Thursday, May 11, 2006

Chicago's Circle

In a way, this is another fantasy rail blog entry, and in a way it is not.

The City of Chicago and the CTA recently announced its plans to hold public hearings on the several possible Circle Line routes that will (and we emphasize will, not might) connect all rail, rapid transit and bus routes in the city.

The very early plans - going back 4 years or more - for the Circle Line were all rail. None of them involved Commuter Rail; they all called for extensions or renovations of elevated rapid transit lines.

The first projected part of the Circle was going to be a renovation of the Paulina Street Connector. We once rode regularly scheduled "L" service on this line, but once the Congress line was completed and opened into the Dearborn Street Subway, the line became the only connection between the Douglas Park (Blue Line in current jargon) and the rest of the L-subway system. The Connector is still the only connection between the Blue Line and the remainder of the third-rail system.

(Sidebar: At one time, the Blue Douglas Line ran north from Woods curve to connect with the Garfield Park (no longer existing) line to make a turn east and get into the Loop. When the Garfield Park was moved to street level during the construction of the Congress (now Eisenhower) Expressway, Douglas trains ran north all the way to Lake Street and then entered the loop. It is during this transition period that we can remember riding this route.)

So the re-opening of this connector became one of our Fantasy Rail lines. We could never understand why management didn't want to run some of the Blue Line trains through the subway and some into the Loop on the "L" structure. It just made more sense to us that commuters using the line could more easily reach a greater variety of Loop points without transfer or walking that way. But we digress.

The Circle Line may bring the re-opening of this line, with trains serving both a new transfer station at Lake and one at 18th Street that would make a connection with the Metra Burlington Northern Santa Fe line commuter route. This would bring another Fantasy Rail element for us, as the 18th Street station was probably our most frequent stop to visit the adjacent Leader Department Store. As both of this writer's parents worked there, it was also a spot where we had trainwatching rights by access to the roof of the three-story building. That took us just high enough to see "L" trains moving all the way from Woods curve on the south to the Racine (Medical Center) station, and to see the action under the truss that carried the "L" over the Burlington tracks north of 18th Street.

In short, we imagined what is now planned back in the day.

Time and tide wait for no man, and we are out of time to post this entry. So look for Chicago's Circle II on another day.

© 2006 - C. A. Turek -
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