CERA celebrated the North Shore Line at our January program, 50 years after the last trains ran between Chicago and Milwaukee on that fateful frigid day. An overflow crowd was treated to a special professionally done feature-length video presentation prepared just for us by CERA Director Jeff Wien, with the assistance of Bradley Criss. This amazing video took us from Milwaukee to Chicago along the Skokie Valley Route, with side trips along the Mundelein Branch and Shore Line. As the North Shore Line ran into Chicago over the “L” system, there was a lot of CTA equipment in the mix too.
As an added bonus, we even got to see substantial footage of the Electroliners in their “second life,” reincarnated as Liberty Liners from 1964-76 on the “Red Arrow” Norristown High-Speed Line in Philadelphia’s suburbs. (The idea may have been to bring back a bit of the deluxe service formerly operated in these parts by the fabled Lehigh Valley Transit’s “Liberty Bell Limited,” which had quit in 1951.) The Liners were a bit hamstrung on the 14-mile-long P&W and could not really open up to 90 mph as they were once free to on CNS&M, but at least the two sets were eventually saved in museums- and they can both now run.
The presentation included 20 minutes of vintage North Shore audio, taken from a 1961 LP, painstakingly synchronized to film footage by Bradley Criss, who explained to me that this was a week’s work all by itself. Too often we fail to realize how much hard work goes into some of these programs. Many people said this was one of the finest railfan programs they have ever seen.
While there are no plans to make this video available commercially, it was an experience that we will long remember as a just and fitting tribute to a fondly remembered high-speed, high-class electric interurban railroad. The phrase that comes to mind is, “you had to be there,” if you were lucky enough to actually ride the North Shore Line, or were here in Chicago for the January CERA program. An excellent time was had by all.
The only thing that could have improved the evening would have been a juicy Electroburger, fried by 600 volts DC… but what do you want, egg in your beer?
Our picture* shows one of the two Electroliners on the “L” in 1942. Fellow CERA Director John Marton has pointed out that this early view (the Liners were only one year old at the time) shows the original nameplate, which was a decal, and not the raised metal lettering that soon replaced it.