Milwaukee Electric 948, as seen from the rear of car 900, on July 16, 1952. Darrick Vormann adds, “Great shot, looks like #10 turning off of 68th St. headed to West Allis.” Larry Sakar: “Photo aaa756 showing the Wells-West Allis westbound streetcar completing the turn from southbound S. 68th Street onto the continuation of the private r.o.w. was also part of Phase III (in Milwaukee Rapid Transit construction in the late 1920s). The 68th Street Rapid Transit station would have been to the left of the streetcar atop the r.o.w. Where the streetcar is seen is today part of the 68th St. off ramp from eastbound I-94, the East-West Freeway. Look slightly left in the background and you can see a bit of the large abutment that carried the two bridges of the Rapid Transit line over S. 68th St. To the left of it, streetcars came down or climbed up a ramp on the embankment to or from the p.r.o.w. This was a favorite place for pranksters. They would soap or oil the track climbing up to the top of the embankment and then hide nearby and get their kicks watching the streetcar try to climb on the soaped or oiled rails.”
As this is Halloween, we have lots of treats for you, and hopefully, not too many tricks. Our latest batch of classic traction pictures also features lots of trains in fall colors, both here in Chicago, and in Milwaukee.
Chicago & West Towns car 161. The slide says this is in Brookfield.
Chicago & West Towns 156. The slide says this is in Brookfield, but it looks like it could be on Woodside in Riverside.
The caption on this slide mount says, “Dad, David, Bev and Mom entering the El on November 23, 1962.” The location is the at 242-Van Cortlandt Park on the IRT Broadway Line in the Bronx. The station is still there.
Pittsburgh Railways 1693 on the Fineview line in September 1965.
A North Shore Line train at North Chicago Junction on January 20, 1963, the last full day of service before abandonment.
The Aurora and Elgin station in Wheaton on June 14, 1960, nearly three years after passenger service ended, and a year after the last freight train ran.
The CA&E station at Lakewood on June 14, 1960. The line had been abandoned, but was still largely intact, yet could not be saved.
One of the two former North Shore Line Electroliners, just after it had been delivered to the Red Arrow’s Philadelphia & Western line at the 69th Street terminal. The slide was processed in January 1964, but by then, the two trainsets had been repainted and reconfigured into Liberty Liners and were put into service on the 13-mile line to Norristown. So this was taken a few months earlier. Notice the North Shore Line emblem on the front of the train has been removed.
The interior of Milwaukee streetcar 918 on September 5, 1954. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
Milwaukee County Stadium on October 6, 1957, during Game 4 of the World Series between the Milwaukee Braves and New York Yankees. The Braves came from behind to win the game 7-5 in the bottom of the 10th inning, via what we now call a “walk off” home run by Eddie Mathews. Warren Spahn was the winning pitcher, and the Braves went on to win the series, four games to three. The same two teams faced off in the 1958 series, which was won by the Yankees in seven games. Attendance at this game was 45,804 and the park was still served by streetcars in 1957 (but not the following year). (William C. Hoffman Photo)
According to the slide mount, this shows an expansion joint in the streetcar tracks near County Stadium in Milwaukee, where several streetcars are parked during the fourth game of the World Series between the Milwaukee Braves and the New York Yankees on October 6, 1957. (William C. Hoffman Photo) Larry Sakar adds: “Great picture aaa732 of streetcars on the stadium spur in Calvary Cemetery cut. The cut was started in 1926 as part of Phase III of the Rapid Transit Line construction project officially known as the “Fairview Ave. Grade Separation Project.” This phase was completed in late 1928, and construction on Phase IV The City of Milwaukee Rapid Transit Line between 8th & Hibernia Streets and 40th Street was started. It would take until 9-22-30 for it to be completed. As you know, Phase V, the subway to the Public Service Building had some preliminary work done but was never completed. Looking at the photo of the spur, I feel that the spur was a bit more to the south then when the Rapid Transit was running. The eastbound Rapid Transit track would have been next to the fence to the left but there doesn’t look like there was enough room for a fourth track in this photo. The cut still exists but it is so overgrown with weeds and brush that it is barely recognizable. I have a photo taken by Mr. Dan Lee of the Milwaukee Public library Humanities Dept. in 2016 which I’ll send you and you’ll see what I mean about it being overgrown.”
A Milwaukee trolley bus is on National Avenue on May 30, 1963. We are looking north on 6th Street, where North Shore Line interurban trains had run until January 21, 1963. The last Milwaukee trolley bus operated in 1965. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
Fans pushing bus 255 at the Cold Springs Shops at 35th and McKinley on November 4, 1962. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
Fans pushing bus 255 at the Cold Springs Shops at 35th and McKinley on November 4, 1962. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
“Streetliner” bus 886 at the National Railway Museum in Green Bay, WI on September 22, 1963. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
The art glass window of the Flint and Pere Marquette Railroad at Fowler and Plankinton in Milwaukee on May 30, 1963. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
On December 4, 1949, Milwaukee Electric car 1121 was operated on the North Shore Line for a fantrip. Here it is at the Oklahoma stop on an embankment in Milwaukee, WI. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
Speedrail car 66 at West Junction on June 14, 1951, not long before the entire interurban line was abandoned.
Speedrail car 66 in Milwaukee on June 14, 1951. Larry Sakar adds, “car 66 is westbound about to cross the 8th Street bridge. Once across it will go down the ramp to the start of the private right of way.”
Speedrail car 66 at the Hales Corners loop on June 14, 1951. Larry Sakar: “It’s hard to distinguish in this photo of car 66 rounding Hales Corners Hillcrest loop but in the right side background was the Hales Corners Speedway where they held car races well into the 70’s and ’80’s. Today a Menards occupies the site of the HC loop.”
Milwaukee Electric cars 979 and 914 on private right-of-way on the west side of Milwaukee on May 16, 1953. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
Wisconsin Electric Power Company loco L-9 at the Lakeside power plant on June 12, 1955. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
Milwaukee Rapid Transit and Speedrail articulated car 50 on Everett Street at the Milwaukee terminal on June 17, 1951. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
Speedrail heavyweight cars 1193 and 1192 at the Milwaukee terminal on July 4, 1950. 1192 was wrecked less than two months later. The heavyweight cars were only used during rush hours. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
The old interurban and rapid transit terminal at 2nd and Michigan Streets in Milwaukee on August 27, 1961. (William C. Hoffman Photo) Larry Sakar: “Great shot of the Public Service Building a decade after the Rapid Transit had been abandoned. I think you should say this is the southeast corner of N. 3rd & W. Michigan Streets. The caption gives the impression that it’s 2nd Street. Greyhound would occupy the building for four more years before moving to its new terminal on the northeast corner of N. 7th & W. Michigan Streets in early February 1965. I don’t know what’s in there now. Greyhound moved to the new Intermodal station on the west end of the Amtrak station at 5th & St. Paul around 2006. Three years later Badger Coach which was directly across N. 7th Street. moved there in 2009. It is now the sole bus terminal in Milwaukee.”
Double-pole streetcar 801 is at the Fond Du Lac station in Milwaukee on May 4, 1958. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
On August 2, 1964, Milwaukee streetcar 978 is on static display at the Mid-Continent Railway Museum in North Freedom, WI. After moving around to several places after its 1958 retirement, car 978 is now at the East Troy Electric Railroad. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
The view west along the old Milwaukee Electric right-of-way over the North Shore Line in south Milwaukee on September 9, 1962. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
Speedrail snow plow U-5 is at the Milwaukee terminal on June 17. 1951. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
Old heavyweight Milwaukee Electric steel car 1115, later operated under Speedrail, is shown at the Everett Street terminal in Milwaukee on June 17, 1951. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
On July 4, 1950, several Speedrail cars are shown at the Milwaukee terminal. Car 1192, at right, was involved in a head-on collision on September 2, 1950. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
Milwaukee Electric (aka Speedrail) car 1115 is at the Waukesha loop on July 16, 1950. Larry Sakar: “Car 1115 seen on the Waukesha loop on 7-16-50 was part two of a four-part fan trip. I do not know who sponsored it. The morning trip to Waukesha used lightweight duplex 31-32 to Waukesha. At Waukesha loop the fans boarded ex TM now Speedrail car 1115 for the return trip to Milwaukee. There are a number of pictures of it at West Junction, including that one I think I shared with you long ago where Speedrail VP of operations Ed Tennyson appears to be chewing out the conductor. The afternoon trip to Hales Corners Hillcrest loop used curved side car 65 to Hales Corners and ex AE&FR, ex SHRT 301 for the return to Milwaukee. While backing across the Honey Creek Parkway bridge for a photo run-by, the trolley pole came off the wire and struck the catenary arm, bending it like a pretzel. Those cars did not carry a spare pole. In fact, I’m not aware if TM or any of its successors ever did. They moved the front pole around and it got them back to the Public Service Building.”
On June 14, 1951, Speedrail car 66 is at the Waukesha loop. Refurbishing this curved-sided car, originally built by the Cincinnati Car Company and purchased used from Lehigh Valley Transit, was a last-ditch effort to save the line. Unfortunately, this car only ran in Milwaukee for a few weeks before the line quit. Larry Sakar: “The caption says that car 66 operated for “just a few weeks” before the end of Speedrail on 6-30-51. The 66 made its debut on a fan trip on the Waukesha line on March 31, 1951. It operated in regular service over both the Waukesha and Hales Corners lines through the very last day. I have a color print from a slide of it stopping at Waukesha East Limits on 6-30-51. It is credited to the late George Krambles.”
Speedrail car 1192, which was heavily damaged in a horrific head-on collision, as it appeared in September 1951.
Speedrail car 62 leaves the Milwaukee terminal on June 14, 1951.
Milwaukee Electric 801 is on the Wells Street trestle on May 6, 1950.
Milwaukee Electric car 801, equipped with two trolley poles, is at the Fond Du Lac barns on September 5, 1954.
On May 22, 1955, Milwaukee Electric loco L10 and some hopper cars are on the #10 route. Larry Sakar: “This is not the Route 10 line. No freight service ever crossed the Wells Street viaduct which I’m guessing is what whoever wrote the caption thought this was. It is actually the Lakeside Belt Line crossing South 60th Street, a short distance north of where I live. Today, you’d never know it was there!”
On May 16, 1953, Milwaukee Electric 921 is on the long trestle on the line to Wauwatosa.
Milwaukee Electric 994 is on the Howell line in Milwaukee on August 12, 1955.
Milwaukee streetcar 962 is on the West Allis route on September 14, 1953.
Chicago Aurora and Elgin car 407 at Green Valley in Lombard at Brewster Avenue.
CA&E car 411 heads up a train in Wheaton.
CTA 2891 is heading west, crossing First Avenue in suburban Maywood in November 1951. The Refiner’s Pride gas station at rear was run by “Montana Charlie” Reid. He operated a chain of such stations in the western suburbs here. He also owned Montana Charlie’s Chuck Wagon, a restaurant in Villa Park. Although Charlie himself is long gone (he died in the early 1980s), his name is still used on a flea market in Bolingbrook, Montana Charlie’s Little America. (Truman Hefner Photo)
The Refiner’s Pride gas station on first Avenue in Maywood was part of a chain that included this location in Forest Park, and included a small convenience store. The Forest Park location is still in business as Refiners Citgo. (Forest Park Review Photo)
From the Chicago Tribune, September 19, 2004: “As for the real Montana Charlie, he is described as an exciting character with a colorful, almost improbable background. Montana Charlie Reid “was born and raised on the North Side of Chicago but while in his early teens, during the previous turn of the century [19th to the 20th], he yearned to be a cowboy,” Donahue says. “So he got on his horse and rode it all the way to Montana, where he got a job on a ranch. “He learned trick riding and became involved with traveling carnivals and circus acts. As he went through life, he tried his hand at various other things — including chauffeuring an oil tycoon. When his employer died, he left his estate to Montana Charlie.”
CTA 2920 at the ground level Harrison Street station on the Westchester route in May 1951. (Truman Hefner Photo)
CTA 2889 heads south into an open cut near the Roosevelt Road station in March 1951, while passing several cars in storage nearby. (Truman Hefner Photo)
CTA 2863 is at the Roosevelt Road station on the Westchester line in April 1951. (Truman Hefner Photo)
CTA 2721 is eastbound, west of the DesPlaines Avenue station in April 1951. The gas holder at right was a longtime Forest Park landmark. (Truman Hefner Photo)
CTA 2904 approaches the Roosevelt Road station in January 1951. (Truman Hefner Photo)
CTA 2908 is eastbound, having crossed First Avenue in Maywood. The old Refiner’s Pride gas station is in the background. The date given here (June 1952) must be wrong, as the Westchester branch quit in December 1951. (Truman Hefner Photo)
CTA 2823 is between First Avenue and DesPlaines Avenue, having just crossed over the DesPlaines River. The date given (October 1952) must be wrong, as the Westchester branch quit in December 1951. (Truman Hefner Photo)
CTA 2922 crossing railroad tracks near DesPlaines Avenue. The date given is January 1952. (Truman Hefner Photo)
CTA 2859 and one additional car are southbound, having just stopped at the Roosevelt Road station on the Westchester route. The date given (March 1952) must be incorrect, as service on the Westchester “L” ended the previous December. Notice the two tracks went down to one here, for the rest of the line, which ended at Mannheim Road and 22nd Street. (Truman Hefner Photo)
In April 1951, CTA 2731 heads south, about to cross Madison Street just west of Bellwood Avenue in suburban Bellwood. A black-and-white version of this picture appears in my book Chicago’s Lost “L”s. Just north of here, the Westchester branch merged with the Chicago Aurora & Elgin main line. As far as I know, the house at right is still there. (Truman Hefner Photo)
CTA 2820 is on the CA&E main line in Bellwood in February 1951. (Truman Hefner Photo)
CTA 2834 is westbound, just west of DesPlaines Avenue, in April 1951. (Truman Hefner Photo)
CTA 2899 is at the Roosevelt Road station in February 1951. (Truman Hefner Photo)
CTA 2806 and another car are in an open cut near the Roosevelt Road station in February 1951. (Truman Hefner Photo)
CTA 2814 crosses Harrison Street in April 1951. (Truman Hefner Photo)
This slide was definitely mislabeled. It was actually taken on the CA&E main line, just west of 25th Avenue. I believe the train is westbound. (Truman Hefner Photo)
CTA 2817 is just east of 25th Avenue, where the Chicago Great Western had a freight yard, on the CA&E main line. The train is eastbound. (Truman Hefner Photo)
Did Not Win
We have to compete with other people to purchase slides, prints, and negatives. As funds are always limited, we do not always win these auctions. Here are some photos that we did not win, but are still worth another look.
Here is a nice view of the Douglas Park yard at 54th Avenue in 1966, showing the old right-of-way that extended west of here until the line was cut back in 1952. The occasion was a fantrip.
Here is an excellent early photo of the Met “L” station at Gunderson, courtesy of LeRoy Blommaert. Gunderson is a side street running north-south in Oak Park, located between East Avenue and Ridgeland. When the “L” came through here, it was a new development, and hence, got its own station. The East Avenue entrance to the Blue Line station at Oak Park Avenue is its nearest contemporary replacement.
This real photo postcard recently sold for $60.99 on eBay. I did not win the auction. It shows a Chicago Union Traction streetcar signed for Evanston. Not sure if this was before or after service terminated at the city limits, so it could actually have terminated in Evanston itself.
Here is a mystery photo for you. Where was this picture of North Shore Line car 420 taken? Zach E.: “The mystery photo of CNS&M 420 was taken at the Seashore Trolley Museum in Kennebunkport, Maine.”
There have been only a few times when “L” trains fell off the structure… this derailment, which happened on December 7, 1966, is one of them, at the curve near 40th and Indiana. David Harrison: “Yes… there were two things important about this incident… the last cars of an 8-car SB derailed. The two cars stayed on the structure for three blocks, after being derailed…. before they finally left the structure. That shows how ‘L’ cars are rather safe thanks to their weigh and low center of gravity, plus guard rails and timber guards. CTA rules at that time did not require to motorman to check his train after an emergency stop. The motorman testified he didn’t feel his train’s performance was different. Perhaps two blocks of running was at a low speed because of the curve at Wabash/40th. CTA rules were changed after this incident.” Caron Stewart adds, “Two people died in this accident. The train was going southbound during the morning rush. If it was going north towards downtown during this time the injuries most likely would have been higher.”
Another slide I did not win. This was one of those fantrips held on the CA&E after passenger service was abandoned. Unfortunately the photographer used “grade Z” film (probably Anscochrome). Chicago Aurora and Elgin Electric Interurban Coach #453 Original Color Slide Photographer Credit: Unknown Maywood, Illinois 26 October 1958
Keep those cards and letters coming in, folks.
The Trolley Dodger On the Air
I recently appeared on the Dave Plier Show on WGN radio, to discuss Chicago’s Lost “L”s. You can hear that discussion here.
Our Latest Book, Now Available:
Chicago’s Lost “L”s
From the back cover:
Chicago’s system of elevated railways, known locally as the “L,” has run continuously since 1892 and, like the city, has never stood still. It helped neighborhoods grow, brought their increasingly diverse populations together, and gave the famous Loop its name. But today’s system has changed radically over the years. Chicago’s Lost “L”s tells the story of former lines such as Garfield Park, Humboldt Park, Kenwood, Stockyards, Normal Park, Westchester, and Niles Center. It was once possible to take high-speed trains on the L directly to Aurora, Elgin, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The L started out as four different companies, two starting out using steam engines instead of electricity. Eventually, all four came together via the Union Loop. The L is more than a way of getting around. Its trains are a place where people meet and interact. Some say the best way to experience the city is via the L, with its second-story view. Chicago’s Lost “L”s is virtually a “secret history” of Chicago, and this is your ticket. David Sadowski grew up riding the L all over the city. He is the author of Chicago Trolleys and Building Chicago’s Subways and runs the online Trolley Dodger blog.
The Images of America series celebrates the history of neighborhoods, towns, and cities across the country. Using archival photographs, each title presents the distinctive stories from the past that shape the character of the community today. Arcadia is proud to play a part in the preservation of local heritage, making history available to all.
Title Chicago’s Lost “L”s Images of America Author David Sadowski Edition illustrated Publisher Arcadia Publishing (SC), 2021 ISBN 1467100007, 9781467100007 Length 128 pages
Chapters: 01. The South Side “L” 02. The Lake Street “L” 03. The Metropolitan “L” 04. The Northwestern “L” 05. The Union Loop 06. Lost Equipment 07. Lost Interurbans 08. Lost Terminals 09. Lost… and Found
Each copy purchased here will be signed by the author, and you will also receive a bonus facsimile of a 1926 Chicago Rapid Transit Company map, with interesting facts about the “L” on the reverse side.
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A Tribute to the North Shore Line
To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the demise of the fabled North Shore Line interurban in January 2013, Jeffrey L. Wien and Bradley Criss made a very thorough and professional video presentation, covering the entire route between Chicago and Milwaukee and then some. Sadly, both men are gone now, but their work remains, making this video a tribute to them, as much as it is a tribute to the Chicago North Shore & Milwaukee.
Jeff drew on his own vast collections of movie films, both his own and others such as the late William C. Hoffman, wrote and gave the narration. Bradley acted as video editor, and added authentic sound effects from archival recordings of the North Shore Line.
It was always Jeff’s intention to make this video available to the public, but unfortunately, this did not happen in his lifetime. Now, as the caretakers of Jeff’s railfan legacy, we are proud to offer this excellent two-hour program to you for the first time. The result is a fitting tribute to what Jeff called his “Perpetual Adoration,” which was the name of a stop on the interurban.
Jeff was a wholehearted supporter of our activities, and the proceeds from the sale of this disc will help defray some of the expenses of keeping the Trolley Dodger web site going.
Total time – 121:22
# of Discs – 1 Price: $19.99 (Includes shipping within the United States)
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All in all, I would have to say this is an amazing photograph. It shows Five Mile Beach Electric Railway car 22 on June 30, 1943, in the middle of World War II, and just two years before streetcars were abandoned in this coastal town (Wildwood) in New Jersey. From what I have read, the war and the resulting nightly blackouts negatively affected tourism and contributed to the demise of the streetcars here. With such an early abandonment, color photos of this operation are very rare, indeed, and the colors on this Red Border Kodachrome have held up quite well. A sign on the car advertises Marty Bohn and His Floor Show at the “Nut Club.” The blackouts were not without reason, as German submarines were just offshore, and sometimes crew members would sneak ashore.
I am both humbled and grateful beyond measure that my late friend Jeffrey Wien made me the beneficiary of his extensive photographic collection (except for his motion picture films, which he donated to the Chicago Film Archives).
Naturally, I would rather that he still be around to enjoy his collection, comment on my posts, and point out where I got something wrong, or help identify some locations. But unfortunately, we don’t get to choose in these matters.
I think the best way I can honor his memory is to keep up the work of historic preservation and education that meant so much to him.
While this post may not have an overall theme, it is full of legends and legacies. It is thanks to the hard work and sacrifice of many people, Jeff included, that anything at all has been saved from the electric railways of the past. Some of the photos here were taken after the North Shore Line quit, and show various railcars sitting around, waiting to be saved or scrapped. There are also pictures of the fledgling and somewhat ramshackle early days of the Illinois Electric Railway Museum, at its original and temporary home in North Chicago.
You if had told one of the founders of what is now IRM back then all the progress that has been made since at Union, they hardly could have believed it possible. Institutions like IRM are saving this history and preserving it for future generations, while also making it possible to have some of the same experiences riding the equipment in the collection, that people enjoyed in the past.
If we can maintain the same spirit, all this important history will be our legacy to those who come after us. I am intent on doing my part.
PS- We thank Jack Bejna, Andre Kristopans, William Shapotkin, and Colin Wisner for contributing to this post.
We also have a Facebook auxiliary for The Trolley Dodger where you can participate further. It is a private group, so unfortunately you won’t be able to see the content unless you join. It is free. As of this writing, we have 183 members.
From Jeff Wien’s Collection
The North Shore Line ticket cabinet from the Dempster Street station in Skokie. It still has the tickets in it.
I will have to straighten this out, as the tickets were jostled when the cabinet was moved. The balls were apparently placed behind the tickets.
This metal route sign hung on the side of a wooden Metropolitan “L” car, and was of a type in use for a half-century prior to the opening of the Dearborn-Milwaukee Subway in 1951. Remarkably, it has survived for 70 years since it last could have been used in service. The sign was reversible, and the other side says Humboldt Park.
A fare counter from a Chicago streetcar. There was a Chicago streetcar 3351, a Peter Witt that was scrapped around 1952, but I am not certain that these didn’t have their own numbers.
This metal sign appears to show the original version of the CTA’s “Metropolitan Transit” logo, first introduced in 1958. By then, the agency wanted the public to know that it served more than just Chicago.
The North Shore Line eventually joined the Insull Empire that, by the mid-1920s, included all three major Chicago interurbans and the “L”. So it should not be too much of a surprise that the North Shore had its own rider publication for a few years, with leaflet holders presumably made by the same firm as the “L”s. The North Shore Line version is said to be rare, as many were melted down for scrap during WWII.
Leaflet holders from 4000-series “L” cars. The Elevated News was published by the Chicago Elevated Railways Collateral Trust, formed in 1913 as a voluntary association by the four independent (or at least they started that way) “L” firms. The 4000-series, which eventually ran to 455 cars, was the first designed for use on all the various “L” lines. The title of their rider publication was changed to Rapid Transit News in 1924, coincident with the formation of the Chicago Rapid Transit Company. The Chicago Transit Authority had its own publication, the Rider’s Reader, for a few years starting in 1948.
This leaflet holder is marked as having come from CTA PCC 7213, the last Chicago streetcar that ran on June 21, 1958.
Although Chicago had a total of 600 postwar PCC streetcars, this was too much for a single manufacturer to produce in the immediate postwar era, so the order was divided between Pullman (310) and St. Louis Car Company (290). The “Read As You Ride” leaflet holder at left came from a St. Louis PCC (7213), while the one at right may have come from a Pullman. Their interiors were painted different colors.
Jeff’s collection included a leaflet holder from another city. Several cities had “Public Service” in their streetcar operator’s names, so offhand, I am not sure which city this came from. (Frank J. Flörianz Jr. says it is from New Jersey.)
I found this clipping that Jeff cut out of the Chicago Tribune in 1978 inside the “Read As You Ride” leaflet holder from PCC 7213, the last Chicago streetcar.
There were a few cities besides New York, Chicago, Boston, and Philadelphia to have some sort of elevated electric railways, and Kansas City was among them. Here, Kansas City Public Service car 785 is descending from the 8th Street “L” at Baltimore Avenue on September 3, 1952. I was fortunate to win this original Red Border Kodachrome slide, because I had lost an auction for it once before when someone sold it. Kansas City abandoned streetcars in 1957, but has since reopened a modern streetcar line. (Edward S. Miller Photo)
A single CRT wooden “L” car is at the Dempster Street terminal in Skokie, probably in the 1940s. This “L” branch was replaced by buses in 1948, but returned in 1964 in the form of the Skokie Swift (today’s Yellow Line), a year after the North Shore Line (who owned these tracks) ended all service.
This is one of the experimental “Bluebird” articulated compartment car trains (probably the prototype) being tested on the Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit system circa 1939. BMT ordered 50 of these units from the Clark Equipment Company, intended to be “fast locals” to mix with slower express trains on El lines. But when the City of New York purchased BMT in 1940, they cancelled the order, except for five units that had already been built. They lived out the rest of their days as oddball equipment before being scrapped in 1956. But the Bluebirds were the first rapid transit cars to use PCC technology, and were a major influence on the four articulated 5000s that CRT ordered at the end of World War II.
The former Chicago Aurora & Elgin station in Villa Park still exists and is a local landmark. But here we see it under construction in 1929. The Ovaltine plant at left has since been converted to residential.
I spent some time cleaning up this image, which was part of a stereo pair meant to be viewed in 3-D using a handheld device called a “stereopticon.” It shows Chicago’s Loop “L” circa 1905, and this is the original left-hand running, bi-directional configuration, before it was changed in 1913. So the train at right is moving towards us, while the train at left is moving away from us. The view looks west along Van Buren Street, and that is the old Tower 12 at left. A Metropolitan “L” train is on the inner Loop, while a Lake Street train trails a Northwestern “L” train on the outer Loop. At this stage, only the Lake trains would have needed trolley poles. The station at Van Buren and State is visible in the distance.
A Stereopticon viewer.
Chicago Surface Lines car 2802 is on a charter trip on June 12, 1940. This was apparently a fan favorite, as we have previously published a photo of the same car on a 1941 fantrip.
North Shore Line car 709 at the Branford Trolley Museum in Connecticut in October 30, 1966, just three and a half years after the interurban quit. The location given is Farm River Road. Don’s Rail Photos: “709 was built by Cincinnati Car Co in 1924, #2725. It was sold to Branford Trolley Museum in 1963.”
This is another remarkable photograph, showing Monongahela West Penn car 320 at night in June 1946. Such night shots were very difficult to achieve back then, due to the slow film speed of the time (this is Kodachrome 10, as in ASA/ISO 10). About the only way to take such a picture would have been with a very long exposure, with the camera resting on a tripod. (Dr. H. Blackbunn Photo)
South Shore Line cars 105 and 1 in April 1963.
Another great night shot, this time it’s Illinois Terminal 473 on the line that ran from St. Louis to Granite City in the 1950s. This was IT’s final passenger line and was abandoned in June 1958, on the same weekend that the last Chicago streetcar ran.
CTA PCC 4406, a product of the St. Louis Car Company, at Clark and Archer in April 1954. (William Shapotkin Collection)
This is DesPlaines Avenue in Forest Park, the end of the CTA Congress rapid transit line. The license plates would indicate a date of 1961, perhaps in the Fall since that is a 1962 Chevy in the parking lot. The various signs on the Leyden Motor Coach bus might confuse you, but on the side, it is marked “OSA” meaning this is a fantrip. (William Shapotkin Collection) Bill Shapotkin writes: “Unable to read the bus number, bus OSA operated trips on 06/17/61 (trip #2) using Leyden bus #95 and on 03/18/62 (trip #10) using Leyden buses #90, 157 and 164. If you can identify the fleet number, that would cement down the details.” This is bus #90, so that makes the date March 18, 1962.
CTA 6053 is at the rear of a northbound Ravenswood All-Stop train approaching Armitage in August 1986. The two center tracks lead down to the State Street Subway. (William Shapotkin Collection)
A southbound CTA Englewood train (lead car: 2033) has met a northbound Howard train at Armitage station in April 1985, and is descending into the State Street Subway. (William Shapotkin Collection)
North Shore Line former merchandise dispatch car 215 at the Harrison Shops in Milwaukee on July 7, 1953. Don’s Rail Photos: “215 was built by Cincinnati Car in October 1922, #2605. The loading doors (were moved) from the ends to the center. It was demotorized and used as a tool car.”
On May 22, 1944, Illinois Governor Dwight H. Green (1897-1958) poses with officials from the Illinois State Militia, next to a 1700-series Chicago Surface Lines car promoting that branch of the military during World War II. Green served two terms as governor from 1941-49 before his defeat by Democrat Adlai Stevenson.
While I don’t have the negative that goes with this Chicago Sun photo file slip, it does at least identify some of the notables in the negative I do have. The Chicago Sun was a morning newspaper, started in 1941 by the Field family. It bought the Chicago Times in 1948 and the paper has been the Chicago Sun-Times ever since (although no longer owned by Field Enterprises).
North Shore Line cars 192 and 187 at Highwood in September 1963, looking much worse the wear, nine months after abandonment. But in actuality, these cars had been retired some years earlier. Don’s Rail Photos: “187 was built by Cincinnati Car in August 1920, (order) #2450. It was retired on December 31, 1955. It was scrapped at Rondout on January 29, 1964. 192 was built by Cincinnati Car in August 1920, #2450. It was retired on December 31, 1955. It was scrapped at Rondout on January 29, 1964.” Apparently these cars were considered surplus after the abandonment of the Shore Line Route in 1955.
This photo is a bit of a mystery. It is dated September 1963, which means these are probably North Shore Line cars in dead storage at Highwood, awaiting disposition. However, that doesn’t explain the Shore Line Route sign, as that portion of the Interurban had been abandoned in 1955. And after the 1963 abandonment, a lot of these signs were scarfed up by fans and were missing from the trains that were scrapped. Don’s Rail Photos: “(Combine) 256 was built by Jewett in 1917. It seems to be the only one which retained its original configuration.” It did not survive. The fate of the Silverliner at right is not known.
On June 16, 1962, the late Maury Klebolt talks to the North Shore Line train crew during a fantrip at Harrison Street in Milwaukee. This must have been an Illini Railroad Club excursion. There were many such trips during the last year of the interurban’s existence. (Richard H. Young Photo)
A close-up of Maury Klebolt (1930-1988). Not sure who is at left.
CTA Pullman PCC 4077 heads southbound at 2600 N. Clark Street in the early 1950s. It may be running on either Route 22 or 36. The Pullmans had almost entirely disappeared from service by the end of 1954, for the so-called “PCC Conversion Program.”
The same location today.
The Illinois Electric Railway Museum in North Chicago in September 1963, shortly before the collection was moved to its permanent location in Union. From left to right, we see Milwaukee streetcar 966, a Milwaukee Electric interurban car (either 1129 or 1135), and Indiana Railroad car 65.
This September 1963 (or at least, that’s when the film was processed) view of the Illinois Electric Railway Museum is not the sharpest, but it does show, from left to right, CTA snow sweeper E223, Illinois Terminal 101, one of the Chicago Aurora & Elgin interurbans, and a Milwaukee Electric car.
North Shore Line Silverliner 409 at Roosevelt Road on august 4, 1956. Don’s Rail Photos: “409 was built by Cincinnati Car in May 1923, #2465, as a dining car motor. In 1942 it was rebuilt as a coach and rebuilt as a Silverliner on March 30, 1955. Since it had no bulkhead between smoking and non-smoking sections, it was our favorite car to be used for meetings of the Milwaukee Division of the Electric Railroaders Association in Milwaukee. The North Shore was very cooperative in making sure that the car was in the location shown on meeting nights.” The 409 is now at the Illinois Railway Museum. (C. G. Parsons Photo)
This amazing real photo postcard sold on eBay for $77.89. I unfortunately was not aware of the auction. It shows the Ridgeland “L” station on South Boulevard in Oak Park. The postcard was mailed in 1909 and hence can’t be any later than that. Work is already underway to elevate the Chicago & North Western tracks at left. The Lake Street “L” itself would join it on the embankment in 1962.
NYCTA Brooklyn PCC 1049 is running on the 72 Smith Line to the Brooklyn Bridge in this undated photo, taken between 1946 and 1956. According to the information on the half frame slide mount, this is on 10th Avenue at 17th Street, at the 9th Avenue Depot. Half frame had a brief vogue in the early 1950s, as a way to double the number of pictures on a 35mm roll, while still maintaining some level of quality. But most photographers back then didn’t need twice as many pictures on a roll. In the long run, it Kodak downsized their film over time, from sizes 126 to 110 and Disc, in order to make bigger profits. But sharpness was reduced in turn, and full-frame 25mm is still with us today. These 1950s Brooklyn PCCs appear to have had about as many dents as their Chicago cousins. (R. Fillman Photo)
The Magic of Clark Frazier
Clark Frazier is an excellent photographer who has been active since around 1956. Among the first 35mm slides that I took home from Jeff’s collection were over 100 that he had purchased from Mr. Frazier over the last few years. Even better, Mr. Frazier did a lot of traveling, so his work covers many different cities. In his retired years, Jeff loved purchasing excellent slides that not only reflected his own type of shooting, but filled in gaps in his collection– views that he was unable to capture himself, or places he couldn’t get to before something ceased operating. For example, in this representative sampling, I am not certain that Jeff was able to visit Washington D.C. prior to the abandonment of streetcars there in 1962, and I don’t think he could get to San Francisco in time to ride the “Iron Monsters” before they were all taken out of service around 1957. So here they are.
DC Transit 1572 on Route 70 at Georgia and Alaska on February 7, 1959. (Clark Frazier Photo)
DC Transit 1566 inbound on Route 82 at Riverdale on September 1, 1958. (Clark Frazier Photo)
SF Muni 77 turn back meets 130 on Geary Boulevard in 1956. Hope that dog made it across the street safely. (Clark Frazier Photo)
DC Transit 1322 at the Department of the Interior on Route 82, on September 2, 1958. (Clark Frazier Photo)
DC Transit 1567 on Route 82 on Rhode Island Avenue, September 1, 1958. (Clark Frazier Photo)
Boston MTA 3311 and 3305 are stuck in the snow at Riverside after a “Noreaster” on March 4, 1960. (Clark Frazier Photo)
SF Muni 139 turns left from Geary onto 33rd Avenue in 1956. (Clark Frazier Photo)
St. Louis Public Service PCC 1628 arrives at South Broadway carhouse on August 23, 1958. (Clark Frazier Photo)
DC Transit 1555 from Cabin John in Brookmont on June 7, 1959. (Clark Frazier Photo)
SF Muni 195 on the C Line at Geary and Van Ness in January 1957. (Clark Frazier Photo)
SF Muni 205 and 1014 at the end of the N Line in 1957. (Clark Frazier Photo)
SF Muni 176 outbound on the N Line to the beach in 1957. (Clark Frazier Photo)
DC Transit 1469 is on Rhode Island Avenue (Route 82) in Maryland, August 11, 1958. (Clark Frazier Photo)
SF Muni 199 at 46th and Vicente on the L line on September 9, 1957. (Clark Frazier Photo)
El Paso 1500 backs up at the Cotton Street Carbarn on June 12, 1959. (Clark Frazier Photo)
DC Transit 1321 at the Soldier’s Home end of Route 74 on February 7, 1959. (Clark Frazier Photo)
SF Muni 156 is an inbound J Line car at Market and Duboce in 1957. (Clark Frazier Photo)
SF Muni 178 is heading to the beach on Carl Street (N Line) in 1957. Don’s Rail Photos: “178, K Type, was built by Bethlehem Shipbuilding Co in 1923.” From wrm.org: “The Bay Area Electric Railway Association purchased the 178 from the Muni in February of 1959, and moved it to Marysville, California, for storage on a Sacramento Northern spur for occasional operation on the electrified trackage in the Marysville-Yuba City area. It was moved to Rio Vista Junction in August, 1964 to join the rest of the BAERA collection. 178 returned to San Francisco in 1982 to be part of the Trolley Festival on Market Street while the City rebuilt it’s cable cars lines. In 1983 the 178 returned to the Western Railway Museum and still operates today.” (Clark Frazier Photo)
SF Muni 105 on the B (Geary) Line at Leavenworth Street in 1956. (Clark Frazier Photo)
DC Transit (ex-Capital Traction) 303 at the Mt. Rainier Loop on September 1, 1958. Don’s Rail Photos: “303 was built by American Car Co in 1898 as Capital Traction Co 303. It is now at the Smithsonian (National Museum of American History).” The 303 was retired from regular service in 1913 but was kept for charter use until the end of DC streetcar service in 1962. (Clark Frazier Photo)
SF Muni 206 is on the C Line at 2nd Avenue and Cornwall in 1956. (Clark Frazier Photo)
SF Muni 188 is running on the K Line on Market Street between 5th and 6th in 1957. (Clark Frazier Photo)
DC Transit 1399 on Route 90, at Pennsylvania Avenue SE, on June 7, 1959. (Clark Frazier Photo)
DC Transit 1288 at Friendship Heights, running on Route 30, on June 7, 1959. (Clark Frazier Photo)
Chicago Rapid Transit Route Descriptions
“L” operations were rather complex prior to the October 1, 1947 takeover by the Chicago Transit Authority, so much so that Chicago Rapid Transit Company maps typically made no attempt to explain them. There were pocket guides published over the years by third parties that included explanations, but often these were considerably out of date by the time of publication.
Here, courtesy of Andre Kristopans, are the various CRT route descriptions that describe the service in place at the time when CTA assumed control. The dates vary from 1940 to 1946 because service hadn’t been altered on those lines by October 1, 1947.
“L” service “grew like Topsy” in the early years, as the saying goes, reflecting its origins as four separate companies, operating independently. There were expresses and locals, and by 1913, some trains through-routed from the north and south sides, some trains ending or originating at the four downtown stub-end terminals, and the several branch lines. Trains were split at some locations, with one part going one way, the other part a different way.
Powering the Metropolitan West Side Elevated
We recently acquired the August, 1895 edition of Power magazine, which featured a three-page article describing the then-new Metropolitan West Side Elevated‘s Loomis Street power plant. The Met was the first of Chicago’s four “L”s to operate exclusively with electricity. The South Side and Lake Street “L”s began life with steam locomotives. The Met was greatly influenced by the success of the experimental Columbian Intramural Railway at the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893.
In 1895, there was no such thing as commercially available electricity on this kind of scale. You had to make your own.
I spent the morning talking to a friend over zoom and doodling this, Indiana Railroad Car 65. I showed the drawing to him and he was kind of impressed.
Thanks! In case you don’t know him, Colin is a very talented young man who enjoys searching the former Chicago, Aurora & Elgin right-of-way in search of artifacts that have until now been overlooked. He has found, among many other things, a small section of third rail.
Jack Bejna writes:
I enjoyed the latest post as I always do. I really like the shot of the Highwood Shops and since I have some time this morning I decided to help out the image by getting rid of the bad portion. Hope you like it!
ps: I never took the time to get over to the shops and get some pictures, so I rely on you for keeping the memories of the North Shore alive! Thanks for your great work.
Thanks! Our regular readers are probably familiar with Jack’s great work, which has graced these pages many times in the past, and will hopefully do so in the future.
From our resident South Side expert M.E.:
First, Happy New Year, a bit late because your last few postings were so heavily weighted toward the north side, I had nothing to comment on. But I have a few things today.
This is the schedule sheet for south side service. At the bottom of the page is “Stock Yard Services”. Notice the heading “Jackson Pk.” and its associated train times. According to the route description, two morning trains ran from Jackson Park to Indiana Av., then onto the Stock Yards tracks. And two evening trains ran from the Stock Yards to Indiana Ave., then to Jackson Park. This is the first time I have heard of any trains doing that.
I had always thought the switches west of Indiana made it difficult to get between the main line and the Stock Yards line. But this schedule sheet piqued my curiosity, so I dug out my CERA Bulletin 115, which has great trackage maps toward the back. Plate 8, Detail 15, page 235, illustrating the trackage at Indiana Ave. in 1914, shows there were usable switches between the Stock Yards and main lines. Those switches could have still existed in April 1946 — the date of this schedule — because Plate 8 also shows the switch arrangement starting in 1949 (the one I remember), which would not have worked well to switch between the two lines.
The date April 1946 is after World War II, so even if this route was put in place during the war, it continued after the war. Interesting.
This sheet verifies that Englewood trains ran to Ravenswood. That is the route I first rode on the Rapid Transit Lines.
For Further Reading
Several issues of The Elevated News and Rapid Transit News from the 1920s can be read here via Google Books. You can even download the entire book.
These publications include important historical information that might not be available otherwise. To cite a couple of examples, here are excerpts from the May 1, 1926 issue of Rapid Transit News.
First, we had a recent discussion here (see Our Sixth Anniversary, January 21, 2021) that mentioned an underground passageway that connected Union Station to the Canal Street “L” station on the Met main line. Well, this is not only mentioned in Rapid Transit News, but there is both a map and a photo. We also learn that it was used by 8,000 people per day.
Second, there is a progress report on the new “L” service to Bellwood and Westchester, then set to open, including a picture of the tower that controlled movements on this branch off the Chicago, Aurora & Elgin main line.
Keep those cards and letters coming in, folks.
PS- We have added the two nocturnal shots to our previous post Night Beat (June 21, 2016). If you like this style of photography, you might want to check it out.
New Steam Audio CD:
FYI, we have digitally remastered another classic steam railroad audio LP to Compact Disc. Many additional titles, including the complete output of the Railroad Record Club, in our Online Store.