South Shore Line Museum Project


The South Shore Line Museum Project (SSLMP) understands “the Railroad” (and the South Shore Line in particular) as the window into many aspects of American and Midwest history. South Shore Line Heritage—both tangible and intangible—is the raw material from which to create exhibits and experiences.

Scholarship and research from a wide variety of disciplines will shape the stories, interpretations, and intellectual backbone of the project. The Museum’s content and how it presents will be guided by best practices and collaborations with a variety of colleagues and institutions.

SSLMP has informed and detailed ideas as to its primary themes and presentation topics. The Railroad’s history will be the primary organizing principle and thread running through every exhibit, program, and project it undertakes. But the larger purpose is to offer new insights into the broader histories of Indiana and Illinois and the many ways people used railroading—especially electric interurban railroading—to shape their lives and create the world we inhabit today.

The following are examples of topics and approaches the South Shore Line Museum will explore, and why the history of the railroad is a splendid vehicle to do so. None of these are compartmentalized or constrained. It is our full intent for each to inform and cross-pollinate the others with the goals of offering new insights.

One of our hopes is that at least a significant proportion of those who engage the Museum go away thinking “I didn’t know that” or “I never thought about that before.” Each of these themes may be understood as an exhibit, instructional unit, or “container” for ideas, objects, and stories.

  1. Interurban Railroads—How were they different?
  2. Building The Amazing Midwest Interurban Network
  3. Riding on the Electric Cars—What was it Like?
  4. A New Way From Chicago to New York
  5. The Chicago, Lake Shore & South Bend Railroad – Its Pioneering Promoters were Men of Faith and Business
  6. Shaping the South Shore—the Development of Industry in the Calumet Region, 1900-1970
  7. New Cities, New Towns, New Aspirations
  8. Indiana Electrifies
  9. Discovering the Dunes
  10. Transitions in Management – From The Pioneering Seagrave Brothers, to The Insull Empire, and to Cold War Iconoclast Cyrus Eaton
  11. Making Electricity at Michigan City
  12. Who Lived Here Long Ago?
  13. Creating New Lives and Families
  14. First Class Service—For a Few – Northern Jim Crow and the South Shore Line Special Parlor and Dining Car Services
  15. The Rise of Automobility in Indiana and Illinois
  16. Hauling Freight on the South Shore Line Railroad
  17. Modernizing the South Shore Line Railroad
  18. Transitions in Technology – From Wood Cars to the Insull Steel Fleet to NICTD’s Stainless Cars
  19. Art as Persuasion
  20. Working on the Railroad
  21. A New Kind of Commuter
  22. Football at Notre Dame
  23. Hard Times for Almost Everyone
  24. America, Illinois, and Indiana—at War
  25. Stretching Cars
  26. The Indiana Toll Road and the South Shore Line
  27. Chessie System Buys the South Shore—and then Sells It
  28. NICTD and the Preservation of America’s Last True Interurban
  29. Gamechangers for the Interurban in The Present and Future – COVID-19 and the Shift to Work from Home; The Coming of Autonomous Personal Vehicles and their Possible Impact on Public Transit