South Side Elevated
January 4, 1888 - The Chicago and South Side Rapid Transit Company is incorporated under the general railroad laws of the State of Illinois.
March 26, 1888 - The city aldermen approve a franchise for the SSRT allowing it to build an elevated railroad starting at an unspecified location between Wabash and Dearborn from the north line of Van Buren Street south to 39th Street (the then-city limits). Mayor Roche adds his signature a few days later. The franchise is good for 50 years and allowed uniformed police and firemen to ride free (a practice that continues on the CTA today).
January 15, 1889 - The stockholders of the Chicago City Railway, a street railway company that would ultimately be completing with the SSRT, approve a stock purchase would effectively makes the CCRy the majority stockholder in the SSRT. Complete coordination of streetcar and "L" services, however, was opposed by the city to prevent the possibility of a monopoly. CCRy control ended in 1893 when, after SSRT ridership began to plummet, most stockholders sold their shares.
November 1890 - An international committee chooses Jackson Park as the site of the 1893 World's Fair. Not wishing to miss out on the potential ridership from this area which they intended to ultimately serve anyway, the SSRT begins making plans to extend from 39th Street to Jackson Park. Early reports indicated that the SSRT wanted to run over East 63rd Street to reach the grounds (which would have required property owner consent), but the company instead requested the use private property. The aldermen approve a route south from 39th to a point between 40th and 43rd Streets, east to a point east of Indiana Avenue, south to between 60th and 67th Streets, then east to Jackson Park. Two branch lines were also approved: a never-built line extending south from 63rd to 71st Street between South Park [King Drive] and Cottage Grove Avenues; and a branch leaving the main line between 55th and 59th Streets, heading west to a point between Wentworth and Wallace Avenues, then south to terminate at 63rd Street [this would become the Englewood branch].
January 1892 - An order is placed with the Baldwin Locomotive Works for 20 Vauclain four-cylinder compound locomotives. In February, 180 passenger coaches are ordered from the Gilbert Car Company and the Jackson & Sharp Company. A few months later, 26 additional locomotives are ordered.
April 7, 1892 - The SSRT reverses itself and decides to use the public right-of-way over East 63rd Street to reach Jackson Park instead of utilizing private property. The route would save time and money and since the street is sparsely populated, resident objection would be minimum. The aldermen agree and grant permission.
May 27, 1892 - The first train carrying passengers over the SSRT operates. A 6-car train carrying 300 guests of the company makes an inspection run before the inauguration of regular passenger service.
June 6, 1892 - Revenue passenger service begins between Congress Street terminal and 39th Street.
August 14, 1892 - Service is extended south to 47th Street. Service is continually extended south as the structure is completed. Extensions to 51st, then 55th Street soon follow.
January 22, 1893 - The structure is completed to 63rd Street, allowing service as far south as 61st Street station.
April 23, 1893 - Service is extended to Madison (Dorchester) Avenue. Since the line was not completed to Jackson Park when the fair opened on May 1st, passengers use a temporary walkway on the elevated structure from Madison station to reach the fair grounds until completion of the line.
May 12, 1893 - The line completed to Jackson Park, location of the Columbian Exposition of 1893. The station is located above an annex to the famous Louis Sullivan-designed Transportation Building. A direct platform transfer is built to the exposition's own Columbian Intramural Railway. At night, when the fair is closed, trains terminate one station west at Stony Island Avenue.
October 31, 1893 - Concurrent with the closure of the Columbian Exposition, the Jackson Park station is closed and service is cut back to Stony Island. The Stony Island station is later renamed "Jackson Park".
October 5, 1895 - Due to falling post-fair ridership and high operating costs, the SSRT is unable to cover the interest due on its outstanding securities. The Northern Trust Company and the Illinois Trust & Savings Bank, acting as trustees for the bondholders, force the company into receivership.
January 14, 1897 - The South Side Elevated Railroad incorporated to acquire bankrupt South Side Rapid Transit Company. The franchises were transferred to the new company two weeks later; title to the physical plant would not be transferred until July 28th.
April 1, 1897 - Following the recommendation of employee Frank Julian Sprague, the Sargent & Lundy company (who had been retained by the South Side Elevated to supervise the electrification of their line) offers to equip 120 of the South Side's 180 passenger coaches with electric lights, heaters, motors, trucks, controls, braking systems, and perhaps most importantly a multiple unit (MU) train control system. MU, Sprague's personal invention, existed then only on paper and the experimental system promised to be able to allow one man to control a train of any length from a single operating position, with operating cabs in both ends of every car. Such a system had never been tried before on any transit system.
October 18, 1897 - Following the completion of the Union Loop elevated structure, South Side trains are diverted from the Congress Street Stub to the Loop elevated line. The South Side would be the only company to run steam trains over the Loop, operating on the Inner Loop in a counterclockwise direction. Concurrent with the opening of the Loop, the Congress Stub is deactivated.
November 12, 1897 - The first demonstration of Sprague's MU on Chicago tracks takes place for officials of the South Side and Union Elevated companies when three cars were run on the 63rd Street center track. Power is supplied from the CCRy's 63rd Street streetcar line. A reporter aboard from the Chicago Times-Herald declares the test an unqualified success.
November 17, 1897 - A five-car test train of MU-equipped South Side Elevated cars begins an exhaustive testing period, running in actual revenue passenger operation on the Metropolitan West Side Elevated (the South Side's own power house was still incomplete). The test continued through the end of the year. No significant problems are encountered.
April 15, 1898 - The first electrically operated train runs over the entire South Side Elevated line. Five days later, 20 cars are placed in service. That night, 17 are withdrawn from service due to defective rheostats. The problem is soon corrected and the cars are placed back in service.
July 27, 1898 - The conversion to electric traction on the South Side Elevated is complete and all steam locomotives are withdrawn from service.
October 19, 1898 - Jubilee Day, part of a three-day long celebration of America's victory in the Spanish-American War, draws enormous crowds to the downtown area, where streetcars have been banned. The South Side operates an average of 240 cars per hour onto and off the Loop, handling over 129,000 passengers, a feat that would have been impossible without MU control.
March 10, 1902 - Due to congestion on the Loop elevated, the Congress Street terminal is reopened for certain rush hour trains. To distinguish it from the new Congress/Wabash station a 1/2 block east, the stub terminal is referred to as "Old Congress". Information indicates that it may have only been served by Englewood trains by 1913.
March 16, 1903 - City permission is given to add a third express track between 12th Street and 43rd Street. The track is placed above the adjacent alley and as part of the agreement, the South Side Elevated must pave the alley below and replace their station houses with mezzanine facilities that allow cars to pass beneath. On the same date, a 35-year franchise is given to the Englewood Elevated Railroad Company (who was controlled by the South Side Elevated) to build a main line that would leave the South Side between 55th and 60th Streets, turn west to between Wentworth and Wallace Avenues, turn south to a point between 61st and 67th Avenues, then turn south and terminate between Racine and Ashland Avenues [the Englewood branch]; as well as a branch line leaving the above and paralleling Wentworth Avenue to a point between 68th and 72nd Streets [the Normal Park branch].
May 14, 1903 - A preliminary agreement is reached with the Chicago Junction Railroad to allow the South Side Elevated to construct branches to the Union Stock Yards and Kenwood neighborhood along their existing right-of-way. The work would be done in conjunction with the elevation of the Junction Railway's tracks, which had been required by a city council ordinance.
September 30, 1903 - A 50-year lease is signed between the South Side Elevated and the Chicago Junction Railway with an option for two 50-year renewals and an option to buy.
November 3, 1905 - The first phase of the Englewood branch opens as far as State Street. A shuttle car in placed in operation that connects to the main line at 58th Street, where passengers can transfer to Loop-Jackson Park trains.
December 10, 1905 - Englewood branch service is extended to Wentworth Avenue.
January 11, 1906 - The Englewood shuttle is extended to Princeton Avenue station.
November 3, 1906 - The next section of the Englewood branch, a two block stretch to Harvard Avenue at 63rd Street, finally opens, having been the victim of a 228-day steel workers' strike. At this time, express service to the Loop is instituted during rush hours. The shuttle to 58th Street remains in operation at all other times.
December 24, 1906 - The Englewood branch is extended to Halsted Street, also activating the Parnell Street station.
February 25, 1907 - Englewood service is extended west to Center [Racine] Avenue.
May 25, 1907 - The Normal Park branch opens, leaving the Englewood branch at Harvard Avenue and terminating at 69th Street.
March 26, 1907 - Express service begins between 12th and 43rd Street using the new center track. Trains operate express northbound in the morning and southbound in the evening.
July 13, 1907 - The Englewood branch completed to its terminal at Loomis Boulevard. The terminal also includes a coach yard and light maintenance facility.
September 20, 1907 - Delayed by problems elevating the adjacent Chicago Junction Railway tracks and in construction of the transit facilities, the Kenwood branch opens between 42nd Place and Oakenwald and Indiana Avenue station. Base service consists of 42nd-Indiana shuttles alternating with 42nd-Loop locals. Express service to the Loop is operated at peak times.
April 8, 1908 - The Stock Yards branch opens. The line leaves the main line at Indiana Avenue and proceeds in a basically westerly direction before terminating in a one-track loop around the Packingtown area of the Stock Yards. It is reported that 25,000 persons, mostly curiosity seekers, ride the first day.
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 3, 1913 - Crosstown "L" service is first initiated, with trains running from Linden Avenue in Wilmette to the Stony Island Avenue terminal in Chicago's Jackson Park. The South Side and Northwestern trains operate on the outer track in a counterclockwise direction (actually only running over two sides of the Loop on each crosstown trip). Crosstown pairings include Evanston-Jackson Park, Wilson-Englewood, and Wilson-South Park runs (the last being believed to be very short-lived).
November 4, 1913 - Additional crosstown runs are instituted between Ravenswood and Kenwood. Some Ravenswood trips continue to terminate in the Loop, while a few others find their way down to 61st Street.
August 6, 1919 - The North Shore Line begins Chicago operations, with most trains terminating at Roosevelt Road (though the line's company office was at 209 S. Wabash, directly opposite the Adams & Wabash "L" stop). From 1922 to 1938, North Shore trains would terminate at the Dorchester Avenue station on the Jackson Park branch.