Railroad Record Club Treasure Hunt, Part 2

1 Selection of Steventon tapes mostly unreleased

1 Selection of Steventon tapes mostly unreleased

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

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

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

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

-David Sadowski

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

Railroad Record Club Treasure Hunt, Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE TAPES

2 Tapes appear to be in good condition

2 Tapes appear to be in good condition

3 Tape with hand written track listing

3 Tape with hand written track listing

4 More unreleased Steventon audio

4 More unreleased Steventon audio

5 Lots of interesting material on these tapes

5 Lots of interesting material on these tapes

6 Still more intersting tapes

6 Still more intersting tapes

7 Unreleased audio this is why I bought the whole lot

7 Unreleased audio this is why I bought the whole lot

8 Steventon tapes

8 Steventon tapes

9 More Stevnton tapes

9 More Stevnton tapes

10 Even more tapes

10 Even more tapes

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

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

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

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

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

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

14 Close up of the 78rpm record master tapes

14 Close up of the 78rpm record master tapes

15 Another Close up of the 78rpm record master tapes

15 Another Close up of the 78rpm record master tapes

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

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

17 close up of 78rpm master tape showing condition

17 close up of 78rpm master tape showing condition

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

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

19 Montreal & South Counties tape with Steventon letter

19 Montreal & South Counties tape with Steventon letter

20 BC Electric tape with Steventon letter

20 BC Electric tape with Steventon letter

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

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

22 Railroad Record Club Master tapes

22 Railroad Record Club Master tapes

23 Master tape for record 26

23 Master tape for record 26

24 A stack of 22 Railroad Record Club Master tapes

24 A stack of 22 Railroad Record Club Master tapes

25 master tape Railroad Record Club number 16

25 master tape Railroad Record Club number 16

26 master tape Railroad Record Club number 15

26 master tape Railroad Record Club number 15

27 master tape Railroad Record Club with memo

27 master tape Railroad Record Club with memo

28 master tape Railroad Record Club number 17

28 master tape Railroad Record Club number 17

29 master tape Railroad Record Club number 18

29 master tape Railroad Record Club number 18

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

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

31 Two master tapes for record number 3

31 Two master tapes for record number 3

32 Two master tapes for record number 3 showing condition

32 Two master tapes for record number 3 showing condition

33 master tape Railroad Record Club number 7

33 master tape Railroad Record Club number 7

34 master tapes Railroad Record Club number 10

34 master tapes Railroad Record Club number 10

35 master tape Railroad Record Club number 23 with memo

35 master tape Railroad Record Club number 23 with memo

36 master tape Railroad Record Club number 17

36 master tape Railroad Record Club number 17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

REEL TO REEL TAPES

INFORMATION MARKED ON TAPE BOXES

4″ reels:

1. NYS&W

5″ reels:

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

7″ reels:

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

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

21/2″ reels:

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

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

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

No master tapes:

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

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

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

MOVIE FILMS

1 Steventon Film that should be all trains

1 Steventon Film that should be all trains

2 Capital Transit B&W Night Film

2 Capital Transit B&W Night Film

3 Steventon film

3 Steventon film

4 Pennsy and B&O film

4 Pennsy and B&O film

5 Back of Kodachrome box

5 Back of Kodachrome box

6 Front of kodachrome box

6 Front of kodachrome box

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

16mm movies;

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

PRINT BLOCKS

1 Selection of print blocks

1 Selection of print blocks

2 More print blocks

2 More print blocks

3 Still more print blocks

3 Still more print blocks

4. Print block for very early RRC traction logo

4. Print block for very early RRC traction logo

5. Railroad Record Club logo print block

5. Railroad Record Club logo print block

6 Another style Railroad Record Club logo print block

6 Another style Railroad Record Club logo print block

7 Interurban car fron LP Sound Scrapbook-Traction

7 Interurban car fron LP Sound Scrapbook-Traction

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

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

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

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

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

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

11A Print block for NKP LP

11A Print block for NKP LP

12 Ad for RRC 25

12 Ad for RRC 25

13 Ad for RRC 25 reversed

13 Ad for RRC 25 reversed

14 Print block for large ad

14 Print block for large ad

15 Print block for large ad reversed

15 Print block for large ad reversed

16 Ad for traction watch fobs

16 Ad for traction watch fobs

17 Ad for steam LPs

17 Ad for steam LPs

18 Ad for steam LPs reversed

18 Ad for steam LPs reversed

19 Strange RRC ad

19 Strange RRC ad

20 Strange RRC ad printed version

20 Strange RRC ad printed version

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

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

RECORDS

1 41 copies of RRC 3

1 41 copies of RRC 3

2 18 copies of RRC 5

2 18 copies of RRC 5

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

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

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

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

5 Back of RCA test pressing for Illinois Terminal

5 Back of RCA test pressing for Illinois Terminal

6 Close up of RCA test pressing for Illinois Terminal

6 Close up of RCA test pressing for Illinois Terminal

7 Close up of RCA test pressing for NKP

7 Close up of RCA test pressing for NKP

8 RCA test pressing for CN showing damage

8 RCA test pressing for CN showing damage

9 Metal press stamp

9 Metal press stamp

10 Metal press stamp with cardboard sleeve

10 Metal press stamp with cardboard sleeve

11 RRC Nashville Metal press stamp

11 RRC Nashville Metal press stamp

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

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

13 3 RRC Nashville Metal press stamps

13 3 RRC Nashville Metal press stamps

14 Metal press stamp for RRC LP

14 Metal press stamp for RRC LP

15 Railroad Record Club SP-4 boxes and sleeves

15 Railroad Record Club SP-4 boxes and sleeves

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

12″ remaster LPs:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PHOTOGRAPHS

NP 4-8-4 2686

NP 4-8-4 2686

CA&E Elgin train on street in Aurora IL 1931

CA&E Elgin train on street in Aurora IL 1931

Capital Transit PCC and bus Catholic University

Capital Transit PCC and bus Catholic University

D&RGW 476 locomotive featured on SP-1

D&RGW 476 locomotive featured on SP-1

D&RGW 481

D&RGW 481

Des Moines & Central Iowa car 1710

Des Moines & Central Iowa car 1710

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

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

Evansville & Ohio Valley car 134

Evansville & Ohio Valley car 134

Ill Terminal car 285

Ill Terminal car 285

Ill Terminal local on Caldwell Hill East Pearia about 1936

Ill Terminal local on Caldwell Hill East Pearia about 1936

Indiana box car 550

Indiana box car 550

Indiana RR 752 waiting for loads at mine scale

Indiana RR 752 waiting for loads at mine scale

Indiana RR car 64

Indiana RR car 64

Indiana RR car 93 at Anderson IN September 4 1938

Indiana RR car 93 at Anderson IN September 4 1938

Indiana RR Vigo with rails ripped out.

Indiana RR Vigo with rails ripped out.

Interstate car 711 ex-IPSC 427 September 3 1939

Interstate car 711 ex-IPSC 427 September 3 1939

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

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

Interurban car 44 and REA truck Rosslyn VA

Interurban car 44 and REA truck Rosslyn VA

MC&CL RR car 34

MC&CL RR car 34

MC&CL Steeple cab 52

MC&CL Steeple cab 52

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

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

S T F Co RR 54 Farmington MO

S T F Co RR 54 Farmington MO

Unidentified car and person

Unidentified car and person

Unidentified steeple cab locomotive

Unidentified steeple cab locomotive

Unidentified steeple cab locomotive photo 2

Unidentified steeple cab locomotive photo 2

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

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

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

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

DOCUMENTS

Stack of prints of Soo 2715

Stack of prints of Soo 2715

VHS VIDEO TAPES 

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Kenneth Gear

New Steam Audio CD:

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

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

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

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

Total time – 72:56

Order Our New Book Building Chicago’s Subways

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

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

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

Bibliographic information:

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

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

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

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

For Shipping to US Addresses:

For Shipping to Canada:

For Shipping Elsewhere:

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

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

Help Support The Trolley Dodger

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William A. Steventon’s Railroad Record Club

William Steventon

William Steventon

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

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

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

-David Sadowski

INTRODUCTION

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

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

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

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

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

WILLIAM STEVENTON & THE RAILROAD RECORD CLUB 

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

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

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

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

First recording

First recording

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steventon pre-RRC 78rpm records

Steventon pre-RRC 78rpm records

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

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

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

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

RRC intro record

RRC intro record

RRC INTRO old SP5

RRC INTRO old SP5

Bill Steventon recording compressor noise on CNS&M interurban

Bill Steventon recording compressor noise on CNS&M interurban

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE RAILROAD RECORD CLUB SAMPLERS

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excellent HM Pech cover RRC 5

Excellent HM Pech cover RRC 5

Marginal HM Pech cover 1st edition of Record number 8

Marginal HM Pech cover 1st edition of Record number 8

RRC 19

RRC 19

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

RRC 17 Steventon enjoyed being here Hawkins WI Soo station

RRC 17 Steventon enjoyed being here Hawkins WI Soo station

RRC 17 1st edition drawing Hawkins WI Soo station

RRC 17 1st edition drawing Hawkins WI Soo station

RRC 20

RRC 20

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Kenneth Gear

New Steam Audio CD:

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

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

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

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

Total time – 72:56

Pre-Order Our New Book Building Chicago’s Subways

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

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

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

Bibliographic information:

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

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

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

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

For Shipping to US Addresses:

For Shipping to Canada:

For Shipping Elsewhere:

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

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

Help Support The Trolley Dodger

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This is our 220th post, and we are gradually creating a body of work and an online resource for the benefit of all railfans, everywhere. To date, we have received over 446,000 page views, for which we are very grateful.

You can help us continue our original transit research by checking out the fine products in our Online Store.

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New Railroad Record Club Discs

RRC23

Trolley Dodger Records
is making considerable progress towards our goal of releasing the entire output of the long-gone Railroad Record Company on compact discs. Today, we announce the availability of six more RRC LPs in digital form. Now there are just seven remaining RRC LPs that we are still looking for (see the list at the end of this post).

We have found several of these titles thanks to the generosity of collector Kenneth Gear.

Most of the 40 or so RRC discs were 10″ records with a running time of about 30 minutes apiece. Therefore, we have paired up various RRC recordings, since two will fit on a single CD. So, today we are offering three new CD collections. One previous release has been expanded.

Perhaps the rarest Railroad Record Company LP of them all is #23, Pennsylvania Trolleys. This disc showcases two of the smaller trolley systems in the Keystone State, as they existed in the early 1950s– Altona & Logan Valley and Johnstown Traction. We are excited to add this to our list of available titles as one of the “crown jewels” of the RRC collection, of which there are many.

This has been paired with RRC #30, Sound Scrapbook – Traction. This includes additional recordings from Johnstown Traction and the Altoona & Logan Valley, and adds to them the Rochester Subway, the old US Senate Subway, Grand River Railway, and Scranton Transit.

It’s worth noting that Johnstown Traction car 311, featured on these recordings, is now preserved at the Rockhill Trolley Museum.

Even by 1953-54, when these recordings were made, it was apparent that the traction era in many of the smaller cities of Pennsylvania was fast coming to an end. The last Altoona & Logan Valley streetcar ran on August 7, 1954, and the final Scranton trolley on December 18, 1954. Johnstown, the smallest US city ever to purchase new PCC streetcars, was the last to go on June 11, 1960.

Today, there is an effort underway by the Electric City Trolley Museum to restore Scranton car 505, an “Electromobile” built in 1929 by Osgood-Bradley. Its sister car 506 can be heard operating in Scranton on these recordings.

The Altoona & Logan Valley recordings on discs 23 and 30 feature car 74, which was also an Osgood-Bradley Electromobile, built in 1930. There is a picure of the car on Don’s Rail Photos:

Unless you are a Canadian traction fan, you may not know much about the Grand River Railway, an Ontario electric interurban. Passenger service was abandoned on April 23, 1955. While we do not know when the Grand River audio was recorded for RRC disc #30, most likely it was around this time. There were two final fantrips, the last of which took place on May 1, 1955. Electric freight service continued until October 1, 1961. According to the Wikipedia, parts of the old Grand River right-of-way are going to be used in the next few years for light rail.

RRC LP #28, with both Charles City Western and Waterloo, Cedar Falls & Northern, has been added to our previous CD release of #11, Shaker Heights Rapid Transit, a Cleveland area interurban.

Some of the cars on this CD are also preserved. Charles City Western car 50, now 100 years old, still operates in Iowa on the Boone & Scenic Valley Railway & Museum. Box motor OX is at the Northern Ohio Railway Museum. SHRT car 306 (formerly of the Aurora, Elgin & Fox River Electric) is now being restored at the Illinois Railway Museum.

Sadly, WCF&N car 100, which survived that interurban operation, was itself destroyed in an unfortunate fire on November 24, 1967 at the Iowa Terminal Railroad. As Don’s Rail Photos notes, “It had been the only car saved from the WCF&N roundhouse fire on October 31, 1954, when the other two cars of its class burned.” While the car itself is gone, at least these audio recordings remain.

Turning to steam, we have paired RRC LPs #03 and 16, since they are both narrow gauge recordings. These feature the Denver, Rio Grande & Western, East Broad Top Railroad, and the Westside Lumber Company.

RRC #20, which mainly features New York Central steam from the early 1950s, was almost entirely recorded in the state of Illinois. Here is where these records bring some unexpected personal stories to light.

The late William A. Steventon, founder of the Railroad Record Club, was the son of a railroad man. This record includes audio of his father operating a New York Central steam engine for the very last time in his career.

Although the RRC was based out of Hawkins, Wisconsin, Steventon himself grew up in Mt. Carmel, Illinois, in the southern part of the state, very close to the Indiana border. Therefore it should be no surprise that Steventon’s voice, as featured in the narration on the East Broad Top recordings, has a decided southern Indiana twang.

The liner notes to the Altoona & Logan Valley recordings were written by Walter Evans, who was blind from birth, but very much tuned in to the sound of Altoona trolleys. His recollections of these streetcars dated back to 1916.

I did some Internet searches and determined that Mr. Evans was born in 1910 and died in 1999, apparently living his whole life in the Altoona, Pennsylvania area. He taught at a school for the blind and retired in 1975 after having done this for 31 years.

RRC #20, which also has steam recordings of the Chicago & Illinois Midland in addition to New York Central, has been paired with an LP called Railroad Sounds. This late 1950s release came from another obscure and long defunct small record label, and includes both steam and diesel sounds from the Illinois Central.

Following up on an earlier post, one of our readers reports that the model of Chicago Surface Lines car 7001 was imported to this country by Ken Kidder. You can read more about his line of models here. Apparently, Mr. Kidder worked in the shoe department of a San Francisco department store. He was, it seems, more concerned with getting these fine models into people’s hands than he was in making money.

We are still looking for the following Railroad Record Club recordings, which are needed to complete our collection:

#19 – Duluth, Missabe & Iron Range
#21 – Duluth & Northeastern
#22 – Buffalo Creek & Gauley
#31 – Sound Scrapbook – Steam
#32 – New York Central
#33, 34 – South Shore Line (freight)

All other RRC recordings, including LPs #1-19, 20, 23-30, 35-36, plus Special releases 1-6, are available now in our Online Store. These come with free shipping within the United States.

-David Sadowski

RRC30


Help Support The Trolley Dodger

This is our 96th post, and we are gradually creating a body of work and an online resource for the benefit of all railfans, everywhere. To date, we received more than 91,000 page views from more than 26,800 individuals.

You can help us continue our original transit research by checking out the fine products in our Online Store. You can make a donation there as well.

As we have said before, “If you buy here, we will be here.”

We thank you for your support.


RRC23 RRC30

RRC #23 and 30
Pennsylvania Trolleys
Sound Scrapbook – Traction
# of Discs – 1
Price: $14.95

Record #23:
Car No. 311 of the Johnstown Traction Company running in city streets, going over switches, and the thump of the compressor. You can almost “feel” the sway of the car over low joints! Side Two is car No. 74 of the Altoona and Logan Valley on track work in Altoona.

Johnstown Traction car 311 is now preserved at the Rockhill Trolley Museum in Pennsylvania.

Record #30:
A wide selection of traction sounds including Rochester Subway, Senate Subway, Grand River Railway, Scranton Transit, Altoona & Logan Valley and the Johnstown Traction Company compressors, air horns, flange squeal, and even trolley seats being turned.

Total time – 61:22


Screen Shot 05-06-15 at 12.28 AMRRC28

RRC #11 and 28
Shaker Heights Rapid Transit
Charles City Western
Waterloo, Cedar Falls & Northern
# of Discs – 1
Price: $14.95

Record #11:
Shades of the past with Shaker Heights Rapid Transit Nos. 30 and 306 sporting air horns and whistles from the Lake Shore Electric and Cincinnati & Lake Erie. Box Motor OX on rusty rail with lots of whistling. Even line car 101 puts in its appearance! If you like traction, you’ll like this.

Record #28:
An “on train” recording of Charles City Western No. 50 on the Colwell branch. A whistle that varies in pitch, controller notching and motor hum. Waterloo, Cedar Falls & Northern city car 381 leaving the Waterloo station for Cedar Falls. Also loco 184 and compressors on No. 100.

Total time – 64:45


RRC03 RRC16

RRC #03 and 16
East Broad Top Railroad and Coal Company
Denver and Rio Grande Western
Westside Lumber Company
# of Discs – 1
Price: $14.95

Record #03:
Trackside recordings of the East Broad Top while it was still a common carrier. Scenes from Rockhill Furnace to Robertsdale, including an upgrade struggle near Kimmel. Side Two is a trackside scene of No. 499 and 481 fighting upgrade at Cumbres Pass on the Denver and Rio Grande Western.

Record #16:
The exhaust of a Shay is soft and rapid. Here are soft, stuttering exhausts and whistles echoing along rocky hills. This is lumber transport in rough country with Westside Lumber Company Nos. 8, 9, and 10 picturing the indestructible Shay in action!

Total time – 68:48


RRC20CoverRRSounds

RRC #20 and RRS
New York Central
Chicago and Illinois Midland
# of Discs – 1
Price: $14.95

Record #20:
New York Central locomotives 5382, 1599, 3140 and an “on train” switching scene at Cairo, Illinois on the 1441. Side Two is Chicago & Illinois Midland No. 701 southbound, and the No. 540 switching. Gulf, Mobile & Ohio diesel No. 1110 presents an unusual program with the 540.

Record #RRS:
The steam and diesel sounds of a vanishing era… they become dimmer and dimmer as the sounds of a new and greater power age grow to be more of a reality with every passing day. They are part of the romance of America that will always be with us, in spite of atomic power and new technical wonders. for here, through the process of full frequency range recording, every nuance of this sound world of railroading is captured with earth-shaking dynamism. Here is a galvanic auditory experience for high fidelity enthusiasts to enjoy as they contemplate the rich pageantry of railroading and its mighty impact on the growth of an industrial world. Featuring the sounds of the New Orleans Division of the Illinois Central Railroad.

Total time – 55:37


Revisiting the Railroad Record Club

An RRC insert, found inside a vintage 1965 LP.

An RRC insert, found inside a vintage 1965 LP.

Following up on our earlier post about the Railroad Record Club (April 12), we found some interesting documents inside one of the many steam and traction LPs they issued in the 1950s and 60s. These date to late 1965.

The RRC Newsletter shows that record #32 came out late in 1965, and the five “special” pressings were also out by then. There is a mention that the company that pressed their records (RCA) was getting out of the business soon, but this may simply mean that they no longer wanted to make 10″ records, which were going out of favor.

The remaining four RRC tiles #33-36 most likely came out in 1966, since the club had been putting out four records per year. Those were also issued on 10″ LPs, but after that, the Railroad Record Club only put out reissues on 12″ vinyl.

There is also a description of a pressing error, where RCA apparently mismatched some of the two Nickel Plate Road LPs. RRC sold these to the public but unfortunately did not mark them as such.

Some recordings that were never issued are mentioned, including one of the Queensboro Bridge trolley, which last ran on April 7, 1957. Perhaps there is still rare traction audio out there waiting to be rediscovered.

Here is a video of that trolley*:

In response to your requests for more RRC titles on CD, we have added eight more steam titles to our Online Store. Nearly all of these have two RRC titles together on single compact disc.

To give you an idea of the relative value of cost, fifty years ago versus today, we made a comparison using one of those online inflation calculators. Each 10″ LP cost $4.00 in 1965, which is the equivalent of $30.30 now.

By comparison, we are offering two RRC discs in most cases for just $14.95.

The special South Shore Line 3-disc box set cost $12.49 when first issued, which would be nearly $100 in today’s money. We have the same title on two discs for only $19.95.

In addition to the Railroad Record Club recordings, we have also transferred a few other public domain recordings to compact disc.

We are still looking for a copy of RRC #23, which features Pennsylvania traction. There are vintage 1950s recordings of both the Johnstown Traction and the Altoona & Logan Valley streetcars on that disc. If you have a copy of this rare title that you would be willing to share with us, we would be glad to transfer it to compact disc and send you back your original along with a copy.

Thanks.

-Ye Olde Editor

*The narration is by prolific author Vincent F. Seyfried (1918-2012). He does get one thing wrong, however. The trolleys used on the Queensboro Bridge operation in its last days were built in 1930, not 1948.

Car 601, an “Electromobile” built by Osgood-Bradley, survived until 2009. It had been allowed to deteriorate for many years in storage, but at least parts from this car will help restore others.

The RRC Newsletter from late 1965.

The RRC Newsletter from late 1965.

The RRC Order Form from late 1965. LPs cost $4.00, which is the equivalent of $30.30 today. The $12.49 cost of the 3-disc South Shore Line recording would equate to $94.62 now.

The RRC Order Form from late 1965. LPs cost $4.00, which is the equivalent of $30.30 today. The $12.49 cost of the 3-disc South Shore Line recording would equate to $94.62 now.

RRC sold more than just records.

RRC sold more than just records.

There was a pressing error in 1965, and some of the two Nickel Plate LPs got mixed up. RRC sold these errors to the public and left it up to the purchaser to take note of the mistake.

There was a pressing error in 1965, and some of the two Nickel Plate LPs got mixed up. RRC sold these errors to the public and left it up to the purchaser to take note of the mistake.

Several new RRC steam titles are now available in our Online Store.

Several new RRC steam titles are now available in our Online Store.

The Trolley Dodger Online Store

Railroad Record Club disc #13.

Railroad Record Club disc #13.

FYI, we now have an online store, where you can purchase historic railfan audio recordings on compact discs. We will update our catalog as additional titles become available, and you can also find our online store via a link on our home page. We can accept orders for both US and international shipment.

Payment can be made via PayPal, or credit and debit cards. Credit card processing is done via a secure third-party vendor and you will not be sharing any of your credit card information with us.

You can now also make a donation towards keeping this website going, and help us continue to offer you the finest historic railfan photographs available, and the important research we are doing. We thank you in advance for your purchases and your support.

If you prefer to pay by check sent through the mail, drop us a line and we will give you the particulars.

Please note that Illinois residents must pay 9.25% sale tax on their purchases.

Thanks.

-The Trolley Dodger

Historic Audio Recordings on Compact Disc

The Trolley Dodger is making some historic public domain audio recordings available once again, digitally remastered to compact discs. All recordings are new digital transfers made in 2015 using the newest and most advanced technology. These “orphan works” were originally issued on vinyl in the 1950s and 1960s and have been out of print for a long time.

Our intention is to eventually reissue the entire output of the long-defunct Railroad Record Club. If you can assist with this effort, helping us find additional recordings that can be transferred, please contact us at: thetrolleydodger@gmail.com

These prices include shipping within the United States. If you need international shipping, there is an additional $5 charge per order that you can add to your shopping cart using one of the buttons below.

You can find detailed information on each RRC recording via our discography.

Most single discs include approximately 60 minutes of hi-fi audio. Orders will be shipped by either USPS First Class or Media Mail. All items on this list are in stock and available for immediate shipment. A copy of the original liner notes for each record will be enclosed.


RRC #02 and 25 (Traction)
Waterloo, Cedar Falls & Northern, Southern Iowa Railway
Illinois Terminal Railroad
# of Discs – 1
Price: $14.95


RRC #06 and 27 (Traction)
Potomac Edison (Hagerstown & Frederick)
Capital Transit Company
# of Discs – 1
Price: $14.95


RRC #07 and 13 (Steam)
Norfolk & Western, Illinois Central (also includes a bit of Illinois Terminal Railroad traction)
Nickel Plate Road
# of Discs – 1
Price: $14.95


RRC #11 (Traction)
Shaker Heights Rapid Transit
# of Discs – 1
Price: $7.95

This recording is being offered at a reduced price since it is only about 30 minutes long. We expect to pair it up with an additional recording in the future.


RRC #14 and SP6 (Traction)
Pacific Electric
The Milwaukee Road (electric freight)
# of Discs – 1
Price: $14.95


RRC #18 and 26 (Traction)
Chicago, North Shore & Milwaukee (passenger)
Chicago, North Shore & Milwaukee (freight)
# of Discs – 1
Price: $14.95


RRC #35 and 36 (Traction)
Milwaukee & Suburban Transport, Chicago, North Shore & Milwaukee
Chicago, Aurora & Elgin, Chicago Transit Authority
# of Discs – 1
Price: $14.95


RRC #SP4 (Traction)
Chicago, South Shore & South Bend Railroad
# of Discs – 2
Price: $19.95

This two-disc set contains about 90 minutes of audio and documents an entire 1962 trip on the South Shore Line between Chicago and South Bend.


IM (Traction)
Interurban Memories
# of Discs – 1
Price: $14.95

Interurban Memories includes approximately 46 minutes of hi-fi audio of the Pacific Electric and the North Shore Line in their twilight years 1959-1960. This was originally issued on LP by a record company that has long been out of business.


International Shipping Surcharge
Price: $5.00 USD

For use on orders that will be shipped outside the United States. Orders will be shipped via USPS First Class International.


Donations

In order to continue giving you the kinds of historic railroad images that you have come to expect from The Trolley Dodger, we need your help and support. It costs money to maintain this website, and to do the sort of historic research that is our specialty. Your financial contributions help make this possible and are greatly appreciated.

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A Railroad Record Club Discography

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The Railroad Record Club was started in the early 1950s by William Steventon (1921-1993), a farmer living near Hawkins, Wisconsin.  He issued a total of 37 10″ records (each containing about 30 minutes of audio) in his original series between about 1955 and 1965. In most years, four titles were issued.

One fan reports, “The Railroad Record Club was a hobby operation. Bill would edit tapes either sent to him by his friends, or from his own work, make a master tape, and send it off RCA’s custom record plant.”

Most records featured steam locomotives, but there were some traction recordings as well.  All of these included sounds that were once familiar to all, but were already fast disappearing from the American scene.  The recordings of the Railroad Record Club are an important part of the historical record, and supplement the films and photographs taken at the time.

Eventually, some of the original discs were reissued on 12″.  There were also some samplers made.

Hard information about the RRC seems to be lacking on the Internet, but I did find this article from the March 6, 1958 issue of the Milwaukee Sentinel:

TOWN STILL HEARS TRAIN ‘CHUG-CHUG’

HAWKINS, Wis., March 5 (Special) – The chug-chug of coal burning locomotives pulling up steep grades and the lonesome wail of the steam whistle can still be heard in this Rusk County village.  This is despite the fact that Soo Line train engines running through Hawkins have been dieselized for a number of years.  These sounds, instead, come from some 200,000 feet of tape recording made by William A. Steventon, manager of the Cream Valley Telephone Co. here.

200 CLUB MEMBERS

Steventon is the organizer of the Railroad Record Club, which has some 200 members throughout the United States and in several foreign countries.  During 1957 he sold 1,000 records in America, New Zealand, Australia, England and Canada.

Steventon got into this fascinating sideline in 1953 when his bride-to-be gave him a record of railroad sounds for Christmas.  It was of imitation noises, recorded in a studio.  This sounds like an unusual gift, until you learn that Steventon is the son of a locomotive engineer and climbed up on a chair to watch the trains go past his home in Mt. Carmel, Ill., as soon as he could walk.

TOY TRAINS AT 4

He got his first toy electric train when he was four years old.  As a teenager in the 1930s, he started building scale model electric trains.  Electric trains particularly fascinated Steventon.  He collected pictures of interurban lines throughout the country, also visiting as many of them as he could.

He now has seven complete model train sets and is working on another.  He hopes to get into steam locomotives later.  When he finishes building his new home east of Hawkins, Steventon plans to set up a system of tracks for his train.

When Steventon, working then for the government in Washington, D. C., got the sound recording for Christmas, he decided to record the real McCoy.

VISITED 15 STATES

Since then he has recorded steam and electric trains in 15 states– from New York to California, even in Chicago’s smoky Loop.  As you sit in Steventon’s office listening to the huff and puff of the engine and the clickety-clack of wheels over rail joints, you almost feel the sway of the cars.

Some recordings offered by Steventon to club members include sounds no longer heard on railroads such as the Illinois Terminal, Johnstown Traction, Potomac Edison, Waterloo, Cedar Falls & Northern, Shaker Heights Rapid Transit, Denver and Rio Grande Western, New York Central and the Duluth, Mesabi and Iron Range.  Club members are required to buy three of four records offered each year at a reduced rate.

ONE DESCRIBED

Here is his description of one record:

“One side will consist  of locomotive switching at Spooner, Wis.  Did you ever ride a sleeper and stop at some division point in the wee hours and listen to a nearby switch engine doing yeard work in a misting rain?  This is just such a recording.

“The other side will have the last steamer on the Wabash doing yard work at Bluffs, Ill.  This recording was made from the train and captures all the thrilling sounds of the air pump, clanging firebox door, exhaust and whistles.  This steamer has been retired since the spring of 1955, but lives on in this recording.”

Steventon said one woman in Maine wrote him that records her son has purchased “were so realistic that smoke from the trains got my curtains dirty.”

So, it appears Steventon dated the founding of the club to Christmas 1953, although I don’t think any records were issued before 1955.  The first introductory record was unnumbered, and the ones that followed ran from 1-36.  There were at least six special pressings in the early 1970s, and various samplers that presumably gave club members and record dealers some idea of what they could order each year.  Some records were reissued in 12″ format, and the club seems to have kept going until around 1986.

Here is what I assume to be a more or less complete Railroad Record Club discography. As far as I know, this is the first and only such discography that you will find online.

-David Sadowski

RAILROAD RECORD CLUB TITLES
0 Soo Line, Illinois Central (Introductory Record)
1 Wabash Railroad, Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha
2 Waterloo, Cedar Falls & Northern, Southern Iowa Railway
3 Denver, Rio Grande & Western, East Broad Top
4 Baltimore and Ohio
5 Denver & Rio Grande Western
6 Potomac Edison (Hagerstown & Frederick)
7 Norfolk & Western, Illinois Central (Also includes a bit of Illinois Terminal Railroad)
8 Canadian National (aka Canadian Railroading in the Days of Steam)
9 Winston-Salem Southbound
10 Pennsylvania Railroad
11 Shaker Heights Rapid Transit
12 Duluth Missabe & Iron Range
13 Nickel Plate Road
14 Pacific Electric
15 Chicago, Burlington & Quincy
16 Westside Lumber Company
17 Minneapolis & St Paul, Sault Ste Marie Railway
18 Chicago, North Shore & Milwaukee
19 Duluth, Missabe & Iron Range
20 Chicago & Illinois Midland – New York Central
21 Duluth & Northeastern
22 Buffalo Creek & Gauley
23 Pennsy Trolleys
24 Canadian Pacific
25 Illinois Terminal Railroad
26 Chicago, North Shore & Milwaukee (freight)
27 Capital Transit Company
28 Charles City Western – Waterloo, Cedar Falls & Northern
29 Nickel Plate Road
30 Sound Scrapbook, Traction
31 Sound Scrapbook, Steam
32 New York Central
33 Chicago, South Shore & South Bend (freight)
34 Chicago, South Shore & South Bend (freight)
35 Milwaukee & Suburban Transport, Chicago, North Shore & Milwaukee (Disc says No. 36)
36 Chicago, Aurora & Elgin, Chicago Transit Authority (Disc says No. 35)

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

Samplers
S1 1st & 2nd Years -1-4, 5-8
S2 3rd & 4th Years – 9-12, 13-16
S3 5th Year – 17-20
S4 6th Year – 21-24
S5 7th & 8th Years – 25-28, 29-32
S6 9th year – 33-36

PS- Eric Bronsky writes:

As it turns out, I acquired a bunch of recordings many years ago and still have my copy of that Club’s 1965-1970 catalog. Scans are attached. The detailed description of each record should help you to fill in any gaps. You’re welcome to share these images through your blog.

I recall Bill Steventon’s apology for having to raise the price of all 10″ records to $4.00 (postpaid)! In those days the price increase seemed steep because I was earning only $3.00/hour.

I also saved several Record Club newsletters from various years up to 1986 and a 1971 catalog from Mobile Fidelity Records, which produced the original Interurban Memories album. All-Nation Hobby Shop once had a “record department” which sold RR sound recordings from several sources. “Traction Ted” Seifert was in charge of this.

RRRC 01

RRRC 02

RRRC 03

RRRC 04

RRRC 05

RRRC 06

RRRC 07

Railroad Record Club disc #13.

Railroad Record Club disc #13.

PS- You can now purchase some of these historic recordings on compact disc through our Online Store. We also posted a follow-up article about the RRC that you can read here.