Laflin Street and Van Buren Street, Near West Side
Garfield Line/Douglas Line
Address: 418 S. Laflin Street
Established: May 6, 1895
Original Line: Metropolitan West Side Elevated
Previous Names: none
Skip-Stop Type: n/a
The Laflin station opened in 1895 when the Metropolitan "L" first opened. It was located on the four-track Metropolitan main line, on which all three branches of the Met -- the Northwest branch, Garfield Park branch, and Douglas Park branch -- entered downtown Chicago.
An 1897 inventory of the Metropolitan "L" described the station houses on the Met main line as being "similar to those of the Garfield Park branch, but larger." Indeed, like these, the station houses at Laflin and the other Met main line stations were constructed of red pressed brick with stone sills and foundations. The most obvious difference in design from their Garfield Park (and Northwest branch) brethren is the lack of the semicircular bay/portico on front which was characteristic of these other Met headhouses, instead having a flat front elevation. The interior was described as having painted walls and ceiling with hard wood finishes, and equipped with a ticket booth, newsstand, water closet, and a water heater in the basement.
As originally built, all four Met main line stations, including Laflin, had dual island platforms, each set between the pairs of outer and inner tracks. The stairs and platforms were constructed of wood on a steel structure. Each platform had a short canopy in the center of the platform, covering the stairs and about 2/3 of the original platform length. The canopy frame was iron, with a hipped roof of corrugated tin. The inner tracks at each station were tangent, while the outer tracks bowed out to make room for the platform between the outer and inner tracks.
Between 1898 and 1914, the track and platform configurations at Halsted, Racine and Laflin were altered. A valuation report for the Metropolitan elevated described the original island platforms as having "very sharp swings in the track at each end of the platform. These were so sharp as to be a source of danger..." As a result, the Met embarked on a project to shift the structure, install new foundations, reconfigure the platforms, and change the profile of the tracks on both sides of the platforms. At Laflin, the result was a change to a three-platform configuration, with an island platform between the two inner tracks and side platforms outboard of the two outer tracks. It is not clear why the project took 16 years, even if done under traffic, nor if it was done one station at a time or if more than one station was worked on at a time. However, at least some of the reconfiguration work started early on at Laflin, as photos dated 1896 show construction work being performed on the north island platform at Laflin.
In 1905, a casket elevator was installed at Laflin, as well as Hoyne on the Douglas Park branch, to handle the funeral train operations that the Met, in conjunction with the Aurora Elgin & Chicago Railroad, started running that year. Additional elevators were planned for other parts of the system, but those plans were abandoned when it was discovered that pallbearers were able to carry to caskets up the "L" station stairs with relatively little trouble. Funeral trains, which proved popular in a time when roads were often unpassable during poor weather, were run to Concordia, Waldheim, Oak Ridge and Mount Carmel Cemeteries until 1934, when paved roads and motorized hearses made the service obsolete.
In early 1951, trains between downtown and Logan Square were rerouted from their Milwaukee-Paulina alignment via Marshfield and the Metropolitan Division main line into the Milwaukee-Dearborn Subway, which continued under Milwaukee, Lake Street, Dearborn, and Congress, originally ending at LaSalle/Congress. Garfield Park and Douglas Park trains to and from the Loop, however, continued to operate over the old Met main line and through Laflin for the time being.
However, Laflin station closed later that year, on December 9, 1951, as part of the Garfield-Douglas service revision that introduced A/B skip stop service and closed several lightly-used stations.
Within a couple years, the Met Division main line and Garfield Park branch began to be gradually abandoned to allow for its demolition to make way for the construction of the Congress Superhighway (later, Eisenhower Expressway). In September 1953, the Garfield Park Line was rerouted via temporary ground-level trackage along the south side of Van Buren Street between Sacramento and Aberdeen. The next phase of abandonment came when Douglas trains were rerouted to the Loop via the Paulina Connector and Lake Street on April 4, 1954. This allowed for the abandonment of the Metropolitan main line elevated structure from Marshfield Junction to Sangamon Street, including the portion where the Laflin station was formerly located.
The Loomis entrance to Racine station on the replacement Congress Line is located one block east of Laflin Street, opening June 22, 1958, 6-1/2 years after Laflin station closed.
This Chicago-L.org article is a stub. It will be expanded in the future as resources allow.