Over the years, I have seen many poor quality duplicate slides with this view, looking to the northwest, with a Garfield Park “L” train crossing the Met bridge over the Chicago River, with Union Station in the background. However, this was scanned from an original red border Kodachrome slide, circa 1955-58. The name of the photographer is not known. This must be a Garfield train, and the results are stunning. Douglas cars were re-routed over the Lake Street “L” in 1954. Logan Square trains began running via the Milwaukee-Dearborn Subway in 1951.
Here we have another bevy of classic traction photos for your enjoyment. All are from our collections, and nearly all were scanned from the original slides and negatives. Then, they were painstakingly worked over in Photoshop to make them look their best.
These views shine a light on the past, but also help illuminate our present and our future. We chose these images because we think they are important. They show some things that still exist, and other things that don’t.
By studying the past, we can learn from it, and the lessons we learn will help us make the decisions that will determine what gets preserved and improved in the future– and what goes by the wayside, into the dustbin of history.
When faced with the darkness of the present times, we could all use more light.
We have an exciting new Compact Disc available now, with audio recorded on the last Chicago Streetcar in 1958. There is additional information about this towards the end of this post, and also in 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.
Work on our North Shore Line book is ongoing. Donations are needed in order to bring this to a successful conclusion. You will find donation links at the top and bottom of each post. We thank you in advance for your time and consideration.
A North Shore Line Electroliner stops on a curve during the early 1950s, while a woman wearing a long skirt and heels departs. This looks like North Chicago Junction.
Don’s Rail Photos: (Caboose) “1003 was built by American Car & Foundry Co in 1926. It was rebuilt without a cupola but restored when it was acquired IRM.” Here is how part of it looked in the early 1950s.
One of the two ex-North Shore Line Electroliners is shown in Philadelphia in December 1963, prior to being repainted as a Red Arrow Liberty Liner.
Although this was scanned from a duplicate slide, this is an excellent and well known shot, showing the last day fantrip on the North Shore Line’s Shore Line Route in July 1955. The location is Kenilworth, and we are looking mainly to the south, and a bit towards the west. The town’s famous fountain, paid for by the Chicago and Milwaukee Electric, the NSL’s predecessor, is at left. It was designed by noted architect George W. Maher (1864-1926), who lived in the area. The Chicago and North Western’s tracks are at right (now Union Pacific).
A northbound Electroliner, just outside of Milwaukee in July 1962. (Jim Martin Photo)
Car 170 is an NSL Lake Bluff local at the east end of the line on December 23, 1962. The tracks going off to the right connected to what was left of the old Shore Line Route. After the 1955 abandonment, a single track was retained for freight and for access to the Highwood Shops. (Jim Martin Photo)
Once the NSL abandonment was formally approved, in May 1962, there was a flurry of fantrip activity soon after. In June 1962, this trip was popular enough that two trains were used. Here they are on the Mundelein branch, posed side by side. One of the Liners made a rare appearance here. (Jim Martin Photo)
An Electroliner has gone past the east end of the Mundelein branch on a June 1962 fantrip, and is now on the single remaining track of the old Shore Line Route, which continued to Highwood (and ended in Highland Park). (Jim Martin Photo)
A three-car North Shore Line train in Lake Bluff on a snowy day on December 23, 1962. (Jim Martin Photo)
North Shore Line car 714, freshly painted, is at the Milwaukee Terminal on June 16, 1962. (Richard H. Young Photo)
The North Shore Line’s Mundelein Terminal on September 7, 1959.
David A. Myers recently sent me this picture, which shows him making an audio recording during the last run of the North Shore Line, in the early morning hours of January 21, 1963. He still has the tape and I hope someday he will have it digitized.
No information came with this black and white negative, but the location is Highwood. Diners 415 and 419 are present. 419 was out of service by 1949, and 415 was converted to a Silverliner the following year, so that helps date the picture. Car 150, built in 1915, is at the right, along with a Merchandise Despatch car. This picture could be from 1947 or even earlier.
Jim Martin caught this meet between both Electroliners at North Chicago Junction in May 1962.
An Electroliner in Lake Bluff in January 1963. This and the following image were consecutive shots taken by the same (unknown) photographer.
The photographer (possibly Emery Gulash) had but one chance to press the shutter button at precisely the right moment, and he nailed it with this classic view of westbound Electroliner train 803 at Lake Bluff in January 1963. This is what noted photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson had in mind when he wrote about the “decisive moment.” Douglas Noble: “Northbound crossing Rockland Road / IL 176 in Lake Bluff.”
CTA 53 (originally 5003), seen here at Skokie Shops in July 1971, was one of four such articulated sets ordered by the Chicago Rapid Transit Company and delivered in 1947-48. They were the first tangible evidence of the postwar modernization yet to come, under the management of the new Chicago Transit Authority. They were important cars, as the bridge between the 4000 and 6000 series, but were not that successful operationally on their own, even though they were the first Chicago “L” cars to utilize PCC technology. As it turned out, articulation was more of a dead end than a new beginning here, but these cars did pave the way for further refinements that were realized in the 6000s. As oddball equipment, they were eventually relegated to the Skokie Swift, where they lived out their lives until their mid-1980s retirement.
CTA trolleybus 9510 heads west on Roosevelt Road at Ogden Avenue at 6:50 pm on June 16, 1966.
CTA trolleybus 9499 is southbound on Kedzie at 59th Street on September 10, 1963.
CTA 3311, a one-man car, is at the east end of one of the south side routes in the early 1950s. Andre Kristopans: “3311 is at 67th and South Shore on 67th/69th route.”
A CTA single car unit heads north at Isabella Avenue in Evanston in September 1965. This station, closed in 1973, was a short distance from the end of the Evanston branch (Linden Avenue, Wilmette).
CTA PCC 7101, a product of the St. Louis Car Company, on September 2, 1955. Not sure of the exact location. Our resident south side expert M.E. adds: “As for where this location is, I can more likely tell you where it isn’t. It isn’t on route 49, Western Ave., which was built up everywhere. It isn’t on route 22, Clark-Wentworth, which was also built up everywhere. I thought it might be on route 4, Cottage Grove, just south of 95th, where the streetcar tracks ran in the street for a few blocks before entering private right-of-way. However, I see no sign of the Illinois Central railroad embankment that ran next to Cottage Grove Ave. So that leaves one possibility: Route 36, Broadway-State. Some of that route ran through sparse areas, particularly along 119th St. between Michigan Ave. and Morgan St. My best guess is that this view is on 119th St., looking east from east of Halsted St. Notice the building shadow at the bottom, which means the sun was behind the building, to the south. Ergo, the streetcar is going east. Another reason I think this is 119th St. is the presence of exactly one motor vehicle. 119th St. was far out in those days; buildings were few in number, not just along 119th St. but also route 8A South Halsted (bus). The only “bustling” area that far out was around 119th and Halsted (and west to Morgan), where there were industries like foundries, mills, etc. In fact, I think the only reasons the streetcar line continued to run that far south were (1) to accommodate the people who worked in those industries, and (2) to service the Roseland business district at 111th and Michigan.”
CTA “L” car #1 is at the west end of the Green Line in Oak Park, probably in the 1990s. This car is now on display at the Chicago History Museum.
CTA PCC 4385 is southbound on Clark Street at North Water Street in May 1958, running on Route 22A – Wentworth. (Jeffrey L. Wien Photo)
A northbound CTA Englewood-Howard “A” train, made up of curved-door 6000-series “L” cars, heads into the State Street Subway at the south portal in August 1982.
A southbound CTA Ravenswood “B” train, made up of wooden “L” cars, approaches the Sedgwick station on April 10, 1957.
A two-car mid-day CTA Evanston Express “L” train, made up of single-car units 39 and 47, heads east on Van Buren between LaSalle and State on August 14, 1964. During this period, Loop trains all ran counter-clockwise and there was a continuous platform running from LaSalle to State. The platform sections between stations were removed in 1968.
A northbound CTA Evanston Express train, made up of 4000s, is north of Lawrence Avenue on July 22, 1968. Miles Beitler: “In photo aad017a, the Evanston Express is northbound on the local track between Rosemont Avenue and Sheridan Road (around 6300-6400 north). Granville tower is visible in the distance. PM northbound Evanston Express trains switched to the local track at Granville in order to serve Loyola and Morse stations. (AM trains did not do this.) I believe that sometime in the 1980s or 1990s, to speed up service, Loyola and Morse were no longer served by Evanston Expresses, and the trains remained on the outside express track all the way to Howard.” Andre Kristopans adds, “For years after AM rush until noon Evanston trains used local tracks all the way as Granville tower only manned AM rush. Also AM rush expresses usually crossed over NB as express track was used to lay up trains midday south of Howard. SB expresses always used local tracks to Granville as SB express track did not have 3rd rail north of Granville until 1970s sometime.” Miles Beitler replies, “That is not correct. Third rail was installed on the southbound express track between Howard and Granville at least by 1964, and even before that the expresses ran on that portion using overhead wire.”
A close-up of the previous image, showing Granville Tower.
CTA PCC 7160 is northbound on Clark Street, approaching the loop at Howard Street, on July 5, 1957. (Edward S. Miller Photo)
The Washington station in the State Street Subway in Chicago on July 6, 1975.
CTA single-car unit 39 is southbound at Isabella on August 13, 1964, operating on the Evanston Shuttle.
CTA red Pullman 281 is heading westbound into the turnaround loop at 63rd Place and Narragansett in early 1953. Towards the end of streetcar service on Route 63, older red cars replaced PCCs, which were shifted over to run on Cottage Grove. This residential neighborhood, sparsely populated then, is now completely built up.
CTA salt car AA101 at South Shops, circa 1955-57. Don’s Rail Photos: “AA101, salt car, was built by South Chicago City Ry in 1907 as SCCRy 335. It was rebuilt in 1907 and became C&SCRy 834 in 1908. It was renumbered 2849 in 1913 and became CSL 2849 in 1914. It was later converted as a salt car and renumbered AA101 in 1948. It was retired on December 14, 1956.”
The view looking north along Halsted Street at 42nd Street on Chicago’s south side, from a real photo postcard. The message on the back was dated August 24, 1910. Postal postcards were a new thing in the early 1900s and were very popular. Some, like this, were made by contact printing from the original photo negative. The Union Stock Yards were at left, and you can see the Halsted Station on then-new Stock Yards “L” branch (opened in 1908) in the distance. Automobiles were not yet common, and you can spot a man riding a horse to the left of streetcar 5150. This car was built by Brill in 1905, and was modernized in 1908. When this picture was taken, it was operated by the Chicago City Railway, as the Surface Lines did not come into existence until 1914.
A close-up from the previous photo.
This Skokie Swift sign graced the Dempster Street terminal of what is now the CTA Yellow Line for many years. It is now at the Illinois Railway Museum. Here is how it looked in September 1985. The original running time was more like 6 1/2 minutes when the line opened in 1964, but things got slowed down a bit in the interests of safety, since there are several grade crossings.
CTA single-car unit #1 at the Skokie Swift terminal at Dempster on June 11, 1965. It was built by St. Louis Car Company in 1960 and had high-speed motors. It was sent to General Electric in 1974 and used to test equipment. Since 2016 it has been at the Seashore Trolley Museum in Maine, but it would require a lot of work (and parts) to restore.
We are looking east along the Indiana Avenue “L” station around 1955. The wooden “L” car at back is a spare, being stored on what had once been the main line track up until 1949. The Kenwood branch ran east from here until 1957. The Stockyards branch went west from here. (C. Foreman Photo)
We are looking east from the CTA’s Indiana Avenue “L” station on September 2, 1955. A northbound Howard “B” train, made up of new curved-door 6000s, approaches on what had once been the middle express track. This was changed in 1949, when the CTA made a major revamp of north-south service. Numerous little-used stations were closed, and A/B “skip stop” service introduced, in an effort to speed things up. Since the express track was no longer needed, the CTA used part of it here to establish a pocket track for Kenwood branch trains, which became a shuttle operation. Sean Hunnicutt adds, “6405-06 are at the front.” Andre Kristopans adds, “At Indiana the layup track was the old LOCAL track, the middle in use was the express.” Northbound “L” trains switched over to what had been the express track (middle) just south of Indiana Avenue. I should have made that clear in the caption, thanks.
Milwaukee Electric articulated unit 1190 is on Main Street in Waukesha, Wisconsin on June 12, 1949. (William C. Hoffman Photo) One commenter adds, “Both photos taken by William C. Hoffman in Waukesha are actually on W. Broadway, just south of Main St. All buildings are still standing.”
Milwaukee Electric heavyweight car 1119 is on Main Street on June 12, 1949. (William C. Hoffman Photo) One commenter adds, “Both photos taken by William C. Hoffman in Waukesha are actually on W. Broadway, just south of Main St. All buildings are still standing.”
Milwaukee streetcar 972 at the Harwood Avenue terminal in Wauwatosa, circa 1955-58. (W. H. Higginbotham Photo)
The Public Service Building in downtown Milwaukee, located at 4th and Michigan, had been the former rapid transit terminal until 1951. Here is how it appeared on August 23, 1964. (William C. Hoffman Photo) Larry Sakar: “this is the southeast corner of the PSB at 3rd (not 4th) and Michigan Sts. You are looking southeast. Greyhound would continue using the PSB until February, 1965 when it moved to its own, brand new terminal on the northeast corner of North 7th & W. Michigan Sts. In addition to the 3 story terminal on the Michigan St side (the station had about a dozen angled spaces that the buses pulled into. Spaces 1 and 2 were used solely by Wisconsin Coach Lines buses to Waukesha, Racine & Kenosha and for a short time Port Washington. Atop the bus terminal was (and still is) a 2 story parking garage. On the Wisconsin Avenue side Greyhound constructed a 20 story office building. In 2006 when the Amtrak station was remodeled and a bus area added to the west of it in what had been a freight yard (became) a new bus station (outdoor platforms only). Today the entire complex is the Milwaukee Intermodal station.”
Milwaukee streetcar 953 is at the west end of the long Wells Street viaduct (at 44th), circa 1955-58. (W. H. Higginbotham Photo)
A Milwaukee Route 10 streetcar is on the Wells Street viaduct on September 5, 1954. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
A Miller Brewery Company beer wagon at the base of the Wells Street viaduct on September 6, 1954. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
Route 10 streetcar 953 heads east on Wells Street in Milwaukee, having just passed the Pabst theater, on June 25, 1956. (William C. Hoffman Photo)
The same location in 2019.
The caption on this slide says, “M&S body replica at Fond du Lac station, August 4, 1957.”
Two Milwaukee streetcars, including 861, on Howell during a National Railway Historical Society fantrip on September 3, 1955. (Paul Kutta Photo) Larry Sakar: “Photo aad021a is correct. That is Howell Avenue where the streetcar is laying over. More specifically, it is the intersection of South Howell Ave, and East Howard Ave which was the end of the line for Route 11 Vliet-Howell and later just Howell when streetcars came off of Vliet St. For a while in the 40’s streetcars went about a mile farther south on Howell Avenue to the intersection of East Bolivar Ave. Before this became part of the city of Milwaukee this was the Town of Lake. This area was given the name Tippecanoe. If you would turn a bit more east, today on the southeast corner of Howell & Howard there is a branch of the Milwaukee Public Library appropriately called Tippecanoe. Library. MPL calls their branches, “Neighborhood libraries”.”
Milwaukee streetcar 903 is in white and green as the “Stay Alive” car on Route 10 on October 2, 1953. Larry Sakar: “This is car 943 the Milwaukee Safety Commission green and white car. Dave Stanley and some of the other Milwaukee TM fans I know have said that if streetcars had lasted until July of 1975 when the Milwaukee County Transit System took over M&STC this is what they’d have looked like sans the safety message. Here is the great irony involving car 943. It didn’t practice what it preached. It was wrecked in 1955 at 4th & Wells Sts. downtown when it collided with a city of Milwaukee garbage truck. OOPS!”
A Milwaukee Road Hiawatha train in Milwaukee in 1954. Larry Sakar: “aad013a is the original Milwaukee Road station at North 4th & W. Everett Streets. The easternmost part of the trainshed was kiddie-corner from the southwest corner of the Public Service Bldg. but the station building was at 4th St. fAcing the park that is still there.Over the years that park has had lord knows how many different names. Today it is called Zeidler Union Park. However the Zeidler for whom it’s named is not Frank who was Mayor of Milqwaukee from 1948-1960. The park is named for Frank’s older brother, Carl who was Mayor for just two years 1940 to the outbreak of WWII on 12-7-41. He was in the U.S. Naval; Reserve and was called to Active Duty early in 1942. He was killed in action when the ship he was on was torpedoed and sunk by a Japanese submarine. in 1943. Carl was a Democrat. Frank was a Socialist. The site of the Everett St. Milwaukee Road station is now I794. That row of smaller buildings to the right of the train belonged to the Railway Express Agency. After he was no longer employed as a towerman, the late Don Ross went to work for REA. Remember, when express died out on passenger trains they became REA Air Express but they didn’t last.”
A Chicago Aurora & Elgin freight train, led by electric locos 4005 and 4006, is at Lakewood on March 17, 1957. (James J. Buckley Photo)
Pacific Electric blimp car 401 is signed for San Pedro. We have no other information on this original red border Kodachrome slide, but PE service to San Pedro was replaced by bus on January 2, 1949.
The caption on this September 11, 1977 photo in New York City says, “Jamaica Avenue, 160th Street – Last train.” Bill Wasik writes, “Re the 9/11/1977 NYC photo: Exploring New York City a few months after moving there in 1977, I entered an uptown-bound subway train at a station near the New York Stock Exchange, intending to take a short ride north to Midtown Manhattan. Minutes later, I had to change my plans when the train suddenly emerged in sunlight on the Lower East Side and began to cross the Williamsburg Bridge heading east to Brooklyn. With nothing better to do on a nice late summer afternoon, I decided to take this “J” train to the end of the line, which at the time was near where the car shown in this photo is stopped. The setting here was an ancient elevated structure that ran above the Jamaica Avenue shopping district in Queens, apparently on the day Jamaica Line service (once known as the Broadway Elevated) was cut back from 160th Street west to Queens Boulevard. The structure shown here was demolished around 1980, with bus service and the 1988 opening of the Archer Avenue rapid transit lines eventually replacing portions of the old Broadway El west to 121st Street in Queens.”
Vintage District of Columbia streetcar 303 and trailer 1512 are on a May 1959 fantrip. There are no wires here, as underground conduit was used for power in DC. Don’s Rail Photos: “303 was built by American Car Co in 1898 as Capital Traction Co 303. It is now at the Smithsonian.”
Boston MTA PCC 3219 is about to descend into the Tremont subway entrance at Pleasant Street on April 23, 1960. This portal was closed on November 19, 1961 and sealed up. It is presently the location of Elliot Norton Park, although there have been proposals to reuse the portal.
The same location in 2020.
Baltimore Transit PCC 7102 is on route 8 – Irvington on November 2, 1963, in a view taken out of the front window of a PCC going the opposite way. Streetcar service in Baltimore ended the next day, but light rail returned to the city in 1992.
One of the two Liberty Liners (ex-North Shore Line Electroliners) on the Red Arrow’s Norristown High-Speed Line in March 1964. (David H. Cope Photo)
A two-car train of Bullets, near the Philadelphia city limits, in this October 26, 1946 photo by David H. Cope.
A Philadelphia and Western Bullet car is near the Norristown terminal on May 14, 1949.
Open car 20 on the Five Mile Beach Electric Railway in Wildwood, New Jersey on August 26, 1934. This car still exists and is now owned by the Liberty Historic Railway. In 2019 the body of car 20 was sent to Gomaco for restoration, in hopes it can operation once again in the future.
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
Chicago’s Lost “L”s Online Presentation
We recently gave an online presentation about our book Chicago’s Lost “L”s for the Chicago Public Library, as part of their One Book, One Chicago series. You can watch it online by following this link.
The Trolley Dodger On the Air
We appeared on the Dave Plier Show on WGN radio on July 16, 2021, to discuss Chicago’s Lost “L”s. You can hear that discussion here.
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 Edition illustrated Publisher Arcadia Publishing (SC), 2021 ISBN 1467100007, 9781467100007 Length 128 pages
Chapters: 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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This 1953 view looks to the northwest and shows the old Canal Street station on the Metropolitan “L”, which was near Union Station. They were connected by a walkway nicknamed “Frustration Walk,” since many people would miss their train in the time it took to make the journey. The “L” here closed in 1958 and was demolished soon after. (Jon R. Roma Collection)
This is our 275th Trolley Dodger blog post, so we thought we would make this one extra special for you.
Recently, Jon R. Roma sent us some Sanborn insurance maps that were made in 1906 and 1917, mainly to show sections of the old Garfield Park “L” in greater detail. This was in response to some of our previous posts, where we discussed just where it used to run, before it was replaced by the Congress rapid transit line in 1958.
Learning from history is a process, and as historians, we are continually reaching out to the past, studying the historical record, looking for clues that will inform us today and further our understanding. Photographs, of course, are invaluable, but so are the kind of detailed maps that were made for insurance purposes long ago. They detail pretty much every structure and many of the businesses that once existed.
As an example of what you can learn from these maps, consider the one below showing the layout of old West Side Park, where the Chicago Cubs played through the 1915 season.
A story has gone around in recent years, that supposedly the expression “from out of left field” originated at West Side Park. Cook County Hospital was just north of the park, and the story goes that mental patients there would yell things out during Cubs games, which gave birth to the expression, which has taken on a meaning of something completely unexpected.
Unfortunately, there is no record of “from out of left field” being used in print with this meaning prior to the 1940s, by which time the Cubs had been in Wrigley Field for 25 years. But if you look at the Sanborn map of West Side Park, there was apparently an open area just north of the grandstands, so the hospital would have been some further distance away. I am not sure how much of the field would have been visible from the hospital anyway, so after looking at the map, the story seems unlikely.
What is more likely is how the expression could have evolved just generally from baseball lore. Occasionally, the left fielder will make a throw all the way to home plate during a game. Such a throw, coming “from out of left field,” tends to be unexpected, and it may be that over time, it took on this other meaning colloquially.
In addition, we have more electric traction, steam, and diesel photos taken around 1970 by John Engleman, some recent new photo finds of our own, and correspondence with Larry Sakar.
I guess we will always be “chasing Sanborn,” and other things like it.
We are very grateful to all our contributors. Sanborn fire insurance maps provided courtesy of the Map Library at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
This includes the Met “L” line heading to Humboldt Park and Logan Square. There was a station at Madison Street, opened in 1895, which is not delineated on this 1917 map. It closed in 1951. This section of “L” has since been rebuilt, and is now part of the CTA Pink Line.
The Met “L” branch leading to Humboldt Park and Logan Square made a bit of a jog near Ogden Avenue, an angle street. This is the section just north of Marshfield Junction.
This section of map shows the Garfield Park “L” and includes the station at Western Avenue, which was open from 1895 to 1953. When Western was widened in the 1930s, the front of the station was removed and a new Art Deco front replaced it. The same thing was done to three other “L” stations on Western. This station closed in September 1953, due to construction of the Congress Expressway, and we have featured pictures of its quick demolition in previous posts.
A close-up of the Western Avenue “L” station. I suppose the area marked “iron” refers to the station canopy.
This map includes a section of the Garfield Park “L”.
This map includes a section of the Garfield Park “L”, including part of the station at Hoyne Avenue, which was open from 1895 to 1953. The area between Van Buren and Congress is now occupied by the Eisenhower expressway. The CTA Blue Line tracks are in approximately the same location as the former Garfield Park “L”, but in the depressed highway.
This map shows part of the Garfield Park “L”, including the station at Hoyne Avenue.
This includes the old Garfield Park “L”.
This includes the Garfield Park “L”, including the station at Ogden Avenue, which was open between 1895 and 1953.
A close-up of the Garfield Park “L” station at Ogden Avenue.
The map shows the section of the Met “L” lines just west of Marshfield Junction, where all the various branch lines came together.
The Met “L” branches ran over a building that housed the Dreamland roller skating rink. When the Congress Expressway was built, a new section of “L” was built running north-south to connect the Douglas Park “L” to the tracks formerly used by the Humboldt Park and Logan Square lines prior to 1951. This became part of a new routing for Douglas that brought its trains to the Loop via the Lake Street “L”, where another new connection was built. This is the path that the CTA Pink Line follows today. Douglas trains were connected to the new Congress rapid transit line via a ramp that followed the old Douglas path starting in 1958.
The same location today.
This map shows Marshfield Junction on the Garfield Park “L”, where all the Met lines came together.
A close-up of the Marshfield Junction track arrangement and station layout. Notice that the Aurora, Elgin & Chicago (later the CA&E) had its own platform here. This station was in use from 1895 to 1954. From September 1953 to April 1954, it was only used by Douglas Park trains, as Garfield trains were re-routed to ground level tracks here in Van Buren Street.
This map includes the Laflin “L” station on the Garfield Park main line.
The Metropolitan “L” main line included a station at Laflin Avenue, which originally had two island platforms. Between 1896 and 1914, it was reconfigured with three platforms so the tracks did not have to make sharp curves around the ends of the platforms. This station was open from 1895 to 1951. Notice the complex track arrangement west of the station, which gave the Met maximum flexibility for routing their trains going downtown.
The Met “L” main line between Loomis and Laflin.
The Met “L” facilities shown here represent somewhat of a mystery. There is a general repair shop on Laflin, including maintenance of way, and “batteries” on Loomis.
When the Met “L” was built in the 1890s, they had to generate their own electric power, which they did via this massive power plant between Loomis and Throop. This map indicates that by 1917, the facility was co-owned by what is now Commonwealth Edison.
A close-up of the previous map. Note the Met had a “store house” east of the 1894 power plant.
The Met’s Throop Street Shops. The Met’s “L” station at Racine is also shown.
The Met’s Throop Street Shops are at left, and the Racine “L” station at right. Like Laflin and Halsted, it originally had two island platforms, and was reconfigured to the four side platforms you see here, in order to straighten out the tracks. This station was open from 1895 to 1954. It remained in use until Douglas Park “L” trains could be re-routed downtown via the Lake Street “L”.
The Met Main Line. From 1953-58, when the Garfield Park “L” ran on temporary trackage in part of Van Buren Street, it reconnected with the existing structure via a ramp near Aberdeen. The tracks you see here would have been at the very north end of the expressway footprint.
This section of the Met Main Line was not directly in the way of the Congress Expressway, although it was reduced from four tracks to two during the construction period. The two tracks to the south were removed. The “L” was very close to the highway at this point, though.
The Met Main Line. From 1953-58, the Garfield Park “L” ran on ground-level trackage in Van Buren Street. Douglas Park trains used the old Met structure until April 1954.
The Met Main Line had four tracks in this area, which were reduced down to two during the period from 1953-58. The Halsted “L” station was open from 1895 to 1958, when the new Congress rapid transit line opened in the adjacent expressway median. Many great photos were taken from the east end of the Halsted station, where you had a great view of a double curve.
Like Racine and Laflin, the Met’s Halsted “L” station originally had two island platforms, which meant there were sharp curves in the track at the ends of those platforms. This slowed down operations, so over a period of time leading up to 1914, those three stations were reconfigured. Halsted then had three platforms and the tracks were straightened. During the construction of the adjacent Congress Expressway in the mid-1950s, the two tracks to the south here were removed along with one of the three platforms. It was that close to the highway. However, the station itself remained in use by Garfield trains until the Congress line opened in 1958.
This map shows the Met’s Douglas Park branch heading south, and includes the Polk Street “L” station.
The Polk Street “L” station on the Douglas Park branch opened in 1896 and remains in use today by the CTA Pink Line. It was rebuilt in 1983.
This is the second West Side Park, home of the Chicago National League Ballclub from 1893 through 1915. They were not officially called the Cubs until the 1907 season. Starting in 1916, the Cubs vacated West Side Park in favor of what had been Weegham Park, which had been home to the Chicago Whales of the short-lived Federal League, now known as Wrigley Field. West Side Park was torn down in 1920. Home plate was located at the northwest corner, and it was 560 feet to center field, where there was a club house, somewhat in the manner of New York’s Polo Grounds and other early stadiums. Oftentimes, in those years, if there was a large crowd, fans stood in part of the outfield, as there were no seats there.
The Met’s Douglas Park “L” ran through this area, and is now the CTA Pink Line.
The Met’s Douglas Park “L” branch and the Roosevelt Road (formerly 12th Street) station.
The Roosevelt Road (formerly 12th Street) “L” station on the Metropolitan’s Douglas Park branch opened in 1896 and closed in 1952. In December 1951, the CTA turned it into a “partial service” station, where there was no ticket agent. You could enter the station by placing a token into a turnstyle. This experiment was short-lived, and the station was closed in May 1952.
This shows the Douglas Park “L”, today’s CTA Pink Line.
Sanborn Maps from 1906:
A key to the areas covered by this 1906 set of maps.
This map shows the Halsted station on the Lake Street “L”. It was open from 1893 until 1994. It closed during the two-year rehabilitation project for what is now the CTA Green Line and was eventually replaced by a new station at Morgan Street, which opened in 2012.
A close-up of the Halsted “L” station on the Lake Street line.
The Lake Street “L”.
The Lake Street “L”.
The Lake Street “L”.
The Lake Street “L” station at Canal. The “L” crosses the Chicago River here, and in 1906, there was a swing bridge which was eventually replaced. Swing bridges were a hazard to navigation.
The Canal Street “L” station on the Lake Street line opened in 1893 and was replaced by the Clinton station one block west in 1909.
The Lake Street “L” station at Canal.
North is to the left on this map, which shows a curve on the old Metropolitan “L” main line west of the Chicago River. This was part of a double curve east of Halsted Street.
The Met “L” Main Line.
The Met “L” Main Line near Clinton Street. Chicago renumbered many streets after this map was made in 1906. In 1911, the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy railroad built its headquarters at 547 W. Jackson, just to the north of the “L”. While the “L” here closed in 1958 and was removed soon after, that building remains and its shape was partially determined by the “L”. Note the Chicago Union Traction cable power house.
The Met “L” station at Canal Street. A new Union Station was built nearby and opened in 1925. The “L” station had a direct enclosed walkway to it, which was used by thousands of people each day.
The Met “L” station at Canal Street opened in 1895 and was rebuilt after a fire in 1922. The platform configuration remained the same, but a new headhouse was built, designed by Arthur U. Gerber. This station closed in 1958 when the new Congress rapid transit line opened nearby, which connected to the Milwaukee-Dearborn-Congress Subway.
The Met “L” crossed the tracks leading to Union Station at an angle, and also crossed the Chicago River this way.
North is to the left on this map, which shows the Met “L” curving a bit towards the north, just east of the Halsted station. Once the buildings surrounding the “L” were cleared away in the early 1950s, for construction of what is now the Kennedy Expressway, this became a favorite site for photographers looking to the east from the “L” station.
For a minute, I thought this might be Chicago, but apparently not. There was a streetcar #6093 in Chicago, but not until 1914 and the beginnings of the CSL era. That’s not a CSL logo on the side of the car. And Route 9 here was Ashland, not something going to Exchange Depot, whatever that was. It might possibly be Philadelphia, as they had cars like these in a 6000-series (later converted to Peter Witts with the addition of a center door), and they were an early adopter of numbered routes. But there is also a strange logo on the side of the car that I do not recognize. Frank Hicks: “This is International Railway Company in Buffalo. It’s part of a series of 200 Nearside cars built for them by Kuhlman in 1912, a follow-on to their original order for Nearside cars from Brill in 1911.”
A close-up of the unusual logo on the side of the car.
An eastbound single-car Douglas Park train passes by the old Met “L” powerhouse and shops at Throop Street, built in 1894. William C. Hoffman took this picture on October 29, 1950. Work was already underway clearing buildings for construction of the Congress Expressway, today’s I-290 (aka the Eisenhower). The discoloration of the brick was caused by some sort of chemical leaching process.
A close-up of the previous picture, showing the 1894 construction date for the massive Met power house. The “L” opened the following year. The blue line through the date is actually a scratch on the original slide.
The view looking northwest from Congress and Racine on May 14, 1950, showing the old Met “L” power house, the Throop Street Shops, and a bit of the Racine station. (William C. Hoffman Photo)