Stewart Odell writes:
I’m hoping you can help clarify something for me. A dear family friend of many years passed this weekend in OKC. In searching his official obit I have come across a reference to him in your August 2015 blog. Truman Hefner was from Cook County and lived with his family for many years in OKC, where I met him.
I’m trying to determine how he might have come to be mentioned in your column. The coincidence of 1) his birthplace- 2) His name and- 3) the fact that he was a miniature railroad enthusiast to the point where he built a miniature railroad in his back yard for his children and the neighborhood kids to enjoy, is uncanny to me. It only follows that he might have also been an amateur photographer.
Truman also traveled the state of Oklahoma (and probably the country) pursuing his enthusiasm for both miniature and full-size rail systems and their history.
Have you any idea how the lone reference on your site may have come to be? Not a show-stopper, just sentimental, and interested. Meanwhile, I’ve discovered your amazing site.
Thanks for writing. I am very sorry to hear that Truman Hefner has passed away.
I knew him as one of the very best railfan photographers, whose work has been widely distributed, including any number of books. When I was involved with putting together Central Electric Railfans’ Association bulletin 146, we used several of his color images of Chicago PCC streetcars.
I spoke to him on the phone several times, and he was always very cheerful, upbeat, enthusiastic, and generous.
In September 2014, when CERA held an event called the Chicago Streetcar Pictorial Round Table, we invited him to attend. He bought a plane ticket, but unfortunately there was some sort of computer problem at O’Hare that day that prevented flights from arriving or departing.
Still, he did participate in the meeting by telephone. At the time, he was about 88 or 89 years old.
He told me that he only took railfan photos for a few years, and described his camera to me. It was made in Germany and had an excellent quality lens. He still had the camera, but said it was no longer working.
I would imagine he was excited about the prospect of streetcars returning to Oklahoma City.
My sincere condolences go out to his family.
He’s mentioned in four of my blog posts.
The one titled CA&E Mystery Photos Answers – Part 1 has an image of his in it, taken from an original slide in my collection. The very first picture in the post titled The CTA, the CA&E, and “Political Influence” is Mr. Hefner’s.
He is also mentioned in a few posts on the blog I did before this one. That was in connection to the Chicago Streetcar Pictorial Round Table. For that event, I designed a poster that featured a photo of Mr. Hefner’s. It shows a Chicago PCC at the Museum Loop near Soldier Field, and was taken on April 26, 1951, the day that Gen. Douglas MacArthur spoke to a large crowd there.
From his Legacy remembrance page:
Truman Dale Hefner
October 24, 1926 – May 21, 2017
Truman passed away at his home in Oklahoma City. He was born in Lexington, Illinois to parents, Guy and Ferne Hefner. Most of his early life was in Berwyn, Illinois, where after graduating high school in 1944, he enlisted in the Air Force. He was called into the service in 1945, and was discharged at the end of the war. Truman continued his military service with the Air Force Reserves and reached the rank of first lieutenant. He received a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Illinois and went on to work for Motorola and Eureka Williams before transferring to Oklahoma City in 1958 to work for Western Electric where he remained until his retirement in 1989.
Truman’s lifelong interest in trains sparked his other interest of photography. He loved to travel with family and friends, always taking pictures and movies of their journeys. The 1/8 scale model train hobby was his true passion. He enjoyed traveling near and far visiting many club and friend’s tracks. He was one of the founding members of the Locomotive Operators of Central Oklahoma, a member of the Oklahoma Railroad Museum and many more railroad clubs over the years. Truman and his partner, Jim Murray, started a business, Cannonball, to supply hobbyists with railroad equipment.
Truman is survived by his wife of 69 years, Vera (Hoch) Hefner; daughters Trudy Hefner, Nancy and Herb Conley, Susan Carey and Marshall Lee, Barbara and Philo Hatch; daughter-in-law Ellyn Novak Hefner; 9 grandchildren; 6 great grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his parents, sister Anna Mae Meyer and his only son Jimmy Hefner.
I found two videos showing Mr. Hefner and his miniature railroad train.
Over the Years at Mexican Hat (the C&IG RR from April 1986 to May 2009) by Truman Hefner
Over the Years at Zuni by Truman Hefner
He will be missed by everyone in the railfan community.
Genevieve Heydt writes:
Dear Trolley Dodger,
While working on a group history project with some friends, I stumbled upon your website while tracking some train cars from the AE&FRE line that was shut down during the Great Depression and had some questions regarding some of these lines and what was going on with them in certain periods because I struggled to find answers myself online. I noticed a trend of cars being sold from CI/SHRT to Speedrail in 1950 to Speedrail and then being scrapped in 1952. Regarding these trends, I was wondering if you had any information or speculations around these events.
If you could, a response between now and Thursday night would be appreciated because we present on Friday and I would love to learn more before we present.
Sophomore of the Gifted Academy in Elgin Highschool
Thank you for writing.
To answer your question, it helps to know the history of the various properties involved.
The AE&FRE halted passenger service in 1935, so all their rolling stock would have been put up for sale. Lighweight interurban cars 300-304 and 306 (not sure what happened to 305, perhaps it was involved in a wreck or used for parts) were sold to the Shaker Heights Rapid Transit line, which still exists in Cleveland.
These fine cars (built by St. Louis Car Co.) were just over 10 years old at the time and were well suited for use on the SHRT, which was by then completely grade-separated and did not run in traffic on city streets at all.
SHRT also bought a half-dozen lightweight interurban cars of another type, known as “Cincinnati curved-side cars.” These were built by the Cincinnati Car Co. in 1928-29 and were a popular style, used by many properties across the country.
Between 1947 and 1953, SHRT modernized its fleet by purchasing PCC streetcars, which had become the industry standard. Some were bought new, and others second-hand.
Having newer equipment meant they no longer needed some of these older cars, which were put up for sale. By this time, streetcars and interurbans were getting to be fewer and fewer, and the market for such vehicles was shrinking.
The last new PCC car was built in 1952. It was nearly 25 years before another new American streetcar was built.
Meanwhile, in the Milwaukee area, the once mighty Milwaukee Electric interurban was in decline. Parts were abandoned and replaced by buses. By 1949, the last remaining segment, running from Milwaukee to Waukesha, was sold to Jay Maeder, who renamed it Speedrail.
As much as possible, he wanted to replace their heavyweight equipment with lighter cars that would use less electricity. Speedrail bought several of the Cincinnati curved-side cars from SHRT, and a couple from Lehigh Valley Transit.
These were refurbished and continued in use until 1951, when Speedrail shut down in the aftermath of a horrific head-on collision in which several people were killed. A heavy car struck a lighter one on a fantrip, with Jay Maeder at the controls.
The Speedrail cars were put up for sale, but there were no buyers and all were cut up for scrap in 1952.
In 1954, SHRT sold six cars (300-304, 306) to Gerald E. Brookins, a developer who had built a trailer park in the Cleveland suburbs. He built a streetcar line in this development to take people back and forth from their trailers to his general store.
This development was called Trolleyville, USA and continued in use for many years. The first car ran in 1963.
You could consider this something akin to an operating museum for trolleys.
After Mr. Brookins died, his family kept Trolleyville going for some time, but eventually decided to sell the trailer park. There was an attempt to create a museum operation that would run on the SHRT, and some of the Trolleyville cars did actually operate there briefly, but ultimately the plans came to naught and all their collection was sold to various trolley museums at an auction.
Fortunately, AE&FRE car 304 was purchased by the Fox River Trolley Museum in South Elgin, so it now operates on a small portion of its original tracks.
I have posted pictures of AE&FRE equipment on my blog, including passenger cars in service, and electric freight operations in South Elgin after 1935.
I hope this helps.
Good luck with your presentation.
PS- One of my posts has several pictures from Trolleyville USA.
Jack Bejna has shared more of his wonderful restoration work with us. This time, the pictures feature Chicago, Aurora & Elgin cars built by the Niles Car & Manufacturing Co. in 1902.
From Don’s Rail Photos:
Niles Cars 10 thru 28 even
These 10 motor cars were built by Niles Car & Mfg Co. in 1902 and were part of the original stock. 10 was rebuilt with a baggage compartment in 1910. It was later removed, but then reinstalled in April 1933 for funeral service. It was wrecked September 10, 1948, and scrapped. 12 was modernized in April 1940 and retired in 1955. 14 was modernized in December 1939 and retired in 1955. 16 was modernized in December 1939 and retired in 1959. 18 was modernized in March 1941 and retired in 1955. 20 is preserved at the R.E.L.I.C. museum at South Elgin. 22 was wrecked on October 12, 1911, at Waller Avenue, and scrapped. 24 was modernized in July 1943 and retired in 1959. 26 was modernized in June 1943 and retired in 1959. 28 was modernized at an unknown date and retired in 1959.
10 was built by Niles Car in 1902. It was rebuilt with a baggage compartment in 1910. It was later removed, but then reinstalled in April 1933 for funeral service. It was wrecked September 10, 1948, and scrapped.
Joe Kaczynski writes:
I was going thru some things and found the attached photo that I had gotten on E-Bay several years ago. It’s the West Town neighborhood where I grew up. I was born in ’57 and sadly missed the streetcar era. But fondly recall the Marmon-Herrington trolley buses that ran in their place until 1967.
In all probability the photo was taken from the Chicago Ave. El platform on the old Logan Square Line. It’s a westbound streetcar on Route #66 Chicago Ave., just having crossed Paulina St.
On the rear of the photo is written:
I don’t recall ever seeing this photo on your website.
Thanks! Thomas H. Desnoyers (1928-1977) took many great photographs, but unfortunately died before his time.
On a personal note, since this is Memorial Day, I thought I would share a blog post written about my uncle, Frank Sadowski, Jr. (1921-1945). The “Bobbie” mentioned there is my father, Edmund Robert Sadowski (1924-1996). Both served their country during World War II. My aunt Margaret (1922-2004), who drove an ambulance during the war, is also mentioned.
Work continues on our upcoming book Chicago Trolleys, which is now in the layout and proofreading stage. The expected publication date is September 25th of this year. We will keep you advised as things progress.
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