A not-for-profit technical & educational society, established in 1938

Upcoming Programs

CERA in June!


Chicago’s Metropolitan ‘L’

Presented by Bruce Moffat

Friday, June 9, 2023, at 7 p.m. (CENTRAL TIME)

Long time CERA member and author Bruce Moffat will take us on a look back at one of the Chicago "L" system's major predecessor companies -- the Metropolitan West Side Elevated.  

Opening in 1895, as the third elevated railway to serve Chicago, it was the first to open using electricity. Although little of the Met's original structure remains in place today, its routes which fanned out to serve the city's west and northwest sides and adjoining suburbs remain with us today as CTA's Blue and Pink Lines. Bruce has written three books on Chicago Elevated history and two on Chicago's unique freight tunnel system. He is also a regular contributor to First & Fastest magazine.

This 2nd Friday Zoom program is open to all! 

Join the Zoom meeting at: 




Meeting ID: 814 9251 7167 

Passcode: 880028

Or dial in: 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)


The Great Third Rail (CA&E)

Presented by William Shapotkin

Friday, June 23, 2023

at 7 p.m. (CENTRAL TIME)

This members-only fourth Friday in-person program kicks off our 85th Anniversary Weekend! "The Great Third Rail" is a historical look back by William Shapotkin.

In 1963, a young William Shapotkin saw the scrapping of the Chicago Aurora and Elgin (CA&E) thru his hometown of Lombard. Although only eight years old at the time, he felt then (as he does now -- some 60 years later) that he missed out on something really special by having been unable to see, ride or photograph the line.

The program will provide us with a look back at the glory days of "The Great Third Rail," also known as "The Sunset Lines."

In operation for less than 60 years, the CA&E provided fast, frequent, electrified rail transit between Chicago and the Western Suburbs and the Fox River Valley communities of Aurora, Batavia, Elgin and at one time, Geneva-St Charles. Historian and published author William Shapotkin will take us back to the pre-Expressway days when one could conveniently travel by electric traction west from Chicago. 

Join us as we take a look back to when "It was a better world" for public transit west of Chicago on the lines of "The Great Third Rail," the Chicago Aurora and Elgin.

The Members-Only presentation will be live from Chicago, with a Zoom link sent to members in good standing.

The June 23 program begins promptly at 7 p.m. Central at the clubroom of 899 S. Plymouth Court, Chicago, IL.

To join, visit https://cera-chicago.org/join Or let us know by email if you have questions at: ceraoffice@gmail.com

For more railfan programming listings, visit:

Questions? Send us an email at ceraoffice@gmail.com


MCERA William Shapotkin, who is working diligently to make the 85th Anniversary Weekend a success, is also working hard on his own annual meet-up, the Hoosier Traction Meet.

On Friday and Saturday, August 25 and 26, 2023, join your fellow railfans for The Annual North American Transit Historical Meeting, in conjunction with the HOOSIER TRACTION MEET, an annual conference recognizing mass transportation, especially electrically powered, rail-based systems for urban and regional mobility in the past, present and future.

This year, the event takes place in Normal, Illinois, at the Holiday Inn Bloomington-Normal located at 8 Traders Circle, Normal IL 61761.

Presentations typically focus on transit anywhere in the United States or Canada.

While not an official CERA function, we're happy to let all railfans know about the meet.

See the full schedule here.

Join CERA now

Not a member? Haven't renewed for 2023? There's no time like the present.

Visit https://cera-chicago.org/join Or let us know by email if you have questions at: ceraoffice@gmail.com

Questions? Send us an email at ceraoffice@gmail.com

For more railfan programming listings, visit:


Please consider donating to CERA. Our members and non-members alike help us keep providing monthly programming, annual books, periodic trips and events and more. Simply click on the donate button.

CERA's 85th

Anniversary Weekend!

Join us for an activity-filled weekend as we celebrate the 85th Anniversary of the Central Electric Railfans’ Association on June 23 - 25, 2023.

We'll be viewing and riding interurbans past and present. Reserve now for a historic CERA weekend!

On Friday, June 23 at 7 p.m. in Chicago, MCERA William Shapotkin will present a program on the Chicago Aurora and Elgin RR from his vast slide collection at our clubhouse at 899 S. Plymouth Court. in Chicago.

This is a live and in-person program.

Then on Saturday, June 24, join us on an outing to the Fox River Trolley Museum where we’ll ride AE&FRE #304 on its home rails.

Later we’ll move on to the Illinois Railway Museum for an exclusive charter aboard a CA&E train.

Charter buses depart Union Station and CTA’s Blue Line Cumberland station.

These are historic buses (non-ADA accessible) with limited capacity so reserve now!

Please note: Our planned, optional meet-up on the South Shore Line for Sunday, June 25, has been canceled due to ongoing work on the line which will make logistics difficult at this time.

Pricing: $75.00
IRM Members: $60 _______ ($15 off, using your membership).

Print out and return the attached form, or register online here.


After a brief hiatus from our webpages, CERA is happy to announce that previous videos hosted on YouTube, are now back up and running. 
And stay tuned for more, as we will be editing and posting more recent videos in the days to come.

Here is a list, and links, to currently available videos. Click on the date:

July 2021: Cedar Rapids: A Tale of Two Interurbans, presented by Luke Stephens.

September 2020: A visual appreciation of the South Shore Line by John Nicholson.

October 2020: "Hungary for Streetcars? Czech this out!" a travelog of railfanning in Eastern Europe, by Raymond DeGroote, Jr.

November 2020: The Loop: The 'L' Tracks that Shaped and Saved Chicago by Patrick Reardon.

December 2020: Manhattan Transfer, by David Wilson


Order CERA Bulletin B-151 today!

The highly anticipated new book from CERA, Trolleys to the Boardwalk is now available. It is being shipped as a benefit of membership to all who were members in 2018.

We also have books in hand at our Chicago offices and are ready to send them. Please click on Buy a Book to order.

B-151 is a history of Atlantic City Trolleys from 1854 to 1955, written by James J.N. Henwood, who ecounts the story of trolley operation in Atlantic City, from humble horse cars to the modern Brilliners.

Originally conceived of as a seaside shipping port, Atlantic City’s developers realized its potential for summer visitors seeking an escape from crowded cities to the inviting beaches of the Jersey Shore. Resorts and other businesses burgeoned, helped by the crowds brought to the city over three railroads.

Local transportation began with a simple horsecart service as well as a steam dummy operation. It was traction Pioneer Frank J. Sprague who electrified the city railway in 1889. Under the control of the Pennsylvania Railroad, lines were ultimately consolidated into the Atlantic City & Shore Railroad. Over the years AC&S operated the local Atlantic City trolley service and a short interurban—the Shore Fast Line-between Atlantic City and Ocean City. There was also another electric line in the area, the Atlantic City & Suburban, that led a troubled existence and suffered an early demise.

Come on board and ride back with us in time to relive Atlantic City’s colorful trolley era.


Copyright 2018 Central Electric Railfans' Association. All Right Reserved 

Central Electric Railfans' Association is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.  P.O. Box 503, Chicago, IL  60690

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