Chicago and its extensive railroad network evolved hand in hand. The city grew around its elevated and streetcar lines, while many suburbs grew around the commuter railroads and interurban lines. The streetcar lines have been replaced with buses and the interurbans are mostly gone, but Chicago remains the railroad center of the nation.
CHICAGO'S COMMUTERS DEPEND ON PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION
Chicago is an area where public transportation is extensively used, even by those who can afford automobiles. More people who work in downtown Chicago use public transportation than drive. Visitors flying into both of Chicago's airports have access to rapid transit lines. And both of Chicago's baseball parks are located along a rapid transit line.
America's finest commuter rail system is now known as Metra, with 12 routes radiating from downtown Chicago. Metra not only provides interesting train riding for railfans, but can also be used to reach many of the Chicago area's great train watching spots.
The CTA runs the rapid transit trains over a variety of routes, constructed over a hundred year period. CTA also runs Chicago's buses, most of which operate over routes which originated as streetcar routes.
Chicago's suburbs once included several privately owned streetcar and interurban lines. And in later years, new privately owned bus companies were formed, and the electric railways were replaced with buses. These buses are now operated by Pace. Although many railfans lament the passing of the electric railways, some Pace bus routes now can come in handy for railfans, allowing cross-suburban travel between Metra lines without needing to double back through downtown Chicago.
Official web site of the Regional Transportation Authority, approved by voters on March 19, 1974, to subsidize and coordinate public transportation within the 6 county Chicago metropolitan area. During the 1970's, it became more evident that public transportation in the United States could no longer be self supporting. Initially the RTA brand was applied to the various suburban public transportation services, still operated by the private railroads and bus companies. While the CTA continued to exist for the city of Chicago, subsidized by the RTA. In 1984 the RTA was reorganized, and became primarily an oversight agency over the 3 above separate operating agencies, each with their own boards.
Descriptions and brief histories of all railroads in the Chicago area and surrounding states. Included is information from railroad employee timetables and other sources, detailing stations, crossings and junctions, mileposts, number of tracks, and signal systems. Also included for most lines are track diagrams, histories of interlocking towers, and links to zoomable Google Maps showing locations of former stations.
Zoomable Google Maps will help one untangle the complex network of railroads in Chicago, and a few areas beyond.
General information on Chicago's railroads, and how to best enjoy railfanning in the railroad center of the nation.
Chicago has been a main hub to the nationwide passenger rail system, before and after the creation of Amtrak. In the golden era, many great passenger trains operated throughout the country. Serving six terminals in downtown Chicago, and many great railroad terminals throughout the country.
The South Shore Line, now the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District, connects Chicago with Hammond, Gary, Michigan City, South Bend. This line is regarded as "America's Last Interurban". In addition, those cities in Indiana once had streetcar systems and other interurban lines, which eventually evolved into today's bus systems.
The Milwaukee area has a rich transit history, with buses continuing to provide extensive service formerly provided by streetcars. Electric railways formerly provided local and interurban service around other parts of southeastern Wisconsin.
Concise histories and links for most other transit systems throughout the United States.
In the early 1900's, electric interurban lines were developed to handle many local passengers in the Midwest, including in the Chicago area. But by the 1930's, the development of paved roads enabled buses to more economically handle such local traffic. That, along with increased automobile ownership, resulted in the eventual abandonment of all interurban railways, except for the Chicago South Shore & South Bend Railroad.
Beginning in the 1920's, buses became the primary mode of interurban transportation for shorter distance travel. Many of these bus lines eventually evolved to the nationwide Greyhound system, which for reasons of economics gradually shifted its focus to longer distance express intercity bus services, mostly abandoning local service to smaller towns.
This web site generally does not cover transportation outside the United States. But a few lessons could be learned from Europe, in having a well balanced transportation system. This section looks at rail passenger operations in a couple of areas in Europe, where passenger railway and public transportation systems are quite impressive.
Links to additional transit enthusiasts' Web sites.
Recent additions and changes to this site.
Includes a collection of personal trip reports, and favorite links to various Web sites in Europe, where public policy has always been more supportive of trains and public transportation.
Chicago's official Web site.
Information contained on this site is unofficial. Any suggestions for additions and improvements to this site are welcome. And I will be happy to individually try and answer further questions or provide leads. I cannot answer all questions. Perhaps the most frequent question I cannot answer, is people searching for former transportation employees. I have no idea on how to find that information. Also, any e-mails offering various "professional" marketing and development services for web sites, will go directly to my spam folder and be deleted.
I do this web site as a hobby. I enjoy "exploring" various data on transportation systems, past and present. And trying to untangle the information, and organize it into a presentable way. And sometimes I like to take a break from working on the site, until I come up with some new project to add here.
I can be followed on Facebook (as William Vandervoort), where I publicly post photos from trips I take, and other transportation photos. Sometimes I have met some transportation fans who found this site. And after getting to know them a bit, I have eventually friended them on Facebook.
Thanks for visiting! Bill Vandervoort