by Hank Morris

At midnight of Tuesday December 27, 1910 the direct track connection between the Chicago Evanston Avenue (now Broadway) line and the Evanston Chicago Avenue (in Chicago known as Clark Street) line was cut at Clark and Howard without any notice, in an event called “cutting the line.”

The company failed to inform passengers that the one-seat ride across the City Limits had been discontinued. Late-night riders were quite surprised when they were forced to change cars and pay a second fare.

Looking south on Clark Street from Howard

Looking south on Clark Street from Howard

The most significant change coming out of the reorganization proceedings was the abolishment of the 5-cent fare. No longer would the two companies, the County Traction Company and the Chicago City Railways Company, provide “through car” transportation between the near suburbs and the city for a nickel. Travel times were also increased because most passengers now had to wait for a connecting car at the City Limits. All this caused widespread consternation among the citizenry.

Passengers wishing to continue their trip North into Evanston or South into Chicago were required to walk across a 30-foot gap in the track from the Evanston cars, now being operated in local Evanston service only by County Traction Company to the Chicago Railways’ Evanston Avenue cars (which terminated at Clark and Howard) and pay an additional fare and vice versa.

It should be clarified here that there was no gap caused by missing rails. The rails were, in fact, still in place. That was because, South of Howard Street, the tracks had to be available to County Traction Company for deadheading movements to and from the Devon Avenue Barn and Howard Street. However, the fear of losing this link is what led directly to the construction of Evanston’s own car barn on Central Avenue. It was reasoned, “if the revenue service could be cut at Howard Street, how long would it be before the tracks are actually removed thereby eliminating access to the barns at Devon and Clark.”

Evanston passengers endured this new operation for the remainder of the streetcar service in Evanston. The cars used on the truncated line were the same St. Louis-built cars that had been in service there since 1907.

What made matters worse was the generally poor condition of the rolling stock. The streetcars were leased from the Chicago Railways Company. They were old and not in the best of condition. The public not only resented these castoff trolleys that were forced upon them, but, in some cases, took direct action against the company by damaging and derailing equipment.

Better headways in Evanston were now a reality since the line was now only six miles long and no longer conflicted with Chicago cars. But, the headways for the “new” Local Evanston cars went from five minutes to 11 minutes.

The County Traction Company stated that the reason for such drastic action in the beginning was that if they had accepted transfers, even for a single day, the municipalities served could have gone to court to secure an injunction against them for discontinuing the transfers. Thus, the court could have held that by issuing and accepting these transfers, the County Traction and Chicago Railways would be admitting the legal and binding force of the old Chicago Union Traction contracts.

These old contracts were considered by many to be the primary reason why Chicago Union Traction and the Chicago Consolidated Traction declared bankruptcy.

However, because of a franchise requirement of one of the underlying companies [the Chicago & Jefferson Urban Transit Company, Chicago Electric Transit Company, Cicero & Proviso Street Railway Company, Ogden Street Railway Company, Evanston Electric Company, and the North Side Electric Company], free transfers from Evanston’s Local, Chicago Avenue cars to Chicago’s Evanston Avenue cars were issued starting Saturday, December 31, 1910.