Chicago celebrates 125 years of the famous ‘L’

CHICAGO transit operator CTA celebrated the precise 125th birthday of the city’s famous elevated railway (known locally as the ‘L’) on June 6.

For three hours from noon normal services on the city centre loop section were partly operated using historic trains working in among more modern EMUs. Two trains from the CTA historic fleet were used – a 1923 vintage two-car 4000 series train and a four-car 1976 vintage 2400 series train.

A four-car preserved 2400 series train seen approaching La Salle/Van Buren on the city centre loop on June 6, 2017. These trains were delivered by Boeing-Vertol from 1976 and carried the red, white and blue livery to which they have now been restored as part of the 1976 US Bicentennial celebration of 200 years since Independence. The last 2400 series train was withdrawn in 2015 and eight cars have been preserved by CTA. KEITH FENDER

Chicago’s first elevated railway was built by the Chicago & South Side Rapid Transit Railroad Company and started operating services on June 6, 1892 with wooden-bodied coaches pulled by small steam locomotives built by Baldwin.

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Services were converted to electric operation during 1898 using the original wooden coaches and converted to EMU vehicles applying the new multiple working technology invented by Frank J Sprague; CTA claims these were the first EMUs in the USA.

The Sprague company would later supply many US subway systems and is famous in Europe for the ‘Sprague’ trains introduced on the Paris Metro in 1907; several of these vehicles remain preserved in working order in France.

The Chicago L system has expanded in the 125 intervening years – the city centre loop didn’t start operation until 1898 as initially competing private companies had their own termini.

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