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Chicago's L
June 23, 2011 12:50 PM   Subscribe

If you're a Chicagoan or have even a passing interest in Chicago's 'L', Chicago "L".org is an amazingly comprehensive resource for anything you might want to know about the Second City's rapid transit system. Highlights include historic route maps, details on rolling stock past and present, and more than you could ever want to know about every station.

For a more general perspective, Metro Bits has lots of information about many metro systems around the world, including announcements, logos, maps, and art and architecture.
posted by kmz (41 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is fantastic. I was always curious about the plaque at my old stop, but never actually managed to read it. While I was using the stop, the plaque was less of a "historical marker" and more of a "thing to pee on," though it seems that in recent years, they've tried to thwart that.
posted by phunniemee at 1:05 PM on June 23, 2011


It's pretty cool that almost all of the 1969-vintage 2200-series cars are still in daily service on the Blue Line. Those things are built like Soviet tanks.
posted by theodolite at 1:11 PM on June 23, 2011


Apparently, us Chicagoans are the most specific, frequent question askers of questions in the history of mass transit!
posted by obscurator at 1:15 PM on June 23, 2011


I would also like to point out that the cover of the 1934 route map is awesome.
posted by theodolite at 1:20 PM on June 23, 2011


That reminds me of the marker lights. I often used those when I was waiting at Belmont to catch the Purple (as opposed to Red or Brown). It was an easy way to know really early if I needed to get ready to board or not.
posted by kmz at 1:23 PM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


I lived in Chicago for a large part of 2000. My absolute favorite thing about that city was the L announcer's voice every morning telling me, "This Is Grand." I would love a recording of that for my alarm clock.
posted by artof.mulata at 1:25 PM on June 23, 2011 [6 favorites]


That's available on this page, though I dunno how high the quality is.
posted by kmz at 1:27 PM on June 23, 2011


kmz, yeah, I just found it. Sadly it is pretty low quality...
I remember it much lusher and richer, but I was in love when I was floundering in that city.
posted by artof.mulata at 1:29 PM on June 23, 2011


I was on a Ravenswood brown line train a week or so ago that played the "this train will express" which they used to use under the old A/B skipstop system. It was really confusing for a second, but then terribly comforting in the way that Campbell's tomato soup & grilled american cheese sandwiches are.
posted by crush-onastick at 1:36 PM on June 23, 2011


It's pretty cool that almost all of the 1969-vintage 2200-series cars are still in daily service on the Blue Line. Those things are built like Soviet tanks.

They're eventually bringing in new cars which are still being tested right now, and I believe the Blue Line gets them first. I rode on one a couple times when they were testing on the Blue and it was smooooooth.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:40 PM on June 23, 2011


I love that site. My favorite bits were learning how many lines the city used to have that no longer exist, like the enormous Garfield Park Line or the Stockyards Branch, or the enormous number of stations that used to be on what are now the Brown and Yellow Lines. The near north side seems like it used to be a great place for people who hated walking.
posted by monocyte at 1:41 PM on June 23, 2011


I was on a Ravenswood brown line train a week or so ago that played the "this train will express" which they used to use under the old A/B skipstop system. It was really confusing for a second, but then terribly comforting in the way that Campbell's tomato soup & grilled american cheese sandwiches are.
posted by crush-onastick


Oh man, that brings back memories! I still call the brown line the Ravenswood (and correct myself when I get puzzled looks). There are times, if I'm running late during my morning commute, when I wish that A/B system was still in place.

This is a great find, thanks!
posted by swingbraid at 1:47 PM on June 23, 2011


I used to live in Hyde Park. Thanks to this site, I learned that the Green Line used to go much further along 63rd St. It makes me wonder whether the area would have developed differently with the line still in place — there was a lot of gentrification starting up in the area in the '00s, and the presence of an L line might have made it go even faster.
posted by Johnny Assay at 1:53 PM on June 23, 2011


I used to take the Orange Line. Once you hit Roosevelt, the one conductor used to tap on the microphone going "wake up, wake up people, time to make that mon'ayyyyyyyy". It was great.

I think he got in trouble because I never heard him to it again. Shame. We could all use a bit of laughter in our lives.

Now I'm a burb Metra rider where are entertainment is the quiet car brawls that go on. Yes, grown-ass suburban men and women in their 40s are punch each other for not being quiet. On Monday the conductor had to break up a fight between a 40-year old woman and an older woman who writes as sr. editor for the Tribune.

And the pee smell of the Orange Line has now been replaced with endless fart smell of Metra. Not sure which I prefer.
posted by stormpooper at 1:58 PM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was just on vacation in Chicago with my family last weekend (love your city, by the way). We were car-free, so we used the CTA a lot, much to the delight of our 3-year old son. Kabanos Jr. carried one of these wooden toy CTA trains everywhere with him for 4 days.

You can also build your own CTA train out of paper.

We waited for a bus outside that old Garfield station, on the way to the Museum of Science and Industry (to look at more trains). I did notice the plaque designating it a historical site, but I didn't realize it was the oldest remaining station! No more fence around it like in the photo, just fencing on the windows, and yes, a slight hint of urine in the air.

I have one question: Don't you people freeze on those elevated and exposed platforms in the winter??
posted by Kabanos at 2:05 PM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have one question: Don't you people freeze on those elevated and exposed platforms in the winter??

Yes.
posted by bubukaba at 2:08 PM on June 23, 2011 [7 favorites]


Yes. I moved from Logan Square (underground station, Blue Line) to Irving Park (above-ground station in the middle of the expressway, Blue line) and the change was... unpleasant.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:12 PM on June 23, 2011


Don't you people freeze on those elevated and exposed platforms in the winter??

There are heat lamps in the winter months that commuters cluster beneath like pigeons under an awning during a storm. They are button-activated, but turn off after a few minutes. If you are the closest person to the button when the lamp goes off and you don't hit it within, say, half a second, you're liable to be shoved into the pit.
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 2:22 PM on June 23, 2011 [5 favorites]


My absolute favorite thing about that city was the L announcer's voice every morning telling me, "This Is Grand."

He doesn't say that anymore. It's been "this is Grand...and State" for the last three (? maybe four?) years. Sadface.
posted by phunniemee at 2:28 PM on June 23, 2011


I love "Chicago by 'L'" with Geoffrey Baer. It's a great tour of the neighborhoods, but also neat information about the history of the L. Via WTTW's website, you can watch it here.
posted by Hop123 at 2:40 PM on June 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


I also like when a train gets to the end of the line and it says 'This is Howard, as far as this train goes' because I always imagine it's saying 'This is Howard, as far as this train knows.'
posted by shakespeherian at 2:42 PM on June 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


Stupid Grand and State, Chicago and State, etc. Who is it helping? WHO?!
posted by adamdschneider at 2:56 PM on June 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


I've had this book on my wishlist for awhile (still need the coffee table first) and you may find it relevant to your interests: Transit Maps of the World
posted by hankscorpio83 at 3:02 PM on June 23, 2011


This is fantastic. I was always curious about the plaque at my old stop, but never actually managed to read it.

Geoffrey Baer was mentioned just a couple comments ahead of mine but the Garfield station was mentioned in one of his "Hidden Chicago" shows, which are excellent, btw.

It's pretty cool that almost all of the 1969-vintage 2200-series cars are still in daily service on the Blue Line. Those things are built like Soviet tanks.

40 years of urine smell to boot. Those cars smell horrible, almost without fail.
posted by IvoShandor at 3:57 PM on June 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


I've heard people from other cities talk smack about the L but they may be right on the facts but they're wrong if they think the L isn't loved. They really need to do something with the old Bloomingdale line, too.
posted by jtron at 4:07 PM on June 23, 2011


Those things are built like Soviet tanks.

They sound like it too.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 4:48 PM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


the one conductor used to tap on the microphone going "wake up, wake up people, time to make that mon'ayyyyyyyy"

It was always neat to hear the rare motorman going against The Voice and announcing the stops themselves. It was very comforting. Also since those guys were usually the old-timers, and added a bit of anachronism into the system. One guy I had used to keep saying "This train is making all stops into the Loop," as if the A/B system were still in place.
posted by hwyengr at 4:52 PM on June 23, 2011


Fans of Chicago's El may wish to investigate Railfan: Chicago Brown Line
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:55 PM on June 23, 2011


I appreciate the El, and I can take it everywhere, but the red line is the bane of my existence during baseball season.
posted by AceRock at 5:06 PM on June 23, 2011


Having moved to DC,I miss the announcements on the trains in Chicago; here they don't even tell me that the door open on the right "in the direction of travel." It's just "doors open on the right."

Also, I only lived here for four years, but I didn't encounter anyone who actually said "El" it was always the CTA, is that weird?
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 5:27 PM on June 23, 2011


For some reason they recently re-recorded "doors open on the right." I have no idea why.
posted by me3dia at 9:32 PM on June 23, 2011


I never realize how serious our train system is until people rave about it.
posted by dapperkoala at 10:50 PM on June 23, 2011


I didn't encounter anyone who actually said "El" it was always the CTA, is that weird?

Not really. They haven't marketed it as the "L" (no E, quote marks required) for years. One of the few official remnants, for a long time, was a viaduct sign in Evanston that advertised a wildly inaccurate time to the Loop, with a breezy Take the "L" to the city motto. I expect it's gone now.

Stupid Grand and State, Chicago and State, etc. Who is it helping? WHO?!

Well, there was always a Chicago/Milwaukee station, but Grand/Milwaukee was closed for most of the 1990s.

I see your point, but I support better transit wayfinding. It helps keep people using the system.

The near north side seems like it used to be a great place for people who hated walking. did not own cars.

FTFY. Of course, such a species is near extinction.

Don't you people freeze on those elevated and exposed platforms in the winter??

People, maybe. Not Chicagoans. If it were that easy....
OK, it may have something to do with layers.
posted by dhartung at 11:10 PM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Don't you people freeze on those elevated and exposed platforms in the winter??


Naaaa. We all huddle together naked under one big blanket.
posted by stormpooper at 3:38 AM on June 24, 2011


The man behind the CTA's voice.
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 4:31 AM on June 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


I love the El. Or the 'L,' as stylized by the CTA. (Although I said "L," in writing I usually called it "train" or "Red Line" or "CTA" to avoid the spelling issue. As far as I recall, the Tribune and Sun-Times went with the CTA's preferred nomenclature, but the Chicago Reader used "el," uncapitalized and without quotation marks.)

Several years ago, there was an online "Which CTA line are you?" quiz circulating around my friends. The answers were stuff like "You're the Orange Line! You're useful because you go to the airport, but otherwise you're overlooked. You work hard and are a decent person, like a pretzel vendor or that guy who drives on the tarmac" and "You're the Yellow Line. Why do we even have a Yellow Line? You're probably the mayor of Skokie."

I miss it and all its quirks - The A/B station signs that were already outdated when I moved to Chicago, the mysterious second platform at Wilson, the bizarre Brown-Purple line hybrid train, and the occasional December day when I was running errands and suddenly omg it's the Holiday Train!!
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:01 AM on June 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


It probably says a lot about me that I take the Brown Line at least 10 times a week, yet learning there is a video game version about it makes me want to buy a PlayStation.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 7:09 AM on June 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


How bizarre. Just the Brown Line. I guess maybe because it goes around the Loop? Weird.
posted by adamdschneider at 7:28 AM on June 24, 2011


If it seemed like a game with more blood lust, I'd say it was because the Brown Line is the one that goes to the Loop but also to street level so it would have the possibility of pedestrians to hit. But it doesn't seem like that kind of game.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:08 AM on June 24, 2011


Oh yeah that street level section up by North Park is weird. I forgot about that.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:13 AM on June 24, 2011


The old Garfield Park Line used to have an extension operated in conjunction with the Chicago, Aurora & Elgin interurban rail system. Passengers could theoretically take the old L line out to the intersection of 22nd Street (Cermak Road) and Manheim (LaGrange) Road in Westchester. Due to low passenger usage, this extension was canceled in the early 1950s...just before the suburban boom hit western Cook County. It's a shame that that line stopped running, as it truly could have led to major changes with Chicago-area transportation--Metra would look far different today if the Westchester extension could have led to further duplication throughout the metro area.
posted by stannate at 12:12 PM on June 24, 2011


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