Dieselpunk + Steampunk Culture

Sunday Streamline #26: The Electroliner

Light, articulated and fast, they looked fantastic, straight from the brave new world.

Tom aka Railfan 45 recalls his childhood impression of an Electroliner: "I remeber this trainset as a very young boy of about 3 or 4 years old. I thought it was a rocketship. I was in the loop waiting for an L with my parents when it pulled in across the tracks at the opposite platform. It was very low slung and I thought the windows looked like portholes of a ship..."

The Electroliners were a pair of electric passenger train sets operated by the Chicago North Shore and Milwaukee Railroad, which ran between Chicago, Illinois, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. These streamlined electric multiple unit interurban trains were built by St. Louis Car Company in 1941. Each train set carried two numbers, 801-802 and 803-804. Although the Electroliners were equipped with retractable couplers, the couplers were only used for towing purposes.

Each trainset is made up of four sections: two end units and two center units. The sections are united with Jacobs bogies. Each end unit is divided at the side doors into a Luxury Coach, which seats 30, and a Smoking Coach section, which seats 10 and also has a restroom. Each door had steps and a trap door for boarding from street level, low-level and high-level platforms. One center unit is a coach unit that seats 40, and the other center unit is a Tavern Lounge which seats 26.

What's on the menu?

The Electroliners were cleverly designed to operate with the high platforms, sharp curves, and narrow clearances of the Chicago Loop and the Chicago 'L', to run at speeds of 80 miles per hour (130 km/h) or more on the North Shore's main line, and to make their way up Milwaukee city streets to the North Shore Milwaukee Terminal in downtown Milwaukee.

The Electroliners' styling resembled that of the Pioneer Zephyr and influenced the styling of future electric trainsets, notably the Japanese "Romance Cars".

Photo by mod as hell @ Flickr

Although they were streamlined, the Electroliners were not permitted to run faster than the conventional equipment operated by the North Shore Line. When the Electroliners were first received in 1941, during one test run the traction motors were allowed full field shunt to determine absolute maximum speed. The Electroliner reached just over 110 mph (180 km/h), and North Shore personnel noted that at that speed, the train would reach highway crossings before the crossing gates could fully close, a dangerous situation. Thereafter, the Electroliners were limited to 90 mph (140 km/h).

After the North Shore Line ceased operations in January 1963, the Electroliners were sold to the Philadelphia Suburban Transportation Company, then known as the Red Arrow Lines, and the two trainsets were renamed Liberty Liners.

The trolley poles and steps were removed, new doors were added in the center coach sections, and updated third-rail contact shoes were installed in order to operate on the Norristown High Speed Line, which exclusively uses third rail and high-level platform stations between Upper Darby, Pennsylvania and Norristown. Electroliner 801-802 became Liberty Liner "Valley Forge", while 803-804 became "Independence Hall". The Liberty Liners were retired around 1976.

Valley Forge in 1985

Photo by clkayleib @ Flickr

Electroliner 801-802 is preserved and is being restored to its early 1960s operating condition at the Illinois Railway Museum (IRM) in Union, Illinois.

Photo by Robby.Gragg @ Flickr

Photo by ilwsorfan @ Flickr

Former Electroliner 803-804, Liberty Liner "Independence Hall" is preserved at the Rockhill Trolley Museum in Orbisonia, Pennsylvania.

Photo by bvohra @ Flickr

And this 1963 photograph (by wchogger @ Flickr) is worth of publishing with full caption:

"One of the North Shore Line's famous Electroliner’s puts on a brave face as she stands in the bitter cold at the Milwaukee, WI terminal in January 1963, just days before she would be put out of work by the closure of the North Shore by short sighted idiots. Had the Chicago North Shore & Milwaukee survived to this day, their trains, like the CSS&SB’s are now, would be full to capacity of commuters trying to leave their autos at home. "

Sources: Wiki, Don Ross Depot (recommended!), Northshoreline.com

Headline photo by The real David Fullarton @ Flickr

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Comment by lord_k on April 3, 2011 at 12:46pm

My pleasure, Stefan.

The typeface is really awesome, 40s at their best. And Electroburgers are waiting for revival!

Comment by Stefan on April 3, 2011 at 11:59am

Fabulous fonts on the word "Electroliner" ! (Yes, I know, I'm obessed... and probably the only one to enjoy so much that sort of things in your great posts...) I also love the "Electroburgers" in the menu !

Thank you very much, Lord K.

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