An eastbound six-car Lake Street “L” A train approaches Oak Park Avenue in suburban Oak Park on March 23, 1955. Trains ran adjacent to South Boulevard until October 28, 1962, when they were relocated to the Chicago and North Western embankment. (Robert A. Selle Photo)
October 28, 2022 was the 60th anniversary of the elevation of the outer 2.5 miles of the Lake Street “L” (now the CTA Green Line). This was an important event in the history of suburban Oak Park and the Austin neighborhood in Chicago.
The steel Lake Street “L” structure, first opened in 1893, was only built as far west as Laramie Avenue (5200 W). Once the main “L” lines were built by the four original private companies, they extended service out to less populated areas at a greatly reduced cost by putting the tracks at ground level. The idea was to establish service, then wait until the surrounding area developed, and then elevate the tracks.
In some cases, this elevation never happened. To this day, portions of the Chicago Transit Authority’s Brown, Pink, Yellow, and Purple lines continue to run at ground level.
The Lake Street “L”‘s ground level extension opened in 1901. The Chicago and North Western’s tracks, which were adjacent to the “L”, were elevated circa 1909-1910, with extremely tight clearances the result. The ground level “L” operated much like a streetcar, using overhead wire instead of third rail, and used high-level platforms.
By the 1930s, the City of Chicago, under the influence of New York City, wanted to build subways to replace the Loop elevated. The subways that eventually were built (State Street, Milwaukee-Dearborn, and West Side) were very ambitious and costly projects which helped alleviate overcrowding on the Loop, but could not replace it outright.
City planners had ideas for putting portions of the Lake line into various subways, so portions of the elevated structure could be torn down. But once the Chicago Transit Authority took over operations in 1947, it was quickly determined that the outer portion of the line, the ground-level section, was the real difficulty.
There were 22 grade crossings in this section, all manually operated by a gateman 24 hours a day. In a similar situation, the City of Berwyn was uncooperative with the CTA’s plans to reduce the number of grade crossings and install automatic gates. As a result, service on the Douglas Park “L” was cut back from Oak Park Avenue (6800 W) to 54th Avenue (5400 W), where it remains today.
Faced with the possible truncation of the Lake Street “L” to Laramie Avenue, the Village of Oak Park took a different approach, working cooperatively with all the interested parties (the City of Chicago, Chicago Transit Authority, and the Chicago and North Western), and a plan came about that benefitted everyone.
The C&NW embankment had enough extra space on it to accommodate the CTA tracks, which permitted the Lake Street “L” to be elevated at last. Removing the tracks from the street eliminated all 22 grade crossings, reducing the CTA’s payroll.
“L” operations were speeded up, offering better service, and the North Western received new revenue from renting out the space. The railroad was allowed to close some lightly used commuter rail stations, ceding these customers to the CTA, which speeded up service for riders farther out.
Removing the ground-level tracks widened the street, reducing traffic congestion and increasing the amount of parking spaces available. It was a win-win for all.
Plans were finalized around 1958, but construction does not seem to have begun until 1961. Service was changed over to the embankment at 6:00pm on October 28, 1962 (see the newspaper article below).
I was seven years old when this transition took place, and rode the ground-level “L” many times. It was always a bit tense, as all 22 cross streets were blind crossings. Cars might come darting out from under a viaduct at the last second, and there were some collisions between “L” cars and autos.
The tight clearances also prevented the use of the CTA’s 6000-series “L” cars in the 1950s, as they had curved sides that stuck out farther than previous equipment. Once the line began running on the embankment, it was possible to use newer equipment, and the CTA assigned many of their new 2000-series rapid transit cars to the Lake line starting in 1964.
Now, the “L” has been running on the embankment for nearly the same length of time as the ground-level operation had. And practically every trace of that surface trackage and stations is long gone.
People who have grown up in the area since 1962 might not have any idea that the “L” ever ran anywhere but on the embankment, but this is an important part of Oak Park’s history, and it deserves to be remembered.
Fortunately, we recently collected various images showing both the construction work, and many taken on the very day of the ground-level operation, October 28, 1962. In addition to this, we have an excellent selection of other classic traction photos from around the country.
We are pleased to report that our latest book The North Shore Line is now 100% complete and has gone to press. The publication date is February 20, 2023, and we are now taking pre-orders. You will find more information about that at the end of this post (and our Online Store).
Our friend Kenneth Gear now has a Facebook group for the Railroad Record Club. If you enjoy listening to audio recordings of classic railroad trains, whether steam, electric, or diesel, you might consider joining.
FYI, the Hoosier Traction Facebook Group celebrates electric transit in Indiana and the Midwest. It also supports the activities of the annual Hoosier Traction Meet in Dayton, OH (although not affiliated with the North American Transit Historical Society, which organizes that event).
The Lake Street “L” in Transition
In this July 16, 1961 view, work has just started on connecting the “L” with the nearby Chicago and North Western embankment. But the changeover point between overhead wire and third rail has already been moved to the Central Avenue ground-level station. This would otherwise have been a complicating factor in the transition process, as both routes would need to be operational for a short time simultaneously.
The view looking west from Laramie Avenue on August 27, 1961. A new temporary track has been built at left, supported by wooden pilings, to allow the ground-level operation to continue while the new “L” connection is being built. Note the Chicago and North Western freight train at right.
This picture, taken on August 27, 1961, shows how the “L” was shored up during construction of the new connection to the nearby railroad embankment.
On August 27, 1961, new steel has been added to the “L” structure at Laramie Avenue. This section of “L” was eventually rebuilt in the 1990s, when the line was shut down for about two years.
On September 10, 1961, new streel is being added to the “L” to support the additional tracks needed for the realignment.
Looking west from the Laramie Avenue “L” station on September 17, 1961. New tracks will be added to create a junction between the old and new alignments.
Third rail (here referred to as “trolley rail”) was installed between Laramie and Parkside Avenues on the Lake Street “L” as of May 8, 1961. This was one of the first actions taken in the project to move the “L” onto the nearby railroad embankment.
Work on the CTA’s new Congress “L” branch was finishing up just as work began on realigning the outer portion of the Lake Street “L”. Once these projects were finished, all the CTA grade crossings in Oak Park and Forest Park were eliminated.
The changeover point from third rail to overhead wire on the Lake Street “L” was moved from Laramie to Central Avenue on May 22, 1961, at the beginning of the relocation project.
Overhead wire was removed from the eastbound Lake Street “L” track between Central and Laramie on May 24, 1961.
Central Avenue and Lake Street on October 28, 1962. This was the only place on the “L” system where trains under wire crossed a trolley bus line. Motor buses replaced trolley buses on Central on January 17, 1970. This portion of Lake Street was renamed Corcoran Place a few years after this picture was taken, to honor a local alderman who had recently died.
We are looking east along what was then Lake Street at Mayfield Avenue on October 28, 1962. We are just east of where the dedication ceremony took place. The new Central Avenue “L” station can be seen in the distance.
We are looking to the northeast along what was then Lake Street (now Corcoran Place) just east of Austin Boulevard on October 28, 1962.
Chicago’s dedication ceremony for the new “L” alignment took place on what was then Lake Street (now Corcoran Place), between Austin Boulevard and Mason Avenue. Mayor Richard J, Daley and CTA chairman Virgil Gunlock presided. A similar ceremony was held in Oak Park.
CTA “L” car 4407 appears to have been decorated for the dedication event near the Austin stop on October 28, 1962.
I believe we are just west of the Austin Boulevard “L” station on October 28, 1962.
Clearances were extremely narrow on the ground level portion of the Lake Street “L”, and therefore, when the line was elevated, temporary entrances were used. Once the old “L” had been cleared away, construction of the permanent entrances continued.
Again, near Austin Boulevard on October 28, 1962. We are looking to the northeast.
An eastbound Lake Street “A” train is just east of Ridgeland Avenue on October 28, 1962.
We are looking west, just east of the Ridgeland Avenue “L” station on October 28, 1962. The building at left with the sign on it advertising a dry cleaner is now occupied by the Tayloe Glass Company.
We are looking west along South Boulevard at Marion Street in suburban Oak Park on October 28, 1962. A two-tone mid-50s Ford heads north on Marion, while an early 1960s Corvair is eastbound on South Boulevard. This is a rare opportunity to see “L” cars on both levels.
We are looking west along South Boulevard at Marion Street on October 28, 1962. The sign at left advertises Blue Cab, and there is a cab waiting there to serve people getting off the “L”.
Looking west along South Boulevard at Marion Street on October 28, 1962. Due to the narrow width of South Boulevard in this area, it was a one-way street going east. This section is now a two-way street, although there is still a section that is one way westbound, between Oak Park Avenue and Home Avenue.
A closer view of the new and old “L” stations. The sign above the entrance advertises the all metal “L” cars the CTA had operated on Lake since the last wood cars were taken off this line in 1954.
At one time, Blue Cab had their headquarters on South Boulevard, but I don’t recall offhand whether they were located here. The Lake Street “L” ground-level trackage extended across Harlem Avenue a short distance west of here. In the distance, you can see construction is already underway on expanding the railroad embankment to create a new yard for Lake Street trains. It opened in 1964.
This slide, taken by the same photographer, has a processing date of May 1963. Lake Street trains are running on the embankment, with their trolley poles removed. The old tracks are still in place but will soon be ripped up. The adjacent street was widened and parking spaces added.
The Congress Expressway is under construction at Homan Avenue on October 9, 1955, and would soon open as far west as Laramie Avenue. Tracks are already being laid for the new CTA Congress “L” line, which opened on June 22, 1958, replacing the old Garfield Park “L”. Note the very flimsy barrier separating the “L” and highway. This soon proved completely inadequate and was eventually replaced by concrete barriers. Mayor Richard J. Daley drove the first spike for the new rails on July 8, 1955 near Pulaski Road. We are looking east. The entire story of the transition from the Garfield Park “L” to the Congress median line is told in my 2018 book Building Chicago’s Subways.
We were fortunately to recently purchase this original early red border Kodachrome slide, taken on September 7, 1941. It shows a fan taking a picture of Connecticut Company car 500, built in 1904 and described as the pride of the fleet, equipped with a kitchen, bathroom, and dining tables. It was acquired by the Shore Line Trolley Museum in 1948.
A view of the Chicago Transit Authority’s Stock Yards branch on September 16, 1956. Service was discontinued the following year, and it has now been 65 years since the last wooden “L” car ran in regular service in Chicago.
Some Milwaukee Electric interurban trains ran past the North Shore Line’s Milwaukee Terminal, although there does not seem to have been a track connection here. This picture dates to the 1940s. A TM interurban car did operate on a North Shore Line fantrip in 1949, so there must have been a track connection somewhere. An Electroliner is berthed at the terminal.
The Logan Square “L” Terminal, right around the end of service in late January 1970. Service was extended on this line via the new Kimball Subway and a median line in the Kennedy Expressway. Service went only to Jefferson Park at first, but now continues all the way to O’Hare Airport.
Another view of the old Logan Square “L” station near the end of service.
On December 6, 1958, CTA salt car AA98 was still on a trailer at the Electric Railway Historical Society (ERHS) location in Downers Grove. It was formerly Chicago Surface Lines car 2846 and was built in 1908 by the South Chicago City Railway. It went to the Illinois Railway Museum in 1973. (Robert A. Selle Photo)
The CTA Congress Expressway median line was not the first of its type, that distinction having been taken by the Pacific Electric in 1940. Here, we see a 600-series “Hollywood” car in Cahuenga Pass at Barham Boulevard. This print was made in 1946 but could have been taken earlier. PE service here ended in 1952 (this was part of the Van Nuys line) and the right-of-way was taken up by additional traffic lanes. (Stuart A. Liebman Photo)
Don’s Rail Photos: “(North Shore Line) 420 was was built by Pullman in 1928 as an observation. It was out of service by 1932. On July 21, 1943, it reentered service as a motorized coach. It was sold to Seashore Trolley Museum in 1963.” Here we see it prior to conversion.
North Shore Line diner 418 at the Milwaukee Terminal, when it was still in service as a diner. This print was made in 1945 but could have been taken earlier. Dining car service on the CNS&M ended in 1947, except for the Electroliners, and car 415, which was used in the “substitute Liner” and for charters.
A five-car train of Chicago Aurora and Elgin wood cars, including 312, in Wheaton. This print was made in 1945, but the picture was probably taken earlier. (E. Dale Photo)
Chicago Aurora and Elgin wood car 24 in Wheaton. This print was made in 1945, but the picture was probably taken earlier. (E. Dale Photo)
Chicago Aurora and Elgin steel car 431, which was built by Pullman, in Wheaton. This print was made in 1945, but the picture was probably taken earlier. (E. Dale Photo)
A two-car Chicago Aurora and Elgin train, with 414 at the rear, heads west at Laramie Avenue as an Elgin Express. This picture was printed in 1945 but was probably taken earlier. (E. Dale Photo)
Chicago Surface Lines pre-war PCC 7020 heads west on Madison Street at Central Park Avenue. This print was made in 1946 but could have been taken earlier. There is another picture taken at this location in my 2017 book Chicago Trolleys, showing a postwar PCC. (Ken Kidder Photo)
Chicago Aurora and Elgin wood car 140, formerly from the North Shore Line. Don’s Rail Photos: “138 thru 141 were built by American Car in 1910. They were rebuilt for Elevated compatibility in 1919. They were also leased to the CA&E in 1936, returned to the CNS&M in 1945, and sold to the CA&E in 1946.” This print was made in 1945, but could have been taken earlier. (E. Dale Photo)
Chicago Aurora and Elgin steel car 417 heads up a Chicago Express at Laramie Avenue. This print was made in 1945, but could have been taken earlier. (E. Dale Photo)
Don’s Rail Photos: “In 1937, the CA&E needed additional equipment. Much was available, but most of the cars suffered from extended lack of maintenance. Finally, 5 coaches were found on the Washington Baltimore & Annapolis which were just the ticket. 35 thru 39, built by Cincinnati Car in 1913, were purchased and remodeled for service as 600 thru 604. The ends were narrowed for service on the El. They had been motors, but came out as control trailers. Other modifications included drawbars, control, etc. A new paint scheme was devised. Blue and grey with red trim and tan roof was adopted from several selections. They entered service between July and October in 1937. The following year, three more cars were acquired. 80 thru 82 were combines built by Cincinnati in 1913. On the CA&E, they were rebuilt in much the same manner as the 600s. The baggage compartment was fitted with seats and the cars were operated as full coaches numbered 700 thru 702. 700 was built by Cincinnati Car Co in 1913 as WB&A 80. It was sold as CA&E 700 in 1938.” This picture was printed in 1945, but could have been taken earlier. The location is the Wheaton Shops. (E. Dale Photo)
Chicago Aurora and Elgin 435 is westbound at Laramie Avenue on an Aurora Express. This photo was printed in 1945, but could have been taken earlier. (E. Dale Photo)
Chicago Aurora and Elgin 423 is running on the streets of Aurora as an express. The terminal was relocated off the street at the end of 1939, and the license plate on the car at left is from 1934 or 1936 (probably the former). This print was made in 1945. (E. Dale Photo)
Birney car 1501 is in Council Bluffs, Iowa in 1947. (Victor G. Wagner Photo)
This is the West Penn Railway in Greensburgh, Pennsylvania, which is 30 miles southeast of Pittsburgh.
North Shore Line 714 heads up a southbound Chicago Express on the Shore Line Route in North Chicago in 1947. This car was built in 1926 by the Cincinnati Car Company. After the North Shore Line was abandoned in 1963, 714 went to the Illinois Railway Museum, where it is today. (Victor G. Wagner Photo)
A view of the Metropolitan “L” crossing the Chicago River on July 10, 1949. We are looking to the northwest.
Five Mile Beach Electric Railway car 32 in Wildwood, New Jersey in 1940. (G. Pilkington Photo)
CTA 2712 leads a two-car Douglas Park “L” train in the early 1950s. The train is headed towards Marshfield Junction, where Douglas Park, Garfield Park, Logan Square, and Humboldt Park lines converged into the Met “L” main line at Paulina. Construction is underway here for the Congress Expressway. A new north-south connection was built soon after this picture was taken, so that Douglas Park trains could be re-routed downtown via the former Logan Square tracks to a new connection with the Lake Street “L”. This allowed the Met main line to be removed east of here in 1954, where the “L” was in the way of the new highway.
A four-car train of CTA 4000s is (I presume) near Howard in the 1950s. Miles Beitler adds, “Photo aad702a looks like a train of 4000s leaving Howard Street southbound on track 1. If I’m correct that that the overhead wire has been removed and the trolley poles on the 4000s are down, this must be after third rail was installed on track 1, which would date the photo to around 1964 or later.”
Indiana Railroad high-speed car 69 is at Indianapolis on August 11, 1940.
A North Shore Line freight train is at the Rondout weigh station in January 1963.
North Shore Line combine 256 is at the front of a three-car train of “Greenliners” (a fan term) in a slide processed in June 1961.
The Ravinia Park Casino was built in 1904 and demolished in 1985. Ravinia Park was built by the Chicago and Milwaukee electric, which became the North Shore Line in 1916.
Indiana Railroad high-speed car 59 is at Indianapolis on August 11, 1940.
A Chicago Aurora and Elgin electric loco in Wheaton, where the lines diverged to go to either Aurora (shown here) or Elgin.
When I posted this circa 1954-55 Garfield Park “L” image to our Facebook group, it generated a lot of discussion as to whether or not this 4000-series “L” car was still in CRT brown paint. The CTA repainted these cars into green and cream starting around 1952. But after much consideration, my conclusion is that this is just a trick of the light, and the car is actually painted in the later CTA colors. It is in shadow and not in direct sunlight. By this time, all such cars should have been repainted and put into married pairs with various modifications (which are visible on this car). The car behind it, which is presumably its mate, is painted green and cream. We are at the east end of the Van Bure Street temporary trackage, which was used from 1953 to 1958. The photographer was apparently looking out the front end of a westbound train, and there was a ramp behind the photographer leading up to the old “L” structure heading to the Loop. The cross street here is Racine Avenue (1200 W).
I assume this picture of Chicago Surface Lines Peter Witt car 6311 was taken at Devon station. The date given with the negative was January 6, 1941 but this hardly seems likely, given the foliage and the open door. Perhaps month and date were reversed, and a date of June 1, 1941 is correct.
A view of the Indiana Railroad’s Muncie Terminal on August 10, 1940. The photo is by WVK, although I don’t know what those initials stand for.
Indiana Railroad high-speed car 78 in Indianapolis in the late 1930s.
A night shot of the North Shore Line’s Milwaukee Terminal in July 1962.
North Shore Line car 748 is part of a two-car train near North Chicago Junction on September 4, 1961.
This and the next picture shows a Aurora Elgin and Chicago (predecessor to the CA&E) monthly ticket book from June 1922.
The Chicago Aurora and Elgin used uncovered third rail in nearly all areas, including here, in Wheaton, where the Aurora and Elgin branches diverged. A small boy is playing in a nearby field, and people then were not terribly concerned with the danger posed by 600 volts of direct current. If the CA&E had survived, chances are additional protections would be in place.
North Shore Line wood car 132 and train at Ravinia Park in the early 1900s.
Starting in the 1930s, enterprising railfans such as the late Barney Neuberger sold prints of streetcars and interurbans. The smallest such prints were what is now called wallet size, and the going rate was usually 10 cents. Mr. Neuberger had flyers and catalogs printed. There are thousands and thousands of such photos that still circulate, and enrich our knowledge of the past.
CTA 2811 heads up a westbound Garfield Park “L” train of wood cars, circa 1953-54. The ramp connected to the temporary tracks on Van Buren Street/ We are near Sacramento Boulevard. For a time, these tracks crossed over the new Congress Expressway, which was built underneath it. Once the new Congress median line opened in 1958, this structure was removed.
A two-car Garfield Park “L” train, made up of 4000-series cars, heads west on temporary trackage in Van Buren Street on September 2, 1955. A portion of the Congress Expressway, then under construction, opened later that year.
A Philadelphia Suburban Transportation Company Brill Master Unit is on West Chester Pike at Paoli Road in February 1945. (David H. Cope Photo)
The Chicago Aurora and Elgin station in Wheaton, probably in the 1920s.
CTA 6190-6189 is at Adams and Wabash on the Loop “L” in July 1954.
A northbound CTA train of curved-door 6000s is on the South Side “L” just north of 35th Street in 1954. The middle track had been used for express trains until the CTA realigned north-south service in 1949.
This picture was taken from out of the front window of a Lake Street “L” train on July 17, 1954. We are near Garfield Park, and the 4000-series cars parked on the middle track are in mid-day storage. The middle track had been used by express trains prior to 1948, when the CTA inaugurated A/B “skip stop” service.
CTA 6047-6048 are looping via a wooden structure at DesPlaines Avenue on July 14, 1954. This was necessary once Chicago Aurora and Elgin service was cut back to Forest Park, starting in September 1953. The direct connection between the two railroads was severed and this loop took CTA trains over the CA&E tracks. Once CA&E was allowed to discontinue passenger service in July 1957, the ramp was no longer necessary. The entire yard area was revamped in 1959 in conjunction with nearby expressway construction.
Philadelphia Suburban Transportation Company (aka Red Arrow Lines) double-ended car 19 is outbound on West Chester Pike, headed for West Chester, in the early 1950s. Buses replaced trolleys on this line in 1954 so the road could be widened.
Chicago and Illinois Valley (aka the Chicago Ottawa and Peoria, part of the Illinois Traction System) car 56 at Ottawa, Illinois. Don’s Rail Photos: “In 1901, the Illinois Valley Traction was incorporated to build the first part of what later became the CO&P. Various other companies were involved in the construction until the CO&P consolidated them all by 1909. The CO&P became the Valley Division of Illinois Traction Inc. in 1923. In 1929, a new company, the Chicago & Illinois Valley, took over the Valley Division and operated it until abandonment on May 14, 1934. It was always considered a part of the Illinois Traction, and this can be seen in its rolling stock. 55 and 56 were built by St. Louis in 1903. 55 was retired in 1921. 56 was used in Peoria from 1920 thru 1927 when it was returned to the Valley. It was scrapped in 1934.”
The next-to-last North Shore Line fantrip took place on January 12, 1963, and used coaches 150 and 160. Here, the train has made a photo stop at the old Chicago Rapid Transit Company “L” station at Kostner Avenue, which was in use from 1925 to 1948 on the Niles Center branch. The station was designed by Insull staff architect Arthur U. Gerber. North Shore trains never stopped here in regular service. (William C. Hoffman Photo) Scott Greig adds: “By the way, the last charter on the North Shore was the day after the one pictured. It was a CERA charter with four Silverliners on Sunday, January 13, 1963. Illini Railroad Club announced that they would have a charter on the last day, but they finally had to settle for an extra car added to a regular train.”
The two car fantrip train has stopped at the old Clark and Lake “L” station on January 12, 1963. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
North Shore Line coach 772 is southbound at North Chicago Junction on July 4, 1955, operating on the Shore Line Route that would be abandoned later that month. Skokie Valley Route trains went to the other side of the station. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
The North Shore Line Milwaukee Terminal on June 25, 1961.
Electroliner 803-804 is northbound on Fifth Street in Milwaukee at Maple on January 13, 1963. All the buildings on the right are gone now, as this is now the location of an expressway. (Jeffrey L. Wien Photo)
North Shore Line snow plow 605 at Pettibone Yards on August 29, 1964. Built by Russell in 1921, it became the last piece of NSL equipment to be scrapped on the property. David A. Myers Jr. says he found someone who was interested in taking it, but they procrastinated so long that the tracks were taken up around the car, and it was then scrapped in place. (Jeffrey L. Wien Photo)
Chicago Surface Lines prewar PCC 4048 is downtown, signed for the Madison-Fifth route which was a branch of Route 20 – Madison. The 83 cars in this series were built in 1936 and retired in 1956. The sole survivor is 4021, which is now at the Illinois Railway Museum.
Chicago Surface Lines work car H7. Don’s Rail Photos: “H7, mail car, was built by American Car Co in 1891, as a Cicero & Proviso Street Railway passenger car. It was rebuilt as Chicago Union Traction 8 in 1900 as a mail car and as Chicago Railways 8 in 1903. It was renumbered H7 in 1913 and became CSL H7 in 1914. It was retired on May 16, 1949.”
Indiana Railroad car 65. Don’s Rail Photos: “65 was built by Pullman in 1931, #6399. The lounge section was replaced by a baggage section. 65 was sold to the Cedar Rapids & Iowa City as 120 in 1941. In 1954 it was purchased as the first car of the Illinois Railway Museum, which was known as the Illinois Electric Railway Museum at that time. I put in many enjoyable hours working on that car prior to 1960 when I moved to Peoria.”
Our Latest Book, Now Available for Pre-Order:
The North Shore Line
Publication Date: February 20, 2023
FYI, my new Arcadia Publishing book The North Shore Line is now finished and has gone to press. My publisher decided to expand it to 160 pages, instead of the usual 128. That’s a 25% increase, without any change to the $23.99 price. I am quite pleased with how this turned out.
From the back cover:
As late as 1963, it was possible to board high-speed electric trains on Chicago’s famous Loop “L” that ran 90 miles north to Milwaukee. This was the Chicago North Shore & Milwaukee Railroad, commonly known as the North Shore Line. It rose from humble origins in the 1890s as a local streetcar line in Waukegan to eventually become America’s fastest interurban under the visionary management of Midwest utilities tycoon Samuel Insull. The North Shore Line, under Insull, became a worthy competitor to the established steam railroads. Hobbled by the Great Depression, the road fought back in 1941 with two streamlined, air-conditioned, articulated trains called Electroliners, which included dining service. It regained its popularity during World War II, when gasoline and tires were rationed, but eventually, it fell victim to highways and the automobile. The North Shore Line had intercity rail, commuter rail, electric freight, city streetcars, and even buses. It has been gone for nearly 60 years, but it will always remain the Road of Service.
Each copy purchased here will be signed by the author, and you will also receive a bonus North Shore Line map. Books will ship by USPS Media Mail as soon as we receive them, on or before February 20, 2023.
Chapters: 01. Beginnings 02. The Milwaukee Division 03. The Shore Line Route 04. The Skokie Valley Route 05. The Mundelein Branch 06. On the “L” 07. City Streetcars 08. Trolley Freight 09. The Long Goodbye 10. The Legacy
Title The North Shore Line
Images of America
Author David Sadowski
Publisher Arcadia Publishing (SC), 2023
ISBN 1467108960, 978-1467108966
Length 160 pages
The price of $23.99 includes shipping within the United States.
For Shipping to US Addresses:
New Compact Disc, Now Available:
The Last Chicago Streetcars 1958
# of Discs – 1
Until now, it seemed as though audio recordings of Chicago streetcars were practically non-existent. For whatever reason, the late William A. Steventon does not appear to have made any for his Railroad Record Club, even though he did make other recordings in the Chicago area in 1956.
Now, audio recordings of the last runs of Chicago streetcars have been found, in the collections of the late Jeffrey L. Wien (who was one of the riders on that last car). We do not know who made these recordings, but this must have been done using a portable reel-to-reel machine.
These important recordings will finally fill a gap in transit history. The last Chicago Transit Authority streetcar finished its run in the early hours of June 21, 1958. Now you can experience these events just as Chicagoans did.
As a bonus, we have included Keeping Pace, a 1939 Chicago Surface Lines employee training program. This was digitally transferred from an original 16” transcription disc. These recordings were unheard for 80 years.
Total time – 74:38
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This “red border” Kodachrome shows CTA salt car AA-104 at South Shops on January 4, 1956. Don’s Rail Photos says, “AA104, salt car, was built by South Chicago City Ry in 1907 as SCCRy 339. It was rebuilt in 1907 and became C&SCRy (Calumet and South Chicago Railway) 838 in 1908. It was renumbered 2853 in 1913 and became CSL 2853 in 1914. It was later converted as a salt car and renumbered AA104 in 1948. It was retired on December 14, 1956.” This was one of the few railroad-roof cars on the Chicago system. The main color here is Pullman Green. (James J. Buckley Photo)
After our recent forays to the East Coast, part of a series by guest contributor Kenneth Gear, we are back in Sweet Home Chicago for this one. Watch this space for additional posts in Ken’s series.
Although we are a few days late for Valentine’s Day, we nonetheless have many photographic gifts for Chicago-area traction fans in today’s post, that constitute a virtual Valentine to our readers. First, we have some recent finds. Next, a few color slides courtesy of William Shapotkin. Then, a bevy of classic black-and-white images taken by the late Robert Selle, one of the greatest railfan photographers.
We also have a book review, and there are two new audio CD collections in our ongoing efforts to digitize 1950s steam railroad audio for the 21st Century.
When the CTA opened the five-mile long Skokie Swift branch in April 1964 (over a small portion of the former North Shore Line) ridership far exceeded expectations. So the four articulated 5000-series cars were quickly renovated and adapted for Swift service. These were experimental when built in 1947-48 and became “oddballs” on the CTA system. Here, we see car 51 (renumbered from 5001) in October 1964 at Kostner. These cars continued to run into the 1980s. Two of the four sets were saved, and this set is now at the Fox River Trolley Museum. (Color correction by J. J. Sedelmaier)
Three CTA trains of 6000-series “L”/Subway cars are lined up by the old Tower 18 in the early 1950s. As you can see, with the tower in the middle of the junction, not all moves could be made. For example, eastbound trains coming from Lake Street could not go straight east, but had to turn south. At this time, traffic on both the inner and outer Loop tracks went in the same direction (counter-clockwise). This arrangement was changed in 1969 when the CTA wanted to through-route Lake with the new Dan Ryan line. The tower was moved and replaced with a new one, and new eastbound trackage was built where the old tower was. That was also the beginning of bi-directional operations on the Loop, which continue to this day.
One-man CSL 3117 is eastbound on 18th Street at Carpenter (approx. 1100 West) in the 1940s. Don’s Rail Photos: “3117 was built by CSL in 1922. It was scrapped in 1948.” This was part of a series known as CSL Safety Cars, aka “Sewing Machines.” (Joe L. Diaz Photo)
The same location today.
Two CTA PCCs (4064 and 4115) and red car 368, all Pullmans, at Kedzie Station (Fifth and Kedzie) on August 22, 1953. The main portion of Route 20 – Madison was converted to bus on December 13 of that year, and the Fifth Avenue branch continued for a few more months as a shuttle operation. The PCC at left is in its original colors (Mercury Green, Croydon Cream and Swamp Holly Orange), while the one in the center has been repainted in Everglade Green and Alpine White. (Robert Selle Photo)
CTA Postwar PCC 7200, a product of the St. Louis Car Company, at 81st and Halsted on January 2, 1954. This was the south end of Route 22, Clark-Wentworth. It’s been pointed out to me that fans took a lot of pictures at this location, but here we had the opportunity to purchase the original medium-format neg, and not just a print. Notice the dents on the front of 7200. (Robert Selle Photo)
“One-man PCC 4021, now northbound on the (private right-of-way) portion of the South Cottage Grove line.” This was on May 30, 1955. 4021 is now the only preserved prewar PCC, and is now at the Illinois Railway Museum. (Robert Selle Photo)
Color Slides, Courtesy of William Shapotkin:
“Looking westbound on (North) Lake Street toward Austin Boulevard., cars 3153 and 1757, woring CTA Lake Street line, lay over at west end-of-line. In distance (SW corner of Lake and Austin in Oak Park), a bus working the Chicago & West Towns Lake Street line takes its layover. May 15, 1954.” (About two weeks before the end of streetcar service on Route 16).
“Chicago, IL. CTA car #3153, working an eastbound trip on Route 16 – Lake, is eastbound in (North) Lake Street, having just crossed over Central Avenue. View looks west/northwest from the Chicago & North Western embankment. May 15, 1954.”
CTA 1812 at Lake and Pine in February 1953, heading west on the ground-level portion of the Lake Street “L”, which was elevated onto the adjacent embankment in 1962. Pine is where Route 16 streetcars crossed the “L” to go from what was then called South Lake Street to North Lake Street. In 1964, the South Lake Street portion in this area was renamed Corcoran Place, after the death of the local alderman. (Thanks to J. J. Sedelmaier for twerking, er “tweaking” this one to make it look better.)
The same location today (Lake and Pine). This is where Lake Street takes a jog to the north side of the former Chicago & North Western embankment, and the CSL/CTA Route 16 streetcar went along with it. Since Lake Street pretty much split in two at this point, the section west of here (behind the photographer) was referred to as either North Lake or South Lake, depending on which side of the embankment you were on. This was a reasonable system, since there were no duplicate street numbers. But in 1964, the south portion between Pine and Austin (a distance of just over half a mile) was renamed Corcoran Place, after the local alderman, an ally of then-Mayor Richard J. Daley’s, who died suddenly from a heart attack. The “L” was relocated onto the embankment in 1962 and the street it was in (either Lake Street, South Lake Street aka Corcoan Place, or South Boulevard in Oak Park) made wider, or made into parking lots.
“Chicago, IL. CTA car #4333 brings up the rear of an eastbound Lake Street “L” train. View looks east from Lake/Laramie station. Note pull-offs for overhead trolley wire, used west from Laramie station. June 23, 1959,”
“Chicago, IL. Looking westbound on CTA’s Lake Street “L” at (South) Lake Street (now Corcoran Place), at Menard Avenue. Line car #S200 is seen doing wire work. In distance is the Austin/Lake “L” station. At right (on embankment) is one-time “Boulevard” Chicago & North Western station (located at Austin Boulevard). May 27, 1960.” Don Ross: “S-200 was built by Barney & Smith in 1901 at M-WSER 783. It was renumbered in 1913 as 2783. In 1916 it was rebuilt as a work motor and numbered S-200. It became CRT S-200 in 1924.”
“Oak Park, IL. A pair of 4000s, working a westbound trip on CTA’s Lake Street “L”, are on South Boulevard at Kenilworth Avenue. Visible in distance (on embankment) is one-time “Avenue” Chicago & North Western passenger station, located at Oak Park Avenue. View looks east on January 18, 1962.”
In the center, we see the portal at the north end of the State Street subway, just south of Armitage. The two middle “L” tracks were moved to the outer edge of the structure when the subway was built. The “L” continued south from this point with four tracks to Chicago Avenue. In recent years, the two outer tracks have been removed, and just a siding remains at this point.
Chicago, Burlington & Qunict locomotive 4978 in Mendota, IL on September 2, 2010 with a Metra Electric (ex-Illinois Central “Highliner” at left. Both are at the Union Depot Railroad Museum. (Mike Sosalla Photo)
Classic Bob Selle Images
If you are a regular reader of this blog, you probably already know that the late Robert Selle (1929-2013) was an excellent photographer who specialized in black-and-white. As with many other railfan photographers, his extensive collection of images got scattered after his death.
Now and again, some of them pop up on eBay, but not always identified as his work in the auction listings. Fortunately, Selle is one of those few photographers whose work can be recognized at a glance, as it is often a cut above the rest.
Over the years, we have purchased a few Bob Selle negatives, which have been featured on this blog (including three in today’s post).
In 2011, Jeff Wien and the late Bradley Criss visited Mr. Selle in Florida, and he generously allowed them to scan some of his negatives. Tragically, Bradley Criss passed away in 2016 (you can read an appreciation of him here). He would have been 55 years old on February 4th.
As a tribute to both Bob Selle and Bradley Criss, here is a selection from the images they scanned, courtesy of Jeff Wien and the Wien-Criss Archive.
CTA Pullman 495 at Limits Station (car barn), so named because it was once at the north end of the city limits when first built. (Robert Selle Photo, Wien-Criss Archive)
CTA Pullman 581 at Milwaukee and Clinton, in front of Chicago & North Western steam loco 1564. (Robert Selle Photo, Wien-Criss Archive)
CTA 4200 northbound on Clark near Montrose. (Robert Selle Photo, Wien-Criss Archive)
CTA postwar PCC 4224 (a Pullman) at the Limits car barn. (Robert Selle Photo, Wien-Criss Archive)
The group photo from the last Chicago streetcar fantrip on May 25, 1958. This was less than a month before the end of streetcar service in Chicago. (Robert Selle Photo, Wien-Criss Archive)
CTA 6136 on the Museum Loop in Grant Park, just east of the Illinois Central Electric. (Robert Selle Photo, Wien-Criss Archive)
CTA snow sweeper E223 was saved from destruction by Dick Lukin, and it is shown here in 1958, on its way to the Illinois Electric Railway Museum site in North Chicago. (Robert Selle Photo, Wien-Criss Archive)
A young (and shiirtless) Nick Kallas at the ERHS (Electric Railway Historical Society) site in Downers Grove, where streetcars such as Chicago & West Towns 141, shown here, were stored between 1959 and 1973, when the collection went to the Illinois Railway Museum. (Robert Selle Photo, Wien-Criss Archive)
Chicago Aurora & Elgin 433, built by the Cincinnati Car Company in 1927. The tower, just barely visible at rear, was part of Wheaton Yard. (Robert Selle Photo, Wien-Criss Archive)
CA&E 453, a 1945 product of St. Louis Car Company, at the Wheaton station. (Robert Selle Photo, Wien-Criss Archive)
A six-car CA&E train westbound at the Halsted curve. (Robert Selle Photo, Wien-Criss Archive)
CA&E 458 heads a three-car train westbound at Western Avenue. The CTA bus on Van Buren indicates that this picture was taken no earlier than August 12, 1951. The Van Buren Street temporary trackage appears to be in place already, but testing has not started yet, as there are barriers in place. “L” service shifted to the temporary trackage in September 1953 and the CA&E cut back service to Forest Park. At left you can see the imposing structure of Richard T. Crane Medical Preparatory High School, otherwise known as Crane Tech. We are looking to the east. (Robert Selle Photo, Wien-Criss Archive)
Two North Shore Line trains pass at Ravinia on a 1953 Shore Line Route fantrip. This is not the same stop as Ravinia Park, which is some distance away. The area taken up by the NSL tracks is now a parking lot for the Metra station (former Chicago & North Western), whose tracks are at left. We are looking southeast. Presumably the Silverliner at right is the fantrip train as the other train is not flying flags. (Robert Selle Photo, Wien-Criss Archive)
The building just visible in the previous picture, located at 514 Roger Williams Avenue in Highland Park.
Chicago & North Western loco 505 heads up at train at Kinzie Street. (Robert Selle Photo, Wien-Criss Archive)
C&NW loco 531 and train at Edison Park. (Robert Selle Photo, Wien-Criss Archive)
C&NW 545 and train in Edison Park on Chicago’s northwest side. (Robert Selle Photo, Wien-Criss Archive)
CTA Pullman 291 at 63rd and Narragansett, possibly during the period just before Route 63 was converted to bus on May 24, 1953. (Robert Selle Photo, Wien-Criss Archive)
CTA Pullman 475, running on Route 56 – Milwaukee Avenue, emerges from the east portal of the Washington streetcar tunnel at Franklin Street, having traveled under the Chicago River. (Robert Selle Photo, Wien-Criss Archive)
CTA Pullman 384 at Roosevelt and Paulina. Cars on Route 9 – Ashland took a jog here, as streetcars were not allowed to run on boulevards. (Robert Selle Photo, Wien-Criss Archive)
CTA Pullman 124 at Division and Wells on Route 6 – Van Buren. The latest this photo could have been taken is 1951. (Robert Selle Photo, Wien-Criss Archive)
CTA Pullman 265 is northbound at State and Archer on Route 45 (Ashland-Downtown). At left, we see a Route 44 CTA bus. This helps date the picture to between July 7, 1951 (when 44 converted to bus) and February 14, 1954 (when routes 9 and 45 were converted). (Robert Selle Photo, Wien-Criss Archive)
CTA 276 is eastbound at 63rd and Paulina on Route 63, probably in 1953 near the end of streetcar service on this line. (Robert Selle Photo, Wien-Criss Archive)
CTA Pullman 377, also at 63rd and Paulina. (Robert Selle Photo, Wien-Criss Archive)
CTA Pullman 289 is eastbound on Grand near Milwaukee on Route 65. This route was converted to bus on April 1, 1951. (Robert Selle Photo, Wien-Criss Archive)
CTA Pullman 452 is on Southport at Clark, the north end of Route 9 – Ashland. (Robert Selle Photo, Wien-Criss Archive)
CTA Pullman 453 is heading west on diversion trackage on Route 8 – Halsted at Chicago Avenue in 1953. I believe the PCC at the rear is 7228, a product of the St. Louis Car Company. The diversion was between Division and Chicago, and was used when work was being done on the Halsted Street bridge over the Chicago River. The two streetcars are about to turn from eastbound Chicago Avenue onto southbound Halsted. PCCs were being phased out on Halsted during this period, as CTA had begun shipping the 310 Pullmans to the St. Louis Car Company for scrapping and parts reuse on a like number of 6000-series rapid transit cars. By the time streetcar service ended on Halsted in 1954, service was being provided entirely by the older red cars. (Robert Selle Photo, Wien-Criss Archive)
The note that came with this image of CTA Pullman 469 says it is on Kedzie near Chicago Avenue. But the sign on the streetcar says route 66, which is Chicago and not Kedzie. So perhaps we are on Chicago Avenue near Kedzie. (Robert Selle Photo, Wien-Criss Archive) Patrick Cunningham adds: “The Pullman 469 photo is on Chicago Ave. looking east from the CNW viaduct towards Sacramento. The building in the far background still exists.”
The view looking east from about 3037 West Chicago Avenue, which is probably just a bit east of where the above photo was taken. You can see that the same building is at rear on Sacramento Boulevard.
CTA Pullman 381 at 63rd Place and Narragansett, the west end of Route 63. This picture may have been taken early in 1953, after PCCs had been replaced by older cars on this line, shortly before it was converted to bus. (Robert Selle Photo, Wien-Criss Archive)
CTA 409 is on Southport at Clark, the north end of Route 9 – Ashland. (Robert Selle Photo, Wien-Criss Archive)
CTA Pullman n 504 exiting the Washington Street tunnel, operating on Route 56 – Milwaukee Avenue. (Robert Selle Photo, Wien-Criss Archive)
CTA 523 at the same location. (Robert Selle Photo, Wien-Criss Archive)
CTA Pullman 540 at Southport and Clark, ready to head south on another trip on Route 9 – Ashland. (Robert Selle Photo, Wien-Criss Archive)
CTA Pullman 610, an Ashland car, heads south on Clark at School Street. There is a similar photo on page 104 in my book Chicago Trolleys, showing car 144 at the same location. That picture is dated May 7, 1953 which may be when this picture was taken. That car was a pull-in to the Limits car barn, which may also be the case here. (Robert Selle Photo, Wien-Criss Archive)
CTA 669 at 63rd and Paulina, probably in early 1953. (Robert Selle Photo, Wien-Criss Archive)
CTA 675 is westbound on Chicago Avenue at Grand Avenue on Route 66. Note the cool Bowman Dairy truck. (Robert Selle Photo, Wien-Criss Archive)
CTA Pullman 839 is on Ashland at Chicago on Route 9. (Robert Selle Photo, Wien-Criss Archive)
Ther motorman of CTA Pullman 879 waves at the photographer as he rounds the turn from Wells onto Division, running Through Route 3 – Lincoln-Indiana, which was discontinued on March 11, 1951. (Robert Selle Photo, Wien-Criss Archive)
The same location today. Things have sure changed a lot!
CTA 171 on Ogden at Ashland, operating on Route 58. The white stripe indicates that this is a one-man car. 1721 was part of a series known as “169” or Broadway-State cars. (Robert Selle Photo, Wien-Criss Archive)
CTA 173 is on Chicago Avenue near Ashland, on Route 66. Note the Goldblatt’s nearby. Goldblatt’s was a local department store chain that operated from 1914 until 2000. In 1946, they had 15 local stores, with annual sales of $62m. (Robert Selle Photo, Wien-Criss Archive)