Skokie Swift: The “True Gen”

A Yellow Line train turns back south of Howard, with Red Line trains in the background.

A Yellow Line train turns back south of Howard, with Red Line trains in the background.

The “True Gen,” in military parlance, means genuine, accurate, useful information, the kind you can stake your life on in wartime.  (It’s also the title of my favorite book about Ernest Hemingway.)

Today, we’ll apply that phrase to the Chicago Transit Authority‘s Yellow Line, aka the Skokie Swift.  More than 50 years after service begin in April 1964, there seems to be a bit of confusion about its origins.  Even the Wikipedia page had some misinformation on it, which we corrected.  (That is both the blessing and the curse of the Wikipedia; but if anyone can come up with a better system, I’d like to know what it is.)

We like our history fresh from the source.  So, here are a couple of newspaper articles with the “true gen” on how the Swift came to be.  They set straight a couple of “factoids” that have made the rounds– that CTA supposedly already owned the right-of-way to Skokie Shops (it didn’t) and that the Swift was dependent on receiving federal aid (it wasn’t).

Not that you can take all newspaper reports as gospel, of course.  You always have to consider the source.  But I think that as far as these articles, go, however, we’re on pretty safe ground.  As one of the original riders that first week, I can assure you that the high-speed “spam cans” did make much of the five mile journey at 60 mph, a thrilling ride indeed.

I’ve supplemented this post with some pictures I took last April 26, when the CTA celebrated a half-century of the Swift, none of which have been published before.  I’ve written about the Skokie Swift before on the CERA Members Blog, and you can find some of those posts here and here.  If you like what you see here, you might want to check those out too.

And that’s the True Gen.

-David Sadowski

Chicago Tribune, August 2, 1963, page 12:

HIGH-SPEED CTA SKOKIE TRANSIT ROUTE PLANNED

Use North Shore Strip to Dempster St.

By Thomas Buck

The Chicago transit authority expects to establish a new high speed, nonstop rapid transit service this fall over a five mile stretch of the abandoned North Shore railroad right of way between the Howard street terminal and Dempster street, Skokie.

Plans for the new rapid transit service were announced by George DeMent, chairman of the CTA, and Walter J. McCarter, the transit authority’s general manager.

“We are still negotiating for the purchase of this five mile section of the North Shore right-of-way, and we are hopeful that these negotiations can be completed in time to create this new service this fall,” said DeMent.

May Seek U.S. Grant

In addition to the North Shore railroad, DeMent said, the negotiations also are being carried on with Commonwealth Edison company, which for many years has owned part of the right of way for power line use.

DeMent also indicated the CTA may seek a grant from the federal government for paying two-thirds of the cost of establishing the new route as a “demonstration project.”

McCarter described the proposed new service to Dempster street, Skokie, as an “excellent opportunity to extend rapid transit into suburban areas where large parking facilities also would be provided for ‘park-and-ride’ patrons of the CTA.”

“We would use high speed cars as single car shuttle trains which could operate for much of the nonstop five mile trip at 60 miles an hour,” said McCarter.  “Our plans call for providing at least 600 parking spaces at the Dempster street station.”

The high speed, one-car trains, McCarter estimated, would cover the five mile trip in eight to 10 minutes, compared with 24 to 25 minutes required for the CTA’s present buses between Dempster street and the Howard terminal.  He also explained that the rapid transit service would be operated only in periods of heavy demand and that the buses would continue operating “around the clock.”

Skokie Votes $17,000

DeMent pointed out that Myron Greisdorf, president of Skokie, and other Skokie village board members have “shown their definite interest by voting $17,000 to help establish the new service.”  No estimate was given on the cost of providing the new rapid transit shuttle service…

Chicago Tribune, October 4, 1963, page 4:

CTA APPROVES PURCHASING OF SKOKIE ROUTE

Total Cost Would Be Two Million

By Thomas Buck

The acquisitions of a five mile stretch of the North Shore railroad right-of-way for a new rapid transit train service between the Howard street terminal and Dempster street, Skokie was authorized yesterday by the board of the Chicago transit authority.

The board acted on a recommendation by Walter J. McCarter, CTA general manager, who reported that a price of 2 million dollars had been negotiated with the North Shore railroad.

Would Pay 1.7 Million

Under a purchase agreement, McCarter said, the CTA would pay 1.7 million dollars of the cost.  The remaining $300,000, he said, is to be paid by Commonwealth Edison company in return for converting its easements into perpetual rights for power transmission lines along the property.

In addition, Commonwealth Edison is to pay the CTA a monthly rental of $700 on the easements for an initial period of two years.  The rental payments, McCarter said, would be used to help cover any operating losses that migth be incurred during a two-year experimental period.

Village Must Agree

“We expect to have this new service in operation within two to three months,” said George DeMent, CTA chairman.  “The plan also is contingent upon a pending agreement with the village of Skokie whereby it would provide parking spaces for at least 400 cars at the Dempster street station.”

DeMent said the CTA also expects to file a request for federal government financial assistance to help pay any operating deficit for the first two years as a “demonstration project.”  Under this plan, the federal government would pay two-thirds of operating losses and the CTA one-third.

Meanwhile, McCarter said the CTA will continue to operate its Skokie bus route which makes local stops in the same general area.

DeMent indicated, however, that the CTA would undertake the project on its own in the event the operation is not accepted by the federal government as an experiment.

McCarter explained that single-car trains, without any intermediate stops, would make the five mile trip in 6 1/2 to 7 minutes.  He said the single cars would be operated at 10 minute intervals from early morning until late evening, but that no late night service would be provided.

The CTA already must acquire half of the five-mile stretch, McCarter explained, because of the necessity to maintain tracks to its shops at 3701 W. Oakton st., Skokie.

DeMent also said that the CTA is studying the costs of using the North Shore right-of-way still further north, possibly to Glenview or Northfield.  However, DeMent said that for any further extensions, the suburbs involved would be asked to pay for right-of-way acquisition and necessary equipment, as well as to guarantee the CTA against operating losses.

Joe Stupar writes:

That is interesting but not surprising about Edison paying a portion. At the time of abandonment, Edison had a non-exclusive lease with the North Shore for the tower line there, dated March 8, 1957. Interestingly enough, that lease was not due to expire until December 31, 2008.

Early abandonment forecasts from the North Shore from 1961 were uncertain whether the CTA would purchase any line at all. They mention construction of a new shop facility at Forest Park. However, by 1963 it appears certain they would purchase the line. Three proposals were prepared, purchase from Howard -> East Prairie Rd (2.75 Miles), Howard -> Dempster St (5 Miles), and Howard -> Glenview Rd (7 Miles). The most expensive section of track was from Howard -> East Prairie Rd, with a book value of $3,896,784, and a suggested selling price of $1,500,000. The scrap value of the North Shore was related to book value, replacement cost, and value of physical infrastructure as scrap. As such, with the many bridges (including channel bridge), this was one of the most expensive sections of track. From East Prairie to Dempster had a book value of $776,334 and a suggested asking price of $500,000; from Dempster to Glenview Rd $548,032, and a suggested asking price of $350,000.

I thought I remembered reading somewhere that part of the reason to operate to Dempster St instead of Glenview Rd was due to car miles, and availability of equipment to operate the service. A 1963 estimate lists annual car miles of 127,500 to Dempster St, and 250,000 to Glenayre.

Another interesting fact is an April 1963 fare comparison. CTA was proposing a 55 cent fare Loop to Dempster, or a 70 cent fare Loop to Glenview. This 55/70 compares to 62/75 on the Milw, 69/81 on the CNW, and 78/86 actual North Shore. The CTA did not propose to sell monthly tickets, but it also lists equivalent monthly fares of 45/51 on Milw, 40/47 on CNW, and 52/56 on North Shore.

There is one other advantage to constructing the line to Dempster St vs East Prairie Rd or Glenview Rd as well. Available land for a parking lot. According to Chicago Tribune articles of the time, the village of Skokie paid to construct a large parking lot at Skokie. Even in 1963, there were a lot of houses near the Glenview station and I don’t know if there would have been room for a parking lot. Same with East Prairie Rd.

Interestingly enough, at one point the North Shore seriously considered selling the right of way from Oakton to Lake Bluff to the CNW. They even went so far as to suggest that the CNW may want to purchase the stations and resume passenger service. I thought this seemed kind of far fetched, but I recently stumbled across a Chicago Tribune article from December 63 / January 64 about a proposed CNW restart of service to Skokie, and possibly Glenview / Northbrook.

There is one other factor that hasn’t been mentioned for going to Dempster St. This is a minor detail, but by going to there, they pick up another substation on the line. If they had only purchased up to East Prairie, the whole line would be fed by the Howard end. I’m not sure if the Skokie substation figures into the value of that portion or not.

I also read another letter written to the editor in December of 63. It was a suggestion that the CTA re-open the stations on the line, since otherwise the trains would just be passing all of the potential riders in the dense areas.

The "fantrip" train at the Dempster terminal.

The “fantrip” train at the Dempster terminal.

The 4000s at Dempster.

The 4000s at Dempster.

The special train at Asbury in Evanston.

The special train at Asbury in Evanston.

An eastbound train of 5000s at the Oakton curve.

An eastbound train of 5000s at the Oakton curve.

The 4000s at East Prairie Road.

The 4000s at East Prairie Road.

Southbound at Oakton.

Southbound at Oakton.

Northbound at Oakton.

Northbound at Oakton.

The 4000s pair southbound at Oakton.

The 4000s pair southbound at Oakton.

Southbound at Main.

Southbound at Main.

Northbound at Main.

Northbound at Main.

Westbound at Ridge in Evanston.

Westbound at Ridge in Evanston.

Eastbound at Ridge in Evanston.

Eastbound at Ridge in Evanston.

Eastbound at Ridge in Evanston.

Eastbound at Ridge in Evanston.

Westbound at Ridge in Evanston.

Westbound at Ridge in Evanston.

CTA’s Westchester Branch – What Might Have Been

The "Westchester-Maywood" route, from a 1948 CTA map.

The “Westchester-Maywood” route, from a 1948 CTA map.

This 1943 map shows where the Westchester branch ran.

This 1943 map shows where the Westchester branch ran.

Today’s photo essay features pictures of the former Chicago Rapid Transit/Chicago Transit Authority Westchester branch, which ran from 1926 to 1951. You can find an excellent track map here.  (You can also read our follow-up post, showing what traces of the old line are still visible here.)

It’s always interesting to speculate on what “might have been,” especially in the case of the Chicago, Aurora & Elgin, whose trains ran from 1902 to 1957 in Chicago’s western suburbs. What could have been saved? What should have been saved?  And, what can we learn today?

As you may know, ultimately nothing was saved, except the portion between DesPlaines Avenue and Laramie, which was taken over by the CTA in the early 1950s. That operates today as the outer portion of the Chicago Transit Authority‘s Forest Park branch of the Blue Line.

Speculation usually centers on whether the entire railroad could have been saved, bought by the State of Illinois, or at least, the portion to Wheaton. But in general, this section, the most viable part of the interurban, ran parallel to the Chicago & North Western‘s West Line, which continues to operate today under the aegis of Metra.

The State of Illinois made an offer to buy CA&E in 1956, and then backed out of the deal for various reasons. The only public entity that could have operated any portion of the railroad would have been the CTA, and yet their operating area was limited to most of Cook County.

Still, the CTA did some engineering studies.* In the short run, the idea was to put third rail shoes on some of the remaining PCC streetcars, and run a shuttle service between Forest Park and Wheaton. Just as with the CA&E operations between 1953-57, this would not have been a “one-seat ride” to the Loop.  (Some say these studies were made to demonstrate the impracticality of CTA actually doing it.)

In the long run, CTA would have ordered more new rapid transit cars, high speed versions of the single car units 1-50 that were built in 1960. These type of cars would also have been used if the CTA had been able to take over larger portions of the North Shore Line than the five miles that became the Skokie Swift (today’s Yellow Line) in 1964.

In retrospect, the opening of the Congress (now Eisenhower) expressway would have depressed ridership, so there is no way of knowing if such a CTA shuttle service would have been successful. But there was no way to pay for it, in the political context of the time, and therefore these plans were unrealized. But, if it had happened, most likely such a service would today be a treasured part of Chicagoland’s transit infrastructure.

But if we go back a little further in time, incredibly, there was rapid transit service operated by the CTA that ran to Mannheim and 22nd Street as late as 1951. This was the 5.6 mile long Westchester branch, a victim of budget cuts and expressway construction.

The Westchester branch was part of an ambitious mid-1920s Insull plan to create a high-speed CA&E bypass, similar to the North Shore Line’s Skokie Valley Route. However, there was less of a need for it, and by the time the Depression hit and Samuel Insull‘s empire collapsed, only 2.2 miles of it had been built off the CA&E main line, and local service was being provided by the Chicago Rapid Transit Company.

The Depression also put a stop to the pace of housing development in Bellwood and Westchester, as it had in Niles Center, where the CRT ran local service in a similar fashion. The “build it, and they will come” strategy was not unusual at the time, and had been successfully followed some years earlier when rapid transit service was extended to the Ravenswood neighborhood.

With the CRT in receivership, things remained “status quo” until the creation of the Chicago Transit Authority, which took over operations on October 1, 1947. In these heady early days, it was thought that modernization would reaped quick benefits, and there were efforts by the CTA to improve service to outlying areas, with the creation of extension bus lines and express buses.

Within a few years, however, there was nothing but red ink, and without taxing authority, the cash-strapped CTA had no choice but to cut unprofitable services wherever possible. The lightly-used Westchester branch was an obvious target for elimination, since CTA was a tenant, paying rent to the CA&E, who owned the tracks.

From CTA’s point of view, they saved money by eliminating rapid transit service west of DesPlaines Avenue, and tried to retain whatever ridership was there with replacement bus service, creating the #17 route, which continued to run for decades (and has now been completely replaced by parallel Pace suburban bus service, the #317).

Expressway construction was also a factor. The CA&E and CTA shared each other’s tracks, and compensated each other in turn. By the early 1950’s, these payments totaled about $250,000 per year and largely cancelled each other out. But a 2.5 mile section of the CTA’s Garfield Park/Met “L” would need to be relocated for five years, since it ran smack dab in the middle of where the Congress expressway would be built.

After nearly 50 years of joint operation on Chicago’s west side, coordinating the plethora of daily CTA and CA&E trains was difficult at best, and required near split-second timing. Schedules were complicated and there were various passing sidings, where expresses would be routed ahead of locals.

The CTA (and the City of Chicago’s) original idea for relocating Garfield service was for a wooden “L” structure along Van Buren Street. Presumably this grade separated service would have been fine with the CA&E, but the local alderman objected, and rather than face a lawsuit, which would have delayed the project, the City Council turned to Plan B– grade level rapid transit service, bisected by several cross streets.

This was originally promoted as a “street railway” service, which may be how they justified not using crossing gates. At first, it was thought that overhead wire could be used, but the Met cars did not have trolley poles, and this would have involved shifting around a lot of equipment. So, ultimately, the Van Buren Street temporary trackage used third rail without any more crossing protection than stop lights.

In 1951, CA&E management decided that this plan was unworkable for them, and would cause too many problems for efficient and safe operation. In a letter to their shareholders, CA&E proposed elimination of rail service on the interurban (presumably, freight service would continue), to be replaced by buses that would take riders from the western suburbs to the CTA Lake Street and Douglas Park “L”s.

CTA, for their part, anticipating that CA&E would soon become a bus operator only, began planning for a bus-to-rail transfer point between CA&E and CTA. At first, it was thought this would take place at Central Avenue, a point just west of where CTA’s own rails ended. But by 1953, this transfer point was moved west to DesPlaines Avenue in Forest Park.

Meanwhile, existing bus operators in the western suburbs had successfully blocked CA&E’s plans to substitute bus service for rail. Therefore, they had no real alternative to cutting back rail service to DesPlaines Avenue. This is how service was operated from September 1953 to July 1957. By then, CA&E ridership had been decimated, adn the railroad successfully petitioned to “temporarily” abandon rail service.

The abandonment actually helped facilitate expressway construction near the DesPlaines River, since no temporary service would need to be built. The railroad, in a sense, was still “made whole,” since by 1959 new rails were put in place for a connection to the CTA DesPlaines terminal. These are plainly visible in an aerial view in the 1961 CTA Annual Report, but they were never used, and the CA&E did not resume regular passenger service, and was liquidated in 1961. Attempts to save the interurban were too little, too late, and the suburbs that would have benefited from continuing service refused to contribute with tax revenue.

Between 1948 and 1957, the CTA eliminated about 25% of the rapid transit system it had inherited from CRT. This was mainly by slashing lightly-used branch lines (Stockyards, Kenwood, Humboldt Park, Normal Park, Niles Center, and Westchester). At one point, the CTA even proposed turning over the Evanston branch to the North Shore Line, but this did not happen.

By 1964, it seems the CTA had changed its mind about branch lines, for in April of that year, the phenomenally successful Skokie Swift service began running between Dempster and Howard, over five miles of former CNS&M right-of-way. By this time, some federal funding was available through a pilot program. CTA had to buy half of the Swift trackage anyway, just to access Skokie Shops.

Here, the CTA used fast, frequent service and a large park-and-ride lot to attract riders. And although it scarcely seems possible that the Westchester branch could have been saved in 1951, it would really fill a need today.

Imagine a west side corollary to the Skokie Swift.

By the early 50s, Bellwood and Westchester were prime areas for the postwar housing boom. This is especially true since these areas would soon have access to an important new highway. Growth in Westchester was being held back, however, since the same developer that had owned much of the property since the 1920s wanted to build all the housing themselves, thereby limiting construction somewhat.

After the CTA abandoned the Westchester branch, the CA&E liquidated the property, and the proceeds were distributed to the shareholders, instead of being reinvested in the money-losing railroad. This was the first of CA&E’s large-scale liquidations, where various portions of the railroad were sold to benefit the stockholders.

Getting back to what “might have been,” imagine how well the CTA would be doing today, if it had built a large park-and-ride lot at Mannheim and 22nd Street in the 1950s and kept the Westchester branch. As the area boomed in the mid-1950s, this service would have had tremendous potential.

And while this did not come to pass, the need persists, and something like a replacement for the Westchester branch may still be in CTA’s future. The Illinois Department of Transportation is working on plans for expanding and improving I-290 in the western suburbs, as the Chicago Tribune reported on February 27, 2013:

State transportation officials presented a narrowed list of four proposals that they say will improve travel on the Eisenhower Expressway, all of which include adding a lane to the highway and also extending the CTA Blue Line.

The four proposals, all of which include widening the highway between Austin Boulevard and Mannheim Road, extending the Blue Line to Mannheim and express bus service extending westward from Mannheim, were presented to a community task force. They will be further evaluated by state transportation officials as they study ways to make Interstate Highway 290 more efficient, said a manager of the project, Peter Harmet, bureau chief of programming for the Illinois Department of Transportation.

So, what “might have been,” may still be yet. We shall see.

-David Sadowski

PS- Christopher J. Lemm writes:

After reading your January 2015 story on the CTA Westchester Branch, the picture of the train crossing Madison street in Bellwood brought back some great memories. I grew up in that house, my grandfather was Clarence Lemm, track foreman for the Aurora and Elgin Railroad, he died in 1936. My father followed in grandpa’s footsteps, he worked at CTA 43 years, he started as a clerk and retired as the head of insurance and pensions. When my brother and I were very young my dad would take us for rides on the Aurora and Elgin, he used grandpa’s Sunset Lines employee pin and we all road free of charge. Thank you for some great memories!

According to transit historian Art Peterson:

CTA prepared studies for operation of both the CA&E (from Wheaton to Desplaines Av.) and for the North Shore from the Loop to Waukegan.  The CA&E study was based on use of the pre-War PCCs; for the North Shore it would have been higher-performance rapid transit PCC cars and an A/B service pattern up the Skokie Valley.  Both went no place, for lack of suitable funding sources.  CTA was prepared to accommodate CA&E in the Congress-Dearborn-Milwaukee subway (the west side connection to that opened on June 22, 1958, by which time CA&E was freight only.)

Some knowledgeable sources reported that CTA retained a section of the Humboldt Park Branch after the “L” shuttle service quit running in the E50s, to use as a CA&E turnback/layup facility.  Humboldt Park was the “L” line that ran parallel and to the north of North Avenue, joining the Milwaukee Avenue “L” line at the North/Damen station.

I believe we are looking east near Central Avenue, where the line curved around the south end of Columbus Park. This is approximately where the CTA Blue Line goes through the Lotus Tunnel. A small portion of Columbus Park soon gave way to the Congress (now Eisenhower) expressway.

I believe we are looking east near Central Avenue, where the line curved around the south end of Columbus Park. This is approximately where the CTA Blue Line goes through the Lotus Tunnel. A small portion of Columbus Park soon gave way to the Congress (now Eisenhower) expressway.

An eastbound single car near Central Avenue, at the south end of Columbus Park, now the site of the Eisenhower expressway.

An eastbound single car near Central Avenue, at the south end of Columbus Park, now the site of the Eisenhower expressway.

The passing tracks in this photo are a clue that we are near the Gunderson Avenue station in Oak Park. The Forest Park gas tank is at rear, so we are looking west.

The passing tracks in this photo are a clue that we are near the Gunderson Avenue station in Oak Park. The Forest Park gas tank is at rear, so we are looking west.

Looking west where the rapid transit crossed the B&OCT. Behind the car, the freight line branched off in two directions, to the CGW and Soo Line.

Looking west where the rapid transit crossed the B&OCT. Behind the car, the freight line branched off in two directions, to the CGW and Soo Line.

A pair of Met cars crosses the B&OCT heading east. This has since been grade separated. The gas tank in the background was a Forest Park landmark for many years.

A pair of Met cars crosses the B&OCT heading east. This has since been grade separated. The gas tank in the background was a Forest Park landmark for many years.

Here the the same crossing, but now we are looking east. This is now where I-290 runs through.

Here the the same crossing, but now we are looking east. This is now where I-290 runs through.

CTA 6051-6052 at the DesPlaines Avenue terminal in the 1950s. The Acme Feeds (7715 W. Van Buren) towers at are at the background. Among other things, they sold a product called Acme Worm Bouncer. After being abandoned for many years, the towers caught fire in 1980 and were demolished.

CTA 6051-6052 at the DesPlaines Avenue terminal in the 1950s. The Acme Feeds (7715 W. Van Buren) towers at are at the background. Among other things, they sold a product called Acme Worm Bouncer. After being abandoned for many years, the towers caught fire in 1980 and were demolished.

This is one of my favorite shots. An eastbound single car passes cemeteries in Forest Park, having just crossed over the DesPlaines River. This is the approximate location of the Eisenhower expressway today. The train is curving towards the DesPlaines Avenue station. The iconic gas tank was removed many years ago.

This is one of my favorite shots. An eastbound single car passes cemeteries in Forest Park, having just crossed over the DesPlaines River. This is the approximate location of the Eisenhower expressway today. The train is curving towards the DesPlaines Avenue station. The iconic gas tank was removed many years ago.

An eastbound Westchester car passes by Concordia Cemetery at right, having just crossed the DesPlaines River. This is where the Eisenhower expressway runs today.

An eastbound Westchester car passes by Concordia Cemetery at right, having just crossed the DesPlaines River. This is where the Eisenhower expressway runs today.

This picture presents somewhat of a mystery. Car 2311, signed for Westchester, is identified as being in Maywood on July 21, 1934, with a 4000-series car behind it. There were some storage tracks east of First Avenue, but I am not sure whether CRT used these. Or perhaps these cars are near DesPlaines Avenue.

This picture presents somewhat of a mystery. Car 2311, signed for Westchester, is identified as being in Maywood on July 21, 1934, with a 4000-series car behind it. There were some storage tracks east of First Avenue, but I am not sure whether CRT used these. Or perhaps these cars are near DesPlaines Avenue.

Here, we are just east of First Avenue, with an eastbound train approaching. You can just make out the sign on the Refiner's Pride gas station behind the car. We are looking northwest. Commonwealth Edison occupies this site today.

Here, we are just east of First Avenue, with an eastbound train approaching. You can just make out the sign on the Refiner’s Pride gas station behind the car. We are looking northwest. Commonwealth Edison occupies this site today.

A westbound Westchester car crosses First Avenue in Maywood. East of here (right), the line ran at an angle before crossing the DesPlaines River. This is where the Illinois Prairie Path starts today. The "Refiner's Pride" gas station at left was part of a chain run by "Montana Charlie" Reid, who also owned a restaurant in Villa Park. An oil change business now occupies the site of the former gas station. Reid also owned Montana Charlie's Flea Market in Bolingbrook, along historic Route 66, which is still in operation.

A westbound Westchester car crosses First Avenue in Maywood. East of here (right), the line ran at an angle before crossing the DesPlaines River. This is where the Illinois Prairie Path starts today. The “Refiner’s Pride” gas station at left was part of a chain run by “Montana Charlie” Reid, who also owned a restaurant in Villa Park.  An oil change business now occupies the site of the former gas station. Reid also owned Montana Charlie’s Flea Market in Bolingbrook, along historic Route 66, which is still in operation.

On December 7, 1958, CA&E wood cars 319 and 320 operated the last passenger train on that venerable railroad as a charter. Here, we are at Fifth Avenue station looking east. After the CTA abandoned the Westchester branch, this station was repainted in CA&E colors, and the interurban took over all service here from 1951-57.

On December 7, 1958, CA&E wood cars 319 and 320 operated the last passenger train on that venerable railroad as a charter. Here, we are at Fifth Avenue station looking east. After the CTA abandoned the Westchester branch, this station was repainted in CA&E colors, and the interurban took over all service here from 1951-57.

While I'm not sure of the exact location, we are looking to the northwest along that portion of the CA&E main line, where it ran parallel to the CGW through Bellwood and Maywood.

While I’m not sure of the exact location, we are looking to the northwest along that portion of the CA&E main line, where it ran parallel to the CGW through Bellwood and Maywood.

We are looking west, with the IHB crossing in the background. 25th Avenue would be behind us, and Madison Street is to our left. Here, the CA&E ran parallel to the CGW. The Illinois Prairie Path runs here now.

We are looking west, with the IHB crossing in the background. 25th Avenue would be behind us, and Madison Street is to our left. Here, the CA&E ran parallel to the CGW. The Illinois Prairie Path runs here now.

A westbound Westchester car passing under the Indiana Harbor Belt. The two lines were grade separated in 1930-31. This is now the site of the Illinois Prairie Path.

A westbound Westchester car passing under the Indiana Harbor Belt. The two lines were grade separated in 1930-31. This is now the site of the Illinois Prairie Path.

A southbound Westchester train crosses Madison Street in Bellwood, where Marshall Avenue begins today. The house at right is still standing. The Bellwood station was just north of here, near where the line merged back into the CA&E main line. We are just west of Bellwood Avenue.

A southbound Westchester train crosses Madison Street in Bellwood, where Marshall Avenue begins today. The house at right is still standing. The Bellwood station was just north of here, near where the line merged back into the CA&E main line. We are just west of Bellwood Avenue.

A northbound train at Harrison Street, with new postwar housing in the background. In the foreground, sidewalks that were already about 20 years old go past an empty lot.

A northbound train at Harrison Street, with new postwar housing in the background. In the foreground, sidewalks that were already about 20 years old go past an empty lot.

Westchester car 2814 heading south at Harrison. A small child in blue jeans waits for the train to pass.

Westchester car 2814 heading south at Harrison. A small child in blue jeans waits for the train to pass.

A southbound single car passes storage tracks just north of Roosevelt Road, which was the original terminal before the line was extended in 1930.

A southbound single car passes storage tracks just north of Roosevelt Road, which was the original terminal before the line was extended in 1930.

A single Westchester car passes under the Illinois Central near the Roosevelt Road station.

A single Westchester car passes under the Illinois Central near the Roosevelt Road station.

A two car train passes under the Illinois Central near the Roosevelt Road station.

A two car train passes under the Illinois Central near the Roosevelt Road station.

Here we see the south end of the Roosevelt Road station.

Here we see the south end of the Roosevelt Road station.

A single car at the Roosevelt Road station.

A single car at the Roosevelt Road station.

Here, we are just south of Roosevelt Road, at the beginning of double track.

Here, we are just south of Roosevelt Road, at the beginning of double track.

We are just south of the Roosevelt Road station looking north. From here to Mannheim and 22nd, it was single track.

We are just south of the Roosevelt Road station looking north. From here to Mannheim and 22nd, it was single track.

The Chicago & West Towns Railways also had some private right-of-way in the western suburbs. Car 160 is shown near LaGrange in December 1945.

The Chicago & West Towns Railways also had some private right-of-way in the western suburbs. Car 160 is shown near LaGrange in December 1945.

PS- You can read more about Acme Worm Bouncer here.  You can also see some additional pictures of the Westchester branch here.

52 Years Ago Today…

Car 736 on the Mundelein branch.

Car 736 on the Mundelein branch.

The U.S. lost one of its last electric interurban railways on January 21, 1963, a very cold day indeed, as the Chicago, North Shore & Milwaukee (aka the North Shore Line) stopped running. We thought we would commemorate that fateful anniversary by featuring some rare and seldom-seen photos.  (PS- you can bring up a larger version of each photo by clicking on it.)

I was just 8 years old at the time, and never got the chance to ride the North Shore Line, but I have certainly appreciated it since I was a kid and learned of its demise. Still pictures are fine, but motion pictures have a remarkable ability to bring things from the past back to life.

You too can experience the North Shore Line in motion by attending this Friday’s Central Electric Railfans’ Association program in Downtown Chicago. For further information, go here.

-David Sadowski

According to Don's Rail Photos, loco 453 "was built by General Electric in June 1918, (order) #6903."

According to Don’s Rail Photos, loco 453 “was built by General Electric in June 1918, (order) #6903.”

Electric loco 453 heads up a short freight train.

Electric loco 453 heads up a short freight train.

Silverliner 737 crawls along the bridge just south of the Milwaukee terminal.

Silverliner 737 crawls along the bridge just south of the Milwaukee terminal.

North Shore city streetcar 351 in Milwaukee prior to the abandonment of service on August 12, 1951. Sister car 354 is at the Illinois Railway Museum.

North Shore city streetcar 351 in Milwaukee prior to the abandonment of service on August 12, 1951. Sister car 354 is at the Illinois Railway Museum.

According to Don's Rail Photos, "(Birney) 327 was built by Cincinnati Car Co in December 1922, #2625. It was retired in 1947 and scrapped in April 1948." They were lettered for Chicago & Milwaukee Electric since that was the franchise holder.

According to Don’s Rail Photos, “(Birney) 327 was built by Cincinnati Car Co in December 1922, #2625. It was retired in 1947 and scrapped in April 1948.” It was lettered for Chicago & Milwaukee Electric since that was the franchise holder.

CNS&M 178 heads up a two-car train on Chicago's Loop. The 4000s in the background are heading in the same direction as the North Shore train.

CNS&M 178 heads up a two-car train on Chicago’s Loop. The 4000s in the background are heading in the same direction as the North Shore train.

Cars at Highwood, the North Shore headquarters.

Cars at Highwood, the North Shore headquarters.

A photo stop on one of the many North Shore Line fantrips in later years.

A photo stop on one of the many North Shore Line fantrips in later years.

Silverliner 762 gets flagged through the busy "throat" of the Milwaukee terminal, circa 1960.

Silverliner 762 gets flagged through the busy “throat” of the Milwaukee terminal, circa 1960.

Silverliners at the Milwaukee terminal.

Silverliners at the Milwaukee terminal.

Line car 606 at the Milwaukee terminal. According to Don's Rail Photos, "606 was built by Cincinnati in January 1923, (order) #2620. In 1963 it became Chicago Transit Authority S-606 and burned in 1978. The remains were sold to the Indiana Transportation Museum."

Line car 606 at the Milwaukee terminal. According to Don’s Rail Photos, “606 was built by Cincinnati in January 1923, (order) #2620. In 1963 it became Chicago Transit Authority S-606 and burned in 1978. The remains were sold to the Indiana Transportation Museum.”

Another fantrip train. Perhaps one of our knowledgeable readers can identify the location.

Another fantrip train. Perhaps one of our knowledgeable readers can identify the location.

A "railfan's view" along the Skokie Valley Route.

A “railfan’s view” along the Skokie Valley Route.

Silverliner 738 in the snow.

Silverliner 738 in the snow.

CNS&M 747 heads up a Chicago Limited.

CNS&M 747 heads up a Chicago Limited.

Along the Mundelein branch.

Along the Mundelein branch.

Car 758 heads up a train in 1941.

Car 758 heads up a train in 1941.

Electroliner 801-802 passes Tower 18 on Chicago's Loop.

Electroliner 801-802 passes Tower 18 on Chicago’s Loop.

Perhaps one of our keen-eyed readers can help identify this location.

Perhaps one of our keen-eyed readers can help identify this location.

CNS&M 725 on layover at Roosevelt Road on February 13, 1960, during a heavy snowstorm. (Richard H. Young Photo)

CNS&M 725 on layover at Roosevelt Road on February 13, 1960, during a heavy snowstorm. (Richard H. Young Photo)

A view showing the coupling and diaphragm between Silverliners 415 (dining car) and 768 (coach); special excursion train, Northbrook, February 1960. (Richard H. Young Photo)

A view showing the coupling and diaphragm between Silverliners 415 (dining car) and 768 (coach); special excursion train, Northbrook, February 1960. (Richard H. Young Photo)

CNS&M 237 heads up six multiple unit express motors at Pettibone Yard, North Chicago Junction, February 13, 1960. (Richard H.

CNS&M 237 heads up six multiple unit express motors at Pettibone Yard, North Chicago Junction, February 13, 1960. (Richard H. Young Photo)

CNS&M car 300 on a Central Electric Railfans' Association fantrip. For a few years, prior to WWII, the railroad let the fans use this as a "club car."

CNS&M car 300 on a Central Electric Railfans’ Association fantrip. For a few years, prior to WWII, the railroad let the fans use this as a “club car.”

Another view of CERA club car 300 on an early fantrip on the Shore Line route.

Another view of CERA club car 300 on an early fantrip on the Shore Line route.

Silverliner 768 at the Milwaukee terminal. This slide was processed in January 1963, meaning this could be the last day.

Silverliner 768 at the Milwaukee terminal. This slide was processed in January 1963, meaning this could be the last day.

You've probably seen "first day of issue" stamp covers before, but this is kind of the opposite. Some railfans mailed these commemorative envelopes to themselves on January 21, 1963, the day the North Shore Line finally passed into history.

You’ve probably seen “first day of issue” stamp covers before, but this is kind of the opposite. Some railfans mailed these commemorative envelopes to themselves on January 21, 1963, the day the North Shore Line finally passed into history.