The Last of the Interurbans #4 – The Electroliner, the last great Interurban!



The Electroliners were a pair of electric triple articulated interurban train sets operated by the Chicago North Shore and Milwaukee Railroad, which ran between Chicago, Illinois, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. These streamlined electric articulated 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.

Electro on the 3rd rail

 Each trainset is made up of four sections: two end units and two center units. 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.


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 Odakyū 3000 series SE Romance Cars. Although they were streamlined, the Electroliners were not 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, 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.


The Electroliners were in a class by themselves with speed, passenger comfort, and route adaptability, being able to operate on, on-street trackage, mainline railways and on the elevated or “L” metro routes. What is interesting is that the Electroliners are not unlike the modern TramTrain of today and what was though of state-of-the art in customer-friendly transportation vehicles, is now again considered state-of-the-art, nearly 70 years later!

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