Northwestern Elevated Railroad

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Northwestern Elevated Railroad
Argyle Station 19160116.jpg
A wooden 'L' train at Argyle on the newly elevated tracks in 1916
Type Rapid transit
Locale Chicago, Illinois
Opened May 31, 1900[1]
Closed 1924 (merged into Chicago Rapid Transit Company)
Operator(s) Northwestern Elevated Railroad Company (1893–1924)
Character Elevated
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Electrification Third rail, Trolley wire 600 V DC
Route map

to Milwaukee
Church Terminal
Rogers Park
Bryn Mawr
Edgewater Beach
to Union Station
Irving ParkSheridan
Clark Junction
Wells Street Station
North Water Terminal

The Northwestern Elevated Railroad was the last of the privately constructed rapid transit lines to be built in Chicago. The line ran from the Loop in downtown Chicago north to Wilson Avenue in Chicago's Uptown neighborhood with a branch to Ravenswood and Albany Park that left the main line at Clark Street. The Ravenswood line is now operated as the Brown Line, while the Main Line is used by the Purple and Red Lines.



The Northwestern Elevated Railroad Company was incorporated on October 30, 1893,[2][3] and on January 8, 1894 was granted a 50-year franchise by the City of Chicago.[4] The original franchise stipulated that service between a downtown location to the south of the Chicago River and Wilson Avenue was to begin by December 31, 1897.[3][5] This franchise was altered in 1895 to allow the line to connect to the new Union Loop,[6] and the deadline for completion was later extended to May 31, 1899.[7]

Construction of the line started in February 1896[8] but the project experienced financial difficulties and work was paused later in the year and stopped completely in 1897.[9] New financing was found, and construction began again in July 1899.[10] In order to meet the franchise requirements an inaugural train ran north from the Loop on December 31, 1899. However, on January 1, 1900, city officials declared that the railroad was unsafe and that the franchise had expired.[11] Defiantly, the company ran another train the next day. Police stopped the train and arrested the crew, but company officials took the controls and managed to run the train into the Loop. In order to stop its return, police opened the Wells Street bridge and blocked the track with railroad ties, but the officials managed to evade the police by having the train switched on to the Lake Street Elevated Railroad.[12] Eventually the company reached a new agreement with the city, and the first 6.41-mile (10.32 km) section of the railroad was officially opened on May 31, 1900.[1]


A preserved Northwestern Elevated Railroad car dating from 1907

On May 18, 1907 the Northwestern opened a branch to Ravenswood. The new branch left the main line just south of Clark Street and operated to Western Avenue.[13] An at-grade extension to the branch's final terminal at Kimball occurred a few months later.

Service was extended 7 miles (11 km) north from the Wilson terminal to Central Street in suburban Evanston on May 16, 1908.[14][15][16] This route was over the electrified trackage of the Milwaukee Road's Chicago and Evanston line. Initially the elevated tracks at Wilson were linked to the street level tracks of the Milwaukee Road by a wooden trestle incline.[16] The Milwaukee Road depots at Argyle Park, Edgewater, North Edgewater, Rogers Park, Birchwood, Calvary, Main, Dempster, Davis, Noyes and Central were demolished and the tracks spread to allow their replacement with new temporary island platform stations. New stations were also added at Hayes Street and Howard Avenue.[17] The section of the line in southern Evanston between Howard Avenue and University Place was elevated onto an embankment by 1910, and the tracks between Lawrence and Howard were elevated between 1914 and 1922.

A short extension from Central to Linden Avenue in Wilmette occurred on April 2, 1912.[18]


In 1913 Chicago's four elevated railroad companies came together to form the Chicago Elevated Railways Collateral Trust establishing crosstown services for the first time, and in 1924 all four companies were formally united to form the Chicago Rapid Transit Company.[19] The Chicago Transit Authority took over the assets of the CRT in 1947.

Station listing[edit]

Northwestern Elevated Railroad stations
Station Location Opened Closed
Linden Wilmette April 2, 1912[20]
Isabella Evanston April 2, 1912 July 16, 1973
Central Evanston May 16, 1908[14][21]
Noyes Evanston May 16, 1908[14][21]
Foster Evanston January 6, 1909
Davis Evanston May 16, 1908[14][21]
Dempster Evanston May 16, 1908[14][21]
Main Evanston May 16, 1908[14][21]
Calvary Evanston May 16, 1908 June 30, 1931
Howard Rogers Park August 23, 1908
Jarvis Rogers Park May 16, 1908[22]
Rogers Park Rogers Park May 16, 1908[22]
Loyola Rogers Park May 16, 1908[22]
Granville Edgewater May 16, 1908[22]
Thorndale Edgewater February 14, 1915[23]
Bryn Mawr Edgewater May 16, 1908[22]
Edgewater Beach Edgewater 1916–17
Argyle Little Vietnam May 16, 1908[22]
Lawrence Uptown February 27, 1923
Wilson Uptown May 31, 1900[24]
Buena Buena Park May 31, 1900 July 31, 1949[25]
Sheridan Lakeview May 31, 1900[24]
Grace Wrigleyville June 7, 1900[26] July 31, 1949[25]
Addison Wrigleyville June 9, 1900[26]
Clark Lakeview June 9, 1900[26] July 31, 1949[25]
Belmont Lakeview May 31, 1900[24]
Wellington Lakeview May 31, 1900
Diversey Lincoln Park June 9, 1900[26]
Wrightwood Lincoln Park May 31, 1900[24] July 31, 1949[25]
Fullerton Lincoln Park May 31, 1900[24]
Webster Lincoln Park June 9, 1900[26] July 31, 1949[25]
Center Lincoln Park June 9, 1900[26]
Willow Lincoln Park 1905 May 17, 1942
Halsted Lincoln Park May 31, 1900[24] July 31, 1949[25]
Larrabee Cabrini–Green June 6, 1900[26] July 31, 1949[25]
Sedgwick Old Town May 31, 1900[24]
Schiller Old Town May 31, 1900[24] July 31, 1949[25]
Division Old Town May 31, 1900[24] July 31, 1949[25]
Oak Near North Side 1906 July 31, 1949[25]
Chicago Near North Side May 31, 1900[24]
Grand Near North Side 1921 September 20, 1970
Kinzie Near North Side May 31, 1900[24] 1921
North Water Terminal Near North Side November 17, 1908[27] July 31, 1949[25]
Kimball Albany Park December 14, 1907
Kedzie Albany Park December 14, 1907
Francisco Albany Park December 14, 1907
Rockwell Lincoln Square December 14, 1907
Western Lincoln Square May 18, 1907[13]
Robey Ravenswood May 18, 1907[13]
Ravenswood Ravenswood May 18, 1907[13] July 31, 1949[25]
Montrose Ravenswood May 18, 1907[13]
Irving Park North Center May 18, 1907[13]
Addison North Center May 18, 1907[13]
Paulina Roscoe Village May 18, 1907[13]
Southport Lakeview May 18, 1907[13]


  • Borzo, Greg (2007). The Chicago "L". Chicago: Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7385-5100-5. 
  • Wilcox, Delos F. (1911). Municipal Franchises: A Description of the Terms and Conditions upon which Private Corporations Enjoy Special Privileges in the Streets of American Cities. New York: The Engineering News Publishing Company. 
  • Moffat, Bruce (1995). "Chapter 12: Perseverance in the Face of Adversity". The "L" The Development of Chicago's Rapid Transit System, 1888-1932. Chicago: Central Electric Railfans' Association. pp. 187–205. ISBN 0-915348-30-6. 
  • Moffat, Bruce (1995). "Chapter 13: The Evanston "L"". The "L" The Development of Chicago's Rapid Transit System, 1888-1932. Chicago: Central Electric Railfans' Association. pp. 206–225. ISBN 0-915348-30-6. 


  1. ^ a b "New "L" Road is Opened". Chicago Daily Tribune. June 1, 1900. p. 2. 
  2. ^ "Another "L" Road Incorporated". Chicago Daily Tribune. October 31, 1893. p. 9. 
  3. ^ a b Borzo, The Chicago "L", p. 61.
  4. ^ Poor, H.V.; Poor, H.W. (1900). Poor's Manual of the Railroads of the United States (Volume 33). p. 880. 
  5. ^ Wilcox, Municipal Franchises, p. 479.
  6. ^ Wilcox, Municipal Franchises, p. 480.
  7. ^ "Yerkes Wants Time". Chicago Daily Tribune. November 23, 1897. p. 1. 
  8. ^ "New North Side "L"". Chicago Daily Tribune. March 8, 1896. p. 25. 
  9. ^ Borzo, The Chicago "L", p. 62.
  10. ^ "Rushing North Side "L"". Chicago Daily Tribune. July 28, 1899. p. 1. 
  11. ^ "City Stops Work On "L"". Chicago Daily Tribune. January 2, 1900. p. 1. 
  12. ^ ""L" Crisis Comes Today". Chicago Daily Tribune. January 3, 1900. p. 5. 
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i "New 'L' Line Operated". Chicago Daily Tribune. May 19, 1907. p. 11. 
  14. ^ a b c d e f "Evanston "L" Trains Running". Chicago Daily Tribune. May 17, 1908. p. 20. 
  15. ^ "Loop Trains to Evanston Will Start Saturday". Chicago Daily Tribune. May 12, 1908. p. 1. 
  16. ^ a b "The Northwestern Elevated Extension at Evanston, ILL". The Street Railway Journal. 31 (21): 842–849. May 23, 1908. 
  17. ^ "Electrification of the Evanston Suburban Line of the Chicago Milwaukee & St. Paul". The Railway Age. 44 (14): 467. October 4, 1907. 
  18. ^ "Night Raid Puts "L" in Wilmette". Chicago Daily Tribune. April 3, 1912. p. 9. 
  19. ^ Garfield, Graham. "Unification". Chicago "L".org. Retrieved 2007-12-28. 
  20. ^ "Night Raid Puts "L" in Wilmette". Chicago Daily Tribune. April 3, 1912. p. 9. 
  21. ^ a b c d e "Loop Trains to Evanston Will Start on Saturday". Chicago Daily Tribune. May 12, 1908. p. 1. 
  22. ^ a b c d e f "Evanston "L" Line to Open Today". The Evanston Index. Evanston, Illinois. May 16, 1908. p. 1. 
  23. ^ "New "L" Station Opened". Chicago Daily Tribune. February 15, 1915. p. 15. 
  24. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Room for All to Ride". Chicago Daily Tribune. May 30, 1900. p. 12. 
  25. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Close 24 Elevated Stations; Skip-Stop Will Start Monday". Chicago Daily Tribune. July 31, 1949. p. 1. 
  26. ^ a b c d e f g "Boys Meddle with "L" Track". Chicago Daily Tribune. June 7, 1900. p. 12. 
  27. ^ Moffat, Bruce (1995). "Chapter 13 - The Evanston "L"". The "L". Chicago, Il: Central Electric Railfans' Association. p. 225. ISBN 0-915348-30-6. 

External links[edit]