Thursday, December 29, 2016

"The Met" and the Bridge to Nowhere

(Bridge Hunter; Historic BridgesJohn MarvigSatellite)
(Update: see Blue Line for the Garfield Park Branch replacement in the Eisenhower expressway. A posting)

A video of a Bruce Moffat presentation concerning The Met. He has three slides about the "bridge to nowhere" starting here.

A New Short Answer

William Shapotkin posted two photos with the comment:
Most anyone familiar with history and/or operations of the 'L' in Chicago is no doubt aware of the "Bridge to Nowhere." This bridge, located west of Paulina Ave near Kinzie on Chicago's West Side once carried trains of the HUMBOLT PARK and LOGAN SQUARE 'L' lines over the (north-to-south) C&NW (Galena Division) -- now UP, MILW (C&M Division) -- now owned by METRA and the PRR (PCC&StL) -- now NS.Although the 'L' is long-gone, the bridge remains. It is used to support the W/B approach signals for Tower A2, which is located at Western Ave, less than one mile to the west. The bridge (as I understand it) is still owned by the Chicago Transit Authority (and if that be true, it is the only piece of the 'L' system which actually MAKES money for CTA). The approaches are long-gone (removed circa 1964-65). Many people has seen and/or photographed this bridge -- but how many have actually seen a photo of a train on it?1. Contemporary photo of the bridge.2. A vintage photo (taken circa 1950-51) of what appears to be a Loop-bound HUMBOLT PARK or LOGAN SQUARE trn about to head across the bridge. Bernard Stone Photo. Krambles/Peterson Archives.


Dennis DeBruler commented on William's post

Dennis DeBruler commented on William's post
This extract from a 1938 map shows the route that used the bridge. I added a blue line to show where it crossed the C&NW.
The opening of the Dearborn Street Subway in 1951 made this route obsolete.

The Original Long Answer

You can skip ahead to the information about the Metropolitan West Side Elevated Railroad.

20171122 8119,  cropped
The above was cropped from a photo similar to the following. This was taken from Racine Avenue while getting photos of Pennsy's positional signal heads before they were replaced with the PTC stuff at Control Point Morgan. The buildings on the left are the ADM Flour Mill. Their days are also numbered.

Philip Wizenick posted
Chicago's bridge to nowhere.
In 1951, the Dearborn/Milwaukee subway opened, replacing the elevated segment paralleling Paulina Ave. between Lake St. and Milwaukee Ave. The only evidence remaining of the elevated segment is this bridge spanning eight tracks. Four tracks to the left used by the Chicago & North Western, now Union Pacific Metra West Line. And four Union Station tracks to the right used by the Milwaukee Road, now Metra's Milwaukee District. This bridge continues to support railroad signals.

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.

Dave Jendras posted three photos with the comment: "a bridge now used only for signals on Chicago’s west side....."



Lee Jones posted four photos with the comment: "Bridge to nowhere. On Chicago's west side off Lake Street."




Steven J. Brown posted
The daily migration of Metra lite power from 40th Street to the California Avenue coach yard or Ogilvie always reminded me of the end of Charlottes Web when all the baby spiders spin sails and go floating into the sky asses first.

An outbound Metra Milwaukee Line with a F40C waits in the distance while two loose F40PH's float through the plant (asses first) on their way downtown to look for trains. Tower A2/Western Ave in Chicago, Illinois - November 25, 1991.

Dennis DeBruler The former "L" bridge in the background. Now it is just a signal bridge. This "L" route was replaced by the Dearborn subway.
Paul Webb shared Al Krasauskas' post
1905 track elevation construction photograph of the Chicago & Northwestern Railway Company tracks when they were still at grade level. The cross street is North Paulina Street with West Kinzie Avenue running parallel along side the RR tracks. View is looking west from just east of North Paulina Street. Photo catches a photographic (long exposure) ghost train on the overhead railroad bridge. Who recognizes that overhead RR bridge?
[A reminder that when they elevated the railroad tracks in Chicago they first had to elevate the "L" tracks that went over them.]

Pablo Marin Jr. commented on Al's post
I have seen that bridge structure many time and actually took a picture of it a couple weeks ago I was going to post it here and ask if it was originally used for something else than signals?

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.

Jon Roma commented on a post: (The comments on this post also talk about the abrupt shutdown of the CA&E during the noon hour on July 3, 1957.)
The Metropolitan West Side Elevated consisted of three routes. These routes either terminated at the Wells Street station (between Jackson and Van Buren), or circled the Loop "L" from a connection at Van Buren and Wells.

The routes were the Garfield Park "L" (the main line), the Logan Square "L" (with its branch to Humboldt Park), and the Douglas Park "L". This route was used by the Chicago Aurora & Elgin, all of whose trains terminated or originated at the Wells Street terminal and didn't use the Loop "L". The Metropolitan had a major yard at Laramie, and from that point westward ran on CA&E's track -- at one time operating as far west as to 22nd Street and Mannheim Road in Westchester!
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,
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)


Chad Brown posted three photos of the abandoned bridge. You will have to follow the link because at least one of them is copyrighted. Some of the comments are of interest.

Mike Breski posted
ghost-of-algren: Chicago Aurora & Elgin in Chicago 1951 , by Mark LLanuza on Flickr.
Mark LLanuza Flickr
The CA&E has just left Wells Street station and is crossing over the shed of Union Station at Canal st [taken by unknown photographer] .Within the following year the CA&E will no longer come this far do to the building of the new Congress express way.Photo collection Mark Llanuza
John L Garcia Four tracks over the Chicago River ❓
Dennis DeBruler Indeed. Two Scherzer rolling lift bridges side by side.
Jon Roma Four tracks all the way west to Marshfield Ave., where the line split into three branches.
Eric Larson Burlington building (547 W Jackson) has an angled back side which was to accommodate this r-o-w. A few pieces of foundational evidence remain in the west side of the river. Finally, the squat substation building at 321 S Franklin, which would once have been beneath this “L”, still stands under CTA ownership.

Len Marcus commented on Chad's posting
 Not my photo but this is how the line looked, the bridge is in the background.
John M. Kawano Curving line still exists- is now part of the Pink Line.
Make Lehman posted
Marshfield Junction
Scott Greig With the separate CA&E platform in the foreground.
Dennis DeBruler Metropolitan West Side Elevated Railroad where Garfield Park and CA&E went west, Douglas Park went south, and Logan Square went north. Douglas Park now uses a Logan Square remnant to get up to Lake Street as the Pink Line. The rest of Logan Square going north was made obsolete by the Milwaukee-Dearborn subway.

And here is what went between this junction and the Chicago River bridge.
David Daruszka posted
Here at Chicago Railroad Historians we do consider Interurbans, the 'L' and street railways as part of the city's heritage. Here's a two-fer with a four-car Chicago Aurora & Elgin train heading away from the Loop as a Chicago Rapid Transit train passes inbound. Below the train are the south platforms of Chicago Union Station.
Don Sims photo from the Classic Trains collection.

Len Marcus commented on Chad's posting
The Met ran south from here; turned east at what now is the Eisenhower Expressway and went east over Union Station to the Loop. This photo shows the old Met Line as the Congress Expressway was being built.
John M. Kawano Circa 1956-1958. The Congress (now Eisenhower) Expressway opened in 1956 but the median strip Congress CTA route was still under construction in this view; it opened on June 22, 1958. It uses the two tunnels to the right. The two tunnels to the left were part of a stillborn plan to route the interurban Chicago, Aurora, and Elgin Railroad downtown (it shared trackage with the old Garfield Park El) but the company ceased all commuter service at midday July 3, 1957. people who had taken the train downtown that morning were stranded!
The Garfield Park El on the left had its route disrupted by construction of the Congress Expressway, which was a massive widening of old Congress Parkway. After the Halsted station the trains were rerouted in 1951 down a ramp to the surface and ran in the middle of Van Buren Street. Several grade-level crossings were created by this, slowing things down. To compensate somewhat all the stations between Halsted and Kedzie were eliminated. Nevertheless, many Garfield Park El riders switched to the paralleling Lake Street El. After the Congress route was opened the Garfield Park El was demolished completely.
Of the five original Els in Chicago, the Metropolitan West Side Elevated has lost the most of its original route mileage. The only remaining parts are the Pink Line (formerly known as the Douglas Park or Douglas branch) and the section of the Blue Line between Logan Square station and Division/Ashland/Milwaukee station.
Jim Arvites posted
View from a bygone era of the Logan Square Elevated Terminal on the Northwest side of Chicago in 1895.
(Joe Kopera Collection)

David H. Nelson posted three images with the comment: "I'm often pokin around on the hunt for pictures of old Chicago buildings and today I was in Google Street view screen-shotting the Brooks Building, W Jackson at Franklin (first picture) and on moving hte camera down Franklin to get a shot of the south side of hte building I noticed low building next door (second picture) and thought wait a sec, what is this???. It was once a substation. What makes it an item of interest for this forum is before the CTA starting shutting down terminal stations there was an elevated station immediately above this building. It was the terminal for a line coming off the westside. Basically it filled the gap above the substation, wall to wall left to right.. Entrance to the station was on the opposite side. The 3rd image is part of the 1950 Sanborn map."
Rick La Fever This was actually the terminal for The Roarin' Elgin. AKA, The Chicago, Aurora and Elgin Railroad also known as The Great Third Rail or Sunset Lines. It ran from this point through the Western Suburbs until it got to Wheaton Illinois.
At that point it split into two separate lines to run to Aurora and Elgin. It was abandoned at 1200 Noon July 3rd, 1957 stranding their passengers in the downtown Chicago area.
Bruce Moffat The single story building has always been a Rapid Transit substation and still is. The Wells terminal backed up to it at Street level and the platforms were overhead. Owned always by the "L". The CA&E was a tennant.
Paul Musselman It was originally a 'stub end' terminal for the CA&E....the Garfield El would pass this term. and access the 'loop' El by a connection on the west end of Van Buren...when CA&E was terminated, (along with the planning for Congress Exp'way) the stub end term. tracks were connected to the 'loop' at this point, and the west end Van Buren connection removed.
Mitch Markovitz The terminal was built by the Met "L" for their use as the Loop was becoming even then too crowded. When the agreement for trackage rights was reached with the Aurora Elgin and Chicago Railway the interurbans then began using Wells Street. Until 1951 Rapid Transit trains used the terminal for some Douglas, and Westchester trains. In 1955 the top floors of Wells Street were removed to allow the Garfield trains to access the Loop when construction of Wacker Drive dictated the removal of the old access.
Mitch Markovitz By the way Bruce Moffat is indeed the expert in this.



Jon Roma posted
A week or two ago, someone asked about the location of the old pre-subway Logan Square terminal on what is now the CTA Blue Line.
It turns out that this very question is answered by a photograph appearing in CTA's historical 2020 calendar. I've made a snapshot of the page in question, keeping the caption intact.
This and other historic CTA calendars can be downloaded at Andre Kristopans Building became a bank, but is essentially unrecognizable unless you saw the rebuilding in progress.
Rotwang Manteuffel Originally, this branch came off the Congress "L" near what is now the Eisenhower Expressway and Rush-St. Luke's Hospital. When the Dearborn Subway was opened in the early '50s, it was connected to the Logan Square Branch. The branch's elevated tracks between Lake and Milwaukee were abandoned and torn down...Except for a truss bridge over the C&NW West Line which remains to this day. The bridge was left standing because it held signals for the railroad.
Jon Roma If you want to be totally accurate, the Logan Square branch originally operated via the existing "L" structure next to Milwaukee Ave., headed south near Paulina Ave., and then joined the Douglas and Garfield branches near Marshfield and Van Buren, Logan Square trains thence traveling eastward, eventually circling the Loop "L" before making the return trip.
A more direct routing to the Loop, and through-routing of lines was envisioned in the planning for the Milwaukee-Dearborn subway, and work began in March 1939. Though this subway was mostly complete by 1942, it was mothballed due to wartime shortages of labor and material.
In 1951, the Milwaukee-Dearborn subway opened for service, and Logan Square trains were moved off the Loop "L" and into the subway, terminating at the La Salle and Congress station in the south Loop.
The Congress line in the median strip of the expressway was inaugurated on June 22, 1958. Effective the same date, Douglas trains were taken off their temporary routing into the Loop via the Lake St. line. As of this date, Congress and Douglas trains were through-routed with Milwaukee (Logan Square) trains, and the La Salle and Congress station ceased to be a terminus.
There's a log of good information on this subject (including maps) at There is also an excellent, well-illustrated article on the subject at  Dennis DeBruler This map is my goto reference for "The Met."
Where inbound trains now go North on the Paulina Connector between Van Buren and Lake, the inbound trains used to go South.
Dennis DeBruler A key to The Met was that their trains, and the Chicago, Aurora & Elgin trains, crossed the river with the world's first Scherzer rolling bridge.
Photo posted by Paul Petraitis,

The abandoned 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.

cmraseye Flickr 2009 photo of the bridge to nowhere

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.

Arvy J. Novahtskee posted a photo and the comments contain a lot of information including a video of it burning in 1996!

VintageTribune photo of dismantling the Paulina Street Elevated 

In Sept 2020, I got hit with a Double Doomsday. Both Facebook and Google changed their software. I said "changed" instead of "updated" because the new software is not better. In fact, Google's Blogger software is far worse except for a search function that works. For example, it has three bugs concerning photos and their captions. So I'm no longer copying photos and interesting comments from Facebook. I'm just saving the link. Unfortunately, some of the links are to private groups.

Another brief history of the bridge   This includes a photo of the Logan Square Terminal that was replaced by a subway station.

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