Subscriber & Member Login

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!

Richard Allman, East Penn Traction (Model) Club, builds a replica of Boston Streetcar Humbolt Seaver Loop

1252 views
15 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    June, 2002
  • 14,296 posts
Richard Allman, East Penn Traction (Model) Club, builds a replica of Boston Streetcar Humbolt Seaver Loop
Posted by daveklepper on Thursday, September 27, 2018 3:52 AM

Seaver Street Module

Richard L. Allman, MD, MS
East Penn Traction Club
 
Operation on the Seaver Street extension of Main Line Transit has commenced. It connects to the main layout via a single-track turnout facing away from Bay State Junction and passes through the yard module enroute to Humboldt Avenue and Seaver Street.
 
The prototype of the module sits at the northern edge of Franklin Park in the Roxbury section of Boston. Trolleys ran along Seaver Street until September 1955 between Egleston Square and Mattapan Station in Dorchester. The cars between the loop at Seaver Street and Dudley Station by way of Humboldt Avenue ran until early 1948 when the line was converted to trackless trolley operation. As a little kid, I watched with fascination as the Type 4’s plied their way along Seaver Street and the Type 5’s trundled along Humboldt Avenue, along with the occasional appearance of PCC car 3001, the “Queen Mary”. Indeed, I was overzealous in my 4-year-old enthusiasm, wandering from my grandparents’ home to watch all the trolley action and being unable to find my way back! I still suffer the psychic trauma of returning to Roxbury in the summer of 1948 and seeing no trolley action on Humboldt Avenue. Some things scar you for life! At least I had a chance to ride the trolleys to the magnificent station at Dudley and to see the two loops and the El. There was a kid hanging onto the back of the trolley catching a free ride. My parents warned me never to do that and so far, I haven’t.
 
This has been a lengthy and arduous endeavor. Since I began this project, my grandson, now 8 was born, I planned to retire then was summoned to duty as interim chair of Rheumatology at Einstein, have entered and graduated from a Master’s program in healthcare ethics at Creighton University, have seen my granddaughter grow from a neonate to a pre-teen, and done all the other things that have given me too many excuses for not finishing the module
 
In the latter part of the first decade of this century, I brainstormed with Bob Dietrich about a potential extension of my layout. I considered three potential prototypes:
 

1.      Arlington Junction in Baltimore, which while interesting, I never saw in real life, and was lacking in structures and was a bit too rural for what I sought;

 

2.      Egleston Square, where the trackwork and need for the Elevated were far too daunting;

 

3.      Seaver Street loop at the north edge of Franklin Park in the Roxbury area of Boston, where the trackwork, while complex, was doable and further, held significant personal ties, near where my grandparents lived. My grandfather caught the trolley to Mattapan at the shed on Seaver Street on his way to work in a tailor shop in Milton. The trolley operation was familiar, and the venue held so many personal memories from my childhood while visiting Boston from our home in the Philadelphia suburbs. This became my choice in around mid-2008. With many fits and starts, the task began.

 
First came the benchwork, where Bob’s assistance was essential. We used the Standards of East Penn Traction Club with 2-inch rail centers. The module is 30x72 inches which was somewhat tight for what was intended, but eventually it all would work out. The track and switches are Orr girder rail, available from Custom Traxx. They were soldered to two-sided PC board ties from Fast Tracks. Before any paving or ground cover application, everything was check for gauge with multiple cars.
 
The streets we made from wallboard compound and a mix of wallboard compound and Sculpt-A-Mold was used for ground cover base with foam for hills. Bob had some reverse molds which I used to stamp the cobbles in the street surface. This was an unimaginable time saver, compared to hand carving the individual cobbles, which is a recipe for madness. The dirt was some applications of ground walnut shells from Fred Sauerburger and well, sifted dirt from Bob Dietrich. The turf is a mix of “stuff” from Woodland Scenics and Scenic Express.
 
The switch machines are Tortoises. Why? Because presently that is what currently is available. They are connected to stems on the Orr turnouts that are extended through the layout by brass tubing, Significant tweaking for proper tension was necessary. The sidewalks are balsa covered with a thin layer of wallboard compound and painted with Woodland Scenics Concrete color. The trees are Scenic Express which are a mess to make: the stems are dipped in dilute matte medium, then into coarse turf, then hung to dry with weights to try to make them as straight as possible.
 
The line poles are from Jason’s Brass Poles from Brian Weisman in Ohio. They look rather nice and Brian has very nice pole caps for them. I sprayed them a prototypic aluminum color. It was necessary to do soldering around the joints in the tubing to assure necessary electrical conductivity. I discovered this rather late in the course, since on my main layout, I gap through the rails rather than the overhead. For the module, Bob convinced me to gap through the overhead with one-sided PC board. This brought out the variable conductivity in the line poles which was a problem in several of them until the problem was identified and fixed.
 
The overhead wire was from Jim Rivers as were the overhead hangers. The span wires were fashioned from soft brass wire. The overhead switch frogs are from Rich Eaton, an excellent manufacturer of trolley poles. George Huckaby of Custom Traxx provided very helpful advice about reliable placement of the frogs which differs from that used in the lost-wax frogs and that typically is done with the older NMRA standards. There are 3 curved crossovers. Two are the old-style hinged Tom O’Toole type that Jim and Brian sell and one was a scratch-built one that Bob Dietrich made. They have required some tweaking but presently are working rather well.
 
The structures are a tale. The apartment house at 100 Seaver Street was made from a kit from CMR in Baltimore. Would you believe the model kit is called the Severin Building?! It was close though somewhat different. It has four instead of the prototypic 2 front bays, but the effect is pretty close. The kit as sold is 6 stories and to make it a prototypic 4 stories, I needed to replace the middle 4-story section with two additional one-story sections, which were graciously provided by Jeff Springer of CMR. The CMR kits are complex and intricate, but the directions are amazing for their clarity. I have told Jeff that their kits should be advertised as coming together in 1000 easy steps!
 
The building at 108 Seaver Street on the corner of Seaver and Humboldt was completely scratch-built. In the era that I modeled, it was the Roxbury Young Men’s Hebrew Association. They acquired the building from the estate of the original owner, Simon Goldsmith around 1918. The building was constructed in around 1898. The only thing I have been able to discover about Mr. Goldsmith was that he had an imposing home built at 108 Seaver Street and that the architect was H.H. Hathaway. All I could find out about the architect was that he designed a home for Simon Goldsmith! In 1962 it was sold to the Berean Adventist Church and is still owned by them and is a thriving faith community.
 
HO scale brick styrene sheets were used, windows, railing and doors by Don Tichy were used. Shingles were from Nick and Nora. I found some stone sheets of different sizes for the front porch and for the foundations. Styrene strips were used for the porch and porch hand rails. For the sills and lintels, styrene strips were used. The turrets on the building were a challenge and without the brainstorming with Bob Dietrich could not have been done. We found pieces of 2-inch plastic tubing and sanded the backs of windows to fit flush, then carved out the window apertures in a sheet of styrene brick (actually several sheets-there were several screw-ups along the way!). The window glass was applied to the back of the masonry window frames and painted black. The windows then were cemented into the back of the styrene. After several fits and starts, we found a thick, goopy cement that with clamping would hold the styrene and window assembly to the tubing with meticulous bracing. The same was done with the foundation pieces. The side turret was made from a piece of tubing cut lengthwise for a 180-degree segment. The corner turret was more complex: the lower floors were a 270- degree wrap-around and the top was 360 full-cylinder. No way would styrene strips adhere to the curve for lintels and sills. Fortunately, I found some peel and paste stone material from Micro Mark that worked well. The conical top of the corner turret Bob made by casting-it is solid! The roof was made of foam-actually two thicknesses of pink insulation board which was planed into shape. The dormers were made from sheet styrene. Cutting out the window apertures is not for the timid! The front bays: the 3-story one on the left and the one on the second story on the porch were framed with trapezoidal wood pieces. The joints were trimmed with 90-degree styrene strips and the look seems OK. The roof of the 3-story bay was made with creased styrene sheet. The colors and precise dimensions are a good faith guestimate.
 
No color photos of the era I modeled, 1945-1948 are available. I photographed the building extensively and was helped by the Jamaica Plain Historical Society, but it is still a guess. I am unsure how it would have been perceived if I had walked around the perimeter of the building with tape measure!
 
The other structure on the module is the waiting shed on the outbound track on Seaver Street. This was a kit I got from Jim Harr of Stella Models.
 
The structure that is missing is the Texaco Station on the northeast corner of Seaver and Humboldt. Here is the story about that. It opened on January 1. 1952. Coincidentally, I was in Boston on that date, visiting my grandmother. However, the lot was empty when the Humboldt Avenue trolley was operating. Bob thinks I need a station there for appearances. The problems are that it would be historically inaccurate and further, HO models of gas stations with the service bays on the right and the office on the left are hard to impossible to find. I have put a tank on the lot to indicate a future gas station! Apparently, the Boston Parks Department was very fussy about what could be on the perimeter of Franklin Park.
 
The street lights are the new Woodland Scenics lights which are easy plug-in and look rather authentic.
I also am not quite sure what to do about traffic lights. No one seems to make 2-sided right-angle traffic lights. I would welcome any suggestions! I still need a street sign and some 1940’s cars and a few more people. The tweaking of the overhead will go on for a while.
 
Purists will notice several non-prototypic features for which I can only plead for forbearance:
Humboldt Avenue came into Seaver Street at a 135-degree angle and I have a 90-degree angle, of necessity for space constraints;
 
The terrain was not flat. Humboldt Avenue rose on a hill into Seaver Street, and Seaver Street was hilly. The loop was in a dip between hills to the east towards Blue Hill Avenue and to the west towards Egleston Square which it would reach first with a rise from the loop then a descent to Egleston.
 
The apartment building at 100 Seaver Street has two and not four front bays
The shelter on Seaver Street needs to be shifted to the west in the center of the turnout.
 
The credit list looks like it belongs at the end of a Scorsese movie, but it is essential to the story:
The books by Bradley Clarke on Boston trolleys and trackless trolleys, which were vital resources for track planning and some important views for the landscape. Brad also patiently answered question that I posed; The Arcadia Book on Roxbury which had photos of the loop that were valuable;
The Jamaica Plain Historical Society, and especially Richard Heath who provided much historic context;  Tony Tieuli, who always knows the most arcane but necessary factoids for accuracy. Tony seems to come up with a crucial photo at exactly the right moment. Most recently was his reminder to add the orange bands to the line poles where car stops were located. He also had the candor to tell me where a mistake was made, such as the correct height for the hill at the west end of the loop;
 
Charlie Pitts who offered a lot of information about modeling tips and about other items of Boston history; Leo Sullivan provided several helpful photographs; Manufacturers, including Custom Traxx and George Huckaby. George provided both materials and priceless advice; Jason’s Brass Poles and Brian Weisman; Jim Rivers; Rich Eaton; CMR, Jim Harr; Woodland Scenics; Scenic Express; the independent unnamed dealers at the various train shows-Timonium, Springfield, World’s Greatest Hobby who came up with all the needed building supplies at critical times; Nick and Nora for shingles, Don Tichy for windows, doors and top porch railings.
 
To Charlie Long and George LaRue, who helped with important small but essential tasks at critical times with such things as simply getting all the modules linked. Showing up at a critical time makes a difference;
 
To Fred Sauerburger who provided some great materials for the ground surface;
To my son-in-law, Mark Matta who helped brainstorm and permanently link the yard module to the main layout;
 
To Bob Dietrich who was the ever-present critic and mastermind and troubleshooter for all things structural, scenic, electrical and everything else. Simply look at the turrets and you will quickly get how vital his contributions are;
 
To my grandparents, Annie and Barney Allman, whose selfless lives and love are the backdrop and inspiration for this project. Sixty + years after their deaths, this model will keep their memory alive. I hope they would have found it interesting. They always cared about what excited their grandchildren.

 

 

 

Figure 1. The line up of cars preparing to leave Keystone Junction on the Pennsylvania side of the layout for Bay State Junction and on toward the yard module and then to Seaver Street.

Figure 2. Illinois Terminal car 456 past Keystone Junction on the side of the road operation heading to Bay State Junction.

  

Figure 3, Illinois Terminal car 456 about to take the new turnout toward the yard module. Bay State Junction in the upper right, small yard on the left.

Figure 4. Illinois Terminal car 456 arriving at new module, turning from Humboldt Avenue onto Seaver Street, first regular car. Why this car? It was my first car acquired and finished! The very crowded yard module is in the background. Scratch built 108 Seaver Street, the YMHA building is to the left of car 456 in the picture.

Figure 5 Illinois Terminal car 456 enters the loop from Seaver Street, seen from Franklin Park. The building on the left is the apartment house at 100 Seaver Street, built from a modified CMR kit. The building on the right is 108 Seaver Street, the former Simon Goldsmith mansion, from 1918 until 1962 the Roxbury YMHA, and since then, the Berean Adventist congregation. The small yard is in the upper left.

Figure 6. Liberty Bell Limited car 1000, the second car I acquired approaching Bay State Junction enroute to Seaver Street.

Figure 7. Liberty Bell Limited car 1000 and Illinois Terminal car 456 on the loop, ready to return.

Figure 8. Boston Elevated Type 5 car 5639, an MTS brass car takes the turnout toward the big yard enroute to Seaver Street. This is the first Boston car to the new module and loop.

Figure 9. Type 5 car 5639 turns onto Seaver Street from Humboldt Avenue. It will take the turnout on the upper left into the loop. Until Spring, 1948, when the Dudley-Seaver line was converted to trackless trolley, this was a prototypic move.

 

Figure 10. Car 5639 on the loop, seen from Franklin Park. Almost identical prototypic pictures like this are published.

 

Figure 11. Metropolitan Transit Authority Type 4 car 5230 (one of my favorites) leaving Keystone Junction for Seaver Street.

 

Figure 12. Metropolitan Transit Authority Type 4 car 5230 turning from Humboldt Avenue onto Seaver Street. Type 4’s ran the Egleston-Mattapan via Seaver Street and Blue Hill Avenue until 1949 when they were withdrawn after a horrific accident in the Egleston station. They were replaced by Type 5’s until the line was converted to bus operation in September 1955.

Figure 13. Type 4 car 5230, along with Liberty Bell Limited car 1000 and Type 5 car 5639 in the loop, seen from Franklin Park.

Figure 14. Metropolitan Transit Authority Picture Window PCC car 3270 leaving Keystone Junction for Seaver Street. The Picture Window cars never ran on either Humboldt (which was a trackless trolley line by the time they arrived in 1951) or on Egleston-Mattapan, although one might have operated on a fan trip, which I would defer to my Boston friends.

Figure 15. Metropolitan Transit Authority Picture PCC car 3270 passes through Bay State Junction on its way to Seaver Street. The turnout is to the right beyond the photo.

Figure 16. MTA Picture Window PCC 3270 in the loop, along with Type 5 car 5639 and Type 4 car 5230.

Figure 17. Metropolitan Transit Authority PCC 3123 leaving Keystone Junction for Seaver Street. Philadelphia Suburban Transportation Company 8o-series car 81 is on the diverting track in the junction.

Figure 18. MTA PCC car, Commonwealth series car 3123 signed up for Boston College, it’s usual venue, arriving at Humboldt Avenue and Seaver Street. The model is from Custom Traxx.

Figure 19. Boston Elevated Railway Center Entrance car 6118 and Philadelphia Suburban Transportation Company 80 type car 81 at Keystone Junction. Car 6119 is leaving for Seaver Street.

Figure 20. Boston Elevated Railway Center Entrance car arriving at the loop. It is signed for Egleston. Apparently, the Tremont Street-Columbus Avenue line briefly was extended beyond Egleston to this loop, but this service did not generate enough ridership to continue.

Figure 21. Center Entrance car 6118 and Picture Window PCC 3270 in the loop.

Figure 22, two, above and below: An all-Boston line up in the loop.

Figure 23. Boston Elevated Railway Type 5 car 5639 turning north onto Humboldt Avenue from Seaver Street.  (2)

Figure 24. Boston Elevated Railway Type 5 car 5639 turning north onto Humboldt Avenue and Metropolitan Transit Authority ex-Dallas double-ended PCC car 3334 turning from Humboldt Avenue on Seaver Street. It never happened in real life, but it happened here!

  

Figure 25. A variety of cars, Boston, but also Toronto CLRV on the right, two Philadelphia Suburban cars on the lower left, a Philadelphia Transportation Company pre-WW2 PCC, and two Boston cars.

  • Member since
    June, 2002
  • 14,296 posts
Posted by daveklepper on Sunday, September 30, 2018 5:11 AM

The posting is completed.  Figures 20 and 21 seem near duplicates, and if Richard issues a correction, it will be posted.

Note that the Loop model module is detachable from the rest of model railroad, can fit the trunk of a standard-sized  automobile, and can be a small operating model railroad in itself at shows.

The following are pictures that Richard sent earlier, compared wih the pictures above can show a year's progress.

 

  • Member since
    April, 2018
  • From: 53° 33′ N, 10° 0′ E
  • 746 posts
Posted by Tinplate Toddler on Sunday, September 30, 2018 5:21 AM

I love traction modelling!

Thanks for sharing, Dave!

Following is a video of a model of a contempory streetcar system of European (German) flavor, built by a Dutch traction modeller.

Enjoy!

Happy times!

Ulrich (aka The Tin Man)

"You´re never too old for a happy childhood!"

  • Member since
    January, 2004
  • From: Canada, eh?
  • 8,632 posts
Posted by doctorwayne on Sunday, September 30, 2018 12:57 PM

Dave, thanks for sharing those layout photos and the interesting back-story to the layout's construction. 
The structures (and details of their construction) are impressive, as is the variety of the traction equipment shown.

Ulrich, thank you for that video link.  The attention to detail, especially the figures, along with the background sound track, really add to the busy cityscape.   The flawless performance of the equipment doesn't hurt, either.

My only complaint (although you did mention the layout's contemporary German flavour) is that a Dutch modeller would omit having Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet, along with the nativity scene. Smile, Wink & Grin

Wayne

 

  • Member since
    June, 2002
  • 14,296 posts
Posted by daveklepper on Tuesday, October 02, 2018 5:49 AM

Received additional photos from Richard, two new for posting, told him I would add them to the original post, but apparently this Forum only allowed me one chance to edit, and so here is the additional photo that I could not add, another view of the Type 5 turning north from Seaver Street onto Humbolt Avenue, a prototype move when the Seaver Street - Dudley Square via Humbolt Avenue line was a trolley line.

  • Member since
    June, 2002
  • 14,296 posts
Posted by daveklepper on Tuesday, October 02, 2018 10:51 AM

Ulrich, would not more people view your posting of an operating European model railroad if you posted it a second time in the General Forum in a new thread with its own title?

Regarding layout construction, the topic of the Forum, doesn't Richard's module suggest the idea can be applied to other types of layouts, not just streetcars and interurbans.  Imagine a model of Richmond, VA's Unions Station with a second, non-prototype, loop track added at the other end, possibly the second loop a separate detachable item, used only when the station model is displayed at shows.  Lots of through passenger stations could also serve as a prototype, Stillwell Avenue, Coney Island subway station with its new, beautiful, historic throwback train-shed, Concord, New Hampshire, St. Albans, Vermont, Durango for a Colorado narrow-gauge layout.  In Israel, my favorite would be the North Tel Aviv - T. A. University Station.  It was not designed by Yamasaki, but looks like one of his designs.

  • Member since
    April, 2018
  • From: 53° 33′ N, 10° 0′ E
  • 746 posts
Posted by Tinplate Toddler on Tuesday, October 02, 2018 12:12 PM

daveklepper
Ulrich, would not more people view your posting of an operating European model railroad if you posted it a second time in the General Forum in a new thread with its own title?

Dave,

I think I did a few years ago. Unfortunately, there seems to be very little interest in traction modelling theese days. This used to be quite different a few (too many) decades ago. MR ran a reqular column back in those days and Suydam offered a selection of fine brass streetcars. Today, it´s only Bowser and Bachmann with a selection of PCC cars and a Brill trolley. More and more US cities have re-established streetcar lines, but none of the modern streetcar is available as an HO scale model. There is a Czech manufacturer, but I forgot the name of that guy.

In Europe, the picture is slightly different, although traction modelling is also a niche. Quite a few manufacturers have contemporary streetcars in their range of products, even at affordable prices. Some of them could be adapted to resemble Seattle or Portland streetcars.

Happy times!

Ulrich (aka The Tin Man)

"You´re never too old for a happy childhood!"

  • Member since
    June, 2002
  • 14,296 posts
Posted by daveklepper on Wednesday, October 03, 2018 5:00 AM

With sharp curves and mostly single-car operation, traction is a natural for small-space model railroad.   Someone looking for something true-to-prototype for a really tiny layout could model New Orleans' Lee Circle, where inbound and outbound 1929-built regular St. Charles Avenue streetcars reglularly share a short portion of the complete circle track, and deck-roof modern retro-looking Canal Street cars visit to and from Carondale Shops, ditto arch-roof modern retro Riverfront cars, and occasional appearances of the 4-wheeler Ford Bacon and David work car.

The original posting has been edited again, and I think all photos are now in their proper place.

  • Member since
    June, 2002
  • 14,296 posts
Posted by daveklepper on Friday, October 05, 2018 12:39 AM

In response to questions, Richard Allman reports:

Because of several inquiries, am working on a line drawing of the layout with dimensions. It is 2-5x9 ft. platforms @ 90 degree angle, and the yard which is 3x6 ft is at the end of one of the 5x9’s. In turn the yard is attached to Seaver St. module that I think is also 3x6. I will check all these dimensions and work on the line drawing asap.
There is no mainline railroad-the main layout-all traction-is the two original 5x9’s. The layout has blocks-partly with the blocks in the rail, and the two add-ons, gapped in the overhead.
 
The yard module is the only one I ever transported to a show and linked with other modules built to East Penn Traction Club standards. The Seaver Street module could do the same, but I am unlikely to do it. When we transport modules, I have used my wife’s Honda CRV. Bob has elaborate bracing and covers for his to protect the overhead. He has a Toyota van.
 
Open House-I usually host one of the monthly East Penn club meeting each year. We meet in different places. I hosted the June 2018 meeting and will probably host another in Spring, 2019.
  • Member since
    November, 2007
  • From: California
  • 1,186 posts
Posted by HO-Velo on Saturday, October 06, 2018 12:22 AM

Dave, thanks for sharing.  Seeing the traction takes me back to childhood in the S.F. east bay area and riding the Key system trains with my grandmother.  You're so correct in that traction can be a perfect set up for a small layout.  

Another thanks to Ulrich for sharing the movie, nothing short of fantastic!

Thanks again and regards,  Peter

  • Member since
    June, 2002
  • 14,296 posts
Posted by daveklepper on Sunday, October 07, 2018 10:47 PM

The layout drawing mentioned by Richard will be posted tomorrow when I have access to a broadband server to use Imgur.  Today I plan on sampling both the new Jerusalem - Ben Gurion electrified line and the new Haifa - Beit Shahn line, going by train Jerusalem - Beit Shahn and return, about twice the distance as directly by bus or auto, and including the T. A. - Haifa main line, ridden many times. 

  • Member since
    June, 2002
  • 14,296 posts
Posted by daveklepper on Tuesday, October 09, 2018 3:06 AM

And here is the layout diagram:

Doctor Allman and I first met at Boston NRHS meetings about 60 years ago.  And I rode early all the prototypes of the streetcars and interurban cars he had modeled, including of course all the Boston cars.

A reprt on my trip yesterday to Beit Shahn and return will be on the Trains magazine Passenger forum today or tomorrow.

  • Member since
    April, 2018
  • From: 53° 33′ N, 10° 0′ E
  • 746 posts
Posted by Tinplate Toddler on Tuesday, October 09, 2018 4:03 AM

Dave,

Thanks for posting the track plan, which is a lot more complex than the one seen in the video.

Track plan Rheinberger Strassenbahn

More videos can be found here!

Happy times!

Ulrich (aka The Tin Man)

"You´re never too old for a happy childhood!"

  • Member since
    June, 2002
  • 14,296 posts
Posted by daveklepper on Wednesday, October 10, 2018 1:02 PM

Error on the track map:  Should be Main Line Transit, not Main Line Traction.  Hope to have a corrected replacement posted tomorrow morning.  Need a wider-band server than the one I am using now to access Imgur for posting.

Apologies,  Dave

  • Member since
    June, 2002
  • 14,296 posts
Posted by daveklepper on Thursday, October 11, 2018 2:13 AM

The mistake has been corrected.

  • Member since
    June, 2002
  • 14,296 posts
Posted by daveklepper on Saturday, October 13, 2018 1:11 PM
From East Pen Tracion (Model) Newsletter, eith permision:\
Chicago PCC Car 4023
Richard L. Allman
 
Chicago Surface Lines PCC car 4023 has entered operation on Main Line Transit earlier this summer.
 
The prototype was ordered for operation on Chicago Surface Lines and delivered from St. Louis Car Company in late 1936. It was one of 83 cars, making Chicago a pioneer in PCC operation. They were the last PCC cars Chicago would acquire until the post-World War 2 era, when 600 more cars would arrive, giving Chicago briefly the largest PCC fleet in the United States, until the rapid conversions of the streetcar lines in the early 1950’s, when most of the post-war cars were stripped of their running gear which then was used for a new generation of Chicago L trains. They differed from other PCC cars by being 50 feet-5 inches long and 9 feet wide, considerably larger than most PCC’s which were 46 ft-5-3/8 in. long and 8 ft. 4 in. wide. The Chicago cars had skirting over the trucks, unlike the cutouts around the trucks typically found on PCC cars. Additionally, they had rear right-sided doors, a unique and distinctive feature. Because of the extreme width of the cars, the bodies were mounted with the bolsters displaced 3 inches to the left to avoid potential sideswipes on double track routes.
 
Chicago Surface Lines was an operating company and did not directly own the cars it operated. The cars were purchased by and assigned to two of the 4 companies that formed CSL in 1917, Chicago Railways and Chicago City Railways. By agreement at the time of the creation of CSL, new cars were assigned to Chicago Railways and Chicago City Railways in a 60:40 ratio; cars belonging to each entity had its own numbering series. Accordingly, 4023 was one of the cars in the 4002-4051 series belonging to Chicago Railways. The remaining 33 cars, 7002-7034, belonged to Chicago City Railways but were identical.
 
The cars were air-electric PCC’s and with their distinctive blue and white paint scheme and white hourglass front and red belt rail, were nicknamed the Blue Goose series. The tiger striping on the front was added to the scheme in the immediate post-war months to make the cars more recognizable in traffic, since most Chicago routes were double-tracked street running. When Chicago Transit Authority acquired CSL in 1947, the blue was replaced by a somewhat darker blue with a dash of green thrown into the mix. At least that is how it appears in available photos. Eventually the cars received the CTA simplified dark green and white scheme that they maintained until their retirement in 1958, when all Chicago trolley operation ended.
 
Initially the Blue Geese ran on the busy east-west Madison line. Because of its length and the very dense level of service, the entire series served only that one line. In 1948, some of the series were transferred to the heavy east-west 63rd Street line where they operated until replaced by post-war cars in 1952. The 63rd Street line was converted to bus operation in May 1953. The series served the heavy north-south Cottage Grove line from 1952 until its conversion in 1955. They ran their final years of operation on the heavy and long Western Avenue line from 1955 until its conversion in mid-1956. One car of the series, 4021 is preserved though not operating at the Illinois Railway Museum. I used a photo of the car for my color match, so it might or might not be close to the prototype.
 
The Model
 
The model is a brass car imported by Car Works. I bought at the 2017 East Penn Meet in Allentown from a very nice vendor who had a bunch of Chicago PCC’s at very fair prices. George Huckaby of Custom Traxx has excellent decal sets. The car was spray painted by Bob Dietrich after I did the masking. We chose the best white and blue we could find. Color photos are inconsistent: films, exposures, lighting conditions, and publishers’ color correction make selection of “the” color something of a guessing game. What I selected gives what I hope is a convincing appearance, including the grime black roof mat and the tan pole shroud. The car has been extensively weathered, true to Chicago. Old brass models need considerable preparation with soaking in household vinegar and subsequent cleaning with a brass polish like Brasso, and then another soak in vinegar to remove any residual brass polish. The decaling went well until the 200+ scale feet of one-inch black striping; everyone knows my contempt for that procedure, but I did what needed to be done! Getting it to lie properly on the ribbing above the windows is arduous. The tiger stripes went on surprisingly easily, as did the belt rail and the numerals. I had 2 sets of the decals, just in case. Other than the striping, the hardest task was centering the hourglass over the headlight at the from, we eventually got it. The destination signs were easy. Because of the design of the body shell, getting the window glass into the ends was more challenging than usual. The pole hook was not open and when I tried to open it, it snapped off so at some point I will need to fabricate and apply a new hook.  The drive is a rear-wheel drive that I will need to slow down with some diodes, although a part of me is saying to replace it with a front wheel Bowser drive. This would entail fabricating a new floor, a doable task but only if necessary. I also plan to add an LED headlight and taillight at some point. I know the O-scale guys are comfortable with rear wheel drives but, there is something fearsome about change for me!  And I chose to make my car a 63rd Street car, although it never ran on that route until after the Chicago Surface Lines era. It was one of the few Chicago routes with some private right-of-way, so please cut me some slack!
 
The credits for assistance go to: Car Works, for importing this excellent model; to George Huckaby for the excellent and accurate decal set; to Central Electric Railfans’ Association for their Chicago PCC book with many photos, including for proper placement of numerals and logos and at least approximations for colors. To the authors of the PCC books, Fred Schneider and Steve Carlson for technical data and the Chicago streetcar books by James Johnson and Alan Lind for details about operation. Most of all, to my friend and co-conspirator Bob Dietrich for his constant help, advice and encouragement and hand-holding. It’s not easy helping someone finish a challenging model project amid packing for a move to Delaware!   
 
Next projects:

1.      Complete my Seaver Street module. Almost there-narrative to follow soon!

2.      An IHP Atlantic City Brilliner. Maybe start this week. I must first decide whether to power it with a Bowser drive or a Bachmann Spectrum Peter Witt drive.

3.      A Chicago Odd 17 car. I have a shell and might finish it when the Bowser 4 ft. 10 in. drives again are available.

4.      I have a Type 5 shell that could easily be Wilkes Barre car 774 and an Ajin drive that might be ideal.

5.      There are a couple pre-war air-electric shells on a shelf and some Boston decals. Maybe the Boston Elevated Queen Mary car 3001 that by coincidence ran on the Dudley-Seaver line via Humboldt Avenue.

 

Figures 1 and 2. Keystone Junction above, Bay State Junction below, passing Toronto A-1 PCC car 4045, going snd coming.

  Figures 3 and 4,  Passing the farm on the New England module. going and coming

Figure 5, Passing Liberty Bell Limited (Lehigh Valley Transit) 1000 at the Village on the New England module

Subscriber & Member Login

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!

Search the Community

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
Model Railroader Newsletter See all
Sign up for our FREE e-newsletter and get model railroad news in your inbox!