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Memories Page 4
I grew up in Wilmette and used to ride on Evanston 'L. I fondly remember riding on single CTA 1-50 series cars between Linden Ave. terminal and Howard St. under singing wires. In the early sixties, my mother, wearing appropriate clothes of the day for shopping , put several coins from her hand purse on the farebox under the watchful eyes of a motorman in his cab in the single car waiting to depart the Linden Ave. terminal and we rode to Davis St. for shopping.
A ground level stretch between Linden Ave. and Isabella St. used to resemble a classic traction scene on days before the third rail and chain-link fences were installed. You could literately ride a PCC car dashing through the backyards in southeastern Wilmette under the trolley wires. To me, CTA's 1-50 series equipped with trolley poles and assigned to Evanston 'L' were more like trolley cars than rapid transit cars. I was too young to remember streetcars in revenue service, but I could understand what the word trolley meant, thanks to the Evanston single 'L' cars.
The single 'L' cars, along with their 6000-series brethren, were unique rapid transit cars in the world for possessing many streetcar-like features: standee windows, streetcar-type blinker doors, window sash handle cranks, bulls-eye lighting fixtures, brown seats and more. One day when I rode home from high school in car 45, I spied on a sign on the back of one of the seats, asking passengers to alight at the rear exit. That prompted me to write a letter to the CTA headquarters in Merchandise Mart. They immediately responded in a letter saying that the 'L cars were remanufactured from CTA's old Green Hornet PCC streetcars, using certain components salvaged from the scrapped streetcar bodies. It explained why the 1-50 and some of the 6000-series cars had visible streetcar origins. Well, at the point, I could not believe that I had ridden on reincarnated PCC streetcars in Wilmette and Evanston.
I grew up in Evanston, actually very close to the Main St. station. I used to play on the tracks nearby, before 3rd rail came in. There was a siding off the C&NW tracks, on the north side of Main St., where cars would be parked with stuff for Evanston Lumber. One time we were playing up there and saw that there was a whole flatcar loaded with sheetrock, so naturally we took a few sheets of it and constructed a little "house" on the southbound "L" track and waited for a train to come. The motorman stopped, of course, stepped out, took off his cap and scratched his head, then violently kicked apart the "building". We were hiding under a freight car, scared shitless...
My interest in trains and urban transit stems directly from my childhood home at 21st and Karlov on Chicago's west side, not quite 50 feet from what is now the Cermak branch of the Blue Line (As you no doubt know, it was called the Douglas-Milwaukee in those days.) I remember coming home from school in the afternoon and putting off my homework until the parade of the afternoon rush hour past my bedroom window was over. I recall the 6000's, as well as the 2200's and the 2400's when both series were brand new. I was even fortunate enough to ride one of the last westbound 6000 runs on the Douglas branch in March of 1987. Until 1978, both the Congress and Douglas branches ran 6-car trains at more frequent headways during rush hour, which of course, made it a real treat for me! I became so attuned to them, it got to the point where I could tell the direction of the train without even looking out the window; the sound it made was enough for me. Eastbound trains approaching Pulaski would slow down for a little curve leading into the station. Westbound trains were louder, because they were accelerating down the elevated, and would hit grade level at the following stop, Kildare.
Some of the pictures at your site sent a whole lot of pleasant memories flooding right back to me... things that I had almost forgotten. Thank God for the internet!
In the late 50's, early 60's we lived in Wisconsin, but being Chicago born, many relatives of my mom's large Milwaukee Ave. and Wolfram St. Polish family still lived there. We would occasionally visit my Uncle Frank and Aunt Lou's place on Milwaukee Ave, across from the Logan Theatre. I was born in '50, so I was between 8 and 11 or 12 during these visits back to the neighborhood. My Uncle Frank had been a CTA bus driver (Diversey, Milwaukee-Devon #56, and Fullerton lines), along with time on the streetcars of years past., for 30-some years. I would take his badge (Frank Engelthaler was his name), by the way, and walk the few blocks to the Logan Square terminal of the Milwaukee/Congress line. There I would board, free of charge of course, for the round trip to Forest Park, along the, then, Congress Expressway.
Always had the front seat, across from the motorman... and felt like the "big wheel"... being all by myself. I remember the slight sense of fright when those trains would make the last short turn into that creaking, old, wooden terminal, as well as the aromas which transcended from the newer 6000-series cars, the wheel friction and the screeching of the trucks as they made the turn back out, bound for Forest Park. Being that young, and in awe as I was, I cannot help but immediately go back in time when I'm near the city, the CTA, and the "L". The Logan Square terminal is long gone, as is the infamous cream/green with orange stripe paint schemes, and the CTA/Metropolitan Transit logo, which I will never forget. In many ways, to me, a bit of the old should be brought back (paint schemes, the old logo)... they were the real CTA! With locations such as the Illinois Railway Museum, the Fox Valley Museum, etc., keeping these cars and memories alive, how can one forget, and why would one want to?
So, for this Chicago born Wisconsin kid, the trip to Uncle Frank's was the ultimate. The creaking, the screeching, the color, atmosphere of the Logan Square terminal and the Milwaukee/Congress "A" train, will never be forgotten. My 12 year old daughter and I now take the "L" from Howard St. to Addison St. for Cub games each year, now for the last 3. A bit of nostalgia for me... but her turn for that front seat, across from the motorman!
BRING BACK THOSE OLD 6000's, the cream, green and orange stripe paint schemes, the CTA/Metropolitan Transit logo, and those old "Flxible" propanes on the #56 line... can I go Uncle Frank?? Thanks!
Reading memoirs from your contributors brought back memories. In the early 70's, the many trips I made from home in Rogers Park to Lane Technical High School and back were memorable, particularly the home stretch. We'd leave the Addison bus eastbound at the Ravenswood (now Brown Line) Addison station, take a southbound Ravenswood to Belmont, cross platforms to the northbound Howard line and wait. Belmont was, I believe an A-station. If an A-train came first and time was on our sides, we could take it and wave to our friends as we whizzed past the northbound Addison platform (B-stop only); on the other hand, if the "B" trains slowed enough, as they often did in advance of the Ravenswood interlocking, we could board between cars and get seats ahead of our friends, waiting at the Addison platforms. Something I hope my kids never even think of!
My grandpa once told me how caskets and mourners got to the cemeteries before cars. He described this long process where the casket would be carried by horse and buggy to a train station, with friends and family following behind. They'd get on the train, with the casket and take it out west to Westchester's Queen of Heaven and Mt. Carmel cemeteries. The ride would be long so people would pack a lunch--eat on the way or have a picnic at gravesite. Another horse and buggy would pick up the casket at the end of the line, and people would follow to the cemetery. This has been backed up by other Chicago history buffs that I know--including how there still exists remnants of an El station in or near Graceland cemetery.
When I began using the el, the fare was 5 cents, then there was an uproar when it went to 7 cents. I have seen some terrible accidents with the old wooden cars telescoping into each other (one such accident was on the Douglas at Marshall Sq. Blvd. about 1935), and the time a train jumped the curve at Lake and Wells and impaled itself in the corner building.
The memory from Mr. Baudler turns out that he lived a block south of where I lived. Our flat backed up to the Lake El , which ran all night. There was a fire station on our corner, which also went out all night; I did not think I would ever sleep again, but I got conditioned to it.
As a child, back in the '50s, I visited my grandparents in the summer several times. They lived in an apt. bldg in the 6000 block of N Winthrop, near the Thorndale L station. I used to fall asleep & be awakened early in the morning by the trains going by at the rear of the building. A highlight of these trips was a trip downtown on the L.
One memory stands out for me. On the return trip outbound (A train), a good portion of the route on the elevated segment was on the outer track. As a child, I was concerned about being at the edge, with no visible protection to prevent the train from going off into the street below. My guess is that this started somewhere below Fullerton & shifted back to the inner track somewhere north of the Wilson yards since the Thorndale station was in the center, between the two inner tracks. I particularly remember slowly negotiating the S curve at Sheridan (possible due to that station having two platforms).
Ernie Baudler at The Illinois Railway Museum in front of car 2154 next to the 50th Avenue "L" station on April 21, 1999.
I have included a photo of myself at The Illinois Railway Museum in front of car 2154 next to the 50th Avenue. "L" station which, by the way, I am also intimately familiar with. After my father passed away my family moved to Cicero IL and I used to use this station and the Cicero Avenue station on the Douglas line to travel around the city. There was a National grocery store directly along side the south side of the platform and when I was in high school, used to work there!
I didn't work for the CTA for enough years to consider myself an Old Timer - unfortunately. I was there during the early '60s, working mostly on the Lake Street "L". The best times were when I worked the old Tower 18. What a wonderful experience that was! At T-18 I held a midnight shift for some time, but on occasion I'd pull a PM or AM shift.
One of the most awesome sights during a rush hour at Tower 18 was when timing would work out just right and I'd have three six car trains moving through the plant at the same time: Ravenswood outbound, turning North on the outer Loop, Lake West bound over the 90 degree crossing, and Lake inbound through the curved crossing. During that 30 to 40 seconds you'd be surrounded by the sight of a swirling river of car roofs and thumping, grinding, squealing sounds that just can't be described!
One of the neat people I worked with was a black gentleman who went by the nickname "Chicken Teeth" Hawkins. Mr. Hawkins was one of the Motormen who trained me - "Not very successfully!" according to him. He had a very expressive face with rubbery lips, a snaggletooth grin and eyes that would bulge out alarmingly at his whim.
At any minor transgression (imagined or real) he would put on a hideous glare with his eyes almost popping out of his head. The effect was that he was about to bite you into small pieces and spit you out on the tracks. The recipient of his foul scowl (me, for example) would recoil in horror, and then he would bust out in a merry fit of laughter. He really was an old softy. I asked him how he got the nickname "Chicken Teeth." He glared at me and said "Boy, ain't you never seen chicken teeth?" I told him "No" and he snapped back "That's 'cause they's as rare as I AM"
All of this leads up to the day he referred to "the foo catcher." I asked him "What the heck is a foo catcher?" Mr. Hawkins grinned and replied, "You see them little fenced in platforms at either end of the passenger platforms? You watch, some day you gonna stop a train short so's the door on the last car is hangin' out past the end of the platform. And if the Conductor ain't payin' attention, he's gonna pop the doors open and, sure as hell, some damn foo' gonna walk straight outta the door without lookin' - if it wasn't for the foo' catcher he'd go sailin' all the way down to the street."
I remember other "foo catchers" that were freestanding between stations, but they were spaced MUCH too far apart along the elevated structure to do anyone much good as a refuge from oncoming trains. BUT, at one time they held barrels of water - especially on or near a bridge - for putting out small fires on the wooden ties, catwalks, etc. This was a necessity back when smoking was allowed on the trains, and the trains had windows that actually opened to let in fresh air. (We also carried handpump water-filled fire extinguishers on two car trains during the summer months.) And all Conductors were highly experienced at lecturing smokers, if we caught them tossing a butt out the window.
I remember times, when the weather was hot and dry for days, having to stop several times in the middle of nowhere in order to run out of the cab, grab the extinguisher, pop open a door and climb down to the tracks in order to put out a smoldering hot spot. On the Lake St. Line, extra filled cans were available at Hamlin and Forest Park, and many of us carried one on each end of the train. They were usually fastened to the safety-chain, outside the door at the end of the car.
One time I stopped for a fire that was too big for the couple of gallons in the train's extinguisher. The nearest "3-foot square free standing platform" with a water barrel was several blocks away. It didn't make sense to roll down the track to refill the extinguisher, then have to run back against traffic to the fire, so we ran the train to the next station and called it in to the Supervisor's office in the Mart. (That was before such civilized amenities as Train Phones or cab radios.)
On our trip back out from the Loop we got a good view of one of Chicago's fine Fire Companies dowsing the tracks and wood work from ladders propped against the structure. The damage wasn't severe, but a Carpenter Crew had to do some unscheduled repair work a week or so later.
Thanks for the great trip down memory lane! I worked for the CTA for 5 years ('89-'94) as a part time ticket agent, and have worked at almost every station currently in use... Also, I was the very last ticket agent on duty at Madison-Wells.
Most of my five years was spent on the Howard/Ravenswood/Evanston/Skokie lines, and I can't tell you how many Sundays I spent in the old Linden station... I wish I could remember the name of the concession stand owner!
I didn't notice a link for Noyes or Foster stations on the Evanston line... which must have had the smallest collection booths in the system!
Toward the end of my time at CTA, I worked on the Midway line exclusively. I glad to be rid of the money handling duties, but the flavor just wasn't the same.
Thanks again for the memories!
Carl Leon Kay contributed a thoughtful, thorough essay detailing his memories of the "L" from his childhood, young adulthood and adulthood. It is too long to include here, so I gave it its own page. Click here to read it.
I love the background of the 6000 series train laying up between Howard and Morse. I grew up in Rogers Park in the 1960s and remember seeing these cars every Sunday morning on the northbound express track. There were markers along the tracks noting 8, 16, 24 and 32 car clearance of the interlock at Howard Street.
I was born in Chicago in 1947. I lived there for 18 years before going away to under graduate school in Ohio. My family moved to California the following year (1967). I've always considered Chicago my home and visit whenever possible (usually once every 18 months on average).
Racine in 1998, boarded and abandoned. (Photo by Linda Garfield)
What I missed most of all was the familiar "winding" sound of the 4000's and the "rough" ride that gave the sensation of moving. I was probably five or six years old.
There were still streetcars running on major thoroughfares in Chicago as well. My second most favorite thing to do (after riding the El) was riding the old red streetcars and the PCC cars that were "recycled" into series 6000 cars. I have always been impressed with the fact that the CTA had the foresight to recycle components from the PCC cars; recycling long before it became stylish or necessary.
By the time I was 12 I had ridden over every mile of the El and was able to get anyplace in the city via El. These are some of my memories as a younger El enthusiast, of the old North-South Line (Englewood-Howard/Jackson Park-Howard):
I was thrilled to see your home page on the El's. I grew up at 1641 S. California Ave., across from Douglas Park. We often took the Douglas Park El downtown. We lived at Douglas Park until 1959. I have so many fond memories of Douglas Park and Ambrose Plamondon Elementary School (15th & Washtenaw Ave.) Our neighborhood was still a nice one in the early to mid-1950's. It will always be "home" in my heart. We used to do all our shopping on 22nd St. (my parents never called it "Cermak".) We walked past the el station frequently. When I was a small boy there was a fire in it. I don't think it was a big one but I remember them repainting it and all when we would walk past. It and the Burlington's railroad bridge, roughly a block away, were landmarks from my childhood. Until 1957 when we got our first new car, we always took the el downtown. We seldom took the bus but I do remember riding the old streetcar line on Western Ave.
In 1959, we moved to Crestwood. Sometimes on the weekends in the early 60's, my dad would take us to the end of what I believe was the line that ran down the Dan Ryan (I might not remember accurately.) We would ride the el and subway until we reached a terminus at the northern end. Then we would board a southbound train and go all the way back to the southern terminus. We all really loved that. The subway was so much fun and on the northern end we got such beautiful views of the old churches and synagogues when the train got on the elevated tracks.
Thanks for the memories.
I grew up in Chicago and Morton Grove. Back in the 60's my cousin and I used to ride the Ravenswood from Kedzie (our grandmother lived in Albany Park), catch the subway train at either Belmont or Fullerton and ride all the way down to Jackson Park (something I'm not sure I would do today) or go over and catch the Logan Square route and then come back. The major race was always to see which one of us got the front seat if it was available. I remember the old 4000 series where the conductor had to go between the cars in order to open the doors (I also remember running between the cars in the subway, and standing between them... ok I was young and indestructible at the time), which was really fun when it was cold and icy out. My mom worked at the CTA offices for almost 20 years so I got to meet people like George Krambles who told a lot of good stories. I just wish today I had really paid more attention to them.
I was a third generation employee of the CTA. My grandfather and grandmother were CRT employees. My father was a north side motorman, uncle was a south side supervisor. And I was a west side employee, leaving in 1976 as the superintendent of ticket agents. I worked all sections of the rapid transit as a superintendent and instructor.
My father, Howard D. Brown, was the first one man operator on the Skokie Swift in 1964.. He was also what they called a "line instructor" who taught other motormen how to be operators on the Skokie Swift. My Grandfather, Howard D Brown, Sr. worked on the CRT and was involved with the creation of the A/B station concept.
Any former CTA employees from the 1964 to 1976 era, or anyone interested in that period can contact Ken at:
I learned - from your site - that the CTA and I were born in the same year, 1947. My earliest recollections are when I was living at 1143 N. Noble St., across from Holy Trinity (Polish Catholic) Church. This was (then) a Polish neighborhood, and we lived in a third story apartment in a turn of the century building which no longer exists. Perhaps circa 1952, when I started Kindergarten, I can remember traveling in both directions on the Logan Square run. I remember having to walk the two blocks or so to the triangle of Ashland, Division, and Milwaukee Avenues, where the nearest "L" station was. Heading north toward
"Engineer" Larry Stencel aboard a Northwoods Wisconsin logging train exhibit on July, 25 1952 in Wabeno, WI.
For the most part I grew up on public transportation because my family did not get a car until I was 6 or 7, and even then, it wasn't the most reliable thing in the world. Even so my dad worked downtown and my mom would always work near the el, so they didn't really need a car. I live a couple of blocks away from the O'Hare line station at Belmont and Kimball. When I would spend all day on with my dad riding the Els, either for recreation, or to visit my grandma who lives near the Western stop on the Douglas line. Eventually I lost interest in the els some time in grammar school, but it would be a gap that was short lived.
Between 4th and 8th grade I never rode the Els since I was bussed to school. This changed when I went to high school. I attended Lincoln Park H.S. over at Halsted and Armitage and I had to take a bus and the train to get there. During my freshmen year I became reacquainted with the system and its rolling stock. I took my first trip on the Howard going south. My dad never took me on that line because he felt it was too dangerous at the time. I never rode the old Pullman 2000's until 1991. I also learned to appreciate the 6000's because as early as fall 1991 I remember seeing 3200 series doing test runs on the system. They were annoying because you'd get all excited that a train was coming only to see "not in service" flying by. I knew the 6000s would end their lives after seeing these cars. I rerode the Skokie Swift and Evanston routes, something I hadn't done in over 7 years or so. In 1994 I got a car, but for the most part I still rode the system when I could. By the time I graduated in 1995 the CTA, for better or for worse, had changed.
I always take a ride or two on the L when visiting Chicago, my city of birth. Last time we flew into the city we took the subway or rapid transit in from O'Hare to the Loop. My next visit will take me to the Midway L line. I grew up in rural Homewood and took the ICRR on all its lines. It was a great suburban service. I use to get off at 63rd Street and take the L from Jackson Park into the Loop just for the fun of it. I am sorry I didn't take the North Shore up to Wisconsin via the Chicago Loop.
When I was a lad growing up during World War II my mom told me how to get a very cheap thrill. I learned how to board the L and take it for miles and miles then come back the other way and transfer to other L lines. One could see much of Chicago for a dime or what ever it was in those days for kids. My favorite place to be is up front next to the motorman (I mean motorperson) and watch the tracks sort themselves out and view the platforms and the many twists and turns of the train's route. My 2nd favorite place to be is at the very back of the train and see where we have been.