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Illinois Traction and other Midwest Interurbans
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   Author  Topic: Illinois Traction and other Midwest Interurbans  (Read 2201 times)
Mark_Foster
Historian
Posts: 918
Re: Illinois Traction and other Midwest Interurban
 
« Reply #20 on: Mar 19th, 2004, 7:43pm »
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Carter B,
 
You are almost correct about the depot pictured to the left in the Champaign photos. It is NYC alright but it's Peoria & Eastern not Big Four. I attended the UofI in the early 1950's when the P&E was still running a one coach plus head end cars local passenger train thru Champaign from Peoria to Indianapolis.
 
In 1950 or '51 I rode the ITC from Danville to Decatur on the last day prior to the abandonment of the Danville to Ogden segment of that line. At that time I was attending Purdue in W. Lafayette, IN. A buddy and I rode the Wabash Cannonball from Lafayette arriving in Danville around 4 something AM. We walked to where the big orange car was spotted awaiting the early morning departure of the first of three daily westbound ITC runs to Decatur and/orMackinaw Junction. The car was wide open so we climbed into it, stretched out on the cushions and caught a few hours sleep.  
 
Around 7 o'clock a car cleaner arrived to sweep, clean the lavatory, refill the water cooler and generally get the car ready for its morning run. A little later the motorman and conductor arrived to move the car down the streets of Danville to the Illinois Terminal station which as I recall was in a downtown office building or possibly a hotel. They got their train orders, several other passengers boarded the car and shortly after 8 o'clock we were off sprinting through Millmine, Ogden, Urbana, Champaign, Monticello, and on to Decatur. Passengers got on and off at the various towns and quite a few got on at Champaign and Monticello. I still have the copy of the train order issued at Danville that morning which the conductor gave to me. I'll dig this out of my archives, scan and post it in the near future. At that time I'll also resume the tale of my adventures on the ITC that day long ago.
 
Mark Foster
 


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CarterB
Railfan
Posts: 214
Re: Illinois Traction and other Midwest Interurban
 
« Reply #21 on: Mar 23rd, 2004, 1:00pm »
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Mark,
Great post about your trip on the IT.
I didn't realize that the IT ran all the way to Danville into the 1950s. I had thought that it had been cut back to DeLong due to a washout of a bridge over Salt Fork.
 
I also was fortunate enough to have ridden the IT under wire several times, and on a few post electrification fan trips of the Illini Rail Club.  I managed to ride over the entire system that was in place mid fifties. (even a side trip out of Decatur up the branch to Bloomington a bit, and over some of the southern coal lines)
 
I lived in Tuscola, Il. at the time, so also remember the C&EI Meadowlark, many fine IC trains, and the Wabash Cannonball, Banner Blue and Blue Bird.


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Mark_Foster
Historian
Posts: 918
Re: Illinois Traction and other Midwest Interurban
 
« Reply #22 on: Mar 23rd, 2004, 3:59pm »
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Hi Carter,
 
The abandonment of the ITC into Danville could have been as early as 1949, I believe it was 1950 but I won't know for sure until I locate and see the date on the train order that I mentioned having. But back to my tale.
 
Enroute to Decatur we had a meet with the early morning eastbound car from Decatur to Danville. I can't for the life of me remember where this was but seem to recall it was at or close to Monticello. We didn't ride the train into the Decatur station that day but got off at the junction with the Peoria-Bloomington-Decatur line. That point was called either North Junction or North Wye.  As you know the ITC would let you off just about anywhere you asked them to stop. We waited a short while to see the early morning car off the Bloomington Line come through. After that we walked a short way down the track, I'd guess less than a mile, to the Illinois Terminal's shops. This was on a Saturday so there was no work going on. There was a watchman on duty but after a brief explanation to him that we were traction buffs interested in riding the last of the Danville service, he gave us the run of the rather impressive shop buildings and trackage.
 
Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe the two truck box cab freight motors were designated "Class B", the older  four truck motors were "Class C" and the streamlined (as we called them) four truck motors were "Class D's". If these designations are correct, there were several Class B and several Class C motors either in the shop buildings or outside for repairs as well as a couple of passenger cars, but no Class D's. We were able to climb up into and all over this ITC power. The trolley poles were down and none of the equipment was powered up so as long as we didn't climb on top of a car or motor and come in contact with the overhead we could poke our noses anywhere we wanted without fear of electrocution.  
 
Late that afternoon we flagged down the last eastbound train for the ITC's final revenue trip into Danville. To our surprise the train consisted of a motor car and, glory be, a trailer both of which were packed with passengers for the farewell run. The ITC most likely hadn't experienced that many riders on the Danville line since the end of WWII. At many points along the way east of Champaign people stood alongside the track waving as the last train roared by and the motorman leaned on the horn most of the way. We arrived back in Danville shortly after dark and most of the riders hung around for a while reminiscing about the old Illinois Terminal. Everybody was in a festive mood but most departed a bit saddened, sort of like leaving the funeral of a dear departed friend.
 
Mark Foster  
     


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CarterB
Railfan
Posts: 214
Re: Illinois Traction and other Midwest Interurban
 
« Reply #23 on: Mar 24th, 2004, 9:42am »
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Mark,
I know exactly of the Decatur shops, quite impressive for an interurban operation.
When I was there in the mid fifties, same thing, they'd let you mose around as long as you were careful.  At the time I was there, the "McKinley cars" were in the barn.
At that tiime they were still painted IIRC a dark green.  After the de-electrification, the Illini Rail Club got them, put them on a siding near Neil St., Champaign and painted them orange.  The cars (233 and 234) are now at the IRM in Union, Il., but I don't think on display.
 
The B class motors were the two truck, C's were the 4 truck, and D's basically just a cosmetic redo of the C's. (the 'nose's' swiveled). Class A's were the steeple cabs, and one survived at Danville Light & Power (sic) well after the line to Danville was cut.  There were also a few funky class B's which were a combo trolley, battery, diesel.
 
Most of the motors were built right there at Decatur Shops.


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Mark_Foster
Historian
Posts: 918
Re: Illinois Traction and other Midwest Interurban
 
« Reply #24 on: Mar 26th, 2004, 12:00pm »
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Hi Carter,
 
Help me out if I'm wrong about any of the following Illinois Terminal facts/records/accomplishments.
 
1. The interurban that owned the biggest and longest bridge, the Mckinley bridge over the Mississippi at St. Louis.
 
2. Possible the longest interurban railroad in the US. The only other I can think of that might have operated more route miles would be the Indiana Railroad.
 
3. The only interurban that operated sleeping car service (or were there others?).
 
4. One of only two interurbans I know of that had meal service on some of their trains, the other being the North Shore on their Electroliners.
 
5. The interurban with the most freight trains and tonnage hauled.
 
Can you think of anything else to add to this list.  
 
Regards,
Mark  
 
 
 


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Walt_C
Historian
Posts: 2934
Re: Illinois Traction and other Midwest Interurban
 
« Reply #25 on: Mar 26th, 2004, 1:30pm »
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on Mar 26th, 2004, 12:00pm, Mark_Foster wrote:       (Click here for original message)

 
2. Possible the longest interurban railroad in the US. The only other I can think of that might have operated more route miles would be the Indiana Railroad.
 
3. The only interurban that operated sleeping car service (or were there others?).
 
4. One of only two interurbans I know of that had meal service on some of their trains, the other being the North Shore on their Electroliners.
 
 

 
 Just a couple of things ( using the same numbers):
 
  2. Actually the longest interurban run, at least in 1932, was the Cincinnati & Lake Erie's Cincinnati- Detroit Limiteds which ran from 12/19/30 until 10/4/32 when the Eastern Michigan Toledo RR, whose tracks were used north of Toledo ( by both C&LE and Lake Shore Electric), was abandoned.
 
3 There were several other Interurbans that operated some form of sleeping car service, among these were the Oregon Electric Railway ( between Portland and Eugene), Interstate Public Service Co ( between Indianapolis & Louisville) and the Sacramento Northern. Granted, there were not very many interurbans that offered sleeping car service.
 
4 Dining car service on the North Shore Line actually dated back to 1917 when its "Gold Coast Limited" began providing Dining Car Service. One former North Shore Diner still exists, No. 420, at the Seashore Museum. However, it is now in a straight coach configuration.  The Sacramento Northern Railroad also provided diner service when it aquired  P.E.'s Henry Huntington's private car the "Alabama" which it used in parlor-dining car service.  And if you want to include alcoholic beverages and "light snacks", Suburban Philadelphia's Red Arrow Lines provided this kind of service on its two "Liberty Liners" ( the former Electroliners) for a short time on the still operating Philadelphia & Western RR ( now SEPTA's Route 100)


« Last Edit: Mar 26th, 2004, 1:32pm by Walt_C » Logged

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Mark_Foster
Historian
Posts: 918
Re: Illinois Traction and other Midwest Interurban
 
« Reply #26 on: Mar 26th, 2004, 7:02pm »
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Hi Walt,
 
Thanks for the info you added with respect to my post concerning the Illinois Terminal. I would never have guessed that Oregon Electric and Sacramento Northern both had sleeper car service. I thought their runs were much to short in both time and distance. The Interstate's Indy-Louisville sleeper is more on a par with the ITC's Peoria-St.Louis service. I was also surprised to learn of the SN's food service.  
 
Credit for the longest Interurban route does indeed go to the Cincy-Detroit run of the C&LE. But I really meant the most TOTAL route miles operated and I still believe this distinction goes to the ITC.
 
Mark Foster


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Walt_C
Historian
Posts: 2934
Re: Illinois Traction and other Midwest Interurban
 
« Reply #27 on: Mar 29th, 2004, 11:31am »
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on Mar 26th, 2004, 7:02pm, Mark_Foster wrote:       (Click here for original message)
 
 
Credit for the longest Interurban route does indeed go to the Cincy-Detroit run of the C&LE. But I really meant the most TOTAL route miles operated and I still believe this distinction goes to the ITC.
 
Mark Foster

 
  I hate to keep shooting you down, but credit for operating the most total route miles, and possibly the most extensive freight service as well, goes to the Pacific Electric Railway. During its heyday, PE operated more than 10,000 miles of track with over 1,000 passenger cars.
 
   You might also look at the Ohio Electric Railway, which was a C&LE predecessor. I won't say for certain that OE operated more track miles than ITT, but, before it was broken up into its component parts circa 1921, OE operated most of the track miles in Western Ohio. ( C&LE represents a latter day reassembly of the principal lines of the OE)


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Mark_Foster
Historian
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Re: Illinois Traction and other Midwest Interurban
 
« Reply #28 on: Mar 29th, 2004, 4:07pm »
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Hi Walt,
 
If it weren't for differences of opinion they wouldn't make both chocolate and vanilla ice cream.
 
The Illinois Terminal at its peak (it was the Illinois Traction System at the time) operated 628 route miles. Of this amount less than 50 miles were not true interurban but rather were streetcar lines serving E. St. Louis, Alton and Granite City. The rest of the system was true interurban running on private ROW between cities and towns with some city street running along the way. The longest through run was 170 miles from Peoria to St. Louis.
 
Impressive as it was, particularly in terms of ridership, the Pacific Electric operated at the most 1016 (not 10,000) route miles according to my sources.  While I can't cite any definitive sources, I am told by those familiar with the PE that better than half this mileage was streetcar lines as opposed to true interurban. Prior to the advent of city bus lines, the PE after all was the "local city transit" operator in Los Angeles. It is also my understanding that none of the PE's lines were even 25 miles in length.
 
With respect to freight operations, the PE was a "terminal" railroad whose freight operations were mainly local switching moves of a few miles in length. The ITC on the other hand operated scheduled freight trains of  50 cars or more in length over its main line with only slightly shorter trains over its secondary lines. Like the PE, the ITC did a big amount of local switching on the Illinois side of the river in the St. Louis vicinity. I have no comparative freight tonnage figures for either railroad but I believe in terms of ton miles of freight handled the ITC would exceed the PE.  
 


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Mark_Foster
Historian
Posts: 918
Re: Illinois Traction and other Midwest Interurban
 
« Reply #29 on: Mar 29th, 2004, 4:31pm »
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Walt,
 
I need to make a correction to my most recent posting. The Pacific Electric's San Bernadino line was actually some 60 miles in length. If my facts are correct it was 56 miles to San Bernadino and about 64 miles on to Redlands. This line more than any other is credited with the PE's claim to being an "interurban operator".  I think some of our differences lie in the distinction between an interurban and a streetcar line. This is a gray area and probably open to differing interpretations.
 
Mark


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Walt_C
Historian
Posts: 2934
Re: Illinois Traction and other Midwest Interurban
 
« Reply #30 on: Mar 29th, 2004, 5:03pm »
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on Mar 29th, 2004, 4:31pm, Mark_Foster wrote:       (Click here for original message)
 I think some of our differences lie in the distinction between an interurban and a streetcar line. This is a gray area and probably open to differing interpretations.
 
Mark

 
 THAT is certainly true!  One of the problems we have in discussing interurbans is that no one really knows what an interurban actually is ( was?) My information comes from two sources, Middleton's "Interurban Era" and a book "The Big Red Cars" whose author I don't remember. Felix Reifschneider, author of, among other works, a pamphlet entitled " Interurban Unlimited" laid out four "tests" for minimal interurban status:
 1. schedule speed, terminal to terminal should exceed 15 MPH  
 
 2 top speed actually reached should exceed 40 MPH.
 
 3. Two cities more than ten miles apart should be connected.    
        and
  4. There should be mostly private right of way between cities.
 
    Reifschneider indicates that these are minimal standards.
 
   Using this test, there are many lines which were nothing more than long streetcar lines which could qualify for interurban status.
 
   Using the Suburban Philadelphia area as an example, interurban status was given to the Darby- Wilmington, Del. line of the old Southern Pennsylvania Traction Co., though that line was never more than a long streetcar line---- and at the other end of the spectrum is the Philadelphia & Western Railway, now SEPTA Route 100 ( and considered one of two remaining interurbans) which is all PRW, completely grade separated, third rail operated, and, at least during the days of the Brill Bullet Cars supported operating speeds which approached 90 MPH.---- but is only 13 miles long.  
 
   It is likely that both of my sources included trackage which your sources describe as streetcar rather than interurban.----- Additionally, the term interurban carried such prestige during the heyday of the interurban than many lines used the term even though they didn't qualify. So this , I suspect, will remain a disputed area.  
 


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CarterB
Railfan
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Re: Illinois Traction and other Midwest Interurban
 
« Reply #31 on: Apr 1st, 2004, 10:24am »
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Not sure what the other sleeper services consisted of, but the ITC had quite a line up.   Not only Peoria - Springfield - St. Louis, but also Danville - Champaign - Decatur - Springfield - St. Louis.  The ten section sleeper trailers were quite the cars of the time!!

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Mark_Foster
Historian
Posts: 918
Re: Illinois Traction and other Midwest Interurban
 
« Reply #32 on: Apr 5th, 2004, 9:03pm »
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Carter B,
 
Do you recall that the Illinois Terminal ran freight trains around a 90 degree curve at a street intersection in Monticello on the Decatur, Champaign, Danville line. The curvature was much too sharp for a steam road freight car to negotiate and the ITC had to use what essentially was a second drawbar and coupler at the end of each freight car to get them around this curve. I think this was the only point where this arrangement was used though it might also have been necessary for some street running in Danville (and possibly somewhere on the Bloomington line).
 
I don't know where this "gadget" was installed but guess it might have been at the Decatur Shops where the ITC would have had the capability to handle such a heavy object. Do you or anyone else know of any other interurban that used anything similar to this? When the Class D (4+4+4+4) motors motors went around this curve they swung so wide that they blocked the entire two street intersection.
 
Mark Foster
 


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Bruining
TRAINing
Posts: 1
Re: Illinois Traction and other Midwest Interurban
 
« Reply #33 on: Jun 2nd, 2004, 5:01pm »
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RUSTY_RAILS
I rode the CD&M in June of 1939 from Clinton to Davenport.  I took a picture of the car on the main street of Clinton before boarding it.  The line ran along the west side of the Mississippi.  There were only a couple of people on the car.  About 3/4 of the way to Davenport we came to where a crew was trying to rerail a gondola of wet sand that had spread the rails.  An official of some sort was on the car and he gave orders to the crew and then we went on.  According to the book 'The Electric Interurban Railways in America' by Hilton and Due the line exchanged 10000 cars with the steam roads in 1934, mostly on the Clinton line.  The Muscatine line was abandoned in 1938 and the Clinton line 1940.
I was on a two week trip riding all the interurban lines in Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio that I could reach using public transportation.
Bruining


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Mark_Foster
Historian
Posts: 918
Re: Illinois Traction and other Midwest Interurban
 
« Reply #34 on: Jun 8th, 2004, 7:22pm »
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What a dream trip that must have been riding all those interurbans in 1939 as they were fast disappearing. So few midwest lines lasted into the 1940's and by the 1950's I know of only two "true" interurbans, the Illinois Terminal and the Cedar Rapids & Iowa City, still operating in the midwest. To the best of my knowledge the Indiana Railroad, Interstate, Cleveland & Lake Erie, and the many other Ohio and Indiana interurbans had been abandoned by the start of WWII.
 
Of course the North Shore, South Shore and Chicago Aurora & Elgin still operated but they were unique in that they were as much or more commuter lines as compared to traditional interurbans. While I liked the South Shore, its cars and motors all had pantographs and in my mind a true interurban had to use trolley poles not pantographs or third rail.
 
While I rode the CSS&SB, the CNS&M and the CA&E, my fondest interurban memories are riding the Illinois Terminal cars as a young man in the late 40's and early 50's. I've described some of these trips in earlier posts.


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Walt_C
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Posts: 2934
Re: Illinois Traction and other Midwest Interurban
 
« Reply #35 on: Jun 9th, 2004, 9:02am »
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on Jun 8th, 2004, 7:22pm, Mark_Foster wrote:       (Click here for original message)
While I liked the South Shore, its cars and motors all had pantographs and in my mind a true interurban had to use trolley poles not pantographs or third rail.
 

 
 That would eliminate the Philadelphia & Western ( SEPTA-Route 100) AND the South Shore Line from being interurbans--- and they are considered the last remaining interurbans in the U.S.  (Interesting) The best description I have seen of those two properties is "super interurbans"--- The 69th Street- West Chester Line of the Red Arrow Lines ( its original line) also qualified as an interurban, but was gone by 1954.
 
  Historical Note--- both C&LE and the Lake Shore Electric were gone by 1940.


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RDG484
Former Member
Re: Illinois Traction and other Midwest Interurban
 
« Reply #36 on: Jun 9th, 2004, 11:16am »
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on Jun 9th, 2004, 9:02am, Walt_C wrote:       (Click here for original message)

 
 That would eliminate the Philadelphia & Western ( SEPTA-Route 100) AND the South Shore Line from being interurbans--- and they are considered the last remaining interurbans in the U.S.  (Interesting) The best description I have seen of those two properties is "super interurbans"--- The 69th Street- West Chester Line of the Red Arrow Lines ( its original line) also qualified as an interurban, but was gone by 1954.
 
  Historical Note--- both C&LE and the Lake Shore Electric were gone by 1940.

 
The P&W and the South Shore were also bona fide RAILROADS in that they fell under FRA control, because they both handled interchange freight.  Both operated under railroad rules and employees earned railroader's salaries.  Both are very commuter in nature, but when the P&W was taken over in 1970 by the local transit authority, the line was immediately isolated from the outside world, therefore eliminating the railroad charter and the FRA control; instead becoming a "High-speed trolley," which it remains today.  The South Shore, since it still runs freight, still falls under FRA control and is still a railroad.


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Walt_C
Historian
Posts: 2934
Re: Illinois Traction and other Midwest Interurban
 
« Reply #37 on: Jun 9th, 2004, 12:02pm »
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on Jun 9th, 2004, 11:16am, RDG484 wrote:       (Click here for original message)
. . . .  when the P&W was taken over in 1970 by the local transit authority, the line was immediately isolated from the outside world, therefore eliminating the railroad charter and the FRA control; instead becoming a "High-speed trolley," which it remains today.  The South Shore, since it still runs freight, still falls under FRA control and is still a railroad.

 
 P&W's existance as a 'high-speed trolley" places it closer to the rather nebulous definition of an "interurban" than the South Shore Line, though both have interurban origins. One note-- P&W actually "lost" its steam railroad charter in 1952 when the Red Arrow Lines abandoned that charter and substituted a street railway charter ( forming a new corporation registered as the Philadelphia & Western Street Railway Co.), in order to permit the P&W to be formally merged into the Red Arrow. The existence of P&W and Red Arrow as separate corporations only lasted one year after the change of the P&W charter, with the official merger taking place on Dec.31, 1953. Therefore, technically, P&W ceased to be a "railroad" long before SEPTA took it over.
   Many, if not most, of the Midwest Interurbans would have fallen under FRA jurisdiction, if this had existed during the "Interurban Era", because most of them did some freight interchange business with the steam railroads, even though those railroads were basically hostile to the Interurbans.


« Last Edit: Jun 9th, 2004, 3:01pm by Walt_C » Logged

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Mark_Foster
Historian
Posts: 918
Re: Illinois Traction and other Midwest Interurban
 
« Reply #38 on: Jun 14th, 2004, 10:38pm »
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Hi Walt,
 
Pantograph, third rail and trolley poles aside I respect where you are coming from regarding the South Shore and SEPTA Route 100 (ex P&W). But I don't think of either one as being an interurban - maybe at one time but not today.
 
 Passenger service on both lines is operated by a regional transit authority (Northern Indiana Transit and SEPTA) which suggests commuter or transit status.  
I am not familiar with the SEPTA equipment but the South Shore operates with state of the art commuter cars which resemble "true" interurban cars only in that they have steel wheels and draw power from an overhead wire. I'm not sure but don't think the SEPTA line has any freight service. The South Shore's freight motors are all long gone. Today's freight trains are diesel powered and are a seperate operation (only using common tracks) from the NIT passenger services.  
 
I may be too much of a traditionalist, but IMHO there are no longer any interurbans operating in revenue service in the US. They exixt today only in a few museum settings around the country.
 
Mark
 


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RDG484
Former Member
Re: Illinois Traction and other Midwest Interurban
 
« Reply #39 on: Jun 15th, 2004, 10:42am »
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on Jun 9th, 2004, 12:02pm, Walt_C wrote:       (Click here for original message)

 
 P&W's existance as a 'high-speed trolley" places it closer to the rather nebulous definition of an "interurban" than the South Shore Line, though both have interurban origins. One note-- P&W actually "lost" its steam railroad charter in 1952 when the Red Arrow Lines abandoned that charter and substituted a street railway charter ( forming a new corporation registered as the Philadelphia & Western Street Railway Co.), in order to permit the P&W to be formally merged into the Red Arrow. The existence of P&W and Red Arrow as separate corporations only lasted one year after the change of the P&W charter, with the official merger taking place on Dec.31, 1953. Therefore, technically, P&W ceased to be a "railroad" long before SEPTA took it over.
    

 
Correct.  However, the "P&W Street Railway" existed only for a very short time, supposedly because of the overnight interchange freight operation.  The line's name was later changed to "P&W RailROAD" and operated under Red Arrow in this manner.  Some of P&W's online customers included the Merion Golf Course, the quarry at King Manor, the Beechwood powerhouse, and several public delivery sidings and team tracks.  It was in 1970, when the connection with the Cardington Branch was severed off, which isolated the line from the outside world.  In doing so, the line no longer needed FRA control and therefore immediately became their prized "High-Speed Trolley."
 
 


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