Two Anniversaries

Here is a photo taken by the late William C. Hoffman on July 1, 1957, from the 7th floor of the Builder's Building in downtown Chicago. A southbound NSL train, led by car 178, crosses the Chicago River as it approaches the Loop, having just passed by the Merchandise Mart. This is one of those early Ektachromes that turned out to have unstable dyes-- a problem that Kodak corrected by about 1964. I had to do a lot of restoration work to make it look like this. I will post the original as well for comparison.

Here is a photo taken by the late William C. Hoffman on July 1, 1957, from the 7th floor of the Builder’s Building in downtown Chicago. A southbound NSL train, led by car 178, crosses the Chicago River as it approaches the Loop, having just passed by the Merchandise Mart. This is one of those early Ektachromes that turned out to have unstable dyes– a problem that Kodak corrected by about 1964. I had to do a lot of restoration work to make it look like this. I will post the original as well for comparison.

As the song says, “What a difference a day makes… 24 little hours.” For fans of the Chicago North Shore and Milwaukee Railroad, aka the North Shore Line, January 21, 1963 is a date that will live in infamy, as that was the time of the final abandonment.

January 21 is also the eighth anniversary of the Trolley Dodger blog. I thought it was important to have new beginnings associated with that date as well as endings. We are now starting our ninth year.

Over the years, this date has also become a celebration the North Shore Line, especially at the Illinois Railway Museum, which has by far the most extensive collection of NSL equipment anywhere. This year, the museum (normally closed in the winter) held a special event, and brought out nearly everything they could muster to let visitors ride, or see.

We were glad to take part, and our photo essay follows a few classic images of this legendary interurban.  As the years go by, IRM just gets better and better and is already the largest railway museum in the entire country.  You could not ask for more dedicated stewards for much of the North Shore Line’s legacy.

January is traditionally the month when we ask our readers for donations to keep this site going. If you enjoy what you see here, we hope you will consider making a contribution via the link at the end of this post. The expenses we incur, in order to bring you the finest and most interesting traction pictures, are considerable and ongoing. Our research costs a lot, but you see the results here and in our four Arcadia Publishing books, which we hope make a modest contribution to society. If you have contributed to our efforts, we are most appreciative, and if you have not, we hope you will consider it.

To date, we have received $215 in contributions via our fundraiser.

We are pleased to report that our latest book The North Shore Line is now 100% complete and has gone to press. The publication date is February 20, 2023, and we are now taking pre-orders. You will find more information about that at the end of this post (and our Online Store).  To date, we have received orders for 114 copies.

Keep those cards and letters coming in, folks.

-David Sadowski

PS- You might also like our Trolley Dodger Facebook auxiliary, a private group that now has 1,053 members.

Our friend Kenneth Gear now has a Facebook group for the Railroad Record Club. If you enjoy listening to audio recordings of classic railroad trains, whether steam, electric, or diesel, you might consider joining.

FYI, the Hoosier Traction Facebook Group celebrates electric transit in Indiana and the Midwest. It also supports the activities of the annual Hoosier Traction Meet in Dayton, OH (although not affiliated with the North American Transit Historical Society, which organizes that event).

A very early Leica M3.

A very early Leica M3.

Charles Fretzin sent me these amazing North Shore Line pictures he took 60 years ago. Some are from the final night. I spoke with him on the phone the other day.

While working on my book, I had been trying to find out who took the picture of the sailor and his girlfriend at the terminal without success. Imagine my surprise when the photographer contacted me, asking if I could post it to my blog!
He says that picture was taken with a Leica M3 and a 35mm f/2 lens, and he has another picture showing the same couple embracing in front of a juke box. It was his impression that he had just given her an engagement ring.

These pictures were shot on Kodak Tri-X film that was push-developed to 1200 ISO using either Acufine or Diafine developer.

One of the two Electroliners prepares to leave Milwaukee on the final trip to Chicago. (Charles Fretzin Photo)

One of the two Electroliners prepares to leave Milwaukee on the final trip to Chicago.
(Charles Fretzin Photo)

The North Shore Line's Milwaukee Terminal on the final night. (Charles Fretzin Photo)

The North Shore Line’s Milwaukee Terminal on the final night. (Charles Fretzin Photo)

The lunch counter at the Milwaukee Terminal on the final night. Note the Electroliner image stenciled on the mirror. (Charles Fretzin Photo)

The lunch counter at the Milwaukee Terminal on the final night. Note the Electroliner image stenciled on the mirror. (Charles Fretzin Photo)

An NSL conductor punches a ticket. (Charles Fretzin Photo)

An NSL conductor punches a ticket. (Charles Fretzin Photo)

An Electroliner motorman in the cab of the 802 end. (Charles Fretzin Photo)

An Electroliner motorman in the cab of the 802 end. (Charles Fretzin Photo)

One of the Electroliners at the Highwood Shops after the abandonment in 1963. (Charles Fretzin Photo)

One of the Electroliners at the Highwood Shops after the abandonment in 1963.
(Charles Fretzin Photo)

A northbound North Shore Line Electroliner has just left Howard Street on June 10, 1956, descending into an open cut now used by CTA Yellow Line (Skokie Swift) trains. (William C. Hoffman Photo)

A northbound North Shore Line Electroliner has just left Howard Street on June 10, 1956, descending into an open cut now used by CTA Yellow Line (Skokie Swift) trains. (William C. Hoffman Photo)

This looks red because the other dye layers have faded so badly... a process that will unfortunately continue as the years go by. But thanks to modern tools such as Photoshop, it was still possible to bring the colors back to normal.

This looks red because the other dye layers have faded so badly… a process that will unfortunately continue as the years go by. But thanks to modern tools such as Photoshop, it was still possible to bring the colors back to normal.

North Shore Line Day 2023 at the Illinois Railway Museum

The Electroliner was the first thing visitors saw upon arriving at the museum.

The Electroliner was the first thing visitors saw upon arriving at the museum.

Electroliner 801-802 was on display at the 50th Avenue "L" station, which was moved here from the Douglas Park branch in the late 1970s. The Liner has been undergoing a complete restoration that will ultimately cost more than a million dollars. Part of the interior is not finished, but there is still much work to be done. Visitors to the museum had an opportunity to see the remarkable progress that has been made.

Electroliner 801-802 was on display at the 50th Avenue “L” station, which was moved here from the Douglas Park branch in the late 1970s. The Liner has been undergoing a complete restoration that will ultimately cost more than a million dollars. Part of the interior is not finished, but there is still much work to be done. Visitors to the museum had an opportunity to see the remarkable progress that has been made.

Electroliner interior.

Electroliner interior.

Electroliner interior.

Electroliner interior.

The way these seats have been reupholstered is truly beautiful.

The way these seats have been reupholstered is truly beautiful.

The cab at the 802 end of the Electroliner. Compare this to the picture of the same cab taken in 1963 by Charles Fretzin, found elsewhere in this post.

The cab at the 802 end of the Electroliner. Compare this to the picture of the same cab taken in 1963 by Charles Fretzin, found elsewhere in this post.

Electroliner interior.

Electroliner interior.

Electroliner interior.

Electroliner interior.

There are still a few vestiges left of the Electroliner's second career as a Liberty Liner on the Red Arrow's Norristown High-Speed Line.

There are still a few vestiges left of the Electroliner’s second career as a Liberty Liner on the Red Arrow’s Norristown High-Speed Line.

The interior of 354.

The interior of 354.

The interior of 354. Note the sign lit indicating riders can exit at both ends of the car.

The interior of 354. Note the sign lit indicating riders can exit at both ends of the car.

City streetcar 354 first ran in Waukegan, and later Milwaukee. It was once operated frequently at IRM, but this was my first chance to ride it in many years. Note the sign lit on the car, indicating that riders should board via the front entrance.

City streetcar 354 first ran in Waukegan, and later Milwaukee. It was once operated frequently at IRM, but this was my first chance to ride it in many years. Note the sign lit on the car, indicating that riders should board via the front entrance.

Line car 604.

Line car 604.

IRM has by far the largest and most extensive collection of North Shore Line coaches, and these were operated in various combinations on the museum's main line.

IRM has by far the largest and most extensive collection of North Shore Line coaches, and these were operated in various combinations on the museum’s main line.

Numerically speaking car 160 has the lowest number of any that have survived, but car 162, now undergoing restoration in East Troy, WI was actually delivered slightly earlier in 1915. 154 managed to survive the 1963 abandonment, but eventually fell victim to many years of outdoor storage and neglect at another railway museum that has struggled over the years.

Numerically speaking car 160 has the lowest number of any that have survived, but car 162, now undergoing restoration in East Troy, WI was actually delivered slightly earlier in 1915. 154 managed to survive the 1963 abandonment, but eventually fell victim to many years of outdoor storage and neglect at another railway museum that has struggled over the years.

It was a chilly day, but fortunately there was plenty of heat available in the cars that were running.

It was a chilly day, but fortunately there was plenty of heat available in the cars that were running.

The motorman's cab in 749.

The motorman’s cab in 749.

IRM has been gradually developing a main street with several new buildings.

IRM has been gradually developing a main street with several new buildings.

You can purchase North Shore Line coffee, a recreation of the blend once used on the Electroliners.

You can purchase North Shore Line coffee, a recreation of the blend once used on the Electroliners.

This is a transfer stamp machine, once found at CTA "L" and subway stations. When leaving the station, you would stamp your paper transfer with the time, which would allow you to get on another bus or train without paying a full fare. With today's electronic payment system, this is no longer needed.

This is a transfer stamp machine, once found at CTA “L” and subway stations. When leaving the station, you would stamp your paper transfer with the time, which would allow you to get on another bus or train without paying a full fare. With today’s electronic payment system, this is no longer needed.

The North Shore Commuters Association was a last-ditch effort to save the railroad. It failed, but did postpone the abandonment by four years. It also paved the way for later, more successful efforts to save much of Chicago's commuter rail system.

The North Shore Commuters Association was a last-ditch effort to save the railroad. It failed, but did postpone the abandonment by four years. It also paved the way for later, more successful efforts to save much of Chicago’s commuter rail system.

Signs like this were once commonplace on CTA "L" and subway stations in off-peak hours. Conductors collected fares on many lines. Starting in 1961, off-peak Evanston branch trains used a single operator who drove the train and collected fares.

Signs like this were once commonplace on CTA “L” and subway stations in off-peak hours. Conductors collected fares on many lines. Starting in 1961, off-peak Evanston branch trains used a single operator who drove the train and collected fares.

I spotted one of my books in the IRM gift shop.

I spotted one of my books in the IRM gift shop.

The sun will never set on the North Shore Line, if the Illinois Railway Museum has anything to say about it.

The sun will never set on the North Shore Line, if the Illinois Railway Museum has anything to say about it.

IRM Souvenir Brochure

Our Latest Book, Now Available for Pre-Order:

The North Shore Line

Publication Date: February 20, 2023

FYI, my new Arcadia Publishing book The North Shore Line is now finished and has gone to press. My publisher decided to expand it to 160 pages, instead of the usual 128. That’s a 25% increase, without any change to the $23.99 price. I am quite pleased with how this turned out.

From the back cover:

As late as 1963, it was possible to board high-speed electric trains on Chicago’s famous Loop “L” that ran 90 miles north to Milwaukee. This was the Chicago North Shore & Milwaukee Railroad, commonly known as the North Shore Line. It rose from humble origins in the 1890s as a local streetcar line in Waukegan to eventually become America’s fastest interurban under the visionary management of Midwest utilities tycoon Samuel Insull. The North Shore Line, under Insull, became a worthy competitor to the established steam railroads. Hobbled by the Great Depression, the road fought back in 1941 with two streamlined, air-conditioned, articulated trains called Electroliners, which included dining service. It regained its popularity during World War II, when gasoline and tires were rationed, but eventually, it fell victim to highways and the automobile. The North Shore Line had intercity rail, commuter rail, electric freight, city streetcars, and even buses. It has been gone for nearly 60 years, but it will always remain the Road of Service.

Each copy purchased here will be signed by the author, and you will also receive a bonus North Shore Line map.  Books will ship by USPS Media Mail as soon as we receive them, on or before February 20, 2023.

Chapters:
01. Beginnings
02. The Milwaukee Division
03. The Shore Line Route
04. The Skokie Valley Route
05. The Mundelein Branch
06. On the “L”
07. City Streetcars
08. Trolley Freight
09. The Long Goodbye
10. The Legacy

Title The North Shore Line
Images of America
Author David Sadowski
Edition illustrated
Publisher Arcadia Publishing (SC), 2023
ISBN 1467108960, 978-1467108966
Length 160 pages

The price of $23.99 includes shipping within the United States.

For Shipping to US Addresses:

New Compact Disc, Now Available:

CTA-1
The Last Chicago Streetcars 1958
# of Discs – 1
Price: $15.99

Until now, it seemed as though audio recordings of Chicago streetcars were practically non-existent. For whatever reason, the late William A. Steventon does not appear to have made any for his Railroad Record Club, even though he did make other recordings in the Chicago area in 1956.

Now, audio recordings of the last runs of Chicago streetcars have been found, in the collections of the late Jeffrey L. Wien (who was one of the riders on that last car). We do not know who made these recordings, but this must have been done using a portable reel-to-reel machine.

These important recordings will finally fill a gap in transit history. The last Chicago Transit Authority streetcar finished its run in the early hours of June 21, 1958. Now you can experience these events just as Chicagoans did.

As a bonus, we have included Keeping Pace, a 1939 Chicago Surface Lines employee training program. This was digitally transferred from an original 16” transcription disc. These recordings were unheard for 80 years.

Total time – 74:38

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4 thoughts on “Two Anniversaries

  1. Some cool content here. Progress made on Electroliner looks grand. The other cars look good too. Nice that the Main Street buildings include a library.

  2. It certainly was cold that day and night. We arrived at Roosevelt on the last southbound from Milwaukee at 2:54 AM. The Chicago American reported -12.

  3. while I never got to ride the liners on the NSL this East Coast chap got plenty of riding on the LIBERTYLINERS out of 69th st in West Phila to Norristown. (they were often called the Liquorliners since they were the only streetcars or interurbans in Penn to have a liquor license but only on the afternoon trips, needless to say the tavern lounge was quite popular on Westbound trips in the afternoon and evening.
    it is great that both carsets got saved and one in each of their different lives and liveries. and maybe just from localness I always thought the Red and White (when fresh) looked far better than the green of NSL but the green held up better over time. (no color war here please)
    great coverage of IRM North Shore days, I have only gotten the chance to visit there once and was most impressed.

  4. Very nice photos from the museum. I was there for the Electroliner 50th in 1991. It’s a little sobering to think that we are now farther from 1991, than 1991 was from 1963.

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