Home / CRUISING THE PAST / Retro Thursday: THE ELECTROLINERS – Chicago to Milwaukee – During WW 2
Retro Thursday: THE ELECTROLINERS – Chicago to Milwaukee – During WW 2

Retro Thursday: THE ELECTROLINERS – Chicago to Milwaukee – During WW 2

  • The chic, streamlined Electroliners operated between Chicago and Milwaukee.


  • The Electroliner, on the Chicago Loop, heading for its express run to Milwaukee.


  • The Electroliner was a four car articulated train that was placed into service on the North Shore line early in 1941, between Chicago and Milwaukee, seen here in January of 1941.


Dining on the Electroliners. 
  • It was said to be the most luxurious interurban electric train in the country during its day.
  • The high-speed train was painted dark green with red stripes, seated 120 passengers, and came complete with a small tavern lounge.


The two Electroliner train-sets were eye-opening for two reasons: first was the fact that the interurban industry was on its last stand by the early 1940s when the streamlined trains were introduced; and second, interurbans were not thought of as high-speed operations.


The Chicago North Shore and Milwaukee Railroad introduced the luxurious Electroliner in 1941, complete with a tap room car and speeds of 85 miles an hour. Looking over the new equipment are Col. A. A. Sprague left, and Bernard J. Fallon, Chief Executive Officer, on Jan. 25, 1941.

The trainsets were certainly one of the final major orders ever taken for an interurban and easily the flashiest ever built.

  • Each set was made up of two end coaches and two center coaches.
  • The sections were articulated using Jacobs bogies. Each end coach was divided at the side doors into a Luxury Coach and then a Smoking Coach.
  • Each door had steps and a trap door for boarding from street-level, low-level and high-level platforms.

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  • There was a Tavern Lounge – serving breakfast, light meals, and cocktails.
  • All cars were air-conditioned, a first among new traction (interurban and trolley) equipment of the time.
  • The sets were designed to operate with the high platforms, sharp curves, and narrow clearances of the Chicago Loop and the Chicago ‘L’.

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  • They could run at speeds of 80 miles per hour (130 km/h) or more on the North Shore’s mainline, and to use city streets to the downtown Milwaukee Terminal.
  • The sets’ styling resembled that of the Pioneer Zephyr.

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  • When they arrived in 1941, they were well received by the public, although the nation’s economy was beginning to improve.


Conductor Leslie Greenfield watches a group of Great Lakes Naval Training Center sailors board the last train at 12:45 a.m. of the North Shore line, leaving Adams and Wabash stations. Sailors from the base were some of the North Shore’s best customers. The railroad shut down in 1963.

They were very busy during the World War 2 years along with the Korean War.

  • Earnings increased, older equipment was refurbished for appearance and comfort, and the North Shore changed from a typical mid-western interurban to a high-speed regional commuter railroad, running at high speed between two major cities.


  • In the 1960s, competition from freeways eroded ridership, income dropped, maintenance and operating costs climbed, and the line was abandoned in January 1963.

Today, both sets remain preserved in Rockhill Furnace, Pennsylvania and at the Illinois Railway Museum.

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