Aug 31, 2015

Dummies - Morgan Park and Beverly

Dummies - Morgan Park and Beverly

I have been puzzled for some time about references to the Rock Island Dummy Line. References to the dummy line are often found in histories of Beverly and Morgan Park, but the term is not explained.  What is now known as the Surburban line that served the communities was originally called the "dummy line".

Now, as a Mount Greenwood Hood I am happy to call my fellow alumni from Beverly/Morgan Park dummies. But I still wanted to know about the origin on the name.

The map above is part of the development map of Washington Heights in 1874, and shows the Dummy Line (aka Suburban line of the Rock Island).

Click below to see the full map


Wikapedia has the following about railroad "dummies".

steam dummy or dummy engine, in the United States of America and Canada, was a steam engine enclosed in a wooden box structure made to resemble a railroad passenger coach. Steam dummies had some popularity in the first decades of railroading in the U.S., from the 1830's but passed from favor after the Civil War. In Europe, locomotives of this type were described as Tram engines.

It was thought that the more familiar appearance of a coach presented by a steam dummy, as compared to a conventional engine, would be less likely to frighten horses when these trains had to operate in city streets. Later it was discovered that it was actually the noise and motion of the operating gear of a steam engine that frightened horses, rather than the unfamiliar outlines of a steam engine.

Many steam dummies were simply locomotives enclosed in coach's clothing, but some combined an actual railroad coach in the same body with the locomotive, creating an all-in-one vehicle that was a predecessor of later self-propelled railcars, usually powered by electricity or petrol.

Photos of other "Dummies"

"Nearly 80 dummy lines ran in the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Most were short lines that connected suburbs to a central city. For example, a six-mile line linked Independence and Kansas City."

"Accounts vary, but the term “dummy” apparently derived from the silencing equipment on the steam engines so as not to alarm horses. Regardless of the term’s etymology, Warrensburg’s little train was called ‘The Dummy’."
Excerpted from Dummy Line

The Ridge Historical Society explains the Dummy Name as follows:

Railroad History of the Area
In the early years of the Rock Island Railroad, it saw no need to stop after Englewood until it reached Blue Island, the next real area of civilization. The scattering of farmers along this route did not warrant the necessity of stopping the trains. Produce could be taken by wagon to Chicago or Blue Island. The small population did not require the services of passenger trains. The event that changed this was the construction of the Chicago and Great Eastern Railroad in 1864. This railroad would cross the Rock Island at Vincennes Avenue and Tracy (103rd Street). A small settlement of immigrant railroad workers and farmers developed around this point. This area, known, as "The Crossing" required the trains from both railroads to stop before crossing the other's tracks. This area today is known as Washington Heights.

The Great Eastern, later called the "Pan Handle", agreed to build a small station for the accommodation of the area's residents. It was now possible to travel to downtown Chicago on the train. An additional stop was made at Upwood ( the site of Thomas Morgan's country estate at 91st and Longwood Drive). The Great Eastern provided an "accommodation" train between The Crossing and Chicago, which was essentially the first suburban commuter train to the area. Recollections of residents speak of a "dummy train" painted blue.

Dummy locomotives were a combination locomotive and passenger car housed in a body designed to disguise the steaming beast from skittish horses. The horses were rarely fooled, and the trains limited capacity, slow speed, and habit of jumping off the track hindered the growth of passenger traffic. The name was also applied to the original connection point of the Rock Island main and branch lines at 97th Street (Dummy Junction) and the branch line itself (Dummy Line). While there is no record of the Rock Island using dummy equipment, they did use small locomotives designed to run backwards and forwards. Residents may have named these diminutive locomotives "dummys" as well.

Sounds like a reasonable explanation.  But I think we Mount Greenwoodites will still refer to our Morgan Park / Beverly friends as "dummies".  

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