• Parmelee Transfer - Chicago

  • Tell us where you were and what you saw!
Tell us where you were and what you saw!

Moderator: David Benton

  by Gilbert B Norman
I'm not certain I have ever seen this Chicago concern mentioned at any rail forum at which I participate.

I'm willing to bet there are a few "wazzats" being muttered.

Parmelee Transfer was the concern that provided transfers amongst the eight stations at which trains originated. The cost of this service was absorbed by the railroads whenever an Interline ticket through Chicago was issued.

This service originated during the 19th century, and neeedless to say, used horse drawn carriages then. What few photos I have seen of their vehicles suggests that Pullman Green "stretch' limos were used 1920's onward.

The service lasted until 1955, when the railroads decided they could do it cheaper themselves. Parmelee got kicked out and the railroads organized a concern named Railroad Transfer Service. Their vehicles, stretch SUV's, were painted light Blue with White trim. Their herald resembled that of the Texas & Pacific RR. I think, and of course would be a "bone of contention", the service was contracted out using non-union drivers.

This service was active when I first visited Chicago during 1961.

Needless to say Parmelee, most definitely a Union Shop, had their friends about town - and in the right places. The matter that they got replaced was the subject of civil litigation (railroads failed to obtain a Certificate of Convenience or Necessity was the issue) that went to the US Supreme Court, but the railroads prevailed.

During the "60's", as the rails in the East "threw in the towell", they were looking for the exit signs with RTS. They first started to impose a transfer fee on Interline tickets routed through Chicago; this often made two Local tickets the cheaper alternative.

By 1968, the "party's over" - make your own transfer arrangements (mine was shank's mare).

Well, as I noted earlier, both concerns, Parmelee and Railroad Transfer, live on. Railroad Transfer was, as I noted, a 'contract out" operation, to Keeshin Charter, as this is to whom the RTS vehicles were "sublettered". Keeshin Charter, a reasonable sized charter bus operator, formerly operated their fleet under their own name, but today is a franchisee of the concern named Coach USA.

Parmelee "morphed" into Continental Limousine which held the exclusive rights to the "airport limo" franchise in Chicago. For our busfans around here, their equipment was mainly the bulbulous tailed Flexible coaches painted a dark green. Once again "friends in the right places".

As the concept of the traditional airport limousine running from the airport to the leading downtown hotel evolved into multi destinations often located in the suburbs, the 40 passenger coach became anachronistic. So Continental Lmo "morphed" into "Airport Express", whose fleet appears to be mainly comprised of 8 passenger vans, even though higher capacity units are in their fleet. That they remain the "official' limo, they have ticket counters in a much more conspicuous location within the baggage area of O Hare AND they are the only operator, along with Chicago taxicabs, who can use the "inner island" - a definite plus.

  by David Benton
interesting history Gilbert . Im sure such a service would do well in a place like London , England , with numerous ( is it 6 , 7or 8 ?? ) mainline stations , still operating today . They are linked by tube ,and theres always the ubiquitous black cab , but something inbetween the 2 would be a good service .
  by chuchubob

My fuzzy memory is telling me that there was a major article about Parmelee Transfer in National Railway Bulletin three-to-eight years ago.

  by bill haithcoat
I do not remember what year my first trip through Chicago was, but some sort of serivce still existed, by whatever name. It worked efficiently, for me, I used it several times through the years. I remember it had several kinds of equipment, vans, almost bus-like, and cabs and whatever else.

I recall it was a stub on my ticket just like any train route, as is still the case today when you ride Amtrak from Chicago to San Francisco proper, you have a stubb just to get you from Emeryville to SF.
  by JimBoylan
Can someone please check the 1st few 1971 Amtrak schedules, when their Illinois Central trains still used Central Station. I think they mentioned a transfer service for connecting Amtrak passengers. I don't know if it was included in a through ticket.
  by Gilbert B Norman
To my best knowledge, Railroad Transfer parked their vehicles on A-Day eve. There is no mention in either my copies of the May 1 or November 14 1971 timetables of any transfer service. On A-day, there were "four a day" departing Central Station, but by March 1972, it was 'adios". I was in the photo line for the last departure.

I must admit that Parmele's successor, Airport Express, is now on my "don't use" list. About three weeks ago, I was returning on a flight from Richmond VA, and wanted a Limo to my home in Clarendon Hills to the South of O'Hare. It seems that two language challenged persons - the Dispatcher and the Driver - could not understand that. They seemed to think I said Vernon Hills which is well to the North. Fortunately, I started talking to two guys, in civvies but with a US Navy T-Shirts, and asked where they were going "To Great Lakes Naval Training Center; we're instructors there'. Well, I quickly bailed out of that van; in short, I was this close to going on a 50 mile "excursion" not of my choosing.

They've had my last fare!!!

Finally, I've located material that you may or may not be able to read showing that the exit of Parmelee on September 30, 1955, could hardly be called "amicable":

http://select.nytimes.com/mem/archive/p ... 5F428585F9
  by BandA
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A search returns https://www.nytimes.com/1955/08/28/arch ... Position=3
PARMELEE NO MORE; The Famous Old Chicago Inter-Station Transfer Service Is Bowing Out
By Ward Allan Howe
Aug. 28, 1955

CHICAGO -- For transcontinental rail travelers this city will soon lose one of its most familiar landmarks, figurative if not literal. The Parmelee Company, its "Parmelee Man" a symbolic figure almost as well known to tourists as "The Man From Cook's," is bowing out of the transfer business here.
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