The 1950s saw the introduction of mobile tape recorders and “High Fidelity” LP records. Since these were also the twilight years of steam locomotives and electric interurbans, it shouldn’t be very surprising that some enterprising individuals documented the sounds of vanishing railroads using this new technology.
In our series of Archives releases, CERA has already issued Interurban Memories on audio CD to much acclaim. Now, we are making 55 minutes of historic audio recordings available on CD for the first time, with our latest release Railroad Record Club Vol. 1.
Mr. William A. Steventon, a farmer near Hawkins, Wisconsin, issued a few dozen 10″ vinyl records in the 1950s and 1960s under the banner of the Railroad Record Club. Most of these featured steam, but there were also a number of traction titles. The club had ads in Trains and some other magazines for several years. We are told Mr. Steventon died in 1993 at age 71.
Our first volume is a “twofer,” combining Railroad Record Club releases 18 and 36. As far as we can tell, both recordings were made around 1956.
Here is a track list:
Chicago, North Shore and Milwaukee (North Shore Line):
Track 1 – Interurban 724 from Mundelein to Deerpath (14:45):
Interurban 724 leaving Mundelein. There are many stops for passengers, and at one point the trolley loses its affinity for the trolley wire, requiring an extra stop to replace it. The lightly ballasted track, wheel clicks and motor hum on this branch line provides a recording of the old time interurbans.
Tracks 2-12 Trackside Scenes (11:08):
Track 2 – Interurban 754 approaching and leaving the Racine, Wisconsin station. A group of children are on hand to bid “Tommy” goodbye.
Track 3 – A southbound interurban at Racine.
Track 4 – A northbound interurban at Racine.
Track 5 – A two-car northbound train and a southbound Electroliner pass a few blocks south of the Racine station.
Track 6 – Interurban at Racine.
Track 7 – Air compressors on car 724 at Mundelein.
Track 8 – 724 and 734 leaving Mundelein.
Track 9 – 716 at Rondout.
Track 10 – 3-car train at Northbrook, Illinois.
Track 11 – 174 and 736 at a country road crossing.
Track 12 – 716 at a railroad crossing on the Mundelein branch.
Track 13 – Chicago, Aurora & Elgin car 413 heading west from DesPlaines Avenue towards Aurora on Saturday, April 28, 1956. 14:48
By April 28, 1956 the Chicago, Aurora and Elgin terminated at DesPlaines Avenue in Forest Park, with passengers riding the elevated to points east. Here car No. 413, a 1923 Pullman product, leaves the terminal and roars westward. We had hardly left the terminal before the motorman had the car really rolling. A number of road crossings gave ample opportunity for the motorman to show his skill with the whistle cord. We were in the forward smoking compartment taking in this fast run and the track and motion noise was excellent. The air horn made odd sounds against buildings as we roared past. At the first stop the crossing warning bell chatters incessantly and the motorman yells at a passing man. The warning bell fades into the distance and the motors hum with 600 volts of DC current. We pause briefly at a second stop and then continue westward with additional whistle play at a crossing.
A third stop, another crossing bell and children playing near the car. Another fast acceleration, crossing whistles and track noise. At the fourth stop the motorman throws several bundles of newspapers off the front platform and we can hear them hitting the ground. A couple of short blasts from the whistle, another fast acceleration and we’re off again. The CA&E was known for its fast acceleration and car 413 upheld that tradition on this trip. At the fifth stop a few more news bundles hit the platform, another whistle blast, a passing crossing bell, and we are headed for Aurora.
Track 14 – Chicago Transit Authority car 4452 heading east from DesPlaines Avenue via the Garfield Park “L” on Saturday, April 28, 1956. 15:08
The Garfield Park line of the Chicago Transit Authority was in full swing on April 28, 1956. Old car No. 4452 hummed through the area with many stops. The side door rattled open and closed as passengers entered or left the car. The peculiar sound of the deceleration of traction motors, which seems to be a trademark of “L” equipment, is noticeable here. At one place a nearby motorist voiced his protest to traffic with a tune on his auto horn. Next time fellow, take the “L”! Some small children in the car were awed by the recording equipment and you can hear them making sounds as they pointed at the revolving wheels. This recording is a trip on the “L”!
Total time: 55:49
Interestingly, some of the original illustrations used on these vinyl releases came from Central Electric Railfans’ Association.
-Your CERA Directors