Randolph/Wells Inner Loop station, looking west in 1985. This unusual station house was added in 1913 to supplement the original 1897 station houses 1/2 block north. (Photo by Olga Stefanos)

Randolph/Wells (145N/200W)
Between Randolph Street and Couch Place at Wells Street, Loop

Service Notes:


Quick Facts:

Address: 150 N. Wells Street
Established: October 3, 1897
Original Line: Union Elevated Railroad
Previous Names: none

Skip-Stop Type:


Rebuilt: 1913
(new station houses added)
Status: Partially Demolished (short sections of platform remain)


Street-side and trackside west building elevations of the first Randolph/Wells station. For a larger view, click here. (Plans from the Chicago Transit Authority Collection)

On November 22, 1894, the Union Elevated Railroad, backed by transit magnate Charles Tyson Yerkes, was incorporated to construct a loop around the central business district, connecting the three elevated lines that until 1897 ended at individual outside terminals. Originally, Market (Wacker) and Franklin Streets were the likely candidates for the west leg of the Loop; Fifth Avenue (Wells) was only a distant possibility. Ultimately, however, Yerkes "killed two birds with one stone" by using a single franchise to cover not only the west leg, but also the connecting link to his unbuilt Northwestern Elevated Railroad, which was planned to enter the CBD via Fifth Avenue. Frontage signatures (required from business owners on the street to allow construction) were obtained in the name of the Northwestern from Michigan (Hubbard) Street to Harrison Street, a distance of one mile. Many businesses along Fifth at this time were factories, who were eager for the "L", offsetting the retailers who resisted the structure's presence. On June 24, 1895, the City Counsel granted the Northwestern a 50-year franchise to build on Fifth Street. Right south of Lake Street were immediately reassigned to the Union Elevated and construction began on August 31.

An aerial view of Randolph-Wells looking southwest. The square station houses in the middle are the original 1896 structures. Those at the top just beyond the transfer bridge are those added in 1913. For a larger view, click here. (Photo from Chicago's "L"/Subway System: Rolling Stock '94 from All-the-6000s-You-Missed Productions)

In 1896, the south platform and station house of the Lake Street's Fifth Avenue station (only half a block north of where Randolph/Wells would eventually be built) were removed to connect the west leg of the Loop to the north leg. (The north platform and station were removed three years later for the Northwestern.) To compensate for this loss (one of the few stations to close before the CTA took over in 1947), Randolph/Wells was actually built midway between Randolph and Lake Streets, with the station house over Couch Place (a glorified alley). The station was completed in 1897 and opened for business October 3rd.

Very similar to Quincy/Wells, this station of Palladian design was designed by architect A.M. Hedley in 1896 for the Loop, officially built as the Union Elevated Railroad. The station house is executed in painted sheet metal. The design features Corinthian pilasters, window surrounds resembling the Baroque style and cartouches along the roofline. The interiors of both the Inner and Outer Loop station houses -- both of which are very small, crammed into the small width of Couch Place -- featured wooden floors and tongue-in-groove wooden wall paneling. Stairs from the mezzanine led into the station houses, where customers paid the ticket agents. There were also stairs directly to the platforms, with agent's windows facing out onto the platforms.

In 1913, as part of a remodeling, an additional station house was constructed at Randolph, a half block south of the first station, over Randolph Street itself. Designed by the engineering staff of the Northwestern Elevated Railroad, "the simple but elegant curves of its steel framework give it an almost Art-Nouveau character."1 Though it's not certain, it seems likely that the first station was closed (though it wasn't demolished) when the second opened. The original station houses did eventually become CTA Transportation Offices, with entrance only from the 1913 Randolph station houses.

In the early 1980s, the City and the CTA formulated a plan to have two stations on all four sides of the Loop (for consistency and to have fewer stations to clean, maintain and staff), necessitating the removal of one station the east and west sides. Instead of simply closing one and leaving another, the CTA decided to close this station and Madison/Wells and build a new station, Washington/Wells, in between. Randolph/Wells was closed just after midnight on Monday, July 17, 1995, with the new Washington/Wells opening a few hours later. Madison was completely demolished; Randolph, however, had all four of its station houses removed, but the north portion of its platforms were left, equipment stored on them. These short sections of platform remained for about another 15 years until the Loop Signal Project resulting in the replacement of the platform remnants on the Outer Loop side with a new platform structure and a long relay house and auxiliary tower room for the new Tower 18. The remnants of the north end of the platform on the Inner Loop side remain today.

A similar station consolidation is planned for Randolph/Wabash and Madison/Wabash as well, but the timing of when such a project might get underway is undetermined.

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A train pauses at Randolph/Wells after the station's closing. The platform's been abandoned since Washington/Wells opened in the Summer of 1995. Equipment is now stored on the platform. (Photo from the Collection of Joe Testagrose)

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The placement of the original 1897 Randolph/Wells station houses over Couch Place (a very narrow alley) rather than Randolph Street itself resulted in the twin station houses being built to much smaller dimensions than the other Loop station houses, though it is the same general design as the other Wells and Wabash headhouses. This view looks east in 1993; Two years later, Randolph station would close, though this station house had long since been closed to passenger traffic. (Photo by John Smatlak)

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6101-6102 operate a Ravenswood All-Stop run alone, stopped at Randolph/Wells on August 30, 1982, looking north toward Tower 18. (Photo by Doug Grotjahn, Collection of Joe Testagrose)

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Car 31 leads a two-car Evanston Express (an usually short length for such a train) at Randolph & Wells on August 30, 1982. Tower 18 can be seen in the background. (Photo by Doug Grotjahn, Collection of Joe Testagrose)

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The CTA's two historic trains -- 4272-4271 in the CRT scheme of the 1940s (right) and 6101-6102 in the CTA scheme of the 1950s -- stand side by side on a fan trip at Randolph/Wells on August 28, 1982. (Photo by Doug Grotjahn, Collection of Joe Testagrose)

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After completing a circuit around the Inner Loop, an Evanston Express train led by car 4446 heads north through Tower 18 at Lake & Wells after stopping at Randolph/Wells (seen in the background) on October 3, 1972. (Photo by Steve Zabel, Collection of Joe Testagrose)

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A view of Tower 18, looking south in the early 1980s. A four-car Evanston Express train, led by the two 1-50s and trailed by a 6000-series pair, is about the enter the junction as it pulls away from the Randolph/Wells station in the upper right corner. Although the Randolph station would remain open for another decade, the north end is already being used for storage and to house equipment sheds. (Photo from the Chicago Transit Authority Collection)

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Looking south out of the old Tower 18 towards the Randolph & Wells station in the 1960s. (Photo by Peter Christy)

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An Evanston Express train of 5-50s turns east onto Lake Street at Tower 18 to begin its circuit around the Loop, looking north from the overhead transfer bridge at Randolph/Wells in July 1988. The dual station houses are the original Randolph station facilities from 1897; they were closed and demolished in 1995. (Photo by James Raymond)

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Looking to the south through the bay-window from the seat behind the console in 1962, several details are visible besides the Randolph & Wells station in the background. The "Inner Loop around" curve is still in place at this point and you can see the pneumatic switch cylinder at trackside just to the left of the points. The two nearby targets (you can see the light shining through their blue lenses) are "backup" signals. These were only used to direct trains back against the normal flow of traffic when some unusual circumstance required it. On the west (right) side of the Randolph & Wells station platform, you can see a light inside the bay window of the station house that intrudes onto the platform. This was the Randolph & Wells Supervisor's Office. It was pretty easy to see when the Supervisor was in because he'd be silhouetted right in the center of the window. Further down the line, between the tracks, you can see the green aspect glow of a signal. This was the target for the Lake Street trains, protecting the Outer-to-Inner Ravenswood crossover. (Photo by and information from Peter Christy)



1 Bach, Ira and Susan Wolfson, A Guide to Chicago's Train Stations, 1986.