Roosevelt Tower
14th Tower

Roosevelt Road and Wabash Avenue, Near South Side

Service Notes:

Green Line: Ashland-East 63rd

Orange Line: Midway

Quick Facts:

Established: 1907
Original Line: South Side Rapid Transit
Rebuilt: 1993
Status: In Use



There have been two Roosevelt Towers on the South Side elevated, each independent of one another, in operation several decades apart, but located in the same general location.

The first Roosevelt Tower was established in 1907 when the South Side Elevated added a third track between 12th Street and 43rd Street to allow the operation of express trains in the peak direction during rush hour. For most of the distance the third track was added, the additional structure and track were built on the east side of the existing elevated structure, with the new track becoming the new northbound local track and the old northbound track becoming a bi-directional express track. However, from north of about 14th Street to just north of 12th Street, where the new three-track alignment ended and went back to two tracks for the remaining distance to the Loop, the third track was added on the west side of the structure. An interlocking with switches between each of the outside local tracks and the center track was installed just south of 12th Street station, controlled by a tower at the south end of the new southbound station platform. Express trains began and ended their express runs at the interlocking just south of 12th Street. The center track north of the interlocking was a spur for turning trains or storing cars, and had a capacity of five cars.

12th Street Tower (later called Roosevelt Tower, after the street and station's names changed) was a small, two-level wooden building located at the south end of the 12th Street station southbound platform. In 1913, when through-route operations commenced between the North and South side "L" lines, the tower was staffed weekdays (including Saturdays) from 6am to 1:15am and Sundays and holidays from 8am to 1:15am. At that time, the tower controlled all of the switches in the interlocking, and there were short wayside single- and double-arm semaphore signals that provided motormen clearance to proceed once the tower set the route. However, to enter the center storage pocket track north of the interlocking from the express track, trains had to be flagged past the two-arm signal that provided clearance from the center track to the northbound local track as there as no target governing the route into the center pocket.

When the State Street Subway was constructed, its connection to the South Side elevated altered the configuration of the express track. The subway emerged from a portal at 13th Street, curving under the elevated and ascending to the ground then up to connected to the elevated tracks around 15th Street. The subway was intended to handle express trains between the North and South sides, while the local trains would continue to use the elevated to the Loop. As such, the tracks were reconfigured so that the outside local tracks widened and the subway incline rose up through the middle. The center express track was severed, with the center track south of 15th Street connecting to the new subway (as did the local tracks via switches) and the center track north of there being cut off around 14th Street. A new left-hand switch was added between the northbound track and the remnant of the center track between 14th and Roosevelt. The new 17th Tower at 17th Street controlled the switches between the express and local tracks and the connection between the elevated and the subway, while Roosevelt Tower continued to control the switches south of Roosevelt station in and out of the center track remnant. (The switch at 14th Street was hand-throw.) The State Street Subway opened on October 16, 1943. At this point, the center track at Roosevelt was used for little more than turning Chicago North Shore & Milwaukee interurban trains, which terminated at Roosevelt, shunting interurban cars, and occasionally turning or storing "L" equipment.

On August 1, 1949, the CTA instituted its North-South Route service revision, which consisted of the streamlining of service patterns, institution of A/B skip stop service, and the closure of low-ridership stations. As part of the service revision, "L" service on the South Side Main Line from Wabash/Van Buren (Tower 12) to 15th and State streets was discontinued after all service to and from the South Side was routed into the State Street Subway as part of the new North-South Route. The tracks and the Roosevelt station were still used for North Shore Line interurban trains, however, and so the tower, interlocking, and center track continued to be used to terminate and turn interurban trains.

The North Shore Line ceased operation on January 21, 1963. On this date, the Roosevelt station and Roosevelt Tower were both closed. They were eventually demolished, probably within a year or two of closure. The elevated tracks between Tower 12 and 15th Street, however, were never torn down and were maintained as a non-revenue connection between the Loop and South Side Elevated. By December 1965, the switches at Roosevelt were converted to hand-throw operation.

The elevated tracks between Tower 12 and 15th Street were put back into regular "L" service only a few years later in 1969 when the newly opened Dan Ryan Line was routed onto the Loop via these tracks and a new connection at 17th Street. As part of this work, the middle track between Roosevelt and 14th Street was retained but reconfigured, with only one connection at each end -- a left-hand turnout from the mainline track -- and no longer extending north of the switch at Roosevelt. The switches were all manual hand-throw switches. Track maps in 1976 and 1978 noted the storage capacity of the center track to be 16 cars, though by a 1985 track map he storage was stated to be only 12 cars.


New Towers and a New Center Track

As part of the Southwest Transit Project (SWTP), which built a new "L" line from Midway Airport to a connection with the South Side elevated at 17th Junction, parts of the South Side "L" were rebuilt as well. A new station was built at Roosevelt and Tower 12 was rebuilt, to serve both trains of the new Orange Line and the existing Green Line trains already using the South Side "L". In addition, the middle track between Roosevelt and 14th Street was rebuilt. The rebuilt 14th Middle Track was in the same place as the old one, stretching from immediately south of the new Roosevelt station to 14th Street, but with new connections at each end to both of the mainline tracks via new right- and left-hand crossovers at each end. In addition, the crossovers at each end were interlocked, controlled by new towers at each end. Roosevelt Tower and 14th Tower could both control the immediately adjacent interlocking, as well as the interlocking at the opposite end, making the new arrangement very versatile. The rebuilt 14th Muddle Track had a capacity of 14 cars.

The new interlockings at Roosevelt and 14th Street were placed in service on September 13, 1993. The Orange Line began service on October 31, 1993.



This article is a stub. It will be expanded in the future as resources allow.