It’s August 28, 1936 on north Ashland Avenue, and time for a parade. One week earlier, streetcar service had been extended north of Cortland in one of the final extensions under CSL. Prior to this time, this portion of the route had run on Southport, two blocks to the east. North Chicago Street Railroad “Bombay roof” horsecar 8 is ahead of the experimental 1934 Brill pre-PCC car 7001. Ironically, the older car survives at the Illinois Railway Museum, while 7001 was scrapped in 1959. On the other hand, Mike Franklin writes: “Dave, the top photo is taken at 8537 S. Commercial, Chicago. Schmidt Cleaning and Dying. It is not Ashland Ave. Do Google Earth and it all makes sense.” If you are correct, then this picture was probably misidentified, and the parade actually took place around May 2, 1937, when the east and west portions of the 87th Street route were connected via a through route. Thanks for your detective work.
Our earlier feature Chicago Streetcars in Black-and-White has been very popular, so here is another heaping helping of classic photos by some of the greatest railfan photographers of all time. As always, clicking on each picture will bring up a larger version in your browser.
If you can share some interesting tidbits of information about these views, we look forward to hearing from you.
It’s February 22, 1950, looking south on State Street. “Chicago’s famed State Street gleams with all its brilliance before half of the lights were turned off to save fuel as the Coal strike cuts Illinois’s output of coal 95 per cent. The State Street Lighting association began a 50 per cent voluntary dim-out of the street to save meager fuel supplies. The PCC is on route 36 – Broadway-State, while the Peter Witt is on route 4 – Cottage Grove.
CSL 5533 is eastbound on 63rd Street at Cicero, passing Midway Airport.
Roy Benedict writes, “Chicago City Railway car 5232 is on 51st St. at Grand Blvd. (now King Dr.) as evidenced by the distant building, which appears in later photos. The car tracks ended at the boulevard then and for a couple of decades later.” This photo must predate 1914, when the Chicago Surface Lines came into being. According to Don’s Rail Photos, “1st 5201 thru 5250 were built by Brill-American Car Co in 1906, (Order) #15365, for CCRy as 5201 thru 5250, but it was shipped to United Railroads of San Francisco due to the earthquake. 2nd 5201 thru 5250 were built by Brill-American Car Co in 1906, (Order) #15365, to replace the orignal order. They were rebuilt in 1909 to bring them up to the standard of the later cars.”
CSL 5554 is eastbound on 79th, turning into Emerald, east of Halsted. Bill Shapotkin says it is turning into the carbarn. (Joe L. Diaz Photo) Jon Habermaas writes: “This is a southbound Halsted 8 car turning into Emerald to reach the terminal located south of 79th on Halsted. When PCCs came to Halsted, this became the south end of Halsted 8.”
Roy Benedict says, “(CSL) car 5663 faces south on the northbound track of Ashland Ave. south of Pershing Rd. waiting to begin a trip that will soon pick up a full load of industrial workers. The camera looks toward the northeast. The fans knew that they could often find unusual cars that would perhaps make just one trip from the carbarn at 69th to here, then to the south end of the line and back to the barn.” (Route 9 – Ashland.) (Joe L. Diaz Photo)
It must be cold, since CSL 3201 is covered in icicles. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)
CSL 3093 is southbound on Morgan at 35th Street. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)
CTA red car 859 and prewar PCC 7024 are on hand at the 70th Street end of 69th Carhouse.
CSL 2755 at Eggleston and 74th. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)
Bob Lalich says, “The photo of SB 2619 was taken near 130th St. The Brandon-Brainard line crossed two steam railroads near 130th St, the Calumet Western and the PRR-Calumet River line. The crossings were very close to each other as the junction between the Calumet Western and the Calumet River RR was a very short distance to the east. If you zoom in on the photo of 2619 in this blog you can see both crossings.” (Joe L. Diaz Photo)
Car 2721 crosses the Illinois Central Electric at 79th Street and Exchange Avenue. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)
79th and Exchange today.
CSL 1775, recruiting for the Navy, is southbound at LaSalle and Randolph in October 1942.
Whether a “Sedan,” a “Peter Witt,” or both, car 3359 is southbound on Cottage Grove at 105th. (Robert V. Mehlenbeck Photo)
CTA 3163 is westbound on route 72 – North Avenue in 1949, having just passed Halsted, on the first day of one-man operation. The “L” at rear is now known as the Ravenswood Connector. (William C. Janssen Photo)
North and Halsted as it looks today. The “L” makes a “triple curve” here.
Car 5790 circa 1918-20. Roy Benedict says that while this cannot be Burnside, “it might be looking toward the south along the Cottage Grove Ave. side of Cottage Grove carhouse and maybe it is, but I cannot confirm it with evidence which I have at hand.” CSL did not paint their streetcars red until the early 1920s, when it was done to make them more visible to motorists. Before that, the standard CSL color was a dark green.
Peter Witt 3327 heads out from the south end of route 4 – Cottage Grove. (William C. Janssen Photo)
In this slushy winter scene, car 3266 is southbound on State below 59th, passing under the “L”. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)
Car 1821 passing under the Sacramento station on the old Garfield Park “L”. The curve in the tracks is quite apparent here. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)
An inbound Milwaukee Avenue car meets a southbound Damen car. The third cross street is North Avenue. A drug store now occupies the bank building at center. (Edward Frank, Jr. Photo)
Southbound car 3096 passes under the Metropolitan “L” main line at Racine and Tilden. Marshfield Junction would be a few blocks west of here. The Eisenhower expressway runs through here now. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)
Car 1677 is most likely being used for training in the Van Buren tunnel under the Chicago River in this scene. The Met “L” is in the background. (Joe L. Diaz Photo)
Dearborn Station as it appeared in the mid-1920s. This picture was most likely taken on a glass plate negative.
According to Andre Kristopans, “The #5 with 3376 is looking SE on South Chicago at Commercial. Note the railroad lift bridges in the distance, past 95th. Also, the bus behind the car is a Chicago & Calumet District bus running on the route that partially replaced the joint CSL/HWEC carlines to Hammond and East Chicago, though the bus route ended up going thru Whiting and then east to Gary, with connections at 119th and Indianapolis for Hammond and East Chicago.” (Joe L. Diaz Collection)
CSL 1776, in patriotic garb, at West Shops in 1944. Those 17-year-olds who decided to study electronic engineering would be 88 years old today.
Most Chicagoans are probably not aware of what “Block 37” is downtown, or that less than 10 years ago, the City spent $400m on creating the empty shell underground for a “super” subway station to provide express service to both Midway and O’Hare airports.
Chances are this ambitious goal will always be an unrealized dream, since the amount of money required to bring it about is likely many times greater than any potential benefit such express trains would provide.
However, being underground, the failed Block 37 superstation at 108 North State Street is mainly “out of sight, out of mind.” What’s lacking right now is a clear idea of how this “boondoggle” can be developed for public benefit in the future.
While the “superstation” was intended to provide a connection between Chicago’s State Street and Dearborn subways, located a block apart, it seems unlikely that it will be developed for rapid transit use in the foreseeable future. However, I would agree with the CTA that it remains a “valuable asset,” although perhaps in a different way than originally intended.
When faced with a lemon, why not look for ways to make lemonade?
Searching for inspiration, I suggest the Second City look no further than the New York Transit Museum, which is located in the unused 1936 IND Court Street subway station in downtown Brooklyn. NYC has transformed this unique location, which would otherwise be just another “hole in the ground,” into an important educational and cultural attraction.
Chicago, once “hog butcher to the world,” increasingly relies on tourism as an economic engine, and over the decades new cultural institutions have sprung up to drive that motor. For example, the Museum of Broadcast Communications started out in the Chicago Cultural Center in 1987, and it took 25 years before it had its own building. Over time, it has developed into a major local institution.
The unused space in Block 37 would make an ideal location for a Chicago Museum of Transportation, with exhibits honoring our long, rich history as a mid-American “hub” on land, in the water, and in the air. It could pay homage to our rail heritage, our historic train terminals, our streetcars, cable cars, rapid transit and interurban trains and our busy highways and airports.
Its connections to Chicago’s subways make it an ideal location that could be reached easily from all parts of the city. These same connections would help facilitate displaying some of Chicago’s historic “L” and subway cars. Here, at least, there is already a building on top of the site.
As many of Chicago’s subway stations, now approaching 75 years old, get older and are being renovated, we are losing more and more of the original “Art Deco” styling they once had. Some have lamented this loss, and its replacement by a hodge-podge of different unrelated styles, as one station after another gets a makeover with a different theme.
A Block 37 museum would provide an ideal place to preserve and display some of this original station architecture before it is too late and all of it is gone forever.
I’m not saying that any of this would be easy, but worthwhile things hardly ever are. It would take years of planning and effort, millions of dollars in fundraising, and a partnership between the public and private sectors.
This development would preserve the possibility of future use as an actual transit station, should that become feasible at some time in the future. It would make a real contribution to the cultural life of the city, bringing visitors and tourists downtown.
The alternative could be that 10 or 20 years from now, we will see more of these stories about the deep, dark expensive hole in the ground in Chicago’s Loop, and the questions will linger about what we need to do to fill that void.
This must be car 3142, which was saved by ERHS and is now in operating condition at the Illinois Railway Museum. In this September 10, 1959 scene, there are still a few PCCs left on the property at South Shops, including car 4400. (Clark Frazier Photo)
Following up on our earlier post Chicago Streetcars in Black-and-White, here are nearly 40 more pictures in color. Because they are in color, they naturally skew towards the last 10 years or so of service, leading up to that fateful morning on June 21, 1958, when the last Chicago streetcar ran:
We hope that you enjoy these glimpses of a bygone era. We have provided what information we have on the locations and circumstances. If you can help fill in some additional details, let us know.
Pullman PCC 4090 heads west on Monroe on route 20 – Madison.
Pullman PCC 4063, on route 22 – Clark-Wentworth, meets red car 6118, signed for route 42 at Clark and Halsted. Route 42 was an incorrect designation for this location, and the sign should read 8 instead.
“Sedan” 6296 on route 4 – Cottage Grove. The Chicago Surface Lines built one-third of this 100-car order themselves in 1929, not an unusual practice at the time. Bob Lalich says we are “just south of 95th St. The Rock Island, C&WI and BRC elevation can be seen in the background.”
Red Pullman 322 at an unidentified location.
Unless my eyes are failing me, this looks like work car X-3 at South shops.
An older streetcar being used as a snow sweeper.
Car 3345 by the Illinois Central on route 4 – Cottage Grove.
4019 on route 4 – Cottage Grove.
Red Pullman 697 on Roosevelt Road.
Car 7217, just prior to being scrapped, at South Shops on September 10, 1959. (Clark Frazier Photo)
This appears to be the temporary end of the line for route 73 – Armitage, as the bridge is out behind car 3297.
Work car F-305 at South Shops on September 10, 1959. This was purchased by the Electric Railway Historical Society and soon moved to their site in Downers Grove. (Clark Frazier Photo)
An 8000-series trailer from the 1920s, being used as a storage shed.
Here, we are at about 4600 west 63rd street looking west. Car 4013, heading east, wears the CSL “tiger stripes” introduced in 1945. Bill Shapotkin adds, “That caption is correct. I might add that “is” at 4600 West and the tracks are those of the BRC. By the way, as an aside, if you ride the Rt #63 bus, the stop here is called out as “4600 West.” No street name (which would otherwise be Kenton) is given.”
Although car 4410 appears to be going uphill, this is Chicago and not Pittsburgh. It’s the photographer who is tilted in this October 1956 view.
A nice shot of 4388 pulling out of Limits on July 24, 1957.
7018 heading south on Wabash at Balbo in the early 1950s.
Car 5105 in the Burnside yard.
Peter Witt car 6285, built in 1929, on Cottage Grove at 115th. Some called them “Sedans.”
Prewar PCC heads south on route 49 – Western on June 13, 1956, shortly before the line was converted to bus.
It appears that car 4406is making a backup move in this October 21, 1956 photo. That may indicate we are at the south end of route 22, where there was a “wye” in traffic.
Car 585 on route 56 – Milwaukee near Downtown. Bill Shapotkin adds, “This pic of a Milwaukee Ave streetcar is at the Milwaukee Ave bridge over the MILW/PRR near Des Plaines St. Believe the view looks N/W. Note the long-standing MILW freight house on the right.”
PCC 7175 is southbound at Clark and Glenlake in this wintry scene.
Red Pullman 473, on the famous May 16, 1954 CERA fantrip, turns back at Lake and Austin.
Car 1780 runs under the Lake Street “L” at Karlov on route 16.
Car 3144, a sister of the 3142 preserved at the Illinois Railway Museum, runs parallel to the outer end of the Lake Street “L” where it ran on the ground prior to 1962. Streetcar service on route 16 ended in May 1954. A CTA 4000 is visible at rear. Both cars are using overhead wire.
Prewar PCC 4029 running parallel to the Illinois Central electric on the south end of route 4 (Cottage Grove).
Postwar PCC 4377 heads south on Clark in the mid-1950s. The Clark Theatre, the Bamboo Inn, and the Blue Note are visible on the next block.
7038 heads south at Western and 14th. A “Qunoset hut” is at left. This is a type of prefabricated building that was in wide use during and after WWII.
Prewar PCC 4029 is shown heading south on a section of Cottage Grove between 33rd and 35th that had already been sold by the city to developers and was already off-limits to car and truck traffic. CTA was given six-month extensions on streetcar service through this area before the route was bussed in June 1955.
From the address on the Edward Don warehouse at rear, we can tell this picture of PCC 4115 was taken on Clark just north of Cermak.
Prewar PCC 4027 at an unknown location. Likely possibilities are routes 4, 49, or 63. Tony Waller writes, “Image 243 is on 63rd St. Look at the pre-war PCC. It’s door arrangement is that of two-man car. Cottage Grove and Western only had pre-war PCCs in one man operation.”
It’s not the best slide, and hard to make out, but the signs say car 4406 is chartered and it is signed for Devon and Ravenswood.
6148 at Halsted and Clark. The car is signed for route 42, Halsted-Downtown.
Postwar PCC 7142 pulls into the Clark-Howard loop in the mid-1950s. The white line indicates the swing of the car.
West Chicago Street Railway #4 was pulled out for pictures on May 25, 1958, the occasion of the final fantrip on Chicago’s streetcar system.
Car 3220 on the 67th Street line. Bill Shapotkin adds, “This picture is E/B in 67th St, having just x/o under the IC. View looks W-N/W.”
Not a streetcar, but an old trolley bus being used as a shed at South Shops on September 10, 1959. (Clark Frazier Photo)
Our recent post about transportation to and from the 1933-34 Chicago World’s Fair (aka A Century of Progress) jogged my memory a bit. I recall reading a while back about the discovery of early color films from the fair, taken in 1933.
There had been color films of a sort prior to 1933, however most of these were much less successful “two-color” processes, which showed red and green but not blue. For a list of early two-color Hollywood films prior to 1935, go here. (The technically minded can also delve into great detail on the early Kodak color processes here.)
During 1933, there were experimental versions of either Technicolor or Kodacolor being tested, but these products were not commercially available until 1935. A national spectacle, attracting millions of visitors, the fair was an obvious event to try out the new three-color films on.
Chicago’s second World’s Fair was also more colorful than its first one in 1893. The World’s Columbian Exposition featured a neoclassical “White City,” while the 1933 version had multi-colored buildings and lighting of a more modern style.
Fortunately, some color footage from the 1933 edition of A Century of Progress has survived, and can be seen in some of the video links later in this post. Without these films, our only evidence of color at the fair would be hand-colored postcards, posters, and such.
By comparison, by 1939-40, the time of the New York World’s Fair, 16mm Kodachrome movie film was available to the amateur market. Consequently, there is a tremendous amount of color footage showing that fair.
The films include footage of the impressive Sky Ride, an aerial cable car that transported visitors to Northerly Island, which was built on landfill in 1928. Fairgoers were transported nearly 2,000 feet at an altitude of 215 feet above ground. The cable tram was suspended between to 628-foot high towers at the ends, with observation decks, the highest such points in the city.
Each streamlined “gondola” gave out wisps of steam from its tail, in a manner not unlike the rocket ships in the contemporary Buck Rogers comic strip, which first appeared in 1929. (The competing Flash Gordon comic strip by Alex Raymond did not begin until January 7, 1934. You can read some of those early strips here. The movie serial versions of these comics did not appear until after the Chicago fair had closed.)
Apparently, each gondola was named after a different character in the extremely popular but controversial Amos ‘n’ Andy radio program, which had its roots in Chicago. (While I have read that there were 12 such gondola cars, I’ve only seen pictures of three, named “Amos,” “Andy,” and “Brother Crawford.”)
Both my parents visited the Chicago World’s Fair. My late father described how he had been stuck on one of the aerial cable cars for several hours when it broke down mid-flight. My mother, who is now 86, still recalls her trips to the fair when she was 5 or 6 years old. As you can see from the film footage, it was the type of event that many Chicagoans dressed up for in their finest clothes.
There were other novel modes of transportation at A Century of Progress. Although the Chicago Surface Lines brochure in our earlier post shows a Dirigible or Zeppelin in the air (and one did visit Chicago in 1933) the films show a Goodyear Blimp in frequent use at the fair.
There was also an experimental auto on display, the streamlined three-wheeled “Dymaxion” car designed by Buckminster Fuller. Unfortunately, interest in this car was quelled after it was involved in a fatal car crash, although the driver of the Dymaxion was not at fault.
The Chicago World’s Fair had an influence on the city that extended far beyond the 1930s. Many of its scientific exhibits wound up at the Museum of Science and Industry, where they can be seen today.
While an attempt to continue the railroad fair for a third year was deemed a failure, this did lead to the Chicago Tribune‘s Col. Robert R. McCormick to envision a permanent site for summer exhibitions and fairs on the lakefront.
After years of discussion and planning, this effort resulted in the creation of McCormick Place, which opened in 1960. Rebuilt after a disastrous 1967 fire, McCormick Place is now the largest convention center in North America. Since A Century of Progress and the Chicago Railroad Fair successfully brought millions of people to Chicago’s lakefront, it was considered an excellent location for McCormick Place.
As a result, it is perhaps the most important legacy of those earlier fairs. You can also read more about the genesis of McCormick Place in the book Political Influence by Edward C. Banfield, which we mentioned in an earlier post.
Finally, using the final Youtube link below, you can listen to the rousing Chicago Worlds Fair Centennial Celebration March (1933) by composer Carl Mader.
PS- Walt Disney (who was born in Chicago) is known to have visited the 1933-34 Chicago World’s Fair several times (one of at five such fairs he visited in his lifetime), and after watching some of these videos, it’s not difficult to see how A Century of Progress could have influenced Disneyland.
CA&E 453 in a winter scene on the old Met “L” main line. Here, we are looking east from Halsted. (Truman Hefner Photo)
Always on the lookout for new sources of information about electric railway history, I recently stumbled on one in an unlikely place- a book about politics.
Political Influence by Edward C. Banfield, originally published in 1961 by the Free Press of Glencoe, “examines the structures and dynamics of influence in determining who actually makes the decisions on vital issues in a large metropolitan area.” The book takes an in-depth look at how political influence was applied in the Chicagoland area during the 1950s.
In his introduction to the 2003 edition, James Q. Wilson writes:
Banfield wanted to know how concrete issues were really decided, and so he studied six major controversies in Chicago and drew his conclusions about influence from his detailed account of who did what for (or to) whom.
Civic disputes in Chicago, he concluded, did not result from struggles for votes, competing ideologies, or the work of a shadowy power elite; they rose instead from the maintenance and enhancement needs of large organizations. One organization (say, a hospital) wanted something, another organization (say, a rival hospital) opposed it. The resulting conflict had to be managed by an outside authority if it were to be settled at all, and in Chicago, politicians did most of the managing. But that management was hardly dictatorial. Though Chicago politics was organized around a powerful political machine, the machine did not simply impose its will. Instead, the mayor let every interest get its say, postponed decisions until some common ground could be found, and then nudged the contestants in the right direction.
Banfield devotes chapter 4 (pages 91-125) to the Chicago Transit Authority and attempts to convince the state legislature to subsidize it circa 1956-57. According the the author, these efforts were intertwined with trying to save the Chicago, Aurora & Elgin interurban.
The CA&E lost both riders and money due to construction of the Congress (now Eisenhower) expressway, starting in 1953. The project was expected to take five years, and CTA service in the expressway median opened on June 22, 1958. But by 1956, the railroad’s management wanted out, and the choices were either to sell or abandon service and liquidate.
At the time, the only public agency that could have operated “The Great Third Rail” was the Chicago Transit Authority, itself only about a decade old. Formed by combining the Chicago Rapid Transit Company and the Chicago Surface Lines, the CTA had started out with high hopes that an aggressive program of modernization would yield cost savings that would eventually make it possible to lower fares for their so-called “OWNERiders.”
Unfortunately, things did not turn out that way. The new CTA bus routes in outlying areas lost money, and over its first decade, ridership declined by nearly 50%. There were various reasons for the decline, including the rise in automobile ownership, fewer people working on Saturdays, the effects of several fare increases, and service reductions.
Unlike the New York transit system, which received a government subsidy of $100m per year during the 1950s, Chicago got none, and had to sink or swim out of the farebox.
CTA fares had increased gradually, but this also brought ridership losses. The main way CTA saved money was through reductions in personnel, mainly by replacing two-man streetcars with buses. But the last of the old red cars ran on May 30, 1954, and the governing Chicago Transit Board did not expect to see any additional savings from the elimination of PCC streetcars.
The heads of CTA’s operating divisions reported to a general manager, who in turn reported to Gunlock. Gunlock and the general manager (Walter J. McCarter) together prepared the agenda for board meetings. Although the board played an active role in the determination of general policy, it was Gunlock and the manager who ran the organization.
The CTA rapid transit system had contracted about 25% by the mid-1950s, and wanted to extend service through the medians of the planned Northwest (Kennedy) and South (Dan Ryan) expressways. Shortly after Mayor Richard J. Daley took office in 1955, he asked Gunlock to prepare a “wish list” of potential new projects, so they could be prioritized, in the hope that new ways could be found to pay for them.
Chicago’s four major daily newspapers were in favor of subsidies, and so were most civic leaders. But the CTA was not universally liked by the public, especially by those who used it, which tended to undermine prospects for government aid, since opinions were divided.
It was into this mix that CA&E threw in the towel and offered to put the entire railroad up for sale.
Daley and Gunlock hoped to use this to their advantage. If the CTA could take over CA&E service, it was thought, this could win over crucial suburban support, resulting in government funding that could help transit in both the city and suburbs.
As we now know, things did not work out this way.
Mayor Daley had a good working relationship with Republican Governor William Stratton. They tried to help each other out politically by supporting each others projects in their respective “spheres of influence.”
However, while Stratton supported state funding to purchase the CA&E (reported price: $6m), and was willing to exempt the CTA from paying certain taxes and fees, he backed off on additional tax revenues for CTA once it became clear that DuPage and Kane County officials did not support it.
So while Daley, Gunlock, Stratton and even County Board President Dan Ryan Jr. were all on friendly terms in their discussions on this issue, and generally agreed on what to do, in the political climate of 1957, nothing could be done.
Banfield cites four main reasons for this failure to act in time to save the “Roarin’ Elgin,” which I will list in brief:
1. The “country towns”– that part of Cook County which lay outside of Chicago proper– opposed being taxed to support a transportation system which did not serve them directly.
2. Organized highway users were another important class of opponents. They had been trying for years to establish the principle that gasoline tax receipts should never be used for other than highway purposes.
3. The commuters of Kane and DuPage counites, although favoring measures to keep CA&E running, were very much opposed to paying a tax for that purpose. Politicians from those counties met with Governor Stratton one evening in the Executive Mansion to tell him that their constituents “just won’t sit still for a tax increase of any kind.” The state, they said, would be responsible for any suspension of passenger service and, therefore, it should provide any subsidy that might be needed.
The Governor expressed surprise. He had supposed that continuing CA&E service was a matter of great importance to Kane and DuPage counties. If it were so important, he said, surely the local people would be willing to contribute one cent a gallon toward it.
CTA supporters had hoped that Kane and DuPage counties’ interest in CA&E would lead them to support a plan for the general improvement of CTA. It was clear now that this was not the case and that, in fact, if it cost them a few dollars, the western suburbs would not support even that part of the plan which would serve only them.
Some observers believed that the Governor had interested himself in CTA only because he wanted to help the CA&E commuters. If this was so, his interest would probably now cease since it was apparent that the commuters were not really vitally concerned.
4. Many weekly newspapers in the more than eighty communities into which Chicago was divided opposed any kind of subsidy for CTA.
As a result, these legislative efforts failed. As a result, the Chicago, Aurora & Elgin was allowed to “temporarily” suspend passenger service at midday on July 3, 1957, stranding thousands of riders downtown, without a way to get home.
This served the short-term purposes of the railroad, the state, and the county, since it allowed quick removal of the CA&E tracks in the vicinity of the DesPlaines river, which was necessary for construction of a vital link in the Congress expressway connecting the city and suburban sections.
Within a short period of weeks, Cook County gave CA&E a check for $1.2m just for this short section of right-of-way between DesPlaines and First Avenues. Most probably, this amount was inflated to account for the $700k in losses from 1953 to 1957 that CA&E wanted to be reimbursed for.
Legislative efforts resumed in 1959, and again it seemed that CA&E was close to being saved. The railroad had been kept largely intact, and freight service continued. CTA anticipated a takeover, and even went so far as to put in a new track connection at the DesPlaines avenue terminal, where CA&E trains would exchange passengers with Congress “A” trains. You can see pictures of that unused connection here.
The 1961 CTA Annual Report includes an aerial view of the DesPlaines yard, and the completed track connection to what could have been a restored CA&E service is clearly visible– but never used. With the final abandonment of the railroad in 1961, all this was scrapped and removed, except for a short stretch of right-of-way that now serves CTA as a “tail track” for storing “L” cars.
All reminders of “what might have been.”
Mr. Banfield sums things up on page 271:
In the Transit Authority case, the Mayor, the Governor and the President of the County Board acted as agents of the affected interests in arranging the compromise; they did not try to impose a solution of their own upon these interests, and when the Governor found out that the compromise was not popular with his suburban supporters, he immediately dropped it.
In other words, even these notables could not muster enough “political influence” to save the Chicago, Aurora & Elgin. Much of the CA&E right-of-way west of Maywood has been preserved as the Illinois Prairie Path.
Fortunately, the lessons learned from its demise helped pave the way for saving the transit system we have today, which would not be possible without your tax dollars and mine.
PS- You will also find a very thorough and informative discussion of how McCormick Place came to be in this book. I recommend it.
Brand-new “flat door” cars 6003-6004 are shown to good advantage at the North Water Terminal in 1950. (Clark Equipment Co. Photo)
In this view, from the 1961 CTA annual Report, we see the western end of the DesPlaines terminal, and the relocated, never used CA&E tracks behind it.
Looking west from Halsted, CA&E 458 heads up a four car train of postwar units.
CA&E 318 at Glen Oak on a fantrip. According to Don’s Rail Photos, “318 was built by Jewett Car Co in 1914. It had steel sheating and was modernized in 1944. It was sold to Wisconsin Electric Raiway Historical Society in 1962. It was wrecked in transit and the parts were sold to IRM to restore 321.”
141 at Batavia Junction. CA&E purchased this car from the North Shore Line in 1946. According to Don’s Rail Photos, “141 was built by American Car Co in March 1910, #844, as Chicago &Milwaukee Electric 141. It was rebuilt in 1914 and retired in 1954.”
CA&E 418 in Batavia on March 15, 1952.
CA&E 318 near Whaton on a Central Electric Railfans’ Association fantrip, October 24, 1940.
CA&E 425 at Glen Oak on a September 2, 1940 CERA fantrip.
A pass from an early CERA fantrip.
CA&E 460 in Elgin on May 14, 1953. This car is preserved in operating condition at the Illinois Railway Museum.
Interesting pictures of Chicago streetcars are still coming out of the woodwork more than 56 years after the last car ran in the early hours of June 21, 1958. Today, we present a sequence of photos showing track work under the Loop “L” at Clark and Van Buren on Saturday, July 17, 1954.
We see postwar Chicago PCC 4089, a Pullman product. Photos of the Pullmans are scarce, since they were the first cars scrapped starting in 1953 (although only being a few years old). Parts from 570 of the 600 postwar cars were used by St. Louis Car Co. in building a like number of the curved-door 6000-series rapid transit cars.
We also see crane car X3. Don’s Rail Photos says, “X3 was built by Chicago Rys in 1909 as CRys 66. It was renumbered W16 in 1913 and became CSL W16 in 1914. It was rebuilt as X3 in 1928.”
For a view of how things looked up on the “L” platform near this location at around this time, you can see a nice photo, complete with another sign from the Victoria Hotel, here on the CERA Members Blog.
According to the Chicago Tribune, July 17 was a very warm summer day, with a high of 88 degrees. You can see this in the summer shirts worn by the workers.
From the looks of PCC car 4089, it would appear that it had been involved in a few fender-benders on Chicago’s long and very busy #22 Clark-Wentworth route.
Less than four years after these pictures were taken, what author James D. Johnson called the “Century of Chicago Streetcars” (to quote the title of his 1964 book) came to an end. But on one warm Saturday in 1954, shown in these pictures, the wire was still up and tracks were being maintained.
One of our readers writes, “The 141 crossing the IHB tracks at Oak Street in LaGrange Park. The car is headed westbound, the train is southbound, possibly entering the sidings that are just south of Oak. The trolley turned south and paralleled the IHB down to the CB&Q tracks where it turned west along Hillgrove. The home under construction in the background is the second or third house north of Oak on the west side of Beach.” (Or, perhaps the steam train is backing up and the trolley waited for it to clear the crossing, based on the lingering smoke near the streetcar.)
The Chicago & West Towns, while not an extremely large streetcar operator, played an important role in the development of many of Chicago’s western suburbs in the first half of the 20th century. You can see a map of the West Towns car lines here, and a list of important dates in its operations here.
We have written about the Chicago & West Towns Railways before on the CERA Members Blog (see these posts here and here) but nearly all those photos were in black-and-white. Since streetcar service was abandoned in April 1948, color pictures are scarce.
Color film was expensive in 1948, and most fans did not have a 35mm camera to shoot it with. So we can be thankful for those railfans who did have the wherewithal to shoot Kodachrome slides, which give us an idea of what life was like in an earlier and simpler time.
Today we offer you rarely seen color pictures of West Towns streetcars. Even better, several of them show car 141, the sole survivor of the fleet. You can read about how this car was preserved and lovingly restored here. The Electric Railway Historical Society bought the car body in 1959, after it had been used as a storage shed, and donated it to the Illinois Railway Museum in 1973. You can ride that car at the museum.
While we are not sure of all the exact locations in these images, most of them seem to be on the line that ran between LaGrange and Cicero. Perhaps our keen-eyed readers can help identify some of these areas.
In a few cases, we have presented “then and now” photos, so you can see that while a lot has changed in the nearly 70 years that trolleys have been gone, but there are still a few things that remain from the old days.
When the Chicago Transit Authority was just getting started, they looked into the possibility of purchasing the West Towns, and I believe they entered into negotiations, but it never happened. The West Towns completed its conversion to buses in 1948 and remained a private operator until 1981. These services are operated today as part of the Pace suburban bus system.
The corner of Lincoln and Beach as it looks today in LaGrange Park. Lincoln ends in a cul-de-sac near the railroad tracks at rear. We are not far from where image 471 was taken.
Chicago & West Towns Railways car 112 heads south at Harlem and Cermak on August 17, 1947.
If the building at right is a car barn, this may be Harlem and Cermak. If so, car 112 would be turning east onto Cermak.
This may show the 111 heading west, preparing to cross First Avenue to reach the Brookfield Zoo.
The 159 may be on on the LaGrange line, heading east towards Cermak and Kenton.
The 111 at the Brookfield Zoo parking lot.
The 141 somewhere along the route between LaGrange and Cermak Road.
The corner of Lincoln and Blanchan in Brookfield as it looks today. This is the approximate location of image 466.
The apartment building at 9436 Lincoln in Brookfield. It can be seen in image 466 to the right of the West Towns streetcar.
This house is visible in image 466. Our approximate location is 3528 Cleveland in Brookfield.
The 141 at Cermak and Kenton, the border between Cicero and Chicago. Here riders could change to the Chicago Surface Lines route 21 streetcar for points east. In the background, we see the Western Electric plant.
Car 128 near Cermak and Kenton.
Cermak and Kenton as it looks today.
The 141 may be heading east, crossing the Illinois Central near 26th and Harlem. The streetcar briefly diverted from the roadway to make this crossing.
This shows where the West Towns crossed the Illinois Central near 26th and Harlem.
Car 128 in zoo service, heading south on Woodside at 31st in Riverside. Further north, this street becomes DesPlaines Avenue.
DesPlaines and 31st as it looks today, looking north. The West Towns streetcar ran where the grassy median is today, and continued a few blocks further south, before turning west to cross the DesPlaines River and First Avenue before reaching the Brookfield Zoo.
This may be Harlem and Cermak, looking north, with the car barn to the left.
I believe this view looks to the northeast along Woodside in Riverside, between 26th and 31st.
The 141 heading west, crossing Salt Creek.
An aerial view showing where the West Towns crossed the DesPlaines River (just north of Park Place).
Getting the 48,469,227 fair visitors back and forth to the lakefront site was a tremendous undertaking, and the Chicago Surface Lines played an important role. The fair opened on May 27, 1933, and it quickly became apparent that transportation needed improvement.
Two streetcar line extensions, among the last ones in Chicago, were hurriedly undertaken. The Roosevelt Road extension was the more elaborate of the two, since there were more obstacles in its path, namely the Illinois Central train station and tracks. The IC tracks were below grade, since they were built at the original ground level Downtown, which was raised several feet after the 1871 Chicago Fire.*
Chicago’s new Mayor Edward Joseph Kelly (1876-1950) took the controls of the first streetcar over the viaduct on August 1st, and posed for a good many press photos along the way. The two line extensions, from Roosevelt and Cermak, were retained for about 20 years, and continued to serve the Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium, Adler Planetarium, and Soldier Field. They both had turnaround loops, to permit the use of single-ended as well as double-ended cars.
CSL had two modern experimental streetcars built, and used them to shuttle visitors to and from the fair. Of the two, at least part of car 4001 has survived to this day, while 7001 was perhaps more influential on the eventual design of the highly successful PCC cars, starting in 1936. The general configuration of this single-ended car, and its door arrangement, were followed on Chicago’s 683 PCCs.
Today, we present a Chicago Surface Lines brochure touting their service to the World’s Fair and all parts of Chicago. Along with this, we have some additional photos showing the Roosevelt Road extension. You can find some additional pictures of this operation in later days in one of our earlier posts. There is also a photo showing car 7001 on State Street in 1934, in World’s Fair service.
After the CTA converted the Roosevelt Road streetcar line to bus, the extension to the “Museum Loop” operated as a shuttle between August 12, 1951 to April 12, 1953, when it was abandoned, and eventually demolished. There’s a picture of the route 12A shuttle operation on the CERA Members Blog, here. (The same blog also shows the last known picture of car 7001, shortly before it was scrapped in 1959.)
The last route 21 – Cermak streetcar ran on May 30, 1954.
PCCs occasionally did run to the Museum Loop during special events, for example, on April 26, 1951, when General Douglas MacArthur (1880-1964) made a personal appearance after his dismissal by President Harry S Truman. You can read more about that historic event here.
Northerly Island, the site of A Century of Progress, was built on landfill. After the fair, it was used as Meigs Field, an airport for small planes, from 1948 to 2003.
Now that planning is underway for the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art to be built in the “Museum Campus” area, various ideas have been floated for improving transit in this area. These proposals include a streetcar line.
So, when it comes to Chicago’s lakefront, what goes around may yet come around- especially if it’s a streetcar.
*This is approximately correct. It would be difficult to determine what “ground” level truly was when the City was first settled, since Chicago was built on a swamp. Ground level was raised 10 feet downtown in the 1860s to permit the easy installation of a sewer system, and there have been numerous additions via landfill, especially east of Michigan Avenue, which was originally the shoreline. You would apparently have to go as far south as Jackson Park before the Lake Michigan shoreline is in its pre-development location.
For more information, go here.
1939-40 New York World’s Fair
It’s worth mentioning that when New York put on their World’s Fair in 1939-40, they built a rapid transit extension of the IND subway system to reach the south end of the site. This operation was called the World’s Fair Railroad, and required payment of a second 5-cent fare. This branch line was constructed at a cost of $1.2m.
This extension ran partly through Jamaica yard, and went 8,400 feet beyond it, for a total length of just under two miles.
The privately owned BMT and IRT subway/elevated systems shared service on what is now the 7 line, and fairgoers could get there via the Willets Point station, which now serves Citi Field, home of the New York Mets. The regular fare was charged, and these trains reached the north end of the site.
After the fair closed, the World’s Fair Railroad spur was dismantled and removed, the only such IND service to suffer this fate. During the course of the fair, New York City took over operation of both the IRT and BMT, unifying the three subway operations under municipal ownership.
No rapid transit extensions were provided for the 1964-65 World’s Fair, which took place on the same location. However, there was a monorail for moving people around within the fair site itself.
A CSL map showing how the Roosevelt Road and Cermak Road streetcar lines were extended to new loops serving A Century of Progress.
The Roosevelt Road extension to the World’s Fair site is under construction in this June 24, 1933 view. The Illinois Central station lies between here and what we now call the “Museum Campus.”
From the looks of things, this picture was also taken on June 24, 1933.
It’s August 1, 1933. The World’s Fair extension along Roosevelt Road is now completed, and Mayor Edward Kelly (posing for pictures) is at the controls of the first service car. Kelly had succeeded Anton Cermak as mayor earlier that year after the latter was assassinated in Miami.
A close-up of the previous scene.
The first service car over the Illinois Central viaduct, with Mayor Kelly at the throttle, in a picture taken at 9:30 am on August 1, 1933.
An artist’s rendering of CSL experimental pre-PCC streetcar 4001, built by Pullman. It entered service in 1934 and was retired in 1944. Its body shell is preserved at the Illinois Railway Museum.
An artist’s rendering of CSL experimental pre-PCC streetcar 7001, built by Brill. It entered service in 1934 and was retired in 1944. It was scrapped in 1959. Note that the car is signed for Clark-Wentworth, the busiest line on the Chicago system. Ironically, while this design resembles the PCC car of 1936, Brill refused to license the patented PCC technology, and as a result, was driven out of the streetcar market within a five years, after building but a few dozen “Brilliners.”
A side view of pre-PCC car 7001, showing how the general arrangement of doors was quite similar to that used on the later Chicago PCCs. (CSL Photo)
CSL 7001, as it appeared on March 18, 1939.
Chicago Mayor Edward Kelly presides over the opening ceremonies for A Century of Progress at Soldier Field, May 27, 1933.
A Yellow Line train turns back south of Howard, with Red Line trains in the background.
The “True Gen,” in military parlance, means genuine, accurate, useful information, the kind you can stake your life on in wartime. (It’s also the title of my favorite book about Ernest Hemingway.)
Today, we’ll apply that phrase to the Chicago Transit Authority‘s Yellow Line, aka the Skokie Swift. More than 50 years after service begin in April 1964, there seems to be a bit of confusion about its origins. Even the Wikipedia page had some misinformation on it, which we corrected. (That is both the blessing and the curse of the Wikipedia; but if anyone can come up with a better system, I’d like to know what it is.)
We like our history fresh from the source. So, here are a couple of newspaper articles with the “true gen” on how the Swift came to be. They set straight a couple of “factoids” that have made the rounds– that CTA supposedly already owned the right-of-way to Skokie Shops (it didn’t) and that the Swift was dependent on receiving federal aid (it wasn’t).
Not that you can take all newspaper reports as gospel, of course. You always have to consider the source. But I think that as far as these articles, go, however, we’re on pretty safe ground. As one of the original riders that first week, I can assure you that the high-speed “spam cans” did make much of the five mile journey at 60 mph, a thrilling ride indeed.
I’ve supplemented this post with some pictures I took last April 26, when the CTA celebrated a half-century of the Swift, none of which have been published before. I’ve written about the Skokie Swift before on the CERA Members Blog, and you can find some of those posts here and here. If you like what you see here, you might want to check those out too.
The Chicago transit authority expects to establish a new high speed, nonstop rapid transit service this fall over a five mile stretch of the abandoned North Shore railroad right of way between the Howard street terminal and Dempster street, Skokie.
Plans for the new rapid transit service were announced by George DeMent, chairman of the CTA, and Walter J. McCarter, the transit authority’s general manager.
“We are still negotiating for the purchase of this five mile section of the North Shore right-of-way, and we are hopeful that these negotiations can be completed in time to create this new service this fall,” said DeMent.
May Seek U.S. Grant
In addition to the North Shore railroad, DeMent said, the negotiations also are being carried on with Commonwealth Edison company, which for many years has owned part of the right of way for power line use.
DeMent also indicated the CTA may seek a grant from the federal government for paying two-thirds of the cost of establishing the new route as a “demonstration project.”
McCarter described the proposed new service to Dempster street, Skokie, as an “excellent opportunity to extend rapid transit into suburban areas where large parking facilities also would be provided for ‘park-and-ride’ patrons of the CTA.”
“We would use high speed cars as single car shuttle trains which could operate for much of the nonstop five mile trip at 60 miles an hour,” said McCarter. “Our plans call for providing at least 600 parking spaces at the Dempster street station.”
The high speed, one-car trains, McCarter estimated, would cover the five mile trip in eight to 10 minutes, compared with 24 to 25 minutes required for the CTA’s present buses between Dempster street and the Howard terminal. He also explained that the rapid transit service would be operated only in periods of heavy demand and that the buses would continue operating “around the clock.”
Skokie Votes $17,000
DeMent pointed out that Myron Greisdorf, president of Skokie, and other Skokie village board members have “shown their definite interest by voting $17,000 to help establish the new service.” No estimate was given on the cost of providing the new rapid transit shuttle service…
The acquisitions of a five mile stretch of the North Shore railroad right-of-way for a new rapid transit train service between the Howard street terminal and Dempster street, Skokie was authorized yesterday by the board of the Chicago transit authority.
The board acted on a recommendation by Walter J. McCarter, CTA general manager, who reported that a price of 2 million dollars had been negotiated with the North Shore railroad.
Would Pay 1.7 Million
Under a purchase agreement, McCarter said, the CTA would pay 1.7 million dollars of the cost. The remaining $300,000, he said, is to be paid by Commonwealth Edison company in return for converting its easements into perpetual rights for power transmission lines along the property.
In addition, Commonwealth Edison is to pay the CTA a monthly rental of $700 on the easements for an initial period of two years. The rental payments, McCarter said, would be used to help cover any operating losses that migth be incurred during a two-year experimental period.
Village Must Agree
“We expect to have this new service in operation within two to three months,” said George DeMent, CTA chairman. “The plan also is contingent upon a pending agreement with the village of Skokie whereby it would provide parking spaces for at least 400 cars at the Dempster street station.”
DeMent said the CTA also expects to file a request for federal government financial assistance to help pay any operating deficit for the first two years as a “demonstration project.” Under this plan, the federal government would pay two-thirds of operating losses and the CTA one-third.
Meanwhile, McCarter said the CTA will continue to operate its Skokie bus route which makes local stops in the same general area.
DeMent indicated, however, that the CTA would undertake the project on its own in the event the operation is not accepted by the federal government as an experiment.
McCarter explained that single-car trains, without any intermediate stops, would make the five mile trip in 6 1/2 to 7 minutes. He said the single cars would be operated at 10 minute intervals from early morning until late evening, but that no late night service would be provided.
The CTA already must acquire half of the five-mile stretch, McCarter explained, because of the necessity to maintain tracks to its shops at 3701 W. Oakton st., Skokie.
DeMent also said that the CTA is studying the costs of using the North Shore right-of-way still further north, possibly to Glenview or Northfield. However, DeMent said that for any further extensions, the suburbs involved would be asked to pay for right-of-way acquisition and necessary equipment, as well as to guarantee the CTA against operating losses.
Joe Stupar writes:
That is interesting but not surprising about Edison paying a portion. At the time of abandonment, Edison had a non-exclusive lease with the North Shore for the tower line there, dated March 8, 1957. Interestingly enough, that lease was not due to expire until December 31, 2008.
Early abandonment forecasts from the North Shore from 1961 were uncertain whether the CTA would purchase any line at all. They mention construction of a new shop facility at Forest Park. However, by 1963 it appears certain they would purchase the line. Three proposals were prepared, purchase from Howard -> East Prairie Rd (2.75 Miles), Howard -> Dempster St (5 Miles), and Howard -> Glenview Rd (7 Miles). The most expensive section of track was from Howard -> East Prairie Rd, with a book value of $3,896,784, and a suggested selling price of $1,500,000. The scrap value of the North Shore was related to book value, replacement cost, and value of physical infrastructure as scrap. As such, with the many bridges (including channel bridge), this was one of the most expensive sections of track. From East Prairie to Dempster had a book value of $776,334 and a suggested asking price of $500,000; from Dempster to Glenview Rd $548,032, and a suggested asking price of $350,000.
I thought I remembered reading somewhere that part of the reason to operate to Dempster St instead of Glenview Rd was due to car miles, and availability of equipment to operate the service. A 1963 estimate lists annual car miles of 127,500 to Dempster St, and 250,000 to Glenayre.
Another interesting fact is an April 1963 fare comparison. CTA was proposing a 55 cent fare Loop to Dempster, or a 70 cent fare Loop to Glenview. This 55/70 compares to 62/75 on the Milw, 69/81 on the CNW, and 78/86 actual North Shore. The CTA did not propose to sell monthly tickets, but it also lists equivalent monthly fares of 45/51 on Milw, 40/47 on CNW, and 52/56 on North Shore.
There is one other advantage to constructing the line to Dempster St vs East Prairie Rd or Glenview Rd as well. Available land for a parking lot. According to Chicago Tribune articles of the time, the village of Skokie paid to construct a large parking lot at Skokie. Even in 1963, there were a lot of houses near the Glenview station and I don’t know if there would have been room for a parking lot. Same with East Prairie Rd.
Interestingly enough, at one point the North Shore seriously considered selling the right of way from Oakton to Lake Bluff to the CNW. They even went so far as to suggest that the CNW may want to purchase the stations and resume passenger service. I thought this seemed kind of far fetched, but I recently stumbled across a Chicago Tribune article from December 63 / January 64 about a proposed CNW restart of service to Skokie, and possibly Glenview / Northbrook.
There is one other factor that hasn’t been mentioned for going to Dempster St. This is a minor detail, but by going to there, they pick up another substation on the line. If they had only purchased up to East Prairie, the whole line would be fed by the Howard end. I’m not sure if the Skokie substation figures into the value of that portion or not.
I also read another letter written to the editor in December of 63. It was a suggestion that the CTA re-open the stations on the line, since otherwise the trains would just be passing all of the potential riders in the dense areas.
Following up on our previous post CTA’s Westchester Branch – What Might Have Been, we decided to scout out the old right-of-way, more than 63 years since the last trains ran, to see what we could find. Fortunately, there are many traces of the old line that are still visible.
For your consideration, we present some modern-day shots of the same locations where “L” trains once ran, both along the CA&E main line and the Westchester branch. If you ever decide to go exploring, to see these areas for yourself, we hope our efforts will give you a bit of a “leg up” on the work.
Interestingly, one entire half-block where the Harrison station once was, remained vacant land as late as 2011. This has now been developed, and we have some “before and after” pictures for comparison.
Since there are so few streets that cross the former Westchester right-of-way south of I290, it would appear that some housing was built adjacent to the line even before abandonment in December 1951. The line still being in use would provide a logical reason for keeping new grade crossings to a minimum.
If the CTA Blue Line is ever extended west to Mannheim Road, it would cross the old Westchester right-of-way very close to this spot. If a station is built there, that would be even more ironic. Someday you may be able to take a CTA rapid transit train to much the same location that you could in 1951, but not since.
You might think that the CA&E followed a straight path to the DesPlaines terminal, but such was not the case. Heading east from First Avenue, where the Illinois Prairie Path ends now, it actually headed southeast before turning east and crossing the DesPlaines River where I290 does today, then connecting with the terminal from the south.
Approximately the same view as image 194 in our last post (showing a Westchester car heading west, crossing First Avenue). The old Refiner’s Pride gas station has long since been replaced by an oil change shop.
Looking southeast from First Avenue. The CA&E tracks headed through this area, before turning east to cross the DesPlaines River. There were also some storage tracks in this area, now occupied by Commonwealth Edison.
Looking east from First Avenue. The CA&E right-of-way veered off here to the right, while the Chicago Great Western freight line went straight ahead. Some years ago, a new bridge was built where the CGW crossed the DesPlaines River, for pedestrian and bike traffic.
The Illinois Prairie Path begins at First Avenue in Maywood. We are looking west.
We are looking east from 6th Avenue in Maywood, about the same view as seen in image 181 in our previous post (showing the CA&E 5th Avenue station).
The old CA&E right-of-way looking west from 6th Avenue in Maywood.
The old CA&E main line, looking west from Madison and 19th.
Looking east from 25h near Madison, where a former CA&E station was located.
Looking west from Madison and 25th. Some of the same high tension lines are visible in image 196 in our previous post.
The Illinois Prairie Path, at right, follows the right-of-way of the Chicago, Aurora & Elgin interurban.
Where the CA&E main line once crossed under the Indiana Harbor Belt RR. Since the railroad was scrapped in 1962, some concrete walls have been erected.
The Westchester line branched off from the CA&E main line near the top of the picture, then curved to the south to fololow a path between Marshall and Bellwood Avenues. This was approximately the location of Mark Drive, which is designated as a street for a short stretch, but is mostly an alley. From Jackson it headed south, and there was a station at Harrison just west of Bellwood Avenue.
An exception to the rule that you can follow the right-of-way via the telephone poles. These connect with the ones that follow the Westchester line, but the tracks were actually a bit west of this location on Madison Street (as can be seen in some of our other photos that show the actual location).
This house can also seen in image 199 in our previous post, in a photo showing a Westchester car crossing Madison Street.
The Westchester line crossed Madison at approximately this spot, where the house in the middle of the picture is now located. From here, the track curved off to run to the west of Bellwood Avenue.
Looking southeast at the old Westchester right-of-way, at Monroe between Bellwood and Marshall Avenues.
Along Mark Drive in Bellwood.
Along Mark Drive in Bellwood.
Along Mark Drive in Bellwood.
Along Mark Drive in Bellwood.
Along Mark Drive in Bellwood.
Along Mark Drive in Bellwood.
Along Mark Drive in Bellwood.
Along Mark Drive in Bellwood.
Looking north from Van Buren.
Part of the old Westchester right of way has been turned into “Park Place,” which appears to be a new street.
Looking north from Van Buren.
Looking north from Van Buren.
Bellwood Estates, as seen from the corner of Bellwood Avenue and Harrison, just north of I290. This development was not here in 2011.
Looking south from Van Buren. The new Bellwood Estates development is at left.
Looking north from Van Buren, the approximate right-of-way of the Westchester branch is now called Park Place.
Looking south at the old Westchester right-of-way from Van Buren in 2011. The tracks followed the alignment of the telephone poles. This area has been built up since then.
This 2011 view of the then-empty half block at Harrison and Bellwood, looking much as it had 60 years earlier.
Undeveloped land near the old Harrison station, as it appeared in 2011 prior to the construction of Bellwood Estates.
Bellwood and Harrison in 2011, before the construction of Bellwood Estates.
After crossing where I290 is today, the Westchester branch headed south and ran alongside the eastern edge of what is now Gladstone Park. The line went under the Illinois Central tracks and there was a station at Roosevelt Road, along with a couple of storage tracks.
The right-of-way looking north from Kitchner Street in Westchester, just south of I290.
Grace Central Church on Kitchner Street in Westchester, some of the construction that has built up in the area since 1951.
Looking south from Kitchner Street.
Looking south from Kitchner Street.
In places, it is only possible to follow the path of the old right-of-way via telephone poles.
Looking south from Kitchner Street in Westchester.
Looking north from the IC underpass.
A dirt road passes under the partly filled-in Illinois Central underpass. We are looking south.
The Illinois Central underpass, as viewed from the south.
The partially filled-in underpass that once took Westchester trains under the Illinois Central.
Here, the line continued to run south between Balmoral Avenue and Westchester Boulevard.
Finally, heading south past the station at Canterbury, the line curved to the southwest, following the general alignment of Balmoral Avenue until ending just short of Mannheim and 22nd. Insull planned for eventual extension west from this point to what we now call Oakbrook.
The #317 Pace bus stops at the exact location of the former Westchester rapid transit station at Canterbury.
Looking north from Canterbury.
The right-of-way looking south from Canterbury.
Near Mannheim and 22nd Street.
Near Mannheim and 22nd Street.
Near Mannheim and 22nd Street.
The Westchester right-of-way near Mannheim and 22nd Street, looking north.
A bank now occupies the end of the Westchester line at Mannheim and 22nd Street.
Bill Shapotkin writes:
It is interesting to see that the idea of looking at the r-o-w (such as the Westchester ‘L’) is not just my own personnel domain anymore. We can still learn a lot about the past by reviewing the remains of the present. (I especially like the before/after photos of the same house on Madison St in Bellwood (shown below).)
Kudos to you, Dave.
A few thoughts concerning the Westchester ‘L’ as it relates to the present-day: Some time ago, a fellow wrote (in a thread to this group) how the Westchester ‘L’ is missed (by the present-day residents) today. Not so — but just how are the residents of the area served today?
It appears that whatever REAL traffic potential along the route of the ‘L’ is along Madison St — NOT in Bellwood or Westchester.
That said, PACE #301 http://www.pacebus.com/pdf/schedules/301sched.pdf now provides frequent (thirty minute or better) along Roosevelt Rd on Weekdays/Saturday and forty-five minute service on Sunday. Of course, this also provides service along a route one mile south of Madison St and provides better west-end destinations (Hillside Mall (at least what is left of it), Oakbrook and (on weekdays), points along Roosevelt as far west as Wheaton. Wow! I can recall when this was a weekday-only route (on a sixty-minute headway) betw Des Plaines Ave and Hillside — and did not operate after 7:00 PM.
Further south, PACE #322 http://www.pacebus.com/pdf/schedules/322sched.pdf operates on a thirty-minute headway (Weekdays and Saturday) and hourly on Sunday (Sunday being the only real hours-restrictive portion of the operation. Like the #301, there are good west-end destinations (Oakbrook and Yorktown).
Sadly, the north-south service of PACE #330 http://www.pacebus.com/pdf/schedules/330sched.pdf has not lived up to (what I believe is) its full potential. If the route served the Midway ‘L’ (instead of Archer/Neva) on its south end and actually served Metra’s MILWW line on a full-time basis (i.e.: served the Franklin Park (instead of the Mannheim) station), it would have a lot more of a following — and the corresponding service levels that the other routes now serving the area now have.
I believe many of us (and I include myself to a certain degree) have rose-colored glasses on when we look at some of the long-gone rail transit services. It appears to me that the present-day routes actually serve the are better — providing service to where people actually live and/or where they want to travel, which sadly the ‘L’ would not be able to do.
Slowly but surely (heavy on the slowly, light on the surely), I am documenting the Westchester ‘L’ and its present-day bus replacement services. Good Lord willing, this documentation will be completed later this year. When completed, the program will be offered to any interested group (such as CERA or OSA) for public viewing.