Central Electric 
Railfans' Association

  • Thursday, May 02, 2013 3:40 PM | Ed Graziano (Administrator)

    The response to our Mystery Filmstrip Contest has been very gratifying. As I write this, there is still time to get your submission in, since the deadline is not until midnight (Chicago time ) on Tuesday, May 7, 2013.

    We’ve been inspired to run a second contest. This one is both easier and harder than the first one. Here are several vintage images of the Garfield and Congress lines, with a few CA&E photos mixed in. Your task is to try and identify as many locations as you can, and narrow down when the pictures were taken. Please refer to the pictures by their number as given in the captions. Again, you have one week to get your entry in to: cerablog1@gmail.com

    We will select a winner based on the best overall entry. Your prize will be a copy of CERA Bulletin 126, A Rainbow of Traction. We will then show the photos again, with updated captions.

    We hope that you enjoy the photos. The deadline for this second contest is midnight Chicago time on Friday, May 10, 2013. Good luck!

    #1 - Green Hornet "L" car meets Green Hornet streetcar. Photo by Bill Hoffman (Editor's collection)

    #1 – Green Hornet “L” car meets Green Hornet streetcar. Photo by Bill Hoffman (Editor’s collection)


    #2

    #2

    #3

    #3

    #4

    #4

    #5

    #5

    #6

    #6

    #7

    #7

    #8 - Photo by George Krambles (Editor's collection)

    #8 – Photo by George Krambles (Editor’s collection)

    #9

    #9

    #10

    #10

    #11

    #11

    #12

    #12

    #13

    #13

    #14

    #14

    #15

    #15

    #16

    #16

    #17

    #17

    #18

    #18

    #19

    #19

    #20

    #20

    #21

    #21

    #22

    #22

    #23

    #23

    #24

    #24

    #25

    #25

    #26

    #26

    #27

    #27


  • Tuesday, April 30, 2013 3:42 PM | Ed Graziano (Administrator)

    If a picture is worth 1000 words, how much is a filmstrip good for? Well, in this case, it’s worth a copy of vintage CERA Bulletin 97, published in 1953, about the electric railways of Wisconsin. You can win it in our Mystery Filmstrip Contest.

    Here’s how to play:

    In this post, we are publishing all the printable images from a single roll of Kodak Super XX film taken decades ago on someone’s trip to Chicago. Taken together, these pictures contain clues about when and where these pictures were taken. All the information we’re giving you is the frame numbers and the images themselves.

    Try to guess the date, or a range of dates, when these pictures may have been taken, and also try to identify the locations of as many of the images as you can. Submit your answer in writing no later than midnight Chicago time on Tuesday, May 7, 2013- one week from the date of this post. We will pick a winner based on best overall performance.

    Send your contest entries to: cerablog1@gmail.com

    The lucky winner will be announced on Wednesday, May 8th. We will send the winner their prize by mail.

    Good luck!

    Frame 7

    Frame 7


    Frame 18

    Frame 18

    Frame 11

    Frame 11

    Frame 12

    Frame 12

    Frame 13

    Frame 13

    Frame 14

    Frame 14

    Frame 10

    Frame 10

    Frame 9

    Frame 9

    Frame 8

    Frame 8

    Frame 15

    Frame 15

    Frame 16

    Frame 16

    Frame 17

    Frame 17

    Frame 00

    Frame 00

    Frame 0

    Frame 0

    Frame 1

    Frame 1

    Frame 2

    Frame 2

    Frame 19

    Frame 19

    Frame 20

    Frame 20

    Frame 21

    Frame 21

    CERA Bulletin 97

    CERA Bulletin 97


  • Thursday, April 25, 2013 3:44 PM | Ed Graziano (Administrator)

    CTA Seating Survey

    CTA riders have a rare opportunity to express their opinions about the new “bowling alley” seating on the 5000-series “L” cars via a new survey. These cars have New York-style seats that mainly face sideways, instead of the more traditional two-across ones as in previous train cars. The 5000s have only four forward-facing seats per car, and eventually, most of the CTA fleet will be made up of these cars. The new seating arrangement is controversial to say the least, and this is your chance to do something about it.

    Riders can express their opinions about CTA "L" car seating in a new survey. This crowd, from about 100 years ago, looks like a tough audience, but at least they are all facing forward. (Author's collection)

    Riders can express their opinions about CTA “L” car seating in a new survey. This crowd, from about 100 years ago, looks like a tough audience, but at least they are all facing forward. (Author’s collection)


    illusiontravelsbystreetcar

    Friday Night’s CERA Program

    Our April CERA program will feature Illusion Travels by Streetcar, a 1953 Mexican film directed by Luis Buñuel. It tells the story of a Mexico City streetcar conductor and motorman, who, learning that their old car #133 is about to be scrapped (replaced by a PCC), sneak the car out for one last joy ride that gets out of control. They pick up various interesting characters along the way, all the while refusing to collect fares. Then, they have to sneak the car back into the yard without getting caught.

    Illusion Travels by Streetcar is a charming film, and one not seen in the United States until 1977. Luis Buñuel (1900-1983) was a world-famous director best known for such films as Un Chien Andalou, L’Age d’Or, Belle de Jour, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, and That Obscure Object of Desire. Six of his films were included in Sight & Sound‘s 2012 critic’s poll of the top 250 films of all time. Buñuel made his reputation as a surrealist, in league with Salvador Dali, but while there are a few surrealistic touches in the film, there is nothing that detracts from telling a good story.

    This film was commissioned by the Mexico City streetcar system itself, in an attempt to improve their image, after a bad accident the year before. However, characteristically, Buñuel makes the officials of the streetcar company the villains, and the working man the hero.

    David Sadowski will introduce the 82-minute film, which is in Spanish with English subtitles, and Ray DeGroote will round out the program by showing some of his slides taken in Mexico City in the mid-1950s.

    Friday, April 26, 2013
    1900 hrs / 7:00pm
    University Center
    525 S State St, Chicago, IL

    Admission is free.

    News From April’s CERA Board Meeting

    Admission

    At our meeting on April 17, your CERA Board of Directors voted to institute a $5 admission charge for non-members at our monthly programs, starting with the September meeting. We hope that this will provide people who regularly attend our meetings with an incentive to become members. Admission will always be free for our current members.

    The new policy will not take effect until the September meeting, which will allow us to make announcements about the change at the three preceding meetings. Admission will be continue to be free for non-members at this year’s meetings in April, May and June.

    CERA Archives

    The board decided that it is the wish of this organization to collect, solicit, acquire and maintain an Archive of materials relating to CERA’s mission of educating the public about the history and operations of electric railways; and that such a collection will be organized by an official CERA Archivist and made available to researchers, all in conjunction with the stated purposes of the organization. This will include artifacts, photographs, negatives, slides, and documents. David Sadowski was appointed CERA Archivist.

    In that regard, CERA is now on record as being willing to accept donations of such materials, which can include collections assembled by individuals, or specific items. Donations to our Archives may be tax-deductible. For further information, please contact us at ceraoffice@gmail.com or write to us at:

    CERA
    P.O. Box 503
    Chicago, IL
    60690-0503

    -Thanks!

    Chicago Surface Lines built two cable car replicas for the 1933 Century of Progress. Since 1938, car 532 has been on display at the Museum of Science and Industry. CCR 209 is at the Illinois Railway Museum. Here is how the cars looked on February 25, 1938. Chicago's cable car system will be featured at CERA's May program, where our speaker will be author Greg Borzo. (Author's collection)

    Chicago Surface Lines built two cable car replicas for the 1933 Century of Progress. Since 1938, car 532 has been on display at the Museum of Science and Industry. CCR 209 is at the Illinois Railway Museum. Here is how the cars looked on February 25, 1938. Chicago’s cable car system will be featured at CERA’s May program, where our speaker will be author Greg Borzo. (Author’s collection)


  • Wednesday, April 24, 2013 9:38 AM | Ed Graziano (Administrator)

    Editor’s Note: All the recent rain in Chicagoland got us to thinking about earlier floods. We invited longtime CERA member Chris Buck to share this story with us:

    In 1957 the Dearborn Street Subway Flooded.

    My dad, Cecil J. Buck, known as Bud, worked for the CTA (and the CRT before that). He was an electrical engineer who advanced to the head of the electrical department before he retired. My brother, Dan, and I shared Dad’s interest in electric trains so we would often accompany him around the system when it was safe to do so. One place we went occasionally was to the storage tracks beyond the LaSalle street station on what is now the Blue Line. Before the Eisenhower (Congress) Expressway was built, The Dearborn Subway trains terminated at LaSalle Street. (The “tower” is still there at the crossovers just east of the station.) The tunnels continued west beyond the station to a point under the river and were used to store trains on the weekends. We were able to explore the 4000’s stored there. When the Eisenhower Expressway was being built and the subway was extended to meet it, we would sometimes accompany Dad on little weekend “inspection” trips through the unfinished subway.

    It happened that while the expressway was still under construction Chicago experienced a lot of rain. The expressway began to flood. There are pumps that normally keep the pavement dry. They were in place and working although the roadway was not open. The problem started because the expressway cut was not landscaped. It was mostly mud, which washed down into the pumps and clogged them. As the water in the expressway rose, it found a ready drain in the new subway tubes. The water flooded into the subway.

    Dan and I went with Dad to see how bad it was. The first access stairs we went down was flooded way above the level of the subway. Our second try took us down to the crossovers east of the LaSalle Street station. The subway opens into a “room” there which is two stories high. There is a walkway along the walls above the top of the tunnels. We could get to the walkway but the water was above the top of the tubes. The funny part was that all the lights were burning below the water. Needless to say we stayed well clear of the water. Our last look at the damage was from the south end of the Jackson Station under Dearborn Street. The water was up to the ties through the station. Looking south along the tracks you could see the tunnel disappearing down into the water, again with all the lights burning.

    Dad told us later that the water had gotten to the point that high water alarms were going off in the State Street subway. The CTA asked the fire department to pump water out of the expressway but they couldn’t help because their pumps were not capable of sucking up water that far. Dad and others asked them to put their pumpers down on the expressway pavement and pump the water up. This is what they did and the water stopped rising. The State Street subway was never shut down.

    When the Dearborn subway was finally pumped out, the work of removing all the mud and repairing all the electrical equipment began, and continued for quite a while. I will never forget the sight of all those lights burning away, under water. For many years one could see the high water mark along the tubes leaving Jackson Station.

    -Brother Chris Buck, FSC

    On July 14, 1957, the Chicago Tribune reported:

    The Chicago area counted property damage in the millions of dollars and a toll of at least nine dead yesterday as public and private agencies and thousands of householders struggled to recover from the impact of the heaviest 24 hour rainfall in the city’s history.

    In the 24 hours ended at 7 a. m. yesterday the storm dumped 6.24 inches of rain on Midway airport, and in some places the total was greater. The previous all-time record was 6.19 inches on August 2 and 3, 1885…

    Water seeping into subways caused disruption of service and damaged electrical controls.

    The Congress st. expressway was closed to traffic last night as 21 fire department pumpers worked steadily to lower flood waters that covered the roadway at Halsted st. Other pumpers worked on smaller bodies of flood waters at Ashland av., Francisco av., LaSalle st., and Oakley blvd. Fire department officials said the expressway might be opened today if there are no new rains.

    The July 16 Tribune noted:

    Service on the Logan Square subway was returned late yesterday afternoon to its normal terminus at the LaSalle-Congress station, after fire trucks finished pumping water out of the flooded station.

    The following day, the Trib reported:

    Service was restored to the Congress and LaSalle st. subway, flooded by the record rain, and the first train since Friday night was sent thru.

    (Editor’s Note: “Thru” was an example of the Chicago Tribune’s “simplified spelling” effort, which lasted from 1934-75. This had been championed by Col. Robert R. McCormick, although he did not start it. You can read more about it here.)

    During the flood, service had been cut back to the Jackson station. I would guess that service was operated along a single track going back to the nearest crossover. The Congress portion of the line was not connected up with the Dearborn-Milwaukee subway until the following year. Until then, trains from Forest Park ran downtown on the Garfield Park “L” to the Loop. Part of this line was then operating on temporary street-level trackage on Van Buren Street.

    The subways have flooded at least once since 1957. 35 years later, the old Chicago Tunnel system made famous by Bruce Moffat’s book “Forty Feet Below” filled with river water, which then inundated the State and Dearborn tunnels.

    The Congress expressway only ran as far west as Laramie in 1957, as the portion crossing the Des Plaines River had not yet been built. This section required the right-of-way of the Chicago, Aurora & Elgin interurban, which had just “temporarily” suspended passenger service on July 3rd, less than two weeks before this deluge. The expressway was extended west in 1960.

    -Ye Olde Editor

    Virgil Gunlock, CTA chairman of the board, looks at the 12 feet of water in the subway at LaSalle and Congress on July 13, 1957. (Editor's collection)

    Virgil Gunlock, CTA chairman of the board, looks at the 12 feet of water in the subway at LaSalle and Congress on July 13, 1957. (Editor’s collection)


    The CTA wasn't alone on July 13, 1957. Here motorists are stranded under the Milwaukee Road viaduct on Cicero avenue near Grand. (Photo by Pauer)

    The CTA wasn’t alone on July 13, 1957. Here motorists are stranded under the Milwaukee Road viaduct on Cicero avenue near Grand. (Photo by Pauer)

    Dennis Headley, CTA ticket agent, points to the flooded subway at the LaSalle and Congress station on July 13, 1957. (Editor's collection)

    Dennis Headley, CTA ticket agent, points to the flooded subway at the LaSalle and Congress station on July 13, 1957. (Editor’s collection)

    July 13, 1957: "The Congress expressway early Saturday looked more like a ship canal than a superhighway. This photo was taken at the expressway's intersection with Ogden Av., looking east. The route was closed to traffic after hundreds of autos were marooned." (Photographer Unknown) You can just barely make out a CTA train of 6000s running at left, on the Van Buren temporary trackage.

    July 13, 1957: “The Congress expressway early Saturday looked more like a ship canal than a superhighway. This photo was taken at the expressway’s intersection with Ogden Av., looking east. The route was closed to traffic after hundreds of autos were marooned.” (Photographer Unknown) You can just barely make out a CTA train of 6000s running at left, on the Van Buren temporary trackage.

    A close-up view of the photo above. CTA service in the expressway median did not begin until June 1958. (Photographer Unknown)

    A close-up view of the photo above. CTA service in the expressway median did not begin until June 1958. (Photographer Unknown)

    The Congress expressway at Halsted on July 13, 1957. (Editor's collection)

    The Congress expressway at Halsted on July 13, 1957. (Editor’s collection)

    Ist Division Fire Marshall Frank Tokars and a crew of firemen survey the pumping project on the Congress expressway at Halsted. Water was overflowing from the expressway in the CTA section where the "L" trains would tie in with the subway the following year. (Editor's collection)

    Ist Division Fire Marshall Frank Tokars and a crew of firemen survey the pumping project on the Congress expressway at Halsted. Water was overflowing from the expressway in the CTA section where the “L” trains would tie in with the subway the following year. (Editor’s collection)

    CTA workers sandbag retaining wall of westbound expressway on west side of Halsted (July 13, 1957).

    CTA workers sandbag retaining wall of westbound expressway on west side of Halsted (July 13, 1957).

    July 13, 1957: "Looking EAST on Congress st. expressway, from Halsted st. where the CTA L tracks will leave the expressway, and go underground, and tie in with the subway. Water flows into this section of subway." (Photo by Larry Nocerino)

    July 13, 1957: “Looking EAST on Congress st. expressway, from Halsted st. where the CTA L tracks will leave the expressway, and go underground, and tie in with the subway. Water flows into this section of subway.” (Photo by Larry Nocerino)

    CTA sandbag crew, July 13, 1957. We enjoy having an opportunity to show the real working people of this country, whose contributions are often forgotten or taken for granted.

    CTA sandbag crew, July 13, 1957. We enjoy having an opportunity to show the real working people of this country, whose contributions are often forgotten or taken for granted.

    Workmen William Metzger and Dennis Moriarty wash down the muck left by the flood on the platform of the subway at Congress and LaSalle streets on July 14, 1957. (Editor's collection)

    Workmen William Metzger and Dennis Moriarty wash down the muck left by the flood on the platform of the subway at Congress and LaSalle streets on July 14, 1957. (Editor’s collection)

    A CTA test train of 6000s in the brand new Congress Expressway median line on June 18, 1958, a few days before regular service began. (Editor's collection)

    A CTA test train of 6000s in the brand new Congress Expressway median line on June 18, 1958, a few days before regular service began. (Editor’s collection)

    Brothers Dan and Chris Buck, who piloted the three-car train of CA&E steel cars at the IRM 2013 Trolley Pageant.

    Brothers Dan and Chris Buck, who piloted the three-car train of CA&E steel cars at the IRM 2013 Trolley Pageant.


  • Monday, April 22, 2013 9:42 AM | Ed Graziano (Administrator)

    Reaction to our original post The Preservation Movement in Early Days (April 5) was very positive, so we decided to write a follow-up.

    On the one hand, we are struck by the haphazard nature of what got preserved. Some very important car types were all scrapped, while numerous examples of less important ones were saved.

    Sadly, none of Chicago's "Sedans" (aka Peter Witts) were saved, even though they were some of CSL's finest cars ever. Here we see 3377 on May 6, 1951, at 95th and Cottage Grove. (Author's collection)

    Sadly, none of Chicago’s “Sedans” (aka Peter Witts) were saved, even though they were some of CSL’s finest cars ever. Here we see 3377 on May 6, 1951, at 95th and Cottage Grove. (Author’s collection)


    The 1929 Chicago Surface Lines “Sedans,” also known as Peter Witts, were all scrapped by 1953, and therefore none were saved for posterity. Today, you can ride Milan Witts in several cities, including San Francisco, but none from Chicago- or Cleveland, for that matter, where Peter Witt got his start.

    Again, what a shame that none of the Cleveland "Peter Witts" were saved. Here, we see CTS 4098 at the Euclid Car House on June 12, 1950. This car was scrapped on November 10, 1953. Car 4144 was sold to Norman Muller in 1954, and moved to his residence in South Lorain, where it was painted green and lettered "Arlington Traction Co." Muller had a whistle and pipe organ installed. Unfortunately, when the car came up for sale again, Gerald Brookins had just purchased an abundance of CA&E cars and took a pass. Thus the last Cleveland Witt was scrapped in 1962. (Author's collection)

    Again, what a shame that none of the Cleveland “Peter Witts” were saved. Here, we see CTS 4098 at the Euclid Car House on June 12, 1950. This car was scrapped on November 10, 1953. Car 4144 was sold to Norman Muller in 1954, and moved to his residence in South Lorain, where it was painted green and lettered “Arlington Traction Co.” Muller had a whistle and pipe organ installed. Unfortunately, when the car came up for sale again, Gerald Brookins had just purchased an abundance of CA&E cars and took a pass. Thus the last Cleveland Witt was scrapped in 1962. (Author’s collection)

    One of the Cleveland Witts survived until 1962, and it is unfortunate that Gerald E. Brookins did not buy the car. He had just purchased several ex-Chicago, Aurora & Elgin cars, including the only four of the 451-460 series that were saved. Those cars had only seen 12 years of service in Chicago, and still had plenty of miles left in them.

    Chicago, Aurora & Elgin car 458 in a photograph taken October 8, 1955 on an inspection trip in Elgin. This car was part of a 10-car order built by St. Louis Car Co. in 1945, sometimes called the last order for "standard" interurban cars in the US. Originally purchased by Gerald E. Brookins in 1962, this car is now preserved at the Fox River Trolley Museum in South Elgin. (Author's collection)

    Chicago, Aurora & Elgin car 458 in a photograph taken October 8, 1955 on an inspection trip in Elgin. This car was part of a 10-car order built by St. Louis Car Co. in 1945, sometimes called the last order for “standard” interurban cars in the US. Originally purchased by Gerald E. Brookins in 1962, this car is now preserved at the Fox River Trolley Museum in South Elgin. (Author’s collection)

    If things had been different, all 10 cars might have ended up in Cleveland airport service. They were considered for purchase during a time when the airport extension would have been paid for with local money, and this would have been a low-cost way of getting things started. But when local politics intervened, the budget for the extension was diverted somewhere else, and the extension finally opened with new rolling stock in 1968. (We will include the source for this story at the end of this post.)

    Early scenes from trolley museums show the cars all stored outdoors, where they were likely to deteriorate, strewn about surrounded by muddy fields. Thankfully, things are much improved nowadays.

    The Seashore Electric Railway Museum in Maine on October 26, 1955. At left we see ex-Los Angeles Railway narrow gauge car 521, with ex-CRANDIC (and C&LE) high-speed car 118 on the right. (Author's collection)

    The Seashore Electric Railway Museum in Maine on October 26, 1955. At left we see ex-Los Angeles Railway narrow gauge car 521, with ex-CRANDIC (and C&LE) high-speed car 118 on the right. (Author’s collection)

    The Seashore Electric Railway Museum in Maine on October 26, 1955. Ex-Boston Elevated "drop center" car 6270 is at the front, while LVT 1030 brings up the rear. (Author's collection)

    The Seashore Electric Railway Museum in Maine on October 26, 1955. Ex-Boston Elevated “drop center” car 6270 is at the front, while LVT 1030 brings up the rear. (Author’s collection)

    A young railfan at the Branford Electric Railway Association Museum in East Haven, Connecticut on October 23, 1955. Pictured is Connecticut Co. open-bench car 923. (Author's collection)

    A young railfan at the Branford Electric Railway Association Museum in East Haven, Connecticut on October 23, 1955. Pictured is Connecticut Co. open-bench car 923. (Author’s collection)

    Sometimes, cars were saved from the scrapper on their original property, only to fall victim to some other disaster in museums or elsewhere. On the other hand, there are a few examples where a car has been, or will eventually be returned to run in the same city where it did decades earlier. This is particularly gratifying.

    CNS&M 216 survived the abandonment of that interurban in 1963 to become Iowa Terminal Railroad tool car 31. Here it is shown on April 27, 1964 at Emery Shops, just after being repainted. Unfortunately, this car was destroyed in a fire on November 24, 1967. (Author's collection)

    CNS&M 216 survived the abandonment of that interurban in 1963 to become Iowa Terminal Railroad tool car 31. Here it is shown on April 27, 1964 at Emery Shops, just after being repainted. Unfortunately, this car was destroyed in a fire on November 24, 1967. (Author’s collection)

    Double-end PCC cars like this ran in Dallas from 1945 to 1956, and then in Boston from 1959 to 1981. Sister car 612 (renumbered 3334 in Boston) has been purchased by the McKinney Avenue Transit Authority and may run again on Dallas streets, once restored. Here we see 616 in July, 1946. (Author's collection)

    Double-end PCC cars like this ran in Dallas from 1945 to 1956, and then in Boston from 1959 to 1981. Sister car 612 (renumbered 3334 in Boston) has been purchased by the McKinney Avenue Transit Authority and may run again on Dallas streets, once restored. Here we see 616 in July, 1946. (Author’s collection)

    Some properties, like Lehigh Valley Transit, were in such a hurry to get out of the interurban and streetcar field that they destroyed both tracks and cars in a very short period of time. Yet today, when we see pictures of LVT trains speeding between Allentown and Philadelphia, we are reminded of how we once had high-speed intercity rail in many places in this country.

    An LVT Liberty Bell Limited speeds along the Pennsylvania countryside in this undated photo. We once had high-speed rail between many cities, and all we had to do was keep it and improve it. Since we largely didn't, now we need to reinvent the wheel. (Author's collection)

    An LVT Liberty Bell Limited speeds along the Pennsylvania countryside in this undated photo. We once had high-speed rail between many cities, and all we had to do was keep it and improve it. Since we largely didn’t, now we need to reinvent the wheel. (Author’s collection)

    LVT 1008 southbound between Zion Hill and Shelly Road on May 1, 1951, just a few months before abandonment. None of the ex-C&LE high-speeds that LVT had were saved. (Author's collection)

    LVT 1008 southbound between Zion Hill and Shelly Road on May 1, 1951, just a few months before abandonment. None of the ex-C&LE high-speeds that LVT had were saved. (Author’s collection)

    LVT cars 1006, 910, 1021, 1002 and C17 on the scrap track at Bethlehem Steel on January 23, 1952. In some cases, LVT scrapped city streetcars the day after they were taken out of service. (Author's collection)

    LVT cars 1006, 910, 1021, 1002 and C17 on the scrap track at Bethlehem Steel on January 23, 1952. In some cases, LVT scrapped city streetcars the day after they were taken out of service. (Author’s collection)

    Systems like the Liberty Bell Limited route, or the Chicago, North Shore and Milwaukee, were developed and improved piecemeal over a period of decades. But today, to bring back high speed rail, systems such as these would need to be rebuilt from scratch, at a cost of untold billions. It would have made more sense to keep what we once had- which we could have done, had it been considered an asset to society.

    Unfortunately, in too many instances, towns and cities simply said, “Good riddance.” But I question whether the improved future that was promised once streetcars and interurbans were eliminated ever came to pass. Instead, it seems more likely that their absence helped hasten urban decay.

    Altoona and Logan Valley 56 going to Holidaysburg Pennsylvania on the last day, August 7, 1954. I question whether this resulted in a better Altoona or anywhere else. Now the pendulum has swung back in the direction of streetcars. (Author's collection)

    Altoona and Logan Valley 56 going to Holidaysburg Pennsylvania on the last day, August 7, 1954. I question whether this resulted in a better Altoona or anywhere else. Now the pendulum has swung back in the direction of streetcars. (Author’s collection)

    Now things have come full circle. In many places across the country, the streetcar’s return is heralded and welcomed, as a way of improving urban life. And high-speed intercity rail, which we once called “interurbans,” seems poised for a gradual comeback of its own, as a matter of government policy.

    We present these historic photos for your enjoyment and ask that you draw your own conclusions.

    -David Sadowski

    CRANDIC 120 at Iowa City on November 27, 1952. This car is preserved today at IRM as Indiana Railroad 65. (Author's collection)

    CRANDIC 120 at Iowa City on November 27, 1952. This car is preserved today at IRM as Indiana Railroad 65. (Author’s collection)

    CRANDIC 120 at Iowa City on November 27, 1952. This car is preserved today at IRM as Indiana Railroad 65. (Author's collection)

    CRANDIC 120 at Iowa City on November 27, 1952. This car is preserved today at IRM as Indiana Railroad 65. (Author’s collection)

    Chicago Rapid Transit all-steel "L" car 2717 was originally built as an experiment in 1904 by ACF to replace a wood car that had burned up. It ran on the Metrolpolitan West Side Elevated, but unfortunately was not saved. (Author's collection)

    Chicago Rapid Transit all-steel “L” car 2717 was originally built as an experiment in 1904 by ACF to replace a wood car that had burned up. It ran on the Metrolpolitan West Side Elevated, but unfortunately was not saved. (Author’s collection)

    The last streetcar run in Dayton, Ohio on September 28, 1947. However, Dayton still runs trolleybuses, and they are celebrating 80 years of service this April 23rd. (Author's collection)

    The last streetcar run in Dayton, Ohio on September 28, 1947. However, Dayton still runs trolleybuses, and they are celebrating 80 years of service this April 23rd. (Author’s collection)

    West Penn Railways 720 at Scottsdale on August 22, 1950. Supposedly, West Penn quit when television broadcasting came to the area in 1952. The line is said to have had a lot of evening riding. (Author's collection)

    West Penn Railways 720 at Scottsdale on August 22, 1950. Supposedly, West Penn quit when television broadcasting came to the area in 1952. The line is said to have had a lot of evening riding. (Author’s collection)

    West Penn railways 286 in Greensburg, Pennsylvania on July 12, 1952. The trolley represents a way of American life that has vanished much as the nearby Packard automobile has. But it is making a comeback. (Author's collection)

    West Penn railways 286 in Greensburg, Pennsylvania on July 12, 1952. The trolley represents a way of American life that has vanished much as the nearby Packard automobile has. But it is making a comeback. (Author’s collection)

    CRANDIC 116, ex-C&LE, in Iowa City on October 26, 1952. This car is preserved at the Branford Trolley Museum. (Author's collection)

    CRANDIC 116, ex-C&LE, in Iowa City on October 26, 1952. This car is preserved at the Branford Trolley Museum. (Author’s collection)

    Even in the modern era, not all historic cars can be saved. Here is SEPTA "Bullet" car 201 and some Strafford cars at a scrap dealer in New Jersy in June, 1987. (Author's collection)

    Even in the modern era, not all historic cars can be saved. Here is SEPTA “Bullet” car 201 and some Strafford cars at a scrap dealer in New Jersy in June, 1987. (Author’s collection)

    From the Cleveland Plain Dealer, November 16, 1968:

    Writer’s Dream of ’59 Realized

    By Wilson Hirschfield

    The rapid transit extension to Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, opened amid fanfare yesterday, was a dream come true for this former transportation reporter.

    No advocate of rail rapid transit for Cleveland, then or now, this writer in December 1959, urged County Engineer Albert S. Porter to advocate building the airport line because it appeared to afford a unique opportunity to improve public transportation and at the same time enhance Cleveland Hopkins as a major airport.

    Porter, himself no booster of rail rapid, saw merit in the proposition and was the first to publicly espouse the project. Within a few weeks, this reporter was able to convince Gaspare A. Corso, a
    Cleveland Transit Board member, to get behind the proposal. He took it up like a crusade.

    At the beginning, the project was supported only by Porter, Corso, and The Plain Dealer. Once it started to get off the ground, there was strong behind-the-scenes opposition, particularly from the parking, taxi and limousine interests at Cleveland Hopkins. There was even some activity against the extension by Playhouse Square realty and business interests that did not want to see Public Square win another transportation benefit.

    Foes of the airport extension managed to throw many a roadblock in its path. Corso worked out a plan whereby CTS could have paid for most of the project out of the farebox, with the help of two bond issues that the voters approved in 1960 for $5.8 million.

    Part of the program was to defer bus purchases, and to renovate old buses as has been done by successful transit systems in other cities. Another step to be taken was to retain for several years service, the comfortable, fume-free trackless trolleys that still were operating on a number of lines.

    This writer and Corso worked together in planning these moves, along with Harry Christiansen, a transit expert and executive assistant to Porter.

    Another proposal from this reporter was for the rapid to cross the Berea Freeway at grade at the entrance to Cleveland Heights, with use of flasher lights and traffic signals. Two lines of the Shaker Heights rapid transit had been crossing busy Shaker Square at grade for years with no safety problems.

    The idea was put both to Porter and to William B. Henry, then division engineer here for the State Highway Department, and both of them said it would be feasible- and safe. All of us agreed that when money would become available, the extension could be tunneled under the freeway and into the airport terminal.

    It was Christiansen who came up with the news that some former high-speed interurban cars were available in Wheaton, Ill., that could be renovated for the extension. Corso went there and came back with some cost figures to purchase the cars- at about scrap price- and renovate them. Of course, they wouldn’t have been glamorous like the shiny new Airporter cars, but they would have done for a while.

    But CTS management insisted that the 70-foot long interurban cars could not negotiate the curves in Union Terminal and therefore were out of the question. Incidentally, the shiny $175,000 Airporters are 70 feet long.

    Corso, board member Allen J. Lowe and former member Charles P. Lucas were a majority bloc on the transit board for about two years. Then the majority fell apart and Corso was left by himself. The project was shelved, to be revived when the Federal Mass Transportation Act became law in 1964.

    Had it not been for all the opposition, the airport extension probably could have been opened five years ago. But in Cleveland, public improvements don’t come easily.

    (PS- Here is a timeline from the same issue showing when certain decisions were made.)

    Dec. 21, 1959- County Engineer Albert S. Porter proposes rapid transit extension to airport.

    Jan. 7, 1960- Transit Board member Gaspare A. Corso endorses idea and becomes its champion at CTS.

    April 21, 1960- Board votes 5-0 to build airport rapid. Management still cool to idea.

    May 6, 1960- Board votes 4-1 against Corso to spend $1 million for buses, using money intended for rapid extension. Order trimmed 25% a month later.

    Nov. 8, 1960- Voters of city and county approve by wide majorities $5.8 million in bonds to build extension.

    Sept. 6, 1962- Board members Allen J. Lowe and Charles A. Lucas desert Corso’s pro-extension majority to endorse management’s request to purchase 60 new buses with funds being held for rapid extension. This meant death of locally-financed airport rapid.

    (So, chances are that CA&E cars were being considered sometime between Nov. 1960 and Sept. 1962. I believe the last car to leave Wheaton was #320 in Spring 1962, and the unsold cars were scrapped starting in January 1963. The reference in the above article to 70 foot cars, of course, is in error, as the CA&E steels had to conform to Chicago “L” clearances, meaning a 48 ft. length.)


  • Thursday, April 18, 2013 10:35 AM | Ed Graziano (Administrator)

    Boston has long been one of my favorite cities, and one I have visited on many occasions. As we mourn the senseless loss of life from the recent Patriot’s Day terror bombings, and celebrate the heroism of the first responders in the face of adversity, we take this opportunity to remind ourselves what makes Boston so special to us.

    My first visit to Boston was in 1967, when my uncle got married. My mother and I flew in for the wedding. I was only 13 years old, and when the others were off doing different things, I had a choice to either sit around in our motel room, or go ride the trolleys. Guess which choice I made.

    I was just three years old when the last Chicago streetcars ran, so by 1967 they were a distant memory. I had caught fleeting glimpses of trolleys in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia while passing through on family vacations, but by 1967 the only place you could ride a trolley near the Chicago area was at the Illinois Railway Museum, and the tracks then were much shorter than they are today.

    So, for me, Boston in 1967 was a revelation. I instantly fell in love with the PCCs and in the three days I was there, I made sure to ride all the lines, which at that time included Watertown, which was “temporarily” bustituted in 1969. As with nearly all the northside lines in Philadelphia, these substitutions became permanent, although the tracks and wire remained in place for years to allow access to the Watertown Yard.

    Over the years, Chicago’s transit system took a different path from Boston’s, which in some ways represents “what might have been.” Chicago got rid of its extensive streetcar system in a relatively short period of time. But if Chicago had built an east-west streetcar subway, as it wanted to do for many years, things might have been different. Chicago’s system could have consolidated down to a half dozen trunk lines using PCCs, somewhat resembling Boston’s, but alas, it was not to be.

    Boston and Chicago were alike in other ways. When I first went to Boston, they still had the old Orange Line elevated, which reminded me in many ways of Chicago’s “L”. Along with some friends, I made a special winter trip to say goodbye to the Orange Line el in 1987, just before service was switched over to the current alignment. The old Boston el has since been torn down.

    There are some very picturesque locations on the Boston trolley lines, and some that are now considered forerunners of today’s “light rail.” The Riverside branch, opened in 1959, is one of these, but so is the Ashmont-Mattapan “high speed trolley,” which dates back to the late 1920s. For many years, ending about 1979, service on this shuttle line was provided by ex-Dallas double-end PCC cars, which quickly became some of my favorites. Fortunately some of these cars have been saved, and one may still eventually run once again in Dallas, on the McKinney Avenue heritage trolley line.

    Chicago opted for greater standardization, while Boston has a lot of diversity in its equipment. Boston’s three rapid transit lines have different equipment that cannot be interchanged. While this makes things more complicated from an operational standpoint, it also makes things more interesting to the railfan. Boston was a pioneer in color-coding its lines, a practice that has been successfully copied here.

    The Boston transit system has had its share of adversity. In 1952, it was possible to build a highly reliable PCC streetcar, but a lot more of a challenge in 1972. The resulting Boeing LRVs were plagued with problems in both Boston and San Francisco. Fortunately, the art of trolley building has made quite a comeback since then.

    There is so much more history in Boston, in the cradle of liberty. Chicago hardly has anything that predates the 1871 fire, and certainly nothing dating back to the Revolutionary War. Boston has the oldest subway in the nation, opened in 1897. Our first one didn’t arrive until nearly 50 years later.

    Today, while we soberly reflect on the victims of this cowardly act of terror, I am certain that the spirit of our freedom-loving people cannot be undermined by a few faceless, sadistic cowards. We send our thoughts, prayers, and support to the citizens of Boston, and look forward to a time when we will once again be with you in the city by the bay. Until then, we are with you in spirit.

    -David Sadowski

    Double-end PCCs on the Watertown line in 1962. (Author's collection)

    Double-end PCCs on the Watertown line in 1962. (Author’s collection)


    MBTA LRV 3446 on the Commonwealth Avenue line in the late 1980s. (Photo by David Sadowski)

    MBTA LRV 3446 on the Commonwealth Avenue line in the late 1980s. (Photo by David Sadowski)

    Interior of a Red Line train. (Photo by David Sadowski)

    Interior of a Red Line train. (Photo by David Sadowski)

    A Red Line train at Alewife. (Photo by David Sadowski)

    A Red Line train at Alewife. (Photo by David Sadowski)

    The very ornate Copley subway station entrance. (Photo by David Sadowski)

    The very ornate Copley subway station entrance. (Photo by David Sadowski)

    The old Orange Line el, shortly before it was discontinued in 1987. (Photo by David Sadowski)

    The old Orange Line el, shortly before it was discontinued in 1987. (Photo by David Sadowski)

    MBTA LRV 3446 on the Commonwealth Avenue line in the 1980s. (Photo by David Sadowski)

    MBTA LRV 3446 on the Commonwealth Avenue line in the 1980s. (Photo by David Sadowski)

    Interior of an Orange Line elevated station. (Photo by David Sadowski)

    Interior of an Orange Line elevated station. (Photo by David Sadowski)

    Double-end PCC car 3344 at Mattapan in the late 1960s. (Author's collection)

    Double-end PCC car 3344 at Mattapan in the late 1960s. (Author’s collection)

    MBTA PCC 3114 in the subway in 1969. (Author's collection)

    MBTA PCC 3114 in the subway in 1969. (Author’s collection)

    Two "D" trains pass each other in the 1980s. (Photo by David Sadowski)

    Two “D” trains pass each other in the 1980s. (Photo by David Sadowski)

    Four different types of streetcars in one picture: a "Type 5," PCC, Toronto CLRV, and a Boeing LRV. (Author's collection)

    Four different types of streetcars in one picture: a “Type 5,” PCC, Toronto CLRV, and a Boeing LRV. (Author’s collection)

    A two-car train of double-end PCCs on the Riverside line in 1959, soon after it opened. (Author's collection)

    A two-car train of double-end PCCs on the Riverside line in 1959, soon after it opened. (Author’s collection)

    MBTA "Type 7" car 3645 in the 1990s. (Author's collection)

    MBTA “Type 7″ car 3645 in the 1990s. (Author’s collection)

    MBTA snow plow 5138 at work on January 22, 1978. (Author's collection)

    MBTA snow plow 5138 at work on January 22, 1978. (Author’s collection)

    MBTA 3334 and 3338 at Mattapan in 1977. (Author's collection)

    MBTA 3334 and 3338 at Mattapan in 1977. (Author’s collection)


  • Tuesday, April 16, 2013 10:37 AM | Ed Graziano (Administrator)

    CTA “L” cars 4271-4272, built by Cincinnati Car Co. around 90 years ago, were moved from Linden to Skokie Shops on Sunday, April 14th. These are the last 4000-series cars to remain on the CTA, and were retired from active service 40 years ago. They last ran on the Evanston line, prior to its conversion from trolley pole to third rail operation.

    The move was necessitated by the imminent five-month shutdown of the Dan Ryan line. The space used at Linden Yard by these cars will be needed by others in Red Line service.

    The pair of 4000s has been lovingly cared for over the years by a devoted group of volunteers. Outfitted with cab signals, they have been used for charters and special events over the years, but have been seen less and less, as they have grown increasingly fragile.

    There were two series of 4000s built. The first batch from 1913, called the “baldies,” had rather spartan bowling-alley type seating. The second group, from about 10 years later, had better amenities and earned the name “plushies.”

    Many of these cars were purchased by railroad museums around the country, but not that many remain operable today, and several have succumbed to the tin worm and the ravages of time, weather, and neglect. Fans love them, however, since they make “all the right noises.” If you’ve ever heard the distinctive sound of train of 4000s approaching, it’s an experience you are not likely to forget.

    The sound, I’ve been told, has something to do with the gearing. The only thing that comes close to the same sound occurs when I drive over a certain cobblestone street at just the right speed. It’s a sound that takes me right back to the early 1970s, when 4000s still rumbled around the Loop on the Evanston Express.

    According to CERA member (and former CTA motorman) David Harrison, who was on the trip:

    The move on Sunday was a transfer from Linden to Skokie. The crew was to survey rail car clearances and test rail car performance. Guests were primarily CTA employees, both current and retired, who have experience with the Antique rail cars.

    The Linden-to-Skokie jaunt, which would generally involve changing ends at Howard, got extended downtown as the cars went around the Loop for “test” purposes. Fortunately, we do have some excellent pictures, thanks to the courtesy of David Harrison. To these we will add a few vintage shots showing the 4000s in bygone days, when they were the mainstays of CRT/CTA service. (If not for the 4000s, Chicago Rapid Transit wouldn’t have been able to open the State Street Subway in 1943. They were 455 out of the 456 all-steel cars CRT had.)

    The future of any 90-year-old rapid transit cars must always be considered iffy and very much in doubt. You never know, but this trip may have been something of a “last hurrah” for 4271-4272 on the CTA. I understand they got up to a very respectable 44 mph top speed on this run, which they probably never would achieve in museum service.

    For whatever reason, Chicago never warmed to New York’s practice of saving entire trains of “type” cars and using them in charter service. Perhaps it would have made more sense to save additional cars here. A four-car train of 4000s might have been more marketable for charters than just the pair. Then again, there is always the conundrum that increased use means wearing things out faster.

    Rumor Central says it’s even possible that 4271 and 4272 may split up and go their separate ways, after decades of “marriage.” While they started life as individual double-ended cars, CTA turned them into semi-permanently married pairs in the early 1950s, around the same time that the new 6000s were being delivered as pairs. Apparently there is a 20-year-old “gentleman’s agreement” between two local railway museums that may result in their uncoupling. Perhaps they will find true love with new partners.

    While the pairing of 4000s was a retrofit, they have been attached for so long that it would be somewhat of a disappointment, in a way, to see them divided with one sent (perhaps) to IRM and the other to Fox River. But either way, and whatever the future may hold for them, I say enjoy them while you still can. After all, they still make all the right noises.

    -David Sadowski

    CTA 4271 at Dempster (Skokie Swift) on October 21, 1973, shortly before being repainted in brown. (Photo by Arthur H. Peterson, Author's collection)

    CTA 4271 at Dempster (Skokie Swift) on October 21, 1973, shortly before being repainted in brown. (Photo by Arthur H. Peterson, Author’s collection)


    Special sign celebrating the 90th birthday outing of 4271-4273. (Photo by David Harrison)

    Special sign celebrating the 90th birthday outing of 4271-4273. (Photo by David Harrison)

    4271-4272 on the Loop, April 14, 2013. (Photo by David Harrison)

    4271-4272 on the Loop, April 14, 2013. (Photo by David Harrison)

    4271-4272 on the Loop, April 14, 2013. (Photo by David Harrison)

    4271-4272 on the Loop, April 14, 2013. (Photo by David Harrison)

    4271-4272 at Sheridan, April 14, 2013. (Photo by David Harrison)

    4271-4272 at Sheridan, April 14, 2013. (Photo by David Harrison)

    4271-4272 at Oakton, April 14, 2013, the first time these cars were at this station. (Photo by David Harrison)

    4271-4272 at Oakton, April 14, 2013, the first time these cars were at this station. (Photo by David Harrison)

    4271-4272 at Dempster/Skokie, April 14, 2013. (Photo by David Harrison)

    4271-4272 at Dempster/Skokie, April 14, 2013. (Photo by David Harrison)

    4271-4272 at Dempster/Skokie, April 14, 2013. (Photo by David Harrison)

    4271-4272 at Dempster/Skokie, April 14, 2013. (Photo by David Harrison)

    In this May 1964 shot, the C&NW bi-levels, running left-handed, are moving away from us, while a train of 4000s approaches the Harlem terminal on Lake. The outer portion of Lake was relocated to the embankment in 1962. The 4000s on this line would soon be replaced by new 2000s. (Author's collection)

    In this May 1964 shot, the C&NW bi-levels, running left-handed, are moving away from us, while a train of 4000s approaches the Harlem terminal on Lake. The outer portion of Lake was relocated to the embankment in 1962. The 4000s on this line would soon be replaced by new 2000s. (Author’s collection)

    4000s in the twilight (literally) of their Evanston/Wilmette service in the early 1970s. (Author's collection)

    4000s in the twilight (literally) of their Evanston/Wilmette service in the early 1970s. (Author’s collection)

    4000s when the Lake Street "L" ran around the Loop. (Author's collection)

    4000s when the Lake Street “L” ran around the Loop. (Author’s collection)

    A Lake Street "B" train on the Loop "L". (Author's collection)

    A Lake Street “B” train on the Loop “L”. (Author’s collection)

    An early 1970s fantrip on the Skokie Swift. (Author's collection)

    An early 1970s fantrip on the Skokie Swift. (Author’s collection)

    Looking majestic, a four-car train of 4000s approaches the Dempster terminal on the Skokie Swift. (Author's collection)

    Looking majestic, a four-car train of 4000s approaches the Dempster terminal on the Skokie Swift. (Author’s collection)

    4000s in Lake Street "L" service in April, 1964. (Author's collection)

    4000s in Lake Street “L” service in April, 1964. (Author’s collection)


  • Saturday, April 13, 2013 10:55 AM | Ed Graziano (Administrator)

    Media, Pennsylvania, celebrating 100 years of continuous trolley service this month, is kind of an exception rather than the rule in American life today. But there was a time when the trolley was a ubiquitous part of everyday life. As evidence of that, we present the 1904 card game “Trolley.”

    Board games and card games are another interest of mine, so the game of Trolley is for me a “cross-collectible,” meaning it’s a doubly whammy. “Business” card games, which involve transactions based on aspects of everyday life, became very popular in the 1890s. By contrast, board games became more popular later, culminating in Monopoly, which became a national obsession in 1935.

    There were several card games based on commodities trading, and Gavitt’s Stock Exchange, dating back to 1903 or perhaps even earlier, was among the most popular. Here is what the Strong Museum of Play has to say about Gavitt’s:

    Gavitt’s Stock Exchange (G.S.E.) card game was developed in 1903 by Harry E. Gavitt (1875-1954), a printer in Topeka Kansas. The game proved successful and soon it was taken over by Parker Brothers, redesigned by Edgar Cayce, and released in 1904 as Pit. Pit made success as well and is still played today.

    To be more precise, Pit is a “knock-off” of Gavitt’s game. Edgar Cayce (1877-1945), best known as the so-called “Sleeping Prophet,” claimed to have invented the game (which he probably did not) and sold it to Parker Brothers.

    In the straight-laced Victorian era, these games were something of a revelation. For one thing, they were played by men and women together. For another, they were often boisterous affairs, where people would jump up and yell, “Corner!” if they had all the right cards to corner the market on wheat, corn, or oats.

    In the Gavitt’s game, one card is called “The Fatal Telegram,” reflecting on an era when receiving a telegram invariably meant bad news.

    These games often had very complicated rules, and could be played more than one way. The rules for Trolley are too complicated to be given here, so we will instead just present the beautiful lithography of the box and cards for your perusal, a reminder of a simpler time, when gender and other societal roles were much more rigid than they are today, during the Time of the Trolley.

    If you’re looking for another way to celebrate the Media trolley centennial, there will be a fantrip on May 5. You can read about it here. To commemorate the anniversary, SEPTA has put a red overwrap (in the style of the former Red Arrow lines) on one the LRVs used on the Media and Sharon Hill lines.

    -David Sadowski

    scan247



    scan246

    scan245

    scan244

    scan242

    scan241

    scan243

    scan239

    scan240

    SEPTA Kawasaki-built LRV #106 near the Avon Road station in Upper Darby, PA in August 1983. (Author's collection)

    SEPTA Kawasaki-built LRV #106 near the Avon Road station in Upper Darby, PA in August 1983. (Author’s collection)

    Red Arrow Brill-built "Master Unit" interurban trolley #77 at Ardmore on July 23, 1949. (Photo by James J. Buckley, Author's collection)

    Red Arrow Brill-built “Master Unit” interurban trolley #77 at Ardmore on July 23, 1949. (Photo by James J. Buckley, Author’s collection)

    SEPTA LRV #101, done up with a special red overwrap to celebrate the 100th anniversary of trolley service to Media PA. (Photo by Bob Foley)

    SEPTA LRV #101, done up with a special red overwrap to celebrate the 100th anniversary of trolley service to Media PA. (Photo by Bob Foley)


  • Thursday, April 11, 2013 10:58 AM | Ed Graziano (Administrator)

    P1040041


    Letters, questions, comments, odds and ends and other news from the CERA home front:

    Jerry Hund writes:

    I have really enjoyed reading your blogs related to the CERA. Keep up the great work.

    Next, I remember reading an article several years ago about an abandoned rail line that traveled from Union Station/Northwestern station to Navy Pier (in Chicago). The tracks are mostly gone now, but it did mention how it served as a freight line serving various buildings over the years. It traveled along the river. Do you know what I am talking about? If so, could you write about this?

    I see it as a great light rail line to connect the two train stations with Navy Pier and a great tourist line.

    There was until recent years a Union Pacific freight line that ran along Carroll Avenue between the Chicago River and Navy Pier, going as far as the Jardine Water Purification Plant at 1000 East Ohio Street. This spur line crossed the river on a bridge which is still in place, but is now kept in the “up” position.

    I recently took a picture of the right-of-way at LaSalle street and the tracks are gone now. Years ago, I recall seeing some private varnish down there. Some rich person’s private car was temporarily stored there during a trip to Chicago.

    All this was on a lower level than most of the streets in the area, since the street grid was raised above ground level a long time ago. Carroll Avenue runs at the actual ground level. In some cases, the freight spur ran right through buildings such as the Merchandise Mart.

    Until fairly recently, the branch was kept in place for newsprint deliveries to the Sun-Times. You would think the Tribune also used it before Freedom Center opened in the 1980s, but you would be wrong. Tribune Tower took all newsprint deliveries by water from their own dock. The Tribune Company produced their newsprint in Canada and had it shipped via the Great Lakes.

    The Sun-Times was the line’s last customer, and when that building was torn down and replaced by Trump Tower, it was abandoned and tracks were removed.

    Apparently, C&NW ran a short-lived RDC commuter shuttle along this line in the mid-1950s, but it didn’t last long enough to build up traffic. Another problem was the need for five employees to work a three-car train. After the shuttle quit, the Wendella commuter boat operation began in 1962 along the Chicago River, and continues to this day.

    There were plans in the 1980s for a light rail line connecting Union Station, Northwestern Station (now theOgilvie Transportation Center) and North Michigan Avenue, and in fact I wrote an op-ed piece in one of the Chicago dailies promoting it. The idea got pretty far along before it was killed. More recently, the City has planned for much the same thing but with a dedicated busway instead of rail.

    Carroll Ave. freight right-of-way at LaSalle St. in March 2013. (Photo by David Sadowski)

    Carroll Ave. freight right-of-way at LaSalle St. in March 2013. (Photo by David Sadowski)

    There may eventually be a “heritage” streetcar of light rail line in Chicago, as there are already in several US cities. As I have said before, the word “streetcar” is gradually creeping back into the urban American lexicon.

    In the 1970s and 1980s, “light rail” became a popular concept, introduced as something new and distinct from streetcars, which were still considered somewhat obsolete by urban planners. However, more and more cities are now embracing the streetcar as a concept distinct from light rail. Witness Portland, Oregon which has both light rail lines and streetcar lines, distinct from each other.

    Now, streetcars are considered a lower-cost alternative to light rail, and have lighter-weight cars, track, and overhead, as well as more street running.

    1st Loop Test Train - Go By Streetcar - Portland OR 12-14-2011 (Photo courtesy of Portland Streetcar, Inc.)

    1st Loop Test Train – Go By Streetcar – Portland OR 12-14-2011 (Photo courtesy of Portland Streetcar, Inc.)

    In response to our recent post The Preservation Movement in Early Days (April 5), Scott Greig writes:

    Remarkably, there were a number of major fans from the early days who were against any efforts at preserving cars.

    Without getting into personalities, it is worth noting that there was really very little interest in this country of preserving anything old before maybe the 1960s and 70s. Today, we think of Frank Lloyd Wright as a genius and many of his homes are practically like museums. But when he was building them, chances are he wasn’t thinking about posterity.

    More likely, he thought the stuff he built would have perhaps a 30-year useful life and then get torn down and replaced by something else. After all, that’s what he did- his buildings and renovations replaced earlier stuff that had gone out of favor.

    Wright went public in 1957 to try and save the Robie House from the wrecking ball, but prior to that, I am not aware that he made any complaints when many of his greatest works were demolished, such as the Larkin Company Administration Building in Buffalo, New York, which was leveled in 1950.

    But I don’t know that FLW was really much of a preservationist, considering his renovations to the Rookerybuilding in Chicago, or the sort of changes he made to the Isabel Roberts House in River Forest, Illinois. Given the choice between preserving the house, which he might have had a sentimental attachment to, Wright chose to remodel it into practically a brand new building.

    Today, many Louis Sullivan buildings are considered landmarks. In the 50s and 60s, all this great stuff was getting torn down, and they weren’t saving anything, not even the fabulous decorations. The early preservationist Richard Nickel was like a lone figure in the wilderness trying to save some of this stuff, documenting it in pictures and actually climbing into buildings that were being torn down to salvage certain pieces.

    Nickel was killed in 1972 when part of the old Stock Exchange building collapsed on him. I don’t know whether Richard Nickel was a railfan, but I do think there were many others like him who had a similar attitude about saving the rapidly disappearing streetcars and interurbans in the 1950s.

    So, in our culture, there wasn’t much interest in saving anything old, whether it was buildings or streetcars. I can see why someone would have thought it best to simply record these things in photographs. After all, even if you preserve a streetcar or interurban, it’s no longer in its original context.

    That’s been part of the challenge in the preservation movement- to provide a useful and meaningful context to display and operate old equipment. Some museums have been better at this than others. For example, when you ride Chicago Pullman streetcar 144 today at the Illinois Railway Museum in Union, the experience and context is very much different from when this car ran in service in Chicago. Much of the trolley loop is on open track, which Chicago did not have a lot of, and not in city streets surrounded by houses and storefronts. There may eventually be such a “Yesterday’s Main Street” at Union, and at least they have the beginnings of one planned.

    Likewise, it seems slightly disconcerting to see a 2000-series pair of Chicago “L” cars operating with a trolley pole, since these were the first series of cars on the system that never had overhead current collection. The same is true of the P&W “Bullet ” cars in museums. But it would be impractical from a safety standpoint to run a railway museum with third rail power, so what choice do they have?

    But when the museum movement started, no railway museums like this existed- for some, it was simply enough to save a certain railcar, and maybe they would figure out what to do with it later.

    As for providing a context, Henry Ford, whatever his other faults, was a pioneer with this in the 1930s, when he established Greenfield Village, today part of The Henry Ford Museum. Ford had historic buildings moved to his site and rebuilt with their contents. Henry Ford was a preservationist.

    When some of the streetcar lines were abandoned, newspapers sometimes ran editorials that essentially said, Good Riddance. It was a disposable culture. Thankfully, since then, we have learned to keep at least some of the things worth saving.

    CTA 2153-2154 at IRM on July 7, 2012, powered by trolley poles. (Photo by David Sadowski)

    CTA 2153-2154 at IRM on July 7, 2012, powered by trolley poles. (Photo by David Sadowski)

    Chicago Red Pullman 144 running on open track at IRM in the mid-1980s. (Photo by David Sadowski)

    Chicago Red Pullman 144 running on open track at IRM in the mid-1980s. (Photo by David Sadowski)

    It's difficult, if not impossible, to reproduce an urban setting such as this in a railway museum. (Author's collection)

    It’s difficult, if not impossible, to reproduce an urban setting such as this in a railway museum. (Author’s collection)

    CA&E 427, soon to be scrapped, in 1963 at Wheaton. (Author's collection)

    CA&E 427, soon to be scrapped, in 1963 at Wheaton. (Author’s collection)

    What was left of CA&E 405 in 1963 at Wheaton. (Author's collection)

    What was left of CA&E 405 in 1963 at Wheaton. (Author’s collection)

    What was left of CA&E 405 in 1963 at Wheaton. (Author's collection)

    What was left of CA&E 405 in 1963 at Wheaton. (Author’s collection)

    In other news, we congratulate longtime CERA member (and, former President and Director) Norman Carlson on his appointment to the Metra Board.

    At the March CERA Board meeting, we accepted the resignation of Director and Secretary John M. Anderson. We thank him for his service and wish him well in future endeavors.

    The Board then appointed longtime CERA member John Nicholson to fill out the remainder of Anderson’s term as Director and Secretary. John is well-known in the CERA community and has been active in our organization for a long time. You will find his name listed in some of our publications going back to the mid-1960s.

    Finally, we lament the passing of longtime CERA member Robert (“Bob”) Selle. Bob joined CERA on November 15, 1948 as member #1335. To put this into perspective, this was 64 years ago, and less than two weeks after the Chicago Tribune ran the famous “Dewey Defeats Truman” headline. He will be remembered as an excellent photographer, and we have already used some of his photos in other blog posts. Bob Selle was also an early member of both the Illinois Railway Museum and the Electric Railway Historical Society.

    We send our condolences out to Bob’s family on behalf of the entire CERA family. He will be sorely missed, but his good works survive him. You can read more about Bob Selle here.

    Keep those e-mails, cards, and letters coming in, either to cerablog1@gmail.com or CERA, PO Box 503, Chicago IL 60690.

    -David Sadowski

    P1040039


  • Friday, April 05, 2013 11:08 AM | Ed Graziano (Administrator)

    As long as there have been railroads, there have been railfans. During the Depression years of the 1930s, as one streetcar or interurban after another vanished from the scene, small groups of railfans banded together in an ad hoc fashion to save bits and pieces before it all disappeared completely. At first, some of these collections had nowhere to operate, and over time, short stretches of track were built to run them on.

    That was about as much of an agenda as they had back then, but over time, these efforts created fledgling railway museums in various parts of the country. Some have grown and thrived, while others failed and have fallen by the wayside. In some cases, museum tracks are on old interurban rights-of-way, while others were built from scratch.

    Over time, old techniques were reclaimed, redeveloped, and relearned from the experience of an earlier age, or even, in many instances, done from scratch through a process of trial and error. In the process, some amazing work has been done, and a few of yesterday’s chicken coops are today’s operating cars.

    The Seashore Trolley Museum in Kennebunkport, Maine started in 1939, but at first, even its backers didn’t call it a museum- it was the Seashore Electric Railroad. But as these are generally “demonstration” railroads that don’t take people from point A to point B, it made more sense to think of it as a museum.

    Some of the first cars to be saved were open-air trolleys, which were quickly going the way of the dinosaur. Fairmount Park Transit in Philadelphia was the last regular operator of open cars in the US when it was abandoned in 1946.

    The Illinois Railway Museum, which today has the largest collection in the country, began life on the property of the Chicago Hardware Foundry in North Chicago, adjacent to the CNS&M. But as the collection grew, and the North Shore Line quit in 1963, a larger, and more permanent home had to be found. You can read the entire fascinating story here on the excellent Hicks Car Works blog.

    Even those museum operations that failed served as a bridge that preserved equipment that eventually found a new home somewhere else later on. The Columbia Park and Southwester, aka “Trolleyville USA,” in Olmstead Township, Ohio is a case in point. Businessman Gerald E. Brookins had the wherewithal to assemble a collection of about 30 cars in the 1950s and 60s, and maintained them with a staff of several mechanics. Brookins’ contemporaries did not have these resources, and as a result, much rolling stock that would have been lost got saved, despite the sometimes inauthentic paint schemes he had them done up in.

    His operation was part trolley museum, part practical transportation, as trolleys carried people between his trailer park and his shopping center. After his death in the early 1980s, his family kept the line going for several years, but the museum had to close after they sold the trailer park. The collection was brought to Cleveland with plans for a “heritage trolley” there, but when this fell through, the entire collection was sold at auction. Illinois museums were the main beneficiaries of this sale, since the Brookins collection was rich in both CA&E and AE&FR cars.

    More and more often, these cars have spent more time in trolley museums than they did in regular service. CA&E car 20 is an example. The oldest operating interurban car in the country, car 20 ran on the CA&E from 1902 to 1957, a total of 55 years. (CA&E was also the last interurban to operate wood cars.) But this year will mark 56 years since the Chicago, Aurora and Elgin ceased passenger service.

    In many cases, saving a car did not keep it from deteriorating over time. As an example, compare this 2006 photo of Five Mile Beach Electric Railway car 36 with one from 1945, when it was acquired by the Connecticut Trolley Museum. But at least the car still exists and could be restored.

    The Magee Transportation Museum in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania is another example of one that did not make it. After assembling a collection of perhaps a dozen cars or so, the museum fell victim to both the death of its namesake and the ravages of Hurricane Agnes in 1972. You can read the sad story in a profile of the late Ed Blossom here.

    As CERA celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, we tip our hat to those earliest railfans, whose herculean efforts helped preserve history for future generations to come. Under the circumstances, it’s a wonder that anything at all was saved, not that so much was lost. We are truly standing on the shoulders of giants.

    -David Sadowski

    CA&E wood car 36 on January 1, 1963, shortly after being acquired by Gerald E. Brookins for the Columbia Park & Southwestern, aka "Trolleyville USA ." This car is now at the Illinois Railway Museum. (Photo by Richard S. Short, Author's collection)

    CA&E wood car 36 on January 1, 1963, shortly after being acquired by Gerald E. Brookins for the Columbia Park & Southwestern, aka “Trolleyville USA .” This car is now at the Illinois Railway Museum. (Photo by Richard S. Short, Author’s collection)


    Elgin and Belvidere Electric Company car 209 had just been freshly painted in 1930 after being converted to one-man operation, when the line quit abruptly. The car sat at Marengo for years in hopes of finding a buyer. The Illinois Railway Museum runs over a portion of the former Elgin and Belvidere right-of-way. (Photo by Ed Frank, Jr., Author's collection)

    Elgin and Belvidere Electric Company car 209 had just been freshly painted in 1930 after being converted to one-man operation, when the line quit abruptly. The car sat at Marengo for years in hopes of finding a buyer. The Illinois Railway Museum runs over a portion of the former Elgin and Belvidere right-of-way. (Photo by Ed Frank, Jr., Author’s collection)

    Elgin and Belvidere Electric car 203 sits abandoned in this 1930s photo. I think the photographer added the flags and the lantern to make the picture look better. (Photo by Ed Frank, Jr., Author's collection)

    Elgin and Belvidere Electric car 203 sits abandoned in this 1930s photo. I think the photographer added the flags and the lantern to make the picture look better. (Photo by Ed Frank, Jr., Author’s collection)

    Elgin and Belvidere Electric car 201 sits abandoned in this 1930s photo. (Photo by Ed Frank, Jr., Author's collection)

    Elgin and Belvidere Electric car 201 sits abandoned in this 1930s photo. (Photo by Ed Frank, Jr., Author’s collection)

    A 1930s view of the Aurora, Elgin & Fox River right-of-way, near the site of today's Fox River Trolley Museum. (Photo by Ed Frank, Jr., Author's collection)

    A 1930s view of the Aurora, Elgin & Fox River right-of-way, near the site of today’s Fox River Trolley Museum. (Photo by Ed Frank, Jr., Author’s collection)

    The Lehigh Valley Transit scrap track circa 1938. (Author's collection)

    The Lehigh Valley Transit scrap track circa 1938. (Author’s collection)

    Here, we see Five Mile Beach Electric Railway car 36 in 1945, being transported to its current home at the Connecticut Trolley Museum in East Windsor. (Author's collection)

    Here, we see Five Mile Beach Electric Railway car 36 in 1945, being transported to its current home at the Connecticut Trolley Museum in East Windsor. (Author’s collection)

    Knoxville trolleys abandoned in a field after the last run in 1947. (Author's collection)

    Knoxville trolleys abandoned in a field after the last run in 1947. (Author’s collection)

    In this early 1950s view, a Lehigh Valley Transit Co. city streetcar has been converted into someone's storage shed or chicken coop. (Author's collection)

    In this early 1950s view, a Lehigh Valley Transit Co. city streetcar has been converted into someone’s storage shed or chicken coop. (Author’s collection)

    The abandoned right-of-way of the Liberty Bell Limited interurban in Pennsylvania, during the winter of 1951-52. Some of the signals from this line are now in use at the Seashore Trolley Museum in Maine. (Author's collection)

    The abandoned right-of-way of the Liberty Bell Limited interurban in Pennsylvania, during the winter of 1951-52. Some of the signals from this line are now in use at the Seashore Trolley Museum in Maine. (Author’s collection)

    Aurora, Elgin & Fox River 306, shortly after it arrived at the Columbia Park and Southwestern aka "Trolleyville USA" in 1954. Gerald Brookins acquired it from Shaker Heights Rapid Transit. This car is now at the Illinois Railway Museum. (Photo by George Snyder, from Author's collection)

    Aurora, Elgin & Fox River 306, shortly after it arrived at the Columbia Park and Southwestern aka “Trolleyville USA” in 1954. Gerald Brookins acquired it from Shaker Heights Rapid Transit. This car is now at the Illinois Railway Museum. (Photo by George Snyder, from Author’s collection)

    North Shore Line city car 354 on November 27, 1954, at the Chicago Hardware Foundry Co., one of the first acquisitions of the Illinois Electric Railway Museum, today's IRM in Union. (Photo by Bob Selle, Author's collection)

    North Shore Line city car 354 on November 27, 1954, at the Chicago Hardware Foundry Co., one of the first acquisitions of the Illinois Electric Railway Museum, today’s IRM in Union. (Photo by Bob Selle, Author’s collection)

    CA&E 320 was the last car moved off the property in early 1962. The car was purchased by the Iowa Chapter of NRHS and is shown here later that same year. It is now at the Midwest Electric Railway in Mount Pleasant, Iowa. (Author's collection)

    CA&E 320 was the last car moved off the property in early 1962. The car was purchased by the Iowa Chapter of NRHS and is shown here later that same year. It is now at the Midwest Electric Railway in Mount Pleasant, Iowa. (Author’s collection)

    North Shore Line cars await potential buyers while the weeds grow up around them after the 1963 abandonment. (Author's collection)

    North Shore Line cars await potential buyers while the weeds grow up around them after the 1963 abandonment. (Author’s collection)

    CNS&M cars sat around outside for at least a year at North Chicago before being scrapped. I don't think this car was saved. (Author's collection)

    CNS&M cars sat around outside for at least a year at North Chicago before being scrapped. I don’t think this car was saved. (Author’s collection)

    Lehigh Valley Transit interurban car 801, built by Jewett Car Co. in 1912, became a cottage for a time, but was eventually restored. Here we see it about to receive the trucks from sister car 808, which spent time in the Philadelphia subway doing trash collection. Currently, 801 is at the Electric City Trolley Museum in Scranton, PA. (Author's collection)

    Lehigh Valley Transit interurban car 801, built by Jewett Car Co. in 1912, became a cottage for a time, but was eventually restored. Here we see it about to receive the trucks from sister car 808, which spent time in the Philadelphia subway doing trash collection. Currently, 801 is at the Electric City Trolley Museum in Scranton, PA. (Author’s collection)

    CA&E 319 in Ohio on the Columbia Park and Southwestern aka "Trolleyville USA" in 1984. This car is now at the Illinois Railway Museum. (Photo by David Sadowski)

    CA&E 319 in Ohio on the Columbia Park and Southwestern aka “Trolleyville USA” in 1984. This car is now at the Illinois Railway Museum. (Photo by David Sadowski)

    A 1984 shot of CA&E 451 (with a rather odd color scheme) in Olmstead Township, Ohio on the Columbia Park and Southwestern aka "Trolleyville USA." This car is now at the Illinois Railway Museum. (Photo by David Sadowski)

    A 1984 shot of CA&E 451 (with a rather odd color scheme) in Olmstead Township, Ohio on the Columbia Park and Southwestern aka “Trolleyville USA.” This car is now at the Illinois Railway Museum. (Photo by David Sadowski)

    Even some of the museums have not survived. The Penn's Landing Trolley (shown here in 1985) operated in Philadelphia from 1982 to 1995. (Photo by David Sadowski)

    Even some of the museums have not survived. The Penn’s Landing Trolley (shown here in 1985) operated in Philadelphia from 1982 to 1995. (Photo by David Sadowski)

    CA&E 20 at the Fox River Trolley Museum in the 1980s. It is the oldest operating interurban car in the US. (Photo by David Sadowski)

    CA&E 20 at the Fox River Trolley Museum in the 1980s. It is the oldest operating interurban car in the US. (Photo by David Sadowski)


Copyright 2015 Central Electric Railfans' Association. All Right Reserved 

Central Electric Railfans' Association is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.  P.O. Box 503, Chicago, IL  60690

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software