Monday, March 30, 2020

C&E: RTA Wilson Avenue Tower and Yard

(HAERSatellite, the yard was on the east side of the tracks between Wilson and Montrose)

The yard burned down in 1996 after RTA had moved maintenance and storage in 1993 to a new Howard yard and shop. It has now been redeveloped. The Howard expansion was part of the plan for switching the south end of the Red Line from Englewood-Jackson Park to Dan Ryan. [chicago-L]

HAER ILL,16-CHIG,107A--1
1. VIEW OF WILSON AVENUE UPPER LEVEL INTERLOCKING TOWER. DESIGN SIMILAR TO THAT WHICH WAS ON LOOP.

HAER ILL,16-CHIG,107A--2
2. GENERAL VIEW IN SWITCH ROOM OF TOWER SHOWING MECHANICAL INTERLOCKING LEVERS.

HAER ILL,16-CHIG,107A--3
3. VIEW OF LOCKING BED AND LEADOUT CRANKS ON FIRST FLOOR OF TOWER.

HAER ILL,16-CHIG,107A--4
4. VIEW OF MECHANICAL INTERLOCKING LEADOUT FROM TOWER.

1938 Aerial Photo from ILHAP

Marty Bernard posted
This Interlocking Tower Was 30 Feet Up in the Air
I have always found interesting the "Armstrong" interlocking tower on the Chicago Transit Authority "L" structure at Wilson Ave. on the four-track mainline on Chicago's north side. Among things it protected the north end of the Wilson Yard and Shop. Because it was up on the structure non-CTA employees couldn't get to it and could only see it when riding past on a train. When I worked for the CTA I should have taken the opportunity to get up in it.
A while back I found some pictures on the Library of Congress online photograph site of the tower's inside and mechanism. It's a typical Armstrong plant. The levers were on the second floor of the tower and the mechanism (aka. machine) was in the first floor (remember the tower was already about 30 feet off the ground).
I took this picture of the tower from a passing train in June
Ezequiel Delgadillo: Was it there when that massive fire happened in the mid 90's?
Glen Olbermann: Ezequiel Delgadillo the massive fire was right across it at the famous Wilson St shops. I saw it after it burned down. The CTA had shuttle buses going on the day of the fire and the day after the fire. I remember the new CTA mgmt wanted Wison St shops to close and demolish it but didn't know how. CTA mgmt had the shop set on fire in order to burn the whole place down. I remember that work from Wilson St shops moved to the 61st st shops already. The yellow work trains were already reassigned to 61st St shops then. I had a few friends that worked for the CTA back then and I rode their trains, particularly the Evanston Express and the Ravenswood line and they told me 4 weeks ahead of time that the word was going around that Wilson St shops was gonna be burned down. There were no investigations after the fire and the problem just "went away". I stayed quiet waiting to see what will happen next but nothing.
Marty Bernard shared
Jon Roma: There are still a couple towers that have the mechanical locking frame, but there has been no tower that operates switches, signals, or facing point locks for the last decade when Union Pacific's Ridgely Tower in Springfield, IL closed.
I have an album of photos from this tower on Flickr, unfortunately I did not get to visit the interior.

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Milwaukee transferred the Chicago & Evanston route north of Wilson to the CTA with the understanding that the CTA would serve the few remaining industries along the track, mostly coal retailers. Milwaukee handed off freight cars to the CTA at Wilson. For an extensive history and description of this freight operation, see L-freight.

Sam Carlson posted
Lou Gerard Wow! At Wilson Yard!
Ralcon Wagner Terrific! The freight loco used to move loads of coal between Milwaukee Road branch and CTA el line at Montrose/Wilson connecting track in Chicago. This image was made between 1960 and 1973. Looks like the loco was freshly painted. Great find!
Lou Gerard According to the info on the back of the print, it is from 1961.

David Daruszka commented on Matt's post
The line was originally built as a commuter line that ran as far north as Wilmette. Commuter service was abandoned in the early 1900's and the Northwestern Elevated assumed operations over the right of way north of Wilson Ave. That line was later elevated. There was a freight exchange yard at Wilson with the CTA, who provided freight service for the remaining businesses that needed it. Slowly but surely freight service south of Wilson diminished as well.
["During the last month of freight service, locomotive S-104 is pushing two empty hopper cars back to Buena Yard on the freight lead in April 1973. The freight train has just passed over Montrose Avenue and is heading north on the elevated connection between Buena Yard and Track 1 at Wilson station, seen looking southwest from the Wilson Shops lunchroom. (Photo by Lou Gerard)" [L-freight]]

Craig Holmberg commented on a post
Joshua Sutherland Lakewood line from the 1870's to 1973, used to switch cars to the CTA for the CTA's freight service that ended in 1973 when Lill coal yard stopped receiving shipments.
Joshua Sutherland Craig Holmberg We have one of those (CTA S104) at the Museum in Union.
[Comments implied there were two of these electric freight locomotives to serve industries on the CTA part because they were named Delores and LaVerne.
"On the last day of CTA freight service, locomotive S-104 is seen shoving the last empty hoppers south down Track 1 back to Buena Yard, passing Berwyn station on April 30, 1973. This would be the last in-service freight run on the "L". (Photo by Lou Gerard)" [L-freight]]
Due to their substantial weight -- about 100,000 pounds -- electric locomotive S-104 and its twin, S-105, were well-suited to snow clearance duty during the winter months when not needed for freight service. Here, S-104 is seen in Lower Wilson Yard with a snowplow attached to its front on February 1, 1939. The four-track North Side Main Line and the elevated Wilson Shops are visible in the background. (Photo by George Krambles, from the Krambles-Peterson Archive) [L-freight]

William Shapotkin posted
A S/B North Shore Line train (operating on the "local" trk) has just passed the Granville 'L' station on Chicago's North Side. Visible at right is the Jacob Best Coal Company (located 6133 N. Broadway) -- which closed circa 1960.
This was one of several coal yards served by CTA. (Technically these coal yards were served by The Milwaukee Road -- CTA (and predecessor CRT) delivered the cars the from Buena Yard (located north of Irving Park Rd).) View looks south.
My thanks to Lou Gerard, Bruce Moffat, David Zornig (and others) in assisting in identifying the name of the coal company (no, this is NOT Lill Coal -- which was located at Berwyn). Photo by the late William Hoffman taken July 29, 1956. Wm Shapotkin Collection.
David Patt The last of the coal yards was at Berwyn and was replaced by a Jewel store..
Jon Roma Flickr album of ten photos of the tower and interlocking  Of note is the photo of the upper level of the yard and shops. There is a yard and shops on the ground level as well.

So how far into Evanston did the Chicago & Evanston branch go?
MWRD posted
Hydraulic bank sloping work on the North Shore Channel, looking slightly northwest from an area north of Central Street in Evanston, Illinois, with the current CTA Purple Line bridge at right, on September 19, 1917

Willilam Shapotkin posted
Just north of Central St (Evanston) on (what is now) the EVANSTON (or "Purple Line") 'L' is a bridge over the North Shore Channel -- over which trns of the North Shore Line (Shoreline Route) once operated. When the 'L' (which at one time operated at grade level) was elevated above the streets in Evanston the bridge was likewise raised to meet the height of the newly-elevated 'L'. This view looks N-N/W in this photo from the Metropolitan Sanitary District dated September 19, 1917.
As I understand it, this bridge was erected by the MILW and the line was later (from approx Wilson Ave (in Chicago) north into WIlmette) leased to the Northwestern Elevated Railroad. It was later purchased outright by successor CTA (in 1954 (?)).

Howard is where most of the trains going past Wilson Avenue terminated. But this "train" is one of them that went on up through Evanston.
Don Wetmore posted
CTA at Howard St on Jan 11, 1980.  Photo by Don Wetmore
Don Wetmore shared







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