4000-series Cars


One of the museum's most used cars, car 4451 is seen between runs with its poles down on the main line at the Fox River Trolley Museum on July 7, 2001. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Mike Farrell)



Built by: Cincinnati Car Co.
Year: 1914-15 (4001-4250), 1922-24 (4251-4455)
Length: 48'-6"
Width: 8'-8"
Height over Roof: 12'-3"
Trucks: Baldwin MCB 78" M / 66" T
Truck centers: 33'-8"
Coupler: Stearns & Ward
Wheel diameter: 34" M / 31" T
Seats: 52
Weight (w/o passengers): 54,000 lb. (4001-4066), 70,000 lb. (4067-4250), 76,800 lb. (4251-4455)
Motors per car: none (4001-4066), GE 243 (4067-4250, 4311-4330, 4341-4350, 4356-4405), WH 567 (4251-4310, 4331-4340, 4351-4355, 4406-4455)



The 4000s were Chicago's first steel body cars, designed and built in anticipation of the system's unification that began in October 1913. The first series of these cars, 4001-4250, were built between 1914 and 1915 and affectionately referred to as "baldies" because of their plain arched roofs (the previous wooden cars had ventilator sash running the length of the roof). The cars were stark and utilitarian, especially for the period, but resembled designs appearing in Boston, New York and Philadelphia.

On December 29, 1913, the Metropolitan, South Side and Northwestern Elevateds (acting as the Chicago Elevated Railways Collateral Trust) purchased 66 trailers, cars 4001-4066, from the Cincinnati Car Company with the option to install motors (only one, 4005, was so modified). These cars had wide sliding side doors at each end of the car, as well as a middle door. The side doors were operated pneumatically within each car and the center door was controlled electrically, but the center doors were never regularly used (though some crewmen disregarded orders and used them anyway). Concurrent with the order was a second order for 62 motor cars of the same general design. These cars, numbered 4067-4128, were identical to the trailers, except that they contained GE 243 motors and Westinghouse 264 controls. On December 30, 1914, the same three companies purchased an additional 122 motor cars, numbered 4129-4250, identical to the previous motors except that the seats inside were reversible transverse seats instead of longitudinal seats along the sides. The cars were painted Pullman Green and lettered for the underlying companies.

The second, more advanced model (4251-4455) was produced between 1922 and 1924. On September 1, 1922, these three companies,, along with the Chicago & Oak Park Elevated, purchased 100 new motor cars, units 4251-4350. The "plushies", as they were called, were basically of the same design as the first 250 4000-series cars except that they had canvas-covered wood roofs, more luxurious interiors with green plush seats, circulating fans, more windows and opal shades on the lights, and had no center door (although the steel framing permitted their installation, if later desired). The leather "straphanger" overhead belts were replaced with porcelain enamel handholds.

Five more identical motor cars were ordered April 2, 1923, numbered 4351-4355. On December 13, the newly-formed Chicago Rapid Transit Company placed an order with Cincinnati for 100 more cars, numbered 4356-4455. Again, these were more or less duplicates of the previous order. Although all together, the 4000s only represented about 1/8 of the CRT's total rolling stock, a few were assigned to each line of the system. When the State Street subway opened in 1943, only steel cars were permitted to operate in it for safety reasons, so all the 4000s had to be rounded up for that line. The need for more steel cars led to the production of the 5000-series (and eventually the 6000-series) cars.

In 1947, the CTA took delivery of the 5000-series cars, which used PCC technology, a markedly different system than the old 4000s, and thus the 4000-series cars could not be trained with these (or any later) cars. The 4000's could not be trained with PCC cars due to difference in coupler styles along with different types of control and braking. The 4000's used a twelve step electro-pneumatic control group, and relied on automatic air brakes similar to that used on railroad cars. The PCC cars used a 135 step accelerator drum to progress the speed of a train, and used dynamic braking to slow down the train, with the final stop using a drum brake.

After the CTA ordered the first set of 6000s (6001-6200), they set about retrofitting the 4000s to make them operate more safely, economically and basically more like the forthcoming 6000s. By the time the 6000s started rolling in, the changes had been pretty much completed. In this overhaul, the 4000s were given multiple unit door control, standardized to use battery voltage for control, the trolley feed on Evanston cars was tied together so only one pole per pair was needed, and they were paired up into "semi-permanently coupled pairs" (as opposed to the "married-pairs" of the 6000s), usually in consecutive numerical order. Additionally, the destination signs (which were all still hand-operated) were changed to display either the route names (i.e. "Ravenswood" or "Lake A") or both terminals (i.e. "Howard - Jackson Park B") so they wouldn't have to be changed for the reverse trip. The number of signs per car was reduced from four to two, not counting the destination board on the front. All this allowed a two-man crew to staff a train of any length.

As the vehicles came into Skokie Shops for overhaul, the 4000-series cars were also retrofit with sealed-beam headlights, a single lamp mounted to the roof above the end-door. The cars also received battery-controlled electric four-color classification markers and electric tail lights; the new installations replaced the oil type lights formerly used. The two types of light installations weren't all done at the same time on all cars, however -- some received them together, while others received marker light boxes earlier, then later had their headlight added. A total of 454 of the 4000-series cars were being so equipped. As of September 1953, more than 50 of the 4000s had their new sealed-beam headlights, while approximately 80 percent of the fleet had been equipped with the boxes for classification markers and electric tail lights. Because the cars were being made into semi-permanent married-pairs, cars did not receive headlights and marker boxes at both ends, only at the end that faced out in the paired unit.

The last 4000-series car produced was actually built five years after the CTA began to receive the 6000-series cars! Car 4456 is actually a reincarnation of two damaged 4000s. Car 4111 was damaged in a fire at the Logan Square terminal in April 1953, but the electrical equipment survived. Placed in trailer 4005, the new car was renumbered 4456 in order to keep the integrity of the numbering system (which said that motorized 4000s were all numbered above 4067) and was mated to trolley pole-equipped motor 4455. 4456 was retired in 1963 and 4455 was remated to 4436.

The 4000s served for over fifty years. The last of the series was retired in 1973, then running on the Evanston Express. Towards the end of their use, maintenance on the cars began to get lax with their impending retirement. Motorcar 4443 finished its days on the Evanston as a trailer, for instance. If you look at photos of that car taken in the last few weeks of 4000 operation, there is a white "T" painted on the anticlimber. Only 4443 was affected by this "maintenance expediency", the 4444 remained a motor to the end.

Many of the cars continued to operate as work cars for a number of years. Several were painted yellow, given S-series service car numbers, modified in various ways (such as removal of seats and installation of storage spaces or work benches inside), or some combination thereof, though at least a few simply soldiered on as work motors in the old paint scheme and fleet number. The remaining 4000s were removed from work service following a collision with a passenger train at Loyola on July 17, 1977, because the 4000s were not equipped with cab signal systems (whereas most other work trains were).

Several cars made their way to museums after retirement, and several still operate in those environments. One set, 4271-4272, have been preserved by the CTA in their own historical fleet. George Krambles brought the cars to Skokie Shops for restoration, chosen because they happened to be the last pair to receive a full overhaul and thus would need the least amount of work to be brought to good operating condition. The cars were also a good choice because they didn't have any of the modernized side or end windows (other than the windows on the vestibule doors, of course) that many of the other 4000s had received. The cars received an ATC system (so they could run on the modern "L" safely), the burnt orange and brown CRT paint scheme, and historic pictures and memorabilia inside. They often make appearances at CTA special events.

Excerpts from this car history are from Chicago's Rapid Transit, Volume I: Rolling Stock 1892-1947 by the Central Electric Railfans Association. Copyright 1976, CERA. All right reserved.