The North Shore Line Electroliner has come a long way since it came to IRM in 1982. After the interurban abandoned service in 1963, it went to the Red Arrow Lines (aka the Philadelphia Suburban Transportation Company), where it continued to operate for another dozen years as a “Liberty Liner.” It has certainly come a long way since its return. Here, we see it near IRM’s 50th Avenue “L” station, which came from the Douglas Park line.
This is the Illinois Railway Museum‘s 70th anniversary, and in that span, it has certainly become the largest such operation in the United States, and possibly the world. So it should be no surprise that IRM pulled out all the stops for this year’s Trolley Pageant, which featured at least 70 pieces of electric railway equipment in more than 30 consists.
There was a delay in getting started, as there had been a bit of rain in the morning, and in spite of a few hiccups (at one point the power went out, possibly because there were so many things using it), it was a remarkable and unique event that couldn’t have happened anywhere else but Union, Illinois.
We were there to document the event for all those who couldn’t be there in person. This is part one, because we took so many pictures and videos that it would simply be too much to put it all into a single post. This post will feature our still pictures, and part two will include the numerous videos we took.
Many thanks go out to all the hard working volunteers that have made the museum what it is today– a first class operation that is unrivaled, and just keeps getting better and better.
PS- You might also like our Trolley Dodger Facebook auxiliary, a private group that now has 1,317 members.
Our friend Kenneth Gear 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 (although not affiliated with the North American Transit Historical Society, which organizes that event).
The 2023 IRM Trolley Pageant
Chicago Aurora and Elgin wood car 308, at the head of a four-car train. Don’s Rail Photos (via archive.org): “308 was built by Niles Car & Mfg Co in 1906. It was modernized by unknown date and sold to Indiana Transportation Museum in 1962 and resold to Illinois Railway Museum in 1996.”
CA&E 309. Don’s Rail Photos (via archive.org): “309 was built by Hicks Locomotive Works in 1907. It was modernized in October 1941 and acquired by Illinois Railway Museum in 1962.”
CA&E 36. Don’s Rail Photos (via archive.org): 36 was built by Stephenson in 1903. It was acquired by Trolleyville in 1961 and was painted as Columbia & Southwestern 36. It was sold to Illinois Railway Museum in December 2009.”
CA&E 319. Don’s Rail Photos (via archive.org): “319 was built by Jewett Car Co in 1914. It was modernized at an unknown date and sold to Columbia Park & Southwestern in 1962. It was resold to IRM in December 2009.”
Sand Springs (Oklahoma) Railway car 68 was built by the Cincinnati Car Company in 1918. It was originally delivered to the Cincinnati Lawrenceburg & Aurora in Ohio, and came to IRM in 1967.
Chicago and West Towns Railways 141 was built by McGuire-Cummings in 1924. After streetcar service ended in 1948, the body was stored on a farm. The Electric Railway Historical Society (ERHS) rescued it in 1959, and donated it to IRM in 1973. After a lengthy restoration, it was returned to operating condition in 2014.
Open car 19 was built by the J. G. Brill company in 1914, and operated in Veracruz, Mexico until 1961. It then went to Trolleyville USA in Ohio. IRM acquired it in 2009.
Cleveland center-entrance car 18 was built by the G.C. Kuhlman Car Company in 1914, and ran on the Shaker Heights Rapid Transit line until 1961. It then went to Trolleyville USA, and IRM purchased it in 2013. Frank Hicks has worked to get this car back to operating condition, and this was the first time it ran at IRM.
Center-entrance streetcars had a brief vogue and the most successful of these were called Peter Witts. They were two-man cars, as there was a conductor who collected fares inside. Some systems used a “pay as you enter” system, and some preferred “pay as you pass.” In order to exit through the front door, you had to walk by the conductor and would then pay your fare. The idea was to speed up loading, as fares could be collected while the car was in motion.
SHRT car 18 backs up to get into position for the Trolley Pageant. The conductor is making sure the pole stays on the wire while it is reversed, while the motorman is at the controls over in the other end of the car. Although this may originally have been a double-ended car, it seems to have been converted to single-end at some point in Cleveland.
North Shore Line combine 251, at the head of a five-car train. Don’s Rail Photos (via archive.org): “251 was built by Jewett in 1917, It had its seating reduced from 40 to 24 on October 3, 1925, and it was converted to a Silverliner on June 19, 1953. It was acquired by Illinois Railway Museum in 1963.”
North Shore Line car 160 is now that interurban’s second oldest surviving car, following 162, which was delivered earlier. Don’s Rail Photos (via archive.org): “160 was built by Brill in 1915, (job) #19605. It was acquired by Illinois Railway Museum in 1963.”
North Shore Line coach 714. Don’s Rail Photos (via archive.org): “714 was built by Cincinnati Car Co in 1926, (job) #2890. It is modernized in 1939 and preserved in 1963 by the Illinois Railway Museum.”
North Shore Line car 757. Don’s Rail Photos (via archive.org): “757 was built by Standard Steel Car Co in 1930. It was modernized in 1949 and rebuilt as Silverline on March 16, 1956. It was sold to Wisconsin Electric Railway Historical Society in 1963 and resold to Illinois Railway Museum in 1988.”
North Shore Line coach 749. Don’s Rail Photos (via archive.org): “749 was built by Pullman in 1928. It was modernized in 1940 and acquired by Illinois Railway Museum in 1963.”
North Shore Line city streetcar 354. The late Don Ross, from Don’s Rail Photos (via archive.org): “354 was built by St Louis Car Co in January 1928, #1453. It became the last car on August 12, 1951. It was purchased by the president of the Chicago Hardware Foundry. It was painted into the green and red of CHF, but the motors were removed. The car was acquired by the Illinois Electric Railway Museum (now IRM). Restoration began in 1958 (I put many hours on the car), and it is now in operation in Union. When I visited the car in 1989, it brought back many happy memories.”
Illinois Terminal interurban car 101. It ran between St. Louis and Alton. Don’s Rail Photos (via archive.org): “101 was built by American Car in 1917 as AG&StL 61. In 1926 the car became StL&ARy 61 and in 1930 it became IT 101. On March 9, 1956, it was sold to the Illinois Electric Railway Museum and is now at Union, IL.”
Two Chicago streetcars for the price of one, here. “Matchbox” 1374 was built by St. Louis Car Company (order #715) in 1905. The Chicago Transit Authority turned it into a salt spreader in 1947. It was purchased by the ERHS in 1958 and donated to IRM in 1973. The 3142 was built by J.G. Brill Company (order #21686) in 1923. It too was purchased by ERHS in 1958 and came to IRM in 1973. The white stripe indicates it was used as a one-man car, letting riders know they should board at the front instead of the back.
Chicago Pullman 144 was built in 1908 and ran in regular service until 1954. Until the end of streetcar service four years later, it was only used on fantrips. IRM purchased it in 1959.
CTA PCC streetcar 4391 is using the back-up controller to make its way to the parade staging area, as it is a single-ended car. Since the pole is reversed, the operator is trying to keep it from coming off the wire.
CTA PCC 4391 was built by the St. Louis Car Company in 1948 and ran in Chicago until 1958. ERHS purchased it the following year and it came to IRM in 1973. It is the only surviving car of its type. This is a two-man streetcar– you enter at the rear, pay the conductor, then exit via the middle or front.
Indiana Railroad high-speed lightweight car 65 was built in 1931 by Pullman and ran for a decade in Indiana before making its way to the CRANDIC (Cedar Rapids and Iowa City) in Iowa. It was purchased in 1953 as the first acquisition of the Illinois Electric Railway Museum, then located in North Chicago. The original ten founders each contributed $100 towards the cost. The last survivor of the ten was Malcolm D. McCarter, who died in 2016.
Indiana Railroad car 65 is similar to cars that were built around the same time for the Cincinnati and Lake Erie. After that line quit around 1938, several of those cars went to Lehigh Valley Transit in Pennsylvania, where they ran until 1951. Others made it to Iowa and ran on CRANDIC. The only other surviving Indiana Railroad high-speed car is 55, which was built by a different manufacturer. It survives at the Seashore Trolley Museum in Maine as LVT car 1030.
Two North Shore Line work cars (line car 604 and box motor 229) head west through the depot.
It was nice to see so many families with young children out at the museum for this event.
IRM’s North Shore Line Electroliner, built in 1941 by the St. Louis Car Company, is still undergoing interior restoration, but can operate. It was certainly a welcome addition to the Trolley Pageant.
One of the trolley poles on the Electroliner got snagged and had to be repositioned. Fortunately, no damage was done to the wire.
Where else but IRM could you see not one, but TWO four-car trains, made up of Chicago Aurora and Elgin interurban coaches, side by side? Over the years, the museum has put together a unique and unrivaled collection.
Although not yet numbered, this is either Chicago Aurora and Elgin car 451 or 453, built in 1945 by the St. Louis Car Company. Don’s Rail Photos (via archive.org): “451 was built by St Louis Car Co in September 1945, #1717. It was sold to Trolleyville in 1962 and lettered as Columbia Park & Southwestern. It was transferred as Lake Shore Electric Ry in 2006. It was sold to Illinois Railway Museum in December 2009.” 453 was purchased in 1962 by Trolleyville USA in Ohio, and went to the Electric City Trolley Museum in Scranton, PA in 2009. They considered turning it into an ersatz Laurel Line car, as none of those were saved. Having decided against that, it was acquired by IRM in 2019 and is undergoing restoration. Thus, all four surviving cars of this type are back in Illinois– three at IRM (451, 453, and 460) and 460 at the Fox River Trolley Museum. We recently posted pictures of that restoration. Spence Ziegler adds: “Dave, the unnumbered CA&E car is the 451, from what I understand it’s going to get the original “Futura” font lettering, which will look nice. That’s why the grey is darker also.”
A four-car train of Chicago wooden “L” cars, with 1754 at the rear. It was built by the Jewett Car Company in 1906 for the Northwestern Elevated. After the CTA stopped using wood cars in regular service in 1957, it was converted to a work car. IRM acquired it in 1971.
Broad Street Subway (Philadelphia) car 55 was built by the J.G. Brill Company (order #22488) in 1927. IRM purchased it in 1985, and this was the first time it operated at the museum in 20 years. Notice how it is both wider and longer than a Chicago “L” car, and has three sets of doors for faster service.
I don’t think any other museum besides IRM could field a seven-car Chicago “L” car train. This one consisted of two sets of married pairs and three single car units.
The “L” train makes its run-by, with car 41 in the lead. It was built in 1959 by the St. Louis Car Company and was designed to be operated as a single car for the Evanston line, where the CTA wanted to reduce operating expenses. For several years, riders would pay on the train at off-peak hours, and the train operator had a fare collection box. There was no conductor. Unfortunately, this really slowed down service, as the train could no proceed until everyone boarding had paid. Eventually, 41 was paired with car 28 but that car was eventually damaged and was not saved. 41 came to IRM in 1998.
A Commonwealth Edison diesel switcher came out at one point, probably to help move a disable railcar.
This rare Lake Shore Electric freight trailer was part of a train which included three electric locos, led by Commonwealth Edison 4, built in 1912 by Alco/General Electric (order #3514), which came to IRM in 1962.
North Shore Line box motor 213 (aka a “Merchandise Despatch” car) was built in 1920 by the Cincinnati Car Company (order #2445), and was sold to the Chicago Hardware Foundry in 1955. That was also the original location of the Illinois Electric Railway Museum. When IRM moved to its current location in 1964, 213 went with it.
A Milwaukee Electric logo on a piece of freight equipment in the parade.
For a rather nondescript car, South Shore Line 504 has had an interesting life. It started out in 1925 on the Indiana Public Service as a baggage/coach car. This turned into the Indiana Railroad in 1931, and it became coach/RPO (railway post office) 377 for another decade before that interurban was abandoned. The South Shore Line purchased it, and used it until 1975 to haul newspapers and small packages. (It still has a sign on it advertising their “emergency package service.” IRM bought it in 1975.
South Shore Line line car 1100 was built in 1925 by the St. Louis Car Company for the Indiana Service Corporation, which became the Indiana Railroad in 1931. It began as baggage/coach car 376, and became a coach/RPO in 1935. After the Indiana Railroad abandonment in 1941, the South Shore Line purchased it, and it was converted to a line car in 1947. I actually rode on this car in 1988 on a fantrip for the George Krambles scholorship fund. GK had begun his storied career working for the Indiana Railroad in 1936. IRM acquired it in 2010.
Illinois Central cars 1198 (powered) and 1380 (unpowered) were built by Pullman in 1926 and were used in service until 1972 on the electric suburban service, which later became the Metra Electric. After their retirement, the pair came to IRM. These cars are somewhat similar to the Erie Lackawanna cars that were used in New Jersey.
The seven-car CTA “L” train stops briefly at the depot, before heading west to get into position for its run-by.
CTA “L” cars 30 (left) and 6655 (right). With the two paired, you can see how the position of the doors differed.
And there are still plenty of other cars that hopefully will run in future Trolley Pageants at IRM.
Our Latest Book, Now Available:
The North Shore Line
FYI, my new Arcadia Publishing book The North Shore Line is now available for immediate shipment. 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.
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
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