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  • Friday, March 15, 2013 12:30 PM | Ed Graziano (Administrator)
    The first half of our fantrip, with 2200s, begins at Rosemont.

    The first half of our fantrip, with 2200s, begins at Rosemont.

    People take pictures of each other...

    People take pictures of each other…

    Subway stop... I think this was Logan Square.

    Subway stop… I think this was Logan Square.

    Photo stop at Ashland on the Green Line.

    Photo stop at Ashland on the Green Line.

    We got off at 35th for a run-by.

    We got off at 35th for a run-by.

    35th-Sox Park.

    35th-Sox Park.

    Our train has returned.

    Our train has returned.

    We are let off at Madison and Wabash.

    We are let off at Madison and Wabash.

    Our train of 2200s departs while we take a lunch break.

    Our train of 2200s departs while we take a lunch break.

    Here come the 5000s.

    Here come the 5000s.

    We get off at Oakton for a run-by.

    We get off at Oakton for a run-by.

    Northbound at Oakton.

    Northbound at Oakton.

    5000s southbound approaching Oakton.

    5000s southbound approaching Oakton.

    5000s southbound approaching Oakton.

    5000s southbound approaching Oakton.

    5000s at Wilson, where North Shore trains once stopped.

    5000s at Wilson, where North Shore trains once stopped.

    5000s interior.

    5000s interior.

    A Pink Line train passes us at Morgan.

    A Pink Line train passes us at Morgan.

    Our trip ends in twilight at Morgan on the Green Line.

    Our trip ends in twilight at Morgan on the Green Line.

    CERA sponsored a fantrip on the CTA rapid transit system on November 18, 2012, highlighting both the “old” and the “new.” The old was represented by a train made up entirely of 2200-series cars from 1970. These are the last cars on the system that use “blinker” doors and are thus not handicapped accessible. For many years, the 2200s have only been used in conjunction with other series cars that have sliding doors, so this charter was a rare and perhaps final opportunity to experience them as they once were used in service.

    Tony Coppoletta, who organized this trip for CERA, told me it was his intention to showcase the 2200s on the Kennedy and Dan Ryan expressway lines, where they ran for so many years. After 43 years of faithful service, they are gradually being retired.

    I boarded the train at Rosemont on the Blue Line. We stopped in the Kimball subway to pick up more people, then through the Dearborn subway. Next, we went up the ramp to the Douglas/Pink Line and changed ends. Then, it was back to the Loop over the Lake St./Green Line trackage, then out over to the Dan Ryan line via the “old” connection that was used before completion of the short subway connecting the Howard and Dan Ryan.

    We stopped at 35th for a run-by, and then it was back downtown for a lunch break. The 2200s went back around the Loop for one more photo opportunity, but we headed off to McDonald’s.

    After lunch, around came our “new” train, the 5000s. The transverse seating has been very controversial, and much commented on in the local press, but the new cars have very smooth acceleration, since they do not use points or “chopper” controls, converting DC to AC instead. This change means they cannot be trained with the older series of “L” cars.

    Despite it being the middle of November, the weather was very reasonable and we even had some sun that day. We did go out to around 35th on the Orange Line before changing ends and going back up north via the Loop “L”, the Brown Line, and on the Howard/Red Line. Our train then turned onto the Yellow Line, the former “Skokie Swift,” a remnant of the North Shore Line’s “Skokie Valley Route” for a run-by at the newish station at Oakton.

    Then we proceeded south with a final photo stop at Wilson Avenue, before going back downtown and ending our sojourn at the other new CTA station, Morgan on the Green Line. A fine time was had by all. If you were there that day, we are glad to have seen you and thank you for your support.

    If you couldn’t make it, you can get a pretty good idea of our trip through these pictures, mostly taken by yours truly (except as noted).

    -David Sadowski

    FYI, the Illinois Railway Museum will hold its annual “Snowflake Special charter on the CTA on March 24th, using an 8-car train made up of four different series of railcars. More info here.

    CTA 2318 leads the way at Lake and Ashland on November 18, 2012. (Photo by Jeff Wien, courtesy of the Wien-Criss Archive)

    CTA 2318 leads the way at Lake and Ashland on November 18, 2012. (Photo by Jeff Wien, courtesy of the Wien-Criss Archive)


  • Wednesday, March 13, 2013 12:34 PM | Ed Graziano (Administrator)
    Ten years before the “New Math,” 144 was equal to 225, at least for one day. The occasion was a December 1956 Chicago fantrip, using one of the last surviving Red Pullman streetcars.

    Red Cars were phased out of regular service by CTA in 1954, and nearly all were scrapped soon after, but a few were kept, including cars 144, 225, and 460. Today 225 is at the Seashore Trolley Museum in Maine, while the other two are at the Illinois Railway Museum. Car 144 was one of the first purchases made by the fledgling museum, now celebrating its 60th year, and 460 was stored for decades as part of the CTA historical collection before it too found its way there.

    CTA #225 masquerading as 144, on an Illini Railroad Club fantrip in December, 1956 (George Foelschow collection) Location is on Dearborn near Washington.

    CTA #225 masquerading as 144, on an Illini Railroad Club fantrip in December, 1956 (George Foelschow collection). Location is on Dearborn near Washington.

    CTA #144 on an Illini Railroad Club fantrip in December, 1957. We are looking north on Dearborn Street near Randolph. We see buses here since by this time, PCCs did not run on weekends on the #22 Clark-Wentworth line. (Author's collection)

    CTA #144 on an Illini Railroad Club fantrip in December, 1957. We are looking north on Dearborn Street near Randolph. We see buses here since by this time, PCCs did not run on weekends on the #22 Clark-Wentworth line. (Author’s collection)

    CTA #144 on the 12-29-57 fantrip, at 81st and Vincennes, on Vincennes Avenue looking north (Author's collection)

    CTA #144 on the 12-29-57 fantrip, at 81st and Vincennes, on Vincennes Avenue looking north (Author’s collection)

    #144 at the intersection of 81st and Vincennes, on the 12-29-57 fantrip (Author's collection)

    #144 at the intersection of 81st and Vincennes, on the 12-29-57 fantrip (Author’s collection)

    144 northbound on Dearborn, on the 12-29-57 fantrip (Author's collection)

    144 northbound on Dearborn, on the 12-29-57 fantrip (Author’s collection)

    CTA #144 near in regular service, at the west end of the 63rd Street line, on May 14, 1953 (Bob Selle photo, Author's collection)

    CTA #144 in regular service, at the west end of the 63rd Street line, on May 14, 1953 (Bob Selle photo, Author’s collection)

    Red Chicago streetcars #144 and #1374 at the Illinois Railway Museum (Author's photo)

    Red Chicago streetcars #144 and #1374 at the Illinois Railway Museum (Author’s photo)


    It’s a miracle that any additional cars were saved. You can read the story of how this did in fact happen on the excellent Hicks Car Works blog.

    I was just three years old when the last Chicago streetcar ran on that fateful day June 21, 1958, but at least my father had the foresight to make sure I rode one of the PCCs on the south side before the end. By this time, the north end of Clark-Wentworth had already been converted to bus, and streetcars had to turn at Kinzie.

    Between 1954 and 1958, there were a number of Red Car fantrips on the CTA, sponsored by CERA and other contemporary organizations. CERA ran three and hosted the final such trip on May 25, 1958. Often, these trips also included a PCC car. The Illini Railroad Club ran two such trips, around Christmas time in both 1956 and 1957. Information on all 206 CERA fantrips from 1938 to 2012 will be included in our upcoming publication Trolley Sparks Special #1.

    The curious renumbering in our first photo requires an explanation from longtime CERA member George Foelschow. This was on the December 1956 sojourn. Apparently, trip organizer Maury Klebolt had advertised they were going to use 144, and when they ended up with 225 instead, he didn’t want to disappoint anyone. So a few swatches of oilcloth were painted red and numbered 144, and were placed over the actual numbers.

    The Illini fantrip using car 225 renumbered for the day as 144 was held on a December Sunday in 1956. (It was rather silly to “renumber” 225 for one day since most fans were happy to ride a red car, any car, but that was a quirk of Maurice Klebolt of Illini Railroad Club.) I saved one of the oilcloth 144 signs and it hung in my childhood bedroom in Elgin for many years as a memento. It was lost when the house and most contents sold after my parents died and I was living in San Diego.

    The day after the trip the Sun-Times had a front page story illustrated with a photo of the car on Dearborn Street near Washington Street with me in a prominent place in the car’s front window. You can see that the 144 tag was a slightly lighter shade of red. The PCC car in the photo was also part of the charter since this was the period of weekend bus substitution. Many, if not most, of the riders were CERA members, though I can name only two besides myself. I am in the car’s right front window against the corner post. Dick Kunz is two persons to my right waving his ungloved hand. Bob Heinlein is at the rear front door wearing a camera bag. I don’t remember if Jeff Wien was on that trip.

    Jeff Wien writes:

    These black & white pics (3, 4 and 5) were taken on Sunday, December 29, 1957 on the first fantrip that I ever attended at the age of 16. The trip only operated on Clark-Wentworth. I have 8mm color movies of the fantrip as well as other Red Car fantrips which have been digitized. It would only have gone to the Loop (Clark-Kinzie) because Clark Street was converted to bus on September 6, 1957. Red Car movies of various fantrips are covered in my Chicago Streetcar Memories DVD.

    Along the way, regular transit riders tried to board the cars, seemingly oblivious to the fact they’d been taken out of service for a few years. That is a testament to how the Big Red Cars were ingrained into the city’s consciousness, during the heyday of CSL, the Chicago Surface Lines, a predecessor of the CTA. Jeff says people back then were often incredulous when he told them he was taking photos and movies of streetcars. They could not understand why anyone would do that, and some even had a “good riddance” attitude about the demise of Chicago trolleys.

    But we do not write this blog for any of those people. Now the pendulum has swung the other way, first in the guise of “light rail,” whatever that means, but we are starting to hear the word “streetcar” creep back into the urban environment, in at least a few and growing number of American cities.

    Jeff recalls that Maurice Klebolt’s Illini Railroad club eventually fell by the wayside, and he did not see him again until 1982, when he ran into him in San Francisco. While Chicago trolleys bit the dust, Klebolt went on to bigger and better things, as the main “spark plug” behind the San Francisco Trolley Festival. The original idea was to create an alternate tourist attraction, when the famous Cable Cars were taken out of service for a long overdue rehab.

    Streetcars were being taken off Market Street as the Muni Metro subway was phased in circa 1980-82. But thanks to Klebolt’s hard work, vision and a bit of “chutzpah,” the historic trolleys soon became an integral part of San Francisco transit, and were eventually extended to Fisherman’s Wharf, paving the way (or more appropriately, unpaving the way) for historic trolley lines in several other US cities.

    You can read an appreciation of Maurice Klebolt here.

    But given the choice between the New Math and the Old Math, I’ll take the days when 144 equaled 225 every time.

    -David Sadowski

    You can find more information about the Muni F streetcar line here.

    PS- A few words about CTA streetcar abandonment dates. After I wrote this post, I got the following correction from Jeff Wien:

    Where did you get that erroneous date of June 22nd? I was on the last car. It pulled in at 6am on Saturday, June 21, 1958. For years, CTA has been putting forth the erroneous date of June 22nd. I don’t know where you got that, but it is wrong.

    In the future, I would suggest that you be very careful as to when you quote Streetcar abandonment dates. A number of years ago I learned that the CTA regarded the official conversion dates as taking effect on Sundays. However, that was often not the case because in most of the streetcar abandonments that involved the operation of two man cars, the Saturday prior to the Sunday official conversion date was the real end of streetcar service. If a streetcar line was operated with one man cars, it probably ran streetcars 7 days a week. However, if two man cars were operated, they only ran on weekdays with weekend bus operations. Current CTA staff haven’t a clue as to what went on 50 years ago with weekend bus operations, and because they only know that official route changes are made effective on Sundays, they conclude that the streetcars were withdrawn on Sundays rather than Saturdays.

    The Last Chicago Streetcar is a good example of their doctrinaire thinking about route changes. The last car operated on the morning of June 21st which was a Saturday morning. Weekend bus operation began immediately after the Last Car operated. However, the official conversion of the route was effective on Sunday,June 22nd. So, you can see how a current era CTA employee, basically unfamiliar with the history of the Authority, would conclude that the last streetcar ran in the early morning of Sunday, June 22nd. Since I rode and photographed the Last Chicago Streetcar in person, I can refute the revisionists view of streetcar abandonments. I don’t suppose that there are many of us who understand what I have described.

    I’ve changed the date in the text to the correct June 21, 1958.

    CTA Red Pullman 144 on a fantrip in December 1957. (Author's collection)

    CTA Red Pullman 144 on a fantrip in December 1957. (Author’s collection)

    Car 225 on a fantrip (probably February 10, 1957). (Photographer unknown)

    Car 225 on a fantrip (probably February 10, 1957). (Photographer unknown)


  • Saturday, March 09, 2013 12:40 PM | Ed Graziano (Administrator)
    While half the 91-year-old Wells Street bridge over the Chicago River is being replaced this week, railfans have a rare opportunity to ride the CTA Brown Line (formerly Ravenswood) “L” trains in the State Street subway. This is the first time Brown Line trains have run in the 70-year-old subway on anything like a regular basis.CTA Brown Line Loop shuttle, March 8, 2013

    CTA Brown Line Loop shuttle, March 8, 2013

    CTA Brown Line Loop shuttle, March 8, 2013

    CTA Brown Line Loop shuttle, March 8, 2013

    CTA Brown Line Loop shuttle at Lake and LaSalle, March 8, 2013

    CTA Brown Line Loop shuttle at Lake and LaSalle, March 8, 2013

    CTA Brown Line train in the State Street Subway, March 8, 2013

    CTA Brown Line train in the State Street Subway, March 8, 2013

    CTA Brown Line train in the State Street Subway, March 8, 2013

    CTA Brown Line train in the State Street Subway, March 8, 2013

    Subway-bound CTA Brown Line train, southbound at Fullerton, March 8, 2013

    Subway-bound CTA Brown Line train, southbound at Fullerton, March 8, 2013

    CTA Brown Line subway trains passing each other at Armitage, March 8, 2013

    CTA Brown Line subway trains passing each other at Armitage, March 8, 2013

    CTA Brown Line train turning back at Merchandise Mart, March 8, 2013

    CTA Brown Line train turning back at Merchandise Mart, March 8, 2013

    Wells St. bridge replacement work, March 8, 2013

    Wells St. bridge replacement work, March 8, 2013


    When I rode the trains earlier today, looking for some photo opportunities, everything seemed to be running smoothly, with riders taking things in stride. With the bridge out temporarily, one out of every three Brown Line trains terminates at the Merchandise Mart, while the other two run through the Red Line subway. Meanwhile, to help move people around on the Loop “L”, they’ve revived the old Loop Shuttle train. Brown Line riders in the subway can go as far south as Roosevelt Road, although the trains turn back further south of there.

    Brown Line trains are all back on the regular route by Fullerton and points north, but the subway trains have to skip Armitage, since it is past the crossover, and very close to the portal.

    The CTA dovetailed some track work north and south of the bridge to coincide with the project, making the Mart station a literal one-track operation. The other track has been removed and is in the midst of being replaced. A bumper post is there to keep trains from getting too close to the bridge.

    This rerouting also requires unusual signage. The Loop Shuttle has one of those old-fashioned metal hanging signs, the kind that used to say “Ball Game Today,” or “Last Stop River Road.”

    Southbound Brown Lines that go through the subway are signed for Roosevelt. The new 5000s are not being used for this service, in part because the electronic signage supposedly cannot be reprogrammed, but also because there are still operators who have not yet been trained to run these cars.

    Fears that the roof boards on some 3400s might have clearance problems turned out to be groundless. Those cars were the last to be equipped with overhead current “pan trolleys” in Yellow Line (Skokie Swift) service, but that line was completely converted to third-rail operation some years back.

    Yes, a train of the 1-50 PCC single car units had its trolley poles ripped off in 1994, because of clearance problems, but this had to do with work being done by a contractor, and not an issue with the subway itself. So far, it appears to be smooth sailing in the State Street subway, but those rails must be pretty warm, being used at a much higher capacity than is typical. But years ago, those trains ran on some very tight headways indeed, often one train every two minutes or less.

    The current diversion is merely Round 1, with Round 2 coming up in April when the other half of the Wells St. bridge gets the same treatment.

    Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania, they have their own bridge problem, on the SEPTA Norristown High-Speed Line. The underwater supports for the Schuylkill River bridge leading to the Norristown terminal have deteriorated and need replacement. At present, funds are not available to do the work, and SEPTA announced last December that it would close the bridge, perhaps indefinitely, once warm weather returns.

    I hope to be in Philadelphia on May 5 for a Friends of Philadelphia Trolleys fantrip on the SEPTA Media and Sharon Hill trolley lines, celebrating 100 years of service. I’m hoping the bridge will still be in use then, in spite of global warming, for one last ride to Norristown.

    But I have a message for Philadelphia… take a look at what we can do in Chicago. Find the money somehow, and fix that bridge!

    -David Sadowski

    P&W "Bullet" car #200 on the Norristown High-Speed Line, in a picture probably taken in the late 1950s (Author's collection)

    P&W “Bullet” car #200 on the Norristown High-Speed Line, in a picture probably taken in the late 1950s (Author’s collection)


  • 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
    TrolleySparks11

    Trolley Sparks #11, June 1945 (front cover)

    Trolley Sparks #11, June 1945 (front cover)



  • Thursday, March 07, 2013 12:47 PM | Ed Graziano (Administrator)
    From time to time, we come across old pictures that are hard to identify, and this is one of them. It’s obviously trolley freight, which has somewhat the look of just having been abandoned, possibly, although the wire is still up, and usually that’s the first to go.


    ???? (From Author's collection)

    ???? (From Author’s collection)


    So, what is it? If you have an idea, let us know, either by using the “comment” button, or contacting us directly at: cerablog1@gmail.com

    Thanks!

    -David Sadowski


  • Wednesday, March 06, 2013 12:52 PM | Ed Graziano (Administrator)
    Time was when you could look out the front window, or the back window, of the train you were riding on, and could often get a fantastic view such as we see here. But times changed. The fabled Chicago North Shore and Milwaukee Electroliners were gone from these tracks less than five years after this photo was taken. They then ran for another dozen years or so on Philadelphia’s “Red Arrow” line to Norristown, but are now relegated to museums.

    Railfan seats are also a distant memory on CTA rapid transit cars, victims of full-width cabs and one-man operation. But we can still dream, thanks to yesterday’s railfans, who so faithfully and lovingly documented fleeting scenes like this one.

    -David Sadowski

    A train of CTA 6000s, as seen from a CNS&M Electroliner, looking north at Howard St., in a photograph by Lawrence H. Boehning, taken on May 8, 1958 (Author's collection).

    A train of CTA 6000s, as seen from a CNS&M Electroliner, looking north at Howard St., in a photograph by Lawrence H. Boehning, taken on May 8, 1958 (Author’s collection).



  • Sunday, March 03, 2013 12:55 PM | Ed Graziano (Administrator)

    With this, we inaugurate a new feature, a “photo of the day.” To get things started, here is a shot of brand-new Philadelphia Suburban “Brilliner” #1 at the end of the Sharon Hill line on August 24, 1941. (Photo from the Author’s Collection.)

    Brilliner1941

    The Brilliner was the “last gasp” of venerated Philadelphia railcar builder J. G. Brill, once the largest producer of streetcars and interurbans in the US. It was an attempt to produce a modern streetcar much like the PCC, but without paying any royalties for the use of its patents. The effort was not very successful, as only a few orders came in. Besides the 10 built for Red Arrow, there were 24 Brilliners sold to Atlantic City, three to Philadelphia, and one each to Cincinnati and Baltimore- nothing like the success of the PCC.

    Unable to compete in the railcar business any longer, Brill merged with American Car and Foundry (ACF) in 1944 to create ACF-Brill, and continued to manufacture both motor and trolley buses for another decade. They ceased using the Brill name in 1956.

    This is an interesting photo, since it was taken by the official photographer for Lehigh Valley Transit Co., which used the Red Arrow’s Norristown line for 14 miles of its 56 mile Liberty Bell Limited route between Philadelphia and Allentown. LVT was not in a position to buy new railcars in 1941 and their last used purchase (made that same year) was car #55 from the nearly defunct Indiana Railroad. With some assistance from Brill employees (either working as consultants or possibly moonlighting) LVT reconfigured car #55 into the venerable #1030, which is preserved today at the Seashore Trolley Museum in Maine.

    So, while LVT was not going to buy any Brilliners, there was a business relationship with Brill, at least to some extent, and they naturally would have been interested in seeing the new Brill product.

    The Brilliners were fairly successful in Red Arrow service and continued in use until 1982. Some have been saved in museums.

    You can read more about the Red Arrow in CERA Bulletin 140. Pig & Whistle: The Story of the Philadelphia & Western Railway by Ronald DeGraw can be purchased through our web site here.b140_p&w

    -David Sadowski

    Brilliner #8, now in SEPTA colors, nears the end of service in this August 16, 1981 view on the Media trolley line by Elwood C. McEllroy (Author's collection)

    Brilliner #8, now in SEPTA colors, nears the end of service in this August 16, 1981 view on the Media trolley line by Elwood C. McEllroy (Author’s collection)



  • Friday, March 01, 2013 1:01 PM | Ed Graziano (Administrator)

    As CERA celebrates its 75th anniversary, we can look back on a long, rich history of inspection trips on electric railways all over the United States, and even some in foreign lands.

    Years ago, people liked putting things into scrapbooks, and I recently purchased a railfan’s old scrapbook from the early 1960s on eBay. Just about everything and anything comes up for sale eventually, and chances are the original scrapbook owner is no longer with us, but his mementos fortunately remain

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    scan347                                scan349


    Among them, I found a CERA fantrip brochure and ticket from 1964, nearly 50 years old. This was a trip on the South Shore Line using freight equipment. I did not find photos from the trip in the scrapbook, but I do have other South shore pictures from that general time period (1963-65), and I have included a few at the end of this post.

    The fantrip took place a year after the North Shore Line quit, and about two years after what remained of the Chicago, Aurora and Elgin was finally scrapped. So railfans naturally turned their attention in 1964 to the South Shore, Chicago’s last remaining interurban.

    There has been an ongoing debate for a long time whether it is America’s last interurban. Some people would put the Red Arrow lines, currently operated by SEPTA, into that category. These include the Media and Sharon Hill trolleys and the Norristown High-Speed Line. None of these approach the 90 mile length of the South Shore, however.

    Is BART, which runs between San Francisco, Oakland, and many other places, an interurban? The PATCO line between Philadelphia and Lindenwold, NJ also has some characteristics of an “interurban,” which is a somewhat fuzzy concept to begin with, and no precise definition has been forthcoming. But the bulk of ridership on all such lines today is made up of commuters, and this includes the South Shore. But the line, under the operation of NICTD, still runs service between Michigan City and the outskirts of South Bend, along a single track right-of-way that still reflects its long interurban heritage. And a small amount of street running remains in Michigan City.

    Gone are the days when you could flag down a South Shore train by holding up a burning newspaper. The classic 1920s South Shore railcars are long gone as well, replaced by more modern equipment in 1983. But for those of a certain age, the memories linger… along with the memorabilia, movies, and photographs of times now past. Many of the old South Shore trains are preserved in various railway museums around the country. They may not run as fast as they once did between Chicago and South Bend, but they are still worth a ride.

    -David Sadowski

    The Old South Shore (America's Last Classic Interurban Railway)

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  • Monday, February 25, 2013 1:11 PM | Ed Graziano (Administrator)

    Long-time CERA member and author Bruce Moffat will present a PowerPoint slide program about the history of what is known today as the southern half of CTA’s Green Line. Originally opened in 1892 by the Chicago & South Side Rapid Transit Railroad Company, and commonly referred to as the Alley “L”, Chicago’s first elevated railway soon was expanded to a system having 5 branches that went through many changes over the years, including through routing of trains with the North Side lines in 1913 and the opening of the State Street Subway in 1943.

    Bruce Moffat

    Bruce Moffat

    Mr. Moffat is the author of Forty Feet Below – The Story of Chicago’s Freight TunnelsThe Chicago Tunnel Story: Exploring the Railroad “Forty Feet Below” (CERA B-135), and The “L”: The Development of Chicago’s Rapid Transit System, 1888-1932 (CERA B-131).

    Friday, March 22, 2013
    1900 hrs / 7:00pm
    University Center
    525 S State St, Chicago, IL 60605
    Admission is free.


  • Sunday, February 24, 2013 1:14 PM | Ed Graziano (Administrator)

    I bought a clock a few years ago that supposedly came from a New York elevated station, and although there is no way to tell other than a resemblance to old photos, it pleases me to think this is so.

    $T2eC16FHJGYE9nooiKhuBRGu7QDcug~~60_57$(KGrHqR,!i4FE!iGcSRJBRGtqyyJY!~~60_57

    In a similar vein, last week, two pieces of stained glass that may be remnants of Manhattan’s old Third Avenue El sold for about $200 on eBay. Naturally, it’s hard to say for sure that’s where they came from, but they look exactly like stained glass shown in color photos of Third Avenue El stations. The seller says they came from a New York City resale shop. All this brought many things to mind.

    Looking rather Marilyn Monroe-ish, a young woman checks her hair at a Third Avenue El station in the 1950s. (Photograph by Lothar Stelter)

    Looking rather Marilyn Monroe-ish, a young woman checks her hair at a Third Avenue El station in the 1950s. (Photograph by Lothar Stelter)

    These beautiful artifacts are at odds with the popular notion that the El “blighted” areas it ran in such as the Bowery. In the 1930s, popular New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia campaigned against the three Manhattan Els, which ran on 3rd, 6th, and 9th Avenues. The Third Avenue line, which had begun operation in 1878, was the last to go and the final runs in Manhattan took place on May 12, 1955.

    Shortly before service was discontinued, Joseph Cornell, a famous surrealist artist best known for his “shadow boxes” commissioned experimental filmmaker Stan Brakhage to shoot some 16mm color footage of the El, which was edited into The Wonder Ring. Cornell was not satisfied with the result, and so re-edited and “improved” it by reversing the film from left-to-right, and this version is called Gnir Rednow, which you can see here:

    Joseph Cornell - Gnir. Rednow. 1955

    There are fleeting glimpses of just the same kind of stained glass as sold on eBay. The surrealistic effect you see while looking out the window is caused by the old, wavy glass. Cornell was, if anything, nostalgic. Watching the film, we view the past through wavy glass that both enhances and distorts our view. My Dad used to say he wanted to “look at the world through rose-colored glasses.” Perhaps I would like to see it through Third Avenue el stained glass instead.

    History abounds in ironies. The beauty of the glass and the images that remain ask us to reconsider whether the El was really as ugly and blighted as history would like us to think. I’m sure there was a lot of truth to the popular notion of The Bowery as the ultimate “Skid Row,” but somehow I have to wonder if tearing down the El was truly necessary to revitalize the neighborhood, especially when that made it much harder to get around.

    There are other ironies. Most people today probably do not realize that New York still has more elevated trackage than Chicago does- it’s just that none of it is in Manhattan. Likewise, it’s also not commonly known that parts of the Third Avenue El continued in use until 1973, only in the Bronx.

    Meanwhile, I’ll bet there are many people who live and work in Manhattan who wish there still was a Third Avenue El to take. They’ve been waiting for the promised Second Avenue subway to materialize for about 80 years now. I’m sure it will get finished one of these decades.

    We lived through some of this in Chicago. For 40 years, from 1939 to 1979, it was the City’s official policy to seek the eradication of the Loop elevated. Fortunately, it was saved from the wrecking ball and is still a Chicago icon. There doesn’t seem to be much blight underneath it in the Loop these days, despite how many people used to say that the darkness underneath the L would breed crime. And you can still take it to get from point A to point B, unlike New York’s Third Avenue El.

    -David Sadowski

    Read more here: http://urbanomnibus.net/2012/03/by-the-el-3rd-avenue-and-its-el-at-mid-century/

    Ray Milland in The Lost Weekend (1945)

    Ray Milland in The Lost Weekend (1945)


    The Bowery At Night, by William Sonntag (1895)

    The Bowery At Night, by William Sonntag (1895)


    The last run of the Third Avenue El in the Bronx, April 28, 1973 (author's collection)

    The last run of the Third Avenue El in the Bronx, April 28, 1973 (author’s collection)

    Charles L. Goeller: Third Avenue, 1934 (Photo credit: cliff1066™ / Foter.com / CC BY)

    Charles L. Goeller: Third Avenue, 1934 (Photo credit: cliff1066™ / Foter.com / CC BY)



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