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The Chicago and West Towns Railway

Sunday, June 23, 2013 2:04 PM | Ed Graziano (Administrator)
C&WT 138 heading eastbound, crossing the Illinois Central tracks on 26th near Harlem on the La Grange line on April 11, 1948. Built by McGuire-Cummings in 1924, this car was scrapped in 1948. (Photo by Charles Able)

C&WT 138 heading eastbound, crossing the Illinois Central tracks on 26th near Harlem on the La Grange line on April 11, 1948. Built by McGuire-Cummings in 1924, this car was scrapped in 1948. (Photo by Charles Able)

Newly restored Chicago and West Towns Railways car 141 will run in the Illinois Railway Museum‘s Trolley Pageant on July 6, to help celebrate IRM’s 60th anniversary. This is the culmination of a long road back for this car. After the C&WT replaced streetcars with buses in 1948, the body of 141 was sold as a shed. This lone survivor of the West Towns system was purchased by the Electric Railway Historical Society in 1958. When the ERHS collection was dispersed in 1973, it went to IRM and it took 40 years to complete restoration.

img190The Chicago and West Towns Railway was the subject of CERA B-138, written by James J. Buckley and edited by Richard W. Aaron.

Eight miles west of Chicago’s Loop is a cluster of 17 long-established communities that were served by a street railway and bus system whose roots can be traced back to the late 19th century. The Chicago & West Towns Railways operated five major streetcar lines that provided convenient and inexpensive transportation to the residents of communities of Oak Park, River Forest, Forest Park, Maywood, Cicero, Berwyn, Brookfield, and LaGrange.

The West Towns’ blue and white streetcars provided area residents with transportation to school, work and shopping. The cars were also kept busy transporting visitors to major west suburban attractions such as Brookfield Zoo, forest preserves picnic groves, Hawthorne and Sportsman’s Park racetracks, and Hines Memorial Hospital. Whether it was carrying residents from their homes in Oak Park or Forest Park to their jobs at American Can in Maywood or the giant Western Electric Company factory in Cicero, or taking Chicago families on a weekend outing to the zoo, the Chicago & West Towns Railway served as the “family car” in the era before auto ownership and traffic congestion became the norm. 250 pages and 311 photos

To purchase a copy, click here.

To pay tribute to the resurrection of car 141, here are several unseen or rarely seen West Towns streetcar photos. Most were taken by the late transit activist Norman Rolfe. Decades ago, he traveled the country taking trolley photos, and he spent June 9, 1947 out on the West Towns. We can see that he rode the Cermak line out to Harlem and then walked around the Suburban car barn, taking pictures of everything that was there. Chances are he made connections at Cermak and Kenton with a Chicago Surface Lines red streetcar.

The Chicago and West Towns bus service continues today via the West Division of Pace.

-David Sadowski

C&WT 139 in February 1938, when it was painted orange. Built by McGuire-Cummings in 1924 and scrapped in 1948, this car was part of the same series as 141, recently restored at the Illinois Railway Museum. Note the coupler. (Photo by Gordon Lloyd)

C&WT 139 in February 1938, when it was painted orange. Built by McGuire-Cummings in 1924 and scrapped in 1948, this car was part of the same series as 141, recently restored at the Illinois Railway Museum. Note the coupler. (Photo by Gordon Lloyd)

C&WT 130 in Maywood in 1945. Built by McGuire-Cummings in 1914, this car was scrapped in 1948. Bill Shapotkin writes, "Presume the photo of car #130 (turning the corner) is at Madison/19th (car is turning from W/B Madison into N/B 19th Ave)?"

C&WT 130 in Maywood in 1945. Built by McGuire-Cummings in 1914, this car was scrapped in 1948. Bill Shapotkin writes, “Presume the photo of car #130 (turning the corner) is at Madison/19th (car is turning from W/B Madison into N/B 19th Ave)?”

C&WT 128 at 17th in Maywood in 1945. Built by McGuire-Cummings in 1914, this car was scrapped in 1948. Bill Shapotkin writes, "Presume the photo of car #128 (at 17th Ave in Maywood) is at Lake/17th? Which direction is the car heading? Whose bus is that at the left?"

C&WT 128 at 17th in Maywood in 1945. Built by McGuire-Cummings in 1914, this car was scrapped in 1948. Bill Shapotkin writes, “Presume the photo of car #128 (at 17th Ave in Maywood) is at Lake/17th? Which direction is the car heading? Whose bus is that at the left?”

Single truck sweeper 6 was built by McGuire in 1897. #9 was built in 1928 by Cummings Car & Coach, and was sold to the Sand Springs Railway in 1948 and renumbered A-11. (Photo by Norman Rolfe)

Single truck sweeper 6 was built by McGuire in 1897. #9 was built in 1928 by Cummings Car & Coach, and was sold to the Sand Springs Railway in 1948 and renumbered A-11. (Photo by Norman Rolfe)

Line car 15 was built by Pullman in 1897. (Photo by Norman Rolfe)

Line car 15 was built by Pullman in 1897. (Photo by Norman Rolfe)

Line car 15 was built by Pullman in 1897. (Photo by Norman Rolfe)

Line car 15 was built by Pullman in 1897. (Photo by Norman Rolfe)

Edward Halstead writes, "Here's a photo of my 1/4" scale model of CWT 15. The crooked front pole is included."

Edward Halstead writes, “Here’s a photo of my 1/4″ scale model of CWT 15. The crooked front pole is included.”

C&WT 100 was built by McGuire-Cummings in 1917 and scrapped in 1948. (Photo by Norman Rolfe)

C&WT 100 was built by McGuire-Cummings in 1917 and scrapped in 1948. (Photo by Norman Rolfe)

C&WT 104 was a McGuire-Cummings product, dating to 1917, and was scrapped in 1948. (Photo by Norman Rolfe)

C&WT 104 was a McGuire-Cummings product, dating to 1917, and was scrapped in 1948. (Photo by Norman Rolfe)

C&WT 124 was built in 1914 by McGuire-Cummings, and was scrapped in 1948. (Photo by Norman Rolfe)

C&WT 124 was built in 1914 by McGuire-Cummings, and was scrapped in 1948. (Photo by Norman Rolfe)

The motorman changes ends on C&WT 128 at Cermak and Kenton, preparing for the return trip west. Passengers heading east would take a Chicago Surface Lines streetcar from this point. Car 128 was built in 1914 by McGuire-Cummings and was scrapped in 1948. (Photo by Norman Rolfe)

The motorman changes ends on C&WT 128 at Cermak and Kenton, preparing for the return trip west. Passengers heading east would take a Chicago Surface Lines streetcar from this point. Car 128 was built in 1914 by McGuire-Cummings and was scrapped in 1948. (Photo by Norman Rolfe)

C&WT single-truck sweeper 7 was built by Taunton in 1900 as Suburban RR 7. (Photo by Norman Rolfe)

C&WT single-truck sweeper 7 was built by Taunton in 1900 as Suburban RR 7. (Photo by Norman Rolfe)

C&WT single-truck sweeper 5 was built by McGuire-Cummings in 1913 as County Traction 5. (Photo by Norman Rolfe)

C&WT single-truck sweeper 5 was built by McGuire-Cummings in 1913 as County Traction 5. (Photo by Norman Rolfe)

C&WT single-truck sweeper 6 was built by McGuire in 1897 as Suburban RR 6. (Photo by Norman Rolfe)

C&WT single-truck sweeper 6 was built by McGuire in 1897 as Suburban RR 6. (Photo by Norman Rolfe)

C&WT single-truck sweeper 5 was built by McGuire-Cummings in 1913 and was originally County Traction 5. #7 was built by Taunton in 1900 for Suburban RR. (Photo by Norman Rolfe)

C&WT single-truck sweeper 5 was built by McGuire-Cummings in 1913 and was originally County Traction 5. #7 was built by Taunton in 1900 for Suburban RR. (Photo by Norman Rolfe)

C&WT flat car behind the Suburban car barn. (Photo by Norman Rolfe)

C&WT flat car behind the Suburban car barn. (Photo by Norman Rolfe)

C&WT 158 was built by Cummings Car & Coach in 1927 and scrapped in 1948. (Photo by Norman Rolfe)

C&WT 158 was built by Cummings Car & Coach in 1927 and scrapped in 1948. (Photo by Norman Rolfe)

C&WT 164, built by Cummings Car & Coach in 1927, was scrapped in 1947. (Photo by Norman Rolfe)

C&WT 164, built by Cummings Car & Coach in 1927, was scrapped in 1947. (Photo by Norman Rolfe)

C&WT 165, built by Cummings Car & Coach in 1927, was scrapped in 1947. (Photo by Norman Rolfe)

C&WT 165, built by Cummings Car & Coach in 1927, was scrapped in 1947. (Photo by Norman Rolfe)

Scrapped trucks in the yard behind the Suburban car barn at Harlem and Cermak. (Photo by Norman Rolfe)

Scrapped trucks in the yard behind the Suburban car barn at Harlem and Cermak. (Photo by Norman Rolfe)

C&WT 152, ready to head west from Cermak and Kenton. This car was built by Cummings Car & Coach in 1927 and scrapped in 1948. (Photo by Norman Rolfe)

C&WT 152, ready to head west from Cermak and Kenton. This car was built by Cummings Car & Coach in 1927 and scrapped in 1948. (Photo by Norman Rolfe)

C&WT 144 was built by McGuire-Cummings in 1924 and scrapped in 1947. (Photo by Norman Rolfe)

C&WT 144 was built by McGuire-Cummings in 1924 and scrapped in 1947. (Photo by Norman Rolfe)

C&WT 140, a sister car to 141, was built by McGuire-Cummings in 1924 and scrapped in 1948. (Photo by Norman Rolfe)

C&WT 140, a sister car to 141, was built by McGuire-Cummings in 1924 and scrapped in 1948. (Photo by Norman Rolfe)

C&WT 139, a sister car to 141, was built by McGuire-Cummings in 1924 and scrapped in 1948. (Photo by Norman Rolfe)

C&WT 139, a sister car to 141, was built by McGuire-Cummings in 1924 and scrapped in 1948. (Photo by Norman Rolfe)

C&WT 135 was built by McGuire-Cummings in 1919 and was scrapped in 1947. The photographer wasn't sure whether this workman had spoiled his shot, so he took another one after this. (Photo by Norman Rolfe)

C&WT 135 was built by McGuire-Cummings in 1919 and was scrapped in 1947. The photographer wasn’t sure whether this workman had spoiled his shot, so he took another one after this. (Photo by Norman Rolfe)

C&WT 135 was built by McGuire-Cummings in 1919 and was scrapped in 1947. (Photo by Norman Rolfe)

C&WT 135 was built by McGuire-Cummings in 1919 and was scrapped in 1947. (Photo by Norman Rolfe)

CTA 1772 on Cermak at Karlov on November 15, 1950. Five blocks west of here, red streetcars would change passengers with the Chicago and West Towns, at the border between Chicago and Cicero.

CTA 1772 on Cermak at Karlov on November 15, 1950. Five blocks west of here, red streetcars would change passengers with the Chicago and West Towns, at the border between Chicago and Cicero.

C&WT line car 15 in a photograph by Lamar M. Kelley, an early CERA member who died in 1947. This picture may date to the late 1930s.

C&WT line car 15 in a photograph by Lamar M. Kelley, an early CERA member who died in 1947. This picture may date to the late 1930s.

C&WT in an undated photo, most likely taken at the Harlem & Cermak car barn. (Photographer unknown)

C&WT in an undated photo, most likely taken at the Harlem & Cermak car barn. (Photographer unknown)

April 6, 1948 - "It's a new era- Streetcars are gone from the bumpy Berwyn-LaGrange line and a ribbon is cut at Lombard av. and Cermak rd., to mark the opening of bus service. Henry J. Sandusky, mayor of Cicero and William J. Kriz, mayor of Berwyn, snip the tape as officials of Brookfield, LaGrange and Riverside look on." (Unknown photographer)

April 6, 1948 – “It’s a new era- Streetcars are gone from the bumpy Berwyn-LaGrange line and a ribbon is cut at Lombard av. and Cermak rd., to mark the opening of bus service. Henry J. Sandusky, mayor of Cicero and William J. Kriz, mayor of Berwyn, snip the tape as officials of Brookfield, LaGrange and Riverside look on.” (Unknown photographer)


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