The Open Steel Highway
Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Closing of the North Shore Interurban
Join the Lake Forest-Lake Bluff Historical Society for a lecture commemorating the 50th anniversary of the closing of the North Shore Line, an electric interurban railway between Chicago and Milwaukee that made stops in all the communities along the lake.
The lecture, presented by railroad consultant and historian Norman Carlson, takes place on Sunday January 27, 2013 at 3:00 pm. The lecture will be held at the Lily Reid Holt Memorial Chapel at Lake Forest College. The program is free to members of the Historical Society and $15 for nonmembers. Tickets can be purchased at www.lflbhistory.org or 847-234-5253.
The Historical Society is offering a $50 sponsorship to fund the conservation of a one-of-a-kind collection of glass negatives of the North Shore Interurban. These images are in the collection of the Lake Forest-Lake Bluff Historical Society.
At the lecture, copies of the new publication The Road of Service: Perspectives of the North Shore Line, edited by Norman Carlson, will be available for purchase for a specially marked price of $25. $10 of the purchase price of each book benefits the Lake Forest-Lake Bluff Historical Society.
Today’s bike paths through Lake Forest and Lake Bluff were once the tracks of the North Shore Interurban. Train service along the original route from Waukegan to Highland Park through downtown Lake Bluff and Lake Forest, later known as the Shore Line Route, began in 1898 with the extension to Evanston the next year. Lake Forest was particularly demanding in its requirements to grant a franchise and extracted a fee which was used to build City Hall. The owners built Ravinia Park in 1904 to generate more passenger traffic. The railroad was extended from Lake Bluff to Mundelein in 1905 and to Milwaukee in 1908. In 1916, Samuel Insull assumed control and transformed the company into a legendary electric interurban railway.
To provide faster service between Chicago and Milwaukee, the Skokie Valley Route opened on June 5, 1926 in what later became the U. S. Highway 41 corridor. Dining cars and parlor cars graced the trains and the sleek looking Electroliner Train traveled up to 80 miles per hour on this route.
Lake Bluff has been called the “Heart of the North Shore” because of the three routes intersecting—the Shore Line, the Skokie Valley and the branch to Libertyville. The electrical poles and part of the metal frames that held the wires can still be seen on the south side of Route 176—remnants of the Libertyville branch.
American's acceptance of the automobile as the preferred method of travel doomed the railroad in an era before public subsidy of suburban transit was an accepted practice. The Shore Line Route ceased operations on July 24, 1955 and the Skokie Valley Route ceased operations on January 20, 1963. Fifty years later, memories of, and affection for, the North Shore Line remain strong.
Speaker Norman Carlson is the retired worldwide managing partner of Arthur Andersen's transportation industry practice and is nationally known for his contributions to the recording of railroad history. He is a member of the Business Advisory Counsel to the Transportation Center at Northwestern University and is the president of the Shore Line Interurban Historical Society. Mr. Carlson is also the editor of Shore Line's quarterly magazine, First & Fastest, which is recognized as the premier magazine in its field.