TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: Train Passengers Asked to Get out and Push Stalled Train

Re: Train Passengers Asked to Get out and Push Stalled Train

T (
Fri, 18 May 2007 17:50:04 -0400

In article <>,

> On May 17, 11:14 am, wrote:

> I am a strong advocate of electric propulsion. Streetcars in city
> streets do have the disadvantage of being easily blocked by errant
> vehicles. Older streetcars (built before the PCCs) were not
> comfortable. In my mother's day, she was willing to pay a higher fare
> to ride a bus than the trolley, and she was frugal, but she did not
> like riding the old trolley (she did like PCCs). She was glad when
> Phila converted many of its trolley routes to bus.

> In talking with transit people who actually are responsible to run the
> system, buses were preferred over streetcars. For whatever the
> reason, buses did have the flexibility. There was no track or power
> maintenance which was costly.

> However, streetcars on private right of way would perform far better
> than a bus because they could carry more people faster.

> Another problem was that the trolleys were old and spare parts not
> available. If trolleys were as easily maintained as mass produced
> buses, they'd be less of a headache.

> Of course, today, so many people live out in sprawling suburbs where
> mass transit isn't as efficient and must pay $3+ for gasoline.

In places spread far, I can understand that. Here in RI the Transit 2020
report says we MUST use light rail between the cities since the highways
can no longer support the volume of traffic that would be necessary.

Interestingly I never knew there was so much rail freight until we moved
into our new offices. Huge P&W freighters carrying lumber, oil, etc. go
through several times a day.

> [TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: CTA's telephone system used the third
> rail for the telephone communications on the trains. Between the
> headquarter's switchboard and the individual stations, they used
> leased lines from Illinois Bell.

> A bit of history for you to consider: The _original_ train routes
> (Jackson Park Elevated Line, Lake Street Elevated Company, Chicago
> Rapid Transit Company, The Union Loop Elevated Line, Metropolitan Rail
> and others) and the _original_ bus and street car companies (Boulevard
> Bus, Chicago Surface Lines and others) were all privately owned
> companies. In 1932, Chicago Rapid Transit Company went into
> receivership and bankruptcy when they were unable to pay their
> _electric_ bill to the Chicago Edison Company, our electric supplier
> at the time. A man named Samuel Insull was the president of Chicago
> Rapid Transit and on the board of Edison. On the day Edison was set to
> cut off the power to the rapid transit line, Insull cut a deal for
> them. Chicago Edison would loan the money needed to Chicago Rapid
> Transit, in the form of fifty year bonds. I guess they figured fifty
> years hence (1982) was a long time away, why worry about it. In 1947,
> City of Chicago municipalized (a polite term for theft when City of
> Chicago does it out of politicians' greed) all seven or eight
> transportation companies and merged them all into Chicago Transit
> Authority.

Private companies indeed. RI had trackless trolleys run on overhead
catenary for years. That all changed in the period from 1948 to 1954.
All the trolleys were replaced with buses. Even today, the in-town
trolleys are CNG vehicles.

All the buses were owned by the Universal Transit Company or UTC. By
the early 60's UTC was in such poor shape that the state created a
quasi government agency called the Rhode Island Public Transit
Authority to take over operations of the failing UTC.

RIPTA flailed about for nearly 40 years until they finally got a
general manager that understood what quality meant. All the vehicles
are fairly new, oldest dating to 1998. And those will be phased out

But the system is overburdened and underfunded. They say RI is unique
since none of the cities and towns that RIPTA serves pay for the
service. Instead it's funded from the gasoline tax. And the cities and
towns couldn't pay anyhow when school budgets eat up 90-95% of their

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: Here is a trick question for you ...
CTA at one point hauled freight as well as passengers; true or false?

TRUE ... it happened like this: When North Shore Railroad was operating
toward the end of its life, the railroad had ONE freight customer,
whose name was 'The Lill Coal Company'. Lill's office was on Broadway,
about a block north of Montrose Avenue. (For you young'uns, people used
to heat their houses with coal in coal burners. Gradually, we dropped
coal and went (first) to oil (then later) to gas. And just as
gradually, businesses like Lill, which supplied coal to individuals,
schools, companies, whoever had to go out of business. But for the two
year interim between North Shore RR going out business folllowed by
Lill Coal Company going out of business, Lill was quite frantic. *How*
would their coal supply be delivered to them for their customers?

Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) had the answer: if any railroad
chooses to go out of business, other railroads using the same tracks
will take up the slack; it is *illegal* to simply abandon the freight
customers; someone better haul that freight. In this instance, the
'other railroad using the same tracks' happened to be Chicago Transit
Authority. So for about two years, following the demise of North Shore
Line, CTA had to haul their coal for them from the coal mine up in
Wisconsin somewhere down to Chicago. CTA had a freight engine (actually
a diesel engine) and two or three coal cars which they inherited or
bought from North Shore. And, about twice each week, that freight
train, plainly marked CTA on its side, pulled in off the main track
there to a siding and dumped out that coal.

Did CTA ever operate chartered 'funeral cars'? Again, true. About
two blocks south of Lill Coal Company is the Graceland Cemetery, a
very big place (it occupies four or five square miles in the heart of
Chicago's northwest side, and even rates a telephone exchange named
after it [GRAceland 312/773-472].) Many big wigs are buried there
with huge monuments, etc. It also rates its own railroad siding, which
was used in the 1920-40's to bring recently deceased big wigs for
burial. All the bereaved family members and friends would ride along
in the Chicago Rapid Transit street car made up like a funeral car to
the cemetery. Family and friends came from Milwaukee all the way to
south side Chicago for the funerals. Either North Shore or Chicago
Rapid Transit would bring them there. This was Charles Insull's idea.
And the chartered street cars would pull in almost daily for someone's
funeral. When Chicago Rapid Transit went out of business (or actually,
merged into CTA), Graceland asked the same sort of questions as Lill
Coal would ask several years later when North Shore went poof! *Who is
going to haul _our_ 'freight' to the ceremonies, etc. CTA agreed out
of customer good will to continue handling the cemetery business for
about a year in 1947-48, then stopped doing it. But the tracks are
still there, all rusted and full of weeds right behind the cemetery
where the one sidetrack slopes down to ground level and runs along
for about a block. PAT]

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