Known as the “last of the interurbans,” the South Shore (now operated by the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District or NICTD) provides daily commuter service from Northwest Indiana to Chicago via South Shore freight and passenger trackage and the Metra Electric District Mainline from Kensington/115th Street to Randolph Street Station beneath the new Milennium Park on the lakefront. That “last of the interurbans” is something I will not forget — it makes the South Shore rather unique.
Unlike Metra, when I rode the South Shore in the mid-1990s it didn’t seem to operate like a commuter line. Yes, it had the railcars and bus-like seating, but there was something different about taking the train from Indiana into Chicago. To me, the South Shore operated like a railroad rather than a glorified bus system or subway. It had conductors and engineers who seemed more stereotypical than not, train crews that projected an air of being more comfortable with freight locomotives than with passenger cars, and support staff who seemed more out of 1940s movies than a contemporary suburban scene. There was a certain ambiance that only those who rode the train from end-to-end every day could sense. I didn’t feel it when I first rode but nearly five years later, I realized that the South Shore was something different — something special.