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:
Redone tile at the Monroe and Dearborn CTA Blue Line subway station, showing how an original sign was incorporated into a newer design, May 25, 2018. (David Sadowski Photo) Help Support The Trolley Dodger
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You would be forgiven if you think this is CTA red Pullman 144 heading north on Wentworth Avenue at Cermak Road in Chicago’s Chinatown neighborhood. But it is actually car 225 with its number hidden by a piece of red oilcloth. This was a fantrip organized by the late Maury Klebolt in 1955. He had promised the fans that car 144 would be used. Car 225 was built in 1908 and was sold to Seashore Trolley Museum in 1957. I previously wrote a post about this fantrip in 2013.
This close-up of the previous picture shows how the “144” is on an oilcloth patch over the actual number 225.
Today, we are featuring many rare transit photographs that we recently collected. Most are from the Chicagoland area, but some are from Milwaukee and Philadelphia.
What they all have in common is I think they are interesting. I hope that you will agree.
October 17 is the 74th anniversary of the opening of Chicago’s first subway. We have included a few subway pictures to help commemorate that historic event.
PS- I will be making a personal appearance at 1:00 pm on Saturday, October 21, 2017 at The Museums at Lisle Station Park in Lisle, IL. This presentation is for my new book Chicago Trolleys, from Arcadia Publishing. You can purchase an autographed copy via our Online Store. We look forward to seeing you there.
This is a very unusual picture. At first, I thought it might show the ramp at Sacramento on the Garfield Park “L”, where the line descended to temporary trackage in Van Buren Street. Then, I noticed that this is single track. This makes it the loop at the west end of the line at DesPlaines Avenue, as it was configured in 1953 to allow the CA&E (not seen here) to pass underneath. There are lots of pictures showing this ramp taken from the ground. But to take this picture, the photographer either had to be in another railcar, or was standing on the walkway. At left, you can see the Altenhiem building, described in the next picture. The DesPlaines Avenue yard was reconfigured again in 1959 and this ramp was eliminated. We previously posted another picture of this crossover here.
Altenhiem, described here as an “old people’s home,” is still in business today.
Once CA&E trains were cut back to Forest Park in September 1953, joint timetables were issued for the benefit of passengers who wanted to continue to the Loop. These schedules were changed several times over the nearly four years before the CA&E abandoned passenger service. This is the 14th, and perhaps last such timetable. Over time, I assume there were fewer CA&E trains as ridership was declining. We previously posted timetable #7 here.
WORK ON CHICAGO’S SUBWAY STARTED Chicago, Ill.: Above photo shows crowd on North State Street at Chicago Avenue during ceremonies marking the start of work on the new subway, which will run under State Street. Mayor Edward Kelly and Secy. of the Interior Harold Ickes used pneumatic spades to start the project. (Acme Press Photo, December 17, 1938)
STREET CARS CRASH IN TUNNEL; 7 INJURED Chicago – Its brakes failing to hold as it attempted up-grade run in Chicago street car tunnel, trolley at left slid backward down incline, crashed into front end of following car. Seven passengers were taken to hospital, 100 others shaken up. (Acme Press Photo, November 6, 1941)
AT LAST — THE CHICAGO SUBWAY All-steel cars from the elevated lines enter the tubes on the north side near Armitage and Sheffield Avenues, about 2 1/2 miles north of the Loop. Overhead is the existing elevated structure still used by local trains. Hard rubber plates have been placed between the ties and the steel rails to cushion the subway ride. (Acme Press Photo, October 21, 1943)
NO AN ART GALLERY–BUT PART OF MOSCOW’S SUBWAY LINE Moscow, Russia– Beautiful inverted bowls throw light to the paneled ceiling of this archway part of the lighting system of the Sokolniki station of Moscow’s new subway. Indirect light is used in many parts of the system. The subway, thrown open to the public amidst scenes of great jubilation, is called the “Metro.” All Moscow went joy riding on opening day. (Acme Press Photo, May 17, 1935) What interested me about his photo was how the general configuration looks a lot like the Chicago subway, which was built a few years later. Is it possible that the design was influenced by Moscow’s?
The interior of DC Transit car 766, during an October 8, 1961 fantrip just a few months before Washington’s streetcar system was abandoned. This car is now preserved at the National Capital Trolley Museum as Capital Traction Company 27 (its original umber). We have an excellent CD featuring audio recordings of 766 in operation in Washington, DC in our Online Store.
This picture was taken on the Wells leg of Chicago’s Loop on April 16, 1926. If this is Quincy and Wells, the scaffolding at left may be related to work being done on the nearby Wells Street Terminal, which started at this time. The terminal got a new facade and was expanded, reopening on August 27, 1927.
This picture shows the old Wells Street bridge, carrying the “L” across the Chicago River as it heads north-south in the early 1900s.
This is Racine Avenue on the Metropolitan “L” main line. The autos below the “L” would suggest this picture was taken in the 1940s.
“L” trains at the north State Street subway portal, probably in the 1940s.
The view looking north from the Howard “L” station. We ran a very similar picture to this in a previous post Chicago Rapid Transit Photos, Part Eight (November 16, 2016), where George Trapp suggested in was taken in the late 1920s or 1930s. This photo is dated December 17, 1930.
Michael Franklin has identified this picture as showing the Armour station on the Stock Yards branch. He notes, “(the) clue was a station on one side but not one on the other.” See below for another view of the same station.
The above image is from Graham Garfield’s excellent web site, and looks to the northeast. The original www.chicago-l.org caption reads:
Looking north on September 28, 1957, ex-Metropolitan Elevated car 2906 has left Armour station (seen at right) and it about to rejoin the Stock Yards main line to head east to its terminal at Indiana. The Sock Yards branch is only a week away from abandonment at this time. (Photo from the IRM Collection, courtesy of Peter Vesic)
This picture was taken on the Evanston branch of the “L”, and the wooden “L” car is signed “Howard Only,” which suggests this was taken during the CTA era. Previously, all Evanston trains continued south into the city. The nearby curve would indicate that this picture was taken just north of Howard, and may show the viaduct where the line crossed Chicago Avenue, which is a continuation of Clark Street.
This picture is identified as showing Chicago streetcar conductors and motormen, and probably dates to the early 1900s.
Here, we have a westbound train of wooden Met cars at Laramie on the old Garfield Park line. This was replaced by the Congress line in 1958.
Chicago Surface Lines 2779 at Cicero and Montrose in 1934. This was the north end of the Cicero Avenue line. This car is part of a series known as “Robertson Rebuilds,” and was built by St. Louis Car Co. in 1903. (Edward Frank, Jr. Photo)
CSL 970 on Waveland between Broadway and Halsted in 1936. This was the north end of the Halsted line. 970 was part of a series known as the “little” Pullmans, since they were slightly shorter than cars 101-750. It was built in 1910. (Edward Frank, Jr. Photo)
CSL experimental pre-PCC car 7001 is shown heading south on Clark Street at North Avenue, across the street from the Chicago Historical Society (now the Chicago History Museum). This picture was probably taken in the 1930s. 7001 went into service in 1934 and was repainted in 1941 before being retired around 1944. (Edward Frank, Jr. Photo)
The view looking east at Lake Street and Ridgeland, when the Lake Street “L” ran on the ground. Many years ago, the Rapid Transit Company put advertisements on the steps leading into such ground-level stations. The “L” was relocated onto the nearby C&NW embankment in 1962. This picture may be circa 1930.
The north end of the Merchandise Mart “L” station. This has since been rebuilt and the curved area of the platform has been eliminated.
We are looking west along Harrison at Wabash on November 12, 1928. In 2003, the Chicago Transit Authority straightened out this jog with a section of new “L” structure, occupying the area where the building at left once was.
Oakton Street in Skokie on December 11, 1931. The tracks with overhead wire were used by the North Shore Line and the Chicago Rapid Transit Company’s Niles Center branch. Both were running on the NSL’s Skokie Valley Route, built in 1925. The other set of tracks belong to the Chicago & North Western and were used for freight.
CSL 2601 was a Robertson Rebuild car built in 1901 by St. Louis Car Company. In this wintry scene, it is signed for the 111th Street route, presumably in the 1940s. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)
Here is an unusual view. This shows the ramp taking the Garfield Park “L” down to grade level between Cicero Avenue and Laramie. It must be an early picture, since the area around the “L” seems largely unbuilt. The Laramie Yard would be to the right just out of view. This “L” was torn down shortly after the CTA opened the Congress line in 1958.
The old Cermak Road station on the south Side “L”. Note there are three tracks here. This station was closed in 1977 and removed. A new station replaced it in 2015.
Here. a wooden “L” car train descends the ramp near Laramie on the Lake Street “L”. This must be an early photo, as it looks like Lake Street is unpaved. Streetcar service was extended west to Harlem Avenue here by the Cicero & Proviso in 1891. Chicago Railways took over the city portion in 1910. Service west of Austin Boulevard was provided by the West Towns Railways.
Wooden gate car 3105 and train in the Loop. This was originally built for the Lake Street “L”. Don’s Rail Photos says, “3103 thru 3118 were built by McGuire-Cummings in 1893 as LSERR 103 thru 118. In 1913 they were renumbered 3103 thru 3118 and became CRT 3103 thru 3118 in 1923.”
The view looking west along the Douglas Park “L” at 49th Avenue in Cicero on February 4, 1944. The station we see in the background is 50th Avenue. After it closed in 1978, this station was moved to the Illinois Railway Museum in Union, where it is used to board the museum’s fleet of retired “L” cars.
Here, we are looking south from Garfield (55th Street) on the South Side “L”.
61st Street on the South Side “L”, looking north on November 13, 1944.
Photos of the old Humboldt Park “L” branch are quite rare. This photo looks west from Western Avenue on January 26, 1931. This branch closed in 1952, although portions of the structure remained into the early 1960s.
This picture looks south from Randolph and Wells on the Loop “L”. The date is not known, but the construction of the building at right may provide a clue. Andre Kristopans writes, “The overhead shot on Wells showing platform construction is early 20’s, when platforms were extended to accommodate longer trains. For instance Randolph/Wells and Madison/Wells were once separate platforms, after the early 20’s they were a continuous platform. Also at that time, LaSalle/Van Buren and State/Van Buren were connected and the separate station at Dearborn/Van Buren became an auxiliary entrance to State, until a building next to it blew up in the very early 60’s and destroyed the Outer Loop side.”
North Shore Line 156 and several others at Waukegan in December 1962. Since there are about a dozen cars visible, they are being stored on a siding which you will note is outside the area of the catenary. (George Niles, Jr. Photo)
This shows TMER&T 1121 running on a 1949 fantrip on the North Shore Line at the Kenosha station. We ran a similar picture in our previous post Traction in Milwaukee (September 16, 2015).
Speedrail car 60 at the Waukesha Quarry, date unknown but circa 1949-51.
Larry Sakar writes:
The photo of Speedrail car 60 in your latest postings at the Waukesha Gravel pit was taken on 10-16-49. The occasion was the inaugural fan trip using a 60-series curved side car. It was sponsored by the short lived Milwaukee Division of the Electric Railroaders Association and was run by Milwaukeean James P. Harper who authored CERA Bulletin 97, “The Electric Railways of Wisconsin” published in 1952.
At the start of the private right-of-way at 8th St., the motors on the rear truck began having problems. At Waukesha, the car pulled onto one of the 2 side tracks leading back into the gravel pit. George Krambles accessed the rear trucks via a panel in the floor and disconnected the motor leads to the troublesome rear trucks. From that point forward the car ran on only 2 motors for the remainder of the fan trip. Car 65 had been the car originally intended to do the trip, but it was down with mechanical problems of its own. This caused the trip to be postponed for a week and the substitution of car 60.
When the car pulled into gravel pit siding one of the fans on board remarked, “Wow, look at this. They’ve got it in the scrap line already!”.
In addition to George Krambles, Al Kalmbach was on the trip, as was well-known railfan and photographer Barney Neuberger. He can be seen siting in about the 4th row of the car on the left side wearing a pork pie hat.
I’ve attached a few items related to that fan trip including a photo of Jay Maeder walking alongside car 60. This was taken at the first photo stop which was 44th St. where Milwaukee County Stadium would be built starting a year later. Car 60 was doing a photo run-by by backing down the line. The fans formed a photo line facing the car.
Philadelphia Peter Witt 8534 in July 1996. Don’s Rail Photos: “8534 was built by Brill Car in 1926, #22353.” It is part of the Electric City Trolley Museum collection in Scranton, PA. Here, it is shown in Philadelphia, during the time it was leased to SEPTA for trolley tours.
SEPTA 2750 and 8534 on a fantrip in August 1996. Apparently 8534 has broken down and is being towed.
SEPTA 2785 in November 2002.
SEPTA 2750 and 8534 in August 1996.
Three generations of Philadelphia streetcars in May 1999.
2785 in November 2002.
SEPTA 2785 in November 2002, with a commuter train nearby. Kenneth Achtert writes, “The shot of SEPTA #2785 with the commuter train that you presumed to be in Chestnut Hill is actually approaching 11th and Susquehanna,southbound, a cut-back location for which the car is signed in the picture. The commuter train would be inbound toward Center City.”
SEPTA 2785 in November 2002.
SEPTA PCC 2785 on the truncated route 23 in November 2002.
8534 in August 1996. Kenneth Achtert: “The view of #8534 being “manually switched” three photos later shows 8534 being coupled to its leader (2750) after apparently becoming disabled. Several of your other photos show the subsequent towing operation.”
The fantrip train is having trouble clearing this auto in August 1996.
Looks like an attempt was made to move the offending car out of the way. August 1996.
Kenneth Gear writes:
Look who is in the new HISTORIC RAIL & ROADS catalog!
In case you missed it, here is Kenneth Gear’s review of the book:
I just finished reading your book and I enjoyed it very much. Good, clear, concise, and informative writing.
I must compliment you on the choice and presentation of the photographs. It is obvious that you spent much time and effort to present these wonderful photos as perfectly restored as possible.
So many times the authors of books that are primarily “picture books” seem to have a complete disregard for the condition of the photos reproduced. I’ve often seen photos that are yellowed with age, water stained, ripped, folded, and scratched. Other times a book might contain photos that are not properly exposed, are crooked, out of focus, or the composition could have been easily corrected with a little cropping.
The photos in your book are absolutely fantastic! They are pristine, sharp, and have absolutely no blemishes at all. You also packed a lot of information into the captions as well. It’s a fine book and you should be proud, as I’m sure you are, to have your name on the cover.
Another reader writes:
Your book arrived and it is JUST AWESOME. I am completely taken by some of the imagery, and of course enjoy the way you seem to simplify historical writing. VERY nice work!! THANK YOU!!!
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A Yellow Line train turns back south of Howard, with Red Line trains in the background.
The “True Gen,” in military parlance, means genuine, accurate, useful information, the kind you can stake your life on in wartime. (It’s also the title of my favorite book about Ernest Hemingway.)
Today, we’ll apply that phrase to the Chicago Transit Authority‘s Yellow Line, aka the Skokie Swift. More than 50 years after service begin in April 1964, there seems to be a bit of confusion about its origins. Even the Wikipedia page had some misinformation on it, which we corrected. (That is both the blessing and the curse of the Wikipedia; but if anyone can come up with a better system, I’d like to know what it is.)
We like our history fresh from the source. So, here are a couple of newspaper articles with the “true gen” on how the Swift came to be. They set straight a couple of “factoids” that have made the rounds– that CTA supposedly already owned the right-of-way to Skokie Shops (it didn’t) and that the Swift was dependent on receiving federal aid (it wasn’t).
Not that you can take all newspaper reports as gospel, of course. You always have to consider the source. But I think that as far as these articles, go, however, we’re on pretty safe ground. As one of the original riders that first week, I can assure you that the high-speed “spam cans” did make much of the five mile journey at 60 mph, a thrilling ride indeed.
I’ve supplemented this post with some pictures I took last April 26, when the CTA celebrated a half-century of the Swift, none of which have been published before. I’ve written about the Skokie Swift before on the CERA Members Blog, and you can find some of those posts here and here. If you like what you see here, you might want to check those out too.
The Chicago transit authority expects to establish a new high speed, nonstop rapid transit service this fall over a five mile stretch of the abandoned North Shore railroad right of way between the Howard street terminal and Dempster street, Skokie.
Plans for the new rapid transit service were announced by George DeMent, chairman of the CTA, and Walter J. McCarter, the transit authority’s general manager.
“We are still negotiating for the purchase of this five mile section of the North Shore right-of-way, and we are hopeful that these negotiations can be completed in time to create this new service this fall,” said DeMent.
May Seek U.S. Grant
In addition to the North Shore railroad, DeMent said, the negotiations also are being carried on with Commonwealth Edison company, which for many years has owned part of the right of way for power line use.
DeMent also indicated the CTA may seek a grant from the federal government for paying two-thirds of the cost of establishing the new route as a “demonstration project.”
McCarter described the proposed new service to Dempster street, Skokie, as an “excellent opportunity to extend rapid transit into suburban areas where large parking facilities also would be provided for ‘park-and-ride’ patrons of the CTA.”
“We would use high speed cars as single car shuttle trains which could operate for much of the nonstop five mile trip at 60 miles an hour,” said McCarter. “Our plans call for providing at least 600 parking spaces at the Dempster street station.”
The high speed, one-car trains, McCarter estimated, would cover the five mile trip in eight to 10 minutes, compared with 24 to 25 minutes required for the CTA’s present buses between Dempster street and the Howard terminal. He also explained that the rapid transit service would be operated only in periods of heavy demand and that the buses would continue operating “around the clock.”
Skokie Votes $17,000
DeMent pointed out that Myron Greisdorf, president of Skokie, and other Skokie village board members have “shown their definite interest by voting $17,000 to help establish the new service.” No estimate was given on the cost of providing the new rapid transit shuttle service…
The acquisitions of a five mile stretch of the North Shore railroad right-of-way for a new rapid transit train service between the Howard street terminal and Dempster street, Skokie was authorized yesterday by the board of the Chicago transit authority.
The board acted on a recommendation by Walter J. McCarter, CTA general manager, who reported that a price of 2 million dollars had been negotiated with the North Shore railroad.
Would Pay 1.7 Million
Under a purchase agreement, McCarter said, the CTA would pay 1.7 million dollars of the cost. The remaining $300,000, he said, is to be paid by Commonwealth Edison company in return for converting its easements into perpetual rights for power transmission lines along the property.
In addition, Commonwealth Edison is to pay the CTA a monthly rental of $700 on the easements for an initial period of two years. The rental payments, McCarter said, would be used to help cover any operating losses that migth be incurred during a two-year experimental period.
Village Must Agree
“We expect to have this new service in operation within two to three months,” said George DeMent, CTA chairman. “The plan also is contingent upon a pending agreement with the village of Skokie whereby it would provide parking spaces for at least 400 cars at the Dempster street station.”
DeMent said the CTA also expects to file a request for federal government financial assistance to help pay any operating deficit for the first two years as a “demonstration project.” Under this plan, the federal government would pay two-thirds of operating losses and the CTA one-third.
Meanwhile, McCarter said the CTA will continue to operate its Skokie bus route which makes local stops in the same general area.
DeMent indicated, however, that the CTA would undertake the project on its own in the event the operation is not accepted by the federal government as an experiment.
McCarter explained that single-car trains, without any intermediate stops, would make the five mile trip in 6 1/2 to 7 minutes. He said the single cars would be operated at 10 minute intervals from early morning until late evening, but that no late night service would be provided.
The CTA already must acquire half of the five-mile stretch, McCarter explained, because of the necessity to maintain tracks to its shops at 3701 W. Oakton st., Skokie.
DeMent also said that the CTA is studying the costs of using the North Shore right-of-way still further north, possibly to Glenview or Northfield. However, DeMent said that for any further extensions, the suburbs involved would be asked to pay for right-of-way acquisition and necessary equipment, as well as to guarantee the CTA against operating losses.
Joe Stupar writes:
That is interesting but not surprising about Edison paying a portion. At the time of abandonment, Edison had a non-exclusive lease with the North Shore for the tower line there, dated March 8, 1957. Interestingly enough, that lease was not due to expire until December 31, 2008.
Early abandonment forecasts from the North Shore from 1961 were uncertain whether the CTA would purchase any line at all. They mention construction of a new shop facility at Forest Park. However, by 1963 it appears certain they would purchase the line. Three proposals were prepared, purchase from Howard -> East Prairie Rd (2.75 Miles), Howard -> Dempster St (5 Miles), and Howard -> Glenview Rd (7 Miles). The most expensive section of track was from Howard -> East Prairie Rd, with a book value of $3,896,784, and a suggested selling price of $1,500,000. The scrap value of the North Shore was related to book value, replacement cost, and value of physical infrastructure as scrap. As such, with the many bridges (including channel bridge), this was one of the most expensive sections of track. From East Prairie to Dempster had a book value of $776,334 and a suggested asking price of $500,000; from Dempster to Glenview Rd $548,032, and a suggested asking price of $350,000.
I thought I remembered reading somewhere that part of the reason to operate to Dempster St instead of Glenview Rd was due to car miles, and availability of equipment to operate the service. A 1963 estimate lists annual car miles of 127,500 to Dempster St, and 250,000 to Glenayre.
Another interesting fact is an April 1963 fare comparison. CTA was proposing a 55 cent fare Loop to Dempster, or a 70 cent fare Loop to Glenview. This 55/70 compares to 62/75 on the Milw, 69/81 on the CNW, and 78/86 actual North Shore. The CTA did not propose to sell monthly tickets, but it also lists equivalent monthly fares of 45/51 on Milw, 40/47 on CNW, and 52/56 on North Shore.
There is one other advantage to constructing the line to Dempster St vs East Prairie Rd or Glenview Rd as well. Available land for a parking lot. According to Chicago Tribune articles of the time, the village of Skokie paid to construct a large parking lot at Skokie. Even in 1963, there were a lot of houses near the Glenview station and I don’t know if there would have been room for a parking lot. Same with East Prairie Rd.
Interestingly enough, at one point the North Shore seriously considered selling the right of way from Oakton to Lake Bluff to the CNW. They even went so far as to suggest that the CNW may want to purchase the stations and resume passenger service. I thought this seemed kind of far fetched, but I recently stumbled across a Chicago Tribune article from December 63 / January 64 about a proposed CNW restart of service to Skokie, and possibly Glenview / Northbrook.
There is one other factor that hasn’t been mentioned for going to Dempster St. This is a minor detail, but by going to there, they pick up another substation on the line. If they had only purchased up to East Prairie, the whole line would be fed by the Howard end. I’m not sure if the Skokie substation figures into the value of that portion or not.
I also read another letter written to the editor in December of 63. It was a suggestion that the CTA re-open the stations on the line, since otherwise the trains would just be passing all of the potential riders in the dense areas.