CTA Celebrating 125 Years Of Rapid Transit In Chicago

CHICAGO (CBS) — The oldest portion of Chicago’s first rapid transit line turns 125 years old this week, and the CTA is celebrating.

The portion of the Green Line that opened June 6th, 1892, ran from Congress Parkway to 39th Street; but historian Graham Garfield said 39th Street was its southern terminal for only two months.

“Even before it began running trains, it was planning extensions,” he said.

The destination was 63rd Street and Jackson Park, a destination that became more urgent because of the impending opening of the World’s Columbian Exposition on May 1, 1893.

green line 33rd CTA Celebrating 125 Years Of Rapid Transit In Chicago

On June 6, 1892, the first ‘L’ line, South Side ‘L’ began service from Congress St. just south of what is now the Loop (which didn’t fully open for another five years) and 39th St. (now Pershing Rd.). This 125-year-old elevated railway is still in service as part of today’s Green Line (and Red Line during Red Line South Reconstruction) from near the S-curve at Harrison to just before the Indiana stop on Chicago’s South Side.

The ‘L’ trains began running into the World Fair’s grounds May 12, 1893.

Trains continued to run as far as 63rd and Stony Island until 1982; today the line terminates at 63rd and Cottage Grove.

Fellow historian Bruce Moffat said the “Alley L” was an instant hit, because it was far faster than the cable cars that paralleled it half a block to the west on State Street.

green line 39th CTA Celebrating 125 Years Of Rapid Transit In Chicago

An early ‘L’ train at 39th Street on the South Side ‘L’ in 1893. (Source: Flickr/CTA)

Moffat said horses were far too expensive for the average Chicagoan to own, so people were limited to going places to which they could either walk or take the train.

The only remaining ‘L’ car from Day One, South Side Rapid Transit car #1, is on long-term loan to the Chicago History Museum, where it is on static display.

There is one remaining 1892-vintage station house, at Garfield on the Green Line; VIPs will speak at the station at approximately 10:40 a.m. Tuesday during an invitation-only tour of the first ‘L’ line.

CTA’s 94-year-old 4000-series ‘L’ cars will stand in. The train will circle the Loop for the public to ride during the noon hour Tuesday. Regular fares will apply.

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