NYC E7A 4024 a couple of minutes from Chicago's LaSalle Street Station on May 15, 1964. Taken from the Roosevelt Road Viaduct.

(Photo © 2023 Marty Bernard, All Rights Reserved, Used by permission)


Lake Shore Limited drumhead.


The Lake Shore Limited was a passenger train service operated by the New York Central Railroad between New York City and Chicago, Illinois, from 1897 to 1956. Separate sections linked to Boston and St. Louis. The Lake Shore Limited was the New York Central's first luxury passenger train, and paved the way for its more famous cousin the 20th Century Limited.  The 1897 name is now used by Amtrak's Lake Shore Limited, which follows much the same route.


Lake Shore Limited, circa 1908 at Chesterton, Indiana. (Steve Shook from Moscow, Idaho, USA, CC BY 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons)


Lake Shore Limited, Toledo, Ohio. (Toledo-Lucas County Public Library, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Lake Shore Limited in Train Yard, Union Depot, Toledo, Ohio. (Toledo-Lucas County Public Library, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)


The Lake Shore Limited's immediate predecessor was the Exposition Flyer (not to be confused with a train of the same name operated between Chicago & Oakland, California, between 1939 and 1949), which the New York Central operated between New York and Chicago during the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition, held in Chicago.

The Lake Shore Limited began on May 30, 1897, with an advertised 24-hour schedule from New York to Chicago. A Boston section which connected at Albany, New York had a 26-hour schedule.  The Lake Shore Limited's chief competitor was the Pennsylvania Railroad's Pennsylvania Limited, which began in 1887.  The Lake Shore Limited carried the train numbers 19 (westbound) and 22 (eastbound).

The New York Central truncated the westbound Lake Shore Limited to Buffalo on July 15, 1956, and substituted the Great Lakes Aerotrain over the Chicago-Cleveland portion of the route. The eastbound Lake Shore Limited ended on October 28, 1956, as part of a system-wide reorganization.


Route and equipment used

The original Lake Shore Limited was the last New York Central train featuring Wagner Palace Car Company equipment before the latter's merger with the Pullman Car Company in 1899. The original consist was as follows: buffet/library/smoking car, parlor car, dining car, three sleepers and an observation lounge. Electric power came from a dynamo in the baggage car.

The westbound Lake Shore Limited originated at Grand Central Station in New York and traveled along the Hudson River to Albany, where it joined with a section from Boston. From there it traveled west to Rochester, New York, then southwest to Buffalo, New York. From Buffalo it ran over the tracks of the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railway (LS&MS) through Cleveland, Ohio, to Chicago's LaSalle Street Station. Another section separated at Cleveland and ran over the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railway to Cincinnati, Ohio, and St. Louis, Missouri.


Sample consist

Train: Westbound
Lounge sleeper (New York—Chicago)
10-6 sleeper (New York—Chicago; carried through to San Francisco, California on the California Zephyr)
14 section sleeper (New York—Chicago)
10-6 sleeper (New York—Chicago)
10-6 sleeper (New York—Toledo, Ohio)
22 roomette sleeper (Boston—Chicago; interchanged in Buffalo with the New England Wolverine)
17 roomette sleeper (Toronto—Cleveland; interchanged in Buffalo with The Ontarian)
10-6 sleeper (Charlottesville, Virginia—Chicago; interchanged in Toledo with the C&O's No. 47)
Dining car
Coaches (New York—Chicago)

Source: September 1954 Official Guide of the Railways


1940 Crash

Main article: Little Falls Gulf Curve crash of 1940

On April 19, 1940 the westbound Lake Shore Limited derailed due to excessive speed on a curve unfortunately killing 31 and injuring nearly 140. The train had left Albany 21 minutes behind schedule and the engineer was trying to make up time.



Before the coming of the 20th Century Limited, the Lake Shore Limited was the New York Central's premier long-distance train.  Amtrak now operates the Lake Shore Limited between Chicago and New York, with a Boston section, over the same route. Amtrak's Lake Shore Limited operates a 20½-hour schedule to New York and a 23-hour schedule to Boston.


Lake Shore Limited Overview

Service type: Inter-city rail
Status: Discontinued
Locale: Northeastern United States
First service: 1897
Last service: October 28, 1956
Former operator: New York Central Railroad
Route Termini: New York City and Boston / Chicago
Distance traveled: 961.2 miles (1,546.9 km) (New York - Chicago)
Service frequency: Daily
Train numbers: Westhbound: 19 / Eastbound: 22
Track gauge 4 ft 8+1⁄2 in (1,435 mm)