6000-series Cars


Car 6102-6101 at the Fox River Trolley Museum on October 10, 2004. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)



Built by: St. Louis Car Co.
Year: 1950-59
Length: 48'-0"
Width at Floor: 8'-8"
Width at Windows: 9'-4"
Height over Roof: 11'-10"
Trucks: Clark B-2
Truck centers: 33'-8"
Truck wheelbase: 72"
Coupler: #1 end / #2 end: Form 5 / tubular
Wheel diameter: 26"
Seats: A car / B car: 47 / 51 (varied)
Weight (w/o passengers): 41,700 lb.
Motors per car 4 W 1432 @ 55hp
Balancing speed: 50 mph



When the CTA took over in 1947, they still didn't have nearly enough steel cars. They liked the 5000s, but decided some improvements could be made, so they went back to drawing board. What emerged was the 6000-series cars, the largest series of cars ever built for the CTA or the "L". So large was the series - of Chicago's 1100 cars, 720 were 6000-series cars and 50 more were their double-end, single-car brothers, the 1-50 series (which were essentially the same in architecture, equipment and performance) - that many consider this the classic, quintessential "L" car.

In basic concept, the 6000-series adopted the all-electric traction technology of the President's Conference Car (PCC) streetcar. This technology had been applied to rapid transit service in cars 5001-5004 and the design of the 6000-series cars was, in essence, a simplification of the 5000-series design.

Among the changes implemented in the 6000s was the return to the old Chicago standard of a 48-foot overall length car, but with a distinctive difference: the 6000-series was permanently coupled into married pairs. In addition to saving most of the cost and weight of two standard couplers, the married pair, as compared to separate double-end single cars, saves one complete operating cab in each car and all its related equipment. An operating cab and automatic coupler on the "outer" (#1) end of each car make each two-car unit suitable for double-end service. Numerically consecutive cars make up the units. Only rarely has a car appeared in service with any other than its usual mate. Quarter-point blinker doors, which in Chicago were common on CSL streetcars and were used on the 5000-series, returned. The cross section included curved sides, convex outward, permitting an overall width of 9'4" at seat level without exceeding the 8'8" width at the floor needed to clear station platforms.

On September 1, 1948, the CTA ordered 130 cars from St. Louis Car Co., with delivery beginning in August 1950. The first cars were placed in service on the Logan Square-Loop elevated route and delivered in their now-famous Mercury green, Swamp Holly orange and Croydon cream livery. A further order of 70 cars followed on July 27, 1950. With 200 new cars a small start had been made in modernizing the fleet. Coincidentally, other recent equipment acquisitions were proving to be an untimely investment. The 600 PCC streetcars completed by Pullman and St. Louis Car Co. in 1946 and 1947 were hardly phased into service when it became painfully evident that a tremendous shift was underway in travel habits from public transit to private automobiles. What could be done with the nearly brand-new streetcars? Combining this quandary with the problem of replacing the CTA 's fleet of aging wood-steel cars suddenly seemed an attractive solution. Perhaps a PCC streetcar could be rebuilt into a rapid transit car.

Although streetcars and rapid transit in Chicago used the same track gauge and operating voltage, extensive testing by both Pullman and St. Louis Car Co. proved that simply modifying an existing streetcar for "L" service was difficult and unfeasible. But another possibility existed: stockpile trucks, motors, control equipment, motor-generators, track brakes, seats, light fixtures, and even window frames, sash and sash-lifting mechanisms, build a new body shell and install on it the reconditioned components. The result would be a much more suitable rapid transit car, an updated version of (and fully compatible with) the 6001-6200 series cars.

The first group of conversions was numbered 6201-6470. Ordered as a lot of 150 cars (eventually increased to 270), this series incorporated a number of minor changes from earlier 6000's. The conductor's position was relocated into the car (originally it was outside, between the cars of a married-pair), diagonally opposite corner from the motorman's cab. A partition and door transformed this area into a protected cab for the conductor. When not required by the conductor, this cab area could be made available for passenger use by folding the door against the end bulkhead. The conductor's position was modified again in the remaining 250 cars, 6471-6720.

Omission of these conductors' cabs and their replacement by a defined work area on both sides of the #2 end of the "A" (odd numbered car of the married pair) was the most obvious difference. This arrangement gave conductors improved working conditions as they did not have to cross between cars to work platforms on the other side of the train. Cars 6001-6200 were subsequently retrofitted in the same manner.


Early Modifications

Throughout their lives, the 6000-series cars have been modified, experimented upon, and retrofitted time and again. Window guards were fitted over all crank-lift windows on cars 6511-6720 when these cars were selected for operation over the Kennedy rapid transit extension which has considerably closer side clearances. Cab signals, necessary for operations over this extension, were also installed in these cars during 1969 and 1970. With the installation of automatic train control planned to extend over much of the remainder of the system by 1976, a program to equip all but 100 of the remaining 6000's was undertaken.

Though generally of the same exterior architecture, cars 6201-6720 were delivered with a different front end arrangement than cars 6001-6200. The dual headlights below the front windows could not focus their beams, resulting in oncoming trains blinding motormen, and were replaced with a single focused one above the front door. As a result, the destination sign moved from above the front door to the top of the right front window. Cars 6001-6130 were retrofit with this new configuration between the mid-1950s and 1965, except for units 6101-6102 and 6059-6060, which remained in their original configuration.

Experiments with air conditioning began in 1958 when car 6669 was equipped, by the carbuilder, with an evaporation-type conditioner mounted on the roof. It proved ineffective in the humid summer climate and was removed in 1961. In reality, reliable air conditioning would not come to the "L" until the Pullman 2000-series in 1964. Upon their arrival, a sample air conditioning unit using the same equipment as on the 2000s was installed in car 6711 to determine the cost and effectiveness of retrofitting the 6000s. Because of the high cost and extended down time for installation, the idea was scrapped, though the air conditioner remained in service on car 6711 for some time.


High-Performance Cars

High-performance cars 6129-6130 are seen here at the Kimball Yards in 1963. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Charles L. Tauscher)

Cars 6129-6130 have been experimental cars from their inception. These last two cars of the first order came equipped with General Electric MCM control and General Electric motors. The purpose was to demonstrate GE equipment in contrast to the Westinghouse equipment on the other 128 cars of the series. In 1955, together with cars 6127-6128, they entered a period of equipment testing. Through cooperation of CTA , General Electric Company, and Westinghouse Electric Corporation, in a joint $300,000 research project, these cars were modified to improve acceleration characteristics and top speeds. The cars were so wired that the higher speed capability was available only if operated by themselves. The high-performance equipment did not increase the maximum acceleration rate, but it did extend the rate to 30 mph. The experimental equipment, furthermore, gave a potential top speed of 76 mph light or 72 mph with a seated load. In 1960, the cars (along with units 1-4) were repainted in the distinctive luxury maroon and silver paint scheme to set them apart from the rest of the fleet.

The first two cars to be readied went into revenue service (at normal speed rate) on September 8, 1955. Within a month all four cars had been demonstrated in their high-performance mode, which permitted rebirth of the Evanston Shoppers' Special on an unprecedented schedule beginning November 28. The high performance capabilities were used on part of the Evanston-Loop run from 1955 to 1957. Thereafter, the cars were limited to series only (approximately 45 mph). Ultimately the cars were used interchangeably with 1-50 series cars which were assigned to the Evanston express service in 1961.

In 1960 these cars reentered testing programs with then recently delivered cars 1-4. At this time they were repainted in a distinctive maroon and silver gray color scheme. Thus the CTA had the capability of placing an 8-car high performance train on its railroad. In 1962 SCM control was applied to cars 6129-6130. The testing program was essentially completed in 1964 and at that time the cars were repainted in the then standard color scheme. After completion of the test, cars 6129-6130 retained the GE-SCM control, which is the same control as used on the 2000-series cars; however, it is limited to full series. Cars 6127-6128 were retired on May 8, 1974.


Re-pairing, Renumbering, and Early Retirements

Over the years, the cars slowly left service one way of another. Car 6271 experienced a fire which burned out the rear portion of the body. A new body was ordered and was mounted on the original trucks, which were undamaged. In November, 1956, car 6288 struck a standing North Shore Line train at Wilson Avenue. The front portion - about 10 feet - of 6271 was spliced onto the remaining part of 6288. Car 6453, destroyed in the 35th Street station fire on November 17, 1962, was scrapped. Its running mate, 6454, only slightly damaged, was repaired and used in automatic train control equipment tests. Car 6309 which was wrecked at 40th Street, was scrapped. Its mate, 6310, was combined with the 6454 in 1968 to make a new two-car unit numbered 6721-6722. This sensible use of available assets was similar to the creation of cars 1809-1815 and 4456 in earlier eras.

Starting in 1973 cars which were damaged or reached the end of their useful life were retired. Such retirements have, in part, been dictated by a need for spare parts for the carbodies and related accessories. The 6000's continued to operate regularly on all lines except the Lake-Dan Ryan (which used 2000-series and 2200-series equipment for many years) and Skokie Swift (which used 5000s and 1-50s exclusively) and were used to move service cars equipped with Ohio Brass Form 5 couplers.

Although only 720 6000-series cars were made, there was some renumbering that occurred that brought the car numbers up into the high 6700s. A "mis-matched" pair was often created when a unit was involved in an accident, but while one car in the married pair was unsalvageable the other was still usable. As more of these orphan cars piled up, the CTA began pairing them off and assigning them new numbers.

The renumbering seems to have begun in the first two months of 1983. A list of the renumbered cars and their original numbers are as follows:

Original Car Number
Renumbered Car Number
Original Car Number
Renumbered Car Number

Not all of these mismates were in service at the same time. Most were, but some early mismates were retired and a few were added as time went on.

An interesting aspect of the renumbering is that it didn't start at 6723 (the next number after 6721-22, the CTA's first repairing/renumbering from 1962, which did pick up after the last original production car, 6720). Although the CTA skipped around, there does seem to have been some systematic logic to the numbering.

First, they may have skipped 10 numbers from the end of the series to 6731 simply for separate the mismates from the regular cars. Beyond that, the cars tend to be renumbered in similar groups. For instance, cars that were originally in the 6471-6720 group are numbered 6731-6742. Cars that were originally in the 6201-6470 group as cars 6771-6788. Finally, cars that were in the 6001-6200 series were renumbered in the 6790s. Cars were remated with other cars of the same original order because, in fact, not all 6000-series cars were quite the same. Each order had slight differences in its interior arrangements and appoints, some of its mechanical equipment, and other subtle aspects. The gaps in the renumbering were likely to allow for additional cars that might need to be remated to be kept within the appropriate renumbering groups. The aberration in this logic is the last set, 6479-6478, which should have been numbered in the 6740s and weren't for some reason.


The 6000s' Final Days

Retired cars 6719-6720 are at Skokie Shops on January 15, 1999. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Eric Zabelny)

Repainted several times -- first in the Mint green and Alpine white, then the Bicentennial scheme, and finally the red, white, and blue Spirit of Chicago colors -- the 6000's continued to be a mainstay on the North-South, West-Northwest, Ravenswood and Evanston routes until the mid-1980s when delivery of the 2600-series was completed.

Around 1986, a group of 6000's were given a "mini-overhaul", which included giving the overhauled cars the "Spirit of Chicago" paint scheme. The overhauled cars are the only cars that got that scheme; the rest were retired in a previous paint scheme, usually the mint green and alpine white livery. The cars that got a mini-overhaul were: 6607-08, 6619-20, 6627-28, 6629-30, 6637-38, 6643-44, 6645-46, 6651-52, 6653-54, 6655-56, 6663-64, 6665-6666, 6669-70, 6673-74, 6675-76, 6677-78, 6683-84, 6689-90, 6699-6700, 6701-02, 6703-04, 6705-06, 6707-08, 6709-10, 6711-12, 6713-14, 6717-18, and 6719-20.

The cars were finally retired in 1992, by which time they were in use only on the Evanston Express and in Ravenswood tripper service. Upon the retirement of the last of the 6000-series cars on Friday December 4, 1992, the CTA handed out a one-sheet flyer about their history on their last trip from Kimball to the Loop, then north to Linden. Click here to see the front and here to see the back. (Thanks to Eric Zabelny for contributing the flyer.)

For a time, some were still service as work cars, but they have all since been removed from all service. All have been scrapped or sold. Historic cars 6101-6102 (also known as the Krambles Cars) have found a home at the Fox River Trolley Museum, while a number of other cars are at the Illinois Railway Museum, the Seashore Trolley Museum, and others. Car 6719 has been sent to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C. for use in an exhibit on 1950s Chicago transportation.

Excerpts from this car history are from Chicago's Rapid Transit, Volume II: Rolling Stock 1947-1976 by the Central Electric Railfans Association. Copyright 1976, CERA. All right reserved.