Tram, Trolley, and Electric Streetcar History and Pictures
Tram, trolley, and electric streetcar (street-car) pictures and history of various city and interurban traction companies are placed on this Web page by Larry Brian Radka to share with other streetcar fans. As time permits and more photographs are acquired, others will be added, so please occasionally check back occasionally to see the new ones. Some of the trolley images—operating in the past and even the present in the U. S. and Canada—are extracted from postcards purchased in Ebay auctions. Other streetcar scenes are copies from photographs, slides, and old publications. Some pertinent information about each picture will also be included here.
The William Wulfert photo above is of Chicago Rapid Transit’s gate car 1024 and enclosed car 1808, built for the Northwestern Elevated Railroad. Wooden “L” cars were last operated in 1958, but they continued to run through the countryside at the Illinois Railway Museum.
The photograph above, taken by Ira Swett, shows Car 19 of the Riverside & Arlington traction company. This little open car is one of the cornerstones upon which Pacific Electric was built. Henry Huntington opened the line in 1903 and later consolidated it with other Huntington electric railway properties to form a huge system that became the largest American interurban network.
Pacific Electric used the famous photograph above by Charles P. Lawrence to advertise its scenic trolley route to Mt. Lowe, located at an elevation of 5,603 feet, in the San Gabriel Mountains of southern California. This trolley ride of a few hours treated tourists to the balmy weather of the beaches as well as to the cold, snowy condition in the mountains.
One of the spectacles to be seen by tourists on Pacific Electric Railway's excursion to the mountains was the famous carbon arc searchlight—the largest in the world when it was exhibited at the Chicago Columbian Exposition of 1893. The 6,000 pound projector operated on a current of 200 amperes and consumed 10 kilowatts of power. Its two carbons were cored, the upper carbon was 1 1/2 inch in diameter, and the lower was 1 1/4 inch in diameter. Its blazing carbon arc beam could light up Catalina Island, 35 miles away. For more information on this attraction, check out some of Larry Brian Radka's searchlight history.
This famous 1893 searchlight found its way to Echo Mountain in 1894. The postcard above, purchased on Ebay, shows the "second sun" unlit in daytime. The memento was sent from California and postmarked "September 30, 1908."
In the photograph above by Bass, courtesy of George Krambles, we see one of the edifices signaling the time that trolley history would become the King of Public Transportation, in the World War I era—before increasing use of buses and automobiles brought about its eventual demise. In the lower right hand side of the picture, four persons are riding atop a four-wheel motorized version of the seed of the trolley’s destruction. In 1904, when this Indianapolis terminal and huge train shed was built, its nine tracks radiated in all directions. The photograph was taken soon after its construction.
In the photograph above, courtesy of George Krambles, in Book 7 (Electric Railways) of Trains Album of Railroad Photographs published in 1944, the editors of Trains Magazine relate:
Thirty-odd years ago, more or less, Illinois Traction System was one of the biggest interurban properties in the country. Its 628 miles of route were busy with locals, limiteds carrying observation-parlor cars, overnight sleeping car trains on the Springfield- and Peoria-to-St. Louis runs, and with hundreds of cars of daily freight traffic. It was in those expanding days that the three-car special passed in front of the station in Clinton. The St. Louis-Peoria Illinois Terminal Railroad limiteds of today carry air-conditioned buffet-parlor cars on the longest continuous interurban passenger run in the country, 172 miles, while eight-motored streamlined freight locomotives help trundle a $5 million-a-year freight traffic.
With reference to the note of the carbon arc light on the streetcar in the photograph above, we should mention that the blazing carbons of arc lights threw out an extremely brilliant and dazzling beam of light down the track, so much so that they tended to blind oncoming trolley operators running on two-track lines. There was no convenient way known of how to dim the high-power arc lights to eradicate the problem, so the traction companies began to move away from their use at the time.
This is evidenced in Part 2 of the 1914 Report of the Proceedings of the Forty-Seventh Annual Convention of the American Railway Masters Mechanics’ Association, which supplied the photograph above and reported on various tests made on carbon arc headlights. Therein we also find a mention that “The director of public safety of the city of Pittsburgh has recently asked the city council for an ordinance to prohibit all electric lights on street cars, and all high-power lights on automobiles.”
This Tom Nixon photo is of car No. 251 of the Chicago, North Shore & Milwaukee Railroad—on the Illinois Railway Museum’ mainline at Union, McHenry County, Illinois.
All the information we have on the scene above is noted on the upper right hand side of this old postcard scene of streetcars on two busy Chicago streets.
Pictured above is the junction of two other busy streets, with the Northbound “Peter Witt” electric streetcar on June 24, 1937. The “street car” is at Toronto’s Young and Carlton Streets—at a busy loading point opposite Eaton’s College Street store. “This ‘Witt’ car was one of 575 similar, steel-bodied motor cars and trailers acquired by the Toronto Transportation Commission 1921-1923 in a modernization program following the take-over of the private Toronto Railway Company,” according to information provided about the “street car” on the back of the postcard.
This photo, courtesy of Ted Wickson, shows car 2424 operating on Queen Street near Spadina Avenue in downtown Toronto. The Witts were the first new street cars purchased by the Toronto Commission between 1921 and 1923. A total of 350 motors and 225 trailers formed the fleet. Three restored cars operated on special tours in the downtown area.
In this Ted-Wickson photo also, PCC car No. 4593 of TTC’s A-10 poses for its night portrait on Queen Street, in front of Toronto’s New City Hall—April 1967. Car 4593 is one of 27 similar air-electric, St. Louis-built cars acquired from the Cincinnati Street Railway in 1950.
The back of this postcard, with its Toronto Transit Commission photo, reads: “To help mark the City of Toronto’s Sesquicentennial in 1984, the TTC painted one of its 1951-vintage PCC street cars (No. 4545) in a special blue livery with a ‘Happy Birthday Toronto’ theme. Shown in the City’s downtown area, the ‘Sesqui’ street car, along with others cars, similarly painted and privately sponsored, will operate in regular passenger service throughout the year.”
This is a Watson and Meehan photo of “The Skunk”—one of the United States’ most scenic railroads, connecting Fort Bragg, California, with Willits. Its conductor daily delivers milk, bread, and baggage to isolated homesteaders and camps distributed over the 40-mile long mountainous forest.
This photograph in color, like the others on the Web page Parkersburg Streetcar and Interurban Trolley Line History, is made from a 35MM slide taken by Dr. H. R. Blackburn of Noblesville, Indiana. This beautiful piece of nostalgia shows City Lines of West Virginia's car no. 629, the last for Marietta from downtown Parkersburg, leaving at 2 AM, April 14, 1947. Enthusiastic passengers packed into the trolley at this ungodly time of the night to enjoy one of the last trips made by this old electric chauffeur before their old friend whizzed down the rails into trolley or streetcar history.
Check back here periodically for more tram, trolley, and electric streetcar pictures and history.
This page was last modified on Wednesday, January 20, 2016