Rider Memories of the North
I remember the NSL from about 1939 on. When I was a kid, my grandparents
lived in Racine. There house backed up to the NSL on Grove St. between 15th
and 16th. As we (Myself & Brother) spent a lot of time with them. Our
bedroom backed up to the tracks. I remember the piggy back trains and the
sailor trains that used EL cars at a very slow speed during the war. About
1942-3 they moved across the NSL to 1509 West Blvd. We lived with them for
a couple of years during WWII . My bed room faced the NSL. In about 1946-7
my mother took me to Dempster Station and I rode the evening train to my
Grandparents. What is special about this trip, is I ate in a standard diner.
I remember when the "EL" came into Dempster Street. We could hear and see
the St. Paul train going to Sturtevant for interchange to the main line.
The train ran about 6-7:00 P.M. It had an L2 hand fired "Mike" and an I-5
0-6-0 switch engine as a pusher up to Willow, the CMW crossing, now called
Waxdale for Johnsons Wax company. The I-5 would cut off and drift back to
the roundhouse in downtown Racine. At that time there was a maned tower at
Willow and also at the NSL crossing about 3-4 blocks south of the house.
I was born in 1958 and my earliest memories were riding with my father on
the NSL from Chicago to the Glenayre (later Glenview?) station in the summer
of 1962. I remember there was a little station building and a parking lot.
I remember that fragrant lilac bushes used to grow in front of the station.
A few years ago I remember observing that just north of the site of the Glenview
station and Glenview road are the twisted remains of some of Mr. Insull's
catanary towers, partially buried in a wooded ravine.
I spent many years playing in the area of a fascinating collection of abandoned
NSL freight tracks behind the Kutten Oil Company at the Wilmette-Glenview
border. Further up north, I remember a spur track branching off right into
the center of what is downtown Northfield! Near my family's house in Glenview
there was once a NSL grade crossing on the Skokie Valley Route at Wilmette
In December of 1962, in the week between Christmas and New Years, my father
treated us to a train ride to Milwaukee to visit my aunt and uncle. We took
the Northwestern northbound (which "400" it was, I do not remember, except
that it was in the morning and the train had single-level coaches). We stayed
there so late, we missed the last usable Northwestern train. So, we decided
to take the North Shore Line back to Evanston.
I was eight years old, and had not ridden the North Shore Line before this.
My brother, who was 12, had actually ridden the old Shore Line route. Neither
of us had ever ridden the Electroliner, which we knew as a gray-green blur
that we had seen from the windows of our '56 Plymouth Savoy while cruising
down the new Edens Highway.
Uncle Harry took us to the old station at 6th and Michigan. I remember that
it was very dark inside except for the area by the doors to the train gates.
We walked down the platform over toward the righthand side of the stub tracks,
and there it was, still sleek after 21 years of operation, the Electroliner!
(I must digress, as a very young boy, I had stood on the Howard street 'L'
platform and watched the Electroliner pause there. I remember seeing ketchup
bottles through the windows, so I must have been standing by the dining unit
when it stopped.)
As the Electroliner was the next train out, we climbed aboard. We sat towards
the rear of the last car. I remember the seats being red plush and the walls
were beige. The window to the motorman's compartment I think was red.
As the train pulled out of the station, I was amazed that we were rolling
down the middle of a Milwaukee street. 10 minutes later we were rolling at
speed through the cold Wisconsin night. We were part of the scream and the
We rolled into Howard Street and that's where we left the Electroliner. I
touched it as it started on its way to the Loop, and my mother wisely grabbed
my hand away. But I didn't want to let it go.
I was born in Milwaukee in 1951. My father liked to visit Chicago several
times a year, and because of the fast, convenient service on the North Shore,
Milwaukee Road and North Western, we always went by rail. When riding the
North Shore, I had an important advantage at boarding time. Being small and
impatient, I was able to sprint directly to the railfan seat next to the
motorman's compartment. I suspect that a more mature railfan, also wanting
that seat, would have hesitated to race down the platform after me. For the
money, it had to be the most exciting ride anywhere - down the city streets
of Milwaukee like a streetcar - streaking along private right-of-way, with
the horn right outside the front window blaring its warning at each grade
crossing (I was too young to fully appreciate the possibility of tangling
with a truck at 90mph) - and finally riding high above the backyards of Chicago,
directly into the heart of America's second city! An experience not likely
to be duplicated.
When I was 10 years old in 1957, my family moved to Skokie, about 2 blocks
from the Dempster Station. At that time, there was open prarie where now
stands the CTA parking lot. I used to spend hours on end in the prarie with
abandoned cars just watching the trains go by. If I got lucky, an Electroliner
would pass by at about 70 miles per hour. Some days, I would just walk to
the station and wait for these passing trains and the rush of 70 mile per
hour winds. I never did get to ride on one of the Electroliners, but did
take many trips into Chicago (the Wilson Ave. station) to visit my grandmother
on the regular trains. Putting pennies on the tracks and then picking them
up after the trains passed was a thrill for me. Boy was that a stupid thing
to do, or what!!! Thanks for listening.
One day, when I was in the fifth grade at Hubbard Woods School, my mother
and I went to catch the train at Hubbard Woods station, and inscribed on
the wall of the station was The Following Boys Love Blair McElroy
and a comprehensive list of the boys in Miss Kearnss fifth grade. My
mother, believing that proper ladies had their names published only three
timesto announce their birth, their marriage, and their deathwas
shocked and unhappy. (Perhaps, since I have never married, this instance
took the place of the wedding notice . . .)
My mother had a fancy acquaintance who lived on Woodley Road, in Winnetka.
At some point during renovations on this womans house she couldnt
use her bathroom, so, for the duration, her chauffeur would take her to the
North Shore station in Winnetka. She would disappear into the bathroom with
her furs and jewels, or whatever they were, and emerge after having made
her toilette, ready for the day.
Blair M., New Trier (Class of 1951)
I have been an avid fan of the NSL since I was a child. I grew up in Chicago
and Lincolnwood. My grandmother lived in Skokie on Kirk street, 3 blocks
from the NSL crossing on Crawford Avenue. I spent many summer days turning
quarters into half dollars by placing them on the tracks. My hobby was to
wait and watch the trains roll by. My favorite was the Electroliner. I always
wanted to ride on the North Shore. My one and only opportunity came in September
of 1961 when I decided to run away from home. I was 13 at the time. I ditched
school and bought my ticket at the Skokie station on Dempster Street. I rode
that beautiful train all the way from Skokie to Milwaukee. I was in heaven
until the end of the line. When I got off, I realized that Milwaukee was
not Lincolnwood, so.......I called my mom and told her I had run away from
home, but decided to return. She never even had a chance to real the letter
that I had written about running away. I purchased my return ticket and had
another great ride back home. I can vividly recall the sounds, the smells,
and the sailors. My mom picked me up at the station and I never ran away
from home again.
As an adult, I had the opportunity to teach with a guy named Charles H. Keevil.
He was the son of the Keevil that put together a video about the North Shore
Line. Both had worked for the NSL. Last summer, I had the opportunity to
visit the Illinois Railway Museum and see some of the old NSL cars. It was
great. Keep up the great web site. The NSL issomething that will always remain
a major part of my life.
When I was in high school, I was a member of the Niles West Choir. Our music
director was a member of Kiawanas, so once year we sold peanuts. I was assigned
to the North Shore Station in Skokie. As each train pulled into the station,
I would wait for the cars to fill. Then, I would board and begin to go from
seat to seat and sell peanuts. While I was doing this routine, one of the
NSL trains took off for Chicago. I tried to get the conductor to stop, but
he refused to get the train off schedule. I rode all the way to Evanston.
I had no money for the fare, so I gave the conductor 3 bags of peanuts as
payment. I did the same thing to get back to the Skokie station, except that
ride cost me 5 bags of peanuts.
I rode the NSL from Chicago to Waukegan and round trip from Waukegan to Milwaukee
somewhere in the early 60's. I was about 10 years old but I remember it as
clear as a bell! I lived on Jefferson Ct. which was about a half block
from Edison Ct.station. The tracks ran parallel with Jefferson Ct. and
I used to play on them quite a bit because they were just a few feet from
my back yard. I am and have been a railfan and the North Shore Line will
always be in my heart.
F. Hawkins Jr
I had only a few chances to ride the line from Chi to Milw while attending
college in 59-62. Rode the Electroliner (in the railfan's seat) on one memorable
trip. Also rode the Libertyliner several times. Still pay my annual pilgrimmage
to either/or Shade Gap or IRM to visit.... Again, thanks for the site...I'll
Ran across your site today . . . looks good. Nice to see so many memories.
I was born a little before you (1937). My first memories of riding the Shore
Line from Central Street in Evanston to Central in Highland Park. I can remember
seeing a few of the orange paint jobs, but not very many. I used to go to
Wilmette Ave station and watch the trains during the afternoon rush hour
. . . my allowance was 50 cents a week. Believe the round trip half-fare
to Highwood and the Loop was 49 cents so you know what I did most weeks.
My grandmother took me to North Chicago Jct in July of 1948 . . . we took
the noon train out of Chicago (1pm at the jct) and I had lunch in the diner
(standard not electroliner). A lifetime thrill for a 11 year old. I rode
the C&M Electric street cars in Milwaukee (what a rough ride).
I discovered the Illinois Railway museum when it was behind Petticoat Jct.
yard at North Chicago. Lots of wonderful memories . . .
I grew up in the Lake Villa and visited Zion and Waukegan while the North
Shore was still running. I don't remember seeing the 'Liner but the steel
coaches I remember (mostly as an 80 MPH blur!).
My earliest memory of the North Shore Line is from 1952; during my
Chicago high school years. My best girlfriend and I were "fascinated" at
that time with the Great Lakes sailors. We decided to take the North Shore
train to Waukegan and see what was happening there. We boarded the North
Shore Electroliner in the Chicago Loop. This was a big adventure for us -
going "out of town" without parents!! It must be remembered that parents
in the '50s ruled with total "authority". The train ride was uneventful.
I remember passing the Great Lakes station and marveled at all the sailors
waiting to take a train "the other way!" We arrived "unscathed" in Waukegan;
I remember the station on Washington Street near Lewis. We walked to downtown
Waukegan, turned around and went back to the station and headed for Chicago.
All of this freedom was mind-boggling; must have been in Waukegan a total
of one hour! Three years later, I was riding the North Shore Line to Chicago
and back every day! My folks had moved from Chicago to a home near Antioch.
I worked downtown and the North Shore Line was convenient because the train
circled the Loop on the El tracks, close to where I worked. The monthly passes
were around $35. The trains were always on time. The Electroliner was a treat
to ride - especially when I had a couple of extra dollars to spend on a mixed
drink (probably a Hi-Ball) in the dining car, and if I wanted to get wild
and crazy . . . a turkey sandwich.
Thank you, dear Laura, for bringing back wonderful memories . . . when life
was simple, uncluttered and fun, from a teen-ager's point-of-view.
I'm Laura's Mom- IRIS
(and I LOVE MY Mother!)
Wonderful Site. Especially for those that watched and rode the line.
I remember arriving in Milwaukee, and the trip down the middle of the street.
I also remember almost having my car fun over by the "worm". I lived near
the Skokie terminal and have picutres of the last run. not good, but full
I was in the US Navy from 1959 to 1963 & the best travelling
I had was right on the North Shore Line, mostly from Downy Station to Chicago,
but I also travelled to Milwaukee as well. I can still smell the ozone from
the electric motors & the squeeling of the wheels as the cars zoomed
through Chicago. Thank you for taking the time to create this website.
I grew up in Racine and Chicago and rode the North Shore Line manay many
times. I remember the piggyback and milk trians as well as the MD car sitting
at the Racine freight house. I ran a 4 car train at IRM and even though I
was an engineer on the railroad, this was one of my best rail related
experiences. I was (also a) traffic manager for a building materials
firm in Chicago 1962-1964 and shipped cars via the NSL. We took team track
delivery of carloads of brick and cement and I saved all the old freight
bills from those days. I also used the CTA South Blvd. team track in Evanston
and I think I was the last shipper to use this location. I routed a carload
of bagged cement to a construction project in Evanston. Most histories indicate
that this was the last steam road car ever placed on the siding. You've got
a great Website and have done a good job. I'll visit often.
I have fond memories the NSL as well. I was born in 1950 and raised in Waukegan.
My father's dry cleaner business, Artistic Cleaners was just two blocks away
from Edison Court station. Guess what I did everyday? I used to watch the
green and red cars roll in and out of the station, and watch passengers and
of course sailors get on and off. I remember the headlamps would dim while
the train was unloading. When it was ready to roll, the gates on Washington
Street would come down, the headlamp brighten, horn blast and that familiar
sound of the electric motors winding up. Then, the faint image of glowing
lanterns on the back , as it headed towards Milwaukee at better than a mile
a minute occasionally illuminating the night with some bright sparks from
the overhead wires. Wow...what great memories.
My father rode the North Shore from Milwaukee to Chicago two to four times
a week during the early '60's. He was on staff at a hospital in Wauwatosa
and was taking classes at a medical school in Chicago. I have only one memory
of a trip on the North Shore. I remember sitting in the fan seat of a standard
coach heading south at Ryan Tower. I was four years old at the time....In
the early 1970's, I was a volunteer at the old East Troy Trolley Museum.
Sometimes I was a crew member on North Shore cars 757, 763 and 411. I remember
working as a trainman with retired North Shore employee Hank Bykirk at the
controls. He never lost his touch...Until moving to Nevada in 1985, it was
an annual tradition to have dinner at the former Kenosha station on January
21 with fellow traction fans.
This past summer I took my family to the IRM for day. My wife was amazed
at the smooth ride of the old North Shore coaches and our three year old
daughter was all smiles.
Thanks for letting me share this with you.
Kenneth J. Josephson
I was born in Milwaukee in 1941 and my memories of the North Shore go from
the mid 40's to the end. I had relatives living in Kenosha. I traveled the
North Shore on many of my visits to them. The Electroliners were impressive
but I really liked to ride the old heavy cars the best. I can even recall
making some trips to Kenosha on the Milwaukee Electric prior to 1947. In
the 1950's I made occasional trips to the Loop on the North Shore. In my
high school days, I rode my bicycle to 6th & Clybourn in Milwaukee to
watch the train movements. It was always a treat to watch a train sway through
the turnouts and curves to the lower storage yard. I also would go to 5 &
Harrison to watch the trains transition from street running to private
right-of-way. ..The North Shore to the Loop was the first leg of my journey
to San Diego when I joined the Marine Corps in 1959. My final trip was southbound
to the Loop about ten days before the last run.
Gary J. Heiligenthal
For several Christmases during my late 50's and early 60's childhood, my
grandmother took me to Chicago and Milwaukee on the North Shore. Spoiled
beyond belief, we made the rounds of the Loop department stores one week
and the downtown Milwaukee emporiums the next.
I have vague memories of riding ancient coaches decked out in green velour
seating and more modern steel cars with maroon upholstery. I remember the
amazing speed of the trains and rocking of the cars, conductors transferring
from the overhead lines to the third rail in Chicago and the haute cuisine
of a peanut butter sandwich in the ElectroLiner lounge car. I can still recall
the thick lashing of sweet cream butter combined with vaguely greasy peanut
butter on white bread. I think it cost all of seventy cents. My grandmother
must have been thoroughly amused with me relishing those sandwiches as I
sat among businss commuters as they scanned their copies of the afternoon
papers. I seem to recall one of them once offered me a cigar.
At the Washington street crossing at Edison Court in the late 50's I remember
the "watchman" in the small tower on the northwest side of the crossing who
would drop the gates for the departing northbound trains. As he would lower
the gates, he would manually clang a large bell to warn traffic. This bell
had a deep resonant sound that gave me goosebumps. After the several
"clang-clangs" the higher pitched crossing gate bells would begin, followed
by the ozonish smell, feel, and sound of the traction motors straining to
get the beast on its way north. On 4 or 5 car trains, by the time the last
car crossed the intersection and left Edison Court, it is really moving out.
By Grand Avenue, it was a blur, but still accelerating.
The second memory is the sound of the traction motors on the el rounding
the tight curves north of the Merchandise Mart. As the train would round
a curve, the motorman would accelerate, and with the windows open, the sound
of the straining traction motors echoing off the nearby buildings was a sound
I would give almost anything to hear again.
I was very fortunate to ride the Liberty Liners regularly as a kid on the
Philadelphia & Western Railway in their reprieved final years of revenue
service. Originally purchased by PST for expanded rail service to Downingtown
PA (via the P&W and the RDG Chester Valley Br...which never materialized)
the two sets were the rage in 1960's western Phila suburbs. The bar car was
popular but patrons getting off at Bryn Mawr would be taking their first
sip on the stairway up to the parking lot as the train arrived there so quickly
Draining power from substations like nobody's business, the air conditioned
sets were not used in the Summer after the first season. I'll never forget
that whirring sound as the train would pull away from Garrett Hill station.
I hope to hear it again someday out at the Illinois museum. (I'll have a
long wait to hear it again at Shade Gap)...The sets were retired by SEPTA
(PST's successor) in 1976. The week before I was married in February of 1978,
the area was hit by a fierce blizzard. SEPTA was unsuccessful in getting
its Brills out on the line. What to do? What to do? Someone had a bright
idea and went out to the yard and brought back a Liner. After a quick sweeping
The heavy train succeeded where the trolleys couldn't.
I rode the last run of the 'Liner on the NSL as a passenger and Dispatched
the first run of the 'Liner on Illinois Railway Museum trackage. That first
morning at IRM the Electroliner came out of the fog like a phantom, first
the headlight was visible, then the name plate, then the whole nose. Several
hundred people who paid $100 for the first ride were watching and the air
was so quiet that you could have heard a whisper. Suddenly the silence was
broken by the single "blat" of the air horn. It was February 1991, fifty
years to the day after the train's inaugural run.
During my college years, I had often spent a Sunday afternoon having lunch
(and then supper) in the lounge of the Electroliner on its Sunday afternoon
trip to Milwaukee. A frequent motorman on these trips was Howard Odinius,
one of the founders of the Illinois Railway Museum. Howard died before the
train returned to Illinois, but I am sure his spirit was aboard that day
in 1991 when the 'Line, in all its glory, rolled through that bright sunny
morning. Later that afternoon, I had a chance to grab an Electroburger in
the lounge. I was home.
I lived on Prospect Street in Mundelein. This was within walking distance
of my parents house. I would collect my father's glass beer bottles which
had a 5 cent refund and haul them to the Liquor Store. I would then go to
my next stop which was the North Shore Station. I would buy candy at the
counter and sit in the shade of the station and pester the elderly motormen
with trivia questions about the cars. My least favorite variation of this
nearly daily routine was when my mother caught me on the way out the door
saying, "take your sister with you!" ( who did not share my interest in hanging
out). Many a wonderful memory I have of drinking an ice cold Nehi orange
soda under the station eaves, just hanging out.
I can remember riding the Liners as a very young lad with my father who worked
in the loop. I still have a mental picture of being in the crowded tavern-lounge
car in the afternoon, watching the countryside go by as the liner sped across
the Skokie Valley Route at 80 MPH.
An enthusiast even at the age of three, the gate tender down the block from
my home at the old Isabella Street CTA station, Tom Quinn, sometimes allowed
me to help him by hanging lighted lanterns on the lowered gates, which were
manually operated till the spring of 1960. The North Shore didn't stop at
Isabella, and one day I toddled out with a lantern that he had lit in his
shack on the west side of the tracks to hang on the easterly gates. Not thinking
about the possibility that a train could be approaching, I ducked under the
westerly gate as a Chicago Express bore down. Tom grabbed me by the shirt
collar and dragged me away just in time. Otherwise, I wouldn't be writing
this today. I can still remember getting about as close a view of a speeding
North Shore car as I'll ever care to see. It didn't dim my love for traction,
though. I proudly told anyone who would listen that when I grew up, I would
don a white cap and engineer's overalls and become a North Shore Line
motorman....I tried to convince my dad to let me ride the last day in 1963,
but he decided it was too cold. I still remember the two-car Silverliner
consist on the last train I rode on the North Shore, a Milwaukee Limited
in late '62 with my grandmother: 251-755. Both cars are preserved today:
the 251 at Union, and the 755 at Seashore.
when i was a youngster, my mother had to grab me to keep me from walking
off the "L" platform in the loop. seems something had caught my eye and was
captivating me. it was a train i had never seen before and it was absolutely
beautiful. i only saw it that one time but i can still see it sitting across
the track on the opposite platform. it was an electroliner!
My dad was looking through my "NSL Memories" book one time when he saw a
wreck dated 8-9-1956. Dad lived 1 1/2 blocks west of Glen Rock on Melrose
Avenue as a boy, and when this wreck happened he was 13 years old. It happened
about 10 PM that night that a northbound freight on the south main had just
crossed over after the Chicago Limited had cleared. The freight was delivering
coal to Rinksel's coalyard, when the Milwaukee Limited, with car 739 in the
lead, and with Dan Crabbe running motor, bumped into the gondola at the rear
of the freight. Dad also mentioned having known Mr. Crabbe, and told me it
was the last time Mr. Crabbe ran motor. My grandpa ran a funeral home in
the area which, at the time, provided ambulance service. When the crash occurred,
he and my dad were talking together in the back yard. Grandpa yelled to Grandma
to call the office for the ambulance, then both he and Dad ran to the crossing.
Crabbe's problem was that he could not see the freight, the Chicago Limited
had its bright lights on.
Hope this account is useful to
your website. Keep up the good work!
I was a frequent (almost daily at times) rider of the North Shore during
them period 1944-1955. In 1944 my family moved from Washington to Glencoe
(and later Hubbard Woods then Winnetka). For the most part I used the Shore
Line but made frequent trips to Milwaukee and other points. Some times I
would travel between Chicago and Winnetka via the Skokie Valley Line changing
at North Chicago Jct. Some of my favorite trips were on the Waukegan-Milwaukee
locals and the conventional dining cars (when this service was discontinued
in 1949 I made trips covering the last 4 meals served). I went to New Trier
High School (1947-1951) and regularly used the 3:33pm departure from Indian
Hill. School was out at 3:30pm and by running I could make it - student commuter
tickets were not honored - a special followed but I could rid using my North
Shore annual pass. Howard Clinch (son of the president) also used this train.
In June 1955 I graduated from college and left on a vaction trip to Europe
on 3rd July. Between the time I came home from college and my departure I
rode the Shore Line almost continously (taking time out for my sister's wedding
on July 2nd). My last Shore Line trip was the first leg of a trip to Europe
going east on the New York Central (a diesel failure and we had steam from
Toledo to Collinwood - the last time I had steam on a Chicago - New York
train). From 1956 until abandonment I made occasional trips on the
Skokie Line and my final trip was just a few days before abandonment. I was
working in St. Louis at the time and had a meeting in Chicago. Instgead of
using the GM&O sleeping car I came to Chicago on the mail train that
arrived around 4:30am. I took the 5:30 am train to Milwaukee returning on
the 8:00 am Electroliner.
Until I went away to school in '71, we always lived close to NSL tracks (active
and/or abandoned). We were on Chase Ave. in Rogers Park about a block from
the "L" from my earliest memories (about '56-'57) until 1964. My father commuted
daily from the Jarvis Ave."A" Station to the Loop.I could see the busy activity
on the four track "main line" just playing in front of our building or most
evenings when I'd go and wait for my dad. NSL trains were alway the most
special (along with all the old equipment on the Evanston Express trains),
with the Electroliner extra special. I loved the variety of color schemes
and equipment types, which even then I recognized. My father always liked
trains and often our Sunday drives included a stop at some crossing or station
in the North Shore (any railroad would do) suburbs just to watch a train
or two pass. I've memories of rides between '58 and '61 when an aunt/uncle
lived in Milwaukee. From Howard Street to the end of the line. I still have
menus, schedules and a few momentos from these trips. Whenever we took the
Electroliner we passed the entire ride in the Tavern. Electroburger with
potato chips (no fries on the train). My mother liked the extra attention
we received from the car's staff and it was more comfortable to pass the
time there. Later, in 1966, we moved to Ravinia in Highland Park. The NSL
was gone by then but the Ravinia station was standing and one could trespass.
The inside was empty. What was left of the railroad was still operating out
of the old station on Deerfield Rd.
I was born 11 days after the line was killed off. My earliest memory is at
about age 2. We're heading west on 21st Street in Zion and seeing a bunch
of railroad ties lying in a jumble on the ROW. I asked my mom what that was.
She said a railroad used to run there. I remember her sounding a bit choked
I found out years later that she worked as (one of?) Henry Cordell's secretary
from 1945 to the fall of 1948, when she left work to have my older brother.
Her father also worked for the line until 1955 and employees' free rides
did not extend to the Liners, so mom got ride it exactly once.
Click on the ticket to return to
Click on the sign to return to North
Shore ticket office