This collection is composed of black and white photographs of train cars and locomotives for over five dozen different railroad, railway, and trolley lines in Illinois during the early and mid-twentieth century. Some of the major lines and systems represented include the Chicago, Aurora, & Elgin; Chicago, Burlington, & Quincy; Chicago Rapid Transit; Chicago Surface Lines; Illinois Central Railroad System; and Illinois Terminal Railroad. Most photographs are of individual cars on the tracks, some with signs placed in front documenting their builder and date. Some photographs also show passengers or passersby, or the background of a station or city.
In addition, there are handwritten or typed notes on the back of many photographs providing additional detail on the history of the particular car pictured, or the date and place where the photograph was taken. Photographs from the early twentieth century are often described in a standard format on the reverse side, with defined spaces for the railroad, number of the car, builder, number of seats, and the location and date where the car was photographed. Photographers include George E. Votava, William C. Janssen, Robert V. Mehlenbeck, and William Lichtenstern.
This set of photographs was originally part of a larger photograph collection created by William Lichtenstern. Born March 10, 1880, Lichtenstern was living in Brooklyn, New York in 1900, according to Census data. He died in December 1971 and was last known to reside in Seaford, New York.
The Library purchased the Illinois segment of the Lichtenstern railroad photograph collection in 1999.