An inbound Brown Line train leaves the rebuilt Rockwell station, looking west on August 16, 2006, the day the station reopened to public use. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

Rockwell (2600W/4700N)
Rockwell Street and Leland Avenue, Ravenswood (Lincoln Square)

Service Notes:

Brown Line: Ravenswood

Accessible Station

Quick Facts:

Address: 4648 N. Rockwell Street
Established: December 14, 1907
Original Line: Northwestern Elevated Railroad, Ravenswood branch
Previous Names: none

Skip-Stop Type:


Rebuilt: 2006
Status: In Use


The small, wooden, neighborhood-scale Rockwell station house, looking west on May 22, 1959. Because the station house is thinner than the platform width, there is enough space to walk around the station house and onto the platform (circumventing the ticket agent!); turnstiles would be placed there only a few years later. Note the ad and old-style enamel signage on the front of the station house. For a larger view, click here. (Photo from the CTA Collection)

After the initial construction of the Ravenswood branch of the Northwestern Elevated to Western Avenue was placed into service May 18, 1907, the finishing touches were completed on the surface level extension to Kimball and Lawrence, which entered service December 14, 1907. Initially, shuttle trains ran from Kimball to Western, but direct-to-Loop service wasn't far off.

The stations on the grade-level portion of the line are between the tracks, with a station house entrance to the island platform. The area west of Western was in a tract of land owned by the Northwest Land Association, who viewed the rapid transit extension as integral to their development. The land association provided for the free right-of-way and allowed the Northwestern to forgo expensive elevated running for cheaper grade-level construction.

The tracks on the grade-level portion of the line essentially run through people's back yards. Most of these stations, like this one, were small wood frame structures, shorter in width than the platform itself, set in the center of the tracks. These wood frame buildings had peaked roofs, a window on the left and a door on the right of the front, fare controls inside and an exit-only turnstile in front for passengers exiting around the side of the building. Additionally, this station, Francisco and Kedzie had large blue and white enamel signs on the front bearing the name of the station. The interior was wood tongue-in-groove paneling from floor to ceiling with wood moldings, painted white with brown highlights, and had its original wood floor until the station was rebuilt.

The back door led to the island platform. The platform could berth up to six cars, but the canopy -- a flat wooden affair supported by square wooden posts and angled brackets -- stretched only just under two car lengths. Between two canopy posts was a wooden tongue-in-grove partition, common at many former-Northwestern Elevated stations. For a long time Rockwell's platform, for some reason, had no symbol signs (the smaller eye-level signs); this was later remedied circa 2000 with the addition of new-style Green Line Graphic Standard symbol signage.

This station was adopted and maintained by a neighborhood organization, the Greater Rockwell Association. As part of their adoption, a community bulletin board was installed inside the station house. The Greater Rockwell Association has since expired and the board was removed when the station was demolished for renovation.


Brown Line Capacity Expansion Project

Four days after the station's closure for reconstruction, crews have begun dismantling the station, starting with peeling off the structure's clapboard siding, seen looking west on February 24, 2006. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

By 2004, ridership had exploded on the Brown Line -- an 79% increase since 1979 and a 27% increase since 1998 -- that during peak periods many trains were at crush-loaded, resulting in commuters left standing on platforms unable to board the loaded trains, sometimes waiting as one or two trains passed before they were physically able to board. The problem in large part was that all Brown Line stations could only accommodate six-car trains (with the exception of Merchandise Mart, Chicago, Fullerton and Belmont, which could already hold eight-car trains), which, along with the limitations of the cab signal system, limited the line's capacity.

As a result, the CTA decided to plan for the Brown Line Capacity Expansion Project, the largest capital improvement project undertaken by the CTA at the time (surpassing even the Douglas Renovation Project, which was the largest up to that point). The main objectives of the Brown Line Capacity Expansion Project are to expand the line's overall ridership capacity by lengthening station platforms to accommodate eight rather than six-car trains, rehabilitate rail infrastructure and stations, provide for station enhancements to meet the accessibility requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and upgrade or replace traction power, signal and communication equipment. By far, the largest part of the Brown Line Capacity Expansion Project was the station renovations. Of the Brown Line's 19 stations, only one (Merchandise Mart) was not touched at all due to its modern construction (1988) and ability to berth eight-car trains.

By the time of this June 4, 2006 view looking east, the steel structure for the new station house was in place, the steel supports and wooden stringers for the platform were in place, and work to begin installing the platform decking had begun. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

On April 13, 2004, the CTA announced that it had officially received a Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). However, in May 2004, CTA received construction bids for the project that substantially exceeded the budget. As such, the Chicago Transit Board voted on June 9, 2004 to reorganize the project into several discrete pieces to help attract more competitive construction bids. Station renovation work was modified and grouped into five separate packages according to location to help reduce the overall cost of station construction. Rockwell station was grouped with Kimball, Kedzie, Francisco, and Western in a bid package, all of which were designed by the same consultant, Muller & Muller. Station designs were also revised to reduce costs. Most changes concentrated on non-customer areas such as reducing the size of janitor closets, employee restrooms, electrical rooms and communication rooms. Other areas that were studied for cost reduction were standardizing common station elements, the use of less expensive materials, canopy designs and coverage, and temporary station closures to provide contractors better access to the sites.

The Kimball/Kedzie/Francisco/Rockwell/Western contract -- sometimes referred to as "the at-grades" -- was the third of the reorganized station packages to be bid out. At the September 14, 2005 board meeting, a $19.9 million contract for the renovation of these stations was awarded to FHP Tectonics Corporation.

At Rockwell, the existing station house and platforms were rebuilt. The new entrance is a simple, modern structure with a steel framework, glass walls, and an arched roof. The new expanded station house is larger, with more turnstiles and AVMs, and provides ADA accessibility by way of a ramp from the street to the platform within the station house. The station house's paid area provides an ample enclosed space to wait for trains and includes heat lamps and a decorative leaning bar.

The interior of the rebuilt Rockwell station is seen looking west on August 16, 2006, reopening day. The new station house is spacious, with tall ceilings and generous paid and unpaid areas. The new Customer Assistant booth, seen with its doors open, has large expanses of glass for improved visibility. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

The new 8-car platform features new wood decking with new, modern lighting. Other improvements to the station include new signage; tactile edging along the platform; benches that double as sandboxes as well as small individual stools to sit on; electrical, communications, and HVAC equipment; new customer heaters; and a state-of-the-art announcement system.

During station construction, Kimball, Kedzie, Francisco, and Rockwell were subject to temporary station closures; however, no two adjacent stations were to be closed at the same time during weekdays so customers may go to the next closest station for service. In addition to the temporary weekday closures, the stations also experienced weekend closures during the construction period when all four stations were closed at the same time to allow construction crews unlimited access to station platforms. During periods of temporary closure, customers were encouraged to use the most convenient existing CTA bus and rail service in the area, including special shuttle buses between Kimball and Western that made stops near the closed Brown Line stations.

Both Kedzie and Rockwell closed on February 20, 2006 for six months while construction work moved forward. During the weekday, rail customers could go to the next closest station for Brown Line service, or choose from eight neighborhood CTA bus routes to meet their transit service needs.

To accomplish work on the at-grade stations, the CTA enacted a handful of "linecuts" -- times when Brown Line service terminated temporarily at Western station, with service between Western and Kimball provided by free shuttle buses (and occasionally shuttle trains single-tracking between Western and Kedzie).

Parts of the Rockwell station were dismantled the weekend of February 24-26, 2006. The rest of Rockwell was removed on March 3-5. Crews planned to complete installation of the new foundations, install station foundations, and install auxiliary entrance foundations at Rockwell during the remaining March closures.

In addition to the Kedzie and Rockwell closures, Kimball and Francisco stations also closed on select weekends when the entire at-grade portion of the line was turned over to the construction contractor, FHP Tectonics, to provide unlimited access to the track, stations and platforms. On those weekends, Brown Line trains operated between the Loop and Western station only, and CTA provided a bus shuttle that made stops near the closed Brown Line stations between Kimball and Western.

During spring, foundations for Rockwell and Kedzie were poured, the steel frames for the station houses erected, and the supports, joists, and stringers for the platforms installed. In early June, the platform decking at both stations was affixed.

The Kedzie and Rockwell stations on the Brown Line reopened to rail service at 4:45am on Wednesday, August 16, 2006. The two stations reopened two days earlier than originally planned, according to CTA President Frank Kruesi.

Construction work continued at the stations for several weeks after they reopened to complete construction. While the majority of the work -- including accessibility to customers with disabilities -- had been completed to the point that the stations could reopen for passenger use, finishing touches completed after the stops reopened included installing permanent station signs, a compass rose inset in the sidewalk in front of the entrance to help customers more easily navigate the system, and new fencing along the adjacent alleys.

Opening the Kedzie and Rockwell stations brought the total number of accessible CTA rail stations as of August 2006 to 74 out of 144 or 51 percent.

The project's Full Funding Grant Agreement with the federal government required that the CTA complete the project by the end of 2009.


The rebuilt Rockwell station platform is seen looking east on August 16, 2006, the day the station reopened. The station features an all-new 8-car length island platform with new, modern light standards and stools for sitting. The signage on reopening day was temporary and later replaced with permanent signage. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

Old Rockwell (1907-2006) | New Rockwell (2006-present)

Old Rockwell station

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A 6000-series Ravenswood train stops at Rockwell in the 1960s.

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A view of the Rockwell platform looking east on May 22, 1959. Compare to the 1999 platform view below; although the signage here is older (note the original enamel sign in the partition), the views are essentially the same. (Photo from the CTA Collection)

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This "symbol sign", as CTA calls them, from the southbound side of the Rockwell island platform is of a type implemented beginning in the mid-1950s. The artwork for this sign from the CTA Staff Engineer's Office is dated November 1, 1962; the signs were likely fabricated and installed not long after. The design of this sign is typical of this type: large first letter of the station name with the full name under it; the skip-stop letters on color-coded bands (blue was used for 'B' stations on services that terminated around the Loop) in the middle; and the cardinal direction and destination at the bottom accompanied by an arrow pointing in the direction of travel. (Sign in IRM Collection, photo courtesy of Bill Wulfert)

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A view of the grade-level island platform at Rockwell, looking west on November 13, 1999. Note the old-style wooden canopy and bracketed supports, as well as the tongue-in-groove partition. The green Rockwell name sign dates from the early 1980s as part of the KDR A/B color-coded signage system; the smaller Rockwell name sign is newly added in 1999 and conforms to the CTA's current signage program. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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The island platform at Rockwell, looking east in 2000. Although the platform and canopy have changed little since the station opened in 1906, the modern lights and Pepsi machine belay the age of the photo. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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A Brown Line train trailed by car 3329 pulls out of Rockwell station on its way to the Loop on July 16, 2000. Note arc at third rail gap for grade crossing. (Photo by Mike Farrell)

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Keith Letsche speaks to the 1st Annual Historic Station Tour group at the 1906 grade-level Rockwell station on the Brown Line. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

New Rockwell station

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The new Rockwell station's modern steel and glass station house, with its arched roofline and tall ceiling, is evident in this artist's conception looking northwest. (Image provided courtesy of the Chicago Transit Authority)

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Contractors slowly dismantled the old Rockwell station, looking east on February 24, 2006, as CTA flagmen protect the workers from passing trains. The platform lights have already been removed, the resulting holes covered by plywood, and workers are peeling off the station house's clapboard siding. A plywood signs with a spray-painted message reminds train operators not to stop at the station. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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By June 4, 2006, the new station's foundation and basic steel structure was in place. A small chainlink fence protected the work site from passersby on the street. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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The "interior" of the new Rockwell station is seen looking west on June 4, 2006 through the chainlink fence at the sidewalk that closed off the work site. The foundation and steel structure are in place, and workers have begun priming and painting the steelwork. Otherwise, the interior was still rough at this stage, with exposed rebar and unfinished floors. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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The new island platform at Rockwell is seen on reopening day, August 16, 2006, looking west. Although the station was finished enough for passenger use, there were still many finishes yet to be installed, including permanent signage, A/V signs, and fencing along the adjacent alleys. (Photo by Graham Garfield)