Gunderson Tower
Gunderson Avenue and Harrison Street, Village of Oak Park

Service Notes:


Garfield Line

Quick Facts:

Established: 1926
Original Line: Metropolitan West Side Elevated Railroad, Garfield Park branch
Rebuilt: n/a
Status: Demolished



The Chicago Aurora & Elgin interurban used the Garfield Park branch to reach downtown Chicago through a reciprocal trackage rights agreement from February 23, 1905 to September 20, 1953. The CA&E only stopped at a handful of "L" stations, so fast interurban expresses would often catch up to the slower "L" locals. This was especially problematic because the Garfield Park branch only had two tracks, one in each direction, which did not allow for expresses to pass locals.

Circa 1910, thought was given to adding two more tracks between between Desplaines and 52nd Avenue, through Gunderson station, to allow separated local and express service. Although the necessary governmental approvals were received, no construction of undertaken. Passing locations were, however, established at St. Louis, Laramie, and Desplaines.

Later, in anticipation of the opening of the Westchester extension of the Garfield Park branch, a full center track was installed at Gunderson in 1926 to expedite service by allowing "L" expresses and Chicago Aurora & Elgin interurbans could pass slower Garfield Park "L" locals without interrupting or slowing service. Around this time the station was rebuilt , with the extra width required by widening the right-of-way from two to three tracks necessitating the moving and reconstruction of the station building. An interlocking tower was built on the west side of Gunderson Avenue, next to the outbound platform, to control access through the switches at either end of the center track.

When the CTA took over in 1947, the Garfield Park branch was a tangled series of complex schedules involving multiple express and local services in addition to CA&E interurbans running over the same tracks. With only two tracks and passing tracks and interlockings at only four locations, schedules were extremely complex and fragile. Schedule adherence was essential and any delay meant that the conglomeration of different trains got in each others' way. As a result, following its successful introduction on the Lake Street and North-South Route in 1948 and 1949, respectively, the CTA decided to simplify, streamline, and expedite service on the Garfield Line by introducing A/B skip stop all-express service.

A/B skip stop service began on the Garfield Line on December 9, 1951. As a result, expresses and locals were discontinued. All "L" trains either made alternating skip stops or simply made all stops during off-peak periods. Although the CA&E interurbans which made limited stops on the "L" remained, the schedule was greatly simplified and it was no longer necessary to have several passing locations along the Garfield Line. Although St. Louis Interlocking closed that day, Gunderson Interlocking was kept in service to continue to serve as a passing location for "L" and CA&E trains. However, thanks to the faster "L" skip-stop service, train bunching was greatly reduced.

The continued use of Gunderson Interlocking was short-lived, however. The Chicago Aurora & Elgin interurban was losing riders but continued to limp along, despite declining revenues. The nail in the coffin for the interurban was the construction of the Congress Expressway. This necessitated the demolition of the Garfield Park elevated and the adoption of temporary grade-level operation for the "L". This proved too burdensome for the interurban and they curtailed their services to Desplaines on September 20, 1953, the day the grade-level reroute took effect. As a result, the center passing track was no linger necessary to allow faster CA&E interurbans to bypass the "L" trains stopping at Gunderson. (Technically, during peak periods, only Garfield "A" trains stopped at Gunderson and "B" trains bypassed the station, but the nature of skip-stop service meant that an "express" train did not catch up with its leader, so passing tracks were not necessary.) As a result, it is likely that the interlocking and tower facilities closed the same day. The switches controlled access to the center track were subsequently converted to manual hand-throw operation.

On September 6, 1957, westbound Garfield Line trains shifted to a set of temporary tracks from Austin to west of Oak Park. Concurrent with the move to the second temporary alignment west of Austin, the Gunderson westbound platform closed. On September 19, eastbound trains were also rerouted via the temporary tracks, closing the Gunderson eastbound platform where the tower was.



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