The photographer (possibly Emery Gulash) had but one chance to press the shutter button at precisely the right moment, and he nailed it with this classic view of westbound Electroliner train 803 at Lake Bluff in January 1963. This is what noted photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson had in mind when he wrote about the “decisive moment.” Douglas Noble: “Northbound crossing Rockland Road / IL 176 in Lake Bluff.”
This is our first post in nearly two months. We have been hard at work on our next book, The North Shore Line. In addition, I worked 16 straight days as an election judge during the recent primary here.
Each of these posts involves a tremendous amount of hard work that may not be apparent to the causal observer. First, we have to scan the negatives, prints, and slides that you see here. Then, they have to be worked over in Photoshop to get the color and density right, and remove any scratches, crud, and other blemishes that have accumulated over the decades since these pictures were taken. This can take hours for just a single photograph, but we think the results are well worth it.
Our goal is to present definitive versions of these classic photos in an online archive for all to enjoy. We see our stuff showing up all over Facebook and other parts of the Internet all the time, and, recently, even in books and magazines put out by others.
It would be nice if, in all cases, we received some credit for our contributions. When people ask permission to use our work, it is freely granted, but all we ask is that we are properly credited, that the original photographer is credited, and that the small watermark we place on these images is not cropped out.
We don’t think this is too much to ask. Meanwhile, we hope you will enjoy this latest batch of classic photographs.
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.
Work on our North Shore Line book is ongoing. Donations are needed in order to bring this to a successful conclusion. You will find donation links at the top and bottom of each post. We thank you in advance for your time and consideration.
The Chicago Surface Lines had a collection of historic streetcars, starting in the 1920s. These were used for parades and the opening of new lines. Some of the restoration work, such as this car, was more fanciful than authentic, as this car was never part of the West Chicago Street Railway, nor was it #4. Don’s Rail Photos: “4 was built by Pullman in 1895, #840, as North Chicago Street RR 922. It became Chicago Union Traction Co 4022 in 1899 and became Chicago Surface Lines 4022 in 1914. It was rebuilt as WCStRy 4 in 1933. It went to Illinois Railway Museum in 1985.” The CTA inherited this collection, and various cars were trotted out during shops tours in the 1950s. Once streetcar service ended in 1958, these cars were put into storage, and were finally donated to museums in the mid-1980s.
Brooklyn-Queens Transit PCC 1066 is signed for Coney Island in the early 1950s.
A train of CTA curved-door 6000s is at Howard Street in June 1977.
A southbound North Shore Line train, with 711 in the lead, is at Morse on the “L” in June 1959.
North Shore Line cars 157 and 252 are on a June 16, 1962 fantrip. Here, we see the train at the Root River bridge near Racine, Wisconsin. (Richard H. Young Photo)
This is a South Shore Line portable substation at Michigan City, Indiana on July 10, 1977.
Philadelphia Suburban Transportation Company (aka Red Arrow) cars 16 and 20 in May 1965, signed for the Media line. Kenneth Achtert: “Appears to be outbound at Springfield Rd. I would assume this is on a fantrip from the number of random individuals around the right-of-way (most likely a run-by since they are scattered about); also, the Media destination would not be standard operating procedure for two-car trains. The trains were typically scheduled to Springfield (Woodland Ave.) with only single cars going all the way to Media.” Jeff Didlake says, “I agree with Ken Achtert’s thoughts that this is a fan trip, but I believe the location is the Scenic Rd. station on the Media Line. The track is on a slight curve and a hint of the red brick high rise Drexelline Apts. is in the background. I know this station well as I managed to ruin a good tire and wheel while pulling into the parking lot there on a poorly maintained Springfield Twp. sewer inlet grate.”
On June 11, 1962, a two-car North Shore Line train, headed by 731, is bound for Mundelein near Lake Bluff. (Richard H. Young Photo)
North Shore Line combine 251 is near Racine, Wisconsin on February 6, 1962.
The interior of Queensborough Bridge Railway car 601 in the mid-1950s. This was an Electromobile, built around 1929 by Osgood-Bradley.
North Shore Line car 733 awaiting scrapping at South Upton Junction on October 26, 1963, several months after abandonment.
North Shore Line Silverliner 758 is at Edison Court in Waukegan during the summer of 1958. This was an important station, where cars were routinely added and cut from trains.
Philadelphia PCC 2142 is signed for Route 6 on September 15, 1957. Mark A. Jones writes, “That picture is of the northbound terminus of route 6 across from Willow Grove Park. 2142 is headed south to Broad and Olney.” Kenneth Achtert adds, “2142 is at Willow Grove Park, the end of the Route 6. The amusement park is hidden behind the trees.”
North Shore Line loco 455 is working the Niles Gas Spur in the Weber Industrial District, Skokie, Illinois, probably in the late 1950s. (Bob Geis Photo)
Chicago Surface Lines one-man car 6241 is at the east end of Route 43 in the 1940s. You can see a pedestrian bridge leading to the nearby Illinois Central Electric commuter station behind the streetcar.
A North Shore Line train at Winnetka Road on the Skokie Valley Route. The business at left is John H. Davies and Son, general contractors.
A three-car North Shore Line train heads south over the 6th Street Bridge, probably in the 1940s.
North Shore Line cars 716 and 409 at Highwood, possibly in the early 1940s. 409 started out as a dining car motor before it was converted to coach in 1942.
North Shore Line loco 455 heads up a freight train that is crossing over to the northbound track near Oakton on the Skokie Valley Route.
A three-car train of North Shore Line Silverliners prepares to cross the North Shore Channel, probably in the 1950s.
To get a shot like this in the 1940s, a photographer had to be extremely lucky, patient, or both. While a two-car CRT Lake Street “L” train heads east, going up the ramp towards Laramie, it passes a westbound CSL Route 16 streetcar. Two conductors on the “L” are lowering the trolley poles, as this was the switchover point to third rail. Streetcar service on Lake Street ended in 1954, and the outer portion of the Lake Street “L” was shifted over to the nearby C&NW embankment in 1962.
CTA PCC 7148 is at 71st and Ashland in June 1953. (Vic Wagner Photo) Our resident south side expert M. E. notes, “I don’t doubt this photo is at 71st and Ashland. (The street sign says Ashland.) So this photo is near the 69th and Ashland carbarn. I think this streetcar had been heading south on Ashland to 71st, and here it is turning west on 71st St. for what would be a short distance. Then it will turn north and into the carbarn.”
CTA one-man streetcar 3228 is on 79th Street at the crossing with the Illinois Central in April 1951. (Vic Wagner Photo)
The view looking north along State Street at 63rd in April 1953. The PCCs are running on Route 36, while the red Pullman is eastbound on Route 63. This was near the end of streetcar service on 63rd Street, and older red cars had replaced newer PCCs, which were shifted to run on Route 4 – Cottage Grove. At right, you can see where some buildings were destroyed by fire on May 25, 1950, after a PCC collided with a gasoline truck. 34 people were killed. The photographer was standing on a railroad viaduct and probably wanted to document the intersection of two streetcar lines before one of them changed to buses. (Vic Wagner Photo)
About the image above, M. E. adds:
Your caption reads: “This was near the end of streetcar service on 63rd Street, and older red cars had replaced newer PCCs, which were shifted to run on Route 4 – Cottage Grove.” My hangup is with the term “newer PCCs”. Yes, they were newer than the red cars, but they were not newer than the PCCs on State St. in the photo. The PCCs that ran on 63rd St. were those that Chicago Surface Lines acquired in 1936 to run on Madison St. Those PCCs were also called “pre-war PCCs”. So perhaps your caption might better say “older red cars had replaced the pre-war PCCs, which were shifted …”
I give you credit for pointing out where a State St. PCC car collided with a gasoline truck. I remember that like it happened yesterday. I also credit the photographer for a terrific action photo.
Also, about this photo:
(1) In the distance is the State St. station on the Englewood L, situated south of 59th St. I spy two more State St. PCC cars at or near the L station. This illustrates how busy the north/south PCC car lines were. The Chicago Surface Lines, then the CTA, ordered a total of 600 post-war PCCs, and they were all needed on just five north/south lines — 36 Broadway/State, 22 Clark/Wentworth, 8 Halsted, 42 Halsted/Archer/Clark, and 49 Western. (The pre-war PCCs were still on 20 Madison.)
(2) You mentioned that the photographer was standing on a railroad viaduct. That viaduct spanned State St. just south of 63rd St. The photographer was at the eastern edge of a big freight yard paralleling the New York Central right of way. It is this same freight yard that was used, three blocks east, to deliver new PCC cars, then (later) L cars, to the CTA. The L cars were transferred to the CTA via the L track that ran from the southbound Jackson Park line south past 63rd St. and then down into a ground-level freight yard.
(3) That freight yard also spanned 63rd St., so the westbound red car shown in the photo is about to go underneath the freight yard until it emerges past the New York Central (and Nickel Plate) passenger train tracks, adjacent to the entrance to Englewood Union Station. Past the station, 63rd St. ran under more tracks, first the Rock Island, then the Pennsylvania, both of which also served Englewood Union Station. All told, the trip between State St. and almost to Wentworth Av. was mostly dark 24 hours a day.
(4) The billboard at the left in the photo advertises the ’53 Ford. Assuming this photo was taken in late spring or early summer of 1953 (judging by the clothing on pedestrians and the green foliage), I don’t see any ’53 Fords in the photo.
Buses replaced streetcars on 63rd Street on May 24, 1953, so the picture can’t be from after that, thanks.
The CTA off-street loop on Halsted Street, just south of 79th, in August 1953. Pullman PCC 4368 is operating on Route 8, while the red Pullman is signed for Halsted-Downtown (Route 42). By this stage, the Pullman PCCs, although no more than seven years old, were being retired and sent to St. Louis Car Company for scrapping and parts re-use in new PCC “L” cars. Service was being supplemented by older red cars. Streetcar service on Halsted ended in May 1954. (Vic Wagner Photo) Our resident south side expert M. E. adds, “Notice how busy this terminal was. I count at least four streetcars, and perhaps a fifth if I detect another trolley pole behind the last PCC car. This terminal also served South Halsted and Halsted / Vincennes / 111th St. buses, which used the paved lane in the terminal.”
CTA one-man streetcar 3261 is at the east end of Route 79, at 79th and Brandon near Chicago’s lakefront, in September 1951. (Vic Wagner Photo)
Milwaukee Electric (Speedrail) car 1121 operated on a North Shore Line fantrip on December 4, 1949. Here it is with one of the Electroliners near Racine, Wisconsin.
The pass for Central Electric Railfans’ Association fantrip #36, which used freight equipment on the Chicago Aurora and Elgin on August 10, 1941.
The Chicago and North Western station at Lake Forest in the early 1900s, from a real photo postcard. The Chicago and Milwaukee electric (which became the North Shore Line in 1916) ran just beyond those large trees, and had a handsome station of its own just out of view to the right.
This picture was taken during Fall 1962, in the waning days of the ground-level operation of the Lake Street “L”. The new elevated station on the nearby C&NW embankment has been built and the changeover took place on October 28th of that year. This view looks west along South Boulevard at Marion Street in Oak Park. Crossing gates were manually operated.
On February 19, 1956, a northbound Electroliner has stopped at Kenosha and is presumably on a fantrip. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
Speedrail curved-side car 61 is on Michigan at 6th Street in Milwaukee on September 2, 1950, passing by the north side of the North Shore Line’s Milwaukee Terminal. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
Milwaukee and Suburban Transport streetcar 954 is westbound on Route 10 at 68th and Fairview in August 1957.
The same location in 2015. The streetcar tracks were just to the right of this alley.
On June 12, 1955, Milwaukee and Suburban Transport streetcar 999 is on a bridge over the Chicago & North Western Railway at Howell Avenue. This was a Central Electric Railfans’ Association fantrip. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
North Shore Line Silverliner 766 is about to cross the Glencoe gauntlet, a short single-track section on the otherwise double-tracked Shore Line Route. The occasion was an August 9, 1953 fantrip. This short bridge over a ravine was not deemed strong enough to support the weight of two trains passing each other, so it was made single-tracked. This also permitted a tight curve to be straightened out a bit. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
North Shore Line car 155 is on the tail end of a fantrip train, turning onto Greenleaf Avenue in Wilmette, heading east on a July 24, 1955 Central Electric Railfans’ Association fantrip. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
North Shore Line freight loco 456 and caboose 1002 are at the scale house in Rondout during January 1963. (Photo attributed to Emery Gulash)
North Shore Line freight loco 456 and caboose 1002 are at the scale house in Rondout during January 1963. (Photo attributed to Emery Gulash)
North Shore Line cars 157 and 252 are on a June 16, 1962 fantrip. We have posted pictures from this trip before. There is another in this post, taken by Richard H. Young, but this one may be by Emery Gulash.
Don’s Rail Photos: “1796 was built by American Car & Foundry in 1907 as NEWRy 287, #5098, as trailer. It was renumbered 1287 in 1913 and rebuilt as motor 1796. It became CRT 1796 in 1923 and was sold to Gaylord Container in Louisiana…” One side of this “L” car was removed, and it was used to transport large rolls of paper. Although Don’s says this car was scrapped in 1966, that is incorrect and the date was actually 1973. Parts were salvaged from this car to help restore sister car 1797 at the Illinois Railway Museum. 1796 could not be saved since the body was no longer structurally sound. I have July 1958 as the date when the CTA sold this car, and this picture was taken by William C. Hoffman in October 1963.
This was scanned from an original North Shore Line 8×10″ nitrate negative, taken circa 1930, and in the collections of Robert Heinlein. Determining the location presented many challenges, yet this has now been determined with the aid of other fans. The car is 714, and it is signed as a Chicago Local on the Shore Line Route. Since the North Shore tracks are not adjacent to the Chicago and North Western, we must be north of North Chicago Junction. We cannot be south of Highland Park, as there is freight present here. A sign on the high-level platform indicates that freight trains have to come to a stop, most likely to make sure part of the platform gets flipped up for the sake of clearances. A similar arrangement existed at high-level stations of the Chicago Aurora and Elgin. As all the Shore Line tracks in Waukegan ran on the street, that pretty much narrows it down to North Chicago. The Thomas J. Killian Plumbing Supply company building at left clinches it, and the location is between 16th and 17th Streets, looking north. The Chicago and North Western’s tracks were a short distance east of here, to the right out of view of this photo. (Courtesy of Kevin Heinlein)
A close-up view of car 714, which seems to be painted orange.
The freight siding for the Thomas J. Killian Plumbing Supply Company.
This was also scanned from an original North Shore Line 8×10″ nitrate negative in the collections of Robert Heinlein, and was taken at the same time as the previous photo and shows a slightly different view of the same scene. (Courtesy of Kevin Heinlein)
Ray DeGroote Turns 92
Ray DeGroote celebrated his 92nd birthday on July 15th. Here he is about two weeks earlier, at our celebratory lunch.
I dedicated my last book Chicago’s Lost “L”s to my friend Raymond DeGroote, Jr., as the “Dean of Chicago Railfans.” He turned 92 recently. Ray has traveled the world, and has taken thousands of great photos, many of which have been used in books, magazines, and in his excellent slideshows over the years.
And he’s still at it– Ray recently returned from a trip to San Diego for the Electric Railroaders’ Association annual convention. Since returning, other friends have treated him to lunch, and he reports he is “well fed.”
Here are a few of Ray’s classic photos of the North Shore Line:
We are at Indian Hill on the Shore Line Route on July 24, 1955, just prior to abandonment. Cars 175 and 413 are in regular service, while 155 is on a Central Electric Railfans’ Association fantrip, and has temporarily been shunted to a siding. The tracks in this area were grade-separated circa 1938-43 by a project partially funded by the Federal government. (Raymond DeGroote, Jr. Photo)
A fantrip train made up of Silverliners is on Greenleaf Avenue in Wilmette on February 20, 1955. This trip was sponsored by the Illini Railroad Club. (Raymond DeGroote, Jr. Photo)
North Shore Line loco 459 and caboose 1006 are at Lake Bluff on January 19, 1963. (Raymond DeGroote, Jr. Photo)
The “KX” here most likely refers to Kodachrome X, first released by Kodak in 1962, with a film speed of 64. The original Kodachrome had a film speed of ASA/ISO 10, which was bumped up to 25 in 1961 with the release of Kodachrome II.
The unrestored interior of North Shore Line car 151 on September 4, 1961. (Raymond DeGroote, Jr. Photo)
The interior of North Shore Line car 160 on January 12, 1963. Interestingly, it had been refurbished in November 1962, even though abandonment was at hand. This car was purchased by the Illinois Railway Museum, where it remains today. (Raymond DeGroote, Jr. Photo)
North Shore Line car 714’s interior on June 17, 1962. This car is now at the Illinois Railway Museum. (Raymond DeGroote, Jr. Photo)
The interior of North Shore Line Silverliner 755 on September 4, 1961. After abandonment, this car went to the Seashore Trolley Museum in Maine. (Raymond DeGroote, Jr. Photo)
Max Hensley sent us this scan of a 1890 specimen $1,000 bond for the West Chicago Street Railroad Tunnel Company. This cable car tunnel was built in 1893 and crossed the Chicago River near Van Buren Street. Like the other river tunnels, it was eventually enlarged and dug deeper around 1911 for streetcar use. But of the three such tunnels (the others being on Washington and LaSalle Streets), Van Buren was used the least, and does not seem to have seen much action after 1924, except for training use. These tunnels still exist but the approaches have been filled in.
The river tunnels are also discussed at length in my book Building Chicago’s Subways.
We were in Milwaukee on July 13th to help a friend move some things. We did stop by Burns Commons for a few minutes to catch a few pictures (and one video) of Milwaukee’s modern streetcar at its northern terminus:
Did Not Win
Try as we might, our resources are limited. Here are some interesting items that we were not able to purchase, but are still worth a second look:
This desktop ink blotter dates to circa 1919-20, as the North Shore Line is already running via the “L”, but had not yet opened their new Milwaukee Terminal. The line to Mundelein is shown, as it had been extended there as of 1905. But prior to 1925, it was called Rockefeller, and later, the area was known rather generically as “Area.” When using a fountain pen, you would wipe off excess ink on the backside of blotters such as this, which measured about 6″ wide.
This real photo postcard view of the Elgin and Belvedere Electric Company was most likely taken on its inaugural run in early 1907. Mike Franklin has identified the location as Belvedere, as that is the First M. E. Church at rear. Car 201 was built by the St. Louis Car Company in 1906. (Thanks to J. J. Sedelmaier for tweaking this image.)
Here is what the late Don Ross wrote about the Elgin and Belvedere:
This line was built in 1906 and opened in 1907 between Elgin and Belvidere, 36 miles, to connect the Rockford lines with the Chicago lines. It was under the management of Bion J. Arnold, who was the most distinguished expert in city transit between 1900 and 1925. In 1927 the Rockford to Belvidere segment of the Rockford & Interurban was merged to form the Elgin Belvidere & Rockford. Rockford lightweight interurbans were used, but this was not financially satisfactory. The cars were returned to Rockford Public Service, and the old E&B cars were remodeled for one man service. But it was too late. Competition from the parallel Chicago & North Western and from the automobile caused the line to quit service on March 9, 1930. Arnold purchased two Manhattan Elevated steam locomotives and scrapped the line by himself. It was not completed until the mid to late 1930s.
In 1956, I was checking on ownership of an abandoned C&NW right-of-way for the Illinois Railway Museum, and I stopped in the county clerk’s office in Woodstock. The clerk became curious and then suggested that we might be interested in a piece of property which was on the delinquent tax rolls. It was 50 feet wide and 7 miles long. After paying the taxes for two years, a quit claim was filed and this has become the home of the IRM at Union, IL.
We ran some Elgin and Belvedere photos in a previous post, taken in the mid-1930s by the late Edward Frank, Jr., showing the interurban’s rolling stock in dead storage, waiting for buyers that never materialized.
Keep those cards and letters coming in, folks!
Stan Griffith Audio Recordings of the North Shore Line
# of Discs – 1
The late Stanwood C. Griffith (1926-2013) was an interesting character who is probably best known for building the two-foot gauge Rock River Valley Traction, a miniature electric railway that is large enough to ride on. He began building it on private property in a mysterious wooded area somewhere near Rockford, IL around 1950. Work continues on it to this day, and there are several videos of it on YouTube.
We only recently found out that he recorded some North Shore Line audio. Even better, what he did record is different than the other known recordings by William A. Steventon and Brad Miller.
Mr. Griffith made the only known recordings of the Shore Line Route, which quit in 1955. Steventon didn’t record NSL until the following year, and the Miller recordings are circa 1960.
This recording has some occasional narration. At one point, Griffith notes that the trolley bus wires in Kenosha are gone. Trolley buses ran there until 1952, so this dates the recordings to circa 1952-55.
He also recorded North Shore Line street running in Milwaukee, which is also unique as far as I am aware. There are also recordings of Milwaukee streetcars on this CD.
Total time – 52:36
Chicago’s Lost “L”s Online Presentation
We recently gave an online presentation about our book Chicago’s Lost “L”s for the Chicago Public Library, as part of their One Book, One Chicago series. You can watch it online by following this link.
The Trolley Dodger On the Air
We appeared on the Dave Plier Show on WGN radio on July 16, 2021, to discuss Chicago’s Lost “L”s. You can hear that discussion here.
Our Latest Book, Now Available:
Chicago’s Lost “L”s
From the back cover:
Chicago’s system of elevated railways, known locally as the “L,” has run continuously since 1892 and, like the city, has never stood still. It helped neighborhoods grow, brought their increasingly diverse populations together, and gave the famous Loop its name. But today’s system has changed radically over the years. Chicago’s Lost “L”s tells the story of former lines such as Garfield Park, Humboldt Park, Kenwood, Stockyards, Normal Park, Westchester, and Niles Center. It was once possible to take high-speed trains on the L directly to Aurora, Elgin, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The L started out as four different companies, two starting out using steam engines instead of electricity. Eventually, all four came together via the Union Loop. The L is more than a way of getting around. Its trains are a place where people meet and interact. Some say the best way to experience the city is via the L, with its second-story view. Chicago’s Lost “L”s is virtually a “secret history” of Chicago, and this is your ticket. David Sadowski grew up riding the L all over the city. He is the author of Chicago Trolleys and Building Chicago’s Subways and runs the online Trolley Dodger blog.
The Images of America series celebrates the history of neighborhoods, towns, and cities across the country. Using archival photographs, each title presents the distinctive stories from the past that shape the character of the community today. Arcadia is proud to play a part in the preservation of local heritage, making history available to all.
Title Chicago’s Lost “L”s Images of America Author David Sadowski Edition illustrated Publisher Arcadia Publishing (SC), 2021 ISBN 1467100007, 9781467100007 Length 128 pages
Chapters: 01. The South Side “L” 02. The Lake Street “L” 03. The Metropolitan “L” 04. The Northwestern “L” 05. The Union Loop 06. Lost Equipment 07. Lost Interurbans 08. Lost Terminals 09. Lost… and Found
Each copy purchased here will be signed by the author, and you will also receive a bonus facsimile of a 1926 Chicago Rapid Transit Company map, with interesting facts about the “L” on the reverse side.
The price of $23.99 includes shipping within the United States.
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Now here’s something you don’t see every day… the 69th Street station on the Normal Park “L”, in color. This short branch closed in 1954.
For most Chicago-area railfans, January 21, 1963 is a day, to paraphrase Franklin D. Roosevelt, that will “live in infamy,” for that is when the Chicago North Shore and Milwaukee, the North Shore Line, breathed its last.
But January 21 is also the date when we started this blog in 2015. This is our seventh anniversary, and I think we have had seven full years of good luck.
In that time, our posts have received 841,000 page views, and over time we have become more and more of a resource for those who are interested in the history of electric traction.
As this is our anniversary post, we pulled out all the stops, and have lots of classic images for you to enjoy. As the 21st is also the 59th anniversary of the North Shore Line abandonment, we have plenty of pictures that pay tribute to that lost interurban.
As we have shared our images with you, you in turn have shared many things with us. We have learned a lot by working together. It has been a great ride here so far, and we can only hope that the next seven years will turn out as well.
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.
Our Next Book
FYI, I recently made a new book proposal to my publisher and it has been accepted. I signed the agreement on the 18th, and with any luck, it will come out later this year.
There is still a lot of hard work to be done, but I will do my best to produce something that is new and different than that which is already out there, and makes a real contribution to our understanding of the past.
One thing working in my favor is there are plenty of great pictures to choose from, and the subject is already legendary.
Here is a summary:
The North Shore Line
As late as 1963, you could take a high-speed streamlined train from Chicago’s Loop elevated, 90 miles north to Milwaukee. This was the Chicago, North Shore and Milwaukee, commonly known as the North Shore Line.
From humble beginnings in the 1890s, as a streetcar line in Waukegan, Illinois, the North Shore Line grew to become, in the words of historian William D. Middleton, a “super interurban.” It reached its peak in the 1920s, under Samuel Insull, when the railroad won the prestigious Charles A. Coffin medal no less than three times.
Besides connecting Milwaukee and Chicago, the North Shore Line served Racine, Kenosha, Waukegan, Lake Bluff, Winnetka, Wilmette, and Evanston. A new Skokie Valley Route, built by Insull, opened in 1926 and helped establish Skokie, Glenview, Northfield, and Northbrook.
The railroad had a branch line serving Libertyville and Mundelein, city streetcars in Waukegan and Milwaukee, and was a pioneer in offering “piggyback” freight service.
Hobbled by the Depression and forced into bankruptcy, the North Shore Line rebounded during the war years with two fast new trains called “Electroliners.” It was finally done in by the automobile, highways, and a lack of government subsidies—but it left a remarkable legacy.
Our Annual Fundraiser
Since we started this blog in 2015, we have posted over 13,500 images. This is our 284th post.
Each year, around this time, we must renew our WordPress subscription, our domain registration, and pay other bills associated with maintaining this site, so it is time for our Annual Fundraiser.
The Trolley Dodger blog can only be kept going with the help of our devoted readers. Perhaps you count yourself among them.
If you have already contributed in the past, we thank you very much for your help. Meanwhile, our goal for this fundraiser is just $700, which is only a fraction of what it costs us each year. The rest is made up from either the profits from the items we sell, which are not large, or out of our own pocket, which is not very large either.
There are links at the top and bottom of this page, where you can click and make a donation that will help us meet our goal again for this coming year, so we can continue to offer you more classic images in the future, and keep this good thing we have going.
We thank you in advance for your time and consideration. To date, we have raised $350, which is halfway to our goal. We will also have considerable expenses coming up relating to research for our next book.
On May 11, 1958, William C. Hoffman took this picture looking north along Halsted at the (then) Congress Expressway. Service on the Garfield Park “L” would continue until June 22nd, when it was replaced by the new Congress rapid transit line at left. A passerby admires the new, as-yet unopened station entrance. The Met “L” here had been four tracks, but two were removed by the time this picture was taken, as they were in the highway footprint. The expressway opened in late 1955 in this area.
The old and the new are on display in this 1958 view of the Halsted station on the CTA’s Congress median line. In the background, the old Met “L” is still standing, but would soon be demolished.
North Shore Line 458 heads up a southbound freight train, probably in the early-to-mid 1950s. At first, I thought this location was in Skokie, from the sign on the building. But further research shows this picture was taken in Waukegan, between Washington and Cornelia Streets. The building at right was a former North Shore Line merchandise dispatch (they spelled it “despatch”) station, by this time being rented out to a produce dealer. Don’s Rail Photos: “458 was built by the Spokane Portland & Seattle in January 1941 as Oregon Electric Ry. 50. It was purchased by the North Shore in December 1947 and was completed as 458 on January 27, 1948.”
A northbound Electroliner heading away from the photographer in Waukegan, most likely in the early-to-mid 1950s. In the distance, you can see another North Shore car on a side track.
A close-up of the previous image. Zach E. writes: “Regarding the two photos of 458 and the Electroliner at Washington St. in Waukegan. The cars in the background are standard coaches, not MD cars. There was a storage track there often occupied by cars laying over on the east side of the mainline there between Cornelia and Brookside Ave.”
CTA PCC 4057 is heading northbound on Western Avenue near Roscoe in June 1956, passing by the entrance to Riverview Park, shortly before the end of streetcar service on Route 49. (Robert Selle Photo)
The Chicago and Milwaukee Electric was the predecessor of the North Shore Line. Car 133 is at the Kenosha station in this early 1900s view.
The Chicago Aurora and Elgin began using this off-street terminal in Aurora in 1939. This picture was taken from a nearby bridge in 1951.
Look at what we have here– the Turtle Wax Turtle, a local landmark that stood on top of a building at Madison, Ogden, and Ashland from 1956 to 1963. The slide mount dates it to the late 50s, probably 1956-58. And which “L” is this taken from? Well, since it is daylight and it is 9:13, I would say that is AM, and we are looking south from the Lake Street “L” at Ashland. It would have been visible from the Paulina “L”, which had closed in 1951, and from the Garfield Park “L”, but that structure had already been torn down by 1956. I remember seeing this thing any number of times when I was a kid.
The Turtle Wax Turtle.
One of the two Liberty Liners (ex-Electroliners) on the Norristown High-Speed Line, where they ran from 1964 to 1976.
Britton I. Budd (1871-1965) was a talented and able executive who held many responsible positions in the transit industry, including president of the North Shore Line. When Samuel Insull took over the North Shore Line, he tapped Budd to implement a modernization program. And when the line fell into bankruptcy in 1932, Budd became one of the receivers, a position he held until 1937.
The North Shore logo from a 1942 timetable.
This appeared on the cover of a 1921 issue of the North Shore Bulletin, a small magazine given out to riders.
This is part of a number of photos someone took out of the front window of a CTA “L” train in the 1950s, along the Garfield Park line. We have published some of these in previous posts. Not all of them seem to have been taken at the same time. This one appears to be circa 1957, and the location is along the temporary right-of-way in Van Buren Street.
Here, the “L” train the photographer was riding in was descending a ramp towards the ground-level trackage in Van Buren Street. The cross street in the distance is California Avenue. There is a sign on the front of the oncoming train, which I believe indicates which Chicago Aurora and Elgin connecting train riders could catch in Forest Park.
The Garfield Park “L” on Van Buren Street at California Avenue, but this time, circa 1954. The old “L” has already been removed, except for the bridge over a nearby railroad.
A close-up of the previous image, showing construction on the nearby railroad embankment that crosses the highway at 2600 West. The old Met “L” bridge had not yet been dismantled.
On the Illinois Railway Museum main line, North Shore Line cars can operate in something approximating their former lives in revenue service prior to the 1963 abandonment. We see car 251 in February 1991. (Mike Raia Photo)
Lehigh Valley Transit ran freight as well as passenger service between Allentown, PA and Philadelphia. Even after passenger service was cut back to Norristown in 1949, they continued to operate freight via the Philadelphia and Western. Here we see car C16 in 1950, near the end of its days. Interurban service was abandoned the following year. Don’s Rail Photos: “C16 was built by Jewett Car in 1912 as 800. It was rebuilt as C16 in 1935.”
Lehigh Valley Transit car 1002, circa 1950. Don’s Rail Photos: “1002 was built by Cincinnati Car in June 1930, #3050, as C&LE 126. It was sold to LVT as 1002 in 1938 and scrapped in 1952.”
A pair of Lehigh Valley Transit cars meet a Philadelphia Bullet car at the Norristown terminal, circa 1951. LVT ceased running their Liberty Bell Limited cars there in 1949, for a variety of reasons. It reduced their expenses, but it probably also reduced revenues as their riders now had to change trains at Norristown. But the LVT cars were getting worn out and there were problems with the motors on the lightweight high-speed interurban cars LVT had acquired from the Cleveland and Lake Erie in 1938. Towards the end, LVT had to rely more and more on their older cars, such as the 700-series ones seen here. To the left (north), there was a ramp descending to ground level. This terminal has since been replaced by a newer one nearby.
The Chicago and North Western station in Evanston, during steam days in the early 1900s.
We ran another picture of this scene in a previous post, taken from a different view. The occasion was a Chicago streetcar fantrip using car 2802, and the location is at 63rd and Halsted on the Englewood branch of the “L”. There was an off-street area where riders could change for buses to different locations and, in an older era, interurbans as well. I do not know precisely when this picture was taken, but if I had to guess, I would say sometime in the 1940s.
Here is the other picture we previously ran of car 2802:
CSL 2802 on a charter, possibly a July 4, 1949 fantrip held by the Electric Railroaders’ Association on various south side lines. Bill Shapotkin writes: “Believe this pic is in the streetcar terminal next to the 63/Halsted ‘L’ station (where the C&IT cars and later busses of South Suburban Safeway and Suburban transit began their runs). View looks east.” M. E. adds, “Bill Shapotkin is correct. This view faces east along 63rd Place on the south side of the 63rd and Halsted (Englewood) L station, which was east of Halsted. One small nit about Bill’s text: The bus lines were named Suburban Transit System and South Suburban Safeway Lines.” C&IT stands for the Chicago & Interurban Traction Company. Don’s Rail Photos says, “The Chicago & Interurban Traction Company was incorporated in February 1912, taking over all trackage outside Chicago in March 1912 (all trackage in the City of Chicago went to the Chicago City Railway Company). C&IT interurban service continued from the south side Engelwood Elevated Station at 63rd and Halsted (trackage in Chicago was leased along with the shops at 88th and Vincennes) to Kankakee.” Samuel Insull took over the C&IT in 1922 and tried to revive the line, but when the competing Illinois Central elevated much of their line and electrified, the C&IT could not compete and interurban service was abandoned in 1927.
A Wabash Railroad display at the 1948-49 Chicago Railroad Fair along the lakefront.
The Chicago and Eastern Illinois exhibit at the 1948-49 Chicago Railroad Fair.
North Shore Line combine 255. Don’s Rail Photos: “255 was built by Jewett in 1917. It had all of the seats removed in the 1920s to provide a full length baggage car which ran in passenger trains. It was used for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra to move equipment to Ravinia. On July 2, 1942, the 40 seats were replaced. Then on December 1, 1946, the seats were again removed. In addition to the Symphony, the car was used for sailors’ baggage from Great Lakes.” As there are seats visible, this picture dates to circa 1942-46.
Atlantic City Brilliner 215 at a traffic signal, while on private right-of-way, on October 13, 1955, which must be shortly before streetcar service ended there.
Pittsburgh Railways PCC 1262 is on Wood Street in downtown Pittsburgh on September 19, 1962.
Chicago Transit Authority PCC 4321 is on 77th Street on July 30, 1948.
This is the Ballston Terminal Railroad, which Frank Hicks calls “a fairly unusual little interurban in upstate New York,” in the early 1900s. More info here.
Here, we see Frank Cheney on CA&E car 434 at the Seashore Trolley Museum on October 12, 1963. From their web site: “No. 434 of the Chicago, Aurora & Elgin – “The Great Third Rail” – was outshopped by the Cincinnati Car Company in 1927 as one of a group of 15 ordered shortly after Insull acquired control of the railway. Of all steel construction, the car is 55 feet long overall, is powered by four 140 horsepower motors, and has a seating capacity of 52, including 10 in a smoking compartment. Interior appointments include rotating bucket seats, toilet facilities and neatly finished paneling. The car is equipped with trolley poles that were primarily for yard service and limited street running on the CA&E, since the line used third rail current collection not only on the elevated, but on its own cross country surface routes as well. Moved on its own wheels coupled in a freight train from the CA&E shops in Wheaton, Illinois, to Kennebunk in the fall of 1962, No. 434 was trucked to the Museum in the spring of 1963 and was quickly readied for operation, given its good condition.”
North Shore Line car 168 is in North Chicago, being stored after abandonment, on October 19, 1963. It was built by Jewett in 1917. It did not survive.
Some of these interurban cars sure got around after they were retired from their original roads. Here we see North Shore Line car 411 on the Long Island Railroad. Don’s Rail Photos: “411 was built as a trailer observation car by Cincinnati Car in June 1923 #2640. It was out of service in 1932. 411 It was rebuilt as a two motor coach by closing in the open platform and changing the seating on February 25, 1943, and sold to Trolley Museum of New York in 1963. It was sold to Wisconsin Electric Railway & Historical Society in 1973 and sold to Escanaba & Lake Superior in 1989.”
An 0-series Shinkansen “Bullet” train in Tokyo, Japan in June 1968. The North Shore Line’s Electroliners influenced the design of these high-speed trains.
This is the Downey’s station (West Great Lakes) in October 1961.
I assume this may also be at Downeys, in October 1961.
Sailors and others aboard a North Shore Line train in October 1961.
A builder’s photo of Chicago and Milwaukee Electric (later the North Shore Line) car 305. Don’s Rail Photos: “303 thru 305 were built by American Car in 1910 and were almost identical. In 1939 they became sleet cutters and were retired and scrapped in 1940.”
North Shore Line streetcar 510. Don’s Rail Photos: “510 and 511 were not really city cars, but were purchased for use on the Mundelein line. They were typical Cincinnati Car lightweights built in 1922. After more of the steel interurbans were received in the next few years, they were replaced by the heavy cars which were thru routed to Chicago. The cars were stored until they were scrapped in 1940.”
North Shore Line wood car 301 at the Highwood Shops in the 1930s. Don’s Rail Photos: “300 thru 302 were built by Jewett in 1909 as mainline coaches. As the steel cars arrived, they were downgraded to local and school tripper service. In 1936 they became sleet cutters. 301 and 302 were retired in 1939 and scrapped in 1940.” (Edward Frank, Jr. Photo)
North Shore Line Birney car 334 in Milwaukee. Don’s Rail Photos: “334 was built by Cincinnati Car Co in December 1922, #2625. It was retired in 1947 and scrapped in April 1948.” (Donald Ross Photo)
North Shore Line electric loco 458 at the Highwood Shops on September 3, 1963, several months after abandonment. None of the NSL locos were saved, due to the high scrap value they had. (Bill Volkmer Photo)
Chicago Aurora & Elgin wood car 137 at the Wheaton Shops on August 6, 1939, during which time it was leased from the North Shore Line. There were several such cars that were purchased by the CA&E in 1946, making them the last passenger cars acquired by the interurban. It was built by the Jewett Car Company in 1907. (La Mar M. Kelley Photo)
Doug Iverson writes:
David, just heard about your latest adventure into the publishing arena. Hope everything goes well. I would be honored and extremely pleased if you could use this photo of my dad heading to board the North Shore in Racine in the 1940s.
My dad’s name was Nathan Norman Iverson. He was born in Forks, Washington on the Olympic Peninsula and traveled to Racine on the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad better known as The Milwaukee Road. As he did most of his traveling during the depression he “rode the rails” trying to cure his wanderlust. In Racine he met my mother and she calmed his wandering spirit. He loved to travel. He always said “Traveling was always more fun than being there.”
I grew up in Racine with The North Shore flying through town in both directions every hour on the half hour.
Thanks for sharing! A remarkable story.
Marty Robinson writes:
Thanks David for your anniversary post. It elicited several memories for me: riding the North Shore Line from Downey into Chicago numerous times while at Great Lakes in 1950/51 at boot camp and electronics school. And a mention of the Railroad Fair, where I worked as a 16-year-old as a conductor on the Deadwood Central.
Glad you enjoyed it, thanks! Marty is front row, center in this 1948 photo from the Chicago Railroad Fair.
Did Not Win
Resources are limited, and we can’t win all the auctions for interesting pictures. Here are some that are still worth another look:
The interior of a Silverliner in 1963.
This is apparently a Chicago area train, but which one? The type of slide mount would indicate a date in the range 1955-58. But the headline visible, on a copy of the Chicago Daily News, refers to the selection of a site for the University of Illinois campus in Chicago. That determination was not made final until 1961. It’s been suggested that this may be the GM&O, but it could also be a Chicago & North Western train known as The 400, which ran between Chicago and Minneapolis. The 400 got its name because the travel time between cities was about 400 minutes. At any rate, it’s an air conditioned car. Mitch Markovitz: “Regarding the parlor car interior. It’s definitely the interior of GM&O parlor “Bloomington,” and not a C&NW parlor. C&NW parlors had parlor chairs from Coach and Car, and the chairs seen in the photo are those from Heywood-Wakefield, in the “Sleepy Hallow model.””
The original Kedzie Avenue station on the Ravenswood “L” (today’s CTA Brown Line) in the early 1970s, not long before it was damaged by fire. We are looking west.
Trolleys to Milwaukee by John Gruber
A copy of this long out-of-print 32-page book is being offered for sale on eBay for $50. One of the fans on the Facebook North Shore Line group lives in Australia and is interested in this book, but international shipping is expensive. So I offered to scan my copy for their benefit. You might enjoy it too.
John E. Gruber (1936-2018) was a notable and very talented photographer, as evidenced in these very striking pictures.