Now here’s something you don’t see every day… the 69th Street station on the Normal Park “L”, in color. This short branch closed in 1954.
For most Chicago-area railfans, January 21, 1963 is a day, to paraphrase Franklin D. Roosevelt, that will “live in infamy,” for that is when the Chicago North Shore and Milwaukee, the North Shore Line, breathed its last.
But January 21 is also the date when we started this blog in 2015. This is our seventh anniversary, and I think we have had seven full years of good luck.
In that time, our posts have received 841,000 page views, and over time we have become more and more of a resource for those who are interested in the history of electric traction.
As this is our anniversary post, we pulled out all the stops, and have lots of classic images for you to enjoy. As the 21st is also the 59th anniversary of the North Shore Line abandonment, we have plenty of pictures that pay tribute to that lost interurban.
As we have shared our images with you, you in turn have shared many things with us. We have learned a lot by working together. It has been a great ride here so far, and we can only hope that the next seven years will turn out as well.
Our friend Kenneth Gear now has a Facebook group for the Railroad Record Club. If you enjoy listening to audio recordings of classic railroad trains, whether steam, electric, or diesel, you might consider joining.
Our Next Book
FYI, I recently made a new book proposal to my publisher and it has been accepted. I signed the agreement on the 18th, and with any luck, it will come out later this year.
There is still a lot of hard work to be done, but I will do my best to produce something that is new and different than that which is already out there, and makes a real contribution to our understanding of the past.
One thing working in my favor is there are plenty of great pictures to choose from, and the subject is already legendary.
Here is a summary:
The North Shore Line
As late as 1963, you could take a high-speed streamlined train from Chicago’s Loop elevated, 90 miles north to Milwaukee. This was the Chicago, North Shore and Milwaukee, commonly known as the North Shore Line.
From humble beginnings in the 1890s, as a streetcar line in Waukegan, Illinois, the North Shore Line grew to become, in the words of historian William D. Middleton, a “super interurban.” It reached its peak in the 1920s, under Samuel Insull, when the railroad won the prestigious Charles A. Coffin medal no less than three times.
Besides connecting Milwaukee and Chicago, the North Shore Line served Racine, Kenosha, Waukegan, Lake Bluff, Winnetka, Wilmette, and Evanston. A new Skokie Valley Route, built by Insull, opened in 1926 and helped establish Skokie, Glenview, Northfield, and Northbrook.
The railroad had a branch line serving Libertyville and Mundelein, city streetcars in Waukegan and Milwaukee, and was a pioneer in offering “piggyback” freight service.
Hobbled by the Depression and forced into bankruptcy, the North Shore Line rebounded during the war years with two fast new trains called “Electroliners.” It was finally done in by the automobile, highways, and a lack of government subsidies—but it left a remarkable legacy.
Our Annual Fundraiser
Since we started this blog in 2015, we have posted over 13,500 images. This is our 284th post.
Each year, around this time, we must renew our WordPress subscription, our domain registration, and pay other bills associated with maintaining this site, so it is time for our Annual Fundraiser.
The Trolley Dodger blog can only be kept going with the help of our devoted readers. Perhaps you count yourself among them.
If you have already contributed in the past, we thank you very much for your help. Meanwhile, our goal for this fundraiser is just $700, which is only a fraction of what it costs us each year. The rest is made up from either the profits from the items we sell, which are not large, or out of our own pocket, which is not very large either.
There are links at the top and bottom of this page, where you can click and make a donation that will help us meet our goal again for this coming year, so we can continue to offer you more classic images in the future, and keep this good thing we have going.
We thank you in advance for your time and consideration. To date, we have raised $350, which is halfway to our goal. We will also have considerable expenses coming up relating to research for our next book.
On May 11, 1958, William C. Hoffman took this picture looking north along Halsted at the (then) Congress Expressway. Service on the Garfield Park “L” would continue until June 22nd, when it was replaced by the new Congress rapid transit line at left. A passerby admires the new, as-yet unopened station entrance. The Met “L” here had been four tracks, but two were removed by the time this picture was taken, as they were in the highway footprint. The expressway opened in late 1955 in this area.
The old and the new are on display in this 1958 view of the Halsted station on the CTA’s Congress median line. In the background, the old Met “L” is still standing, but would soon be demolished.
North Shore Line 458 heads up a southbound freight train, probably in the early-to-mid 1950s. At first, I thought this location was in Skokie, from the sign on the building. But further research shows this picture was taken in Waukegan, between Washington and Cornelia Streets. The building at right was a former North Shore Line merchandise dispatch (they spelled it “despatch”) station, by this time being rented out to a produce dealer. Don’s Rail Photos: “458 was built by the Spokane Portland & Seattle in January 1941 as Oregon Electric Ry. 50. It was purchased by the North Shore in December 1947 and was completed as 458 on January 27, 1948.”
A northbound Electroliner heading away from the photographer in Waukegan, most likely in the early-to-mid 1950s. In the distance, you can see another North Shore car on a side track.
A close-up of the previous image. Zach E. writes: “Regarding the two photos of 458 and the Electroliner at Washington St. in Waukegan. The cars in the background are standard coaches, not MD cars. There was a storage track there often occupied by cars laying over on the east side of the mainline there between Cornelia and Brookside Ave.”
CTA PCC 4057 is heading northbound on Western Avenue near Roscoe in June 1956, passing by the entrance to Riverview Park, shortly before the end of streetcar service on Route 49. (Robert Selle Photo)
The Chicago and Milwaukee Electric was the predecessor of the North Shore Line. Car 133 is at the Kenosha station in this early 1900s view.
The Chicago Aurora and Elgin began using this off-street terminal in Aurora in 1939. This picture was taken from a nearby bridge in 1951.
Look at what we have here– the Turtle Wax Turtle, a local landmark that stood on top of a building at Madison, Ogden, and Ashland from 1956 to 1963. The slide mount dates it to the late 50s, probably 1956-58. And which “L” is this taken from? Well, since it is daylight and it is 9:13, I would say that is AM, and we are looking south from the Lake Street “L” at Ashland. It would have been visible from the Paulina “L”, which had closed in 1951, and from the Garfield Park “L”, but that structure had already been torn down by 1956. I remember seeing this thing any number of times when I was a kid.
The Turtle Wax Turtle.
One of the two Liberty Liners (ex-Electroliners) on the Norristown High-Speed Line, where they ran from 1964 to 1976.
Britton I. Budd (1871-1965) was a talented and able executive who held many responsible positions in the transit industry, including president of the North Shore Line. When Samuel Insull took over the North Shore Line, he tapped Budd to implement a modernization program. And when the line fell into bankruptcy in 1932, Budd became one of the receivers, a position he held until 1937.
The North Shore logo from a 1942 timetable.
This appeared on the cover of a 1921 issue of the North Shore Bulletin, a small magazine given out to riders.
This is part of a number of photos someone took out of the front window of a CTA “L” train in the 1950s, along the Garfield Park line. We have published some of these in previous posts. Not all of them seem to have been taken at the same time. This one appears to be circa 1957, and the location is along the temporary right-of-way in Van Buren Street.
Here, the “L” train the photographer was riding in was descending a ramp towards the ground-level trackage in Van Buren Street. The cross street in the distance is California Avenue. There is a sign on the front of the oncoming train, which I believe indicates which Chicago Aurora and Elgin connecting train riders could catch in Forest Park.
The Garfield Park “L” on Van Buren Street at California Avenue, but this time, circa 1954. The old “L” has already been removed, except for the bridge over a nearby railroad.
A close-up of the previous image, showing construction on the nearby railroad embankment that crosses the highway at 2600 West. The old Met “L” bridge had not yet been dismantled.
On the Illinois Railway Museum main line, North Shore Line cars can operate in something approximating their former lives in revenue service prior to the 1963 abandonment. We see car 251 in February 1991. (Mike Raia Photo)
Lehigh Valley Transit ran freight as well as passenger service between Allentown, PA and Philadelphia. Even after passenger service was cut back to Norristown in 1949, they continued to operate freight via the Philadelphia and Western. Here we see car C16 in 1950, near the end of its days. Interurban service was abandoned the following year. Don’s Rail Photos: “C16 was built by Jewett Car in 1912 as 800. It was rebuilt as C16 in 1935.”
Lehigh Valley Transit car 1002, circa 1950. Don’s Rail Photos: “1002 was built by Cincinnati Car in June 1930, #3050, as C&LE 126. It was sold to LVT as 1002 in 1938 and scrapped in 1952.”
A pair of Lehigh Valley Transit cars meet a Philadelphia Bullet car at the Norristown terminal, circa 1951. LVT ceased running their Liberty Bell Limited cars there in 1949, for a variety of reasons. It reduced their expenses, but it probably also reduced revenues as their riders now had to change trains at Norristown. But the LVT cars were getting worn out and there were problems with the motors on the lightweight high-speed interurban cars LVT had acquired from the Cleveland and Lake Erie in 1938. Towards the end, LVT had to rely more and more on their older cars, such as the 700-series ones seen here. To the left (north), there was a ramp descending to ground level. This terminal has since been replaced by a newer one nearby.
The Chicago and North Western station in Evanston, during steam days in the early 1900s.
We ran another picture of this scene in a previous post, taken from a different view. The occasion was a Chicago streetcar fantrip using car 2802, and the location is at 63rd and Halsted on the Englewood branch of the “L”. There was an off-street area where riders could change for buses to different locations and, in an older era, interurbans as well. I do not know precisely when this picture was taken, but if I had to guess, I would say sometime in the 1940s.
Here is the other picture we previously ran of car 2802:
CSL 2802 on a charter, possibly a July 4, 1949 fantrip held by the Electric Railroaders’ Association on various south side lines. Bill Shapotkin writes: “Believe this pic is in the streetcar terminal next to the 63/Halsted ‘L’ station (where the C&IT cars and later busses of South Suburban Safeway and Suburban transit began their runs). View looks east.” M. E. adds, “Bill Shapotkin is correct. This view faces east along 63rd Place on the south side of the 63rd and Halsted (Englewood) L station, which was east of Halsted. One small nit about Bill’s text: The bus lines were named Suburban Transit System and South Suburban Safeway Lines.” C&IT stands for the Chicago & Interurban Traction Company. Don’s Rail Photos says, “The Chicago & Interurban Traction Company was incorporated in February 1912, taking over all trackage outside Chicago in March 1912 (all trackage in the City of Chicago went to the Chicago City Railway Company). C&IT interurban service continued from the south side Engelwood Elevated Station at 63rd and Halsted (trackage in Chicago was leased along with the shops at 88th and Vincennes) to Kankakee.” Samuel Insull took over the C&IT in 1922 and tried to revive the line, but when the competing Illinois Central elevated much of their line and electrified, the C&IT could not compete and interurban service was abandoned in 1927.
A Wabash Railroad display at the 1948-49 Chicago Railroad Fair along the lakefront.
The Chicago and Eastern Illinois exhibit at the 1948-49 Chicago Railroad Fair.
North Shore Line combine 255. Don’s Rail Photos: “255 was built by Jewett in 1917. It had all of the seats removed in the 1920s to provide a full length baggage car which ran in passenger trains. It was used for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra to move equipment to Ravinia. On July 2, 1942, the 40 seats were replaced. Then on December 1, 1946, the seats were again removed. In addition to the Symphony, the car was used for sailors’ baggage from Great Lakes.” As there are seats visible, this picture dates to circa 1942-46.
Atlantic City Brilliner 215 at a traffic signal, while on private right-of-way, on October 13, 1955, which must be shortly before streetcar service ended there.
Pittsburgh Railways PCC 1262 is on Wood Street in downtown Pittsburgh on September 19, 1962.
Chicago Transit Authority PCC 4321 is on 77th Street on July 30, 1948.
This is the Ballston Terminal Railroad, which Frank Hicks calls “a fairly unusual little interurban in upstate New York,” in the early 1900s. More info here.
Here, we see Frank Cheney on CA&E car 434 at the Seashore Trolley Museum on October 12, 1963. From their web site: “No. 434 of the Chicago, Aurora & Elgin – “The Great Third Rail” – was outshopped by the Cincinnati Car Company in 1927 as one of a group of 15 ordered shortly after Insull acquired control of the railway. Of all steel construction, the car is 55 feet long overall, is powered by four 140 horsepower motors, and has a seating capacity of 52, including 10 in a smoking compartment. Interior appointments include rotating bucket seats, toilet facilities and neatly finished paneling. The car is equipped with trolley poles that were primarily for yard service and limited street running on the CA&E, since the line used third rail current collection not only on the elevated, but on its own cross country surface routes as well. Moved on its own wheels coupled in a freight train from the CA&E shops in Wheaton, Illinois, to Kennebunk in the fall of 1962, No. 434 was trucked to the Museum in the spring of 1963 and was quickly readied for operation, given its good condition.”
North Shore Line car 168 is in North Chicago, being stored after abandonment, on October 19, 1963. It was built by Jewett in 1917. It did not survive.
Some of these interurban cars sure got around after they were retired from their original roads. Here we see North Shore Line car 411 on the Long Island Railroad. Don’s Rail Photos: “411 was built as a trailer observation car by Cincinnati Car in June 1923 #2640. It was out of service in 1932. 411 It was rebuilt as a two motor coach by closing in the open platform and changing the seating on February 25, 1943, and sold to Trolley Museum of New York in 1963. It was sold to Wisconsin Electric Railway & Historical Society in 1973 and sold to Escanaba & Lake Superior in 1989.”
An 0-series Shinkansen “Bullet” train in Tokyo, Japan in June 1968. The North Shore Line’s Electroliners influenced the design of these high-speed trains.
This is the Downey’s station (West Great Lakes) in October 1961.
I assume this may also be at Downeys, in October 1961.
Sailors and others aboard a North Shore Line train in October 1961.
A builder’s photo of Chicago and Milwaukee Electric (later the North Shore Line) car 305. Don’s Rail Photos: “303 thru 305 were built by American Car in 1910 and were almost identical. In 1939 they became sleet cutters and were retired and scrapped in 1940.”
North Shore Line streetcar 510. Don’s Rail Photos: “510 and 511 were not really city cars, but were purchased for use on the Mundelein line. They were typical Cincinnati Car lightweights built in 1922. After more of the steel interurbans were received in the next few years, they were replaced by the heavy cars which were thru routed to Chicago. The cars were stored until they were scrapped in 1940.”
North Shore Line wood car 301 at the Highwood Shops in the 1930s. Don’s Rail Photos: “300 thru 302 were built by Jewett in 1909 as mainline coaches. As the steel cars arrived, they were downgraded to local and school tripper service. In 1936 they became sleet cutters. 301 and 302 were retired in 1939 and scrapped in 1940.” (Edward Frank, Jr. Photo)
North Shore Line Birney car 334 in Milwaukee. Don’s Rail Photos: “334 was built by Cincinnati Car Co in December 1922, #2625. It was retired in 1947 and scrapped in April 1948.” (Donald Ross Photo)
North Shore Line electric loco 458 at the Highwood Shops on September 3, 1963, several months after abandonment. None of the NSL locos were saved, due to the high scrap value they had. (Bill Volkmer Photo)
Chicago Aurora & Elgin wood car 137 at the Wheaton Shops on August 6, 1939, during which time it was leased from the North Shore Line. There were several such cars that were purchased by the CA&E in 1946, making them the last passenger cars acquired by the interurban. It was built by the Jewett Car Company in 1907. (La Mar M. Kelley Photo)
Doug Iverson writes:
David, just heard about your latest adventure into the publishing arena. Hope everything goes well. I would be honored and extremely pleased if you could use this photo of my dad heading to board the North Shore in Racine in the 1940s.
My dad’s name was Nathan Norman Iverson. He was born in Forks, Washington on the Olympic Peninsula and traveled to Racine on the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad better known as The Milwaukee Road. As he did most of his traveling during the depression he “rode the rails” trying to cure his wanderlust. In Racine he met my mother and she calmed his wandering spirit. He loved to travel. He always said “Traveling was always more fun than being there.”
I grew up in Racine with The North Shore flying through town in both directions every hour on the half hour.
Thanks for sharing! A remarkable story.
Marty Robinson writes:
Thanks David for your anniversary post. It elicited several memories for me: riding the North Shore Line from Downey into Chicago numerous times while at Great Lakes in 1950/51 at boot camp and electronics school. And a mention of the Railroad Fair, where I worked as a 16-year-old as a conductor on the Deadwood Central.
Glad you enjoyed it, thanks! Marty is front row, center in this 1948 photo from the Chicago Railroad Fair.
Did Not Win
Resources are limited, and we can’t win all the auctions for interesting pictures. Here are some that are still worth another look:
The interior of a Silverliner in 1963.
This is apparently a Chicago area train, but which one? The type of slide mount would indicate a date in the range 1955-58. But the headline visible, on a copy of the Chicago Daily News, refers to the selection of a site for the University of Illinois campus in Chicago. That determination was not made final until 1961. It’s been suggested that this may be the GM&O, but it could also be a Chicago & North Western train known as The 400, which ran between Chicago and Minneapolis. The 400 got its name because the travel time between cities was about 400 minutes. At any rate, it’s an air conditioned car. Mitch Markovitz: “Regarding the parlor car interior. It’s definitely the interior of GM&O parlor “Bloomington,” and not a C&NW parlor. C&NW parlors had parlor chairs from Coach and Car, and the chairs seen in the photo are those from Heywood-Wakefield, in the “Sleepy Hallow model.””
The original Kedzie Avenue station on the Ravenswood “L” (today’s CTA Brown Line) in the early 1970s, not long before it was damaged by fire. We are looking west.
Trolleys to Milwaukee by John Gruber
A copy of this long out-of-print 32-page book is being offered for sale on eBay for $50. One of the fans on the Facebook North Shore Line group lives in Australia and is interested in this book, but international shipping is expensive. So I offered to scan my copy for their benefit. You might enjoy it too.
John E. Gruber (1936-2018) was a notable and very talented photographer, as evidenced in these very striking pictures.
A Guide to the Railroad Record Club E-Book
William A. Steventon recording the sounds of the North Shore Line in April 1956. (Kenneth Gear Collection)
Our good friend Ken Gear has been hard at work on collecting all things related to the late William Steventon’s railroad audio recordings and releases. The result is a new book on disc, A Guide To the Railroad Record Club. This was quite a project and labor of love on Ken’s part!
Kenneth Gear has written and compiled a complete history of William Steventon‘s Railroad Record Club, which issued 42 different LPs of steam, electric, and diesel railroad audio, beginning with its origins in 1953.
This “book on disc” format allows us to present not only a detailed history of the club and an updated account of Kenneth Gear’s purchase of the William Steventon estate, but it also includes audio files, photo scans and movie files. Virtually all the Railroad Record Club archive is gathered in one place!
$10 from the sale of each RRC E-Book will go to Kenneth Gear to repay him for some of his costs in saving this important history.
Now Available on Compact Disc:
RRC08D Railroad Record Club #08 Deluxe Edition: Canadian National: Canadian Railroading in the Days of Steam, Recorded by Elwin Purington The Complete Recording From the Original Master Tapes Price: $15.99
Kenneth Gear‘s doggedness and determination resulted in his tracking down and purchasing the surviving RRC master tapes a few years back, and he has been hard at work having them digitized, at considerable personal expense, so that you and many others can enjoy them with today’s technology. We have already released a few RRC Rarities CDs from Ken’s collection.
When Ken heard the digitized version of RRC LP #08, Canadian National: Canadian Railroading in the Days of Steam, recorded by the late Elwin Purington, he was surprised to find the original tapes were more than twice the length of the 10″ LP. The resulting LP had been considerably edited down to the limited space available, 15 minutes per side.
The scenes were the same, but each was greatly shortened. Now, on compact disc, it is possible to present the full length recordings of this classic LP, which was one of Steventon’s best sellers and an all-around favorite, for the very first time.
Canadian National. Steaming giants pound high iron on mountain trails, rumble over trestles, hit torpedos and whistle for many road crossings. Mountain railroading with heavy power and lingering whistles! Includes locomotives 3566, 4301, 6013, 3560.
Total time – 72:57
$5 from the sale of RRC08D CD will go to Kenneth Gear to repay him for some of his costs in saving this important history.
Chicago’s Lost “L”s Online Presentation
We recently gave an online presentation about our book Chicago’s Lost “L”s for the Chicago Public Library, as part of their One Book, One Chicago series. You can watch it online by following this link.
The Trolley Dodger On the Air
We appeared on the Dave Plier Show on WGN radio on July 16, 2021, to discuss Chicago’s Lost “L”s. You can hear that discussion here.
Our Latest Book, Now Available:
Chicago’s Lost “L”s
From the back cover:
Chicago’s system of elevated railways, known locally as the “L,” has run continuously since 1892 and, like the city, has never stood still. It helped neighborhoods grow, brought their increasingly diverse populations together, and gave the famous Loop its name. But today’s system has changed radically over the years. Chicago’s Lost “L”s tells the story of former lines such as Garfield Park, Humboldt Park, Kenwood, Stockyards, Normal Park, Westchester, and Niles Center. It was once possible to take high-speed trains on the L directly to Aurora, Elgin, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The L started out as four different companies, two starting out using steam engines instead of electricity. Eventually, all four came together via the Union Loop. The L is more than a way of getting around. Its trains are a place where people meet and interact. Some say the best way to experience the city is via the L, with its second-story view. Chicago’s Lost “L”s is virtually a “secret history” of Chicago, and this is your ticket. David Sadowski grew up riding the L all over the city. He is the author of Chicago Trolleys and Building Chicago’s Subways and runs the online Trolley Dodger blog.
The Images of America series celebrates the history of neighborhoods, towns, and cities across the country. Using archival photographs, each title presents the distinctive stories from the past that shape the character of the community today. Arcadia is proud to play a part in the preservation of local heritage, making history available to all.
Title Chicago’s Lost “L”s Images of America Author David Sadowski Edition illustrated Publisher Arcadia Publishing (SC), 2021 ISBN 1467100007, 9781467100007 Length 128 pages
Chapters: 01. The South Side “L” 02. The Lake Street “L” 03. The Metropolitan “L” 04. The Northwestern “L” 05. The Union Loop 06. Lost Equipment 07. Lost Interurbans 08. Lost Terminals 09. Lost… and Found
Each copy purchased here will be signed by the author, and you will also receive a bonus facsimile of a 1926 Chicago Rapid Transit Company map, with interesting facts about the “L” on the reverse side.
The price of $23.99 includes shipping within the United States.
For Shipping to US Addresses:
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A Tribute to the North Shore Line
To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the demise of the fabled North Shore Line interurban in January 2013, Jeffrey L. Wien and Bradley Criss made a very thorough and professional video presentation, covering the entire route between Chicago and Milwaukee and then some. Sadly, both men are gone now, but their work remains, making this video a tribute to them, as much as it is a tribute to the Chicago North Shore & Milwaukee.
Jeff drew on his own vast collections of movie films, both his own and others such as the late William C. Hoffman, wrote and gave the narration. Bradley acted as video editor, and added authentic sound effects from archival recordings of the North Shore Line.
It was always Jeff’s intention to make this video available to the public, but unfortunately, this did not happen in his lifetime. Now, as the caretakers of Jeff’s railfan legacy, we are proud to offer this excellent two-hour program to you for the first time. The result is a fitting tribute to what Jeff called his “Perpetual Adoration,” which was the name of a stop on the interurban.
Jeff was a wholehearted supporter of our activities, and the proceeds from the sale of this disc will help defray some of the expenses of keeping the Trolley Dodger web site going.
Total time – 121:22
# of Discs – 1 Price: $19.99 (Includes shipping within the United States)
Help Support The Trolley Dodger
This is our 284th 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 841,000 page views, for which we are very grateful.
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City Scene with Nuns (1947) by Robert W. Addison, in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago.
A long, hot summer is beginning to come to and end here in Chicago, and we have lots of great new images to share with you today. We thank all the original photographers, and our contributors.
We have many recent photo finds of our own, some great new ones thanks to Bill Shapotkin, and another batch that, for one reason or another, we were unable to purchase (but are still worth looking at).
We have been hard at work on our next book, Chicago’s Lost “L”s, and recently turned in all the text and images to our publisher. I am sure there will be additional changes (there always are), but I thought it would be useful to talk a bit about the process of making a book (see below).
We all have our ways of coping with situations. Working on a book has helped me keep focused during this pandemic.
Have a safe Labor Day weekend, everyone.
How a Book is Made
Technology may have changed since the 1950s, but you still have to go through your images one at a time.
My new book Chicago’s Lost “L”s is the third part of a trilogy, along with Chicago Trolleys and Building Chicago’s Subways. I got the idea for all three books some years ago, and have been collecting images with this in mind for nearly six years.
Without an idea, there is no book. While there have been plenty of books about Chicago’s famed “L”, each one is different. The subject is so large, an author has to put their own unique “spin” on it. I decided my brief would be to showcase those aspects of the “L” that don’t exist any longer.
This, I believe, many people are interested in. Whenever the subject of various “L” lines that no longer exist comes up, I get the feeling people want to know more about this. So there is a need.
You make a proposal to your publisher, and if they like what they here, you enter into a contract that has specifics of what they need, and deadlines for when you give it to them. Books to be don’t come with instruction manuals of how to put them together, though.
There, you’re on your own, and I am sure the creative process is different for every author, and for every book.
I realized the project was doable when I had collected most of the images I would need. The first thing I did was to go through my entire image collection and look at everything. I started setting aside any images that I thought could be relevant, using an image editor. I went through 20,000 images, and I did this three times– at the beginning, middle, and near the end of the project. That was necessary, because each time I was looking for something different.
One of the most important things and author needs to determine is, how will things be organized? Chronologically, geographically, or thematically? Each approach has advantages and disadvantages, and the subject usually needs a combination of all these.
Once I decided on what the chapters in the book would be, I started a folder in my image editor for each one. Then, I started sorting the images in each folder in order, shuffling and reshuffling them until I was happy with the results.
Even after I had selected the proper number of images, I eventually ended up replacing about one-third of them. As time went on, my book’s narrative began to develop. As it did, some images fit, and others did not.
After I was satisfied with my image choices, I began writing the captions to go with them. If I couldn’t figure out a good caption for something, it had to go. Everything that stays in the book needs a good reason for being there. Writing means rewriting, over and over, as many times as necessary to say what you want to say in the most economic and efficient way possible.
Along the way, you find that no matter how much research you have done, the book needs more. You figure out what’s missing, and you do everything you can to find those things that can complete the story you are trying to tell. In general, it’s the oldest things that are hardest to find.
As you learn more while putting things together, the book tells you what it needs to be, and this is always going to be somewhat different than what you thought it was at the start. You always need to dig deeper.
The last thing I wrote was the introduction. That’s the opposite of how I approached my previous two books, but this time I wanted to see what would be included in the book first.
I also spent many, many long hours working over images in Photoshop. This includes the various maps I am using. I want everything to look its best when you open up your copy of Chicago’s Lost “L”s and start reading it.
One thing I noticed, when sorting through my images, is how sometimes, when I had duplicates of an image, they weren’t always identical. It occurs to me that when black-and-white prints were made from medium-format negatives, they were probably made in batches, and the same neg could have been printed multiple times over the years. Each time, the neg would be positioned a bit differently.
Now it is possible to combine those images using a program called Microsoft Image Composite Editor. The result is an image that is closer to the full size of the negative. I was able to do this for five or six images in the book.
More information about Chicago’s Lost “L”s will follow, as available. Once a book is published, it belongs to the readers, and you can decide whether or not it is worthwhile, but whatever the result, I have given this project 110%.
When you challenge yourself to reach a goal, it forces you to do better. I learn so much every time I work on a new book– new skills, new methods, more efficiency, more organization, more knowledge. And when someone reads one of my books, and appreciates it (if they do), that’s the icing on the cake.
Howard Terminal looking west in 1959. Ultimately, this picture did not make it into the book.
The same location on June 6, 2020.
I spent a lot of time cleaning up this image, but decided not to use it. The steam engines Chicago used on the “L” were similar to those in New York, but they weren’t identical– they were more robust. They didn’t have the same specs.
I took this picture of the former Linen Avenue station in Wilmette on June 6, 2020, but it didn’t make the cut.
I spent considerable time cleaning up this track map of the Kenwood “L” before I found something else I chose to use.
The same goes for this map of the Stock Yards branch.
In this case, after putting the two versions of this image together, only a small amount was missing at the top, not difficult to replace.
You can see how the same negative was lined up slightly differently both times it was printed. It was not difficult to fill in the missing parts on the two corners and bottom.
El Tracks (1949) by Robert W. Addison. The El looks like New York, but the streetcar seems more like Chicago.
The Chicago Aurora & Elgin owned everything west of Laramie Avenue, and in June 1953, were storing cars mid-day at Lockwood Yard (5300 W.). Wood cars 28 and 207 are seen, among others. (Ray Mueller Photo)
Mark Jesperson, who now lives in France, has written a Wilmette history article and is using one of our images. In turn, he sent us this nice picture, taken in the early 1950s at Linden Avenue, showing a gate car. Evanston became a shuttle to Howard starting in August 1949 (except for the Evanston Express).
An early Loop photo looking north from Tower 12 at Wabash and Van Buren. I think this is pre-1913, meaning it’s the left-hand-running bi-directional Loop. The Met car at left is going away from us on the Inner Loop, while that is probably a South Side car coming towards us, heading south.
Another early view of the Loop, again at Wabash and Van Buren, this time looking west.
When the Indiana Railroad interurban shut down in 1941, Lehigh Valley Transit bought high-speed car 55. Here, it’s on a Pennsylvania Railroad flatcar. LVT turned it into car 1030, showcase of their fleet on the Liberty Bell Route between Allentown and Philadelphia. It is now at the Seashore Trolley Museum. (H. P. Sell Photo)
CTA PCC 7363 at Devon Station (car barn), possibly in 1957. Part of the building here was destroyed by fire years earlier.
LVT high-speed 1022. Except for 1030, all the modern lightweight high-speed cars on the Liberty Bell Limited were ex-Cincinnati & Lake Erie.
LVT 1008 in Allentown.
Cook County #1 was used to transport mental health patients between facilities such as Dunning on Chicago’s northwest side. Don’s Rail Photos: “1, hospital car, was built by CSL in 1918. It was retired on September 21, 1939.”
June 21, 1958 was the day before the new Congress-Douglas-Milwaukee line went into regular service. It was also the last day the Douglas Park trains ran downtown over the Lake Street “L” . Photographer Bob Selle was riding a northbound Douglas train when he took this picture, showing the station at Madison and Paulina, which had not been used in over seven years.
CTA wood car 1712 is a Kenwood shuttle train at the Indiana Avenue stub terminal, probably circa 1953. It was built by St. Louis Car Company in 1903 for the Northwestern Elevated Railroad. (Robert Selle Photo)
A night shot of CTA 4219 at Laramie Avenue on the Garfield Park “L” on January 4, 1957. (Robert Selle Photo)
A night shot of CTA 4434 at Laramie Avenue on the Garfield Park “L” on January 4,1957. (Robert Selle Photo)
CTA 2840, a Met car, at Laramie Yard on January 4, 1957. (Robert Selle Photo)
A night shot of CTA 2810 and 2818 in the Laramie Yards on February 1, 1957. By then, the Congress Expressway was open as far as Laramie and was adjacent to the Garfield Park “L”. It was still under construction west of here, and the “L” ran on temporary trackage. (Robert Selle Photo)
CTA 2802 at Laramie Yard (Garfield Park “L”) on February 1, 1957. (Robert Selle Photo)
The CTA temporarily stored many wood cars at Laramie Yard after they were retired and awaiting scrapping. Here, we see 1752, among others, on November 24, 1957. I assume these cars were last used on Evanston and Ravenswood. (Robert Selle Photo)
CTA 1782 and 1785 at Laramie Yard on November 24, 1957. As far as I know, scrapping took place at Skokie Shops. (Robert Selle Photo)
CTA 3119, signed as a Lake Street local, is being stored on the third track at Hamlin in August 1948. By then, A/B “skip stop” service had been in effect for some months. It’s possible this car was no longer being used on the line. Don’s Rail Photos: “3119 was built by St. Louis Car in 1902 as LSERR 119. In 1913 it was renumbered 3119 and became CRT 3119 in 1923.”
CTA Met car 2113 at Laramie Yard in August 1948. Don’s Rail Photos: “2104 thru 2154 were built by Pullman in 1894 as M-WSER 104 thru 154. In 1913 they were renumbered 2104 thru 2154, and in 1923 they became CRT 2104 thru 2154.” This would have been one of the original cars used on the Metropolitan West Side Elevated when it opened in 1895.
Chicago Rapid Transit Company medical car 2756 at Laramie Yards on September 19, 1934. It was built by Barney & Smith in 1895 and had been used as a funeral car. It could carry baggage as well as passengers.
Chicago & West Towns 158 at Brookfield Zoo in the summer of 1939. This is the south entrance. The Zoo opened in 1934 and was just north of the C&WT line to LaGrange, which cut through the Forest Preserves on private right of way.
The back end of the West Towns car barn in Oak Park. The street sign identifies this as North Boulvard and Cuyler. This is undated but could be 1939. The Chicago & North Western embankment is just to the right out of view. After being used for buses into the 1980s, this building was demolished and replaced by a Dominick’s Finer Foods store. After that chain went out of business, that building was remodeled into Pete’s Fresh Market. We are looking to the northeast.
C&WT line car 15, probably at the car barn at Harlem and 22nd Street (Cermak), in North Riverside. On pictures, this was often mistakenly identified as Berwyn, but that’s across Harlem Avenue just to the east.
Chicago Aurora & Elgin 406 makes a photo stop at State Road on the Batavia branch on August 8, 1954. The occasion was a Central Electric Railfans’ Association fantrip. (Robert Selle Photo)
A two-car Garfield Park “L” train, just west of Laramie Avenue in August 1948.
Caption: “Chicago El showing curve at Harrison and Wabash, taken from Congress Street station, April 2, 1939.” This curve has since been straightened out. The view looks south. (Duncan L. Bryant Photo)
A westbound Evanston Express train is on the Lake Street leg of the Loop near Clark. The view looks east. I assume this picture is from the 1940s, as the sign mentions Skokie instead of Niles Center. Miles Beitler: “There appears to be a propane bus in RBK275, visible just below the motorman’s cab on the Evanston Train. If so, it dates the photo to 1950 or later.” If so, why does the sign say Skokie, as the Niles Center route was converted to bus in 1948?
A Douglas Park “B” train heads west at (I think) Halsted on the Met main line, prior to the removal of two tracks for expressway construction.
The two CTA freight locos, S-104 and S-105, at Howard Street.
DesPlaines Avenue Yard in the 1960s, with a 2000, 6000s, and a couple of wood cars. The Met car looks like it has been converted to a snow plow, while the car on the right may have been used as an office or for storage.
Chicago Aurora and Elgin 405, circa 1950, scanned from the original negative. (Railway Negative Exchange) “Railway Negative Exchange (REX), also referred to as RNE was run by Warren Miller who lived in Moraga, CA. Born in Oakland, CA–(1923) Warren was this nation’s foremost authority on Western railroads and devoted virtually his entire life to assembling more than a quarter of a million negatives, most in glass plates, as well as over 200,000 photographs. Upon Warren’s death (1989), his collection was left to his nephew, Bob Hall. Bob has continued his uncle’s devotion to the railroad photographic hobby.” (2008)
CA&E 411 at the Wheaton Shops. (Railway Negative Exchange)
“CA&E Special #310 on the Mt. Carmel line, at the point where it switches off the main line from Chicago to Wheaton, IL (photo stop).” This was a Central Electric Railfans’ Association fantrip on August 8, 1954. (Robert Selle Photo)
CTA 398, D5, and 6148 at 70th and Ashland on June 28, 1952. (Robert Selle Photo)
“CTA car 649 on curve leading into south end of Limits barn (Clark and Schubert streets). 6148 at right (October 10, 1953).” (Robert Selle Photo)
CA&E 18 at Wheaton on August 15, 1952. Don’s Rail Photos: “18 was built by Niles Car in 1902. It was modernized in March 1941 and retired in 1955.”
“CTA “L” car lineup at DesPlaines Avenue yards, July 6, 1958.” (Robert Selle Photo)
“CTA “L” cars view at DesPlaines Avenue yards, July 6, 1958.” (Robert Selle Photo)
“CTA– one of the entrances to the Racine Avenue station on August 13, 1958.” (Robert Selle Photo)
CTA 4000s at Clark and Lake in January 1970.
Morning commuters on the Evanston Express in April 1970.
Wood cars at Randolph and Wabash in July 1957. At right, the Kodak Store (133 N. Wabash Avenue) and Blackhawk Restaurant (home of the spinning salad bowl) are visible.
Altman Camera, at 129 N. Wabash, was the Noah’s Ark of camera stores from 1964 to 1975. Owner Ralph Altman kept two of everything in stock– one to show, and one to go. This was literally the finest camera store in the United States. This was close to the location of the old Eastman Kodak Store, which I believe had to close in the mid-1950s due to anti-trust concerns. Here is Altman’s in 1967.
CTA 2519, among others, form a three-car train at Van Buren and Ogden. This must be in the early days of the temporary Garfield Park “L” operation, since the old “L” is still standing at left. The portion to Paulina (1700 W.) had to be kept until April 1954, as the Douglas Park “L” was still using it then. We are looking west at about 1800 W. Van Buren, and the “L” west of here was taken down pretty fast to facilitate expressway construction.
The same location today. The Eisenhower Expressway (formerly Congress) is behind those shrubs to the left.
The Congress median right-of-way on November 9, 1959. I believe we are looking east.
An Evanston Express train at Clark and Lake, possibly in the early 1970s.
CTA 1706 is signed for Stock Yards, but is obviously a Kenwood train at Indiana Avenue. Not sure if this is before or after Kenwood became a shuttle in 1949. I assume it simply has the wrong sign on it. It’s been suggested that in latter years, CTA may have through-routed Stock Yards and Kenwood trains. In actual practice, this wouldn’t have been easy, as it would have involved a lot of switching across the main line here.
Miles Beitler writes:
Great photos on your newest post!
Regarding photo RBK 511, on which I left a comment, I have attached information from my 1944 Rand McNally guidebook which describes CRT operations and indicates that, during non-rush periods, Kenwood trains did run from 42nd Place all the way to the Stock Yards. Apparently the CRT had a way to run the trains straight through the Indiana station. (I long ago sent scans of my guidebook to Graham Garfield, who posted them to his website.)
Your “Lost L’s” book sounds interesting and I intend to purchase it when it’s released.
Thanks. This was in the pre-CTA era. Once the Authority took over, there was a real push to reduce the amount of such switching maneuvers, adding and cutting cars in stations, etc. as these things are quite labor intensive.
CRT 2322 on February 12, 1939. It was built for the Met in 1901 by American Car and Foundry. (La Mar M. Kelley Photo)
CSL “Matchbox” 1352 signed for Taylor-Sedgwick-Sheffield. I wonder where this could be? Paul Wallace identifies this as 1044 N. Orleans Street.
The same location today.
CTA 1674 on Division by the north side “L” on June 25, 1950. This station had been closed on August 1, 1949 as part of the CTA’s major revision of north-south service. On the back of the print, it notes that these cars were “replaced by big Pullmans a few weeks later.”
Elevated train tracks on Van Buren Street, looking west from Franklin Street, 1914. That’s the Franklin and Van Buren station, used exclusively by the Metropolitan “L”.
An early track arrangement, showing the four-track Metropolitan main line on the east side of the Chicago River.
Figuring out which Loop tower this is took a bit of doing, but the Sterling Cycle Works was located on Wabash Avenue in 1897, making this Tower 12 at Wabash and Van Buren, looking east.
This circa 1897 ad shows Sterling Cycle Works on Wabash. However, this pre-dates the renumbering of Chicago streets, where the city shifted to a grid system, with numbers starting at State and Madison.
From the Collections of William Shapotkin
CTA 194 at Halsted and 64th in 1952.
The Lake Street “L” in 1962, looking east at Ridgeland. This must be just before the “L” was relocated to the Chicago & North Western embankment. M&C Motors, at right, was located at 315 South Boulevard.
Ridgeland and South Boulevard today.
The Lake Street “L” ramp between Central Avenue and Laramie circa 1961-62. This was after the changeover point between third rail and overhead wire was moved west of here. I think this picture was taken looking north on Latrobe.
The same location today.
CTA 4227 in the shop (Skokie?) in 1956.
CTA 3073 on route 52 (Kedzie).
South Side Rapid Transit car #1 in 1962. It is now at the Chicago History Museum.
CTA 990 at 47th and Lake Park in March 1949. The Kenwood Hotel was located at 47th and Kenwood nearby.
CTA 460 at 77th and Vincennes in March 1956, when it was part of the CTA Historical Collection. Looks like PCC 4021 is behind it. Both cars are now at the Illinois Railway Museum.
CTA 4244 on State Street in 1954.
CTA 129. M.E.: “This scene has to be at the western end of the main 63rd St. line, at Narragansett and 63rd Place. The tight loop shown in the picture was built when one-ended PCC cars started running on 63rd. This picture had to be taken in 1952 or 1953 after the pre-war PCC cars were removed from 63rd and assigned to Cottage Grove. The last cars to run on 63rd were the old red Pullmans like this one.”
A CTA 4000, most likely at a railway museum.
CTA 7213. (Robert W. Gibson Photo) M.E.: “You might add to the caption that this car was the last one to run in Chicago. Refer to all the pictures taken at 81st and Halsted and then on the final trip to the 77th and Vincennes barn in June 1958.”
CTA 7263 at Harrison and State in 1954.
Experimental forced-air ventilation on a CTA 6000. Not sure if you could open the windows on this car or not.
CTA 7023 at Clark and Van Buren on June 6, 1954.
Scrapped streetcars, including work car AA57, at South Shops. Don’s Rail Photos: “AA57, salt car, was built by St Louis Car Co in 1903 as CUTCo 4835. It was renumbered 1306 in 1913 and became CSL 1306 in 1914. It was rebuilt as salt car in January 1934 and renumbered AA57 on April 15, 1948. It was retired on December 14, 1956.”