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Sunday, June 29, 2014

A Tale of Two Cities Continued: Chicago and New York: Which Is More Anti-Trolley?

  One of the things that I neglected to mention on the present subject in the prior posting is that Chicago had interurban service via the downtown loop.  In other words, various type of equipment, from private railroads in the suburbs of Chicago provided suburban to center city service via the elevated system.  Please see the picture below from 1957:

In New York, suburban service, let us say using the Long Island Railroad to Park Row in Manhattan and New York and  New Haven and Hartford RR service to 129th Street and 2nd Avenue was not the norm.  In the 19th Century and perhaps up to 1919, the Long Island Railroad at times used the right of way of various Brooklyn Rapid Transit Lines to reach Manhattan and other destinations.  NY & NH & H RR service to Manhattan to via El was gone very earlier and only a small portion of the existing El structure was used.  In Chicago, various interurban services used the downtown loop for many years, and some of this equipment used traditional trolley poles and wires before connecting with the el system.

To be continued...

  So which city is more anti-trolley?  It is hard to tell.  Chicago has kept its' streetcars for two more years than did New York, however Chicago streetcars where front and center in the business district.   Since 1936, Chicago Surface Lines and later the Chicago Transit Authority ran the biggest fleet of modern PCC cars, 683 in all.    The 600 postwar models were very modern, spacious with three doors.  The trolleybus fleet lasted until 1973, thirteen years longer than New York with many lines running almost to the end.

Unscientific Research by Sampling

   For several years, I have been using search words "streetcar" and "transportation" in the Google News Section and for here in the United States, some interesting things come up.  About ten years ago?, I came across a plan to bring streetcars back to downtown Chicago.  The line would have been a loop line.  Since that time, I have heard nothing about streetcar developments for Chicago.  Of course, other aspects of Chicago rapid transit are covered in the news including new subway\elevated equipment, funding, crime, routing and fare collection, but nothing about proposed streetcar or light rail lines for Chicago.  
   In New York, plans for streetcars on 42nd Street have been discussed since the 1970's.  In fact, a line for 42nd Street was almost successful, including passing the planning board, funding, lawsuits and other red tape.  At the last moment, the mayor would not sign off on it because he was concerned about the "pipe infrastructure under 42nd Street".  The entire project died around 1993 and it is ironic that there was not a major pipe infrastructure water main break  all the years since on 42nd Street.
      Looking at the news for the past 15 years for New York reveals that periodically, there is some streetcar data in the news, perhaps every sixth months and includes:
  1. New plans for streetcars on 42nd street without  wires (Vision 42).
  2. Bob Diamonds' attempts to bring streetcar service to Red Hook.
  3. A Department of Transportation  study concerning a possible Red Hook streetcar line.   That study decided it was not a good idea since it would take up parking spaces.
  4. Various plans to link Red Hook with Downtown Brooklyn and recently other waterfront communities to Williamsburgh and beyond all the way to Long Island City.
  5. A plan for streetcars on the Grand Concourse in the Bronx.
  6. A plan to run light rail service on the North Shore Branch of the Staten  Island Rapid Transit right of way and a new light rail line in western Staten Island (under study).
  7. Streetcars for Surf Avenue in Brooklyn in the Coney Island amusement area.
  8. A plan to run streetcars from the Red Hook waterfront to the Smith-9th Street subway station and beyond.
  9. There is a New York Regional Plan document suggesting streetcar service in Manhattan  on 34th Street and 42nd Street from river to river in the form of a loop.
Every six months you hear something about these projects and others, but nothing materializes.
Even the anti-trolley MTA had a plan about twenty years ago to run a light rail line from Union Square to the lower east side and to our beloved Chambers Street station via a tunnel near Essex Street as an alternative to an expensive 2nd Avenue Subway.

  In a future post, I will tell about the difficulty of building a light rail or streetcar lines in the United States, as shown by the news reports of those difficulties for  establishing lines in Washington, D.C, Seattle, and elsewhere.  In short, Washington DC info is everyday in the news but no information regarding Chicago or New York for the matter.

To be continued.

    Doing a Google search for "Streetcar" & "Transportation" ( If I did "Streetcar" alone, I would get reviews to the play "A Streetcar Named Desire") reveals that for such cities such as Detroit, El Paso, Cincinnati, Washington, DC and others, streetcar news is almost daily. Either there is a vote for funding, or opposition to funding,  problems with route selection, better use of resources and so on.  For Chicago and New York, dealing with streetcars we have silence for many months and many years.  In my humble opinion, and I am not a transportation engineer or in the field, I find it ironic that for two of America's biggest cities,  namely New York and Chicago, out of hundreds of bus routes, not a single route would qualify from an engineering standpoint for conversion to streetcar?
Anti trolley cities, such as Paris and London, which have similar history profiles regarding streetcars and trolleybuses in terms of abandonment, now have a few nice low floored streetcar lines.  Why not Chicago and New York?  Forget streetcars are a source of "development ".  New York and Chicago are developed already in the Central Business District.  What about comfort for passengers?
Just my opinion folks.


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A Tale of Two Cities: New York and Chicago

Two big cities in the United States, namely New York and Chicago have much in common.  I would like to briefly compare them, in a non empirical way some interesting thoughts regarding their elevated, streetcar and trolleybus systems because recently,  in fact a few days ago, was what I believe, was the 57th anniversary of end of streetcar service on the number 22-Clark Wentworth route in Chicago.  Below you will see a "Green Hornet" PCC streetcar in Chicago.  This style of PCC had three sets of doors on its' side.

  Informally and not exactly, I would like to compare Chicago and New York rapid transit systems, for New York and up to recently, New York and Chicago were respectively our first and second cities in terms of population.

  Like New York, Chicago started its' elevated system in 1888 and opened it for passengers in 1892?
Both New York and Chicago elevated were mainly steam locomotive operated in the 19th Century.  In New York, the elevated system was started earlier (Ninth Avenue) but it used a system of cables.
While the elevated system still exists in the Central Business District of Chicago, and it is much beloved and has Landmark status, New York removed its' last elevated from the Central Business District in 1955.  Like New York. the present and original elevated system had many parts abandoned.  Many sections in Chicago were abandoned in the 1950's while in New York, 1940 was a big year for loss.  Various sections of els in Brooklyn and Manhattan were destroyed during the 40's and 50's, including the Culver Shuttle in 1975 and the outer section of the Jamaica Line.

  Regarding streetcars, in both cities streetcars were a big part of life.  However, New York lost its streetcars in the Central Business District in 1947 and all service ended in 1956 while Chicago kept service going for two more years in the Central Business District until June 21, 1958.
 Regarding trolleybuses, the first lines seem to have entered service in 1930 and 1931 in Chicago, around the time that experiments started on the Cortelyou Road line in Brooklyn.  I think Chicago had about 20 different trolleybus lines operating.    A few of them started late in life in the 1950's such as the Kedzie-California line and serveral others in 1951.  Unlike New York (really Brooklyn), trolleybus service lasted in Chicago until 3/24/1973.  Who knows, if they were kept alive for a few more months, their value would have been realized during the various oil crises during the 1970's and perhaps new equipment would have been ordered.  The lines in Brooklyn were fewer and most service lasted from 1948 to either 1959 or 1960.

Both cities had PCC cars but Brooklyn's fleet was much smaller than Chicago's and when abandonment came, some of the PCC streetcars were converted to PCC Subway-Elevated cars in Chicago.

  In my blog, I discuss at time various trolley artifacts, such as poles and signs.   There is a website that is called "Forgotten Chicago" that deals with similar subjects that are found in "Forgotten New York".  "Forgotten Chicago" has a nice section dealing with abandoned streetcar and trolleybus turnaround loops in the city.  See chapter on the subject by Jacob Kaplan.

The pole and sign is from the above website discussing trolleybus line 78-Montrose.

The above photo was taken from "Forgotten Chicago" and it shows a trolley support pole at a former trolleybus turnaround loop with almost an intact sign.  The sign used to say "Watch Out for Buses" since the turn around loop was off street.  It is from one of the ends of the Montrose line

Another sign is shown from the other end of the Montrose trolleybus line.

It is interesting, that a similar sign, and also illuminated, was also found on McDonald Avenue adjacent to the southbound track just as the IND subway rises above street level.  The photo below comes from Dave's New Rail Pix and it is an undated Joe Testagrose shot.  Notice the sign above the front of the PCC car.  You are facing north on McDonald Avenue.  Cortelyou Road is to the photographers back.  Notice that the catwalk on the subway structure is not finished,   This is prior to the start of service to Coney Island by the IND subway in 1954.  The picture was taken between 1951 and 1954.  Below in the Google Map shot, the frame of the sign is covered now in ivory?

More to continue in the future, hopefully on this topic.

In the picture below, you see why the sign is necessary.  There is a sharp left hand curve.  While it is not known what the sign said, it probably said "SLOW".  Picture is from the Frank Pfuhler collection.

 A Church-McDonald or a McDonald PCC car that is southbound is just to enter a left curve under the IND incline just north of Cortelyou Road in Brooklyn.  This PCC car in a few seconds will meet up with South Brooklyn Railway tracks under the mainline of the Culver El.

  In this Google Map shot of the area, you can see that the frame of the former sign is covered in Ivory?  You are looking south towards the Ditmas Avenue Station of the IND F train.  The track near the sign is in service and is the southbound track to Kings Highway or Coney Island.  It looks like this Google shot is from about a year ago.  I  forgot to look at the date.

  In the future I will discuss which city is more anti-trolley:  Chicago or New York.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Hey Abbott; Get Rid of Streetcars Now!

  An icon mayor of the City of New York during the Depression was  Fiorello H. LaGuardia (1882 -1947) who was mayor for three terms from 1934-1945.  A lawyer and a speaker of many languages, Fiorello, or as he was known as the "Little Flower", was  an advocate for clean government, immigrant and worker's rights.  However, he had a dislike for elevated lines and street railways.  He used to go to public housing that he helped establish and speak in community rooms yelling and banging on the table:  " Get rid of the slot machines now!" and  " Get rid of the streetcars now! ".  While everyone agreed that the slot machines had to go because these machines created all sorts of social problems such as gambling, why did the streetcars have to go?  In the 30's, motor buses were not completely developed yet.  They were smelly, had lower capacity than streetcars, and literally "shook themselves to death ".  Streetcars in Brooklyn and elsewhere were large, lasted forever and really handled the crowds.  I read someplace that LaGuardia in his youth was a lover of horse drawn fire engines and he witnessed a streetcar crashing into a fire engine. So it must have been the streetcars fault!.  By the end of his final term in 1945, only a few lines streetcar lines remained in Manhattan.  Most of the traditional els were gone and the streetcar decline in Brooklyn started.

  On June 1, 1940, the City of New York took over the privately run BMT and IRT subway lines and the BMT streetcars in Brooklyn.  On that same day, many elevated lines were abandoned. In the picture below, you see LaGuardia operating what appears to be a IND train with R1-9 cars on that important date.  It is ironic that the train that he was operating was a city owned Independent Subway train that was always city operated.  Does not the mayor look like Lou Costello?
Below is a picture of LaGuardia with Abbott and Costello, also a much beloved comedy team who made many films together.  This picture is from a short that they filmed together.

Mayor LaGuardia at his desk (below) and Abbott and Costello together.

  NOTE, Subject matter was brought up today for the first time in "Subchat".  The June 1st anniversary of "Unification" was not too long ago and thus it is a good subject.

LaGuardia was at the dedication of PCC streetcar operation in Brooklyn in 1936?

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Typology Near the Municipal Building

  In an article about the Chambers Street Station in the New York Division of the Electric Railroaders Association by David E. Rogoff ( Vol. 2, No. 3, July-August 1959, p. 5 ),  Rogoff  wrote that work on the Municipal Building began on January 27, 1907.  Soon construction crews ran into problems with the soil.   The site of the future Municipal Building was the site of a "Little Collect Pond" that was 60 feet deep and surrounded by a 100 foot hill.  This hill was leveled off between 1803 and 1811 but the bed of the pond remained and caused construction problems.  South of the site was a swamp and in order to construct a large office building, piers had to be sunk 130 feet below the street surface.  Let us see how a map  shows the typology of the area from surveys taken during early New York.  These features are shown on a map with a street grid of the late 19th Century.  A great resource is the University of Texas map room at Austin that has a great deal of "cool stuff ", on history and transportation from all over the  world.  This map was taken from their cool website.

Here is one map showing entire Manhattan Island.


The area around the Municipal Building is circled in red.  You can see the swamp area leading to the East River and what appears to be hill several blocks north of the site.  A closer look shows a small hill just one block north of City Hall.

  In the ARCGIS map above, I brought in a shape file of subway routes. It is not the most recent shape file.  I also added ADA station exits and entrances which has x and y coordinates.  The blue squares are the locations of the two stations in the area, namely Brooklyn Bridge and Chambers Street.  The Municipal Building is shaped like this "]" and notice that the J and Z routes run underneath it.  Several feet away, under Centre Street is the IRT Lexington Avenue Line.  It is interesting to note that there is no north entrance to the BMT Chambers Street Station in the Municipal Building, despite having a blue square at that location.  The north entrance was closed decades ago and a new passageway and entrance was built at Foley Square at Reade Street.  I also brought in the elevation in feet.  Though not clear, Park Row is in the back of the Municipal Building and it is depressed and it is not at the exact location when the Third Avenue El had a station over it.
The area is relatively flat except towards the south as you go towards the Brooklyn Bridge and the East River.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Having your Soup and Eatting it Too! Campbell's Soup and the Eighth Avenue

Hi Folks:

   This weekend, the New York City Transit Authority is running some vintage R1-9 equipment on the weekend "M" train, that now runs on weekends between Metropolitan Avenue Queens and Essex-Delancey Streets, the site of our abandoned trolley station at the foot of the Williamsburgh Bridge.    J. Caronetti posted a nice series of shots of old IND equipment on the line.  They are very good quality and are posted in subchat.  (subchat r17-6599)  Also posted is a undated advertising panel perhaps from 1948 for Campbell Soup showing  a drawing of an IND R-1-9 car.

The train is signed properly for Eight Avenue service to Washington Heights.  Just one thing, the drawing appears to lack a third rail. Nice bird, how did it get into the subway?  Thanks for posting.