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Trolley Sparks, Lost… and Found!

Friday, March 08, 2013 12:43 PM | Ed Graziano (Administrator)
In a recent blog post (“Trolley Sparks” Revisited, Feb. 24), we discussed some of CERA’s earliest publications. Trolley Sparks was originally a newsletter (today we would call it a “fanzine”) started by the late Barney Neuberger in 1944. The following year, it came under the CERA umbrella, where it had its own numbering system for a time, and was eventually continued as part of the numbered bulletin system that continues today.

Today, even the CERA completists don’t seem to be able to account for every issue of Trolley Sparks. Ray DeGroote, who joined the organization more than 60 years ago, doesn’t have copies of every issue. He wasn’t sure if all the supposed 11 pre-CERA issues were even published. Well, now we have evidence that suggests they were.

A copy of Trolley Sparks #11 has turned up, dated June 1945. This would be the final issue Barney Neuberger put out himself, before it became an official CERA publication. The first CERA issue was T-12, from July 1945, just a month after this one. We have scanned the entire four-page publication, and you can read it for yourself, by downloading a 2mb PDF file you will find at the end of this article.

As Ray explains it, Trolley Sparks had shorter articles in it than some of our early Bulletins. The Bulletins eventually grew like Topsy and evolved into our acclaimed series of books. Along the way, the Trolley Sparks banner fell by the wayside, but we are in the process of bringing it back.

As part of our “Diamond Jubilee” celebration for this, our 75th anniversary year, we are working on Trolley Sparks Special #1. Not only will it pay tribute to CERA’s “founding fathers,” so to speak, it will include complete lists of all our publications and fantrips, plus much more. A “special,” in railroad parlance, is an extra train, and this Trolley Sparks special will be an extra book, not counted as part of our regular annual book entitlement for our members. I am sure it will be very reasonably priced.

Trolley Sparks #11, although not an official CERA tome, does include information about the organization as it was in 1945. There is a nice review of the April 27, 1945 meeting, held only about two weeks after FDR died, and just before the end of WWII in Europe. The late lamented Cincinnati and Lake Erie interurban was featured. There is a blurb about upcoming CERA publications.

The history of the old Chicago Harvard & Geneva Lake interurban, which ran from 1899 to 1930, is covered. The heyday of the “Interurban Era” (as the late William D. Middleton called it) was brief and reached a peak right around WWI. It was the “high tech” of its day, and often a very speculative business.

One interesting tidbit in the article is how some of the power for this line was generated by equipment originally used by the Intramural Railway at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. This was an early predecessor of the sort of “L” system we have today, powered by third rail current. The original Chicago “L” system, which was not connected with the Intramural operation, used steam-powered locomotives.

Finally, there are pictures of some O-scale models built by James H. Richards of Philadelphia. Today, you can see some of his handiwork on display at the Electric City Trolley Museum in Scranton, PA.

All in all, a very interesting slice of early railfan history!

-David Sadowski

Trolley Sparks #11, June 1945 (front cover)

Trolley Sparks #11, June 1945 (front cover)

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