Northwestern Elevated Railroad Company

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Northwestern Elevated Railroad Company Soundex Code N632

Northwestern Elevated Railroad Company (Wikipedia listing)

The last leg of the elevated structure to be built for the growing transit-using public was that of the Northwestern Elevated Railroad Company. The company was backed by transit magnate Yerkes, was incorporated in 1893, but didn't begin full service until 1900 due to more financial and legal difficulties than any other line had experienced. Their 50-year franchise only remained valid if service was inaugurated by December 31, 1899. Numerous financial problems, most of which were due to the depression of the mid-1890s, pushed completion back more and more and when the structure was complete with one track and three stations (out of a planned 20 or so) in place, token service was begun on New Year's Eve. The city found this unacceptable, shutting the "L" line down, but ultimately granting them an extension to May 31,1900, which the Northwestern met with ease. When opened in 1900, the Northwestern "L" connected to the Loop at Fifth Avenue (Wells Street) and Lake Street, then wound northward to a terminal at Wilson Avenue. The route went through a number of growing communities with many potential "L" passengers. In 1903 a franchise was granted to build an extension into the newly developing Ravenswood neighborhood. Opened for service in 1907, the branch, which wound northwest from about Clark Street to a terminal at Lawrence Avenue and Kimball Avenue, was handling 10,000 riders a day within two months, along with continually growing ridership, making the line a success.

The Northwestern would soon thereafter be extended even further north, beyond the city's then city limits at Howard Street into the northern suburbs for the first time. Trackage rights were secured with the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway, whose tracks met the "L"'s at Wilson Avenue. The tracks were realigned and electrified, with service to Central Street in North Evanston commencing in May 1908. Evanstonians couldn't have been happier -- in 1901 the St. Paul had discontinued its Evanston-Chicago service, making transit to Chicago bothersome and difficult. Service was so overwhelming that the Central Street terminal and yards were insufficient to handle the load. The line was extended even further north along the tracks of the Chicago North Shore and Milwaukee Railroad's tracks to a new terminal at Linden Avenue even further north in the suburb of Wilmette. By 1909, the City of Chicago enjoyed one of the best rapid transit systems in the world, one which not only provided reliable unified service to outlying communities and neighborhoods then in existence, but in places, most notably on the North Side above Wilson Avenue, lay in open prairie land still awaiting the development that transit service powerfully stimulated.

Elevated - Rapid Transit - Cars

Car 1025

Car 740

Stations Photos

RPWRHS photo R044-0134 shows a 1908 photo from North of Howard Avenue (later Howard Street), showing a Northwestern Elevated Railroad "L"train sitting at the platform. A Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul Railway Company steam locomotive sits on a freight track. (In 1908 the elevated trains began using the C.M.&St.P. tracks from Wilson Avenue, north.) All tracks were at grade level (on the ground).

Rolling Stock Photos

RPWRHS photo C036-EF1025 shows Chicago Rapid Transit elevated car 1025 running as an Evanston Express. Location not given. Date not given. Motorized car 1025 was one of an order for 37 cars built by the Pullman Company and placed by the Northwestern Elevated Railroad Company on November 4, 1898. It could seat 42 passengers. It had open platforms, steel underframe, and steel-reinforced superstructure. In 1913 its original number, 25, was changed to 1025. By 1955, all units had been scrapped except for 1024, which is preserved at the Illinois Railway Museum. This car has been fitted out as a "smoker". The trolley poles were added in the 1913-1914 time frame. The photo was taken sometime in the 1920s.

Physical Plant Photos

RPWRHS photo C036-005 shows the crossing gates for the Northwestern Elevated Railroad Company tracks at Pratt Avenue in the down position. 1915.

RPWRHS photo C036-0103 shows the construction of the Northwestern Elevated Railroad elevation of its tracks just south of what is now the Loyola Avenue Station, 1200 W. Loyola Avenue. After 1908 the Northwestern Elevated Railroad was extended to Howard Street on the tracks of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad. The elevation of the tracks began in 1914, but, due to material shortages caused by World War I, was not completed until 1921. The rear of the original St. Ignatius Church, 6559 N. Glenwood Avenue, can be seen at the left. The Granada Theater, 6427 N. Sheridan Road, was built in this site in 1926.