Midway Yard looking north, with the shops on the left. April 18, 2003. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)


Midway Yard & Shops
56th Street and Kilpatrick Avenue, West Eldson

Service Notes:


Orange Line: Midway

Quick Facts:

Address: 5601 S. Kilpatrick Avenue
Established: 1993
Shop Area: 88,000 square feet
Yard Area: 806,676 square feet
Rebuilt: n/a
Status: In Use


Midway Yard and Midway Shop are located at the end of the Midway branch of the "L", providing car storage and maintenance functions for the Orange Line.


Planning and Construction

The Southwest Transit Project (SWTP), designed and built under the auspices of the City of Chicago Department of Public Works (DPW) and led by a joint city/CTA management team, included a yard and maintenance shop to service the new "L" line. The design work for the line was broken down into dozens of small contracts given to many different design firms. Design of the yard and shop facility was performed by DeLeuw Cather (engineers) and William Brazley & Associates (architects).

The alignment of the "L" main line at Midway and the placement of the yard relative to the main line tracks went through several revisions in the planning stages. As originally planned, the line was to begin at Midway Airport with the terminal station in subway. In this scheme, the yard and maintenance facilities were to be located at grade level east of the station, between 55th and 58th streets and between Kilbourn Avenue and the Belt Railway.

As the design process moved forward, several revisions were made to the plans. By 1984, the Midway subway alignment was substituted with an aerial structure to cross 55th Street, then a descent to an at-grade station. The cost of the subway alignment was also determined to be prohibitively high, threatening the viability of the entire project. Under this scheme, the tracks would have approached the station on a southwest alignment, then curved southeast after the station and made a U-turn to access the yard east of the tracks north of 59th Street.

In mid-1985, the plan changed again: now the Midway station tracks and platforms would be adjacent and parallel to the Belt Railway immediately north of 59th Street. The yard and shop were relocated west of the tracks and north of the station. This is the site plan that was eventually built.

Ground was broken on the overall Southwest rapid transit project in 1987. On January 22, 1990, Mayor Richard M. Daley, CTA Acting Executive Director Bernard Ford, Chicago Public Works Commissioner David Williams, U.S. Rep. William Lipinski, other public officials broke ground on the Midway terminal.

By mid-1993, Midway yard and shop were substantially complete.

As part of the CTA's publicity for the new line, the public was allowed to tour Midway Shop on Sunday, July 25, 1993. In addition to tours of the shop facilities, line management has arranged for a display of several generations of CTA cars using, in most cases, the first car of each respective series: cars 6101-02, 2001-02, 2201-02, 2401-02, 2601-02, and 3201-02 were all on display. Free demonstration rides were also given over the new Midway line.


Design of the Yard and Shop

Midway Yard is located immediately north of Midway station, on the west side of the Midway branch main line tracks. The yard has a north-south orientation, with all of the storage tracks running in that direction. There are 12 storage tracks, numbered from track #1 on the east to #12 on the west next to the shop, each track able to hold 16 railcars. The yard has a storage capacity of 192 cars.

At the north and south ends of the yard are loop tracks -- a single-track loop on the south and a double-track loop on the north. At each end of the yard, the storage tracks connect to a lead track running at an angle; the end of each of these lead tracks flows into a loop track. Following the south loop track around connects to additional lead tracks to the shop. The north loop's other end connects back to the main line, curving around southward and connecting to the interlocking at the entrance to the terminal. (Approaching Midway from the north, there is no access directly into the yard; a train must enter the terminal station, then reverse to proceed into the yard.)

Midway Shop is located on the west side of the yard, along Kilpatrick Avenue. The shop is approximately 450 feet long and 170 feet wide, and has four tracks, lettered track A on the east to track D on the west. Tracks A and B can hold 8 cars, and run all the way through the building, connecting to yard lead tracks on both the north and south. Tracks C and D hold only 2 cars each, and only enter the shop from the south side of the building.

The maintenance shop is of utilitarian architectural design, with cast concrete exterior wall panels with a vertical corrugated/fluted finish except for the top and corner borders of each wall, which are smooth. The top of each wall is finished with simple white metal flashing. The building is 1-story and largely windowless, except for the center third of the building, over tracks C and D, which is two stories and has a row of square windows running the length of the upper level. A receiving dock is located on the north side of the shop, opposite of track D.

The shop includes a railcar washer inside, located on track A, whose inside location allows cars to be washed all-year-around. The shop also includes a Simmons wheel lathe,1 a specialized machine (sometimes also called a wheel truing machine) for the corrective maintenance of railway rolling surfaces which allows wheelsets to be re-profiled to remove flat spots while they are still attached to the train.


Recent Developments

In 2017, the City announced plans to expand the terminal garage, located immediately west of Midway Yard, as part of its Midway Modernization Program. The $143 million project included other improvements such as a new payment system, more automated gates, brighter LED lighting, new paint, and upgraded security cameras, elevators and directional signage. The expanded garage, adding 1,500 new parking spaces, would have been over a portion of the rail yard. The expansion plan required the demolition of the Midway station kiss & ride lot and temporary removal of tracks in Midway Yard. Construction began in July 2018.2

A CTA spokesperson, in 2020, said the CTA was able to accommodate the temporary removal of the few yard tracks with "minor adjustments" to its normal rail vehicle maintenance practices.3

However, although work had been underway for over a year, in fall 2019, the City cancelled the garage expansion plan. The project was shelved after the Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA) received updated cost projections that would have increased the price tag by at least $15 million. "After careful consideration of costs as well as industry trends, CDA determined the expansion was no longer viable, and the project was officially terminated in September, 2019," Aviation spokesman Matt McGrath said in a statement emailed to the Chicago Tribune. McGrath said the growth of ride-share services like Uber and Lyft meant fewer people were parking at the airport, adding that Midway terminal parking use fell by about 3.2% in 2018.4

According to a CTA spokesperson, all of the yard tracks were restored and the yard back in service as of December 22, 2019.5


Midway Yard, looking north from the airport skybridge on October 25, 2002. The maintenance shops are in the distance on the far left. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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A view of the Midway Yard from the skybridge between the station and the airport, looking north on Sunday September 10, 2000. (Photo by Ernie Baudler)

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Looking northwest at Midway Yard from a passing Orange Line train in March 2002, with eight-car train of Target ad cars in the foreground. (Photo by Robert Mencher)

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Midway Shop is capable of doing more heavy overhaul work than most others on the system, besides Skokie Shops. As such, the Brown Line 3200-series cars are being cycled on and off the Orange Line ten at a time as both lines' units are put through their quarter-life "C" level rehab. Car 3360 is on Track A, which also has the shops' car washing unit (visible in the background) in Midway Shop, looking south on April 18, 2003. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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During the midday lull, the cars not needed after rush hour are parked in Midway Yard among those that make up the line's spare ratio. Looking north on April 18, 2003, an array of Orange Line trains are parked in the yard, with one set of the line's Target advertisement wrap cars on the right. (Photo by Graham Garfield)


1. Chicago Transit Authority. "Detail Specification for Service, Parts, Maintenance, Calibration, & Support; Simmons Machine Wheel Press, Wheel Bore, and Wheel Truing Machine - CTA Specification No. 8366-18." Revised June 8, 2018. https://lapi.transitchicago.com/assets/1/6/Simmons-Specs.pdf. Accessed October 12, 2021.
2. Wisniewski, Mary. "The Midway Airport kiss and ride lot has reopened -- 18 months after it was demolished for a garage expansion that never happened." Chicago Tribune, January 6, 2020.
3. Ibid.
4. Ibid.
5. Ibid.