Robert Heinlein volunteered at the Illinois Railway Museum for many years.
Robert Heinlein, one of the giants in the railfan community, passed away on April 30, 2023, at the age of 84. You can read his obituary here.
Bob Heinlein was very knowledgeable, always cheerful, and continually went out of his way to share what he had learned to help others. He will be sorely missed.
Mr. Heinlein was a contributor to Central Electric Railfans’ Association Bulletin B-146, Chicago Streetcar Pictorial: The PCC Car Era, 1936-1958, of which I was a co-author. Unfortunately, he was not properly credited for several of his photographs, which were mistakenly attributed to the late Charles L. Tauscher (who was also an excellent photographer).
My co-author, the late Jeff Wien used twelve duplicate slides he had obtained in 1959 for the book, including the image on the cover. He was under the impression he had gotten these from Tauscher, but they were actually photos taken by Bob Heinlein. After the book was published, Bob informed Jeff of the error and loaned him the original slides, which I scanned. These images appeared in our previous post Loose Ends (February 2, 2021) with proper attribution.
Some of Mr. Heinlein’s images also appeared in my book The North Shore Line, which appeared earlier this year. Fortunately, he did see the book and I am told he enjoyed it.
The last time I met Mr. Heinlein was about a year ago, when I happened to run into him and his family by chance at the East Troy Railroad Museum. He was enjoying a ride on one of their restored trolley cars, and remarked how it would have been even more fun if they were running on the “L” twenty feet off the ground. That is how I would like to remember him.
He was an excellent photographer, going back to the early 1950s. In this post, we are sharing some of his own work, and other pictures from his vast collection, as a way of offering our condolences to his family, and as a tribute to the memory of a life well lived. We thank his son Kevin Heinlein for sharing these pictures with our readers.
Our friend Kenneth Gear has a Facebook group for the Railroad Record Club. If you enjoy listening to audio recordings of classic railroad trains, whether steam, electric, or diesel, you might consider joining.
FYI, the Hoosier Traction Facebook Group celebrates electric transit in Indiana and the Midwest. It also supports the activities of the annual Hoosier Traction Meet (although not affiliated with the North American Transit Historical Society, which organizes that event).
On June 21, 1958, the Chicago Transit Authority offered free rides between Halsted Street and Cicero Avenue on its new rapid transit line in the median of the Congress (now Eisenhower) expressway. Robert Heinlein, then 20 years old, was working in the Public Information department and helps pass out literature. The new line opened the next day, replacing the Garfield Park “L”. This picture appeared in the July 1958 issue of the CTA Transit News, an employee publication.
CTA 7163 is southbound at Clark, Halsted, and Barry in July 1957. A version of this photo, taken from a duplicate slide, appears on page 170 of B-146, mistakenly credited to Charles L. Tauscher. (Robert Heinlein Photo)
CTA 7162 is southbound on Clark Street at LaSalle Drive in September 1957. A version of this photo, taken from a duplicate slide, appears on page 177 of B-146, mistakenly credited to Charles L. Tauscher. (Robert Heinlein Photo)
CTA 7171 is northbound on Clark Street, passing Wrigley Field. (Robert Heinlein Photo)
CTA 7138 at Schreiber and Ravenswood, near Devon Station. (Robert Heinlein Photo)
CTA 7192 at Kinzie and Dearborn in 1957. The yellow car behind the PCC, while commonly considered a Packard, is technically a 1956 Clipper Constellation hardtop, made by the Studebaker-Packard Corporation. (Robert Heinlein Photo)
CTA 7193 is northbound on Clark, just north of Ridge, at around 5961 N. Clark in July 1957. A version of this image, taken from a duplicate slide, was incorrectly credited to Charles L. Tauscher on page 158 of B-146. (Robert Heinlein Photo)
CTA 7151 is southbound at Clark Street and Chicago Avenue, passing by what is now the former Cosmopolitan Bank Building, designed by the firm of Schmidt, Garden & Martin and built in 1920. The northern portion of the building was a 1930 addition, and was redone in 1995, in a style matching the original portion. (Robert Heinlein Photo)
CTA 7180 is southbound on Clark Street, passing by the coal company that was once located next to Wrigley Field. You get a good view of the Milwaukee Road freight tracks, since abandoned, that headed north of here. This was once part of a line that offered commuter rail service on the north side. The portion north of Wilson Avenue was taken over by the “L” in the early 1900s. Originally known as the Evanston Extension, it was gradually elevated as well. (Robert Heinlein Photo)
CTA 7214 heads south on Route 22 – Clark-Wentworth. Since the Cubs were in the middle of a home stand, the date may very well have been September 4, 1957. The Cubbies would lose two of their three next games to the Cincinnati Redlegs (“Reds” was apparently too sensitive a name politically then) on their way to finishing the season with a record of 62 wins, 92 losses, and 2 ties. (Robert Heinlein Photo)
CTA 7191 passing by Wrigley Field. (Robert Heinlein Photo)
CTA 7189 is southbound on Clark Street just south of Irving Park Road in July 1957. The Wunders Cemetery is at right. A version of this image, taken from a duplicate slide, appears on page 165 of B-146, where it is incorrectly attributed to Charles L. Tauscher. (Robert Heinlein Photo)
CTA 7190 at Clark and Seminary by Wrigley Field in July 1957. The “coke” advertised here wasn’t Coca-Cola, but coal, used for heating homes and businesses then, but phased out soon afterwards. A version of this image, taken from a duplicate slide, appears on page 167 of B-146, incorrectly attributed to Charles L. Tauscher. (Robert Heinlein Photo)
CTA 7178 heads south on Clark Street near Wrigley Field in September 1957. The Milwaukee Road railroad tracks running by the ballpark were used for freight and connected with the CTA “L” just north of Irving Park Road. A version of this image, taken from a duplicate slide, appears on page 166 of B-146, where it is incorrectly attributed to Charles L. Tauscher. (Robert Heinlein Photo)
CTA 7190 heads south on State Street, crossing the Chicago River. Work on the new Chicago Sun-Times building is well underway. It opened in 1958. The following years, Field Enterprises bought the Daily News, and this building became its headquarters as well. It is now the site of the Trump International Hotel and Tower. (Robert Heinlein Photo)
CTA 7200 is turning south from Devon onto Broadway in 1957. (Robert Heinlein Photo)
In September 1957, CTA PCCs 7220 and 7211 pass each other on Clark Street at Delaware near the Newberry Library and Washington Square Park, also known locally as “Bughouse Square.” A version of this image, taken from a duplicate slide, appears on page 181 of B-146, mistakenly attributed to Charles L. Tauscher. (Robert Heinlein Photo)
CTA 7156 heads south on Broadway at Lawrence in Uptown on February 15, 1957, the last day of streetcar service on Broadway. The film Giant, starring James Dean, Rock Hudson, and Elizabeth Taylor, opened in the US on November 24, 1956, and was playing at the Uptown. You can see the Green Mill lounge a bit south of the Uptown. The Riviera Theater would be just out of view to the left here. A version of this image, taken from a duplicate slide, appears on page 244 of B-146, mistakenly credited to Charles L. Tauscher. (Robert Heinlein Photo)
CTA 7164 is northbound on Clark at Addison in July 1957, crossing the Milwaukee Road tracks near Wrigley Field. A version of this photo, taken from a duplicate slide, appears on page 166 of B-146, incorrectly attributed to Charles L. Tauscher. (Robert Heinlein Photo)
CTA 7222 by Wrigley Field (Clark and Addison) in July 1957. This picture appears twice in CERA B-146, on the cover and on pages 134 and 167, taken from a duplicate slide. On page 167, it is incorrectly attributed to Charles L. Tauscher. This is the original Red Border Kodachrome. (Robert Heinlein Photo)
CTA 7149, signed for Clark and Schreiber (Devon Station). Note that the route number is 22 with a red slash through it. (Robert Heinlein Photo)
CTA 7211, still in its original paint scheme, heads south at Clark Street and Irving Park Road in September 1957, near the entrance to Graceland Cemetery. A version of this image, taken from a duplicate slide, appears on page 164 of B-146, where it was incorrectly attributed to Charles L. Tauscher. (Robert Heinlein Photo)
In September 1957, CTA 7160 passes by the Rainbo building at left, located in the 4800 block of north Clark Street. A skating rink opened there that year. To the right, you see St. Boniface Catholic Cemetery. We are looking north. A version of this image, taken from a duplicate slide, appears on page 162 of B-146, where it was incorrectly credited to Charles L. Tauscher. (Robert Heinlein Photo)
Although signed for the south portion of Route 36, which was replaced by buses in December 1955, PCC 4406 is actually on Clark and 16th Streets. Since 4406 was used (along with red car 225) on a fantrip on October 21, 1956, my guess is this picture was taken on that day. It was common practice to put incorrect signs up on trips, although on most of the pictures I have seen from that trip, it says “Chartered.” (Robert Heinlein Photo)
Wouldn’t you just know it? Without even realizing it I am sure, someone walked right into Bob Heinlein’s shot in this September 1957 view of CTA PCC 4390 (which would end up being one of the last cars used in June 1958). What to do, but wait for another car to come along, and take another picture (see Heinlein008).
Chicago Aurora and Elgin cars 413 and 453 are looping at the DesPlaines Avenue Terminal, sometime between 1953 and 1957. (Robert Heinlein Photo)
We are looking west from the Wells Street Terminal towards the dual bridges over the Chicago River. (Robert Heinlein Collection)
Trackwork near the Met bridge was somewhat complex. Tracks to the right fanned out, leading to the Wells Street Terminal. The tracks at left connected to the Loop “L” via Van Buren Street. (Robert Heinlein Collection)
This is the only photo I have seen that shows the interior of the Met bridge interlocking tower. (Robert Heinlein Collection)
This was scanned from an original North Shore Line 8×10″ nitrate negative, taken circa 1930. 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. (Robert Heinlein Collection)
This was also scanned from an original North Shore Line 8×10″ nitrate negative, taken at the same time as the previous photo and shows a slightly different view of the same scene. (Robert Heinlein Collection)
The North Shore Line grade crossing at Taylor Avenue in Racine, WI on December 16, 1931. You can see the shadow of the photographer, his view camera, and an assistant. This was scanned from the original 8×10″ negative. (NSL Photo, Robert D. Heinlein Collection)
The view of the North Shore Line tracks, looking south towards 21st Street in Racine, WI on March 11, 1930. Scanned from the original 8×10″ negative. (NSL Photo, Robert D. Heinlein Collection)
A view of the North Shore Line tracks looking north along the Skokie Valley Route near 16th Street in North Chicago on March 22, 1934. Scanned from the original 8×10″ negative. (NSL Photo, Robert D. Heinlein Collection)
The number 4391, in railfan circles, is most widely known as that of the only surviving postwar Chicago PCC streetcar. But this is a different 4391, namely a Chicago Rapid Transit Company “L” car, built circa 1923-24. We see the interior, complete with ads for Kellogg’s Corn Flakes and Bayer Aspirin, as it looked on May 27, 1937. Scanned from the original 8×10″ negative. (CRT Photo, Robert D. Heinlein Collection)
The view looking northeast along Lawrence Avenue (4800 N.) at Kimball Avenue (3400 W.) on January 28, 1929, in the Albany Park neighborhood. The Chicago Rapid Transit Company’s Ravenswood “L” Terminal is at right. The Terminal Theater, seen in the distance, was located at 3315 W. Lawrence, and had 2,389 seats. Presumably it took its name from the nearby “L” terminal. It was built by the Ascher Brothers chain and opened on January 7, 1926. It eventually became part of the Balaban and Katz chain, and closed on April 18, 1963. It was also known as the New Terminal, as it had replaced a smaller Terminal Theater nearby, built in 1915. Scanned from the original 8×10″ negative. (CRT Photo, Robert D. Heinlein collection)
It’s not clear exactly where this early 1900s photo was taken, but Greenwood, Franklin, Edinburgh, Columbus, and Seymour are all Indiana communities, located south of Indianapolis. Presumably the interurban shown was the Indiana Public Service, a predecessor of the Indiana Railroad, formed by Samuel Insull in 1930, combining five electric railways. (Robert D. Heinlein Collection)
North Shore Line coach 178 at the Highwood Shops in the mid-1950s. (Robert D. Heinlein Photo)
North Shore Line car 169 is northbound at the Wilmette station in the early-to-mid 1950s. This is now the site of a Panera parking lot. (Robert D. Heinlein Photo)
North Shore Line cars 154, 190, and 155 are stopped by the Lake Forest station on July 24, 1955. This was a Central Electric Railfans’ Association fantrip just prior to the abandonment of the Shore Line Route. (Robert D. Heinlein Photo)
This, and the following photo, were taken at the Mundelein Terminal in December 1960, showing different views of a two-car Skokie Valley Route train with 701 and 719. (Robert D. Heinlein Collection)
A northbound two-car North Shore Line train at Kenosha, WI in December 1960. (Robert D. Heinlein Collection)
North Shore Line 724 heads up a two-car train at 5th Street and Harrison Avenue in Milwaukee on September 24, 1961. (Robert D. Heinlein Photo)
North Shore Line 772 is a southbound Chicago Express on June 9, 1955, on a short stretch of street running in Highland Park. Service on the Shore Line Route would end about six weeks later. (Robert D. Heinlein Photo)
On July 10, 1955, North Shore Line car 409 is at the north end of the Shore Line Route, on the border between North Chicago and Waukegan. This car is now at the Illinois Railway Museum. Service on the Shore Line Route ended about two weeks after this picture was taken. (Robert D. Heinlein Photo)
Family was very important to Robert Heinlein, and often accompanied him on his railroad excursions. Here, his young daughter Donna poses for him on a North Shore coach at the Mundelein Terminal on December 1, 1962.
Although this photo has motion blur, it does help identify the location of the next picture, taken right after it. North Shore car 163 is at the front of a two-car train in Kenilworth, about a block north of the historic fountain designed by George W. Maher. It is leaving street running and entering private right-of-way where it will run parallel to the Chicago and North Western. (Robert D. Heinlein Photos)
North Shore Line Silverliner 756 is on the Skokie Valley Route, but where? The Kutten Oil Company was located at 3510 Wilmette Avenue in Wilmette, near Glenview. Robert D. Heinlein took this picture on September 1, 1958.
Knollwood was a stop along the Libertyville-Mundelein branch, named for a nearby farm. This is in an unincorporated area of Lake County, just west of Lake Bluff, at the intersection of Waukegan Road and Rockland Road. The train, which includes car 712, is heading east. The popular Silo restaurant is not too far east of here in Lake Bluff. Photographer Robert D. Heinlein captured this view on June 17, 1962.
The same location today.
This slide was taken early in the morning, and had to be lightened considerably. It was dated January 21, 1963 on the mount, but may actually have been taken on the 20th (the film was not processed until the following month). As such it was one of the final opportunities to shoot an Electroliner at the Milwaukee Terminal, which prompted one fan to jump into the inspection pit for his shot. (Robert D. Heinlein Photo)
This slide, showing a southbound North Shore Line Electroliner at speed, was marked as having been taken January 21, 1963 at Washington Street in Waukegan. That would place it after the abandonment the night before, but it seems likely to have been taken on the last full day prior to the shutdown, January 20th. Research shows the two Electroliners were moved back to the Highwood Shops one last time at night. Since this roll of film was not developed until the following month, the date was stamped on the slide mount some time after the fact. (Robert D. Heinlein Photo)
North Shore Line 747 is at the head of a train at Lake Bluff, signed as a Skokie Valley Route Chicago Limited. This slide was marked January 21, 1963, but is more likely to have been taken the day before. (Robert D. Heinlein Photo)
Illinois Terminal car 285 is on the last trip at Champaign, IL on June 11, 1955. Don’s Rail Photos (via Archive.org): “285 was built by St Louis Car in 1914. It was rebuilt as a parlor car in 1924 and restored as a coach in December 1928. It was air conditioned in August 1938 and (received) new seating in December 1952. It was sold for scrap to Hyman Michaels Co. on May 16, 1956.” (John F. Humiston Photo, Robert D. Heinlein Collection)
Illinois Terminal 285 is at Cerro Gordo, IL on its last trip prior to abandonment of this interurban route on June 11, 1955. For the occasion, locals dressed up in turn-of-the-century costumes. Some of the riders may have been old enough to remember when interurban service began here. (John F. Humiston Photo, Robert Heinlein Collection)
Illinois Terminal 285 is at Champaign, IL on its last trip on June 11, 1955. (John F. Humiston Photo, Robert Heinlein Collection)
This and the next picture: The Elgin and Belvidere Electric Company interurban operated from 1907 to 1930, connecting those two cities. It was extended to Rockford in 1927 but fell victim to the Great Depression and the rise of the automobile. When the Illinois Railway Museum (originally based in North Chicago) needed a new home in the early 1960s, they based their new main line on this former interurban right-of-way (and were able to purchase most, but not all of it by paying the back taxes). Amazingly, one of the original Elgin and Belvidere motormen lived long enough to operate a trolley at IRM. (Robert D. Heinlein Collection)
Work is underway erecting trolley poles at the Illinois Railway Museum site in Union. The time frame here could date from the mid-1960s to the early 1970s. (Robert D. Heinlein Photo)
Former North Shore Line line car 604 at work one wintry day at the Illinois Railway Museum. (Robert D. Heinlein Photo)
Indiana Railroad high-speed lightweight interurban car 65 at the Illinois Railway Museum. (Robert D. Heinlein Photo)
Two trains running at the Illinois Railway Museum, circa 1971. At left, North Shore Line cars 160 and 714. The steam loco at right is labeled Tuskegee, but I am not sure if this is the Tuskegee Railroad 101 in the museum’s collection. (Robert D. Heinlein Photo)
Bob Heinlein and his brother Don at East Troy in May 2022.
Our Latest Book, Now Available:
The North Shore Line
FYI, my new Arcadia Publishing book The North Shore Line is now available for immediate shipment. My publisher decided to expand it to 160 pages, instead of the usual 128. That’s a 25% increase, without any change to the $23.99 price. I am quite pleased with how this turned out.
From the back cover:
As late as 1963, it was possible to board high-speed electric trains on Chicago’s famous Loop “L” that ran 90 miles north to Milwaukee. This was the Chicago North Shore & Milwaukee Railroad, commonly known as the North Shore Line. It rose from humble origins in the 1890s as a local streetcar line in Waukegan to eventually become America’s fastest interurban under the visionary management of Midwest utilities tycoon Samuel Insull. The North Shore Line, under Insull, became a worthy competitor to the established steam railroads. Hobbled by the Great Depression, the road fought back in 1941 with two streamlined, air-conditioned, articulated trains called Electroliners, which included dining service. It regained its popularity during World War II, when gasoline and tires were rationed, but eventually, it fell victim to highways and the automobile. The North Shore Line had intercity rail, commuter rail, electric freight, city streetcars, and even buses. It has been gone for nearly 60 years, but it will always remain the Road of Service.
Each copy purchased here will be signed by the author, and you will also receive a bonus North Shore Line map. Books will ship by USPS Media Mail.
Chapters: 01. Beginnings 02. The Milwaukee Division 03. The Shore Line Route 04. The Skokie Valley Route 05. The Mundelein Branch 06. On the “L” 07. City Streetcars 08. Trolley Freight 09. The Long Goodbye 10. The Legacy
Title The North Shore Line
Images of America
Author David Sadowski
Publisher Arcadia Publishing (SC), 2023
ISBN 1467108960, 978-1467108966
Length 160 pages
The price of $23.99 includes shipping within the United States.
For Shipping to US Addresses:
New Compact Disc, Now Available:
The Last Chicago Streetcars 1958
# of Discs – 1
Until now, it seemed as though audio recordings of Chicago streetcars were practically non-existent. For whatever reason, the late William A. Steventon does not appear to have made any for his Railroad Record Club, even though he did make other recordings in the Chicago area in 1956.
Now, audio recordings of the last runs of Chicago streetcars have been found, in the collections of the late Jeffrey L. Wien (who was one of the riders on that last car). We do not know who made these recordings, but this must have been done using a portable reel-to-reel machine.
These important recordings will finally fill a gap in transit history. The last Chicago Transit Authority streetcar finished its run in the early hours of June 21, 1958. Now you can experience these events just as Chicagoans did.
As a bonus, we have included Keeping Pace, a 1939 Chicago Surface Lines employee training program. This was digitally transferred from an original 16” transcription disc. These recordings were unheard for 80 years.
Total time – 74:38
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An eastbound six-car Lake Street “L” A train approaches Oak Park Avenue in suburban Oak Park on March 23, 1955. Trains ran adjacent to South Boulevard until October 28, 1962, when they were relocated to the Chicago and North Western embankment. (Robert A. Selle Photo)
October 28, 2022 was the 60th anniversary of the elevation of the outer 2.5 miles of the Lake Street “L” (now the CTA Green Line). This was an important event in the history of suburban Oak Park and the Austin neighborhood in Chicago.
The steel Lake Street “L” structure, first opened in 1893, was only built as far west as Laramie Avenue (5200 W). Once the main “L” lines were built by the four original private companies, they extended service out to less populated areas at a greatly reduced cost by putting the tracks at ground level. The idea was to establish service, then wait until the surrounding area developed, and then elevate the tracks.
In some cases, this elevation never happened. To this day, portions of the Chicago Transit Authority’s Brown, Pink, Yellow, and Purple lines continue to run at ground level.
The Lake Street “L”‘s ground level extension opened in 1901. The Chicago and North Western’s tracks, which were adjacent to the “L”, were elevated circa 1909-1910, with extremely tight clearances the result. The ground level “L” operated much like a streetcar, using overhead wire instead of third rail, and used high-level platforms.
By the 1930s, the City of Chicago, under the influence of New York City, wanted to build subways to replace the Loop elevated. The subways that eventually were built (State Street, Milwaukee-Dearborn, and West Side) were very ambitious and costly projects which helped alleviate overcrowding on the Loop, but could not replace it outright.
City planners had ideas for putting portions of the Lake line into various subways, so portions of the elevated structure could be torn down. But once the Chicago Transit Authority took over operations in 1947, it was quickly determined that the outer portion of the line, the ground-level section, was the real difficulty.
There were 22 grade crossings in this section, all manually operated by a gateman 24 hours a day. In a similar situation, the City of Berwyn was uncooperative with the CTA’s plans to reduce the number of grade crossings and install automatic gates. As a result, service on the Douglas Park “L” was cut back from Oak Park Avenue (6800 W) to 54th Avenue (5400 W), where it remains today.
Faced with the possible truncation of the Lake Street “L” to Laramie Avenue, the Village of Oak Park took a different approach, working cooperatively with all the interested parties (the City of Chicago, Chicago Transit Authority, and the Chicago and North Western), and a plan came about that benefitted everyone.
The C&NW embankment had enough extra space on it to accommodate the CTA tracks, which permitted the Lake Street “L” to be elevated at last. Removing the tracks from the street eliminated all 22 grade crossings, reducing the CTA’s payroll.
“L” operations were speeded up, offering better service, and the North Western received new revenue from renting out the space. The railroad was allowed to close some lightly used commuter rail stations, ceding these customers to the CTA, which speeded up service for riders farther out.
Removing the ground-level tracks widened the street, reducing traffic congestion and increasing the amount of parking spaces available. It was a win-win for all.
Plans were finalized around 1958, but construction does not seem to have begun until 1961. Service was changed over to the embankment at 6:00pm on October 28, 1962 (see the newspaper article below).
I was seven years old when this transition took place, and rode the ground-level “L” many times. It was always a bit tense, as all 22 cross streets were blind crossings. Cars might come darting out from under a viaduct at the last second, and there were some collisions between “L” cars and autos.
The tight clearances also prevented the use of the CTA’s 6000-series “L” cars in the 1950s, as they had curved sides that stuck out farther than previous equipment. Once the line began running on the embankment, it was possible to use newer equipment, and the CTA assigned many of their new 2000-series rapid transit cars to the Lake line starting in 1964.
Now, the “L” has been running on the embankment for nearly the same length of time as the ground-level operation had. And practically every trace of that surface trackage and stations is long gone.
People who have grown up in the area since 1962 might not have any idea that the “L” ever ran anywhere but on the embankment, but this is an important part of Oak Park’s history, and it deserves to be remembered.
Fortunately, we recently collected various images showing both the construction work, and many taken on the very day of the ground-level operation, October 28, 1962. In addition to this, we have an excellent selection of other classic traction photos from around the country.
We are pleased to report that our latest book The North Shore Line is now 100% complete and has gone to press. The publication date is February 20, 2023, and we are now taking pre-orders. You will find more information about that at the end of this post (and our Online Store).
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.
FYI, the Hoosier Traction Facebook Group celebrates electric transit in Indiana and the Midwest. It also supports the activities of the annual Hoosier Traction Meet in Dayton, OH (although not affiliated with the North American Transit Historical Society, which organizes that event).
The Lake Street “L” in Transition
In this July 16, 1961 view, work has just started on connecting the “L” with the nearby Chicago and North Western embankment. But the changeover point between overhead wire and third rail has already been moved to the Central Avenue ground-level station. This would otherwise have been a complicating factor in the transition process, as both routes would need to be operational for a short time simultaneously.
The view looking west from Laramie Avenue on August 27, 1961. A new temporary track has been built at left, supported by wooden pilings, to allow the ground-level operation to continue while the new “L” connection is being built. Note the Chicago and North Western freight train at right.
This picture, taken on August 27, 1961, shows how the “L” was shored up during construction of the new connection to the nearby railroad embankment.
On August 27, 1961, new steel has been added to the “L” structure at Laramie Avenue. This section of “L” was eventually rebuilt in the 1990s, when the line was shut down for about two years.
On September 10, 1961, new streel is being added to the “L” to support the additional tracks needed for the realignment.
Looking west from the Laramie Avenue “L” station on September 17, 1961. New tracks will be added to create a junction between the old and new alignments.
Third rail (here referred to as “trolley rail”) was installed between Laramie and Parkside Avenues on the Lake Street “L” as of May 8, 1961. This was one of the first actions taken in the project to move the “L” onto the nearby railroad embankment.
Work on the CTA’s new Congress “L” branch was finishing up just as work began on realigning the outer portion of the Lake Street “L”. Once these projects were finished, all the CTA grade crossings in Oak Park and Forest Park were eliminated.
The changeover point from third rail to overhead wire on the Lake Street “L” was moved from Laramie to Central Avenue on May 22, 1961, at the beginning of the relocation project.
Overhead wire was removed from the eastbound Lake Street “L” track between Central and Laramie on May 24, 1961.
Central Avenue and Lake Street on October 28, 1962. This was the only place on the “L” system where trains under wire crossed a trolley bus line. Motor buses replaced trolley buses on Central on January 17, 1970. This portion of Lake Street was renamed Corcoran Place a few years after this picture was taken, to honor a local alderman who had recently died.
We are looking east along what was then Lake Street at Mayfield Avenue on October 28, 1962. We are just east of where the dedication ceremony took place. The new Central Avenue “L” station can be seen in the distance.
We are looking to the northeast along what was then Lake Street (now Corcoran Place) just east of Austin Boulevard on October 28, 1962.
Chicago’s dedication ceremony for the new “L” alignment took place on what was then Lake Street (now Corcoran Place), between Austin Boulevard and Mason Avenue. Mayor Richard J, Daley and CTA chairman Virgil Gunlock presided. A similar ceremony was held in Oak Park.
CTA “L” car 4407 appears to have been decorated for the dedication event near the Austin stop on October 28, 1962.
I believe we are just west of the Austin Boulevard “L” station on October 28, 1962.
Clearances were extremely narrow on the ground level portion of the Lake Street “L”, and therefore, when the line was elevated, temporary entrances were used. Once the old “L” had been cleared away, construction of the permanent entrances continued.
Again, near Austin Boulevard on October 28, 1962. We are looking to the northeast.
An eastbound Lake Street “A” train is just east of Ridgeland Avenue on October 28, 1962.
We are looking west, just east of the Ridgeland Avenue “L” station on October 28, 1962. The building at left with the sign on it advertising a dry cleaner is now occupied by the Tayloe Glass Company.
We are looking west along South Boulevard at Marion Street in suburban Oak Park on October 28, 1962. A two-tone mid-50s Ford heads north on Marion, while an early 1960s Corvair is eastbound on South Boulevard. This is a rare opportunity to see “L” cars on both levels.
We are looking west along South Boulevard at Marion Street on October 28, 1962. The sign at left advertises Blue Cab, and there is a cab waiting there to serve people getting off the “L”.
Looking west along South Boulevard at Marion Street on October 28, 1962. Due to the narrow width of South Boulevard in this area, it was a one-way street going east. This section is now a two-way street, although there is still a section that is one way westbound, between Oak Park Avenue and Home Avenue.
A closer view of the new and old “L” stations. The sign above the entrance advertises the all metal “L” cars the CTA had operated on Lake since the last wood cars were taken off this line in 1954.
At one time, Blue Cab had their headquarters on South Boulevard, but I don’t recall offhand whether they were located here. The Lake Street “L” ground-level trackage extended across Harlem Avenue a short distance west of here. In the distance, you can see construction is already underway on expanding the railroad embankment to create a new yard for Lake Street trains. It opened in 1964.
This slide, taken by the same photographer, has a processing date of May 1963. Lake Street trains are running on the embankment, with their trolley poles removed. The old tracks are still in place but will soon be ripped up. The adjacent street was widened and parking spaces added.
The Congress Expressway is under construction at Homan Avenue on October 9, 1955, and would soon open as far west as Laramie Avenue. Tracks are already being laid for the new CTA Congress “L” line, which opened on June 22, 1958, replacing the old Garfield Park “L”. Note the very flimsy barrier separating the “L” and highway. This soon proved completely inadequate and was eventually replaced by concrete barriers. Mayor Richard J. Daley drove the first spike for the new rails on July 8, 1955 near Pulaski Road. We are looking east. The entire story of the transition from the Garfield Park “L” to the Congress median line is told in my 2018 book Building Chicago’s Subways.
We were fortunately to recently purchase this original early red border Kodachrome slide, taken on September 7, 1941. It shows a fan taking a picture of Connecticut Company car 500, built in 1904 and described as the pride of the fleet, equipped with a kitchen, bathroom, and dining tables. It was acquired by the Shore Line Trolley Museum in 1948.
A view of the Chicago Transit Authority’s Stock Yards branch on September 16, 1956. Service was discontinued the following year, and it has now been 65 years since the last wooden “L” car ran in regular service in Chicago.
Some Milwaukee Electric interurban trains ran past the North Shore Line’s Milwaukee Terminal, although there does not seem to have been a track connection here. This picture dates to the 1940s. A TM interurban car did operate on a North Shore Line fantrip in 1949, so there must have been a track connection somewhere. An Electroliner is berthed at the terminal.
The Logan Square “L” Terminal, right around the end of service in late January 1970. Service was extended on this line via the new Kimball Subway and a median line in the Kennedy Expressway. Service went only to Jefferson Park at first, but now continues all the way to O’Hare Airport.
Another view of the old Logan Square “L” station near the end of service.
On December 6, 1958, CTA salt car AA98 was still on a trailer at the Electric Railway Historical Society (ERHS) location in Downers Grove. It was formerly Chicago Surface Lines car 2846 and was built in 1908 by the South Chicago City Railway. It went to the Illinois Railway Museum in 1973. (Robert A. Selle Photo)
The CTA Congress Expressway median line was not the first of its type, that distinction having been taken by the Pacific Electric in 1940. Here, we see a 600-series “Hollywood” car in Cahuenga Pass at Barham Boulevard. This print was made in 1946 but could have been taken earlier. PE service here ended in 1952 (this was part of the Van Nuys line) and the right-of-way was taken up by additional traffic lanes. (Stuart A. Liebman Photo)
Don’s Rail Photos: “(North Shore Line) 420 was was built by Pullman in 1928 as an observation. It was out of service by 1932. On July 21, 1943, it reentered service as a motorized coach. It was sold to Seashore Trolley Museum in 1963.” Here we see it prior to conversion.
North Shore Line diner 418 at the Milwaukee Terminal, when it was still in service as a diner. This print was made in 1945 but could have been taken earlier. Dining car service on the CNS&M ended in 1947, except for the Electroliners, and car 415, which was used in the “substitute Liner” and for charters.
A five-car train of Chicago Aurora and Elgin wood cars, including 312, in Wheaton. This print was made in 1945, but the picture was probably taken earlier. (E. Dale Photo)
Chicago Aurora and Elgin wood car 24 in Wheaton. This print was made in 1945, but the picture was probably taken earlier. (E. Dale Photo)
Chicago Aurora and Elgin steel car 431, which was built by Pullman, in Wheaton. This print was made in 1945, but the picture was probably taken earlier. (E. Dale Photo)
A two-car Chicago Aurora and Elgin train, with 414 at the rear, heads west at Laramie Avenue as an Elgin Express. This picture was printed in 1945 but was probably taken earlier. (E. Dale Photo)
Chicago Surface Lines pre-war PCC 7020 heads west on Madison Street at Central Park Avenue. This print was made in 1946 but could have been taken earlier. There is another picture taken at this location in my 2017 book Chicago Trolleys, showing a postwar PCC. (Ken Kidder Photo)
Chicago Aurora and Elgin wood car 140, formerly from the North Shore Line. Don’s Rail Photos: “138 thru 141 were built by American Car in 1910. They were rebuilt for Elevated compatibility in 1919. They were also leased to the CA&E in 1936, returned to the CNS&M in 1945, and sold to the CA&E in 1946.” This print was made in 1945, but could have been taken earlier. (E. Dale Photo)
Chicago Aurora and Elgin steel car 417 heads up a Chicago Express at Laramie Avenue. This print was made in 1945, but could have been taken earlier. (E. Dale Photo)
Don’s Rail Photos: “In 1937, the CA&E needed additional equipment. Much was available, but most of the cars suffered from extended lack of maintenance. Finally, 5 coaches were found on the Washington Baltimore & Annapolis which were just the ticket. 35 thru 39, built by Cincinnati Car in 1913, were purchased and remodeled for service as 600 thru 604. The ends were narrowed for service on the El. They had been motors, but came out as control trailers. Other modifications included drawbars, control, etc. A new paint scheme was devised. Blue and grey with red trim and tan roof was adopted from several selections. They entered service between July and October in 1937. The following year, three more cars were acquired. 80 thru 82 were combines built by Cincinnati in 1913. On the CA&E, they were rebuilt in much the same manner as the 600s. The baggage compartment was fitted with seats and the cars were operated as full coaches numbered 700 thru 702. 700 was built by Cincinnati Car Co in 1913 as WB&A 80. It was sold as CA&E 700 in 1938.” This picture was printed in 1945, but could have been taken earlier. The location is the Wheaton Shops. (E. Dale Photo)
Chicago Aurora and Elgin 435 is westbound at Laramie Avenue on an Aurora Express. This photo was printed in 1945, but could have been taken earlier. (E. Dale Photo)
Chicago Aurora and Elgin 423 is running on the streets of Aurora as an express. The terminal was relocated off the street at the end of 1939, and the license plate on the car at left is from 1934 or 1936 (probably the former). This print was made in 1945. (E. Dale Photo)
Birney car 1501 is in Council Bluffs, Iowa in 1947. (Victor G. Wagner Photo)
This is the West Penn Railway in Greensburgh, Pennsylvania, which is 30 miles southeast of Pittsburgh.
North Shore Line 714 heads up a southbound Chicago Express on the Shore Line Route in North Chicago in 1947. This car was built in 1926 by the Cincinnati Car Company. After the North Shore Line was abandoned in 1963, 714 went to the Illinois Railway Museum, where it is today. (Victor G. Wagner Photo)
A view of the Metropolitan “L” crossing the Chicago River on July 10, 1949. We are looking to the northwest.
Five Mile Beach Electric Railway car 32 in Wildwood, New Jersey in 1940. (G. Pilkington Photo)
CTA 2712 leads a two-car Douglas Park “L” train in the early 1950s. The train is headed towards Marshfield Junction, where Douglas Park, Garfield Park, Logan Square, and Humboldt Park lines converged into the Met “L” main line at Paulina. Construction is underway here for the Congress Expressway. A new north-south connection was built soon after this picture was taken, so that Douglas Park trains could be re-routed downtown via the former Logan Square tracks to a new connection with the Lake Street “L”. This allowed the Met main line to be removed east of here in 1954, where the “L” was in the way of the new highway.
A four-car train of CTA 4000s is (I presume) near Howard in the 1950s. Miles Beitler adds, “Photo aad702a looks like a train of 4000s leaving Howard Street southbound on track 1. If I’m correct that that the overhead wire has been removed and the trolley poles on the 4000s are down, this must be after third rail was installed on track 1, which would date the photo to around 1964 or later.”
Indiana Railroad high-speed car 69 is at Indianapolis on August 11, 1940.
A North Shore Line freight train is at the Rondout weigh station in January 1963.
North Shore Line combine 256 is at the front of a three-car train of “Greenliners” (a fan term) in a slide processed in June 1961.
The Ravinia Park Casino was built in 1904 and demolished in 1985. Ravinia Park was built by the Chicago and Milwaukee electric, which became the North Shore Line in 1916.
Indiana Railroad high-speed car 59 is at Indianapolis on August 11, 1940.
A Chicago Aurora and Elgin electric loco in Wheaton, where the lines diverged to go to either Aurora (shown here) or Elgin.
When I posted this circa 1954-55 Garfield Park “L” image to our Facebook group, it generated a lot of discussion as to whether or not this 4000-series “L” car was still in CRT brown paint. The CTA repainted these cars into green and cream starting around 1952. But after much consideration, my conclusion is that this is just a trick of the light, and the car is actually painted in the later CTA colors. It is in shadow and not in direct sunlight. By this time, all such cars should have been repainted and put into married pairs with various modifications (which are visible on this car). The car behind it, which is presumably its mate, is painted green and cream. We are at the east end of the Van Bure Street temporary trackage, which was used from 1953 to 1958. The photographer was apparently looking out the front end of a westbound train, and there was a ramp behind the photographer leading up to the old “L” structure heading to the Loop. The cross street here is Racine Avenue (1200 W).
I assume this picture of Chicago Surface Lines Peter Witt car 6311 was taken at Devon station. The date given with the negative was January 6, 1941 but this hardly seems likely, given the foliage and the open door. Perhaps month and date were reversed, and a date of June 1, 1941 is correct.
A view of the Indiana Railroad’s Muncie Terminal on August 10, 1940. The photo is by WVK, although I don’t know what those initials stand for.
Indiana Railroad high-speed car 78 in Indianapolis in the late 1930s.
A night shot of the North Shore Line’s Milwaukee Terminal in July 1962.
North Shore Line car 748 is part of a two-car train near North Chicago Junction on September 4, 1961.
This and the next picture shows a Aurora Elgin and Chicago (predecessor to the CA&E) monthly ticket book from June 1922.
The Chicago Aurora and Elgin used uncovered third rail in nearly all areas, including here, in Wheaton, where the Aurora and Elgin branches diverged. A small boy is playing in a nearby field, and people then were not terribly concerned with the danger posed by 600 volts of direct current. If the CA&E had survived, chances are additional protections would be in place.
North Shore Line wood car 132 and train at Ravinia Park in the early 1900s.
Starting in the 1930s, enterprising railfans such as the late Barney Neuberger sold prints of streetcars and interurbans. The smallest such prints were what is now called wallet size, and the going rate was usually 10 cents. Mr. Neuberger had flyers and catalogs printed. There are thousands and thousands of such photos that still circulate, and enrich our knowledge of the past.
CTA 2811 heads up a westbound Garfield Park “L” train of wood cars, circa 1953-54. The ramp connected to the temporary tracks on Van Buren Street/ We are near Sacramento Boulevard. For a time, these tracks crossed over the new Congress Expressway, which was built underneath it. Once the new Congress median line opened in 1958, this structure was removed.
A two-car Garfield Park “L” train, made up of 4000-series cars, heads west on temporary trackage in Van Buren Street on September 2, 1955. A portion of the Congress Expressway, then under construction, opened later that year.
A Philadelphia Suburban Transportation Company Brill Master Unit is on West Chester Pike at Paoli Road in February 1945. (David H. Cope Photo)