Chicago Surface Lines Mystery Photo Contest

#1 - Joe L. Diaz Photo - CERA Archives

#1 – Joe L. Diaz Photo – CERA Archives

2014 is the 100th anniversary of the Chicago Surface Lines, once the largest street railway system in the world. From 1914 until 1947, CSL was an umbrella agency, made up of a few constituent companies, like Chicago City Railway and Chicago Railways. It was a step along the way towards transit unification and a predecessor of today’s Chicago Transit Authority.

Here are 47 “mystery photos” from the CSL era. Can you write captions for them, with descriptive information? If so, you might win a prize.

We’re going to have a contest to see who can come up with the best “who, what, when, where, and how” about these pictures. The person who submits the best overall answers will win a copy of our new DVD data disc, the “Spirit of 76,” which collects the first 76 CERA Bulletins and more.

Just get your submission in (via e-mail to cerablog1@gmail.com) by midnight Chicago time on Tuesday, September 30th. Please use the numbers included in each caption to identify individual photos. After the contest ends, we will update this post with the best captions. Good luck!

-The Editor

PS- This Friday, CERA will celebrate Chicago’s PCC streetcars at our Chicago Streetcar Pictorial Round Table event. Tickets are still available. This is part of our Chicago PCC Weekend, which includes fantrips to Kenosha and the Illinois Railway Museum.

#2 - Edward Frank Jr. Photo - CERA Archives

#2 – Edward Frank Jr. Photo – CERA Archives

#3 - Joe L. Diaz Photo - CERA Archives

#3 – Joe L. Diaz Photo – CERA Archives

#4 - Joe L. Diaz Photo - CERA Archives

#4 – Joe L. Diaz Photo – CERA Archives

#5 - Joe L. Diaz Photo - CERA Archives

#5 – Joe L. Diaz Photo – CERA Archives

#6 - Joe L. Diaz Photo - CERA Archives

#6 – Joe L. Diaz Photo – CERA Archives

#7 - Joe L. Diaz Photo - CERA Archives

#7 – Joe L. Diaz Photo – CERA Archives

#8 - Joe L. Diaz Photo - CERA Archives

#8 – Joe L. Diaz Photo – CERA Archives

#9 - Joe L. Diaz Photo - CERA Archives

#9 – Joe L. Diaz Photo – CERA Archives

#10 - Joe L. Diaz Photo - CERA Archives

#10 – Joe L. Diaz Photo – CERA Archives

#11 - Joe L. Diaz Photo - CERA Archives

#11 – Joe L. Diaz Photo – CERA Archives

#12 - William C. Janssen Photo - CERA Archives

#12 – William C. Janssen Photo – CERA Archives

#13 - George Kuschel Photo - CERA Archives

#13 – George Kuschel Photo – CERA Archives

#14 - Joe L. Diaz Photo - CERA Archives

#14 – Joe L. Diaz Photo – CERA Archives

#15 - Joe L. Diaz Photo - CERA Archives

#15 – Joe L. Diaz Photo – CERA Archives

#16 - Joe L. Diaz Photo - CERA Archives

#16 – Joe L. Diaz Photo – CERA Archives

#17 - CERA Archives

#17 – CERA Archives

#18 - CERA Archives

#18 – CERA Archives

#19 - Robert F. Collins Photo - CERA Archives

#19 – Robert F. Collins Photo – CERA Archives

#20 - Edward Frank Jr. Photo - CERA Archives

#20 – Edward Frank Jr. Photo – CERA Archives

#21 - Joe L. Diaz Photo - CERA Archives

#21 – Joe L. Diaz Photo – CERA Archives

#22 - CERA Archives

#22 – CERA Archives

#23 - Joe L. Diaz Photo - CERA Archives

#23 – Joe L. Diaz Photo – CERA Archives

#24 - Joe L. Diaz Photo - CERA Archives

#24 – Joe L. Diaz Photo – CERA Archives

#25 - Joe L. Diaz Photo - CERA Archives

#25 – Joe L. Diaz Photo – CERA Archives

#26 - CSL Photo - CERA Archives

#26 – CSL Photo – CERA Archives

#27 - Joe L. Diaz Photo - CERA Archives

#27 – Joe L. Diaz Photo – CERA Archives

#28 - Joe L. Diaz Photo - CERA Archives

#28 – Joe L. Diaz Photo – CERA Archives

#29 - Joe L. Diaz Photo - CERA Archives

#29 – Joe L. Diaz Photo – CERA Archives

#30 - Joe L. Diaz Photo - CERA Archives

#30 – Joe L. Diaz Photo – CERA Archives

#31 - CERA Archives

#31 – CERA Archives

#32 - Robert V. Mehlenbeck Photo - CERA Archives

#32 – Robert V. Mehlenbeck Photo – CERA Archives

#33 - Joe L. Diaz Photo - CERA Archives

#33 – Joe L. Diaz Photo – CERA Archives

#34 - CERA Archives

#34 – CERA Archives

#35 - Robert W. Gibson Photo - CERA Archives

#35 – Robert W. Gibson Photo – CERA Archives

#36 - CERA Archives

#36 – CERA Archives

#37 - CERA Archives

#37 – CERA Archives

#38 - CERA Archives

#38 – CERA Archives

#39 - Joe L. Diaz Photo - CERA Archives

#39 – Joe L. Diaz Photo – CERA Archives

#40 - Joe L. Diaz Photo - CERA Archives

#40 – Joe L. Diaz Photo – CERA Archives

#41 - Joe L. Diaz Photo - CERA Archives

#41 – Joe L. Diaz Photo – CERA Archives

#42 - Joe L. Diaz Photo - CERA Archives

#42 – Joe L. Diaz Photo – CERA Archives

#43 - William C. Janssen Photo - CERA Archives

#43 – William C. Janssen Photo – CERA Archives

#44 - Malcolm D. McCarter Photo - CERA Archives

#44 – Malcolm D. McCarter Photo – CERA Archives

#45 - Joe L. Diaz Photo - CERA Archives

#45 – Joe L. Diaz Photo – CERA Archives

#46 - CERA Archives

#46 – CERA Archives

#47 - Joe L. Diaz Photo - CERA Archives

#47 – Joe L. Diaz Photo – CERA Archives



Categories: CERA Programs, Chicago Area, Transit Trivia

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

41 replies

  1. #38 This view looks east across S.State St. just south of E.Monroe street. We see the west entrance into the Palmer House Hotel (on left), the CMC shuttle bus and the pre-war pcc no.4003 are northbound on State St. Car 4003 is most likely operating on the rt. 4 Cottage-Grove line and is on the northern terminal loop via Wabash, Harrison, State, Lake to southbound on Wabash.

    Per Alan Lind’s information on rt. 4, the pcc cars began operating in March 1952, in June CTA routed the rt. 4 cars via a new terminal; Wabash, Grand, State, Lake to Wabash. In March 1953 the cars were returned to the original loop described above. Factor in that CMC bus system was absorbed into the CTA in 1952 makes the date of this photo (1952-1953) a bit of a toss up from the information provided from these sources;

  2. #13 Car 5637 is southbound for 93rd st at E. 57th st near the Museum of Science and Industry in Jackson Park.

  3. #27 Southbound rt22 on S. Vincennes (left) waits while rt.75 car heads west for 74th and Ashland.

  4. #43 Navy Pier bound route: 28 car 6142 has just crossed the Illinois Central Electric South Chicago branch in the median of E. 71st street. I suspect the year is 1947 as car 6142 still monogrammed for CSL sports the front ad: “YOURS FREE! CTA TRANSIT MAP of CHICAGO; ask for it”, At the right car 6132 is headed for Hyde Park along Stony Island Ave. as it trundles across the TC trackage.

  5. I know that the allotted time for the quiz is over, however, since I am up against some pretty stiff competition I thought I would add two that I originally did not answer in hopes of getting some extra credit. They are as follows:

    14 – 79th & Western.

    28 – This is looking east on Schreiber Ave about a half block west of Clark St. Building in the distance is still there.

  6. #31 looking north at south Ashland and west Harrison pre 1949.

  7. 20 – Building to the left is on the northeast corner of Racine Ave & Armitage Ave (1170 W. Armitage), and is still there.

  8. 11 – Half block south of Archer Ave on west side of Cicero Ave (educated guess on this one).

  9. 3 – Behind the Burnside Car Barn at 94th St & Drexel Ave.

  10. No. 19 – Car is facing east just west of Cottage Grove on 95th St

    No. 24 – North east corner of Sangamon St & 18th St

    No. 25 – Looking east on Maypole Ave from Harding Ave

    No. 29 – Looking at the north east corner of 79th St & South Shore Drive

    No. 32 – Looking west on 67th St from Oglesby Ave

  11. (# 7) Looking north on Stony Island at E 71st. southbound car will trundle across the IC Electric tracks on its way to 93rd st.

  12. No. 8 – Looking north on Vincennes Ave from between 89th St & 90th St.

  13. No. 34 – Looking west from the Cottage Grove Car Barn across Langley Ave between 39th St & 38th Pl. Buildings under construction are the Ida B. Wells Housing Project (c. 1939).

    No. 18 – Looking northeast across the Diversey Ave & Neva Ave loop. (Narragansett is often stated as being the western terminus, but there is nothing to support this.)

    Just a couple more left!

  14. (#26) Repainted “Fly for Navy” in September 1942 car 1775 carries Navy volunteers as it heads south on State at Monroe. See Lind’s Chicago Surface Lines, 3rd ed. page 34

  15. No. 39 – Looking northeast with Car 5796 running west on 95th St at 3400 E. Much of what is in the distance is still there, to include the houses behind the switch tower which are located on Ewing Ave.

  16. No. 45 – Looking at the northeast corner of 51st St & Racine Ave, with Car 6268 heading west on 51st St to its terminus, which appears to be Central Park Ave.

  17. No. 41 – Looking at the northeast corner of 75th St & Coles Ave, with Car 6260 heading west on 75th St.

  18. No. 17, CMC #438 southbound Michigan Av. at Congress, in front of Auditorium Hotel, (now Roosevelt University)

  19. (#16) Figuring this routing is tricky, this southeast bound car 6218 on S. Exchange Ave. parallel to the IC Electric South Chicago line, appears to be at the end of it’s track, the rails in the foreground are in E. 75th st. Per Lind, South Deering had run 73rd, Exchange to 75th and beyond outbound. We are looking in a northerly direction in the 7400 bock of S. Exchange Ave. the rounded building just to the immediate right of the front of the car is at about 7451 S. Exchange Ave.

  20. #9. This looks like Stony Island and 93rd St, looking northeast. The Sedan may have come over in service on 93rd from a southbound trip on the 5 Cottage-South Chicago route and is getting ready to begin an inbound trip on Stony Island. It cannot be a pull-in to the Burnside car barn, since the car is on the right leg of the switch and will enter the Stony Island prw. on the northbound track.

    • In #9 picture the Sedan could also have been on a southbound Stony Island trip and y’ed back into the 93rd westbound track to make a return northbound trip on Stony Island. Motorman has not adjusted the destination sign.

  21. (#10) The Halsted “L” station of the former Stock yards-Kenwood branch dominates the scene. A southbound route 8 Halsted car and the Stockyard Station of the Post Office at 4101 S. Halsted are at the left. Car 5094 turns off of Root St. while working the Wallace-Racine route 44. This picture was taken between 1947 and 1951.

  22. (#44) This single-ended car stops just south of Wacker on Clark street and will travel on Wentworth, Vincennes and 81st to the wye terminal at Halsted St.

  23. Well, after a month, I’m cooked. I’ve ID’d all but 3 locations and am anxious for the final solutions. Never sure if all the locations were known in advance or some are simply unknown to begin with. Anyway, spent more time than I should have on #1 & #35 with no success. As for the Bus in #37, I’d be willing to bet that despite the signage, this is not Chicago. Thanks for a good time.

  24. No. 37 – Motor Coach No. 507 is facing south on Cobbs Creek Parkway at/under S. 65th Street in Philadelphia PA. Built by American Car & Foundry dates this picture as being 1935. Houses above are still standing.

  25. Mike, good find, I’m curious as to how you found the location. I did a search on Google street view, the house is in the 1700 block of south 65th st. route 13 of the Chester Ave. subway-surface streetcar line still passes over the bridge ( if you look very carefully you can see the overhead wires) the Cobbs Creek district of West Philadelphia was a very nice neighborhood back in the day this photo was taken. The streets in this area are a real tangle, crossing the bridge to the left puts one back on Chester Ave.

  26. Thank you for the complement. It starts with an idle mind and too much time on ones hands to find locations of this nature. As for the Motor Coach (No. 37), early on I concluded that this was not Chicago owing to the topography. No driver and on the wrong side of the road meant a staged photo. Who other than the manufacturer, which was easily ascertained from the Wikipedia “Chicago Surface Lines” webpage, as being American Car & Foundry (ACF) who produced coaches 501 thru 508 in 1935. Google searches found ACF to be in PA in 1935, and subsequent searches revealed a bus assembly plant at S 62nd and Woodland Ave; today it’s a strip mall. I knew they would not drive far to get a publicity photo and within about 30 seconds I found the location less than a mile away along the Parkway. Now, picture Nos. 1 & 35 present a different challenge in that it seems more than likely one or both neighborhoods are gone. If No. 35 is around 63rd & Stony Island, we know that’s gone, but why is this street car in an alley? No. 1 with the snow sweeper looked promising since it looks to be on an angled street given the autos to the left and the right in the distance, and the varied types of two/three flats; particularly the one with the uncovered third floor balcony. Unique to say the least. However, I have had zero luck which makes me think it too is gone.

  27. No. 35 – It took a while but this is the 63rd & South Park Ave (Martin Luther King Dr) terminus. You are looking east from King Dr down an alley that lies immediately south of 63rd St. The building to the left is 6309 King Drive and still standing. It has been lowered to a single story and the rear of the building has been shortened, but that’s unmistakably the same structure. More so, the six flat in the distance right is still standing and Google Maps shows rails in the alley poking out from under the pavement. One (No. 1) to go!

    • Congratulations I was going to post this location yesterday but I wasn’t sure I was right and I was still working on it when I saw you had found it.
      I hadn’t pursued checking on pic #35 until I read what you had to say in your Nov 11th post.

      My investigation was: I examined the picture and determined the destination was 118 – BURLEY, checked a 1951 CTA transit map which indicated a rt. 25 a semi-express bus line (south Chicago-Ewing) between the far south-east location of 118th and Burley and 63rd st. Next I consulted my Chicago Surface Lines third edition for a description of the South Chicago-Ewing route pg. 302, I back paged to 301 and BINGO!, a picture bottom of the page at 63rd and South Park Way*. So the cars traveled north on South Park Way, east on 63rd, south on Vernon, west in the alley to lay-over. This line was bussed in June 1947.

      • Thanks. Wish I had been as methodical as you; could have saved a lot of time. I knew I was in the right neighborhood based on the buildings in the picture but I never went west of Cottage Grove – too hung up on Stony Island since all the references I came across pointed to that location as being the terminus. Gave it one more shot from the satellite, looked for a wide alley on a busy street and there it was. As you can see, it has changed a lot but that’s the spot. I’m surprised that the turnaround was that elaborate since the line never went north of 63rd St. Perhaps they were thinking ahead. Now I’m praying that someone will ID No. 1 so that I can do something else with my life.

  28. I’m surprised that the turnaround was that elaborate since the line never went north of 63rd St. Perhaps they were thinking ahead.

    Regarding your comment: There had been a rail service from the 63rd-Vernon terminal to Hammond, Indiana from 1914 to 1940. In 1940 CSL continued the rail service within the Chicago city limits which lasted until 1947 when streetcar service was taken over by bus.

    I suspect that the “elaborate turnaround” may have been installed mainly as a short-turn loop for eastbound 63rd street cars.

    63rd was an extremely heavily used commercial and business street which served the important 63rd-Halsted shopping district (2nd only to the loop) and the important Englewood Station which served passengers on several major railroads (pre-Amtrak). Both of these venues would have contributed to heavy use of 63rd st cars west of South Park.

    The Jackson Park branch South Park “L” station would have been busy with people transferring from 63rd st and South Chicago Ewing cars terminating at the Vernon terminal as well as some passengers from the Chicago Motor Coach line on South Park. Most likely the 63rd st cars had far heavier ridership west of South Park than on the cars continuing on to the Stony Island terminal. This would have justified the installation of a short turn loop at Vernon which also provided a terminal for the South Chicago Ewing cars.

    On the first picture: those brick and graystone houses look to me as though they were upper-middle class near the turn of the twentieth century. Somehow I get the notion this might be around upper Cottage Grove or other southside locale. Also perhaps Clark St. near Lincoln Park Just a wild guesses.

  29. For #1 I’ll take a wild guess and say California Avenue facing Humboldt Park.

    • That’s what I saw, yet most of those building are still there and no fit for the ones in the picture. I had a feeling for California/Kedzie/Cermak but no luck. Dr Schmidt, I hope you have looked at the “Man on a Bicycle with Umbrella” pics that I posted on this blog back in about March. I have spent in excess of 300 hours on those photos over six years and have come up empty. Zero comments in 6 months – hard to believe. While I keep coming back to 21st and Wentworth, too many problems.

      On another note, I did go to the library and get the CSL Book and found about four locations that I had previously ID’d independently for this contest but not quite the same pictures nor angles. It probably would have helped if I had the book first, but that would have taken the fun out of finding them on my own. Sort of like cheating at solitaire is not quite the same as beating the game on ones own.

      I recognize that I did not really live up to the intent of the contest, i.e., write a caption, but I am more into ID’ing locations and allowing others to edit in the details. May the best man win!

      Thanks to you and Sderailway.

      • Mike, do you believe, as I mentioned above that the elaborate turnaround as you described it at 63rd, South Parkway and Vernon most likely was built as a short-turn loop for east-bound 63rd st cars which most likely had heavier rider ship west of South Parkway? The eastern segment of 63rd street would have had lighter ridership because it competed with the Jackson Park L above the street.The Vernon loop was simply adapted for use as a terminal for South Ewing cars also.

  30. No. 1 – Looking at the buildings on the south side of the 3600 block of 5th Ave. Somehow, almost all the structures are still standing to include the distant building sporting the Edelweiss sign. I’m cooked!

    • Mike your find is incredible, the house on the right is 3629 W. Fifth Avenue.

    • Parting thoughts. We all have an interest in this site, yet we all participate for different reasons. Mine is to simply identify locations and have no desire to go beyond that. Street cars and their ever changing routes are transient, while locations are permanent. Thus that is what attracts me to doing what I do. I’ve enjoyed this quiz and look forward to more.

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