I recently purchased a medium format color negative, showing a three-car Chicago Aurora and Elgin train (cars 455, 420, and 424) at the Forest Park Terminal, some time between 1953 and 1957. The interurban ended here then, and riders had to change trains and take the CTA downtown.
Color negative film was much less popular, apparently, than color slides when this picture was taken. In general, color quality and sharpness was not as good. In this case, there are variations in color based on the uneven fading of the colored film base over nearly 70 years. Colored film base was added to negatives to keep the film from becoming too contrasty. Since making a print from a negative is a two-step process, contrast is naturally increased when a print is made. When prints are made from slides, there is also an increase in contrast, but in the computer age, these issues are much more manageable. We are looking to the northeast.
The Chicago Aurora and Elgin interurban is the subject of our next book. We will leave no stone unturned, in our efforts to make the best possible book for our readers. Today, we are featuring just a few of the pictures we have collected for possible inclusion. Many of these are vintage CA&E company photos.
The high temperature was 70 degrees (low 57) with lots of sun in Chicago on Monday, April 18, 1938. The CA&E was in receivership at this time and would not emerge from bankruptcy until after World War II. Apparently, the receiver needed detailed documentation of the railroad’s facilities. A photographer, armed with an 8×10 view camera, was dispatched to take lots of pictures, which are now important historic artifacts.
Between 1923 and 1989, the very best view cameras were made by L.F. Deardorff & Sons Inc.. Here, I have a bit of personal history. I got to visit their shop just west of Chicago’s Loop a few times during the 1980s making deliveries. Everything they did was made by hand, using the finest possible materials, including exotic woods from Central America.
For much of the 20th century, Chicago was home to various catalog houses such as Sears, Roebuck and Company, Montgomery Wards, and many others. Several large local studios handled much of the product photography work. Eventually, this went into a decline. When Kranzten Studios went out of business in the late 1980s, their large inventory of Deardorff cameras hit the market and killed the demand for new ones. The company never recovered, although there are still other firms making view cameras today.
We also have many other new recent photo finds for your enjoyment. We recently received the gift of 41 original color slides from David Church, for which we are very grateful. A few of these appear here, and the rest will turn up in future posts. Mr. church says he purchased these 50 years ago or more.
Finally, we have three new CD titles of digitally remastered railroad audio now available. Four of the five discs are from steam recordings made in the late 1950s and early 1960s by North Jersey Recordings. This adds to our already extensive collections of train sounds from the Railroad Record Club and many others. You will find more details at the end of this post.
Keep those cards and letters coming in.
PS- You might also like our Trolley Dodger Facebook auxiliary, a private group that now has 1,445 members.
Our friend Kenneth Gear has a Facebook group for the Railroad Record Club. If you enjoy listening to audio recordings of classic railroad trains, whether steam, electric, or diesel, you might consider joining.
FYI, the Hoosier Traction Facebook Group celebrates electric transit in Indiana and the Midwest. It also supports the activities of the annual Hoosier Traction Meet (although not affiliated with the North American Transit Historical Society, which organizes that event).
Our Next Book Project
This is a picture of Aurora Elgin and Fox River Electric car 305, signed for Elgin. FYI, we are hard at work researching our next book about the Chicago Aurora and Elgin interurban. Although we already have thousands of images, we start out on these book projects with some of what we need, and then have to find the rest. Some have generously shared their images with us, and some we have to pay real money for. In case you would like to help contribute to this effort, either by sharing images or making a donation, we would like to hear from you. All contributors will be mentioned in the book, which will be dedicated to the memory of the late Robert D. Heinlein. The most difficult images to find are always the earliest ones. You can contact me via messenger, at email@example.com or via my blog. I thank you for your time and consideration.
Here is a picture of car 310, taken by Robert A. Selle during a CERA fantrip on August 8, 1954. “State Road station near Wheaton, Ill.” However, it actually looks like Glen Oak, which was adjacent to a golf course.
The Prince Crossing CA&E station, looking west on April 18, 1938.
CA&E 430, built by Cincinnati Car Company in 1927.
CA&E 410 on January 30, 1927. Don’s Rail Photos (via Archive.org): “410 was built by Pullman in 1923.” Sister car 409 is at the Illinois Railway Museum.
CA&E 303. Don’s Rail Photos (via Archive.org): “303 was built by Niles Car & Mfg Co in 1906. It was modernized in March 1945 and sold to Trolleyville USA in 1962. It was sold to Connecticut Trolley Museum in December 2009.”
A CA&E storage room at Wheaton, circa 1927.
Don’s Rail Photos (via Archive.org): “3004 was built by Baldwin-Westinghouse in April 1924, #57717. It was rebuilt in 1930 and scrapped in August 1963. 3003 was built by Baldwin-Westinghouse in September 1923, #57070. It was rebuilt in 1930 and scrapped in August 1963.” From the number on this company photo, this picture may date to 1927.
This looks like the CA&E paint shop at Wheaton on April 18, 1938.
The inspection pit at the Wheaton Shops on April 18, 1938.
Not sure of this location, but the date is April 18, 1938. Derek (no last name) writes: “The section of unknown CA&E trackage with the two bridges is on the the Batavia branch just before the power house. It’s crossing under the CB&Q line.”
The Wheaton Shops on April 18, 1938.
The Wheaton Shops on April 18, 1938.
I’m not sure where this freight train is in the picture, or just what those people are doing on the nearby hill.
The Wheaton Shops on April 18, 1938.
CA&E control trailer 701. The interurban had a car shortage in the 1930s, as suburban business grew, and ended up purchasing several cars from an east coast property that had surplus. The ends were modified to fit the tight clearances on the Chicago “L”, and the cars were given a somewhat more modern appearance. Don’s Rail Photos (via Archive.org): “701 was built by Cincinnati Car Co in 1913 as WB&A (Washington Baltimore and Annapolis) 81. It was sold as CA&E 701 in 1938.”
We are at the Spring Road station in Elmhurst on April 18, 1938, looking east.
Again, not sure where we are here, but the date is April 18, 1938.
CA&E wood car 52. Don’s Rail Photos (via Archive.org): “52 was built by Stephenson in 1903. It was modernized in January 1941 and retired in 1955.”
The Wheaton Yards on April 18, 1938.
The Wheaton Shops on April 18, 1938.
Wolf Road in Hillside on April 18, 1938.
The Wheaton Shops on April 18, 1938.
The view looking west from County Line Road in Elmhurst on July 13, 1931. This is the approximately where the Illinois Prairie Path crosses I-290 today.
A new station at Poplar Avenue in Elmhurst is dedicated on November 28, 1931. The City of Elmhurst had petitioned the railroad to add a station here, because it was expected to generate much ridership. The railroad wanted to move the nearby Stratford Hills station, which had low ridership. As it turned out, Stratford Hills did not close until 1943.
CA&E 105. Don’s Rail Photos (via Archive.org): “105 was built by Stephenson in 1903. It was modernized in August 1940 and retired in 1955.”
CA&E 416 at the Wheaton Shops on April 18, 1938. It was built by Pullman in 1923.
CA&E 10. Don’s Rail Photos (via Archive.org): “10 was built by Niles Car in 1902. It was rebuilt with a baggage compartment in 1910. It was later removed, but then reinstalled in April 1933 for funeral service. It was wrecked September 10, 1948, and scrapped.”
CA&E 315. Don’s Rail Photos (via Archive.org): “315 was built by Kuhlman Car Co in 1909, (order) #404. It was modernized at an unknown date and sold to Rockhill Trolley Museum in 1962.”
CA&E 602. Don’s Rail Photos (via Archive.org): “In 1937, the CA&E needed additional equipment. Much was available, but most of the cars suffered from extended lack of maintenance. Finally, 5 coaches were found on the Washington Baltimore & Annapolis which were just the ticket. 35 thru 39, built by Cincinnati Car in 1913, were purchased and remodeled for service as 600 thru 604. The ends were narrowed for service on the El. They had been motors, but came out as control trailers. Other modifications included drawbars, control, etc. A new paint scheme was devised. Blue and grey with red trim and tan roof was adopted from several selections. They entered service between July and October in 1937. 602 was built by Cincinnati Car Co in 1913 as WB&A 37. It was sold as CA&E 602 in August 1937 and burned in 1952.”
CA&E 209. Don’s Rail Photos (via Archive.org): “Five cars were built by Niles in late 1904 and were similar to the earlier Niles cars except that they were 4 feet longer and included a toilet compartment. There were four coaches, 201,203, 205, and 207, and a deluxe buffet-parlor car “Carolyn”. The coaches were motorized using 2 motors each from the earlier cars which had been delivered as 4 motor cars. “Carolyn” was built by Niles Car in 1904. It was rebuilt as 209, a trailer coach, in 1924 and rebuilt in May 1939. It was retired in 1959.”
The Wheaton Yards on April 18, 1938.
The Wheaton Yards on April 18, 1938.
A CA&E storage area, presumably at the Wheaton Yards, circa 1927.
CA&E 436 at the Wheaton Shops on April 18, 1938. Don’s Rail Photos (via Archive.org): “305 was built by Niles Car & Mfg Co in 1906. It was wrecked and rebuilt in 1923 as 600, a buffet-parlor car. It was again rebuilt in 1929 as a coach to match the other 400s and numbered 436. It was scrapped in 1954.”
The Wheaton Shops on April 18, 1938.
CA&E435. From the Wikipedia: “435, 436 were wood body coaches rebuilt in 1929 from parlor-buffet cars #600 and #601. They were originally Florence and #305, mechanical sisters built by Niles in 1906.”
CA&E 319. Don’s Rail Photos (via Archive.org): “319 was built by Jewett Car Co in 1914. It was modernized at an unknown date and sold to Columbia Park & Southwestern (Trolleyville USA) in 1962. It was resold to IRM in December 2009.”
A view looking east from the 25th Avenue station platform on April 18, 1938. You can see the shadow of the photographer’s camera in the lower left hand corner. Most likely, either 4×5 or 8×10 sheet film was used in a view camera, possibly a Deardorff (which would have been made in Chicago). In the distance, you can see a gas holder located in forest Park, just east of first Avenue. One platform extension is turned up. These could be flipped to allow for the clearance of freight trains, which were wider than CA&E and “L” cars. When a freight train passed this and other high-level stations, which were required by the “L” cars of Garfield Park and Westchester trains, someone standing on the front of the loco would flip these up, and someone on the back of the train would flip them back down.
A Deardorff 8×10 view camera, known as model V8. These were produced from the 1923 until 1989.
An unknown location, possibly on the Aurora branch, on April 18, 1938.
An early excursion to Ravinia Park on the Chicago and Milwaukee Electric (called the North Shore Line starting in 1916). Don’s Rail Photos (via Archive.org): “118 thru 127 were built by Jewett Car in 1906. They were the first of the 52 foot cars which then set the standard for all following cars. Since they were wider than later cars, they never could operate into Chicago on the Elevated. They were rebuilt in 1914 with toilets and train doors. Since they could only be used on locals, they were retired as steel cars became available and most had been out of service for some time previous. 118 was built by Jewett Car in 1906 and retired in 1927.”
This and the next photo: CTA postwar PCC 4364 is at the new loop at 63rd Place and Narragansett on July 30, 1948. It doesn’t have a destination sign at front, and the side sign says Clark-Wentworth, which is nowhere near here. Perhaps it was here to pose for pictures. There is also prewar PCC 4005, operating on Route 63 – 63rd Street. The Clearing neighborhood has become completely built up here since, and while there is still a bus turnaround here, it was reduced in size to make room for a new public library.
North Shore Line 178 on the Mundelein branch. (David Church collection)
Silverliner 742 is at the head of a two-car train. Might this be in Wisconsin? (David Church collection)
Silverliner 774, plus two, on the Skokie Valley Route. (David Church collection)
There is only a span of a few years (1948-51) when this picture of CTA trolley bus 146 could have been taken, heading south on Central Avenue at Irving Park Road. The CTA took over from CSL and CRT on October 1, 1947, and new emblems did not start appearing on vehicles until the following year. Then, in the early 1950s, CTA renumbered all their trolley buses by adding a “9” in front of existing numbers, to eliminate duplicate numbers with the rest of the bus fleet. The entrance to Portage Park is at right. While the bus is operating on Central Avenue, that was Route 85, and this bus is signed for Route 55A. That seems to have run on Elston Avenue a bit north of here as an extension of the Central route, starting at Lawrence Avenue (4800 N), and ending at Holbrook Street in Norwood Park. Trolleybus service on Route 55A ended on January 21, 1951, which also helps date the picture. Trolley buses continued to run on Central until 1970. This model T40 bus was built circa 1930-31 by American Car Company.
Chicago Surface Lines streetcar 6234 is on 43rd Street, based on the addresses visible on that very distinctive building. I get the impression we are in Bronzeville, but am not sure of the cross street, or if that building still exists. My guess is this picture was taken in the 1940s. 6234 was part of a series of Multiple Unit cars, intended to couple to others in the busy years of the 1920s. Don’s Rail Photos (via Archive.org): “6234 was built by Lightweight Noiseless Streetcar Company in 1924. It was rebuilt (for) one-man service in 1932.” Mike Franklin: “Northeast corner of Cottage Grove Avenue and 43rd Street.” Our resident south side expert M. E. adds, “After doing some detective work, I conclude this picture is looking northeast at 43rd St. and Cottage Grove (800 East). Being so specific about the corner means knowing on which side of a street are even numbers, and which side are odd numbers. The Del-Mar Lunch place has an awning with the address 4257. That puts it just north of 43rd St., on the east side of the north/south street. At the far right of the photo is an optometrist’s store. I’m not positive, but I think I see the address 814. That puts the store on the north side of 43rd St., just east of Cottage Grove. The streetcar’s side sign says 43-Root. It is heading west on 43rd St., about to cross Cottage Grove Ave. The 43rd-Root route ran along 43rd St. from just west of the lake (Oakenwald Ave.) to State St., north to Root St. (4130 S.), then west to and across Halsted (800 W.) to a dead-end. The thing that astounds me is to see how many passengers are on the streetcar. I don’t think there was any major employer east of Cottage Grove along 43rd St. But there certainly was one at Root and Halsted — the International Amphitheater (at 42nd and Halsted). Another major employer was the Chicago Stock Yards, bounded by Ashland (1600 W.), 47th St., Halsted, and 39th St. (Pershing Rd.). To get from Root and Halsted into the Stock Yards proper, someone would have to get off the streetcar at Halsted, walk a little north to the Stock Yards L station at Halsted, then take the L into the yards. So I think we are seeing, on this streetcar, employees of either the Amphitheater or the Stock Yards going to work. An alternate way to get from the eastern end of the streetcar route to the Stock Yards would have been to take the Kenwood L (which also began at Oakenwald Av.) west to Indiana Ave., go over the pedestrian bridge spanning the north/south L tracks, and take the Stock Yards L (which began at Indiana Ave.) west to the stations inside the Stock Yards.”
The same location in 2017.
Chicago South Shore and South Bend electric locomotive 704 at South Bend, Indiana in 1961. Don’s Rail Photos (via Archive.org): “704 was built by Alco-General Electric in June 1931, (order) #68271, 11194, as NYC 1243, Class R-2. It was renumbered 343 in August 1936 and sold to CSS&SB in 1955. It was rebuilt as 704 in 1956 and scrapped in April 1976.”
North Shore Line Silverliner 757 is at Adams and Wabash on the Loop “L” on September 4, 1961. Don’s Rail Photos (via Archive.org): “757 was built by Standard Steel Car Co in 1930. It was modernized in 1949 and rebuilt as (a) Silverliner on March 16, 1956. It was sold to Wisconsin Electric Railway Historical Society in 1963 and resold to Illinois Railway Museum in 1988.”
Chicago North Shore and Milwaukee 411 at Coney Island Yard in New York City in the mid-1960s, after the abandonment. Don’s Rail Photos (via Archive.org): “411 was built as a trailer observation car by Cincinnati Car in June 1923 #2640. It was out of service in 1932. 411 It was rebuilt as a two motor coach by closing in the open platform and changing the seating on February 25, 1943, and sold to Trolley Museum of New York in 1963. It was sold to Wisconsin Electric Railway & Historical Society in 1973 and sold to Escanaba & Lake Superior in 1989.”
When I received this negative, no information came with it, but we are on the south side, most likely in the 1940s. Chicago Surface Lines car 5787 (I think that is the number) is on Through Route 5, Cottage Grove-South Chicago. This went to Ewing and 108th from April 10, 1927 until July 14, 1947, which does help date the photo. Car 5787 was known as a Nearside and was built by Brill in 1912. The cars of this type were retired circa 1946-47. The location is not known to me. Mike Franklin: “Building behind the car housed the Eastside Theater at 10555 S Ewing Ave, Chicago. Still standing.” Andre Kristopans: “He should be going two more blocks down Ewing to 108th and wye there.”
This circa 1909 postcard image, showing the first Aurora Elgin and Chicago train on the then-new branch to Geneva and St. Charles, appears to be based on a photograph but includes parts that are drawn in.
CTA Red Pullman 507 on the scrap line at South Shops on September 2, 1955. After the CTA took all the remaining red cars out of regular service in 1954, ten such cars were retained for emergency service. Of these, one car (460) became part of the CTA Historical Collection. Two were used in fantrips– 225, which Seashore Trolley Museum purchased in 1957, and 144, which went to the Illinois Electric Railway Museum. It’s not clear to me what the other seven cars were. 507 was built by in 1908/1909 for the Chicago City Railway and is known as a “Big Pullman.”
CTA 4235 (at left) is at the head of a westbound two-car CERA fantrip train at Ridgeland Avenue in Oak Park, on temporary trackage during construction of the adjacent Congress (now Eisenhower) expressway. The date is September 14, 1958. By 1955, the new highway was already open as far west as Laramie Avenue. There were two parallel sets of tracks west of there, through Oak Park and Forest Park, the CTA and the Baltimore and Ohio Chicago Terminal. The tracks were moved in stages to the north end of the expressway footprint. Then, the area to the south was dug out and by 1960, the tracks were relocated to their present location just south of the highway, which opened the same year. I can’t call this the Garfield Park “L” since by the time this picture was taken by Robert Heinlein, on September 14, 1958, it had been renamed to the Congress line. The portion of today’s Blue Line that runs in the expressway median had opened as far west as Cicero Avenue on June 22, 1958. During construction, there was a temporary station at Ridgeland, presumably behind the photographer, which replaced one at Gunderson Avenue, a side street.
Chicago Surface Lines 3136 is eastbound on Lake Street in the 1940s, operating on Through Route 16. What was a Through Route? These were the first numbered routes, which operated over the tracks of more than one streetcar company. They were a step in the consolidation of these private companies into what became the Chicago Surface Lines in 1913. After heading downtown, this car would have gone south via State Street. This Through Route was discontinued on October 7, 1946, which helps date the picture. The Lake streetcar route also became Route 16 over time. It ran until 1954. CTA had to run narrow buses on this route due to clearances, and this bus route was discontinued in 1997. Dig the kid with the big ears. Don’s Rail Photos (via Archive.org): “3136 was built by Brill Car Co in December 1922, #21686. It was rebuilt as one-man in 1949.” Here, you can see it is still a two-man car, as someone is entering from the rear.
CTA PCC 4405 is at South Shops after streetcar service ended in June 1958. This Ektachrome slide was very overexposed, and it was not possible to do a perfect job with the color. (David Church collection)
Chicago Aurora and DeKalb car 24 is in Kaneville, Illinois (north of Elgin) in this early photo. Service on this 29-mile interurban, which had a variety of names due to various reorganizations, began in 1906 and ended in 1923, when it was purchased by a scrap dealer and dismantled. The line was only electrified from 1910 on, which helps date the photo. Prior to that, gasoline powered cars were used.
Aurora Elgin and Fox River Electric car 66 is on North Farnsworth Street in Aurora. Passenger service was abandoned on this interurban in 1935. A small portion remained for freight into the early 1970s. That section, in South Elgin, is now the trackage used by the Fox River Trolley Museum. Car 66 was built by the St. Louis Car Company in the mid-1920s and was used as a city streetcar by the AE&FRE. After the company was reorganized in the early 1920s, city service was largely handled by Birney cars, which were operated by one man and had but a single truck underneath.
Our Latest Book, Now Available:
The North Shore Line
FYI, my new Arcadia Publishing book The North Shore Line is now available for immediate shipment. My publisher decided to expand it to 160 pages, instead of the usual 128. That’s a 25% increase, without any change to the $23.99 price. I am quite pleased with how this turned out.
From the back cover:
As late as 1963, it was possible to board high-speed electric trains on Chicago’s famous Loop “L” that ran 90 miles north to Milwaukee. This was the Chicago North Shore & Milwaukee Railroad, commonly known as the North Shore Line. It rose from humble origins in the 1890s as a local streetcar line in Waukegan to eventually become America’s fastest interurban under the visionary management of Midwest utilities tycoon Samuel Insull. The North Shore Line, under Insull, became a worthy competitor to the established steam railroads. Hobbled by the Great Depression, the road fought back in 1941 with two streamlined, air-conditioned, articulated trains called Electroliners, which included dining service. It regained its popularity during World War II, when gasoline and tires were rationed, but eventually, it fell victim to highways and the automobile. The North Shore Line had intercity rail, commuter rail, electric freight, city streetcars, and even buses. It has been gone for nearly 60 years, but it will always remain the Road of Service.
Each copy purchased here will be signed by the author, and you will also receive a bonus North Shore Line map. Books will ship by USPS Media Mail.
02. The Milwaukee Division
03. The Shore Line Route
04. The Skokie Valley Route
05. The Mundelein Branch
06. On the “L”
07. City Streetcars
08. Trolley Freight
09. The Long Goodbye
10. The Legacy
Title The North Shore Line
Images of America
Author David Sadowski
Publisher Arcadia Publishing (SC), 2023
ISBN 1467108960, 978-1467108966
Length 160 pages
The price of $23.99 includes shipping within the United States.
For Shipping to US Addresses:
New Compact Disc Titles, Now Available:
Hi-Fi Iron Horse
Hi-Fi Iron Horse is a unique collection of early steam recordings, made between 1949 and 1954. Portable tape recorders were not yet available when the earliest of these was made, but there was still another source for making high-quality audio– the optical sound track of motion picture film.
Featuring in-service steam of the Baltimore & Ohio, Bessemer & Lake Erie, Burlington, Canadian National, Delaware & Hudson, East Broad Top, Erie, Grand Trunk Western, Huntingdon & Broad Top Mountain, Western Maryland, and Rutland Railway.
Total time – 50:49
The Sound of Steam
Three very rare, out of print North Jersey Recordings LPs, now digitally remastered on two CDs at a special price.
The Sound of Steam offers a comprehensive overview of the twilight days of steam railroading in North America, with sounds recorded between 1957 and 1964. Railroads featured include the Denver & Rio Grande Western, Union Pacific, Canadian Pacific, Duluth, Missabe & Iron Range Railway, Gainesville Midland Railroad, Pennsylvania Railroad, Reading Railroad, Canadian National, Twin Seams Mining Company, Nickel Plate, Colorado & Southern, Norfolk & Western, Buffalo Creek & Gauley, Monadnock, Steamtown & Northern, Rockton & Rion Railway, and the National Railways of Mexico.
Reading 2124 features recordings made in 1959 and 1960 on a series of “Iron Horse Rambles,” excursion trips through eastern Pennsylvania. The Reading Company had retained this class T-1 4-8-4 for emergency use after steam was retired on the railroad. Seven years after the last Reading steam loco had hauled a passenger train, a series of 51 special excursion trips were held, ending in 1964. These have since been revived, and the Rambles continue.
Total time – 69:54 (Disc 1) and 61:20 (Disc 2)
Rods, Wheels, and Whistles
Voice of the 103
Two very rare, out of print North Jersey Recordings LPs, now digitally remastered on two CDs at a special price.
Rods, Wheels, and Whistles features the sounds of the Pennsylvania Railroad and the Norfolk and Western Railway, recorded in the twilight years of steam. This LP was originally issued in 1958, but our version is taken from the revised and expanded edition, which includes additional recordings from 1959.
Voice of the 103 documents the former Sumter and Choctaw Railroad #103, a 2-6-2 locomotive built in 1925 by the Baldwin Locomotive Works, after it was refurbished in 1962 to operate on the Middletown and New Jersey. This was an excursion service of the Empire State Railway Museum, which has since moved to a new location and no longer operates trains. The 103 is now on static display.
Our collection is rounded out with three bonus tracks from the Strasbourg Railroad, when old number 31 ran excursion trains on the oldest short line railroad in the United States (chartered in June 1832), joining the Pennsylvania Dutch towns of Strasbourg and Paradise in the early 1960s.
Total time – 46:15 (RWW) and 49:26 (V103)
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