A Skokie Swift 3200-series train sets off for Dempster Street through Howard Yard, looking north on April 10, 1998. The ascending tracks in the center and on the left in the background lead to the Purple (Evanston) Line, while the descending tracks on the left (going under the Evanston tracks) are the Yellow Line (Skokie Swift). (Photo by Sean Gash)

Howard Yard & Shop
Juneway Terrace and Paulina Avenue, Rogers Park

Service Notes:


Red Line: Howard

Purple Line: Evanston

Yellow Line: Skokie Swift

Quick Facts:

Address: 1825 W. Juneway Terrace
Established: 1919
Shop Area: 95,000 square feet
Yard Area: 653,400 square feet
Rebuilt: 1991-93
Status: In Use

A southbound Jackson Park Express train pulls through the electro-pneumatic interlocking in the Howard Yard as it approaches the station circa 1943. Although the "L" utilized third rail south of Howard, overhead operation still predominated on the Evanston branch and for all North Shore Line trains. For a larger view, click here. (Photo from the George Krambles Archive)

The origin of the Howard Yard is meager, dating back to the opening of the Evanston Division of the Northwestern Elevated Railroad. On May 16, 1908, the Northwestern was extended north of Wilson to Central Avenue in Evanston over the electrified tracks of the Chicago Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad. A small yard was provided at Central and a siding at the Chicago city limits at Howard Street for the storage of cars between rush periods.

Several changes took place on the Northwestern Elevated in the late 1910s. Elevation of the tracks between Wilson and Howard began in 1914, but was slowed due to materials and manpower shortages caused by World War I. (The tracks north of Howard to University Place in Evanston were raised in 1910.) As part of the elevation process, a new yard was built north of Howard station, opening in 1919. With a larger car storage capacity, a number of trains now began and ended their runs at Howard. (Previously, most trains continued to the end of the line at Linden.) In 1923, a then-state-of-the-art electro-pneumatic interlocking system was placed in operation at the yard.

The layout through and around Howard Yard was altered in 1925, when the Niles Center branch was constructed between Howard and Dempster Street. Still, at this point all of the yard tracks were on the northwest side of the Evanston branch right-of-way. There were no formal shops to speak of; the North Side Division's primary maintenance and overhaul facilities were still located at Wilson Shops further down the line. There was, however, a Commonwealth Edison substation between the Evanston and Niles Center tracks at Chicago Avenue and two tracks had work pits beneath them at the south end of the yard. In the north end of the yard, near the corner of Chicago Avenue and Juneway Terrace, one storage track curved west around the stub ends of the other storage tracks, terminating just a bit east of the embankment carrying the Evanston branch's tracks over Chicago Avenue.

The new terminal loop in the Howard Yard has just recently opened in this view looking southeast from the corner of Chicago Avenue and Juneway Terrace in early 1950. All the train on the North-South Route are 4000-series -- seen here parked in the yard -- because of the restriction on operating wooden cars in the subway. For a larger view, click here. (Photo from the CTA 1949 Annual Report)

Still, despite expansion, the Howard Yard was of modest quality. The only repair pits were on the unsheltered south tracks, unbearably hot in summer and bitterly cold in winter. Car washing was done outside and by hand, using long handled brushes, but obviously only when weather permitted.

After the CTA took over operation of the "L", several changes took place at Howard Yard. The curved storage track at the northwest corner of the yard was extended beneath the Evanston Line tracks and around back to the Howard station. The Howard loop track, completed and opened for operation on February 10, 1950, allowed North-South Route trains to turn around without changing ends by simply traveling through the yard on the loop track and back to the station (an act sometimes referred to as "going around the horn" by jargon-speaking motormen). This not only saved time but also evened out wheel-wear on the cars. On October 15, 1954, automatic block signals were put in service on the loop track to improve safety.

Through the years, several improvements and upgrades were added to the yard. On April 13, 1954, regular operation of the first mechanical washer for rapid transit cars began at Howard Yard. In 1974, construction commenced on a shop building (up until that point, all heavy shop work on the North Side had to be done at Wilson Shops); on April 29th, tracks #8-N and #9-N had to removed from service to allow construction to progress.


Yard Renovation and Expansion

By the mid-1980s, it was decided that the through-routes of the North-South Route and West-South Route should be switched. The Howard Line trains would cease to be through-routed to the Englewood and Jackson Park branches and would instead terminate at 95th Street on the Dan Ryan Line. This would create a more balanced service level, but several infrastructure projects were required to allow this realignment of the through-routes to take place, including construction of a new Dan Ryan Connector subway linking the State Street Subway with the Dan Ryan Line, and a rebuilt Addison station to provide more efficient train movements. The switch would also greatly increase car requirements on the new Howard-Dan Ryan route, requiring expansions of both 98th and Howard yards. While most of the Howard/Dan Ryan project was the responsibility of the City of Chicago Department of Public Works, design and construction of the Howard Yard improvements was handled by the CTA.

The Howard Yard reconstruction program would increase storage capacity from 150 to 262 railcars, but it included more than just additional tracks -- the scope of the project included several improvements aimed to address a number of issues at Howard, and for North Side car storage and maintenance in general. The reconstructed yard would include a new maintenance shop along the north side of the yard. The 26-car shop would provide inspection and sub-unit replacement for cars assigned to Howard Yard, and would ultimately replace not only the small 4-car shop at Howard but also the century-old maintenance shop at Wilson -- primary shop activities would be switched from Wilson to the Howard Shop. The reconstructed yard included grade separation for the Evanston and Skokie Swift lines -- the Skokie tracks descended into a depressed cut while the Evanston tracks ascended into new, high aerial alignments north of the station and interlocking north of the station, providing separation between those main line tracks and any yard movements. A new turning loop was also included for North-South trains. Train movements would simplified and any switching conflicts removed between Evanston and Howard trains during rush hours. Other improvements in the project included new interlockings south of Howard station and north of the station, throughout the yard, with a modern solid-state microprocessor controlled interlocking plant using "entrance-exit" technology; a new main interlocking control tower (as well as smaller local control house for the south interlocking), and a dedicated fifth track south of Howard station to act as a turnback stub for Skokie and Evanston shuttle trains.

The Howard Yard reconstruction project was expansive in scope, required nearly 10 major construction contracts, and took about a decade to complete -- service had to be maintained while construction took place, complicating the construction schedule. Preliminary work was underway by the mid-1980s. By mid-1987, construction of the new twin-span aerial flyover structures for the Evanston Line was well underway. on December 1, 1989, the new interlocked double crossovers between Tracks 1 and 2 and between Tracks 3 and 4 north of Jarvis was placed in service. The Howard Transportation Office moved to first floor of the new Howard Tower on March 18, 1990, though this would prove to be a temporary home. The new Track #5 stub south of Howard for turning shuttle trains came into use on May 20, 1990.

On June 25, 1991, the new Howard South interlocking was complete and on September 30, a new turnback loop was completed at the north end of the yard. Also on September 30, the new structure and flyover track for southbound Evanston trains was placed in service; northbound trains continued to use the old track and bridge over Chicago Avenue for a while longer.

By August 27, 1992, storage capacity at the Howard West Yard, the tracks on the west side of the Skokie and Evanston branch tracks, was increased from 84 to 120 cars. On November 16, the new Howard South Yard was completed. Work at Howard was still underway when the reroute of the Howard and Dan Ryan lines took place on February 21, 1993. On January 15, 1994, the new Howard North Yard was completed and placed in service at 1000 hours, thus completing the track reconstruction at Howard Yard. Storage capacity was now at 310 cars.

Today, the Howard Yard and Shop serve the Red Line (Howard-Dan Ryan), Purple Line (Evanston), and Yellow Line (Skokie Swift).


Reconstruction of the Howard Yard continues in this view looking north on November 21, 1991. The new approaches to the Evanston and Skokie Swift Lines are well underway here and much of the new yard trackage has been laid. But it would still be another two years before the project would be completed. A variety of equipment is visible here: in addition to the numerous work cars, 6000-, 2000- and 2600-series cars are all in evidence. (Photo by Art Peterson)

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Locomotives S-104 (right) and S-105 are parked in their usual storage spot during the later years of their service lives, on the inclined spur track leading to Hines Lumber along the west property line of Howard Yard. The two Westinghouse locomotives are seen in profile parked on the spur in March 1964. (Photo by Lou Gerard)

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The east side of Howard Yard is seen looking southeast from Juneway Terrance in 1965. Parked in the yard are several 4000-series cars, with a 6000-series car on the turning loop/yard lead. With the expansion of Howard Yard in the early 1990s, the apartments on the left side of the alley are now gone and this view would be looking directly at the Howard Shops building. (Photo by Miles Beitler)

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S-105, one of CTA's two is of Baldwin-Westinghouse freight motors, is in its pocket track at Howard Yard in June 1968, where it and sister S-104 generally rested during the day. Most freight runs were done at night and during off-peak times when they would not interrupt passenger traffic. Thus, the locomotives had a lot of down time. By this point, the unit has been retrofit with sealed-beam headlights and marker lights. (Photo by Leon Kay)

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S-353, with its sleet-scrapper trolley pole and snow plow, is in Howard Yard on August 7, 1974, several months away from winter snow service. Line car S-606, originally a North Shore Line car, is also in the yard, on the left. (Photo by Doug Grotjahn, Collection of Joe Testagrose)

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Car 24, in its distinctive silver, charcoal, and orange paint scheme, sits in the Howard Yard between assignments on August 7, 1974. (Photo by Doug Grotjahn, Collection of Joe Testagrose)

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Between runs, car 54 - the John Paul Jones - sits in the Howard Street Yard on September 22, 1976. (Photo by Doug Grotjahn, Collection of Joe Testagrose)

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Out of revenue service for about a year, car 4325 leads a work train -- including fully converted, yellow-painted 4000-series work cars -- through Howard Yard on August 7, 1974. Note the other work car on the left in the yard. (Photo by Doug Grotjahn, Collection of Joe Testagrose)

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Car 6777 (originally numbered 6339) is in service at Howard on January 31, 1986. The car has just swung around the outside of the yard to turn around and is heading southbound into the station. (Photo by Peter Vesic)

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Car 2163 leads a 6-car southbound Evanston Express train of all Spirit of Chicago-painted 2000-series cars, momentarily stopped on the incline down from the Chicago Avenue bridge on the Evanston branch coming into Howard, in 1986. (Photo by Lou Gerard)

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A train of North-South 2000s is completing a trip around the turnaround loop in Howard Yard to begin another southbound journey while another set of 2000s is parked on a storage track at right in July 1988. The yard is under reconstruction: the tracks straight ahead that lead to the Evanston Line will soon be superseded by the new flyover being constructed at left. (Photo by James Raymond)

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Several different types of cars -- 6000-, 2000-, and 2600-series cars -- are all being stored at Howard Yard while reconstruction continues on October 23, 1991. A new shop building is being built in the center of the photo. (Photo by Art Peterson)

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Looking north from the Howard station overhead transfer bridge on October 7, 1999, we can two sets of the 2600s in the background, a Yellow Line 3200 coming into the station, and Howard Yard as the backdrop to it all. The Howard Shops can be seen on the right. (Photo by Sean Gash)

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Looking southwest into Howard Yard from the elevated Evanston tracks, we seeing two 2600-series cars in their original Spirit of Chicago livery - with car 2950 in the foreground - parked between assignments on February 19, 2000. (Photo by Jack S. and Chris L.)

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Looking west into the Howard Yard on Saturday, February 19, 2000, we see all cars laid over for the weekend, awaiting the increased demand the Monday rush hour will bring. Car 2578 is in the left foreground, with a number of 2400s and 2600s on the storage tracks to the right. (Photo by Jack S. and Chris L.)

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The Central Electric Railfan Association's 2000 CTA charter train -- comprised of cars 3443-3444/S-601/3441-3442 -- heads south through Howard Yard from the Purple Line toward Howard station on September 3, 2000. (Photo by Sean Gash)

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Similar view of the CERA charter as above, with a larger, fuller view of Howard Yard on September 3, 2000. (Photo by Sean Gash)

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The IRM PCC charter train -- cars 22 and 6655-6656 -- works its way through Howard Yard, and past a northbound Purple Line Shuttle, into Howard station to pick up the charter riders on May 6, 2001. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

Car 22 leads a IRM charter train as it snakes its way through Howard Yard, looking north on the overhead transfer bridge on May 6, 2001. (Photo by Mike Farrell)

Rehabbed 2600-series car 2752 sits in the Howard Yard between runs on February 19, 2000. A 2400-series work motor can be seen in the background on the right. (Photo by Jack S. and Chris L.)

Rehabbed 2600-series car 2630 is leading this train, coming southbound off the turning loop at Howard Street into the station, on October 7, 1999. The yard is seen in the background. (Photo by Sean Gash)

Looking north from the Howard station overhead transfer bridge, was see car 2848 bringing up the tail of a four-car Evanston shuttle train bound for Linden on February 19, 2000. Howard Yard is in the background; Howard Shops are on the right. (Photo by Jack S. and Chris L.)

Looking southwest into Howard Yard from the elevated Evanston tracks, we seeing two 2600-series cars in their original Spirit of Chicago livery - with car 2950 in the foreground - parked between assignments on February 19, 2000. (Photo by Jack S. and Chris L.)

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A 2600-series car (probably 3028) leads an 8-car Red Line train through Howard Yard circa May 1999. (Photo by Sean Gash)

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Car 2611 joins several of its rehabbed 2600-series brethren in Howard Yard between assignments on July 16, 2000. The view looks northeast toward the shops. (Photo by Mike Farrell)

A Red Line train led by car 2745 heads into Howard Yard, looking north from the overhead transfer bridge at Howard station on August 22, 2001. (Photo by Mike Farrell)

After unloading its passengers at Howard station, a Red Line train trailed by car 2761 heads into Howard Yard to the turnback loop, to head back into the station for a new run south to 95th, looking north on August 22, 2001. (Photo by Mike Farrell)

After going through the turnback loop in Howard Yard, car 2782 leads a Red Line train heading into Howard station to pick up passengers from the trip south on August 22, 2001. The operator has not yet changed the destination signs to read "95/Dan Ryan". (Photo by Mike Farrell)

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A Skokie Swift 3200-series train sets off for Dempster Street through Howard Yard, looking north on April 10, 1998. (Photo by Sean Gash)

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Stored midday in Howard Yard when fewer cars are needed in Purple Line service, cars 2554 and 2584 display the two different 2400-series liveries seen on the system in 2005 side-by-side on August 4 of that year. As the 2400s are cycled through the shops for overhauls, they are stripped of their red, white, and blue belt rails and their end caps painted gray, making them more visually compatible with the rest of the gray/silver unpainted fleet. During the transition, 2400-series cars both colorful and plain could be seen on the system. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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Before reaching its own right-of-way, the Skokie Swift first negotiates through Howard Yard on its way west. Descending below grade, level with its alignment through most of Evanston in open cut, the Yellow Line tracks travel below the Howard Yard loop track, used to turn Red Line trains, then the inbound Purple Line viaduct, and finally Chicago Avenue, seen in that order looking west on April 12, 2006. (Photo by William Davidson)

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Snowbroom S-520 is sitting in Howard Yard, at the far south end of Track 1S, on March 28, 2010. Built by Marmon Transmotive in 1982, the S-520 is one of several small Marmon snowbrooms CTA owns, but all are now in poor condition and are rarely, if ever, used. (Photo by Dennis Herbuth)

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Having departed Howard station and passed through the interlocking at the entrance to Howard Yard, car 5176 leads a Yellow Line train coming down the hill to pass under the yard's loop track, Chicago Avenue and the Metra Union Pacific tracks before entering the open cut right-of-0way on its way to Dempster on April 26, 2014. A Red Line train is visible at the top of the hill, having just turned around, coming off the loop track. The Yellow Line train is sporting a classic Skokie Swift sign for the line's 50th anniversary. (Photo by Graham Garfield)
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The first two of the four cars CTA wrapped to celebrate the Cubs' World Series victory, 5695-5696, sit in Howard Yard on November 7, 2016, shortly before going into service later that day; car 5696 is nearest to the camera. The large "W" on the side mimics the "win" flag that is flown on the stadium scoreboard when the Cubs win, a tradition that began as a way to let "L" riders passing Wrigley Field know who won that day's game. (Photo courtesy of the CTA)
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Going around the inner turning loop track in Howard Yard provides a good side view of the Cubs-wrapped cars, and strong impression of how a train of all Cubs cars in a row looks, as cars (l to r) 5304, 5696 and 5695 wind their way through on a charter on April 23, 2017. (Photo by David Harrison)