In the 1950s and 1960s, My father made a project of photographing the Chicago, North Shore & Milwaukee, the distinctive interurban electric line connecting it’s namesakes.
Last month, John Gruber and I paid a visit to the Illinois Railway Museum at Union, Illinois. Like my father, John had focused on the North Shore. He made hundreds of excellent photographs that distilled the spirit of the railway.
North Shore was before my time, but I feel that I know the line thanks to my dad’s and John’s photographs, which were featured in books by the late William D. Middleton.
The railway may be gone 55 years, but key pieces of it’s equipment survive.
I made these digital views of preserved North Shore cars at IRM using my FujiFIlm X-T1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit lens. This flat-field super wide-angle lens is well suited to making images in the tight quarters of IRM’s car barns.
John Gruber has an on-going exhibit of his finest North Shore photography in the East Union Station at IRM. This will be subject of another Tracking the Light post.
The Illinois Railway Museum has one of the best collections of North American railway equipment. Hundreds of pieces of equipment spanning more than a century are on display.
It’s great to be able to inspect a traditional 4-4-0, and a Forney Tank engine. I’m fond of classics such as the Santa Fe 2900-class 4-8-4, Burlington’s 4-6-4 Hudson and its streamlined Budd-built Nebraska Zephyr, and of course the Pennsylvania Railroad GG1 in Brunswick green.
The old diesels are neat, and there’s great array of old streetcars.
But then, what’s this? A Wisconsin Central SD45? Wow, nice to see that one of those was saved, but it just doesn’t seem that long ago and I was out catching these on the mainline.
And wait, what about this Metra Bi-Level electric? Weird to see THAT in a museum.
Two Chicago & North Western DASH9s!
Now I just feel old.
Views exposed with my FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera with Zeiss 12mm Tuoit.
Last week I traveled with John Gruber to the Illinois Railway Museum at Union. John needed to deliver some material in relation to his North Shore photo exhibit, and he wanted me to expose a few images of him with his photographs.
Between 1960 and 1963, John made a project of documenting the last years of operation of the Chicago North Shore & Milwaukee interurban electric line.
North Shore was an intensive electric line that connected the Chicago Loop (trains served downtown using the rapid transit ‘L’—[elevated line]) with Milwaukee, Wisconsin via Chicago’s northern suburbs. The line was well known for its articulated streamlined speedsters called Electroliners and its electrically cooked hamburgers known as Electroburgers. Operations concluded in January 1963.
John’s work is iconic. He exposed thousands of North Shore photographs and his photography goes well beyond ordinary images of the trains. He focused on people as well as machines, and preserved a feel for this unusual railway in motion.
Johns work was prominently featured in the pages of Trains magazine and in books such as those by the late William D. Middleton.
His current exhibit can be seen in the waiting room of the East Union station at IRM. It will be on display through the end of 2016.
Of course, while we were at IRM, we took the opportunity to travel the line, and visit some of the historic equipment (which includes several of North Shore’s cars).
In addition to a variety of digital photos, I exposed these black & white images with my Leica.
Recently I read a definition of photographic composition that said something to the effect of; ‘making order out of chaos.’ In railway photography, wires pose special compositional problems, and can lend for chaotic images if not handled carefully.
In this photo I exposed at the Illinois Railway Museum, a virtual sea of wires lace the sky and visually surround the streetcar.
As visual elements, wires typically appear as dark lines and unless they are carefully placed, they can disrupt a photograph by dividing up the frame and causing unwanted distractions. Yet, in many situations the wires are important part of the railway infrastructure.
In this case, I’ve carefully photographed the streetcar passing the electrical substation that is part of the network that supplies the car with juice, and so many of the wires pictured directly relate to the streetcar. No wires, no go.
Yet, I’m not entirely satisfied with the image. I think that if I’d played around with my angle and juxtaposition of the car, I may have been able to produce a more striking image.
It was on June 19, 2010, that John Gruber, Henry A. Koshollek, and I drove from Madison, Wisconsin to Union, Illinois to photograph at the Illinois Railway Museum.
Among the attractions that day were a freshly restored former North Shore interurban car and the former North Shore Electroliner.
Back in the day, John was among the lucky ones who rode and photographed the North Shore in service. He was on hand for North Shore’s final runs in January 1963.
Later, John photographed Denver & Rio Grande Western’s narrow gauge steam in its final years. In August 1967, John had the rare opportunity to ride and photograph one of D&RGW’s very last revenue freights over Cumbres Pass, courtesy of David P. Morgan at TRAINS.
As a child, I recalled looking through an old dog-eared copy of that issue of TRAINS with John’s cover feature. Back then, I never could have imagined that I’d become friends with John, let alone work with him editing magazines.
Recently, John and I have collaborated on several book projects. He was an important contributor to The Twilight of Steam, which features some of his outstanding D&RGW photographs. John also helped make important connections, and introduced me to several of the participating photographers. It should be no surprise to readers when they read my dedication.
John and I have also authored book on American streetcars, expected this summer.
I grew up seeing the Electroliner projected on our slide screen; my father had photographed these classic trains on several occasions between 1958 and 1963 on the North Shore, and later on Philadelphia’s Red Arrow Lines.
Many years ago, I saw an advertisement on the back cover of Trains Magazine asking for donations to help save one of the trains. I sent $15, which wasn’t much money, but it was every penny I had. I was only about 13 or 14 at the time.
Happily both streamlined sets have been preserved: one is at the Illinois Railway Museum at Union; the other at the Rockhilll Trolley Museum in Pennsylvania.
On June 19, 2010, Hank Koshollek, John Gruber and I traveled from Madison, Wisconsin to the Illinois Railway Museum. Among the trains on display was the Electroliner.
It was the first time I’d seen the train outdoors since catching a fleeting glimpse of it at SEPTA’s 69th street shops in the late 1970s.
I wanted to make a distinctive image of the train, so I used my Lumix LX3 to make a dramatic close up. I also made several more conventional views.
This is relevant because IRM is now hoping to restore the train to service. IRM’s Tom Sharratt contacted me via Tracking the Light, and detailed their plan along with a plea to get the word out:
IRM is pleased that we are finally working on completing the restoration of our [Electroliner] set (801-802), hopefully in time for its 75th Anniversary (Jan 2016.) All eight motors need to be removed and inspected and repaired as necessary, the air conditioning needs to be replaced, and the interior worked on (we have the fabric and a volunteer who is working on that now.) We only (!) need to raise $500K. We have right around $100K now, and need $150K before we drop the motors and take them to a contract shop. We have a Facebook page– http://www.facebook.com/Electroliner