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Carspotters' Challenge #35--Traffic Jam

I'm not sure where this is or what year exactly, but judging by the trees and the bungalows I think it's California.

Traffic jam
See anything good?

--Cookie the Dog's Owner

(Image obtained from the Studebaker Drivers Club Forum. This post was a little late in going live because we were, ahem, stuck in traffic.  :-) )


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I'll start! Second car back is a 1955 Pontiac Chieftain wagon. Strato-Streak V8!

And the last car in the near lane has the unmistakable taillights of a '57 Plymouth. It looks like a 4-door post sedan, and I don't see any two-tone stripes on the side, so....Belvedere?

Where and when? Hmmm, love this kind of detective work, and I obviously have way too much time on my hands today, so here goes.

I agree it's California (the license plate on the Pontiac, dark on light with a dark year sticker, is right for the late 50's). I see three 1958-or-later cars (the Chev sedan between the two pick-ups, the Ford pick-up, and the Rambler American behind that). The Rambler and the Ford pick-up could possibly be 1959's. But what's behind the Rambler? It has an early-60's look to me.

The photo could therefore be a little later than 1958 or 59 (it's definitely a poorer area, so there would be fewer new cars). The last year for the black-on-yellow CA plate however was 1962, so it can't be later than that. Anyone know what the car behind the Rambler is?

Where was it taken? More 'hmmm'... It's an interesting picture, taken from an unusual (high) angle. It seems the cars are stopped, or moving slowly through, a railway level crossing (the markings on the pavement, the huge line-up). The angle makes it appear the picture may have been taken from the train, and it's more likely in that case to have been a passenger train (would a train worker bother, or have the opportunity, to take this kind of picture?).

So the road was blocked by the train. But where did the cars heading away from the camera come from? If they didn't come through the crossing, they would have had to have pulled out from somewhere near where the family is standing. You can see tire tracks in the dust, and the pic does have the look of a blow-up, with more foreground possibly visible in the original, so there could be some sort of road there between the family and the train....

If the traffic wasn't completely stopped however, and just moving slowly in both directions through the crossing, where was the picture taken from? Maybe a building, but very close to the street, and it would have to have been between the family and the rail line...

Overall, I'm leaning toward the 'passenger train & side-road' theory :). So hey - I'd say we're looking for a level crossing on a late-1950's era passenger rail line (definitely fewer of those than freight-only lines), in a poorer suburban/small town area of southern CA.

Piece of cake, huh? :). If we could only read more of the 'auto body' sign in the background. Anyone notice anything else, or have a different take?

Wow. I agree with robadr above, this is detective work. It does look like, to me, a street in Los Angeles during filming of a TV show or movie. That would explain the hight and angle of the picture as it may have been taken from a either a camera boom or a lifted bucket. It also might explain the traffic being held up from turning right briefly as the scene was being filmed.

As far as the mystery car behind the Rambler, I'd be willing to bet a considerable fortune (that I don't have) it's a '59 Chevy Impala.

Instead of a film, I bet it's a city/county/RR photo showing traffic congestion caused by a rail crossing.
The cars heading away from the camera can be explained by perhaps the barrier (if any) was just lowered. That would explain why the mother is checking it's safe to cross.

BTW: when I was born, my dad bought a new 1955 Pontaic wagon, rather like the one shown. We still have color shots of it in some home movies.

And the Studebaker pickup is neat, I wouldn't mind one.

What's the wagon just ahead of the Pontiac? My first impulse was 1957-58 DeSoto, but I'm not at all sure the two-toning is the right pattern for a DeSoto.

NickR/JohnB - hadn't thought of the film possibility, but that makes sense, especially in LA. The 'bucket' shot would explain the angle and the moving traffic. Maybe the barrier was just raised, and the facing cars are just starting to move? Good one!

The front of the 'mystery car' could be a 59 Impala, but I don't see the fins - it looks more slab-sided to me. I don't have a better guess though :)

After enlarging the image, I'm on the side of the mystery car being a '59 Chevy. Here's an image of one from a similar angle:

The area above the headlights is similar; I see a fin; and the front bumper looks familiar. But the car in the Carspotters' Challenge photo looks squashed in the back... maybe they were returning from the home improvement store or something.

The car in the Challenge may be a base model Chevy, making it appear more slab-sided... I don't see any chrome trim running down the side. It could be a Bel Air or Biscayne, or maybe even a Pixley model.

Great pic and very convincing, especially in showing how the rear fin almost disappears at this angle. It must be exactly aligned with the grille of the 57 Ford (?) behind it.

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