We salute the people of Texas, who are recovering from one of the worst floods in American history. Here is a classic Dallas streetscape from July 31, 1950, showing Dallas Railway & Terminal Co. double-end PCC 612. Don’s Rail Photos says, “612 was built by Pullman-Standard in 1945, #W6699. It was sold as MTA 3334 in 1959 and sold to Trolleyville in 1991. It was transferred to Lake Shore Electric Ry in 2006. It was sold to McKinney Avenue Transit Authority and stored at Illinois Railway Museum in 2010.” I probably rode this car in Boston in 1977 on the Ashmont-Mattapan line. (John D. Koschwanez Photo)
Labor Day weekend is just around the corner, and I for one am thankful for all our reader contributions to this site. Today, we are featuring more great historic photos from Jack Bejna and Larry Sakar.
I hope that you will appreciate their efforts.
On a personal note, we received a few “author’s copies” of Chicago Trolleys this week. For the first time, I could hold the book in my hand.
It has been an honor and a privilege to write this new book. As with any such endeavor, there is always a lot of blood, sweat, toil, and tears involved. But in a sense, what had been my book is now your book. Now that it is finished, it belongs to you, the reader, and the people of Chicago.
I would like to thank all the various people who contributed photos to the book. In particular, numerous images came from the collections of George Trapp, who has so generously shared them with this blog in the past.
Being a very modest person, he did not even ask for an individual “by-line” for each picture, just a “thank you” in the Acknowledgements. But I want to give credit where credit is due. Thanks in large part to George Trapp, Chicago Trolleys is a much better book than would otherwise be the case, for which I am most appreciative.
PS- You can save $4 by pre-ordering Chicago Trolleys before Tuesday, September 5th. Right now, as part of our special introductory offer, we are providing free shipping within the United States. The shipping rates for books ordered starting on the 5th will be increased by $4 per book, so get your orders in today. Books will be shipped on or about the September 25th release date.
Jack Bejna writes:
The Fifth Avenue Terminal (original name) was built by the West Side elevated Railroad in 1904 to provide a terminal for rush hour L train traffic. In 1905, the terminal also started hosting trains of the CA&E railroad. In the early days over 100 rush hour trains were common. The terminal had four tracks serving two platforms and was the only downtown Chicago terminal ever used by the CA&E. When the CA&E stopped using the terminal in 1953 because of construction of the Congress Street Expressway and the resulting loss of the CTA Garfield Park elevated line, the terminal was closed and later demolished in 1955.
Photos of the terminal and adjacent tracks are few and far between, and for the most part the quality of the photos is less than what I hoped to find. Never the less, here are a number of Photoshopped images of the terminal, tracks, and trains I was able to find. As an aside, the bridge over the Chicago River (2 parallel spans) was the first Scherzer Rolling Lift Bridge installed anywhere.
The original Wells Street Terminal facade.
The same facade, revised in the late 1920s.
The Wells Street Terminal, street side.
The terminal, looking east.
The north track, looking east.
The south track, looking east.
The four-track terminal, looking east.
The terminal, looking west. 457 and 458 are seen, which means the picture is from 1945-53.
The terminal tracks, looking west.
The terminal tower, looking west.
The terminal tower, looking west.
An eastbound CA&E train enters the terminal.
A westbound train (in the distance) leaves the terminal. The tracks at right connected with the Loop “L” via Van Buren to the south of the terminal.
The Chicago River bridge, which was really two bridges side by side.
An eastbound train crossing the Chicago River.
CA&E 38 heads up a westbound train leaving the terminal.
1950 Speedrail Disaster
The tragic result of a head-on collision between two Speedrail cars on a blind curve on September 2, 1950. Heavyweight cars 1192-1193, at left, ran into lightweight articulated cars 39-40. Ten people were killed and dozens were injured.
Larry Sakar writes:
Saturday, September 2nd marks the 67th anniversary (to the exact day) of the 1950 Speedrail accident during the NMRA convention in Milwaukee. I’ve put together a group of pictures for The Trolley Dodger of and related to that event.
Speedrail founder and president Jay E. Maeder poses with lightweight duplex 39-40 at Hales Corners Hillcrest loop just before starting the return trip to Milwaukee. The NMRA had specifically requested the ex TMER&L 1100 series heavy duplex trains (1180-1199) and that the charter be on the Hales Corners line because both represented a”classic” interurban and interurban line vs. the Waukesha line which was double track and more suburban . Why Maeder would take the tremendous risk of mixing a lightweight train among heavy duplexes was never explained. The car had been repainted by Speedrail employee David Strassman at Maeder’s request the night (9/1/50) before the trip. It featured a striking new application of Speedrail’s orange and maroon colors.
With his train 22 minutes behind schedule , Maeder and his regular motorman assigned to this trip, George Wolter decided to “play it safe” and pull into the Greenwood Jct. siding since they knew the regular southbound run to Hales Corners was on its way. Greenwood Jct. was a siding that had seen almost no use. It was the junction with the 5.5 mile westward extension of the Lakeside Belt Line from Powerton Jct. The Belt line was used to haul coal to the Lakeside power plant in St. Francis, Wi. The connection to the East Troy-Burlington line at Greenwood which was one block south of W. Howard Ave. also made it possible for freight coming from Racine via the M-R-K Milwaukee-Racine-Kenosha Line to the Rapid Transit freight terminal at 10th & St. Paul near the never-completed subway downtown. Here we see car 300 piloted by motorman Tom Burke passing the siding leading to the Belt Line. The photographer was William Wight, a 27 year old employee of the Kalmbach Publishing Co. He did not live to see his photo. He was killed in the crash about 10 minutes later. His camera was recovered from the wreck and the film developed. George Gloff who was a Speedrail employee and was on Maeder’s train gave me this photo. He went on to a very distinguished career as Art Director for Kalmbach Publishing Co.
One question that readers might ask is why, if Maeder and is motorman decided to play it safe by going into a siding, as they were 22 minutes behind schedule, that the fatal crash happened just 10 minutes later?
After pulling out of Greenwood Jct. Maeder continued north. He was not planning on stopping at Oklahoma Ave., as he claimed he had been given clearance all the way to West Jct. by the dispatcher. However, Senior motorman John Heberling had the siding lined for Maeder’s train so he had to pull in. Heberling was in charge of training new motorman and had been a long time TMER&L employee. He knew Trip #4 with heavy duplex 1192-93 was due southbound within a few minutes so he thought it best to check with the dispatcher and make sure it was OK for Maeder to proceed. Maeder had a fit, and ordered Heberling to reset the siding and let him out at once! One does not argue with the head of the company if one wants to remain employed there so John did as he was told. No more than 15 seconds after Maeder left he heard the wailing of interurban horns and instantly knew what happened. He looked up at the Nachod signal on the pole across Oklahoma Avenue and saw that it was red. Heberling had no idea that Maeder had received clearance to West Jct. nor did he know that Tennyson had changed Maeder’s orders that all trains call-in from every siding to what he (Tennyson) had set up previous to 9/2 and supposedly had agreed on with Maeder. Those orders called for trains to call-in only if they got into trouble. LeRoy Equitz, motorman of 1192-93 was told this when he stopped at West Jct. But when he stopped at Brookdale siding northbound Tennyson did not tell Maeder he had changed the orders. I think if he had Maeder would have fired him on the spot! So Maeder thought Equitz would wait at West Jct. having been told by the dispatcher that he was on the way north. Unfortunately, Equitz was told only to go by signal indication. Having gotten the white light at West Jct. he headed south. If Maeder had not extended the photo stop at Hillcrest loop in Hales Corners where he arrived behind schedule and despite agreeing that there would be no photo stops northbound then “giving in” when the fans on his train asked for one, he would not have been behind schedule. He didn’t want to disappoint his fellow railfans and model railroaders. So I guess you could say it was a very unfunny comedy of errors that had fatal results. Both Maeder and Tennyson were to blame at least as I see it. Much of this was the “last straw” in the feud that had been going on between them since October of 1949.
This is the wreck site. It was between W. Arthur and W. Cleveland Aves. parallel to S. 100th St. Shrubs, a hill and a curve made it impossible for opposing trains to see each other in time to stop. This is lightweight duplex 45-46. I don’t know who took the picture or if this was before or after 9/2/50.
Heavy duplex 1192-93 coming southbound completely overrode car 39 the lead car on the northbound train which was being operated by Jay Maeder. The motorman of 1192-93 was LeRoy Equitz. Car 39 was demolished for nearly 3/4 its length. It was so badly damaged that it was pushed off the right-of-way along with the rear car car 40 which was not damaged. The 10 fatalities occurred in car 39.
Larry Sakar adds (regarding the picture above):
I’m not sure who those people are rummaging around in the wreck. It’s hard to believe the site wouldn’t have been cordoned off to prevent looting. Perhaps they were police personnel who were rounding up personal belongings. It’s not in any of the pictures I sent you but in some shots of the wreck looking north you see a second heavy duplex behind 1192-93. That is duplex 1184-85 trip #5 from Milwaukee. The passengers aboard that car were told about the accident when they reached West Jct. The train then proceeded slowly toward the wreck site where the able bodied NMRA members got off and walked to the wreck site to lend assistance in the rescue efforts. You know it had to be a horrible sight.
Once all of the trapped injured and dead had been removed from the wreck 1184-85 coupled on to 1193 the rear car on Equitz’s southbound car and tried to pull the wreck apart. It did not succeed. A Wisconsin National Guard tow truck had to pull the wreck apart. 1192-93 was covered with a tarp and hauled down to the Public Service Bldg. in the dark of night. It was initially kept in the back of the building where passengers boarding cars for Waukesha, West Jct. or Hales Corners could not see it. Once all of the investigations were completed it was again transported in the dark of night to the Waukesha Gravel Pit.
1192-93 figured into Speedrail history unwantedly on December 20th, 1950. Two teenaged vandals trespassing at the gravel pit went inside the train. The boys got cold so the geniuses decided they’d warm up by starting a fire in the rear car (1193).. he fire got out of hand and they were lucky to escape the car. The fire gutted 1193. I don’t know if Trustee Bitker pursued criminal charges against them but he certainly should have if he didn’t.
In this Lew Martin photo we see car 40 laying on its side after being pushed off the right-of-way. Lew said he was confronted by a man who identified himself as a “railroad detective” and ordered off the property or he would be arrested.
Two years have passed since the accident and the Speedrail line is being scrapped. Note the ties minus rails. Here we see Lee Brehmer (a friend of former Milwaukee resident Al Buetschle, who saved Milwaukee streetcar 978) at the crash site. holding up one of the doors from car 39. Today, the site has been completely obliterated by the National Ave. on and off ramps of the I-894 freeway.
Traces of Greenwood Jct. still remain. I took the next 4 photos. In this picture I was trying to position myself at the approximate point where the siding and Hales Corners mainline met. In the 66 years since Speedrail was abandoned, a second set of power transmission towers was added on the abandoned r.o.w. and the original towers moved, so trying to find an exact spot can be difficult. To the right you can see where the land comes into the arrow-straight abandoned r.o.w.. So this would have been about where the tracks met. These photos were taken in the 1990’s.
I’ve walked across the r.o.w. toward the western most set of power lines. The car seen passing in the center left background is eastbound on W. Howard Ave.
Looking south toward the junction from W. Howard Ave. The transmission tower in the right center background is at the approximate point where the 2 lines met.
I’m now looking north on the abandoned r.o.w. from the south side of W. Howard Ave.
Other sections of the abandoned Hales Corners line r.o.w. are still very visible. Here you see the crossing of W. Layton Ave. looking south. In the 1930’s a line was built southeast from this point for transporting work crews to the abuilding village of Greendale. The line was dismantled upon completion of construction.
The black truck pulling the trailer is at the approximate spot where the Hales Corners station used to stand. You are looking south along S. 108th St. aka Hwy 100 and the truck is westbound on W. Janesville Rd. Hwy. 100 was widened after the abandonment of Speedrail and its two right-hand northbound lanes occupy the Hales Corners line r.o.w.
One block further south is where interurbans headed for East Troy or Burlington turned onto North Cape Rd. Following the abandonment of the East Troy line in 1939 the line was cut back to a newly constructed loop 1/2 mile west of this point called Hillcrest. No trace of Hillcrest loop exists today. The site is now occupied by a home improvement store.
“Beautiful downtown Hales Corners” in the 1920’s.. This photo courtesy of John Schoenknecht of the Waukesha County Historical Society shows hales Corners in the “Roaring ’20’s”. You are looking west from W. Forest Home Ave. across Highway 100 and up North Cape Rd. The line to Burlington and East Troy comes from the left (southbound) and turns west. In later years the track configuration was changed.
Standing at almost that same spot today, Forest Home Ave. has taken over what was North Cape Rd. Although you can’t see it in this picture a McDonald’s occupies the empty lot seen in the left front of photo 14 and a Culver’s (another fast food chain) occupies the same space directly across the street. The gas station seen in the right center of photo 14 and all of the surrounding buildings are long gone. Their space is now occupied by the south end of a used car lot for a local automobile dealer.
Speedrail lightweight car 39 was smashed for 3/4 the length of the car by heavy duplex 1192-93 in the 9-2-50 fatal accident. Car 40, the rear car of this lightweight duplex was not damaged other than at the articulated joint. The only thing that could be done once rescue and recovery efforts were completed was to shove both halves of 39 & 40 off the embankment and dismantle them on the spot.
This is a much better shot of the intersection of Highway 100 & Forest Home Ave. in the 1990’s. The electric transmission towers are approximately where the TM r.o.w. was but that tower does not match the one in the same spot in the 1920’s photo.
In this photo I’ve moved just a few feet further west to get in more of the curve and the north side of the street. This is an extremely bust stretch of roadway but I’m sure not one motorist had any ideas of what had once run next to those electric transmission towers.
The late Ernie Maragos of Racine, Wisconsin took this photo of Milwaukee & Suburban Transport Corp. streetcar 978 in 1957. The eastbound car has just crossed the Milwaukee River on the bridge in the background and will stop at N. Water St. about a half block out of the picture at left. The large building seen behind the 978 is the Germania Bldg. on the southwest corner of N. Plankinton Ave. and W. Wells St. The domes with what look like spears were meant to simulate German Pith helmets. Due to anti-German sentiment during WW I the owner, Henry Brumder changed the name of the building to the Brumder Bldg. Brumder was a newspaper publisher who printed German language newspapers for Milwaukee’s large German population. The “Germania” name was restored in the 1980’s and the building given a complete renovation. The publishing of newspapers had ended many years before and the former printing press area in the basement was converted to a parking garage for the 4 top executives of Security Savings & Loan Assoc. on the northeast corner of 2nd & Wisconsin (adjacent to where the North Shore city carline ended). I worked for Security S&L for almost 20 years, then went to work for the bank that bought out Security in 1997. The 978 was saved by former Milwaukee resident Al Buetschle for the Wauwatosa Kiwanis Club. When they changed their mind, ownership reverted to him. When he left Milwaukee in 1961 to pursue a job in Northern California the car went to the Mid-Continent Railway Museum in North Freedom, Wi. The group that formed the East Troy Trolley Museum in 1972 – TWERHS, The Wisconsin Electric Railway Historical Society was formed at Mid-Continent and split off in 1967. Mr. Buetschle now resides in Contra Costa County, Ca. 60 miles northeast of San Francisco.
Down Three Dark Streets
I recently watched the 1954 crime drama Down Three Dark Streets, a pretty solid film starring Broderick Crawford, and noticed some interesting shots of the short Pacific Electric subway and the Glendale-Burbank double-end PCCs. This film was released about a year before the line was abandoned.
FBI agents are tailing a gangster’s moll as she tries to shake them on her way to her boyfriend’s hideout. She goes down into the PE subway terminal, gets on one car, switches to another, and then rides out to the end of the line.
In this film, at least, the double-end PCCs have a foghorn, reminding me of the “Blimp” cars. Not sure if this was ture in real life. At one point, an FBI agent refers to the “number three interurban,” although I doubt that the PE called it anything other than the Glendale-Burbank line.
The PCCs are shown really zipping along. Car 5000 is visible. Don’s Rail Photos says: “5000 was built by Pullman-Standard in October 1940, #W6642. It was retired in 1956 and was sold as Ferrocarril Gen Urquiza M.1500 and made modifications in 1959. It was retired in short time.” After having been stored in the samp subway tunnel for three or four years, the PCCs had badly deteriorated even though they were only used in service for about 15 years.
Here are some screen-shots:
Pre-Order Our New Book Chicago Trolleys
On the Cover: Car 1747 was built between 1885 and 1893 by the Chicago City Railway, which operated lines on the South Side starting in April 1859. This is a single-truck (one set of wheels) open electric car; most likely a cable car, retrofitted with a trolley and traction motor. The man at right is conductor William Stevely Atchison (1861-1921), and this image came from his granddaughter. (Courtesy of Debbie Becker.)
We are pleased to report that our new book Chicago Trolleys will be released on September 25th by Arcadia Publishing. You can pre-order an autographed copy through us today (see below). Chicago Trolleys will also be available wherever Arcadia books are sold.
Chicago’s extensive transit system first started in 1859, when horsecars ran on rails in city streets. Cable cars and electric streetcars came next. Where new trolley car lines were built, people, businesses, and neighborhoods followed. Chicago quickly became a world-class city. At its peak, Chicago had over 3,000 streetcars and 1,000 miles of track—the largest such system in the world. By the 1930s, there were also streamlined trolleys and trolley buses on rubber tires. Some parts of Chicago’s famous “L” system also used trolley wire instead of a third rail. Trolley cars once took people from the Loop to such faraway places as Aurora, Elgin, Milwaukee, and South Bend. A few still run today.
The book features 226 classic black-and-white images, each with detailed captions, in 10 chapters:
1. Early Traction
2. Consolidation and Growth
3. Trolleys to the Suburbs
4. Trolleys on the “L”
5. Interurbans Under Wire
6. The Streamlined Era
7. The War Years
8. Unification and Change
9. Trolley Buses
10. Preserving History
Publisher: Arcadia Publishing SC
Publication date: 09/25/2017
Series: Images of Rail
Meet the Author
David Sadowski has been interested in streetcars ever since his father took him for a ride on one of the last remaining lines in 1958. He grew up riding trolley buses and “L” trains all over Chicago. He coauthored Chicago Streetcar Pictorial: The PCC Car Era, 1936–1958, and runs the online Trolley Dodger blog. Come along for the ride as we travel from one side of the city to the other and see how trolley cars and buses moved Chicago’s millions of hardworking, diverse people.
Images of Rail
The Images of Rail series celebrates the history of rail, trolley, streetcar, and subway transportation across the country. Using archival photographs, each title presents the people, places, and events that helped revolutionize transportation and commerce in 19th- and 20th-century America. Arcadia is proud to play a part in the preservation of local heritage, making history available to all.
The book costs just $21.99 plus shipping. Introductory Special: Order before September 5, and shipping within the US is included in the price. Shipping to Canada is just $5 additional, or $10 elsewhere.
Please note that Illinois residents must pay 10.00% sales tax on their purchases.
We appreciate your business!
For Shipping to US Addresses:
For Shipping to Canada:
For Shipping Elsewhere:
NEW – Chicago Trolleys Postcard Collection
We are pleased to report that selected images from our upcoming book Chicago Trolleys will be available on September 25th in a pack of 15 postcards, all for just $7.99. This is part of a series put out by Arcadia Publishing. Dimensions: 6″ wide x 4.25″ tall
The Postcards of America Series
Here in the 21st century, when everyone who’s anyone seems to do most of their communicating via Facebook and Twitter, it’s only natural to wax a little nostalgic when it comes to days gone by. What happened to more personal means of communication like hand-written letters on nice stationery? Why don’t people still send postcards when they move someplace new or go away on vacation?
If that line of thinking sounds familiar, then Arcadia Publishing’s Postcards of America was launched with you in mind. Each beautiful volume features a different collection of real vintage postcards that you can mail to your friends and family.
Pre-Order your Chicago Trolleys Postcard Pack today!
For Shipping to US Addresses:
For Shipping to Canada:
For Shipping Elsewhere:
Help Support The Trolley Dodger
This is our 193rd 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 316,000 page views, for which we are very grateful.
You can help us continue our original transit research by checking out the fine products in our Online Store.
As we have said before, “If you buy here, we will be here.”
We thank you for your support.
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.
Your financial contributions help make this web site better, and are greatly appreciated.