Sweet Home Chicago

In 1938, a visitor to Chicago from the Soviet Union snapped this picture of Chicago PCC 4032 running on route 20 - Madison downtown, and brought it home. Now, more than 80 years later, it has returned to Chicago.

In 1938, a visitor to Chicago from the Soviet Union snapped this picture of Chicago PCC 4032 running on route 20 – Madison downtown, and brought it home. Now, more than 80 years later, it has returned to Chicago.

They say you can never go home again. But no matter how far we may wander from home, there is something, almost like an unseen force, that calls us back to the places we lived in, grew up in, or love the most. And while we often feature transit photos from other cities, Chicago remains our home and will always be our favorite. So today, we are featuring Chicago-area streetcars, rapid transit, interurbans, and buses.

We do have a couple examples of things that, improbably, did find their way home. First, a picture of a Chicago PCC streetcar that has come back “from Russia with love.” Second, prints and negatives of Chicago transit, taken in 1952, that have been reunited after who knows how many years.

We also have some recent photo finds of our own, including a news report from Miles Beitler on the new Pulse bus rapid transit operation in Chicago’s northwest suburbs, and more classic photos shared by Bill Shapotkin and Jeff Wien of the Wien-Criss Archive.  Finally, there is some correspondence with Andre Kristopans.

We thank all our contributors.

Enjoy!

-David Sadowski

PS- If you have comments on individual photos, and I am sure you will, please refer to them by their image number, which you can find by hovering your mouse over the photo (for example, the picture at the top of this post is img882). That is more helpful to me than just saying something was the seventh photo down, etc. We always appreciate hearing from you if you have useful information to contribute regarding locations and other details. Thanks in advance.

We also should not let the opportunity pass to wish Raymond DeGroote, Jr. a happy belated 89th birthday. Ray is a world traveler, a raconteur, and the Dean of Chicago railfans.

Recent Finds

CSL "Matchbox" 1412 is on the Morgan-Racine-Sangamon route in this photo by Edward Frank, Jr. Don's Rail Photos adds, "1412 was built by St Louis Car Co in 1906 as CUT 4641. It was renumbered 1412 in 1913 and became CSL 1412 in 1914. It was retired on March 30, 1948... These cars were built by St. Louis Car in 1903 and 1906 for Chicago Union Traction Co. They are similar to the Robertson design without the small windows. Cars of this series were converted to one man operation in later years and have a wide horizontal stripe on the front to denote this. Two were used for an experimental articulated train. A number of these cars were converted to sand and salt service and as flangers." Car 1374 in this series has been lovingly restored to operating condition, at the Illinois Railway Museum.

CSL “Matchbox” 1412 is on the Morgan-Racine-Sangamon route in this photo by Edward Frank, Jr. Don’s Rail Photos adds, “1412 was built by St Louis Car Co in 1906 as CUT 4641. It was renumbered 1412 in 1913 and became CSL 1412 in 1914. It was retired on March 30, 1948… These cars were built by St. Louis Car in 1903 and 1906 for Chicago Union Traction Co. They are similar to the Robertson design without the small windows. Cars of this series were converted to one man operation in later years and have a wide horizontal stripe on the front to denote this. Two were used for an experimental articulated train. A number of these cars were converted to sand and salt service and as flangers.” Car 1374 in this series has been lovingly restored to operating condition, at the Illinois Railway Museum.

A two-car Chicago Aurora & Elgin train, headed up by 433, is just west of the Canal Street station on the Metropolitan four-track main line in August 1953, a month before CA&E service was cut back to Forest Park. (John Szwajkart Photo)

A two-car Chicago Aurora & Elgin train, headed up by 433, is just west of the Canal Street station on the Metropolitan four-track main line in August 1953, a month before CA&E service was cut back to Forest Park. (John Szwajkart Photo)

CTA 4060 is at the front of a two-car Ravenswood "L" train approaching Kimball and Lawrence in this undated photo (1950s-60s).

CTA 4060 is at the front of a two-car Ravenswood “L” train approaching Kimball and Lawrence in this undated photo (1950s-60s).

CTA Pullman 460 is on either Route 8 - Halsted or 9 - Ashland in the early 1950s, you can't quite make it out on the roll sign. However, I am leaning towards Halsted, as Ashland got bussed in 1951, and the auto at left looks more like 1953 vintage. This streetcar was saved by the CTA, and is now at the Illinois Railway Museum. It is one of only three red Pullmans saved, the others being 144 (also at IRM) and 225 (at the Seashore Trolley Museum in Maine). Charles F. Amstein adds that 460 is "on Ashland, just north of 95th Street, looking north-northwet. I grew up in this area and spent much of my time at Beverly Bowling Lanes, seen in the distance at right."

CTA Pullman 460 is on either Route 8 – Halsted or 9 – Ashland in the early 1950s, you can’t quite make it out on the roll sign. However, I am leaning towards Halsted, as Ashland got bussed in 1951, and the auto at left looks more like 1953 vintage. This streetcar was saved by the CTA, and is now at the Illinois Railway Museum. It is one of only three red Pullmans saved, the others being 144 (also at IRM) and 225 (at the Seashore Trolley Museum in Maine). Charles F. Amstein adds that 460 is “on Ashland, just north of 95th Street, looking north-northwet. I grew up in this area and spent much of my time at Beverly Bowling Lanes, seen in the distance at right.”

CTA 4374 is southbound on Clark Street, just south of Diversey, on September 6, 1957, the last day for the north half of Route 22 - Clark-Wentworth. Ricketts (no relation to the current Cubs ownership) was a popular restaurant. At left, down the street, you can just make out the marquee of the Parkway Theater. Autos visible include several Chevys, a Studebaker, and (at left) a 1957 Ford. (Charles H. Thorpe Photo) The tracks curving off to the left went into the CTA's Limits car barn (station), which was located at 2684 N. Clark. It got its name because, a long time earlier, this had been the city limits. There were facilities for cable cars at this location dating back to 1888. Limits car house opened in 1909, and was last used by streetcars in 1954 (the end of the Red Car era). It was used by buses until 1994, and the building was torn down in 1998.

CTA 4374 is southbound on Clark Street, just south of Diversey, on September 6, 1957, the last day for the north half of Route 22 – Clark-Wentworth. Ricketts (no relation to the current Cubs ownership) was a popular restaurant. At left, down the street, you can just make out the marquee of the Parkway Theater. Autos visible include several Chevys, a Studebaker, and (at left) a 1957 Ford. (Charles H. Thorpe Photo) The tracks curving off to the left went into the CTA’s Limits car barn (station), which was located at 2684 N. Clark. It got its name because, a long time earlier, this had been the city limits. There were facilities for cable cars at this location dating back to 1888. Limits car house opened in 1909, and was last used by streetcars in 1954 (the end of the Red Car era). It was used by buses until 1994, and the building was torn down in 1998.

CTA Met car 2907 is at Indiana Avenue, running the Kenwood shuttle on the last day of service, November 30, 1957 (also the last day for regular passenger service for wooden "L" cars).

CTA Met car 2907 is at Indiana Avenue, running the Kenwood shuttle on the last day of service, November 30, 1957 (also the last day for regular passenger service for wooden “L” cars).

CTA one-man car 1769 (here painted green, not red) is at Lake and Austin, west end of Route 16. The date of this Bob Selle photo is December 19, 1953, one year to the day before I was born. The Park Theater at right appears to already be closed.

CTA one-man car 1769 (here painted green, not red) is at Lake and Austin, west end of Route 16. The date of this Bob Selle photo is December 19, 1953, one year to the day before I was born. The Park Theater at right appears to already be closed.

CTA one-man car 1732, in red, heads southwest on Fifth Avenue at Harrison on July 5, 1953. Madison-Fifth was part of Route 20, but as of May 11, 1952, buses were substituted for streetcars on weekends– except for the Fifth Avenue branch, which used streetcars. That must be a Harrison bus in the background. (Robert Selle Photo)

On June 19, 1953 CTA PCC 7070 heads south on Roue 8 - Halsted, passing by the Congress Expressway construction site. PCCs were soon taken off Halsted, which ended streetcar service the following year using older equipment. This photo was taken from the nearby Halsted "L" station, which was not in the expressway footprint. (Robert Selle Photo)

On June 19, 1953 CTA PCC 7070 heads south on Roue 8 – Halsted, passing by the Congress Expressway construction site. PCCs were soon taken off Halsted, which ended streetcar service the following year using older equipment. This photo was taken from the nearby Halsted “L” station, which was not in the expressway footprint. (Robert Selle Photo)

On May 12, 1954, Bob Selle took this picture of CTA Pullman 600, southbound on Route 8 - Halsted. This was less than three weeks before the end of streetcar service on this line. We are just south of the Metropolitan "L" station at Halsted, and crossing over the Congress Expressway construction. That looks like a Studebaker at left.

On May 12, 1954, Bob Selle took this picture of CTA Pullman 600, southbound on Route 8 – Halsted. This was less than three weeks before the end of streetcar service on this line. We are just south of the Metropolitan “L” station at Halsted, and crossing over the Congress Expressway construction. That looks like a Studebaker at left.

In this undated (probably late 1960s) photo taken on the Red Arrow Lines in suburban Philadelphia, Brilliner 10 appears to be changing ends. It is signed for the Media route, although this is not the end of that line. Perhaps there was track work going on. Matthew Nawn adds, "The photo of Red Arrow Lines #10 was taken at the Penn Street stop in Clifton Heights, PA. This is a stop on the Sharon Hill Line."

In this undated (probably late 1960s) photo taken on the Red Arrow Lines in suburban Philadelphia, Brilliner 10 appears to be changing ends. It is signed for the Media route, although this is not the end of that line. Perhaps there was track work going on. Matthew Nawn adds, “The photo of Red Arrow Lines #10 was taken at the Penn Street stop in Clifton Heights, PA. This is a stop on the Sharon Hill Line.”

This is how the interior of Chicago Aurora & Elgin car 301 looked on August 8, 1954, the date of a fantrip for the Central Electric Railfans' Association. Don's Rail Photos: "301 was built by Niles Car & Mfg Co in 1906. It was modernized in December 1940." (Robert Selle Photo)

This is how the interior of Chicago Aurora & Elgin car 301 looked on August 8, 1954, the date of a fantrip for the Central Electric Railfans’ Association. Don’s Rail Photos: “301 was built by Niles Car & Mfg Co in 1906. It was modernized in December 1940.” (Robert Selle Photo)

CA&E car 434 at an unidentified terminal. possibly Elgin.

CA&E car 434 at an unidentified terminal. possibly Elgin.

Once CA&E service stopped running to downtown Chicago, less equipment was needed. Here, wooden cars 137 and 141 are on the scrap track at the Wheaton Shops. Bob Selle took this picture on August 8, 1954. These cars were purchased from the North Shore Line in 1946.

Once CA&E service stopped running to downtown Chicago, less equipment was needed. Here, wooden cars 137 and 141 are on the scrap track at the Wheaton Shops. Bob Selle took this picture on August 8, 1954. These cars were purchased from the North Shore Line in 1946.

CA&E car 701, ex-Washington, Baltimore & Annapolis. Don's Rail Photos: "701 was built by Cincinnati Car Co in 1913 as WB&A 81. It was sold as CA&E 701 in 1938." Don also notes, "In 1937, the CA&E needed additional equipment. Much was available, but most of the cars suffered from extended lack of maintenance. Finally, 5 coaches were found on the Washington Baltimore & Annapolis which were just the ticket. 35 thru 39, built by Cincinnati Car in 1913, were purchased and remodeled for service as 600 thru 604. The ends were narrowed for service on the El. They had been motors, but came out as control trailers. Other modifications included drawbars, control, etc. A new paint scheme was devised. Blue and grey with red trim and tan roof was adopted from several selections. They entered service between July and October in 1937."

CA&E car 701, ex-Washington, Baltimore & Annapolis. Don’s Rail Photos: “701 was built by Cincinnati Car Co in 1913 as WB&A 81. It was sold as CA&E 701 in 1938.”
Don also notes, “In 1937, the CA&E needed additional equipment. Much was available, but most of the cars suffered from extended lack of maintenance. Finally, 5 coaches were found on the Washington Baltimore & Annapolis which were just the ticket. 35 thru 39, built by Cincinnati Car in 1913, were purchased and remodeled for service as 600 thru 604. The ends were narrowed for service on the El. They had been motors, but came out as control trailers. Other modifications included drawbars, control, etc. A new paint scheme was devised. Blue and grey with red trim and tan roof was adopted from several selections. They entered service between July and October in 1937.”

CA&E 401 at the end of the line in Elgin.

CA&E 401 at the end of the line in Elgin.

CA&E 452 at either Elgin or Aurora.

CA&E 452 at either Elgin or Aurora.

CA&E 457 at the front of a two-car train near the end of either the Aurora or Elgin terminals, as it is operating with overhead wire instead of third rail.

CA&E 457 at the front of a two-car train near the end of either the Aurora or Elgin terminals, as it is operating with overhead wire instead of third rail.

CA&E 429 at the head of a two-car train.

CA&E 429 at the head of a two-car train.

CA&E 451 heads up a two-car limited heading towards Chicago.

CA&E 451 heads up a two-car limited heading towards Chicago.

Speedrail (Milwaukee) car 63, a curved-sided product of Cincinnati Car Company, is operating as a local on the turnback track in Waukesha, on June 28 1951, two days before abandonment. (Photo by R. H. Adams, Jr.)

Speedrail (Milwaukee) car 63, a curved-sided product of Cincinnati Car Company, is operating as a local on the turnback track in Waukesha, on June 28 1951, two days before abandonment. (Photo by R. H. Adams, Jr.)

Six years ago, I purchased a couple strips of 35mm Super-XX black-and-white negatives and ran the photos on the blog I had at that time. There was no way to tell the exact date the pictures were taken, but they did contain various clues that helped narrow down the date. I posted the images, and several people guessed as to when they were shot. The consensus that eventually emerged was they were taken between Fall 1952 and Spring 1953. Well, in an act of serendipity, Jeff Wien (by way of Mr. Edward Springer) donated a set of snapshots to me that were made from these same negatives. They are dated December 1952, which is a better answer than we had before. You can see the rest of the photos here.

Six years ago, I purchased a couple strips of 35mm Super-XX black-and-white negatives and ran the photos on the blog I had at that time. There was no way to tell the exact date the pictures were taken, but they did contain various clues that helped narrow down the date. I posted the images, and several people guessed as to when they were shot. The consensus that eventually emerged was they were taken between Fall 1952 and Spring 1953. Well, in an act of serendipity, Jeff Wien (by way of Mr. Edward Springer) donated a set of snapshots to me that were made from these same negatives. They are dated December 1952, which is a better answer than we had before. You can see the rest of the photos here.

Pulse Bus Rapid Transit Celebration

Pace launched its Pulse bus rapid transit this week with the Pulse Milwaukee line which runs between Golf Mill in Niles and the Jefferson Park transit center in Chicago. Pace held a celebration event earlier today (August 15th) at Milwaukee and Touhy in Niles featuring speeches by various politicians, agency bureaucrats, and public transit advocates. A new Pulse bus was parked at the event and was available for public inspection, as well as a Pulse bus station with its passenger amenities.
Since you include bus photos on your blog, I have attached several photos of the event. Feel free to post any or all of them. The Pace website has detailed information about the Pulse service.
Ironically, Richmond (VA) has operated a bus rapid transit line for over a year which is very similar, and it’s also called “Pulse”. I don’t know if this is just a coincidence or if there is some connection between them. However, the Richmond line has dedicated bus-only lanes for part of its length, while our line runs in mixed traffic along Milwaukee Avenue.
-Miles Beitler

From the Collections of William Shapotkin:

On June 21, 1958 an eastbound CTA train is in the station at Pulaski Road on the new Congress rapid transit line, then also known as the West Side Subway. Notice how little fencing there was separating the right-of-way from the highway. Eventually, this was replaced by concrete Jersey barriers after numerous vehicle crashes that impacted the "L". That way, when something hits the fence, it can take a "Jersey bounce."

On June 21, 1958 an eastbound CTA train is in the station at Pulaski Road on the new Congress rapid transit line, then also known as the West Side Subway. Notice how little fencing there was separating the right-of-way from the highway. Eventually, this was replaced by concrete Jersey barriers after numerous vehicle crashes that impacted the “L”. That way, when something hits the fence, it can take a “Jersey bounce.”

On June 21, 1958 a woman enters the new CTA rapid transit station at Pulaski Road on the Congress line, which replaced the Garfield Park "L" the following day. On this day, free rides were given out between Halsted and Cicero Avenues. The fiberglass panels on the sides of the entrance ramp were eventually cut down to allow for better visibility from outside.

On June 21, 1958 a woman enters the new CTA rapid transit station at Pulaski Road on the Congress line, which replaced the Garfield Park “L” the following day. On this day, free rides were given out between Halsted and Cicero Avenues. The fiberglass panels on the sides of the entrance ramp were eventually cut down to allow for better visibility from outside.

A North Shore Line Electroliner on December 28, 1962, less than a month before the end of the line for this interurban.

A North Shore Line Electroliner on December 28, 1962, less than a month before the end of the line for this interurban.

A new 2000-series CTA train at (I am guessing) the Douglas Park yards at 54th Avenue in Cicero on October 25, 1964.

A new 2000-series CTA train at (I am guessing) the Douglas Park yards at 54th Avenue in Cicero on October 25, 1964.

What I presume is the Douglas Park yard on October 25, 1964.

What I presume is the Douglas Park yard on October 25, 1964.

CTA articulated car set 51 (formerly 5001) found new life on the Skokie Swift after being oddball equipment on other lines, along with its three mates. Here, they are seen on the Swift on October 25, 1964, where they helped provide much-needed capacity in the face of unexpectedly large ridership several months after the new branch line began service.

CTA articulated car set 51 (formerly 5001) found new life on the Skokie Swift after being oddball equipment on other lines, along with its three mates. Here, they are seen on the Swift on October 25, 1964, where they helped provide much-needed capacity in the face of unexpectedly large ridership several months after the new branch line began service.

The date stamped on this slide is April 18, 1964, when demonstration rides were given out on the new CTA Skokie Swift branch line. However, that date may be incorrect, as my understanding is on that day, single car units 1-4 were coupled together and operated as a unit to provide demonstration rides, Regular service began on April 20, 1964. So either the units were uncoupled, or the date is wrong. Here, one of the high-speed cars is lowering its pan trolley, at the point where the line changed from overhead wire to third rail "on the fly."

The date stamped on this slide is April 18, 1964, when demonstration rides were given out on the new CTA Skokie Swift branch line. However, that date may be incorrect, as my understanding is on that day, single car units 1-4 were coupled together and operated as a unit to provide demonstration rides, Regular service began on April 20, 1964. So either the units were uncoupled, or the date is wrong. Here, one of the high-speed cars is lowering its pan trolley, at the point where the line changed from overhead wire to third rail “on the fly.”

On October 25, 1964 a pair of 4000-series "L" cars are seen at the Dempster terminal on the Skokie Swift, presumably on a fantrip.

On October 25, 1964 a pair of 4000-series “L” cars are seen at the Dempster terminal on the Skokie Swift, presumably on a fantrip.

This picture of the Dempster terminal is dated April 18, 1964, which would have been the very first day people could ride the Skokie Swift.

This picture of the Dempster terminal is dated April 18, 1964, which would have been the very first day people could ride the Skokie Swift.

Line car S-606 at the Dempster terminal on October 25, 1964. Don's Rail Photos adds, "S-606 was built by Cincinnati in January 1923, #2620, as Chicago North Shore & Milwaukee 606. In 1963 it became CTA S-606 and burned in 1978. The remains were sold to the Indiana Transportation Museum." Since the museum was evicted from its home, whatever portion of the car that survives has been taken on by another preservation group, in hopes that it can eventually be rebuilt or restored.

Line car S-606 at the Dempster terminal on October 25, 1964. Don’s Rail Photos adds, “S-606 was built by Cincinnati in January 1923, #2620, as Chicago North Shore & Milwaukee 606. In 1963 it became CTA S-606 and burned in 1978. The remains were sold to the Indiana Transportation Museum.” Since the museum was evicted from its home, whatever portion of the car that survives has been taken on by another preservation group, in hopes that it can eventually be rebuilt or restored.

The following South Shore Line photos, again courtesy of William Shapotkin, are all dated October 1965 and are from a fantrip.

Here are some classic postcard views, again from the collections of William Shapotkin:

From Jeff Wien and the Wien-Criss Archive:

These pictures of the Illinois Terminal Railroad were taken on July 4, 1950:

Don's Rail Photos: "1565, Class B, was built at Decatur in 1910. It was sold to Illinois Power & Light Co at Campaign on April 10, 1955. It was acquired by Illinois Railway Museum in 1960."

Don’s Rail Photos: “1565, Class B, was built at Decatur in 1910. It was sold to Illinois Power & Light Co at Campaign on April 10, 1955. It was acquired by Illinois Railway Museum in 1960.”

IT 270.

IT 270.

IT 273.

IT 273.

Don's Rail Photos: "276 was built by St Louis Car in 1913. It was air conditioned and the arch windows were covered. It was sold for scrap to Compressed Steel Co on March 13, 1956."

Don’s Rail Photos: “276 was built by St Louis Car in 1913. It was air conditioned and the arch windows were covered. It was sold for scrap to Compressed Steel Co on March 13, 1956.”

IT 281.

IT 281.

IT 284.

IT 284.

Don's Rail Photos: "1201 was built by McGuire-Cummings in 1910 as an express motor with 20 seats at the rear. In 1919 it was rebuilt with a small baggage section at the front and the trucks were changed from Curtis to Baldwin."

Don’s Rail Photos: “1201 was built by McGuire-Cummings in 1910 as an express motor with 20 seats at the rear. In 1919 it was rebuilt with a small baggage section at the front and the trucks were changed from Curtis to Baldwin.”

IT 052. This looks like a sleeping car or bunk car and is unpowered.

IT 052. This looks like a sleeping car or bunk car and is unpowered.

Again from the Wien-Criss Archive, here are a series of photos taken at the Chicago Aurora & Elgin’s Wheaton Yards, in August 1959 after the line had stopped running even freight service. Several cars were sold to museum interests and moved off the property in early 1962. Everything else was scrapped. It’s possible that these pictures may have been taken by the late Joseph Saitta of New York.

Looking somewhat worse for wear, here is CA&E car 321 as it looked at the Illinois Electric Railway Museum in North Chicago on June 9, 1962. This and the other cars that were saved from the line had been stored outdoors for a few years, and exposure to the elements took their toll. The museum, now just IRM, moved to Union in 1964. (Wien-Criss Archive Photo)

Looking somewhat worse for wear, here is CA&E car 321 as it looked at the Illinois Electric Railway Museum in North Chicago on June 9, 1962. This and the other cars that were saved from the line had been stored outdoors for a few years, and exposure to the elements took their toll. The museum, now just IRM, moved to Union in 1964. (Wien-Criss Archive Photo)

The following pictures, also from the Wien-Criss Archive, are not very sharp, but do show Chicago transit vehicles in September 1953 and May 1954. There are several shots of the temporary ground-level trackage used from 1953 to 1958 by the Garfield Park “L”, during construction of the Congress Expressway. Those pictures were taken at Van Buren and Western. Some of the PCC photos were snapped in the vicinity of Roosevelt Road, which is also where the Greyhound bus picture was probably taken.

Recent Correspondence

We recently asked Andre Kristopans about which Chicago streetcars, including PCCs, were converted to one-man operation in the CTA era.  Here’s what he reports:

In 1951, all 83 prewar PCCs to OMC on AFE S14000. At same time, 21 Sedans to OMC (3325,3347-3349,3351-3352,3354-3355,3357,3360-3363,3368,3372,3378-3379,6303,6305,6310,6319) on AFE S14001

However almost immediately 20 postwars 4052-4061,7035-7044 to OMC on S14011

155 older cars 1721-1785,3119-3178,6155-6198 to convertible OMC 1948 on S11381

Some additional info. Of the 169 cars in the three groups listed for one-manning, the following were already gone when the plan was announced:

6 under CSL 1945-47 1738,1754,1770,3133,3170,3176
8 under CTA 1948 1727,1763,3130,3150,3152,3155,3159,6197

169 minus above 14 leaves 155 for conversion in 1949

Me: Thanks… and none of the Peter Witts were used in one-man service, right?

Andre: Redone then scrapped replaced by postwars?

Me: Didn’t this have to do with the decision not to one-man 63rd Street? Or was it simply that mixing the Sedans with PCCs would have slowed things down?

Andre: Supposedly one of the aldermen along 63rd pitched a bitch about the sedans after he saw one. Thought they would be “unsafe”. Not sure on what grounds, suspect had to do with center door arrangement. But plan was dropped and sedans scrapped.

Me: Thanks!

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

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


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

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


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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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More Buses, Trolleys, and Trains

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

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

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

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

-David Sadowski

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

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

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

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

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

CTA buses at the Western and 79th loop.

CTA buses at the Western and 79th loop.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CTA 518 at Halsted and 75th on February 22, 1954. Streetcar service on Halsted ended three months later. (James J. Buckley Photo)

CTA 518 at Halsted and 75th on February 22, 1954. Streetcar service on Halsted ended three months later. (James J. Buckley Photo)

CTA 652 and 678 pass each other at Halsted and 75th on February 22, 1954. (James J. Buckley Photo)

CTA 652 and 678 pass each other at Halsted and 75th on February 22, 1954. (James J. Buckley Photo)

CTA 6148 at Halsted and 75th on February 22, 1954. (James J. Buckley Photo)

CTA 6148 at Halsted and 75th on February 22, 1954. (James J. Buckley Photo)

Chicago Aurora & Elgin 434 at the Seashore Trolley Museum in July 1963.

Chicago Aurora & Elgin 434 at the Seashore Trolley Museum in July 1963.

A Chicago Aurora & Elgin freight train at National Street in Elgin. The style of Kodachrome slide mount dates this picture to between 1955 and 1959. (Although passenger service ended in 1957, freight continued for nearly two more years.)

A Chicago Aurora & Elgin freight train at National Street in Elgin. The style of Kodachrome slide mount dates this picture to between 1955 and 1959. (Although passenger service ended in 1957, freight continued for nearly two more years.)

CSL 5130. Bill Shapotkin adds, "This is an E/B 31st car, having just crossing under the South Side 'L'. View looks west (from Wabash)." We ran another picture of 5130 on the same route on our previous post Spring Forward (April 19, 2018).

CSL 5130. Bill Shapotkin adds, “This is an E/B 31st car, having just crossing under the South Side ‘L’. View looks west (from Wabash).” We ran another picture of 5130 on the same route on our previous post Spring Forward (April 19, 2018).

CSL 5154. Bill Shapotkin adds, "This is a W/B 31st car at State St (South Side "L" in background). View looks east." Again, we previously ran another picture of this same car on the same route in our post Spring Forward (April 19, 2018).

CSL 5154. Bill Shapotkin adds, “This is a W/B 31st car at State St (South Side “L” in background). View looks east.” Again, we previously ran another picture of this same car on the same route in our post Spring Forward (April 19, 2018).

CTA bus 2566 is at 119th and Western, running on Route 49A.

CTA bus 2566 is at 119th and Western, running on Route 49A.

CTA bus 5723 is at the Western and 79th loop, probably in the 1960s.

CTA bus 5723 is at the Western and 79th loop, probably in the 1960s.

CTA bus 6541 is at the Western and 79th loop in 1953. Meanwhile, a postwar PCC (built by the St. Louis Car Co.) goes around the loop. Streetcar service on Western ended in June 1956. Jeff Wien writes, "The caption states that it is 1953 in this photo. I would guess 1948 not long after the loop opened. There is virtually no landscaping anywhere and the sidewalks look like they were recently laid. Later pictures of this loop showed green grass and bushes which was typical of CTA loops until they decided to asphalt over everything (ie: Clark-Arthur loop)." Andre Kristopans: "Bus 6541 at 79th/Western is definitely soon after loop opened. After 79th was converted, this spot is where 79th buses loaded, and 49A’s loaded about three bus lengths back, on the left side of the driveway (see 2578 shot following for new location)."

CTA bus 6541 is at the Western and 79th loop in 1953. Meanwhile, a postwar PCC (built by the St. Louis Car Co.) goes around the loop. Streetcar service on Western ended in June 1956. Jeff Wien writes, “The caption states that it is 1953 in this photo. I would guess 1948 not long after the loop opened. There is virtually no landscaping anywhere and the sidewalks look like they were recently laid. Later pictures of this loop showed green grass and bushes which was typical of CTA loops until they decided to asphalt over everything (ie: Clark-Arthur loop).” Andre Kristopans: “Bus 6541 at 79th/Western is definitely soon after loop opened. After 79th was converted, this spot is where 79th buses loaded, and 49A’s loaded about three bus lengths back, on the left side of the driveway (see 2578 shot following for new location).”

CTA bus 2578, running on Route 49A, is at the Western and 79th loop. When PCCs were introduced to Western Avenue in 1948, buses were substituted on the north and south ends of the line, which were spun off into extensions of Route 49. New loops were built, this being the one on the south end of the line.

CTA bus 2578, running on Route 49A, is at the Western and 79th loop. When PCCs were introduced to Western Avenue in 1948, buses were substituted on the north and south ends of the line, which were spun off into extensions of Route 49. New loops were built, this being the one on the south end of the line.

CTA bus 5066 is turning north from Leland onto Western, running Route 49B in 1958. Here, riders could change to the Ravenswood "L", today's Brown Line. The station has since been rebuilt. Jeff Wien adds, "I believe that the photo of CTA 5066 at Western & Leland was taken in 1956 rather than 1958 as stated in the caption. Route 49 was converted to motor bus in June 1956. The photo shows the streetcar tracks still exposed as well as the overhead wires in place. I would imagine that the wires would have been removed by 1958, and I seem to recall that the City paved Western Avenue not long after the streetcars were removed. The City built the obnoxious overpass at Western and Belmont shortly after the streetcars were removed in 1956."

CTA bus 5066 is turning north from Leland onto Western, running Route 49B in 1958. Here, riders could change to the Ravenswood “L”, today’s Brown Line. The station has since been rebuilt. Jeff Wien adds, “I believe that the photo of CTA 5066 at Western & Leland was taken in 1956 rather than 1958 as stated in the caption. Route 49 was converted to motor bus in June 1956. The photo shows the streetcar tracks still exposed as well as the overhead wires in place. I would imagine that the wires would have been removed by 1958, and I seem to recall that the City paved Western Avenue not long after the streetcars were removed. The City built the obnoxious overpass at Western and Belmont shortly after the streetcars were removed in 1956.”

Passengers board CTA bus 5470 at the Western and Berwyn loop on Chicago's north side. Route 49B was the northern extension of the Western line.

Passengers board CTA bus 5470 at the Western and Berwyn loop on Chicago’s north side. Route 49B was the northern extension of the Western line.

CTA bus 3528 is on Route 54B (South Cicero) on Cicero at 26th, circa the late 1950s.

CTA bus 3528 is on Route 54B (South Cicero) on Cicero at 26th, circa the late 1950s.

CTA bus 2543 is heading east on 103rd Street at Longwood Drive on Route 103 (103rd-106th Streets) in the late 1950s. The building directly behind the bus is now occupied by a Starbucks. Our resident south side expert M. E. writes, "Not showing in this picture (because of the trees) is Chicago's only castle, on the northwest corner of 103rd and Longwood. (Longwood is at the bottom of the "hill". Did you know: The land atop the "hill" is geologically called Blue Island? It begins north of 87th St. where the Dan Ryan's Woods toboggan slide was.)" On the other hand, Stu Slaymaker says, "The shot of ACF-Brill bus that is labeled, 103rd and Longwood, was actually taken at 111th and Longwood. My old neighborhood. Out of the picture behind the photographer, is the R. I. Suburban Line Morgan Park-111th station. The used car lot on the right corner, was a Texaco station in the 1960s. The trees are so lush, you can't see the Walker Branch Library, at the top of the hill."

CTA bus 2543 is heading east on 103rd Street at Longwood Drive on Route 103 (103rd-106th Streets) in the late 1950s. The building directly behind the bus is now occupied by a Starbucks. Our resident south side expert M. E. writes, “Not showing in this picture (because of the trees) is Chicago’s only castle, on the northwest corner of 103rd and Longwood. (Longwood is at the bottom of the “hill”. Did you know: The land atop the “hill” is geologically called Blue Island? It begins north of 87th St. where the Dan Ryan’s Woods toboggan slide was.)” On the other hand, Stu Slaymaker says, “The shot of ACF-Brill bus that is labeled, 103rd and Longwood, was actually taken at 111th and Longwood. My old neighborhood. Out of the picture behind the photographer, is the R. I. Suburban Line Morgan Park-111th station. The used car lot on the right corner, was a Texaco station in the 1960s. The trees are so lush, you can’t see the Walker Branch Library, at the top of the hill.”

CTA 3449 is on Route 31 (31st Street). Not sure which cross street the streetcar is on.

CTA 3449 is on Route 31 (31st Street). Not sure which cross street the streetcar is on.

CSL 3425 is on Route 31 (31st Street) at Pitney Court. However, the date provided (1946) must be wrong, since this line was not converted to bus until February 29, 1948. (Thanks to Daniel Joseph for pointing that out.)

CSL 3425 is on Route 31 (31st Street) at Pitney Court. However, the date provided (1946) must be wrong, since this line was not converted to bus until February 29, 1948. (Thanks to Daniel Joseph for pointing that out.)

CTA 5493 is heading south from the Western and Berwyn loop, on Route 49B (North Western). This picture was taken after streetcar service ended in 1956, as the tracks appear to already be paved over and overhead wires removed.

CTA 5493 is heading south from the Western and Berwyn loop, on Route 49B (North Western). This picture was taken after streetcar service ended in 1956, as the tracks appear to already be paved over and overhead wires removed.

On August 9, 1953 CTA bus 5306 heads west on Route 6 - Van Buren Street at Racine, next to new temporary Garfield Park "L" trackage that went into service the following month. at right, you can see the existing "L" structure, which was torn down the following year.

On August 9, 1953 CTA bus 5306 heads west on Route 6 – Van Buren Street at Racine, next to new temporary Garfield Park “L” trackage that went into service the following month. at right, you can see the existing “L” structure, which was torn down the following year.

CTA bus 5499 is at DesPlaines Avenue terminal in Forest Park, running on Route 17 - Westchester, which replaced the Westchester "L" in 1951.

CTA bus 5499 is at DesPlaines Avenue terminal in Forest Park, running on Route 17 – Westchester, which replaced the Westchester “L” in 1951.

CTA 2365 is operating on Route 58 - Ogden at 26th and Cicero Avenue in the late 1950s.

CTA 2365 is operating on Route 58 – Ogden at 26th and Cicero Avenue in the late 1950s.

CTA 6814 is on 115th Street at Michigan Avenue on Route 115 in the 1960s. Bill Shapotkin adds, "This view (correctly identified as 115th/Michigan) looks east."

CTA 6814 is on 115th Street at Michigan Avenue on Route 115 in the 1960s. Bill Shapotkin adds, “This view (correctly identified as 115th/Michigan) looks east.”

CTA 2718 and 2734 at 74th and Damen.

CTA 2718 and 2734 at 74th and Damen.

CTA 3620 at 54th Avenue in Cicero, the end of the line for the Douglas Park "L" (now the Pink Line).

CTA 3620 at 54th Avenue in
CTA 3620 at 54th Avenue in Cicero, the end of the line for the Douglas Park “L” (now the Pink Line).

CTA 2603 at 119th and Western, the south end of Route 49A.

CTA 2603 at 119th and Western, the south end of Route 49A.

CTA 6532 at the Western and 79th loop, running on Route 79.

CTA 6532 at the Western and 79th loop, running on Route 79.

Chicago & West Towns 848 at the DesPlaines Avenue CTA terminal on August 7, 1980. The second overpass, behind the bus, was for the Chicago Great Western freight line. That bridge and tracks have since been removed. (Ronald J. Sullivan Photo)

Chicago & West Towns 848 at the DesPlaines Avenue CTA terminal on August 7, 1980. The second overpass, behind the bus, was for the Chicago Great Western freight line. That bridge and tracks have since been removed. (Ronald J. Sullivan Photo)

Westbound Rock Island train #113 at the 91st Street depot on April 5, 1970. Our resident south side epert M. E. adds, "The caption says this view is "at the 91st Street depot." Not quite. The view faces north. The train is curving from west (along 89th St.) to south. Notice the railroad crossing signals and gates in the background. That trackage joined with the CRI&P traffic to the east. On that trackage ran the B&O Capitol Limited on its way to Washington DC, as captured in https://thetrolleydodger.files.wordpress.com/2018/07/proofs288.jpg , although in that photo the Capitol Limited is inbound to Chicago."

Westbound Rock Island train #113 at the 91st Street depot on April 5, 1970. Our resident south side epert M. E. adds, “The caption says this view is “at the 91st Street depot.” Not quite. The view faces north. The train is curving from west (along 89th St.) to south. Notice the railroad crossing signals and gates in the background. That trackage joined with the CRI&P traffic to the east. On that trackage ran the B&O Capitol Limited on its way to Washington DC, as captured in https://thetrolleydodger.files.wordpress.com/2018/07/proofs288.jpg , although in that photo the Capitol Limited is inbound to Chicago.”

The interlocking levers at the 91st Street Rock Island Tower on July 3, 1969.

The interlocking levers at the 91st Street Rock Island Tower on July 3, 1969.

The lineup board at the Rock Island 91st Street Tower on July 3, 1969.

The lineup board at the Rock Island 91st Street Tower on July 3, 1969.

The interlocking levers at the Rock Island's 61st Street Tower on January 5, 1969.

The interlocking levers at the Rock Island’s 61st Street Tower on January 5, 1969.

Tower man Roy Bliss and Assistant Tower man Jack Poehron are flagging all trains by the burned-out Rock Island 61st Street Tower on April 20, 1967. The wooden tower had opened in 1898.

Tower man Roy Bliss and Assistant Tower man Jack Poehron are flagging all trains by the burned-out Rock Island 61st Street Tower on April 20, 1967. The wooden tower had opened in 1898.

Rock Island train #11 (with engine #621) passes the burned-out 61st Street Tower on April 20, 1967, the day after the fire. 61st was the end of the four-track section running from LaSalle Street Station in downtown Chicago.

Rock Island train #11 (with engine #621) passes the burned-out 61st Street Tower on April 20, 1967, the day after the fire. 61st was the end of the four-track section running from LaSalle Street Station in downtown Chicago.

Rock Island train #19, as seen from the 61st Street Tower.

Rock Island train #19, as seen from the 61st Street Tower.

Rock Island 61st Street Tower on December 8, 1968. (Looking north at movable point crossing- RI "in" (L), NYC "out" (R).

Rock Island 61st Street Tower on December 8, 1968. (Looking north at movable point crossing- RI “in” (L), NYC “out” (R).

The Rock Island 91st Street Tower on April 5, 1970.

The Rock Island 91st Street Tower on April 5, 1970.

The Rock Island's 91st Street Tower, where the railroad crossed the PRR "Panhandle" route, as it looked on August 17, 1974. As you can see, the tower has received a new coat of paint since the last picture.

The Rock Island’s 91st Street Tower, where the railroad crossed the PRR “Panhandle” route, as it looked on August 17, 1974. As you can see, the tower has received a new coat of paint since the last picture.

Baltimore & Ohio #5, the Capitol Limited, passing by the Beverly Junction Tower one hour and 50 minutes late, on April 5, 1970.

Baltimore & Ohio #5, the Capitol Limited, passing by the Beverly Junction Tower one hour and 50 minutes late, on April 5, 1970.

CTA bus 8829 is at Ashland and 95th in 1973. Daniel Joseph adds, "If the destination sign is reliable, I believe this bus is on the #45 Ashland Downtown and not on #9 Ashland."

CTA bus 8829 is at Ashland and 95th in 1973. Daniel Joseph adds, “If the destination sign is reliable, I believe this bus is on the #45 Ashland Downtown and not on #9 Ashland.”

CTA 2528 is at Ogden and Cermak on Route 58 on April 29, 1961. Bill Shapotkin adds, "Yes, this is indeed Cermak/Ogden -- the view looks west."

CTA 2528 is at Ogden and Cermak on Route 58 on April 29, 1961. Bill Shapotkin adds, “Yes, this is indeed Cermak/Ogden — the view looks west.”

CTA 5863 at the Ashland and 95th Street terminal, south end of Route 9, on June 20, 1973. (John Le Beau Photo)

CTA 5863 at the Ashland and 95th Street terminal, south end of Route 9, on June 20, 1973. (John Le Beau Photo)

Chicago & West Towns bus 777 at the CTA DesPlaines Avenue terminal on March 17, 1974. The terminal has since been redone. The two sets of stairs on DesPlaines Avenue appear to provide a way for pedestrians to cross a busy street where there are no stoplights. (John Le Beau Photo)

Chicago & West Towns bus 777 at the CTA DesPlaines Avenue terminal on March 17, 1974. The terminal has since been redone. The two sets of stairs on DesPlaines Avenue appear to provide a way for pedestrians to cross a busy street where there are no stoplights. (John Le Beau Photo)

CTA "New Look" bus 9441, running on Route 17 - Westchester, is at the DesPlaines terminal on June 28, 1977. Since the previous picture was taken, the set of stairs on the west side of DesPlaines Avenue has been removed. Since the other stair still appears to be in use, it seems as though the CTA decided to extend the walkway to the platform area, so that commuters would not need to go up and down so many stairs.

CTA “New Look” bus 9441, running on Route 17 – Westchester, is at the DesPlaines terminal on June 28, 1977. Since the previous picture was taken, the set of stairs on the west side of DesPlaines Avenue has been removed. Since the other stair still appears to be in use, it seems as though the CTA decided to extend the walkway to the platform area, so that commuters would not need to go up and down so many stairs.

CTA 9461 is at Catalpa and Broadway, operating on Route 84 - Peterson on September 1, 1980. (Ronald J. Sullivan Photo)

CTA 9461 is at Catalpa and Broadway, operating on Route 84 – Peterson on September 1, 1980. (Ronald J. Sullivan Photo)

CTA 8417 is on Route 17 - Westchester in June 1971. (John Le Beau Photo)

CTA 8417 is on Route 17 – Westchester in June 1971. (John Le Beau Photo)

PACE 6338 is heading south on Harlem Avenue on Route 305, having just gone under the CTA Green Line "L" in December 2012. (Mel Bernero Photo)

PACE 6338 is heading south on Harlem Avenue on Route 305, having just gone under the CTA Green Line “L” in December 2012. (Mel Bernero Photo)

PACE 6225 heads west on Route 309 - Lake Street at Harlem Avenue. To the left, just out of view, is the former Marshall Field's store in Oak Park, a local landmark. It later housed a Border's bookstore, now also gone. This photo must have been taken a few years ago, as you would see some new tall buildings if you took the same picture today. Unable to move outward, Oak Park is moving "up." (John Le Beau Photo)

PACE 6225 heads west on Route 309 – Lake Street at Harlem Avenue. To the left, just out of view, is the former Marshall Field’s store in Oak Park, a local landmark. It later housed a Border’s bookstore, now also gone. This photo must have been taken a few years ago, as you would see some new tall buildings if you took the same picture today. Unable to move outward, Oak Park is moving “up.” (John Le Beau Photo)

CTA 2527 is at 25th and Laramie in Cicero, the west end of Route 58 - Ogden. The date appears to be the late 1950s.

CTA 2527 is at 25th and Laramie in Cicero, the west end of Route 58 – Ogden. The date appears to be the late 1950s.

Chicago & West Towns buses 839 and 804 are laying over in the middle of the street at Cermak and 47th Street in January 1979. This is near the border between Cicero and Chicago, and also adjacent to the old Western Electric plant.

Chicago & West Towns buses 839 and 804 are laying over in the middle of the street at Cermak and 47th Street in January 1979. This is near the border between Cicero and Chicago, and also adjacent to the old Western Electric plant.

RTA bus 8107 at the West Towns bus garage in oak Park on April 12, 1981. (John Le Beau Photo)

RTA bus 8107 at the West Towns bus garage in oak Park on April 12, 1981. (John Le Beau Photo)

RTA 8049 at the West Towns garage in Oak Park on May 28, 1978. This is now the site of a Pete's Fresh Market. (Ronald J. Sullivan Photo)

RTA 8049 at the West Towns garage in Oak Park on May 28, 1978. This is now the site of a Pete’s Fresh Market. (Ronald J. Sullivan Photo)

PACE bus 2092 is exiting from the CTA DesPlaines Avenue terminal in April 1992. Where the bus is, was once the approximate location of Chicago Great Western freight tracks, which spanned DesPlaines Avenue via a bridge and then connected with the Baltimore & Ohio Chicago Terminal tracks. That portion of the old CGW right-of-way between here and First Avenue has been paved, and provides a connection to the Prairie Path, which starts at First Avenue.

PACE bus 2092 is exiting from the CTA DesPlaines Avenue terminal in April 1992. Where the bus is, was once the approximate location of Chicago Great Western freight tracks, which spanned DesPlaines Avenue via a bridge and then connected with the Baltimore & Ohio Chicago Terminal tracks. That portion of the old CGW right-of-way between here and First Avenue has been paved, and provides a connection to the Prairie Path, which starts at First Avenue.

CTA 1806 is on Route 84 - Peterson at Western Avenue on April 21, 1957. (Michael N. Charnota Photo)

CTA 1806 is on Route 84 – Peterson at Western Avenue on April 21, 1957. (Michael N. Charnota Photo)

This slide was labeled "Oak Park," but actually, it's on the border between Elmwood Park and River Grove. PACE bus 22550 is heading west on Grand Avenue, going over the long crossing of the Metra Milwaukee District West Line on route 319 on May 8, 1993. There has een much talk over the years of grade-separating these tracks, where some accidents have occurred, but so far nothing has come of it. (Ronald J. Sullivan Photo)

This slide was labeled “Oak Park,” but actually, it’s on the border between Elmwood Park and River Grove. PACE bus 22550 is heading west on Grand Avenue, going over the long crossing of the Metra Milwaukee District West Line on route 319 on May 8, 1993. There has een much talk over the years of grade-separating these tracks, where some accidents have occurred, but so far nothing has come of it. (Ronald J. Sullivan Photo)

RTA bus 496 is at the Brookfield Zoo on December 11, 1977. Andre Kristopans adds, "Bus 496 is on an OSA (Omnibus Society of America) charter. Note the “9” covered with tape." (John Le Beau Photo)

RTA bus 496 is at the Brookfield Zoo on December 11, 1977. Andre Kristopans adds, “Bus 496 is on an OSA (Omnibus Society of America) charter. Note the “9” covered with tape.” (John Le Beau Photo)

RTA bus 8044 is at the old West Towns garage in Oak Park in March 1983.

RTA bus 8044 is at the old West Towns garage in Oak Park in March 1983.

CTA bus 4580 heads west on Harrison at Springfield on March 7, 1991.

CTA bus 4580 heads west on Harrison at Springfield on March 7, 1991.

CTA bus 1112 is at 115th and Perry in February 1983.

CTA bus 1112 is at 115th and Perry in February 1983.

South Suburban Safeway Lines bus 702 is northbound at 119th and Western, probably around 1970. Our resident south side expert M. E. adds, "South Suburban Safeway Lines went north on Western to 63rd, then east to Halsted, the heart of Englewood. Actually, east to Union, south to 63rd Place, and west to the L station at Halsted and 63rd Place, where it ended its northbound run. Southbound, it first took Halsted north to 63rd, then west to Western, etc. The other thing to notice in this picture is that Western Ave. was not as wide south of 119th. This is because the Chicago city limit is 119th, and south of that is Blue Island."

South Suburban Safeway Lines bus 702 is northbound at 119th and Western, probably around 1970. Our resident south side expert M. E. adds, “South Suburban Safeway Lines went north on Western to 63rd, then east to Halsted, the heart of Englewood. Actually, east to Union, south to 63rd Place, and west to the L station at Halsted and 63rd Place, where it ended its northbound run. Southbound, it first took Halsted north to 63rd, then west to Western, etc. The other thing to notice in this picture is that Western Ave. was not as wide south of 119th. This is because the Chicago city limit is 119th, and south of that is Blue Island.”

South Suburban Safeway Lines 714 on Western at 79th on October 4, 1975. (Michael N. Charnota Photo)

South Suburban Safeway Lines 714 on Western at 79th on October 4, 1975. (Michael N. Charnota Photo)

CTA 871, running on Route 49B North Western, is at the Western Avenue stop on the Ravenswood "L" in June 1973. (Michael N. Charnota Photo)

CTA 871, running on Route 49B North Western, is at the Western Avenue stop on the Ravenswood “L” in June 1973. (Michael N. Charnota Photo)

CTA 5567 is on Western near 63rd Street on April 20, 1972 (Route 49). Our resident south side expert M. E. adds, "Notice Cupid Candies on one corner and Fannie May Candies across the street." Jeff Weiner adds, "CTA 5567 appears to be at Western and 62nd, as the City maintained a traffic signal there for the Sears store. Until a closed-loop system was installed, the 62nd signal operated fixed-time during store hours, and went on yellow-red flash when the store was closed. After it was modernized, the operation was semiactuated, with coordination to the other signals on Western. Until it was modernized, the median signals were on concrete “blockbuster” foundations, replaced with mast arm signals afterwards."

CTA 5567 is on Western near 63rd Street on April 20, 1972 (Route 49). Our resident south side expert M. E. adds, “Notice Cupid Candies on one corner and Fannie May Candies across the street.” Jeff Weiner adds, “CTA 5567 appears to be at Western and 62nd, as the City maintained a traffic signal there for the Sears store. Until a closed-loop system was installed, the 62nd signal operated fixed-time during store hours, and went on yellow-red flash when the store was closed. After it was modernized, the operation was semiactuated, with coordination to the other signals on Western. Until it was modernized, the median signals were on concrete “blockbuster” foundations, replaced with mast arm signals afterwards.”

CTA 5978 is at the Western and 79th loop on June 20, 1973. (Ronald J. Sullivan Photo)

CTA 5978 is at the Western and 79th loop on June 20, 1973. (Ronald J. Sullivan Photo)

CTA Pullman 312 on Kedzie. Bill Shapotkin adds, "Car is working #52 -- Kedzie-California and is laying over in California at Roscoe. View looks north."

CTA Pullman 312 on Kedzie. Bill Shapotkin adds, “Car is working #52 — Kedzie-California and is laying over in California at Roscoe. View looks north.”

CTA Pullman 444 at Armitage and California in January 1950.

CTA Pullman 444 at Armitage and California in January 1950.

CTA one-man car 6184 at Lawrence and Luna in 1949.

CTA one-man car 6184 at Lawrence and Luna in 1949.

CTA 336, in June 1952, is on California Avenue at Augusta Boulevard.

CTA 336, in June 1952, is on California Avenue at Augusta Boulevard.

Chicago Surface Lines 474 is on Belmont at Clark in May 1947.

Chicago Surface Lines 474 is on Belmont at Clark in May 1947.

CSL 1644 is on Route 6 at Division and California in May 1942. The Divison and Van Buren car lines were through-routed starting in 1937.

CSL 1644 is on Route 6 at Division and California in May 1942. The Divison and Van Buren car lines were through-routed starting in 1937.

CTA 5574 at an unknown location. Jon Habermaas writes, "Photo appears to be on the Halsted route where the line is on private right of way along Vincennes Ave., paralleling the Rock Island mainline... in the background you can see the Washington Heights Rock Island depot and a cross buck along the Pennsy's Panhandle division, which crosses Vincennes Avenue and the Rock Island just south of 103rd Street. The car would be around 104th and Vincennes Ave." Our resident south side expert M. E. adds, "Mr. Habermaas's description is accurate. I will add that this private right of way started at 89th St., just south of the CRI&P Beverly branch viaduct, and ended around 107th St. where Vincennes veered farther west from the CRI&P main line. And more historically, this right-of-way originated for the Kankakee car, which had its barn at 88th and Vincennes and ran on Halsted as far north as Englewood." Andre Kristopans: "Car 5574 SB at 105th or so. You can just make out the 104th RI station in the back, and PRR crossbuck to the right in the distance." (Robert W. Gibson Photo)

CTA 5574 at an unknown location. Jon Habermaas writes, “Photo appears to be on the Halsted route where the line is on private right of way along Vincennes Ave., paralleling the Rock Island mainline… in the background you can see the Washington Heights Rock Island depot and a cross buck along the Pennsy’s Panhandle division, which crosses Vincennes Avenue and the Rock Island just south of 103rd Street. The car would be around 104th and Vincennes Ave.” Our resident south side expert M. E. adds, “Mr. Habermaas’s description is accurate. I will add that this private right of way started at 89th St., just south of the CRI&P Beverly branch viaduct, and ended around 107th St. where Vincennes veered farther west from the CRI&P main line. And more historically, this right-of-way originated for the Kankakee car, which had its barn at 88th and Vincennes and ran on Halsted as far north as Englewood.” Andre Kristopans: “Car 5574 SB at 105th or so. You can just make out the 104th RI station in the back, and PRR crossbuck to the right in the distance.” (Robert W. Gibson Photo)

CTA 1749, one of the few old streetcars repainted in green, is at Cermak and State in January 1954, running on Route 21. Note the steam engine in the background.

CTA 1749, one of the few old streetcars repainted in green, is at Cermak and State in January 1954, running on Route 21. Note the steam engine in the background.

CTA prewar PCC 4038 is eastbound on 63rd Street. PCCs ran on this line between 1948 and 1952. If the address on the building is any guide, this is probably 122 East 63rd Street.

CTA prewar PCC 4038 is eastbound on 63rd Street. PCCs ran on this line between 1948 and 1952. If the address on the building is any guide, this is probably 122 East 63rd Street.

Illinois Central Electric bi-level car 1514 at the Blue Island Yards on April 23, 1978.

Illinois Central Electric bi-level car 1514 at the Blue Island Yards on April 23, 1978.

CTA trolley bus 9553 is on its last run, a fan trip held on April 1, 1973. Here it is on Fullerton Avenue near the Milwaukee Road freight line. This was one week after trolley buses were taken out of service.

CTA trolley bus 9553 is on its last run, a fan trip held on April 1, 1973. Here it is on Fullerton Avenue near the Milwaukee Road freight line. This was one week after trolley buses were taken out of service.

CTA Marmon-Herrington trolley bus 535 at North and Cicero.

CTA Marmon-Herrington trolley bus 535 at North and Cicero.

Recent Site Addition

This photo was added to our previous post More Mystery Photos (July 29, 2016):

BEDT 0-6-0 #16 in Brooklyn, NY on October 9, 1982.

BEDT 0-6-0 #16 in Brooklyn, NY on October 9, 1982.

Chicago Subway Lecture

Samuel D. Polonetzky makes a point during his presentation at the Chicago Maritime Museum on July 25, 2018. (David Sadowski Photo)

Samuel D. Polonetzky makes a point during his presentation at the Chicago Maritime Museum on July 25, 2018. (David Sadowski Photo)

On July 25 2018, Samuel D. Polonetzky, P.E., B.Sc. gave a presentation before the Underwater Archaeological Society of Chicago, of which he is a member. The topic was “Crossing of the Chicago River by the State Street Subway.” He showed actual motion pictures of the construction of the Subway in 1938-40.

Mr. Polonetzky is a Civil Engineer who served the City of Chicago, Department of Streets & Sanitation for thirty five years, rising from Engineer-In-Training to Acting Chief Engineer. During this tenure he acquired a deep knowledge of Chicago’s public rights-of-way and the underground infrastructure. He is also an active member of the Illinois Railway Museum at Union IL and a Life Member of the American Public Works Association.

The Underwater Archaeological Society of Chicago meets in the Chicago Maritime Museum located in the Bridgeport Arts Center, 3400 S. Racine Av. Chicago Ill. 60609.

The film shown is called Streamlining Chicago (1940), and you can watch it here:

Pre-Order Our New Book Building Chicago’s Subways

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

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

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

Bibliographic information:

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

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

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

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

For Shipping to US Addresses:

For Shipping to Canada:

For Shipping Elsewhere:

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

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

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West Towns Streetcars in Black-and-White

C&WT 155 during winter. Bill Shapotkin says, "I believe this photo is Hillgrove/LaGrange -- the short-lived terminal located east of LaGrange Rd after (sewer work(?)) cut the line back from Brainard Ave. View looks east."

C&WT 155 during winter. Bill Shapotkin says, “I believe this photo is Hillgrove/LaGrange — the short-lived terminal located east of LaGrange Rd after (sewer work(?)) cut the line back from Brainard Ave. View looks east.”

The Chicago and West Towns Railways ran a very interesting streetcar system that meandered through Chicago’s western suburbs until the last car ran in 1948. But service continued with buses and in the 1980s, the West Towns became part of today’s PACE suburban bus system.

We ran a color feature on the West Towns sometime back (February 10) and here are several more classic C&WT shots in black-and-white.

Although not commonly thought of as an interurban, a 1943 Rand McNally Street Guide of Chicago identified it as such:

misc124

Perhaps this is because it ran between several different suburbs. But the C&WT also had some extensive sections of private right-of-way, especially along its busiest line, which ran between Cicero and LaGrange and, from 1934 to 1948, provided direct service to the Brookfield Zoo.

The word “interurban” has largely fallen out of favor today, but it was thrown around rather loosely in the 1940s and 50s. When the Chicago Transit Authority cut back the Douglas Park line from Oak Park Avenue to 54th Avenue in 1952, the replacement service was referred to as an “interurban bus,” presumably meaning that it was not going to be allowed to make local stops.

The Chicago Transit Authority took a serious look at buying the West Towns in the late 1940s but ultimately decided against it, after determining it was not worth the necessary investment. The West Towns charged some of the highest streetcar fares in the entire country and seemed to be a financial basket case for much of its history.

Yet somehow it managed to hang on and remained independent and privately owned until the late 1980s, far longer than most of its contemporaries. The service filled a real need and still does today.

The CTA did manage to stick its toe into suburban bus waters after abandoning the Westchester branch of the “L” in December 1951. But even then, the route 17 “interurban” bus relied on the facilities of the West Towns to operate. So to some extent the CTA was actually paying the C&WT for the privilege of competing against it.

CTA service continued on route 17 for 60 years, by which time PACE had a competing route 317 of its own. CTA finally gave up on it as of December 16, 2012.

Anyone who rode a Chicago Surface Lines streetcar back in the day had to change to the West Towns at the the city limits, if they wanted to continue into the western suburbs. There were several places where this happened, and a few (Cermak and Kenton, Lake and Austin) are shown in our photographs.

About 10 years ago, the Central Electric Railfans’ Association published The Chicago & West Towns Railways by James J. Buckley, and edited by Richard W. Aaron, as Bulletin 138. This is by far the best and most comprehensive book on the C&WT. You can purchase this directly from CERA.*

There was an earlier, and much slimmer volume on C&WT written by Robert W. Gibson, Bulletin 3 of the Electric Railway Historical Society. This has been out of print for many years, but is now available in digital form as part of the Complete ERHS Collection, again available from CERA.*

Antone who is interested in delving into the history of this fascinating street railway would do well to check these out.

In addition, there is an excellent overview of the West Towns on the Shore Line Interurban Historical Society web site.

You can find a 1913-1948 map of the West Towns on the http://www.chicagorailfan.com web site, along with another showing service from 1889-1913.

The closest thing you can experience today to the thrill of riding a West Towns streetcar would be to take a trip out to the Illinois Railway Museum in Union, where you can ride car 141, the sole survivor of the fleet, which has been beautifully restored back to operating condition.

Finally, two of our photos show the old Park Theatre, located at 5962 W. Lake Street in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood. Cinema Treasures has a page devoted to this theatre, and just about every other in the country, whether currently in operation, closed, or demolished.

-The Editor

PS- We thank our readers for helping us establish a new record during July, with 13,271 page views.

PSS- Our friends at the Rockhill Trolley Museum in Pennsylvania have an important event coming up soon:

Rockhill Trolley Museum, Three Generation Celebration

Saturday, August 22, 2015 – New Start Time 10:00am to 4:30pm

Help us welcome the return of trolleys from three different generations.

Come witness the dedication of Johnstown Traction Company 311, fresh from its restoration, Philadelphia PCC car 2743 car, body restoration and new paint work, and San Diego LRV car 1019, in its official welcoming to Pennsylvania – the first LRV preserved and operated at a museum in the Eastern United States.

For more information e-mail Bill Monaghan, RTY-1267@Comcast.net

*Trolley Dodger Press is not affiliated with Central Electric Railfans’ Association.

The Chicago & West Towns also had some private right-of-way in the western suburbs. Car 160 is shown near LaGrange in December 1945.

The Chicago & West Towns also had some private right-of-way in the western suburbs. Car 160 is shown near LaGrange in December 1945.

According to Don’s Rail Photos, C&WT sweeper 9 was “9 was built by McGuire-Cummings in 1928. It was sold to Sand Springs Ry in 1948.” This picture may have been taken at the Harlem and Cermak car barn.

Chicago & West Towns 102 is shown at Cermak and Kenton in October 1935, with a Chicago Surface Lines route 21 car at rear. Within a few years, C&WT streetcars were repainted into the more familiar blue. Bill Shapotkin adds, "By the way, what bus is that depicted at left in this photo at Cermak/Kenton? Presume it is a West Towns bus (in the "sun burst" paint job) -- but if so, what route is it working? If not a West Towns' bus, then whose might it be and what route is it working?"

Chicago & West Towns 102 is shown at Cermak and Kenton in October 1935, with a Chicago Surface Lines route 21 car at rear. Within a few years, C&WT streetcars were repainted into the more familiar blue. Bill Shapotkin adds, “By the way, what bus is that depicted at left in this photo at Cermak/Kenton? Presume it is a West Towns bus (in the “sun burst” paint job) — but if so, what route is it working? If not a West Towns’ bus, then whose might it be and what route is it working?”

Car 127, signed for Maywood, is turning onto Madison Street. Bill Shapotkin says, "I believe thIs is a pull-out for the Madison line. Car is turning from S/B Harlem into W/B Madison. View looks north. Believe this is first time I've ever seen a pic looking N/B on Harlem before. Have seen pix looking east on Madison and west on Madison, but never north on Harlem. The reason tracks to right (operating in Madison, x/o Harlem) curve is due to jog in Madison St at this point -- which does not make the location obvious."

Car 127, signed for Maywood, is turning onto Madison Street. Bill Shapotkin says, “I believe thIs is a pull-out for the Madison line. Car is turning from S/B Harlem into W/B Madison. View looks north. Believe this is first time I’ve ever seen a pic looking N/B on Harlem before. Have seen pix looking east on Madison and west on Madison, but never north on Harlem. The reason tracks to right (operating in Madison, x/o Harlem) curve is due to jog in Madison St at this point — which does not make the location obvious.”

Harlem and Madison today. Forest Park is on the left, and Oak Park on the right. Madison does take a slight jog here. A pull-out in the previous picture makes sense as it would have come from the C&WT car barn on Lake Street just east of Ridgeland (torn down in the 1980s and replaced with a Dominick's Finer Foods).

Harlem and Madison today. Forest Park is on the left, and Oak Park on the right. Madison does take a slight jog here. A pull-out in the previous picture makes sense as it would have come from the C&WT car barn on Lake Street just east of Ridgeland (torn down in the 1980s and replaced with a Dominick’s Finer Foods).

This picture of C&WT 159 may have been taken on Harlem Avenue between Cermak and 26th.

This picture of C&WT 159 may have been taken on Harlem Avenue between Cermak and 26th.

It's April 3, 1948, and the end of C&WT streetcar service will soon be at hand. This photo may be at Cermak and Kenton. There was a fantrip on the LaGrange line the day after service ended, something which occasionally happened on other properties. (Gordon E. Lloyd Photo)

It’s April 3, 1948, and the end of C&WT streetcar service will soon be at hand. This photo may be at Cermak and Kenton. There was a fantrip on the LaGrange line the day after service ended, something which occasionally happened on other properties. (Gordon E. Lloyd Photo)

This would appear to be the corner of Harlem and Cermak. C&WT cars 160 and 157, going to the Brookfield Zoo and LaGrange, would have turned south here for a half mile before heading west on 26th Street. After streetcar service ended in 1948, and until the early 1970s, you could usually find a Good Humor man parked in what had been the trolley median just south of this location.

This would appear to be the corner of Harlem and Cermak. C&WT cars 160 and 157, going to the Brookfield Zoo and LaGrange, would have turned south here for a half mile before heading west on 26th Street. After streetcar service ended in 1948, and until the early 1970s, you could usually find a Good Humor man parked in what had been the trolley median just south of this location.

Harlem and Cermak today. From the 1950s through the 1970s, there was a Peter Pan family restaurant where the McDonald's is today.

Harlem and Cermak today. From the 1950s through the 1970s, there was a Peter Pan family restaurant where the McDonald’s is today.

C&WT 116, 115, and 158 are lined up at Cermak and Kenton, the eastern end of the LaGrange line. A CSL streetcar is at rear. This is the border between Cicero and Chicago.

C&WT 116, 115, and 158 are lined up at Cermak and Kenton, the eastern end of the LaGrange line. A CSL streetcar is at rear. This is the border between Cicero and Chicago.

CSL 1583 is parked in front of the old Park Theatre, which was located at 5962 W. Lake Street in Chicago's Austin neighborhood. Chicago & West Towns car 145 is in the background in Oak Park, on the other side of Austin Boulevard. The Park opened in 1913 and continued in operation until the 1950s. When this picture was taken, they were showing a double feature of Trade Winds and Shall We Dance, which came out in the late 1930s, but this picture seems to have been taken some years later from the looks of the autos. (Stephen D. Maguire Photo) Bill Shapotkin adds, "Shows car #1583 working Through-route 16 (Lake-State - displaying the (according the Al Lind's CHICAGO SURFACE LINES (Pages 272-276)) rush-hour only operation 119th/Morgan)."

CSL 1583 is parked in front of the old Park Theatre, which was located at 5962 W. Lake Street in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood. Chicago & West Towns car 145 is in the background in Oak Park, on the other side of Austin Boulevard. The Park opened in 1913 and continued in operation until the 1950s. When this picture was taken, they were showing a double feature of Trade Winds and Shall We Dance, which came out in the late 1930s, but this picture seems to have been taken some years later from the looks of the autos. (Stephen D. Maguire Photo) Bill Shapotkin adds, “Shows car #1583 working Through-route 16 (Lake-State – displaying the (according the Al Lind’s CHICAGO SURFACE LINES (Pages 272-276)) rush-hour only operation 119th/Morgan).”

Another view of a Lake Street car at the west end of the line, at Lake and Austin, in September 1939. Car 1579 is parked in front of the Park Theatre, this time showing a double feature of Four's a Crowd and Stronger Than Desire. Meanwhile, it looks the the motorman and conductor are taking a break at curbside. The Park is still advertising that it shows "Talkies," which became popular in 1927, and the sign that says "Refrigeration" means that the theatre was already air-conditioned. The streetcar is working through-route 16 and is signed for State-79th.

Another view of a Lake Street car at the west end of the line, at Lake and Austin, in September 1939. Car 1579 is parked in front of the Park Theatre, this time showing a double feature of Four’s a Crowd and Stronger Than Desire. Meanwhile, it looks the the motorman and conductor are taking a break at curbside. The Park is still advertising that it shows “Talkies,” which became popular in 1927, and the sign that says “Refrigeration” means that the theatre was already air-conditioned.
The streetcar is working through-route 16 and is signed for State-79th.

5962 W. Lake Street as it appears today.

5962 W. Lake Street as it appears today.

C&WT 103 at the east end of the Lake Street line at Austin Boulevard in 1938, waiting to meet a Chicago Surface Lines car on the other side of the street.

C&WT 103 at the east end of the Lake Street line at Austin Boulevard in 1938, waiting to meet a Chicago Surface Lines car on the other side of the street.

The Park Theatre appears shuttered in this early 1950s view of CTA 6183 at the west end of the Lake route at Austin Boulevard. Eventually, the building itself would be torn down.

The Park Theatre appears shuttered in this early 1950s view of CTA 6183 at the west end of the Lake route at Austin Boulevard. Eventually, the building itself would be torn down.

C&WT 140, still in the old paint scheme, on February 23, 1939.

C&WT 140, still in the old paint scheme, on February 23, 1939.

C&WT 165 on February 23, 1939. This car has already been repainted into the familiar blue and white colors.

C&WT 165 on February 23, 1939. This car has already been repainted into the familiar blue and white colors.

C&WT 104 at the Harlem and Cermak car barn on April 3, 1948, less than two before the end of streetcar service. One of the replacement buses is at right. (C. Edward Hedstrom Photo)

C&WT 104 at the Harlem and Cermak car barn on April 3, 1948, less than two before the end of streetcar service. One of the replacement buses is at right. (C. Edward Hedstrom Photo)

C&WT line car 15, with its famous bent pole. The defect was apparently accidental, but it was certainly distinctive.

C&WT line car 15, with its famous bent pole. The defect was apparently accidental, but it was certainly distinctive.

West Towns Streetcars in Color

One of our readers writes, "the 141 crossing the IHB tracks at Oak Street in LaGrange Park. The car is headed westbound, the train is southbound, possibly entering the sidings that are just south of Oak. The Trolley turned south and paralleled the IHB down to the CB&Q tracks where it turned west along Hillgrove. The home under construction in the background is the second or third house north of Oak on the west side of Beach. "

One of our readers writes, “the 141 crossing the IHB tracks at Oak Street in LaGrange Park. The car is headed westbound, the train is southbound, possibly entering the sidings that are just south of Oak. The Trolley turned south and paralleled the IHB down to the CB&Q tracks where it turned west along Hillgrove. The home under construction in the background is the second or third house north of Oak on the west side of Beach. “

The Chicago & West Towns, while not an extremely large streetcar operator, played an important role in the development of many of Chicago’s western suburbs in the first half of the 20th century. You can see a map of the West Towns car lines here, and a list of important dates in its operations here.

Central Electric Railfans’ Association put out the best and most comprehensive history of the West Towns in 2006, and you can read more about it here.

We have written about the Chicago & West Towns Railways before on the CERA Members Blog (see these posts here and here) but nearly all those photos were in black-and-white. Since streetcar service was abandoned in April 1948, color pictures are scarce.

Color film was expensive in 1948, and most fans did not have a 35mm camera to shoot it with. So we can be thankful for those railfans who did have the wherewithal to shoot Kodachrome slides, which give us an idea of what life was like in an earlier and simpler time.

Today we offer you rarely seen color pictures of West Towns streetcars. Even better, several of them show car 141, the sole survivor of the fleet. You can read about how this car was preserved and lovingly restored here. The Electric Railway Historical Society bought the car body in 1959, after it had been used as a storage shed, and donated it to the Illinois Railway Museum in 1973. You can ride that car at the museum.

While we are not sure of all the exact locations in these images, most of them seem to be on the line that ran between LaGrange and Cicero. Perhaps our keen-eyed readers can help identify some of these areas.

In a few cases, we have presented “then and now” photos, so you can see that while a lot has changed in the nearly 70 years that trolleys have been gone, but there are still a few things that remain from the old days.

When the Chicago Transit Authority was just getting started, they looked into the possibility of purchasing the West Towns, and I believe they entered into negotiations, but it never happened. The West Towns completed its conversion to buses in 1948 and remained a private operator until 1981. These services are operated today as part of the Pace suburban bus system.

-David Sadowski

The corner of Lincoln and Beach as it looks today in LaGrange Park. Lincoln ends in a cul-de-sac near the railroad tracks at rear. We are not far from where image 471 was taken.

The corner of Lincoln and Beach as it looks today in LaGrange Park. Lincoln ends in a cul-de-sac near the railroad tracks at rear. We are not far from where image 471 was taken.

Chicago & West Towns Railways car 112 heads south at Harlem and Cermak on August 17, 1947.

Chicago & West Towns Railways car 112 heads south at Harlem and Cermak on August 17, 1947.

If the building at right is a car barn, this may be Harlem and Cermak. If so, car 112 would be turning east onto Cermak.

If the building at right is a car barn, this may be Harlem and Cermak. If so, car 112 would be turning east onto Cermak.

This may show the 111 heading west, preparing to cross First Avenue to reach the Brookfield Zoo.

This may show the 111 heading west, preparing to cross First Avenue to reach the Brookfield Zoo.

The 159 may be on on the LaGrange line, heading east towards Cermak and Kenton.

The 159 may be on on the LaGrange line, heading east towards Cermak and Kenton.

The 111 at the Brookfield Zoo parking lot.

The 111 at the Brookfield Zoo parking lot.

The 141 somewhere along the route between LaGrange and Cermak Road.

The 141 somewhere along the route between LaGrange and Cermak Road.

The corner of Lincoln and Blanchan in Brookfield as it looks today. This is the approximate location of image 466.

The corner of Lincoln and Blanchan in Brookfield as it looks today. This is the approximate location of image 466.

The apartment building at 9436 Lincoln in Brookfield. It can be seen in image 466 to the right of the West Towns streetcar.

The apartment building at 9436 Lincoln in Brookfield. It can be seen in image 466 to the right of the West Towns streetcar.

This house is visible in image 466. Our approximate location is 3528 Cleveland in Brookfield.

This house is visible in image 466. Our approximate location is 3528 Cleveland in Brookfield.

The 141 at Cermak and Kenton, the border between Cicero and Chicago. Here riders could change to the Chicago Surface Lines route 21 streetcar for points east. In the background, we see the Western Electric plant.

The 141 at Cermak and Kenton, the border between Cicero and Chicago. Here riders could change to the Chicago Surface Lines route 21 streetcar for points east. In the background, we see the Western Electric plant.

Car 128 near Cermak and Kenton.

Car 128 near Cermak and Kenton.

Cermak and Kenton as it looks today.

Cermak and Kenton as it looks today.

The 141 may be heading east, crossing the Illinois Central near 26th and Harlem. The streetcar briefly diverted from the roadway to make this crossing.

The 141 may be heading east, crossing the Illinois Central near 26th and Harlem. The streetcar briefly diverted from the roadway to make this crossing.

This shows where the West Towns crossed the Illinois Central near 26th and Harlem.

This shows where the West Towns crossed the Illinois Central near 26th and Harlem.

Car 128 in zoo service, heading south on DesPlaines at 31st.

Car 128 in zoo service, heading south on DesPlaines at 31st.

DesPlaines and 31st as it looks today, looking north. The West Towns streetcar ran where the grassy median is today, and continued a few blocks further south, before turning west to cross the DesPlaines River and First Avenue before reaching the Brookfield Zoo.

DesPlaines and 31st as it looks today, looking north. The West Towns streetcar ran where the grassy median is today, and continued a few blocks further south, before turning west to cross the DesPlaines River and First Avenue before reaching the Brookfield Zoo.

This may be Harlem and Cermak, looking north, with the car barn to the left.

This may be Harlem and Cermak, looking north, with the car barn to the left.

This photo may show a southbound car on Harlem Avenue between 22nd and 26th.

This photo may show a southbound car on Harlem Avenue between 22nd and 26th.

The 141 heading west, crossing Salt Creek.

The 141 heading west, crossing Salt Creek.

An aerial view showing where the West Towns crossed the DesPlaines River (just north of Park Place).

An aerial view showing where the West Towns crossed the DesPlaines River (just north of Park Place).

Car 126 at an unidentified location.

Car 126 at an unidentified location.

The Westchester Branch – What Remains

The IC underpass, looking south.

The IC underpass, looking south.

Following up on our previous post CTA’s Westchester Branch – What Might Have Been, we decided to scout out the old right-of-way, more than 63 years since the last trains ran, to see what we could find.  Fortunately, there are many traces of the old line that are still visible.

For your consideration, we present some modern-day shots of the same locations where “L” trains once ran, both along the CA&E main line and the Westchester branch.  If you ever decide to go exploring, to see these areas for yourself, we hope our efforts will give you a bit of a “leg up” on the work.

Interestingly, one entire half-block where the Harrison station once was, remained vacant land as late as 2011.  This has now been developed, and we have some “before and after” pictures for comparison.

Since there are so few streets that cross the former Westchester right-of-way south of I290, it would appear that some housing was built adjacent to the line even before abandonment in December 1951. The line still being in use would provide a logical reason for keeping new grade crossings to a minimum.

If the CTA Blue Line is ever extended west to Mannheim Road, it would cross the old Westchester right-of-way very close to this spot.  If a station is built there, that would be even more ironic.  Someday you may be able to take a CTA rapid transit train to much the same location that you could in 1951, but not since.

-David Sadowski

You might think that the CA&E followed a straight path to the DesPlaines terminal, but such was not the case. Heading east from First Avenue, where the Illinois Prairie Path ends now, it actually headed southeast before turning east and crossing the DesPlaines River where I290 does today, then connecting with the terminal from the south.

You might think that the CA&E followed a straight path to the DesPlaines terminal, but such was not the case. Heading east from First Avenue, where the Illinois Prairie Path ends now, it actually headed southeast before turning east and crossing the DesPlaines River where I290 does today, then connecting with the terminal from the south.

Approximately the same view as image 194 in our last post (showing a Westchester car heading west, crossing First Avenue). The old Refiner's Pride gas station has long since been replaced by an oil change shop.

Approximately the same view as image 194 in our last post (showing a Westchester car heading west, crossing First Avenue). The old Refiner’s Pride gas station has long since been replaced by an oil change shop.

Looking southeast from First Avenue. The CA&E tracks headed through this area, before turning east to cross the DesPlaines River. There were also some storage tracks in this area, now occupied by Commonwealth Edison.

Looking southeast from First Avenue. The CA&E tracks headed through this area, before turning east to cross the DesPlaines River. There were also some storage tracks in this area, now occupied by Commonwealth Edison.

Looking east from First Avenue. The CA&E right-of-way veered off here to the right, while the Chicago Great Western freight line went straight ahead. Some years ago, a new bridge was built where the CGW crossed the DesPlaines River, for pedestrian and bike traffic.

Looking east from First Avenue. The CA&E right-of-way veered off here to the right, while the Chicago Great Western freight line went straight ahead. Some years ago, a new bridge was built where the CGW crossed the DesPlaines River, for pedestrian and bike traffic.

The Illinois Prairie Path begins at First Avenue in Maywood. We are looking west.

The Illinois Prairie Path begins at First Avenue in Maywood. We are looking west.

We are looking east from 6th Avenue in Maywood, about the same view as seen in image 181 in our previous post (showing the CA&E 5th Avenue station).

We are looking east from 6th Avenue in Maywood, about the same view as seen in image 181 in our previous post (showing the CA&E 5th Avenue station).

The old CA&E right-of-way looking west from 6th Avenue in Maywood.

The old CA&E right-of-way looking west from 6th Avenue in Maywood.

The old CA&E main line, looking west from Madison and 19th.

The old CA&E main line, looking west from Madison and 19th.

Looking east from 25h near Madison, where a former CA&E station was located.

Looking east from 25h near Madison, where a former CA&E station was located.

Looking west from Madison and 25th. Some of the same high tension lines are visible in image 196 in our previous post.

Looking west from Madison and 25th. Some of the same high tension lines are visible in image 196 in our previous post.

The Illinois Prairie Path, at right, follows the right-of-way of the Chicago, Aurora & Elgin interurban.

The Illinois Prairie Path, at right, follows the right-of-way of the Chicago, Aurora & Elgin interurban.

Where the CA&E main line once crossed under the Indiana Harbor Belt RR. Since the railroad was scrapped in 1962, some concrete walls have been erected.

Where the CA&E main line once crossed under the Indiana Harbor Belt RR. Since the railroad was scrapped in 1962, some concrete walls have been erected.

The Westchester line branched off from the CA&E main line near the top of the picture, then curved to the south to fololow a path between Marshall and Bellwood Avenues. This was approximately the location of Mark Drive, which is designated as a street for a short stretch, but is mostly an alley. From Jackson it headed south, and there was a station at Harrison just west of Bellwood Avenue.

The Westchester line branched off from the CA&E main line near the top of the picture, then curved to the south to fololow a path between Marshall and Bellwood Avenues. This was approximately the location of Mark Drive, which is designated as a street for a short stretch, but is mostly an alley. From Jackson it headed south, and there was a station at Harrison just west of Bellwood Avenue.

An exception to the rule that you can follow the right-of-way via the telephone poles. These connect with the ones that follow the Westchester line, but the tracks were actually a bit west of this location on Madison Street (as can be seen in some of our other photos that show the actual location).

An exception to the rule that you can follow the right-of-way via the telephone poles. These connect with the ones that follow the Westchester line, but the tracks were actually a bit west of this location on Madison Street (as can be seen in some of our other photos that show the actual location).

This house can also seen in image 199 in our previous post, in a photo showing a Westchester car crossing Madison Street.

This house can also seen in image 199 in our previous post, in a photo showing a Westchester car crossing Madison Street.

The Westchester line crossed Madison at approximately this spot, where the house in the middle of the picture is now located. From here, the track curved off to run to the west of Bellwood Avenue.

The Westchester line crossed Madison at approximately this spot, where the house in the middle of the picture is now located. From here, the track curved off to run to the west of Bellwood Avenue.

Looking southeast at the old Westchester right-of-way, at Monroe between Bellwood and Marshall Avenues.

Looking southeast at the old Westchester right-of-way, at Monroe between Bellwood and Marshall Avenues.

Along Mark Drive in Bellwood.

Along Mark Drive in Bellwood.

Along Mark Drive in Bellwood.

Along Mark Drive in Bellwood.

Along Mark Drive in Bellwood.

Along Mark Drive in Bellwood.

Along Mark Drive in Bellwood.

Along Mark Drive in Bellwood.

Along Mark Drive in Bellwood.

Along Mark Drive in Bellwood.

Along Mark Drive in Bellwood.

Along Mark Drive in Bellwood.

Along Mark Drive in Bellwood.

Along Mark Drive in Bellwood.

Along Mark Drive in Bellwood.

Along Mark Drive in Bellwood.

Looking north from Van Buren.

Looking north from Van Buren.

Part of the old Westchester right of way has been turned into "Park Place," which appears to be a new street.

Part of the old Westchester right of way has been turned into “Park Place,” which appears to be a new street.

Looking north from Van Buren.

Looking north from Van Buren.

Looking north from Van Buren.

Looking north from Van Buren.

Bellwood Estates.

Bellwood Estates.

Bellwood Estates, as seen from the corner of Bellwood Avenue and Harrison, just north of I290. This development was not here in 2011.

Bellwood Estates, as seen from the corner of Bellwood Avenue and Harrison, just north of I290. This development was not here in 2011.

Bellwood Estates.

Bellwood Estates.

Looking south from Van Buren. The new Bellwood Estates development is at left.

Looking south from Van Buren. The new Bellwood Estates development is at left.

Looking north from Van Buren, the approximate right-of-way of the Westchester branch is now called Park Place.

Looking north from Van Buren, the approximate right-of-way of the Westchester branch is now called Park Place.

Looking south at the old Westchester right-of-way from Van Buren in 2011. The tracks followed the alignment of the telephone poles. This area has been built up since then.

Looking south at the old Westchester right-of-way from Van Buren in 2011. The tracks followed the alignment of the telephone poles. This area has been built up since then.

This 2011 view of the then-empty half block at Harrison and Bellwood, looking much as it had 60 years earlier.

This 2011 view of the then-empty half block at Harrison and Bellwood, looking much as it had 60 years earlier.

Undeveloped land near the old Harrison station, as it appeared in 2011 prior to the construction of Bellwood Estates.

Undeveloped land near the old Harrison station, as it appeared in 2011 prior to the construction of Bellwood Estates.

Bellwood and Harrison in 2011, before the construction of Bellwood Estates.

Bellwood and Harrison in 2011, before the construction of Bellwood Estates.

After crossing where I290 is today, the Westchester branch headed south and ran alongside the eastern edge of what is now Gladstone Park. The line went under the Illinois Central tracks and there was a station at Roosevelt Road, along with a couple of storage tracks.

After crossing where I290 is today, the Westchester branch headed south and ran alongside the eastern edge of what is now Gladstone Park. The line went under the Illinois Central tracks and there was a station at Roosevelt Road, along with a couple of storage tracks.

The right-of-way looking north from Kitchner Street in Westchester, just south of I290.

The right-of-way looking north from Kitchner Street in Westchester, just south of I290.

Grace Central Church on Kitchner Street in Westchester, some of the construction that has built up in the area since 1951.

Grace Central Church on Kitchner Street in Westchester, some of the construction that has built up in the area since 1951.

Looking south from Kitchner Street.

Looking south from Kitchner Street.

Looking south from Kitchner Street.

Looking south from Kitchner Street.

In places, it is only possible to follow the path of the old right-of-way via telephone poles.

In places, it is only possible to follow the path of the old right-of-way via telephone poles.

Looking south from Kitchner Street in Westchester.

Looking south from Kitchner Street in Westchester.

Looking north from the IC underpass.

Looking north from the IC underpass.

A dirt road passes under the partly filled-in Illinois Central underpass. We are looking south.

A dirt road passes under the partly filled-in Illinois Central underpass. We are looking south.

The Illinois Central underpass, as viewed from the south.

The Illinois Central underpass, as viewed from the south.

The partially filled-in underpass that once took Westchester trains under the Illinois Central.

The partially filled-in underpass that once took Westchester trains under the Illinois Central.

Here, the line continued to run south between Balmoral Avenue and Westchester Boulevard.

Here, the line continued to run south between Balmoral Avenue and Westchester Boulevard.

Finally, heading south past the station at Canterbury, the line curved to the southwest, following the general alignment of Balmoral Avenue until ending just short of Mannheim and 22nd. Insull planned for eventual extension west from this point to what we now call Oakbrook.

Finally, heading south past the station at Canterbury, the line curved to the southwest, following the general alignment of Balmoral Avenue until ending just short of Mannheim and 22nd. Insull planned for eventual extension west from this point to what we now call Oakbrook.

The #317 Pace bus stops at the exact location of the former Westchester rapid transit station at Canterbury.

The #317 Pace bus stops at the exact location of the former Westchester rapid transit station at Canterbury.

Looking north from Canterbury.

Looking north from Canterbury.

The right-of-way looking south from Canterbury.

The right-of-way looking south from Canterbury.

Near Mannheim and 22nd Street.

Near Mannheim and 22nd Street.

Near Mannheim and 22nd Street.

Near Mannheim and 22nd Street.

Near Mannheim and 22nd Street.

Near Mannheim and 22nd Street.

The Westchester right-of-way near Mannheim and 22nd Street, looking north.

The Westchester right-of-way near Mannheim and 22nd Street, looking north.

A bank now occupies the end of the Westchester line at Mannheim and 22nd Street.

A bank now occupies the end of the Westchester line at Mannheim and 22nd Street.

Bill Shapotkin writes:
It is interesting to see that the idea of looking at the r-o-w (such as the Westchester ‘L’) is not just my own personnel domain anymore. We can still learn a lot about the past by reviewing the remains of the present. (I especially like the before/after photos of the same house on Madison St in Bellwood (shown below).)

Kudos to you, Dave.
A few thoughts concerning the Westchester ‘L’ as it relates to the present-day: Some time ago, a fellow wrote (in a thread to this group) how the Westchester ‘L’ is missed (by the present-day residents) today. Not so — but just how are the residents of the area served today?
PACE #317 (successor to CTA #17) http://www.pacebus.com/pdf/schedules/317sched.pdf operates hourly (thirty minute rush) betw Des Plaines Ave and Balmoral/Canterbury. Service does NOT begin until later in the morning and does NOT run late into the evening. That said, on Weekdays/Saturday, PACE #303/310 http://www.pacebus.com/pdf/schedules/303sched.pdf and http://www.pacebus.com/pdf/schedules/310sched.pdf provide twenty-minute service as far west of 19th Ave — AND there are those two late-night trips (what would otherwise be pull-in trips) that cover the route west along Madison St.
It appears that whatever REAL traffic potential along the route of the ‘L’ is along Madison St — NOT in Bellwood or Westchester.
That said, PACE #301 http://www.pacebus.com/pdf/schedules/301sched.pdf  now provides frequent (thirty minute or better) along Roosevelt Rd on Weekdays/Saturday and forty-five minute service on Sunday. Of course, this also provides service along a route one mile south of Madison St and provides better west-end destinations (Hillside Mall (at least what is left of it), Oakbrook and (on weekdays), points along Roosevelt as far west as Wheaton. Wow! I can recall when this was a weekday-only route (on a sixty-minute headway) betw Des Plaines Ave and Hillside — and did not operate after 7:00 PM.
Further south, PACE #322 http://www.pacebus.com/pdf/schedules/322sched.pdf operates on a thirty-minute headway (Weekdays and Saturday) and hourly on Sunday (Sunday being the only real hours-restrictive  portion of the operation. Like the #301, there are good west-end destinations (Oakbrook and Yorktown).
Sadly, the north-south service of PACE #330 http://www.pacebus.com/pdf/schedules/330sched.pdf has not lived up to (what I believe is) its full potential. If the route served the Midway ‘L’ (instead of Archer/Neva) on its south end and actually served Metra’s MILWW line on a full-time basis (i.e.: served the Franklin Park (instead of the Mannheim) station), it would have a lot more of a following — and the corresponding service levels that the other routes now serving the area now have.
I believe many of us (and I include myself to a certain degree) have rose-colored glasses on when we look at some of the long-gone rail transit services. It appears to me that the present-day routes actually serve the are better — providing service to where people actually live and/or where they want to travel, which sadly the ‘L’ would not be able to do.
Slowly but surely (heavy on the slowly, light on the surely), I am documenting the Westchester ‘L’ and its present-day bus replacement services. Good Lord willing, this documentation will be completed later this year. When completed, the program will be offered to any interested group (such as CERA or OSA) for public viewing.

 

CTA’s Westchester Branch – What Might Have Been

The "Westchester-Maywood" route, from a 1948 CTA map.

The “Westchester-Maywood” route, from a 1948 CTA map.

This 1943 map shows where the Westchester branch ran.

This 1943 map shows where the Westchester branch ran.

Today’s photo essay features pictures of the former Chicago Rapid Transit/Chicago Transit Authority Westchester branch, which ran from 1926 to 1951. You can find an excellent track map here.  (You can also read our follow-up post, showing what traces of the old line are still visible here.)

It’s always interesting to speculate on what “might have been,” especially in the case of the Chicago, Aurora & Elgin, whose trains ran from 1902 to 1957 in Chicago’s western suburbs. What could have been saved? What should have been saved?  And, what can we learn today?

As you may know, ultimately nothing was saved, except the portion between DesPlaines Avenue and Laramie, which was taken over by the CTA in the early 1950s. That operates today as the outer portion of the Chicago Transit Authority‘s Forest Park branch of the Blue Line.

Speculation usually centers on whether the entire railroad could have been saved, bought by the State of Illinois, or at least, the portion to Wheaton. But in general, this section, the most viable part of the interurban, ran parallel to the Chicago & North Western‘s West Line, which continues to operate today under the aegis of Metra.

The State of Illinois made an offer to buy CA&E in 1956, and then backed out of the deal for various reasons. The only public entity that could have operated any portion of the railroad would have been the CTA, and yet their operating area was limited to most of Cook County.

Still, the CTA did some engineering studies.* In the short run, the idea was to put third rail shoes on some of the remaining PCC streetcars, and run a shuttle service between Forest Park and Wheaton. Just as with the CA&E operations between 1953-57, this would not have been a “one-seat ride” to the Loop.  (Some say these studies were made to demonstrate the impracticality of CTA actually doing it.)

In the long run, CTA would have ordered more new rapid transit cars, high speed versions of the single car units 1-50 that were built in 1960. These type of cars would also have been used if the CTA had been able to take over larger portions of the North Shore Line than the five miles that became the Skokie Swift (today’s Yellow Line) in 1964.

In retrospect, the opening of the Congress (now Eisenhower) expressway would have depressed ridership, so there is no way of knowing if such a CTA shuttle service would have been successful. But there was no way to pay for it, in the political context of the time, and therefore these plans were unrealized. But, if it had happened, most likely such a service would today be a treasured part of Chicagoland’s transit infrastructure.

But if we go back a little further in time, incredibly, there was rapid transit service operated by the CTA that ran to Mannheim and 22nd Street as late as 1951. This was the 5.6 mile long Westchester branch, a victim of budget cuts and expressway construction.

The Westchester branch was part of an ambitious mid-1920s Insull plan to create a high-speed CA&E bypass, similar to the North Shore Line’s Skokie Valley Route. However, there was less of a need for it, and by the time the Depression hit and Samuel Insull‘s empire collapsed, only 2.2 miles of it had been built off the CA&E main line, and local service was being provided by the Chicago Rapid Transit Company.

The Depression also put a stop to the pace of housing development in Bellwood and Westchester, as it had in Niles Center, where the CRT ran local service in a similar fashion. The “build it, and they will come” strategy was not unusual at the time, and had been successfully followed some years earlier when rapid transit service was extended to the Ravenswood neighborhood.

With the CRT in receivership, things remained “status quo” until the creation of the Chicago Transit Authority, which took over operations on October 1, 1947. In these heady early days, it was thought that modernization would reaped quick benefits, and there were efforts by the CTA to improve service to outlying areas, with the creation of extension bus lines and express buses.

Within a few years, however, there was nothing but red ink, and without taxing authority, the cash-strapped CTA had no choice but to cut unprofitable services wherever possible. The lightly-used Westchester branch was an obvious target for elimination, since CTA was a tenant, paying rent to the CA&E, who owned the tracks.

From CTA’s point of view, they saved money by eliminating rapid transit service west of DesPlaines Avenue, and tried to retain whatever ridership was there with replacement bus service, creating the #17 route, which continued to run for decades (and has now been completely replaced by parallel Pace suburban bus service, the #317).

Expressway construction was also a factor. The CA&E and CTA shared each other’s tracks, and compensated each other in turn. By the early 1950’s, these payments totaled about $250,000 per year and largely cancelled each other out. But a 2.5 mile section of the CTA’s Garfield Park/Met “L” would need to be relocated for five years, since it ran smack dab in the middle of where the Congress expressway would be built.

After nearly 50 years of joint operation on Chicago’s west side, coordinating the plethora of daily CTA and CA&E trains was difficult at best, and required near split-second timing. Schedules were complicated and there were various passing sidings, where expresses would be routed ahead of locals.

The CTA (and the City of Chicago’s) original idea for relocating Garfield service was for a wooden “L” structure along Van Buren Street. Presumably this grade separated service would have been fine with the CA&E, but the local alderman objected, and rather than face a lawsuit, which would have delayed the project, the City Council turned to Plan B– grade level rapid transit service, bisected by several cross streets.

This was originally promoted as a “street railway” service, which may be how they justified not using crossing gates. At first, it was thought that overhead wire could be used, but the Met cars did not have trolley poles, and this would have involved shifting around a lot of equipment. So, ultimately, the Van Buren Street temporary trackage used third rail without any more crossing protection than stop lights.

In 1951, CA&E management decided that this plan was unworkable for them, and would cause too many problems for efficient and safe operation. In a letter to their shareholders, CA&E proposed elimination of rail service on the interurban (presumably, freight service would continue), to be replaced by buses that would take riders from the western suburbs to the CTA Lake Street and Douglas Park “L”s.

CTA, for their part, anticipating that CA&E would soon become a bus operator only, began planning for a bus-to-rail transfer point between CA&E and CTA. At first, it was thought this would take place at Central Avenue, a point just west of where CTA’s own rails ended. But by 1953, this transfer point was moved west to DesPlaines Avenue in Forest Park.

Meanwhile, existing bus operators in the western suburbs had successfully blocked CA&E’s plans to substitute bus service for rail. Therefore, they had no real alternative to cutting back rail service to DesPlaines Avenue. This is how service was operated from September 1953 to July 1957. By then, CA&E ridership had been decimated, adn the railroad successfully petitioned to “temporarily” abandon rail service.

The abandonment actually helped facilitate expressway construction near the DesPlaines River, since no temporary service would need to be built. The railroad, in a sense, was still “made whole,” since by 1959 new rails were put in place for a connection to the CTA DesPlaines terminal. These are plainly visible in an aerial view in the 1961 CTA Annual Report, but they were never used, and the CA&E did not resume regular passenger service, and was liquidated in 1961. Attempts to save the interurban were too little, too late, and the suburbs that would have benefited from continuing service refused to contribute with tax revenue.

Between 1948 and 1957, the CTA eliminated about 25% of the rapid transit system it had inherited from CRT. This was mainly by slashing lightly-used branch lines (Stockyards, Kenwood, Humboldt Park, Normal Park, Niles Center, and Westchester). At one point, the CTA even proposed turning over the Evanston branch to the North Shore Line, but this did not happen.

By 1964, it seems the CTA had changed its mind about branch lines, for in April of that year, the phenomenally successful Skokie Swift service began running between Dempster and Howard, over five miles of former CNS&M right-of-way. By this time, some federal funding was available through a pilot program. CTA had to buy half of the Swift trackage anyway, just to access Skokie Shops.

Here, the CTA used fast, frequent service and a large park-and-ride lot to attract riders. And although it scarcely seems possible that the Westchester branch could have been saved in 1951, it would really fill a need today.

Imagine a west side corollary to the Skokie Swift.

By the early 50s, Bellwood and Westchester were prime areas for the postwar housing boom. This is especially true since these areas would soon have access to an important new highway. Growth in Westchester was being held back, however, since the same developer that had owned much of the property since the 1920s wanted to build all the housing themselves, thereby limiting construction somewhat.

After the CTA abandoned the Westchester branch, the CA&E liquidated the property, and the proceeds were distributed to the shareholders, instead of being reinvested in the money-losing railroad. This was the first of CA&E’s large-scale liquidations, where various portions of the railroad were sold to benefit the stockholders.

Getting back to what “might have been,” imagine how well the CTA would be doing today, if it had built a large park-and-ride lot at Mannheim and 22nd Street in the 1950s and kept the Westchester branch. As the area boomed in the mid-1950s, this service would have had tremendous potential.

And while this did not come to pass, the need persists, and something like a replacement for the Westchester branch may still be in CTA’s future. The Illinois Department of Transportation is working on plans for expanding and improving I-290 in the western suburbs, as the Chicago Tribune reported on February 27, 2013:

State transportation officials presented a narrowed list of four proposals that they say will improve travel on the Eisenhower Expressway, all of which include adding a lane to the highway and also extending the CTA Blue Line.

The four proposals, all of which include widening the highway between Austin Boulevard and Mannheim Road, extending the Blue Line to Mannheim and express bus service extending westward from Mannheim, were presented to a community task force. They will be further evaluated by state transportation officials as they study ways to make Interstate Highway 290 more efficient, said a manager of the project, Peter Harmet, bureau chief of programming for the Illinois Department of Transportation.

So, what “might have been,” may still be yet. We shall see.

-David Sadowski

PS- Christopher J. Lemm writes:

After reading your January 2015 story on the CTA Westchester Branch, the picture of the train crossing Madison street in Bellwood brought back some great memories. I grew up in that house, my grandfather was Clarence Lemm, track foreman for the Aurora and Elgin Railroad, he died in 1936. My father followed in grandpa’s footsteps, he worked at CTA 43 years, he started as a clerk and retired as the head of insurance and pensions. When my brother and I were very young my dad would take us for rides on the Aurora and Elgin, he used grandpa’s Sunset Lines employee pin and we all road free of charge. Thank you for some great memories!

According to transit historian Art Peterson:

CTA prepared studies for operation of both the CA&E (from Wheaton to Desplaines Av.) and for the North Shore from the Loop to Waukegan.  The CA&E study was based on use of the pre-War PCCs; for the North Shore it would have been higher-performance rapid transit PCC cars and an A/B service pattern up the Skokie Valley.  Both went no place, for lack of suitable funding sources.  CTA was prepared to accommodate CA&E in the Congress-Dearborn-Milwaukee subway (the west side connection to that opened on June 22, 1958, by which time CA&E was freight only.)

Some knowledgeable sources reported that CTA retained a section of the Humboldt Park Branch after the “L” shuttle service quit running in the E50s, to use as a CA&E turnback/layup facility.  Humboldt Park was the “L” line that ran parallel and to the north of North Avenue, joining the Milwaukee Avenue “L” line at the North/Damen station.

I believe we are looking east near Central Avenue, where the line curved around the south end of Columbus Park. This is approximately where the CTA Blue Line goes through the Lotus Tunnel. A small portion of Columbus Park soon gave way to the Congress (now Eisenhower) expressway.

I believe we are looking east near Central Avenue, where the line curved around the south end of Columbus Park. This is approximately where the CTA Blue Line goes through the Lotus Tunnel. A small portion of Columbus Park soon gave way to the Congress (now Eisenhower) expressway.

An eastbound single car near Central Avenue, at the south end of Columbus Park, now the site of the Eisenhower expressway.

An eastbound single car near Central Avenue, at the south end of Columbus Park, now the site of the Eisenhower expressway.

The passing tracks in this photo are a clue that we are near the Gunderson Avenue station in Oak Park. The Forest Park gas tank is at rear, so we are looking west.

The passing tracks in this photo are a clue that we are near the Gunderson Avenue station in Oak Park. The Forest Park gas tank is at rear, so we are looking west.

Looking west where the rapid transit crossed the B&OCT. Behind the car, the freight line branched off in two directions, to the CGW and Soo Line.

Looking west where the rapid transit crossed the B&OCT. Behind the car, the freight line branched off in two directions, to the CGW and Soo Line.

A pair of Met cars crosses the B&OCT heading east. This has since been grade separated. The gas tank in the background was a Forest Park landmark for many years.

A pair of Met cars crosses the B&OCT heading east. This has since been grade separated. The gas tank in the background was a Forest Park landmark for many years.

Here the the same crossing, but now we are looking east. This is now where I-290 runs through.

Here the the same crossing, but now we are looking east. This is now where I-290 runs through.

CTA 6051-6052 at the DesPlaines Avenue terminal in the 1950s. The Acme Feeds (7715 W. Van Buren) towers at are at the background. Among other things, they sold a product called Acme Worm Bouncer. After being abandoned for many years, the towers caught fire in 1980 and were demolished.

CTA 6051-6052 at the DesPlaines Avenue terminal in the 1950s. The Acme Feeds (7715 W. Van Buren) towers at are at the background. Among other things, they sold a product called Acme Worm Bouncer. After being abandoned for many years, the towers caught fire in 1980 and were demolished.

This is one of my favorite shots. An eastbound single car passes cemeteries in Forest Park, having just crossed over the DesPlaines River. This is the approximate location of the Eisenhower expressway today. The train is curving towards the DesPlaines Avenue station. The iconic gas tank was removed many years ago.

This is one of my favorite shots. An eastbound single car passes cemeteries in Forest Park, having just crossed over the DesPlaines River. This is the approximate location of the Eisenhower expressway today. The train is curving towards the DesPlaines Avenue station. The iconic gas tank was removed many years ago.

An eastbound Westchester car passes by Concordia Cemetery at right, having just crossed the DesPlaines River. This is where the Eisenhower expressway runs today.

An eastbound Westchester car passes by Concordia Cemetery at right, having just crossed the DesPlaines River. This is where the Eisenhower expressway runs today.

This picture presents somewhat of a mystery. Car 2311, signed for Westchester, is identified as being in Maywood on July 21, 1934, with a 4000-series car behind it. There were some storage tracks east of First Avenue, but I am not sure whether CRT used these. Or perhaps these cars are near DesPlaines Avenue.

This picture presents somewhat of a mystery. Car 2311, signed for Westchester, is identified as being in Maywood on July 21, 1934, with a 4000-series car behind it. There were some storage tracks east of First Avenue, but I am not sure whether CRT used these. Or perhaps these cars are near DesPlaines Avenue.

Here, we are just east of First Avenue, with an eastbound train approaching. You can just make out the sign on the Refiner's Pride gas station behind the car. We are looking northwest. Commonwealth Edison occupies this site today.

Here, we are just east of First Avenue, with an eastbound train approaching. You can just make out the sign on the Refiner’s Pride gas station behind the car. We are looking northwest. Commonwealth Edison occupies this site today.

A westbound Westchester car crosses First Avenue in Maywood. East of here (right), the line ran at an angle before crossing the DesPlaines River. This is where the Illinois Prairie Path starts today. The "Refiner's Pride" gas station at left was part of a chain run by "Montana Charlie" Reid, who also owned a restaurant in Villa Park. An oil change business now occupies the site of the former gas station. Reid also owned Montana Charlie's Flea Market in Bolingbrook, along historic Route 66, which is still in operation.

A westbound Westchester car crosses First Avenue in Maywood. East of here (right), the line ran at an angle before crossing the DesPlaines River. This is where the Illinois Prairie Path starts today. The “Refiner’s Pride” gas station at left was part of a chain run by “Montana Charlie” Reid, who also owned a restaurant in Villa Park.  An oil change business now occupies the site of the former gas station. Reid also owned Montana Charlie’s Flea Market in Bolingbrook, along historic Route 66, which is still in operation.

On December 7, 1958, CA&E wood cars 319 and 320 operated the last passenger train on that venerable railroad as a charter. Here, we are at Fifth Avenue station looking east. After the CTA abandoned the Westchester branch, this station was repainted in CA&E colors, and the interurban took over all service here from 1951-57.

On December 7, 1958, CA&E wood cars 319 and 320 operated the last passenger train on that venerable railroad as a charter. Here, we are at Fifth Avenue station looking east. After the CTA abandoned the Westchester branch, this station was repainted in CA&E colors, and the interurban took over all service here from 1951-57.

While I'm not sure of the exact location, we are looking to the northwest along that portion of the CA&E main line, where it ran parallel to the CGW through Bellwood and Maywood.

While I’m not sure of the exact location, we are looking to the northwest along that portion of the CA&E main line, where it ran parallel to the CGW through Bellwood and Maywood.

We are looking west, with the IHB crossing in the background. 25th Avenue would be behind us, and Madison Street is to our left. Here, the CA&E ran parallel to the CGW. The Illinois Prairie Path runs here now.

We are looking west, with the IHB crossing in the background. 25th Avenue would be behind us, and Madison Street is to our left. Here, the CA&E ran parallel to the CGW. The Illinois Prairie Path runs here now.

A westbound Westchester car passing under the Indiana Harbor Belt. The two lines were grade separated in 1930-31. This is now the site of the Illinois Prairie Path.

A westbound Westchester car passing under the Indiana Harbor Belt. The two lines were grade separated in 1930-31. This is now the site of the Illinois Prairie Path.

A southbound Westchester train crosses Madison Street in Bellwood, where Marshall Avenue begins today. The house at right is still standing. The Bellwood station was just north of here, near where the line merged back into the CA&E main line. We are just west of Bellwood Avenue.

A southbound Westchester train crosses Madison Street in Bellwood, where Marshall Avenue begins today. The house at right is still standing. The Bellwood station was just north of here, near where the line merged back into the CA&E main line. We are just west of Bellwood Avenue.

A northbound train at Harrison Street, with new postwar housing in the background. In the foreground, sidewalks that were already about 20 years old go past an empty lot.

A northbound train at Harrison Street, with new postwar housing in the background. In the foreground, sidewalks that were already about 20 years old go past an empty lot.

Westchester car 2814 heading south at Harrison. A small child in blue jeans waits for the train to pass.

Westchester car 2814 heading south at Harrison. A small child in blue jeans waits for the train to pass.

A southbound single car passes storage tracks just north of Roosevelt Road, which was the original terminal before the line was extended in 1930.

A southbound single car passes storage tracks just north of Roosevelt Road, which was the original terminal before the line was extended in 1930.

A single Westchester car passes under the Illinois Central near the Roosevelt Road station.

A single Westchester car passes under the Illinois Central near the Roosevelt Road station.

A two car train passes under the Illinois Central near the Roosevelt Road station.

A two car train passes under the Illinois Central near the Roosevelt Road station.

Here we see the south end of the Roosevelt Road station.

Here we see the south end of the Roosevelt Road station.

A single car at the Roosevelt Road station.

A single car at the Roosevelt Road station.

Here, we are just south of Roosevelt Road, at the beginning of double track.

Here, we are just south of Roosevelt Road, at the beginning of double track.

We are just south of the Roosevelt Road station looking north. From here to Mannheim and 22nd, it was single track.

We are just south of the Roosevelt Road station looking north. From here to Mannheim and 22nd, it was single track.

The Chicago & West Towns Railways also had some private right-of-way in the western suburbs. Car 160 is shown near LaGrange in December 1945.

The Chicago & West Towns Railways also had some private right-of-way in the western suburbs. Car 160 is shown near LaGrange in December 1945.

PS- You can read more about Acme Worm Bouncer here.  You can also see some additional pictures of the Westchester branch here.