The interurban was an electric railway that was important in the eastern half of the United States from about 1890 to 1925. Interurbans provided passenger service between cities and towns.
Interurbans were a cross between a streetcar and a train. There were 15,500 miles of interurban rail in the US in 1915.
Interurbans in the Chicago region included the Chicago North Shore and Milwaukee Railroad (North Shore Line), the Chicago Aurora and Elgin Railroad, and the South Shore Line.
The South Shore Line that services Chicago to South Bend is one of the last operations still running in the US that began life as an interurban. It still operates in Michigan City, Indiana down the middle of a street like a street car. The equipment is now modern electric rail equipment.
The South Shore Line has flag stops. Back in the good old days you would flag a train and it would stop and pick you up.
I did this at Calumet Harbor, a desolate spot with no sign of any kind of train station. I simply waived my hand and the seven car train stopped from 70+ miles per hour. I ran to the train and hopped off and off we went. People were surprised to see the train stop to pick me up.
At night people would light a newspaper so the train would know that a passenger wanted them to stop. Now flag stops have a
"push button located in or near the shelter to activate strobe light to signal train to stop. Please push button at least 5 minutes before scheduled departure time of train. Strobe light will turn off automatically after 10 minutes. Passengers should remain visible to engineer when standing at platform. There is no strobe at McCormick Place or 63rd St."
Comparing electric interurban railways and "steam railroads". The three major interurbans entering Chicago were not typical interurban lines, enabling them to survive well beyond the 1930's, when most interurban lines were abandoned.
Insull acquired control of the Chicago North Shore & Milwaukee Railroad Co. in 1916, the Chicago Aurora & Elgin Railroad Co. in 1926, and the Chicago South Shore & South Bend Railroad in 1925. Insull resigned from control of all companies in 1932.