Our family inhabited a 3rd floor flat which had an unobstructed broad view of the Lake St. Line at 4500W, this being circa 1958. Also in that northerly view was the adjacent north/south running Beltline Railroad line and the skyline domineering Brach Candy plant. Brach at that time had begun a huge plant addition, perhaps a building larger than the existing as it appeared from our vantage point. The Brach Plant was pretty much a landmark building for our 3rd floor flat. We had an unobstructed view of its upper bldg. floors (and the "L") and watched the steel skeleton of the new building become a building there in the late 1950s.
We lived in a divvy apartment building at 4540 West End which had an open city block of vacant land behind it, thus the view. The apartment building was torn down in 1962 and a school was built on the East end of that block; it is still there, I'm sure. Of course, I was young, but have good memories of that area, like snow sledding down the Beltline track embankment in winter. Nearby to that plant was the 7 UP bottling plant to the east on Lake Street. I made a few trips to a hobby shop that was located at Lake & Laramie using the "L"; it was kind of neat to watch the disappearing "L" descend the track grade down to street level just west of Laramie.
The 4000 cars were the Lake stock then. These cars had the distinct electric motor sounds of a loud "whirring" type, most noticeable among the tall confined buildings of downtown. The Lake Line trackage then was still of the bolted variety near Crawford, with the resultant clickety-clack wheels on rail with some jolts to the cars that seemed to want them to jump off the tracks! The Beltline overpass seemed to reach into the heavens and I wonder to this day whether the "L" track there may have been maybe 60 feet or more above street level. Only the Englewood Line could be higher? We could see that grade change from our flat. The Beltline itself was above grade at Lake Street -- the Lake "L" was over that! Unique to me and never seen again was the Beltline roof warning stand at about Maypole Ave. This was a set of ropes strung from a horizontal pole stand set across the railroads tracks. These were there to strike boxcar roof walkers and warn them of the Lake "L" structure they would pass under at Lake Street. This was a typical railroad warning device for the days when rail cars had "catwalks" on the roofs. This was to prevent someone from unknowingly being thrown off a freight car roof from striking a structure and/or tunnel portal wall -- a likely fatal event one way or another -- either the fall or the sudden whack with a stationary object. The last working steam train I have seen in the US was on the northbound Beltline there in 1958. After that, the adjacent coal yard at 4601 Washington (I think) folded and steam ceased as far as I recall. The 4000s were replaced in the early 60s by air-conditioned units [The 2000-series cars. -- Ed.] which must have been a dream to weary summer loop workers then.
I have a whole bunch of American Flyer S Gauge Train Stuff made by AC Gilbert Co. and it still occupies some of my recreational time, as I have a layout set up here. Too bad the CTA® doesn't have some S-Gauge stuff. Believe it or not, I saw some new "O" gauge CTA® "L" cars advertised in Classic Toy Trains Magazine about 2 years ago. I do not remember who the manufacturer was. I think they were done in the style of the Marx Toy Co., making them somewhat cheesy looking.
Another memory: Standing on a Douglas line ground level platform -- I think at Laramie in Cicero -- and listening to a platform bell clang telling the motorman to start his eastbound train. Neat bell. Bells and whistles are also history in our society -- what a shame. So goes the expression "has all the bells & whistles."
From "Eastland survivors dedicate plaque", published in the Chicago Tribune on July 25, 2003:
Libby Hruby and her sister and brother-in-law were among more than 2,500 passengers and crew members aboard the vessel Eastland on July 24, 1915, on their way to Western Electric Co.'s annual picnic in Michigan City, Ind. The ship pitched and rolled while passengers boarded, finally tipping over and sending 844 people to their deaths. Hruby can still remember exactly how her sister pulled her out of the Eastland and saved her from drowning:
"Somehow she got into position and I put my hand up, and she pulled me closer," said Hruby, 98. "Then she pushed me from the back and boosted me over the railing, and I was able to stand up."
While others watched in horror, Hruby and her sister and brother-in-law got away as quickly as they could.
"We got on the elevated train and went home," she said. "We never looked back."
I used to live at 4738 W. Hubbard St. just a block down from the famed Brach's Candy Factory. I lived there in the late 1950's and early 1960's and used the "L" at Cicero and Lake extensively as that was my ticket to freedom, I could get on an "L" and go to downtown to watch a parade or shopping or go to Oak Park and my ice skating lessons and shopping, the only places we were allowed to go alone without supervision and I don't really remember how the old station looked at Cicero/Lake and would like to see some pictures of it. I do remember that we children were not allowed to cross Lake Street, but we did find a way by the "L" platform, LOL. You know we could walk across the street without even touching the street, so technically we didn't cross the street (we were such "bad" kids back then) hehe.
BTW, my brother, Jack used to pack me into a snow sled we had for my baby sister and pull me and our stack of comics across the Lake Street (with Mom's permission, of course) and exchange them for new comics that we had not read. (We did not have the pleasure of a TV set, so our only entertainment in the winter was those comics.
Thank you for your consideration,
Ah, to hear the roar of the "L" Owl Service at midnight!
Little did I know, that I was to eventually become an 'L' train and Interurban enthusiast. When I was a child in the early 60's, my grandmother and I went from a station on the Ravenswood line to Hine's Veteran's hospital to visit her brother who was wounded in the First World War. Tracing back recently I realized that we transfered to the Douglas and then to an electric train that ended right behind the hospital.
While in my young teens, my friends and I had many opportunities to ride on many different early models such as the 4000's with their pneumatic tube doors, reversible seats and ceramic coated over-head handles. I recalled that in the coldest of winter how the heaters kept me almost too warm! When on a 4000, we would sit in the Engineer's compartment where, when unused, the door would lock open so that the controls where out of reach. When in a 6000 car, everyone had to spend time in the Fan seat, were the view was as good as the Engineer's. I lived all over the northwest side so I had been on almost all of the stations including the always dark Kimball terminal where you could get any candy bar and DC comic for the trip. We traveled many times to the Loop and The Science and Industry Museum where the Stony Island terminal looked old and unfinished, as it stood over the middle of the intersection.
As I became interested in the history of the Elevated, I found CERA books at hobby shops and read about cars,trackage and demolished stations. I had always wondered about the little known Ravenswood station on Wilson Avenue which is not listed here. That small section was right in the heart of Ravenswood (not to be confused with Ravenswood Manor to the west and over the river). The station appears on the maps up to the 1940's and it linked with a CTA bus route traveling east down Wilson into Uptown. One can speculate that it was a faster route from the northwest line to popular places such as the Aragon ballroom or the Green Mill lounge.
Extremely interesting site!
Our gang was not to be thought of as we think of them these days. We were just a group of young comrades, that were looking to have some fun, and stay cool on those hot Chicago summer nights. This took place in a time period from 1942 to 1946. We used to play a game on the street called, Catch One Catch All. In this game one person would be it, and the rest would go hide. As the person that was it tagged any of the ones that were hiding, that person would have to help the person that was it, catch the rest of the gang, and so on till all were caught.
We modified this game a little and would play it on the Ravenswood Branch of the "L". We would set the boundaries from Fullerton to but not including Kimball so we would not have to pay another fare. The person that was it, would stay at the starting station till we all left on a train. We would get of at stations all along the route, and be free to reverse course or ride anywhere with in the boundaries. We were also able to hide anywhere on any station we liked. It was up to the people who were it to find us, and tag us so we could help them find the others. You can imagine when one of us was spotted the chase began either running through trains, or through stations. It sometimes did take hours. I think at that time the half fare was . 05 cents and you did not have to pay another fare to reverse directions. We never got in any trouble for this. I believe that the adults just said to themselves look at those crazy kids.
We also played the same game at the Merchandise Mart. We usually picked the Merchandise Mart to play on rainy cold Saturdays. Playing it on the "L" was usually done right after dinner in the summer and lasted till after dark about ten O Clock. Next we would go to that dinner at the end of the Ravenswood Line at Kimball and Lawrence, and have a coke or if we were hungry again a hamburger. That dinner was painted white and looked like a refurbished railroad car with lots of chrome and a juke box. The name of the dinner was Cooper and Cooper. I do remember the name of the young man that flipped hamburgers there, it was Ed Olin. In that era parents were much more concerned where their girls were than the boys. The boys, they were just concerned about who their friends were, and as long as you were with approved friends, and you did not have school the next day, we could stay out pretty late.
At the Mart, we would set aside five floors and carry on the same way. One day we did get into trouble there. We had set aside five of the higher Large floors, and were playing the game intensely. I was with my cousin all the rest of the kids were caught, and now were looking for us. They saw us from afar down a hall. We started to run then we came to the stairs. I said quick up the stairs. We could here them three floors below us coming up after us. We were coming up on the nineteenth floor when the hall was boarded off. We did not know what to do then we saw a window going out to the ledge. I said "quick out the window." We went out on the ledge and peeked through the window. When the gang ran into the walled off hall, they thought we had ducked out on a lower floor. We were safe. I said to my cousin open the window so we can get in off this ledge. The window had locked automatically. Here we were standing on a ledge on the nineteenth floor looking at the traffic below. We decided to walk along the ledge and knock on some office windows. As we knocked on the windows people would look at us then pick up the phone, but would not let us in. We kept walking, and knocking, and no one would let us in. The next thing we knew the police we out on the ledge with there guns drawn. We put our hands up and followed there instructions. Subsequently they took us down to a jail they have in the Merchandise Mart. We went through some pretty intense questioning. After a while the G men realized that we were just kids, they turned us loose saying, that was a secret floor we were on. If we were one floor higher that was top secret, we would have been shot on site. I remembered this. The end of the war came with the dropping of the A boom. I read in the papers that floor in the Merchandise Mart was the offices for the Manhattan Project.
My earliest memories of the "L" are when I was about 7 years old. I did some things that would drive my Mother crazy. I wandered over to the old Ravenswood "L" station which was located between Sunnyside and Wilson and only 1 1/2 blocks from the Montrose station. I was small enough to squeeze through the metal exit gates. I went up and caught a train as far as Irving Park.
My other memories are riding the the Ravenswood. When I was young, the Ravenswood went through the State Street subway to Englewood/Normal Park. The cars were of the 4000-series. I would ride with my mother or older brother and always rode in the first car, so I could stand in the vestibule. The cars on the Ravenswood were mostly the "baldies" with the 4000 "plushies" were on the Howard-Jackson Park line.
After the CTA took over, they initiated the A/B service. At that time, the Wilson Ave. local was discontinued, and the Ravenswood line then went around the Loop. The cars were then changed to the old wooden cars that previously had been used on the Wilson-Normal Park locals. At the same time, the Ravenswood station was closed. This was the only station closed on the Ravenswood branch.
I also want to thank Lou Grein, the last contributor to Memories for locating the only place in San Diego that has Chicago style Italian Roast Beef.
I remember when Evanston had the overhead wires, and I rode the 4000 cars (the ones that really looked like trolley cars). I also rode the 6000 and 1-50 cars with the green top and orange stripe. Also rode the green bottom/white top cars. I vaguely remember the price of L fares being 30 cents back in the sixties.
Also remember riding the train from a Cubs game to Evanston on a Sunday in 1975. We were packed in like sardines at the turnstile to the platform. And then the train was only four cars. Packed in like sardines almost all the way to Howard St.
Also, my brother and I got Sunday Super Transfers (65 cents back in 1975). We proceeded to ride almost every L in the city one day (except the Skokie Swift, Dan Ryan, and Englewood, and I think the Ravenswood stopped at Belmont but not at the Loop). This feat was accomplished in 6 hours.
I took my kids to Chicago in 1997 and remembered the L fare being $1.50. Also noticed there were no green and white 6000 series L cars. What made the North-South the "North South" was the green and white L cars. Then the other thing is that the Lake St. L was rerouted to Jackson Park and the Dan Ryan was rerouted to Howard St. Well, if ever there would be a World Series between the Cubs and Sox then one could ride the same route between Sox Park and Wrigley Field.
I have the picture of the Evanston Express arriving at Main St. (when Evanston still had overhead wires) as wall paper on my computers at home and work.
One final thing: I found the only place in San Diego, CA that sells Italian Beef. It is called Chicago on a Bun. The old man that runs the place said he lived in the same apartment building as Fahey Flynn. Also remembers Lloyd Pettit from WGN (NO ONE calls a hockey game like he does).
I recall that there was a serious collision between a CTA train and a NSL (or was it an Evanston Express?) train at Wilson Street. This occurred in the late 50's. (I was fairly young then and it was a long time ago, so details are difficult to recall). One train was standing in the station and was rear-ended by the second train. The CTA decided to separate the lines coming into Wilson vis-a-vis it was a high volume station during rush hours. Hence the construction/upgrade of the spur track west of Wilson. I'd love it if someone could fill in the details for me.
The 35th Street Station Fire: The Tech-35th station, and the elevated structured suffered severe damage from this fire which occurred on the southbound side of the structure. I remember that the cause of the fire was attributed to a passenger who threw a lighted cigarette onto the newly-installed creosote-laden ties on a hot summer afternoon. The creosote ignited and caused a conflagration that engulfed the entire station. A southbound train stopped at the station and was subsequently engulfed by the flames. I have a vague recollection that the "Motorman" received some type of commendation because he took some kind of action that saved the lives of passengers on his train. I invite others who recall this incident to "fill in the blanks."
The CTA had quite a dilemma on its hands: how to restore service on one of its busiest lines while ensuring the safety of its equipment and passengers (not necessarily in that order). Service was restored to the North-South Line by the following morning. The CTA secured the Southbound trackage by shoring up the structure from the ground with wooden cribbage. This enabled the CTA to repair/replace the section of the structure that was weakened by the fire.
Bi-directional service was restored through an ingenious scheme: A temporary 35th Street station was constructed. Northbound and Southbound trains used the northbound track at 35th Street until the southbound structure could be repaired. This required that Southbound trains switch over to the Northbound track before the 35th Street station and switch back to the Southbound track after the station. This was accomplished through the use of a "flag system." Every train had to literally carry a flag---a stick with a flag attached to it, before entering the single track section. A train would stop when directed by a flagman (I'm not being politically incorrect; only men were allowed this type of "hazardous" duty). The flagman would give the motorman The Flag. He would then take his train through the single track area and stop to relinquish the flag to the Flagman at the other end of the single track area. No train was allowed to enter the single track area without the Flag.
Amazingly this low-tech solution actually worked! I don't recall any instances of two opposite-direction trains occupying the same track space simultaneously!
Some motormen seemed to delight in "ratcheting up" the cineston controller. On one occasion, during the morning rush hour our motorman seemed to be particularly interested in testing the acceleration and braking capabilities of his eight-car train of 6000 units. It seemed he had the cineston on the fourth notch before the last car had left each station. He received a dose of humility this particular morning when he barreled into the 51st Street station and had to execute a rather abrupt stop in the station. The train was still rolling at the end of the platform when he burst through the cab door and made a proverbial beeline to the front door of our car; in order to grab a woman by the collar of her coat to prevent her from stepping out of the car into space. He had overshot the end of the platform and the first door of the car opened into oblivion!
I traveled from 70th and Lowe Streets (near Halsted) to the Thorndale station every school day morning, attending Senn High School. I had the opportunity to ride the "L" during the morning rush hour when all North-South trains (Englewood and Jackson Park-Howard) were eight cars in length and ran with very tight headways. I would catch a bus at 70th and Halsted and transfer to the L at the 63rd/Halsted station.
Amazingly, the "railfan" seat was usually available to me! On those few times when someone had the audacity to sit in my seat I stood with my back against the Motorman's door, viewing the action through the front door window. I typically regained "my" seat after the train unloaded passengers at the Washington Street station, where the northbound trains became virtual ghost towns as Washington was the last northbound stop in The Loop. The only times when I wasn't able to stand at the front door were those hot summer days when the doors at both ends of every car were opened to allow ventilation.
During this period passengers could move between cars; even while trains were in motion! Some of the more daring passengers (myself included) would occasionally ride between the cars. There were handles that we held onto for safety. The best part of this feat was straddling two cars and feeling the cars swaying and bouncing "out of sync" with one another. If we were straddling two cabs we could look down and see the couplers bouncing up and down, also out of sync.
It's sad that younger "L" fans will not know how much fun one could have while sitting in the "railfan's" seat. These were the days when the only train control system was located in the State Street and Dearborn Street Subways and some sections of the four-track mainline between the north portal of the State Street Subway and Belmont Avenue. Aside from these sections the train's speed was left to the discretion of the operator. I never rode on a train that was operated in a dangerous or cavalier manner. However there were some operators who seemed to relish the power of an eight-car train of 6000s!
The stretch between 35th Street and the south portal of the subway was a particularly useful place to experience the 6000s operating at their max! The only station that was open on this stretch was the Cermak Road (22nd Street) station, and it was a "B" station. The Englewood "A" trains (on which I rode) ran nonstop from 35th Street to the Roosevelt Road subway station.
This stretch of track was like a roller coaster. This was due to the fact that at one time there were stations every two blocks. They had been taken out of service and subsequently dismantled when the CTA assumed control of Chicago's transit system and streamlined its operations. The trackage would climb every two blocks to the station and then descend to the normal structure level. This promenade was particularly noteworthy when one saw an oncoming eight-car train ascending and descending the gentle slopes and curves of this mainline. There were some operators who notched up the cineston immediately after leaving 35th Street and didn't notch it down again until we were descending into the State Street Subway portal. Sitting in the railfan seat one could see passengers at the Cermak Road station moving back from the edge of the platform out of fear of being bowled over by the turbulence from the trains.
This stretch and the stretches between Indiana/58th Street and the Fullerton-Wilson Avenue main offered another fascinating feature. There were occasions when a rider could see as many as four or five approaching trains simultaneously! This usually occurred during rush hour when a train was running behind schedule and the following trains would inevitably catch up to the offending train. There were occasions when a train would still be standing at a station and the next train would be stopped a mere car-length behind it! This would happen frequently in The Loop where the Evanston, Ravenswood, Lake Street and NSL trains shared trackage. This scenario is not possible today as train controls do not allow such proximity.
Stranded: One of my most fearful moments occurred when I decided to take a ride to Howard station. I was approximately ten years old and it was my first venture to the city limits! I had expected that the Howard station configuration would allow me to alight from my train and cross over to the outgoing platform without having to pay another fare. Imagine my feelings of abject terror when I found that there was another fare booth on the other side of the station and I didn't have any money. I approached the man in the booth with sincere tears in my eyes and asked him if he'd let me through, explaining that I had no money (which was true). He smiled and winked at me and said "Go on through." I had nightmarish visions of calling my family, explaining where I was and how I got there and having them drive all the way to Howard Street to retrieve me. Those visions vanished immediately. I was also afraid that someone might have reported this act of kindness on the part of the employee and that he might be fired.
I took the first available train, a "B" train south to Fullerton before changing to an "A" train. I wanted to get away from Howard ASAP out of fear that the station attendant might have a change of heart and remove me from the platform. Ironically, while I was awaiting the arrival of the train "A" that would take me home, I walked toward the southern end of the station and found that some person had apparently dropped approximately $3.00 - $4.00 in coins onto the platform. I scooped up the cash, raced to the other side of the platform and took the next train back to Howard Street. The same person was in the fare booth. I paid two fares; one for my current ride and one for the previous fare that had been excused. I'll never forget the look on his face when I explained why I was paying two fares. He graciously accepted my money and told me he appreciated my honesty. I finally returned home with a clear conscience and a renewed sense of exploring The "L".
Pushing The Envelope: The northbound track traverses a 90 degree curve just before entering the Clark & Division subway station. Train speed before the curve was controlled by posting a couple of amber "Caution" signals prior to the curve. As a train entered the curve it then encountered a series of red "Stop" signals which would turn to "Caution" just before the train went through the signal. Some motormen were very conservative when driving through this section. Others pushed the envelope by maintaining a speed that would carry the train through the signals just as they were changing. I had a few episodes when I literally braced myself waiting for the emergency brake application to come. It never did.
Speed Demons: Dick Biondi was a very popular disk jockey on WLS in the early-60's. One of his favorite shticks was to invite people out to South Lake Shore Drive on Saturday nights to watch the "Submarine Races." You wouldn't believe the number of people who actually showed up to see the races. My "L" - riding friends had our own version of this concept. Occasionally our Englewood "A" train would leave The Fullerton station simultaneously with a Ravenswood train. Our train always won the race to Belmont as the Ravenswood trains had to make two or three stops between Fullerton and Belmont while we ran express. We were quite smug about our racing prowess. the stretch between Wilson and Thorndale frequently evaporated our smugness via the occasional Evanston Express train that blasted past us on the four track main north of Wilson. In fact, if our train was parked at a station the Evanston Express trains that passed would cause our train to shudder from the buffeting of the wind.
I mention this for those readers who are too young to have seen the Evanston Express 6000s... they were equipped with trolley poles as the Evanston branch was powered by overhead wires during this period. I saw these cars every morning during trips north of the State Street Subway. They looked quite impressive. I had an opportunity to ride one of these when, for some reason it had been reassigned to temporary service on the (then) North-South Line. The two-car unit was on the lead of our eight-car train!
Deciphering: My mother frequently took us downtown to the movie theaters and shopping. I'd deciphered the color scheme of the running lights (amber for Englewood, green for Jackson Park). My mother was always amazed at my telepathy when we'd see a train approaching Washington Street station after its run under the Chicago River and I'd always predict whether it was an "A" or "B" train. I finally disclosed my secret and received a play smack in the back of my head for not being "honest."
Track Signal Hell: One of the most nerve-wracking experiences I had occurred in The State Street Subway when the trackside signals malfunctioned. Our train had left The Chicago Street subway station heading northbound when we encountered a stop signal. There were five or six signals in succession that were malfunctioning... giving us a "Stop" command when there were no other trains in sight. All motormen carried what appeared to be a wooden stick that was approximately two or three feet long with a metal hook on the end. He had to pull alongside every tower, open his window and manually override the brake trip using the hook on the end of the stick to trip the override switch of each tower. It must have taken us 10 minutes to negotiate this four-five block section of track!
Thankfully, this torture ended when we arrived at Clark & Division. The remaining signals functioned properly. I also note that the motorman was incredibly adept at controlling the train's approach to each tower. He had to stop close enough to reach every tower with his hookstick, but if he overran the tower he risked tripping the emergency tripswitch which (as I understand) would have required him to climb down to track level and manually reset the emergency switch on the front truck of the train. Each stop was "right on the money!"
Younger enthusiasts might find the following information useful:
The Lake Street Route: There was a separate Lake Street line that entered The Loop at Wells and Lake, traversed The Loop and headed back out Lake Street. This route was consolidated with The Dan Ryan Line and subsequently The Englewood/Jackson Park Routes (The Dan Ryan Route was through-routed to the northside via The State Street Subway). At some point west of downtown, the Lake Street Route descended from the elevated structure and ran at ground level to its terminus. Power collection was via overhead wire.
Southside Routes: The 63rd Street trackage of The Jackson Park Branch had a center track. I only saw it used for overflow car storage when the 61st Street Yard was filled with cars during non-rush hour periods. It's my understanding that this "storage yard" initially was an express track.
There was a third track immediately north of the 43rd Street station. This track stored cars that ran on the Kenwood and Stockyards branches of the Southside L. I have recollections of strings of wooden cars parked on this spur. Kenwood trains were still running and I frequently saw wooden cars parked on the North side of the platform awaiting passengers.
There was a center track between the Indiana station and the south portal of the State Street subway.
I frequently traveled to Vienna Cleaners at 31st and Wentworth. I'd take a train to the 35th Street station. It consisted of one platform on either side of the tracks. There was a walkway that northbound riders could use to walk to a now-defunct exit at 34th Street. This pathway was adjacent to the northbound trackage. I had the occasional opportunity to experience a "B" train "up close and personal" (35th Street was an "A" station; Jackson Park trains frequently went through the station with the cineston "notched up"). The walkway was a scant three-four feet from the trackage. What a rush!
Northside Routes: Northbound Englewood "A" trains were frequently switched onto the middle "express" tracks north of Belmont. Jackson Park "B" trains did not have that luxury as Addison (Go Cubs!!!) was a "B" station and obviously those trains had to stop there.
Westside Routes: The Douglas Park Branch is the only line of the system that traverses all four "route modalities" (ground-level, elevated, median strip, and subway).