South Side Elevated Car

1601 N Clark St Chicago

In Search of 19th Century Chicago/South Side Elevated Car
Amy Bizzarri
Written By Amy Bizzarri

On May 27, 1892, a 6-car train carrying 300 guests rolled down 39th Street to the Congress Parkway Terminal downtown and straight into history.The South Side Elevated Railroad was the first-ever elevated rapid transit line in Chicago, Illinois. Running from downtown Chicago to Jackson Park, with branches to Englewood, Normal Park, Kenwood, and the Union Stock Yards, this was the train car that once shuttled fairgoers to the World's Columbian Exposition. Much of the route that this train once rambled down is still used today as part of the iconic Chicago "L" system. Though today it's frozen in its tracks, you can still step aboard L Car No. 1,at the Chicago History Museum, where, lovingly restored, it welcomes passengers to nowhere. It took two days to carefully relocate the 42,000-pound car — which had been collecting dust at the CTA's storage facility — and carefully lift it into the second floor of the museum. CTA riders today will feel like they're entering another world altogether as they stop into this posh car. Pulled by steam locomotives, with doors on both ends of the car, the interiors that once greeted weary travelers were luxurious by today's standards, complete with fine, varnished wood, ornate, gas lighting and rattan seats. The South Side Elevated railroad provided 24-hour service, a boon to the city that works: before this, people relied on cable railroads, which required daily, overnight shutdown for cable maintenance. Short for "Elevated", the Chicago 'L' is the second-oldest rapid transit system in the Americas after Boston's, and a visit to Chicago isn't complete without a ride around the Loop on the L: though the cars have changed over the years, step up and onto the Brown Line at Adams and Wabash for a timeless perspective of Chicago from its elevated tracks.

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