Lake Street Elevated Railroad

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Lake Street Elevated Railroad
Ashland CTA 060716.jpg
Ashland station, one of the original stations on the Lake Street 'L'
Type Rapid transit
Locale Chicago
Opening 1893
Closed 1924 (merged into Chicago Rapid Transit Company)
Operator(s) Lake Street Elevated Railroad Company (1893–1904)
Chicago and Oak Park Elevated Railroad (1904–1924)
Character Elevated right of way
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge[1]
Electrification Third rail, Trolley wire 600v DC
Route map

The Lake Street Elevated Railroad was the second permanent elevated rapid transit line to be constructed in Chicago, Illinois. The first section of the line opened on November 6, 1893,[2] and its route is still used today as part of the Green Line route of the Chicago 'L' system.


Coal-burning steam locomotive "Clarence A" on the Lake Street Elevated Railroad, 1893

The Lake Street Elevated Railway Company was chartered on February 7, 1888, and granted a 25 year franchise by the city council to build an elevated railroad above Lake Street from Canal Street to the city limits.[3] It was originally planned that the line would use a steam-powered monorail system that had been developed by Joe Meigs in Cambridge, Massachusetts, however the company eventually chose to use more traditional steam locomotives.[2]

Construction of the line began in 1889, but potential investors found the franchise too restrictive[2] and a new 40 year franchise was awarded by the city council on November 24, 1890, that allowed the railroad to extend to Market Street in downtown Chicago. By 1892 the company had debts of $17 million and was sold to new owners,[2] renamed the Lake Street Elevated Railroad Company, and a new charter was granted on August 24, 1892.[3] The first section, running from the downtown terminal at Market Street and Madison to California Avenue opened to the public on October 28, 1893, and the line was completed to 52nd Avenue (Laramie)—a total length of 6.4 miles (10.3 km)—by April 23, 1894.[1] Service was extended to Austin Avenue in (what was then) the suburb of Austin via a section of track built at-grade on April 15, 1899.[4]


  1. ^ a b Poor, H.V.; Poor, H.W. (1898). Poor's Manual of the Railroads of the United States. p. 963. 
  2. ^ a b c d Borzo, Greg (2007). "Chapter Three: Second "L"—Lake Street". The Chicago "L". Chicago: Arcadia Publishing. pp. 35–42. ISBN 978-0-7385-5100-5. 
  3. ^ a b 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. pp. 470–477. 
  4. ^ "Austin Hails Five-Cent Fares". Chicago Daily Tribune. April 15, 1899. p. 5. 

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