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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • THE NEW ZEALAND FOREST, c. 1950

The Case of the Parked Packard: 1939

The Case of the Parked Packard: 1939

An unlabeled photo of cars parked next to train tracks from the FSA archive taken around 1939. Who can pinpoint the location? View full size.

 

Cars

I agree with the identification of the first three cars (Packard, Hupmobile, and Ford). The fourth car looks like a 1934 Ford Fordor. Car number five is a 1937 Dodge. Car number six is not a Ford Model A which had the door handles on the belt line and different fenders and front bumper. I believe this is a 1931 Chevrolet - either a 2 door coach or a 5 passenger coupe.

The Packard may have been parked there a while. There is quite a bit of trash under the front right fender, and the birds seem to be enjoying its presence. The bald front left tire, faded paint, and missing chrome on the front bumper also testify to a hard life. Finally, what is the marking on the driver's door window of the Packard from? Sticker residue from a sign to tow the vehicle comes to mind, but I do not know if such signs were in use at the time. City vehicle tax stickers existed at the time, so it might be possible larger signs could have been in use.

WWW

Every one of those cars, if displayed at a car show today, would have wide whitewalls on them, yet they were rarely used when the cars were new or near new.

As nice as the Packard is, I would choose the Raymond Loewy-designed Hupp Aerodynamic in a heartbeat. There is, maybe, one year that separates them, yet the Hupp is light-years ahead of the stodgy old Packard, stylewise. Too bad that Hupmobile was already standing next to its grave by this time. In their final days, they built a couple of beauties, this and the Skylark in 1941.

Definitely a 1933 Packard

You are close, but a 1934 had a lower front fender line. This is a 1933 - no question about the year. However, I do question the model, whether it is a Standard 8 or Super 8. The Packard carries the V shaped headlamp and fender lamp glass of a Su8. The Std8 had dome-shaped glass. But, the front bumper is the size of a Std8 and not as large as the Su8 front bumper. Wish I could read the lettering on the hubcap - it will say either Packard Eight or Packard Super Eight.

[PACKARD SUPER EIGHT. - Dave]

Muscles

I'm impressed by the paralell parking. Not easy with no power steering, and the car is the size of a boat.

22 Cars in the Photo

Approximately. 21 facing toward the camera, and one driving away down the street. No, I will not even attempt to name them all. The aforementioned Packard looks like a 1934 model. Kudos to bohneyjames for identifying the 35 Hupmobile. The third car at the curb is a 35 Ford. The sixth car in line could be a 30 or 31 Model A Ford. If anybody can ID any of the others, it would be quite a feat!

Good job, Shorpyites. Next question!

How old is that stonework?

Mysterymobile behind the Packard?

It's a 1935 Hupmobile. Very euro-style for its day. Raymond Loewy was simply a genius, one of the greats. Shorpy should do a Loewy retrospective series -- if he hasn't already(!)

ID of location

The electrical network above the tracks is far different from that of Bridgeport, CT. I think the matching of the stones is a brilliant clue!

Location Aside

That Title would make a perfect title for a Sam Spade caper. Nicely done. Wonder what's hidden in the trunk?

PA Signal

The RR signals in the distance are standard signals of the Standard Railroad of the World (PRR, but I used PA in the title in honor of Father's Day this weekend). Those signals are functional simplicity at its best IMHO. Three yellow lights in vertical, horizontal or diagonal lit-pattern tell you what you need to know. Sadly, they are being replaced by color-dependent signals.

The Answer is: Washington, DC

Virginia Avenue SW, as noted below by Seacue.

Standard RR of the World

Definitely Pennsylvania Railroad right-of-way per the overhead catenary as well as the pipe-style railings. I'll say Newark, N.J. though I'm probably wrong. Hard to believe the PRR, once the largest corporate entity in the world, is gone now almost 40 years.

They all look the same

Seems likely that the Pennsy folks followed fairly uniform plans in building these abutments... in most cases, they were elevating on-grade trackage to try to prevent the kind of wholesale slaughter that was routinely happening in NE Corridor cities prior to the turn of the century, as steam engines plowed through the citizenry. Having said all that... looks identical, down to the fencing and catenaries, to the NE Corridor/Pennsylvania line as it passes through downtown Newark, NJ.

Washington, DC

Assuming that the cars are pointed north, it could be First St. NE between H and K Streets in Washington, DC.

Virginia Ave SW, Washington, DC

I think the Connecticut license plate is a red herring. The insulators look more like 2300 V electrification, which would be Pennsylvania Railroad. This would be the extension from DC's Union Station across the Potomac to Potomac Yards on the Virginia side of the river.

[Seacue has nailed it -- clapclapclap! Virginia Avenue SW looking southeast, just east of 7th Street. Note the matching stones. - Dave]


View Larger Map

CT, west of New Haven

I know the above is obvious; I am just commenting as a bookmark to come back later and see if anyone can figure it out.

Virginia Ave SE

I think this is on Virginia Ave SE in Washington, with the Capitol Power Plant in the background, prior to the construction of I-695, as we would be looking north.

Delaware Avenue near K Street NE

"I'll take 'Parking Spaces near the DC Bureau of Traffic Adjudication' for 20."

Addendum to my prior comment

My guess that this was Connecticut is now reinforced by the fact that the first car has a Connecticut license plate.

I will narrow this down further and say that the photo location is looking east along Railroad Avenue in Bridgeport. The location is most likely in a city, given the dense parking and the large factory building in the background, and Bridgeport is the only city along the New Haven line where there's a roadway paralleling tracks with the tracks being on a stone-walled embankment.

As the twin smokestacks in the far background look too high to be factory smokestacks, I would say that they are at the power station just south of the tracks on Bridgeport Harbor. The power station is still there, although at some point (1950's?) the smokestacks with replaced with a single, very tall striped smokestack.

Northeast Corridor

Based on the overhead catenary over the train line I would say this is along what is now called the Northeast Corridor line between Washington and Boston. Today the line is electrified for the entire distance, but at this time the northern end of electrification was in New Haven.

The stone-walled embankment reminds me a lot of Connecticut, along what was then the New Haven Railroad.

 
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