Roarin’ Elgin on the North Shore?

CA&E cars 130 and 139, on CERA Fantrip #46 (July 14, 1946). Location is Franklin St. siding in Waukegan. (Author's collection)

CA&E cars 130 and 139, on CERA Fantrip #46 (July 14, 1946). Location is Franklin St. siding in Waukegan. (Author’s collection)

A long time ago, I heard a rumor that some CA&E equipment ran on the North Shore Line during World War II. Today’s picture might show just that, but as with most things, the situation is a bit more complicated than it might seem. According to Don’s Rail Photos:

In 1936, the CA&E leased 11 surplus cars from the CNS&M. These cars were modified for service by raising the coupler height, installing electric heat instead of the coal-fired hot water heaters, modifying the control, and adding jumper receptacles and other minor fittings to allow them to train with the other CA&E cars. Since these were 50 mile per hour cars, and the CA&E cars wer 60 MPH cars, they were soon operated only in trains of their own kind rather than mixed in with other cars. In 1945 they were returned to the North Shore where they operated briefly. They were purchased (by CA&E) in 1946 and last ran in regular service in September, 1953.

The September 1953 end-of-service date coincides with when CA&E service was cut back to Forest Park during construction of the Congress Super-Highway. These cars (numbered 129-144) were built by either Jewett or American Car Co. circa 1907-10 for the Chicago & Milwaukee Electric, a predecessor of the CNS&M. They were rebuilt in 1914 with train doors and narrowed ends to allow operation on the Chicago “L” system.

CA&E cars ran downtown to a terminal just outside the Loop “L” structure. To move these cars to the North Shore Line, and vice versa, they would have crossed the Loop. Hopefully, someone snapped a picture.

After CA&E quit, the Illinois Electric Railway Museum in North Chicago acquired some of their cars. At this point the North Shore was still running, so IERM came up with the idea of a NS fantrip using CA&E cars. Management ultimately rejected the idea, but not before sending a mechanic to check out the CA&E equipment, which he declared was in better shape than some of their own.

P1000350

CERA has covered by the North Shore and the Roarin’ Elgin extensively, most notably in the early 1960s, with the classic books Interurban To Milwaukee, Route of the Electroliners, and The Great Third Rail. All are out of print but available on the used market.

CERA B-141, Before the North Shore Line

CERA B-141, Before the North Shore Line

A few years back, CERA published a “prequel” to the two North Shore books with B-141, Before the North Shore Line by Edward Tobin:

Waukegan was the birthplace of the Chicago North Shore & Milwaukee Railroad, one of the nation’s premier interurban electric railways. Author Ed Tobin recounts the railroad’s humble origins as the Bluff City Electric Street Railway and traces its rapid evolution into the high speed Chicago & Milwaukee Electric Railway, taking the story up to the time that the company came under Insull control. This 224 page book is packed with never before published information and photographs depicting the railway in its early days. You will also learn about A.C. Frost, a tireless promoter who helped create “America’s fastest interurban.”

You can purchase a copy here. The price is $29 for CERA members, and $39 for non-members.

-David Sadowski

1946 CERA Fantrip ticket (Collection of John T. Csoka)

1946 CERA Fantrip ticket (Collection of John T. Csoka)

1946 CERA Fantrip ticket (Collection of John T. Csoka)

1946 CERA Fantrip ticket (Collection of John T. Csoka)

The 129-144 series were not the only ones that had their ends altered to fit the Chicago "L" system, with its tight turns. Here is ex-WB&A 38, reconfigured as CA&E 603. (Author's collection)

The 129-144 series were not the only ones that had their ends altered to fit the Chicago “L” system, with its tight turns. Here is ex-WB&A 38, reconfigured as CA&E 603. (Author’s collection)

Checking with Don’s Rail Photos again, we note:

In 1937, the CA&E needed additional equipment. Much was available, but most of the cars suffered from extended lack of maintenance. Finally, 5 coaches were found on the Washington Baltimore & Annapolis which were just the ticket. 35 thru 39, built by Cincinnati Car in 1913, were purchased and remodeled for service as 600 thru 604. The ends were narrowed for service on the El. They had been motors, but came out as control trailers. Other modifications included drawbars, control, etc. A new paint scheme was devised. Blue and grey with red trim and tan roof was adopted from several selections. They entered service between July and October in 1937.

603 was built by Cincinnati Car Co in 1913 as WB&A 38. It was sold as CA&E 603 in September 1937.

Here we see CA&E 701, ex-WB&A 81, at Wheaton yard on September 5, 1943. This car was built by Cincinnati Car Co. in 1913. (Author's collection)

Here we see CA&E 701, ex-WB&A 81, at Wheaton yard on September 5, 1943. This car was built by Cincinnati Car Co. in 1913. (Author’s collection)

At least some ex-WB&A cars lasted until the end of CA&E service. Here we see car 604 (former WB&A 39) at Wheaton yard on June 25, 1961. (Author's collection)

At least some ex-WB&A cars lasted until the end of CA&E service. Here we see car 604 (former WB&A 39) at Wheaton yard on June 25, 1961. (Author’s collection)



Categories: Chicago Area, Interurbans

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6 replies

  1. The photo showing the two wooden cars on the street appear to be Greenleaf in Wilmette which lasted until the Shore Line was abandoned in July, 1955. There were plans as well as ROW purchased for a by-pass that would have taken the Shore Line south next to the CNW up to and about Isabella which was the border between Wilmette and Evanston. My understanding is that the ROW was sold around 1947, after WW2. Yes, I rode that route along Greenleaf many times as a kid. Because of the former line (even the tracks were yanked out of the street) one can see where the street narrows down where the railroad went back to PROW near the Linden Avenue stop.

    The photo on the “prequel” also appears to be at Ravinia Park which was something that Insull promoted and helped to bring major events including the Chicago Symphony Orchestra; a tradition that continues today. One additional footnote about Greenleaf; certain teens whose names we will not mention were known to put torpedoes on the track waiting for the final northbound train to wake up the citizens! I plead the fifth!

  2. Some people think the location could be 5th in Milwaukee. The rationale is that Greenleaf was paved in brick from curb to curb, but 5th had both brick and concrete. Also, comparing this to other pictures of Greenleaf, the houses there appear to be set back more than in this one.

    Finally, it looks like there are two-flats in the fantrip photo, while Greenleaf was all single family dwellings.

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