Pullman-built CTA PCC 4148 southbound at Clark and Thome on May 13, 1950. That is a safety island at right, to protect passengers from errant vehicles. (John D. Koschwanez Photo, John F. Bromley Collection)
As a way of saying thank you to our readers, we have decided to pull out all the stops for this, our 125th Trolley Dodger blog post, with a bevy of Chicago PCC photos. We have been saving some up for a while now in anticipation of this milestone, and rather than break this batch into two, we have decided to give them all to you at once. Along with the prewar and postwar Chicago streamliners, we have thrown in a few rare shots of pre-PCCs and even a couple of Sedans as well.
The Sedans are sometimes overlooked, but these 100 cars, built in 1929, were fast and modern, and could have continued to serve alongside the PCCs for some years past their 1952 retirement date. They provided Chicago with a total of 785 modern cars, including the two experimental units.
This is part of a series of Chicago PCC posts, and to see the earlier ones, please use the search window on this page.
I would also like to thank all the photographers (including some of the greats) who took these great photos so that we could enjoy them today. Thanks also to John F. Bromley for sharing some excellent color photos from his vast collection with us.
As we look ahead to what will hopefully be our next 125 posts, keep in mind that “from little trees, do big acorns grow.” Or maybe it was the other way around?
PS- These photos are being added to our E-book collection Chicago’s PCC Streetcars: The Rest of the Story, available through our Online Store. If you have already purchased a copy, we offer a low-cost updating service. Write us at email@example.com for more details.
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New From Trolley Dodger Press:
American Streetcar R.P.O.s: 1893-1929
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*:
New Bedford, Massachusetts
New York City
Rochester, New York
*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 (over 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
CTA 4409 and 4390 at the beautifully landscaped Western-Berwyn loop on May 13, 1950. (John D. Koschwanez Photo, John F. Bromley Collection)
Prewar CTA PCC 7020, now converted to one-man operation, is southbound at Western and Maypole in May 1956, about a month before the end of streetcar service on route 49. The prewar cars were used for 364 days on this line. In the back, that is the Lake Street “L”, which, oddly enough, does not have a stop on this busy street. (John F. Bromley Collection)
Western and Maypole today. We are looking north.
CTA Sedan 3377, showing the original door configuration, southbound on Cottage Grove at 95th Street on May 6, 1951. (John D. Koschwanez Photo, John F. Bromley Collection)
CTA Sedans (Peter Witts) 3360 and 3347 are shown here at south Shops in 1952, having been converted to one-man with the removal of some center doors. There were 25 cars so modified, but as far as I know, only one ran in service in this setup. (Robert W. Gibson Photo, John F. Bromley Collection)
CTA 4317 on Route 36 Broadway-State in March 1952.
CTA 7080 at State and 62nd in June 1950, near the site of the tragic collision between car 7078 and a gasoline truck, which took place on May 25.
The same general area today.
This picture is a bit blurred due to motion, but it does show prewar CTA PCC in July 1948, heading west at Englewood Union Station, at that time an important train hub. M. E. writes: “Actually, the westbound streetcar is in the process of passing the Englewood Union Station, which is the building on the right. Behind the streetcar is the platform for New York Central and Nickel Plate trains. Behind the photographer is the platform for Rock Island trains. To the right of the station is the platform for Pennsylvania Railroad trains.”
PCC 4393, “Another New CTA Streetcar,” at the 79th and Western loop in 1948.
According to George Trapp, CTA 7113 “appears to be at Devon Station at the southwest end of the south yard.”
CTA 4031 in the wye at 63rd and Central Park, ready to head east.
George Trapp: “CTA 7242 is on Schreiber just west of Clark laying over at the north end of Route 36.”
This picture, most likely taken from an “L” platform, gives an excellent view contrasting the roof treatments on these two PCCs. 7203 is at right, in regular service, while the other car is being towed.
Pullman-built CTA 4132 at the Madison-Austin loop on July 6, 1949.
CTA 4358 is on route 8 – Halsted at Congress in June 1952, during construction of the bridge that will go over the Congress expressway. The car at rear is on a shoo-fly.
CTA 7148 is next to sprinkler/plow D3 at Devon Station on May 16, 1954. D3 was scrapped on December 14, 1956.
Here is a rare shot of CSL experimental pre-PCC 7001 at 81st and Halsted, most likely in the 1930s.
In this November 1945 view at Kedzie Station (car barn), six cars in experimental paint schemes are lined up. From left, we have 4050, 4020, 4022, 4035, 4010, and 4018. To see what the color schemes were, go to page 12 of CERA Bulletin 146. (CSL Photo)
A side view of the six experimental CSL paint schemes in November 1945. (CSL Photo)
Again, the six experimental paint schemes at Kedzie and Van Buren in November 1945. The eventual choice for the new postwar PCCs was not exactly like any of these, but fairly close to one. (CSL Photo)
CSL 7003 in front of the old Chicago & North Western station on Madison on July 25, 1939. In an earlier post, we have another picture of the same car at nearly the same location, taken around this time, but it has a different run number. (Charles A. Brown Photo)
CSL 7001 on route 22 at Clark and Adams. The Banker’s Building at rear, now known as the Clark-Adams building, is located at 105 W. Adams. 476 feet tall, it is the tallest building ever built in Chicago to be clad entirely in brick. It was built in 1927 and this photo was probably taken in the 1930s.
CSL 4037 is at Madison and Laramie. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)
Brand-new PCC 7003 at Kedzie and Van Buren on November 23, 1936. (General Electric Photo)
CSL 4098 at South Shops on January 8, 1947. (General Electric Photo)
CSL 7029 at Madison and Austin on July 16, 1938. (M. D. McCarter Collection)
CSL 4051 at Kedzie and Van Buren on May 24, 1939. This is part of a series of photos of this car taken by CSL, possibly in preparation for the experimental modification of the doors on this car in 1940-41. This car helped determine the door arrangement used on the postwar PCCs. You will find another picture from this series in one of our earlier posts.
CSL 4051 is shown at Kedzie and Van Buren with an experimental door arrangement, which was tested on the busy Milwaukee Avenue car line. We ran another version of this same photo in a previous post, but this one has less cropping. (CSL Photo)
CSL 4051 at Madison and Austin, always a favorite spot for photographers. This photo was probably taken circa 1945-46 and by this time, the car had been returned to its original door arrangement. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)
CSL 4051 at Milwaukee and Central on August 4, 1940, during the door arrangement test. This was the only PCC to run in regular service on route 56 – Milwaukee. (Frank E. Butts Collection)
CTA 4120 eastbound at Madison and Franklin circa 1952-53. The newspaper trucks are advertising Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, then at the height of their popularity on I Love Lucy. (Roy W. Bruce Photo)
CTA 4106 at the same location. (Roy W. Bruce Photo)
CTA 4071 at Madison and Franklin, circa 1952-53. (Roy W. Bruce Photo)
Since CTA 4109 is westbound in this Loop photo, it is most likely on either Dearborn, Washington, Franklin, or Monroe. (Eastbound cars used Madison.)
CTA 4125 is eastbound at Harrison and Fifth Avenue. We posted a different picture taken at this location here. This car was on the Madison-Fifth branch line on route 20. Oddly enough, streetcar service on the branch line lasted longer than the main line. The building behind the streetcar is the Kux Machine Company, located at 3924-44 W. Harrison St. We are facing west, and everything on the right side of the picture was cleared away in the early 1950s to build the Congress (Eisenhower) expressway. (Roy W. Bruce Photo)
The same location today. Fifth Avenue is cut off by the expressway, probably because it would have crossed at an angle and wasn’t considered that major of a street. It only goes just over a mile west of here anyway. Fifth Avenue has also been truncated at Madison Street, reducing its importance even further.
This photo was marked as being at Cottage Grove and 103rd, but it is actually at 113th. By blowing up the image, I was able to read the street signs. CTA prewar car 4050 is shown in May 1953, after having been converted to one-man.
Cottage Grove and 113th today.
CTA 4101 heads east on Madison after having crossed the Chicago River during construction of Lower Wacker Drive. That’s the former Chicago Daily News building at rear. The date is July 4, 1951.
In this July 4, 1951 photo taken on Madison near Wacker, car 4132 is described as having a new paint job, the upper portion of which was different than any other car. There is a color picture of it in one of our previous posts.
This picture of 7001 at Clark and Schreiber, with Devon Station at left, was taken just a few seconds after one you will find here. The pre-PCC car is in the same position in both shots but the automobile at left has pulled up in the other photo. That version gives the photo credit to R. J. Anderson, while this one gives the date– February 29, 1940. The car’s colors are listed as their original silver and green.
CSL’s other experimental pre-PCC was streamlined car 4001, shown here at South Shops in 1936. Its colors are described as silver and blue. This car’s aluminum body shell is preserved at the Illinois Railway Museum in Union.
This picture is a bit blurred due to motion, but it does show prewar CTA PCC in July 1948, heading west after having just passed Englewood Union Station, at that time an important train hub.
Although CSL prewar car 7008 is signed for Madison-Fifth, this photo appears to show the Madison-Austin loop. PCCs are probably being phased in late 1936 or early 1937, as evidenced by the older cars in the photo. Once the route was equipped with 83 PCCs, they still required a number of the fast 1929 Sedans to fill out the schedules. Those buildings in back are still there today. Maybe it’s just a pull-in heading back to Kedzie Station. The car still has some shine on it.
The houses behind the Madison-Austin loop as they appear today.
CSL 4044 at Madison and Austin. The picture is dated 1941, but the “tiger stripes” on the car at rear would indicate it may be more like 1945-46.
CTA 4406, a product of St. Louis Car Company, in charter service on Clark Street north of Cermak Road, October 21, 1956. This may or may not be the same photo we posted here, it’s hard to tell. However, this was apparently a photo stop on a fantrip where the PCC followed red Pullman 225, and it’s likely there were a bunch of people taking this same photo. (Roy W. Bruce Photo)
In this August 1955 view, CTA 7106 is apparently heading northbound on route 36 – Broadway-State. Andre Kristopans adds, “7106 is NB at State and 91st about to go under C&WI/BRC/RI bridges. Note how street slopes downward. Everything on the right is gone, replaced by Dan Ryan Expressway.” (Roy W. Bruce Photo)
State and 91st today. We are looking south.
CTA 4203 at the Vincennes and 80th loop on May 20, 1951.
CTA 4228 at the Vincennes and 80th loop on May 20, 1951.
The location of the 80th and Vincennes loop today.
PS- Here is a short video showing Chicago PCCs in action in 1955-56. While this also purports to show red Pullman #144, it’s actually a fantrip with 225. Since the trip organizers had advertised that 144 would be used, they placed a piece of oilcloth with 144 on it over the car’s actual number. Fortunately, both cars were preserved, 144 at the Illinois Railway Museum and 225 at the Seashore Trolley Museum.