CHICAGO (CBS) — Free rides drew big crowds Friday on the first day of service since a May embankment collapse on the CTA’s Yellow Line.

Standing-room-only crowds were not unusual Friday.  The CTA brought out its two newest ‘L’ cars, delivered while the CTA’s heavy repair facility in Skokie was cut off from the rest of the system by the embankment collapse.

The agency also brought out four cars from its “historic” rail fleet for the first few hours, as part of an aggressive marketing campaign designed to quickly rebuild the line’s ridership, which was approximately 2,900 a day before the collapse.

It was a happy day for CTA President Dorval Carter Jr. and Skokie Mayor George Van Dusen, who sees the line as a vital cog in the suburb’s downtown revitalization efforts. Skokie’s technology park, the former Searle complex, is immediately adjacent to the Oakton-Skokie station.

When one passing train sounded its shrill whistle as Van Dusen was at the microphone during opening ceremonies, he quipped, “Isn’t that a wonderful sound?”

Even Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD) Executive Director David St. Pierre, whose contractor caused the collapse and is awaiting a bill of more than $3.5 million for the repairs, managed to inject levity, saying: “I’ve never looked forward to a train ride more in my life.” The remark drew laughs from the crowd of dignitaries.

Unless one was watching for the spot where the embankment had crumbled, it was hardly noticeable. Trains barreled through at CTA’s 55 mph speed limit, covering the 1,200 feet in a matter of seconds.

The spot is recognizable only because of the surveyors’ stakes placed on either side of the tracks at regular intervals. CTA officials say surveyors will check for any signs of slippage on a regular basis for at least six months.

CTA Chief Engineering and Infrastructure Officer Jim Harper said Wednesday that the embankment was built to withstand everyday service for 100 years. The embankment it replaced lasted 90 years, and Harper said it would still be in service had MWRD contractor Walsh Construction not dug a deep hole immediately adjacent to the right-of-way, which operates over MWRD property on an easement.

The hole, dug in preparation for construction of a MWRD disinfection plant, has been filled in. Only after that work was done would CTA allow reconstruction of the embankment.

While the free rides are being offered for only eight days, and only from the Dempster-Skokie and Oakton-Skokie stations, parking at the Dempster terminal will remain free through Dec. 31