Desplaines Shops is seen looking northeast across the Congress Expressway on January 21, 1963, less than a year after opening. With its sparse tan-yellow brick exterior, rectilinear shape, and cutout letters along the side, the building is very typical of 1960s architecture. For a larger view, click here. (Photo from the CTA Collection)

Desplaines Yard & Shops
Desplaines Avenue and Eisenhower Expressway, Village of Forest Park

Service Notes:


Blue Line: Forest Park

Quick Facts:

Address: 711 S. Desplaines Avenue
Established: 1959
(yard), 1962 (inspection shop)
Shop Area: 27,361 square feet
Yard Area: 203,750 square feet
Rebuilt: n/a
Status: In Use

When the CTA built the Congress Line in the 1950s and planned to integrate it into the larger West-Northwest Route, it was decided to move the yard from mid-line at Laramie to the end of the line at Desplaines Avenue. Here, a large storage yard, shops, and terminal facility would be built to accommodate the new, busy line.

The terminal site was developed somewhat like a horseshoe, if viewed aerially. The Congress Line approached from the northeast corner of the site, crossing Desplaines Avenue and entering the terminal station along the north edge of the property. West of the terminal platform, a switch allowed trains to choose a loop track on the south side of the yard lead to return to the station for an inbound trip to go continue west on the double-track lead. The yard lead then turned south along the western edge of the property, then, in a series of switches, split into six yard tracks that swept southeast, east, and finally back up in a northeasterly direction.

The severed, never-used CA&E tracks through Desplaines Yard are seen in March 1962. The left view is looking north along the west side of the yard, where the CA&E lead track to their platform has been severed to restore the double-track throat into the CTA yard. The right view looks west along the north edge of the yard from the never-used CA&E platform track. For a larger view of the left images, click here; for a larger view of the right, click here. (Photos from the Graham Garfield Collection)

In 1959, one year after the Congress Line opened, the new terminal was built. During this time it was still hoped that the CA&E might resume service to this station, so an additional island platform and stub track were constructed immediately to the north of the "L"'s double-track island-platform terminal. Hopes were so high for a resumption of CA&E service, in fact, that a new track connection was even laid between the old CA&E right-of-way on the west side of the Desplaines River (immediately west of the station and yard) and the interurban's new platform. The bridge that had carried the interurban over the river was relocated a few feet north (necessary for expressway construction) and a new double-track line laid. Since the discontinuance of CA&E service, however, the CTA had built the large yard that took up most of the site. So, the CTA's double-track yard throat along the western property edge was reduced to one track. As the CA&E's line approached the yard from the southwest, it narrowed from a double-track line to a single track, running north on the west track of the former double lead track along the westernmost edge of the property. This way, the interurban track reached the northwest corner of the property, turned east, and entered its one-track, one-platform terminal. But the interurban never did return to service and the track connection was never used. Once it was clear that the CA&E was not to return, the interurban lead track along the western edge of the property was removed and the double-track throat to the CTA yard was restored.

Work began in April 1961 on a permanent shop building for Desplaines Yard, which is located at the southwest corner of the property and running lengthwise parallel to the adjacent expressway. The ultramodern shop building, as described in the 1962 CTA Annual Report, is faced with yellow brick interspersed with glass panels and equipped with shop machinery and equipment of the latest design. Hoists that can lift two cars together five feet off their trucks permit servicemen to remove anyone or all trucks for repair or replacement. Depressed pits running the length of the building make each car's running mechanism visible and easily accessible. Overhead cranes and monorails are provided for the handling of heavy units. There also is an automatic car washer through which an entire train can be run and cleaned in a few minutes. The shop was built to accommodate several functions in addition to car inspection and maintenance. An office, parts storeroom and upholstery shop are a part of the first floor arrangement and a lunch room and other facilities for employees are provided on the second floor.

To celebrate the opening of the new Desplaines Shops, an open house was held on July 27, 1962 to show off the facilities to CTA employees, their families, and guests. In addition to the maintenance bay, visitors got to see CTA's latest cars, the 6000-series (note in the middle foreground is one of the high-speed experimental cars), and see them up on the hoists. For a larger view, click here. (Photo from the CTA Collection)

By Fall 1961, the steel structure for the service and inspection shops, was erected and masonry work on the tan brick exterior had begun. The shop was completed and entered service in July 1962. The shop building, constructed at a cost of $969,900, covered an area of 26,000 square feet and was large enough to accommodate 12 cars at a time total on three tracks. In addition to the new shop, all six existing yard tracks were extended eastward and a seventh yard track was added, which provided access to the shop leads. Tracks for outside storage of 100 rapid transit cars during off-peak periods were provided for in the overall installation, and parking space for almost 500 automobiles is available at or near this terminal. The total project was completed at a cost of $1,180,000.

On Monday, July 1, 1968, two more yard tracks, 1-W and 2-W, were placed in service to compensate for loss of capacity at Logan Square Yard during the construction of the Kennedy Extension. These tracks, which extend west along the south property line behind the shop, were actually a reactivation of the the old CA&E tracks that were laid in 1959, but never used, to connect the CA&E right-of-way with Desplaines Terminal.

For many years, Desplaines Shops handled nearly all of the car inspection and maintenance for both branches at the south end of the West-Northwest Route -- both the Congress and Douglas branches -- since the 54th Yard at the end of the Douglas had no shop building and only an outdoor inspection pit. After building a small shop at 54th in the 1970s, most car maintenance for the Douglas branch moved there, although Desplaines remains the larger and more comprehensive of the two shops.

Over the years some additional small improvements have been made to the yard. As part of the reconstruction of Desplaines station, a new yard selection panel was put in service on April 7, 1980 to control access to the yard from the station track. On October 2, 2000, new procedures were put in effect for trains moving to and from Forest Park Yard (as the yard become known, following a change in nomenclature for the Congress branch to the "Forest Park branch"): trains moving from the north station track to the yard [lay-ups] now use the Outer Lead Track, while trains moving from the yard to the south station track [put-outs] use the Inner Lead Track.

Desplaines shops and yards serves the Forest Park [Congress] branch of the CTA Blue Line. Today, the yard can accommodate 122 cars, excluding the loop, shop, and lead tracks. The 1960s shop building is still in use. The large CTA logo on the west elevation of the building is gone, but the large letters spelling "CHICAGO TRANSIT AUTHORITY" standing on the south elevation's canopy are still extant (although some letters are replacements).

DesplainesShops03.jpg (127k)
PCC cars 6285-86 are up on the hoist inside Desplaines Shops for inspection in 1962. Many of the older shops had hoists that could only lift one car at a time, a fine arrangement when cars were all single units but less convenient once CTA started ordering nearly all its cars as married pair units. As 6285-86 demonstrate here, Desplaines Shops' hoists can lift two cars together five feet off the ground to give repairmen unrestricted access easily. (Photo from the CTA Collection)

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A train of 6000-series cars is seen going through the car washer built as part of Desplaines Shops. The photo was retouched by the CTA (most noticeably on the #1 end panels of the front car and to accentuate the spray, which would otherwise be less prominently visible), probably for use in a publication. (Photo from the CTA Collection)

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Can't you just imagine the squeal of the flanges against the rail as 6111 runs around the loop at Desplaines Avenue? This undated view of a portion of the car brings to mind some interesting points about the first order of 6000s. In an effort to bring the per-car price under $40,000 (remember, we're talking 1950 Dollars!), CTA's engineers went to the married-pair concept, saving money on the additional couplers and control cabs that would have been required for double-ended cars. Next, the track brakes were eliminated for another cost savings. Of course, as is evident in this view (the track brake is visible under the trolley beam/shoe) it turned out that having the track brakes available was an operational as well as an engineering advantage, so they were added to cars early in their operating careers. (Photo from the Jeff Obarek collection)

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Car 2207 sits in Desplaines Yard between Blue Line runs on August 10, 2001. (Photo by Mike Farrell)

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2200-series car 2234 is between runs in Desplaines Yard as it passes through the maintenance shop's car washing booth on August 10, 2001. (Photo by Mike Farrell)

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Rehabbed 2600-series car 2955 is in Desplaines Yard between runs on August 10, 2001. The car bears "O'Hare" destination signs, either for a run its about to engage in or for some other unintentional reason (Desplaines being at the end of the Forest Park line, it should not have been the reading displayed when the train was laid up). (Photo by Mike Farrell)

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Car 2988 heads into the automatic car washing booth next to the Desplaines Yard shops for its regular cleaning on August 10, 2001. (Photo by Mike Farrell)

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The solid eight-car train used for the official last trip of the 2200-series railcars is coming out of Desplaines Yard, led by car 2250, to pull into the platform at Forest Park to load passengers and for additional photo opportunities before departing for its last trip back to O'Hare -- and retirement -- on Thursday, August 8, 2013. The cars have reproduction destination sign graphics and other period decals on the cars, along with special signs designating the train as the cars' ceremonial farewell trip. (Photo by Graham Garfield)
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Car 2250 provides a head-on view as it leads the eight-car train of 2200-series cars snaking out of Desplaines Yard into Forest Park station to begin its last in-service trip on the "L" on August 8, 2013. The 2200s had not been run in solid consists since the 1990s, when CTA directed that all trains must have at least one non-2200 unit to assure all trains could accommodate wheelchairs. CTA made a special exception for the ceremonial last trip of the 2200s, since the train was an extra, inserted between regularly-scheduled accessible trains. The Congress-Milwaukee "A" destination signs are not only appropriate to the period the cars entered service, but are the historic equivalent of the route the cars were operating on for their last trip. (Photo by Graham Garfield)