The photographer (possibly Emery Gulash) had but one chance to press the shutter button at precisely the right moment, and he nailed it with this classic view of westbound Electroliner train 803 at Lake Bluff in January 1963. This is what noted photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson had in mind when he wrote about the “decisive moment.” Douglas Noble: “Northbound crossing Rockland Road / IL 176 in Lake Bluff.”
This is our first post in nearly two months. We have been hard at work on our next book, The North Shore Line. In addition, I worked 16 straight days as an election judge during the recent primary here.
Each of these posts involves a tremendous amount of hard work that may not be apparent to the causal observer. First, we have to scan the negatives, prints, and slides that you see here. Then, they have to be worked over in Photoshop to get the color and density right, and remove any scratches, crud, and other blemishes that have accumulated over the decades since these pictures were taken. This can take hours for just a single photograph, but we think the results are well worth it.
Our goal is to present definitive versions of these classic photos in an online archive for all to enjoy. We see our stuff showing up all over Facebook and other parts of the Internet all the time, and, recently, even in books and magazines put out by others.
It would be nice if, in all cases, we received some credit for our contributions. When people ask permission to use our work, it is freely granted, but all we ask is that we are properly credited, that the original photographer is credited, and that the small watermark we place on these images is not cropped out.
We don’t think this is too much to ask. Meanwhile, we hope you will enjoy this latest batch of classic photographs.
Our friend Kenneth Gear now has a Facebook group for the Railroad Record Club. If you enjoy listening to audio recordings of classic railroad trains, whether steam, electric, or diesel, you might consider joining.
Work on our North Shore Line book is ongoing. Donations are needed in order to bring this to a successful conclusion. You will find donation links at the top and bottom of each post. We thank you in advance for your time and consideration.
The Chicago Surface Lines had a collection of historic streetcars, starting in the 1920s. These were used for parades and the opening of new lines. Some of the restoration work, such as this car, was more fanciful than authentic, as this car was never part of the West Chicago Street Railway, nor was it #4. Don’s Rail Photos: “4 was built by Pullman in 1895, #840, as North Chicago Street RR 922. It became Chicago Union Traction Co 4022 in 1899 and became Chicago Surface Lines 4022 in 1914. It was rebuilt as WCStRy 4 in 1933. It went to Illinois Railway Museum in 1985.” The CTA inherited this collection, and various cars were trotted out during shops tours in the 1950s. Once streetcar service ended in 1958, these cars were put into storage, and were finally donated to museums in the mid-1980s.
Brooklyn-Queens Transit PCC 1066 is signed for Coney Island in the early 1950s.
A train of CTA curved-door 6000s is at Howard Street in June 1977.
A southbound North Shore Line train, with 711 in the lead, is at Morse on the “L” in June 1959.
North Shore Line cars 157 and 252 are on a June 16, 1962 fantrip. Here, we see the train at the Root River bridge near Racine, Wisconsin. (Richard H. Young Photo)
This is a South Shore Line portable substation at Michigan City, Indiana on July 10, 1977.
Philadelphia Suburban Transportation Company (aka Red Arrow) cars 16 and 20 in May 1965, signed for the Media line. Kenneth Achtert: “Appears to be outbound at Springfield Rd. I would assume this is on a fantrip from the number of random individuals around the right-of-way (most likely a run-by since they are scattered about); also, the Media destination would not be standard operating procedure for two-car trains. The trains were typically scheduled to Springfield (Woodland Ave.) with only single cars going all the way to Media.” Jeff Didlake says, “I agree with Ken Achtert’s thoughts that this is a fan trip, but I believe the location is the Scenic Rd. station on the Media Line. The track is on a slight curve and a hint of the red brick high rise Drexelline Apts. is in the background. I know this station well as I managed to ruin a good tire and wheel while pulling into the parking lot there on a poorly maintained Springfield Twp. sewer inlet grate.”
On June 11, 1962, a two-car North Shore Line train, headed by 731, is bound for Mundelein near Lake Bluff. (Richard H. Young Photo)
North Shore Line combine 251 is near Racine, Wisconsin on February 6, 1962.
The interior of Queensborough Bridge Railway car 601 in the mid-1950s. This was an Electromobile, built around 1929 by Osgood-Bradley.
North Shore Line car 733 awaiting scrapping at South Upton Junction on October 26, 1963, several months after abandonment.
North Shore Line Silverliner 758 is at Edison Court in Waukegan during the summer of 1958. This was an important station, where cars were routinely added and cut from trains.
Philadelphia PCC 2142 is signed for Route 6 on September 15, 1957. Mark A. Jones writes, “That picture is of the northbound terminus of route 6 across from Willow Grove Park. 2142 is headed south to Broad and Olney.” Kenneth Achtert adds, “2142 is at Willow Grove Park, the end of the Route 6. The amusement park is hidden behind the trees.”
North Shore Line loco 455 is working the Niles Gas Spur in the Weber Industrial District, Skokie, Illinois, probably in the late 1950s. (Bob Geis Photo)
Chicago Surface Lines one-man car 6241 is at the east end of Route 43 in the 1940s. You can see a pedestrian bridge leading to the nearby Illinois Central Electric commuter station behind the streetcar.
A North Shore Line train at Winnetka Road on the Skokie Valley Route. The business at left is John H. Davies and Son, general contractors.
A three-car North Shore Line train heads south over the 6th Street Bridge, probably in the 1940s.
North Shore Line cars 716 and 409 at Highwood, possibly in the early 1940s. 409 started out as a dining car motor before it was converted to coach in 1942.
North Shore Line loco 455 heads up a freight train that is crossing over to the northbound track near Oakton on the Skokie Valley Route.
A three-car train of North Shore Line Silverliners prepares to cross the North Shore Channel, probably in the 1950s.
To get a shot like this in the 1940s, a photographer had to be extremely lucky, patient, or both. While a two-car CRT Lake Street “L” train heads east, going up the ramp towards Laramie, it passes a westbound CSL Route 16 streetcar. Two conductors on the “L” are lowering the trolley poles, as this was the switchover point to third rail. Streetcar service on Lake Street ended in 1954, and the outer portion of the Lake Street “L” was shifted over to the nearby C&NW embankment in 1962.
CTA PCC 7148 is at 71st and Ashland in June 1953. (Vic Wagner Photo) Our resident south side expert M. E. notes, “I don’t doubt this photo is at 71st and Ashland. (The street sign says Ashland.) So this photo is near the 69th and Ashland carbarn. I think this streetcar had been heading south on Ashland to 71st, and here it is turning west on 71st St. for what would be a short distance. Then it will turn north and into the carbarn.”
CTA one-man streetcar 3228 is on 79th Street at the crossing with the Illinois Central in April 1951. (Vic Wagner Photo)
The view looking north along State Street at 63rd in April 1953. The PCCs are running on Route 36, while the red Pullman is eastbound on Route 63. This was near the end of streetcar service on 63rd Street, and older red cars had replaced newer PCCs, which were shifted to run on Route 4 – Cottage Grove. At right, you can see where some buildings were destroyed by fire on May 25, 1950, after a PCC collided with a gasoline truck. 34 people were killed. The photographer was standing on a railroad viaduct and probably wanted to document the intersection of two streetcar lines before one of them changed to buses. (Vic Wagner Photo)
About the image above, M. E. adds:
Your caption reads: “This was near the end of streetcar service on 63rd Street, and older red cars had replaced newer PCCs, which were shifted to run on Route 4 – Cottage Grove.” My hangup is with the term “newer PCCs”. Yes, they were newer than the red cars, but they were not newer than the PCCs on State St. in the photo. The PCCs that ran on 63rd St. were those that Chicago Surface Lines acquired in 1936 to run on Madison St. Those PCCs were also called “pre-war PCCs”. So perhaps your caption might better say “older red cars had replaced the pre-war PCCs, which were shifted …”
I give you credit for pointing out where a State St. PCC car collided with a gasoline truck. I remember that like it happened yesterday. I also credit the photographer for a terrific action photo.
Also, about this photo:
(1) In the distance is the State St. station on the Englewood L, situated south of 59th St. I spy two more State St. PCC cars at or near the L station. This illustrates how busy the north/south PCC car lines were. The Chicago Surface Lines, then the CTA, ordered a total of 600 post-war PCCs, and they were all needed on just five north/south lines — 36 Broadway/State, 22 Clark/Wentworth, 8 Halsted, 42 Halsted/Archer/Clark, and 49 Western. (The pre-war PCCs were still on 20 Madison.)
(2) You mentioned that the photographer was standing on a railroad viaduct. That viaduct spanned State St. just south of 63rd St. The photographer was at the eastern edge of a big freight yard paralleling the New York Central right of way. It is this same freight yard that was used, three blocks east, to deliver new PCC cars, then (later) L cars, to the CTA. The L cars were transferred to the CTA via the L track that ran from the southbound Jackson Park line south past 63rd St. and then down into a ground-level freight yard.
(3) That freight yard also spanned 63rd St., so the westbound red car shown in the photo is about to go underneath the freight yard until it emerges past the New York Central (and Nickel Plate) passenger train tracks, adjacent to the entrance to Englewood Union Station. Past the station, 63rd St. ran under more tracks, first the Rock Island, then the Pennsylvania, both of which also served Englewood Union Station. All told, the trip between State St. and almost to Wentworth Av. was mostly dark 24 hours a day.
(4) The billboard at the left in the photo advertises the ’53 Ford. Assuming this photo was taken in late spring or early summer of 1953 (judging by the clothing on pedestrians and the green foliage), I don’t see any ’53 Fords in the photo.
Buses replaced streetcars on 63rd Street on May 24, 1953, so the picture can’t be from after that, thanks.
The CTA off-street loop on Halsted Street, just south of 79th, in August 1953. Pullman PCC 4368 is operating on Route 8, while the red Pullman is signed for Halsted-Downtown (Route 42). By this stage, the Pullman PCCs, although no more than seven years old, were being retired and sent to St. Louis Car Company for scrapping and parts re-use in new PCC “L” cars. Service was being supplemented by older red cars. Streetcar service on Halsted ended in May 1954. (Vic Wagner Photo) Our resident south side expert M. E. adds, “Notice how busy this terminal was. I count at least four streetcars, and perhaps a fifth if I detect another trolley pole behind the last PCC car. This terminal also served South Halsted and Halsted / Vincennes / 111th St. buses, which used the paved lane in the terminal.”
CTA one-man streetcar 3261 is at the east end of Route 79, at 79th and Brandon near Chicago’s lakefront, in September 1951. (Vic Wagner Photo)
Milwaukee Electric (Speedrail) car 1121 operated on a North Shore Line fantrip on December 4, 1949. Here it is with one of the Electroliners near Racine, Wisconsin.
The pass for Central Electric Railfans’ Association fantrip #36, which used freight equipment on the Chicago Aurora and Elgin on August 10, 1941.
The Chicago and North Western station at Lake Forest in the early 1900s, from a real photo postcard. The Chicago and Milwaukee electric (which became the North Shore Line in 1916) ran just beyond those large trees, and had a handsome station of its own just out of view to the right.
This picture was taken during Fall 1962, in the waning days of the ground-level operation of the Lake Street “L”. The new elevated station on the nearby C&NW embankment has been built and the changeover took place on October 28th of that year. This view looks west along South Boulevard at Marion Street in Oak Park. Crossing gates were manually operated.
On February 19, 1956, a northbound Electroliner has stopped at Kenosha and is presumably on a fantrip. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
Speedrail curved-side car 61 is on Michigan at 6th Street in Milwaukee on September 2, 1950, passing by the north side of the North Shore Line’s Milwaukee Terminal. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
Milwaukee and Suburban Transport streetcar 954 is westbound on Route 10 at 68th and Fairview in August 1957.
The same location in 2015. The streetcar tracks were just to the right of this alley.
On June 12, 1955, Milwaukee and Suburban Transport streetcar 999 is on a bridge over the Chicago & North Western Railway at Howell Avenue. This was a Central Electric Railfans’ Association fantrip. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
North Shore Line Silverliner 766 is about to cross the Glencoe gauntlet, a short single-track section on the otherwise double-tracked Shore Line Route. The occasion was an August 9, 1953 fantrip. This short bridge over a ravine was not deemed strong enough to support the weight of two trains passing each other, so it was made single-tracked. This also permitted a tight curve to be straightened out a bit. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
North Shore Line car 155 is on the tail end of a fantrip train, turning onto Greenleaf Avenue in Wilmette, heading east on a July 24, 1955 Central Electric Railfans’ Association fantrip. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
North Shore Line freight loco 456 and caboose 1002 are at the scale house in Rondout during January 1963. (Photo attributed to Emery Gulash)
North Shore Line freight loco 456 and caboose 1002 are at the scale house in Rondout during January 1963. (Photo attributed to Emery Gulash)
North Shore Line cars 157 and 252 are on a June 16, 1962 fantrip. We have posted pictures from this trip before. There is another in this post, taken by Richard H. Young, but this one may be by Emery Gulash.
Don’s Rail Photos: “1796 was built by American Car & Foundry in 1907 as NEWRy 287, #5098, as trailer. It was renumbered 1287 in 1913 and rebuilt as motor 1796. It became CRT 1796 in 1923 and was sold to Gaylord Container in Louisiana…” One side of this “L” car was removed, and it was used to transport large rolls of paper. Although Don’s says this car was scrapped in 1966, that is incorrect and the date was actually 1973. Parts were salvaged from this car to help restore sister car 1797 at the Illinois Railway Museum. 1796 could not be saved since the body was no longer structurally sound. I have July 1958 as the date when the CTA sold this car, and this picture was taken by William C. Hoffman in October 1963.
This was scanned from an original North Shore Line 8×10″ nitrate negative, taken circa 1930, and in the collections of Robert Heinlein. Determining the location presented many challenges, yet this has now been determined with the aid of other fans. The car is 714, and it is signed as a Chicago Local on the Shore Line Route. Since the North Shore tracks are not adjacent to the Chicago and North Western, we must be north of North Chicago Junction. We cannot be south of Highland Park, as there is freight present here. A sign on the high-level platform indicates that freight trains have to come to a stop, most likely to make sure part of the platform gets flipped up for the sake of clearances. A similar arrangement existed at high-level stations of the Chicago Aurora and Elgin. As all the Shore Line tracks in Waukegan ran on the street, that pretty much narrows it down to North Chicago. The Thomas J. Killian Plumbing Supply company building at left clinches it, and the location is between 16th and 17th Streets, looking north. The Chicago and North Western’s tracks were a short distance east of here, to the right out of view of this photo. (Courtesy of Kevin Heinlein)
A close-up view of car 714, which seems to be painted orange.
The freight siding for the Thomas J. Killian Plumbing Supply Company.
This was also scanned from an original North Shore Line 8×10″ nitrate negative in the collections of Robert Heinlein, and was taken at the same time as the previous photo and shows a slightly different view of the same scene. (Courtesy of Kevin Heinlein)
Ray DeGroote Turns 92
Ray DeGroote celebrated his 92nd birthday on July 15th. Here he is about two weeks earlier, at our celebratory lunch.
I dedicated my last book Chicago’s Lost “L”s to my friend Raymond DeGroote, Jr., as the “Dean of Chicago Railfans.” He turned 92 recently. Ray has traveled the world, and has taken thousands of great photos, many of which have been used in books, magazines, and in his excellent slideshows over the years.
And he’s still at it– Ray recently returned from a trip to San Diego for the Electric Railroaders’ Association annual convention. Since returning, other friends have treated him to lunch, and he reports he is “well fed.”
Here are a few of Ray’s classic photos of the North Shore Line:
We are at Indian Hill on the Shore Line Route on July 24, 1955, just prior to abandonment. Cars 175 and 413 are in regular service, while 155 is on a Central Electric Railfans’ Association fantrip, and has temporarily been shunted to a siding. The tracks in this area were grade-separated circa 1938-43 by a project partially funded by the Federal government. (Raymond DeGroote, Jr. Photo)
A fantrip train made up of Silverliners is on Greenleaf Avenue in Wilmette on February 20, 1955. This trip was sponsored by the Illini Railroad Club. (Raymond DeGroote, Jr. Photo)
North Shore Line loco 459 and caboose 1006 are at Lake Bluff on January 19, 1963. (Raymond DeGroote, Jr. Photo)
The “KX” here most likely refers to Kodachrome X, first released by Kodak in 1962, with a film speed of 64. The original Kodachrome had a film speed of ASA/ISO 10, which was bumped up to 25 in 1961 with the release of Kodachrome II.
The unrestored interior of North Shore Line car 151 on September 4, 1961. (Raymond DeGroote, Jr. Photo)
The interior of North Shore Line car 160 on January 12, 1963. Interestingly, it had been refurbished in November 1962, even though abandonment was at hand. This car was purchased by the Illinois Railway Museum, where it remains today. (Raymond DeGroote, Jr. Photo)
North Shore Line car 714’s interior on June 17, 1962. This car is now at the Illinois Railway Museum. (Raymond DeGroote, Jr. Photo)
The interior of North Shore Line Silverliner 755 on September 4, 1961. After abandonment, this car went to the Seashore Trolley Museum in Maine. (Raymond DeGroote, Jr. Photo)
Max Hensley sent us this scan of a 1890 specimen $1,000 bond for the West Chicago Street Railroad Tunnel Company. This cable car tunnel was built in 1893 and crossed the Chicago River near Van Buren Street. Like the other river tunnels, it was eventually enlarged and dug deeper around 1911 for streetcar use. But of the three such tunnels (the others being on Washington and LaSalle Streets), Van Buren was used the least, and does not seem to have seen much action after 1924, except for training use. These tunnels still exist but the approaches have been filled in.
The river tunnels are also discussed at length in my book Building Chicago’s Subways.
We were in Milwaukee on July 13th to help a friend move some things. We did stop by Burns Commons for a few minutes to catch a few pictures (and one video) of Milwaukee’s modern streetcar at its northern terminus:
Did Not Win
Try as we might, our resources are limited. Here are some interesting items that we were not able to purchase, but are still worth a second look:
This desktop ink blotter dates to circa 1919-20, as the North Shore Line is already running via the “L”, but had not yet opened their new Milwaukee Terminal. The line to Mundelein is shown, as it had been extended there as of 1905. But prior to 1925, it was called Rockefeller, and later, the area was known rather generically as “Area.” When using a fountain pen, you would wipe off excess ink on the backside of blotters such as this, which measured about 6″ wide.
This real photo postcard view of the Elgin and Belvedere Electric Company was most likely taken on its inaugural run in early 1907. Mike Franklin has identified the location as Belvedere, as that is the First M. E. Church at rear. Car 201 was built by the St. Louis Car Company in 1906. (Thanks to J. J. Sedelmaier for tweaking this image.)
Here is what the late Don Ross wrote about the Elgin and Belvedere:
This line was built in 1906 and opened in 1907 between Elgin and Belvidere, 36 miles, to connect the Rockford lines with the Chicago lines. It was under the management of Bion J. Arnold, who was the most distinguished expert in city transit between 1900 and 1925. In 1927 the Rockford to Belvidere segment of the Rockford & Interurban was merged to form the Elgin Belvidere & Rockford. Rockford lightweight interurbans were used, but this was not financially satisfactory. The cars were returned to Rockford Public Service, and the old E&B cars were remodeled for one man service. But it was too late. Competition from the parallel Chicago & North Western and from the automobile caused the line to quit service on March 9, 1930. Arnold purchased two Manhattan Elevated steam locomotives and scrapped the line by himself. It was not completed until the mid to late 1930s.
In 1956, I was checking on ownership of an abandoned C&NW right-of-way for the Illinois Railway Museum, and I stopped in the county clerk’s office in Woodstock. The clerk became curious and then suggested that we might be interested in a piece of property which was on the delinquent tax rolls. It was 50 feet wide and 7 miles long. After paying the taxes for two years, a quit claim was filed and this has become the home of the IRM at Union, IL.
We ran some Elgin and Belvedere photos in a previous post, taken in the mid-1930s by the late Edward Frank, Jr., showing the interurban’s rolling stock in dead storage, waiting for buyers that never materialized.
Keep those cards and letters coming in, folks!
Stan Griffith Audio Recordings of the North Shore Line
# of Discs – 1
The late Stanwood C. Griffith (1926-2013) was an interesting character who is probably best known for building the two-foot gauge Rock River Valley Traction, a miniature electric railway that is large enough to ride on. He began building it on private property in a mysterious wooded area somewhere near Rockford, IL around 1950. Work continues on it to this day, and there are several videos of it on YouTube.
We only recently found out that he recorded some North Shore Line audio. Even better, what he did record is different than the other known recordings by William A. Steventon and Brad Miller.
Mr. Griffith made the only known recordings of the Shore Line Route, which quit in 1955. Steventon didn’t record NSL until the following year, and the Miller recordings are circa 1960.
This recording has some occasional narration. At one point, Griffith notes that the trolley bus wires in Kenosha are gone. Trolley buses ran there until 1952, so this dates the recordings to circa 1952-55.
He also recorded North Shore Line street running in Milwaukee, which is also unique as far as I am aware. There are also recordings of Milwaukee streetcars on this CD.
Total time – 52:36
Chicago’s Lost “L”s Online Presentation
We recently gave an online presentation about our book Chicago’s Lost “L”s for the Chicago Public Library, as part of their One Book, One Chicago series. You can watch it online by following this link.
The Trolley Dodger On the Air
We appeared on the Dave Plier Show on WGN radio on July 16, 2021, to discuss Chicago’s Lost “L”s. You can hear that discussion here.
Our Latest Book, Now Available:
Chicago’s Lost “L”s
From the back cover:
Chicago’s system of elevated railways, known locally as the “L,” has run continuously since 1892 and, like the city, has never stood still. It helped neighborhoods grow, brought their increasingly diverse populations together, and gave the famous Loop its name. But today’s system has changed radically over the years. Chicago’s Lost “L”s tells the story of former lines such as Garfield Park, Humboldt Park, Kenwood, Stockyards, Normal Park, Westchester, and Niles Center. It was once possible to take high-speed trains on the L directly to Aurora, Elgin, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The L started out as four different companies, two starting out using steam engines instead of electricity. Eventually, all four came together via the Union Loop. The L is more than a way of getting around. Its trains are a place where people meet and interact. Some say the best way to experience the city is via the L, with its second-story view. Chicago’s Lost “L”s is virtually a “secret history” of Chicago, and this is your ticket. David Sadowski grew up riding the L all over the city. He is the author of Chicago Trolleys and Building Chicago’s Subways and runs the online Trolley Dodger blog.
The Images of America series celebrates the history of neighborhoods, towns, and cities across the country. Using archival photographs, each title presents the distinctive stories from the past that shape the character of the community today. Arcadia is proud to play a part in the preservation of local heritage, making history available to all.
Title Chicago’s Lost “L”s Images of America Author David Sadowski Edition illustrated Publisher Arcadia Publishing (SC), 2021 ISBN 1467100007, 9781467100007 Length 128 pages
Chapters: 01. The South Side “L” 02. The Lake Street “L” 03. The Metropolitan “L” 04. The Northwestern “L” 05. The Union Loop 06. Lost Equipment 07. Lost Interurbans 08. Lost Terminals 09. Lost… and Found
Each copy purchased here will be signed by the author, and you will also receive a bonus facsimile of a 1926 Chicago Rapid Transit Company map, with interesting facts about the “L” on the reverse side.
The price of $23.99 includes shipping within the United States.
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All in all, I would have to say this is an amazing photograph. It shows Five Mile Beach Electric Railway car 22 on June 30, 1943, in the middle of World War II, and just two years before streetcars were abandoned in this coastal town (Wildwood) in New Jersey. From what I have read, the war and the resulting nightly blackouts negatively affected tourism and contributed to the demise of the streetcars here. With such an early abandonment, color photos of this operation are very rare, indeed, and the colors on this Red Border Kodachrome have held up quite well. A sign on the car advertises Marty Bohn and His Floor Show at the “Nut Club.” The blackouts were not without reason, as German submarines were just offshore, and sometimes crew members would sneak ashore.
I am both humbled and grateful beyond measure that my late friend Jeffrey Wien made me the beneficiary of his extensive photographic collection (except for his motion picture films, which he donated to the Chicago Film Archives).
Naturally, I would rather that he still be around to enjoy his collection, comment on my posts, and point out where I got something wrong, or help identify some locations. But unfortunately, we don’t get to choose in these matters.
I think the best way I can honor his memory is to keep up the work of historic preservation and education that meant so much to him.
While this post may not have an overall theme, it is full of legends and legacies. It is thanks to the hard work and sacrifice of many people, Jeff included, that anything at all has been saved from the electric railways of the past. Some of the photos here were taken after the North Shore Line quit, and show various railcars sitting around, waiting to be saved or scrapped. There are also pictures of the fledgling and somewhat ramshackle early days of the Illinois Electric Railway Museum, at its original and temporary home in North Chicago.
You if had told one of the founders of what is now IRM back then all the progress that has been made since at Union, they hardly could have believed it possible. Institutions like IRM are saving this history and preserving it for future generations, while also making it possible to have some of the same experiences riding the equipment in the collection, that people enjoyed in the past.
If we can maintain the same spirit, all this important history will be our legacy to those who come after us. I am intent on doing my part.
PS- We thank Jack Bejna, Andre Kristopans, William Shapotkin, and Colin Wisner for contributing to this post.
We also have a Facebook auxiliary for The Trolley Dodger where you can participate further. It is a private group, so unfortunately you won’t be able to see the content unless you join. It is free. As of this writing, we have 183 members.
From Jeff Wien’s Collection
The North Shore Line ticket cabinet from the Dempster Street station in Skokie. It still has the tickets in it.
I will have to straighten this out, as the tickets were jostled when the cabinet was moved. The balls were apparently placed behind the tickets.
This metal route sign hung on the side of a wooden Metropolitan “L” car, and was of a type in use for a half-century prior to the opening of the Dearborn-Milwaukee Subway in 1951. Remarkably, it has survived for 70 years since it last could have been used in service. The sign was reversible, and the other side says Humboldt Park.
A fare counter from a Chicago streetcar. There was a Chicago streetcar 3351, a Peter Witt that was scrapped around 1952, but I am not certain that these didn’t have their own numbers.
This metal sign appears to show the original version of the CTA’s “Metropolitan Transit” logo, first introduced in 1958. By then, the agency wanted the public to know that it served more than just Chicago.
The North Shore Line eventually joined the Insull Empire that, by the mid-1920s, included all three major Chicago interurbans and the “L”. So it should not be too much of a surprise that the North Shore had its own rider publication for a few years, with leaflet holders presumably made by the same firm as the “L”s. The North Shore Line version is said to be rare, as many were melted down for scrap during WWII.
Leaflet holders from 4000-series “L” cars. The Elevated News was published by the Chicago Elevated Railways Collateral Trust, formed in 1913 as a voluntary association by the four independent (or at least they started that way) “L” firms. The 4000-series, which eventually ran to 455 cars, was the first designed for use on all the various “L” lines. The title of their rider publication was changed to Rapid Transit News in 1924, coincident with the formation of the Chicago Rapid Transit Company. The Chicago Transit Authority had its own publication, the Rider’s Reader, for a few years starting in 1948.
This leaflet holder is marked as having come from CTA PCC 7213, the last Chicago streetcar that ran on June 21, 1958.
Although Chicago had a total of 600 postwar PCC streetcars, this was too much for a single manufacturer to produce in the immediate postwar era, so the order was divided between Pullman (310) and St. Louis Car Company (290). The “Read As You Ride” leaflet holder at left came from a St. Louis PCC (7213), while the one at right may have come from a Pullman. Their interiors were painted different colors.
Jeff’s collection included a leaflet holder from another city. Several cities had “Public Service” in their streetcar operator’s names, so offhand, I am not sure which city this came from. (Frank J. Flörianz Jr. says it is from New Jersey.)
I found this clipping that Jeff cut out of the Chicago Tribune in 1978 inside the “Read As You Ride” leaflet holder from PCC 7213, the last Chicago streetcar.
There were a few cities besides New York, Chicago, Boston, and Philadelphia to have some sort of elevated electric railways, and Kansas City was among them. Here, Kansas City Public Service car 785 is descending from the 8th Street “L” at Baltimore Avenue on September 3, 1952. I was fortunate to win this original Red Border Kodachrome slide, because I had lost an auction for it once before when someone sold it. Kansas City abandoned streetcars in 1957, but has since reopened a modern streetcar line. (Edward S. Miller Photo)
A single CRT wooden “L” car is at the Dempster Street terminal in Skokie, probably in the 1940s. This “L” branch was replaced by buses in 1948, but returned in 1964 in the form of the Skokie Swift (today’s Yellow Line), a year after the North Shore Line (who owned these tracks) ended all service.
This is one of the experimental “Bluebird” articulated compartment car trains (probably the prototype) being tested on the Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit system circa 1939. BMT ordered 50 of these units from the Clark Equipment Company, intended to be “fast locals” to mix with slower express trains on El lines. But when the City of New York purchased BMT in 1940, they cancelled the order, except for five units that had already been built. They lived out the rest of their days as oddball equipment before being scrapped in 1956. But the Bluebirds were the first rapid transit cars to use PCC technology, and were a major influence on the four articulated 5000s that CRT ordered at the end of World War II.
The former Chicago Aurora & Elgin station in Villa Park still exists and is a local landmark. But here we see it under construction in 1929. The Ovaltine plant at left has since been converted to residential.
I spent some time cleaning up this image, which was part of a stereo pair meant to be viewed in 3-D using a handheld device called a “stereopticon.” It shows Chicago’s Loop “L” circa 1905, and this is the original left-hand running, bi-directional configuration, before it was changed in 1913. So the train at right is moving towards us, while the train at left is moving away from us. The view looks west along Van Buren Street, and that is the old Tower 12 at left. A Metropolitan “L” train is on the inner Loop, while a Lake Street train trails a Northwestern “L” train on the outer Loop. At this stage, only the Lake trains would have needed trolley poles. The station at Van Buren and State is visible in the distance.
A Stereopticon viewer.
Chicago Surface Lines car 2802 is on a charter trip on June 12, 1940. This was apparently a fan favorite, as we have previously published a photo of the same car on a 1941 fantrip.
North Shore Line car 709 at the Branford Trolley Museum in Connecticut in October 30, 1966, just three and a half years after the interurban quit. The location given is Farm River Road. Don’s Rail Photos: “709 was built by Cincinnati Car Co in 1924, #2725. It was sold to Branford Trolley Museum in 1963.”
This is another remarkable photograph, showing Monongahela West Penn car 320 at night in June 1946. Such night shots were very difficult to achieve back then, due to the slow film speed of the time (this is Kodachrome 10, as in ASA/ISO 10). About the only way to take such a picture would have been with a very long exposure, with the camera resting on a tripod. (Dr. H. Blackbunn Photo)
South Shore Line cars 105 and 1 in April 1963.
Another great night shot, this time it’s Illinois Terminal 473 on the line that ran from St. Louis to Granite City in the 1950s. This was IT’s final passenger line and was abandoned in June 1958, on the same weekend that the last Chicago streetcar ran.
CTA PCC 4406, a product of the St. Louis Car Company, at Clark and Archer in April 1954. (William Shapotkin Collection)
This is DesPlaines Avenue in Forest Park, the end of the CTA Congress rapid transit line. The license plates would indicate a date of 1961, perhaps in the Fall since that is a 1962 Chevy in the parking lot. The various signs on the Leyden Motor Coach bus might confuse you, but on the side, it is marked “OSA” meaning this is a fantrip. (William Shapotkin Collection) Bill Shapotkin writes: “Unable to read the bus number, bus OSA operated trips on 06/17/61 (trip #2) using Leyden bus #95 and on 03/18/62 (trip #10) using Leyden buses #90, 157 and 164. If you can identify the fleet number, that would cement down the details.” This is bus #90, so that makes the date March 18, 1962.
CTA 6053 is at the rear of a northbound Ravenswood All-Stop train approaching Armitage in August 1986. The two center tracks lead down to the State Street Subway. (William Shapotkin Collection)
A southbound CTA Englewood train (lead car: 2033) has met a northbound Howard train at Armitage station in April 1985, and is descending into the State Street Subway. (William Shapotkin Collection)
North Shore Line former merchandise dispatch car 215 at the Harrison Shops in Milwaukee on July 7, 1953. Don’s Rail Photos: “215 was built by Cincinnati Car in October 1922, #2605. The loading doors (were moved) from the ends to the center. It was demotorized and used as a tool car.”
On May 22, 1944, Illinois Governor Dwight H. Green (1897-1958) poses with officials from the Illinois State Militia, next to a 1700-series Chicago Surface Lines car promoting that branch of the military during World War II. Green served two terms as governor from 1941-49 before his defeat by Democrat Adlai Stevenson.
While I don’t have the negative that goes with this Chicago Sun photo file slip, it does at least identify some of the notables in the negative I do have. The Chicago Sun was a morning newspaper, started in 1941 by the Field family. It bought the Chicago Times in 1948 and the paper has been the Chicago Sun-Times ever since (although no longer owned by Field Enterprises).
North Shore Line cars 192 and 187 at Highwood in September 1963, looking much worse the wear, nine months after abandonment. But in actuality, these cars had been retired some years earlier. Don’s Rail Photos: “187 was built by Cincinnati Car in August 1920, (order) #2450. It was retired on December 31, 1955. It was scrapped at Rondout on January 29, 1964. 192 was built by Cincinnati Car in August 1920, #2450. It was retired on December 31, 1955. It was scrapped at Rondout on January 29, 1964.” Apparently these cars were considered surplus after the abandonment of the Shore Line Route in 1955.
This photo is a bit of a mystery. It is dated September 1963, which means these are probably North Shore Line cars in dead storage at Highwood, awaiting disposition. However, that doesn’t explain the Shore Line Route sign, as that portion of the Interurban had been abandoned in 1955. And after the 1963 abandonment, a lot of these signs were scarfed up by fans and were missing from the trains that were scrapped. Don’s Rail Photos: “(Combine) 256 was built by Jewett in 1917. It seems to be the only one which retained its original configuration.” It did not survive. The fate of the Silverliner at right is not known.
On June 16, 1962, the late Maury Klebolt talks to the North Shore Line train crew during a fantrip at Harrison Street in Milwaukee. This must have been an Illini Railroad Club excursion. There were many such trips during the last year of the interurban’s existence. (Richard H. Young Photo)
A close-up of Maury Klebolt (1930-1988). Not sure who is at left.
CTA Pullman PCC 4077 heads southbound at 2600 N. Clark Street in the early 1950s. It may be running on either Route 22 or 36. The Pullmans had almost entirely disappeared from service by the end of 1954, for the so-called “PCC Conversion Program.”
The same location today.
The Illinois Electric Railway Museum in North Chicago in September 1963, shortly before the collection was moved to its permanent location in Union. From left to right, we see Milwaukee streetcar 966, a Milwaukee Electric interurban car (either 1129 or 1135), and Indiana Railroad car 65.
This September 1963 (or at least, that’s when the film was processed) view of the Illinois Electric Railway Museum is not the sharpest, but it does show, from left to right, CTA snow sweeper E223, Illinois Terminal 101, one of the Chicago Aurora & Elgin interurbans, and a Milwaukee Electric car.
North Shore Line Silverliner 409 at Roosevelt Road on august 4, 1956. Don’s Rail Photos: “409 was built by Cincinnati Car in May 1923, #2465, as a dining car motor. In 1942 it was rebuilt as a coach and rebuilt as a Silverliner on March 30, 1955. Since it had no bulkhead between smoking and non-smoking sections, it was our favorite car to be used for meetings of the Milwaukee Division of the Electric Railroaders Association in Milwaukee. The North Shore was very cooperative in making sure that the car was in the location shown on meeting nights.” The 409 is now at the Illinois Railway Museum. (C. G. Parsons Photo)
This amazing real photo postcard sold on eBay for $77.89. I unfortunately was not aware of the auction. It shows the Ridgeland “L” station on South Boulevard in Oak Park. The postcard was mailed in 1909 and hence can’t be any later than that. Work is already underway to elevate the Chicago & North Western tracks at left. The Lake Street “L” itself would join it on the embankment in 1962.
NYCTA Brooklyn PCC 1049 is running on the 72 Smith Line to the Brooklyn Bridge in this undated photo, taken between 1946 and 1956. According to the information on the half frame slide mount, this is on 10th Avenue at 17th Street, at the 9th Avenue Depot. Half frame had a brief vogue in the early 1950s, as a way to double the number of pictures on a 35mm roll, while still maintaining some level of quality. But most photographers back then didn’t need twice as many pictures on a roll. In the long run, it Kodak downsized their film over time, from sizes 126 to 110 and Disc, in order to make bigger profits. But sharpness was reduced in turn, and full-frame 25mm is still with us today. These 1950s Brooklyn PCCs appear to have had about as many dents as their Chicago cousins. (R. Fillman Photo)
The Magic of Clark Frazier
Clark Frazier is an excellent photographer who has been active since around 1956. Among the first 35mm slides that I took home from Jeff’s collection were over 100 that he had purchased from Mr. Frazier over the last few years. Even better, Mr. Frazier did a lot of traveling, so his work covers many different cities. In his retired years, Jeff loved purchasing excellent slides that not only reflected his own type of shooting, but filled in gaps in his collection– views that he was unable to capture himself, or places he couldn’t get to before something ceased operating. For example, in this representative sampling, I am not certain that Jeff was able to visit Washington D.C. prior to the abandonment of streetcars there in 1962, and I don’t think he could get to San Francisco in time to ride the “Iron Monsters” before they were all taken out of service around 1957. So here they are.
DC Transit 1572 on Route 70 at Georgia and Alaska on February 7, 1959. (Clark Frazier Photo)
DC Transit 1566 inbound on Route 82 at Riverdale on September 1, 1958. (Clark Frazier Photo)
SF Muni 77 turn back meets 130 on Geary Boulevard in 1956. Hope that dog made it across the street safely. (Clark Frazier Photo)
DC Transit 1322 at the Department of the Interior on Route 82, on September 2, 1958. (Clark Frazier Photo)
DC Transit 1567 on Route 82 on Rhode Island Avenue, September 1, 1958. (Clark Frazier Photo)
Boston MTA 3311 and 3305 are stuck in the snow at Riverside after a “Noreaster” on March 4, 1960. (Clark Frazier Photo)
SF Muni 139 turns left from Geary onto 33rd Avenue in 1956. (Clark Frazier Photo)
St. Louis Public Service PCC 1628 arrives at South Broadway carhouse on August 23, 1958. (Clark Frazier Photo)
DC Transit 1555 from Cabin John in Brookmont on June 7, 1959. (Clark Frazier Photo)
SF Muni 195 on the C Line at Geary and Van Ness in January 1957. (Clark Frazier Photo)
SF Muni 205 and 1014 at the end of the N Line in 1957. (Clark Frazier Photo)
SF Muni 176 outbound on the N Line to the beach in 1957. (Clark Frazier Photo)
DC Transit 1469 is on Rhode Island Avenue (Route 82) in Maryland, August 11, 1958. (Clark Frazier Photo)
SF Muni 199 at 46th and Vicente on the L line on September 9, 1957. (Clark Frazier Photo)
El Paso 1500 backs up at the Cotton Street Carbarn on June 12, 1959. (Clark Frazier Photo)
DC Transit 1321 at the Soldier’s Home end of Route 74 on February 7, 1959. (Clark Frazier Photo)
SF Muni 156 is an inbound J Line car at Market and Duboce in 1957. (Clark Frazier Photo)
SF Muni 178 is heading to the beach on Carl Street (N Line) in 1957. Don’s Rail Photos: “178, K Type, was built by Bethlehem Shipbuilding Co in 1923.” From wrm.org: “The Bay Area Electric Railway Association purchased the 178 from the Muni in February of 1959, and moved it to Marysville, California, for storage on a Sacramento Northern spur for occasional operation on the electrified trackage in the Marysville-Yuba City area. It was moved to Rio Vista Junction in August, 1964 to join the rest of the BAERA collection. 178 returned to San Francisco in 1982 to be part of the Trolley Festival on Market Street while the City rebuilt it’s cable cars lines. In 1983 the 178 returned to the Western Railway Museum and still operates today.” (Clark Frazier Photo)
SF Muni 105 on the B (Geary) Line at Leavenworth Street in 1956. (Clark Frazier Photo)
DC Transit (ex-Capital Traction) 303 at the Mt. Rainier Loop on September 1, 1958. Don’s Rail Photos: “303 was built by American Car Co in 1898 as Capital Traction Co 303. It is now at the Smithsonian (National Museum of American History).” The 303 was retired from regular service in 1913 but was kept for charter use until the end of DC streetcar service in 1962. (Clark Frazier Photo)
SF Muni 206 is on the C Line at 2nd Avenue and Cornwall in 1956. (Clark Frazier Photo)
SF Muni 188 is running on the K Line on Market Street between 5th and 6th in 1957. (Clark Frazier Photo)
DC Transit 1399 on Route 90, at Pennsylvania Avenue SE, on June 7, 1959. (Clark Frazier Photo)
DC Transit 1288 at Friendship Heights, running on Route 30, on June 7, 1959. (Clark Frazier Photo)
Chicago Rapid Transit Route Descriptions
“L” operations were rather complex prior to the October 1, 1947 takeover by the Chicago Transit Authority, so much so that Chicago Rapid Transit Company maps typically made no attempt to explain them. There were pocket guides published over the years by third parties that included explanations, but often these were considerably out of date by the time of publication.
Here, courtesy of Andre Kristopans, are the various CRT route descriptions that describe the service in place at the time when CTA assumed control. The dates vary from 1940 to 1946 because service hadn’t been altered on those lines by October 1, 1947.
“L” service “grew like Topsy” in the early years, as the saying goes, reflecting its origins as four separate companies, operating independently. There were expresses and locals, and by 1913, some trains through-routed from the north and south sides, some trains ending or originating at the four downtown stub-end terminals, and the several branch lines. Trains were split at some locations, with one part going one way, the other part a different way.
Powering the Metropolitan West Side Elevated
We recently acquired the August, 1895 edition of Power magazine, which featured a three-page article describing the then-new Metropolitan West Side Elevated‘s Loomis Street power plant. The Met was the first of Chicago’s four “L”s to operate exclusively with electricity. The South Side and Lake Street “L”s began life with steam locomotives. The Met was greatly influenced by the success of the experimental Columbian Intramural Railway at the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893.
In 1895, there was no such thing as commercially available electricity on this kind of scale. You had to make your own.
I spent the morning talking to a friend over zoom and doodling this, Indiana Railroad Car 65. I showed the drawing to him and he was kind of impressed.
Thanks! In case you don’t know him, Colin is a very talented young man who enjoys searching the former Chicago, Aurora & Elgin right-of-way in search of artifacts that have until now been overlooked. He has found, among many other things, a small section of third rail.
Jack Bejna writes:
I enjoyed the latest post as I always do. I really like the shot of the Highwood Shops and since I have some time this morning I decided to help out the image by getting rid of the bad portion. Hope you like it!
ps: I never took the time to get over to the shops and get some pictures, so I rely on you for keeping the memories of the North Shore alive! Thanks for your great work.
Thanks! Our regular readers are probably familiar with Jack’s great work, which has graced these pages many times in the past, and will hopefully do so in the future.
From our resident South Side expert M.E.:
First, Happy New Year, a bit late because your last few postings were so heavily weighted toward the north side, I had nothing to comment on. But I have a few things today.
This is the schedule sheet for south side service. At the bottom of the page is “Stock Yard Services”. Notice the heading “Jackson Pk.” and its associated train times. According to the route description, two morning trains ran from Jackson Park to Indiana Av., then onto the Stock Yards tracks. And two evening trains ran from the Stock Yards to Indiana Ave., then to Jackson Park. This is the first time I have heard of any trains doing that.
I had always thought the switches west of Indiana made it difficult to get between the main line and the Stock Yards line. But this schedule sheet piqued my curiosity, so I dug out my CERA Bulletin 115, which has great trackage maps toward the back. Plate 8, Detail 15, page 235, illustrating the trackage at Indiana Ave. in 1914, shows there were usable switches between the Stock Yards and main lines. Those switches could have still existed in April 1946 — the date of this schedule — because Plate 8 also shows the switch arrangement starting in 1949 (the one I remember), which would not have worked well to switch between the two lines.
The date April 1946 is after World War II, so even if this route was put in place during the war, it continued after the war. Interesting.
This sheet verifies that Englewood trains ran to Ravenswood. That is the route I first rode on the Rapid Transit Lines.
For Further Reading
Several issues of The Elevated News and Rapid Transit News from the 1920s can be read here via Google Books. You can even download the entire book.
These publications include important historical information that might not be available otherwise. To cite a couple of examples, here are excerpts from the May 1, 1926 issue of Rapid Transit News.
First, we had a recent discussion here (see Our Sixth Anniversary, January 21, 2021) that mentioned an underground passageway that connected Union Station to the Canal Street “L” station on the Met main line. Well, this is not only mentioned in Rapid Transit News, but there is both a map and a photo. We also learn that it was used by 8,000 people per day.
Second, there is a progress report on the new “L” service to Bellwood and Westchester, then set to open, including a picture of the tower that controlled movements on this branch off the Chicago, Aurora & Elgin main line.
Keep those cards and letters coming in, folks.
PS- We have added the two nocturnal shots to our previous post Night Beat (June 21, 2016). If you like this style of photography, you might want to check it out.
New Steam Audio CD:
FYI, we have digitally remastered another classic steam railroad audio LP to Compact Disc. Many additional titles, including the complete output of the Railroad Record Club, in our Online Store.
RGTS Rio Grande to Silverton: A Sound Portrait of Mountain Railroading Price: $14.99
These are vintage 1960 narrow gauge steam train recordings, in true stereo, and originally released on LP in 1961. It is long out of print.
01. Riding The Train To Silverton
02. Photo Run At Elk Park
03. Arriving At Silverton
04. Train Time At La Jara
05. Illini Special At Cumbres Pass
06. Doubleheader Starting At Monero
07. Eastbound Freight
08. Arriving At Chama
09. Whistles At Coxo
10. Freight With Pusher At Coxo
Gone are the nostalgic sounds of steam echoes and thundering exhausts, but the memory is immortal. May they live on in the locomotive lexicon, as a monument to the era when trains were pulled by STEAM POWER.
As with all of our recordings, this CD comes with the complete, original liner notes.
Total time – 45:49
The Trolley Dodger On the Air
We appeared on WGN radio in Chicago in November 2018, discussing our book Building Chicago’s Subways on the Dave Plier Show. You can hear our 19-minute conversation here.
Chicago, Illinois, December 17, 1938– Secretary Harold Ickes, left, and Mayor Edward J. Kelly turn the first spadeful of earth to start the new $40,000,000 subway project. Many thousands gathered to celebrate the starting of work on the subway. 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!
Title Building Chicago’s Subways Images of America
Author David Sadowski
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: