17th Avenue and South Maywood Drive, Village of Maywood
August 25, 1902 (AE&C interurban service inaugurated)
October 1, 1926 ("L" service inaugurated)
Previous Names: none
Aurora, Elgin & Chicago Railway (interurban service)
Metropolitan West Side Elevated, Westchester branch("L" service)
Skip-Stop Type: n/a
Rebuilt: circa mid-1920s
17th Avenue opened in 1902 as part of the Aurora, Elgin and Chicago (AE&C) interurban's line between the Fox River Valley and 52nd Avenue in Chicago. A few years later, AE&C trains operated into Downtown Chicago using trackage rights over the Garfield Park branch of the Metropolitan West Side Elevated.
17th Avenue was originally a small, modest station of two low-level side platforms on the east side of the street. The station was rebuilt in the mid-1920s as part of a station modernization program enacted by the interurban management following the railroads's acquisition by Dr. Thomas Conway, Jr. in 1922. As part of this program, 17th Avenue received a new brick station house on the inbound platform,1 and new high-level boarding platforms to replace the original low-level ones.
In the mid-1920s, the Chicago Aurora & Elgin interurban planned to build a high-speed bypass route for their trains through the western suburbs. Designed to leave the CA&E main line just east of their existing Bellwood station at Bellwood Avenue, the branch was to go south to Cermak Road, then turn west to rejoin the CA&E Aurora branch near Warrenville. The only section to be built was what became the Westchester branch, which opened as a one-mile spur from Bellwood Avenue to Roosevelt Road.
Operation of the Westchester branch was made the responsibility of the Chicago Rapid Transit Company, with service beginning on October 1, 1926. The CRT served the Westchester branch by extending certain Garfield Park trains beyond their usual terminal at Desplaines Avenue. These "L" trains also assumed service to the existing intermediate stations on the CA&E main line between Desplaines and Bellwood, relieving the interurban of the obligation to handle this short haul traffic. Upon the inauguration of "L" service the CA&E ceased serving these stops -- including 11th Avenue station -- except for 5th Avenue.
The station's high-level platforms hampered the CA&E freight operation's hauling of railroad freight cars, whose width and clearance were often in excess of the "L" and interurban cars resulting in their inability to clear normal high-level "L" platforms. This problem was solved through the ingenious use of hinged flaps along the edges of the platforms, which were flipped up and out of the way by a brakeman riding the locomotive footboards and flipped back down in place by a man riding the caboose steps. This allowed standard-width railroad freight cars to pass the "L" platforms along this portion of the route.
The hoped-for development of Westchester was squelched by the Depression just a few years after the line opened. The lots sat empty and streets and sidewalks slowly deteriorated and became overgrown with weeds. There was little to feed traffic to the fledgling rapid transit line. Development in Westchester resumed in 1940, but its pace was still slow and short-lived, as World War II soon struck and once again put a damper on major construction. The Chicago Transit Authority assumed operation of the "L" system in October 1947 and soon after studied each rapid transit line and monitored each station. Then, bit by bit, the CTA closed the stations and lines that were most uneconomical and had the lowest ridership to concentrate on the stronger routes. The Westchester branch fell victim to this systematic pruning when on December 9, 1951, service between Desplaines and 22nd & Mannheim was replaced by the #17 Westchester bus route.
After the "L" ceased serving the 17th Avenue station and the rest of Westchester branch beyond Desplaines, the CA&E interurban resumed stopping at the station. This continued until July 3, 1957, when passenger service on the CA&E ended without warning to the public at 12:13pm. The station was eventually demolished.
This Chicago-L.org article is a stub. It will be expanded in the future as resources allow.
1. Plachno, Larry. Sunset Lines: The Story of the Chicago Aurora & Elgin Railroad 2 -- History. pg. 298.