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- Hours of Operation: 4:30am-1am,
Mon-Sat; 7am-1am, Sun
Length of Route: 2.0 miles
Number of Stations: 8 stations
Routes Served: Orange
Line Express, Brown
The need for a common downtown terminal for the various elevated
lines, each of which operated for years to independent terminals on
the fringe of downtown, was realized before the first company even
began service. The task would not be simple however. The companies
had two choices and both had serious downfalls. The first option was
to build the extensions and terminal on private property, but land
values downtown were high, making this prohibitively expensive. The
second option was to build over public streets, but this would
require the consent of the majority of property owners as per the
Cities & Villages Act and most regarded the prospect of an
elevated line over their commercial property less than inviting.
A depressed economy and opposition from property owners squelched
all previous plans for such a common terminal. It took a special man
of singular talent and reputation to tackle the seemingly impossible
task of united the elevateds in the single downtown terminal:
businessman, financier, and traction magnate Charles Tyson Yerkes. At
one point, Yerkes owned more than half of the private "L" companies
(as well as 2/3 of the street railway system) and was responsible for
much of the development of the system that can still be seen today.
This colorful character was a shrewd businessman who was hailed by
his allies and reviled by his critics. There was a long-standing
bitter distrust and dislike between Yerkes and the City of Chicago,
both in its citizens and its elected officials, especially Mayor
Carter Harrison. Yerkes also exercised great power, both politically
and financially, and had the ability to get things done, even if his
improvements ended up being turned around to cast him as a typical
robber baron (which, to a great extent, he was). Once he obtained the
necessary consent signatures and franchises, Yerkes lost little time
in beginning construction on each leg of the Loop.
The Loop opened in stages, as it was completed. The first section
opened on the Lake Street between Market Street and Wabash Avenue on
September 22, 1895. The Wabash leg south to Adams/Wabash
station was placed in service November 8, 1896, with the Loop now
forming an 'L' shape (no pun intended). Trains operated
bi-directionally using right-hand running during this period. The
formal opening of the entire Loop occurred October 3, 1897, when the
bi-directional, left-handed Loop operating plan described above went
into effect. The Lake Street was the first to use the entire
quadrangle. The Met followed suit on October 11th. The South Side
joined them on October 18th (the only company to use steam on the
Loop, albeit briefly) and the Northwestern came as soon as they began
regular revenue service on May 31, 1900.
As can be imagined, the Loop offered the citizens of Chicago
advantages they'd never even remotely had access to before. Workers,
shoppers and cross-town travelers could now be deposited directly
into the central business district or change to another line's train
without walking anywhere. The public was quick to take advantage of
the new facilities, as all companies had significant ridership gains
after the Loop's completion. The Metropolitan's, for instance, went
from 40,000 to 60,000; an increase of 50%.
Because each of the elevated companies was separate and had no
operating or transfer agreements, there was no free interchange of
passengers between lines, even though they shared the same track and
stations in the Loop. As such, each station was run as if it were
four separate facilities under one roof. On the platforms, there was
literally a barrier separating it into two distinct spaces and inside
the station houses, there were two ticket agents and separate doors
onto each half of the platform. On the Inner Loop, Metropolitan
trains stopped at the forward berth, while South Side trains used the
rear berth. On the Outer loop, Lake Street trains used the rear berth
and the forward half was reserved for Northwestern trains upon the
inauguration of their services.
- September 22, 1895 -
The first section of the Loop opens on Lake Street
between Market Street and Wabash Avenue.
- November 8, 1896 - Wabash leg south to Adams/Wabash
station was placed in service, with the Loop now forming an 'L'
shape (no pun intended). Trains operated bi-directionally using
right-hand running during this period.
- October 3, 1897 - The formal opening of the entire
Loop, with bi-directional, left-handed Loop operating. The Lake
Street was the first to use the entire quadrangle. The Met
followed suit on October 11th. The South Side joined them on
October 18th (the only company to use steam on the Loop, albeit
- May 31, 1900 - Northwestern begins operating on the
Loop concurrently with the inauguration of regular revenue service
on the new line.
- 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).
- August 27, 1927 - The new three-story Well
Street Terminal opens. The terra cotta Arthur Gerber-designed
station was the system's showpiece. Soon after, a bridge is
constructed connecting the station the the Outer Loop platform of
the adjacent Quincy/Wells Loop "L" station.
- October 11, 1955 - Wells
Terminal closes and is demolished. Garfield Park line trackage
is extended through the old Wells Street terminal to connect with
Loop elevated just south of Quincy, replacing the old Loop
connection via Van Buren at Tower 8 (Wells/Van Buren).
- September 30, 1969 - The Loop Shuttle line, a set of
trains that make a continuous circuit around the Loop on the inner
track, begins operation.
- September 2, 1973 - State/Van
Buren is closed in a service revision to close a budget
- September 30, 1977 - The Loop shuttle is
- February 8, 1988 - The Quincy/Wells
station reopens after a three years renovation, restoring it to
its original 1897 look with rehabilitated wood work and pressed
tin interior and exterior platform and the installation of
reproduction signage, lighting and advertisements.
- February 24, 1989 - The first phase of the new
station opens. The station connects the "L" (where the Lake-Dan
Ryan, Ravenswood and Evanston trains run), the Dearborn Street
subway (the O'Hare-Congress-Douglas) and a street-level entrance
in the new State of Illinois Center.
- October 31, 1993 - The Orange
(Midway) Line, the first new "L" line in a decade, opens
between the Loop and Midway Airport, utilizing existing railroad
rights of way and new elevated structures. The Midway begins
operation from day one with one person operation with 3200-series
- January 30, 1994 - The Madison/Wells
station is closed and demolished so that work on the Washington/Wells
station could begin. On Friday, February 4th, the Outer Loop
(west) station house is damaged by fire.
- July 17, 1995 - The new Washington/Wells
station opens on the Loop, replacing both the Randolph/Wells
- June 22, 1997 - The new Library-State/Van
Buren station opens, replacing a station demolished two
decades before, with a direct connection to the Harold Washington
- October 12, 1997 - The Loop celebrates its 100th
- June 25, 2006 - The Pink Line,
a rerouting of service from 54/Cermak
to the Loop via the Cermak (Douglas)
branch, Paulina Connector, and
Lake branch, is inaugurated, operating via
the Inner Loop. The Pink Line is the first new "L" route since the
Orange Line opened in 1993.
- August 31, 2017 - The new Washington/Wabash station opens on the Loop, replacing both the Randolph/Wabash and Madison/Wabash stations.
- September 3, 2017 - Randolph/Wabash closes, replaced by the new Washington/Wabash station that opened three days earlier.
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