The date of this picture is not known, but it must have been in the early 1950s. We see a Chicago & North Western commuter train (aka a “Scoot”) at left on an embankment, while an eastbound CTA train is on the ground level portion of the Lake Street “L”. Perhaps a more exact location can be determined by the signal tower shown in the photo. I think the woods were off of Lake by the end of 1954, and steam only lasted a couple more years on the C&NW. Now both Metra commuter trains and CTA’s Green Line trains share this embankment. (William Shapotkin Collection)
Variety, they say, is the spice of life, and we certainly have a spicy batch of photos for you today. Most are from the collections of William Shapotkin, whose interests range far afield. Looking through all these photos was, for me at least, like Christmas in July.
We hope that you will enjoy them as much as we do. We thank Mr. Shapotkin for generously sharing these images with our readers.
We will be appearing at City Lit Books (2523 N. Kedzie Avenue in Chicago) at 1:00 pm this Saturday, July 24, to discuss our new book Chicago’s Lost “L”s.
Our program will start with a 20 minute audiovisual presentation, followed by questions and answers from the audience, and a book signing. We hope to see you there.
Interestingly, City Lit Books occupies the same building that once housed the Logan Square “L” Terminal, although you would hardly know it by looking at the exterior. Our presentation will give an overview of the book, and then delve further into the historic “L”s of the northwest side (Logan Square, Humboldt Park, and Ravenswood), with plenty of pictures of the Logan Square Terminal.
The Trolley Dodger On the Air
On July 16th, I was invited to appear on the Dave Plier Show on WGN radio, to discuss Chicago’s Lost “L”s. You can hear that discussion here.
CA&E 318 is on a mid-1950s fantrip sponsored by the Illini Railroad Club. The car is out on the Mount Carmel branch. You can see Maury Klebolt (1930-1988), the trip organizer, in the window. Mike Franklin: “This photo is looking west on the north side of Roosevelt Rd in Hillside taken from Oak Ridge Ave. That is not a cemetery on the right but rather the outdoor show room for Peter Troost Monument Co, same as today. Queen of Heaven Mausoleum at Wolf & Roosevelt can be seen in the distant left.”
The same location today.
We are looking east along Lake Street, just west of Laramie, in the early 1950s. The Lake Street “L” descended to ground level here, running parallel to the CTA Route 16 streetcar for a few blocks. Streetcar service was replaced by buses on May 30, 1954.
The CTA State and Lake station on April 21, 1980, looking north. This is why I am not sorry to see the old station replaced by a new one– the old one was messed with a lot over the years. It was also damaged by fire, with the result that very little that is original remains. (Clark Frazier Photo)
On February 19, 2017, thanks to a substantial donation from the late Jeffrey L. Wien, the Central Electric Railfans’ Association held a fantrip on the CTA using a four-car train wrapped to celebrate the Chicago Cubs’ World Series victory the previous fall. The lead car was 5695. (Bruce C. Nelson Photo)
On June 1, 1950 CTA PCC 7217 was used as part of an inquest into the fatal collision between car 7078 and a gasoline truck that killed 33 people (and injured many others) on May 25th of that year. The location is 6242 S. State Street. The resulting fire destroyed several nearby buildings. This accident is the subject of a book (The Green Hornet Streetcar Disaster).
Chicago Aurora & Elgin car 205 heads up a westbound four-car train at Cicero Avenue on the Garfield Park “L”.
The beginnings of demolition of the Stohr Arcade building at Broadway and Wilson in December 1922. This Frank Lloyd Wright-designed triangular structure, partially hidden underneath the Northwestern “L”. barely lasted a decade and was replaced by Arthur U. Gerber’s Uptown Union Station the following year. (Chicago Daily News Collection, DN-0075219, Chicago History Museum)
There was once a veritable railfan comic strip that appeared in hundreds of daily newspapers– Fontaine Fox‘s Toonerville Trolley. Here are eight daily panels from December 1939. You will note that most do not feature the trolley or its Skipper.
December 2, 1939.
December 4, 1939. The reference to Holland relates to the “phony war” period of World War II. War had broken out in Europe, but Germany did not invade Holland until the Spring of 1940.
December 6, 1939.
December 7, 1939.
December 9, 1939.
December 11, 1939.
December 13, 1939.
December 14, 1939.
From the Collections of William Shapotkin:
Bill had three different duplicate slides, all of this same image. I tried to stitch them all together to see if the result would be sharper than the three rather fuzzy slides. It didn’t seem to help much. All I know about this North Shore Line scene is that it was taken in 1957. One of the dupes was from Ashland Car Works.
CTA 6238 at 71st and Western on February 3, 1953.
February 22, 1956 at the Chicago & North Western’s Lake Bluff station. At right, an eastbound passenger train arrives, while a westbound freight (coming off the “New Line”) passes. The view looks north.
CTA single-car unit 41 in July 1992. This car is now at the Illinois Railway Museum. During the 1980s it was usually paired with car 28, which unfortunately was not saved.
North Shore Line 758 heads up a four-car train, while a nearby Milwaukee Electric interurban is visiting on a 1949 fantrip.
CTA 6151, a Stony Island car, at Navy Pier on July 4, 1951.
CA&E bus 101.
CA&E 409 at Trolleyville, USA in Olmstead Falls, OH in July 1966. Since 2009, this car has been at the Illinois Railway Museum.
CTA 2923 at the Addison station on the (now) Red Line in June 1993. It was suggested that this might be Addison on the Ravenswood (today’s Brown Line) because there are only two tracks visible. However, Graham Garfield says, “No no! This is actually a very special photo! This is a temporary platform at Addison Red Line (only recently having become the “Red Line”, née North-South Route) built as part of the staging for reconstructing the station, which was rather involved because the structure had to be widened to change from dual side platforms to a single island platform. I was interested to see this photo, as I have only seen a handful of photos of the staging and temp facilities from this project. To accommodate the island platform, the space between the center tracks had to the widened, so the two northbound tracks (3 & 4) stayed on the original steel structure and the southbound tracks (1 & 2) were placed on a new concrete deck with direct track fixation instead of the standard cut spikes and tie plates on the steel-deck elevated. While this concrete structure was being built, southbound Evanston and Howard trains ran on track 3 until August 19, 1994, when both where shifted onto track 1 on the new decking. On August 21, southbound Howard trains moved onto their permanent home on track 2. The new island platform had opened earlier in the summer. The layout of the switches in Addison Interlocking north of the station were arranged specifically to make that reroute scheme possible. So this view looks north on the temporary SB platform along track 3, with a SB Red Line A train stopping.”
A three-car CA&E train at the Aurora terminal.
A five-car North Shore Line train on July 5, 1957. (Joseph Canfield Photo)
CTA Pullman 550 at Madison and Canal in November 1951, presumably running on Route 56 – Milwaukee Avenue. That’s the Chicago Daily News building at rear.
CTA trolley bus 9761 is running on Route 85 – Central near the end of electric bus service. This slide was processed in April 1973. The Manor Theater was located at 5609 W. North Avenue, and was eventually converted into a banquet hall (Ferrara Manor) after it was purchased by the same family that owned the Ferrara Pan Candy Company. So, the location of this slide is at Central and North Avenues, looking to the southwest as the bus is heading north to Bryn Mawr.
CTA 550 entering the Imlay loop at Milwaukee and Devon in September 1951.
This is a former Toronto PCC streetcar, but I have no other information about the picture.
CSL 6022 at Kedzie and 47th Place in June 1943 (?) Not sure if this date is correct, considering the slab-sided postwar auto on the next block. Dan Cluley writes, “Regarding the date of bills188 the sign on the streetcar advertises “Park and Recreation week – May 21-30” That seems to have been a national promotion in 1948. My guess on the car would be postwar Hudson.” So let’s call it June 1948 then.
CTA Pullman 900 at 93rd and Stony Island on November 16, 1951.
CTA 3191 at Stony Island and 93rd on July 11, 1951.
The Pioneer Limited (live steam) at Kiddieland amusement park in August 1992. After Kiddieland closed, the steam engines were purchased by the Hesston Steam Museum.
The observation car on the Kiddieland Express at Kiddieland amusement park in Melrose Park, IL in August 1992. (William Shapotkin Photo)
Milwaukee Road “bipolar” electric loco E-2 on display at the National Museum of Transportation in Kirkwood, MO on August 2, 1995. (William Shapotkin Photo)
CTA gate car 322 is signed as a Kenwood Local on Chicago’s Loop “L” in July 1`1948. Kenwood became a shuttle, running only as far as the Indiana Avenue station, in August 1949 as part of CTA’s major revision of north-south service.
Chicago, IL. CTA car 5010 leads the inaugural revenue run of 5000-series cars on CTA’s Howard-Dan Ryan Line at Howard terminal. The view looks W-NW on April 19, 2010. (William Shapotkin Photo)
Chicago, IL. Rear-end interior view of CTA “L” car 5010. Photo taken during inaugural revenue run of 5000-series cars on the Howard-Dan Ryan line (April 19, 2010). (William Shapotkin Photo)
CA&E 604 and 427 in Wheaton.
CA&E car 20 at the Fox River Trolley Museum in July 1987, with CTA 5001 and a 4000 in the background.
A CTA freight train is on the north side “L” in this undated photo, looking south. Electric freight service was the “L”s responsibility from 1920 to 1973, a holdover from the days when this was a Milwaukee Road line operating at ground level.
The CA&E Wheaton Yard and Shops.
“In the last days of the last streetcar line in Milwaukee, a Wells Street car trundels through downtown.” This would have to be no later than 1958. A new modern streetcar line began operations in Milwaukee a few years ago. (A. C. Kalmbach Photo)
I did the best I could with this image, which was completely faded to red. It shows Illinois Terminal 451 being used in regular service on the Shaker Heights Rapid Transit line in October 1976, due to a car shortage. (Jim Walker Photo)
Cleveland RTA PCC 75 is at East 83rd Street on the Shaker Heights Rapid Transit line on May 30, 1976.
SEPTA 6139-6140 (ex-CTA) at the Norristown terminal on March 10, 1987. Until 1951, there was a ramp continuing north from here, leading to street trackage used by the Lehigh Valley Transit’s Liberty Bell interurban, which continued to Allentown. This terminal has since been replaced.
This is one of the North Shore Line stations designed by Arthur U. Gerber. But which one? My guess is Kenosha. The original slide, from November 1987, was so underexposed that it almost looked opaque, but I did what I could with it.
This picture shows the Lake Street “L” at Laramie Avenue (5200 W.) in a state of transition on October 22, 1962– just six days before service west of here was moved to the nearby Chicago & North Western embankment. This two-car train of 4000s (4383-4384) is descending the ramp to ground level, but as you can see, the connection to the embankment is already in place to the left (north). It appears that a section of the ramp was modified when the new track connection was made, as you can see the tracks leading down to ground level bump out a bit to the south. Once the new arrangement was placed in service, the ramp leading to ground level was removed, and the trolley poles were taken off the 4000s used on Lake. They were replaced by new 2000-series cars in 1964.
CSL trolley bus 87 is on Central Avenue near Lake Street on June 7, 1930. These are probably CSL officials, since trolley bus service on Route 85 – Central began the next day, replacing a Chicago Motor Coach route. CSL had begun trolley bus service on Diversey Avenue on April 17, 1930, which explains why this chartered bus was signed for Route 76. Diversey lost its trolley buses in 1955. CSL chose trolley buses for some northwest side routes as they were in competition with the Chicago Motor Coach company to extend service there. It was quicker (and cheaper) for CSL to institute service with electric buses, with the intention (never realized) to convert them to streetcar lines once ridership justified it. This was part of what CSL called “balanced” transit.
Milwaukee streetcar 998 in the 1950s.
CTA buses 5076 and 5300 at the Imlay loop, at Milwaukee and Devon.
CTA buses 5253 and 5218 at the Imlay loop.
CTA buses 5143 and 5300 at the Imlay loop, which is still in use today.
CA&E cars 600 and 702.
We are looking to the west/northwest along the Kennedy expressway at Canfield. An inbound CTA Blue Line train approaches the Harlem Avenue station (located behind the photographer). This picture was taken around October 2019.
CTA trolley bus 9657 on Route 53 – Pulaski. Daniel Joseph: “Location is Pulaski/Peterson Terminal.”
Illinois Terminal sleeping car 504, the “Peoria,” at the Illinois Railway Museum in May 1977. It was built by American Car and Foundry in 1910.
CA&E car 303.
I am not sure just which CA&E wood car this is, at the Wheaton yards. I stitched together two versions of this slide, both badly faded to red, and attempted to restore the colors.
CA&E 406 at Elgin.
CTA 3163 on the ground level portion of the Lake Street “L” in Oak Park on April 27, 1952.
CA&E 424 and train at the Elgin terminal in August 1953.
CA&E 428 at the terminal in Elgin on August 10, 1956.
CTA 5436 at 79th and Perry in March 1950.
CTA 3232 on Route 67. M.E. adds, “This photo was likely taken at 69th and Western. This is an eastbound car making the turn from going north on Western to going east on 69th. After the 69th St. line was converted to buses, the CTA kept the tracks in operation so that PCC cars running along Western could access the barn at Vincennes and 77th.”
CTA 3254 at 71st and California on February 3, 1953.
CTA 3318 at 71st and California on May 28, 1950.
CTA 422 on Kedzie at 47th on May 13, 1954. It would appear this one of one a few locations where there was wire shared by streetcars and trolley buses. M.E. adds, “There was no trolley bus service along Kedzie, so the only explanation for the trolley bus here is that it was going either to or from the trolley bus barn. I don’t know precisely where that barn was, but judging by the picture, it had to be somewhere along Kedzie between 47th and 51st Sts., which had the only two trolley bus lines on the south side.” John V.: “CTA 422 on Kedzie: Trolley buses for routes 47 & 51 utilized Archer Car Station for storage, accessed via Kedzie north of 47th Street. Kedzie itself changed over to trolley buses in 1955.”
CTA trolley bus 9289 at the turnaround loop at Belmont and Cumberland.
The same location today.
CTA trolley bus 9504 on Route 53 – Pulaski in 1970. Mike Charnota Photo)
We are looking east along Randolph Street on October 16, 1958. We see the old Trailways bus depot, and what was then the newly remodeled CTA “L” station, which was replaced a few years ago by a new station a block south and Washington and Wabash. I am not sure whether the giant CTA logo was saved off the old station.
This is an Ashland Car Works duplicate slide, sold by the late Jack Bailey. This is a North Shore Line train in one of the northern suburbs, running on the Shore Line Route, parallel to the Chicago & North Western (which would be just to the right of the frame). Which means we are looking to the south. KV writes that this “appears to be St. Johns Avenue in Highland Park.”
Blue Island, IL on September 6, 2001. This two-car section of the Blue Island (Vermont Street) Metra (IC) Electric station platform is all that’s left of the original 1926 station. The head house and remainder of the platform have been demolished and a new facility is under construction. The view looks N-NE across the west pocket track.
Near the Armitage CTA “L” station in April 1968.
A Chicago Great Western “piggyback” freight train on Baltimore & Ohio Chicago Terminal tracks on September 13, 1965. The CGW was abandoned in the 1970s. We are looking west from Harlem Avenue in Forest Park, IL, with the CTA Congress rapid transit station at right (part of today’s Blue Line). Note how the fiberglass panels on the ramp are arranged in a colorful pattern. Some years later, many of these were removed after some riders were robbed in these secluded walkways. (Dick Talbott Photo)
South Shore Line car 16 in July 1977.
A southbound North Shore Line Electroliner at Lake Bluff. (A. C. Kalmbach Photo)
This was taken on a Central Electric Railfans’ Association fantrip on the Metra Electric around May 1990. The South Shore Line also runs on these tracks somewhere on Chicago’s south side.
South Shore Line 10 in December 1983. (Gregory Markey Photo)
CA&E 309 at the Wheaton Shops.
CTA PCC 7171 heads south on State Street at Wacker Drive, most likely on Route 36. The CTA “L” station at State and Lake Streets is a block away, with Fritzel’s restaurant and the Chicago Theater visible. This picture dates to the mid-1950s.
A train of Met cars on the Garfield Park “L”. (John J. Kelly, Jr. Photo)
CTA 4053-4336 on the Lake Street “L” in Oak Park on October 19, 1952.
CSL 5222 on Halsted at 79th Street, apparently in the late 1920s. The Capitol Theater was located at 7941 S. Halsted and opened in 1925. The view looks south. M.E. notes: “In this photo you see tracks switching between Halsted and 79th St. These switches took Halsted cars east on 79th St. to Vincennes, then north to 77th St. to the big CSL barn. Those tracks could also have led to Emerald Ave. (a half block east of Halsted), where the Halsted cars turned south, then west into the terminal at roughly 79th Place between Emerald and Halsted. From the picture, I can’t determine whether that terminal existed in the 1920s. Halsted cars could have also used the barn farther south at 88th and Vincennes, which had been the barn for the interurban line that ran from Kankakee to the L at 63rd Place and Halsted.” “I don’t know when the barn at 103rd and Vincennes (also on the Halsted route) opened, but even had it existed in the 1920s, there would not have been a track connection between the Halsted cars running on a private right-of-way east of Vincennes, and the barn on the southwest corner of 103rd and Vincennes. I say this with certainty because, at the intersection of 103rd St., Vincennes Ave. and Beverly Blvd. (which came in from the northwest), there was also the freight line of the Pennsylvania Railroad that ran alongside Beverly Blvd. and crossed both the CSL Vincennes line and the Rock Island main line. So there would not have been any room to run streetcar trackage to the barn! Plus, I believe the 103rd St. barn was strictly a bus barn. But the junction of 103rd and Vincennes, the center of the neighborhood called Washington Heights, would have been a great railfanning location, with Rock Island mainline and commuter trains, CSL Vincennes streetcars, and the Pennsy freights.”
Our Latest Book, Now Available:
Chicago’s Lost “L”s
From the back cover:
Chicago’s system of elevated railways, known locally as the “L,” has run continuously since 1892 and, like the city, has never stood still. It helped neighborhoods grow, brought their increasingly diverse populations together, and gave the famous Loop its name. But today’s system has changed radically over the years. Chicago’s Lost “L”s tells the story of former lines such as Garfield Park, Humboldt Park, Kenwood, Stockyards, Normal Park, Westchester, and Niles Center. It was once possible to take high-speed trains on the L directly to Aurora, Elgin, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The L started out as four different companies, two starting out using steam engines instead of electricity. Eventually, all four came together via the Union Loop. The L is more than a way of getting around. Its trains are a place where people meet and interact. Some say the best way to experience the city is via the L, with its second-story view. Chicago’s Lost “L”s is virtually a “secret history” of Chicago, and this is your ticket. David Sadowski grew up riding the L all over the city. He is the author of Chicago Trolleys and Building Chicago’s Subways and runs the online Trolley Dodger blog.
The Images of America series celebrates the history of neighborhoods, towns, and cities across the country. Using archival photographs, each title presents the distinctive stories from the past that shape the character of the community today. Arcadia is proud to play a part in the preservation of local heritage, making history available to all.
Title Chicago’s Lost “L”s
Images of America
Author David Sadowski
Publisher Arcadia Publishing (SC), 2021
ISBN 1467100007, 9781467100007
Length 128 pages
01. The South Side “L”
02. The Lake Street “L”
03. The Metropolitan “L”
04. The Northwestern “L”
05. The Union Loop
06. Lost Equipment
07. Lost Interurbans
08. Lost Terminals
09. Lost… and Found
Each copy purchased here will be signed by the author, and you will also receive a bonus facsimile of a 1926 Chicago Rapid Transit Company map, with interesting facts about the “L” on the reverse side.
The price of $23.99 includes shipping within the United States.
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A Tribute to the North Shore Line
To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the demise of the fabled North Shore Line interurban in January 2013, Jeffrey L. Wien and Bradley Criss made a very thorough and professional video presentation, covering the entire route between Chicago and Milwaukee and then some. Sadly, both men are gone now, but their work remains, making this video a tribute to them, as much as it is a tribute to the Chicago North Shore & Milwaukee.
Jeff drew on his own vast collections of movie films, both his own and others such as the late William C. Hoffman, wrote and gave the narration. Bradley acted as video editor, and added authentic sound effects from archival recordings of the North Shore Line.
It was always Jeff’s intention to make this video available to the public, but unfortunately, this did not happen in his lifetime. Now, as the caretakers of Jeff’s railfan legacy, we are proud to offer this excellent two-hour program to you for the first time. The result is a fitting tribute to what Jeff called his “Perpetual Adoration,” which was the name of a stop on the interurban.
Jeff was a wholehearted supporter of our activities, and the proceeds from the sale of this disc will help defray some of the expenses of keeping the Trolley Dodger web site going.
Total time – 121:22
# of Discs – 1 Price: $19.99 (Includes shipping within the United States)
Help Support The Trolley Dodger
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This photo, showing a mirror at the North Shore Line’s Milwaukee terminal, was taken on January 21, 1963 (after abandonment) by Allan Y. Scott for the Milwaukee Journal. You can see the photographer in the picture, apparently using a Leica M2 or M3. This picture came from the collection of the late John Horachek. Rather than being a double exposure, it seems like the ghostly image of an Electroliner was applied to the mirror using a stencil and a product known as Glass Wax.
For today’s post, we are going back in time, often even further back in time than we usually do, to feature some important historical images. Each one is like a small ray of light, that form a beacon when taken together, illuminating the past, like the reflections in a mirror.
It’s the earliest, and oldest pictures that are the hardest to find. So, we’ve had to redouble our efforts to seek them out.
In addition, we have important news about our new book Chicago’s Lost “L”s. We recently received a small number of “author’s copies” from the publisher, and the book is now a reality. We hope you will like the results.
Our initial order is on the way to us, and we are confident that we will soon begin shipping out books to our contributors and everyone who has ordered one in our pre-sale. All such books should be in the post prior to the July 12 release date.
More information about Chicago’s Lost “L”s, including how to order, can be found at the end of this post, or you can click on the link at the top of this page to go to our Online Store.
We would like to thank Kevin Horachek, Andre Kristopans, and William Shapotkin for their contributions to this post.
As a practical matter, color photography didn’t exist in 1910, which is the postmark date of this postcard showing the Lake Street “L” at ground level in the Austin neighborhood on Chicago’s west side. The view looks west from Central Avenue along South Boulevard (or, more appropriately, Lake Street, since the name did not change until the line reached suburban Oak Park). The “L” was extended there in 1901. This colorized photo may date to a bit before 1910, though, as by then, the Chicago & North Western trains, which ran parallel to the “L”, had already been raised onto the embankment where the “L” joined them in 1962. This is a westbound train, as Lake Street ran left handed in those days (as did the C&NW).
The same location today. This portion of Lake Street was renamed to Corcoran Place in the mid-1960s, to honor the late Chicago Alderman in this area, who was a close friend of Mayor Richard J. Daley. Lake Street used to run north and south of the two railroads here for a few blocks between Pine Avenue and Austin Boulevard. There were no duplicate street numbers.
I recently purchased this turn-of-the-century photo showing a Chicago Union Traction streetcar on the Lincoln Avenue line. CUT existed from 1899 to 1908, when it was absorbed into Chicago Railways. Sharpshooter’s Park is where Riverview Amusement Park opened in 1904, which narrows down the time of this photo to circa 1899-1903. But the car itself looks like the “Matchbox” type, which was built by St. Louis Car Company in 1903. Car 1374 in this series has been restored and is at the Illinois Railway Museum. In 2015, the body of car 1137 was found in Wisconsin, where it had been used as an addition to someone’s house. It is now in Grass Lake, MI.
CSL “Sedan” (aka Peter Witt) 6283 appears to be southbound on Clark, just south of downtown, in this circa 1940 photo. Don’s Rail Photos: “6283 was built by CSL in 1929.” This might seem unusual, that the Surface Lines had the capability or even the desire to build their own streetcars. But CSL was very much involved with the project that eventually created the PCC car just a few years after this, and it was CSL and not the ERPCC that had the two experimental pre-PCCs (4001 and 7001) built in 1934. Eventually, the CTA became the largest stockholder in the Transit Research Corporation, the successor to the ERPCC.
Chicago Surface Line experimental pre-PCC 4001 in 1935, running on Route 22 – Clark-Wentworth. 40001 was built in 1934 by Pullman-Standard and was retired in 1944. The body has survived and is now at the Illinois Railway Museum. Here, it still has the striped trolley pole.
Chicago Surface Lines experimental pre-PCC 7001 on Route 22 – Clark-Wentworth in 1935. It was built by Brill in 1934 and retired in 1944, scrapped in 1959. Here, it already appears to have a dent on the front end.
Don’s Rail Photos: “51 was built by the SP&S in August 1941. It was purchased by the North Shore in December 1947 and was completed as 459 on November 22, 1948.” Here it is at the Portland yard on September 9, 1946.
A two-car train of North Shore Line Silverliners in Milwaukee in 1962. Larry Sakar writes: “The train is northbound at the north end of the 6th Street viaduct (which no longer exists). Below it on the right of the train is what was then Fowler Street. Today, that is St. Paul Ave which in NSL days used to end at 6th St. All of that changed when The Milwaukee Road built their new station at 5th St. Impending construction of the Marquette interchange and the end of the Milwaukee Road’s 4th & everett St. station gave the city the opportunity to continue St. Paul Ave. beneath 6th St. to connect with then Fowler St. which then became the continuation of W. St. Paul Ave. The warehouse next to the train is also long gone. If you were standing here today you would be looking at the Milwaukee Intermodal station on the right and the main Post Office immediately next door east. If you look two blocks down on the left that is where the present day HOP Streetcar terminates. The train is northbound at the north end of the 6th Street viaduct (which no longer exists). Below it on the right of the train is what was then Fowler Street. Today, that is St. Paul Ave which in NSL days used to end at 6th St. All of that changed when The Milwaukee Road built their new station at 5th St. Impending construction of the Marquette interchange and the end of the Milwaukee Road’s 4th & everett St. station gave the city the opportunity to continue St. Paul Ave. beneath 6th St. to connect with then Fowler St. which then became the continuation of W. St. Paul Ave. The warehouse next to the train is also long gone. If you were standing here today you would be looking at the Milwaukee Intermodal station on the right and the main Post Office immediately next door east. If you look two blocks down on the left that is where the present day HOP Streetcar terminates.”
A Chicago & North Western train of bi-levels at the Milwaukee station on the Lakefront in 1962.
This is how the Chicago & North Western’s right-of-way looked in Winnetka in July 1964. We are looking south from Elm Street. This area was grade-separated around 1940, with some financial help from the federal government through the PWA agency, in a similar fashion to how Chicago’s Initial System of Subways was built. The North Shore Line’s Shore Line Route ran at left until July 1955. (William Shapotkin Collection)
An eastbound Lake Street “L” train is in Oak Park in July 1960, running alongside South Boulevard. (William Shapotkin Collection)
A westbound C&NW commuter train stops in Oak Park in July 1960. (William Shapotkin Collection)
A westbound Chicago & North Western commuter train departs from Oak Park in July 1960. Note the ground-level Lake Street “L” station at Marion Street at left. Just over two years later, the “L” was moved to this embankment. (William Shapotkin Collection)
An eastbound C&NW “scoot” (commuter train) has just departed the Elmhurst station and is seen crossing York Road. The view looks west. (William Shapotkin Collection)
What was billed as Manhattan’s last elevated train heads north on the Third Avenue El on May 12, 1955.
CSL 5769 on Route 5 – Cottage Grove-South Chicago circa 1940. According to Don’s Rail Photos, Nearside 5769 “was built by Brill Car Co in 1912, (order) #18322, It was retired on November 8, 1948.”
CSL Pullman 621, signed for Clark and Devon, is apparently running on Route 22 and headed north on Clark, having just passed Lake Street in this circa 1940 scene. The Shreve Building, built in 1875, was located at the northwest corner of Clark and Lake. Its construction was supervised by William Warren Boyington (1818-1898), who designed the landmark Chicago Water Tower. Not sure when it was demolished.
CSL pre-war PCC 7024 is eastbound on Madison Street at Mayfield Avenue (5900 W.) circa 1940.
CSL Pullman 329 is on Route 21 – Cermak Road, possibly at the west end of the line, circa 1940.
CSL 1801 is signed for Adams-Downtown in this circa 1940 photo. Part of Route 7 – Harrison Street went downtown via Adams Street. A nearby truck is delivering Ogden’s Milk.
The U.S. Patent Office in Washington, DC in the 1920s, with a streetcar out front, apparently powered by conduit via a electric plow running in a trough between the two rails.
Chicago Aurora & Elgin car 403 at Laramie Avenue on July 19, 1933. It was described as “red with gold trim.” 403 was a Pullman product, built in 1923. Sister car 409 is at the Illinois Railway Museum. The view looks to the northeast.
CTA trolley bus 9421 on February 12, 1973. Andre Kristopans adds, “Trolley bus 9421 SB on Pulaski at Sunnyside (4500 N). Old police station, now community center, on right.” William Shapotkin Collection)
CTA trolley bus 9458 on February 10, 1973. (Michael N. Charnota Photo, William Shapotkin Collection) Bill Jas: “The pic of the Pulaski trolley bus is just North of Grand. You can see the old streetcar power house on the right. The same building that later collapsed onto Jimmy’s Hot Dog Stand.”
The Chicago & Milwaukee Electric
The North Shore Line started out as the Chicago & Milwaukee Electric, before it was reorganized by Samuel Insull in 1916. Here are some early photos that reflect that history.
The Chicago & Milwaukee Electric station in Lake Forest. It was torn down around 1970, 15 years after the last North Shore Line trains ran here on the Shore Line Route.
A close-up of the previous image, showing Chicago & Milwaukee Electric car 10. It was built by Pullman in 1899.
After the North Shore Line abandoned service on the Shore Line Route in 1955, their former Lake Forest station was used as a campaign headquarters in the 1956 presidential election. (Chicago Tribune Photo)
A Chicago & Milwaukee electric buffet observation car, from an undated postcard. Don’s Rail Photos: “401 was built by Jewett Car in 1909 as parlor-buffet car. In 1917 it was converted to straight coach and retired in 1935. It was leased to Chicago Aurora & Elgin and renumbered 142 in 1936. It came back for a short time with the CA&E number in 1945 and sold to CA&E in 1946. It was retired in 1953.”
The Chicago & Milwaukee Electric’s Zion station, from a postcard postmarked 1911. The religious fanatics who started this town made the interurban build a large station, in anticipation of rapid growth that did not occur.
The Chicago & Milwaukee electric station in Libertyville, from a real photo postcard postmarked 1906.
Chicago & Milwaukee Electric Birney car 334 at 6th and Clybourn in Milwaukee. Don’s Rail Photos: “334 was built by Cincinnati Car Co in December 1922, #2625. It was retired in 1947 and scrapped in April 1948.” The C&ME name was used on these North Shore Line city streetcars, since that was the franchise holder in Milwaukee.
North Shore Line wood car 305 (former Chicago & Milwaukee Electric) in Kenilworth circa 1930, running as a Chicago local on the Shore Line Route. Don’s Rail Photos: ” 303 thru 305 were built by American Car in 1910 and were almost identical. In 1939 they became sleet cutters and were retired and scrapped in 1940.” (Kenilworth Historical Society)
Did Not Win
They say you can’t win ’em all, and we certainly don’t. But while we did not win the auctions for these images, they definitely still worth looking at:
1899 New York City Shopping @ 22nd St & 6th Avenue L Train Glass Photo Negative recently sold for $247.50. Looks like the 6th Avenue line was still using steam power then.
I did not win this auction, but I still think this is a pretty neat picture, of a four-car train of CTA 4000s southbound at Bryn Mawr in 1970. This is a southbound Evanston Express. By then, only freight locos were using the overhead wire here.
The following three glass plate negatives were identified as “1915 New York 7th Ave Subway Explosion Collapse 7 Dead.”
The next three glass plate images show women working as streetcar conductors on the New York Railways during World War I:
North Shore Line box motor 230 at the Milwaukee Terminal in 1941. By the late 1950s, the apartment building at rear had been torn down.
From Garfield ‘L’ to Blue Line Rapid Transit
by David A. Wilson
Dispatch Number 11 of the Shore Line Interurban Historical Society
Congratulations to David Wilson on his excellent new book From Garfield ‘L’ to Blue Line Rapid Transit. I would naturally like this book, since these are subjects I have written about extensively, in my own books and blogs.
Like many other people my age, I became fascinated with the extensive changes going on in the west side during the late 1950s, as construction of the Congress Expressway proceeded west and approached suburban Oak Park. I recall seeing the Garfield Park “L” and Chicago Aurora & Elgin interurban trains, but I never rode on them. We mostly took the Lake Street “L” downtown, and until 1962, that still ran on the ground west of Laramie.
I recall seeing “L” cars parked in Lockwood Yard, and I vividly remember our first drives on the new Congress Expressway, which partially opened in 1955, although it only went as far as Laramie Avenue (5200 W.). It was extended in stages in 1960, first to Central Avenue (5600 W.), and then all the way through Oak Park and Forest Park, to connect with existing highways west of there. I have naturally been a frequent rider on the Congress line (today’s Forest Park branch of the Blue Line) my whole life.
So, I have been interested in learning the details of how all this came to be for a long time, and I have been researching this subject ever since I was a small child. This interest culminated in my 2018 Arcadia book Building Chicago’s Subways, which is available from our Online Store and elsewhere.
The approach I took with that book was a comprehensive overview of the entire subject of Chicago Subways, starting with the river tunnels, first opened in 1869, the extensive downtown freight tunnel system, the various subway plans that were hashed out over 40 years, the Initial System of Subways (first started in 1938), and its culmination in the West Side Subway in 1958, as the Congress rapid transit line was originally known.
This is a large topic, and therefore it should hardly be possible for anyone to have the “last word” on these matters. Chances are, after we are all long gone, others will still find new things to say.
Dave Wilson has lived in Oak Park for a long time, and is also fascinated with this history. His new book concentrates on just the transition from the Garfield “L” to the current Blue Line setup, and therefore it goes into greater detail than it was possible to do in my book. It will answer just about any questions that anyone might have had about how this all happened, excepting fanatics like me, who are constantly trying to learn more. (In fact, I bring up a few additional related topics later on in this post.)
Now that I have a few volumes under my belt, I tend to pay close attention to editorial decisions that others make, in their own works. This book packs a lot of information into its pages, and it should be no surprise that a few compromises had to be made. There are only so many pages to fill in any book, something I know from personal experience.
Unfortunately there is no biographical information about the author, and I wish there were. I have known Dave Wilson for a long time, and he has been an avid railfan photographer since his teenage years. He has scanned thousands of his images, and has posted them to Flickr, for all to enjoy. You would do well to check them out.
For a time he worked for the Wisconsin Central railroad, and later, in bus planning for the Chicago Transit Authority.
The maps in this new book are excellent, and were made by Dennis McClendon, who always does fine work. In fact, he also did the book layout, which is attractive and skillfully done.
The photo selection is excellent. While there are a few images that also appear in Building Chicago’s Subways, they are great images in both books.
Another editorial decision was to include some lo-res images in the book. One in particular is rather pixilated, but in general when the image quality suffers, those images are made smaller in turn, so this is less noticeable. I am probably the only person who would notice this, though. Any author has to collect the best images that are available, and they are not all going to be of the same resolution.
There is yet another book I can recommend, if you are still interested in learning why it was not possible to save the Chicago Aurora & Elgin interurban, despite the best efforts of three powerful Illinois politicians (Mayor Richard J. Daley, Governor William Stratton, and Cook County Board President Dan Ryan): Political Influence by Edward C. Banfield, originally published in 1961 by the Free Press of Glencoe. I covered that book extensively in a 2015 blog post that you can read here.
In the meantime, I can wholeheartedly recommend David Wilson’s book, which is available anywhere that Shore Line products are sold. They are called Dispatches, even though the North Shore Line used the unusual spelling “despatch” back in the day.
Garfield Park, Where Are You?
A portion of a CTA track map dated October 1955. The tracks curved south west of Lockwood, unlike the way it appears here.
As you can see here, the Garfield “L” ran straight east and west through Laramie Yard between Laramie (5200 W.) and Lavergne (5000 W.). (From a CTA track map dated October 1955.)
For many years, I have been interested in just where the old Garfield Park “L” once ran. By 1960, it was completely replaced by the current Forest Park branch of the Blue Line (formerly the Congress line), most of which runs in the median of I-290.
The Chicago Tribunereported on June 4, 1928 that the Chicago Rapid Transit Company wanted to expand the Garfield Park “L” from two tracks to four between Marshfield and Cicero Avenues. The article states that CRT had already purchased 60% of the necessary land for expansion via private sale.
This expansion never took place (perhaps due to the Great Depression), but naturally the idea behind it may have been a factor in planning for the Congress median line, which has space for four tracks in approximately the same locations as the 1928 CRT plan, in addition to the section east of Marshfield, which leads to four subway portals near Halsted, only two of which have ever been used.
As noted in my book Building Chicago’s Subways (Arcadia Publishing, 2018), when the highway plans were being formulated, the idea was to relocate the Lake Street “L” into the median of the expressway, via a connection either at 4600 West, or near Kedzie (3200 W.). Lake trains would have then run next to, but separate from, regular Congress rapid transit trains.
At the subway portal, Lake trains would have continued into a new Clinton Street Subway, which would have formed a subway “Loop,” connecting with the sections on Lake, Dearborn, and Congress. Presumably, Lake trains were intended to circle this subway Loop before heading back out towards the west side.
The City of Chicago’s goal in all this was to tear down the Loop “L”, inspired by New York City’s gradual elimination of all the elevated lines in Manhattan. This remained the City’s plan until Mayor Jane Byrne decided the Loop “L” was worth saving after all. Chicago eventually built a new “L” line, the Orange Line, which opened in 1993 and connects to the Loop.
I traced the old right-of-way of the Garfield Park “L” on Google Street View recently, and came to a few interesting conclusions. Although the “L” ran pretty much in a straight line between Kedzie Avenue (3200 W.) and Lockwood Avenue (5300 W.), heading west, at times, the “L’ is south of the adjacent alleyway, and at other times, it is north of it.
In general, the Garfield line was built mid-block, but at times, the location is about 620 South, and at other times, it is more like 650 South. Maps seem to show a slight jog just west of Tripp Avenue (4232 W.), but this doesn’t seem like a definitive explanation for the change in alignment relative to the alleys.
The “L” crossed a railroad at around 4600 West, and it’s likely that the areas west of there were not yet developed when the “L” was built. Early photos seem to show a rather barren area. Perhaps the alleys preceded the “L” east of here, while they were built after the “L” in the western section.
Interestingly, there weren’t alleys for the entire stretch between Kedzie and Lockwood, because Fifth Avenue, an angle street that was once an important thoroughfare, crossed through near Pulaski Road (4000 W.). The block narrows near that location, and alleys come to an end.
In general, it seems as though the “L” ran mostly south of the alley east of Cicero Avenue (4800 W.), which was the original end-of-the-line starting in 1895. It was extended to Laramie (5200 W.) in 1902, and west of Cicero, the “L” seems to run north of the alley. But of course, there were no alleys in the Laramie Yard area until after the “L” was demolished and the yard removed. There is an alley where parts of Lockwood Yard once were, but it’s possible there were still tracks in place there for perhaps a year or so after the Congress line opened in June 1958.
Here are some pictures from Google Street View:
649 S. Homan (3400 W.), looking east. Here, the “L” was definitely south of the alley.
649 S. Homan (3400 W.), looking west, showing the area south of the alley, once occupied by the Garfield Park “L”.
648 S. St. Louis (3500 W.), looking west. The “L” was south of the alley here.
617 S. Pulaski, looking east. The cross street is Fifth Avenue, which is at an angle running northeast/southwest. The Garfield Park “L” ran east-west here, and crossed Pulaski and Fifth at the same time. The “L” ran right over the area occupied by the building near the mailbox. Not sure if it was the same building then, but parts of it do look similar. There is no alley here, due to the narrowing of this block, as Fifth Avenue approaches from the north.
614 S. Karlov (4100 W.), looking west. The “L” ran south of the alley here.
This is around 650 S. Kilbourn (4500 W.), looking southwest. There was a Garfield Park “L” station at Kilbourn, and it appears to have been south of the alley.
At approximately 650 S. Kolmar (4532 W.), the Chicago Transit Authority has a building. Not sure what it is used for, or if the Garfield Park “L” ran over head. It’s possible that the “L” ran in the area just north of the alley here. This view looks west.