Bruce C. Nelson took this photo of CTA 5174, wrapped with the Chicago flag, on April 24, 2018 at Clinton just west of the Loop.
Here at the Trolley Dodger, we are always in search of new directions to take this blog to. While the great majority of photos we share are definitely “old,” they are new to us, and we hope, you as well.
There doesn’t have to be an overriding theme to these posts, but often one suggests itself. Often we simply collect pictures that interest us for various reasons, and once we have a sufficiency, they all go into a post.
But what is old now was once new, and at least some of today’s images did represent new directions at one time.
Two cases in point – Harper’s Weekly, from April 20, 1895, ran an in-depth report on the new Metropolitan West Side Elevated, which opened on May 6. That was 125 year ago now, but all this was brand new and very innovative. The Met was the very first of the “L”s to forgo steam power in favor of electricity, direct current carried by a third rail.
As the article makes clear, Chicago’s third “L” (after the South Side and Lake Street lines) drew inspiration from the Columbian Intramural Railway at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. And while in retrospect, it would have made a lot of sense to have the Logan Square and Humboldt Park branches continue downtown on a straight line along Milwaukee Avenue, there was no Loop in 1895 for it to connect with.
The Met started life as a very ambitious self-contained entity. There was no Loop elevated until 1897.
The other new direction we offer today is from 1913. Once established, the Loop “L” was a tremendous success, but success brought with it a host of new problems to solve. Not all trains ran on the Loop– some started and ended at the stub end terminals each of the four “L” companies had. But most of them did, and at first, all circled the Loop. The result was congestion and slower service.
Gradually, it became apparent that Chicago’s “L”s would be better off as a unified system. It was a gradual process.
By 1913, the four “L” companies were still separate entities, but came under unified management, controlled by Samuel Insull. Important changes and improvements were afoot.
Now, you could transfer between the various “L”s without paying another fare. Transfer bridges were added at Loop stations, and where the Met crossed over the Lake Street “L”.
Traffic on the Loop was changed to counter-clockwise, a system that lasted 56 years, until the Dan Ryan line opened in 1969. Prior to this, trains used left-hand running there, and operated bi-directionally. For over half a century now, the Loop has been bi-directional, with right-hand running.
We acquired a very nice 1913 brochure detailing the new changes.
In addition, we have many recent photo finds to share with you.
PS- We have shared literally thousands of images with you over the last five plus years. Not surprisingly, many of these photos end up on Facebook. There are lots of railfan groups on Facebook, and we belong to many of them ourselves. We are fine with you sharing our pictures there, but we do have a couple requests.
First, please do not crop out the Trolley Dodger watermark. It’s there for a purpose– to show everyone the source of the picture. Give credit where credit is due.
Second, please include the caption information. I have seen some pictures shared without the captions, leading to much guesswork and wondering about things that were actually answered in the original caption itself.
From Harper’s Weekly, April 20, 1895:
1913 “L” Brochure:
Chicago “L” operations were consolidated under one management by 1913, when this brochure was issued to explain service changes to the public.
In 1913, free transfers were instituted between the four “L” lines. To combat overcrowding, some north and south side trains were through-routed, meaning they only ran on half the Loop. Other trains continued to circle the Loop. The direction of trains in the Loop was changed to counter-clockwise, and the Northwestern and Lake Street “L”s changed to right-hand running outside of the Loop.
We spent some time cleaning up this 1913 map in Photoshop. Under the new scheme of things, the Loop ran counter-clockwise. Met trains continued to use the inner Loop tracks, and Northwestern trains the outer tracks, as before. Lake trains were rerouted onto the inner tracks, and South Side trains to the outer tracks. Now many trains could be through-routed between the north and south sides, although there were still trains that went around the Loop and served all the stations. It would also have been possible to through-route Lake and Met “L” trains, but this was not done. There was some equipment sharing between Northwestern and Lake, as both “L”s used overhead wire in places, but none of the Met cars were equipped with trolley poles until the 1926 Eucharistic Congress. M.E. writes, “I must compliment your excellent Photoshop work on the 1913 Rapid Transit System map. Did you notice that it mentions “electric” connections at 63rd and Stony Island and at 63rd Place and Halsted? The latter was the interurban to Kankakee, which quit sometime in the 1920s, although its trackage under the L lasted into at least the 1940s.”
This must have been a popular postcard, as it turns up a lot. This example was never mailed and is in excellent condition. It does show the bi-directional, left-hand running Loop, though, so it must date to before 1913. The Met car at left is heading north, away from us. The train at right is heading towards us. I suspect it is a Northwestern “L” car, about to head west on Van Buren. There were no transfer bridges at Loop stations until 1913. The view looks north at Wabash and Van Buren from Tower 12.
Postcards like this were based on black-and-white photos, although the finished product, since it is traced, ends up looking more like a drawing. Once the four “L” lines were put under consolidated management in 1913, free transfers between lines were permitted. Here, the Met “L” along Paulina crossed the Lake Street “L”, the only place on the entire system where two competing lines crossed, so Lake Street Transfer station was built. Met trains went downtown anyway, but it’s possible some riders might have been able to save a few minutes by switching to a Lake Street train. The view looks east.
We are looking west along the Van Buren leg of the Loop circa 1905. The train has a large “S” on it and is therefore a South Side “L” train, coming towards us as the Loop was left-hand running at the time, and is about to cross over to head south on the right-hand running Alley “L”.
An early 1900s postcard view of the Met “L” Logan Square Terminal.
Tower 12 at Wabash and Van Buren, looking north, in the early 900s. This is during the era when trains ran bi-directionally, left handed, prior to 1913. A Northwestern “L” train is turning behind Tower 12 and will head west. The train at left is heading north.
The date is not known, but this must be a photo stop along the North Shore Line’s Skokie Valley Route. We can only imagine how old the young boy at left is today, shown holding a pair of binoculars. This must be a siding of some sort. The original image was shot on size 127 Ektachrome film, a larger format that 35mm, but one that could still be mounted in a 2×2 mount– what people used to call a “superslide.” This term is also used to describe slides shot with size 828 film, which was slightly larger than 35mm.
A “superslide.” Since we are looking at the back of the slide, the image is reversed.
Red Arrow car 78 on the West Chester line on May 29, 1954, about a week before buses replaced trolleys. Much of the line was single track, side-of-the-road, with passing sidings. It fell victim to a road widening project along West Chester Pike. (James P. Shuman Photo)
Center door Red Arrow car 63 is at 69th Street Terminal on December 29, 1962.
Red Arrow car 63 at West Garrett Road on December 29, 1962. This car was built by Brill in the mid-1920s.
Philadelphia Suburban Transportation Company (aka Red Arrow) car 15 at the end of the Ardmore line in the early 1950s. Buses replaced trolleys in 1966.
Kansas City had an elevated railway line that started out as a cable car line and eventually became part of their streetcar system. It lasted into the 1950s. The last Kansas City PCC ran in 1957, but a new 2.2 mile long modern streetcar line opened in 2016. Kansas City Public Service car 776 was built by St. Louis Car Company in 1946.
A CTA Loop Shuttle train on the Wabash leg in 1974.
An eastbound two-car train of single car units, including car 8, are about to enter the Lotus Tunnel in March 1960. Construction of the Congress Expressway was well underway just to the north. The new highway opened in this area later that year.
Around 1940, the Chicago Surface Lines temporarily installed this door arrangement on prewar PCC 4051. It was later used on the 600 postwar PCCs.
CRT 3137 is part of a Lake Street Local train on the ground-level portion of that line. Don’s Rail Photos: “3136 and 3137 were built by Gilbert in 1893 as LSERR 84 and 85. They were rebuilt and renumbered 136 and 137 and later renumbered 3136 and 3137 in 1913. They became CRT 3136 and 3137 in 1923.”
A “Plushie” 4000-series “L” train on a late 1930s fantrip.
A Ravenswood Express with 4000s, including “Baldy” 4073, at the Merchandise Mart station circa 1940. From 1943-49, Ravenswood trains went downtown via the State Street Subway.
CRT 1101 heads up a southbound Evanston Shopper’s Special at the Merchandise Mart station circa 1940. Don’s Rail Photos: “1100 thru 1158 were built as trailers by Pullman in 1899 as NWERy 100 thru 158. They were renumbered 1100 thru 1158 in 1913 and became CRT 1100 thru 1158 in 1923.”
A Chicago & North Western RDC (Budd Rail Diesel Car) commuter train in Evanston on August 5, 1950.
CTA postwar PCC 4399 in the loop at 80th and Vincennes.
My “Spidey sense” tells me this picture of CA&E 412 was probably taken at Laramie Avenue. But it could not be any later than 1937, since that is when rail service to St. Charles ended. The view looks northwest and the train is headed west.
This is an unusual place to see an Electroliner, as we are on the South Side “L”. While the North Shore Line did run trains to the south side up to 1938, the Electrolners entered service in 1941. So, this must be a fantrip. Our resident south side expert M.E. writes, “This photo is an enigma. I cannot imagine the CNS&M would spare one of its two Electroliners for a fan trip. Maybe this was an introductory tour before service began in 1941. Also, your caption says the CNS&M ran to the south side until 1938. Then why do I remember seeing CNS&M cars on the Jackson Park L, rounding the curve at 63rd and Prairie, in the late 1940s? That CNS&M service ran to 63rd and Dorchester (1400 E.) to connect with Illinois Central passenger trains.” Miles Beitler: “I’m not sure, but RBK792 could be the 61st street station, photographed from a building in the adjacent yard. It’s hard to tell, but there appears to be a junction (the turnoff to the Englewood branch) just before the train in the far distance, which does appear to be a 6000.” Comparison with the following two photos proves (IMHO) that this is actually 61st Street, and that the picture was taken from the transfer bridge.
61st Street on the South side “L”. (George Trapp Collection)
61st Street on the South Side “L”. (George Trapp Collection)
The CA&E owned everything west of Laramie Avenue, including Lockwood Yard, shown here circa 1930 or so (by the looks of the auto at left). We are looking west and that’s Loretto Hospital in the distance, opened in 1923. Cars 418 and 431 are visible. Interestingly, the yard used overhead wire instead of third rail at this time. You can see a fence at the west end of the yard, and what appear to be a couple small bumper posts at track’s end. After the Garfield Park “L” was replaced by the CTA Congress median line, an alleyway was put in here, approximately where the two trains are. The house is still there, as you will see in the pictures that follow, and, it seems, one of the posts that supported trolley wire. However, the homes at left, on Flournoy Street (700 S.) are gone, replaced by expressway. This portion of yard and right-of-way is now occupied by light industry.
The same view today.
The fence to the right of this Chicago style brick bungalow shows just where Lockwood Yard ended. The yard was just north of the CA&E main line, which curved south just east of here and ran parallel to the B&OCT from here to Forest Park.
That certainly looks like one of the same poles in the earlier picture.
Chicago Aurora & Elgin wood car 16 at the end of the Batavia branch. Don’s Rail Photos: “16 was built by Niles Car in 1902. It was modernized in December 1939 and retired in 1959.”
An 1883 omnibus was part of the CTA Historical Collection at 77th and Vincennes on May 25, 1958. This and other historic vehicles were paraded out that day, during one of the final Chicago streetcar fantrips. PCCs, including 4409, are at left.
The view looking west from Racine on the Englewood “L” branch on November 3, 1955. The Loomis Terminal is in the distance.
Looking northeast from the Halsted station on the Met “L” main line on June 27, 1954, we see a two-car westbound Garfield Park train of flat-door 6000s.
A six-car train of wooden “L” cars heads west at California Avenue on the Lake Street line. We are looking west on March 17, 1954.
The CTA installed an escalator (called a “speed ramp”) at the Loomis Terminal on the Englewood branch. This photo was taken on February 19, 1957. This branch was extended two blocks west to Ashland in 1969, providing a more convenient transfer to buses. M.E. adds, “The L platform at Loomis Blvd. did not originally extend over the street. It was added to accommodate longer trains. The bus heading north on Loomis was probably serving route 110 Marquette Blvd., which ended at the L station. Until the early 1950s, bus service along Marquette and Loomis Blvds. was part of the Chicago Motor Coach system, and had double-decker buses that might not have fit under the L track (if it had been there).” Alan Follett adds, “As I recall, the “speed ramp” at Loomis wasn’t an escalator. It was a sort of gently-inclined conveyor belt.”
On February 19, 1957, we are looking west from the transfer bridge at Clark and Lake. A five-car Evanston Express train is at right, made up of wood cars in their final year of service.
The view looking west at 40th and Indiana Avenue on the South Side “L”. An 8-car Jackson Park train of 4000s is going to head north to Howard, and a train of southbound 6000s is off in the distance. The extra wide platform at right was extended in 1949, when the CTA turned the Kenwood branch into a shuttle operation. Riders could change here for that line and the Stock Yards branch. The date is April 13, 1954.
“L” car 1016 is part of an Evanston train at Madison and Wells.
CTA streetcar 1069 is running westbound on Route 16 – Lake Street. Some passengers have just stepped off and are waiting for the gates to go up as a Lake Street “L” train passes. There was a stretch of a few blocks where the ground-level “L” and streetcars ran side-by-side. Here, the trolley is going to go under the nearby embankment to run for a few blocks on the north side of the Chicago & North Western. Streetcars were replaced by buses in 1954, and the “L” was elevated onto the embankment in 1962. The picture can’t have been taken before 1948, as the Lake train is a “B.” A/B skip-stop service began on the line that year.
The front car here is 3139 on this Lake Street “L” train at Quincy and Wells.
One of the two cars in this Lake Street “L” train is 1708. At Madison and Wells.
CRT 3121 is a Lake Street gate car at Madison and Wells.
CRT 1772 at the front of a train at Lake and Homan.
CTA 1745 is the lead car on a westbound Lake Street “L” train, going down the ramp at Lake and Laramie.
A westbound Douglas Park train at Halsted on the Lake Street “L”. Douglas trains were rerouted downtown via Lake from 1954 to 1958.
CTA 2963 is a Douglas Park train at Madison and Wells.
CTA 2772 heads up a westbound Douglas Park train rounding the Halsted curve on the Met “L” main line.
The caption on the back of this picture says this is 54th Avenue on the Douglas Park “L”, however, I’m not so sure. It looks as though this is a westbound train that has just crossed over at the end of the line, but it is signed as a local and not an A or B train. M.E. writes: “Your caption is 99.44% correct, this picture has to be a westbound Douglas Park L at 54th St. in Cicero, crossing over to enter the terminal. The 0.56% in error is that it could indeed have been an all-stop train; A & B service on all lines that had A & B service was not A & B service at all times of day. As I recall, south side A & B service ran til maybe 8:30 p.m., and never on Sunday. So I contend this picture was taken on a Sunday.” Kenneth Smith: “I saw this pic in your recent October Surprise post and immediately suspected that the correct location is the El Strip, north of Cermak Road, between Euclid and Wesley Avenues in Berwyn, Il. The Westbound train is approaching the end-of-line station at Oak Park Ave. Were the Westbound train really approaching 54th Avenue in Cicero, the Danly Machine Tool Company plant – not residences – would have been along the Northside of the El tracks. After a little sleuthing via Google maps found that the classic two-flats which appear on the Northside of the tracks are still there and intact. And the West facing building still features a straight roof line as shown in your photo.”
An eastbound Garfield Park train at the Marshfield station in the early 1950s. Construction is already underway for the Congress Expressway that caused the “L” to be replaced by an expressway median route.
A train of CTA 2800s at Van Buren and Paulina. This was the temporary route for part of the Garfield Park “L” from 1953 to 1958.
A train of CTA 6000s is westbound at Laramie Avenue on the Garfield Park line in the 1950s.
CTA 3131, a one-man car operating on Route 16 – Lake Street, stops in front of the Woods Theater, located at 54 W. Randolph Street. The film 12 O’Clock High dates the picture to 1949. The Woods closed in 1989.
CRT 1013 at Skokie Shops. Don’s Rail Photos: “1013 was built by Pullman in 1899 as NWERy 13. It was renumbered 1013 in 1913 and became CRT 1013 in 1923. It was retired on December 20, 1954.”
CRT 2704 at Skokie Shops.
CTA 3148 heads up a Lake Street train at Quincy and Wells.
CSL 6211 near the Eastside Theater, located at 10555 S. Ewing Avenue. It opened in 1922 and closed in 1951.
Bill Myers writes:
Here is (North Shore Line) 411 in Brooklyn on the South Brooklyn Railway in March 1963.
Thanks… could it really have been that soon after the abandonment? Or is a 1964 date more likely? (The second picture shows the same car being moved years later, 1970s at least.)
Miles Beitler writes:
Great photos as usual!
Regarding RBK792, it’s really hard to tell but could there be a 6000 in the distance? If so, it would date the photo to 1950 or later. As for North Shore trains running to the south side, as far as I know that practice ended in 1938 as you said. However, perhaps NSL ran occasional trains for special events such as the 1948-1949 Chicago Railroad Fair and the 1952 Republican and Democratic national conventions (which were both held at the International Amphitheatre).
Photo RBK817 is interesting as the side curtain of car 1013 shows “LOGAN SQ EXPRESS”. Were there really express runs on that route? The Logan Square line wasn’t very long compared to the other west side lines and it didn’t have as many stations. If there was an express, which stations were skipped?
Thanks for writing. That may be 6000s in the distance. There were some very creative fantrips on the North Shore Line prior to abandonment, and some these did indeed use one of the Electroliners. I am not aware of any special runs relating to the Railroad Fair or political conventions, however.
Regarding where a Logan Square Express train would have stopped, and what stations would have been skipped, I do not know. Perhaps one of our readers can help.
Keep those cards and letters coming in, folks!
New Steam Audio CD:
FYI, we have digitally remastered another classic steam railroad audio LP to Compact Disc. Many additional titles, including the complete output of the Railroad Record Club, in our Online Store.
Rio Grande to Silverton:
A Sound Portrait of Mountain Railroading
These are vintage 1960 narrow gauge steam train recordings, in true stereo, and originally released on LP in 1961. It is long out of print.
01. Riding The Train To Silverton
02. Photo Run At Elk Park
03. Arriving At Silverton
04. Train Time At La Jara
05. Illini Special At Cumbres Pass
06. Doubleheader Starting At Monero
07. Eastbound Freight
08. Arriving At Chama
09. Whistles At Coxo
10. Freight With Pusher At Coxo
Gone are the nostalgic sounds of steam echoes and thundering exhausts, but the memory is immortal. May they live on in the locomotive lexicon, as a monument to the era when trains were pulled by STEAM POWER.
As with all of our recordings, this CD comes with the complete, original liner notes.
Total time – 45:49
The Trolley Dodger On the Air
We appeared on WGN radio in Chicago in November 2018, discussing our book Building Chicago’s Subways on the Dave Plier Show. You can hear our 19-minute conversation here.
Chicago, Illinois, December 17, 1938– Secretary Harold Ickes, left, and Mayor Edward J. Kelly turn the first spadeful of earth to start the new $40,000,000 subway project. Many thousands gathered to celebrate the starting of work on the subway.
Order Our New Book Building Chicago’s Subways
There were three subway anniversaries in 2018 in Chicago:
60 years since the West Side Subway opened (June 22, 1958)
75 years since the State Street Subway opened (October 17, 1943)
80 years since subway construction started (December 17, 1938)
To commemorate these anniversaries, we have written a new book, Building Chicago’s Subways.
While the elevated Chicago Loop is justly famous as a symbol of the city, the fascinating history of its subways is less well known. The City of Chicago broke ground on what would become the “Initial System of Subways” during the Great Depression and finished 20 years later. This gigantic construction project, a part of the New Deal, would overcome many obstacles while tunneling through Chicago’s soft blue clay, under congested downtown streets, and even beneath the mighty Chicago River. Chicago’s first rapid transit subway opened in 1943 after decades of wrangling over routes, financing, and logistics. It grew to encompass the State Street, Dearborn-Milwaukee, and West Side Subways, with the latter modernizing the old Garfield Park “L” into the median of Chicago’s first expressway. Take a trip underground and see how Chicago’s “I Will” spirit overcame challenges and persevered to help with the successful building of the subways that move millions. Building Chicago’s subways was national news and a matter of considerable civic pride–making it a “Second City” no more!
Title Building Chicago’s Subways
Images of America
Author David Sadowski
Publisher Arcadia Publishing (SC), 2018
ISBN 1467129380, 9781467129381
Length 128 pages
01. The River Tunnels
02. The Freight Tunnels
03. Make No Little Plans
04. The State Street Subway
05. The Dearborn-Milwaukee Subway
07. Death of an Interurban
08. The Last Street Railway
09. Subways and Superhighways
10. Subways Since 1960
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The price of $23.99 includes shipping within the United States.
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Redone tile at the Monroe and Dearborn CTA Blue Line subway station, showing how an original sign was incorporated into a newer design, May 25, 2018. (David Sadowski Photo)
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