-Traction

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

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

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

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

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

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

11A Print block for NKP LP

11A Print block for NKP LP

12 Ad for RRC 25

12 Ad for RRC 25

13 Ad for RRC 25 reversed

13 Ad for RRC 25 reversed

14 Print block for large ad

14 Print block for large ad

15 Print block for large ad reversed

15 Print block for large ad reversed

16 Ad for traction watch fobs

16 Ad for traction watch fobs

17 Ad for steam LPs

17 Ad for steam LPs

18 Ad for steam LPs reversed

18 Ad for steam LPs reversed

19 Strange RRC ad

19 Strange RRC ad

20 Strange RRC ad printed version

20 Strange RRC ad printed version

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

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

RECORDS

1 41 copies of RRC 3

1 41 copies of RRC 3

2 18 copies of RRC 5

2 18 copies of RRC 5

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

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

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

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

5 Back of RCA test pressing for Illinois Terminal

5 Back of RCA test pressing for Illinois Terminal

6 Close up of RCA test pressing for Illinois Terminal

6 Close up of RCA test pressing for Illinois Terminal

7 Close up of RCA test pressing for NKP

7 Close up of RCA test pressing for NKP

8 RCA test pressing for CN showing damage

8 RCA test pressing for CN showing damage

9 Metal press stamp

9 Metal press stamp

10 Metal press stamp with cardboard sleeve

10 Metal press stamp with cardboard sleeve

11 RRC Nashville Metal press stamp

11 RRC Nashville Metal press stamp

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

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

13 3 RRC Nashville Metal press stamps

13 3 RRC Nashville Metal press stamps

14 Metal press stamp for RRC LP

14 Metal press stamp for RRC LP

15 Railroad Record Club SP-4 boxes and sleeves

15 Railroad Record Club SP-4 boxes and sleeves

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

12″ remaster LPs:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PHOTOGRAPHS

NP 4-8-4 2686

NP 4-8-4 2686

CA&E Elgin train on street in Aurora IL 1931

CA&E Elgin train on street in Aurora IL 1931

Capital Transit PCC and bus Catholic University

Capital Transit PCC and bus Catholic University

D&RGW 476 locomotive featured on SP-1

D&RGW 476 locomotive featured on SP-1

D&RGW 481

D&RGW 481

Des Moines & Central Iowa car 1710

Des Moines & Central Iowa car 1710

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

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

Evansville & Ohio Valley car 134

Evansville & Ohio Valley car 134

Ill Terminal car 285

Ill Terminal car 285

Ill Terminal local on Caldwell Hill East Pearia about 1936

Ill Terminal local on Caldwell Hill East Pearia about 1936

Indiana box car 550

Indiana box car 550

Indiana RR 752 waiting for loads at mine scale

Indiana RR 752 waiting for loads at mine scale

Indiana RR car 64

Indiana RR car 64

Indiana RR car 93 at Anderson IN September 4 1938

Indiana RR car 93 at Anderson IN September 4 1938

Indiana RR Vigo with rails ripped out.

Indiana RR Vigo with rails ripped out.

Interstate car 711 ex-IPSC 427 September 3 1939

Interstate car 711 ex-IPSC 427 September 3 1939

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

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

Interurban car 44 and REA truck Rosslyn VA

Interurban car 44 and REA truck Rosslyn VA

MC&CL RR car 34

MC&CL RR car 34

MC&CL Steeple cab 52

MC&CL Steeple cab 52

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

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

S T F Co RR 54 Farmington MO

S T F Co RR 54 Farmington MO

Unidentified car and person

Unidentified car and person

Unidentified steeple cab locomotive

Unidentified steeple cab locomotive

Unidentified steeple cab locomotive photo 2

Unidentified steeple cab locomotive photo 2

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

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

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

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

DOCUMENTS

Stack of prints of Soo 2715

Stack of prints of Soo 2715

VHS VIDEO TAPES 

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Kenneth Gear

New Steam Audio CD:

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

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

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

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

Total time – 72:56

Order Our New Book Building Chicago’s Subways

There are three subway anniversaries this year in Chicago:
60 years since the West Side Subway opened (June 22, 1958)
75 years since the State Street Subway opened (October 17, 1943)
80 years since subway construction started (December 17, 1938)

To commemorate these anniversaries, we have written a new book, Building Chicago’s Subways.

While the elevated Chicago Loop is justly famous as a symbol of the city, the fascinating history of its subways is less well known. The City of Chicago broke ground on what would become the “Initial System of Subways” during the Great Depression and finished 20 years later. This gigantic construction project, a part of the New Deal, would overcome many obstacles while tunneling through Chicago’s soft blue clay, under congested downtown streets, and even beneath the mighty Chicago River. Chicago’s first rapid transit subway opened in 1943 after decades of wrangling over routes, financing, and logistics. It grew to encompass the State Street, Dearborn-Milwaukee, and West Side Subways, with the latter modernizing the old Garfield Park “L” into the median of Chicago’s first expressway. Take a trip underground and see how Chicago’s “I Will” spirit overcame challenges and persevered to help with the successful building of the subways that move millions. Building Chicago’s subways was national news and a matter of considerable civic pride–making it a “Second City” no more!

Bibliographic information:

Title Building Chicago’s Subways
Images of America
Author David Sadowski
Edition illustrated
Publisher Arcadia Publishing (SC), 2018
ISBN 1467129380, 9781467129381
Length 128 pages

Chapter Titles:
01. The River Tunnels
02. The Freight Tunnels
03. Make No Little Plans
04. The State Street Subway
05. The Dearborn-Milwaukee Subway
06. Displaced
07. Death of an Interurban
08. The Last Street Railway
09. Subways and Superhighways
10. Subways Since 1960

Building Chicago’s Subways is in stock and now available for immediate shipment. Order your copy today!  All copies purchased through The Trolley Dodger will be signed by the author.

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

For Shipping to US Addresses:

For Shipping to Canada:

For Shipping Elsewhere:

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

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

Help Support The Trolley Dodger

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William A. Steventon’s Railroad Record Club

William Steventon

William Steventon

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

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

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

-David Sadowski

INTRODUCTION

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

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

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

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

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

WILLIAM STEVENTON & THE RAILROAD RECORD CLUB 

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

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

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

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

First recording

First recording

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steventon pre-RRC 78rpm records

Steventon pre-RRC 78rpm records

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

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

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

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

RRC intro record

RRC intro record

RRC INTRO old SP5

RRC INTRO old SP5

Bill Steventon recording compressor noise on CNS&M interurban

Bill Steventon recording compressor noise on CNS&M interurban

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE RAILROAD RECORD CLUB SAMPLERS

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excellent HM Pech cover RRC 5

Excellent HM Pech cover RRC 5

Marginal HM Pech cover 1st edition of Record number 8

Marginal HM Pech cover 1st edition of Record number 8

RRC 19

RRC 19

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

RRC 17 Steventon enjoyed being here Hawkins WI Soo station

RRC 17 Steventon enjoyed being here Hawkins WI Soo station

RRC 17 1st edition drawing Hawkins WI Soo station

RRC 17 1st edition drawing Hawkins WI Soo station

RRC 20

RRC 20

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Kenneth Gear

New Steam Audio CD:

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

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

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

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

Total time – 72:56

Pre-Order Our New Book Building Chicago’s Subways

There are three subway anniversaries this year in Chicago:
60 years since the West Side Subway opened (June 22, 1958)
75 years since the State Street Subway opened (October 17, 1943)
80 years since subway construction started (December 17, 1938)

To commemorate these anniversaries, we have written a new book, Building Chicago’s Subways.

While the elevated Chicago Loop is justly famous as a symbol of the city, the fascinating history of its subways is less well known. The City of Chicago broke ground on what would become the “Initial System of Subways” during the Great Depression and finished 20 years later. This gigantic construction project, a part of the New Deal, would overcome many obstacles while tunneling through Chicago’s soft blue clay, under congested downtown streets, and even beneath the mighty Chicago River. Chicago’s first rapid transit subway opened in 1943 after decades of wrangling over routes, financing, and logistics. It grew to encompass the State Street, Dearborn-Milwaukee, and West Side Subways, with the latter modernizing the old Garfield Park “L” into the median of Chicago’s first expressway. Take a trip underground and see how Chicago’s “I Will” spirit overcame challenges and persevered to help with the successful building of the subways that move millions. Building Chicago’s subways was national news and a matter of considerable civic pride–making it a “Second City” no more!

Bibliographic information:

Title Building Chicago’s Subways
Images of America
Author David Sadowski
Edition illustrated
Publisher Arcadia Publishing (SC), 2018
ISBN 1467129380, 9781467129381
Length 128 pages

Chapter Titles:
01. The River Tunnels
02. The Freight Tunnels
03. Make No Little Plans
04. The State Street Subway
05. The Dearborn-Milwaukee Subway
06. Displaced
07. Death of an Interurban
08. The Last Street Railway
09. Subways and Superhighways
10. Subways Since 1960

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

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

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

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

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More Buses, Trolleys, and Trains

This amazing photo is from a glass plate negative we recently purchased, and shows a Chicago Union Traction streetcar RPO (railway post office) unpowered trailer car. CUT existed between 1899 and 1908, which helps date the photo. This car may previously have been a cable car trailer, before being pressed into mail service.

This amazing photo is from a glass plate negative we recently purchased, and shows a Chicago Union Traction streetcar RPO (railway post office) unpowered trailer car. CUT existed between 1899 and 1908, which helps date the photo. This car may previously have been a cable car trailer, before being pressed into mail service.

Instead of trains, planes, and automobiles, today we have a generous helping of classic bus, trolley, and train images courtesy of noted transit historian William Shapotkin. We thank Bill very much for sharing these with our readers. Even if you are not a huge fan of buses per se, and some electric traction fans aren’t, you still may appreciate seeing some of these locations, which offer views that you typically don’t see here on this blog. Many are contemporary to other streetcar pictures we have run, and show what types of equipment the CTA was running along with the “L” cars and streetcars that we often feature.

On the other hand, if you do like rubber-tired vehicles, then “hop on the bus, Gus!” And even if you don’t, chances are there are still plenty of railed vehicles here to keep you happy.

-David Sadowski

Please note: All photos in this section are from the collections of William Shapotkin.

This photo shows an old wooden Met car on the CTA's Kenwood shuttle in the 1950s. The view looks east from the Indiana Avenue station. The south side main line continues off to the right. Service on the Kenwood branch ended in 1957.

This photo shows an old wooden Met car on the CTA’s Kenwood shuttle in the 1950s. The view looks east from the Indiana Avenue station. The south side main line continues off to the right. Service on the Kenwood branch ended in 1957.

This image, showing CTA bus 3676 on Route 82A, was not identified, but it clearly shows the Logan Square "L" terminal with connecting bus transfer area in the early 1960s.

This image, showing CTA bus 3676 on Route 82A, was not identified, but it clearly shows the Logan Square “L” terminal with connecting bus transfer area in the early 1960s.

CTA buses at the Western and 79th loop.

CTA buses at the Western and 79th loop.

The old South Shore Line station in Gary, Indiana in July 1984. (Paul Johnsen Photo)

The old South Shore Line station in Gary, Indiana in July 1984. (Paul Johnsen Photo)

CTA Route 59 bus 5610 is at 59th and State on April 26, 1972.

CTA Route 59 bus 5610 is at 59th and State on April 26, 1972.

CTA trolley bus 9392 is at the Montrose and Narragansett loop in 1965. This loop has since been removed.

CTA trolley bus 9392 is at the Montrose and Narragansett loop in 1965. This loop has since been removed.

A Metra train stops at the Mont Clare station on the former Milwaukee Road West Line on April 13, 1999. The original station at this location was demolished in 1964, and my father and I sifted through the rubble. We found several tickets, some dating back to the 1880s, which we donated to a local historical society. As far as I know, these are still on display at the Elmwood Park Public Library.

A Metra train stops at the Mont Clare station on the former Milwaukee Road West Line on April 13, 1999. The original station at this location was demolished in 1964, and my father and I sifted through the rubble. We found several tickets, some dating back to the 1880s, which we donated to a local historical society. As far as I know, these are still on display at the Elmwood Park Public Library.

Chicao, IL: looking south on Holden Court (under teh south side "L") toward grade-separated crossing with the St. Charles Air Line from 15th Street in March 2000. (William Shapotkin Photo)

Chicao, IL: looking south on Holden Court (under the south side “L”) toward grade-separated crossing with the St. Charles Air Line from 15th Street in March 2000. (William Shapotkin Photo)

The Roosevelt Road streetcar extension, crossing the Illinois Central on its way back from the Field Museum and Soldier Field. The date is unknown, but service ended in 1953.

The Roosevelt Road streetcar extension, crossing the Illinois Central on its way back from the Field Museum and Soldier Field. The date is unknown, but service ended in 1953.