Discussion related to commuter rail and rapid transit operations in the Chicago area including the South Shore Line, Metra Rail, and Chicago Transit Authority.

Moderators: JamesT4, metraRI

  by erie910
I've watched a number of the CTA-produced videos of the various lines, and a few questions came to mind:
First, the Green Line stations, both west and south of the Loop seem to be spaced fairly far apart. Some stations have been abandoned, but, even so, spacing seems farther apart than, say, on the Red Line or Brown Line. Am I imagining this, or are the stations fairly far apart?

Second, when the North Shore line ran, I assume that it ran on the outer tracks north to Howard. Two tracks came north out of the Loop, and there are clear indications that, at some point, the two tracks became four tracks. Where was this?

Third, did CTA Evanston service run at the same time as the North Shore ran, or was the Evanston service a replacement for the North Shore? If it were a replacement, is the entire line to Linden a former North Shore track structure? If not, where did the North Shore trackage leave?

Fourth, just north of one station, I think that it is Main St., there's a track which heads off the northbound L track. Is this track used for anything? Where does it go?

Thanks for the information.
  by eolesen
The CTA Purple Line and its predecessor Northwestern Elevated Railroad date back to 1908, so yes, that service co-existed with the North Shore. The right of way was picked up from the MILW who operated a branch into Evanston, and they leased it to the Northwestern Elevated as a way of getting out of serving Evanston. That was later elevated when the City of Chicago mandated grade separation within city limits.

NER/CTA also took over the freight obligations, and that stray track in Evanston sounds like the remnants of the South Street team track, which was used up for freight up until 1973. It's still used for work trains on occasion.

The Yellow Line is a 5 mile segment of the North Shore that the CTA picked up from the North Shore, and was the last place that CTA trains ran under trolley wire. Third rail didn't get installed all the way to Skokie until 2004.
  by Allouette
First off - take a look at Chicago-L.org for most of what you're looking for. Here's a summary.

Green Line stations on Lake Street were thinned out in stages after 1948, in response to falling traffic. The 1948 shift to A/B skip stop made some of them hard to fit into schedules and traffic loss due to changes in the West Side closed many of the rest. Two new stations at or near the sites of previous stations have either opened or begun construction.

The outer tracks on today's Brown/Purple line began north of Chicago Avenue. Track 1, the outside southbound track, had overhead wire and no third rail north of Granville until 1963, and had a gauntlet (and overhead) from Granville south until the end of freight service in 1974. Track 1 was used by Evanston Express and CNS&M trains. Trolley wire extended over the entire line north of Wilson until the grade separations were completed, then from Howard to Linden. Third rail was in use north of Isabella St and south of Main St Evanston some time in the 1950s, with final conversion to all third rail in 1973.

The line in Evanston remained in Milwaukee Road ownership until the 1950s. CNS&M predecessor Chicago & Milwaukee Electric had trackage rights on the CM&StP from Isabella St. in Wilmette south to its own station at Church Street in Evanston, where passengers changed to CM&StP steam trains to Chicago. When the Northwestern Elevated extended service into Evanston, in 1908, it initially only ran to Central St., with a three-party agreement between the NWERR, C&ME and the CM&StP covering the overlap. CM&StP steam passenger trains were discontinued north of Wilson at the same time. NWERR later extended to Linden, with the split with the C&ME just south of the present terminal. The work on elevating the current Red and Purple lines was done by the Chicago Milwaukee & St. Paul as the owner. NWERR purchased two Baldwin-Westinghouse freight locomotives in 1920 to provide freight service under contract for the CM&StP which were used until the end of CTA freight service in 1974. CNS&M ran over the NWERR/CRT/CTA south of Church Street from 1919 to 1963.

CTA retained the section of today's Yellow Line as far as the Skokie Shops even before the work was done for the Skokie Swift. Chicago Rapid Transit/CTA had local service between Howard and Dempster between 1926 and 1948.
  by Arborwayfan
While we're thinking about station spacing, why is there only one intermediate on the Yellow Line/Skokie Swift? Several miles with no stop is a long way for an L line. Was the spacing like that under the North Shore, and the CTA has just always kept the more suburban, commuter-rail style spacing?
  by justalurker66
There were seven Chicago Rapid Transit Company stops between Howard and Dempster.
It was a non-stop line when CTA reopened it April 20, 1964 until the Oakton stop reopened April 30, 2012.
As far as I can tell the North Shore did not make any stops between Howard and Dempster.
Last edited by justalurker66 on Thu Apr 01, 2021 8:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  by Allouette
Again I recommend chicago-l.org for more detail. There were five or so intermediate stations on the Niles Center branch (pre-1948 CRT/CTA service) but none of them generated much traffic to speak of. Skokie really wasn't developed until the 1950s. CTA's bus replacement for the Niles Center Branch was also run at a substantial loss. The recently opened Oakton-Skokie station is near the site of the former Oakton station.
  by doepack
Speaking of the Skokie Swift...

Here's a fun fact: According to one of the last issued North Shore schedules (effective 8/15/61), a total of 71 daily weekday trains were still running on the Skokie Valley line between Dempster and Howard, despite the railroad's poor financial health at the time.

Included a somewhat odd service imbalance of 40 trains southbound and 31 trains northbound. I remember a conversation at the old Yahoo board from way back that explained the operating philosophy behind this, unfortunately details have faded.

Will probably have better luck finding the answer at the historical society, or maybe I'll just raid my friend's old copies of First and Fastest...
  by eolesen
If I recall, North Shore was following the approach that Metra still does today -- run higher frequencies in the morning with shorter trains, and consolidating some of that equipment for afternoon runs with longer trains. People arrive downtown in more of a steady flow between 0700-0900, yet the expresses seem mostly concentrated between 1700 and 1800.

Much easier to do with electric equipment and no locomotives to move around.
  by ExCon90
Regarding old copies of First & Fastest, there was one sometime within the past few years devoted largely to exhaustive coverage of the entire Skokie Swift operation, including the North Shore service that preceded it, written by some of the people who made it happen. Well worth digging around for.
  by Allouette
Spring 2014 issue of First & Fastest had the Skokie Swift articles.
  by erie910
Thanks to all who responded. Great information!