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.
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).
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.
North Shore Line Day 2023 at the Illinois Railway Museum
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.
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
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:
The Last Chicago Streetcars 1958
# of Discs – 1
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
This is our 296th post, and we are gradually creating a body of work and an online resource for the benefit of all railfans, everywhere. To date, we have received over 948,000 page views, for which we are very grateful.
You can help us continue our original transit research by checking out the fine products in our Online Store.
As we have said before, “If you buy here, we will be here.”
We thank you for your support.
In order to continue giving you the kinds of historic railroad images that you have come to expect from The Trolley Dodger, we need your help and support. It costs money to maintain this website, and to do the sort of historic research that is our specialty.
Your financial contributions help make this web site better, and are greatly appreciated.