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NickD
NickD MegaDork
9/20/21 12:47 p.m.

Those Electroliners weren't just a pretty face either, they were some of the most advanced interurban equipment in the US when they were constructed in 1941. The Chicago, North Shore & Milwaukee was facing bankruptcy in 1940. Interurban lines were folding up left and right, the Great Depression had mauled their finances, their equipment all dated back to the early '20s or older, and they faced literally side-by-side competition between Chicago and Milwaukee from the Milwaukee Road and the Chicago & North Western. But the North Shore did offer convenience in the fact that it's equipment also ran on the Chicago elevated line with multiple stops in the city, unlike the MILW and the C&NW. Labor unions were worried about the bankruptcy and lost jobs, so management proposed buying newer high-speed equipment if the employees would take a slight wage cut. The unions agreed and so the North Shore began developing new equipment with the St. Louis Car Company, who was also on the verge of going out of business from the loss of interurban companies purchasing equipment.

They had a number of difficult requirements that it had to meet:

  • It had to be compatible with the sharp curves, narrow clearances and high platforms on the Chicago Loop and L lines
  • It had to be able to attain high speeds on the North Shore's main line so that it could run comparable times to C&NW and MILW
  • It had to be able to run on Milwaukee streets

Two of the units were constructed as articulated 4-unit sets, with a streamlined control car on each end that was based off the CB&Q Zephyrs. The control cars had a truck under the front end, and then they shared trucks under the vestibule of each car. This reduced the yawing sensation on curves and gave them a much smoother ride at high speed. To accommodate both the L's high platforms and the North Shore's regular platforms, they had a trap door over the steps on the end.   While on the Loop or L line, you left the trap door down and passengers could walk straight across to the platform, everywhere else you lifted the trap door and the passengers went down a set of steps to disembark. They also had both pantograph power pick up and third-rail shoes.

Each trainset could hold a maximum of 146 passengers; each power car doubled as a luxury coach and could hold 40 passengers each. One of the power cars was also split with a smoking lounge that that held 10 individuals, one of the center cars also held 40, and the other center car was configured as a luxury lounge that featured an occupancy of 26. The Electroliners were much better appointed than your standard interurban car, in order to draw more riders, and were also all air-conditioned, which was a first for interurban cars, pantographs for the street running and then 3rd-rail for the L and other areas that weren't publicly accessible.

The North Shore put them in service, but despite their streamlined appearance they were limited to 80mph, which was the North Shore's maximum track speed. Despite that, passengers said that on runs where the motorman had the cab door open, they could see the speedometer hanging at 90mph. And on one of the early tests, North Shore management allowed a motorman to enable full field shunt on the electric motors and they hit 110mph. At that speed though, the set was well through the grade crossings by the time the crossing gates started to lower, so this was only officially done the one time.

The Electroliners were an instant hit and reversed the North Shore's fortunes, at least for a while. Earnings improved, and the new equipment allowed them to take some of the older cars out of service to overhaul and refreshen them. Eventually though, highways and automobiles began eroding the North Shore's profitablity, and in 1963, the North Shore cashed it in. Both Electroliners were still in good condition though, so they were sold to Philadelphia Suburban Transportation Company, also known as the Red Arrow Lines, where they received a new maroon, dark blue and white livery and were called Liberty Liners. When SEPTA was formed in '65, the Red Arrow Lines were incorporated into it, and so the Liberty Liners were transferred to SEPTA. Finally, in 1978, SEPTA retired them, with one set being purchased by IRM, returned to Electroliner colors, and operated into the '90s before motor failures knocked it out of service, and the other was sold to the Rockhill Trolley Museum in Orbisonia, PA and remains operational and unrestored in Liberty Liner colors.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
9/20/21 2:15 p.m.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
9/20/21 3:29 p.m.

On the subject of Illinois Railway Museum, the bastards got me again. They posted that link to their used bookstore and I ended up buying a couple of books from them: one was Two Feet To The Tidewater, which is about the Maine 2-foot narrow gauge lines, another is Tweetsie Country, which is about the dual-gauge Eastern Tennessee & Western North Carolina Railroad, and the third is Backwoods Railroads Of The West, which seemed like it would be about stuff like logging and mining railroads and narrow gauge mountain railroads. 

I also separately hunted down a copy of Ron Ziel's Twilight Of Steam, which was his documentation of the end of steam. Stuff like CB&Q 2-10-4s being cut up at North West Steel & Wire, or the Clinchfield's post-WWII Challengers in a dead line at Erwin in the '60s. I know its a bit of a controversial book. Some love it, but I know that famed author Lucius Beebe absolutely hated the book.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
9/20/21 3:58 p.m.

Three of the North Shore's little 4-axle steeple-cab electrics working away on a freight train.

LS_BC8
LS_BC8 New Reader
9/21/21 2:49 p.m.

Well Ron Zeil's book came out in 1963. I like comparing where some locomotives are today as compared to where they were at the time of the books publishing. ie. the forgotten 2-6-6-6 and 2-8-4 are now saved.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
9/21/21 3:55 p.m.
LS_BC8 said:

Well Ron Zeil's book came out in 1963. I like comparing where some locomotives are today as compared to where they were at the time of the books publishing. ie. the forgotten 2-6-6-6 and 2-8-4 are now saved.

Yeah, its always interesting finding photos of locomotives I've seen in their previous lives. Joe Collias' The Search For Steam has several photos of Great Western of Colorado's sole 2-10-0 #90 hauling sugar beets. Of course, now Great Western #90 is now better known as Strasburg #90, an engine I've sat in the cab of twice and operated once. Collias also mentions how railfans had discovered that the Great Western was still running steam and had flocked there to ride trains, so the Great Western was hooking a passenger car or two in to run mixed trains, and he went into a depot to purchase a ticket and flustered the depot agent who hadn't sold a passenger ticket in years and couldn't even find his book of tickets. It was during this era that Linn Moedinger, one of the Strasburg founders, went out, rode behind #90 and fell in love and told Great Western management that when they retired her, he was interested in purchasing her.

The CB&Q 2-10-4 "Colorados" (the Q didn't call them a Texas) that were shown in Ziel's Twilight Of Steam were nearly purchased by Nelson Blount. He caught word of them and went to Sterling, Illinois to North West Steel & Wire to see about purchasing one. But by the time he got out there, they were already pretty chopped up. If a lead or pilot truck derailed in the yard, the NSW&S guys would just torch the offending part off, same with piston rods or connecting rods. North West ended up taking the boilers and setting them up onsite to use as stationary boilers. They were converted to oil-burning and had automated injectors that would add water when the water level got low. Some guys recounted getting a rare pass to explore the place and going in the cabs of what was left of those Colorados. Not a month later, one of the injectors failed to fire and they had a boiler explosion that destroyed it and the other one next to it. There were also huge mounds of bells, whistles, headlights and number plates. 

North West Steel & Wire famously ran ex-GTW 0-8-0s into 1980 at their yard. They were beat-up scruffy machines, frequently derailed and rerailed without care, converted to oil-firing in a half-assed manner that resulted in them constantly puking black columns of black smoke. Headlights, bells, and tenders were swapped off other scrapped locomotives, giving them an ever-changing appearance. Perhaps the strangest was the one where they hooked a big KCS Vanderbilt tender behind one. Since the cab awning hit the oil bunker, the instead hooked the tender on backwards, with the cylindrical water tank leading. It wasn't that NWS&W were fans of steam-locomotives, its just that they had them, they had a lot of spare parts accumulated, and they could take the slam-bang work, frequent derailings and poor maintenance much better than a modern diesel.

Jim Pettengill
Jim Pettengill HalfDork
9/21/21 5:27 p.m.

For a change of pace, check out jwagner's nice photo of Rio Grande Southern Galloping Goose No. 4 at our Ridgway (Colorado) Railroad Museum in his Trailer Camping in Colorado thread (recent post).  He took the photo last Saturday at our weekly free ride session.  Seven of these interesting vehicles were built between 1931 and 1934, operated until 1951, six of the seven have been restored to operative condition by various museums (we did the restoration on No. 4), and the one non-survivor, No. 1, which was salvaged by the RGS in 1933 because it was too small for further use, has been accurately recreated in Ridgway.  No. 4 is using the same GMC 361 six that it used when retired in 1951 (rebuilt of course).  A fun part of narrow gauge history.

Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter)
Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
9/21/21 8:01 p.m.

In reply to Jim Pettengill :

That's really cool Jim! We hope to make a trip out West in the next year or 2, so I'll add your museum to our list. 

Jim Pettengill
Jim Pettengill HalfDork
9/21/21 8:24 p.m.

Super - we provide free rides on our 1/2 mile loop track every Saturday from 10 am - 2 pm, more or less, from around May 1st to mid October.  Google Ridgway Railroad Museum for info on the facility and our museum and rolling stock.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
9/22/21 10:43 a.m.

North West Steel & Wire was also infamously the resting spot of Grand Trunk Western #6319 and #6322. In early 1960, the last stand for Class I steam railroading was, ironically, the Motor City. Grand Trunk Western was dispatching hotshot freights with doubleheaded steam power and Detroit-Durand passenger service with Northerns on the head end. On March 27th, 1960, the GTW closed a chapter in US history, with the final scheduled steam passenger train, originally slated to be hauled by U-3-b Northern #6319. Word got out about this historic trip, and GTW employees were shocked when over 3600 people showed up to buy tickets to ride aboard train #21, from Detroit's Brush Street Station to Durand Union Terminal. The GTW rustled up fellow U-3-b #6322 and ran train #21 in two sections, with #6319 and 15 passenger cars comprising the first section and #6322 running the second section with 22 passenger cars.

The #6322 was used by the GTW on a number of fantrips after retirement for normal service, until it eventually blew out an air compressor from lack of maintenance. After it was sidelined, the GTW had no real desire to overhaul the engine and sent it to be scrapped, although not before the president of the GTW took the brass number plates and other trinkets off the #6319 and #6322 (now displayed in Durand). It was unusual that the GTW didn't cut the locomotives up themselves at Battle Creek, as was normal, instead sending them and a bunch of other retired steam power to North West Steel & Wire. Included in this batch of steam locomotives sent to NWS&W was a clutch of GTW 0-8-0s, which the steel mill realized were in so much better shape than the motley collection of 0-6-0s that they were operating that they put them into regular service, and proceeded to operate them until 1981

NickD
NickD MegaDork
9/22/21 12:00 p.m.

An update from the T1 Trust on the construction of #5550's boiler at Continental Fabricators. It really gives you the scope of this thing, and holy E36 M3, it is monstrous.

 

NickD
NickD MegaDork
9/22/21 3:45 p.m.

I'm scratching my head at the guy in the comments of that video who is repeatedly saying "I hope it comes to Strasburg." Really? Ignoring the size and weight aspect (it's a fair bit bigger and heavier than N&W #611), you really would want to see it tiptoeing along, tender-first, at 5mph towing a line of wooden coaches? Don't get me wrong, Strasburg does a lot of things right, but that's not at all a venue I would want to see a T1 at. An engine like that deserves to be doing 30mph or better with a string of P70 steel coaches. Kind of the same thing with #611: it wasn't the preferable venue to see it at, but it was the venue that was available and near me, and so that's why I went.

Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter)
Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
9/22/21 7:11 p.m.

In reply to NickD :

That's massive!

914Driver
914Driver GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
9/23/21 6:48 a.m.

1941 - Empire State Express.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
9/23/21 10:48 a.m.
Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter) said:

In reply to NickD :

That's massive!

I guess they have an agreement to store it at the new facilities the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society is planning to construct. These are the guys who run Nickel Plate #765. While it does have Pennsylvania in the name, keeping Pennsylvania Railroad #5550 in Fort Wayne does make a certain kind of sense, because Fort Wayne was a big PRR stronghold, and the T1s spent a lot of time sprinting between Crestline and Fort Wayne, as well as traveling all the way to Chicago. They have letters of intent to operate at Steam Railroading Institute in Owosso, MI (the folks who run Pere Marquette #1225), Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad in Peninsula, Ohio (where NKP #765 spends a lot of her time these days) and Steamtown NPS in Scranton. I'm curious to see how they operate it at Scranton, because a T1 is waaaaay to big to fit their turntable or roundhouse. Maybe run the trips to Moscow with #5550 on the head and then tow it back with diesels? Some people are making cracks that by the time they are finished building the #5550, Steamtown still won't have B&M #3713 up and running, which honestly doesn't even feel like a joke anymore. They also used to include PRR #1361 in that joke, but it seems like that project is finally getting its footing.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
9/23/21 11:49 a.m.
914Driver said:

1941 - Empire State Express.

The new version of the Empire State Express was actually inaugurated on December 7th, 1941. The crew and passengers didn't learn about Pearl Harbor until their arrival in Cleveland

NickD
NickD MegaDork
9/23/21 11:56 a.m.

Two of Kennecott Copper's big, utilitarian "Magna Motors" roll empty ore gondolas back to Bingham Canyon Copper Mine in the Oquirrh Mountains. These unusually-tall center-cab "juice jacks" were built by GE in the '40s and ran on 3000v overhead catenary. They weighed 125 tons and rode on 4 axles, and interestingly had the couplers attached to the trucks, like a Tyco toy train, instead of to the frame.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
9/23/21 12:00 p.m.

Kennecott Copper's Utah line ran 16 miles between the copper mine at Bingham and the rotary car dumper at Magna, with a maximum grade of 1.35%. They made the trip back and forth eighteen times a day with 90-car unit trains.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
9/23/21 1:05 p.m.

The big Kennecott "Magna Motors" were almost comically proportioned.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
9/23/21 1:17 p.m.

The 3200hp 125-ton electrics ran until December of 1978, when they were replaced with brand-new EMD SD40-2s. The KC's electrical substation was struck by lightning two separate times during the summer of '78, leaving them relying on borrowed GP30s from UP and D&RGW for most of the summer, resulting in the decision to de-electrify.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
9/23/21 1:35 p.m.

Kennecott also ran 75-, 85-, 90-, and 125-ton steeplecab electrics down inside the pit itself to haul the ore up to where the "Magna Motors" took over. This hung on longer in life, with some of them running as late as 1983, although they began being replaced by GP39-2s in 1977.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
9/23/21 1:37 p.m.

Some of the 125-ton steeplecab pit motors at Copperton.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
9/23/21 1:41 p.m.

Bingham Canyon Mine been in production since 1906, and has resulted in the creation of a pit over 0.75 miles deep, 2.5 miles wide, and covering 1,900 acres. According to Kennecott, it is the world's largest man-made excavation and at one time, the amphitheater sported 120 miles of track circling the mine with dozens of GE 85 ton electric motors on temporary track with moveable catenary poles.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
9/23/21 1:44 p.m.

GE steeple-cabs and leased GP30s. Kennecott leased the GP30s from 1973-1978 and you can see that they have Kennecott roster numbers painted on the dynamic braking blisters, although they still wear the original numbers on the cab numberboards.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
9/23/21 1:56 p.m.

The GP39-2s purchased by Kennecott were unusual beasts. They had tall front hoods, and then had the cab perched on risers that located it up over both the long and short hood and extra windows where the number boards should have been.

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