From Garfield “L” To Congress Median (Part 6)

A two-car train of 4000s crosses the Congress (now Eisenhower) expressway at Kostner in August 1956. (Photographer unknown)

A two-car train of 4000s crosses the Congress (now Eisenhower) expressway at Kostner in August 1956. (Photographer unknown)

Here is another installment in our ongoing series, showing the transition from the old CTA Garfield Park “L” to the present Congress Expressway rapid transit line in the 1950s. If You would like to see our previous posts, just type “Congress” or “Garfield” in the search window on our blog’s home page.

Enjoy!

-David Sadowski

The public was somewhat baffled when Phase 1 of the City's subway plan was approved by the PWA in 1938. The Dearborn-Milwaukee subway simply ended at Dearborn and Congress, with no explanation of where it should continue. However, it was always intended to connect to a west side median line in the middle of the Congress Expressway. Work on the Dearborn-Milwaukee tube was 80% completed when work halted in 1942 due to the war. But construction work west on Congress did not begin until after the war. Plans originally called for an underground turning loop at LaSalle, but CTA decided a stub-end terminal was sufficient in 1947. This is where service ended from 1951-58. (Photographer unknown)

The public was somewhat baffled when Phase 1 of the City’s subway plan was approved by the PWA in 1938. The Dearborn-Milwaukee subway simply ended at Dearborn and Congress, with no explanation of where it should continue. However, it was always intended to connect to a west side median line in the middle of the Congress Expressway. Work on the Dearborn-Milwaukee tube was 80% completed when work halted in 1942 due to the war. But construction work west on Congress did not begin until after the war. Plans originally called for an underground turning loop at LaSalle, but CTA decided a stub-end terminal was sufficient in 1947. This is where service ended from 1951-58. (Photographer unknown)

Two trains of CA&E wood cars passing each other at Laramie, circa 1950. (Photographer unknown)

Two trains of CA&E wood cars passing each other at Laramie, circa 1950. (Photographer unknown)

A CTA articulated "doodlebug" from the original 5000-series crosses the Union Station trainshed, probably in the late 1940s. (Photographer unknown)

A CTA articulated “doodlebug” from the original 5000-series crosses the Union Station trainshed, probably in the late 1940s. (Photographer unknown)

CA&E car 408 is at the rear of an eastbound Chicago Limited, approaching the Loop, sometime before the end of service in September 1953. (Photographer unknown)

CA&E car 408 is at the rear of an eastbound Chicago Limited, approaching the Loop, sometime before the end of service in September 1953. (Photographer unknown)

A two-car train of CTA woods heads west on the Garfield "L", somewhere east of Marshfield Junction. (Photographer unknown)

A two-car train of CTA woods heads west on the Garfield “L”, somewhere east of Marshfield Junction. (Photographer unknown)

CA&E 427 is a Wheaton Local heading west on the Garfield Park "L" sometime before downtown service ended in September 1953. (Photographer unknown)

CA&E 427 is a Wheaton Local heading west on the Garfield Park “L” sometime before downtown service ended in September 1953. (Photographer unknown)

CA&E 428 westbound at Racine in May 1952. (Photographer unknown)

CA&E 428 westbound at Racine in May 1952. (Photographer unknown)

CA&E 458 heads up a three-car train of curved-sided cars, the last new equipment the interurban received, westbound at Laramie, sometime prior to September 20, 1953. (Photographer unknown)

CA&E 458 heads up a three-car train of curved-sided cars, the last new equipment the interurban received, westbound at Laramie, sometime prior to September 20, 1953. (Photographer unknown)

CA&E steel car 402 heads up a westbound train at DesPlaines Avenue circa 1953-57. (Photographer unknown)

CA&E steel car 402 heads up a westbound train at DesPlaines Avenue circa 1953-57. (Photographer unknown)

CA&E 423 and 424 turning around at DesPlaines Avenue circa 1953-57. (Photographer unknown)

CA&E 423 and 424 turning around at DesPlaines Avenue circa 1953-57. (Photographer unknown)

CTA and CA&E used grade-separated turnback loops at DesPlaines Avenue from 1953-57. (Photographer unknown)

CTA and CA&E used grade-separated turnback loops at DesPlaines Avenue from 1953-57. (Photographer unknown)

The CTA opened a free "park'n'ride" lot at DesPlaines Avenue on December 15, 1953. The large gas tank in the background was a Forest Park landmark for years. (Photographer unknown)

The CTA opened a free “park’n’ride” lot at DesPlaines Avenue on December 15, 1953. The large gas tank in the background was a Forest Park landmark for years. (Photographer unknown)

A train of CTA wood cars crosses the B&O just east of DesPlaines Avenue, at the current site of the Eisenhower expressway. (Photographer unknown)

A train of CTA wood cars crosses the B&O just east of DesPlaines Avenue, at the current site of the Eisenhower expressway. (Photographer unknown)

CTA flat-door 6000s cross the Chicago River near Union Station. (Photographer unknown)

CTA flat-door 6000s cross the Chicago River near Union Station. (Photographer unknown)

Expressway construction just west of the Loop is well underway as a two-car CTA train of 6000s runs along the endangered Garfield "L". (Photographer unknown)

Expressway construction just west of the Loop is well underway as a two-car CTA train of 6000s runs along the endangered Garfield “L”. (Photographer unknown)

This would appear to be another view of where the Garfield "L" crossed the Congress expressway at Kostner. (Photographer unknown)

This would appear to be another view of where the Garfield “L” crossed the Congress expressway at Kostner. (Photographer unknown)

From the sign on the wooden "L" car, this must be a CTA test train on the temporary Van Buren Street trackage, just prior to the beginning of service in September 1953. Streetcar tracks are still visible in Van Buren Street. (Photographer unknown)

From the sign on the wooden “L” car, this must be a CTA test train on the temporary Van Buren Street trackage, just prior to the beginning of service in September 1953. Streetcar tracks are still visible in Van Buren Street. (Photographer unknown)

CA&E steel car 419 is on the turning loop at DesPlaines Avenue on July 4, 1956. (Photographer unknown)

CA&E steel car 419 is on the turning loop at DesPlaines Avenue on July 4, 1956. (Photographer unknown)

CA&E trains turned around at DesPlaines Avenue on a turnback loop from 1953-57. (Photo by W. Fred Stone)

CA&E trains turned around at DesPlaines Avenue on a turnback loop from 1953-57. (Photo by W. Fred Stone)

This photo is somewhat of a mystery. The date given is March 17, 1958, but by this time, the Congress expressway had been open for a few years. The cars in the background don't appear much newer than 1954-55. Perhaps this is the Sacramento crossing, and the date on the photo is wrong. It would appear that the highway is being dug out underneath the "L". (Photo by Kelly Powell)

This photo is somewhat of a mystery. The date given is March 17, 1958, but by this time, the Congress expressway had been open for a few years. The cars in the background don’t appear much newer than 1954-55. Perhaps this is the Sacramento crossing, and the date on the photo is wrong. It would appear that the highway is being dug out underneath the “L”. (Photo by Kelly Powell)

In this January 1960 view, we see the Garfield "L" structure heading west from the Loop, between the time service was discontinued (1958) and when the structure was torn down (1964). From the track arrangement, it would appear that one of the two bridges over the Chicago River was taken out of service sometime between the end of CA&E operation downtown (1953) and the rerouting of CTA service through the old Wells Street Terminal to a new connection with the Loop "L" structure. Other parts of the old Garfield "L" were torn down in 1959. (Photographer unknown)

In this January 1960 view, we see the Garfield “L” structure heading west from the Loop, between the time service was discontinued (1958) and when the structure was torn down (1964). From the track arrangement, it would appear that one of the two bridges over the Chicago River was taken out of service sometime between the end of CA&E operation downtown (1953) and the rerouting of CTA service through the old Wells Street Terminal to a new connection with the Loop “L” structure. Other parts of the old Garfield “L” were torn down in 1959. (Photographer unknown)

CTA 9 and 10 at DesPlaines Avenue on April 3, 1960. The new single car units were first used on the Congress-Douglas-Milwaukee route, before being moved to Evanston in 1961. (Photographer unknown)

CTA 9 and 10 at DesPlaines Avenue on April 3, 1960. The new single car units were first used on the Congress-Douglas-Milwaukee route, before being moved to Evanston in 1961. (Photographer unknown)

CTA 6566 heads up a train westbound at Kostner on the Congress line on August 7, 1967. (Photographer unknown)

CTA 6566 heads up a train westbound at Kostner on the Congress line on August 7, 1967. (Photographer unknown)



Categories: Chicago Area, Interurbans

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14 replies

  1. Mr. Sadowski, thanks for posting photos of where the Garfield Park L crossed the Congress Expressway prior to the L’s demolition. I sometimes visit the site at Harrison and Kilbourn and
    attempt to visualize the exact location of the former station. Nevertheless thanks for your posts.

  2. As always thanks for the history lesson. Some of these turn backs were very tight and close. Not much room for error..

  3. I grew up on the West Side and remember the Garfield L well. But I was 8 so some details are fuzzy but I remember the L crossing the expressway, running on Van Buren, the circuitious detours for the streets as the over passes were built. Best of all, since my dad worked for Kilbar Electric (they put in the electric for the 3rd rail, I got to ride parts of the highway before it opened and got to watch all the l’s Great photos throughout this series

  4. Thank you Mr. Sadowski, these are great pictures! I really appreciate all the work you put into this. Might you have any Humboldt Park “L” stuff?

  5. Regarding the mystery photo, the newest car I see is from 1956. Hope this helps.

  6. First of all, my sincere thanks for part 6. Next, my hope for a part 7, as there is still more to be told of this unusually complicated transitions from the old Garfield Park L to the Forest Park L. I do have some questions and comments about the pictures.

    Your lead picture shows a structure with which I am not familiar, although I did not leave the Chicago area until the summer of 1957. Is the view looking north or south? What is the station in the background? What is the intermediate level structure between the tracks and the ground? Was the yard at Laramie still in use?

    I think that date you suggest for picture #4 is too early. Although the 5000’s were delivered in 1947 (they had been ordered by the CRT), I can’t remember seeing them on the Garfield Park line prior to 1953. In fact, I don’t think any non-wooden cars were used on the Garfield Park line between 1943 and 1953. The few steel cars on the Garfield Park line before 1943 were transferred when the first subway opened.

    • The old Garfield Park “L” crossed the Congress expressway at both Kostner and Sacramento, and in both places, when the highway was dug out, new supporting steel structures had to be added underneath. This is also what appears to be happening in our “mystery photo.”

      In the lead picture, I believe we are facing west. At this point, the Garfield line ran east-west, while the expressway jogs over from the middle of one block to another.

      If I am correct, the station in the background would be Kilbourn. According to http://www.chicago-l.org:

      “In the mid-1950s, work was undertaken to replace the Garfield Line with a new rapid transit line in the median of the Congress Expressway, parallel to a roughly a block from the Garfield Line. Kilbourn closed on September 20, 1953 when the Garfield Line was rerouted via temporary grade-level trackage along Van Buren between Sacramento and Aberdeen due to expressway construction. Kilbourn was not in the way of the construction project but was closed due to its low patronage to speed up service on the Garfield Line.”

      PS- One of our earlier blog posts “Somewhere West of Laramie” shows a 5000-series “L” car on the Garfield line in December 1947.

      • Thank you for the explanation of the lead photo. I remember the Kilbourn station being higher than either the Cicero or Tripp stations, and that is evident in the photo.

        I find the phrase “to speed up service” to be quite amusing, considering how slow it was to travel the at-grade path along Van Buren Street! At every cross street the traffic lights were set to give a complete cycle to automobile traffic before giving the green light to the L cars! Very slow indeed!

        I am unable to locate the December 1947 picture you refer to, but since there were only 4 trains in the 5000 series, they were not often seen anywhere: never on the Lake street or the Westchester branches. The train in picture #4 was turned back at Desplaines Avenue, since it was signed for Garfield Park, Not Maywood-Bellwood-Westchester. As I said in my previous reply, In Maywood, we never saw anything but woods from 1943 to December 9, 1951, when the Westchester branch was abandoned by the CTA. Anyway you may be right about the date of that picture.

    • The 5000’s were never formally assigned to Garfield, but there were pictures of 5000’s in service on the Westchester Express in the first volume of the story of the Chicago L fleet. Though this goes a little off-subject, the first 4 cars of the 6000 series also made a documented test run to Westchester. I can’t say if the run had revenue passengers. You are correct in that Lake never saw 5000’s at the beginning, due to the well-known clearance issues at points in the ground-level section of the line. Interestingly, no 6000’s were assigned to Lake even after relocation of the line, except the Winter of 1978-79, when assignments were scrambled due to motor damage to cars that had to plow through densely packed snow that just never melted that winter… no sustained temperatures for melting showed up that winter until near the March Equinox.

      • Yes, you are correct about Lake and the 6000s. I lived in Oak Park during the Blizzard of ’79, and remember how unusual it was to see 6000s on the line in the wake of the storm.

        As for why 6000s weren’t used before then, when the cars were new they were assigned elsewhere, due to the clearance issues previously mentioned. Many of the 2000-series cars were assigned to Lake when new in 1964, two years after the outer portion of the line was relocated onto the embankment.

        The outer portion of Lake, the part on the embankment, was shut down for about a week by the ’79 blizzard. It had to be dug out by hand. The third rail was covered with a thick coating of ice.

        CTA was short of railcars for at least the next six months after the storm, as the snow burned out motors on so many cars. After this, cars were fitted with makeshift snow plows made out of linoleum to help prevent this from happening.

        It was a much different situation than in 1967, when the CTA was largely able to keep the rapid transit system running in spite of the “Big Snow.”

      • There is a picture of a four-car train of 6000s near Roosevelt Road on the Westchester branch on page 74 of Cooperation Moves the Public by Bruce Moffat. This book was published in 2006 as Dispatch No. 1 of the shore Line Interurban Historical society. According to the caption, the photo was posed and was probably taken shortly after the first 6000s were delivered in August 1950.

  7. I believe Mr. Sadowski is correct. The green overpass in the background is the railroad at 4600w.

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