The Chicago Surface Lines (CSL) was operator of the street railway system of Chicago, from the years 1914 to 1947. The firm is a predecessor of today’s publicly owned operator, the Chicago Transit Authority.
Chicago Tribune, January 31, 1914
An entirely new type of closed-at-both-ends cars will be one of the features of the unification and universal transfer system to be inaugurated at midnight tonight by the Chicago surface lines. One hundred of these will be delivered next week and another hundred will follow in sixty or ninety days. The inauguration of the new type will sound the death knell of the much abused nearside car, so far as further orders are concerned.
A curtain raiser to the long planned unification of the Chicago City railway, Chicago Railways, and Calumet and South Chicago companies will be an injunction application to be heard before Judge Carpenter in the United States District court this morning. The plaintiff is Clarence H. Venner of New York City, who during the last eight years has instituted suits against the Chicago City railway company in the state courts without success.
Leonard A. Busby, president of the unified concern, says he is not alarmed and does not believe any jurist would tie up the Chicago surface system because of such a suit.
Indiana Avenue Gets Them First.
The new type of car probably will first used on the Indiana avenue lines. The car is described as standard pay-as-you-enter, double truck, double end, both entrances being closed when in motion. The conductor is stationed on the rear platform and closes that entrance by means of a lever. The front, or exit door, is operated by the motorman. When both doors are closed a light flashes as a starting signal to the motorman.
First Changes Are Listed.
The principal points of the unification system to become effective at midnight are:
Through routing on all North and South state street cars from Welss and Division streets to State and Seventy-ninth streets.
Elimination of switchback at Clark and Washington streets, used by Halsted and Wentworth cars, by temporary loop east on Monroe, north on Dearborn, west on Randolph, south on La Salle, and east on Monroe to Clark. As soon as possible the loop routing will be west in Monroe from Clark, north on La Salle, and east on Washington to Clark.
Universal 5 cent fare and universal transfers.
Through route cars between Randolph street and West Pullman in Cottage Grove avenue.
Routing cars of through route No. 2 (Wentworth-Belmont) in Wells street instead of North Clark between Illinois and Division streets.
Abolition of the extra nickel heretofore collected south of Seventy-ninth street.
The transportation auditing, treasurer’s, engineering, and purchasing departments of the combined lines will be located in the First National Bank building.
Popular Mechanics, January, 1919
INTERURBAN CAR EQUIPPED TO CARRY INSANE
For the purpose of transferring insane patients from Cook County’s psychopathic hospital, in Chicago, to various state institutions with the least inconvenience and publicity, the county authorities have had built an interurban car of special design which travels from the hospital yard direct to the asylums. Outwardly the car resembles those in service on Chicago’s surface lines except that the windows are of wire-reinforced glass and are protected on the inside by heavy screens.
The interior is divided into two compartments, one for men and the other for women. Each is furnished with several ordinary reversible seats and upper and lower berths, of a folding type, for invalid patients. Cloth curtains can be drawn in front of the berths to give the occupants privacy. Toilet facilities are provided for each compartment. In the women’s section two of the seats are of the reclining chair type. The marker lights and an emergency light in each section automatically connect with storage batteries in case the trolley pole leaves the wire, so that the car is not plunged into darkness when connections are broken at night.
Chicago Surface Lines presents Safe Highways
Chicago Tribune, October 4, 1929
With the new strapless street cars which Clark street initiated yesterday there also appeared the combination bouncer-conductor for the crowds of persons who insisted on trying to enter the new cars by the center exit.
While the conductor who stands in the center of the new car at its exit argued and struggled with indignant would-be passengers who wanted to know why they couldn’t ride home from work peaceably, a special bally-hoo conductor leaned from the front entrance and bellowed, “This way, please.”
Once they got in the privileged Clark-Wentworth riders looked around them, gaped, grinned snd had a fine time. Still they couldn’t understand why the spieler gentleman up front wouldn’t take their fares.
Told How to Pay.
“Pay the conductor in the center of the car when you pass,” he repeated to the giggling passengers. Patrons going to the rear as they enter, while those remaining in the front half pay when they get off.
Ten of the cars, first of the new strapless, center-exit type, were put on the Clark Wentworth line, and 90 more will be put on that same line within the next six weeks.
The new car is an easy riding one. It has trick ball bearings somewhere—the conductors were vague about just where. But instead of the grind and shriek so well known to Chicago riders the new cars present merely a refined rumble.
Exterior view of the “Sedan” street car
November 26, 1929.
Not Many Jerks.
“And there are no jerks, do you notice?” explained C. C. Cricks, superintendent of the Cottage Grove depot, one of the extra men who in addition to the motorman supervised things in the front of each car. “That’s due to automatic acceleration.”
“Of course,” he apologized as the car lurched, “the motormen have to get used to running the things.”
The pickup is quicker in the new cars, and they will make 39 miles per hour. The motorman sits leisurely in his leather upholstered curved back chair and moves his control, a small affair with only three points instead of the ten points of the old style control. Brakes are automatic and all are air-operated.
NEW TYPE OF SURFACE LINE CAR HAS DOOR IN CENTER AND NO STRAPS.
One of the ten new cars which were put in service on the Clark street-Wentworth avenue line yesterday, showing the conductor beside the central exit.
The “sedan” trolley bus and street car as featured in a 1934 Century of Progress brochure.
Presidents’ Conference Committee (PCC) Cars
Chicago Tribune, November 12, 1936
A new period of development in the street railway system of Chicago opens today with the formal introduction of the new streamlined street cars by the Chicago Surface Lines.
The street railway’s challenge to other types of local transportation will be formally placed before the public when six of the modern vehicles embodying ll of the improvements resulting from three years of experimental engineering research go into service on the Madison street line.
These six cars are the first deliveries of 83 manufactured in St. Louis for the surface lines. All of the cars will be placed in service on the Madison street line, completely reequipping that division. It is expected that the remainder of the vehicles will be delivered within the next five weeks.
Why Madison Was Chosen.
The Madison street line was selected bu surface lines officials as the first division to be fully reequipped as it offered the best opportunity to furnish complete tests of the new units and to demonstrate the future of street railway transportation. The officials confidently expect that the new cars, unhindered by the slow operations of older, cumbersome street cars now in service, will make possible faster schedules and that this time saving, combined with the added features of comfort and convenience, will attract new riders to the system.
The new vehicles have been in the city for several days undergoing severe workouts at the company’s yards preparatory to the formal inauguration of the new division. The purchase of the 83 cars, according to officials of the surface lines, is the beginning of a huge rehabilitation of the rolling equipment of the system. Within a few years, they hope, all of the major lines of the company will be equipped with vehicles of latest design.
Appearance Entirely Different.
In appearance the new cars are entirely different from the conventional type of vehicles. They are streamlined and modern; they are lighter in color and lighter in weight; they are lower; they are nearly noiseless; they accelerate and brake fast, and smoothly; they are comfortable, well lighted and well ventilated.
For more than a year the Chicago public has observed two streamlined street cars in use on the city streets here. They are the experimental models which resulted from more than two years of research and are the forerunner of the new car. Refinements in construction and mechanism have been added to these experimental cars to reduce costs and improve performance.
Eye appeal was a main objective in the designing of the cars. The rounded top and sloping front and rear of the new car are like those of the experimental models. The lower part of the body is painted a Buckingham gray with a bright stainless steel moulding around the body about three feet from the ground. The top is cream color and separated from the gray by a band of red.
This is one of the six new street cars which began operation tonight on the Madison street line, to be followed by 77 cars of similar design which are now being constructed. They are expected to provide speed and comfort far surpassing those of the old cars. Madison street has long been one of the city’s principal transportation arteries and still handles heavy street car traffic.
Body Appears Long.
The body is so designed that it appears long and narrow. However it is about the same length and a little wider than the conventional type car. The whole appearance as the car glides along is one of speed and sleekness.
Probably the most noticeable feature of the car is its lack of noise. It is unbelievably quiet in operation, moving along the street so smoothly that the singing of the trolley wheel, originally drowned out by the thumping, clanging, screeching noises of the conversation street car, is the most noticeable sound.
The reduction of noise has been accomplished through the extensive use of rubber throughout the construction of the truck and bodies of the car. Approximately 400 pounds of pure rubber, more than is used in the ordinary automobile truck, including tires, has been used to deaden the sound and add to riding comfort.
I Rubber is used principally in two places—the springs and the wheels. The body is separated completely from the tire rims by rubber at two different places. The wheels are flanged steel bands with great discs of rubber supporting the axle.
The rubber discs in the wheel separates the metal tire from the rest of the wheel. The hub of the wheel and the axle also are separated from the frame of the truck by rubber. Large rubber springs are used for this purpose. There are four springs for each axle, sixteen for each car.
The axle is attached to a metal band which is vulcanized to the outside of the rubber spring. The truck frame is attached to an inner metal band on the spring end, therefore, is suspended entirely on rubber with no points of contact between metals.
The spring is tested to support 5,000 pounds. The load on each spring when the car is standing still is 1,600 pounds. The rubber springs respond readily to impulse of small magnitude.
Interior view of one of one of the new Madison street cars which go into service tonight. Comfort and roominess have been emphasized in designing the new cars. A total of 83 cars will be in use on Madison street by the first of the year.
Many Innovations Inside.
With passenger comfort always in mind, the designers of the new car have included many innovations to make the rider satisfied. The car has specially designed seats and a new type of positive ventilation in which little special construction is required for air ducts. Artificial illumination gives a degree of lighting higher than in any previous street car with an absence of glare.
Every effort was made to provide the largest possible seating capacity without sacrificing passenger comfort. Special attention was given to features controlling knee room. The sloping of the seat back and the height and shape of the seat cushions give the best possible knee room.
There are seats for 58 passengers. The seats are upholstered in leather and set in tubular frames. The frame over the top of the seat provides a grab rail, for standing passengers. There are numerous stanchions for standing passengers.
Soft Color for Exterior.
The interior walls of the car are painted tan and the ceiling cream. The interior is attractively finished with stainless steel trim. Window frames and grills are made of stainless steel and unlike its cumbersome predecessors, the new cars has windows which are easily opened and closed.
The heating and ventilating system is entirely new and unique in many respects and has been constructed without using any of the inside car space. The temperature of the car is controlled thermostatically. Hidden ventilators, running through ducts built in the car frame under the floor throw fresh air into the car. Other ventilators at the top carry away the impure air.
In addition to the electrical heating equipment, heat generated by the motors when they are reversed and used as brakes is drawn into the car when needed in the winter. In warm weather this hot air is expelled into the street.
Sufficient Acceleration Sought.
One of the principal aims in developing the new car was to give it sufficient acceleration to maintain its place with other street traffic. To obtain this it was necessary to reduce the weight of the vehicle and to increase its power. A light weight steel alloy was used for the body and the new car weighs only 35,000 pounds, or 10,000 pounds less than the last cars purchased by the surface lines seven years ago. It is 20,000 pounds lighter than some of the older models.
The new cars make a faster “get away” from a standstill than the average automobile and this rapid acceleration is accomplished with utmost smoothness. The smooth pickup results from a new type of mechanism which has 120 points on the control in contrast to the nine to eighteen points on the controls of old type vehicles.
The acceleration rate is nearly 5 miles per hour a second. This speed required an equally fast and sure braking system and one was devised which will permit the car to make service stops at the rate of nearly 5 miles per hour a second. The emergency braking rate is 9 miles an hour a second.
Doors Assure Safety.
The leaves of the doors are made of pressed steel. A facing of soft moulded rubber is fitted to both edges of each door to make a tight fit between the panels when the doors are closed and still assure safety for the passenger. If the doors close on a passenger’s leg or arm, no injury should result.
An ingenious mechanism was developed to open and close the doors. This causes the leaves of the doors to swing and rotate at the same time and in such a manner that they are entirely within the clearance lines of the car when the doors are open and yet take up no more space than the leaves of the the ordinary folding type. The doors open or close in less than one second.
The car steps are designed for easy access. The first step is fifteen inches from the rail level. The two succeeding steps are each 8½ inches high and the treads are 9 inches wide, making “natural” steps.
Fare Register Goes Modern.
Even the fare register on the new car has “gone modern.” An attractive glass topped fare recorder has been built in the conductor’s space. When a regular 7 cent fare is paid the conductor presses a foot pedal and a musical gong sounds as the glass top of the register flashes yellow. When a child’s 3 cent fare is paid the register sounds a gong of different pitch and a red light flashes.
From an engineering viewpoint, the most interesting changes are in the truck of the new car. Many of the innovations are revolutionary. It is in the truck that the reduction of noise, the new braking system, and motor improvements have been accomplished.
Frank H. Sheppard, consulting engineer for the Chicago Surface lines, who played a leading part in designing the cars and supervised production, calls the new vehicles the “street car of tomorrow.”
John T. McCutcheon
November 12, 1936
New Chicago streetcars, Pulaski Road on Madison Street
November 12, 1936.
Westinghouse and General Electric Advertisements
November 12, 1936
New Chicago streetcars,
November 14, 1936.
All six of the 1945 experimental paint jobs on the 1936 PCCs are lined up in review at the Kedzie car house.
Car 4050 – Coronado Tan with orange accent stripes
Car 4020 – Marigold Yellow with maroon trim
Car 4022 – Clipper Blue (a medium blue) with red belt rail and roof accents
Car 4035 – Orange with maroon belt rail and “v” front
Car 4010 – Venetian Red (burgundy) body and roof accent stripes
Car 4018 – Mercury Green with orange accent stripes and body stripe
“Green Hornet” Streetcar
Left to Right: Chicago Surface Line, January 6, 1947
Chicago Transit Authority, October 1, 1947
Chicago Transit Authority, November 5, 1947
Chicago Tribune, November 10, 1947
Number of vehicles (left) and miles of routes in use (right) in public transportation systemes in Chicago in recent years.
Chicago Tribune, February 8, 1957
Street cars on State st., as much as its many stores, will stop operations effective Feb. 18, the Chicago transit authority announced yesterday.
The CTA board approved converting its Broadway (route 36) line to propane bus operation. The 45 Green Hornet trolleys now in use will be replaced by 54 of the 51 passenger busses, Walter J. McCarter, CTA general manager, said.
Drawn by Wagons
The city’s main shopping artery has had one form of mass transportation or another since 1853 when horse drawn wagons first hauled Chicagoans along State st. In 1859 these were replaced by horse cars, and in 1892 cable cars took over. Street cars started rolling down the street in 1906.
The end of street cars on the Broadway line, releasing the trolleys for conversion to elevated cars, leaves the Clark-Wentworth line as the city’s only street car operation.
Buses in Use
Actually, the Broadway line was partly taken over by buses 14 months ago with street cars ceasing to operate south of State and Polk sts.
The new bus operation will take over the run handled to now by street cars between State and Polk and the north terminal at Clark st. and Devon av. The route will be unchanged, McCarter said.
Chicago Tribune, June 21, 1958
BY HARRY ADAMS
The clang, clang clang of the trolley has faded into oblivion on the north side. Motormen sounded gongs on street cars in N. Clark st. for the last time as they finished their runs early Saturday.
This morning for the first time on a week day riders will see propane gas buses pull up to their stops in Clark st. The buses had been used on the line Saturdays and Sundays for a matter of two years. But the rush hour crowds have known only street cars.
Old Route Split
The Clark st. route was the last of the north side street car lines. The death knell to the trolley north of the Loop was sounded when the Chicago Transit authority decided to split the Clark-Wentworth route which dates back to 1881.
By reason of the split nostalgic south siders will continue to see the fast fading trolley on week days for a while at least. The Green Hornet street cars will continue to run in S. Clark st. and Wentworth av. to the terminus at 81st and Halsted sts.
But some time next year buses are destined to replace the street cars on that Clark-Wentworth route. Then the street car will be only a memory in Chicago, which once had 2,500 to 3,000 of them.
In the split-up of the Clark-Wentworth route, north side buses will start south in Clark from Howard st., proceeding thru the Loop to Harrison st., then east to Dearborn st., north to Kinzie st.,m west back to Clark, and north in Clark to Howard.
On the south side, street cars (buses on weekends) will proceed east in 81st st. to Vincennes av., northeast to Wentworth, north to Cermak rd., east to Clark, north to Harrison st., east to Dearborn, north to Kinzie st., west to Clark, south on Archer, southwest to Wentworth, south to Vincennes, southwest to 81st., and west to Halsted.
Chicago Tribune, June 21, 1958
BY HAL FOUST
Clang, clang, clang goes the trolley—right out of a century of Chicago history.
The city’s last street car was to start its final run from Halsted and 81st streets at 4:15 o’clock this morning. At 5:34 a.m., it was to begin a return trip from Kinzie and Clark streets, headed for the terminal at 77th street and Vincennes avenue.
End of an Era.
In these barns, bearing the date 1906, the last 56 street cars in Chicago operation will be herded. They were operated on the Clark-Wentworth route five days a week, and displaced on Saturday and Sunday by buses.
“It’s the end of an era,” William Armstrong, a motorman, commented. “I’m glad that I, too, am retiring.”
Armstrong had been working the front end of street cars since Feb. 14, 1916. On Aug. 6 he will be 65, the compulsory retirement age.
“It’s time I quit anyway, even if they continued the street cars,” Armstrong, of 7824 Evans av., philosophized. “Traffic is getting too heavy and too fast.”
The first mass transportation conveyance in Chicago was a bus, horse drawn, in 1853. The first car line was established in 1859, in State street between Randolph and 12th streets.
Driver Gets Help.
In 1870 there was a big improvement. A second horse was added. The passenger capacity was increased and a conductor joined the drive as the crew.
In 1882 came the cable cars, first in State street and in Cottage Grove avenue. By 1894 there were 86 miles of cable car routes. Schedules averaged 8.5 m.p.h.
Trolley cars first were operated on the south side in 180, and by 1912 all of the cable cars were gone.
The peak years of trolley car operation in Chicago were the ’30s. There were 3,742 street cars in service.
Today a new bus service will operate on the Clark-Wentworth street car route.
The last street car to run in Chicago was Car No. 7213 on June 21, 1958 (pictured).
Car No. 7128 was the last to run on Clark street on September 8, 1957 and Car No. 7201 car took the final Broadway run on February 16, 1957.
Chicago Tribune August 12, 1958
Ship Last Trolley Car to Plant for Conversion
The last “green hornet” street car scheduled to be converted into an elevated-subway car was shipped Monday by the Chicago transit authority to the St. Louis Car company, St. Louis. It was the last car used on the Wentworth route, which switched to buses June 21. The St. Louis firm is converting 100 of the street cars into “L” subway cars. When this order is completed, the CTA will have transformed 570 “green hornets” into “L” subway trains.
A CTA employee working on one of the 570 Green Hornets being converted to an “L” car, Series 6201-6720 and 1-50.
CHICAGO SURFACE LINES PRINTED MATERIAL
Chicago Surface Lines Map
Chicago Surface Lines Announcement
May 16, 1945
Chicago Surface Lines Ticket
January 20, 1923
Chicago Surface Lines Maps
1920, 1930, 1934
Chicago Surface Lines Maps
1928, 1930, 1940