It continually amazes me when we are able to find so much out about the lives of people who lived more than one hundred years ago. We recently were in touch with Rex Butler, whose grandfather Frank H. Butler worked as a conductor on the Chicago and Milwaukee Electric from 1898 to 1900. The photos in this post are from his collection, and shed some light on the early history of the North Shore Line interurban that eventually ran between Chicago and Milwaukee. It started out in Waukegan.
We are very thankful Mr. Butler has shared these wonderful photos with our readers. We also thank Diana Koester for her genealogy research.
Keep those cards and letters coming in, folks.
PS- You might also like our Trolley Dodger Facebook auxiliary, a private group that now has 771 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.
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.
Butler Photos and Family History
Caleb Butler (1792-1870) was born in Vermont, and became an early settler in the Waukegan area around 1841. His sons were George Butler (1840-1927) and Henry Butler (1836-1918), who both served on the Union side during the Civil War.
Frank Henry Butler (1871-1963) was George’s son. He married Eva Celestine Browne (1892-1976) in 1917. Her father was Walter Browne (1862-1931), who added an “e” to the end of their last name because there was a town drunkard named Walter Brown, who got into all sorts of trouble. He did not want to be confused with him.
Frank H. Butler worked as a conductor on the Chicago and Milwaukee Electric for two years (1898-1900) and the 1900 census lists his occupation as a photographer. He learned the trade from his uncle.
Later, he worked at W. F. Wandel’s bookstore at 137 N. Genesse Street in Waukegan. The store sold stationary and typewriters as well, and also rented typewriters. The 1910 census says he was a salesman.
Eventually, he took over Wandel’s store and ran it until November 1921, when he sold it. The family moved to Florida for his wife’s health (she had asthma). While in Florida, he owned a candy store and later, a pharmacy. From 1931 to 1950, he worked as a janitor at a school.
Rex Butler is Frank H. Butler’s grandson.
From The Waukegan Weekly Sun, July 8, 1898, page 6 (“Waukegan Happenings”):
The new street cars are now running in this city. They are as described in this paper Saturday. The new trailers are “away out of sight.” Conductors now run on every car and fare boxes have been abandoned. Among the new conductors are Frank Butler, Mr. Goss, of North Chicago and Mr. Nellis of this city. The two new cars and four trailers for the South end of the line will probably not be running before the tracks are connected. Work of connecting them progresses slowly. On Monday, the Fourth, 3000 passengers at five cents a piece were carried. As no passes whatever are honored, the receipts for the day were about $150. Ivan and Dan Jardins, the new men have assumed charge in their respective positions of General Superintendent and Cashier. The new cars are thirty feet long and weigh 28,000 pounds. They are lighted and heated with the electric power…
A general rumor for several days has been that the Northwestern road had bought or was negotiating for the Chicago and Milwaukee electric railway. While there may be some indications as to the probability of such a transaction, as to facts there is nothing whatever to be learned in regard to it. Several prominent parties who know considerable of the business of both corporations had heard nothing of the rumors and could tell nothing. One said “I would not be surprised to hear it,” and another remarked “It seems to me a very likely project. That street railway franchise will in a few year, be a very valuable piece of property and a great thing for the Northwestern road or anyone else to own. It would be a good move for the Northwestern road to make.” Several have thought the fact that the Northwestern road was building the viaduct at North Chicago for the electric road was an indication. It is not, however, as the Northwestern prefers to supervise all construction which interfere with its right of way, and that the street railway has contracted to pay the sum of $15,000 to the Northwestern for the work, was assured to a reporter today by a man who was one of the signers of the contract.
Note: the “Northwestern road” mentioned here is the Chicago & North Western, and not the Northwestern “L”. The viaduct in North Chicago was needed so the Chicago and Milwaukee Electric could cross the North Western. The steam railroad refused to allow the upstart interurban to have a grade crossing there.
Waukegan Power Plant Explosion
Around 11:30 pm on April 22, 1908, the belt that turned a flywheel at the North Shore Electric power house in Waukegan caught fire, and this spread to the other equipment. While firemen were trying to put it out, there was an explosion, and the flywheel went through a wall, causing massive destruction. Two people were killed, and many more injured. All of Waukegan lost power as a result.
The North Shore Electric was a Samuel Insull utility, but Insull did not take control of the Chicago and Milwaukee Electric interurban until 1916, at which time it became the Chicago North Shore and Milwaukee, aka the North Shore Line. Streetcars and interurbans were major customers of electric utilities, and also helped bring electric power to many rural areas.
The photos in this section are believed to have been taken by Frank H. Butler, and are courtesy of Rex Butler.
Along the North Shore
This extremely rare promotional brochure, here from Rex Butler’s collection, was produced some time between 1899 and 1902. Although the map shows service to Milwaukee, this did not come to fruition until 1908.
A Guide to the Railroad Record Club E-Book
Our good friend Ken Gear has been hard at work on collecting all things related to the late William Steventon’s railroad audio recordings and releases. The result is a new book on disc, A Guide To the Railroad Record Club. This was quite a project and labor of love on Ken’s part!
Kenneth Gear has written and compiled a complete history of William Steventon‘s Railroad Record Club, which issued 42 different LPs of steam, electric, and diesel railroad audio, beginning with its origins in 1953.
This “book on disc” format allows us to present not only a detailed history of the club and an updated account of Kenneth Gear’s purchase of the William Steventon estate, but it also includes audio files, photo scans and movie files. Virtually all the Railroad Record Club archive is gathered in one place!
$10 from the sale of each RRC E-Book will go to Kenneth Gear to repay him for some of his costs in saving this important history.
Now Available on Compact Disc:
Railroad Record Club #08 Deluxe Edition: Canadian National: Canadian Railroading in the Days of Steam, Recorded by Elwin Purington
The Complete Recording From the Original Master Tapes
Kenneth Gear‘s doggedness and determination resulted in his tracking down and purchasing the surviving RRC master tapes a few years back, and he has been hard at work having them digitized, at considerable personal expense, so that you and many others can enjoy them with today’s technology. We have already released a few RRC Rarities CDs from Ken’s collection.
When Ken heard the digitized version of RRC LP #08, Canadian National: Canadian Railroading in the Days of Steam, recorded by the late Elwin Purington, he was surprised to find the original tapes were more than twice the length of the 10″ LP. The resulting LP had been considerably edited down to the limited space available, 15 minutes per side.
The scenes were the same, but each was greatly shortened. Now, on compact disc, it is possible to present the full length recordings of this classic LP, which was one of Steventon’s best sellers and an all-around favorite, for the very first time.
Canadian National. Steaming giants pound high iron on mountain trails, rumble over trestles, hit torpedos and whistle for many road crossings. Mountain railroading with heavy power and lingering whistles! Includes locomotives 3566, 4301, 6013, 3560.
Total time – 72:57
$5 from the sale of RRC08D CD will go to Kenneth Gear to repay him for some of his costs in saving this important history.
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
Publisher Arcadia Publishing (SC), 2021
ISBN 1467100007, 9781467100007
Length 128 pages
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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A Tribute to the North Shore Line
To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the demise of the fabled North Shore Line interurban in January 2013, Jeffrey L. Wien and Bradley Criss made a very thorough and professional video presentation, covering the entire route between Chicago and Milwaukee and then some. Sadly, both men are gone now, but their work remains, making this video a tribute to them, as much as it is a tribute to the Chicago North Shore & Milwaukee.
Jeff drew on his own vast collections of movie films, both his own and others such as the late William C. Hoffman, wrote and gave the narration. Bradley acted as video editor, and added authentic sound effects from archival recordings of the North Shore Line.
It was always Jeff’s intention to make this video available to the public, but unfortunately, this did not happen in his lifetime. Now, as the caretakers of Jeff’s railfan legacy, we are proud to offer this excellent two-hour program to you for the first time. The result is a fitting tribute to what Jeff called his “Perpetual Adoration,” which was the name of a stop on the interurban.
Jeff was a wholehearted supporter of our activities, and the proceeds from the sale of this disc will help defray some of the expenses of keeping the Trolley Dodger web site going.
Total time – 121:22
# of Discs – 1
Price: $19.99 (Includes shipping within the United States)
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