Red Line: North Side Main Line
(Howard branch)



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Current Line w/Transfer Station


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Service Notes:

Hours of Operation: Service at all times
Length of Route: 7.5 miles
Number of Stations: 15 stations
Car Types Assigned: 5000-series
(see Car Assignment sheet for latest car assignments)


Brief Description:

The Howard section of the Red Line -- the portion between Howard terminal and the State Street Subway on the North Side of the city -- is a series of sections built by the Northwestern Elevated Railroad. Often referred to as the North Side Main Line, the Howard line represents the trunk line of the old Northwestern Elevated, although only the portion north of Armitage (where the subway begins) is still part of the Red Line.

Between Armitage and Clark Junction, the old Northwestern main line is shared by the Red and Brown Lines. Here, Brown Line (and Purple Line) trains run as the locals did for the Northwestern on the outside tracks (Tracks 1 and 4) and make all stops. The Red Line operates on the inner tracks (Tracks 2 and 3), as Northwestern expresses did, and make limited stops. At Clark Junction, the Brown Line leaves the old North Side Main Line for the Ravenswood branch; the Red Line continues north on the inside tracks as the "local" and the Purple Line Express continues on the outside tracks as the "express".

Early on, there were no through-routed services -- all trains terminated in the Loop -- and for the first seven years no Ravenswood branch at all. From 1900 to 1907, all trains that traversed the North Side Main Line went from the Loop to Wilson, with some running local and others running express. There was much tweaking of these operations well. Originally, expresses stopped at Sheridan, Belmont, Fullerton, Halsted, Sedgwick, and Kinzie, but express stopping at Halsted and Sedgwick (on the portion no longer used by North-South trains) was short-lived, suspended in September 1900. Another concept that was used quite a bit back then (especually after the North Side Main extension north of Wilson opened in 1908) but is virtually unknown in Chicago now is the idea of "zone expresses". Zone express service offers express service, with few stops, in one portion of a route and then operates local service at the other end of the route. This provides a much more flexible service for riders by allowing those who live at local stops at the outer portion of the route to still enjoy the benefits of fast express service without changing trains, not to mention that it uses infrastrucutre more efficiently. Starting in 1902, some northbound afternoon expresses made local stops north of Fullerton to give passengers heading to these stations and faster trip. (This concept was more fully developed after 1908, when the extension opened. For more on this, see below.)

In March 1907, the Evanston City Council approved the electrification of the St. Paul's tracks through their city. By the end of Summer 1907, a joint operating agreement between the Northwestern and the St. Paul was signed. The right-of-way's ownership technically stayed with the CM&StP, so a special fund was established to cover maintenance and capital improvements. Work quickly began to realign the tracks and string up overhead for the Northwestern, who had to retrofit all of their trains with trolley poles for the new service. New high-level platforms and small wooden station houses were built to replace the St. Paul's stations at Argyle, Edgewater, North Edgewater, Hayes, Rogers Park, and Birchwood, as well as in suburban Evanston.

Service was extended north of Wilson to Central Avenue in north Evanston on May 16, 1908 over the electrified St. Paul tracks. Additional stations were added over time, including Howard on the city limits shortly after on August 23, 1908, Thorndale Avenue was added in 1915 and Edgewater Beach (Berwyn) circa 1918.


Important Dates:



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