Richard Hofer’s Chicago “L” Pictures

It’s July 1969, and the original Tower 18 at Lake and Wells is being demolished to permit a new track connection to be put in on the Loop “L”. This was necessary so the CTA Lake Street “L” could be through-routed with the new Dan Ryan line that opened on September 28 of that year. The new tower is at left and has itself since been replaced. Prior to this, trains ran counter-clockwise in the same direction on both sets of Loop tracks. Henceforth, they became bi-directional. This is a Richard Hofer photo, from the David Stanley collection. The view looks north, and that is a southbound Ravenswood (today’s Brown Line) train at left.

I recently traveled to Milwaukee and visited David Stanley, and while I was there, he generously allowed me to scan some of his extensive collection of traction slides. Today we are featuring a small part of that collection, some classic photos of the Chicago “L” system, taken by the late Richard R. Hofer (1941-2010). Many of you may recall him from railfan meetings in years past. These pictures show he was an excellent photographer.

You can read Mr. Hofer’s obituary here, and you will note he was a proud Navy veteran. There are also some pictures of him on his Find-A-Grave page.

Scanning a photo, negative, or slide is just the starting point in obtaining the best possible version of that image. Each of these images represents my interpretation of the original source material, which often exhibits a lot of fading or color shift. For many of these images, we are also posting the uncorrected versions, just to show the substantial amount of work that goes into “making things look right.”

In addition, we have some recent photo finds of our own, as well as picture from our Milwaukee sojourn. As always, of you can provide any additional information on what you see in these pictures, do not hesitate to drop us a line.

We also have a new CD collection of rare traction audio from a variety of cities. These were recently digitized from original master tapes from the collections of William A. Steventon, of the Railroad Record Club of Hawkins, WI. You will find more information about that towards the end of our post.

Enjoy!

-David Sadowski

Richard R. Hofer Photos From the David Stanley Collection:

On April 20, 1964, CTA and local officials cut the ribbon at Dempster, commencing service on the new five-mile-long Skokie Swift line. This represented but a small portion of the Chicago North Shore and Milwaukee interurban that abandoned service on January 21, 1963. The Chicago Transit Authority had to purchase about half of the Swift route anyway, as their connection to Skokie Shops went over NSL tracks. The CTA decided to offer an express service between Dempster and Howard stations, and put in a large parking lot. Service was put into place using existing equipment at the lowest possible cost. The late George Krambles was put in charge of this project, which received some federal funding as a “demonstration” service, at a time when that was still somewhat unusual. But CTA officials at the time indicated that they would still have started the Swift, even without federal funds. I was nine years old at the time, and rode these trains on the very first day. I can assure you they went 65 miles per hour, as I was watching the speedometer. Needless to say, the experiment was quite successful, and service continues on what is now the Yellow Line today, with the addition of one more stop at Oakton.

The Skokie Swift on April 20, 1964.

The Skokie Swift on April 20, 1964.

The Skokie Swift on April 20, 1964. Note the old tower at right near Dempster, which had been used when “L” service ran on the Niles Center branch here from 1925-48. This tower remained standing for many years.

The Swift on opening day, April 20, 1964.

The Swift on opening day, April 20, 1964.

The Swift strikes a dramatic post on May 10, 1965. The slide identifies this as Main Street.

The Swift strikes a dramatic post on May 10, 1965. The slide identifies this as Main Street.

This car sports an experimental pantograph in October 1966.

This car sports an experimental pantograph in October 1966.

A 5000-series articulated train, renumbered into the 51-54 series, at Dempster in October 1966.

A 5000-series articulated train, renumbered into the 51-54 series, at Dempster in October 1966.

In October 1966, we see one of the four articulated 5000s (this was the original 5000-series, circa 1947-48) at Dempster, after having been retrofitted for Swift service, where they continued to run for another 20 years or so.

In October 1966, we see one of the four articulated 5000s (this was the original 5000-series, circa 1947-48) at Dempster, after having been retrofitted for Swift service, where they continued to run for another 20 years or so.

The Skokie Swift in September 1964.

The Skokie Swift in September 1964.

From 1925 until 1948, the Niles Center line provided local "L" service between Howard and Dempster on tracks owned by the North Shore Line. There were several stations along the way, and here we see one of them, as it appeared in September 1964 before it was removed to improve visibility at this grade crossing. I would have to check to see just which station this was, and whether the third track at left was simply a siding, or went to Skokie Shops. Miles Beitler says this is the "Kostner station looking east. The third track on the left was simply a siding, a remnant of North Shore Line freight service."

From 1925 until 1948, the Niles Center line provided local “L” service between Howard and Dempster on tracks owned by the North Shore Line. There were several stations along the way, and here we see one of them, as it appeared in September 1964 before it was removed to improve visibility at this grade crossing. I would have to check to see just which station this was, and whether the third track at left was simply a siding, or went to Skokie Shops. Miles Beitler says this is the “Kostner station looking east. The third track on the left was simply a siding, a remnant of North Shore Line freight service.”

Here is a nice view of the relatively spartan facilities at Dempster terminal on the Skokie Swift in September 1964. Service had been running for five months. This has since been improved and upgraded.

Here is a nice view of the relatively spartan facilities at Dempster terminal on the Skokie Swift in September 1964. Service had been running for five months. This has since been improved and upgraded.

In October 1966, a southbound Howard train has just left Howard terminal, and a single-car Evanston shuttle train has taken its place. After its riders depart, it will change ends on a siding just south of the station, and then head north after picking up passengers at the opposite platform.

In October 1966, a southbound Howard train has just left Howard terminal, and a single-car Evanston shuttle train has taken its place. After its riders depart, it will change ends on a siding just south of the station, and then head north after picking up passengers at the opposite platform.

A Skokie Swift single-car unit at Howard in December 1968.

A Skokie Swift single-car unit at Howard in December 1968.

An Evanston train of 4000s at Howard in December 1968.

An Evanston train of 4000s at Howard in December 1968.

Two Swift trains at Howard, December 1968.

Two Swift trains at Howard, December 1968.

At left, a northbound Skokie Swift car, and at right, a southbound Howard “A” train at the Howard terminal in October 1966.

Two single car units in October 1966, both equipped for overhead wire, but for different purposes. In the foreground, an Evanston shuttle car has trolley poles, while the Skokie Swift car at rear uses pantographs. Evanston was converted to third rail in 1973, and the Swift about 30 years after that.

Two single car units in October 1966, both equipped for overhead wire, but for different purposes. In the foreground, an Evanston shuttle car has trolley poles, while the Skokie Swift car at rear uses pantographs. Evanston was converted to third rail in 1973, and the Swift about 30 years after that.

Same as the previous picture, this overhead shot from the transfer bridge, taken in October 1966, shows the difference in current collection on two of the CTA's 50 single car units.

Same as the previous picture, this overhead shot from the transfer bridge, taken in October 1966, shows the difference in current collection on two of the CTA’s 50 single car units.

A southbound Evanston shuttle train approaches the Howard terminal. Third rail was banned in Evanston by local ordinance until 1973.

A southbound Evanston shuttle train approaches the Howard terminal. Third rail was banned in Evanston by local ordinance until 1973.

In September 1964, a four-car Evanston Express train approaches (I think) the old station at State and Van Buren. All four cars are single car units equipped with trolley poles, for use in Evanston where local laws did not permit use of third rail for current collection. In the early 1970s, this station was closed and removed, but was eventually put back, to serve the Harold Washington Library. This leg of the Loop "L" had a continuous platform for some time, which is visible here. George Trapp: "The September 1964 photo of four single unit cars 25-28, 39-50 on the Evanston Express are at Madison & Wells not State & Van Buren. Note crossover at Washington where non rush Ravenswood and late AM Evanston Expresses crossed over to the Inner Loop after stopping at Randolph & Wells on the Outer Loop. There was also a long continuous platform from Randolph to Madison."

In September 1964, a four-car Evanston Express train approaches (I think) the old station at State and Van Buren. All four cars are single car units equipped with trolley poles, for use in Evanston where local laws did not permit use of third rail for current collection. In the early 1970s, this station was closed and removed, but was eventually put back, to serve the Harold Washington Library. This leg of the Loop “L” had a continuous platform for some time, which is visible here. George Trapp: “The September 1964 photo of four single unit cars 25-28, 39-50 on the Evanston Express are at Madison & Wells not State & Van Buren. Note crossover at Washington where non rush Ravenswood and late AM Evanston Expresses crossed over to the Inner Loop after stopping at Randolph & Wells on the Outer Loop. There was also a long continuous platform from Randolph to Madison.”

In September 1964, at a time when the Loop "L" had uni-directional service (counter-clockwise), a Ravenswood "A" train approaches Clark and Lake. On the other hand, George Trapp says we are "at Madison & Wells, notice the clocktower for Grand Central Station with B&O in distance. At that time many more cars is series 6001-6130 still had their original headlight arrangement."

In September 1964, at a time when the Loop “L” had uni-directional service (counter-clockwise), a Ravenswood “A” train approaches Clark and Lake. On the other hand, George Trapp says we are “at Madison & Wells, notice the clocktower for Grand Central Station with B&O in distance. At that time many more cars is series 6001-6130 still had their original headlight arrangement.”

Logan Square yard in December 1966.

Logan Square yard in December 1966.

The tail end of a Congress-Milwaukee "A" train at the Logan Square terminal in September 1964. As you can see, space here was at a premium. George Trapp adds, "Tail end of freshly painted 6592-6591 at Logan Square in Sept. 1964. This set was in builder’s photos by St. Louis Car around June 1957. When new were originally assigned to North-South route as were all high 6000’s until mid 1960, although some 6600’s were on Ravenswood in 1959-60. I always though the old Logan Square terminal was neat, certainly had more character than present one."

The tail end of a Congress-Milwaukee “A” train at the Logan Square terminal in September 1964. As you can see, space here was at a premium. George Trapp adds, “Tail end of freshly painted 6592-6591 at Logan Square in Sept. 1964. This set was in builder’s photos by St. Louis Car around June 1957. When new were originally assigned to North-South route as were all high 6000’s until mid 1960, although some 6600’s were on Ravenswood in 1959-60. I always though the old Logan Square terminal was neat, certainly had more character than present one.”

A southbound Howard "A" train is on the center track. and served stations that either had a center platform or (like Wilson) had two sets of platforms. "B" trains (and the Evanston Express) used the outer tracks and served stations with side platforms. This picture was taken in May 1968. Note the southbound outer track has overhead wire in addition to third rail, for use by freight trains that ran at night until 1973. George Trapp: "Southbound Howard to Englewood “A” train has two cars of 6511-6550 series on head end. This series was split between the North-South and West-Northwest in the 1960’s with cars up to 6550 and 6551-6558 from next series being on North-South in winter months. Note that track 4 was being redone at that time and is missing."

A southbound Howard “A” train is on the center track. and served stations that either had a center platform or (like Wilson) had two sets of platforms. “B” trains (and the Evanston Express) used the outer tracks and served stations with side platforms. This picture was taken in May 1968. Note the southbound outer track has overhead wire in addition to third rail, for use by freight trains that ran at night until 1973. George Trapp: “Southbound Howard to Englewood “A” train has two cars of 6511-6550 series on head end. This series was split between the North-South and West-Northwest in the 1960’s with cars up to 6550 and 6551-6558 from next series being on North-South in winter months. Note that track 4 was being redone at that time and is missing.”

In August 1963, a four-car Douglas-Milwaukee “B” train prepares to leave Logan Square terminal. Until 1970, this was as far into the northwest side of the city that “L” service went. By 1984, the “L” had been extended all the way to O’Hare airport. This train sports a fire extinguisher on its front, a practice that did not last, apparently because some of them were stolen. While this elevated station was replaced by a nearby subway, the building underneath the “L” actually still exists, although it has been so heavily modified that you would never know it is the same structure. The Logan Square terminal was always my favorite “L” station when I was a kid.

Workers are removing the old Tower 18 structure in this July 1969 view. When service on the Loop “L” was made bi-directional, due to the through-routing of the Lake Street “L” and the new Dan Ryan line, the old tower was in the way of new tracks that needed to be installed.

The same basic scene as the last photo, from July 1969. We can tell that this picture was taken prior to the opening of the Dan Ryan line (September 28, 1969) because the train making the turn here is simply signed for Lake. Prior to the through-routing, Lake Street trains went around the Loop, and all traffic went counter-clockwise. The new track connection that allowed bi-directional operation had not yet been installed here.

The same basic scene as the last photo, from July 1969. We can tell that this picture was taken prior to the opening of the Dan Ryan line (September 28, 1969) because the train making the turn here is simply signed for Lake. Prior to the through-routing, Lake Street trains went around the Loop, and all traffic went counter-clockwise. The new track connection that allowed bi-directional operation had not yet been installed here.

A Lake-Dan Ryan train in October 1969, and what appears to be left-hand running.

A Lake-Dan Ryan train in October 1969, and what appears to be left-hand running.

It’s October 1969, and this westbound Lake-Dan Ryan train appears to be running on the “wrong” track, perhaps due to weekend track work on the Loop. This train has just left State and Lake and is heading towards Clark and Lake. Through-routing Lake and the new Dan Ryan line, which happened in September 1969, meant the end of unidirectional operations on the Loop.

Track work near Tower 18, July 1969. A work train of 4000-series “L” cars is most likely parked here.

This picture was taken in April 1973 at one of the Howard line stations near the north end of the line. The two outer tracks are used for express trains, and the inner tracks for locals.

This picture was taken in April 1973 at one of the Howard line stations near the north end of the line. The two outer tracks are used for express trains, and the inner tracks for locals.

The southbound express track on the northern portion of the Howard line had overhead wire equipped, for use by freight trains that the CTA was obliged to operate for customers along this line north of Irving Park Road. This was a holdover of service that originally had been offered by the Milwaukee Road, which leased this line to the Chicago Rapid Transit Company. The Chicago Transit Authority purchased it in the early 1950s, and freight service ended right around the time this picture was taken.

The southbound express track on the northern portion of the Howard line had overhead wire equipped, for use by freight trains that the CTA was obliged to operate for customers along this line north of Irving Park Road. This was a holdover of service that originally had been offered by the Milwaukee Road, which leased this line to the Chicago Rapid Transit Company. The Chicago Transit Authority purchased it in the early 1950s, and freight service ended right around the time this picture was taken.

Wilson Avenue, April 1973.

Wilson Avenue, April 1973.

An Englewood-Howard train at Wilson Avenue in April 1973. This station has since been completely redone.

An Englewood-Howard train at Wilson Avenue in April 1973. This station has since been completely redone.

In the late 1950s, a fourth track was added to a small portion of the Howard line that previously only had three tracks. This platform was added at that time, and was used by southbound North Shore Line trains. I was actually on a southbound Howard train one day when it unexpectedly stopped here, so I got off and took a look around, just to see what it was like. This has all been removed now, of course. The overhead wire was used by freight trains that ran at night. This picture was taken in April 1973.

In the late 1950s, a fourth track was added to a small portion of the Howard line that previously only had three tracks. This platform was added at that time, and was used by southbound North Shore Line trains. I was actually on a southbound Howard train one day when it unexpectedly stopped here, so I got off and took a look around, just to see what it was like. This has all been removed now, of course. The overhead wire was used by freight trains that ran at night. This picture was taken in April 1973.

The view looking the other way from the platform at Wilson that opened around 1960 (this picture taken in April 1973).

The view looking the other way from the platform at Wilson that opened around 1960 (this picture taken in April 1973).

CTA's Tower 18 at Lake and Wells in July 1971, looking north.

CTA’s Tower 18 at Lake and Wells in July 1971, looking north.

A work train of 4000s is southbound just north of the Loop in July 1971.

A work train of 4000s is southbound just north of the Loop in July 1971.

Here, we are looking north from the old Randolph and Wells station in May 1971, looking to the junction of Wells and Lake. This station has since been replaced by Washington and Wells.

Here, we are looking north from the old Randolph and Wells station in May 1971, looking to the junction of Wells and Lake. This station has since been replaced by Washington and Wells.

In May 1971, we see the rear of a northbound Evanston Express train of 4000s, just leaving the old Randolph and Wells station.

In May 1971, we see the rear of a northbound Evanston Express train of 4000s, just leaving the old Randolph and Wells station.

If I had to guess the location of this July 1971 picture, taken on Chicago's north side, it would be between Wilson and Sheridan.

If I had to guess the location of this July 1971 picture, taken on Chicago’s north side, it would be between Wilson and Sheridan.

This Howard “A” train is heading southbound in July 1971, under a section that still had overhead wire for use by freight trains that ran at night. The Howard train, of course, used third rail for current collection exclusively. Perhaps one of our readers can help identify which station this is.

This picture was taken at Granville on the Howard line in May 1971.

This picture was taken at Granville on the Howard line in May 1971.

Again, Granville on the Howard line in May 1971.

Again, Granville on the Howard line in May 1971.

The rest of the work train, in July 1971.

The rest of the work train, in July 1971.

This July 1971 photo shows either the Halsted or Racine station on the Congress line. The train is heading west, away from the photographer. In those days, many stations had these “pay on train” signs, and when illuminated, that meant there was no ticket agent on duty, and the conductor would collect your fare on the train. There are no more conductors now, so this practice ended a long time ago. There were large grassy areas on each side of the tracks along portions of the right-of-way, because plans originally called for four tracks here. There had been four tracks when this was part of the Metrolpolitan “L” main line. In the new arrangement, two tracks would have been used by Lake Street “L” trains, which were at one time intended to be re-routed onto the Congress line.

If this is the same location as the last picture, this is the Racine station, this time looking to the east. Again, this is July 1971. This is a westbound Congress-Milwaukee “A” train.

Finally, here is the uncorrected version of the picture at the top of this post.

Finally, here is the uncorrected version of the picture at the top of this post.

Milwaukee Trip

Here are some photos I took in Milwaukee on May 3rd. They show the new Milwaukee streetcar circulator line, which began service last November, and memorabilia from the Dave Stanley collection. On the way up, I stopped in Kenosha and snapped a few pictures of the tourist PCC line there.

Recent Finds

Two CTA “L” trains pass each other at Wabash and Lake in April 1975. At left, we see a Loop Shuttle made up of 6000s; at right, a Lake-Dan Ryan set of 2000s. The Loop Shuttle was intended to make it easier to get from one downtown station to another, but was not really necessary and was eventually discontinued. It originally came about in the wake of the 1969 changes, whereby the Loop was made bi-directional. At rear we see the old Sun-Times/Daily News building, which stood at 401 N. Wabash from 1958 until 2005. It is now the site of the Trump International Hotel and Tower. Just over two years after this picture was taken, part of an “L” train fell off the structure at this curve.

On March 2, 1980, photographer Arthur H. Peterson snapped this picture of CTA Historic Cars 4271-4272 at the Dempster terminal in Skokie. The occasion was a fantrip.

On March 2, 1980, photographer Arthur H. Peterson snapped this picture of CTA Historic Cars 4271-4272 at the Dempster terminal in Skokie. The occasion was a fantrip.

In February 1977, a two-car CTA Ravenswood train of “flat door” 6000s is about to stop at the old Clark and Lake station in the Loop, on its way towards Kimball and Lawrence on Chicago’s northwest side. This station has since been replaced by a more modern one, with entrances connected to nearby buildings.

Chicago & North Western steam locomotive 511, a 4-6-2, is northbound at the EJ&E (Elgin Joliet & Eastern Railway) overpass in North Chicago, IL on the afternoon of July 13, 1955. In the foreground, we see the tracks of the Chicago North Shore & Milwaukee, the North Shore Line. North Chicago was also the original home of the Illinois Electric Railway Museum, which relocated to Union in the early 1960s. (Robert Selle Photo)

Chicago & North Western steam locomotive 511, a 4-6-2, is northbound at the EJ&E (Elgin Joliet & Eastern Railway) overpass in North Chicago, IL on the afternoon of July 13, 1955. In the foreground, we see the tracks of the Chicago North Shore & Milwaukee, the North Shore Line. North Chicago was also the original home of the Illinois Electric Railway Museum, which relocated to Union in the early 1960s. (Robert Selle Photo)

Recent Correspondence:

Miles Beitler writes:

This may be of interest to the history buffs — just before the opening day of Skokie Swift revenue service in 1964, the CTA ran free demonstration rides between Dempster and Howard. I was with a group of people on the Chicago Avenue bridge watching the trains coming in and out of Howard. I overheard a conversation among several of them, possibly CTA officials or workers, to the effect that the CRT/North Shore had originally planned for the tracks to run under Chicago Avenue and the C&NW but then to immediately rise and pass through the rest of Evanston on an embankment. However, this would have required the closing of Custer Avenue, which the City of Evanston refused to do. So the open cut was continued past Asbury, and the embankment did not begin until just east of Dodge.

Dave, you know much more about the Lake Street line than I do. How was the transition from 3rd rail to trolley poles done on Lake? Did they raise or lower the poles at Laramie, or was it done on the fly between Laramie and Central?

On Lake, the transition point was originally at Laramie, but some time prior to the 1962 changeover to the embankment, this was moved further west, to a point closer to Central, most likely to facilitate construction. This may have been done in 1961. I believe we have posted pictures in the past showing both changeover points.

Miles Beitler, again (in reference to some of the comments at the end of this post):

I want to clarify an earlier comment regarding when the Evanston Express began using track 1 between Howard and Granville. Andre Kristopans claimed that it wasn’t until the late ’60s, but I’m sure it was before that based on my personal knowledge and information from Graham Garfield. I mentioned that in my earlier comment — see the paragraph below — but let me expand on that.

Graham Garfield states on his website “No gauntlet track was needed for third rail clearance on Track 1 between Howard and Granville because there was no third rail there until November 1964, this section instead being solely powered by overhead wire.” Garfield also states that this is when SB afternoon Evanston Express trains began using track 1 out of Howard, but this may only be an assumption.

Why do I say that this may only be an assumption? Because elsewhere on his website, Garfield says:

“The year 1955 brought a new express service. On November 28th, the Shoppers Special service was reinstated on an experimental basis. The service ran Monday through Friday midday to the Loop using 6000-series cars 6123-6130 (specially equipped with trolley poles) and 5000-series cars 5001-5004. The Shoppers Special made all stops between Linden and South Boulevard, then Fullerton, the Merchandise Mart, and the Loop.”

So according to Garfield, these trains came from Evanston with their poles raised, and they breezed right through Howard without stopping. Were the poles quickly lowered while the train was passing Howard on track 2? It would seem more logical for the train to pass Howard on track 1, keeping its poles raised, and lower the poles at Granville instead. But then Garfield mentions that Howard was added as a stop the following year, and he displays a photo of a Shoppers Special stopped at Howard with its poles down. So I just don’t know which track these trains used, and perhaps Garfield isn’t sure either.

One point I’m absolutely clear on: I vividly recall watching from the Chicago Avenue (Evanston) bridge as North Shore trains approached Howard while the conductors or trainmen stood outside the cars and raised the trolley poles. Andre Kristopans confirmed this as well.

Prewar Chicago PCC 7010 is at the western terminal of Route 63 - 63rd Street, located at 63rd Place and Narragansett Avenue. After streetcars were cut back to this loop in 1948 (double-ended cars had previously gone a half mile west to Oak Park Avenue) this became a transfer point for buses heading west. This bus is heading to Argo, which is not the name of a suburb, but the name of a factory in suburban Summit that produced Argo corn starch. If you could see the front of the PCC, there were "tiger stripes," intended to make the cars more visible to motorists and pedestrians. PCCs ran on 63rd Street from 1948-52. (William Hoffman Photo, Wien-Criss Archive)

Prewar Chicago PCC 7010 is at the western terminal of Route 63 – 63rd Street, located at 63rd Place and Narragansett Avenue. After streetcars were cut back to this loop in 1948 (double-ended cars had previously gone a half mile west to Oak Park Avenue) this became a transfer point for buses heading west. This bus is heading to Argo, which is not the name of a suburb, but the name of a factory in suburban Summit that produced Argo corn starch. If you could see the front of the PCC, there were “tiger stripes,” intended to make the cars more visible to motorists and pedestrians. PCCs ran on 63rd Street from 1948-52. (William Hoffman Photo, Wien-Criss Archive)

Our resident South side expert M. E. writes:

Regarding
https://thetrolleydodger.files.wordpress.com/2019/04/img066-1.jpg
I want to discuss the name of the town. Is it Summit or Argo?

I remember using the names interchangeably. There was, and still is, Argo Community High School. But Amtrak and Metra call their station Summit.If you Google “Summit Illinois”, up comes another possibility: Summit-Argo.  If you go to http://www.usps.com/zip4 and enter the address 6400 Archer Av, which is where Corn Products (maker of Argo Starch) is located, up comes “6400 S Archer Rd, Summit Argo IL 60501-1935”. Finally, if you google “Corn Products Illinois”, up comes that same street address, but in Bedford Park.

All of which means the area southwest of 63rd and Archer is sort of in no-man’s-land.

OK, here’s a nit comment about the picture itself. The bus headed for Argo may have said Argo rather than Summit because there is no place to turn around at 63rd and Archer. So the bus probably had to turn left onto Archer and proceed to Corn Products’ parking lot in order to turn around.

There is no town called Argo… the entire area is Summit. The Argo name comes from the factory, which has led locals to nickname it “Summit-Argo.” Here is a map, which shows the area in question is Summit, even though there is an Argo High School:

M. E. replies:

If there is no town called Argo, wherefore cometh the name Summit Argo? Why not just Summit?

The only current pure use of the name Argo is for the high school. But why did that name originate? Might the town have been named Argo when the school began?

Here’s something interesting I just discovered at http://www.usps.com/zip4 . There, you can look up a ZIP code and see which cities have that ZIP code.
For 60501, I see:

Recommended city name
SUMMIT ARGO

Other city names recognized for addresses in this ZIP code
ARGO
BEDFORD PARK
SUMMIT

This tells me some people still use Argo as the town name.

Back to the CTA bus sign 63A ARGO. Why would the CTA do that? They could just as easily have accommodated 63A SUMMIT. I contend they used ARGO because the locals in that area called the town Argo. And I contend the town was called Argo because its largest employer, Corn Products, manufactured Argo Starch.

I have yet another source: A book titled “Train Watcher’s Guide to Chicago”, authored by John Szwajkart, dated 1976. It is accompanied by a map of railroad tracks in the entire Chicago area. The map shows two separate stations: Argo and Summit. The Argo station is south of Summit, around where Corn Products is located.

Finally, I fall back on what I remember calling that area when I was a kid. I called it Argo. Anecdotal, of course.

So it boils down to this: We can agree to disagree.

But isn’t this fun?

M E

The town of Summit was founded in 1890, and the Argo factory was started in 1907 in an unincorporated area to the south of Summit. Summit annexed it in 1911.

The USPS will accept names for areas that are not, strictly speaking, the actual municipal names. I can think of numerous instances of this happening. Sometimes, these are neighborhood nicknames. Such is the case with “Summit Argo.”

Interestingly, there is a film called Argo, which has nothing to do with Summit or Argo in Illinois.

Arrrgh!!!

-David Sadowski

Now Available On Compact Disc

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


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

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

Potomac Edison (Hagerstown & Frederick), Capital Transit, Altoona & Logan Valley, Shaker Heights Rapid Transit, Pennsylvania Railroad, Illinois Terminal, Baltimore Transit, Niagara St. Catharines & Toronto, St. Louis Public Transit, Queensboro Bridge, Third Avenue El, Southern Iowa Railway, IND Subway (NYC), Johnstown Traction, Cincinnati Street Railway, and the Toledo & Eastern

$5 from the sale of each set will go to Kenneth Gear, who has invested thousands of dollars to purchase all the remaining artifacts relating to William A. Steventon’s Railroad Record Club of Hawkins, WI. It is very unlikely that he will ever be able to recoup his investment, but we support his efforts at preserving this important history, and sharing it with railfans everywhere.

Disc One
Potomac Edison (Hagerstown & Frederick):
01. 3:45 Box motor #5
02. 3:32 Box motor #5, May 24, 1953
03. 4:53 Engine whistle signals, loco #12, January 17, 1954
04. 4:13 Loco #12
Capital Transit:
05. 0:56 PCC car 1557, Route 20 – Cabin John line, July 19, 1953
06. 1:43
Altoona & Logan Valley:
07. 4:00 Master Unit car #74, August 8, 1953
Shaker Heights Rapid Transit:
08. 4:17 Car 306 (ex-AE&FRE), September 27, 1953
09. 4:04
10. 1:39
Pennsylvania Railroad GG-1s:
11. 4:35 August 27, 1954
12. 4:51
Illinois Terminal:
13. 5:02 Streamliner #300, northward from Edwardsville, February 14, 1955
14. 12:40 Car #202 (ex-1202), between Springfield and Decatur, February 1955
Baltimore Transit:
15. 4:56 Car 5706, January 16, 1954
16. 4:45 Car 5727, January 16, 1954
Niagara, St. Catharines & Toronto:
17. 4:19 Interurbans #83 and #80, October 1954
18. 5:20 #80, October 1954
Total time: 79:30

Disc Two
St. Louis Public Service:
01. 4:34 PCCs #1708, 1752, 1727, 1739, December 6, 1953
Queensboro Bridge Company (New York City):
02. 5:37 Cars #606, 605, and 601, December 31, 1954
03. 5:17
Third Avenue El (New York City):
04. 5:07 December 31. 1954
05. 4:47 Cars #1797, 1759, and 1784 at 59th Street, December 31, 1954
Southern Iowa Railway:
06. 4:46 Loco #400, August 17, 1955
07. 5:09 Passenger interurban #9
IND Subway (New York City):
08. 8:40 Queens Plaza station, December 31, 1954
Last Run of the Hagerstown & Frederick:
09. 17:34 Car #172, February 20, 1954 – as broadcast on WJEJ, February 21, 1954, with host Carroll James, Sr.
Total time: 61:31

Disc Three
Altoona & Logan Valley/Johnstown Traction:
01. 29:34 (Johnstown Traction recordings were made August 9, 1953)
Cincinnati Street Railway:
02. 17:25 (Car 187, Brighton Car House, December 13, 1951– regular service abandoned April 29, 1951)
Toledo & Eastern:
03. 10:36 (recorded May 3-7, 1958– line abandoned July 1958)
Capital Transit:
04. 16:26 sounds recorded on board a PCC (early 1950s)
Total time: 74:02

Total time (3 discs) – 215:03


The Trolley Dodger On the Air

We appeared on WGN radio in Chicago last November, discussing our book Building Chicago’s Subways on the Dave Plier Show. You can hear our 19-minute conversation here.

Chicago, Illinois, December 17, 1938-- Secretary Harold Ickes, left, and Mayor Edward J. Kelly turn the first spadeful of earth to start the new $40,000,000 subway project. Many thousands gathered to celebrate the starting of work on the subway.

Chicago, Illinois, December 17, 1938– Secretary Harold Ickes, left, and Mayor Edward J. Kelly turn the first spadeful of earth to start the new $40,000,000 subway project. Many thousands gathered to celebrate the starting of work on the subway.

Order Our New Book Building Chicago’s Subways

There were three subway anniversaries in 2018 in Chicago:
60 years since the West Side Subway opened (June 22, 1958)
75 years since the State Street Subway opened (October 17, 1943)
80 years since subway construction started (December 17, 1938)

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

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

Bibliographic information:

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

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

Building Chicago’s Subways is in stock and now available for immediate shipment. Order your copy today! All copies purchased through The Trolley Dodger will be signed by the author.

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

For Shipping to US Addresses:

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For Shipping Elsewhere:

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

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

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Railroad Record Club Treasure Hunt, Part 2

1 Selection of Steventon tapes mostly unreleased

1 Selection of Steventon tapes mostly unreleased

Following up on our recent post William A. Steventon’s Railroad Record Club (September 24, 2018), guest author Kenneth Gear continues with a detailed rundown on his latest discoveries.

I have been interested in historic preservation for a long time, and it’s not every day that anyone comes across original material such as this. Suddenly, out of nowhere it seems, previously unknown, unissued audio recordings have emerged for some long-vanished steam and electric railroads, along with 16mm motion picture film, and various artifacts related to the Railroad Record Club’s 42 issued LPs, in their various forms. It seems like a miracle that somehow, it all survived to be rescued from oblivion.

Getting this done involved a tremendous financial sacrifice on Ken’s part, as he is of modest means. I hope that he will be able to recoup at least some of his substantial investment in the future. I am sure he will appreciate any contributions you may be able to offer him, towards the cost of transferring some of these reel-to-reel tapes and 16mm movie films to digital.

You can find Part 1 here: Railroad Record Club Treasure Hunt (July 30, 2017)

-David Sadowski

PS- Our new book Building Chicago’s Subways is now available for immediate shipment.  If you already pre-ordered it, your copy is already on its way to you.  We are excited to have had the opportunity to tell the story of this exciting chapter in Chicago history.  Details on how to order are at the end of this post.

Railroad Record Club Treasure Hunt, Part 2

It’s been over a year since I acquired a large portion of the William Steventon estate. The Railroad Record Club items that I purchased last year have enabled David and I to piece together a fairly complete history of the RRC and to more fully appreciate the time and effort Mr. Steventon put into producing these records. The homemade 78rpm records alone proved to be an invaluable resource. Not only did they provide us with some wonderful recordings, most of which hadn’t been heard in over fifty years, they revealed the pre-history of the club and offered a glimpse into the infancy of railroad field recording.

We were able to hear the very first railroad recording Steventon made– B&O trains at Riverdale, Maryland in 1953. We also finally completed our quest to get a copy of every single released RRC record digitized and put on CDs. We are now only in need of two samplers, the 5th and 6th years. More interesting information was garnered from examining original record jacket artwork and paste up boards, as well as the metal print blocks. We were also able to compile a list of records re-issued on 12″ stock and find out what was necessary for it to happen and the cost of doing it.

Photographs from his personal collection were scanned and published in the Trolley Dodger for all to enjoy. I think the effort that went into keeping all this material from ending up in a dumpster was well worth the time and expense and I’m happy to have been involved.

In spite of this, I knew the job was only half finished. There was much more that needed to be saved and time was running out. Those tapes I wrote about under the heading “what I left behind” in the first treasure hunt story needed to be preserved. There were still a big box of photos, reams of correspondence, the metal master discs for the 12″ reissues and lots and lots of sealed records.

The estate dealer was quite adamant that this stuff had to go…and quickly! I purchased all that I could, but I certainly could not afford to buy anything else and asked for some time to raise the money. As I tried to come up with the extra cash needed, months went by and the emails ceased. For a while it seemed that all this great material would be lost. Still, I squirreled away what money I could when I could and slowly, much too slowly, I approached his asking price. With the funds in hand, I emailed the estate dealer putting in the subject line that I HAD the money for the remaining Steventon estate items. Even as I composed that email I couldn’t be sure that the entire lot wasn’t already in some land fill rotting away. He answered me the next day, but it seemed a lot longer then that to me. His first two sentences were a relief:  

Ken, good to hear from you.  Yes, it is all as we left it a year ago.

There was one complication that needed to be addressed. I could not make the trip up to him in Wisconsin this year as I had done before. All the items would have to be shipped to me in New Jersey.

The estate dealer was agreeable to packing up the items and doing the weighing and making the transportation arrangements, but again there was a complication. This was his busy season and he would be working extensively out of town.  He would not be able to devote much time to this effort for the next few weeks. A little progress was made here and there through the rest of June and I purchased boxes and packing material in July. I was a little apprehensive about shipping old open reel tapes and vinyl records during the hottest part of the summer anyway, so I just had to be patient. In early August progress was made and on the 13th I received the long-awaited email:

The last box is packed.  You’ll have a pallet coming that’s right around 400 pounds, perhaps a touch over.  Nine boxes to be delivered to the YRC terminal. 

Several more delays would still be encountered, not the lest of which was the local hardware store’s forklift needing repairs. The hardware store, for a $20 fee, would be used to lift the pallet onto the truck. At last, in early September, with all hurdles cleared, a newly-repaired forklift placed the shipment on to the truck. Finally, the second half of the Steventon estate’s Railroad Record Club items were on their way to me.

A few days later I heading to the local YRC terminal to receive the long-awaited shipment. After some paperwork in the office, I backed a borrowed ¾-ton pick-up truck to the indicated bay. Soon a forklift lowered the last of the Railroad Record Club items from the Steventon estate into the truck bed. I now had a night of treasure hunting to look forward to!

I had sort of “cherry picked” the first half of the estate, so I knew that a great unexpected find was rather doubtful, but I did come across a few surprises.

THE TAPES

2 Tapes appear to be in good condition

2 Tapes appear to be in good condition

3 Tape with hand written track listing

3 Tape with hand written track listing

4 More unreleased Steventon audio

4 More unreleased Steventon audio

5 Lots of interesting material on these tapes

5 Lots of interesting material on these tapes

6 Still more intersting tapes

6 Still more intersting tapes

7 Unreleased audio this is why I bought the whole lot

7 Unreleased audio this is why I bought the whole lot

8 Steventon tapes

8 Steventon tapes

9 More Stevnton tapes

9 More Stevnton tapes

10 Even more tapes

10 Even more tapes

11 Small reels -the master tapes for the 78rpm records

11 Small reels -the master tapes for the 78rpm records

12 Another view of the Small reels -the master tapes for the 78rpm records

12 Another view of the Small reels -the master tapes for the 78rpm records

13 A box full of the Small reels -the master tapes for the 78rpm records

13 A box full of the Small reels -the master tapes for the 78rpm records

14 Close up of the 78rpm record master tapes

14 Close up of the 78rpm record master tapes

15 Another Close up of the 78rpm record master tapes

15 Another Close up of the 78rpm record master tapes

16 78rpm master tapes showing condition of tapes-not too bad

16 78rpm master tapes showing condition of tapes-not too bad

17 close up of 78rpm master tape showing condition

17 close up of 78rpm master tape showing condition

18 BC Electric and Montreal & South Counties tapes with Steventon letter

18 BC Electric and Montreal & South Counties tapes with Steventon letter

19 Montreal & South Counties tape with Steventon letter

19 Montreal & South Counties tape with Steventon letter

20 BC Electric tape with Steventon letter

20 BC Electric tape with Steventon letter

21 Close up of the BC Electric and Montreal & South Counties tapes

21 Close up of the BC Electric and Montreal & South Counties tapes

22 Railroad Record Club Master tapes

22 Railroad Record Club Master tapes

23 Master tape for record 26

23 Master tape for record 26

24 A stack of 22 Railroad Record Club Master tapes

24 A stack of 22 Railroad Record Club Master tapes

25 master tape Railroad Record Club number 16

25 master tape Railroad Record Club number 16

26 master tape Railroad Record Club number 15

26 master tape Railroad Record Club number 15

27 master tape Railroad Record Club with memo

27 master tape Railroad Record Club with memo

28 master tape Railroad Record Club number 17

28 master tape Railroad Record Club number 17

29 master tape Railroad Record Club number 18

29 master tape Railroad Record Club number 18

30 Note on box containing master tape Railroad Record Club number 18

30 Note on box containing master tape Railroad Record Club number 18

31 Two master tapes for record number 3

31 Two master tapes for record number 3

32 Two master tapes for record number 3 showing condition

32 Two master tapes for record number 3 showing condition

33 master tape Railroad Record Club number 7

33 master tape Railroad Record Club number 7

34 master tapes Railroad Record Club number 10

34 master tapes Railroad Record Club number 10

35 master tape Railroad Record Club number 23 with memo

35 master tape Railroad Record Club number 23 with memo

36 master tape Railroad Record Club number 17

36 master tape Railroad Record Club number 17

The reel to reel tapes that I had left behind last year were the real reason I went to all this trouble and expense to acquire the rest of the estate. I’m sure I did not get any of the tapes that were actually in Steventon’s recorder when he was trackside, but they may no longer exist. Perhaps he transferred these “field tapes” to newer tape stock, in an effort to preserve them and some of these duplicates are what I received. There is at least one recording I know he made that is not among my tapes. In the liner notes of Record Number 20, Steventon writes that the cab ride onboard NYC # 1441 with his father at the throttle was edited down from over two hours of tape. I would have been very happy to find 4 or 5 reels of tape marked “cab ride with Dad” but it was not to be. What I did find, however, is some very good and interesting stuff, most of which has never been released on a Railroad Record Club LP.

One tape that was a bit of a surprise was a 4″ reel of tape marked NYS&W. Of all the railroads in the New York area, why the Susquehanna? If he recorded this tape while in New York to ride and record the Queensboro Bridge trolley, which had to be prior to April 1957 when that line shut down, then why not record PRR K-4s on the New York & Long Branch which lasted until October of that year? Or all those electric locomotives on the NYC and NYNH&H? Perhaps he did record some or all these railroads and I just don’t have the tapes. Anything is possible, but I have found no evidence that he ever did. I’ll just have to wait until I have the NYS&W tape put on CD to find out just what the attraction may have been.

Other interesting finds include three 5″ reels of a fan trip operated by the Northern Pacific Railroad on June 20, 1957. 4-8-4 # 2686 pulled the train from St. Paul, MN to Staples. One tape is labeled “NP 2686-LV MPLS,” the second NP 2686 coal dock stop,” and the last, “NP 2686 LV Staples.” There was also a negative of the NP 2686 at Staples found among the photographs. Other steam and/or diesel tapes are labeled “CPR,” “NKP Ft. Wayne,” “N&W,” and “Soo Line.”

The traction fans among us will be happy to know there is plenty for them. The CNS&M has several tapes devoted to it. One tape is marked “CNS&M switching at Rondout and Mundelein”. There is a cut on Record 26 of locomotive # 459 switching at Rondout, but not at Mundelein. Another North Shore tape is marked “Mundelein Run” and another simply ” Mundelein”. One more CNS&M tape has “Electroliner” written on the box.

There is a tape marked “ITS 202”, apparently Steventon preferred Illinois Traction System to Illinois Terminal. On Record 25 Steventon wrote in the liner notes, “We had just arrived (at Harristown, IL) on interurban No. 202 where we had made an “on train” recording east from Springfield. We alighted and watched the 202 fade into the distance. This was the last sight and sound we had of the Illinois Terminal as an interurban. The “on train” recording of 202 and a streamliner is scheduled for release at a later date.” It never was. I don’t know about the streamliner recording, I may or may not have it, but I will consider it a privilege to be involved with releasing the 202 recording for him.

There are also tapes of the Cedar Rapids & Iowa City (CRANDIC), Charles City Western, Toledo & Eastern, and Capital Transit. Canadian traction fans are not overlooked either. There is a 5″ reel of the Niagara, St. Catharines & Toronto Railway. There are also two 5″ reels, one each, of the BC Electric and the Montreal & Southern Counties. These two tapes were recorded by Eugene Van Dusen, and the accompanying letter to Steventon, plus a copy of it sent to Elwin Purington, were found among some RRC papers I have. Another reel of tape not recorded by Steventon is “Cincinnati Street Railway Car 187 12/13/51.” Finding this was a nice surprise. I don’t know who did record it, but Steventon did not start making recordings until 1953.

Here is the entire list of the tape reels, excluding 21/2″ reels which I’ll list separately, and the master tapes for the LPs,

REEL TO REEL TAPES

INFORMATION MARKED ON TAPE BOXES

4″ reels:

1. NYS&W

5″ reels:

1. CPR-J. Van Brocklin
2. Soo Line
3. T&E NKP Diesel-NKP Ft. Wayne
4. N&W
5. N&W from Salem
6. N&W Billy + Larry on end
7. NP 2686 Lv Mpls-6/20/57
8. NP 2686 coal dock stop
9. NP 2686 Lv Staples
10. B. C. Electric
11. Montreal & Southern Counties
12. Potomac Edison #5
13. Potomac Edison H&F last run radio program
14. CNS&M -switching at Rondout and Mundelein
15. Mundelein Run
16. Capital Transit co 1151
17. ITS car 202
18. Cedar Rapids and Iowa City 5/31/53
19. CCW 5/18/54*
20. CCW CC to Colwell
21. Toledo & Eastern
22. PRR GG-1s

7″ reels:

1. Railroading in Spooner Wisconsin
2. CNS&M Electroliner
3. N. St. C & Toronto
4. Johnstown Traction and Altoona & Logan Valley
5. Cincinnati Street Railway car 187 12/13/51

The next bunch of tapes are smaller reels. These 21/2″ reels are in their original manufacture’s boxes and are marked only with a Railroad name and a catalog number. The catalog numbers correspond with the catalog numbers on the 10″ 78rpm acetate records that I acquired with the first half of the estate. As producing these records was a very time-consuming task, Steventon saved time by making a master tape for each record. The master tape would contain his spoken introductions followed by the train sounds. I bought over sixty of these small master tapes, and a large number have never been put on the regular Railroad Record Club releases. They contain sounds of railroads I was completely unaware Steventon ever recorded, such as L&N, Southern, and Virginian. This collection also contains the Queensboro Bridge trolley, the IND subway, and the Third Avenue EL recordings Steventon made in New York City.

21/2″ reels:

1. Potomac Edison, 4 reels
2. Shenandoah Central, 2 reels
3. Capital Transit, 3 reels
4. Altoona & Logan Valley, 2 reels
5. B&O, 9 reels
6. Shaker Heights RT, 3 reels
7. PRR, 5 reels
8. NKP, 1 reel
9. St. Louis PS, 1 reel
10. Illinois Terminal, 2 reels
11. ICRR 3 reels
12. N&W, 1 reel
13. WM Rwy, 1 reel
14. Baltimore Transit, 2 reels
15. Senate Subway, 1 reel
16. Scranton Transit, 1 reel
17. Rochester Subway, 1 reel
18. CB&Q, 2 reels
19. Niagara, St. C & T, 2 reels
20. Virginian, 2 reels
21. Southern, 2 reels
22. Queensboro Bridge, 2 reels
23. Wabash, 1 reel
24. Third Ave. EL, 2 reels
25. Soo Line, 5 reels
26. L&N, 2 reels
27. St. Elizabeth Hospital, 1 reel (used steam switcher to move coal hoppers)
28. Omaha Road, 1 reel
29. NYC IND Subway, 1 reel
30. Unidentified, 4 reels

This is not a complete set of all the master tapes made for the 78rpm records to be sure, but it’s most of them. I consider it a small miracle that any survive at all! I am not an audio expert, but in my opinion, uninformed as it may be, these tapes appear to be in reasonably good condition. I would think that the tapes would be able to withstand a few more plays, enough to be digitized at least. Neither David nor I have the equipment to attempt this and I think it would be ill advised of us to try anyway. The tapes are old and were not stored in archival conditions. I’m sure the prudent course of action is to entrust any work on them to a professional.

The last batch of tapes are the master tapes made for the released Railroad Record Club LPs. There are different size reels, some tapes are only of one side of the LP while others have both sides on the same reel. Some are in good condition and some are not. Some I have multiple copies of and a few of the LPs I have no tapes for, Rather then make a complete list of every reel I will simply list the few LPs I have NO master tapes for.

No master tapes:

RRC 21
RRC 24
RRC 29
RRC 31
RRC SP-2
RRC SP-4
RRC SP-6

Most of these reels are 7″ with only a few smaller or larger. The most interesting master tapes are the reels for RRC 3 EBT/D&RGW. There are two 7″ reels that most likely have the original release version of the record, the one with William Steventon’s narration. There are also two 5″ reels, one marked “sounds only” and the other labeled “Narrative.” Since Steventon removed his voice from the 12″reissue of the record, the “Narrative” tape must contain just the voice of Elwin Purington doing the new narration.

I’m not sure just what to do with these master tapes. Some are in rough shape and all these sounds are on the released Railroad Record Club LPs. It certainly would be a considerable expense to digitize them all and no new sounds would be gained. For now, I’ll store them in the best possible conditions that I can provide and perhaps one day a clear path of action will present itself.

MOVIE FILMS

1 Steventon Film that should be all trains

1 Steventon Film that should be all trains

2 Capital Transit B&W Night Film

2 Capital Transit B&W Night Film

3 Steventon film

3 Steventon film

4 Pennsy and B&O film

4 Pennsy and B&O film

5 Back of Kodachrome box

5 Back of Kodachrome box

6 Front of kodachrome box

6 Front of kodachrome box

I found several rolls of 16mm movie film within the boxes of audio tapes. Fortunately, Steventon was very good at labeling everything. He inserted little slips of paper into the film boxes listing the contents of the films. Unfortunately, the majority are family home movies. Most are of Steventon’s son Seth. His first day of school, Christmases, and birthday parties. There were six 100-foot reels that should be all trains.

16mm movies;

1. 100-foot reel but only about 50 feet of film. Labeled “Pennsy Fan Trip and B&O near Riverdale.”
2. 100-foot reel, full, labeled “Canada Term”. I’m not sure what that is supposed to indicate. I unspooled a few feet of film and the first few frames are without a doubt a steeple cab locomotive.
3. 100-foot reel, full, B&W, labeled “Cap Transit Night Film.”
4. 100-foot reel, full, labeled “EBT Reel 1.”
5. 100-foot reel, full, labeled “EBT Reel 2.”
6. 100-foot reel, full, labeled “Negative 1R Freight” Also written on box “bad footage.”

PRINT BLOCKS

1 Selection of print blocks

1 Selection of print blocks

2 More print blocks

2 More print blocks

3 Still more print blocks

3 Still more print blocks

4. Print block for very early RRC traction logo

4. Print block for very early RRC traction logo

5. Railroad Record Club logo print block

5. Railroad Record Club logo print block

6 Another style Railroad Record Club logo print block

6 Another style Railroad Record Club logo print block

7 Interurban car fron LP Sound Scrapbook-Traction

7 Interurban car fron LP Sound Scrapbook-Traction

8 Interurban car fron LP Sound Scrapbook-Traction in two sizes

8 Interurban car fron LP Sound Scrapbook-Traction in two sizes

9 PRR steamer from 1st edition of RRC 10 in two sizes

9 PRR steamer from 1st edition of RRC 10 in two sizes

10 D&RGW locomotive from the 1st edition of the LP the Siverton Train

10 D&RGW locomotive from the 1st edition of the LP the Siverton Train

11A Print block for NKP LP

11A Print block for NKP LP

12 Ad for RRC 25

12 Ad for RRC 25

13 Ad for RRC 25 reversed

13 Ad for RRC 25 reversed

14 Print block for large ad

14 Print block for large ad

15 Print block for large ad reversed

15 Print block for large ad reversed

16 Ad for traction watch fobs

16 Ad for traction watch fobs

17 Ad for steam LPs

17 Ad for steam LPs

18 Ad for steam LPs reversed

18 Ad for steam LPs reversed

19 Strange RRC ad

19 Strange RRC ad

20 Strange RRC ad printed version

20 Strange RRC ad printed version

I also acquired a good number of print blocks, which are mostly quite small and were used in the RRC advertisements.  I have a bunch of print blocks of the LP covers, all about the size of a postage stamp. They were used in ads and in the catalogs. There are a few complete ads that mostly feature a single record release. One large ad of interest is a very 1960’s, almost psychedelic illustration of a steam locomotive looming over a record player. Smoke is shooting from it’s stack and entwined within the billows of smoke are such things as a whistle blowing, a box cab electric locomotive, and a steam train. LPs are seen flying through the air and the words “steam and electric recordings” in twisted snake-like lettering fills the upper portion. Wild and unexpected. I would certainly like to know if this ad ever appeared anywhere in print.

I did not make a list of these small print blocks, there are just too many. I did photograph a representative selection of them. These photos will give a good idea of what is in the collection.

RECORDS

1 41 copies of RRC 3

1 41 copies of RRC 3

2 18 copies of RRC 5

2 18 copies of RRC 5

3 RCA test pressing for Sound Scrapbook Steam showing notation on upper left of sleeve

3 RCA test pressing for Sound Scrapbook Steam showing notation on upper left of sleeve

4 RCA test pressing for Illinois Terminal one of only 3 good discs

4 RCA test pressing for Illinois Terminal one of only 3 good discs

5 Back of RCA test pressing for Illinois Terminal

5 Back of RCA test pressing for Illinois Terminal

6 Close up of RCA test pressing for Illinois Terminal

6 Close up of RCA test pressing for Illinois Terminal

7 Close up of RCA test pressing for NKP

7 Close up of RCA test pressing for NKP

8 RCA test pressing for CN showing damage

8 RCA test pressing for CN showing damage

9 Metal press stamp

9 Metal press stamp

10 Metal press stamp with cardboard sleeve

10 Metal press stamp with cardboard sleeve

11 RRC Nashville Metal press stamp

11 RRC Nashville Metal press stamp

12 Metal press stamps in cardboard sleeves for RRC4 B&O

12 Metal press stamps in cardboard sleeves for RRC4 B&O

13 3 RRC Nashville Metal press stamps

13 3 RRC Nashville Metal press stamps

14 Metal press stamp for RRC LP

14 Metal press stamp for RRC LP

15 Railroad Record Club SP-4 boxes and sleeves

15 Railroad Record Club SP-4 boxes and sleeves

16 Record jackets for each of the 3 records in the SP-4 set

16 Record jackets for each of the 3 records in the SP-4 set

17 Label for 1st edition of record 1 side 1 of RRC-SP4

17 Label for 1st edition of record 1 side 1 of RRC-SP4

18 Label for 2nd edition of record 1 side 1 of RRC-SP4

18 Label for 2nd edition of record 1 side 1 of RRC-SP4

19 Label for 3rd edition of record 1 side 1 of RRC-SP4

19 Label for 3rd edition of record 1 side 1 of RRC-SP4

Since the estate dealer would only sell me the tapes unless I bought the entire lot, including the remainder of the RRC LP stock, I had no choice but to buy them. I’ll admit I would not have wanted to see all these mint condition, still sealed LPs go in the trash, but what am I going to do with them and where am I going to store them? These questions I’m still contemplating. However, these concerns are secondary to preserving and digitizing the tapes. I have a few options, I can rent a table at a few railroadiania swap meets, contact a few local hobby stores and see if they are willing to sell some, and David and I have been thinking of making them available through the blog.

I’ll have to carefully consider my options. It would be nice to make a little of my money back and put it towards digitizing tapes. For the record, here is a list of the 12″ remasters. They are all still sealed and, for the most part, in mint condition. A few may have a bend or crease in the jackets and a few copies of RRC 20 have brown water stains in the lower right corner.

12″ remaster LPs:

41 copies of RRC 3, EBT/D&RGW
18 copies of RRC 5, D7rgw
36 copies of RRC 8 CN
29 copies of RRC 3 15, CB&Q
34 copies of RRC 16, Westside Lumber
25 copies of RRC 20, NYC/C&IM (6 copies have water damage)
15 copies of RRC 26, CNS&M Freight
22 copies of RRC 29, NKP 779

Included with the unsold record stock were several mint copies of the original 10″ LPs:

10″ LPs:
1 copy RRC 2, WCF&N
1 copy RRC 4, B&O
2 copies of RRC 5, D&RGW
1 copy RRC 7, N&W
1 copy RRC 8, CN
1 copy RRC 10, PRR
1 copy RRC 16, Westside Lumber
1 copy RRC 17, Soo Line
1 copy RRC 19, DM&IR
1 copy RRC 20, NYC/C&IM
8 copies of RRC 28, Charles City Western
1 copy RRC 29, NKP 779
1 copy RRC SP-2 NP 2626

Twenty-four RCA test pressing were included in the sale, ten 12″ pressings and fourteen 10″. All these pressings are stamped on one side only and on the paper sleeve of two of the 12″ pressings there is a hand-written note: “Masters will be 12 inch”. This is the one rather disheartening part of the story. All but three of these test pressings are in very poor condition. The accrete has flaked off in large chips. When I removed the disc from the paper sleeve to determine its condition, a black snowfall often resulted. I’m not sure what to do with these, they are really just trash now. I will photograph the label of each one for my archive but after that, I just don’t know. The three good discs are two 12″ pressings for both sides of RRC 15, CB&Q. It’s lucky that the only undamaged 12″ RCA test pressings are for the two sides of the same record. The one good 10″ disc is for side 2 of RRC 25, Illinois Terminal.

The metal stamping plates vary in condition. I was able to inspect these plates while at the dealer’s property last July, so I knew what to expect. I turned them down last year to save my money for what I considered the good stuff, the artwork and 78rpm records. All the original RCA stamp plates were lost in 1973, necessitating the 12″ remaster program. These plates are the Nashville-made stamps made in the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s. As I remember it, all 17 master plates were in the dealer’s warehouse. I only looked at them briefly but the top few were scratched and dented. Now, if I wanted the tapes, I had to buy them. Here I did a little dealing. Since these plates were a bit heavier than the records and I was paying for shipment by the pound, I convinced the dealer to choose a few of the stamps that were in the best condition. Those in poor condition he would not charge me for and he could discard them. The archivist in me wanted to save them all, but compromises must occasionally be made.

In all I got twelve of these stamps, five are 14″ and 7 are 12″.

I ended up with a bunch of returned records as well. Numbering somewhere around fifteen or twenty, these records were returned by buyers dissatisfied with them.  Most of them have a note attached with the buyer’s name and his complaint. Things such as scratches, surface noise, and various clicks and pops were the most often cited reasons for the return.

An interesting find was various copies of the records that comprise the three-record set of SP-4. I was able to put together a set of each of the three pressings this set had. A surprise was a set of these records not in the display box that they came in, but in three separate record jackets. Each jacket had the same drawing of CSS&SB MU #108 that appeared on the box lid. Perhaps this was some sort of test printing or the original idea for the jackets. I may never know but I’m sure it is a unique set.

PHOTOGRAPHS

NP 4-8-4 2686

NP 4-8-4 2686

CA&E Elgin train on street in Aurora IL 1931

CA&E Elgin train on street in Aurora IL 1931

Capital Transit PCC and bus Catholic University

Capital Transit PCC and bus Catholic University

D&RGW 476 locomotive featured on SP-1

D&RGW 476 locomotive featured on SP-1

D&RGW 481

D&RGW 481

Des Moines & Central Iowa car 1710

Des Moines & Central Iowa car 1710

EBT 15 on a rainy day very likely while record 3 was being recorded

EBT 15 on a rainy day very likely while record 3 was being recorded

Evansville & Ohio Valley car 134

Evansville & Ohio Valley car 134

Ill Terminal car 285

Ill Terminal car 285

Ill Terminal local on Caldwell Hill East Pearia about 1936

Ill Terminal local on Caldwell Hill East Pearia about 1936

Indiana box car 550

Indiana box car 550

Indiana RR 752 waiting for loads at mine scale

Indiana RR 752 waiting for loads at mine scale

Indiana RR car 64

Indiana RR car 64

Indiana RR car 93 at Anderson IN September 4 1938

Indiana RR car 93 at Anderson IN September 4 1938

Indiana RR Vigo with rails ripped out.

Indiana RR Vigo with rails ripped out.

Interstate car 711 ex-IPSC 427 September 3 1939

Interstate car 711 ex-IPSC 427 September 3 1939

Interstate car 711 on shop siding west of Greencastle June 3 1939

Interstate car 711 on shop siding west of Greencastle June 3 1939

Interurban car 44 and REA truck Rosslyn VA

Interurban car 44 and REA truck Rosslyn VA

MC&CL RR car 34

MC&CL RR car 34

MC&CL Steeple cab 52

MC&CL Steeple cab 52

Nice right of way photo but no info other than date March 31 1936

Nice right of way photo but no info other than date March 31 1936

S T F Co RR 54 Farmington MO

S T F Co RR 54 Farmington MO

Unidentified car and person

Unidentified car and person

Unidentified steeple cab locomotive

Unidentified steeple cab locomotive

Unidentified steeple cab locomotive photo 2

Unidentified steeple cab locomotive photo 2

Waterloo Cedar Falls & Northern car 100 this car is featured on RRC 2

Waterloo Cedar Falls & Northern car 100 this car is featured on RRC 2

Here again I had to do a little dealing. I went quickly through the box of Steventon photos last year, choosing about 20 photos to purchase. The box contained a mix of railroad photos and family snap shots. The family photos outnumbered the trains. Again, I did not want to pay for, or have the added weight of photos that were just going to be tossed away. Steventon’s son was the one who sold all this family history in the first place, so I saw no reason to try and get it back to him. The dealer agreed to sort the photos and sell and ship only railroad photos. He would discard the unwanted photos.

In all there are 135 photos of railroad equipment, mostly traction subjects. Some have complete caption information, and some have nothing. There are 23 photos of active traction right-of-ways but no caption information. 24 photos of abandoned traction right-of-ways have no captions. I cannot be sure if it is a “before” and “after” series of 27 photos. I also received 11 steam negatives, the aforementioned NP 4-8-4 # 2686 (two almost identical shots at Staples, MN) and several D&RGW narrow gauge roster photos. There is one EBT negative and a shot of a steam tractor.  I haven’t had time to scan all of these photos yet, but they will appear in the Trolley Dodger as I do. For now, here are a few scans to whet your appetite.

DOCUMENTS

Stack of prints of Soo 2715

Stack of prints of Soo 2715

VHS VIDEO TAPES 

There was one last surprise waiting for me. There are eight VHS video tapes in the estate lot, seven of which were professionally produced programs of traction subjects, several of which Steventon provided audio for. One tape on a store-bought blank was labeled simply “Railroad Programs”. I thought it was most likely a tape of TV shows about trains, but I popped it in the player just to see. It turned out to be a recording of a presentation that Steventon made to a local historical society. The video quality is bad, but you can hear everything he says perfectly.

It’s all really basic stuff, what you would expect him to present to a general audience. Such things as the appeal of a steam locomotive, the nicknames of various railroad job positions like “Hogger” for engineer etc.  He then gets into the “sound portion” of his talk. He has a reel to reel tape player with him, and he explains the use of whistle signals and then plays a cut of a B&O EM-1 from Record number 4, noting the “two longs-a short-and another long” signal for a road crossing. He then goes into how a steam locomotive gains traction. Here he plays the sequence of SOO Line 2718 backing off the wye track from the intro record. He stops the tape at places to note the change in the locomotive’s sound and what that indicates to the engineer. Next, he talks about the use of torpedoes as a signaling device and plays a cut from Record number 8. He never says that these sounds are from his records. In fact, he never mentions that he ever sold records and the Railroad Record Club is not once referenced.

He eventually brings out a chart of steam locomotive wheel arrangements.  He walks out of frame with it, but you can still hear what he is saying. At some point someone thinks to pan the camera around, but the view is only the back of the chart!

By the time he finishes with the chart, the program has gone on for about 40 minutes. Now he introduces “Whistle ‘Round the Bend” and plays the entire record, all 30 minutes. While the camera never moves during this, and Steventon just sits there listening, it’s a bit of a poignant moment. The video quality, as I said, is poor, and he is in the center of a wide shot, but it’s still possible to see that he is moved by the words and sounds he his hearing.

While little information is given about how, where, or when the sounds he played were recorded a little more personal stuff is revealed. He tells of the day in 1936 that his mother died. His father was at work and needed to get home. The NYC put every opposing train on the siding and he had green signals the whole way. He also tells us that he was a sickly child and his father took him onboard the locomotive with him, even against the rules, because he wanted to spend time with him, and make William happy, as the doctors said he may not survive into adulthood.  With this video I was able to “know” William Steventon just a little bit better.

As I have these tapes put on to CD, they will be offered for sale in the online store. I bought these tapes not to just save them from destruction, but to have them made available to everyone who may be interested. I think that is perhaps the best way to ensure these historic sounds are preserved. Not just as a tribute to the people who recorded them who are now gone, but to ensure these sounds will endure to instruct and entertain future railfans long after we are gone too.

-Kenneth Gear

New Steam Audio CD:

FTS
Farewell To Steam
Mister D’s Machine
# of Discs – 1
Price: $14.99

Farewell To Steam
On February 6, 1955 the Santa Fe Railway ran a railfan train from Los Angeles to Barstow and back for the Railway Club of Southern California. This was Santa Fe’s last run powered by a steam locomotive over this route. The engine was a 4-8-4, #3759. We have used the original, rare 1955 mono version of this recording, and not the later 1958 reissue that had a bunch of echo added to create a fake stereo effect.

Mister D’s Machine
When diesel locomotives replaced steam in the 1950s, they offered a multitude of different sounds. This original 1963 stereo recording showcases the many sounds of diesels on the San Joaquin and Los Angeles Divisions of the Southern Pacific, including the Tahachappi Loop, an engineering feat that made modern railroading famous.

As with all of our recordings, this CD comes with the complete, original liner notes.

Total time – 72:56

Order Our New Book Building Chicago’s Subways

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

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

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

Bibliographic information:

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

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

Building Chicago’s Subways 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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William A. Steventon’s Railroad Record Club

William Steventon

William Steventon

Today’s post is the first of two by Kenneth Gear, long a friend of this blog. We have great news to report– Ken has finally been able to purchase all the remaining Railroad Record Club items from the dealer that purchased them many years ago from the estate of William A. Steventon, who died 25 years ago.

Ken details all that in another post, Railroad Record Club Treasure Hunt, Part 2. These new discoveries have enabled him to offer what is, to my knowledge, the first-ever comprehensive and factual history of William A. Steventon’s Railroad Record Club.

Thanks in great part to Ken’s dedication and persistence, you can find practically all the RRC’s 10″ and 12″ output, now digitized on compact discs for the 21st century, in our Online Store. We thank him for these efforts, and hope you will too.

-David Sadowski

INTRODUCTION

As regular readers of this blog know, David and I have been gathering bits and pieces of information about the Railroad Record Club and its founder, William A. Steventon. We wanted to get a better understanding of what went into making these records, and to put together a history of the club. David started the ball rolling in April 2015 when he wrote the first Trolley Dodger post about it. As soon as I read that post I jumped aboard having been interested in the subject for some time. Together we finally managed to accumulate enough separate fragments of the story so that when we put it all together, it formed an accurate outline of the events leading up to the formation of the club and offered some insight into its operation. We were also able to build a brief biological sketch of Mr. Steventon.

Separately David and I looked for any resource that might reveal some small bit of new information. We read liner notes, club newsletters, and we looked through back issues of magazines in search of RRC ads. We collected order blanks, and I purchased copies of records I already owned because they had club inserts tucked away in the jackets. I researched the meaning of the matrix codes engraved in the lead out grooves of the LPs to more accurately date them. We studied artwork and found some of Steventon’s personal correspondences.  Everything came together when I purchased a large collection of Railroad Record Club items from Steventon’s estate. Combing through this material finally gave us enough information so that David and I could piece together the Railroad Record Club story you are about to read.

There are still unanswered questions to be sure and there are also missing recordings. We haven’t been able to secure copies of the 5th and 6th year sampler records. We also can only speculate on how, to whom, and at what cost these sampler records were distributed.

If any readers have any RRC material, please contact David. We only ask for a scan of any paper work or leads you may be able to offer as to who might be able to help. Thank you.

I have recently been able to purchase the last of the Steventon estate items I left behind last year (more on that in A Railroad Record Club Treasure Hunt, Part 2) and with luck David and I will be able to put together a few more pieces of the Railroad Record Club puzzle.

WILLIAM STEVENTON & THE RAILROAD RECORD CLUB 

William A. Steventon was born in 1921 in Mount Carmel, Illinois, son of a locomotive engineer on the Big Four Railroad (New York Central). As a child he spent much of his time around the red brick passenger station and wooden freight house across from Main Street. The family eventually moved to Cairo, Illinois and there he would often ride in the locomotive cab with his father. In the liner notes to Record number 20- NYC/C&IM while describing an in-cab recording made with his father at the throttle, Steventon reminisces about his boyhood days spent there:

“It is strange that this recording should remind me of something that I had almost forgotten. If I hadn’t heard my father pull a whistle cord in 50 years, and in the distance I should hear a certain whistle, I would know that it was him. This recording also reminds me of the many times I had waited as a youngster for him to whistle near Cherry switch to let us know he was coming home from a north-end run. It reminds me of the many times I have walked down Washington Street in Cairo and heard him whistling in the yards.”

After serving in World War II Steventon married and took a government job. He and his wife settled in the Washington DC area and it is here that the Railroad Record Club story begins.

It all began when Steventon’s wife gave him a record of Railroad sound effects as a Christmas gift, most likely in 1952. While he was interested in the concept of recorded train sounds, he was very dissatisfied with this record. He was convinced that the sounds were not those of actual trains, that they were train “effects” created in a recording studio.  He wanted sound recordings of REAL trains. He purchased one of the new reel to reel tape recorders that had recently become available and in March 1953, set out to make his first railroad sound recordings.

First recording

First recording

The first recording he made was along the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad at the Riverdale, Maryland passenger station (MP 32.4 on the Washington Branch). As best as can be determined, the first train he recorded was # 523 the “MARYLANDER” powered by an EMD diesel (he did not make note of the locomotive number). His second train was powered by steam but in his haste to hear the recording immediately after making it, he accidently partially erased it! He wrote about his frustration in an article for TRACTION & MODELS Magazine:

“When we made our very first recording in 1953 we took the equipment to Riverdale, Maryland and recorded a steamer thundering past the B&O station. When it was gone we stopped the recorder, rewound the tape and played it back. Nothing happened-the tape was silent. we waited thinking that the steamer wasn’t within “hearing distance” as yet, but when it became evident that we should be hearing the sound, we investigated.  In our enthusiasm to “get recording” we had failed to become familiar with our equipment. Instead of pushing the playback key, we had pushed the record key and were erasing the sound we had just recorded.”

That partially erased recording, as well as the others he made that night, were discovered on a 78rpm acetate record in his estate. It is included on the Trolley Dodger Railroad Record Club Rarities Steam & Diesel CD.

During the next few years, Steventon made numerous railroad sound recordings, both in and around Washington DC and on trips to visit family in Illinois. Near Washington DC he recorded the streetcars of the Capital Transit Company, steam & diesels on the B&O, and Pennsy GG-1s. He even recorded the sounds of the Senate Subway. He made trips to Maryland to record the Western Maryland, the Hagerstown & Frederick interurban cars and freight box motors, and he rode and recorded the Baltimore streetcars. In Pennsylvania he recorded mainline steam on the PRR, revenue steam on the East Broad Top, and made extensive recordings of the Johnstown Traction Company and the Altoona & Logan Valley. In Illinois he captured the sounds of the New York Central, Chicago & Illinois Midland, Nickel Plate, Illinois Central, and Chicago Burlington & Quincy among others. He did recordings of the passenger and freight operations of the Midwestern electric railways including the Illinois Terminal, Chicago North Shore & Milwaukee, Chicago Aurora & Elgin and even recorded an entire run of Chicago South Shore & South Bend M.U. car # 108 from Chicago to South Bend. In Iowa he added the Waterloo, Cedar Falls & Northern, Southern Iowa, Cedar Rapids & Iowa City and Charles City Western. In his travels he made recordings of the Pacific Electric, Shaker Heights Rapid Transit, Wabash, Soo Line, Denver & Rio Grande Western narrow gauge, and Norfolk & Western. In a 1958 newspaper interview he stated he had traveled to fifteen states to record train sounds. It is quite an extensive output and not all of it has been pressed into vinyl or released on tape or CD.

All this recording did not come easily. Dragging the equipment from home to car and from car to trackside required the help of at least one other person. Steventon wrote about the difficulty of using this bulky equipment in the field:

“We had a 12-volt auto battery for the primary power source, a 12 v.d.c. to 110 v.a.c. rotary converter, a reel to reel recorder plus a satchel of extra equipment, tapes, and assorted material. Two men could struggle with all this equipment, but it required three men to carry everything with any degree of ease and mobility. In addition, we normally carried a battery charger for use with keeping the battery up to par during the night. This could be left in the auto during the day but was a very necessary part of our total equipment requirement.”

It is a wonder anyone was able to record anything, considering the burden it must have been to get all this stuff trackside. It makes one grateful for the ability to record high quality sound and high definition video with just a tiny cell phone as we can do today.

Steventon eventually took a job as manager of the Cream Valley Telephone Company and he and his wife moved to Hawkins, Wisconsin. There he would continue to make railroad sound recordings, start a family. and create the Railroad Record Club.

Doing all this traveling and making these recordings invariably put him in contact with like-minded people. It is safe to assume that they would want to trade and share the recordings they made with each other. In the mid-1950s this was no easy task. Modern home audio systems, as we think of them now, simply did not exist. The problem was made even worse if recordings were to be shared or sold to someone who did not make recordings themselves and therefore did not own a reel to reel tape player/recorder. While most people at the time did not own a tape player, a phonograph could be found in most homes.

Steventon pre-RRC 78rpm records

Steventon pre-RRC 78rpm records

If Steventon wanted to give or sell his recordings to many other people, they would have to be put onto phonograph records. This too, wouldn’t be easy. The solution was to procure a portable disc cutter. These machines became available for home use starting in about 1929 and were most often used to record things off the radio. The standard record format of the time was a disc ten inches in diameter and made of aluminum covered with acetate. The 78rpm playing speed yielded no more than five minutes of content per side. These records had to be made in real time and the record blanks were quite heavy compared to a modern vinyl record. To distill more and varied content on these homemade records, he spliced together all sorts of bits and pieces and recorded brief introductions to tell listeners what they were about to hear. He conceived a catalog numbering system and had rubber stamps made for the most popular titles, the rest having hand-written labels. Steventon produced an extraordinary amount of records this way. Finding a sizable collection of these acetate records in the Steventon estate reveled just how extensive the output was. Although a complete catalog listing of these records can not presently be made, the following partial list is still very impressive.

01. Potomac Edison (aka Hagerstown & Frederick)
02. Shenandoah Central
03. Capital Transit
04. Johnstown Traction
05. Altoona & Logan Valley
06. Baltimore & Ohio
07. Shaker Heights Rapid Transit
08. Claude Mahoney Radio Program about NRHS fantrip (1953)
09. Pennsylvania Railroad
10. Nickel Plate Road
11. St. Louis Public Service
12. Illinois Terminal
13. Illinois Central
16. Norfolk & Western
17. Western Maryland Railway
18. Baltimore Transit
19. Senate Subway (Washington, DC)
21. Rochester Subway
22. East Broad Top
23. Chicago, Burlington & Quincy
24. Chicago & Illinois Midland
25. Niagara, St. Catharines & Toronto
26. Virginian
28. Queensboro Bridge
29. Wabash
30. 3rd Avenue Elevated
31. Minneapolis, St Paul & Sault Ste Marie
32. Louisville & Nashville
34. St Elizabeth’s Hospital (hospital in Washington DC that used a 0-4-0T to move coal from the B&O.)
37. Independent Subway

It is worth noting that this numbering sequence is totally different from the later one adopted for the 10” records issued later.

Things were apparently going well for Steventon’s railroad record enterprise for a while but things were about to change. Long playing 33 1/3 rpm records made of lighter materials and with improved sound were beginning to gain in popularity. Record blanks and parts for the disc cutter would undoubtedly become harder to get. Steventon needed to have his records made by a professional record pressing company to continue selling them. Steventon would have to make new master tapes for each release because the new records, although still 10”, could hold fifteen minutes of sound on each side-a full half-hour altogether. This would be the equivalent of more then five of the old acetates. He would forgo, for the most part, his spoken introductions and provide printed notes on the cardboard record jackets. These notes could be pretty sparse at first, containing little more than the railroad and locomotive number.

RRC intro record

RRC intro record

RRC INTRO old SP5

RRC INTRO old SP5

Bill Steventon recording compressor noise on CNS&M interurban

Bill Steventon recording compressor noise on CNS&M interurban

Eventually he began to write extensive notes on separate sheets of paper that were inserted into the record jackets. In time, the first completed master tape was sent off to the RCA Custom Record facility in Indianapolis, Indiana and soon afterward the first official Railroad Record Club LP came into being. The record was titled simply INTRODUCTORY RECORD and carried no catalog number. Side one contained the sounds of Soo Line 4-6-2 # 2718 powering an August, 1955 fan trip between Minneapolis, Minnesota and Rice Lake, Wisconsin. Illinois Central 0-8-0 # 3509 switching at Centralia, Illinois was featured on the flip side. A look at the first four characters in the matrix code engraved into the lead-out grooves of a first edition of this record, G8OL, gives the following information: First is the date code-G indicates the record was manufactured in 1956, then the label code-8 showing it was a custom job that was re-recorded from the client’s source material. Next is the category code-O meaning it is a phonograph record, and the fourth character-L denoted the size, speed & groove, 10”, mono, & 331/3 rpm. The final numbers 0479 for side one and 0480 on side two were simply sequence numbers. The Introductory Record was therefore available for sale sometime in 1956 or perhaps 1957.

He made the decision to sell these new records not as a regular mail order business, but as a club. The club membership idea may have been the direct result of the expense associated with this new endeavor. He had to have the records pressed by RCA which required metal master plates to be made. Cardboard record jackets had to be purchased and be printed with photographs or drawings. Tape stock had to be bought for the making of the new master tapes. All in all, this must have been a considerable expense. Selling the records through a club meant that the members were required to purchase a set number of records and paying for them in advance, thereby guaranteeing he would get some return on all this investment. The club worked like this: Four records would be offered per year. Members could buy the records at the discounted price of $4 each providing they maintained membership by purchasing at least three of the selections. Membership expired upon the purchase of one year’s group. There were no membership dues, but records were paid for in advance to provide the necessary money to have the metal masters made.  Special pressings could be purchased at club prices but were not counted toward the three-record minimum. Non-members could buy individual LPs at $5.25 each. $4.00 for a LP record sounds like a bargain but remember those $4 in 1958 had the same buying power as $34.72 in 2018! These Records weren’t cheap. According to a 1958 interview he gave to the Milwaukee Sentinel, the club started off very well. The article stated that there were some 200 club members through out the United States and several foreign countries including New Zealand, Australia, England and Canada. It goes on to state he has already sold 1,000 records.

Steventon continued to sell his records through the yearly club membership plan until October 1965 when the club membership requirement was withdrawn. The records would now be sold separately and at the same price to everyone.

From 1957 with the release of the Introductory record until October 1965 when the last regularly scheduled production of a Railroad Record Club release (Record number 32-New York Central) was offered, Steventon produced thirty-two regular club releases and three special pressings. One more release, SP-4-CSS&SB would be released later that year. Afterwards, Steventon released Records Numbers 33-36 and special pressings numbers SP-5 (a reissue of the introductory record) and the last all new Railroad Record Club record in 1983, number SP-6 Milwaukee Road box cab electrics. Each record was simply numbered in the order it was produced.

RAILROAD RECORD CLUB TITLES
0 Soo Line, Illinois Central (Introductory Record)
1 Wabash Railroad, Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha
2 Waterloo, Cedar Falls & Northern, Southern Iowa Railway
3 Denver, Rio Grande & Western, East Broad Top
4 Baltimore and Ohio
5 Denver & Rio Grande Western
6 Potomac Edison (Hagerstown & Frederick)
7 Norfolk & Western, Illinois Central (Also includes a bit of Illinois Terminal Railroad)
8 Canadian National (aka Canadian Railroading in the Days of Steam)
9 Winston-Salem Southbound
10 Pennsylvania Railroad
11 Shaker Heights Rapid Transit
12 Duluth Missabe & Iron Range
13 Nickel Plate Road
14 Pacific Electric
15 Chicago, Burlington & Quincy
16 Westside Lumber Company
17 Minneapolis & St Paul, Sault Ste Marie Railway
18 Chicago, North Shore & Milwaukee
19 Duluth, Missabe & Iron Range
20 Chicago & Illinois Midland – New York Central
21 Duluth & Northeastern
22 Buffalo Creek & Gauley
23 Pennsylvania Trolleys
24 Canadian Pacific
25 Illinois Terminal Railroad
26 Chicago, North Shore & Milwaukee (freight)
27 Capital Transit Company
28 Charles City Western – Waterloo, Cedar Falls & Northern
29 Nickel Plate Road
30 Sound Scrapbook, Traction
31 Sound Scrapbook, Steam
32 New York Central
33 Chicago, South Shore & South Bend (freight)
34 Chicago, South Shore & South Bend (freight)
35 Milwaukee & Suburban Transport, Chicago, North Shore & Milwaukee
36 Chicago, Aurora & Elgin, Chicago Transit Authority

Special Pressings
SP1 The Silverton Train
SP2 Northern Pacific 2626 Memorial Album
SP3 Whistle ‘Round the Bend
SP4 Chicago, South Shore & South Bend Railroad (passenger)
SP5 Soo Line, Illinois Central
SP6 The Milwaukee Road (electric freight)

He also produced several “sampler” records which contain short snippets of tracks from the LP records.

THE RAILROAD RECORD CLUB SAMPLERS

1st & 2nd Year Sampler:  (short excerpts from records 1 to 4 on side one & records 5 to 8 on side two)
3rd & 4th Year Sampler: (short excerpts from records 9 to 12 on side one & records 13 to 16 on side two)
5th Year Sampler: (short excerpts from records 17 to 20 recorded on one side only)
6th Year Sampler: (short excerpts from records 21 to 24 recorded on one side only)
7th & 8th Year Sampler: (short excerpts from records 25 to 28 on side one & records 29 to 32 on side two)

Among these forty-two LPs there are some real gems. He certainly started off strong with Record Number one. On side two there is one of his best “sound picture” type recordings. It features Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha 2-8-0 # 219 switching in the yards at Spooner, Wisconsin on a dark misty night in October of 1955. This was one of his favorite audio sequences and he described it like this in the record’s reissue liner notes:

“Close your eyes and imagine you are in a Pullman berth. Your passenger train has stopped at the station and you are sleepily listening to this nearby switching movement.” And from the notes to the original release: “That night in October of 1955 was very dark, moonless and misting heavily. The sulfuric, yet nostalgic odor of coal smoke drifted sluggishly over the Spooner, Wisconsin yards as the sound of exhausts and squealing brakes seeped through the murky atmosphere. A dim yellow light at the south end of the station platform rocked in the wind, flicking shadows to and fro over the moving cars.” 

If you don’t feel the dampness, smell the coal smoke, or find that you need to shake off a chill while listening to this, you’re just not trying.

There are so many remarkable sound sequences on these LPs that it would be impossible to list them all, Some of the most interesting ones include:  a D&RGW narrow gauge train with a mid-train helper on Cumbres Pass on Record number 3, the B&O EM-1 stopping and starting sequences on Record Number 4, a PRR 4-8-2 on slick rail on Record number 10, the cab rides in CSS&SB freight motors on Record numbers 33 and 34, the list goes on and on.

William Steventon did not exclusively use his own recordings on the Railroad Record Club LPs. In the second year of the club he began to utilize the talents of his friends, and the most notable of the group was Elwin D. Purington. Mr. Purington’s considerable recording talents added greatly to the quality of Steventon’s releases. Three records were entirely comprised of his recordings and they are three of the best. Record number 8-Canadian National (re-released as “Canadian Railroading in The Days Of Steam”) is one of Steventon’s favorites, and SP-2 the Northern Pacific 2626 memorial album Steventon called “a masterpiece.”  He provided the sounds for side one of Record number 12-DM&IR and his recordings of the CMSt.P&P electric freight locomotives are featured on Record SP-6.  He also did the narration on Number 3-East Broad Top and SP-3-Whistle ‘Round the Bend. Thomas A. Hosick recorded the train sounds for Record number 9-Winston-Salem Southbound, and John L. Wise contributed to Record number 10-PRR. Harold O. Lewis did some fine recording work that was used on three LPs, Record number 16-Westside Lumber, number 24-Canadian Pacific, and number 31-Sound Scrapbook-Steam. Eugene Van Dusen made all but the final three cuts for Record Number 32-NYC, and finally A. L. Shade, another top-notch sound recorder of trains, added his talents to Record numbers 13-Nickel Plate, 29-NKP 779 and 22-Buffalo Creek & Gauley.

Excellent HM Pech cover RRC 5

Excellent HM Pech cover RRC 5

Marginal HM Pech cover 1st edition of Record number 8

Marginal HM Pech cover 1st edition of Record number 8

RRC 19

RRC 19

The sounds on these LPs were great right from the start, but it took awhile for the record jackets to evolve into something interesting and appealing. At first the record jackets had little in the way of cover art, nothing more than a small photo or two plus a few paragraphs of text. Eventually sketches of the featured locomotive pulling a train were added, usually draw by an artist who signed his work HM Pech. These drawings could range from excellent (Record number 5) to marginal (1st edition of Record number 8). All mediocrity was removed for good when the cover art for Record number 19 was revealed. The cover of this record is a very nice accomplishment. The drawing of DM&IR 2-8-8-4 # 222 is perfect in every way. This great drawing combined with an appealing layout makes for a wonderful cover. A new visual benchmark for the Railroad Record Club had been reached and there was no going back. The drawing was done by Marshall P. (Pat) McMahon. He worked for the Minneapolis Star Tribune as an illustrator. His drawings of railroad equipment are flawless. The detail is meticulously rendered and drawn with precision and skill. Mr. McMahon would from here on out, be the main artist used by Steventon to illustrate the record jackets. When second editions of previously released records were pressed, McMahon would be called upon to create a new cover drawing. Every one is a vast improvement over what had come before. He also got the call to do new drawings when the records began to be reissued on 12″ discs, and he even did at least one drawing that Steventon sold prints of (Soo Line steamer # 2715). He would go on to do cover illustrations for thirty record jackets for the club! Rounding out the list of artists employed by the Railroad Record Club: Ernie Towler did a fine pencil sketch of a Shay locomotive for the 12″ reissue of Record Number 16-Westside Lumber and he did the cover of the reissue of number 15-CB&Q. Herb Mott did a painting of a boy watching a steam train passing for the cover of SP-3-Whistle ‘Round the Bend. This record has the distinction of being the only one with a full color cover.

RRC 17 Steventon enjoyed being here Hawkins WI Soo station

RRC 17 Steventon enjoyed being here Hawkins WI Soo station

RRC 17 1st edition drawing Hawkins WI Soo station

RRC 17 1st edition drawing Hawkins WI Soo station

RRC 20

RRC 20

Advertising had to be done, and ads were placed in several railroad and modeling magazines including Trains and Model Railroad Craftsman. Such tag lines as “Authentic steam and electric railway recordings,” “Sounds you like to hear steam-traction,” and “Out of the past and into your home” were used. A mailing list was maintained, and announcements and sales information mailed directly to those on it. Records were sold in hobby stores, and Steventon sent LPs  to railroad historical societies that coincided with the group’s interests. He even devised a unique “Audition Set Program”. To audition a set of records a request form had to be filled out. A choice could be made as to which records were wanted but a choice of pre-selected LPs could be made by choosing ” all steam” or “all traction” or both. A “random” selection could be made giving the customer the choice of titles and number of records. A deposit in the following amounts had to be sent: “all steam” consisting of 25 10″ records-$100.00, “all traction” consisting of 15 10″ records-$60.00 and “random” $4.00 each. After listening, the records were to be returned with (hopefully) a purchase order. The money for the purchased records would be deducted from the deposit and the remainder returned with the record order.

Eventually Steventon branched out and began to sell all types of things. His biggest sideline was selling photographs. The photo catalog alone was 40 pages! He sold 16mm, 8mm and super 8 traction movies, books, records from other producers, he even had a line of railroad logo watch fobs! In one sales flyer he was trying to unload his old adding machine, a Sears model No. 871.58251 (he wanted $40 for it postpaid).

After 1965, when The Railroad Record Club stopped functioning as a club, not much else changed. Steventon continued to release records and in fact had plans to release many more. In a 1966 newsletter Steventon makes mention of future planned releases, unfortunately not all of them were produced. He writes: “Future releases will be made on the basis of availability of time and material. At this writing an “on train” recording of the old 1000 series Chicago South Shore & South Bend locomotives is in production. No release date has been set.” (Records number 33 & 34). He continues: “Other material for future work includes many steam and electric lines including the Shenandoah Central (never produced), Baltimore & Ohio (never produced) Chicago Aurora & Elgin (Record Number 36), Chicago Transit Authority (record number 36) Queensboro Bridge (never produced) and others.”

This newsletter also announces the first Railroad Record Club selection ever to be released on 12” discs-Special Pressing number 4.  “On December 21, 1965 a new milestone was established with the release of a set of three 12-inch 33 1/3 rpm recordings of the complete run of interurban No. 108 from Chicago to South Bend. Approximately two hours playing time and conveniently arranged for automatic playing sequence. Prepared and recommended for the devoted traction enthusiast.”

Through the rest of the 1960s and into the 1970s Steventon successfully sold his records. Some of the most popular selections had second and even third editions pressed, and the covers and liner notes continued to evolve, The liner notes were becoming more extensive and contained more information, not just about the equipment recorded, but somewhat personal stuff as well. For example, on record number 17, the entirety of side one contains the sounds of the activities going on inside the Hawkins, Wisconsin Soo Line station. Although Steventon writes in the third person he conveys his pleasure at being there. The sound of the telegraph, talking with the agent, the rumble of trains going past, the whole “atmosphere” he loved. “Plant your feet on the desk” he writes, “lean back in your chair and you’re the agent at this small village station.” He wrote fond boyhood memories in the notes to Record number 20 and revealed in those same notes just how he felt about diesel locomotives. He wrote that while recording a C&IM 0-8-0 switcher going about her chores, he was “dismayed” and “disgusted” when a GM&O RS-1 came onto the scene.  He included the diesel on the record however, noting that the steamer and the diesel sharing the stage made for an interesting recording. As he puts it: “Actually this could be considered as the tug-of-war between two types of motive power as to which will dominate the railroad scene”. At this point, he had to be dismayed to know steam would be the loser. Eventually his negative view of diesels must have softened a bit because in 1988, when he revised the notes to Record number 20, he removed the word “disgusted” although he continued to be “dismayed”. Steventon never released an LP that was entirely diesel sounds. He recorded diesels with some degree of regularity, as his first recording was of one. In his estate there was an open reel tape labeled “Nickel Plate Diesels” and on those acetate records there are plenty of B&O diesels. Perhaps he thought his record buying customers wouldn’t want to spend money to hear those “disgusting” machines. Rarely is the sound of a diesel included on any of the records.

The Railroad Record Club continued steadily along until early in 1973. A situation then developed that could not be easily overcome, in fact, it never would be completely. Early in that year RCA informed Steventon that they would no longer press his records. In club announcements concerning this situation Steventon wrote “In February of 1973 they (RCA) notified us that all of their custom work was being discontinued.” If RCA would not press his records, he would just have to find another company that would. That plan quickly died when another, more devastating difficulty was discovered. RCA had lost or destroyed all the Club’s metal master discs at its Indianapolis plant. Without those master discs new records could not be pressed by anyone. Steventon was stopped cold.  If he wanted to continue selling his previously released records, new master discs would have to be made. By the early 1970s 7” singles and 12” albums were the standards and the old 10” format was on the way out. New master discs would have to be made and they would have to be 12”.  Steventon managed to surmount these obstacles. He found a new company to work with, Nashville Record Productions of Nashville, Tennessee.

Even as the process of remastering and pressing new records progressed, Steventon was cautious with his expectations. He wrote carefully in a flyer about the remastering: “Due to a shortage of raw material record pressings may become difficult to obtain. Consequently we have no guarantee that our complete line can be produced, but will re-issue each record as conditions permit.”  Interested parties were mailed a “Railroad Record Club Advance Notice Mailing Card.” On this card selections were to be made as to which records the recipient wanted to be notified of when the 12” reissue was being readied. The recipient could then purchase the record at a pre-production discounted price.  Progress was made, albeit very slowly. The RCA masters were lost in the winter of 1973 but by summer 1976, only two records had been reissued. The first two being number 10-PRR and the second Number 8-CN now titled “Canadian Railroading in The Days Of Steam.” Steventon could not simply reissue the records numerically starting at number one and progressing from there. This was a very expensive undertaking and he needed to release the most popular titles first. At first, he considered having all the records remastered at once and getting a press run of each. This idea was dropped when the cost turned out to be more then $30,000! He decided to go back to his original club plan where he required a set amount of those pre-production advance payments to come in. Once there was sufficient interest shown for a certain record, as calculated from the advance mailing cards, he would announce that it was being readied for remastering. He would only send an order to Nashville when enough of the pre-production money came in to justify it.

In a telling reply to an inquiry from a customer wanting to know why a certain record, number 36, was still unavailable, Steventon spelled it out clearly:

“The program of re-mastering was started in ’73 after RCA lost our metal masters. The pre-production offer is used to generate funds to pay for the re-mastering process. As a rule of thumb it takes about 125 pre-payments to cover these costs. Experience has shown that roughly only 50% of those who ask to be notified on a new selection actually follow through with an order. Thus we need 250 requests to start the program. As of this date (March 29, 1989) only 99 have shown an interest in record 36, CA&E. The pressing firm in TN has just notified us of another increase in production costs. Dollar wise we are now talking $1100 to $1200 to re-master and get the first press run. The RR club is not a profit venture – we only ask to break even. In 1987 we operated at a loss of $444.10. 1988 was better with a modest net income of $119.75. We need EVERY bit of interest shown to keep the program rolling – it is a tough job!”

It was a tough job to be certain and it was also a very slow one. An order blank from November 1984 shows only eight remastered records, Number 4-B&O, 7-N&W/IC, 8-CN, 10-PRR, 19-DM&IR, 29-NKP 779 and SP-5-SOO/IC the ex-intro record. Also for sale at that time was a second pressing of SP-4 the CSS&SB three record set. Also listed on this order blank was a brand new record. Even with the remastering difficulties going on the Railroad Record Club managed to release one last all-new record. This last hurrah was special pressing number 6-The Milwaukee Road- Box Cab Electric Locomotives on the Coast Division, recorded by Elwin Purington in stereo. On the jacket SP-6 is touted as the “30th Anniversary Issue 1953-1983.” Another fine McMahon drawing graced the cover.

As each 12” reissue was produced, Steventon would revise and update the liner notes. If the record had an existing McMahon illustration it was transferred to the new jacket in the same size it appeared on the 10” jacket, but with a wide white border. If a reissue did not have a previously drawn McMahon picture, one would be commissioned. These black and white record jackets were distinctive and attractive. On the reissues the audio content was always identical to the 10” version, since the same master tapes were used. There was one exception, however. Although the railroad sounds were exactly the same, on the original release of Record number 3-EBT/D&RGW, Steventon had recorded spoken introductions to each of the EBT tracks, just as he had done for the old 78 acetate records in fact, they are exactly the same.  Steventon wanted these introductions removed to correct a mistake and instead of simply taking them off and writing the information into the liner notes, he had Elwin Purington re-record them.

The long and expensive remastering project continued into 1990. A test pressing for Record number 16-Westside Lumber had a memo attached that read: “Record No. 16, Westside Lumber Co. Record pressing approved if “blips” at approximately 3 min, 36 seconds into side one and continuing for about 6 or 7 seconds were corrected. Card returned 1/10/90.”  Not all of the surviving test pressings have dates on the jackets, but it is obvious that this one had to be among the last. By the early 1990s’ compact discs were already poised to topple vinyl records as the standard audio format. Steventon simply choose not to upgrade to yet another new format. Record number 16 being reissued in 1990, proves that Steventon worked at remastering the records almost to the end of his life. He died in 1993, just three years after the test pressing date for Record number 16. The long, expensive, and difficult remastering program started in 1973 and continued into at least 1990. In all only 17 of the 40 10” records were reissued on 12″ discs.

RAILROAD RECORD CLUB RECORDS REISSUED IN 12″ FORMAT
#1-WABASH (10″ 3rd Edition Cover Art)
#3-D&RGW/EBT (New Cover Art)
#4-B&O (New Cover Art)
#5-D&RGW
#7-N&W/IC (New Cover Art)
#8-CN (New Cover Art) Title changed to “Canadian Railroading In The Days Of Steam”
#10-PRR (10″ 2nd Edition Cover Art)
#15-CB&Q (New Cover Art)
#16-Westside Lumber (New Cover Art) Cover changed from a photograph to a pencil sketch
#17-Soo (New Cover Art)
#18-CNS&M (10″ 2nd Edition Cover Art)
#19-DM&IR
#20-C&IM/NYC
#26-CNS&M (Freight)
#29-NKP 779
#SP-2-NP 2626 (Same photo used on both 10″ & 12″ record covers but reproduced smaller on the reissue)
#SP-4-CSS&SB (passenger) 3 record set was only released on 12″ stock in display box
#SP-5-Soo/IC Formally the introductory record (New Cover Art)
#SP-6-MILW Box Cabs (Only released in 12″ format)
17 records reissued from 10″ to 12″
2 records only released on 12″

The Railroad Record Club didn’t completely die with William Steventon. His son Seth revived the club some years after his father’s death by putting the entire line of records on cassette tapes. By this time, however, CDs were the favored format and the effort was shelved.

Because of William A. Steventon’s commitment to recording the vanishing sounds of a passing era on American railroads, and just as importantly, making those recordings available to all who were interested, we can today hear the sounds of a Hagerstown & Frederick interurban car speeding past a lonely country crossing. We can experience the sonic thunder of a New York Central 4-6-4 blasting out of Mount Carmel, Illinois with a whistle full of water. We can ride along in the cab of a CSS&SB freight motor on its trip out of Michigan city, and we can enjoy the work of the other talented railroad recordists whose work Steventon put on his records. We can even listen to that whining rotary converter in Harristown, Illinois.

-Kenneth Gear

New Steam Audio CD:

FTS
Farewell To Steam
Mister D’s Machine
# of Discs – 1
Price: $14.99

Farewell To Steam
On February 6, 1955 the Santa Fe Railway ran a railfan train from Los Angeles to Barstow and back for the Railway Club of Southern California. This was Santa Fe’s last run powered by a steam locomotive over this route. The engine was a 4-8-4, #3759. We have used the original, rare 1955 mono version of this recording, and not the later 1958 reissue that had a bunch of echo added to create a fake stereo effect.

Mister D’s Machine
When diesel locomotives replaced steam in the 1950s, they offered a multitude of different sounds. This original 1963 stereo recording showcases the many sounds of diesels on the San Joaquin and Los Angeles Divisions of the Southern Pacific, including the Tahachappi Loop, an engineering feat that made modern railroading famous.

As with all of our recordings, this CD comes with the complete, original liner notes.

Total time – 72:56

Pre-Order Our New Book Building Chicago’s Subways

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

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

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

Bibliographic information:

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

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

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

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

For Shipping to US Addresses:

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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 220th 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 446,000 page views, for which we are very grateful.

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Your financial contributions help make this web site better, and are greatly appreciated.

A New Year- A New Beginning

2017 in Review

Another year has come and gone.  How quickly time flies.  For this blog, it was another successful year, with 118,985 page views from 34,503 visitors.  These numbers are more than 2015, but less than 2016.

We made fewer posts last during 2017, but they tended to be longer overall.  Some had more than 100 images, and there are over 100 in this post.  To date, we have posted over 30gb of classic images via this blog. It’s no coincidence that when I do Google searches on traction subjects, it seems like half the “hits” that come up are from The Trolley Dodger.

One of our goals has always been to provide a resource where people can find this type of information. I believe we have succeeded, and will continue to build on that success. There are some who think our hobby is on the decline, but I believe we have shown just the opposite.

Our average number of page views per post has continued to increase.  In 2015, it was 995 per post; in 2016, this increased to 1744, and in 2017 we reached 3718 page views per post.

2017 was also notable for the publication of our book Chicago Trolleys, which has been very well received.

While at this stage, it is impossible to know how many posts we will have this year, we are committed to maintaining a high standard of quality on whatever we do present.

Among our other recent posts, we are particularly proud of The Fairmount Park Trolley (November 7, 2017), which included dozens of rare images, most from the original medium format negatives. It took us nearly three years to collect all this material, which probably represents a total cost of about $1000- and this was just one post.

As an example of how we have inspired additional research, I would point to our post The “Other” Penn Central (May 29, 2016), which has gradually gotten longer and longer, thanks to additions from our ever-inquisitive readers.

In addition, as time goes on, we have more and more friends who share their material with our readers.  Today we feature the contributions of noted author Larry Sakar. The pictures are his, unless otherwise noted.

Happy New Year! May you and your family have health, wealth, and happiness in 2018.

-David Sadowski

PS- In about 30 day’s time, our annual bill to fund this site and its web domain comes due.  That comes to $400, or just over $1 per day.  If you enjoy reading this blog, and want to see it continue, we hope you will consider supporting it via a donation.  You can also purchase items from our Online Store. With your help, we cannot fail.

Early Trolley Museum Visits

Larry Sakar writes:

You’ve been posting a lot of photos of CA&E cars of late, which reminded me of a day 47 1/2 years ago when I went to a trolley museum for the very first time. For several years, I would see the ads for IRM in Trains, Railroad (before it became Railfan & Railroad) and Model Railroader and I wanted to go there. Asking my father would have been useless. He wouldn’t have taken me in a million years. Neither of my parents approved of my interest in trolleys.

Luckily I had met Bill Beaudot in 1967, when he was the librarian in charge of the Local History Room at the Central Library downtown. My regular visits to read and reread CERA B-97, “The Electric Railways of Wisconsin” got him wondering what that was all about. All the remaining CERA Bulletins and other traction books had been removed from circulation, and placed under lock and key in the Local History Room.

And so it was that on a warm Saturday afternoon in August of 1970, I went with Bill and his family to my first trolley museum. But it was not IRM, well not initially anyway. The first museum we visited was then called RELIC in South Elgin, IL. RELIC was an acronym for the Railway Equipment Leasing and Investment Corp. Today we know it as the Fox River Trolley Museum.

CA&E wood car 20 was in operation that day, and we rode it from South Elgin to the end of the line at the I.C. bridge over the Fox River at Coleman. When they told the history of the line, I remembered that this was the line from which Speedrail cars 300 and 301 originated.

Of course, they spent 25 years in Cleveland operating on the Shaker Heights Rapid Transit, but so what? It was still nice to see where those cars began their service lives. And sitting on a side track was a car I had heard and read about innumerable times: NSL Tavern Lounge 415. Some years later they sold the car to Seashore Trolley Museum in Kennebunkport, Maine.

CA&E car 20 at the RELIC museum, August 1970.

CA&E car 20 at the RELIC museum, August 1970.

The interior of CA&E car 20 in August 1970.

The interior of CA&E car 20 in August 1970.

CA&E 300-series car at the RELIC museum in August 1970.

CA&E 300-series car at the RELIC museum in August 1970.

CA&E 300-series car at the RELIC museum in August 1970.

CA&E 300-series car at the RELIC museum in August 1970.

The Illinois Central interchange at Coleman with the ex-AE&FRE right-of-way, at the RELIC museum in August 1970.

The Illinois Central interchange at Coleman with the ex-AE&FRE right-of-way, at the RELIC museum in August 1970.

North Shore Line tavern-lounge car 415 at the RELIC museum in August 1970.

North Shore Line tavern-lounge car 415 at the RELIC museum in August 1970.

Leaving South Elgin and RELIC we headed for Union, Illinois and IRM. As we crossed the museum line and entered the grounds, I saw Milwaukee streetcar 972 with CSL 144 behind it loading at the station. Instantly, I felt like a kid again, when I would get excited as my grandfather drove my grandmother and me to the Harwood Avenue terminus of the No. 10 Wells Streetcar line in Wauwatosa.

In those days you turned from Wauwatosa Ave. west to Harwood. You found yourself at the top of a very steep hill that dropped down into the Menomonee River Valley, and crossed the Milwaukee Road mainline at grade. And on the west side of those tracks sat the Harwood terminal and the No. 10 Wells streetcar line. A 100-car plus Milwaukee Road freight would cause a monumental traffic jam on both sides of the Harwood hill. In the ’80’s a bypass was built, and traffic no longer has access via the old route. Just as well. Both the streetcar and terminal are long gone.

Anyway, I did get to ride 972 and it felt like 1957-58 all over again. I even made sure to relive my childhood memory of streetcar rides with my grandmother by walking to the opposite end of 972 and sitting in the motorman’s seat. The only difference was I no longer needed someone to boost me up and hold me in the seat!

So here are scans of the prints from the pictures I took that day. I had a great shot of TM 972 speeding down the mainline, but I gave it away about 10 years ago, unfortunately.

While looking through some other pictures, I came across four pictures I took at IRM sometime in the 1980s or ’90s. Two are of my favorite car (after TM 972) Indiana RR 65 and 2 are of AE&FR 306 currently undergoing restoration. Car 65 was flying white flags and was not in regular service. It had been taken out for use in some movie.

I don’t remember much of the detail I heard, but it involved George Krambles in some way. That’s as much as I can recall. 306 was in the car barn parked next to IT 101. I did ride 65 on a member’s weekend once years ago. We reached the end of the line at the Kishwaukee River crossing. They threw whatever electric switches they had to in order to put control over to the back-up controller in the rear of the car, but it refused to budge. Our motorman had to radio for a car to come to our rescue. They sent down C&ME 354.

That was my first and to date only ride on that car. I’ve heard that 65 does not operate very often. While going thru a large group of my slides last Thursday that I had marked as “unidentified,” I found the interior photo I knew I’d taken of CRANDIC 111 at Rio Vista in 2000. I need to look thru the slides I have in my metal slide box #2 of 3. I’m sure I took at least one exterior of CRANDIC 111 that day.

Aurora Elgin & Fox River Electric 306 at the Illinois Railway Museum in the 1980s or 90s.

Aurora Elgin & Fox River Electric 306 at the Illinois Railway Museum in the 1980s or 90s.

Aurora Elgin & Fox River Electric 306 at the Illinois Railway Museum in the 1980s or 90s.

Aurora Elgin & Fox River Electric 306 at the Illinois Railway Museum in the 1980s or 90s.

CSL 144 at the IRM depot in August 1970.

CSL 144 at the IRM depot in August 1970.

CSL 144 with TM 972 ahead, August 1970.

CSL 144 with TM 972 ahead, August 1970.

Illinois Terminal 415 at speed on the IRM main line in August 1970.

Illinois Terminal 415 at speed on the IRM main line in August 1970.

The interior of Illinois Terminal 415 at IRM in August 1970.

The interior of Illinois Terminal 415 at IRM in August 1970.

Illinois Terminal 415 at the IRM depot in August 1970.

Illinois Terminal 415 at the IRM depot in August 1970.

Indiana Railroad 65 at IRM in the 1980s or 90s.

Indiana Railroad 65 at IRM in the 1980s or 90s.

Indiana Railroad 65 at IRM in the 1980s or 90s.

Indiana Railroad 65 at IRM in the 1980s or 90s.

A North Shore Line 700-series car at IRM in August 1970.

A North Shore Line 700-series car at IRM in August 1970.

Following the RELIC and IRM pix are a set of pictures taken on a PA Transit PCC in Pittsburgh in the winter of 1971-72. I did not take these pictures. My good friend Bill did, and gave them to me because he knew I liked PCCs.

Because I have never been to Pittsburgh, I am unable to tell the readers where these pictures were taken. PA Transit, for anyone not familiar with it, was the municipal agency that took over the Pittsburgh Railways Co. in 1967. PA stands for Port Authority, not Pennsylvania.

It has always struck me as unusual that streetcar service would be run by the Port Authority, but the Port Authority of Allegheny County was given the task of transit operations, odd though that may seem.

I can still remember the controversy in Railroad Magazine over how the Pittsburgh PCCs were painted in the late ’60s and perhaps early ’70s. Many were painted in three colors, each color being placed on one-third of the car. In keeping with the times one PCC was painted in this wild looking paint scheme and dubbed the “Psychedelic trolley.”

PA Transit 1727 in 1972. (Bill Beaudot Photo)

PA Transit 1727 in 1972. (Bill Beaudot Photo)

PA Transit 1727 in 1972. (Bill Beaudot Photo)

PA Transit 1727 in 1972. (Bill Beaudot Photo)

The interior of PA Transit 1727. (Bill Beaudot Photo)

The interior of PA Transit 1727. (Bill Beaudot Photo)

A PA Transit PCC with the motorman using a switch iron in 1972. (Bill Beaudot Photo)A PA Transit PCC with the motorman using a switch iron in 1972. (Bill Beaudot Photo)

A PA Transit PCC with the motorman using a switch iron in 1972. (Bill Beaudot Photo)

I’ll finish up with a few shots of the Illinois Central Electric (later METRA Electric) Highliners taken mostly as 115th St. Kensington station around 1975. I remember when I.C. first got them, and now they too are history.

-Larry

An ICG Highliner at Randolph Street in 1975.

An ICG Highliner at Randolph Street in 1975.

An ICG Highliner at 115th in Kensington in 1975.

An ICG Highliner at 115th in Kensington in 1975.

Looking north at the Kensington station, as a South Shore Line train approaches in 1975.

Looking north at the Kensington station, as a South Shore Line train approaches in 1975.

Looking north along the northbound track at Kensington station in 1975.

Looking north along the northbound track at Kensington station in 1975.

Looking south from the Kensington ICG station, with the tower to the left.

Looking south from the Kensington ICG station, with the tower to the left.

ICG Highliner interior.

ICG Highliner interior.

An ICG Highliner at 115th Street in Kensington in 1975.

An ICG Highliner at 115th Street in Kensington in 1975.

Sunny California

For all readers of The Trolley Dodger who are shivering in this arctic cold here’s a posting that will let you temporarily escape to a much warmer place; sunny California. During the 50s, 60s and 70s, California (except for San Francisco) shed its electric traction lines as fast as they could.

Much of this was due to a company called National City Lines. In city after city they bought up the rail lines (San Diego Electric Railway, Los Angeles Railway, Pacific Electric, Key System Transit), abandoned all rail service and replaced it with Mack or GM Buses running on Firestone Tires and probably burning diesel fuel supplied by Phillips Petroleum. And they didn’t limit their destructive efforts to just California.

Then came the 1980s, and slowly California began to wake up from its love affair with freeways. And it all started with the San Diego Trolley in 1981. So, it’s only appropriate that we begin our look at traction in the Golden State there.

The San Diego Trolley's original cars were built by Duewag of Dusseldorf, Germany with help from Siemens.

The San Diego Trolley’s original cars were built by Duewag of Dusseldorf, Germany with help from Siemens.

Originally, the San Diego Trolley line to the Mexican border started here.

Originally, the San Diego Trolley line to the Mexican border started here.

Self-service. Passengers entered the car by pressing the black button, seen to the lower right of the door.

Self-service. Passengers entered the car by pressing the black button, seen to the lower right of the door.

Trains bound for the Mexican border had a San Ysidro destination sign.

Trains bound for the Mexican border had a San Ysidro destination sign.

The interior of the beautifully restored ex-Santa Fe (now Amtrak) San Diego station.

The interior of the beautifully restored ex-Santa Fe (now Amtrak) San Diego station.

Look at that beautiful tile work, including the Santa Fe logo on the wall.

Look at that beautiful tile work, including the Santa Fe logo on the wall.

Interior of a Duewag car - spartan, but functional.

Interior of a Duewag car – spartan, but functional.

No controller, no brake handle - computerized push-button control.

No controller, no brake handle – computerized push-button control.

A typical stop on city streets.

A typical stop on city streets.

The maintenance facility on the line to San Ysidro.

The maintenance facility on the line to San Ysidro.

A modern-day Southern California car barn, San Diego style.

A modern-day Southern California car barn, San Diego style.

More of the maintenance facility.

More of the maintenance facility.

City College stop. Fare checkers board here.

City College stop. Fare checkers board here.

Amtrak Redondo engine maintenance facility.

Amtrak Redondo engine maintenance facility.

Arrival at San Diego. looking toward the rear of the train.

Arrival at San Diego. looking toward the rear of the train.

Arrival at San Diego. looking forward toward the front of the train.

Arrival at San Diego. looking forward toward the front of the train.

Curving southeast through an industrial area. Note signal at right.

Curving southeast through an industrial area. Note signal at right.

Curving southeast through an industrial area.

Curving southeast through an industrial area.

Leaving LAUPT, passing Mission Tower.

Leaving LAUPT, passing Mission Tower.

Now you know why the line was renamed the San Diego Surfliner.

Now you know why the line was renamed the San Diego Surfliner.

Oceanside, CA - quite literally.

Oceanside, CA – quite literally.

I can’t think of a city that so completely turned its back on electric rail transit and embraced freeways the way Los Angeles did except for Milwaukee.

In her 1969 Grammy Award winning song, composed by the magnificent team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David, Dionne Warwick asked the question, “Do you know the way to San Jose?” One of the lines in the song says, “LA is a great big freeway. Put a hundred down and buy a car.”

I can’t speak to “putting a hundred down to buy a car,” other than to say perhaps in 1969, but very unlikely in 2018! But I can attest to the sentiment that LA was and still is “a great big freeway.” There are two Amtrak routes between San Francisco and LA. The Coast Starlight is a long-distance train operating once daily between Seattle and LA. But like any long-distance train, it is often subject to delays. Even on time, arrival in LA is not until 9:00 pm.

The other San Francisco to LA train is a corridor train called the San Joaquin, operating between Jack London Square station in Oakland and Bakersfield. All Amtrak service between San Francisco and other cities arrives and departs from either Jack London Square station in Oakland or Emeryville station. Emeryville is a separate city, 12 miles north of Oakland.

And yes, it is the Emeryville where the Key System had its shops.

Passengers going to San Francisco are bused across the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge via Amtrak Thru-Way buses. In the golden age of rail passenger service, trains such as SP’s San Joaquin Daylight, the Lark and the Owl plied the tracks between San Francisco and LA. But when Amtrak took over in 1971 the SP and later UP which now owns the tracks forbade Amtrak trains to continue over the Tehachapi Mountains from Bakersfield to LA.

Therefore, passengers such as me boarded an LA bound Amtrak Thru-Way bus on August 7th at Bakersfield for the two-and-a-half hour ride down I5 and the Hollywood Freeway to LAUPT. This was not my first trip between Bakersfield and LA, so I knew what to expect the closer we got to LA. From the Magic Mountain Amusement park in Valencia to Glendale, where my bus was making a stop, I5 was a sea of cars in both directions.

As bad as that seemed, the Hwy 1012 Hollywood Freeway to downtown LA was even worse. It made rush hours on the Kennedy and Eisenhower look like child’s play! I kept asking myself, “How does anyone put up with this, on a daily basis?” And gas prices in California were at least $1.00 per gallon higher than here in the Midwest. In fact, I think it safe to say everything costs more out there!

So, what brought about this miraculous turnaround from asphalt and concrete to rail? I could tell you, but as the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. I took this photo from the Griffith Park Observatory which is perched some 1300+ feet above LA in the summer of 1980 just before the rail renaissance began. Note that orange cloud on the far horizon. That is smog and it coats LA like a blanket daily. It is unhealthy to say the least and extremely bad for people with asthma and other respiratory problems. I can only guess that one day, someone woke up and pondered, “How did we get ourselves into this mess?” That’s easily answered. You allowed National City Lines and Metropolitan Coach Lines to take over and destroy Los Angeles Railways and Pacific Electric the system that literally helped build southern California.

The last PE line from LA to Long Beach was abandoned by the LAMTA– an agency formed to save remaining rail transit in LA but which, because it was controlled by some of the same people who ran Metropolitan Coach Lines, did the exact opposite. That was in April1961, but luckily the right of way between LA and Long Beach was saved, as parts of it were used by Southern Pacific (of which PE was a part) for freight service.

So, it was only fitting that after an absence of almost 30 years, electric transit service between LA and Long Beach was reborn in the form of the new LA Metro Blue Line on July 14, 1990. And just two-and-a-half years after that, the new LA Metro Red Line subway between downtown and North Hollywood opened for service.

Ironically, the new subway was built just one block (in places) from the old PE Belmont Subway. (Note: Though often referred to as the Hollywood subway because PE trains headed there and to other locations in and near the San Fernando Valley such as Universal City and North Hollywood as well as Glendale and Burbank) operated thru it. But its official name was the Belmont subway, no relation to Belmont Avenue in Chicago.

LA from the Griffith Park Observatory in 1980.

LA from the Griffith Park Observatory in 1980.

The LA Red Line subway at the 7th Street/Union Station stop in 2001. The LA Red Line subway is used by passengers to reach the Blue Line to Long Beach. Long Beach trains end in their own subway a few blocks from the Staples Center (LA's version of the United Center). I believe these are Japanese Kawasaki-built cars.

The LA Red Line subway at the 7th Street/Union Station stop in 2001. The LA Red Line subway is used by passengers to reach the Blue Line to Long Beach. Long Beach trains end in their own subway a few blocks from the Staples Center (LA’s version of the United Center). I believe these are Japanese Kawasaki-built cars.

Long before BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) began service between Oakland and Fremont in 1972, there was the Key System. Started in 1903 by a man called “Borax” Smith, who became a millionaire mining Borax. If you’re around my age perhaps you remember the 19670’s TV show “Death Valley Days” hosted by actor Dale Robertson which was sponsored by 20 Nuke Team Borax.

The line got its name because, when viewed on a map, the 5 East Bay lines were designated by letters:
A: Downtown Oakland later extended to East Oakland on the tracks of the Interurban Electric Ry. an SP subsidiary which was abandoned in 1941
B: Lakeshore and Trestle Glen
C: Piedmont
D: Never used. Reserved for a line to Montclair alongside the Sacramento Northern Interurban which was never built
E:Claremont
F: Berkeley

They resembled the top part of a skeleton key, the straight bottom portion represented by the Key Pier, which jutted out into the Bay 1.3 miles from the Oakland shore. San Francisco-bound passengers transferred to Key System Ferry boats at the Key pier for the trip to the San Francisco Ferry Building at the foot of Market St.

In January 1939 Key System trains began using the newly constructed San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. Tracks were laid on the lower deck of the bridge which was reserved for trucks and buses. A newly constructed terminal at 1st & Mission Streets in San Francisco (initially called the “East Bay Terminal” and then the “Trans Bay Transit Terminal”) served as the station for Key System trains, as well as Sacramento Northern and Interurban Electric. The latter two systems both abandoned service in 1941. Key took over some on the former IER trackage in and around Berkeley.

In 1938 newly-built articulated trains replaced the original wood center-entrance cars. As the saying goes, looks can be deceiving, and such was the case with the new articulated trains. They were, in fact, a new body placed atop salvaged components from the original wood cars, which consisted of everything from trucks to controllers. Worse yet, the new bodies had a major design flaw. They lacked proper ventilation. They were not air conditioned and did not have openable windows. Cars ran on third rail between the Trans Bay Terminal and the Key Bridge Yards in Oakland which abutted the Oakland toll plaza.

The Bay Bridge, like the Golden Gate Bridge and every Transbay bridge in San Francisco, is a toll bridge operated by the California Toll Bridge Authority. Each of the companies running trains across the Bay Bridge were required to deed a certain number of cars to Toll Bridge Authority ownership. This would prove fortuitous as the cars now preserved at the Western Railway Museum in Suisun City, CA and the Orange Empire Railway Museum in Riverside, CA were ones deeded to the Toll Bridge Authority.

Key System 187 at the Western Railway Museum in 2000.

Key System 187 at the Western Railway Museum in 2000.

A Key System Transit train in the Trans Bay Terminal in 1953.

A Key System Transit train in the Trans Bay Terminal in 1953.

Key System 182 at the Western Railway Museum in 2000.

Key System 182 at the Western Railway Museum in 2000.

Key System 182 at the Western Railway Museum in 2000.

Key System 182 at the Western Railway Museum in 2000.

The Trans Bay Transit Terminal at 1st and Mission in San Francisco, razed in 2011.

The Trans Bay Transit Terminal at 1st and Mission in San Francisco, razed in 2011.

In 1946, the Lundeberg management sold its interest in the Key System to National City lines. As was almost always the case with any rail lines acquired by NCL, the streetcar lines in and around Oakland, operated by Key subsidiary East Bay Transit Company, were converted to bus operation in 1948. Key trains operated until April 1958 when the last trains crossed the Bay Bridge for the final time. The State of California spent huge sums of money to remove the overhead wires and rails from the Bay Bridge and Trans Bay Terminal to accommodate Key System Transit’s new Mack and GM Buses.

In 1960 Key System was acquired by A.C. Transit which still operates buses across the Bay Bridge to East Bay points to this day. A.C. stands for the two counties who operate the bus line, Alameda and Contra Costa.

The Transbay Transit Terminal was razed in 2011 and is being replaced by a new facility a few blocks away on Folsom Street. Unfortunately, the new terminal, which had been due to be completed in 2017, has been stopped from completion by a lawsuit filed by the nearby Millennium Towers Condos Building. The 58-story building with luxury condos, selling for upwards of $3 million and home to celebrities such as Joe Montana, is sinking into its foundation at an alarming rate and is also tilting as a result.

Its developers blame the contractor building the new Trans Bay Terminal claiming he drained out too much of the ground water causing the Millennium building foundation to shift in the sands which anchor it. The contractor for the new Trans Bay Terminal has counter-sued claiming that the Millennium Tower’s builder should have anchored the building’s foundation in the bed rock 200 feet below. Until the issue is resolved, a temporary Transit Terminal is open at 200 Folsom Street.

Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority operates buses and one light rail line from Santa Teresa to Alum Rock in the San Mateo-San Jose area. It will connect with BART when the line is extended into San Mateo County. At least three major Silicon Valley companies will be served: Cisco Systems, eBay and Adobe.

The light rail line operates between Santa Teresa and Alum Rock. The car seen here, and its mates, were sold to the Sacramento RTD when VTA purchased new low-floor cars.

An VTA Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority LRV at Santa Teresa station in 2000.

An VTA Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority LRV at Santa Teresa station in 2000.

Sacramento RTD at Roseville Yards in 2004.

Sacramento RTD at Roseville Yards in 2004.

Sacramento RTD at Roseville Yards in 2004.

Sacramento RTD at Roseville Yards in 2004.

Sacramento RTD at Roseville Yards in 2004.

Sacramento RTD at Roseville Yards in 2004.

Sacramento RTD at Roseville Yards in 2004.

Sacramento RTD at Roseville Yards in 2004.

Sacramento RTD service started between Watt I-80 and the Historic Folsom District on 3-12-87.Within the past year a branch to Consumes River College was opened. The maintenance facility for the Sacramento RTD is located in adjacent Roseville, north of Sacramento, a city located at the southern base of the Sierras. The four photos seen here were taken from Amtrak Train #5, the California Zephyr, on the way to Emeryville in 2004.

A year before the Key System abandoned rail service in April 1958, planning for some sort of new Transbay rail line was being contemplated. That became the Bay Area Rapid Transit district. This was a county-based, special-purpose district formed to construct and operate a rail transit system in the five counties that initially formed the district: The city and county of San Francisco, Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin and San Mateo.

Though invited to participate, Santa Clara county declined to join until 2018 when BART will enter San Mateo County, with the extension to Milpitas and Berryessa. In 1962 San Mateo County supervisors voted to leave BART, claiming their voters would be paying taxes for riders primarily from Santa Clara County. San Mateo eventually formed its own transit agency called SAMTRANS. The departure of San Mateo County lead to the departure of Marin County as well.

Construction of BART began in 1964, but it would not be until 1972 that the first trains operating between Fremont and Oakland would begin service. Initially, there was a debate about how BART trains would cross the Bay. Would it be an above ground crossing or a subway tube? The decision was made to dig a trench in the floor of San Francisco Bay and construct a subway tube between San Francisco and Oakland. All other parts of the system would be elevated (parts of Oakland immediately after trains leave the Transbay tube), subway (through Berkeley) or private right-of-way, often in the median of existing expressways.

Author Harre Demoro frequently insisted, in his books, that BART was neither the modern day Key System or Sacramento Northern. I disagree. In my opinion it is both. It serves many of the same cities served by Key or SN, and even utilizes parts of the old SN right of way in Concord, Rockridge, and West Pittsburg.

When I visited the Western Railway Museum for the first time in 1996, I rode an interurban saved from a system I’d never heard of, called the Peninsular Railway. A Google search revealed that the line had run in the San Mateo/San Jose area now known as “Silicon Valley”. One of the stations served by the Peninsular Railway was Berryessa. In 2018 the new BART extension into San Mateo County will provide service to two new stations; Milpitas and Berryessa. The Peninsular Railway abandoned service in 1934. It has taken 84 years, but electric rail transit is back in Berryessa. Let’s go for a ride on BART.

-Larry

Along the right of way to Milbrae and the SFO International Airport.

Along the right of way to Milbrae and the SFO International Airport.

Another view of the BART Oakland yards.

Another view of the BART Oakland yards.

Approaching the station loading area.

Approaching the station loading area.

A BART C train, built by Alstom circa 1995.

A BART C train, built by Alstom circa 1995.

The BART SFO International Airport station in 2004.

The BART SFO International Airport station in 2004.

A BART train arriving at the SFO International Airport in 2004.

A BART train arriving at the SFO International Airport in 2004.

C car interior. Note the blue colors, versus brown for the Rohr-built cars.

C car interior. Note the blue colors, versus brown for the Rohr-built cars.

The BART Concord station, on the former Sacramento Northern right-of-way.

The BART Concord station, on the former Sacramento Northern right-of-way.

Concord station, close-up of BART train.

Concord station, close-up of BART train.

A BART C train at Civic Center station.

A BART C train at Civic Center station.

The interior of a Rohr-built BART car.

The interior of a Rohr-built BART car.

The interior of a Rohr-built BART car.

The interior of a Rohr-built BART car.

Oakland Yards near the MacArthur station.

Oakland Yards near the MacArthur station.

The operator of a BART car signs in.

The operator of a BART car signs in.

The operator's cab in a BART car, all computer controlled, like San Diego.

The operator’s cab in a BART car, all computer controlled, like San Diego.

An original Rohr-built BART train at Balboa Park station.

An original Rohr-built BART train at Balboa Park station.

The people mover at the SFO International Airport.

The people mover at the SFO International Airport.

Pittsburg Bay Point station, the farthest east point on BART.

Pittsburg Bay Point station, the farthest east point on BART.

The BART Pittsburg Bay Point station passageway to the park and ride lot.

The BART Pittsburg Bay Point station passageway to the park and ride lot.

Reflections of a railfan taking a picture of the people mover at the SFO International Airport.

Reflections of a railfan taking a picture of the people mover at the SFO International Airport.

A view of the opposite end of the BART Pittsburg Bay Point station passageway.

A view of the opposite end of the BART Pittsburg Bay Point station passageway.

The rear of the same train at the Balboa Park station.

The rear of the same train at the Balboa Park station.

Chris Barney writes:

HISTORIC BRIDGE DEMOLISHED

The last identifiable bridge from TM interurban operations in Milwaukee County fell to the wrecking ball November 9, 2017. The 1905 Milwaukee Light, Heat & Traction (MLH&T) spandrel-arch bridge over the Root River, near 98th & Layton, met its end after efforts to attain historic status and raising funds to preserve it failed. Robert Roesler, Greenfield Historical Society president, made a concerted effort in this regard and should be commended for it. A We Energies representative even arranged to donate the bridge structure to anyone willing to preserve it, but no one came forward.

The bridge last handled inte