CTA’s Westchester Branch – What Might Have Been

The "Westchester-Maywood" route, from a 1948 CTA map.

The “Westchester-Maywood” route, from a 1948 CTA map.

This 1943 map shows where the Westchester branch ran.

This 1943 map shows where the Westchester branch ran.

Today’s photo essay features pictures of the former Chicago Rapid Transit/Chicago Transit Authority Westchester branch, which ran from 1926 to 1951. You can find an excellent track map here.  (You can also read our follow-up post, showing what traces of the old line are still visible here.)

It’s always interesting to speculate on what “might have been,” especially in the case of the Chicago, Aurora & Elgin, whose trains ran from 1902 to 1957 in Chicago’s western suburbs. What could have been saved? What should have been saved?  And, what can we learn today?

As you may know, ultimately nothing was saved, except the portion between DesPlaines Avenue and Laramie, which was taken over by the CTA in the early 1950s. That operates today as the outer portion of the Chicago Transit Authority‘s Forest Park branch of the Blue Line.

Speculation usually centers on whether the entire railroad could have been saved, bought by the State of Illinois, or at least, the portion to Wheaton. But in general, this section, the most viable part of the interurban, ran parallel to the Chicago & North Western‘s West Line, which continues to operate today under the aegis of Metra.

The State of Illinois made an offer to buy CA&E in 1956, and then backed out of the deal for various reasons. The only public entity that could have operated any portion of the railroad would have been the CTA, and yet their operating area was limited to most of Cook County.

Still, the CTA did some engineering studies.* In the short run, the idea was to put third rail shoes on some of the remaining PCC streetcars, and run a shuttle service between Forest Park and Wheaton. Just as with the CA&E operations between 1953-57, this would not have been a “one-seat ride” to the Loop.  (Some say these studies were made to demonstrate the impracticality of CTA actually doing it.)

In the long run, CTA would have ordered more new rapid transit cars, high speed versions of the single car units 1-50 that were built in 1960. These type of cars would also have been used if the CTA had been able to take over larger portions of the North Shore Line than the five miles that became the Skokie Swift (today’s Yellow Line) in 1964.

In retrospect, the opening of the Congress (now Eisenhower) expressway would have depressed ridership, so there is no way of knowing if such a CTA shuttle service would have been successful. But there was no way to pay for it, in the political context of the time, and therefore these plans were unrealized. But, if it had happened, most likely such a service would today be a treasured part of Chicagoland’s transit infrastructure.

But if we go back a little further in time, incredibly, there was rapid transit service operated by the CTA that ran to Mannheim and 22nd Street as late as 1951. This was the 5.6 mile long Westchester branch, a victim of budget cuts and expressway construction.

The Westchester branch was part of an ambitious mid-1920s Insull plan to create a high-speed CA&E bypass, similar to the North Shore Line’s Skokie Valley Route. However, there was less of a need for it, and by the time the Depression hit and Samuel Insull‘s empire collapsed, only 2.2 miles of it had been built off the CA&E main line, and local service was being provided by the Chicago Rapid Transit Company.

The Depression also put a stop to the pace of housing development in Bellwood and Westchester, as it had in Niles Center, where the CRT ran local service in a similar fashion. The “build it, and they will come” strategy was not unusual at the time, and had been successfully followed some years earlier when rapid transit service was extended to the Ravenswood neighborhood.

With the CRT in receivership, things remained “status quo” until the creation of the Chicago Transit Authority, which took over operations on October 1, 1947. In these heady early days, it was thought that modernization would reaped quick benefits, and there were efforts by the CTA to improve service to outlying areas, with the creation of extension bus lines and express buses.

Within a few years, however, there was nothing but red ink, and without taxing authority, the cash-strapped CTA had no choice but to cut unprofitable services wherever possible. The lightly-used Westchester branch was an obvious target for elimination, since CTA was a tenant, paying rent to the CA&E, who owned the tracks.

From CTA’s point of view, they saved money by eliminating rapid transit service west of DesPlaines Avenue, and tried to retain whatever ridership was there with replacement bus service, creating the #17 route, which continued to run for decades (and has now been completely replaced by parallel Pace suburban bus service, the #317).

Expressway construction was also a factor. The CA&E and CTA shared each other’s tracks, and compensated each other in turn. By the early 1950’s, these payments totaled about $250,000 per year and largely cancelled each other out. But a 2.5 mile section of the CTA’s Garfield Park/Met “L” would need to be relocated for five years, since it ran smack dab in the middle of where the Congress expressway would be built.

After nearly 50 years of joint operation on Chicago’s west side, coordinating the plethora of daily CTA and CA&E trains was difficult at best, and required near split-second timing. Schedules were complicated and there were various passing sidings, where expresses would be routed ahead of locals.

The CTA (and the City of Chicago’s) original idea for relocating Garfield service was for a wooden “L” structure along Van Buren Street. Presumably this grade separated service would have been fine with the CA&E, but the local alderman objected, and rather than face a lawsuit, which would have delayed the project, the City Council turned to Plan B– grade level rapid transit service, bisected by several cross streets.

This was originally promoted as a “street railway” service, which may be how they justified not using crossing gates. At first, it was thought that overhead wire could be used, but the Met cars did not have trolley poles, and this would have involved shifting around a lot of equipment. So, ultimately, the Van Buren Street temporary trackage used third rail without any more crossing protection than stop lights.

In 1951, CA&E management decided that this plan was unworkable for them, and would cause too many problems for efficient and safe operation. In a letter to their shareholders, CA&E proposed elimination of rail service on the interurban (presumably, freight service would continue), to be replaced by buses that would take riders from the western suburbs to the CTA Lake Street and Douglas Park “L”s.

CTA, for their part, anticipating that CA&E would soon become a bus operator only, began planning for a bus-to-rail transfer point between CA&E and CTA. At first, it was thought this would take place at Central Avenue, a point just west of where CTA’s own rails ended. But by 1953, this transfer point was moved west to DesPlaines Avenue in Forest Park.

Meanwhile, existing bus operators in the western suburbs had successfully blocked CA&E’s plans to substitute bus service for rail. Therefore, they had no real alternative to cutting back rail service to DesPlaines Avenue. This is how service was operated from September 1953 to July 1957. By then, CA&E ridership had been decimated, adn the railroad successfully petitioned to “temporarily” abandon rail service.

The abandonment actually helped facilitate expressway construction near the DesPlaines River, since no temporary service would need to be built. The railroad, in a sense, was still “made whole,” since by 1959 new rails were put in place for a connection to the CTA DesPlaines terminal. These are plainly visible in an aerial view in the 1961 CTA Annual Report, but they were never used, and the CA&E did not resume regular passenger service, and was liquidated in 1961. Attempts to save the interurban were too little, too late, and the suburbs that would have benefited from continuing service refused to contribute with tax revenue.

Between 1948 and 1957, the CTA eliminated about 25% of the rapid transit system it had inherited from CRT. This was mainly by slashing lightly-used branch lines (Stockyards, Kenwood, Humboldt Park, Normal Park, Niles Center, and Westchester). At one point, the CTA even proposed turning over the Evanston branch to the North Shore Line, but this did not happen.

By 1964, it seems the CTA had changed its mind about branch lines, for in April of that year, the phenomenally successful Skokie Swift service began running between Dempster and Howard, over five miles of former CNS&M right-of-way. By this time, some federal funding was available through a pilot program. CTA had to buy half of the Swift trackage anyway, just to access Skokie Shops.

Here, the CTA used fast, frequent service and a large park-and-ride lot to attract riders. And although it scarcely seems possible that the Westchester branch could have been saved in 1951, it would really fill a need today.

Imagine a west side corollary to the Skokie Swift.

By the early 50s, Bellwood and Westchester were prime areas for the postwar housing boom. This is especially true since these areas would soon have access to an important new highway. Growth in Westchester was being held back, however, since the same developer that had owned much of the property since the 1920s wanted to build all the housing themselves, thereby limiting construction somewhat.

After the CTA abandoned the Westchester branch, the CA&E liquidated the property, and the proceeds were distributed to the shareholders, instead of being reinvested in the money-losing railroad. This was the first of CA&E’s large-scale liquidations, where various portions of the railroad were sold to benefit the stockholders.

Getting back to what “might have been,” imagine how well the CTA would be doing today, if it had built a large park-and-ride lot at Mannheim and 22nd Street in the 1950s and kept the Westchester branch. As the area boomed in the mid-1950s, this service would have had tremendous potential.

And while this did not come to pass, the need persists, and something like a replacement for the Westchester branch may still be in CTA’s future. The Illinois Department of Transportation is working on plans for expanding and improving I-290 in the western suburbs, as the Chicago Tribune reported on February 27, 2013:

State transportation officials presented a narrowed list of four proposals that they say will improve travel on the Eisenhower Expressway, all of which include adding a lane to the highway and also extending the CTA Blue Line.

The four proposals, all of which include widening the highway between Austin Boulevard and Mannheim Road, extending the Blue Line to Mannheim and express bus service extending westward from Mannheim, were presented to a community task force. They will be further evaluated by state transportation officials as they study ways to make Interstate Highway 290 more efficient, said a manager of the project, Peter Harmet, bureau chief of programming for the Illinois Department of Transportation.

So, what “might have been,” may still be yet. We shall see.

-David Sadowski

PS- Christopher J. Lemm writes:

After reading your January 2015 story on the CTA Westchester Branch, the picture of the train crossing Madison street in Bellwood brought back some great memories. I grew up in that house, my grandfather was Clarence Lemm, track foreman for the Aurora and Elgin Railroad, he died in 1936. My father followed in grandpa’s footsteps, he worked at CTA 43 years, he started as a clerk and retired as the head of insurance and pensions. When my brother and I were very young my dad would take us for rides on the Aurora and Elgin, he used grandpa’s Sunset Lines employee pin and we all road free of charge. Thank you for some great memories!

According to transit historian Art Peterson:

CTA prepared studies for operation of both the CA&E (from Wheaton to Desplaines Av.) and for the North Shore from the Loop to Waukegan.  The CA&E study was based on use of the pre-War PCCs; for the North Shore it would have been higher-performance rapid transit PCC cars and an A/B service pattern up the Skokie Valley.  Both went no place, for lack of suitable funding sources.  CTA was prepared to accommodate CA&E in the Congress-Dearborn-Milwaukee subway (the west side connection to that opened on June 22, 1958, by which time CA&E was freight only.)

Some knowledgeable sources reported that CTA retained a section of the Humboldt Park Branch after the “L” shuttle service quit running in the E50s, to use as a CA&E turnback/layup facility.  Humboldt Park was the “L” line that ran parallel and to the north of North Avenue, joining the Milwaukee Avenue “L” line at the North/Damen station.

I believe we are looking east near Central Avenue, where the line curved around the south end of Columbus Park. This is approximately where the CTA Blue Line goes through the Lotus Tunnel. A small portion of Columbus Park soon gave way to the Congress (now Eisenhower) expressway.

I believe we are looking east near Central Avenue, where the line curved around the south end of Columbus Park. This is approximately where the CTA Blue Line goes through the Lotus Tunnel. A small portion of Columbus Park soon gave way to the Congress (now Eisenhower) expressway.

An eastbound single car near Central Avenue, at the south end of Columbus Park, now the site of the Eisenhower expressway.

An eastbound single car near Central Avenue, at the south end of Columbus Park, now the site of the Eisenhower expressway.

The passing tracks in this photo are a clue that we are near the Gunderson Avenue station in Oak Park. The Forest Park gas tank is at rear, so we are looking west.

The passing tracks in this photo are a clue that we are near the Gunderson Avenue station in Oak Park. The Forest Park gas tank is at rear, so we are looking west.

Looking west where the rapid transit crossed the B&OCT. Behind the car, the freight line branched off in two directions, to the CGW and Soo Line.

Looking west where the rapid transit crossed the B&OCT. Behind the car, the freight line branched off in two directions, to the CGW and Soo Line.

A pair of Met cars crosses the B&OCT heading east. This has since been grade separated. The gas tank in the background was a Forest Park landmark for many years.

A pair of Met cars crosses the B&OCT heading east. This has since been grade separated. The gas tank in the background was a Forest Park landmark for many years.

Here the the same crossing, but now we are looking east. This is now where I-290 runs through.

Here the the same crossing, but now we are looking east. This is now where I-290 runs through.

CTA 6051-6052 at the DesPlaines Avenue terminal in the 1950s. The Acme Feeds (7715 W. Van Buren) towers at are at the background. Among other things, they sold a product called Acme Worm Bouncer. After being abandoned for many years, the towers caught fire in 1980 and were demolished.

CTA 6051-6052 at the DesPlaines Avenue terminal in the 1950s. The Acme Feeds (7715 W. Van Buren) towers at are at the background. Among other things, they sold a product called Acme Worm Bouncer. After being abandoned for many years, the towers caught fire in 1980 and were demolished.

This is one of my favorite shots. An eastbound single car passes cemeteries in Forest Park, having just crossed over the DesPlaines River. This is the approximate location of the Eisenhower expressway today. The train is curving towards the DesPlaines Avenue station. The iconic gas tank was removed many years ago.

This is one of my favorite shots. An eastbound single car passes cemeteries in Forest Park, having just crossed over the DesPlaines River. This is the approximate location of the Eisenhower expressway today. The train is curving towards the DesPlaines Avenue station. The iconic gas tank was removed many years ago.

An eastbound Westchester car passes by Concordia Cemetery at right, having just crossed the DesPlaines River. This is where the Eisenhower expressway runs today.

An eastbound Westchester car passes by Concordia Cemetery at right, having just crossed the DesPlaines River. This is where the Eisenhower expressway runs today.

This picture presents somewhat of a mystery. Car 2311, signed for Westchester, is identified as being in Maywood on July 21, 1934, with a 4000-series car behind it. There were some storage tracks east of First Avenue, but I am not sure whether CRT used these. Or perhaps these cars are near DesPlaines Avenue.

This picture presents somewhat of a mystery. Car 2311, signed for Westchester, is identified as being in Maywood on July 21, 1934, with a 4000-series car behind it. There were some storage tracks east of First Avenue, but I am not sure whether CRT used these. Or perhaps these cars are near DesPlaines Avenue.

Here, we are just east of First Avenue, with an eastbound train approaching. You can just make out the sign on the Refiner's Pride gas station behind the car. We are looking northwest. Commonwealth Edison occupies this site today.

Here, we are just east of First Avenue, with an eastbound train approaching. You can just make out the sign on the Refiner’s Pride gas station behind the car. We are looking northwest. Commonwealth Edison occupies this site today.

A westbound Westchester car crosses First Avenue in Maywood. East of here (right), the line ran at an angle before crossing the DesPlaines River. This is where the Illinois Prairie Path starts today. The "Refiner's Pride" gas station at left was part of a chain run by "Montana Charlie" Reid, who also owned a restaurant in Villa Park. An oil change business now occupies the site of the former gas station. Reid also owned Montana Charlie's Flea Market in Bolingbrook, along historic Route 66, which is still in operation.

A westbound Westchester car crosses First Avenue in Maywood. East of here (right), the line ran at an angle before crossing the DesPlaines River. This is where the Illinois Prairie Path starts today. The “Refiner’s Pride” gas station at left was part of a chain run by “Montana Charlie” Reid, who also owned a restaurant in Villa Park.  An oil change business now occupies the site of the former gas station. Reid also owned Montana Charlie’s Flea Market in Bolingbrook, along historic Route 66, which is still in operation.

On December 7, 1958, CA&E wood cars 319 and 320 operated the last passenger train on that venerable railroad as a charter. Here, we are at Fifth Avenue station looking east. After the CTA abandoned the Westchester branch, this station was repainted in CA&E colors, and the interurban took over all service here from 1951-57.

On December 7, 1958, CA&E wood cars 319 and 320 operated the last passenger train on that venerable railroad as a charter. Here, we are at Fifth Avenue station looking east. After the CTA abandoned the Westchester branch, this station was repainted in CA&E colors, and the interurban took over all service here from 1951-57.

While I'm not sure of the exact location, we are looking to the northwest along that portion of the CA&E main line, where it ran parallel to the CGW through Bellwood and Maywood.

While I’m not sure of the exact location, we are looking to the northwest along that portion of the CA&E main line, where it ran parallel to the CGW through Bellwood and Maywood.

We are looking west, with the IHB crossing in the background. 25th Avenue would be behind us, and Madison Street is to our left. Here, the CA&E ran parallel to the CGW. The Illinois Prairie Path runs here now.

We are looking west, with the IHB crossing in the background. 25th Avenue would be behind us, and Madison Street is to our left. Here, the CA&E ran parallel to the CGW. The Illinois Prairie Path runs here now.

A westbound Westchester car passing under the Indiana Harbor Belt. The two lines were grade separated in 1930-31. This is now the site of the Illinois Prairie Path.

A westbound Westchester car passing under the Indiana Harbor Belt. The two lines were grade separated in 1930-31. This is now the site of the Illinois Prairie Path.

A southbound Westchester train crosses Madison Street in Bellwood, where Marshall Avenue begins today. The house at right is still standing. The Bellwood station was just north of here, near where the line merged back into the CA&E main line. We are just west of Bellwood Avenue.

A southbound Westchester train crosses Madison Street in Bellwood, where Marshall Avenue begins today. The house at right is still standing. The Bellwood station was just north of here, near where the line merged back into the CA&E main line. We are just west of Bellwood Avenue.

A northbound train at Harrison Street, with new postwar housing in the background. In the foreground, sidewalks that were already about 20 years old go past an empty lot.

A northbound train at Harrison Street, with new postwar housing in the background. In the foreground, sidewalks that were already about 20 years old go past an empty lot.

Westchester car 2814 heading south at Harrison. A small child in blue jeans waits for the train to pass.

Westchester car 2814 heading south at Harrison. A small child in blue jeans waits for the train to pass.

A southbound single car passes storage tracks just north of Roosevelt Road, which was the original terminal before the line was extended in 1930.

A southbound single car passes storage tracks just north of Roosevelt Road, which was the original terminal before the line was extended in 1930.

A single Westchester car passes under the Illinois Central near the Roosevelt Road station.

A single Westchester car passes under the Illinois Central near the Roosevelt Road station.

A two car train passes under the Illinois Central near the Roosevelt Road station.

A two car train passes under the Illinois Central near the Roosevelt Road station.

Here we see the south end of the Roosevelt Road station.

Here we see the south end of the Roosevelt Road station.

A single car at the Roosevelt Road station.

A single car at the Roosevelt Road station.

Here, we are just south of Roosevelt Road, at the beginning of double track.

Here, we are just south of Roosevelt Road, at the beginning of double track.

We are just south of the Roosevelt Road station looking north. From here to Mannheim and 22nd, it was single track.

We are just south of the Roosevelt Road station looking north. From here to Mannheim and 22nd, it was single track.

The Chicago & West Towns Railways also had some private right-of-way in the western suburbs. Car 160 is shown near LaGrange in December 1945.

The Chicago & West Towns Railways also had some private right-of-way in the western suburbs. Car 160 is shown near LaGrange in December 1945.

PS- You can read more about Acme Worm Bouncer here.  You can also see some additional pictures of the Westchester branch here.

Chicago Streetcars in Black-and-White

CSL 7001 northbound at State and Washington, 1934. This experimental pre-PCC car transported visitors back and forth to A Century of Progress. Note that there are only three stars on the Chicago flag. The fourth star, symbolizing Fort Dearborn, was added in 1939. (CSL Photo)

CSL 7001 northbound at State and Washington, 1934. This experimental pre-PCC car transported visitors back and forth to A Century of Progress. Note that there are only three stars on the Chicago flag. The fourth star, symbolizing Fort Dearborn, was added in 1939. (CSL Photo)

Chicago’s last streetcar ran in 1958, but while they lasted, they were a popular subject for railfan photographers. Today, they are artifacts of a time gone by, of neighborhoods, people, and fashions that were once so commonplace that few people took any special notice of them at the time.

Pictures like these are still coming out of the “woodwork,” and we have taken the opportunity to compile a sampling of them here for your enjoyment. Perhaps they will stimulate your memory if you are old enough to recall some of these times and places firsthand. If you are younger than that, we hope they will pique your curiosity.

If you can help us out with some of the missing locations, information or other trivia about what you see, we look forward to hearing from you with your comments.

-David Sadowski

PS- Clicking on each picture will bring up a larger version in your browser.

CTA 6127 on Kedzie at Catalpa. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

CTA 6127 on Kedzie at Catalpa. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

Bob Lalich writes, "CTA 6305 is turning north about to leave the private right of way just south of 94th St and enter the median of Stony Island. The water tank in the right distance was located on the BRC near their South Chicago engine house." (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

Bob Lalich writes, “CTA 6305 is turning north about to leave the private right of way just south of 94th St and enter the median of Stony Island. The water tank in the right distance was located on the BRC near their South Chicago engine house.” (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

(Joe L. Diaz Photo)

(Joe L. Diaz Photo)

(Joe L. Diaz Photo)

(Joe L. Diaz Photo)

CSL 840 on Ravenswood Avenue at Rose Hill Cemetery on the Lincoln route circa 1947.

CSL 840 on Ravenswood Avenue at Rose Hill Cemetery on the Lincoln route circa 1947.

CSL 6200. Bill Shaptokin: "There appears to be an IC suburban station off to the left. This would indicate that the pic is on 75th, 79th, 87th or the east end of 95th." (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

CSL 6200. Bill Shaptokin: “There appears to be an IC suburban station off to the left. This would indicate that the pic is on 75th, 79th, 87th or the east end of 95th.” (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

CSL 5722 on South Chicago northbound at 94th Street. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

CSL 5722 on South Chicago northbound at 94th Street. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

CSL 282 crossing the Illinois Central right-of-way in 1940.

CSL 282 crossing the Illinois Central right-of-way in 1940.

CTA 684 at the "Museum Loop," the eastern terminal of Route 12. Lake Shore Drive and the Field Museum are to the right, with the Illinois Central tracks at left.

CTA 684 at the “Museum Loop,” the eastern terminal of Route 12. Lake Shore Drive and the Field Museum are to the right, with the Illinois Central tracks at left.

CSL 5731 at 95th and Ewing on Route 5. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

CSL 5731 at 95th and Ewing on Route 5. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

CSL 3231 on State Street, turning westbound onto 59th. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

CSL 3231 on State Street, turning westbound onto 59th. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

CSL 1775 in yet another patriotic paint scheme, this time at West Shops in October, 1943. (CSL Photo)

CSL 1775 in yet another patriotic paint scheme, this time at West Shops in October, 1943. (CSL Photo)

CSL 1775 in 1942, sporting the first of three patriotic paint schemes for this car.

CSL 1775 in 1942, sporting the first of three patriotic paint schemes for this car.

CSL 3226 on 67th Street between Oglesby and Stony Island, on the 67-69-71st Street route. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

CSL 3226 on 67th Street between Oglesby and Stony Island, on the 67-69-71st Street route. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

CSL 1781 in patriotic garb. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

CSL 1781 in patriotic garb. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

CSL 2589 on 134th Street westbound of Indiana. Bob Lalich adds, "CSL 2589 is about to cross a track that led from IC’s Wildwood Yard to the B&OCT and PRR at Riverdale." (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

CSL 2589 on 134th Street westbound of Indiana. Bob Lalich adds, “CSL 2589 is about to cross a track that led from IC’s Wildwood Yard to the B&OCT and PRR at Riverdale.” (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

CSL 536 eastbound on Washington at Franklin in the 1940s, emerging from the tunnel that took streetcars under the Chicago River.

CSL 536 eastbound on Washington at Franklin in the 1940s, emerging from the tunnel that took streetcars under the Chicago River.

Bill Shapotkin says, "This is a W/B car on Harrison St. between Canal and Clinton (that is the main Post Office building in the background). View looks east." (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

Bill Shapotkin says, “This is a W/B car on Harrison St. between Canal and Clinton (that is the main Post Office building in the background). View looks east.” (Joe L. Diaz Photo)

CTA 78 is shown at the east end of the Madison-Fifth shuttle in February, 1954. But wait-- wouldn't car 78 be on the Hammond, Whiting, and East Chicago? In actuality, I think this is car 1781. Perhaps part of the number has fallen off. At left in the background you can see Fohrman Motors, a Chicago car dealer from 1912 to 1979. Three people were killed at the dealership by a disgruntled customer on January 7, 1966. The neighborhood, not far from the construction site for the Congress (now Eisenhower) expressway, is already showing signs of urban decay. We discuss this in our post Some Thoughts on “Displaced” (August 30, 2016).

CTA 78 is shown at the east end of the Madison-Fifth shuttle in February, 1954. But wait– wouldn’t car 78 be on the Hammond, Whiting, and East Chicago? In actuality, I think this is car 1781. Perhaps part of the number has fallen off. At left in the background you can see Fohrman Motors, a Chicago car dealer from 1912 to 1979. Three people were killed at the dealership by a disgruntled customer on January 7, 1966. The neighborhood, not far from the construction site for the Congress (now Eisenhower) expressway, is already showing signs of urban decay. We discuss this in our post Some Thoughts on “Displaced” (August 30, 2016).

CTA 7013 on Wabash Avenue at 14th on August 6, 1954.

CTA 7013 on Wabash Avenue at 14th on August 6, 1954.

CTA 4402 at the Western-Berwyn loop.

CTA 4402 at the Western-Berwyn loop.

CTA 4340 southbound on State Street in 1947.

CTA 4340 southbound on State Street in 1947.

CTA 7143 on Clark Street near Lincoln Park. (Chicago Transit Authority Photo)

CTA 7143 on Clark Street near Lincoln Park. (Chicago Transit Authority Photo)

CSL 4051 is shown with an experimental door arrangement, which was tested on the busy Milwaukee Avenue car line.

CSL 4051 is shown with an experimental door arrangement, which was tested on the busy Milwaukee Avenue car line.

For many years, the Englewood "L" ended at 63rd and Loomis. In 1969, the CTA sensibly extended it a couple blocks west to Ashland, a more logical transfer point.

For many years, the Englewood “L” ended at 63rd and Loomis. In 1969, the CTA sensibly extended it a couple blocks west to Ashland, a more logical transfer point.

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A prewar PCC on 63rd Street heading eastbound.

A prewar PCC on 63rd Street heading eastbound.

From the subway entrance, we must be somewhere along the path of either the State or Dearborn-Milwaukee subways,

From the subway entrance, we must be somewhere along the path of either the State or Dearborn-Milwaukee subways,

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My guess is this would be 63rd street.

My guess is this would be 63rd street.

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Even after the CSL and CRT were merged to from the Chicago Transit Authority in 1947, there remained another privately owned bus operator, the Chicago Motor Coach Company, who operated double-decker buses on some of their routes. CTA purchased the Motor Coach operations in 1952.

Even after the CSL and CRT were merged to from the Chicago Transit Authority in 1947, there remained another privately owned bus operator, the Chicago Motor Coach Company, who operated double-decker buses on some of their routes. CTA purchased the Motor Coach operations in 1952.

In 1933, the Roosevelt Road streetcar was extended over the Illinois Central right-of-way in order to reach the "A Century of Progress" World's Fair and what we now call the Museum Campus.

In 1933, the Roosevelt Road streetcar was extended over the Illinois Central right-of-way in order to reach the “A Century of Progress” World’s Fair and what we now call the Museum Campus.

Chicago had three streetcar tunnels Downtown over the years, but which one is this? Bill Shapotkin: "This pic is the Van Buren St Tunnel -- view looks west across Franklin St. Note the "Met" train in the background:"

Chicago had three streetcar tunnels Downtown over the years, but which one is this? Bill Shapotkin: “This pic is the Van Buren St Tunnel — view looks west across Franklin St. Note the “Met” train in the background:”

CTA’s “Farewell to the 2400s”

The CTA "Farewell to the 2400s" train at Kimball and Lawrence on January 21, 2015.

The CTA “Farewell to the 2400s” train at Kimball and Lawrence on January 21, 2015.

The Chicago Transit Authority’s 2400-series cars first entered service in 1976, shortly before the first Mayor Daley died. For many years, they were workhorses of the fleet, but have experienced a kind of “long goodbye,” to paraphrase the title of a book by Raymond Chandler.

They seemingly had all disappeared from service last summer after a daring robbery, which may have taken advantage of the fact that these were the only remaining “L” cars without security cameras installed. They soon returned for a while, before the CTA announced that their last regular service runs had taken place on October 31, 2014. (Cars 2401-2424 have been retained for work service, as they have been used for perhaps the last 20 years.)

Still, the idea of a final “farewell trip” like the one for the 2200s retirement had a lot of appeal, and it is much to CTA’s credit that they did things up right. The cars that were in the best shape were chosen for a ceremonial last trip in regular service, which took place on January 21, 2015.

You can read the service bulletin for the trip here, and also a CTA handout from the trip, giving the history of the 2400s.

The basic schedule was as follows:

Loop Shuttle Service

We’ll operate a ceremonial late-morning trip on the Loop for those who wish to take part in the celebration.

The train will pick up passengers at about 10:20am at Washington/Wells (Outer Loop/Brown Line side), make two trips around the Loop, then drop off its passengers back at Washington/Wells around 10:50am.

No intermediate stops are scheduled for this ceremonial trip.

Ravenswood Service (All Stop train)

(Brown Line)

The train will make one round trip on the Brown Line between Kimball and the Loop, making all stops.

Use these selected, approximate timepoints as a guide on how to catch the train:

11:55am – Depart Kimball (to Loop)
12:16pm – Depart Fullerton (to Loop)
12:30pm – Depart Washington/Wells (to Kimball)
12:35pm – Depart Adams/Wabash (to Kimball)
12:40pm – Depart Clark/Lake (to Kimball)
12:56pm – Depart Fullerton (to Kimball)
1:17pm – Arrive Kimball

North-South Route (Howard-Englewood All Stop train)

(North Side Red Line & South Side Green Line)

Howard to Ashland/63rd, via Loop ‘L’
The train will make one trip from Howard to Ashland/63rd via the elevated lines and Loop.

The train will make all stops along the Red Line thru Fullerton, the Brown Line thru Merchandise Mart, and then the Green Line from Clark/Lake thru Ashland/63rd.

Use these selected, approximate timepoints as a guide on how to catch the train:

2:45pm – Depart Howard (toward downtown, via Red Line)
3:02pm – Depart Wilson (toward downtown, via Red Line)
3:12pm – Depart Fullerton (toward Loop, via Purple Line routing)
3:26pm – Depart Merchandise Mart (toward Loop, via Purple Line routing)
3:28pm – Depart Clark/Lake (toward Ashland/63rd, via Green Line)
3:35pm – Depart Roosevelt (toward Ashland/63rd, via Green Line)
3:40pm – Depart 35th-Bronzeville-IIT (toward Ashland/63rd, via Green Line)
4:00pm – Arrive Ashland/63rd

 Ashland/63rd to Howard, via State Street Subway

The train will then make one trip from Ashland/63rd to Howard via the State Street Subway—just like the old Englewood-Howard trains used to!

The route will take the train on the Green Line from Ashland/63rd thru 35th-Bronzeville-IIT, then onto the Red Line from Roosevelt thru Howard, making all stops along the way.

Use these selected, approximate timepoints as a guide on how to catch the train:

4:10pm – Depart Ashland/63rd (toward downtown, via Green Line)
4:19pm – Depart Garfield (toward downtown, via Green Line)
4:28pm – Depart 35th-Bronzeville-IIT (toward downtown, then via Red Line)
4:32pm – Train routes into Red Line subway via old incline near 13th St.
4:35pm – Depart Roosevelt subway station (toward Howard, via Red Line)
4:45pm – Depart Clark/Division (toward Howard, via Red Line)
4:52pm – Depart Fullerton (toward Howard, via Red Line)
5:05pm – Depart Wilson (toward Howard, via Red Line)
5:20pm – Arrive Howard

I decided to ride the Ravenswood portion of the journey.  I met the train Downtown and caught up to it on the second of its two trips around the Loop.  However, this was at Adams and Wabash, where the train did not stop.

So, I figured I could potentially get ahead of it by riding the Red Line subway to Belmont and wait fir its arrival.  I boarded the train there, and rode to the Brown Line terminal at Kimball and Lawrence.  By this time, the train was running about 10-15 minutes behind schedule.  (This was not a problem, since the train was making all stops by this time, and could simply function as another regular service train for whoever wanted to ride it.)

We were poised for a quick turnaround at Kimball when unfortunately one car got “tagged” with spray paint and was quickly removed from service.  Two cars were cut out and put in the yard for cleaning, leaving an 6-car train for the trip to the Loop and back.

I rode the train Downtown and got off at Adams and Wabash.  So, while I did not ride on the remainder of the trip, which was to feature the “old” Howard-Englewood routing among other things, I did ride part of the day’s trip.  A fine time was had by everyone on board, and it was great to see so many familiar faces, all paying tribute to railcars that served faithfully and well for so many years, in contrast to others of similar vintage in other cities that did not.

At least in this regard, we got some things right in the 1970s.  The 2400s set the standard for all the CTA railcars that have followed since.  If they are not going to be missed as much as the 2200s, that is probably because even after all these years, they still blended in quite well with today’s equipment.

But, when it comes to transit equipment, that’s what you want- evolution, not revolution.

The “long goodbye” for these cars may not even be over yet, since the CTA may very well keep some of the 2400s for use in charter service, as part of their historical fleet.

Meanwhile, I hope you will enjoy the photos and videos I took that day.

-David Sadowski

The CTA crew did a fantastic job preparing the 2400-series cars for this trip.

The CTA crew did a fantastic job preparing the 2400-series cars for this trip.

Authentic 1976-style system maps were recreated for this special trip.

Authentic 1976-style system maps were recreated for this special trip.

The Ravenswood (today's Brown Line) map as it looked circa 1976.

The Ravenswood (today’s Brown Line) map as it looked circa 1976.

Thanks for the memories.

Thanks for the memories.

The cars were spotlessly clean.

The cars were spotlessly clean.

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Fans mill about at the Brown Line terminal at Kimball and Lawrence.

Fans mill about at the Brown Line terminal at Kimball and Lawrence.

At Kimball and Lawrence.

At Kimball and Lawrence.

Just prior to one car getting "tagged" with spray paint.

Just prior to one car getting “tagged” with spray paint.

Graham Garfield, looking spiffy as usual in his authentic mid-1970s CTA uniform.

Graham Garfield, looking spiffy as usual in his authentic mid-1970s CTA uniform.

2400s interior.

2400s interior.

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Here, half of the 8-car train has been cut out in the yard, to remove the middle two cars (one of which had just been "tagged" with spray paint). Later, two czars were coupled back on to form a 6-car consist while the other two cars were to be cleaned in the yard.

Here, half of the 8-car train has been cut out in the yard, to remove the middle two cars (one of which had just been “tagged” with spray paint). Later, two czars were coupled back on to form a 6-car consist while the other two cars were to be cleaned in the yard.

Waiting for two cars to be recoupled.

Waiting for two cars to be recoupled.

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Fans board the train for its return trip south on the Brown Line.

Fans board the train for its return trip south on the Brown Line.

DSCF3054

 

52 Years Ago Today…

Car 736 on the Mundelein branch.

Car 736 on the Mundelein branch.

The U.S. lost one of its last electric interurban railways on January 21, 1963, a very cold day indeed, as the Chicago, North Shore & Milwaukee (aka the North Shore Line) stopped running. We thought we would commemorate that fateful anniversary by featuring some rare and seldom-seen photos.  (PS- you can bring up a larger version of each photo by clicking on it.)

I was just 8 years old at the time, and never got the chance to ride the North Shore Line, but I have certainly appreciated it since I was a kid and learned of its demise. Still pictures are fine, but motion pictures have a remarkable ability to bring things from the past back to life.

You too can experience the North Shore Line in motion by attending this Friday’s Central Electric Railfans’ Association program in Downtown Chicago. For further information, go here.

-David Sadowski

According to Don's Rail Photos, loco 453 "was built by General Electric in June 1918, (order) #6903."

According to Don’s Rail Photos, loco 453 “was built by General Electric in June 1918, (order) #6903.”

Electric loco 453 heads up a short freight train.

Electric loco 453 heads up a short freight train.

Silverliner 737 crawls along the bridge just south of the Milwaukee terminal.

Silverliner 737 crawls along the bridge just south of the Milwaukee terminal.

North Shore city streetcar 351 in Milwaukee prior to the abandonment of service on August 12, 1951. Sister car 354 is at the Illinois Railway Museum.

North Shore city streetcar 351 in Milwaukee prior to the abandonment of service on August 12, 1951. Sister car 354 is at the Illinois Railway Museum.

According to Don's Rail Photos, "(Birney) 327 was built by Cincinnati Car Co in December 1922, #2625. It was retired in 1947 and scrapped in April 1948." They were lettered for Chicago & Milwaukee Electric since that was the franchise holder.

According to Don’s Rail Photos, “(Birney) 327 was built by Cincinnati Car Co in December 1922, #2625. It was retired in 1947 and scrapped in April 1948.” It was lettered for Chicago & Milwaukee Electric since that was the franchise holder.

CNS&M 178 heads up a two-car train on Chicago's Loop. The 4000s in the background are heading in the same direction as the North Shore train.

CNS&M 178 heads up a two-car train on Chicago’s Loop. The 4000s in the background are heading in the same direction as the North Shore train.

Cars at Highwood, the North Shore headquarters.

Cars at Highwood, the North Shore headquarters.

A photo stop on one of the many North Shore Line fantrips in later years.

A photo stop on one of the many North Shore Line fantrips in later years.

Silverliner 762 gets flagged through the busy "throat" of the Milwaukee terminal, circa 1960.

Silverliner 762 gets flagged through the busy “throat” of the Milwaukee terminal, circa 1960.

Silverliners at the Milwaukee terminal.

Silverliners at the Milwaukee terminal.

Line car 606 at the Milwaukee terminal. According to Don's Rail Photos, "606 was built by Cincinnati in January 1923, (order) #2620. In 1963 it became Chicago Transit Authority S-606 and burned in 1978. The remains were sold to the Indiana Transportation Museum."

Line car 606 at the Milwaukee terminal. According to Don’s Rail Photos, “606 was built by Cincinnati in January 1923, (order) #2620. In 1963 it became Chicago Transit Authority S-606 and burned in 1978. The remains were sold to the Indiana Transportation Museum.”

Another fantrip train. Perhaps one of our knowledgeable readers can identify the location.

Another fantrip train. Perhaps one of our knowledgeable readers can identify the location.

A "railfan's view" along the Skokie Valley Route.

A “railfan’s view” along the Skokie Valley Route.

Silverliner 738 in the snow.

Silverliner 738 in the snow.

CNS&M 747 heads up a Chicago Limited.

CNS&M 747 heads up a Chicago Limited.

Along the Mundelein branch.

Along the Mundelein branch.

Car 758 heads up a train in 1941.

Car 758 heads up a train in 1941.

Electroliner 801-802 passes Tower 18 on Chicago's Loop.

Electroliner 801-802 passes Tower 18 on Chicago’s Loop.

Perhaps one of our keen-eyed readers can help identify this location.

Perhaps one of our keen-eyed readers can help identify this location.

CNS&M 725 on layover at Roosevelt Road on February 13, 1960, during a heavy snowstorm. (Richard H. Young Photo)

CNS&M 725 on layover at Roosevelt Road on February 13, 1960, during a heavy snowstorm. (Richard H. Young Photo)

A view showing the coupling and diaphragm between Silverliners 415 (dining car) and 768 (coach); special excursion train, Northbrook, February 1960. (Richard H. Young Photo)

A view showing the coupling and diaphragm between Silverliners 415 (dining car) and 768 (coach); special excursion train, Northbrook, February 1960. (Richard H. Young Photo)

CNS&M 237 heads up six multiple unit express motors at Pettibone Yard, North Chicago Junction, February 13, 1960. (Richard H.

CNS&M 237 heads up six multiple unit express motors at Pettibone Yard, North Chicago Junction, February 13, 1960. (Richard H. Young Photo)

CNS&M car 300 on a Central Electric Railfans' Association fantrip. For a few years, prior to WWII, the railroad let the fans use this as a "club car."

CNS&M car 300 on a Central Electric Railfans’ Association fantrip. For a few years, prior to WWII, the railroad let the fans use this as a “club car.”

Another view of CERA club car 300 on an early fantrip on the Shore Line route.

Another view of CERA club car 300 on an early fantrip on the Shore Line route.

Silverliner 768 at the Milwaukee terminal. This slide was processed in January 1963, meaning this could be the last day.

Silverliner 768 at the Milwaukee terminal. This slide was processed in January 1963, meaning this could be the last day.

You've probably seen "first day of issue" stamp covers before, but this is kind of the opposite. Some railfans mailed these commemorative envelopes to themselves on January 21, 1963, the day the North Shore Line finally passed into history.

You’ve probably seen “first day of issue” stamp covers before, but this is kind of the opposite. Some railfans mailed these commemorative envelopes to themselves on January 21, 1963, the day the North Shore Line finally passed into history.