It is inevitable that after a train system has
been operating for more than 100 years, it is bound to have
experienced its share of accidents, wrecks, and mishaps. A number of
factors contributed to the likelihood of accidents early on -
on-sight signaling, tight headways, fragile wooden cars, mingling "L"
cars with cars of other railways [the CNS&M and the CA&E,
specifically] - and the likelihood of accidents has decreased
markedly in modern times with the use of signaling systems. Still,
many accidents have occurred.
The "L" does not have claim to the
worst transportation disaster in Chicago (that dubious honor goes to
the 1915 Eastland disaster in which 844 were killed when an
excursion steamer capsized in the Chicago River) nor the worst train
disaster (that happened in 1972 when two Illinois Central commuter
trains collided at 27th Street, killing forty-five).
It is also worth noting that many "L"-related
mishaps are not the fault of the CTA or their predecessors at all,
but rather Mother Nature. A fair number of crippling problems have
resulted from heavy snowfalls and other nature-related mishaps.
Listed below are those incidents which could
truly be called disasters in some way or another (and the term is, of
course, high subjective).
Accidents | Weather/Natural
- The 48th Avenue/Met
Plunge - December 23,
- A sleeping motorman drove his single-car train off the end of
the 48th Avenue stub-end
terminal on the Garfield Park Line and onto the ground late one
- The Rockwell
Derailment - June 20,
- Only a week after switching from steam power to electric
traction, a westbound motorcar on the Lake Street Elevated
derailed near Rockwell Street on the morning of the 20th. The
incident caused the Lake Street to revert back to steam power
until the company could make certain modifications to the
- The Granville
Rear-End Accident - November
- A rear-end collision involving a North Shore Line interurban
hitting the rear of an "L" train near the Granville
station on the North Side destroyed the trailing wooden car,
sending parts of the car body and injured passengers tumbling to
the alley below in what was, for many years, the "L"'s worst
- The Wilson
Collision - November 5,
- A deadly accident occurred when a 6000-series
CTA train rammed the rear of a North Shore Line interurban stopped
at Wilson to load and
- The Addison/Kennedy
Collision - January 9, 1976
- During the morning rush hour, two trains collided at Addison on the Kennedy Extension, in what was the most serious "L" accident up to that time (though unfortunately surpassed just 13 months later).
- The Loop
Crash - February 4,
- The accident that occurred in February 1977 at the corner of
Lake and Wabash in the Loop lives on in many people's minds as the
worst rapid transit accident in Chicago history. Four cars fell
from the elevated structure after an eight-car Lake-Dan Ryan train
rammed a six-car Ravenswood stopped east of the State/Lake
- Various Other
Incidents - various
dates thru 2000
- Besides the major incidents listed above, a number of other
mishaps have occurred over the years. Listed here are some of these
incidents, with dates and a brief description of each.
- The Blizzard of
- Although the Blizzard of 1967 occurred previously, the
Blizzard of '79 was the first that crippled the "L" system in a
serious way. With many cars and even sections of some lines out of
service, the "L"'s service was severely disrupted for several
- The Flood of '92
- An accidental flood in the city's abandoned underground
freight tunnel system flooded the CTA's State Street and Dearborn
Street Subways downtown, not to mention many Loop basements!
- The Blizzard of '99
- In a repeat of the 1979 storm, a week of severe snow caused
hundreds of rail cars to go out of service and crippled the "L"
system for more than a week, closing sections of lines and causing
long delays and disruptions in service.