Central Electric 
Railfans' Association

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

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    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

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  • 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)


  • Wednesday, April 03, 2013 11:11 AM | Ed Graziano (Administrator)

    According to the Wikipedia:

    The term drumhead refers to a type of removable sign that was prevalent on North American railroads of the first half of the 20th century. The sign was mounted at the rear of passenger trains, and consisted of a box with internal illumination that shone through a tinted panel bearing the logo of the railroad or specific train. Since the box and the sign were usually circular in shape and resembled small drums, they came to be known as drumheads.

    Drumheads were mainly associated with the steam railroads, and were often used on some of the “named” intercity routes. There is an excellent illuminated drumhead display at the National Railroad Museum in Green Bay, Wisconsin. You will find examples from this collection at the end of this post (photos taken by the author).

    For many years, a CERA drumhead was used on many of our fantrips. Although not illuminated, the drumhead was often hung on the front of the car, not the back, as in the case of the steam railroads.

    The CERA drumhead on a North Shore Line fantrip. (Author's collection)

    The CERA drumhead on a North Shore Line fantrip. (Author’s collection)


    That got me to wondering whatever became of our drumhead, and I got the following response from John Marton:

    J.M. Michaels was CERA’s first corporate sponsor. He was also Passenger Traffic Manager of the Chicago North Shore & Milwaukee Railroad.

    The drum head was a gift to CERA from him to be used on fan trips, as well on the rear of Car 300, which he also provided for club use.

    The drum head was made in the Highwood Illinois Shops under his direction and it bears chalk markings as to its origin and is dated 1939. While it was not in evidence for the first four fan trips, it was in existence by June 25, 1939 and it, or one similar to it, was displayed on Car 35 of the CSS&SB RR on Trip Number Nine.

    Sometime in the mid-60’s, the drum head was damaged on a fan trip and retired. A director’s statement said it was “scrapped,” but it was stored instead and remains in the possession of longtime CERA member John Marton, where it remains today.

    It’s good to know that the drumhead survives, even if somewhat worse for wear. It has outlasted many of the railroads it was used on, which are now “fallen flags.” We will display it at our 75th anniversary banquet in September.

    -David Sadowski

    Gary Railways car 19 at Indiana Harbor on an early CERA fantrip (March 19, 1939). Regular service here had ended the day before. Notice no CERA drumhead, however. (C. Edw. Hedstrom photo, Author's collection)

    Gary Railways car 19 at Indiana Harbor on an early CERA fantrip (March 19, 1939). Regular service here had ended the day before. Notice no CERA drumhead, however. (C. Edw. Hedstrom photo, Author’s collection)

    Car #479 on Schreiber near Clark, CERA fantrip, May 16, 1954 (CTA Historical Collection)

    Car #479 on Schreiber near Clark, CERA fantrip, May 16, 1954 (CTA Historical Collection)

    CNS&M 150 at the head of a CERA fantrip on the Libertyville-Mundelein branch in late 1962. The drumhead still appears to be in good shape. (Author's collection)

    CNS&M 150 at the head of a CERA fantrip on the Libertyville-Mundelein branch in late 1962. The drumhead still appears to be in good shape. (Author’s collection)

    CRT/CTA 5004, shown here in 63rd St. Lower Yard, on a 1963 CERA fantrip (Author's collection)

    CRT/CTA 5004, shown here in 63rd St. Lower Yard, on a 1963 CERA fantrip (Author’s collection)

    A newish 2000-series CTA "L" car leads the way on a mid-1960s fantrip. (Author's collection)

    A newish 2000-series CTA “L” car leads the way on a mid-1960s fantrip. (Author’s collection)

    NRHS drumhead at the rear of a 1955 Illinois Terminal fantrip. (Author's collection)

    NRHS drumhead at the rear of a 1955 Illinois Terminal fantrip. (Author’s collection)

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    Those aren't drumheads on these 1950s Johnston PA streetcars, just advertising. "Pepsi-Cola hits the spot / Twelve full ounces, that's a lot / Twice as much for a nickel, too / Pepsi-Cola is the drink for you" (Author's collection)

    Those aren’t drumheads on these 1950s Johnston PA streetcars, just advertising. “Pepsi-Cola hits the spot / Twelve full ounces, that’s a lot / Twice as much for a nickel, too / Pepsi-Cola is the drink for you” (Author’s collection)

    The CERA drumhead today. (Photo by John Marton)

    The CERA drumhead today. (Photo by John Marton)


  • Sunday, March 31, 2013 11:32 AM | Ed Graziano (Administrator)

    A long time ago, I heard a rumor that some CA&E equipment ran on the North Shore Line during World War II. Today’s picture might show just that, but as with most things, the situation is a bit more complicated than it might seem. According to Don’s Rail Photos:

    In 1936, the CA&E leased 11 surplus cars from the CNS&M. These cars were modified for service by raising the coupler height, installing electric heat instead of the coal-fired hot water heaters, modifying the control, and adding jumper receptacles and other minor fittings to allow them to train with the other CA&E cars. Since these were 50 mile per hour cars, and the CA&E cars wer 60 MPH cars, they were soon operated only in trains of their own kind rather than mixed in with other cars. In 1945 they were returned to the North Shore where they operated briefly. They were purchased (by CA&E) in 1946 and last ran in regular service in September, 1953.

    The September 1953 end-of-service date coincides with when CA&E service was cut back to Forest Park during construction of the Congress Super-Highway. These cars (numbered 129-144) were built by either Jewett or American Car Co. circa 1907-10 for the Chicago & Milwaukee Electric, a predecessor of the CNS&M. They were rebuilt in 1914 with train doors and narrowed ends to allow operation on the Chicago “L” system.

    CA&E cars ran downtown to a terminal just outside the Loop “L” structure. To move these cars to the North Shore Line, and vice versa, they would have crossed the Loop. Hopefully, someone snapped a picture.

    After CA&E quit, the Illinois Electric Railway Museum in North Chicago acquired some of their cars. At this point the North Shore was still running, so IERM came up with the idea of a NS fantrip using CA&E cars. Management ultimately rejected the idea, but not before sending a mechanic to check out the CA&E equipment, which he declared was in better shape than some of their own.

    CA&E cars 130 and 139, on CERA Fantrip #46 (July 14, 1946). Location is Franklin St. siding in Waukegan. (Author's collection)

    CA&E cars 130 and 139, on CERA Fantrip #46 (July 14, 1946). Location is Franklin St. siding in Waukegan. (Author’s collection)


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    CERA has covered by the North Shore and the Roarin’ Elgin extensively, most notably in the early 1960s, with the classic books Interurban To Milwaukee, Route of the Electroliners, and The Great Third Rail. All are out of print but available on the used market.

    CERA B-141, Before the North Shore Line

    CERA B-141, Before the North Shore Line

    A few years back, CERA published a “prequel” to the two North Shore books with B-141, Before the North Shore Line by Edward Tobin:

    Waukegan was the birthplace of the Chicago North Shore & Milwaukee Railroad, one of the nation’s premier interurban electric railways. Author Ed Tobin recounts the railroad’s humble origins as the Bluff City Electric Street Railway and traces its rapid evolution into the high speed Chicago & Milwaukee Electric Railway, taking the story up to the time that the company came under Insull control. This 224 page book is packed with never before published information and photographs depicting the railway in its early days. You will also learn about A.C. Frost, a tireless promoter who helped create “America’s fastest interurban.”

    You can purchase a copy here. The price is $29 for CERA members, and $39 for non-members.

    -David Sadowski

    1946 CERA Fantrip ticket (Collection of John T. Csoka)

    1946 CERA Fantrip ticket (Collection of John T. Csoka)

    1946 CERA Fantrip ticket (Collection of John T. Csoka)

    1946 CERA Fantrip ticket (Collection of John T. Csoka)

    The 129-144 series were not the only ones that had their ends altered to fit the Chicago "L" system, with its tight turns. Here is ex-WB&A 38, reconfigured as CA&E 603. (Author's collection)

    The 129-144 series were not the only ones that had their ends altered to fit the Chicago “L” system, with its tight turns. Here is ex-WB&A 38, reconfigured as CA&E 603. (Author’s collection)

    Checking with Don’s Rail Photos again, we note:

    In 1937, the CA&E needed additional equipment. Much was available, but most of the cars suffered from extended lack of maintenance. Finally, 5 coaches were found on the Washington Baltimore & Annapolis which were just the ticket. 35 thru 39, built by Cincinnati Car in 1913, were purchased and remodeled for service as 600 thru 604. The ends were narrowed for service on the El. They had been motors, but came out as control trailers. Other modifications included drawbars, control, etc. A new paint scheme was devised. Blue and grey with red trim and tan roof was adopted from several selections. They entered service between July and October in 1937.

    603 was built by Cincinnati Car Co in 1913 as WB&A 38. It was sold as CA&E 603 in September 1937.

    Here we see CA&E 701, ex-WB&A 81, at Wheaton yard on September 5, 1943. This car was built by Cincinnati Car Co. in 1913. (Author's collection)

    Here we see CA&E 701, ex-WB&A 81, at Wheaton yard on September 5, 1943. This car was built by Cincinnati Car Co. in 1913. (Author’s collection)

    At least some ex-WB&A cars lasted until the end of CA&E service. Here we see car 604 (former WB&A 39) at Wheaton yard on June 25, 1961. (Author's collection)

    At least some ex-WB&A cars lasted until the end of CA&E service. Here we see car 604 (former WB&A 39) at Wheaton yard on June 25, 1961. (Author’s collection)


  • Thursday, March 28, 2013 11:33 AM | Ed Graziano (Administrator)

    Our March 13 feature The Old Math (144 = 225) helped prompt this sequel, where we present more Chicago streetcar fantrip photos circa 1954-58. Except for one, these pictures are from the CTA Historical Photo Collection.

    Car #479 on Schreiber near Clark, CERA fantrip, May 16, 1954 (CTA Historical Collection)

    Car #479 on Schreiber near Clark, CERA fantrip, May 16, 1954 (CTA Historical Collection)


    Even a partial list of those present reads like a “Who’s Who” of the Chicago railfan community in the 1950s. Here are some we were able to identify, in no partiucular order:

    George Foelschow
    Bob Heinlein
    Jeff Wien
    Ray DeGroote
    Dick Lukin
    Maury Kleibolt
    John Marton
    Zenon Hansen
    Barney Neuberger
    Joe Zucker
    Glenn Andersen
    Chuck Tauscher
    Mike Megowan
    Jim Buckley
    Bob Gibson
    Don Idarius
    Larry Kostka
    Connie Morrell
    Howard Odinius
    Bill McGregor
    Bob Selle
    Jim Konas
    Maury Klebolt
    Frank Butts
    Bill Hoffman
    Ray Zielinski

    It’s easy to spot longtime CERA member Ray DeGroote- he’s the nattily dressed fellow with the hat and bow tie.

    Included here are photos from a CERA farewell fantrip on May 16, 1954, two weeks before the Red Cars were officially retired by CTA; IERM (or was it ERHS?) and Illini Railroad Club trips on February 10, 1957; and the final red car trip, sponsored by ERHS on June 15, 1958. This was just six days before the last Chicago streetcar ran.

    ERHS stands for Electric Railway Historical Society, a local group active from about 1952-73. You can read their story on the excellent Hicks Car Works blog here. ERHS published books and also helped preserve several streetcars. IERM is short for Illinois Electric Railway Museum, then located in North Chicago. Today, it’s IRM in Union, as the collection has been expanded to cover steam and diesel besides electric.

    Jeff Wien writes:

    Yes, there were two Red Car trips on Feb 10, 1957 which was the farewell to Broadway (last car operated on Feb 15th). This was my first Red Car trip and I happened to be on the Illinois Electric Railway Museum charter which used 144. The Illini Railroad Charter with Maury Klebolt operated car 225. The reason that I recall that event is because after December 4, 1955, streetcars only operated southbound on State Street between Kinzie and Polk once route 36-Broadway/State was cut in half. Northbound Broadway cars went west on Polk to Dearborn; north on Dearborn to Kinzie, east on Kinzie to State and north on State. When 144 went south on State Street, I captured her on the State Street Bridge.

    Klebolt’s trip caused a stir at CTA because he operated car 225 NORTH on State between Polk and Kinzie where no streetcar had operated since December 1955! This of course was against operating procedures at the time because streetcars were not supposed to operate northbound on State between Polk and Kinzie, but Maury was not the kind of guy to be told NO! He basically did as he pleased!

    Looking at the Surface Division Track Map that I have from 1952, there was a crossover just south of Harrison on State Street which Maury no doubt used to get the 225 to go NORTH on State Street! The Railway Museum group was not bold like Klebolt, so they operated 144 south on State to Polk to Dearborn to Kinzie to State as they were supposed to do.

    Actually Maury didn’t commit a cardinal sin so to speak because after May 30, 1954, there were no longer any Red Cars in service, only PCC cars. Since the PCC cars were not double ended, there was no way to reverse them on State Street after route 36 was cut in half. Only a double ended car like 225 or 144 could reverse ends on State Street and go back north. Maury had the chutzpah to do just that. It was amazing that the car could operate on the northbound track on State Street because the flanges must have been filled with dirt and gunk where no car had operated for over two years time. I didn’t see 225 operate there. I was just told about it. Sort of railfan folklore these days.

    Yesterday’s Railfans peer out at us from these wonderful photographs, with their box cameras, Argus C3s and even the occasional 35mm or twin-lens reflex. The world was so much younger then, and the pace was slower, with much less “information overload.” Some of these people are still with us, and others have sadly passed from the scene. These are moments frozen in time.

    As John Lennon famously said, “You only remember the good times.”

    -David Sadowski

    Car #479 on Schreiber (which is near Devon). (CTA Historical Collection)

    Car #479 on Schreiber (which is near Devon). (CTA Historical Collection)

    Car #225 at Kinzie and State (CTA Historical Collection)

    Car #225 at Kinzie and State (CTA Historical Collection)

    "Green Hornet" PCC Car #4401 (CTA Historical Collection)

    “Green Hornet” PCC Car #4401 (CTA Historical Collection)

    Car #479 interior, CERA fantrip, May 16, 1954 (CTA Historical Collection)

    Car #479 interior, CERA fantrip, May 16, 1954 (CTA Historical Collection)

    Car #225 on Schreiber near Clark on an Illini Railroad Club fantrip, February 10, 1957 (CTA Historical Collection)

    Car #225 on Schreiber near Clark on an Illini Railroad Club fantrip, February 10, 1957 (CTA Historical Collection)

    Car #225 on Clark Street, on an Illini Railroad Club fantrip, February 10, 1957. No, the car is not moving- this is a posed shot. (CTA Historical Collection)

    Car #225 on Clark Street, on an Illini Railroad Club fantrip, February 10, 1957. No, the car is not moving- this is a posed shot. (CTA Historical Collection)

    Car #144 interior on an ERHS fantrip, February 10, 1957 (CTA Historical Collection)

    Car #144 interior on an ERHS fantrip, February 10, 1957 (CTA Historical Collection)

    Car #144 interior on an ERHS fantrip, February 10, 1957 (CTA Historical Collection)

    Car #144 interior on an ERHS fantrip, February 10, 1957 (CTA Historical Collection)

    Car #144 inside Limits Car Barn, on an ERHS fantrip, February 10, 1957 (CTA Historical Collection)

    Car #144 inside Limits Car Barn, on an ERHS fantrip, February 10, 1957 (CTA Historical Collection)

    Car #479 on Schreiber. This is the same photograph as one of our earlier shots, but with less cropping. (CTA Historical Collection)

    Car #479 on Schreiber. This is the same photograph as one of our earlier shots, but with less cropping. (CTA Historical Collection)

    Car #144 at Vincennes and 80th, on an ERHS fantrip June 15, 1958. The very last Red Car operated on the Chicago streetcar system. (Photo by Bob Selle)

    Car #144 at Vincennes and 80th, on an ERHS fantrip June 15, 1958. The very last Red Car operated on the Chicago streetcar system. (Photo by Bob Selle)


  • Tuesday, March 26, 2013 12:09 PM | Ed Graziano (Administrator)
    There were three series of high-speed, lightweight interurban cars built during the Depression era. There were 20 “Red Devils” built for the Cincinnati and Lake Erie in 1930, one of which raced an airplane in a famous publicity stunt. There were 15 of the famous “Bullet” cars (10 double-ended for the Philadelphia and Western) built in 1932-33, 16 if you count a replacement car. (Both were the inspiration of Dr. Thomas Conway, a very forward thinking pioneer in electric transportation who was involved with reviving and modernizing several interurban properties.)

    In addition, there were 35 high-speeds built for Indiana Railroad in 1931. Although the largest group in number, this batch had the fewest survivors- in fact, only two cars were saved, #55 and #65. Interestingly, they were built by two different manufacturers, as IR had the order split. American Car and Foundry (ACF) built 14 cars, while Pullman made 21.

    Car #55, preserved today as Lehigh Valley Transit #1030, is an ACF product, while #65 is a Pullman. All 35 of the Indiana Railroad high-speeds can be considered improved versions of the C&LE cars. There are various differences despite their obvious similarity. The Red Devils have a squared-off rear end, while the Indiana cars have a curved end. The Indiana cars could be coupled together and operated as a multiple unit, which the C&LE cars could not do. Despite a greater use of aluminum, the IR cars actually weigh two tons more than the Cincinnatis (which, incidentally, were built by Cincinnati Car Company).

    Despite their similar origins, the stories of cars #55 and 65 are as different as night and day, and we can be grateful that any of these fine interurbans were saved. Just how fast these cars could go remains a matter of some conjecture, but it seems likely they could do at least 90 mph, in short bursts of speed- perhaps even more.

    Interurban service on the once-great Indiana Railroad quit in 1941. As things sputtered to a close, about 25 of the high-speeds sat for months in storage with no buyers. Eventually, they were taken outside, stripped of valuable parts, and scrapped. (Ironically, if they had been kept just a few months longer, their value possibly would have gone up, with the outbreak of war. Chances are there were operators across the country who could have used these cars during WWII.)

    After service to Fort Wayne was abandoned in January 1941, a few cars were retained for a curious, and little-known daily round trip between Indianapolis and Seymour. This has been described as a “franchise run,” but the situation was actually more like a sub-lease. This rump interurban service continued until September 1941, when the unthinkable happened, a head-on collision between car #78 and the line car. Service was discontinued immediately, an inglorious end for the IR.

    You can read the entire story in CERA B-128, Indiana Railroad- The Magic Interurban, by George K. Bradley, published in 1992.

    Car #65 was a lucky survivor of the Seymour operation and was shipped to Iowa in June 1942, where it went into service on the CRANDIC- the Cedar Rapids and Iowa City Railway, where it was renumbered car #120. There it remained until the end of electric interurban service in 1953, whereupon it became the first car purchased by the new Illinois Electric Railway Museum, which originally kept its collection at a foundry in North Chicago. The IERM repainted the car into Indiana Railroad colors and it went back to being #65, which it has remained since.

    The collection was moved to Union in the early 1960s and the car is operated occasionally. I most recently rode the car last summer during the annual Trolley Pageant. It is a thrill to experience the car’s quick and nimble speed. In the early days, when there was a lot less track, the museum was almost afraid to operate it, but nowadays there are several miles for the car to run on. The car is fitted with what might be called leather bucket seats and remains one of the jewels of IRM’s vast collection.

    What happened to IR #55 is even more interesting. In early 1941, it was sold to Lehigh Valley Transit, which ran a 55-mile interurban route between Philadelphia and Allentown, partly over shared trackage of the P&W’s Norristown High-Speed Line. Configured as a club car, LVT had the car modified to more closely resemble other ex-C&LE speeders they had purchased in 1938-39.

    These modifications were carried out in LVT’s own shops but used some Brill styling talent as outside consultants. The P&W (better know today as “Red Arrow”) insisted that an extra door be added to one side of the car for an emergency exit. This was due to one of the Bullet cars having burned up a few years earlier on the Schuylkill River bridge. Such exit doors were never added to the Bullets, however.

    LVT renumbered the car #1030 and it was placed into service on August 28, 1941. Employees nicknamed it the “Golden Calf,” since at first the car was brought in for cleanup and inspection after every run. The car ran in service with other ex-C&LE “Red Devils” on the 55-mile route, and both types ran with the Bullets on the 14 miles shared with the P&W.

    Ridership on the Liberty Bell Limited greatly increased during WWII, and soon the rigorous inspection schedule went out the window. In 1949, after LVT abandoned its other interurban, the Easton Limited, the easy chairs were removed from #1030 and replaced with leather bucket seats salvaged from some of the Cincinnati curved-side cars used on that route. These were essentially like those in IR #65, and that is how car #1030 finished up its 10 years of LVT service in September 1951, when buses were subbed for railcars. Interestingly, the bus substitution of the Liberty Bell limited was not a success and only lasted another five years.

    There were no third-hand takers for the remaining ex-C&LE cars that LVT had, and all were scrapped. Traction motors were sold to the P&W for use on the Bullet cars, which continued to operate into the early 1990s.

    Fortunately, LVT #1030 was saved, and was bought by the Seashore Electric Railway Historical Society, Inc., which we know today as the Seashore Trolley Museum, in Kennebunkport ME. The car was moved by rail to Boston, where it was temporarily stored by the MTA before being trucked the rest of the way to Maine.

    The leather bucket seats were removed, and were replaced by lounge chairs salvaged from some of the LVT’s ex-C&LE cars. Car #1030 remains at Seashore today, where it is occasionally operated.

    There is a final Indiana connection. In his book Interurban Railways of Allen County, Indiana (1958), Roy M. Bates writes:

    Mr. Theodore Santarelli De Brasch of Boston, Massachusetts, a great-grandson of Oliver P. Morton, Indiana’s Civil War Governor, was President of the Seashore Electric Railway Museum. Through his efforts #55 was acquired and preserved.

    CERA has returned time and again to the LVT story, publishing a roster in B-48, and featuring it on the cover of B-81, one of the “Trolley Sparks” series. There is significant coverage of LVT in B-140 (Pig & Whistle), at least about the shared operations on Norristown, and, most recently, an LVT section in B-142 (Keystone State Traction). I am sure it is a subject we will revisit again in greater detail in our future publications.

    Meanwhile, we can all be glad that at least two of the finest lightweight interurban rail cars ever made were saved, to be enjoyed today and in future generations to come.

    -David Sadowski

    IR #65 in 2012 at the Illinois Railway Museum in Union. (Photo by David Sadowski)

    IR #65 in 2012 at the Illinois Railway Museum in Union. (Photo by David Sadowski)


    The cover of CERA B-91 shows a three-car MU train of lightweight high-speeds, with car #66 in the lead.

    The cover of CERA B-91 shows a three-car MU train of lightweight high-speeds, with car #66 in the lead.

    IR #65 in 2012 at the Illinois Railway Museum in Union. (Photo by David Sadowski)

    IR #65 in 2012 at the Illinois Railway Museum in Union. (Photo by David Sadowski)

    The stylish Indiana Railroad logo. (Photo by David Sadowski)

    The stylish Indiana Railroad logo. (Photo by David Sadowski)

    IR #68 in action at the PRR underpass (Author's collection)

    IR #68 in action at the PRR underpass (Author’s collection)

    IR #66 on the Fort Wayne local. (Author's collection)

    IR #66 on the Fort Wayne local. (Author’s collection)

    IR #54 signed for Fort Wayne - Hoosierland. (Author's collection)

    IR #54 signed for Fort Wayne – Hoosierland. (Author’s collection)

    On the back of the photo, it says, "Indiana RR lightweight interurban #64. Snapped in Ft. Wayne, April 1, 1939. Color- orange + green roof. Built 1930 by Am. Car Co., Jeffersonville, Ind." (Author's collection)

    On the back of the photo, it says, “Indiana RR lightweight interurban #64. Snapped in Ft. Wayne, April 1, 1939. Color- orange + green roof. Built 1930 by Am. Car Co., Jeffersonville, Ind.” (Author’s collection)

    IR #65 on June 2, 1956. The first car purchased for the fledgling Illinois Electric Railway Museum, we see it here in North Chicago, being repainted in IR colors after running on CRANDIC. (Photo by Bob Selle - Author's collection)

    IR #65 on June 2, 1956. The first car purchased for the fledgling Illinois Electric Railway Museum, we see it here in North Chicago, being repainted in IR colors after running on CRANDIC. (Photo by Bob Selle – Author’s collection)

    From a 1952 Seashore Electric Railway special report on car #1030 Author's collection)

    From a 1952 Seashore Electric Railway special report on car #1030 Author’s collection)

    From a 1952 Seashore Electric Railway special report on car #1030 Author's collection)

    From a 1952 Seashore Electric Railway special report on car #1030 Author’s collection)

    Indiana Railroad #55, reincarnated as Lehigh Valley Transit #1030, seen here in Alletown PA on an August 28, 1941 NRHS fantrip. This was the beginning of the car's 10-year career here. (Author's collection)

    Indiana Railroad #55, reincarnated as Lehigh Valley Transit #1030, seen here in Alletown PA on an August 28, 1941 NRHS fantrip. This was the beginning of the car’s 10-year career here. (Author’s collection)

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    LVT #1030 on September 9, 1951, after interurban service was abandoned. (Author's collection)

    LVT #1030 on September 9, 1951, after interurban service was abandoned. (Author’s collection)

    From a 1952 Seashore Electric Railway special report on car #1030 Author's collection)

    From a 1952 Seashore Electric Railway special report on car #1030 Author’s collection)

    From a 1952 Seashore Electric Railway special report on car #1030 Author's collection)

    From a 1952 Seashore Electric Railway special report on car #1030 Author’s collection)

    From a 1953 issue of Transit Topics, the LVT employee publication. (Author's collection)

    From a 1953 issue of Transit Topics, the LVT employee publication. (Author’s collection)

    IR #65 at left in CRANDIC service, renumbered as #120, with an ex-CLE high-speed at the right (Author's collection)

    IR #65 at left in CRANDIC service, renumbered as #120, with an ex-CLE high-speed at the right (Author’s collection)

    1930 Cincinnati & Lake Erie "Red Devil" #118, shown here in CRANDIC service in Iowa. In 1954, this car was sold to the Seashore Trolley Museum, where it is preserved today. (Author's collection)

    1930 Cincinnati & Lake Erie “Red Devil” #118, shown here in CRANDIC service in Iowa. In 1954, this car was sold to the Seashore Trolley Museum, where it is preserved today. (Author’s collection)

    SEPTA ex-P&W "Bullet" car #202 in service on the Norristown High-Speed Line in 1985. (Photo by David Sadowski)

    SEPTA ex-P&W “Bullet” car #202 in service on the Norristown High-Speed Line in 1985. (Photo by David Sadowski)


  • Sunday, March 24, 2013 12:12 PM | Ed Graziano (Administrator)

    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.

    PS- Interestingly, a few years after this movie was made, Mexico City considered buying some postwar Chicago PCCs, but they would not fit due to clearance problems. As a result, car 4391 was saved locally and can be enjoyed today at the Illinois Railway Museum.

    screens_roundup2

    Ilusion-viaja-en-tranvia-Lailusion_tranviabunu51lo



  • Friday, March 22, 2013 12:14 PM | Ed Graziano (Administrator)

    This 1923 ad copy became more famous than the Jordan Playboy, the car it promoted:

    SOMEWHERE west of Laramie there’s a bronco-busting, steer roping girl who knows what I’m talking about. She can tell what a sassy pony, that’s a cross between greased lighting and the place where it hits, can do with eleven hundred pounds of steel and action when he’s going high, wide and handsome. The truth is – the Playboy was built for her. Built for the lass whose face is brown with the sun when the day is done of revel and romp and race. She loves the cross of the wild and the tame. There’s a savor of links about that car – of laughter and lilt and light – a hint of old loves – and saddle and quirt. It’s a brawny thing – yet a graceful thing for the sweep o’ the Avenue. Step into the Playboy when the hour grows dull with things gone dead and stale. Then start for the land of real living with the spirit of the lass who rides, lean and rangy, into the red horizon of a Wyoming twilight.

    The “west of Laramie” I have in mind today is the old Garfield Park “L” line that ran on the surface to Des Plaines Avenue in Forest Park. Looking back 55 years after scenes such as these disappeared, to be replaced by the Congress rapid transit line (today’s Blue Line), some of the poetry still seems apt. The “Sunset Lines” rode off into the sunset.

    Here are some scenes showing this portion of the old Garfield Park line as it once was. At times, it can be a bit difficult to determine the exact location, but we know some of our readers will help out.

    Although used by the CTA, this trackage was actually owned by the Chicago, Aurora and Elgin. CA&E and CTA’s predecessors swapped trackage rights in 1902- allowing CA&E to go downtown, and Met “L” cars west of Laramie. (East of Laramie, trains went up a ramp to steel structure the rest of the way downtown.)

    Circa 1949-51, plans were being finalized to build the City of Chicago’s portion of the Congress Superhighway, which needed about half of the Garfield right-of-way for the road. The portion in direct conflict was relocated in September 1953 to temporary street-level tracks on Van Buren Street. The original plan was for a temporary wooden “L” structure in the same location, but a local alderman objected, voicing the concerns of local business owners. Not wanting to see the project tied up in litigation, the City caved and the street trackage was the result.

    You might wonder why there were no grade crossings or gates on Van Buren, but at first the City referred to this as “streetcar trackage,” although none of it was. It used third rail throughout, except at major intersections, where there was a gap. I don’t think CTA could have found enough cars with trolley poles to run it with overhead wire.

    CA&E liked the idea of a modern grade-separated right-of-way in the expressway median, and in 1951, predicted using it would shave several minutes off their running times. But alas, it was not to be.

    Fearing the Van Buren operation would become a dangerous quagmire, CA&E refused to run their trains on it, meaning service would need to be cut back to a transfer point with CTA. Laramie would have been a logical place for this, since it was the point where CA&E’s tracks ended, but it suited both CA&E and CTA to shift the transfer point west to Des Plaines Avenue in Forest Park. CA&E allowed CTA to reconfigure the station to facilitate such transfers, where riders would need to pay a CTA fare and vice-verse. CA&E also insisted that the track connection between the two railroads be severed, to create an additional obstacle in case they were ordered to resume service downtown.

    Destroying the track connection may have also played a part in the earlier abandonment of the CTA Westchester branch, which was also owned by CA&E. CTA was happy to substitute bus service (the #17, which lasted until a few months ago) and CA&E sold off the land in the rapidly developing area and gave the cash to their shareholders rather than reinvest it in the interurban. This was the first in a series of such land sales, which helped grease the skids for CA&E’s eventual abandonment.

    There were conflicting press reports on whether CA&E would ever go back to running downtown, even after the completion of the expressway segment. But in exchange for selling the land between Des Plaines and Laramie to the State, CA&E was supposed to get its own express track in that section, so that its trains could be kept separated from CTA’s. By the time this section was built, CA&E had abandoned passenger service and the third track was never built. This track would have been north of where the current two-track right-of-way is today.

    You can see a third portal on the tunnel east of Central Avenue, where the CTA line shifts into the expressway median. The extra portal may have had an additional use besides CA&E. While these plans were being made, CTA still anticipated needing to use Laramie Yard. If so, the City would have built a track connection between Laramie Yard and the rest of the Congress line, and this involved crossing the highway. Chances are this would have been the point at which a subway tunnel would have gone under the roadway, with a ramp up to the surface.

    As it was, an at-grade track connection was retained to Laramie Yard for about one year after the eastern part of Congress opened in June 1958, but this of course kept the highway, which would have crossed it, at bay.

    Once CA&E quit passenger service in 1957, indicating a willingness to sell the Des Plaines terminal land, plans were changed to make that the CTA terminal, yard, and shops facility for the line. Doing so saved the City the substantial costs of building a tunnel to Laramie Yard.

    While expressway construction progressed in the City during 1953-58, the trackage at Laramie and points west was largely untouched. Once the Congress line opened in June 1958, the new portion of line ended near Laramie and then connected to the existing grade-level alignment going west, which included a junction where the line crossed the B&O freight line, now thankfully grade separated.

    Once the eastern portion of the Congress line opened in 1958, work began on our featured section, with a series of shifting temporary rights-of-way and temporary stations before things reached final form in 1961. By this time, local transit activists had persuaded the CTA to add secondary entrances to the Austin, Oak Park, and Harlem stations, in part to make up for the reduction of the total number of stations in the area. Stations in odd places like Gunderson were eliminated.

    Today we can enjoy riding the Blue Line rapid, while at the same time lament the loss of CA&E and wonder what might have been. Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear in our photo essay, when life was a little bit slower and less hectic, in the days when the Garfield Park “L” ran on the ground, somewhere west of Laramie.

    -David Sadowski

    (All photos from the Author’s collection.)

    CTA 5002 westbound at Laramie, December 1947. The four experimental articulated cars were patterned after the earlier BMT "Bluebirds" in New York. While they were ordered by CRT in their waning days, the fledgling CTA and the City of Chicago stage-managed this behind the scenes, as they also did with the CSL order for 600 "Green Hornet" streetcars. Car 5001 was already on CRT property before CTA took over on October 1, 1947. (Photographer unknown)

    CTA 5002 westbound at Laramie, December 1947. The four experimental articulated cars were patterned after the earlier BMT “Bluebirds” in New York. While they were ordered by CRT in their waning days, the fledgling CTA and the City of Chicago stage-managed this behind the scenes, as they also did with the CSL order for 600 “Green Hornet” streetcars. Car 5001 was already on CRT property before CTA took over on October 1, 1947. (Photographer unknown)


    CTA 6037-6038 heading west at Laramie on a CERA fantrip on May 1, 1955, showing how the line curved off a bit to the south, before straightening out temporarily to cross Lockwood before veering off again to run parallel with the B&O. We have attempted to bring the color back as much as possible in this early Ektachrome slide, which has a very pronounced "red shift." (Photo by Ray DeGroote)

    CTA 6037-6038 heading west at Laramie on a CERA fantrip on May 1, 1955, showing how the line curved off a bit to the south, before straightening out temporarily to cross Lockwood before veering off again to run parallel with the B&O. We have attempted to bring the color back as much as possible in this early Ektachrome slide, which has a very pronounced “red shift.” (Photo by Ray DeGroote)

    Here, just a bit west of the previous picture, we see the sweeping curve from the other perspective, looking east. Note the position of the shack at left in the other picture. May 9, 1954 (Photo by Ray DeGroote)

    Here, just a bit west of the previous picture, we see the sweeping curve from the other perspective, looking east. Note the position of the shack at left in the other picture. May 9, 1954 (Photo by Ray DeGroote)

    CTA 6042-6041 westbound at Austin Boulevard on May 9, 1954. (Photo by Ray DeGroote)

    CTA 6042-6041 westbound at Austin Boulevard on May 9, 1954. (Photo by Ray DeGroote)

    CTA 6055-6056 eastbound at Austin on May 9, 1954. (Photo by Ray DeGroote)

    CTA 6055-6056 eastbound at Austin on May 9, 1954. (Photo by Ray DeGroote)

    6000s eastbound at Austin in Oak Park on May 9, 1954. At right we see the large gas tank that was once a Forest Park landmark. (Photo by Ray DeGroote)

    6000s eastbound at Austin in Oak Park on May 9, 1954. At right we see the large gas tank that was once a Forest Park landmark. (Photo by Ray DeGroote)

    Looking east from DesPlaines avenue in Forest Park on March 18, 1956, near where the Garfield line crossed the B&O. (Photo by Ray DeGroote)

    Looking east from DesPlaines avenue in Forest Park on March 18, 1956, near where the Garfield line crossed the B&O. (Photo by Ray DeGroote)

    CA&E car 408 near DesPlaines avenue on October 16, 1955 (Photo by Ray DeGroote)

    CA&E car 408 near DesPlaines avenue on October 16, 1955 (Photo by Ray DeGroote)

    In this nighttime shot, a CA&E train sits at Des Plaines terminal in April 1957. (Photographer unknown)

    In this nighttime shot, a CA&E train sits at Des Plaines terminal in April 1957. (Photographer unknown)

    Perhaps the last remnant of the Garfield Park "L", a bit of track peeks out through asphalt at the Lockwood crossing in this 1980s photo by David Sadowski.

    Perhaps the last remnant of the Garfield Park “L”, a bit of track peeks out through asphalt at the Lockwood crossing in this 1980s photo by David Sadowski.


  • Wednesday, March 20, 2013 12:17 PM | Ed Graziano (Administrator)
    Here is a vanished bit of small town Americana, trundling through Yesterday’s Main Street. This is Illinois Terminal, and we can say it’s the 1950s, looking at the autos, but WHERE was this mystery photo taken?

    Let us know your thoughts by either posting a “Comment” or by writing to us at:
    cerablog1@gmail.com

    We always appreciate hearing from our readers!

    -David Sadowski

    PS- That round, white object at right could be a Flying Saucer… maybe the Republic serial “Flying Disc Man From Mars” was playing at the local Bijou… or it could just be one of those times when the moon is visible in the daytime, I don’t know. Draw your own conclusions.

    IT 285, 1950s (Author's collection)

    IT 285, 1950s (Author’s collection)


    Mystery Solved-

    John Howard writes:

    You probably know by now, but just in case… The mystery photo was taken in Carlinville from the corner of North West and West First North Streets – looking south. Davenport’s Cafe is south of the station. City Hall’s siren can be seen above the Cafe. The steeple at the south end of town (on South West Street) was St. Joseph’s Catholic Church. It’s now a restaurant sans steeple.

    Thanks!


  • Monday, March 18, 2013 12:20 PM | Ed Graziano (Administrator)
    If you want to ride a PCC streetcar in regular service, you can still go to Boston, Philadelphia, or San Francisco, but since 2000, you can also ride them in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on a loop track of slightly less than two miles. On Saturday, March 16th, Kenosha Transit put 1948 vintage ex-SEPTA PCC 2185 into service, representing Philadelphia.

    The sun shines on ex-SEPTA PCC 2185, now in service in Kenosha.

    The sun shines on ex-SEPTA PCC 2185, now in service in Kenosha.


    This makes a fleet of 8 PCCs in all, with one being store inoperable. The original five cars, all ex-Toronto circa 1951, and representing different cities, were lined up outside the Joseph McCarthy Transit Center for photos. Kenosha’s streetcars retain the numbering from their prior homes.

    Cars 2185 and 4617 were acquired from the East Troy Electric Railroad. East Troy decided to stick with double-ended cars, rather than construct expensive turning loops at both ends of their line.

    The people of Kenosha are very friendly, and the line was operating on a 15-minute headway the day I was there. They are even railfan-friendly. There were several photographers along the trolley loop, and our operator was happy to oblige with a photo stop now and then, especially when the sun peeked out from behind the clouds for about a minute. The PCC rolled along at a leisurely pace of about 10-12 mph for the most part.

    Kenosha streetcar mechanic Bradley Preston gave us a grand tour of the shops, including a demonstration of how a PCC’s traction motor works:

    Bradley Preston Explains How PCC Streetcar Resistors Work


    PCC 2185 rounds a bend near the Kenosha METRA station on March 16, 2013:

    PCC 2185

    A fine time was had by all. It was a kick to ride car 2185, and it’s entirely possible I already rode the car before on the streets of Philadelphia, 25 years ago or more. Even more interesting, this car had its trucks exchanged and now rides on former Chicago PCC trucks. Car 4617, also acquired from East Troy, also runs and together, the two cars are a nice addition to a well-maintained fleet.

    It appears Kenosha’s system is going to expand, as we were told they have now secured funding for an additional 22 blocks of trackage in a north-south loop line. Construction may begin in 2014. As the word “streetcar” slowly creeps into the lexicon of American cities once again, it looks to have a very bright future in Kenosha.

    -David Sadowski
    (All photos and videos were taken by the Author on March 16, 2013 unless otherwise noted.)

    The five original Kenosha PCCs, all ex-Toronto, lined up outside the carbarn (4606-4609-4616-4615-4610).

    The five original Kenosha PCCs, all ex-Toronto, lined up outside the carbarn (4606-4609-4616-4615-4610).

    4606, the ersatz Chicago car (Chicago's PCCs were all longer than standard dimensions).

    4606, the ersatz Chicago car (Chicago’s PCCs were all longer than standard dimensions).

    4609 represents Pittsburgh.

    4609 represents Pittsburgh.

    The Cincinnati tribute car.

    The Cincinnati tribute car.

    4615 represents Johnstown, PA, the smallest city in the US to have PCCs.

    4615 represents Johnstown, PA, the smallest city in the US to have PCCs.

    4610 represents Toronto.

    4610 represents Toronto.

    2185 in action, still signed for the SEPTA #56 streetcar line (Erie-Torresdale).

    2185 in action, still signed for the SEPTA #56 streetcar line (Erie-Torresdale).

    Most of Kenosha's cars are ex-Toronto, but only 4610 and 4617 are in TTC colors.

    Most of Kenosha’s cars are ex-Toronto, but only 4610 and 4617 are in TTC colors.

    Kenosha also has ex-SEPTA 2120, which is not in operable condition.

    Kenosha also has ex-SEPTA 2120, which is not in operable condition.

    Interestingly, a couple of PCCs in the shop are not on rails. The metal under the wheels is there simply to protect the floor. Cars can be moved on and off the tracks in just a few hours by one man.

    Interestingly, a couple of PCCs in the shop are not on rails. The metal under the wheels is there simply to protect the floor. Cars can be moved on and off the tracks in just a few hours by one man.

    We tour the shops.

    We tour the shops.

    Signs that will be increasingly needed in Kenosha's future.

    Signs that will be increasingly needed in Kenosha’s future.

    The carbarn fits 8 PCCs comfortably.

    The carbarn fits 8 PCCs comfortably.

    4616 above the pit.

    4616 above the pit.

    Stylish Pittsburgh Railways logo on 4609.

    Stylish Pittsburgh Railways logo on 4609.

    P10001994606 looking very shiny in the carbarn.

    4606 looking very shiny in the carbarn.

    4615 and 4616 at rest.

    4615 and 4616 at rest.

    4610 in the carbarn.

    4610 in the carbarn.

    As you can see, the interior of 2185 is in great shape.

    As you can see, the interior of 2185 is in great shape.

    2185 near the Lake Michigan shoreline.

    2185 near the Lake Michigan shoreline.

    2185 near the Lake Michigan shoreline.

    2185 near the Lake Michigan shoreline.

    2185 in action.

    2185 in action.

    ex-SEPTA 2185 rounding a curve near the Kenosha METRA station.

    ex-SEPTA 2185 rounding a curve near the Kenosha METRA station.

    It is still possible to find an AMC Pacer in the city where they were built.

    It is still possible to find an AMC Pacer in the city where they were built.

    The former North Shore Line Station in Kenosha is now the Cesar E. Chavez Learning Station.

    The former North Shore Line Station in Kenosha is now the Cesar E. Chavez Learning Station.

    SEPTA PCC 2168 in Philadelphia service on the #47 line in 1973. (Author's collection)

    SEPTA PCC 2168 in Philadelphia service on the #47 line in 1973. (Author’s collection)


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