Our 250th Post

In the early morning hours of a very cold January 21, 1963, motorman Bill Livings removes the headlight from the final North Shore Line interurban train, after it reached the end of the line at Roosevelt Road in Chicago. This was the end of the line for the fabled interurban in a very literal sense.

In the early morning hours of a very cold January 21, 1963, motorman Bill Livings removes the headlight from the final North Shore Line interurban train, after it reached the end of the line at Roosevelt Road in Chicago. This was the end of the line for the fabled interurban in a very literal sense.

This is our 250th Trolley Dodger post, and we figured on making it something special. This time, we have a bevy of historical traction photos for your enjoyment.

If you have been along for the ride with us since this blog started, we salute you, but if you have just recently discovered us, we hope you will find much here to appreciate.

When we first started, one of our critics said this was a “good idea, but lacking in execution.” We hope to have gotten better at this, but freely admit to not knowing everything about anything. We have learned as much from our readers as they have probably learned from us, and the more we have shared with you, the more you have shared with us in turn. It’s very much a two-way street.

If we get something wrong, we can count on our readers to help set us right, so the Trolley Dodger becomes a “self-correcting mechanism” by which we all learn things together, creating an archive of information, and a resource for the future.

It seems that a lot of photos that interest me do not fit into the classic railfan photo mode. By which I mean a 3/4 Kodachrome view of the front of a railcar, taken only in bright sunlight, without a person anywhere in sight. I know photographers who won’t take anything other than this sort of picture.

I mean, I am interested in those types of photos too, and I certainly have taken some myself. But there are other things that interest me, and these include scenes of everyday life, pictures that have historical details, black-and-white photos, photos that are not technically perfect but still grab me somehow. Pictures that have people in them, that show how we lived at a moment in time.

Today’s post has all those kinds of photos. Some of the 35mm black-and-white images were obviously taken by a press photographer. I acquired the original negatives, but have no clue who took them. But there are unique photos of a former Chicago mayor, and various derailments. It might even be possible to determine the date when some of these pictures were taken, based on what you see in the picture.

It might surprise you to know that ‘L’ trains have actually fallen off the structure from time to time. Yes, there was the fateful 1977 accident at Wabash and Lake. But there were other such incidents, one of which is covered here.

There are also several color images taken around 1970, showing people riding an ‘L’ train, standing on subway platforms, and such. These offer a ‘slice of life,’ and if you want to know what the experience was of riding the trains half a century ago, this is a pretty good place to start. The great majority of fans did not take such pictures, but we can be glad that someone did.

We are currently working on a new book that we hope to complete in the near future. As you might expect, some of our research materials cost money. a lot has already been spent on this effort.

More details about that will be forthcoming, but if you would like to contribute financially, there is a link at the end of this post so that you may do so. If your contributions, in any amount, are intended to help with this book project, we will thank you by name in the book.

This is an offer we made for our last book Building Chicago’s Subways, and a number of our readers did help out, and were so thanked.

Enjoy!

-David Sadowski

Recent Finds

I recently purchased this unusual single-sided token. I had to look up what a "lamp check" is. It seems that before heading out on a run, a motorman would exchange one of these tokens for a portable headlamp. At the end of the day, it would be exchanged for the token. (For a picture of just such a headlamp, see the North Shore Line photo at the beginning of this post.)

I recently purchased this unusual single-sided token. I had to look up what a “lamp check” is. It seems that before heading out on a run, a motorman would exchange one of these tokens for a portable headlamp. At the end of the day, it would be exchanged for the token. (For a picture of just such a headlamp, see the North Shore Line photo at the beginning of this post.)

The Jackson station on the Dearborn Street Subway on August 8, 1974.

The Jackson station on the Dearborn Street Subway on August 8, 1974.

A six-car train of CTA 6000s, including two different color schemes, nears Armitage in May 1981. To the right is the ramp leading to the State Street Subway. (Mark Llanuza Photo)

A six-car train of CTA 6000s, including two different color schemes, nears Armitage in May 1981. To the right is the ramp leading to the State Street Subway. (Mark Llanuza Photo)

A train of CTA 6000s is at Jefferson Park on April 21, 1980. This was, at that time, the end of the line. A few years later, service was extended to O'Hare Airport. (Clark Frazier Photo)

A train of CTA 6000s is at Jefferson Park on April 21, 1980. This was, at that time, the end of the line. A few years later, service was extended to O’Hare Airport. (Clark Frazier Photo)

Those CTA 4000s sure did get around! Here we see a pair at the South Shore Line's yard in Michigan City, Indiana in September 1976, surely on their way to a railway museum. (Mark Llanuza Photo)

Those CTA 4000s sure did get around! Here we see a pair at the South Shore Line’s yard in Michigan City, Indiana in September 1976, surely on their way to a railway museum. (Mark Llanuza Photo)

An eastbound Chicago & North Western commuter train is seen from the Harlem Avenue Station on the Lake Street 'L' on January 12, 1963, a few months after the CTA line was relocated onto the embankment. (J. W. Vigrass Photo)

An eastbound Chicago & North Western commuter train is seen from the Harlem Avenue Station on the Lake Street ‘L’ on January 12, 1963, a few months after the CTA line was relocated onto the embankment. (J. W. Vigrass Photo)

A close-up of the previous photo. This shows part of the former Wieboldt's department store in River Forest, which opened in the 1930s. There was a double-decker parking garage, complete with control tower (which I assume was hardly ever used) and if you parked on the upper level, there was a second floor entrance that let you in near the Boy Scouts department. In the back, you can see the type of warehouse building that was prevalent in this area. Both buildings have been torn down and replaced with a more contemporary shopping center. Emerson Wakefield Sr., my grandfather, worked as an electrician for Wieboldt's during the 1930s.

A close-up of the previous photo. This shows part of the former Wieboldt’s department store in River Forest, which opened in the 1930s. There was a double-decker parking garage, complete with control tower (which I assume was hardly ever used) and if you parked on the upper level, there was a second floor entrance that let you in near the Boy Scouts department. In the back, you can see the type of warehouse building that was prevalent in this area. Both buildings have been torn down and replaced with a more contemporary shopping center. Emerson Wakefield Sr., my grandfather, worked as an electrician for Wieboldt’s during the 1930s.

CA&E 434 heads up an eastbound Chicago Express at Western Avenue in September 1948.

CA&E 434 heads up an eastbound Chicago Express at Western Avenue in September 1948.

Chicago Aurora & Elgin trains at the Wells Street Terminal in July 1953, just a few months before the interurban cut back service to Forest Park. I believe that is car 46 at the front of a train of woods. Don's Rail Photos adds, "46 was built by Stephenson in 1903. It was modernized in December 1940 and retired in 1959." The terminal did not connect directly with the Loop. Met 'L' cars turned off to the right and went to the Loop via structure on Van Buren Street. In 1955, due to construction of Lower Wacker Drive, that segment of 'L' was torn down, and CTA trains connected to the Loop via new trackage through the former Wells Street Terminal, which was no longer in use.

Chicago Aurora & Elgin trains at the Wells Street Terminal in July 1953, just a few months before the interurban cut back service to Forest Park. I believe that is car 46 at the front of a train of woods. Don’s Rail Photos adds, “46 was built by Stephenson in 1903. It was modernized in December 1940 and retired in 1959.” The terminal did not connect directly with the Loop. Met ‘L’ cars turned off to the right and went to the Loop via structure on Van Buren Street. In 1955, due to construction of Lower Wacker Drive, that segment of ‘L’ was torn down, and CTA trains connected to the Loop via new trackage through the former Wells Street Terminal, which was no longer in use.

A close-up of the last picture, showing Wells Street Terminal.

A close-up of the last picture, showing Wells Street Terminal.

A southbound Jackson Park "B" train approaches the Belmont station on July 3, 1961. At left is the Vic Theater. Notice a Ravenswood train is also entering the station on the outer track.

A southbound Jackson Park “B” train approaches the Belmont station on July 3, 1961. At left is the Vic Theater. Notice a Ravenswood train is also entering the station on the outer track.

One of the two North Shore Line Electroliners heads south from the CTA's Belmont station on the North-South main line on July 3, 1961. The station has been rebuilt, and instead of an overhead transfer bridge, you cross at mezzanine level now.

One of the two North Shore Line Electroliners heads south from the CTA’s Belmont station on the North-South main line on July 3, 1961. The station has been rebuilt, and instead of an overhead transfer bridge, you cross at mezzanine level now.

A South Shore Line train, including car 102, is at the Randolph Street Terminal on July 2, 1961. This area has been completely transformed. The station is now underground, underneath Millennium Park.

A South Shore Line train, including car 102, is at the Randolph Street Terminal on July 2, 1961. This area has been completely transformed. The station is now underground, underneath Millennium Park.

A South Shore Line train, including car 8, is at Central Station on July 2, 1961.

A South Shore Line train, including car 8, is at Central Station on July 2, 1961.

We are looking west along Washington Street at about 77 East on July 2, 1961. That is the Wabash leg of the Loop 'L'. Just out of view to the right would be the old main Chicago Public Library building, now the Cultural Center.

We are looking west along Washington Street at about 77 East on July 2, 1961. That is the Wabash leg of the Loop ‘L’. Just out of view to the right would be the old main Chicago Public Library building, now the Cultural Center.

The same location today.

The same location today.

A CTA two-car RAvenswood "A" train at Madison and Wells on July 3, 1961. Note the fire extinguisher at the front of the train.

A CTA two-car RAvenswood “A” train at Madison and Wells on July 3, 1961. Note the fire extinguisher at the front of the train.

A Chicago & North Western commuter train at Oak Park, Illinois on July 2, 1961. The train is moving away from us, as these trains use left-hand running. Also to the left you can see the ground-level tracks of the CTA Lake Street 'L'. Just over a year later, those trains were relocated to the C&NW embankment. I assume the location is Marion Street here.

A Chicago & North Western commuter train at Oak Park, Illinois on July 2, 1961. The train is moving away from us, as these trains use left-hand running. Also to the left you can see the ground-level tracks of the CTA Lake Street ‘L’. Just over a year later, those trains were relocated to the C&NW embankment. I assume the location is Marion Street here.

A North Shore Line train on the bridge over the Chicago River on Wells Street on July 2, 1961.

A North Shore Line train on the bridge over the Chicago River on Wells Street on July 2, 1961.

A South Shore Line train near the Art Institute of Chicago on July 3, 1961.

A South Shore Line train near the Art Institute of Chicago on July 3, 1961.

South Shore Line car 7 at the Fox River Trolley Museum on June 20, 1992.

South Shore Line car 7 at the Fox River Trolley Museum on June 20, 1992.

CTA 4451 at the Fox River Trolley Museum on June 20, 1992.

CTA 4451 at the Fox River Trolley Museum on June 20, 1992.

North Shore Line car 756 at the Fox River Trolley Museum on June 20, 1992.

North Shore Line car 756 at the Fox River Trolley Museum on June 20, 1992.

SF Muni PCC 1030 at the Fox River Trolley Museum on June 20, 1992.

SF Muni PCC 1030 at the Fox River Trolley Museum on June 20, 1992.

CTA 2600s at O'Hare Airport on June 25, 1992.

CTA 2600s at O’Hare Airport on June 25, 1992.

A South Shore Line train at the old Randolph Street Terminal in Chicago on May 26, 1993.

A South Shore Line train at the old Randolph Street Terminal in Chicago on May 26, 1993.

South Shore Line cars near the Art Institute on June 24, 1992.

South Shore Line cars near the Art Institute on June 24, 1992.

A South Shore Line train at Randolph on May 26, 1993.

A South Shore Line train at Randolph on May 26, 1993.

A South Shore Line train at Randolph on May 26, 1993.

A South Shore Line train at Randolph on May 26, 1993.

CTA trains are run by one person nowadays, but when this picture was taken (circa 1970) the doors were operated by conductors, and each train had a two-person crew.

CTA trains are run by one person nowadays, but when this picture was taken (circa 1970) the doors were operated by conductors, and each train had a two-person crew.

This shows the conductor's station in car 2057. Once a key was inserted, the conductor would look out the window and used buttons to control the doors to either their left or right. There was also a button to signal the motorman.

This shows the conductor’s station in car 2057. Once a key was inserted, the conductor would look out the window and used buttons to control the doors to either their left or right. There was also a button to signal the motorman.

The State Street Subway.

The State Street Subway.

6003 was one of the very first 6000s and would have been delivered in 1950.

6003 was one of the very first 6000s and would have been delivered in 1950.

The woman with the sunglasses has an interesting hairdo.

The woman with the sunglasses has an interesting hairdo.

This, and the next few pictures that follow, show Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley (1902-1976) taking part in the ceremonial introduction of the then-new CTA 2400-series rapid transit cars. The man behind the door is George Krambles, who eventually became general manager of the CTA. Not sure who the other gent is. Daley was then 74 years old and had been mayor for 21 years. He doesn't look particularly well, and in fact died from a massive heart attack later in the year, while he was at his doctor's office for a check-up. This series of cars was retired a few years ago, although some have been retained for work service, and for the CTA's historic collection. They are available for charters.

This, and the next few pictures that follow, show Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley (1902-1976) taking part in the ceremonial introduction of the then-new CTA 2400-series rapid transit cars. The man behind the door is George Krambles, who eventually became general manager of the CTA. Not sure who the other gent is. Daley was then 74 years old and had been mayor for 21 years. He doesn’t look particularly well, and in fact died from a massive heart attack later in the year, while he was at his doctor’s office for a check-up. This series of cars was retired a few years ago, although some have been retained for work service, and for the CTA’s historic collection. They are available for charters.

In this, and in the pictures that follow, it looks like demolition work is taking place at State and Lake, in conjunction with renovations at this station. Not sure of the date, but with 2400s in the picture, it can't be earlier than 1976.

In this, and in the pictures that follow, it looks like demolition work is taking place at State and Lake, in conjunction with renovations at this station. Not sure of the date, but with 2400s in the picture, it can’t be earlier than 1976.

CA&E 436. I am wondering if this might be at Laramie Yards in Chicago. Don's Rail Photos adds, "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."

CA&E 436. I am wondering if this might be at Laramie Yards in Chicago. Don’s Rail Photos adds, “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.”

CA&E 423, signed as an Elgin Local. Don's Rail Photos: "423 was built by Cincinnati Car Co in 1927, (order) #2055."

CA&E 423, signed as an Elgin Local. Don’s Rail Photos: “423 was built by Cincinnati Car Co in 1927, (order) #2055.”

I am not sure of the location of this CA&E car. Could this possibly be on the Batavia branch?

I am not sure of the location of this CA&E car. Could this possibly be on the Batavia branch?

This picture needed a lot of work... this is the "before."

This picture needed a lot of work… this is the “before.”

This is the "after," although I am still not done with it yet. CA&E 433 and 404 are westbound at Oak Park Avenue in suburban Oak Park. The building at left is still there today, but I-290 goes through here now, below grade.

This is the “after,” although I am still not done with it yet. CA&E 433 and 404 are westbound at Oak Park Avenue in suburban Oak Park. The building at left is still there today, but I-290 goes through here now, below grade.

Recent Correspondence

Jon Roma writes:

David, here are photos about the two towers associated with the CRT State Street subway. The negatives 95-C-223 and 95-C-224 are of the south tower, which appears to have been on the west side of the track according to the model board in the picture. Negatives 95-C-243 and 95-C-244 are of the north tower (Armitage).

The images were taken by the equipment manufacturer and are in a private collection. I have the collection owner’s permission to share, provided that there’s a credit such as “Union Switch & Signal (Zachary C. Gillihan collection)”.

These are fascinating, rare glimpses into Chicago history, and I am sure our readers are just as appreciative of you sharing them as I am.

Keep those cards and letters coming in, folks.

-David Sadowski

The interior of the State Street Subway tower at the south portal, taken on October 12, 1943. (Union Switch & Signal Photo, Zachary C. Gillihan Collection)

The interior of the State Street Subway tower at the south portal, taken on October 12, 1943. (Union Switch & Signal Photo, Zachary C. Gillihan Collection)

The interior of the State Street Subway tower at the south portal, taken on October 12, 1943. (Union Switch & Signal Photo, Zachary C. Gillihan Collection)

The interior of the State Street Subway tower at the south portal, taken on October 12, 1943. (Union Switch & Signal Photo, Zachary C. Gillihan Collection)

The interior of the State Street Subway tower at the north portal, taken on October 13, 1943. (Union Switch & Signal Photo, Zachary C. Gillihan Collection)

The interior of the State Street Subway tower at the north portal, taken on October 13, 1943. (Union Switch & Signal Photo, Zachary C. Gillihan Collection)

The interior of the State Street Subway tower at the north portal, taken on October 13, 1943. (Union Switch & Signal Photo, Zachary C. Gillihan Collection)

The interior of the State Street Subway tower at the north portal, taken on October 13, 1943. (Union Switch & Signal Photo, Zachary C. Gillihan Collection)

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

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


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

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


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

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

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



The Trolley Dodger On the Air
We appeared on WGN radio in Chicago in November 2018, discussing our book Building Chicago’s Subways on the Dave Plier Show. You can hear our 19-minute conversation here.
Chicago, Illinois, December 17, 1938-- Secretary Harold Ickes, left, and Mayor Edward J. Kelly turn the first spadeful of earth to start the new $40,000,000 subway project. Many thousands gathered to celebrate the starting of work on the subway. Chicago, Illinois, December 17, 1938– Secretary Harold Ickes, left, and Mayor Edward J. Kelly turn the first spadeful of earth to start the new $40,000,000 subway project. Many thousands gathered to celebrate the starting of work on the subway.
Order Our New Book Building Chicago’s Subways

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

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

Bibliographic information:
Title Building Chicago’s Subways
Images of America
Author David Sadowski
Edition illustrated
Publisher Arcadia Publishing (SC), 2018
ISBN 1467129380, 9781467129381
Length 128 pages
Chapter Titles:
01. The River Tunnels
02. The Freight Tunnels
03. Make No Little Plans
04. The State Street Subway
05. The Dearborn-Milwaukee Subway
06. Displaced
07. Death of an Interurban
08. The Last Street Railway
09. Subways and Superhighways
10. Subways Since 1960
Building Chicago’s Subways is in stock and now available for immediate shipment. Order your copy today! All copies purchased through The Trolley Dodger will be signed by the author.
The price of $23.99 includes shipping within the United States.
For Shipping to US Addresses:

For Shipping to Canada:

For Shipping Elsewhere:

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

Help Support The Trolley Dodger

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This is our 250th post, and we are gradually creating a body of work and an online resource for the benefit of all railfans, everywhere. To date, we have received over 624,000 page views, for which we are very grateful.

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1946 Chicago Expressway Plans

Capture68

Capture69

I ran across an interesting article detailing the plans for building what we know today as the Kennedy and Dan Ryan expressways as they stood in 1946.  Construction of the Northwest expressway did not begin until the late 1950s, and the highway opened in 1960.  The Dan Ryan followed and opened in 1961-62.

The Tribune article from April 18, 1946 shows that the routes for both expressways were already pretty much determined, with a few exceptions.

The South (Dan Ryan) expressway is shown as being on the east side of the Rock Island railroad tracks until 39th street, and then continues south between Lafayette and State streets to approximately 99th, where it would connect with the Calumet expressway and the “Chicago-Detroit Super-highway.”

As built, the Ryan stays west of the Rock Island and does not run between Lafayette and State until it reaches Marquette (67th) heading south.  The article says there will not be an interchange at 63rd because the road would be elevated at that point (it is not).  The Chicago Skyway is not mentioned in the article, since it likely was planned later (it opened in 1958).

Virgil Gunlock, as head of the Chicago Department of Subways and Superhighways, had a lot to do with the expressway planning.  He later became Chairman of the Chicago Transit Board, which runs the CTA.  He died in 1963 at age 57.

The two rapid transit lines that were eventually built in the Dan Ryan and Kennedy expressways (opened in 1969 and 1970) were not part of these plans until about 1955.  By that time, construction of the Congress (later Eisenhower) expressway was already well underway, with a rapid transit line in the median.

The Congress expressway is not mentioned in the article since planning for that had pretty much been completed prior to WWII.

Some portions of the expressways that the article says were to be built elevated were actually put into open cuts instead.  There is no mention of what we now call “Hubbard’s Cave” in the downtown area, but there is mention of a block-long tunnel between Ashland and Cortland.

The reversible lanes on the Kennedy were apparently something that did not enter into the design process until the 1950s.  I recall reading elsewhere that the reversibles ended up being shortened when the planners decided to add a rapid transit line to the highway.

Even in 1946, plans were for the highway to go past what we know today as O’Hare airport.  In the article, it is called Douglas Airport.  Prior to WWII, plans for the Northwest expressway stopped at the city limits.

The original idea for the Northwest expressway dated back to the 1920s. The original idea was for an elevated highway to run parallel to the Chicago and North Western railroad.

Even before WWII, there were plans for a South expressway that would parallel the Rock Island railroad.  It was thought that this sort of alignment would reduce the number of side streets that would have to be truncated because of the expressway.  The planners did not want to adversely affect local traffic on side streets.

As you can see, these highway plans were already very far along 9 years before Richard J. Daley became mayor.  In fact, they even predate the two terms of his predecessor, Martin Kennelly.  At the time this article was written, Edward Kelly was still in office.

-David Sadowski

The CTA, the CA&E, and “Political Influence”

CA&E 453 in a winter scene on the old Met “L” main line. Here, we are looking east from Halsted. (Truman Hefner Photo)

Always on the lookout for new sources of information about electric railway history, I recently stumbled on one in an unlikely place- a book about politics.

Political Influence by Edward C. Banfield, originally published in 1961 by the Free Press of Glencoe, “examines the structures and dynamics of influence in determining who actually makes the decisions on vital issues in a large metropolitan area.”  The book takes an in-depth look at how political influence was applied in the Chicagoland area during the 1950s.

In his introduction to the 2003 edition, James Q. Wilson writes:

Banfield wanted to know how concrete issues were really decided, and so he studied six major controversies in Chicago and drew his conclusions about influence from his detailed account of who did what for (or to) whom.

Civic disputes in Chicago, he concluded, did not result from struggles for votes, competing ideologies, or the work of a shadowy power elite; they rose instead from the maintenance and enhancement needs of large organizations.  One organization (say, a hospital) wanted something, another organization (say, a rival hospital) opposed it.  The resulting conflict had to be managed by an outside authority if it were to be settled at all, and in Chicago, politicians did most of the managing.  But that management was hardly dictatorial.  Though Chicago politics was organized around a powerful political machine, the machine did not simply impose its will.  Instead, the mayor let every interest get its say, postponed decisions until some common ground could be found, and then nudged the contestants in the right direction.

Banfield devotes chapter 4 (pages 91-125) to the Chicago Transit Authority and attempts to convince the state legislature to subsidize it circa 1956-57.  According the the author, these efforts were intertwined with trying to save the Chicago, Aurora & Elgin interurban.

The CA&E lost both riders and money due to construction of the Congress (now Eisenhower) expressway, starting in 1953.  The project was expected to take five years, and CTA service in the expressway median opened on June 22, 1958.  But by 1956, the railroad’s management wanted out, and the choices were either to sell or abandon service and liquidate.

At the time, the only public agency that could have operated “The Great Third Rail” was the Chicago Transit Authority, itself only about a decade old.  Formed by combining the Chicago Rapid Transit Company and the Chicago Surface Lines, the CTA had started out with high hopes that an aggressive program of modernization would yield cost savings that would eventually make it possible to lower fares for their so-called “OWNERiders.”

Unfortunately, things did not turn out that way.  The new CTA bus routes in outlying areas lost money, and over its first decade, ridership declined by nearly 50%.  There were various reasons for the decline, including the rise in automobile ownership, fewer people working on Saturdays, the effects of several fare increases, and service reductions.

Unlike the New York transit system, which received a government subsidy of $100m per year during the 1950s, Chicago got none, and had to sink or swim out of the farebox.

CTA fares had increased gradually, but this also brought ridership losses.  The main way CTA saved money was through reductions in personnel, mainly by replacing two-man streetcars with buses.  But the last of the old red cars ran on May 30, 1954, and the governing Chicago Transit Board did not expect to see any additional savings from the elimination of PCC streetcars.

Banfield noted:

The heads of CTA’s operating divisions reported to a general manager, who in turn reported to Gunlock.  Gunlock and the general manager (Walter J. McCarter) together prepared the agenda for board meetings.  Although the board played an active role in the determination of general policy, it was Gunlock and the manager who ran the organization.

CTA Chairman Virgil E. Gunlock realized that government subsidies were needed, or CTA would risk going into an irreversible decline.  His opinions are summarized in Chicago’s Mass Transportation Dilemma, a presentation he gave to the Illinois Road Builders Association at the Palmer House in December 1957.

The CTA rapid transit system had contracted about 25% by the mid-1950s, and wanted to extend service through the medians of the planned Northwest (Kennedy) and South (Dan Ryan) expressways.  Shortly after Mayor Richard J. Daley took office in 1955, he asked Gunlock to prepare a “wish list” of potential new projects, so they could be prioritized, in the hope that new ways could be found to pay for them.

Chicago’s four major daily newspapers were in favor of subsidies, and so were most civic leaders.  But the CTA was not universally liked by the public, especially by those who used it, which tended to undermine prospects for government aid, since opinions were divided.

It was into this mix that CA&E threw in the towel and offered to put the entire railroad up for sale.

Daley and Gunlock hoped to use this to their advantage.  If the CTA could take over CA&E service, it was thought, this could win over crucial suburban support, resulting in government funding that could help transit in both the city and suburbs.

As we now know, things did not work out this way.

Mayor Daley had a good working relationship with Republican Governor William Stratton.  They tried to help each other out politically by supporting each others projects in their respective “spheres of influence.”

However, while Stratton supported state funding to purchase the CA&E (reported price: $6m), and was willing to exempt the CTA from paying certain taxes and fees, he backed off on additional tax revenues for CTA once it became clear that DuPage and Kane County officials did not support it.

So while Daley, Gunlock, Stratton and even County Board President Dan Ryan Jr. were all on friendly terms in their discussions on this issue, and generally agreed on what to do, in the political climate of 1957, nothing could be done.

Banfield cites four main reasons for this failure to act in time to save the “Roarin’ Elgin,” which I will list in brief:

1. The “country towns”– that part of Cook County which lay outside of Chicago proper– opposed being taxed to support a transportation system which did not serve them directly.

2. Organized highway users were another important class of opponents.  They had been trying for years to establish the principle that gasoline tax receipts should never be used for other than highway purposes.

3. The commuters of Kane and DuPage counites, although favoring measures to keep CA&E running, were very much opposed to paying a tax for that purpose.  Politicians from those counties met with Governor Stratton one evening in the Executive Mansion to tell him that their constituents “just won’t sit still for a tax increase of any kind.”  The state, they said, would be responsible for any suspension of passenger service and, therefore, it should provide any subsidy that might be needed.

The Governor expressed surprise.  He had supposed that continuing CA&E service was a matter of great importance to Kane and DuPage counties.  If it were so important, he said, surely the local people would be willing to contribute one cent a gallon toward it.

CTA supporters had hoped that Kane and DuPage counties’ interest in CA&E would lead them to support a plan for the general improvement of CTA.  It was clear now that this was not the case and that, in fact, if it cost them a few dollars, the western suburbs would not support even that part of the plan which would serve only them.

Some observers believed that the Governor had interested himself in CTA only because he wanted to help the CA&E commuters.  If this was so, his interest would probably now cease since it was apparent that the commuters were not really vitally concerned.

4. Many weekly newspapers in the more than eighty communities into which Chicago was divided opposed any kind of subsidy for CTA.

As a result, these legislative efforts failed.  As a result, the Chicago, Aurora & Elgin was allowed to “temporarily” suspend passenger service at midday on July 3, 1957, stranding thousands of riders downtown, without a way to get home.

This served the short-term purposes of the railroad, the state, and the county, since it allowed quick removal of the CA&E tracks in the vicinity of the DesPlaines river, which was necessary for construction of a vital link in the Congress expressway connecting the city and suburban sections.

Within a short period of weeks, Cook County gave CA&E a check for $1.2m just for this short section of right-of-way between DesPlaines and First Avenues.  Most probably, this amount was inflated to account for the $700k in losses from 1953 to 1957 that CA&E wanted to be reimbursed for.

Legislative efforts resumed in 1959, and again it seemed that CA&E was close to being saved.  The railroad had been kept largely intact, and freight service continued.  CTA anticipated a takeover, and even went so far as to put in a new track connection at the DesPlaines avenue terminal, where CA&E trains would exchange passengers with Congress “A” trains.  You can see pictures of that unused connection here.

The 1961 CTA Annual Report includes an aerial view of the DesPlaines yard, and the completed track connection to what could have been a restored CA&E service is clearly visible– but never used.  With the final abandonment of the railroad in 1961, all this was scrapped and removed, except for a short stretch of right-of-way that now serves CTA as a “tail track” for storing “L” cars.

All reminders of “what might have been.”

Mr. Banfield sums things up on page 271:

In the Transit Authority case, the Mayor, the Governor and the President of the County Board acted as agents of the affected interests in arranging the compromise; they did not try to impose a solution of their own upon these interests, and when the Governor found out that the compromise was not popular with his suburban supporters, he immediately dropped it.

In other words, even these notables could not muster enough “political influence” to save the Chicago, Aurora & Elgin.  Much of the CA&E right-of-way west of Maywood has been preserved as the Illinois Prairie Path.

Fortunately, the lessons learned from its demise helped pave the way for saving the transit system we have today, which would not be possible without your tax dollars and mine.

-David Sadowski

PS- You will also find a very thorough and informative discussion of how McCormick Place came to be in this book.  I recommend it.

Brand-new "flat door" cars 6003-6004 are shown to good advantage at the North Water Terminal in 1950. (Clark Equipment Co. Photo)

Brand-new “flat door” cars 6003-6004 are shown to good advantage at the North Water Terminal in 1950. (Clark Equipment Co. Photo)

In this view, from the 1961 CTA annual Report, we see the western end of the DesPlaines terminal, and the relocated, never used CA&E tracks behind it.

In this view, from the 1961 CTA annual Report, we see the western end of the DesPlaines terminal, and the relocated, never used CA&E tracks behind it.

Looking west from Halsted, CA&E 458 heads up a four car train of postwar units.

Looking west from Halsted, CA&E 458 heads up a four car train of postwar units.

CA&E 318 at Glen Oak on a fantrip. According to Don's Rail Photos, "318 was built by Jewett Car Co in 1914. It had steel sheating and was modernized in 1944. It was sold to Wisconsin Electric Raiway Historical Society in 1962. It was wrecked in transit and the parts were sold to IRM to restore 321."

CA&E 318 at Glen Oak on a fantrip. According to Don’s Rail Photos, “318 was built by Jewett Car Co in 1914. It had steel sheating and was modernized in 1944. It was sold to Wisconsin Electric Raiway Historical Society in 1962. It was wrecked in transit and the parts were sold to IRM to restore 321.”

141 at Batavia Junction. CA&E purchased this car from the North Shore Line in 1946. According to Don's Rail Photos, "141 was built by American Car Co in March 1910, #844, as Chicago &Milwaukee Electric 141. It was rebuilt in 1914 and retired in 1954.

141 at Batavia Junction. CA&E purchased this car from the North Shore Line in 1946. According to Don’s Rail Photos, “141 was built by American Car Co in March 1910, #844, as Chicago &Milwaukee Electric 141. It was rebuilt in 1914 and retired in 1954.”

CA&E 418 in Batavia on March 15, 1952.

CA&E 418 in Batavia on March 15, 1952.

CA&E 318 near Whaton on a Central Electric Railfans' Association fantrip, October 24, 1940.

CA&E 318 near Whaton on a Central Electric Railfans’ Association fantrip, October 24, 1940.

CA&E 425 at Glen Oak on a September 2, 1940 CERA fantrip.

CA&E 425 at Glen Oak on a September 2, 1940 CERA fantrip.

A pass from an early CERA fantrip.

A pass from an early CERA fantrip.

CA&E 460 in Elgin on May 14, 1953. This car is preserved in operating condition at the Illinois Railway Museum.

CA&E 460 in Elgin on May 14, 1953. This car is preserved in operating condition at the Illinois Railway Museum.