Railroad buffs are about the most dedicated bunch you can find, flocking to model train shows and to rail yard sidings to glimpse historic engines and rolling stock. Now, thanks to National Park Service efforts, they have a new destination: The East Troy Electric Railroad in Wisconsin where five historic South Shore Railroad Cars have been put back in action.
The cars date to the 1920s, and were operated up until 1982. When the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District was formed in 1977 to operate the Chicago South Shore and South Bend Railroad, federal funds were granted to purchase new cars to replace the historic cars.
But there was a hitch tied to the federal funds: they required the transfer of the historic cars to the National Park Service at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, a move that took place in 1984. Since then the Park Service has worked with numerous organizations in an effort to preserve the historic cars, and has succeeded in securing their preservation by transferring them to seven railroad museums that specialize in telling the stories of the nation’s transportation history.
In Wisconsin, the East Troy Electric Railroad, a not-for-profit organization, was chosen as the recipient of these last five cars because the folks there have demonstrated the ability to preserve, maintain, and operate the cars, consistent with Park Service guidelines, through a large contingent of volunteers.
East Troy Electric Railroad operates on six miles of electric rail line that has been in continuous operation for over 100 years. Their museum and tourist excursion have been in operation since 1972. It is the only museum in the country that regularly operates historic South Shore Railroad cars on an electric interurban line. Their operating season extends from May through October with special holiday events in December.
Twelve historic South Shore Cars have been conveyed to the museums that had the cars on loan; most located within a one-day drive of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. If you would like to experience riding on some of these historic South Shore Cars you can do so at the:
* Illinois Railway Museum in Union, Illinois; http://www.irm.org/
* Southern Michigan Railroad Society in Clinton, Michigan; http://southernmichiganrailroad.com/
Historic cars can also be viewed in exhibits at: Fox River Trolley Museum, South Elgin, Illinois http://www.foxtrolley.org/; National New York Central Railroad Museum, Elkhart, Indiana, http://www.nycrrmuseum.org/; and Seashore Trolley Museum, Kennebunkport, Maine