Sunday, August 11, 2019

Chicago's "L" started with steam locomotives

I normally ignore streetcars, elevated, and interurban railroads, but the conversion of elevated trains from steam trains to multiple-unit electric cars is an event in industrial history that is worth noting.

Ron Kolman posted
Chicago's "L" started running in 1892 on the South Side. That's a steam locomotive pulling the train. It was not until 1897 that the line converted to electricity adopting the third-rail technology that had been pioneered at the World's Columbian Exposition.
Add the "L" to the list of innovations that came out of the Fair, including Cracker Jacks and the Ferris Wheel.
[PHOTO CREDIT:] Courtesy of the Chicago Transit Authority

Mark Armstrong When it originally opened as a privately held line, it was known as the Chicago & South Side Elevated Railroad from Congress Avenue to 39th Street and then extended to 63rd Street and Stony Island Avenue, ending at the Transportation Bldg. for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition and connected in 1897 to the Union Loop Elevated Railroad downtown.
Jan Erkenbrack It's Cracker Jack. No S.
We also got the Midway and chili con carne.
Dwight Smith The Lake Street El also used steam locomotives for a short time.
Mark Armstrong Demonstrated on the Metropolitan at the 1893 World's Columbian, tested on the Lake Street and Jackson Park lines.
Reginald Valentine can you imagine how hot it was in the summertime on those trains back then not to mention the style of clothing 1890s women was covered from neck to toe.
Patrick Moran This post reminded me of a documentary I saw on the invention of the electric train motor.
Tom Schoendorff The L trains run on Direct Current or DC which was advocated by Edison. It was Tesla’s Alternating Current or AC which lit up the 1893 exposition and what continues to power the world today. Yet the L is still using the DC third rail making it the jolting ride we’ve become accustomed to.
Michael Weiland Tom Schoendorff Many of the trains, including all the newer ones, are AC motors. But yes, the third rail is still DC.
Nicole Gavrel Kotz This YouTube video runs over 19 minutes but if one has time it is a fascinating look back at transportation in the 1940's with CTA's first subway in 1938.
Neil Rest On the old tracks, the stations were a little higher than the rest of the tracks so the engine was breaking uphill and starting downhill.
Any idea which station that is?
Dwight Smith Indiana Avenue

Chris Nantus shared
Richard C. Burnes commented on Chris' share
After its life on the "L", one of the Forney locomotives made its way to Star Lake, Wisconsin, where it was used in logging operations.

J.J. Sedelmaier posted
The first "L".
David Daruszka First electrically powered elevated. The steam powered "Alley L" was developed concurrently to serve the Fair.
David Daruszka commented on J.J.'s post
[Look at the windmill exhibition in the background. The importance of wind power is another reminder that electricity was just being developed in the early 1890s.]

David Daruszka commented on J.J.'s post
The dynamo that powered the trains.

Frank J. Sprague pioneered the use of his electric motor in elevators. He then used it in streetcars in Richmond, VA, in the late 1880s. The viability of the streetcar application caused Boston to open America's first subway system on Sept. 1, 1897. [PBSBostonGlobe]

David Harrison posted
Being the last to commit to electricity, the South Side Alley L joined in an agreement with Frank J. Sprague to test the multiple-unit control system. East coast elevateds had turned him down. Late in 1897, test runs used the middle track over 63rd St. with power spliced from the streetcars. Then tests were run on the Metropolitan West Side tracks. By April, 1898, the tests were a success and this photo was staged at Harrison and Wabash.
Ned Carlson Frank Sprague was an unheralded American inventor who probably ought be as famous as Tesla, Westinghouse or Edison. Modern rapid transit and railroad MU operation was Sprague's invention.

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