Thursday, December 29, 2016

"The Met" and its abandoned bridge

(Bridge Hunter, Satellite)
Steven J. Brown posted
Metra F40PH 110 passing underneath the abandoned Metropolitan West Side Elevated bridge (built 1898, abandoned 1964 - remains as a signal bridge.) November 5, 2001.
The Metropolitan West Side Elevated Railroad was the third one built in Chicago and the first to use electric traction. [GarfieldPark] We have already seen the Met because it used the first Scherzer designed rolling bridge to access its Fifth Avenue/Wells Street Terminal. I include this 1898 map to make it easier to understand the routes of the Met.

1898 Map from a map collection 
The first thing one learns is that back in the 1800s, the north/south streets were numbered avenues because the main line, Garfield Park, ended at 48th Avenue in 1898. Using the BRC tracks as a reference, it appears that 48th Avenue is now Cicero Avenue.

Of particular interest were the two branches a little west of Ashland Avenue: Logan Square (discussed more below) turned to the north and Douglas Park turned to the south.

1898 Map, zoomed
1898 Map, zoomed
Then the Humbolt Park Branch left the Logan Square Branch just west of Robey Street (now Damen Avenue).

1898 Map,
zoomed
I include a detail of the loop area because it appears the Met started with a connection to the loop and added its Fifth Avenue/Wells Street Terminal later. The 1938 map below shows that the main line and the Douglas Park branch were extended. Furthermore, the CA&E connected to the west end of the main line.
1938 Map from a map collection 
1938 zoom
Zooming in on the downtown connection, we can see that the Met connected to both its terminal and the loop. All of the CA&E trains went to the terminal.

Construction of the Milwaukee-Dearborn subway started in March 1939 using the deep bore method for most of the distance. But construction was put on hold during World War II even though it was 80% complete in 1942. Work resumed in late 1945 and opened on February 25, 1951. [DearbornSub]

The CTA took over all elevated and surface transportation in 1947. One of the first things it did was study the traffic through each station and on each branch because it wanted to close those facilities that did not generate enough revenue. Humboldt Park branch was on the "cut list." For political reasons, they could not just "pull the plug." So they reduced the quality of the service until the branch died. The following "bullet information" is from [Humboldt].
  • In 1948 they switched to just a Lauwndale-Damen shuttle during off hours forcing everybody to walk over to a Logan train at the Damen Station. During rush hours, Humboldt trains ran downtown, but they terminated at the Wells Street Station rather than run on the loop like the Logan Square trains did.
  • On February 19, 1950, they eliminated late evening and owl service.
  • In December, they re-equipped Logan branch with brand-new, all-steel PCC 6000-series cars but kept the old wooden cars on the Humboldt branch. Sure enough the ridership on Logan went up and on Humboldt went down.
  • The CTA planned to close the branch when the new Milwaukee-Dearborn subway opened in Feb. 1951. But local alderman Geisler (34th) and resident petitions gave the branch a reprieve. However, the CTA did close the Paulina Connector for revenue service and reduced the branch to just a shuttle service at all times. Furthermore, the transfer to a reconfigured Damen station that accommodated the subway connection was made very inconvenient for the passengers.
  • Another change in Feb. 1951 was that they quit maintaining and cleaning the branch, "causing immediate and obvious deterioration in the stations."
  • Service was discontinued on May 4, 1952. An express bus was added on North Avenue that stopped at just the Humboldt station locations. It was extended west to Kostner to tap commercial and industrial areas.
  • The express bus service was terminated Sept. 10, 1973.
In case you thought I forgot that this posting was about a bridge, let's take a closer look at the Paulina Connector bullet item. First of all, one reason for including the 1938 map was to show that Lake and the Met were competitors for west side traffic in the 1800s. But after the CTA got control of all of the lines, they used the Lake Line to carry the Douglas Park (Pink Line) traffic into the loop. So the north/south segment of the Logan Branch south of the Lake Line is back in revenue service. The north segment, between the Lake Line and where the Logan Branch switched to the subway is abandoned. All of that abandoned segment has been removed except for this bridge. The reason the bridge is retained is that C&NW had hung signals on it while it was still in service. So the bridge now might be the world's largest signal bridge (Birds-Eye View, Street View)

Update:

The bridge goes over UP/C&NW tracks on the north side of the easement and CP/Milwaukee+NS/PRR/Panhandle tracks on the south side.

Gary J Sibio shared another view of this bridge.

Larry J. Pearlman posted a photo taken from underneath the bridge.

While trying to find where the first picture of this UP article was taken, I discovered that the Blue Line uses a subway to connect the Logan Square branch with the new extension to O'Hare built in the median of I-90/94. The subway goes under Milwaukee Ave. then north under Kimball Ave. until it reaches the Kennedy Expy.

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