Recent Finds and New Releases

A colorized view of the Indianapolis Traction Terminal waiting room, circa 1909.

A colorized view of the Indianapolis Traction Terminal waiting room, circa 1909.

Besides our usual crop of classic traction photos, this time we also have exciting news about two new products related to the Railroad Record Club. Our good friend Ken Gear has been hard at work on collecting all things related to the late William Steventon’s railroad audio recordings and releases.

The result is a new book on disc, A Guide To the Railroad Record Club (see article below). This was quite a project and labor of love on Ken’s part!

Kenneth Gear‘s doggedness and determination resulted in his tracking down and purchasing the surviving RRC master tapes a few years back, and he has been hard at work having them digitized, at considerable personal expense, so that you and many others can enjoy them with today’s technology. We have already released a few RRC Rarities CDs from Ken’s collection.

When Ken heard the digitized version of RRC LP #08, Canadian National: Canadian Railroading in the Days of Steam, recorded by the late Elwin Purington, he was surprised to find the original tapes were more than twice the length of the 10″ LP. The resulting LP had been considerably edited down to the limited space available, 15 minutes per side.

The scenes were the same, but each was greatly shortened. Now, on compact disc, it is possible to present the full length recordings of this classic LP, which was one of Steventon’s best sellers and an all-around favorite, for the very first time.

Even better, a considerable part of the proceeds of these releases, both available through our Online Store or through the links below, will go to defray some of the thousands of dollars Ken has spent in trying to preserve this history for future generations. Chances are, without his efforts, the Steventon Railroad Record Club collection of tapes and other artifacts would have ended up in a dumpster by now, for lack of interest on anyone’s part in saving them.

For this, Ken deserves the thanks of anyone who enjoys hearing these historic recordings.

-David Sadowski

PS- You might also like our Trolley Dodger Facebook auxiliary, a private group that now has 643 members.

Kenneth Gear now has a Facebook group for all things related to the Railroad Record Club, and other railroad audio recordings. Again, it is a private group.

Auction for Jim Martin’s North Shore Line Sign

Jim Martin is a great guy, and you may have seen some of the North Shore Line videos he has posted to YouTube, taken from his original color 8mm movies. He recently contacted us, as he wants to sell an original porcelain-on-metal North Shore Line sign he purchased from legendary Chicago bookseller Owen Davies in 1962.  (You can read more about Owen Davies here.)

This must have been from a Shore Line Route station, since the North Shore Line was still in operation at that time. You can find out more about this eBay auction here. Although we are running the auction and providing our “good offices,” 100% of the proceeds will go to Jim.

It ends at 9:02 PM Central Time on Friday, December 17th. Good luck with your bids.

Now Available – A Guide to the Railroad Record Club E-Book:

Price: $19.99

$10 from the sale of each RRC E-Book will go to Kenneth Gear to repay him for some of his costs in saving this important history.

As many Trolley Dodger readers are aware David and I have been trying to preserve the legacy of William Steventon’s Railroad Record Club. To that end we have collected all the released LPs and reissued them on CDs. We have posted many RRC traction photographs in this blog, put together a history of the club and gathered biographical information about William Steventon and his recording associates.

We uncovered some interesting information about the techniques and equipment used to make field recordings in the pre-digital age and the process of producing the LPs. I acquired the William Steventon estate and discovered a veritable treasure trove of unreleased audio, master tapes, original artwork commissioned for the album jackets, test pressings, movie films and numerous artifacts from all phases of the record making procedure from field tape to released LP.

Despite all that we accomplished we still had one very important question to answer. Now that we had all this material, how do we make it available to everyone who would be interested.

Much audio has been donated to museums and historical societies and CDs are offered for sale in the online store. The history of the club and the story of my efforts to buy the estate have appeared in this blog, but still, that didn’t seem to be enough. We wanted to do more. This wonderful historical material deserves more.

David finally hit on the perfect idea, he suggested that I write an eBook. This format would allow us to present not only a more detailed history of the club and an updated account of my purchase of the estate, but it could also include audio files, photo scans and movie files. Virtually all the Railroad Record Club archive could be gathered into one place!

I began to put the eBook together over a year ago. I rewrote the RRC history that appeared in this blog adding a lot of newly discovered data. Next, I revised my account of the estate purchase and wrote and entirely new chapter detailing the preservation efforts and the cost it entailed. I made lists of every single object acquired and made notes on condition. I spent many days photographing every item including scores of record jackets, labels, pressing plates and test pressings from the many editions of each LP. Countless hours were spent scanning documents, personal letters, magazine ads and articles. Photographs from the collection needed scanning and retouching. All this had to be cataloged and organized and information from many different sources had to be interpreted and fit into the timeline of RRC milestones. A lot of time and effort went into making the Railroad Record Club archive available on a convenient and inexpensive data disc electronic book.

In addition to all of the above, I have compiled what I think is an invaluable resource for RRC enthusiasts. The eBook has a compendium section that contains details about every released record. Each LP’s entry has all the accumulated information we have so far been able to discover about a particular record. Details such as the original release date, reissue date, differences in the various edition jackets and liner notes, master tape specifics and recording dates are listed. There are photo scans of each of the LP’s jackets, labels, test pressings, print blocks, master tapes, pressing plates and artwork. An “Additional Information” section is included for each record detailing any interesting facts we uncovered about the recordist, railroad equipment or notable incidents occurring during the field recording. Best of all each record’s entry has bonus audio tracks that may include unreleased recordings, audio salvaged from ancient homemade records, radio programs and/or railroad sounds from tapes that were in Steventon’s personal collection. Here are a two sample photos of record labels and the “data sheet” entry for Record Number SP-6.

RAILROAD RECORD CLUB

COMPENDIUM

DATA SHEET

RECORD NUMBER: SP-6

TITLE: THE MILWAUKEE ROAD

Box Cab Locomotives On The Coast Division

RELEASED ON 12 INCH DISC ONLY

NRP MATRIX CODE: NR 15567

YEAR OF FIRST PRESSING: 1983

JACKET ILLUSTRATION NOTES:

1st edition jacket has a drawing of CMSt.P&P box cab locomotive No. 10500 by Marshall (Pat) McMahon.  Caption under drawing reads “No. 10500, later E-25 on Houser Way Renton, WA in the 1930’s. Drawn from a photo by James A. Turner in the warren W. Wing collection.”

Back has liner notes.

2nd edition jacket identical to 1st edition

SURVIVING MASTER TAPE(S):

None in the William Steventon estate.

DOCUMENT/PHOTO FOLDER CONTENTS:

(There may exist other editions and variations then those pictured)

1st edition jacket front and back

1st and 2nd edition labels

NRP test pressing labels side 1 and 2

Cassette card

McMahon CMSt.P&P box cab artwork

SOUND FOLDER CONTENTS:

Short excerpt from the unofficial sampler.

Elwin Purington CMSt.P&P box cab bonus track.

Sound folder notes:

Track 1:

In 1965 William Steventon ceased operating the Railroad Record Club as an actual “club.”

From then on all records were sold individually with no minimum to buy. He also stopped producing the sampler records at this time and no sampler records were made after the 8th year (1964).

To continue where Steventon left off an unofficial special pressings sampler has been made for this eBook.  Excerpts of approximately 3 minutes each have been added to the sounds folders of the special pressings records.

Track 2:

This track was recorded by and is narrated by Elwin Purington. The recordings were made at Black River Junction near Seattle, Washington in 1960. The audio was taken from a tape-recorded letter Purington made to Steventon in 1961. These are some of Purington’s earliest stereo recordings and are very realistic. The air horn on those box cab monsters might blow you right out of your chair!

The scene opens as a long train arrives at Black River Junction powered by a set of the old box cabs. Various switching maneuvers are made in the yard. Then the cars are taken north on the wye and a “flying switch” is made and the caboose is moved over to the head end of the locomotives. The caboose’s high pitched air whistle is heard as the train, caboose now leading, crosses a road. Now heading east the train does more switching work. With all local work completed the caboose is put back where it belongs and the train heads out on the south leg of the wye towards Tacoma.

Total: 15:44

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

On the jacket front this record is advertised as the 30th anniversary issue 1953-1983. Steventon always dated the beginning of the Railroad Record Club to 1953, the year he made his first railroad recordings.

With the exception for two tracks on side 1, this is the only RRC record recorded in true stereo.

This was the last all new Railroad Record Club release.

Steventon first heard these Milwaukee Road box cab recordings in 1961. It would be 22 years before the recordings were finally released on vinyl.

Elsewhere on the eBook are scans of traction photographs that were sold by the Railroad Record Club.

There is a movie file containing William Steventon’s railroad home movies with footage of the PRR, B&O, N&W and NY Central among others. Traction fans will certainly enjoy scenes of the Washington D. C. Capital Transit streetcars and freight operations. A few screenshots follow:

Every known Steventon recording date, location and subject railroad has been collected and organized into a list.

Record ideas that never came to be are discussed and some interesting facts about the records and the people that recorded them are revealed.

For instance:

William Steventon endured health problems from an early age and his father, an engineer on the New York Central, broke company rules by allowing young William in the cab with him for fear that the child may die without them having spent enough time together.

Record Number 9 was recorded by Thomas A. Hosick. He was co-inventor of the low-pollution, Eliptocline automotive steam vapor engine and was featured in a 1966 cover story in Popular Science magazine.

William Steventon had the assistance of an CNS&M train accident victim in securing permission to make recordings on board North Shore trains.

Record SP-6 was the last all new RRC record and the only one recorded in stereo.

Many other previously unknown facts about the 37-year history of the Railroad Record Club have been painstakingly collected and combined with rare audio and video, vintage ads, photographs, catalogs and much more. A more complete look at the Railroad Record Club would be impossible to produce.

Despite all the work and research that went into compiling this archive, profit and return on investment was not the driving force. Preservation was! It is our belief that the best way to ensure that the legacy of the RRC continues to educate and entertain for years to come is to get it into as many hands as possible. That is why we are offering this incredible amount of material for the low price of $19.99. Each part of this eBook is worth that price on its own. Hours of vintage railroad audio, two video programs and scores of traction photos are included for that one low price. The compendium will prove to be a much-used resource to anyone who is a Railroad Record Club devotee. Even if you have little interest in the RRC itself, the audio and video alone is an outstanding bargain. Please consider purchasing a copy and help David and I preserve the work that William Steventon and all his contributors worked so hard to create.

Kenneth Gear

Now Available:

RRC08D
Railroad Record Club #08 Deluxe Edition: Canadian National: Canadian Railroading in the Days of Steam, Recorded by Elwin Purington
The Complete Recording From the Original Master Tapes
Price: $15.99

Canadian National. Steaming giants pound high iron on mountain trails, rumble over trestles, hit torpedos and whistle for many road crossings. Mountain railroading with heavy power and lingering whistles! Includes locomotives 3566, 4301, 6013, 3560.

Total time – 72:57

$5 from the sale of RRC08D CD will go to Kenneth Gear to repay him for some of his costs in saving this important history.

A railfan takes his picture of Philadelphia Transportation Company 5205 on September 14, 1956.

A railfan takes his picture of Philadelphia Transportation Company 5205 on September 14, 1956.

CSL 2802 must have been a fan favorite, as it was used on fantrips both on June 12, 1940 and July 13, 1941. Chances are this trip might be the earlier one, if the Indianapolis sign was correct. Indianapolis Boulevard is in Hammond, on the Hammond, Whiting, and East Chicago line that stopped going into Indiana on June 9, 1940. Of course, fans often used to put all sorts of signs up during trips, even if they weren't going to those places.

CSL 2802 must have been a fan favorite, as it was used on fantrips both on June 12, 1940 and July 13, 1941. Chances are this trip might be the earlier one, if the Indianapolis sign was correct. Indianapolis Boulevard is in Hammond, on the Hammond, Whiting, and East Chicago line that stopped going into Indiana on June 9, 1940. Of course, fans often used to put all sorts of signs up during trips, even if they weren’t going to those places.

Brooklyn-Queens Transit 8258, a Peter Witt, was built by St. Louis Car Company in 1925. The trolley is on Stillwell Avenue at Coney Island.

Brooklyn-Queens Transit 8258, a Peter Witt, was built by St. Louis Car Company in 1925. The trolley is on Stillwell Avenue at Coney Island.

The same location today, courtesy of Mark J. Wolodarsky.

The same location today, courtesy of Mark J. Wolodarsky.

Milwaukee Electric heavyweight cars 1129 and 1135, along with CTA trolley bus 9192, at the Illinois Electric Railway Museum in North Chicago, IL in August 1959. It is now at Union as bus 192, its original number.

Milwaukee Electric heavyweight cars 1129 and 1135, along with CTA trolley bus 9192, at the Illinois Electric Railway Museum in North Chicago, IL in August 1959. It is now at Union as bus 192, its original number.

Illinois Terminal combine 277 was built by the St. Louis Car Company in 1913. Here it is at the IERM in North Chicago in August 1959.

Illinois Terminal combine 277 was built by the St. Louis Car Company in 1913. Here it is at the IERM in North Chicago in August 1959.

Indiana Railroad car 65 at the IERM site in North Chicago in August 1959. Don Ross: "65 was built by Pullman in 1931, #6399. The lounge section was replaced by a baggage section. 65 was sold to the Cedar Rapids & Iowa City as 120 in 1941. In 1954 it was purchased as the first car of the Illinois Railway Museum, which was known as the Illinois Electric Railway Museum at that time. I put in many enjoyable hours working on that car prior to 1960 when I moved to Peoria." It appears this picture was taken when the car was being repainted from CRANDIC colors to its original IR colors.

Indiana Railroad car 65 at the IERM site in North Chicago in August 1959. Don Ross: “65 was built by Pullman in 1931, #6399. The lounge section was replaced by a baggage section. 65 was sold to the Cedar Rapids & Iowa City as 120 in 1941. In 1954 it was purchased as the first car of the Illinois Railway Museum, which was known as the Illinois Electric Railway Museum at that time. I put in many enjoyable hours working on that car prior to 1960 when I moved to Peoria.” It appears this picture was taken when the car was being repainted from CRANDIC colors to its original IR colors.

This, and the next two pictures, show former Milwaukee Electric work car M-15 at East Troy in August 1959. Don's Rail Photos: "M15 was built at Cold Spring Shops in 1920 as a trailer, but it was motorized almost immediately. It was transferred to the isolated East Troy operation in 1939, and sold to the Municipality of East Troy in 1949. It is sold to WERHS in 1982 and now preserved at the IRM (since) 1989."

This, and the next two pictures, show former Milwaukee Electric work car M-15 at East Troy in August 1959. Don’s Rail Photos: “M15 was built at Cold Spring Shops in 1920 as a trailer, but it was motorized almost immediately. It was transferred to the isolated East Troy operation in 1939, and sold to the Municipality of East Troy in 1949. It is sold to WERHS in 1982 and now preserved at the IRM (since) 1989.”

North Shore Line city streetcar 354 at the IERM in North Chicago in August 1959. Don Ross: "354 was built by St Louis Car Co in January 1928, #1453. It became the last car on August 12, 1951. It was purchased by the president of the Chicago Hardware Foundry. It was painted into the green and red of CHF, but the motors were removed. The car was acquired by the Illinois Electric Railway Museum (now IRM). Restoration began in 1958 (I put many hours on the car), and it is now in operation in Union. When I visited the car in 1989, it brought back many happy memories."

North Shore Line city streetcar 354 at the IERM in North Chicago in August 1959. Don Ross: “354 was built by St Louis Car Co in January 1928, #1453. It became the last car on August 12, 1951. It was purchased by the president of the Chicago Hardware Foundry. It was painted into the green and red of CHF, but the motors were removed. The car was acquired by the Illinois Electric Railway Museum (now IRM). Restoration began in 1958 (I put many hours on the car), and it is now in operation in Union. When I visited the car in 1989, it brought back many happy memories.”

A two-car Milwaukee Electric interurban train at an unknown location, bound for Milwaukee. (Ray Muller Photo)

A two-car Milwaukee Electric interurban train at an unknown location, bound for Milwaukee.
(Ray Muller Photo)

Chicago North Shore and Milwaukee car 300. Don's Rail Photos: "300 thru 302 were built by Jewett in 1909 as mainline coaches. As the steel cars arrived, they were downgraded to local and school tripper service. In 1936 they became sleet cutters. In 1939 300 was turned over to the Central Electric Railfans Association as a private car. The ownership remained with the CNS&M, but the maintenance was taken over by CERA. During the war, with many members in service, CERA relinquished control, and the car was scrapped in 1947. 301 and 302 were retired in 1939 and scrapped in 1940."

Chicago North Shore and Milwaukee car 300. Don’s Rail Photos: “300 thru 302 were built by Jewett in 1909 as mainline coaches. As the steel cars arrived, they were downgraded to local and school tripper service. In 1936 they became sleet cutters. In 1939 300 was turned over to the Central Electric Railfans Association as a private car. The ownership remained with the CNS&M, but the maintenance was taken over by CERA. During the war, with many members in service, CERA relinquished control, and the car was scrapped in 1947. 301 and 302 were retired in 1939 and scrapped in 1940.”

CNS&M 300 in Highwood, IL, when it was the Central Electric Railfans' Association private car in 1941.

CNS&M 300 in Highwood, IL, when it was the Central Electric Railfans’ Association private car in 1941.

North Shore Line car 300 at an unknown location (somewhere along the Shore Line Route), possibly on the same 1941 fantrip as in the previous picture.

North Shore Line car 300 at an unknown location (somewhere along the Shore Line Route), possibly on the same 1941 fantrip as in the previous picture.

North Shore Line Birney car 336 in Milwaukee in 1946. The city streetcar franchise holder was the Chicago & Milwaukee Electric, predecessor of the CNS&M, so that's how the cars were lettered.

North Shore Line Birney car 336 in Milwaukee in 1946. The city streetcar franchise holder was the Chicago & Milwaukee Electric, predecessor of the CNS&M, so that’s how the cars were lettered.

North Shore Line Birney car 329, built by Cincinnati Car Company in 1922, at the Harrison Street Shops in Milwaukee on June 21, 1947. (Bob McLeod Photo)

North Shore Line Birney car 329, built by Cincinnati Car Company in 1922, at the Harrison Street Shops in Milwaukee on June 21, 1947. (Bob McLeod Photo)

North Shore Line city streetcar 360 in Waukegan, signed to go to the Naval Station.

North Shore Line city streetcar 360 in Waukegan, signed to go to the Naval Station.

North Shore Line wood car 200, probably near the end of its service life in the 1930s.

North Shore Line wood car 200, probably near the end of its service life in the 1930s.

North Shore Line combination car 81, built by American in 1910, was taken out of regular service in 1935, and retired in 1937. (James B. M. Johnson Photo)

North Shore Line combination car 81, built by American in 1910, was taken out of regular service in 1935, and retired in 1937. (James B. M. Johnson Photo)

Chicago Surface Lines 4008 is eastbound on Madison at Laramie on October 25, 1945, sporting "tiger stripes."

Chicago Surface Lines 4008 is eastbound on Madison at Laramie on October 25, 1945, sporting “tiger stripes.”

The Grand Rapids Railroad did not number their streetcars, giving them names instead. This is the "James W. Ransom," named after an early settler to this area. Buses were substituted for streetcars here in 1935. (Stephen D. Maguire Photo)

The Grand Rapids Railroad did not number their streetcars, giving them names instead. This is the “James W. Ransom,” named after an early settler to this area. Buses were substituted for streetcars here in 1935. (Stephen D. Maguire Photo)

Chicago Surface Lines car 2855, possibly circa 1942, when CSL looked into putting cars like these back into service, after they had been in storage for a decade. Ultimately, it was decided against doing this, and this class of cars ended its days in work service. Don's Rail Photos: "2855 was built by South Chicago City Ry in 1907 as SCCRy 341. It was rebuilt in 1907 and became C&SCRy 841 in 1908. It was renumbered 2855 in 1913 and became CSL 2855 in 1914. It was later converted as a salt car and renumbered AA106 in 1948. It was retired on October 11, 1951." (Charles Able Photo)

Chicago Surface Lines car 2855, possibly circa 1942, when CSL looked into putting cars like these back into service, after they had been in storage for a decade. Ultimately, it was decided against doing this, and this class of cars ended its days in work service. Don’s Rail Photos: “2855 was built by South Chicago City Ry in 1907 as SCCRy 341. It was rebuilt in 1907 and became C&SCRy 841 in 1908. It was renumbered 2855 in 1913 and became CSL 2855 in 1914. It was later converted as a salt car and renumbered AA106 in 1948. It was retired on October 11, 1951.” (Charles Able Photo)

Five Mile Beach Electric Railway car 21, circa 1940. It ran in Wildwood, New Jersey. Streetcars were replaced by buses in this seacoast town in 1945.

Five Mile Beach Electric Railway car 21, circa 1940. It ran in Wildwood, New Jersey. Streetcars were replaced by buses in this seacoast town in 1945.

Five Mile Beach Electric Railway car 21, circa 1940.

Five Mile Beach Electric Railway car 21.

Five Mile Beach Electric Railway car 21, circa 1940.

Five Mile Beach Electric Railway car 21, circa 1940.

Five Mile Beach Electric Railway car 35, circa 1940.

Five Mile Beach Electric Railway car 35, circa 1940.

The Atlantic City and Shore (aka the "Shore Fast Line") ran between Atlantic City and Ocean City until 1948. Here, car 109 is in Atlantic City. It was built by the John Stephenson Company in 1906.

The Atlantic City and Shore (aka the “Shore Fast Line”) ran between Atlantic City and Ocean City until 1948. Here, car 109 is in Atlantic City. It was built by the John Stephenson Company in 1906.

LaMar M. Kelly (1897-1947) was an early, and noted, railfan photographer. He took this picture of Chicago Aurora and Elgin electric loco 3004 at the Wheaton Yard on August 6, 1939.

LaMar M. Kelly (1897-1947) was an early, and noted, railfan photographer. He took this picture of Chicago Aurora and Elgin electric loco 3004 at the Wheaton Yard on August 6, 1939.

LaMar Kelley's large 116-sized negative came in this old Kodak envelope. He took the photo in 1939, but the envelope could be even older than that.

LaMar Kelley’s large 116-sized negative came in this old Kodak envelope. He took the photo in 1939, but the envelope could be even older than that.

SEPTA 160, a Strafford car, is on the Norristown High-Speed Line at top, with an electric commuter rail train below. The bridge crossed the Schuylkill River. This photo was taken on September 6, 1978.

SEPTA 160, a Strafford car, is on the Norristown High-Speed Line at top, with an electric commuter rail train below. The bridge crossed the Schuylkill River. This photo was taken on September 6, 1978.

CSL 6285, called either a Peter Witt or a Sedan, is on Route 22 - Clark-Wentworth, possibly in the 1930s. Car 6285 was built by CSL in 1929.

CSL 6285, called either a Peter Witt or a Sedan, is on Route 22 – Clark-Wentworth, possibly in the 1930s. Car 6285 was built by CSL in 1929.

CSL 6208 in Hammond, Indiana in 1940, shortly before service on this line was cut back to the state line. Don's Rail Photos: "6208 (a Multiple Unit car) was built by CSL in 1924. It was rebuilt as one man service in 1932."

CSL 6208 in Hammond, Indiana in 1940, shortly before service on this line was cut back to the state line. Don’s Rail Photos: “6208 (a Multiple Unit car) was built by CSL in 1924. It was rebuilt as one man service in 1932.”

CSL 2615 (known as a Robertson Rebuild) crosses a bridge on 106th Street on June 21, 1941. We are looking west. Don's Rail Photos: "2615 was built by St Louis Car Co in 1901. It was retired on December 4, 1945." (Robert W. Gibson Photo)

CSL 2615 (known as a Robertson Rebuild) crosses a bridge on 106th Street on June 21, 1941. We are looking west. Don’s Rail Photos: “2615 was built by St Louis Car Co in 1901. It was retired on December 4, 1945.” (Robert W. Gibson Photo)

MBTA (Boston) 3344, an ex-Dallas double-ended PCC is at Milton Lower Mills on the Ashmont-Mattapan line on March 24, 1968.

MBTA (Boston) 3344, an ex-Dallas double-ended PCC is at Milton Lower Mills on the Ashmont-Mattapan line on March 24, 1968.

CTA 4000s and 2200s on the Loop "L" in 1973. looking west from Clark and Lake. The train at left is an Evanston Express, with Lake-Dan Ryan on the right.

CTA 4000s and 2200s on the Loop “L” in 1973. looking west from Clark and Lake. The train at left is an Evanston Express, with Lake-Dan Ryan on the right.

CTA red Pullman 863 is running northbound on Stony Island at 72nd, headed towards Navy Pier. A Kaiser-Frazer dealership is in the distance, and a truck dealer at right.

CTA red Pullman 863 is running northbound on Stony Island at 72nd, headed towards Navy Pier. A Kaiser-Frazer dealership is in the distance, and a truck dealer at right.

On May 16, 1954, CTA red Pullman 579 is at the Western and 79th turnaround loop on a CERA fantrip. During this period, streetcars were used on Western during weekdays only, so the fantrip cars did not impede regular traffic. (William C. Hoffman Photo)

On May 16, 1954, CTA red Pullman 579 is at the Western and 79th turnaround loop on a CERA fantrip. During this period, streetcars were used on Western during weekdays only, so the fantrip cars did not impede regular traffic. (William C. Hoffman Photo)

North Shore Line car 748 at Lake Bluff, IL on October 19, 1963, several months after abandonment of the line.

North Shore Line car 748 at Lake Bluff, IL on October 19, 1963, several months after abandonment of the line.

No information came with this one, which shows North Shore Line car 732 at, I presume, Highwood in perhaps the 1930s or 40s.

No information came with this one, which shows North Shore Line car 732 at, I presume, Highwood in perhaps the 1930s or 40s.

I recently won this auction for "an unsent Real Photo Postcard. It is titled Heyworth Grading Gang #5 Aug. '06. / C.M.E.R.R. (Horlicsville) (sic) Marshall Photo. CYKO Stamp Box on the reverse. Horlicksville was a place that takes its name from the Horlick family, which had the Horlick malted milk plant in the community. This town was located about two miles north of Racine Wisconsin and this photo would have been taken about the time they were building the Chicago Milwaukee Electric Railroad Line between Racine and Milwaukee."

I recently won this auction for “an unsent Real Photo Postcard. It is titled Heyworth Grading Gang #5 Aug. ’06. / C.M.E.R.R. (Horlicsville) (sic) Marshall Photo. CYKO Stamp Box on the reverse. Horlicksville was a place that takes its name from the Horlick family, which had the Horlick malted milk plant in the community. This town was located about two miles north of Racine Wisconsin and this photo would have been taken about the time they were building the Chicago Milwaukee Electric Railroad Line between Racine and Milwaukee.”

Chicago’s Lost “L”s Online Presentation

We recently gave an online presentation about our book Chicago’s Lost “L”s for the Chicago Public Library, as part of their One Book, One Chicago series. You can watch it online by following this link.

The Trolley Dodger On the Air

We appeared on the Dave Plier Show on WGN radio on July 16, 2021, to discuss Chicago’s Lost “L”s. You can hear that discussion here.

Our Latest Book, Now Available:

Chicago’s Lost “L”s

From the back cover:

Chicago’s system of elevated railways, known locally as the “L,” has run continuously since 1892 and, like the city, has never stood still. It helped neighborhoods grow, brought their increasingly diverse populations together, and gave the famous Loop its name. But today’s system has changed radically over the years. Chicago’s Lost “L”s tells the story of former lines such as Garfield Park, Humboldt Park, Kenwood, Stockyards, Normal Park, Westchester, and Niles Center. It was once possible to take high-speed trains on the L directly to Aurora, Elgin, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The L started out as four different companies, two starting out using steam engines instead of electricity. Eventually, all four came together via the Union Loop. The L is more than a way of getting around. Its trains are a place where people meet and interact. Some say the best way to experience the city is via the L, with its second-story view. Chicago’s Lost “L”s is virtually a “secret history” of Chicago, and this is your ticket. David Sadowski grew up riding the L all over the city. He is the author of Chicago Trolleys and Building Chicago’s Subways and runs the online Trolley Dodger blog.

The Images of America series celebrates the history of neighborhoods, towns, and cities across the country. Using archival photographs, each title presents the distinctive stories from the past that shape the character of the community today. Arcadia is proud to play a part in the preservation of local heritage, making history available to all.

Title Chicago’s Lost “L”s
Images of America
Author David Sadowski
Edition illustrated
Publisher Arcadia Publishing (SC), 2021
ISBN 1467100007, 9781467100007
Length 128 pages

Chapters:
01. The South Side “L”
02. The Lake Street “L”
03. The Metropolitan “L”
04. The Northwestern “L”
05. The Union Loop
06. Lost Equipment
07. Lost Interurbans
08. Lost Terminals
09. Lost… and Found

Each copy purchased here will be signed by the author, and you will also receive a bonus facsimile of a 1926 Chicago Rapid Transit Company map, with interesting facts about the “L” on the reverse side.

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

For Shipping to US Addresses:

For Shipping to Canada:

For Shipping Elsewhere:

NEW DVD:

A Tribute to the North Shore Line

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the demise of the fabled North Shore Line interurban in January 2013, Jeffrey L. Wien and Bradley Criss made a very thorough and professional video presentation, covering the entire route between Chicago and Milwaukee and then some. Sadly, both men are gone now, but their work remains, making this video a tribute to them, as much as it is a tribute to the Chicago North Shore & Milwaukee.

Jeff drew on his own vast collections of movie films, both his own and others such as the late William C. Hoffman, wrote and gave the narration. Bradley acted as video editor, and added authentic sound effects from archival recordings of the North Shore Line.

It was always Jeff’s intention to make this video available to the public, but unfortunately, this did not happen in his lifetime. Now, as the caretakers of Jeff’s railfan legacy, we are proud to offer this excellent two-hour program to you for the first time. The result is a fitting tribute to what Jeff called his “Perpetual Adoration,” which was the name of a stop on the interurban.

Jeff was a wholehearted supporter of our activities, and the proceeds from the sale of this disc will help defray some of the expenses of keeping the Trolley Dodger web site going.

Total time – 121:22

# of Discs – 1
Price: $19.99 (Includes shipping within the United States)

Help Support The Trolley Dodger

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Reflections in a Golden Wye

This photo, showing a mirror at the North Shore Line's Milwaukee terminal, was taken on January 21, 1963 (after abandonment) by Allan Y. Scott for the Milwaukee Journal. You can see the photographer in the picture, apparently using a Leica M2 or M3. This picture came from the collection of the late John Horachek. Rather than being a double exposure, it seems like the ghostly image of an Electroliner was applied to the mirror using a stencil and a product known as Glass Wax.

This photo, showing a mirror at the North Shore Line’s Milwaukee terminal, was taken on January 21, 1963 (after abandonment) by Allan Y. Scott for the Milwaukee Journal. You can see the photographer in the picture, apparently using a Leica M2 or M3. This picture came from the collection of the late John Horachek. Rather than being a double exposure, it seems like the ghostly image of an Electroliner was applied to the mirror using a stencil and a product known as Glass Wax.

For today’s post, we are going back in time, often even further back in time than we usually do, to feature some important historical images. Each one is like a small ray of light, that form a beacon when taken together, illuminating the past, like the reflections in a mirror.

It’s the earliest, and oldest pictures that are the hardest to find. So, we’ve had to redouble our efforts to seek them out.

In addition, we have important news about our new book Chicago’s Lost “L”s. We recently received a small number of “author’s copies” from the publisher, and the book is now a reality. We hope you will like the results.

Our initial order is on the way to us, and we are confident that we will soon begin shipping out books to our contributors and everyone who has ordered one in our pre-sale. All such books should be in the post prior to the July 12 release date.

More information about Chicago’s Lost “L”s, including how to order, can be found at the end of this post, or you can click on the link at the top of this page to go to our Online Store.

We would like to thank Kevin Horachek, Andre Kristopans, and William Shapotkin for their contributions to this post.

Enjoy!

-David Sadowski

Recent Finds

As a practical matter, color photography didn't exist in 1910, which is the postmark date of this postcard showing the Lake Street "L" at ground level in the Austin neighborhood on Chicago's west side. The view looks west from Central Avenue along South Boulevard (or, more appropriately, Lake Street, since the name did not change until the line reached suburban Oak Park). The "L" was extended there in 1901. This colorized photo may date to a bit before 1910, though, as by then, the Chicago & North Western trains, which ran parallel to the "L", had already been raised onto the embankment where the "L" joined them in 1962. This is a westbound train, as Lake Street ran left handed in those days (as did the C&NW).

As a practical matter, color photography didn’t exist in 1910, which is the postmark date of this postcard showing the Lake Street “L” at ground level in the Austin neighborhood on Chicago’s west side. The view looks west from Central Avenue along South Boulevard (or, more appropriately, Lake Street, since the name did not change until the line reached suburban Oak Park). The “L” was extended there in 1901. This colorized photo may date to a bit before 1910, though, as by then, the Chicago & North Western trains, which ran parallel to the “L”, had already been raised onto the embankment where the “L” joined them in 1962. This is a westbound train, as Lake Street ran left handed in those days (as did the C&NW).

The same location today. This portion of Lake Street was renamed to Corcoran Place in the mid-1960s, to honor the late Chicago Alderman in this area, who was a close friend of Mayor Richard J. Daley. Lake Street used to run north and south of the two railroads here for a few blocks between Pine Avenue and Austin Boulevard. There were no duplicate street numbers.

The same location today. This portion of Lake Street was renamed to Corcoran Place in the mid-1960s, to honor the late Chicago Alderman in this area, who was a close friend of Mayor Richard J. Daley. Lake Street used to run north and south of the two railroads here for a few blocks between Pine Avenue and Austin Boulevard. There were no duplicate street numbers.

I recently purchased this turn-of-the-century photo showing a Chicago Union Traction streetcar on the Lincoln Avenue line. CUT existed from 1899 to 1908, when it was absorbed into Chicago Railways. Sharpshooter's Park is where Riverview Amusement Park opened in 1904, which narrows down the time of this photo to circa 1899-1903. But the car itself looks like the "Matchbox" type, which was built by St. Louis Car Company in 1903. Car 1374 in this series has been restored and is at the Illinois Railway Museum. In 2015, the body of car 1137 was found in Wisconsin, where it had been used as an addition to someone's house. It is now in Grass Lake, MI.

I recently purchased this turn-of-the-century photo showing a Chicago Union Traction streetcar on the Lincoln Avenue line. CUT existed from 1899 to 1908, when it was absorbed into Chicago Railways. Sharpshooter’s Park is where Riverview Amusement Park opened in 1904, which narrows down the time of this photo to circa 1899-1903. But the car itself looks like the “Matchbox” type, which was built by St. Louis Car Company in 1903. Car 1374 in this series has been restored and is at the Illinois Railway Museum. In 2015, the body of car 1137 was found in Wisconsin, where it had been used as an addition to someone’s house. It is now in Grass Lake, MI.

CSL "Sedan" (aka Peter Witt) 6283 appears to be southbound on Clark, just south of downtown, in this circa 1940 photo. Don's Rail Photos: "6283 was built by CSL in 1929." This might seem unusual, that the Surface Lines had the capability or even the desire to build their own streetcars. But CSL was very much involved with the project that eventually created the PCC car just a few years after this, and it was CSL and not the ERPCC that had the two experimental pre-PCCs (4001 and 7001) built in 1934. Eventually, the CTA became the largest stockholder in the Transit Research Corporation, the successor to the ERPCC.

CSL “Sedan” (aka Peter Witt) 6283 appears to be southbound on Clark, just south of downtown, in this circa 1940 photo. Don’s Rail Photos: “6283 was built by CSL in 1929.” This might seem unusual, that the Surface Lines had the capability or even the desire to build their own streetcars. But CSL was very much involved with the project that eventually created the PCC car just a few years after this, and it was CSL and not the ERPCC that had the two experimental pre-PCCs (4001 and 7001) built in 1934. Eventually, the CTA became the largest stockholder in the Transit Research Corporation, the successor to the ERPCC.

Chicago Surface Line experimental pre-PCC 4001 in 1935, running on Route 22 - Clark-Wentworth. 40001 was built in 1934 by Pullman-Standard and was retired in 1944. The body has survived and is now at the Illinois Railway Museum. Here, it still has the striped trolley pole.

Chicago Surface Line experimental pre-PCC 4001 in 1935, running on Route 22 – Clark-Wentworth. 40001 was built in 1934 by Pullman-Standard and was retired in 1944. The body has survived and is now at the Illinois Railway Museum. Here, it still has the striped trolley pole.

Chicago Surface Lines experimental pre-PCC 7001 on Route 22 - Clark-Wentworth in 1935. It was built by Brill in 1934 and retired in 1944, scrapped in 1959. Here, it already appears to have a dent on the front end.

Chicago Surface Lines experimental pre-PCC 7001 on Route 22 – Clark-Wentworth in 1935. It was built by Brill in 1934 and retired in 1944, scrapped in 1959. Here, it already appears to have a dent on the front end.

Don's Rail Photos: "51 was built by the SP&S in August 1941. It was purchased by the North Shore in December 1947 and was completed as 459 on November 22, 1948." Here it is at the Portland yard on September 9, 1946.

Don’s Rail Photos: “51 was built by the SP&S in August 1941. It was purchased by the North Shore in December 1947 and was completed as 459 on November 22, 1948.” Here it is at the Portland yard on September 9, 1946.

A two-car train of North Shore Line Silverliners in Milwaukee in 1962. Larry Sakar writes: "The train is northbound at the north end of the 6th Street viaduct (which no longer exists). Below it on the right of the train is what was then Fowler Street. Today, that is St. Paul Ave which in NSL days used to end at 6th St. All of that changed when The Milwaukee Road built their new station at 5th St. Impending construction of the Marquette interchange and the end of the Milwaukee Road's 4th & everett St. station gave the city the opportunity to continue St. Paul Ave. beneath 6th St. to connect with then Fowler St. which then became the continuation of W. St. Paul Ave. The warehouse next to the train is also long gone. If you were standing here today you would be looking at the Milwaukee Intermodal station on the right and the main Post Office immediately next door east. If you look two blocks down on the left that is where the present day HOP Streetcar terminates. The train is northbound at the north end of the 6th Street viaduct (which no longer exists). Below it on the right of the train is what was then Fowler Street. Today, that is St. Paul Ave which in NSL days used to end at 6th St. All of that changed when The Milwaukee Road built their new station at 5th St. Impending construction of the Marquette interchange and the end of the Milwaukee Road's 4th & everett St. station gave the city the opportunity to continue St. Paul Ave. beneath 6th St. to connect with then Fowler St. which then became the continuation of W. St. Paul Ave. The warehouse next to the train is also long gone. If you were standing here today you would be looking at the Milwaukee Intermodal station on the right and the main Post Office immediately next door east. If you look two blocks down on the left that is where the present day HOP Streetcar terminates."

A two-car train of North Shore Line Silverliners in Milwaukee in 1962. Larry Sakar writes: “The train is northbound at the north end of the 6th Street viaduct (which no longer exists). Below it on the right of the train is what was then Fowler Street. Today, that is St. Paul Ave which in NSL days used to end at 6th St. All of that changed when The Milwaukee Road built their new station at 5th St. Impending construction of the Marquette interchange and the end of the Milwaukee Road’s 4th & everett St. station gave the city the opportunity to continue St. Paul Ave. beneath 6th St. to connect with then Fowler St. which then became the continuation of W. St. Paul Ave. The warehouse next to the train is also long gone. If you were standing here today you would be looking at the Milwaukee Intermodal station on the right and the main Post Office immediately next door east. If you look two blocks down on the left that is where the present day HOP Streetcar terminates. The train is northbound at the north end of the 6th Street viaduct (which no longer exists). Below it on the right of the train is what was then Fowler Street. Today, that is St. Paul Ave which in NSL days used to end at 6th St. All of that changed when The Milwaukee Road built their new station at 5th St. Impending construction of the Marquette interchange and the end of the Milwaukee Road’s 4th & everett St. station gave the city the opportunity to continue St. Paul Ave. beneath 6th St. to connect with then Fowler St. which then became the continuation of W. St. Paul Ave. The warehouse next to the train is also long gone. If you were standing here today you would be looking at the Milwaukee Intermodal station on the right and the main Post Office immediately next door east. If you look two blocks down on the left that is where the present day HOP Streetcar terminates.”

A Chicago & North Western train of bi-levels at the Milwaukee station on the Lakefront in 1962.

A Chicago & North Western train of bi-levels at the Milwaukee station on the Lakefront in 1962.

This is how the Chicago & North Western's right-of-way looked in Winnetka in July 1964. We are looking south from Elm Street. This area was grade-separated around 1940, with some financial help from the federal government through the PWA agency, in a similar fashion to how Chicago's Initial System of Subways was built. The North Shore Line's Shore Line Route ran at left until July 1955. (William Shapotkin Collection)

This is how the Chicago & North Western’s right-of-way looked in Winnetka in July 1964. We are looking south from Elm Street. This area was grade-separated around 1940, with some financial help from the federal government through the PWA agency, in a similar fashion to how Chicago’s Initial System of Subways was built. The North Shore Line’s Shore Line Route ran at left until July 1955. (William Shapotkin Collection)

An eastbound Lake Street "L" train is in Oak Park in July 1960, running alongside South Boulevard. (William Shapotkin Collection)

An eastbound Lake Street “L” train is in Oak Park in July 1960, running alongside South Boulevard. (William Shapotkin Collection)

A westbound C&NW commuter train stops in Oak Park in July 1960. (William Shapotkin Collection)

A westbound C&NW commuter train stops in Oak Park in July 1960. (William Shapotkin Collection)

A westbound Chicago & North Western commuter train departs from Oak Park in July 1960. Note the ground-level Lake Street "L" station at Marion Street at left. Just over two years later, the "L" was moved to this embankment. (William Shapotkin Collection)

A westbound Chicago & North Western commuter train departs from Oak Park in July 1960. Note the ground-level Lake Street “L” station at Marion Street at left. Just over two years later, the “L” was moved to this embankment. (William Shapotkin Collection)

An eastbound C&NW "scoot" (commuter train) has just departed the Elmhurst station and is seen crossing York Road. The view looks west. (William Shapotkin Collection)

An eastbound C&NW “scoot” (commuter train) has just departed the Elmhurst station and is seen crossing York Road. The view looks west. (William Shapotkin Collection)

What was billed as Manhattan's last elevated train heads north on the Third Avenue El on May 12, 1955.

What was billed as Manhattan’s last elevated train heads north on the Third Avenue El on May 12, 1955.

CSL 5769 on Route 5 - Cottage Grove-South Chicago circa 1940. According to Don's Rail Photos, Nearside 5769 "was built by Brill Car Co in 1912, (order) #18322, It was retired on November 8, 1948."

CSL 5769 on Route 5 – Cottage Grove-South Chicago circa 1940. According to Don’s Rail Photos, Nearside 5769 “was built by Brill Car Co in 1912, (order) #18322, It was retired on November 8, 1948.”

CSL Pullman 621, signed for Clark and Devon, is apparently running on Route 22 and headed north on Clark, having just passed Lake Street in this circa 1940 scene. The Shreve Building, built in 1875, was located at the northwest corner of Clark and Lake. Its construction was supervised by William Warren Boyington (1818-1898), who designed the landmark Chicago Water Tower. Not sure when it was demolished.

CSL Pullman 621, signed for Clark and Devon, is apparently running on Route 22 and headed north on Clark, having just passed Lake Street in this circa 1940 scene. The Shreve Building, built in 1875, was located at the northwest corner of Clark and Lake. Its construction was supervised by William Warren Boyington (1818-1898), who designed the landmark Chicago Water Tower. Not sure when it was demolished.

CSL pre-war PCC 7024 is eastbound on Madison Street at Mayfield Avenue (5900 W.) circa 1940.

CSL pre-war PCC 7024 is eastbound on Madison Street at Mayfield Avenue (5900 W.) circa 1940.

CSL Pullman 329 is on Route 21 - Cermak Road, possibly at the west end of the line, circa 1940.

CSL Pullman 329 is on Route 21 – Cermak Road, possibly at the west end of the line, circa 1940.

CSL 1801 is signed for Adams-Downtown in this circa 1940 photo. Part of Route 7 - Harrison Street went downtown via Adams Street. A nearby truck is delivering Ogden's Milk.

CSL 1801 is signed for Adams-Downtown in this circa 1940 photo. Part of Route 7 – Harrison Street went downtown via Adams Street. A nearby truck is delivering Ogden’s Milk.

The U.S. Patent Office in Washington, DC in the 1920s, with a streetcar out front, apparently powered by conduit via a electric plow running in a trough between the two rails.

The U.S. Patent Office in Washington, DC in the 1920s, with a streetcar out front, apparently powered by conduit via a electric plow running in a trough between the two rails.

Chicago Aurora & Elgin car 403 at Laramie Avenue on July 19, 1933. It was described as "red with gold trim." 403 was a Pullman product, built in 1923. Sister car 409 is at the Illinois Railway Museum. The view looks to the northeast.

Chicago Aurora & Elgin car 403 at Laramie Avenue on July 19, 1933. It was described as “red with gold trim.” 403 was a Pullman product, built in 1923. Sister car 409 is at the Illinois Railway Museum. The view looks to the northeast.

CTA trolley bus 9421 on February 12, 1973. Andre Kristopans adds, "Trolley bus 9421 SB on Pulaski at Sunnyside (4500 N). Old police station, now community center, on right." William Shapotkin Collection)

CTA trolley bus 9421 on February 12, 1973. Andre Kristopans adds, “Trolley bus 9421 SB on Pulaski at Sunnyside (4500 N). Old police station, now community center, on right.”
William Shapotkin Collection)

CTA trolley bus 9458 on February 10, 1973. (Michael N. Charnota Photo, William Shapotkin Collection) Bill Jas: "The pic of the Pulaski trolley bus is just North of Grand. You can see the old streetcar power house on the right. The same building that later collapsed onto Jimmy’s Hot Dog Stand."

CTA trolley bus 9458 on February 10, 1973. (Michael N. Charnota Photo, William Shapotkin Collection) Bill Jas: “The pic of the Pulaski trolley bus is just North of Grand. You can see the old streetcar power house on the right. The same building that later collapsed onto Jimmy’s Hot Dog Stand.”

The Chicago & Milwaukee Electric

The North Shore Line started out as the Chicago & Milwaukee Electric, before it was reorganized by Samuel Insull in 1916. Here are some early photos that reflect that history.

The Chicago & Milwaukee Electric station in Lake Forest. It was torn down around 1970, 15 years after the last North Shore Line trains ran here on the Shore Line Route.

The Chicago & Milwaukee Electric station in Lake Forest. It was torn down around 1970, 15 years after the last North Shore Line trains ran here on the Shore Line Route.

A close-up of the previous image, showing Chicago & Milwaukee Electric car 10. It was built by Pullman in 1899.

A close-up of the previous image, showing Chicago & Milwaukee Electric car 10. It was built by Pullman in 1899.

After the North Shore Line abandoned service on the Shore Line Route in 1955, their former Lake Forest station was used as a campaign headquarters in the 1956 presidential election. (Chicago Tribune Photo)

After the North Shore Line abandoned service on the Shore Line Route in 1955, their former Lake Forest station was used as a campaign headquarters in the 1956 presidential election. (Chicago Tribune Photo)

A Chicago & Milwaukee electric buffet observation car, from an undated postcard. Don's Rail Photos: "401 was built by Jewett Car in 1909 as parlor-buffet car. In 1917 it was converted to straight coach and retired in 1935. It was leased to Chicago Aurora & Elgin and renumbered 142 in 1936. It came back for a short time with the CA&E number in 1945 and sold to CA&E in 1946. It was retired in 1953."

A Chicago & Milwaukee electric buffet observation car, from an undated postcard. Don’s Rail Photos: “401 was built by Jewett Car in 1909 as parlor-buffet car. In 1917 it was converted to straight coach and retired in 1935. It was leased to Chicago Aurora & Elgin and renumbered 142 in 1936. It came back for a short time with the CA&E number in 1945 and sold to CA&E in 1946. It was retired in 1953.”

The Chicago & Milwaukee Electric's Zion station, from a postcard postmarked 1911. The religious fanatics who started this town made the interurban build a large station, in anticipation of rapid growth that did not occur.

The Chicago & Milwaukee Electric’s Zion station, from a postcard postmarked 1911. The religious fanatics who started this town made the interurban build a large station, in anticipation of rapid growth that did not occur.

The Chicago & Milwaukee electric station in Libertyville, from a real photo postcard postmarked 1906.

The Chicago & Milwaukee electric station in Libertyville, from a real photo postcard postmarked 1906.

Chicago & Milwaukee Electric Birney car 334 at 6th and Clybourn in Milwaukee. Don's Rail Photos: "334 was built by Cincinnati Car Co in December 1922, #2625. It was retired in 1947 and scrapped in April 1948." The C&ME name was used on these North Shore Line city streetcars, since that was the franchise holder in Milwaukee.

Chicago & Milwaukee Electric Birney car 334 at 6th and Clybourn in Milwaukee. Don’s Rail Photos: “334 was built by Cincinnati Car Co in December 1922, #2625. It was retired in 1947 and scrapped in April 1948.” The C&ME name was used on these North Shore Line city streetcars, since that was the franchise holder in Milwaukee.

North Shore Line wood car 305 (former Chicago & Milwaukee Electric) in Kenilworth circa 1930, running as a Chicago local on the Shore Line Route. Don's Rail Photos: " 303 thru 305 were built by American Car in 1910 and were almost identical. In 1939 they became sleet cutters and were retired and scrapped in 1940." (Kenilworth Historical Society)

North Shore Line wood car 305 (former Chicago & Milwaukee Electric) in Kenilworth circa 1930, running as a Chicago local on the Shore Line Route. Don’s Rail Photos: ” 303 thru 305 were built by American Car in 1910 and were almost identical. In 1939 they became sleet cutters and were retired and scrapped in 1940.” (Kenilworth Historical Society)

Did Not Win

They say you can’t win ’em all, and we certainly don’t. But while we did not win the auctions for these images, they definitely still worth looking at:

1899 New York City Shopping @ 22nd St & 6th Avenue L Train Glass Photo Negative recently sold for $247.50. Looks like the 6th Avenue line was still using steam power then.

1899 New York City Shopping @ 22nd St & 6th Avenue L Train Glass Photo Negative recently sold for $247.50. Looks like the 6th Avenue line was still using steam power then.

I did not win this auction, but I still think this is a pretty neat picture, of a four-car train of CTA 4000s southbound at Bryn Mawr in 1970. This is a southbound Evanston Express. By then, only freight locos were using the overhead wire here.

I did not win this auction, but I still think this is a pretty neat picture, of a four-car train of CTA 4000s southbound at Bryn Mawr in 1970. This is a southbound Evanston Express. By then, only freight locos were using the overhead wire here.

The following three glass plate negatives were identified as “1915 New York 7th Ave Subway Explosion Collapse 7 Dead.”

The next three glass plate images show women working as streetcar conductors on the New York Railways during World War I:

North Shore Line box motor 230 at the Milwaukee Terminal in 1941. By the late 1950s, the apartment building at rear had been torn down.

North Shore Line box motor 230 at the Milwaukee Terminal in 1941. By the late 1950s, the apartment building at rear had been torn down.

Book Review:

From Garfield ‘L’ to Blue Line Rapid Transit
by David A. Wilson
Dispatch Number 11 of the Shore Line Interurban Historical Society

Congratulations to David Wilson on his excellent new book From Garfield ‘L’ to Blue Line Rapid Transit. I would naturally like this book, since these are subjects I have written about extensively, in my own books and blogs.

Like many other people my age, I became fascinated with the extensive changes going on in the west side during the late 1950s, as construction of the Congress Expressway proceeded west and approached suburban Oak Park. I recall seeing the Garfield Park “L” and Chicago Aurora & Elgin interurban trains, but I never rode on them. We mostly took the Lake Street “L” downtown, and until 1962, that still ran on the ground west of Laramie.

I recall seeing “L” cars parked in Lockwood Yard, and I vividly remember our first drives on the new Congress Expressway, which partially opened in 1955, although it only went as far as Laramie Avenue (5200 W.). It was extended in stages in 1960, first to Central Avenue (5600 W.), and then all the way through Oak Park and Forest Park, to connect with existing highways west of there. I have naturally been a frequent rider on the Congress line (today’s Forest Park branch of the Blue Line) my whole life.

So, I have been interested in learning the details of how all this came to be for a long time, and I have been researching this subject ever since I was a small child. This interest culminated in my 2018 Arcadia book Building Chicago’s Subways, which is available from our Online Store and elsewhere.

The approach I took with that book was a comprehensive overview of the entire subject of Chicago Subways, starting with the river tunnels, first opened in 1869, the extensive downtown freight tunnel system, the various subway plans that were hashed out over 40 years, the Initial System of Subways (first started in 1938), and its culmination in the West Side Subway in 1958, as the Congress rapid transit line was originally known.

This is a large topic, and therefore it should hardly be possible for anyone to have the “last word” on these matters. Chances are, after we are all long gone, others will still find new things to say.

Dave Wilson has lived in Oak Park for a long time, and is also fascinated with this history.  His new book concentrates on just the transition from the Garfield “L” to the current Blue Line setup, and therefore it goes into greater detail than it was possible to do in my book. It will answer just about any questions that anyone might have had about how this all happened, excepting fanatics like me, who are constantly trying to learn more. (In fact, I bring up a few additional related topics later on in this post.)

Now that I have a few volumes under my belt, I tend to pay close attention to editorial decisions that others make, in their own works. This book packs a lot of information into its pages, and it should be no surprise that a few compromises had to be made.  There are only so many pages to fill in any book, something I know from personal experience.

Unfortunately there is no biographical information about the author, and I wish there were. I have known Dave Wilson for a long time, and he has been an avid railfan photographer since his teenage years. He has scanned thousands of his images, and has posted them to Flickr, for all to enjoy. You would do well to check them out.

For a time he worked for the Wisconsin Central railroad, and later, in bus planning for the Chicago Transit Authority.

The maps in this new book are excellent, and were made by Dennis McClendon, who always does fine work. In fact, he also did the book layout, which is attractive and skillfully done.

The photo selection is excellent. While there are a few images that also appear in Building Chicago’s Subways, they are great images in both books.

Another editorial decision was to include some lo-res images in the book. One in particular is rather pixilated, but in general when the image quality suffers, those images are made smaller in turn, so this is less noticeable. I am probably the only person who would notice this, though.  Any author has to collect the best images that are available, and they are not all going to be of the same resolution.

There is yet another book I can recommend, if you are still interested in learning why it was not possible to save the Chicago Aurora & Elgin interurban, despite the best efforts of three powerful Illinois politicians (Mayor Richard J. Daley, Governor William Stratton, and Cook County Board President Dan Ryan): Political Influence by Edward C. Banfield, originally published in 1961 by the Free Press of Glencoe.  I covered that book extensively in a 2015 blog post that you can read here.

In the meantime, I can wholeheartedly recommend David Wilson’s book, which is available anywhere that Shore Line products are sold. They are called Dispatches, even though the North Shore Line used the unusual spelling “despatch” back in the day.

Garfield Park, Where Are You?

A portion of a CTA track map dated October 1955. The tracks curved south west of Lockwood, unlike the way it appears here.

A portion of a CTA track map dated October 1955. The tracks curved south west of Lockwood, unlike the way it appears here.

As you can see here, the Garfield "L" ran straight east and west through Laramie Yard between Laramie (5200 W.) and Lavergne (5000 W.). (From a CTA track map dated October 1955.)

As you can see here, the Garfield “L” ran straight east and west through Laramie Yard between Laramie (5200 W.) and Lavergne (5000 W.). (From a CTA track map dated October 1955.)

For many years, I have been interested in just where the old Garfield Park “L” once ran. By 1960, it was completely replaced by the current Forest Park branch of the Blue Line (formerly the Congress line), most of which runs in the median of I-290.

The Chicago Tribune reported on June 4, 1928 that the Chicago Rapid Transit Company wanted to expand the Garfield Park “L” from two tracks to four between Marshfield and Cicero Avenues. The article states that CRT had already purchased 60% of the necessary land for expansion via private sale.

This expansion never took place (perhaps due to the Great Depression), but naturally the idea behind it may have been a factor in planning for the Congress median line, which has space for four tracks in approximately the same locations as the 1928 CRT plan, in addition to the section east of Marshfield, which leads to four subway portals near Halsted, only two of which have ever been used.

As noted in my book Building Chicago’s Subways (Arcadia Publishing, 2018), when the highway plans were being formulated, the idea was to relocate the Lake Street “L” into the median of the expressway, via a connection either at 4600 West, or near Kedzie (3200 W.).  Lake trains would have then run next to, but separate from, regular Congress rapid transit trains.

At the subway portal, Lake trains would have continued into a new Clinton Street Subway, which would have formed a subway “Loop,” connecting with the sections on Lake, Dearborn, and Congress.  Presumably, Lake trains were intended to circle this subway Loop before heading back out towards the west side.

The City of Chicago’s goal in all this was to tear down the Loop “L”, inspired by New York City’s gradual elimination of all the elevated lines in Manhattan.  This remained the City’s plan until Mayor Jane Byrne decided the Loop “L” was worth saving after all.  Chicago eventually built a new “L” line, the Orange Line, which opened in 1993 and connects to the Loop.

I traced the old right-of-way of the Garfield Park “L” on Google Street View recently, and came to a few interesting conclusions.  Although the “L” ran pretty much in a straight line between Kedzie Avenue (3200 W.) and Lockwood Avenue (5300 W.), heading west, at times, the “L’ is south of the adjacent alleyway, and at other times, it is north of it.

In general, the Garfield line was built mid-block, but at times, the location is about 620 South, and at other times, it is more like 650 South.  Maps seem to show a slight jog just west of Tripp Avenue (4232 W.), but this doesn’t seem like a definitive explanation for the change in alignment relative to the alleys.

The “L” crossed a railroad at around 4600 West, and it’s likely that the areas west of there were not yet developed when the “L” was built.  Early photos seem to show a rather barren area.  Perhaps the alleys preceded the “L” east of here, while they were built after the “L” in the western section.

Interestingly, there weren’t alleys for the entire stretch between Kedzie and Lockwood, because Fifth Avenue, an angle street that was once an important thoroughfare, crossed through near Pulaski Road (4000 W.).  The block narrows near that location, and alleys come to an end.

In general, it seems as though the “L” ran mostly south of the alley east of Cicero Avenue (4800 W.), which was the original end-of-the-line starting in 1895.  It was extended to Laramie (5200 W.) in 1902, and west of Cicero, the “L” seems to run north of the alley.  But of course, there were no alleys in the Laramie Yard area until after the “L” was demolished and the yard removed.  There is an alley where parts of Lockwood Yard once were, but it’s possible there were still tracks in place there for perhaps a year or so after the Congress line opened in June 1958.

Here are some pictures from Google Street View:

649 S. Homan (3400 W.), looking east. Here, the "L" was definitely south of the alley.

649 S. Homan (3400 W.), looking east. Here, the “L” was definitely south of the alley.

649 S. Homan (3400 W.), looking west, showing the area south of the alley, once occupied by the Garfield Park "L".

649 S. Homan (3400 W.), looking west, showing the area south of the alley, once occupied by the Garfield Park “L”.

648 S. St. Louis (3500 W.), looking west. The "L" was south of the alley here.

648 S. St. Louis (3500 W.), looking west. The “L” was south of the alley here.

617 S. Pulaski, looking east. The cross street is Fifth Avenue, which is at an angle running northeast/southwest. The Garfield Park "L" ran east-west here, and crossed Pulaski and Fifth at the same time. The "L" ran right over the area occupied by the building near the mailbox. Not sure if it was the same building then, but parts of it do look similar. There is no alley here, due to the narrowing of this block, as Fifth Avenue approaches from the north.

617 S. Pulaski, looking east. The cross street is Fifth Avenue, which is at an angle running northeast/southwest. The Garfield Park “L” ran east-west here, and crossed Pulaski and Fifth at the same time. The “L” ran right over the area occupied by the building near the mailbox. Not sure if it was the same building then, but parts of it do look similar. There is no alley here, due to the narrowing of this block, as Fifth Avenue approaches from the north.

614 S. Karlov (4100 W.), looking west. The "L" ran south of the alley here.

614 S. Karlov (4100 W.), looking west. The “L” ran south of the alley here.

This is around 650 S. Kilbourn (4500 W.), looking southwest. There was a Garfield Park "L" station at Kilbourn, and it appears to have been south of the alley.

This is around 650 S. Kilbourn (4500 W.), looking southwest. There was a Garfield Park “L” station at Kilbourn, and it appears to have been south of the alley.

At approximately 650 S. Kolmar (4532 W.), the Chicago Transit Authority has a building. Not sure what it is used for, or if the Garfield Park "L" ran over head. It's possible that the "L" ran in the area just north of the alley here. This view looks west.

At approximately 650 S. Kolmar (4532 W.), the Chicago Transit Authority has a building. Not sure what it is used for, or if the Garfield Park “L” ran over head. It’s possible that the “L” ran in the area just north of the alley here. This view looks west.

At around 620 S. Kilpatrick (4700 W.), the Garfield Park "L" ran south of the alley. This view looks east.

At around 620 S. Kilpatrick (4700 W.), the Garfield Park “L” ran south of the alley. This view looks east.

At 650 S. Lavergne (5000 W.), the Garfield Park "L" ran just north of the alley. Laramie Yard was just west of here, and the "L" at this point was descending to ground level from the Cicero Avenue "L" station, two blocks east. This view looks east.

At 650 S. Lavergne (5000 W.), the Garfield Park “L” ran just north of the alley. Laramie Yard was just west of here, and the “L” at this point was descending to ground level from the Cicero Avenue “L” station, two blocks east. This view looks east.

The Garfield Park "L" tracks crossed Lockwood at about 650 South. A short distance west of here, they made a sweeping curve and went a bit to the south, and ran parallel to the B&OCT railroad tracks through Oak Park and Forest Park.

The Garfield Park “L” tracks crossed Lockwood at about 650 South. A short distance west of here, they made a sweeping curve and went a bit to the south, and ran parallel to the B&OCT railroad tracks through Oak Park and Forest Park.

The view looking south at 646 S. Lockwood Avenue (5300 W.), showing the hump where the Garfield Park "L" crossed here. There was no alley to the right until after the "L" was removed, as that was where Lockwood Yard had been.

The view looking south at 646 S. Lockwood Avenue (5300 W.), showing the hump where the Garfield Park “L” crossed here. There was no alley to the right until after the “L” was removed, as that was where Lockwood Yard had been.

And here are some additional clues from the CTA Transit News, reporting on the demolition of the Garfield Park (and Metropolitan main line) “L” after the Congress line opened in June 1958. They show that the “L” ran south of the alley at Kilpatrick Avenue (4700 W.) but at Lavergne Avenue (5000 W.), it was north of the alley.

The Garfield Park "L" crossed over railroad tracks at about 4600 West. Interestingly, note that between the two sides of the railroad embankment, the alley between Harrison and Flournoy is not quite in the same location.

The Garfield Park “L” crossed over railroad tracks at about 4600 West. Interestingly, note that between the two sides of the railroad embankment, the alley between Harrison and Flournoy is not quite in the same location.

Recent Correspondence

We recently wrote to fellow historian Andres Kristopans:

It has been my understanding for many years that the CTA right-of-way between the Lotus Tunnel (5400 W.) and Forest Park was planned for three tracks.

This is a self-evident fact; the tunnel has portals on both sides, there is room for a third track north of the existing two west of there, and the bridge over DesPlaines Avenue was obviously designed for three tracks.

The question of what this third track was intended for recently came up in a discussion on the Facebook Chicago Elevated group. My source on that point, that the third track was intended for use by the Chicago Aurora & Elgin interurban, was my discussions and correspondence with George Krambles some 40 years ago).

But that did get me interested in looking into the matter further.

By 1940, planning for the new Congress expressway envisioned replacing the Garfield Park “L” with a line in the expressway median to Laramie Avenue (5200 W.), at least according to the film Streamlining Chicago.

This raises the question, when was the Lotus Tunnel planned, and why are there three tunnels?

The Congress median right-of-way was, to some extent, based on the existing Garfield setup. Garfield had four tracks as far as Paulina (1700 W.), although there had been plans to add two more tracks west of there in the late 1920s.

The three branches of the Met came together at Marshfield Junction, and this was undoubtedly seen as an undesirable situation, one that should be avoided in the future. By routing abandoning the Humboldt Park branch, and re-routing Logan Square into the new Milwaukee-Dearborn subway, this problem was solved.

But another goal of city planners was the gradual elimination of all the “L”s and their replacement by subways. The Lake Street “L” was targeted for this process, first with a plan to connect it to the Milwaukee-Dearborn subway just west of the Loop, and later by diverting it to the Congress median via a mile-long subway or elevated connection, either at Kedzie (3200 W.) or later, at 4600 W.

The Lake Street tracks were to be kept separate from other Congress line trains, therefore requiring a four-track right-of-way all the way to the subway portals just east of Halsted Street. The two unused portals were intended for a Clinton Street subway, a north-south branch that would have created a downtown subway loop in conjunction with the portions on Lake, Dearborn, and Congress.

Lake Street trains could have circled this loop, since otherwise, there was no obvious way to through-route them with another line at that time. It was thought that this change would have made it possible to tear down half of the Loop “L”, namely the Lake Street and Wabash Avenue legs, the exact opposite of what the City hoped to do in the 1970s.

So, the Congress median line, in the planning stages, had space enough for four tracks from Halsted to wherever the Lake line could have been brought in, which could have been as far as 4600 W.

This still does not explain why planners thought there should be three tracks starting at the Lotus Tunnel (5400 W.) and heading west.

As far back as 1945, it was expected that the CA&E tracks running through Forest Park, and the B&OCT, would run in an open cut in the expressway through suburban Oak Park. There are Cook County plans with such illustrations.

CRT leased CA&E’s tracks west of Laramie, and CA&E leased CRT’s tracks east of there, an arrangement that largely resulted in a wash financially for both companies (and, later, CRT’s successor, the CTA).

In the stretch between Forest Park and Laramie, the CA&E operated what amounted to an express service, and CRT, locals. There was a passing track at Gunderson, where express trains could pass slower locals.

That was the “old” way of operating a railroad, one increasingly at odds with the more modern way of doing things. It was labor-intensive and required a high level of competence; split-second timing, in fact.

IMHO, the solution to this in the new plan was simply to keep the locals and expresses separated. There would be two tracks for the CRT locals and one for the CA&E expresses.

As the highway plans neared fruition, the CA&E reported in 1950 that they lacked the funds to build new tracks in a highway right-of-way west of Austin Boulevard. CA&E owned the current trackage west of Laramie Avenue. The City of Chicago only had responsibility to build the Congress expressway as far as the city limits (Austin, 6000 W.).

The Lotus Tunnel was needed all along, because there needed to be some way to connect the CA&E tracks with CRT’s, and it made sense to have the new track alignment run on the south side of the highway footprint, parallel to the B&OCT. It must have been planned early on, perhaps as far back as 1945.

The CTA proposed taking over the right-of-way to Forest Park in 1952, as a way to solve the problems with CA&E. By then, the interurban had already decided not to run downtown on CTA’s tracks. The CTA had abandoned the Westchester branch in December 1951, as a means of saving money. So, CA&E no longer had income to offset the cost of using CTA’s tracks. Continuing operations into the City would be a drain of CA&E’s coffers, whatever the merits pro and con would have been for running on the Van Buren Street temporary trackage.

The highway planners, in the early 1950s, understood that if CA&E had been unable to connect with the CTA somewhere, this would have immediately put them out of business. Hence the county was very much interested in a solution to this problem. CA&E said they could not afford to build new tracks and facilities in the two miles or so of the relocated right-of-way between Austin Boulevard and DesPlaines Avenue.

All the more reason not to change the plans, likely made circa 1945, for three tracks in the new section. Cook County government did not want to be the cause of CA&E’s demise.

It was fortunate that the CTA stepped in and offered a creative solution to this problem, which also allowed them, as a result, to continue operating service to Forest Park.

So, in 1953 CA&E sold their right-of-way to the county as far west as DesPlaines Avenue (but not the river crossing, not until 1957), and the CTA purchased their fixed assets, the tracks, signals, stations, etc., which would all need to be replaced anyway.

This gave the CTA “skin in the game” to continue operating service to Forest Park. The plan to hand off CA&E riders to the CTA at DesPlaines Avenue did not come about until 1953. This is evidenced both in contemporary newspaper reports, and in how the Forest Park Terminal was hurriedly altered at practically the last minute to adopt the new arrangements.

Until then, it was expected that this handoff would take place at Laramie Avenue, where CA&E’s tracks ended and CTA’s began. There was also an intermediate plan to make Central Avenue the changeover point instead, as the CTA briefly considered building a bus-rail facility there instead of Forest Park. CTA made an artist’s rendering of this, which I have seen.

So, in sum, the plan for three tracks west of Laramie probably dated as far back as 1945, when engineering was being done for the expressway extension into the western suburbs. This plan was not changed when the facilities were built. The Lotus Tunnel has three tunnels, the right-of-way has space for three tracks (north of the existing two), and the steel bridge over the DesPlaines Avenue underpass was designed for three tracks.

By the time the final design work was done for the stations in this section, in the late 1950s, the CA&E was no longer an issue. The CTA had built what they needed built, and did the minimum that was necessary just in case it might have been possible for the CA&E to resume operations downtown.

And this is something that CA&E went back and forth on. Both CTA and CA&E seemed perfectly happy to separate their tracks from each other in 1953. It is my belief that, early on, the CA&E decided on a policy of a gradual or piecemeal abandonment, selling off parts of their line, and distributing the proceeds to their shareholders, instead of using it to buy new equipment.

This is based on the notion that the new highway itself had doomed the interurban, which in an era where there were no government subsidies, was likely the only logical conclusion.

The CTA still had to figure out where their yard would be for the new Congress service. In the late 1950s, they were still considering using Laramie Yard, which would need to be connected to the median line by an elevated connection, estimated to cost $1m.

Building a new yard at DesPlaines Avenue was a cost-saving alternative. But there was still the question of who owned the terminal there, as CA&E hadn’t sold it as part of the 1953 deal. It wasn’t part of the highway project, and in fact, in 1957, CA&E had filed suit to evict the CTA from the Forest Park terminal, as a way of putting pressure on the powers-that-be to get more money for the river crossing (which they did) and get the courts to agree to a “temporary” abandonment of passenger service (which they did).

That those two events happened almost simultaneously makes one wonder if perhaps there was a “quid pro quo” involved, although at this stage, there is probably no way to prove it.

Andre replies:

I will go along with your analysis. The whole problem was a lack of money. CTA in 1945 was set up on the premise of taking over all local transportation in the metro area, but there was a fatal flaw in that CTA had no outside income except by selling bonds. When the suburban bus and rail lines were found to be more highly valued than expected, CTA could not come up with enough money to buy them out. There were ideas to take over CA&E to Wheaton and North Shore to Waukegan, but nothing came of them because the various towns along the lines could not agree on financial assistance. Those directly on line demanded those further, especially along CA&E, kick in as they would also benefit, but places like Addison and Bloomingdale refused, so nothing could be agreed to and the idea died. It took until RTA in 1982 to finally do this, with federal money.

In many ways, CTA was an idea way ahead of its time. Remember CTA was the very first “transit authority”. Before you had municipal operations like Cleveland where city took over failing private operations, but this was the first “independent governmental body” with jurisdiction not based on municipal boundaries. Too bad nobody thought to give it taxing authority at the time, as everyone thought once relieved of regulation and duplication, transit would be profitable again, and in fact the idea was that CTA would only be a “temporary” owner, who after restructuring Chicago area transit into profitability would then sell the system to a private operator and use the proceeds to retire the bonds sold to buy and modernize the system. But because nothing could be done with the suburban operators, CTA became the permanent owner of the city system, for 74 years now.

There was the negative example of municipal ownership in New York City, where building the IND subway practically bankrupted the city. So it is no wonder that Chicago had to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into it.

The City of Chicago resisted the idea of public ownership for years, until all the various schemes for unifying CSL and CRT had failed, and there was no other viable option (by 1943). The situation might have festered, but the city had pledged to push through transit unification as a condition of accepting federal funds to pay for 45% of the Initial System of Subways (which ended up being more like 33% by the time the Milwaukee-Dearborn subway opened).

When WWII ended, the City resumed work on the unfinished Dearborn-Milwaukee subway, and soon work began in earnest on building the Congress superhighway. But there was no more federal money in the offing, and it was a struggle just to get the subway open by 1951.

The City had to float a $25m bond issue, which in essence reimbursed the transit improvement fund for monies that were taken from it during the Great Depression.

The scope of projects had to be scaled back. It seems as though the idea of re-routing Lake onto Congress was still alive as of 1948, but got put off into an indefinite future, due to the cost of building a mile long connection between the two lines, plus the Clinton subway.

Once CTA was in charge, they quickly identified the Lake Street “L”s problem area as the grade-level outer end, and not the elevated portion. And service was speeded up by using A/B skip-stop service, which became a model for the rest of the system.

The ultimate solution to Lake’s problems was not realized until 1962, when the line was elevated onto the Chicago & North Western embankment, followed by a proper yard west of Harlem.

The Van Buren temporary trackage gummed things up on Garfield for a few years, but inadvertently helped turn the eventual Congress line into something more like an express service. The CTA responded to the slow running times on Van Buren by closing some of the more minor stations on the line west of there, to the point where Garfield travel times in 1958 were largely the same as they had been prior to the September 1953 change.

This, in turn, influenced the locations of stations on the new Congress line. Whereas at first, plans called for merely replacing the old Garfield stations with new ones on Congress, over time, fewer new stations were planned.

The one glaring exception, of course, was Kostner, which was mandated by the City Council for political reasons, as there were three Aldermen lobbying for it (their wards were nearby). This one example of the “old” way of doing things turned out to be a dismal failure, and the station barely lasted a decade.

Andre:

Actually since 1913 CSL was a strange situation of private ownership but municipal operation. Chicago Surface Lines Joint Board of Management and Operation (the full name) was a city agency that directed day to day operations while CRys, CCRy, C&SCRys, all stock companies, were the actual owners. Probably only such arrangement anywhere. So in fact in 1945 city ceded control to an independent agency, though ownership transfer of assets took two more years to arrange.

CSL was not in trouble per se. Bankruptcy was more to keep franchise from expiring than any real financial collapse, whereas CRT was basically barely able to make payroll, with nothing left over for maintenance, etc. If CRT could not be foisted off on CSL, it would have been abandoned soon.

The Dean of Chicago Railfans

Raymond DeGroote, Jr. waits for DC Transit pre-PCC streetcar 1053 to descend a viaduct in Washington, DC on October 15, 1961, so he can get his picture. Streetcars in portions of the District of Columbia were forbidden to use overhead wire, and were powered by an underground conduit instead. (William C. Hoffman Photo)

Raymond DeGroote, Jr. waits for DC Transit pre-PCC streetcar 1053 to descend a viaduct in Washington, DC on October 15, 1961, so he can get his picture. Streetcars in portions of the District of Columbia were forbidden to use overhead wire, and were powered by an underground conduit instead. (William C. Hoffman Photo)

My friend Raymond DeGroote, Jr. will turn 91 years old on July 15th. He has been very active in Chicago’s railfan community since the 1940s. He was most likely a first-day rider when Chicago’s first subway opened on October 17, 1943, over 77 years ago.

He has taken thousands of photos over the years, starting in about 1948 with black-and-white, and color slides since 1954. Ray is a world traveler, has written numerous articles, and has given numerous presentations on a wide range of railfan subjects. His work has appeared in many books, and he has been a mentor to me in this field since we first met in the late 1970s.  He has worked tirelessly for many of the leading railfan organizations over the years.

Thanks to Ray, I became part of what he likes to call the “intelligence network” of railfans, in an era before the Internet made it possible to have a world of information at your fingertips.

Therefore, when I started work on my new book Chicago’s Lost “L”s, I could not think of anyone more deserving to dedicate the book to than Ray, who I consider the Dean of Chicago railfans. Once I received a small number of “author’s copies,” I sent one to him.

Here is his reply:

Thank you very much for my copy of Chicago’s Lost “L”s. The book is much appreciated and will provide many hours of pleasure reading and looking at the pictures.

I already found several very interesting ones. For example, I had never seen a picture of Willow or Calvary, the latter going even before my time, and the former just as I was becoming interested in the hobby. Also the view of Lower Level Wilson looking southeast (interesting angle) before the structure was above it, and Merchandise Mart under construction. Both must be relatively rare pictures.

On page 17 you had a view of a Robertson streetcar at 63rd. I remember those cars on South Side lines such as Riverdale, but we also had them up north on Riverview-Larrabee– slow cars, but with a commanding presence.

I am glad you included the Lost Interurbans section and also the Lost Terminals section. I vaguely remember Market Street, but know I rode out of Congress Street a few times, and many times out of North Water. That was even used as a display area to introduce and show off the new North Shore Silverliner paint scheme.

This is another good book to your credit. Keep up the good work.

Apparently, he did not initially notice that the book is dedicated to him, so I had to bring that to his attention.

He then wrote:

I am terribly embarrassed that I did not notice my name on the dedication page. I remember looking at the top of the page and seeing the Library of Congress data, and then going right to the Table of Contents. When I saw Northwestern “L” I turned right there to see what pictures you had included.

This is the first time anyone has dedicated a book to me, and I am very surprised and honored. It was totally unexpected. Thank you very much for this recognition, although I do not think I merit the title of “Dean”. “Old Man” might have been more appropriate as there are many others who deserve to be called “Dean.”

So, thank you again for the book dedication. It is a fine book, and I hope it will generate many sales.

Sincerely, Ray

When I can slip a few pictures in there that Ray DeGroote hasn’t seen before, I think I have done pretty well, because Ray has seen just about everything before.  And, he is characteristically modest about his accomplishments.  I can only hope for a small fraction of his wisdom, if I am lucky enough to reach his years.

Keep those cards and letters coming in, folks!

-David Sadowski

Our Latest Book, Now Available for Pre-Order:

Chicago’s Lost “L”s

Arcadia Publishing will release our new book Chicago’s Lost “L”s on July 12, 2021. Reserve your copy today!

From the back cover:

Chicago’s system of elevated railways, known locally as the “L,” has run continuously since 1892 and, like the city, has never stood still. It helped neighborhoods grow, brought their increasingly diverse populations together, and gave the famous Loop its name. But today’s system has changed radically over the years. Chicago’s Lost “L”s tells the story of former lines such as Garfield Park, Humboldt Park, Kenwood, Stockyards, Normal Park, Westchester, and Niles Center. It was once possible to take high-speed trains on the L directly to Aurora, Elgin, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The L started out as four different companies, two starting out using steam engines instead of electricity. Eventually, all four came together via the Union Loop. The L is more than a way of getting around. Its trains are a place where people meet and interact. Some say the best way to experience the city is via the L, with its second-story view. Chicago’s Lost “L”s is virtually a “secret history” of Chicago, and this is your ticket. David Sadowski grew up riding the L all over the city. He is the author of Chicago Trolleys and Building Chicago’s Subways and runs the online Trolley Dodger blog.

The Images of America series celebrates the history of neighborhoods, towns, and cities across the country. Using archival photographs, each title presents the distinctive stories from the past that shape the character of the community today. Arcadia is proud to play a part in the preservation of local heritage, making history available to all.

Title Chicago’s Lost “L”s
Images of America
Author David Sadowski
Edition illustrated
Publisher Arcadia Publishing (SC), 2021
ISBN 1467100007, 9781467100007
Length 128 pages

Chapters:
01. The South Side “L”
02. The Lake Street “L”
03. The Metropolitan “L”
04. The Northwestern “L”
05. The Union Loop
06. Lost Equipment
07. Lost Interurbans
08. Lost Terminals
09. Lost… and Found

Each copy purchased here will be signed by the author, and you will also receive a bonus facsimile of a 1926 Chicago Rapid Transit Company map, with interesting facts about the “L” on the reverse side.

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

For Shipping to US Addresses:

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NEW DVD:

A Tribute to the North Shore Line

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the demise of the fabled North Shore Line interurban in January 2013, Jeffrey L. Wien and Bradley Criss made a very thorough and professional video presentation, covering the entire route between Chicago and Milwaukee and then some. Sadly, both men are gone now, but their work remains, making this video a tribute to them, as much as it is a tribute to the Chicago North Shore & Milwaukee.

Jeff drew on his own vast collections of movie films, both his own and others such as the late William C. Hoffman, wrote and gave the narration. Bradley acted as video editor, and added authentic sound effects from archival recordings of the North Shore Line.

It was always Jeff’s intention to make this video available to the public, but unfortunately, this did not happen in his lifetime. Now, as the caretakers of Jeff’s railfan legacy, we are proud to offer this excellent two-hour program to you for the first time.  The result is a fitting tribute to what Jeff called his “Perpetual Adoration,” which was the name of a stop on the interurban.

Jeff was a wholehearted supporter of our activities, and the proceeds from the sale of this disc will help defray some of the expenses of keeping the Trolley Dodger web site going.

Total time – 121:22

# of Discs – 1
Price: $19.99 (Includes shipping within the United States)

Keep those cards and letters coming in, folks!

-David Sadowski

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Lost and Found

A close-up of Columbia Park & Southwestern 306 on the "Mobile Home Route."

A close-up of Columbia Park & Southwestern 306 on the “Mobile Home Route.”

Today’s post ties a number of photos together under the heading “Lost and Found.” There are images from the Chicago, Aurora & Elgin, the North Shore Line, and various early preservation efforts. Two of the three great Chicago-area interurbans are lost to history.

Interestingly, among the “saved” equipment shown in these early photos, none of these cars is still at the same location where the pictures were taken. In the case of Milwaukee Electric car 882, it was still in use at a Wisconsin electric power plant as late as 1961, three years after the last Milwaukee streetcar ran on the streets. Yet, oddly enough, it does not appear to have been preserved.

While many of these early museum-type operations such as Trolleyville USA* are no longer with us, they should not be regarded as failures. They played a crucial role in saving many electric railcars from the dustbin of history, and provided a “bridge” to a welcome home in some of today’s more durable institutions.

So, while much of our transit history has been lost, thanks to a few dedicated individuals, not all of it was lost. And despite all the travails and convoluted ways that various cars were saved, there is still a rich history that survives to be found by future generations.

-David Sadowski

PS- Trolleyville USA in Olmstead Township, Ohio, which I visited in 1984, was part trolley museum, and part common carrier. It provided much-needed transportation between a trailer park and general store, both of which were owned by the late Gerald E. Brookins. It is thanks to him that many unique pieces of equipment were saved.

Let me take this opportunity to clear up a Trolleyville “factoid” that has circulated.

Cleveland was where Peter Witt developed his namesake streetcar design, but it is one of the ironies of history that none were saved. A solitary Cleveland Peter Witt car lasted until 1962 before it too was unfortunately scrapped.

Don’s Rail Photos reports, “4144 was built by Kuhlman Car Co in August 1929, (order) #951. It was retired in 1954 and sold to an individual in Lorain. It was lettered as Arlington Traction Co 4144.” Owner Norman Muller had the car in his yard with an organ installed inside.

Some have pondered why Gerald E. Brookins did not save the car. Some have speculated that he was tapped out after purchasing four of the curved-side CA&E cars or that Mrs. Brookins would not let him buy another car.

In 2014, author Blaine Hays told me the real story. He says Brookins had plenty of money and could easily have afforded to purchase the 4144. However, in general his interest in trolley cars was limited to purchasing ones that could be readily run on his short railroad. By 1962, the 4144 did not fit into this category and after having been changed around and stored outside for years, would have required a substantial amount of restoration work, in any case a lot more than Brookins wanted to do.

Thanks to Brookins, four of the ten Ca&E St. Louis-built cars from 1945 were saved. But of fate had turned a different way, all ten cars might have ended up in service on the Cleveland rapid on the airport extension. In the early 1960s, Cleveland transit officials were planning to build this extension “on the cheap,” using local funds. If they had, the CA&E cars would likely have provided the original rolling stock. As things turned out, the project got put off for a few years until Federal funds were available. It opened in 1968 with new equipment.

Ironically, at least one CA&E car (303) did eventually run on the Cleveland system. The Lake Shore Electric Railway was a short-lived successor to Trolleyville that planned to operate in Cleveland. Ultimately, the effort failed due to lack of funding, and the cars in the Brookins collection were sold at auction. Some ended up at the Illinois Railway Museum and the Fox River Trolley Museum, but I have seen pictures of the 303 running in Cleveland in the early 21st century with a pantograph installed.

Who’da thunk it?


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American Streetcar R.P.O.s

Mainline Railway Post Offices were in use in the United States from 1862 to 1978 (with the final year being operated by boat instead of on rails), but for a much briefer era, cable cars and streetcars were also used for mail handling in the following 15 cities*:

Baltimore
Boston
Brooklyn
Chicago
Cincinnati
Cleveland
New Bedford, Massachusetts
New York City
Philadelphia
Pittsburgh
Rochester, New York
St. Louis
San Francisco
Seattle
Washington, D.C.


*As noted by some of our readers, this list does not include interurban RPOs.

Our latest E-book American Streetcar R.P.O.s collects 12 books on this subject (nearly 1000 pages in all) onto a DVD data disc that can be read on any computer using Adobe Acrobat Reader, which is free software. All have been out of print for decades and are hard to find. In addition, there is an introductory essay by David Sadowski.

The rolling stock, routes, operations, and cancellation markings of the various American street railway post office systems are covered in detail. The era of the streetcar R.P.O. was relatively brief, covering 1893 to 1929, but it represented an improvement in mail handling over what came before, and it moved a lot of mail. In many places, it was possible to deposit a letter into a mail slot on a streetcar or cable car and have it delivered across town within a short number of hours.

These operations present a very interesting history, but are not well-known to railfans. We feel they deserve greater scrutiny, and therefore we are donating $1 from each sale of this item to the Mobile Post Office Society, in support of their efforts.

# of Discs – 1
Price: $19.95


CA&E 423 and 433 have just passed each other just west of the Forest Park terminal at DesPlaines Avenue in October 1953. Concordia cemetery is to the left. This is now the site of I-290.

CA&E 423 and 433 have just passed each other just west of the Forest Park terminal at DesPlaines Avenue in October 1953. Concordia cemetery is to the left. This is now the site of I-290.

Don's Rail Photos says CA&E 18 was "built by Niles Car in 1902. It was modernized in March 1941 and retired in 1955." Here it is at Wheaton on March 15, 1952.

Don’s Rail Photos says CA&E 18 was “built by Niles Car in 1902. It was modernized in March 1941 and retired in 1955.” Here it is at Wheaton on March 15, 1952.

Curved-sided CA&E car 455, built by St. Louis Car Company in 1945, at Wheaton on July 7, 1954.

Curved-sided CA&E car 455, built by St. Louis Car Company in 1945, at Wheaton on July 7, 1954.

Don's Rail Photos says CA&E merchandise express car 9 was "built by Niles Car in 1907. It was scrapped in 1959." It is shown here at Wheaton in August 1948.

Don’s Rail Photos says CA&E merchandise express car 9 was “built by Niles Car in 1907. It was scrapped in 1959.” It is shown here at Wheaton in August 1948.

CA&E 427 parked at Laramie Avenue in August 1948. It was built by the Cincinnati Car Company in 1927.

CA&E 427 parked at Laramie Avenue in August 1948. It was built by the Cincinnati Car Company in 1927.

The view looking south towards the Wilmette station on the CNS&M Shore Line Route, which was abandoned in 1955. For a view from the other end of the same station, look here. Northbound trains began street running on Greenleaf Avenue here.

The view looking south towards the Wilmette station on the CNS&M Shore Line Route, which was abandoned in 1955. For a view from the other end of the same station, look here. Northbound trains began street running on Greenleaf Avenue here.

The same location today, where the North Shore Line curved to the right to head west on Greenleaf.

The same location today, where the North Shore Line curved to the right to head west on Greenleaf.

Once the North shore Line entered Greenleaf, the street widened. We are looking west.

Once the North shore Line entered Greenleaf, the street widened. We are looking west.

Perhaps one of our keen-eyed readers can tell us if this photo of car 158 was also taken along Greenleaf Avenue in Wilmette.

Perhaps one of our keen-eyed readers can tell us if this photo of car 158 was also taken along Greenleaf Avenue in Wilmette.

Don's Rail Photos says that North Shore Line caboose 1003 "was built by American Car & Foundry Co in 1926. It was rebuilt without a cupola but restored when it was acquired by IRM." There was some discussion recently on a Yahoo group concerning CNS&M cabooses. Someone was interested in making a model, and this nice side view should help determine the dimensions.

Don’s Rail Photos says that North Shore Line caboose 1003 “was built by American Car & Foundry Co in 1926. It was rebuilt without a cupola but restored when it was acquired by IRM.” There was some discussion recently on a Yahoo group concerning CNS&M cabooses. Someone was interested in making a model, and this nice side view should help determine the dimensions.

An Electroliner at speed near Crawford looking west. This picture was taken from a passing train in 1960, three years before the North Shore Line quit. CTA's Skokie Swift began running in 1964. (Richard H. Young Photo)

An Electroliner at speed near Crawford looking west. This picture was taken from a passing train in 1960, three years before the North Shore Line quit. CTA’s Skokie Swift began running in 1964. (Richard H. Young Photo)

Today's CTA Yellow Line looking west from Crawford.

Today’s CTA Yellow Line looking west from Crawford.

CNS&M Silverliner 738 heads up a four-car special train making a station stop at Northbrook during a snowstorm in February 1960. (Richard H. Young Photo)

CNS&M Silverliner 738 heads up a four-car special train making a station stop at Northbrook during a snowstorm in February 1960. (Richard H. Young Photo)

CNS&M 150 in a night scene at Waukegan on January 26, 1962.

CNS&M 150 in a night scene at Waukegan on January 26, 1962.

Electroliner 804-803 at the CTA Roosevelt Road "L" station in Chicago on February 17, 1957.

Electroliner 804-803 at the CTA Roosevelt Road “L” station in Chicago on February 17, 1957.

CNS&M Electroliner 803-804 at Deerpath, Illinois, February 17, 1957. Could be the photographer boarded the train in the previous picture at Roosevelt road and got off here.

CNS&M Electroliner 803-804 at Deerpath, Illinois, February 17, 1957. Could be the photographer boarded the train in the previous picture at Roosevelt road and got off here.

Columbia Park and Southwestern 306, ex-Aurora, Elgin & Fox River Electric, ex-Shaker Heights Rapid Transit, at Gerald E. Brookins' Trolleyville USA in 1962. Electric operations appear to be underway already, or nearly so.

Columbia Park and Southwestern 306, ex-Aurora, Elgin & Fox River Electric, ex-Shaker Heights Rapid Transit, at Gerald E. Brookins’ Trolleyville USA in 1962. Electric operations appear to be underway already, or nearly so.

Don's Rail Photos says, "306 was built by St Louis Car in 1924, #1306. In 1936 it was sold to CI/SHRT as 306 and in 1954 it was sold to CP&SW as 306. It was transferred to the Illinois Railway Museum in 1984 where it is being restored as AE&FRECo 306."

Don’s Rail Photos says, “306 was built by St Louis Car in 1924, #1306. In 1936 it was sold to CI/SHRT as 306 and in 1954 it was sold to CP&SW as 306. It was transferred to the Illinois Railway Museum in 1984 where it is being restored as AE&FRECo 306.”

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CTA Red Pullman 144 and Milwaukee streetcar 972 at the Illinois Electric Railway Museum in North Chicago, February 1960.

CTA Red Pullman 144 and Milwaukee streetcar 972 at the Illinois Electric Railway Museum in North Chicago, February 1960.

A snowy view of the 144 in February 1960, less than two years after this car last ran on the streets of Chicago (in a May 1958 fantrip).

A snowy view of the 144 in February 1960, less than two years after this car last ran on the streets of Chicago (in a May 1958 fantrip).

Indiana Railroad lightweight high-speed interurban car 65 at IERM in February 1960.

Indiana Railroad lightweight high-speed interurban car 65 at IERM in February 1960.

Don's Rail Photos says Milwaukee electric car 882 "was built by St Louis Car Co in 1920, (order) #1239. It was one manned in 1926 and rebuilt in 1954 with a plow on one end and a pilot on the other for use at the Lakeside Power Plant of WEPCo. It also had interurban headlights added. It ran until May 8, 1961." Unfortunately, it does not appear this car was saved.

Don’s Rail Photos says Milwaukee electric car 882 “was built by St Louis Car Co in 1920, (order) #1239. It was one manned in 1926 and rebuilt in 1954 with a plow on one end and a pilot on the other for use at the Lakeside Power Plant of WEPCo. It also had interurban headlights added. It ran until May 8, 1961.” Unfortunately, it does not appear this car was saved.

The two North Shore Line Electroliner sets had a second life for a while as Liberty Liners on the Red Arrow line between Philadelphia and Norristown. Red Arrow President Merritt H. Taylor Jr. (1922-2010) was a closet railfan, and the pride he took in saving these fine streamlined cars is clearly evident in the picture on this 1964 timetable, when they were put into service. This was a morale booster for both the railroad and its riders after enduring a 34-day strike in 1963, the only one in its history.

The two North Shore Line Electroliner sets had a second life for a while as Liberty Liners on the Red Arrow line between Philadelphia and Norristown. Red Arrow President Merritt H. Taylor Jr. (1922-2010) was a closet railfan, and the pride he took in saving these fine streamlined cars is clearly evident in the picture on this 1964 timetable, when they were put into service. This was a morale booster for both the railroad and its riders after enduring a 34-day strike in 1963, the only one in its history.

CNS&M 162 at the American Museum of Electricity in Schenectady, New York in 1968. Don's Rail Photos says, "162 was built by Brill in 1915, #19605. It was acquired by American Museum of Electricity in 1963 and resold to Connecticut Trolley Museum."

CNS&M 162 at the American Museum of Electricity in Schenectady, New York in 1968. Don’s Rail Photos says, “162 was built by Brill in 1915, #19605. It was acquired by American Museum of Electricity in 1963 and resold to Connecticut Trolley Museum.”

This 1968 photo presents a bit of a mystery. The only other North Shore car owned by the American Museum of Electricity was 710, sold along with the 162 to the Connecticut Trolley Museum in 1971. But there are other cars shown in this line-up, and the partial number for this one looks like it's in the 750-series. Stephen B. Rudolph adds, "I just dug up an identical print of the photo of the boarded-up CNS&M 755. The back of my print is machine-dated by the photofinisher "JUNE 64." This wasn't somebody's rubber date stamper, so I think it's correct. Consequently, I believe the 1968 date stated above is incorrect."

This 1968 photo p