Santa Claus arrives by trolley at the Baltimore Streetcar Museum, sometime in the 1970s. It probably wasn’t July, though. (John Engleman Photo)
It recently felt like Christmas in July, when I received a large batch of vintage 35mm color negatives taken by John Engleman of Maryland for scanning and sharing here. Even more fitting, Santa Claus actually does appear in some of the photos!
While we are based in Chicago, and most of our posts feature transit from this area, we do have many readers in other locales. This first installment of photos taken by Mr. Engleman is mainly from out east (Baltimore, Washington D.C., and Philadelphia) and dates to the 1970s. In addition there are some diesel photos, including passenger trains, and I strongly suspect some are from before the Amtrak era. There are also a few pictures of Seattle trolley buses.
Mr. Engleman is an excellent photographer and I hope you will enjoy the photos he has so generously shared with us. My personal favorites are the ones that show car 6119, the 1930 Baltimore Peter Witt. This was the state of the art in streetcar design, prior to development of the PCC car.
I would like to thank City Lit Books in Logan Square for inviting me to appear at their shop last Saturday to give a presentation about my new book Chicago’s Lost “L”s. I would also like to thank everyone who attended and purchased a copy.
As my friend J. J. Sedelmaier pointed out, this photo of a North Shore Line Electroliner on the north side “L” must have been taken in the early part of 1941, as it shows the train’s pilot in its original configuration, prior to being enlarged.
Eric Bronsky writes: “I own the original Kodachromes of two of the North Shore photos that appeared in the blog earlier this week. A while back, I enhanced and sharpened the attached image in Photoshop. The photographer was William E. Robertson. I cannot confirm the year because the slide mount is neither dated nor captioned. If you post it, please credit William E. Robertson photo, Eric Bronsky Collection. The other original I have is the Shore Line Route view looking south along St. Johns Ave. in Highland Park. David, a belated thank you for the copy of your Chicago’s Lost “L’s book. It is absolutely fascinating. Many of these places and things were gone before I became aware of them.”
I recently bought this early real photo postcard, showing a Jackson Park “L” train crossing the Illinois Central when it still used steam (pre-1926). This is the second one of these I have, and interestingly, it has less cropping than the first version I had (which is in my new book Chicago’s Lost “L”s). Why is this? Well, this is a real photo made from the original negative, and not something made on a printing press. So every time a batch of these were produced, someone had to position the negative, and there was the potential to do it differently each batch. You can almost make out the car numbers here… 17, 274, and maybe 250. Don’s Rail Photos: “17 was built by Jackson & Sharpe in 1892 as SSRT 17 as a steam trailer. It was rebuilt as a MU motor car in 1898. It became CERy 17 in 1913 and retired on January 8, 1924.” “274 was built by Jewett in 1905 as SSRT 274. It became CERy 274 in 1913 and became CRT 274 in 1924. It was retired on June 7, 1957.” The South Side cars were not renumbered when the four “L” companies were consolidated.
The Photography of John Engleman:
Red Arrow Lines in Media PA
Red Arrow car 73 (built by Brill in 1926) is now preserved at the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum. Their web site notes, “Car 73 was refurbished in 1972 by the transit authority (SEPTA) and the local business association as the centerpiece of a “Media Mall” promotion in that suburban community – the regular streetcar would turn back at the edge of town, and riders would transfer to 73 for the trip along State Street. After the novelty (and funding) wore off regular trolley service was resumed in Media and car 73 was retained for charter and work service until it was declared surplus by SEPTA and acquired by PTM in 1990.”
I think that is what we see here.
It is apparent that some sort of horsing around was going on with a PCC car on New Year’s Eve one year.
National Capital Trolley Museum (Silver Springs, MD)
Johnstown, PA was the smallest city to operate PCC streetcars in the classic era, and it ran streetcars until 1960. Johnstown Traction car 352, which appears in some of these pictures, was built by St. Louis Car Company in 1925 and preserved for many years at the National Capital Trolley Museum. Unfortunately, it was destroyed in an accidental fire in 2003, along with some of the other trams seen here.
Baltimore Streetcar Museum
Seattle Trolley Buses
M. E. writes, “A group of old (but still employed) and retired Seattle trolley bus drivers and mechanics has for many years maintained and offered rides on three trolley buses from the 1930s and 1940s. I rode on a couple of those trips. They were outstanding bargains, about $5 for several hours of touring many Seattle neighborhoods. It was much fun to see heads turn when the old buses went by. The web site for this group is http://www.mehva.org . Sad to report that it appears they ran into insurance liability problems and had to cancel their excursions in 2020. Nothing yet thus far in 2021. Seattle also had acquired several old trams from Melbourne, Australia (which still has a huge tram network), and ran those trams for about a mile underneath the elevated Aurora Freeway through downtown. Alas, maybe 10+ years ago they stopped running this service. More recently, Seattle tore down the freeway.”
It’s hard to tell when some of these were taken, but I did spot a 1969 license plate on a vehicle in a couple of shots.
M. E. writes, “This photo was taken at one of the two terminals in Seattle. It is probably the King St. station, the one that is still operating. The white building in the background is the Smith Tower, which was the tallest building west of the Mississippi when it was built in 1914. Although I don’t know the situation today, several years ago the elevators in Smith Tower still had human operators in the cars. But all they did was push buttons for floors.”
Again, I would like to thank John Engleman for sharing all these great classic photos with our readers. Keep those cards and letters coming in, folks!
The Trolley Dodger On the Air
On July 16th, I was invited to appear on the Dave Plier Show on WGN radio, to discuss Chicago’s Lost “L”s. You can hear that discussion here.
Our Latest Book, Now Available:
Chicago’s Lost “L”s
From the back cover:
Chicago’s system of elevated railways, known locally as the “L,” has run continuously since 1892 and, like the city, has never stood still. It helped neighborhoods grow, brought their increasingly diverse populations together, and gave the famous Loop its name. But today’s system has changed radically over the years. Chicago’s Lost “L”s tells the story of former lines such as Garfield Park, Humboldt Park, Kenwood, Stockyards, Normal Park, Westchester, and Niles Center. It was once possible to take high-speed trains on the L directly to Aurora, Elgin, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The L started out as four different companies, two starting out using steam engines instead of electricity. Eventually, all four came together via the Union Loop. The L is more than a way of getting around. Its trains are a place where people meet and interact. Some say the best way to experience the city is via the L, with its second-story view. Chicago’s Lost “L”s is virtually a “secret history” of Chicago, and this is your ticket. David Sadowski grew up riding the L all over the city. He is the author of Chicago Trolleys and Building Chicago’s Subways and runs the online Trolley Dodger blog.
The Images of America series celebrates the history of neighborhoods, towns, and cities across the country. Using archival photographs, each title presents the distinctive stories from the past that shape the character of the community today. Arcadia is proud to play a part in the preservation of local heritage, making history available to all.
Title Chicago’s Lost “L”s
Images of America
Author David Sadowski
Publisher Arcadia Publishing (SC), 2021
ISBN 1467100007, 9781467100007
Length 128 pages
01. The South Side “L”
02. The Lake Street “L”
03. The Metropolitan “L”
04. The Northwestern “L”
05. The Union Loop
06. Lost Equipment
07. Lost Interurbans
08. Lost Terminals
09. Lost… and Found
Each copy purchased here will be signed by the author, and you will also receive a bonus facsimile of a 1926 Chicago Rapid Transit Company map, with interesting facts about the “L” on the reverse side.
The price of $23.99 includes shipping within the United States.
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A Tribute to the North Shore Line
To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the demise of the fabled North Shore Line interurban in January 2013, Jeffrey L. Wien and Bradley Criss made a very thorough and professional video presentation, covering the entire route between Chicago and Milwaukee and then some. Sadly, both men are gone now, but their work remains, making this video a tribute to them, as much as it is a tribute to the Chicago North Shore & Milwaukee.
Jeff drew on his own vast collections of movie films, both his own and others such as the late William C. Hoffman, wrote and gave the narration. Bradley acted as video editor, and added authentic sound effects from archival recordings of the North Shore Line.
It was always Jeff’s intention to make this video available to the public, but unfortunately, this did not happen in his lifetime. Now, as the caretakers of Jeff’s railfan legacy, we are proud to offer this excellent two-hour program to you for the first time. The result is a fitting tribute to what Jeff called his “Perpetual Adoration,” which was the name of a stop on the interurban.
Jeff was a wholehearted supporter of our activities, and the proceeds from the sale of this disc will help defray some of the expenses of keeping the Trolley Dodger web site going.
Total time – 121:22
# of Discs – 1 Price: $19.99 (Includes shipping within the United States)
Help Support The Trolley Dodger
This is our 273rd post, and we are gradually creating a body of work and an online resource for the benefit of all railfans, everywhere. To date, we have received over 787,000 page views, for which we are very grateful.
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This famous photo shows Tower 18 at Lake and Wells in 1917, a very busy intersection indeed. We are looking north along Wells. In 1969, the tower was torn down and replaced in a slightly different location, so that Lake Street trains could continue directly east instead of having to turn south on Wells. This was done to facilitate pairing the Lake line with the new Dan Ryan service. (George Trapp collection)
I apologize for the 16-day gap since our last post, but I recently worked 15 straight days as an election judge. It usually takes me a while to recover when I do this. On the other hand, I have friends who say it will take them the next four years to recover from this election, so I should consider myself fortunate.
Today we have another generous selection of Chicago rapid transit photos from the collections of George Trapp. We thank him again for sharing these with our readers.
Today, we are mainly featuring the South Side “L”, used by today’s CTA Green Line, plus Howard Street on the North side, and the Niles Center/Skokie branch, today’s Yellow Line.
As always, if you have anything interesting to add to the discussion, you can either leave a comment here on this post, or contact us directly at:
PS- To find earlier posts in our series, just type “Chicago rapid transit” in the search window at the top of the page.
CTA hi-speed 6129 at Chicago Avenue on the Ravenswood (today’s Brown Line) in 1961. (Pete Busack Photo, George Trapp Collection)
CTA high-speeds 32 and 4 at Kimball on the Ravenswood in 1961. (Pete Busack Photo, George Trapp Collection)
CTA high-speed 3 at Kimball in 1961. (Pete Busack Photo, George Trapp Collection)
This look like the Linden Yard in Wilmette to me. The date is 1957-58. George Trapp: “Linden Yard but looking North toward Linden Station.” (Allen T. Zagel Photo, George Trapp Collection) This and the other photos taken at the same time are “Kodachrome prints” (see the next picture).
The phrase “Kodachrome print” has gone by the wayside. But back in the old days, there were two different ways to make color prints– a Type C print from a negative, and a Type R print from a slide. You could also have a C print made from a slide by way of an internegative, which somewhat reduced the inevitable buildup in contrast printing direct, but also sacrificed some sharpness. Scanning and modern color printing has replaced much of this.
A pair of flat-door 6000s at Howard Yard circa 1957-58. (Allen T. Zagel Photo, George Trapp Collection)
Howard Yard, 1957-58. This was taken at the same time as the previous photo. (Allen T. Zagel Photo, George Trapp Collection)
THe view looking north from the transfer bridge at Howard in 1957-58. The tracks going to the north are Evanston; at left, the North Shore Line’s Skokie Valley Route, site of today’s Yellow Line. (Allen T. Zagel Photo, George Trapp Collection)
In response to demands that the struggling Chicago Rapid Transit Company replace their aging fleet of wooden cars with modern ones, the company had a mock-up built for a proposed 5000-series car at Skokie Shops. This shows some influence from New York City cars. The 5001-5004 articulated cars that were eventually built in 1947-48 were patterned after the Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit “Bluebirds,” but styling from this mock-up does seem to be reflected in the 6000s that followed in 1950. (George Trapp Collection)
CRT gate car 2509, shown here coupled to 4395, is signed for Westchester, so this may be Laramie Yard on the Garfield Park “L”. (Joe L. Diaz Photo, George Trapp Collection)
A Niles Center car at Main Street in Skokie. (George Trapp Collection)
When the Niles Center branch ran (1925-1948), Chicago’s rapid transit lines depended on a lot of walk-in riders from the neighborhoods. Unfortunately, large parts of Skokie were not built up until after World War II. (George Trapp Collection)
CRT 1804, shown here at Crawford, has just changed over from overhead wire to third rail on its inbound journey. George Trapp: “This car, built by A. C. F., was originally a trailer as were all the cars from 1789-1815. These cars are quite similar to the 1769-1788 built by Pullman in 1909.” (George Trapp Collection)
CRT 1807 in the pocket track at Dempster, northern end of the Niles Center branch. (George Trapp Collection)
A train of CRT 4000s on the North Shore Line. (George Trapp Collection)
The north end of Howard Yard in CRT days. (George Trapp Collection)
The north end of Howard Yard in CRT days. George Trapp: “Note cars 1776 and 1779, which head up the two trains at right. Built by Pullman in 1909, these were the last wooden cars built new in Chicago.” (George Trapp Collection)
Construction at Skokie Shops. By comparing this photo to a similar one on Graham Garfield’s web site, we can date this to about 1930. George Trapp: “Construction at Skokie (Niles Center at time of photo) is late 1920’s or early 1930’s. Wood cars at right are in CRT Green and Orange scheme.” (Allen T. Zagel Photo, George Trapp Collection)
The view looking north from Howard Street. George Trapp dates this to the “late 1920’s – 1930’s.” (Allen T. Zagel Photo, George Trapp Collection)
The Ravenswood terminal at Lawrence and Kimball in CRT days. (George Trapp Collection)
CTA high-speed car 4, built by St. Louis Car Company in 1960, at Skokie Shops in December 1962. (George Trapp Photo)
CTA 29 outbound from Howard on the new Skokie Swift in 1964. (George Trapp Photo)
CTA high-speed car 2 at Skokie Shops in June 1962. (George Trapp Photo)
CTA car 4 near Howard in 1964. (George Trapp Photo)
CTA car 2 near Howard in 1964. (George Trapp Photo)
CRT 4320 at Skokie Shops, freshly repainted. George Trapp: “CRT 4320 not CTA, car is freshly painted in CRT Green and Orange and is a Met assigned car note position of safety springs and Van Dorn coupler.” Comparison with a similar photograph dates this one to 1937. (Allen T. Zagel Photo, George Trapp Collection)
Gate cars at Howard. (George Trapp Collection)
A CTA single car unit (28) at Howard on the Evanston shuttle. (Lou Gerard Photo, George Trapp Collection)
George Trapp: “Car 2788 is probably at 54th Avenue yard on Douglas Park branch as that is what rear side sign says.” (Joe L. Diaz Photo, George Trapp Collection)
An old postcard view of the Wells Street bridge over the Chicago River. I assume we are looking north. The clock tower is part of the old Chicago & North Western station. It would be nice to see this one in color. (George Trapp Collection)
Metropolitan Elevated Railway car 800 heads up a train in the early 1900s at the old Glenwood amusement park in Batavia on the Aurora, Elgin & Chicago (later the CA&E). That’s the branch’s large powerhouse in the background. Circa 1960, this was considered (but rejected) as the new home for the fledgling Illinois Electric Railway Museum. (George Trapp Collection)
Unlike this one, most 4000-series “L” cars did not have giant thumbprints on them. So, either the Cardiff Giant has paid a visit, or someone put their thumb onto a wet print or negative. (Joe L. Diaz Photo, George Trapp Collection)
This photo of two gate cars on the Loop “L” is a bit scratchy, but I think I recognize the Insurance Exchange Building at right, which would make this the Wells leg of the Loop, looking north. (George Trapp Collection)
The South Side “L” crossing Garfield Boulevard (55th), circa the 1920s. (George Trapp Collection)
CRT gate car 50. Don’s Rail Photos says, “50 was built by Jackson & Sharpe in 1892 as SSRT 50. It became CERy 50 in 1913 and CRT 50 in 1923. It was rebuilt as S2 in 1939.” (George Trapp Collection)
CRT 4265 heads up a northbound train going into the State Street subway not far south of Roosevelt Road. It is signed as going to both Howard and Skokie. This picture must have been taken between 1943 and 1948. (Joe L. Diaz Photo, George Trapp Collection)
61st Street on the South Side “L”. (George Trapp Collection)
M. E. says this is “the view facing west at Indiana, again while the Kenwood line was a through line.” George Trapp: “The center-door steel car is a loop-bound Kenwood train, shown at the junction with the main South Side “L”. The 4-car train is a north-south through train. The wood train about to cross in front of the Kenwood train is probably a Loop-bound Englewood train.” The tracks at right were used for freight. This photo was taken from the roof of the building shown on the left of the next picture that follows. Contrast this with a photo taken circa 1955-57 at much the same spot in our previous post Chicago Rapid Transit Photos, Part Three (March 23, 2016). (George Trapp Collection)
I thought perhaps this was a Stock Yards train, but close examination of the sign seems to indicate it’s a Kenwood instead. If you zoom in, you can also see freight tracks at left, which paralleled the Kenwood line on an embankment. If so, we are looking east from where the Kenwood branch met the South Side main line near Indiana Avenue. (George Trapp Collection)
An enlargement of the previous photo, showing the Kenwood right-of-way adjacent to freight tracks on an embankment. I am not sure which movie theater that is in the background– the only Park Theater I know of was located at Lake and Austin. This picture was probably taken in Kenwood shuttle days on the CTA (1949-1957), since there is only the one track connecting it with the main line. Two tracks were visible in the earlier picture taken from the roof of a nearby building. Chris Cole adds, “The Park Theater is listed in Cinema Treasures at 3955 S King Dr. That matches the location in the picture.”
The facade of the old Park Theater, located at 3955 S. Dr. Marin Luther King Jr. Drive, is still there, next to the abandoned embankment that once housed the Kenwood “L”.
M. E. writes: “The sign says Kenwood to Indiana Ave., which was the shuttle service.”
We are looking east from the Indiana Avenue station. Off in the distance, more or less straight ahead, is the Kenwood branch of the “L”. The north-south main line heads off to the right (south) at this point, and Stock Yards service would go behind us to the west. M. E. adds: “The caption also says Stock Yards service is behind the photographer. It would be more accurate to say the Stock Yards L used the south side of the south platform, which is visible in the picture. From there the Stock Yards L headed west (behind the photographer) to Halsted, then into the stock yards. This picture was taken while the Kenwood line was still a through line into the Loop (and possibly north to Wilson). The same view after the Kenwood line was cut back to a shuttle is in photo dave408.” George Trapp adds: “straight ahead with jog is the Kenwood Branch, which shared embankment with Chicago Junction Ry.” (George Trapp Collection)
David Vartanoff noticed that this Chicago Blues LP features a cover shot of the “L”, taken where Kenwood branched off from the main line.
61st Street on the South side “L”. (George Trapp Collection)
George Trapp: “The pair of South Side gate cars are at Lake between State and Wabash on a Wilson Ave. Local, probably originating on the Kenwood Branch.” (Joe L. Diaz Photo, George Trapp Collection)
This old photo shows South Side Rapid Transit car 131 at 63rd Street in 1899. (George Trapp Collection)
South Side Rapid Transit car 139 rounding the curve at Harrison and State, probably in the late 1890s. George Foelschow: “The photo of South Side car 139 on the Harrison curve April 16, 1898 appears on page 35 of CERA B-131, authored by Bruce Moffat. Multiple-unit inventor Frank Sprague may be at the controls, since he is pictured on the following page the next day on an M-U test at 61st Street yard. These tests presaged the steam to electric conversion on the South Side “L”.” (George Trapp Collection)
It is not widely known, but during its first few years, the South side “L” was powered by steam. This picture was taken at Indiana Avenue in the 1890s. (George Trapp Collection)
Finally, here are a few more pictures from a 4000s fantrip on the Skokie Swift in the late 1970s or early 1980s:
(George Trapp Photo)
(George Trapp Photo)
(George Trapp Photo)
(George Trapp Photo)
(George Trapp Photo)
(George Trapp Photo)
Adam Platt from Minneapolis writes:
Hello David… very much enjoy the blog and look forward to your posts.
A couple of notes regarding the current post.
—Re Kenwood shuttle–The Park theater at 40th and Grand Blvd opened as the Grand Oak, a vaudeville house, but became the Park during the period 1937-1958.
—The single unit at Howard NB on Evanston shuttle is car 28. Throughout the late 1960s and 70s, the car assignments on Evanston (still hard to think of it as the Purple Line) were single units 27, 28, 39-50. I practically lived on these cars growing up in east Wilmette. Later the CTA moved single units 5-22 and 31-38 from the Ravenswood to Linden and they operated in rush hour Evanston Express service, but I believe lacking fireboxes, they did not run in shuttle service.
1-4 were retired early, though I remember riding 4 on Skokie in the 1970s, in normal green/white CTA paint, though service there was held down mostly by cars 23-26, 29-30, which had pan trolleys, with doodlebugs 51-54 running in rush hour. Ultimately all 5-50 finished their lives on Evanston, I believe, though perhaps the Skokie cars migrated straight to the scrapper.
The Evanston shuttle operation was really one of the most interesting in the system because it ran one-man with the motorman collecting fares from many of the low volume Evanston stations until approx 1980. And notably, these motormen managed to collect fares, operate the doors, and run the line faster than most current CTA one-man operators. And Evanston ran one-man all but roughly 35 hours a week, which is amazing when you consider today’s volumes, though I think there are half as many off peak runs on Evanston than there were back in single unit days. I recall 4 cars typically active at once (but don’t hold me to it). Of course, some stations had agents in rush hours, some in middays. I do believe around 1980 CTA went to mostly two-car trains on Evanston shuttle and this unique operation was history.
And of course after I sent this I discovered that all the 5-50 cars ended their life running infrequently on weekends on the Blue Line, as the CTA could not retire them due to the constraints of a federally funded rehab.
Stephen M. Scalzo, In Memoriam
We are shocked by the news that long-time railfan historian Stephen M. Scalzo has died at the age of 73. His family has graciously shared the notice they have prepared with us. You can read it here.
Steve was a long-time member of the Chicagotransit Yahoo discussion group, and had a background as a railfan journalist and historian going back more than 50 years. He will be sorely missed by all of us.
In the first few days of November, we passed last year’s total of 107,460 page views, even though there have been fewer posts (57 vs. 108). This year’s posts, on the other hand, are longer and contain more pictures. Our current total of 218,332 page views in less than two years now exceeds that of the previous blog we worked on, and we have done this in a shorter period of time.
We must be doing something right, eh?
New Book Project
We are now working on a new paperback book Chicago Trolleys, that we expect will be published in 2017. Original research does cost money, so please consider making a donation to cover our costs. We will keep you updated as we progress, and thank you in advance for your help.
Help Support The Trolley Dodger
This is our 165th post, and we are gradually creating a body of work and an online resource for the benefit of all railfans, everywhere. To date, we have received over 218,000 page views, for which we are very grateful.
You can help us continue our original transit research by checking out the fine products in our Online Store. You can make a contribution there as well.
As we have said before, “If you buy here, we will be here.”