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A wooden bridge remains in Northfield, IL. Photo by Greg J.

This line started out as the Chicago North Shore and Milwaukee Railroad, an interurban line that connected Chicago with Milwaukee, WI. Between Chicago and Northbrook, it ran parallel and adjacent to a Chicago and North Western Railroad mainline, 50 feet to the west. However, the CNW's mainline was ill-maintained and was increasingly seeing derailments and other accidents. So when the North Shore line fell to bankruptcy in the early 1960s, the CNW saw fit to relocate their mainline to that of the well-maintained North Shore line, since relocating was much cheaper than rehabilitating their own line, despite their mainline being considered a "bypass" to their second mainline, to which this line connected at Northbrook.

Freight traffic along the line declined over the years, until the line was downgraded to local use, serving a couple of local businesses, including a lumber yard and gravel company for a couple of years. The CNW finally ceased traffic along the line in 1995, and the Union Pacific (which merged CNW in 1995) filed for abandonment of the line in 2001, with the most of the track removed in 2004-05. Some track and a railroad trestle in Northfield remain, and all of the grade crossings are paved over. Consideration has been given to rebuilding this ROW in the future as an extension of the Chicago Transit Authority's "Yellow Line".

The line ran north from Lincolnwood (just north of Chicago), through Skokie, Glenview, Northfield, Glencoe, and ended in Northbrook with a connection with the other CNW mainline, which is now in heavy use by Union Pacific.

Thanks to Greg J for contributing information about this route.

This line was old north shore mainline and even had old north shore ties in spots with date nails in them used to bike to parts from home and watch way freight and some freights use these tracks.

pablo sack
deerfield, IL
11/3/2009

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Who currently owns the right of way of the abandoned railroad?

Jeremiah Lietke
Vancouver, WA
8/9/2010

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The last customer of this line was Crafty Beaver on Oakton Street. The single track ran north from there where it merged with the CNW New Line in Northbrook.

There is speculation that the CTA may extend the Skokie Swift somewhat along this right-of-way north to Old Orchard Mall. This would be interesting as the tracks of the now Skokie Swift initially did exactly that as the North Shore Line.

George
Skokie, IL
9/24/2010

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Oddly, much of the rail is still down but for grade crossings. In addition, there was strong NIMBY opposition to using that ROW to serve as another corridor to Howard Street as well as to the hotels and shopping in the Northbrook and Deerfield/Highland Park areas, as well as Old Orchard.

Greg J
Northern, IL
10/20/2010

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Would it be legal to walk on this trackage?

Carl
Lake Zurich, IL
4/16/2011

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Doubtful it would be legal, but there certainly would be no one to stop you. It's all wide open from start to finish. Park at New Trier High School or in Northfield and have at it. The original C&NW ROW can be found in many places about 50' west of the current ROW. It's still visible 50 years later, especially down toward Glenview Rd. in Glenview.

Greg J
Northern, IL
5/16/2011

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Just to add: There is now a townhouse development (Arbor Lakes I believe) on the site of a former 3M plant that was served by this line until the late 70's or so. It then closed, sat vacant since the ground was contaminated, and the property was then cleaned and donated to the village of Northfield by 3M. It then was sold off for development and part of it that was a parking lot for employees is now a firehouse. There was a siding into the plant and it's still visible on Winnetka Avenue at Happ Rd. There are businesses on Northfield Rd. that were also served by this line and they are still there. I'm actually surprised no one has found a use for it yet given the potential. Some old rail lines are obviously worthless but this one is not.

Greg J
Northern, IL
5/21/2011

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I lived near this line in the 1960's near Glenview Road. During this time, it was relatively busy single-track freight line with perhaps 4-5 long, noisy, trains going through at all hours of the day and night in both directions.

During this period, the south end of the line extended beyond Skokie and merged with the old Mayfair line in Chicago near Peterson Ave.

As a boy, during the 1960s and 1970's, the roadbed of the old line around Glenview road made a pretty good bike trail, although the rails had been removed and it was just compacted soil. Occasionally, you might stumble across an old signal wiring junction box. With the growth of trees on both sides of the roadbed, it was kind of a spooky, isolated spot that went on-and-on in a linear fashion.

The Lincoln Avenue crossing had an interesting "harp" wig-wag signal, as I recall.

Tom Demos
Glenveiw, IL
9/14/2011

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A short bike trail has been built on this line between Bryn Mawr and Devon Avenues, using a number of the original bridges and the original embankment.

Josh Reynolds
Downers Grove, IL
10/23/2011

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Actually, in the 1980s & I believe into the 1990s a single unit coal drag with rotary dump gondolas would use this line almost daily, usually around noon traveling northbound.

It was at least 80 cars long & all the cars were owned by Wisconsin Electric Power Co.

I never understood why the C&NW routed it this way.

Garry
Chicago, IL
12/16/2011

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I grew up in the Veterans Housing Project that fronted on Foster at Kilbourn. There was/were track(s) along the west of the housing area, the embankment was still there in August. Trying to think back to the early '50s; maybe there was only one track?! Anyone know if the section that crossed Foster would have been a siding going to the factory that did something with Mica? Interesting that nothing shows through Labagh and south of Foster on the map.

oh4chia
Oakland, CA
1/5/2012

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Do you think there are any North Shore Line date nails left in any ties or have they been all replaced by the North Western some years ago?? Ive hunted down the North Shore right of way for many years and recovered many date nails on fence posts along bike trails and farm land too. The hunt would be fun! Thanks.

Erik Bryant
Kenosha, WI
1/20/2012

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Boy does this bring back memories. I remember these tracks. In the mid 70's I use to ride my dirt bike along the right-a-away from Foster Ave. to Peterson Ave., through the Forest Preserve. I think it was only one track at Foster Ave. I know in the 70's when I would go down Devon Ave., I would catch the train crossing the street and have to sit there and wait til it passes. The best is when the kids would jump the signal and make it flash when there was no train. Usually during rush hour.

Erik, you may get lucky and find some of those date nails. I thought the tracks and ties were removed around Devon Ave. and south of there. I could be wrong, it has been a lot of years. I heard that this was suppose to be a bike trail. Any truth in that?

Ralph

Ralph
Winthrop Harbor, IL
1/22/2012

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Between the past two years, I recovered over 60 North Shore line date nails between Milwaukee and the State line! I always assummed others in the area found and pulled out the nails unless some were missed. When the snow melts, I need to check it out!Ive always wondered?!Thanks Ralph for your memories! Erik

Erik Bryant
Kenosha, WI
1/23/2012

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Erik,

If you are going to look for those date nails, check the aerial view first. It looks like a lot of track is missing. Just north of golf road around were that tracks go under highway 94, it looks like a section of track is still there. I do not know how old this view from the air is that I saw. You can see the whole track line end to end from the aerial view.

There are bike routes at both ends of this right of way. As you can see, I got interested in this. A lot of history on how we grew from living in the cities to expanding out into suburbs I learned.

Maybe you can ride your bike from the north to where the bike trail ends and find some track left behind? I forgot the name of the bike trail on the north end, but it was named on the goggle map. It would be nice if they finished the bike trail all the way to Foster Ave.. That would be a nice ride. There is a Forest Preserve there too where you can park.

Good luck finding those date nails.

Ralph

Ralph
Winthrop, IL
1/23/2012

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Ralph,

I know the area well as for my job, I have delivered plants to the Wilmette area. Im betting others many years ago checked for date nails but who knows. I will have to see for myself and if no date nails are there, the walk and hunt would be fun! I will do this once the snow melts.Thanks for your info!

Erik

Erik Bryant
Kenosha, WI
1/24/2012

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Why did cnw stop runing on those lines!

Bill Filiippi
vernon hills, IL
1/30/2012

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As of a couple weeks ago, the tracks are still down in Northfield where I took the photos of the bridge. The bridge is about 100' west of Happ Rd. and just slightly south of New Trier High School over a branch of the Chicago River. If you want to look for nails, I can't see why you couldn't park in the New Trier lot (no one will bother you) and walk to the tracks and have at it! I'm not 100% sure why they abandoned it, but I would guess it was due to loss of customers and maintenance expenses. Plus, they had a true double-track mainline not far away that this line ultimately joined with about 3-4 miles north of where the photos were shot.

Greg J.
Northern, IL
1/31/2012

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Thanks Greg! One of these days I will check it out. Who know how many ties were left in that are from the North Shore!? Of course others could have beat me to it. Also I will check the dates of the rail to see if its been replaced after the North Shore. Once I do this I will give feedback to let other know of my walk. Thanks!

Erik Bryant
Kenosha, WI
2/1/2012

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Here is a link to a Chicago Tribune story on 2/7/12 about that old line. Also, if you do some web searching, there are numerous other photos of the abandoned route from farther south.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/ct-met-north-suburban-bike-trail-20120207,0,5746573.story

Greg J
Northern, IL
2/8/2012

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On febuary 9th, I finally walked the old North Shore line from Sunset Ridge road to Willow Road in Northfield. Since im not working right now it was a good time to do it! I did see track from 1946 dated on the side which is from the North Shore and found plenty of date nails too! The walk was a 5 mile round trip. I wanted to walk to the river bridge but I did see sign of no trespassing just south of Willow road.Im not worried about that anyway but all it takes is one jerk to wreck it for someone who wants to explore! Next trip I will walk from were the tracks begin near Golf road and walk north to the river bridge. I wonder if they plan to remove the rest of the track soon or not??!It was fun for sure to walk on the old Skokie Valley Route!Still shocked on how many ties were from the North Shore and seeing the track being from the North Shore as well! I will be heading back down there again soon! Thanks for all your help Ralph and Greg and others!

Erik Bryant
Kenosha, WI
2/12/2012

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Erik... glad you got down there and found what you were looking for. I don't ever advocate tresspassing, but I suspect that ComEd (utility company) may own a part of the adjacent ROW, hence the signs. I never have noticed one before but understand the UP might still own it so who knows? If you get to the bridge, you can see the remains of the original freight line bridge immediately to the west. There are still lots of places where the original ROW is still visible 50 years later, like behind that church just south of Sunset Ridge Rd. and down by Glenview Rd.. Take some photos maybe? Good hunting!

Greg J.
Northern, IL
2/13/2012

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Greg,

On my way back from my walk on the old Sokie Valley Route,I decided to walk north of Sunset Ridge Road and I turned around about a quarter mile south of Dundee Road. No entry signs never stopped me before. My plan next is to Park at the New Trier High school you said. How far is it south of Willow Road?? Also do the ex North Shore tracks to to Church Street or are they torn up in places before that?? My interest is only the ex North Shore line. I will take more pictures of the dates on the rail since some is from the North Shore! Is the bridge close to the high school?? Im looking forward to my next trip down there! You just dont know if they plan to pull up the tracks at any time!?!Thanks again for your info!

Erik Bryant
Kenosha, WI
2/14/2012

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Made a mistake in my last post. I asked if the old North Shore tracks go past Church Street or are they torn up before that road? Even if the rails are gone, are there RR ties still in place?? If you know this, I would appreciate this! thanks!

Erik Bryant
Kenosha, WI
2/14/2012

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Erik... New Trier is at 7 Happ Rd. about one mile south of Willow, but exit I-94 at Tower and go south on Frontage which turns into Happ until you get there. There is a Jewish temple next to the lot, then a state maintenance yard, and then the river/bridge. A bike trail leads to within 50' or so. The ex-NSL line is actually in use still today as part of the CTA. It's called the Skokie Swift and begins at Oakton St. in Skokie, which is where the line "ends". My mother is almost 90, and she recalls a branch line and turntable that used to run along Old Orchard Rd. to Harms Woods when she was a kid. Growing up in the area, I remember the ruins of an old bridge over the river at Harms and Old Orchard roads and concrete foundations where the NSL line crossed Old Orchard Rd. or something. Those must have been for RR signs or signals of some sort. They were still there as of a few years ago and if they still are you'll have no trouble seeing them.

Greg J.
Northern, IL
2/14/2012

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I meant to say the Skokie Swift begins at Dempster, not Oakton. And at that point, the old freight line reverts back to its original ROW.

Greg J.
Northern, IL
2/14/2012

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Greg,

Ive been down by the Skokie Swift before and took photos in the past. Im just interested in the old North Shore tracks that the C&NW used so I can find more goodies laying around. I believe the tracks are gone south of Church ST until you get to Dempster ST. were its used today. I will check it out soon. I think I will go on a Sunday which is better so I dont see any Com Ed workers around and less people too! Not being noticed is a good thing! Take care and thanks for your info!

Erik Bryant
Kenosha, WI
2/16/2012

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This past sunday I walked the remaing North Shore tracks from NorthField to Skokie just before Church street. It was a 6 mile walk round trip. Found more date nails but not as much as my first trip. I took photos of the track and alot seems to be from the North Shore! I knew the North Shore got there rail from Illinois Steel but I also found rail from lackawanna steel. I saw dates from 1937-1947! Its possible the C&NW replaced the North Shore track with other used track!? I was also amazed that south of Lake Ave, there was still old North Shore cantnery still in use by Comm.Ed.!! They stretched south to Old Orchard. I had alot of fun and Im glad I explored this historical section of railroad! I encourage others to do the same and get photos before its gone! Only time will tell! Thanks again for all of your help!

Erik Bryant
kenosha, WI
2/20/2012

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Erik... that's great that you did that and I'm glad you found the info helpful. It was easy for me to help since I'm from the area and knew both lines well. The CNW/UP never ran trains through there at any speed, but as was mentioned, they ran several per day for many years, and very long ones at that. Maybe the track, as you discovered, was the reason for lack of speed. Hope you upload photos.

Greg J.
Northern, IL
2/20/2012

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Does anyone know how long this strech of track from chicago to northbrook is?

Lauren
Glenview
6/27/2012

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Lauren, if I had to guess I would say 10 miles. Might be a little more.

Greg J
Northern, IL
8/20/2012

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Greg,

I took another trip back to the Northbrook area to search for more date nails that were hidden by overgrowth of weeds the first time I went back in February. This time I took my time and found some hidden under the vegetation! Ended up walking two miles south and back and a pocket full of date nails! A total of 56. Since I walked these historical set of tracks several times now, I have pulled out over 300 date nails and there is still more for others. I left a lot of 58s which is the last year the North Shore replaced ties and dated them! It was fun to return here and explore again! I encourage others to do the same before the tracks are ripped up and gone! Thanks again for giving me info early this year and to others as well!

Erik Bryant
Kenosha, WI
10/22/2012

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This thread is a very interesting read. I too am very interested in the North Shore Line (as well as many other related topics). While I have done some exploring in the past, I've never really walked the whole line before. I live further north, just a couple blocks from the Clavey Road crossing, where the line is now a bikepath. These date nails sound cool. I'm not entirely sure I'd know what I'm looking for though.

Garrett
Highland Park, IL
12/18/2012

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Garrett,

If you want to find some North Shore date nails, you will find some still between Northbrook and Northfield. Were the North Shore tracks once crossed Sunset ridge road is a good place to start and walk south! Its a good 2 and a half mile walk to Northfield. There is plenty of 58s left and the nails can be found on the top of the tie and in the middle about. use a hammer but be gentle as you do not want to ding up the nails with hammer marks! Use a wood pick too so you can dig out the wood from the ties so pulling the nails become easy! The date nails are small and are about a few inches long. A 1958 date will show just 58 on the nail head. You may find some older years too! Let me know if you got any questions. Oh! since we dont have snow, now is the time to hunt as the vegetation is dead until spring! Good luck!

Erik Bryant
Kenosha, WI
1/15/2013

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Thanks, Erik.

Pretty much confirming what I suspected as far as nails, location goes. I live a few minutes away from Sunset Ridge and drive by that crossing often. Been procrastinating walking it for a long time. Was definitely thinking the other day that the lack of snow would be a good reason to go exploring. Thanks!

Garrett
Highland Park, IL
1/16/2013

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Garrett,

I explored the line on 3 different trips and you can read my posts from last year and this year on this site! When you walk southward you will find a lot of dead plants and weeds covering the RR ties. There is nails I missed but there is more for sure. You will find plenty of 58s within a mile or so when you start walking! You may not find much at first! I nearly cleaned up and found about 300 nails! I hope you recover some and enjoy your finds as well! Let me know how you do when you go and what you found! I have found many North Shore date Nails in my area along the bike baths and other places too. The adventure of exploring has been fun for me and hope it is for you too! I wish you Luck!

Erik Bryant
Kenosha, WI
1/16/2013

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I'm glad you guys are exploring, and that nails have been found. That line is kind of interesting I think in that if you go south from Sunset Ridge about until you see a church on your right (¼ to ½ mile or so), you can then spot the original ROW. Just walk over west about 25 feet or so toward the church and you can't miss it, even though it's been out of use for over 50 years! Same is true when you get way down to Wilmette Ave. and Glenview Rd..

Greg J
Northern, IL
1/19/2013

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By luck, I found this site. Good to see there are people out there like me, nuts about trains in general. The North Shore is special to me because my dad loved the interurbans. He talked about them a lot. I was looking for info on what structures for the North Shore were in the area you are talking about. I grew up on the corner of Grove and Ridge in Highland Park. As a kid, I was all over the area where the G&O Thermal Supply now is. (Check Google maps). I knew the C&NW tracks very well also. Back then 10-12 years old (1976-1978) there were old abandoned buildings still sitting there. I remember finding loads of railroad paperwork. No, never did take anything. Now I wish I had. I'm sure it was North Shore related.

If any of you are ever near Lafayette/Delphi Indiana, there is an old abandoned railroad bridge that is incredible to walk on. It is part of a marked trail. It is from the old Monon Line and it is close to 80' tall. Truly amazing.

Jim Bjork
Lafayette, IN
1/21/2013

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I wanted to let people know that today is the 50th anniversary of the end of the North Shore line! I am too young to remember it but those who do will always have special memories within themselves! Today so many people still miss the North Shore and are upset its gone as it would have been very popular in todays era with our rising gas prices. Today we can still see the right of way in many places and some remaining structures too! This reminds us about the Great North Shore Line and what it was all about. The fastest, and most dependable electric railway ever!

Erik Bryant
Kenosha, WI
1/21/2013

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Jim,

I grew up by Ridge and Clavey and wander around that area often. Obviously, the former Briergate station building is still there. I would love to go out today to explore the area south of Lake Cook as discussed a few posts up, but it's just too cold. Anyone who is interested in old North Shore Line posters, photos and maps, check out this blog: http://themanonfive.com/tagged/North%20Shore%20Line

Garrett
Highland Park, IL
1/21/2013

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We lived on Arbor Lane in East Glenview. My father used to take the North Shore Line electric train from the station on Glenview Road. The electric stopped running in the early 60's. As a kid in the 60's & 70's, we hung out at the C&NW tracks daily. In the early 60's there were as many as five lines crossing Glenview Road. I bet there was a train every 5-minutes back then. It quickly was reduced to two lines and by 1970 down to one line. We used to hop the slow trains from New Trier West back to Glenview Road in the 70's. Many of us climbed the power line towers that followed the rail line. As a kid, not too bright...but fun memories.

Tim Cadden
Glenview, IL
1/27/2013

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Tim... it's a SMALL world. We know each other as I was good friends with your brother when we were kids. Think about the name a second. Best regards to you! Saly hello to your brother and sister for me. On a darker side, were you old enough to remember the kid who died after touching the wire by the Glenview station? Today, with our technology, he might have made it but not back then. He survived only a few days. Very sad. Anyway, I just saw parts of that line and the bridge I took pics of the other day. It still looks perfectly viable to me for something.

Greg J
Northern, IL
1/30/2013

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Greg, I sent this link to my brother Tom in Arizona and he thought that might be you. My brother and I remembered the boy as Bobby Scillers (sp. ???). I remember you at the tracks as well as the Viola boys and Knorr boys. I hope all is well with you.

Tim Cadden
Glenview, IL
1/30/2013

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Date: April 27, 1966 Chicago Tribune

Robert Sillars, 12, of 710 Indiana rd., Glenview, died in County hospital yesterday of burns suffered last Friday when he climbed an electrical tower and touched a high voltage power line. Nearly 50 pints of blood and plasma were administered to the boy in the hospital's burn ward in a futile effort of a team of physicians to save his life.

Bobby Sillars tragedy taught us all to stay away from those power lines. RIP

Tim Cadden
Glenview
1/31/2013

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Yes... Bob Sillars. Nice, though sad, find on your part. I remember my dad donating blood. He had/has a younger brother as I recall. After that accident, they put up sheet metal to prevent that... remember? And I asked my mom, who's still alive and very well (and drives!), why the crossing at Wilmette Ave was always closed. She said an Electroliner hit a car with a mom and a couple children in it back in the 50's and instead of upgrading they just closed down the crossing which the neighbors preferred. Thanks for sending that to Tom... I was telling my wife about all the goofy recordings we used to make in your basement and about the awesome jingles your dad wrote! I'm feeling old now.... 4 kids, 3 grandkids.

Greg J
Northern, IL
1/31/2013

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Tim... I learned something else from my mom. She said when she was a kid, there used to be a rail line that ran from Evanston to Harms Woods at Old Orchard and Harms Rd. It ran on the south side of Old Orchard Rd. and then crossed over a bridge on the river where there was a turntable of some sort. This actually makes sense because there are (or used to be) big concrete pilings where the CNW/NS Line ROW was, and the ruins of a bridge used to be in the river just slightly NW of the shelter in that 1st picnic grove. Also, at the corner, there was an old restaurant there when I was a kid which later became an antique shop. It was so close to the road, it might even have been a station at one time before the road was actually built... who knows? I'll have to poke around next time I'm in the area and I'll do some net searching.

Greg J
Northern, IL
2/1/2013

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Say hi to your mom from the Cadden's. My mom is still alive and living in a nice retirement community here in the Kansas City metro area. She remembers all the kids from the neighborhood. Tom would love to here from you and share stories about the tracks. Glad to here you are doing well. I always wondered why the Wilmette Road crossing was closed off.

Tim C
Glenview
2/1/2013

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Greg, I believe this is the line from Evanston. By 1906, Evanston had yet another streetcar company. The North Shore & Western Railway ran along Harrison Street from Lincolnwood Drive and continued west to the Glenview Golf Club. By this time, the CCT had extended service west on Central to Lincolnwood; connection with the NS&W was made at that point. Evanstonians called these streetcars "Dinkys" and "Toonerville Trolleys" after a popular cartoon of the time.

Tim Cadden
Glenview, IL
2/20/2013

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Tim, you may be right. I certainly remember the cement pilings that stood in the river at Harms and Old Orchard, and it's been so long that I don't know if they removed them or not by now. But they were WAY too large for just a foot bridge. Mom's memory is amazing and what you say makes sense. BTW, please ask your brother to check his email. LOL

Greg J
Northern, IL
2/25/2013

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It's always so sad to see these rail lines become abandoned. You just have to sit and wonder what used to occur on those lines.

I remember this line as a kid, used to walk it all the time.

Even the tracks in Morton Grove, I think Metra runs on those tracks, there are a bunch of un-used rails running along side of the active ones right be the station on Lehigh. Always wondered what those were for.......

Landon Statis
Glenview, IL
5/2/2013

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Wow...Just walking down memory lane in my mind and I googled "Bobby Sillars". Your article came up and I was thrust into my early years in Glenview again. Sort story is that I lived down the street from Bobby on Indian Rd. in the early 60's. My younger brother and I went to OLPH and knew Bobby and Scott (his younger brother) Bobby and I were both 12 and good buddies. My family moved to Cincinnati just months before Bobby was killed on the power lines over the NSL tracks. He was a very adventurous kid and we did some wild "boy stuff" back then...on and around those tracks. Terrified and saddened to learn of his death shortly after we moved.

Thanks you for posting the article and the subsequent posts by Tim and Greg below. Brought back a flood of memories...never always good. (BTW - was one of the Knorr boys mentioned named Donald?)

Patrick Cullinan
Churchville, MD
12/21/2013

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Don Knorr was the oldest boy. Al Knorr and the younest Joe Knorr.

Tim Cadden
Glenview, IL
12/21/2013

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