The Shore Line Interurban Historical Society is pleased to announce

Dispatch No. 2

Competing Rails:
The Milwaukee Road's Legacy in Evanston and Wilmette

Learn all the details about early rail competition on Chicago's North Shore, steam vs. electricity, and connecting Evanston and Chicago by rail

Published February 2011

What is Competing Rails all about? John Evans, one of the founders of Northwestern University, desired rail competition. He did not want the Chicago & North Western to be the exclusive railroad in Evanston, Illinois. He obtained a horse-car franchise that ended up as a steam railroad commuter service, the Chicago Evanston & Lake Superior, a subsidiary of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul, operating between Chicago Union Depot and Evanston. (In those days The Milwaukee Road was referred to as the “St. Paul.”) The St. Paul’s plans to expand beyond Evanston never materialized. Instead from the north came the Chicago & Milwaukee Electric, predecessor of the Chicago North Shore & Milwaukee.

More competition came from the south, the Chicago North Shore Street Railway Company. Initially controlled by “robber baron” Charles T. Yerkes, this streetcar line connected with Yerkes’ North Chicago Street Railroad Company. Ultimately what evolved was Evanston Railways plus a small connecting line, North Shore & Western, connecting Evanston with the Glen View Club.

The St. Paul’s plans to electrify manifested in the Northwestern Elevated Railroad, today’s CTA Purple Line, coming to Evanston. The “L” electrified the St. Paul’s right-of-way north of Wilson Avenue to Central Street Evanston. The St. Paul’s operations retreated to between Wilson Avenue and downtown Chicago with two daily roundtrips that lasted for nine years. Meanwhile, the “L” snuck into Wilmette under the cover of darkness.

This is a complex story full of business, political and financial intrigue covering the early days of the railroads serving Evanston. A subsequent edition of the Dispatch series, Surviving Rails, will cover the rapid transit, interurban and suburban rail operations that have served Evanston and Wilmette over the past 100 years.

How to order

Dispatch No. 2, Competing Rails, is available from Shore Line for $29.95. Shore Line members pay only $19.95. Add $4 for postage to a U.S. address, $11 for postage to Canada and $13 for other international destinations

To order Dispatch series publications, send a check or money order in U.S. funds along with your name and mailing address to Shore Line, P.O. Box 425, Lake Forest IL 60045-0425.

  Dispatch No. 2, Competing Rails  
  Shore Line published Dispatch No. 2, Competing Rails, in February 2011.
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