Friday, January 13, 2023

Chicago's Douglas Park "L" Line (Now Pink Line)

Oak Park Terminal: (Satellite, it is now a linear parking lot)
CTA 54th Street Railyard and Shop: (Satellite)
Current Terminus: (Satellite)
Last Overpass: (Satellite)

This route was the southern most route of the Metropolitan West Side "L". The western part of this route is at ground level. That is, it is not elevated.

Jon Roma posted
This is an outstanding photograph from taken around 1950 of a westbound CTA train passing the interlocking at the east end of the Douglas Park elevated's western terminus at Oak Park Ave. in Berwyn, Illinois.
While the vintage "L" cars attract most people's attention, I am more captivated by the lower quadrant semaphore signals, and the interlocking leadout – the network of iron pipes that connected the tower's levers with the the switches and signals making up the plant. One can virtually trace the specific pipes to specific apparatus – one pipe for each semaphore blade, and two for each switch: one to throw the switch, and the other to engage the facing point lock (FPL). Only when the switch points and FPL are in the proper position can a signal be cleared.
At the time this photo was taken, most of Chicago's elevated railroad was dark railroad: Train separation other than at interlocking plants was by simple operation on sight. Chicago's first subway was opened in 1943, and was the first extensive use of automatic block signaling. Wooden cars were also banned from the subway.
Unfortunately, this photograph was captured near the twilight of this portion of the Douglas line. This mechanical interlocking – which by its very nature had to be manned whenever trains were operating – was costly to operate, as were the warning devices for 22 street crossings on this ground-level trackage – all manually controlled by gatemen.
The CTA and city of Berwyn could not reach an agreement for cost-sharing of the expense of replacing the gatemen with automatic crossing warning devices. With declining ridership as passengers flocked to their automobiles, CTA decided it could no longer sustain the payroll cost that included a score of watchmen for the street crossings. On February 3, 1952, CTA lopped off the outer 14 blocks (1.75 miles) of the Douglas line, abolishing the leverman at Oak Park Ave. terminal, along with the gateman positions, and ticket agents at the six stations that were shed from the system.
From that date forward, the Douglas "L" line terminated at 54th Ave. in Cicero, where connections were made to gasoline buses running on nearby Cermak Ave. 54th Ave. remains the terminal today (although the facility was replaced around 2000). The line is now known as the CTA Pink Line. There are still a number of grade crossings on the ground level portion of this line. Other than at interlocked locations, there are no wayside signals on the Pink Line, and main tracks on CTA's rail network are equipped with cab signals and automatic train control.
The abandoned right-of-way between 54th Ave. and Oak Park Ave. became a linear parking lot, which was certainly a sign of the times. Today, one wonders how many Berwyn residents wish they still had "L" service to Chicago's Loop.
Mel Patrick: I can't help but cringe looking at the hot electric rails almost wide open to any person or animal that might wander in.
Jon Roma: Mel Patrick, same with the CA&E!
Mel Patrick: Also the Lake Street line on ground level in Oak Park.
Jon Roma: And the Ravenswood, Skokie Swift, and Evanston ... all of which are still in service (albeit well-protected by fences and cattle guards at crossings). You can tell I'm old-school because I didn't refer to them as the Brown, Yellow, and Purple! 🙂
Andre Kristopans: Berwyn was totally intransigent. Don't close any crossings, do not automate them, we want gatemen, we are not giving you a penny. Cicero said fine, automate. So they kept their L.
Jon Roma: Andre Kristopans, and they sued CTA about closing the line too. Great negotiating tactic that surely reaped dividends for them.
Andre Kristopans: Jon Roma delayed closing by several months

Jon commented on his post
Here's a contemporary view from roughly the same location. Note that the garage to the left of the "L" train is still standing. The apartments behind the garage still stand, but are obscured by foliage. The location is roughly 21st Place and Euclid Ave. in Berwyn, IL.

Ken Rehor commented on Jon's post
For perspective here's a bit of annotation showing the approximate train location overlayed with the current Google aerial view.
Jon Roma: Do you suppose the picture I shared was taken from the Euclid crossing, or do you think it was from the platform? There are not a lot of picture of this part of the line, and I have not seen *any* photos of the tower. Given the configuration of the interlocking leadout (14 pipes), I suspect it was a 16-lever frame, possibly dating to the building of the line.
Also, I don't see evidence of trip stops, and assume there were none at this relatively primitive terminal interlocking.

Ken commented on Jon's comment on his comment
I just noticed this picture is also on "6053-6054 near Oak Park Avenue on the Douglas Park “L”. The date given here (December 1953) must be wrong, as the line had already been cut back to 54th Avenue by then. It may be December 1950, as Douglas was the first line to use the new 6000s. (Truman Hefner Photo)"

Ken commented on Jon's comment on his comment
Ken Rehor: At first I assumed your original pic was taken from Euclid Ave, but since it's from a slightly higher elevation, it appears to be from a platform. Was the platform along the entire way from Oak Park to Euclid? There's also this pic of the Oak Park Ave station. You can see in the far distance what appears to be the 2-flat at the Wesley Ave crossing.
"CTA 2725 at the Oak Park Avenue terminal of the Douglas Park “L” in December 1950.
The line was cut back to 54th Avenue, nearly two miles east of here, in 1952. This area is now used as a parking lot in Berwyn, often referred to as the “L” strip. (Truman Hefner Photo)"

Digitally Zoomed
Upon further review of these pics, I'm almost certain your original pic was taken from the platform that's in front of the tower, which is just east of the station at Oak Park Ave. But given the crossover, it doesn't appear there's any space for Euclid Ave to cross the tracks. Could it have only been cut through post-removal of the tracks?

Dennis DeBruler commented on Jon's comment on Ken's comment
Euclid would have been right next to the tower if it crossed the tracks. It looks like Euclid south of the tracks was just a parking lot back then. It makes sense that the street was cut through later because otherwise the road would have had to accommodate the signaling pipelines. (1938 aerial)

The railyard was partially skunked by a train.
Street View, Aug 2018

This is the first ground-level crossing. I see what someone meant by the "cattle crossing guards." They want to make it hard to walk on the tracks. And unlike most tracks in Chicagoland, the right-of-way is fenced off its full length.
Street View, Oct 2019

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