A North Shore Line Potpourri, Part One

Electroliner set 803-804 departs Kenosha in January 1963, shortly before the end of service.

Electroliner set 803-804 departs Kenosha in January 1963, shortly before the end of service.

Our very first post (January 21st) featured the Chicago, North Shore and Milwaukee railroad, and it is high time for another look at that storied interurban.

Last month was the 60th anniversary of the abandonment of the Shore Line portion of the North Shore Line system, but since we showcased the Chicago, Aurora & Elgin in several posts last month, we did not have the opportunity to commemorate that. In the first of two posts, we offer a potpourri of classic North Shore Line scenes for your enjoyment.

CNS&M line car 606 at Kelly Siding on July 14, 1959. The colors on this slide have been digitally restored, after having been shifted to red. The original slide must have been one of the early Ektachromes or Agfachromes that turned out not to have stable dyes.

CNS&M line car 606 at Kelly Siding on July 14, 1959. The colors on this slide have been digitally restored, after having been shifted to red. The original slide must have been one of the early Ektachromes or Agfachromes that turned out not to have stable dyes.

CNS&M 159, 169, and 175 heading southbound from Milwaukee at the Racine Quarry siding on April 19, 1959. Fans today sometimes refer to these as "Greenliners."

CNS&M 159, 169, and 175 heading southbound from Milwaukee at the Racine Quarry siding on April 19, 1959. Fans today sometimes refer to these as “Greenliners.”

NSL 711 passing a CTA gate car at Jarvis looking south in the 1950s, headed for the Mundelein branch.

NSL 711 passing a CTA gate car at Jarvis looking south in the 1950s, headed for the Mundelein branch.

A snowy Skokie Valley Route photo run-by during a North Shore Line fantrip on February 21, 1960.

A snowy Skokie Valley Route photo run-by during a North Shore Line fantrip on February 21, 1960.

NSL 167 is at the tail end of a northbound two-car train approaching the CTA Sheridan Road station on July 6, 1955. This was a Chicago Express on the Shore Line Route during its final weeks of service.

NSL 167 is at the tail end of a northbound two-car train approaching the CTA Sheridan Road station on July 6, 1955. This was a Chicago Express on the Shore Line Route during its final weeks of service.

A single car NSL Chicago Limited crosses the Chicago River heading south on Chicago’s “L” system.

CNS&M 182 heads up an eastbound train at St. Mary's Road in the Thornbury Village subdivision (Glen Oaks,IL) on the Mundelein branch on May 31, 1962.

CNS&M 182 heads up an eastbound train at St. Mary’s Road in the Thornbury Village subdivision (Glen Oaks,IL) on the Mundelein branch on May 31, 1962.

A three-car North Shore Line train heads north on Chicago’s north side “L”, signed for Highwood on the Shore Line Route. Cliff Burnstein adds, “The train is passing Swift School, the only Chicago grade school with an Olympic-sized swimming pool (at the time, at least). The school is still there, approx. 5600 North Winthrop. I attended Swift 1949-1951 and remember well the distraction of passing “L” trains and the NSL. I was probably the only kid in class thus distracted.”

CNS&M Diner-Lounge car 415.

CNS&M Diner-Lounge car 415.

Limited/Special Train Consists

Kyle V. writes:

I am seeking your assistance in figuring this out, as you seem to be particularly knowledgeable in matters pertaining to Chicago interurban history, and your blog posts have been filled with helpful resources.

For a while now (and to no avail) I have been trying to determine what a typical consist would have been on one of the CNS&M Limited/Special trains (e.g. the Prairie State Limited, the Badger Special, Gold Coast Limited etc.) in the Insull years.

I am currently attempting to model one of these trains (though not any one in particular) in N scale, and I have so far acquired both a steel coach and a parlor-observation car (#420). Unfortunately, I cannot seem to find any resource that would let me know what other coaches to acquire for this purpose.

Most photographs (that I have come across) featuring these trains focus primarily on the parlor-observation car, and are taken at such an angle that the numbers and window configurations of the other coaches cannot be determined with any accuracy. I have thus far been unable to find any sort of car assignment records from this era.

I come to you with this in the hopes that perhaps you are privy to some sort of documentation, photographic or otherwise, that could help me solve this issue once and for all (Or could perhaps point me in the direction where I could find this information myself).

Thank you.

We will do my best to help you out, thanks.  I posted your request to various online discussion groups, where people who might know the answer would read it.  Here are the responses:

Randy Stahl:

Two coaches from the 737-776 Pullman or Standard cars , followed by the 418 or 419 diner and on the tail end you can use your 420.

If you want to back date the train a few years use the 409, 414-416 diners and some coaches from the last order from Cincinnati along with Observation cars from the 410-413 group.

I don’t think the train length ever or rarely exceeded 4-5 cars on the name trains. I have seen pictures of North Shore trains with 6-7 cars and two diners but I don’t believe they were name trains.

I wanted to model these trains too, I couldn’t make up my mind which ones so I am modeling all of them!!

Scott Greig:

It’s been a long time since I looked at any of my CNS&M timetables, let alone any from the name train era…but I want to say that you would see a diner OR an obs car on a given name train, but not both. To a certain degree, that would be duplicating services, as both types of equipment had parlor and/or meal service.

Randy Stahl:

I assumed the diners were for the coach passengers on the named trains?

Seth Bramson:

I believe that the name trains in those days, pre-Electroliners (and maybe some even after the E-liners) carried a dining car.

Lynn Willer:

The North Shore used to be able to loop in Milwaukee so the parlor open end cars could turn easily. North Shore used to terminate further north until the new station was built.

Obviously pre-Electroliner. The Liner solved turning trains.

The Limiteds could have the usual coach cars, the diner and the Parlor.

Probably if you can find the CERA books on the North Shore you may have good info there.

Mitch Markovitz:

The parlors were deadheaded to Harrison to use the wye and be re-stocked.

There would only be coach passengers on a train with diners. I believe for a very short time the noon train, The Cream City, carried both a diner and a parlor.

After the work rule of one trainman per car was changed diners ran second out in a consist leaving the hind end free for making adds and cuts. The kitchen was generally placed facing the rear so the conductor who worked the head 2 cars would not have to continually pass through the corridor into the dining room.

After 1932 when full parlors were discontinued some of the diners had two rows of tables and chairs removed which were replaced by parlor chairs taken from the full parlors. Thus we see printed materials referring to “Parlor-Dining” service with the admonition, “Parlor chairs may be occupied for the service of meals. Patrons occupying chairs beyond the service will be charged the regular fixed rate for such service.”

That (a diner car and a parlor car) makes a nice looking train but I don’t think it’s prototypical. I note in another email that only one train for a very short time carried both.

Diners didn’t provide parlor accommodations until after ’32 when the full parlors were discontinued. Parlor meal service remains a mystery to me. I’ve never seen a photo of the kitchen or a menu. 1923 – 1930 was still in the prohibition era so all my imagination tells me is lemonade and a sandwich.

Parlors ran in non-meal time periods.

As for diners during the ’20s during breakfast departures, the lunch departures of 11am, noon, ans 1pm, and dinner time diners were in consists of non-name trains and I’m not sure they were mentioned in the timetables (CERA Bulletins.)

Joseph Hazinski:

If you look at the track diagrams, the observation cars could also be wyed downtown at 2nd and Wells St. on the streetcar line, a much shorter deadhead then Harrison Avenue. I don’t know if they were but it was possible. The first dinner-parlor cars operated from this location when the terminal was located there before the 6th and Michigan location was built. Also I think restocking took place at the 6th and Michigan terminal. Harrison Avenue shops did not seem to have a place for a commissary while there was food service in the downtown station.

Joe Stupar:

Employee timetable 23, from June 05, 1926, lists the train numbers of trains carrying dining and parlor cars. They are:

Dining cars: Daily; 901, 415, 905, 900, 414, and 906. Daily, except Sunday; 405, 413, 429, 412, 904, and 426.

Parlor Cars: 915, 903, 415, 421, 900, 902, 420, and 916.

The two trains that had both, 415 and 900, the 415 was the Cream City Special departing 63rd-Dorchester at 11:33am for Milwaukee via the Skokie Valley Route, arriving Milwaukee at 2:05 PM. The 900 was the Interstate Limited, departing Milwaukee at 7:15 AM and operating via Skokie Valley to 63-Dorchester, arriving 9:46.

These are the named trains listed in that timetable, with direction and departure time:
900 – Interstate Limited (SB) 7:15 AM (possible misprint, also labeled Badger Limited)
901 – Badger Limited (NB) 6:48 AM
902 – Eastern Limited (SB) 10:00 AM
903 – Eastern Limited (NB) 9:23 AM
414 – Cream City Special (SB) 12:00 Noon
415 – Cream City Special (NB) 11:33 AM
420 – Prairie State Special (SB) 3:00PM
421 – Prairie State Special (NB) 2:33PM
916 – Metropolitan (SB) 3:55 PM
905 – Interstate Limited (NB) 4:26 PM
904 – Illinois Limited (SB) 4:45 PM
906 – Badger Limited (SB) 5:15 PM

Hope this is helpful. Of course, I’m sure it changed from timetable to timetable.

Mitch Markovitz:

That diner and parlor consist didn’t last long. Hard to find in timetables. The thought of it fascinated me for many decades.

On the South Shore after the arrival of the short parlors, Diner + parlor consist existed on 3 round trips with the long parlors appearing only mid-morning and mid-afternoon. I’ve seen photos of the kitchen in a long South Shore parlor and it had a broiler arrangement similar to Pullman broiler buffet cars indicating some form of hot meal service.

I wasn’t there, and I can only report on histories I’ve read. Yes, physically you could tote a parlor with a motor on to the street, then shove the thing all the way in to the midst of downtown Milwaukee streetcar traffic, both NSL and Milwaukee Electric, cross over to the opposite main for the return to the depot, and then re-stock, clean and prepare for the return trip in an hour.

The prospect of that move in my mind as an operating railroader is questionable.

Joe Stupar:

It is also interesting that in 1923 there were no trains with both (dining cars and parlor cars). Timetable 18 lists:

Dining Cars: Daily; 901, 415, 905, 900, 414, 904. Monday only; 921. Saturday only; 417. Daily except Sun; 413, 427, 412, 426. Daily except Sat/Sun; 436.

Parlor Cars: 903, 421, 431, 902, 420, 430.

I have not scanned all of the timetables yet, it jumps from 23 to 52 which was in 1942. This does not tell much about the consist, but I would have to guess the cars other than dining or parlor cars would be however many motors they needed. Perhaps 3 or 4 given the publicity photos I have seen from the 1920s.

George Campbell:

In addition to handling of diners and observation cars in Milwaukee, before the new terminal how did the NSL handle empty incoming cars after passengers were unloaded?

Chuck (mr600v):

Although dining and/or parlor/observation cars sometimes were wyed at Harrison, it was much shorter and easier to wye them at 2nd and Wells.

After unloading, the last coach (motor car) and the parlor/ob could have been cut from the train, backed into the intersection, changed ends then proceeded to 2nd and Wells with the motor car leading. There it would likely pull south on 2nd, then back across Wells, then headed west on Wells again with the motor car leading.

At the station, the two cars could be backed into the station and additional cars added to the front to make up the next train out.

If they were wyed at Harrison, a motor car would have been added to the rear of the parlor/ob to pull it through the city, not push it.

Mitch Markovitz:

Do you have direct evidence that this was the way? I know in Campbell’s book he says he saw the cars taken to Harrison.

After service terminated at 6th and Michigan my opinion, and it’s merely my opinion that making a move with those cars into downtown traffic (streetcar, pedestrian, and other) along with trying to fit the move on Wells Street where the tracks were also used by Transport Company streetcars, along with presenting limited train equipment in the area where the old depot was would be questionable. The distance may be shorter to run up, but my opinion is that the safer. Most efficient route would be down to Harrison.

Before the new depot opened and the trains went to 2nd and Grand (Wisconsin I believe) there were no obs cars. There were the parlor diners.
My opinion, and it’s merely my opinion, is that the consist changed ends, crossed over and waited to depart.

I think we can consult some early timetables to see the times and frequencies.

It was that very short span in 1926 where there was a consist with both.

The brochure “A Trip on the North Shore Line” discusses a train with both and there’s an illustration showing the obs platform with a drum sign reading, “Cream City.”

Randy Stahl:

I based my consist info on that very article (business trip on the Cream City Special). I also know that in the old footage of the Eucharistic Congress they clearly show not only a parlor obs but the sharp viewer will also spot a 404-406 (I think) parlor diner made up as a full parlor car.

I think that there were plenty of instances and opportunity where the two were used together, granted perhaps not on a scheduled train.

I am thinking about the number of cars they had after 1928.

404, 405 and 406 were converted to coaches by Cincinnati in 1923 (734, 735 and 736).

407-408-409, 414-417, 418,419. I think some were stored in 1928 (maybe the 407 and 408), I don’t know how many were still in use by the time the 418, 419 and 420 were delivered in 1928 but it could be as many as seven diners.

410-413 and 420. So there were enough parlor obs and dining cars cars to cover at least 5 trains a day in both directions.

I spoke to George Campbell (years ago) and he was very certain the cars were towed to Harrison St. to be turned and serviced.

Lynn Willer:

That makes the best sense, to clean them up after every run, check the cars out, keep them hot and ready.

Milwaukee had lots of street trackage and the new depot existed then during the parlor years. NS had only recently exited the older terminal.
I found a timetable in the North Shore Memories book listing the parlor trains.

Mitch Markovitz:

The first parlor train of the day arrived in Milwaukee at 10am. The next parlor departure was at 3pm.

That’s a gap of 5 hours. So there was no rush to make a difficult move up to Wells Street.

We haven’t discussed the need to wash a limited train. The line, in competition with and in good operation wouldn’t receive passengers, let alone parlor passengers in a soiled car.

I’ve done a lot of research on the Eucharistic consist. The diners were very new 416 and 417. Indeed the car closest to the obs was stripped of tables and chairs and replaced by parlor chairs. The car was returned to its diner self right after the move. All cars on the train were brand new except the obs which I believe we determined was 413 as it had just been painted.

Lynn Willer:

I was just reading something of that, the tables removed from one end of the diner and chairs placed, parlor seating charged and food was served.

Some limiteds made zero stops between Milwaukee and Evanston.

Just a reminder, the Milwaukee station had pits to service. If you could loop the Parlors around in Milwaukee and spot them at the station that’s a possibility, not that they didn’t or wouldn’t, but when that might have been lost, they would have to run to Harrison.

But the Station may not have had heavy service tools if needed. Quick lubes possible tho. The main roster cars obviously could use it.

I don’t know of many steam road passenger stations having drop pits right at the station…

Mitch Markovitz:

All I’m saying as a former operating guy from the South Shore is that me, Mitch, would not run a 3 car consist into a busy area clogged with traffic and trolleys to turn equipment not needed for another 5 hours or so, only to leave it sit, unwashed, in the depot. That is only my opinion, not specific knowledge or a directive. It’s merely my opinion that a consist in limited train service in those highly competitive years would warrant more of a detailing sort of washing aside from washing the windows as the South Shore used to do at Randolph Street.

Wells Street on the CA&E had pits. Other than that I know of no other operation that had that at terminals.

My years of looking tells me, and again this is only what I gleaned from looking as no one has ever told me directly that after the full parlors were removed several of the diners (one of the 418-419 class or both) had the 4 tables at the vestibule end (2 2-tops and 2 4-tops) removed and replaced with parlor chairs. As the Volstead Act (prohibition) had been repealed the railroad was no free to serve booze. Alcohol was (and remains to be) very profitable. We see parlor car cash fare receipts that may be punched for incremental amounts indicating a revised seat charge plan instead of the flat 50 cent fare with the notation that if you sit in that chair longer than for a meal or beverages you have to pay the “regular fixed charge for such accommodations.” I have seen advertisements showing a female model having a
meal, served on a tray, sitting in a parlor seat, with chairs and tables behind her in what could only be a diner.

Public timetables listed “Parlor-dining car.” The arrangement seemed to be the base for converting 2 cars to “Tavern lounges.”

If you have the book “Route of the Electroliners” and you go to the equipment section under the 418-419 dining cars there’s a broadside photo. One can see in the location I mentioned the backs of several parlor chairs. Something I had always wondered about until I started looking deeper into the matter.

Randy Stahl:

I’m with Mitch , as a current railroad employee I would not want to do switching on city streets either. What a hassle that would be with single point switches and high potential for a high profile derailment and employee injury. Harrison Street is the safe course.

This is a VERY interesting conversation.

Charlie Pitts:

If the comment about washing the exterior of the train was valid, Harrison Street it is.

Randy Stahl:

I don’t believe the North Shore wheels worked well on TMER&L street track so I wouldn’t risk damage or derailment.

That brings up another issue. In CERA 112 it does talk about the North Shore’s display at the Wisconsin State fair and states that the wheels had some damage from this incompatible wheel rail interface. George Campbell also adds that Tony Bauer recalled it in George’s book “North Shore Line Memories”.

How did the somewhat well documented special trains to St. John’s military academy (with a diner) make it to Delafield without wheel damage? I believe this was before the rapid transit line so some TMER&L street running had to happen?

Joseph Hazinski:

It is my understanding that on that portion of Wells Street the track belonged to the North Shore as it was part of their city line which started before the interurban service started as by franchise they had to provide local city service for entry into Milwaukee. This was also true for the Milwaukee Northern which also had its own city service as well.

I suspect the issue with wheels was tread width with the North Shore using a “railroad” wheel and the TM which used a compromise wheel with a somewhat narrower tread.

Don Ross:

North Shore used a standard width wheel while TM were narrower. When we ran TM 1121 to Green Bay Junction it was the only car accepted.

There was a festival which included a race using pump cars between Milwaukee Road and North Western on Wisconsin Road. One of them had the flanges cut back and the race became a joke. I don’t remember which one but it was a toot.

In addition, North Shore wheels were different than standard wheels. North Shore wheels didn’t have a slant, instead they were even. They felt they would be smoother.

I don’t think the turned cars were done at 2nd but rather to Harrison. It was a lot easier and other services were there.

Mitch Markovitz:

We know that standard NSL equipment used that route until 1920. That of course would include the early steel cars. But this was before the NSL changed the wheel profiles that were the result of movies made of what has been described as “nosing,” or lateral motion (CERA bulletin.)

The tracks on Wells Street in question were the property of Chicago and Milwaukee (NSL.) But in order to make a wye move, and this is a question, wouldn’t part of the wye move be made on ME trackage, and disrupt their car service?

If I were a betting guy I’d bet the equipment was washed thoroughly, and they may have even given the brass railing a dab of polish.

Chuck (mr600v):

The trackage on Wells between 5th and 2nd was NSL (C&ME). TMER&L later got permission to use it, connecting to its own tracks on each end.

The wye was made using trackage on Wells west of 2nd, trackage on 2nd south of Wells (old station), and trackage on 2nd north of Wells. This would have been all NSL trackage.

Although turning the parlor/ob cars at 2nd and Wells would have meant several blocks of running through downtown traffic, it still would have been much quicker than running all the way to Harrison and back.

Mitch Markovitz:

If street traffic was clear I guess it would be. But the consist had to be washed and the first parlor arriving in Milwaukee showed up at 10am and didn’t have to go out until 3pm. So, again, what’s the rush?

Kyle V.:

Thank you to David and all of the list members who contributed information to the discussion.

I do believe I now have enough information to determine my consist, and I will upload images of the finished product at some point down the line.

Our thanks to the members of the North Shore Line Railroad Yahoo Group who contributed to this discussion. Hopefully this provides the requested information.

In 1940, car 415 was converted to a “tavern lounge.” June 4, 1949 was the last day of dining car service on the North Shore Line, except for the Electroliners. By October 1950, car 415 had been repainted as a “Silverliner,” and was used on the ‘substitute Liner’ when those cars were in the shop for regular service.

After CNS&M abandoned service on January 21, 1963, car 415 was sold to the Railway Equipment Leasing & Investment Corporation, which was associated with what we now know as the Fox River Trolley Museum in South Elgin, Illinois. The car was then sold to Seashore Trolley Museum in 1977 where it remains today.

-David Sadowski

5 thoughts on “A North Shore Line Potpourri, Part One

  1. I believe that the train with 159 on the headend is actually at the Racine Quarry siding location. It is heading southbound from Milwaukee. The photo of car 711 was taken at Jarvis looking south.

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