South Shore Line

Brief History:
Alone among interurbans, the South Shore has made the transition to a commuter railroad practically like those that were steam railroads. Abundant freight traffic, developed under Insull control (1925-32), kept it alive into the era of public subsidies for passenger transport.

Operation started with streetcars to Indiana Harbor. As a rare 6600v ac interurban, it seemed unpromising until the Insulls re-electrified it, bought new rolling stock and generally revitalized it.

The Depression of the 1930s brought another bankruptcy. Later came management as part of the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway Company and public support of passenger service. Finally the railroad was purchased by NICTD, an Indiana municipal corporation. The freight operation, already dieselized, then continues as a separate private-sector company.

For photos of the South Shore Line, check out the railroad's photo archive.

Quick Facts:

When it ran: 1904-present

Early abandonments:

  • 1910 - Tolleston branch
  • 1926 - Indiana Harbor branch
  • 1956 - Street-running in East Chicago (replaced by new alignment)
  • 1970 - Street-running in South Bend

Most recent addition to the system: 1992 - Extension to South Bend Airport

Miles of line (passenger service, 1956): 90

Frequency of service (1958 midday every day):

  • Chicago-Gary - half-hourly
  • Gary-South Bend - hourly

Number of cars (1954):

  • 64 passenger cars
  • 19 locomotives
  • 173 total

Revenue passengers (1946): 6, 163,798

Number of employees (1947): 962

Principal companies in system:

  • 1901-04: Chicago & Indiana Air Line Railway Co.
  • 1904-24: Chicago, Lake Shore & South Bend Railway Co.
  • 1924-circa 1940: The Chicago, Lake Shore & South Bend Railway Co.
  • 1925-1990s: Chicago South Shore & South Bend Railroad
  • 1977-present: Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District (NICTD)
  • 1989-present: Chicago SouthShore & South Bend Railroad (freight carrier)

Surviving equipment:

Major books (those marked * are out of print):

  • The Insull Interurbans by Gordon E. Lloyd (Morning Sun Books, 1996)
  • How the Medal Was Won (Central Electric Railfans' Association Bulletin 124, 1985)
  • Duneland Electric by Donald R. Kaplan (*1984)
  • Spirit of the South Shore by William A. Raia (*1984)
  • South Shore, The Last Interurban by William D. Middleton (*1970)
  • Electric Railways of Indiana, Part III (Central Electric Railfans' Association Bulletin 104, *1960)

More Reading in First & Fastest: Every issue contains South Shore Line material

More Reading on the internet:


Contributing to this report: Roy G. Benedict, James J. Buckley, Norm Carlson, Art Peterson

  Map of the South Shore Line. Map by Roy G. Benedict Publishers' Services
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Map of the South Shore Line. Map by Roy G. Benedict Publishers' Services
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