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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.

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