Lake Street Elevated

February 7, 1888 - The Lake Street Elevated Railway Company is incorporated for the purpose of "building, constructing, and operating an elevated railway in the City of Chicago and the County of Cook commencing at the east end of Lake Street in the City of Chicago, thence running westward along said Lake Street to the Village of Oak Park."

December 1888 - A 25-year franchise is approved which allows the Lake Street Elevated to construct an elevated railroad conforming to an experimental monorail design above Lake Street from Canal Street to 40th Avenue.

December 18, 1889 - The first girder is raised into place at Clinton and Lake Streets.

November 1890 - The monorail requirement is deleted from the Lake Street's franchise, allowing construction of a traditional cross-girder elevated structure. This is a more symbolic gesture than anything else since construction had already begun a year ago. Also approved are franchises for the construction of a downtown loop using a back alley route and a westward extension of the line from 40th Avenue to 52nd Avenue in newly annexed territory from the Town of Cicero.

August 24, 1892 - Responding to fears that the railroad may have been incorporated under the wrong Illinois statute, the company is reorganized as Lake Street Elevated Railroad Company.

early 1893 - The Lake Street Elevated requests a franchise to build a three-block long branch south from Lake Street to Madison Street over Market Street. Although this location was still some distance from the heart of the business district, it was better than the alley loop which was looking increasingly unlikely to materialize. The franchise is approved with remarkably little discussion.

November 4, 1893 - The Lake Street Elevated is dedicated when five special five-car trains carrying more than a thousand guests makes an inspection tour of the new elevated line.

November 6, 1893 - Regular passenger service begins between Market & Madison and California Avenue, using trains powered by steam locomotives. Opening of the line west of California was delayed due to unfinished stations. Over 50,000 passengers rode on the first day.

November 24, 1893 - Service is extended west to Homan Avenue.

January 1894 - Trains run as far west as Hamlin Avenue.

early March 1894 - Cicero Township grants, and the Lake Street accepts, a franchise to extend the line west from 52nd Avenue to 72nd (Harlem) Avenue on the township's western boundary. Construction was to be completed by December 1, 1895, though certain stations did not have to be completed until the end of 1897. The Lake Street is unmotivated to begin construction.

late March 1894 - Service is extended from Hamlin to 48th (Cicero) Avenue.

April 29, 1894 - The line is in service all the way to its western terminal when trains begin serving the still-unfinished station at 52nd (Laramie) Avenue.

July 3, 1894 - Transit magnate Charles Tyson Yerkes purchases a controlling interest in the Lake Street Elevated Railroad.

October 1, 1894 - The city council grants permission to the Lake Street Elevated to build an extension above Lake Street east from Market Street to Wabash Avenue in the central business district. The city required stations be built at Fifth [Wells] Avenue, Clark Street and State Street. This section is intended to be the north leg of the Union Loop.

January 1894 - Management decides to convert the Lake Street Elevated from steam power to electric traction as a cost-saving measure. To keep costs down, it is decided to convert some of the existing passenger trailers into motor cars.

March 1895 - The trustees of Cicero Township approve a revised franchise for the Lake Street Elevated. The company only had to open the line as far west as Austin Avenue by December 1st, but the remainder to 72nd Avenue had to be completed by December 1, 1896. The Lake Street declines the franchise and allows the deadline to pass, apparently forfeiting their rights in Cicero Township.

September 22, 1895 - Following completion of the new structure, trains are rerouted from the Market & Madison station to a new downtown terminal at State Street and Lake Street. Concurrently, shuttle service from the Canal Street station is introduced to serve what is now the Market Street stub terminal.

May 9, 1896 - Electric operations are introduced as the first motorcar-powered train makes a short run for demonstration purposes.

June 13, 1896 - The last of the steam trains make their final runs and are quietly retired.

June 20, 1896 - A three-car westbound train derails near Rockwell Street. The derailment sends one car plunging to the street. Steam power is re-instituted the next day. All motor cars are taken out of service pending replacement of their trucks, which may have been part of the cause of the accident.

September 20, 1896 - Electric operations resume without fanfare.

November 8, 1896 - The Wabash leg of the Loop between Lake Street and Adams/Wabash station begins operations at 7am. With the rest of the Loop structure still a year away from completion, the Lake Street Elevated finds itself in the enviable position of operating the only "L" service into the heart of downtown.

June 30, 1897 - A 50-year franchise to granted to a Mr. Frank Kimball to construct a railroad of an unspecified type in certain streets in Cicero township, including an alignment along Lake Street/South Boulevard from 52nd to 72nd Avenue. A clause stipulates that should any of the authorized lines be leased to an existing Chicago elevated whose tracks terminate at the Chicago-Cicero border (obviously referring to the Lake Street Elevated), a through fare of five cents be charged to any point on Wabash Avenue north of Van Buren Street. Kimball accepts the franchise and immediately reassigns it to the Lake Street Elevated.

October 3, 1897 - With the opening of the Van Buren and Wells Street legs, trains start operating entirely around Loop in a clockwise direction on the outer track. Trains make the transition from right-hand running to left-hand at Franklin Street. The Market shuttle continues operation.

December 19/20, 1898 - The "Midnight Franchise" is approved in a bargain between Yerkes and the three Cicero trustees from Austin, who disregard the wishes of their Oak Park counterparts. The five cent fare is only in effect between the Loop and Austin Avenue station; west of Austin, the through-fare would be eight cents. The franchise not only authorized the Lake Street/South Boulevard route, but four branches as well: a block-long branch on Lombard north to Lake Street to connect with streetcar tracks; a two-block line south in Lombard to connect with the tracks of the former Chicago Harlem & Batavia Railroad to reach 72nd Avenue; the third was the leave the CH&B line at Cuyler Avenue and run south to meet the tracks of the Suburban Railroad; the last was a connection between the Lake Street and Randolph tracks via Willow Street. Buried deep in the franchise was an innocuous-sounding clause allowing the company to delay operations on South Boulevard west of Austin indefinitely if service were provided to 72nd Avenue via the Suburban Railroad's Randolph Street trackage. This clause would become the focus of a heated disagreement between the citizens of Oak Park and the Lake Street Elevated.

April 19, 1899 - Service is extended west to Austin Avenue, using ground level operation and overhead trolley electrification for safety reasons due to the excessive number of grade crossings.

May 14, 1899 - Service extended west to Wisconsin Avenues (one block east of Harlem Avenue), using Lombard Avenue and the streetcar trackage on Randolph Street operated by the Suburban Railroad. Work is begun soon thereafter on the single-track Cuyler Avenue branch specified in the Midnight Franchise.

May 30, 1899 - Race track specials begin serving the Harlem Race Track near Roosevelt Road and Hannah Avenue in the Village of Harlem (now Forest Park). The express trains operate to and from the Loop via the Lake Street Elevated, Lombard, Randolph, Cuyler, Harrison, and the Suburban Railroad's streetcar trackage (72nd Avenue, 13th Street, Hannah Avenue). The fact that the race track (which was considered a place of low moral character) could receive express service and not the citizens of Oak Park would become a bone of contention. To hold the franchise, a shuttle car operates on Cuyler Avenue between Harrison and the Lombard/Randolph station on days when the race track was closed.

February 1, 1901 - Service is extended to Harlem Avenue via South Boulevard, with most trains rerouted onto the new trackage from the Randolph Street line.

August 7, 1902 - The Lake Street switches to left-hand running between the Loop and Austin Avenue to minimize switching delays.

July 1902 - The Suburban Railroad is placed in receivership. The receiver annuls the Suburban's leasing of the Randolph tacks from the Chicago Terminal Transfer company, which in turn terminates the "L"'s rights to use the tracks. The elevated's Randolph Street service continues uninterrupted anyway.

August 11, 1902 - Express service is instituted between the Loop and Oak Park. Train lave Wisconsin/South every ten minutes in the morning and from the Loop every six minutes in the evening. Expresses make no stops between 48th and Oakley and by-pass three other stations between Oakley and Canal. Saturday express service is soon added.

November 10, 1902 - Express service to Oak Park is suspended after the Oak Park village board orders Lake Street president Clarence Knight to find an alternative storage site for the cars displaced from the Lake Street's center track to allow express service. (Knight was storing them on an unused streetcar track on Randolph Street east of Lombard Avenue.) Knight refused and moved the cars back onto the center track.

November 12, 1902 - Express service to Oak Park is reinstated after the Lake Street sees a severe drop in ridership after its suspension.

late March 1903 - Responding to the demands of the local Oak Park citizenry to restore service on the Randolph Avenue branch, the Lake Street institutes a shuttle car on the line that operates continuously between Wisconsin Avenue and Lombard Avenue, where connections could be had with the Lake Street main line.

April 1, 1903 - The Randolph Street shuttle car is placed by direct Loop service daily except Sunday (when the shuttle continued to run). This was accomplished by the Lake Street Elevated at no additional cost to them: they simply diverted every third train from South Boulevard to Randolph Street. This resulted in a reduced level of service on South Boulevard and inadequate service on Randolph. The company continues to turn half its trains back at Austin as well.

November 5, 1903 - A reorganization scheme for the cash-poor Lake Street Elevated is developed under which the assets of the Lake Street would be sold and a new company would take its place. The Blair & Company syndicate agrees to finance to new company through the purchase of $4.5 million in stocks and bonds.

December 21, 1903 - C&OP service is discontinued on Randolph Street route after the Illinois Supreme Court rules that the Chicago Terminal Transfer company's right to occupy Randolph Street had terminated in 1901 with the expiration of the Chicago Harlem & Batavia franchise. (The CTT had leased the tracks to the Suburban Railroad, which in turn had given trackage rights to the C&OP.) The line had also been running at an operating loss of $40 a day and had continually suffered opposition from local property owners. The service is temporarily replaced with a Suburban Railway shuttle car that operates between Harlem Avenue and the "L"'s Lombard/South Boulevard station.

December 24, 1903 - The Suburban car runs for the last time. Oak Park citizen Allen Ray forces an admission that the car was not operating, thus annulling the franchise.

December 26, 1903 - During the early morning hours, local police sever the Suburban's track at Harlem and Lombard.

January 7, 1904 - The Oak Park village board officially order's the removal of the Suburban Railroad's Randolph Avenue tracks and stations. The only section spared was that on Randolph and Lombard, connecting the Lake Street's main line with their Cuyler Avenue branch. These tracks were allowed to stay only at the sufferance of the village and CTT.

March 31, 1904 - The stockholders of the Lake Street Elevated Railroad vote to rename the company the Chicago & Oak Park Elevated Railway Company as part of their reorganization scheme. The name change takes effect the next day.

June 1904 - A nationwide backlash against illegal gambling causes the Harlem Race Track to close. Concurrently, the C&OP's race track specials cease operation.

July 9, 1905 - The CTT's good will runs out and the tracks on Randolph and Lombard are removed, cutting the C&OP's Cuyler Avenue branch in two.

October 6, 1906 - The C&OP institutes a new express schedule which reduces running time between Wisconsin Avenue and the Loop to just 28 minutes. The trains skip all stations between Central and Oakley and between Ashland and Halsted. On the first day, 54,000 people ride the new service.

July 23, 1909 - The C&OP resumes operation on the idle Cuyler Avenue trackage. With the tracks still severed between Randolph and South Boulevard, the service operates between Randolph and Harrison using a borrowed Chicago Union Traction streetcar.

late March 1910 - A franchise is granted to the Chicago & Elmhurst interurban (a subsidiary of the C&OP) to allow the "L" to operate as far west as Marengo Avenue in Forest Park.

May 20, 1910 - The Marengo Avenue station officially enters service at 9am. Only one track crosses Harlem Avenue to enter the station; a second track is added a few years later.

January 10, 1911 - After bowing to pressure from residents at the south end of the line, the Village of Oak Park grants temporary permission to install the missing trackage between Randolph and South Boulevard following the old route along Randolph and Lombard. Permanent permission was not possible due to continuing litigation over the C&OP's legal right to occupy Cuyler Avenue.

Summer, 1911 - The first consolidation of Chicago's rapid transit system takes place. The city's four "L" companies (the South Side Elevated Railroad, the Metropolitan West Side Elevated Railroad, the Chicago & Oak Park Elevated Railway and the Northwestern) form a "voluntary association" under the name of the Chicago Elevated Railways Collateral Trust (CER). The CER functioned as a holding company; yielding the benefits of centralized control without dissolving the underlying companies.

August, 1911 -The organizational structures of the four "L" companies are overhauled. Samuel Insull is elected as the CER's chairman, while Metropolitan Elevated's president Britton I. Budd is named president of the newly-formed CER.

November 13, 1911 -The financially-exhausted Chicago & Oak Park Elevated is placed into receivership at the request of the Central Trust Company of New York.

June 1912 - The Village of Oak Park orders the C&OP to pave the track area on their Cuyler Avenue branch. The C&OP refuses.

July 4, 1912 - The Cuyler Avenue branch ceases operation. Two days previous, the C&OP informed the U.S. District Court (who was overseeing the company's reorganization) that it was no longer interested in operating the service.

November 3, 1913 - Crosstown "L" service is instituted and Loop operations are revised. All train begin circling the Loop counterclockwise, with the Met and C&OP [Lake Street] assigned to the Inner Loop track. Free transfers also take effect between the Met and the C&OP where their lines cross at Lake and Paulina. Because the Met already had a Lake Street station there, platforms were simply added to the C&OP's tracks. However, the work was not complete by November 3rd, so walking transfers were instituted between here and the C&OP's Wood Street station for a few weeks. Upon completion, the new Lake Street Transfer station opened and Wood Street closed.