Chicago Surface Lines
|Dates of operation||1913–1947|
|Successor||Chicago Transit Authority|
|Track gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm)|
The Chicago Surface Lines (CSL) was operator of the street railway system of Chicago, Illinois, from the years 1913 to 1947. The firm is a predecessor of today's publicly owned operator, the Chicago Transit Authority.
The first streetcars in Chicago were horse cars run by the Chicago City Railway Company and the North Chicago City Railway Company around 1858-1861. This method was slow and expensive, and the companies began substituting cable cars in the 1880s. Chicago City Railway was the first in (1881), and with the addition of the Chicago Passenger Railway (1883) and the West Chicago Street Railroad Company (1887), Chicago had the largest cable railway system in the world. The north and west side cable car systems were constructed by an investment syndicate under the direction of Charles Yerkes.
It was also in the 1880s that electric-powered "trolleys" first became practical. The Chicago companies hesitated at first to install these faster and more efficient systems because of their heavy investment in cable cars. But the smaller Illinois cities and the Calumet Electric Street Railway of the South Side built successful systems, causing the Chicago companies to feel themselves dropping behind. By the mid-1890s most of them had begun the conversion to electricity, which was completed in 1906.
The 1890s saw the consolidation of many of the Chicago companies, and this reorganization continued into the next century. In 1907 to 1909, the companies were granted franchises pursuant to various ordinances, under which the city reserved the right to purchase the systems. The Settlement Ordinance of 1907 imposed various operating requirements on two of the underlying companies, the Chicago City Railway Company and Chicago Railways, and established a new bureau, the Board of Supervising Engineers (Chicago Traction), a board of engineers and accountants with responsibilities for assuring compliance with the ordinances, and setting standards for equipment and construction.
Through Routes over the lines of several companies were instituted in 1910, and, for instance, resulted in joint service by the Chicago City Railway Company and Calumet and South Chicago Railway between downtown and 119th Street via Cottage Grove. There was also joint service operated by the South Chicago City Railway and the Hammond, Whiting, and East Chicago Electric Railway into Indiana, with each company collecting its own fare, which continued until the Hammond company converted to buses in 1940.
The continuous reorganization was finally completed by the Unification Ordinance of 1913, which stipulated that all lines would come under the management of a single operating association called the Chicago Surface Lines (CSL), and unified operations commenced in 1914. Four companies formed the CSL: the Chicago Railways Company, Chicago City Railway, Calumet and South Chicago Railway, and Southern Street Railway.[a]  At this time, Chicago had the largest street railway system, the longest one-fare ride, the longest average ride, and the most liberal transfer privileges in the world.
The 1920s saw continued growth despite the increasing competition from the automobile, and while the 1933-1934 World's Fair and wartime demand supported ridership, the underlying companies were bankrupt. Creditors' bills were filed against the Chicago Railways in 1926 and the Chicago City Railway and Calumet and South Chicago in 1930, resulting in the appointment of receivers and bringing their property into the custody of the Federal District Court. In 1944, the proceedings were converted to those under the Bankruptcy Act, and trustees were appointed. By 10 June 1958 (line 22), the Chicago Transit Authority, which took over the Chicago Surface Lines in 1947, had abandoned the remaining streetcars lines, which were "bustituted." Before that, CSL had introduced gasoline buses for light routes in 1927, and trolley buses to the northwest side starting 17 April 1930. Trolleybus system of Chicago scrapped 25 March 1973.
The Chicago Surface Lines was primarily a trolley operation, with approximately 3100 streetcars on the roster at the time of the CTA takeover. It purchased small lots of motor buses, totaling 693 at the time of the CTA takeover, mostly consisting of smaller buses used on extension routes or to replace two-man streetcars on routes such as Hegewisch and 111th Street, because conductors were required to flag streetcars across mainline railroads where there was not a watchman at the crossing. Most postwar PCC cars were scrapped and parts reused in the 6000-series rapid transit cars for the CTA. The trolley bus fleet consisted of 152 vehicles.
A table of passenger railway cars in use during the CSL era is shown below. Ownership resided with one of the underlying companies: Chicago Railways (CRY), Chicago City Railway (CCR), Calumet & South Chicago Railway (CSC) or Southern Street Railway (SSR). Other predecessors include Chicago Union Traction (CUT), absorbed into Chicago Railways in 1908, and Chicago & Southern Traction (C&ST), absorbed into Chicago City Railway in 1912. Following unification many car orders (e.g. 169 Cars, Sedans, PCCs) were split between the various underlying companies.
|101-700||700||CRY||Pullman||1908||Old Pullmans||144, 225, 460 preserved||144|
|701-750||50||CRY||Pressed Steel||1909||Pressed Steels||741|
|1101-1423||323||CRY||St. Louis||1903-1906||Matchboxes||Ex-CUT 4630-4952; 1374 preserved||1386|
|1429-1505||77||CRY||CUT||1899||Bowling Alleys||Ex-CUT 4475-4554; 1467 preserved||1457|
|2501-2625||125||CCR||St. Louis||1901||St. Louis Rebuilds||2530|
|2701-2780||80||CCR||St. Louis||1903||St. Louis Rebuilds||2741|
|2801-2815||15||CSC||St. Louis||1901||Ex-C&SC 701-715||2803|
|2841-2845||5||CSC||Jewett||1903||Ex-C&SC 826-830; 2843 preserved||2845|
|2846-2856||11||CSC||SCCR||1907||Interstates||Ex-C&SC 831-841; 2846 preserved||2851|
|2857-2858||2||CSC||Kuhlman||1910||Ex-C&SC funeral cars 1-2|
|3119-3160||42||CRY||Brill||1923||169 Cars||3142 preserved||3134|
|3202-3231||30||CRY||CSL||1924||Multiple Unit Cars||3210|
|3232-3261||30||CRY||Lightweight Noiseless||1925||Multiple Unit Cars||3250|
|4000||1||CRY||CSL||1925||Articulated; rebuilt from 1101 to 1102||4000|
|4002-4051||50||CRY||St. Louis||1936||Blue Geese||PCC cars; 4021 preserved||4013|
|4052-4061||10||CRY||St. Louis||1947||Green Hornets||PCC cars||4056|
|4062-4371||310||CRY||Pullman-Standard||1946-1947||Green Hornets||PCC cars||4121|
|4372-4411||40||CRY||St. Louis||1947-1948||Green Hornets||PCC cars; 4391 preserved||4391|
|5651-5665||15||CCR||Kuhlman||1907||Crete Suburbans||Ex-C&ST 126-140||5653|
|6199-6218||20||CCR||CSL||1924||Multiple Unit Cars||6199|
|6219-6238||20||CCR||Lightweight Noiseless||1924||Multiple Unit Cars||6224|
|7002-7034||33||CCR||St. Louis||1936||Blue Geese||PCC cars||7021|
|7035-7274||240||CCR||St. Louis||1947||Green Hornets||PCC cars||7043|
|9020-9039||20||CCR||Brill||1922||Trailers; 9020 preserved||9037|
Electric Trolley Buses
A table of electric trolley buses owned by CSL is shown below. In 1952 all trolley buses still in service were renumbered by Chicago Transit Authority by adding "9" to the beginning of their number (e.g. 193 becoming 9193).
|186-202||Brill||T40S||1937||198||192, 193 preserved|
A table of motor buses owned by the CSL is shown below. In September 1944 all existing buses, previously numbered in separate series depending on corporate owner, were renumbered into a unified series.
|1-5||Twin Coach||40||1930||CRY||Renumbered 1101-1105||1|
|6-7||Twin Coach||40||1930||CRY||Renumbered 1106-1107|
|301-303||Twin Coach||40||1928||CCR||Renumbered 1108-1110|
|415||American Car & Foundry||H13S||1935||CCR||Renumbered 2111|
|435-436||Twin Coach||30G||1942||CCR||Renumbered 1307-1308|
|526-563||Twin Coach||30R||1937||CRY||Renumbered 1201-1238||530|
|626-631||Twin Coach||30G||1942||CRY||Renumbered 1301-1306||1305|
|826||Twin Coach||30G||1942||CSC||Renumbered 1309|
|1400||Twin Coach||34S||1946||CRY||Renumbered 1620|
|1401-1404||Twin Coach||34S||1946||CCR/CSC||Renumbered 1621-1624||1402|
The CSL had dozens of routes and over 1,000 miles of trackage at its height. The table below shows a basic overview of CSL routes at their height. Many changes to routing and terminals were made at various times. Abandonment dates noted are dates that routes were completely changed over to bus or trolley bus, or eliminated altogether. Many routes were converted in sections. Some routes, notably through routes, that were eliminated prior to the formation of the CSL are not included.
|Archer Avenue||Lake & State||Archer & Cicero||May 30, 1948|
|Archer-38th Street||Lake & State||38th & Central Park||February 15, 1948|
|Argo (63rd Extension)||63rd & Oak Park||63rd & Archer||April 11, 1948|
|Armitage Avenue||Clark & Lincoln||Armitage & Grand||June 24, 1951||Converted to trolley bus|
|Ashland Avenue||Southport & Clark||Ashland & 95th||February 13, 1954||Through Route 9|
|Belmont Avenue||Belmont & Central||Belmont & Halsted||January 9, 1945||Converted to trolley bus|
|Blue Island-26th||26th & Kenton||Monroe & Dearborn||May 11, 1952|
|Blue Island-Wells||North & Clark||Blue Island & Western||September 14, 1924||Through Route 12|
|Broadway||Devon & Clark||State & Polk||February 16, 1957|
|Broadway-State||Devon & Clark||119th & Morgan||December 5, 1955|
|Cermak Road||Cermak & Calumet||Cermak & Kenton||May 30, 1954|
|Cermak-Lawndale||Cermak & Kedzie||33rd & Lawndale||October 1, 1945|
|Chicago Avenue||Ohio & Lake Shore Drive||Chicago & Austin||May 11, 1952||Converted to trolley bus|
|Cicero Avenue||Montrose & Cicero||25th & Cicero||November 25, 1951||Converted to trolley bus|
|South Cicero Avenue||Archer & Cicero||63rd & Cicero||January 6, 1941|
|Clark-Wentworth||Clark & Howard||81st & Halsted||September 8, 1957||Through Route 22|
|Clybourn Avenue||Belmont & Clybourn||Harrison & State||May 4, 1947|
|Clybourn-Wentworth||Belmont & Clybourn||79th & Halsted||September 13, 1924||Through Route 2|
|Cottage Grove-Broadway||Devon & Kedzie||56th & Lake Park||October 7, 1946||Through Route 1|
|Cottage Grove-Pullman||Randolph & Garland Court||115th & St. Lawrence||June 19, 1955||Through Route 4|
|Cottage Grove-South Chicago||Randolph & Garland Court||93rd & Baltimore||December 4, 1949||Through Route 5|
|North Damen Avenue||Fullerton & Damen||Blue Island & Damen||May 13, 1951|
|South Damen Avenue||47th & Damen||74th & Damen||January 26, 1948|
|Diversey Avenue||Pulaski & Diversey||Kimball & Diversey||April 17, 1930||Converted to trolley bus|
|Division Street||Division & Mozart||State & Van Buren||February 4, 1951|
|West Division Street||Division & Austin||Division & Grand||July 9, 1946|
|Division-Van Buren||Division & Mozart||Van Buren & Kedzie||February 4, 1951|
|Elston Avenue||Lawrence & Elston||Dearborn & Randolph||January 21, 1951|
|Ewing-Brandon (Hegewisch)||Burley & 118th||Brandon & Brainard||October 21, 1946|
|Fullerton Avenue||Central & Fullerton||Halsted & Fullerton||December 4, 1949||Converted to trolley bus|
|Fulton-21st Street||Fulton & Western||21st & Marshall||May 7, 1947|
|Grand Avenue||Harlem & Grand||Navy Pier||April 1, 1951||Converted to trolley bus|
|Halsted Street||Waveland & Broadway||Halsted & 79th||May 29, 1954|
|Halsted Street Extension (Vincennes)||111th & Vincennes||119th & Vincennes||July 22, 1946|
|Halsted-Archer||Halsted & Waveland||63rd & Union||1924||Through Route 13|
|Halsted-Madison||Grace & Halsted||26th & Halsted||July 3, 1933||Through Route 18|
|Hammond||63rd & Vernon||106th & Indianapolis||June 9, 1940||Thru service to Hammond, Ind. via HW&EC|
|Harrison||Harrison & Central||Van Buren & Dearborn||February 29, 1948|
|Harrison-Adams||Harrison & Central||Adams & Dearborn||February 29, 1948|
|Indiana Avenue||51st & South Park||State & Lake||May 24, 1953|
|Irving Park||Irving Park & Neenah||Irving Park & Broadway||November 7, 1948||Converted to trolley bus|
|Kedzie Avenue||Bryn Mawr & Kedzie||Marquette & Kedzie||May 29, 1954||Through Route 17|
|Kedzie-California||California & Roscoe||Marquette & Kedzie||May 29, 1954||Converted to trolley bus|
|Lake Street||Lake & Austin||Lake & Dearborn||May 30, 1954||Thru route 16|
|Laramie Avenue||Lake & Laramie||Harrison & Laramie||1937|
|Lawrence Avenue||Austin & Lawrence||Broadway & Lawrence||April 1, 1951||Converted to trolley bus|
|Lincoln-Bowmanville||Lincoln & Peterson||Dearborn & Polk||February 18, 1951|
|Lincoln-Rosehill||Ravenswood & Rosehill||Dearborn & Polk||August 1, 1948|
|Lincoln-Indiana||Lincoln & Peterson||51st & Indiana||March 11, 1951||Through Route 3|
|Madison Street||Madison & Austin||Dearborn & Washington||December 13, 1953||Through Route 20|
|Madison-Fifth Avenue||Pulaski & Fifth Avenue||Dearborn & Washington||February 22, 1954|
|Milwaukee Avenue||Milwaukee & Imlay||Monroe & Dearborn||May 11, 1952|
|Montrose Avenue||Milwaukee & Montrose||Broadway & Montrose||July 29, 1946|
|Morgan-Racine-Sangamon||Erie & Ashland||39th & Morgan||July 25, 1948||Through Route 23|
|Noble Street||North & Ashland||Milwaukee & Noble||March 5, 1932|
|North Avenue||North & Narragansett||North & Clark||December 4, 1949||Converted to trolley bus|
|Ogden Avenue||25th & Laramie||Lake & Dearborn||September 16, 1951|
|Ogden-Clark||Clark & Drummond||Ogden & Kenton||September 14, 1924||Through Route 11|
|Pershing Road-East||Root & Halsted||Cottage Grove & Pershing||February 15, 1948|
|Pershing Road Extension||35th & Cottage Grove||Western & Pershing||August 28, 1945|
|Pulaski Road||Pulaski & Bryn Mawr||31st & Pulaski||September 16, 1951||Converted to trolley bus|
|Riverdale||119th & Michigan||138th & Leyden||September 9, 1946|
|Riverview-Larrabee||Roscoe & Western||Polk & Dearborn||January 10, 1949|
|Roosevelt Road||Museum Loop||Roosevelt & Austin||April 12, 1953||Converted to trolley bus|
|12th-Ogden-Wells||Clark & Drummond||Roosevelt & Cicero||September 14, 1924||Through Route 14|
|South Chicago-Ewing||63rd & South Park||118th & Burley||June 30, 1947|
|South Deering||63rd & Dorchester||112th & Torrence||April 25, 1948|
|Southport||Clark & Southport||Polk & Dearborn||September 14, 1924|
|State Street||Wells & Division||119th & Morgan||December 5, 1955|
|State-Madison||Madison & Austin||39th & State||September 14, 1924||Through Route 7|
|State-Milwaukee||Milwaukee & Edmunds||63rd & State||September 14, 1924||Through Route 6|
|Stony Island Avenue||Navy Pier||93rd & Stony Island||June 29, 1951|
|Taylor-Sedgwick-Sheffield||Taylor & Western||Clark & Sheffield||September 1, 1947|
|Van Buren Street||Adams & Dearborn||Kedzie & Van Buren||August 12, 1951|
|Wallace-Racine||State & Lake||87th & Racine||July 27, 1951|
|Webster-Racine||Fullerton & Racine||Lincoln & Webster||September 1, 1947|
|Wentworth Avenue||Clark & Illinois||81st & Halsted||June 21, 1958||Last streetcar route to be abandoned|
|Western Avenue||Howard & Berwyn||79th & Western||June 17, 1956||Through Route 10|
|Whiting-East Chicago||63rd & Vernon||Indianapolis & State Line||June 9, 1940||Thru service to Hammond, Ind. via HW&EC|
|Windsor Park||63rd & Dorchester||93rd & Baltimore||April 25, 1948|
|14th-16th Street||16th & Kenton||Roosevelt & Michigan||July 25, 1948|
|18th Street||Blue Island & Leavitt||18th & State||July 25, 1948|
|26th Street||26th & Halsted||26th & Cottage Grove||February 29, 1948|
|31st Street||Pitney Court & Archer||31st & Lake Park||February 29, 1948|
|35th Street||36th & Kedzie||35th & Cottage Grove||April 15, 1951|
|43rd-Root Street||Root & Halsted||43rd & Oakenwald||August 9, 1953|
|47th Street||47th & Kedzie||47th & Lake Shore Dr||April 15, 1951||Converted to trolley bus|
|51st-55th Street||51st & St. Louis||56th & Lake Park||May 30, 1948||Converted to trolley bus|
|59th-61st Street||59th & Central Park||60th & Blackstone||June 1, 1948|
|63rd Street||63rd Place & Narragansett||64th & Stony Island||May 24, 1953|
|67th-69th-71st Street||71st & California||67th & Oglesby||May 24, 1953|
|71st Street||73rd & Vincennes||71st & Cottage Grove||May 22, 1947|
|74th-75th Street||74th & Ashland||75th & Lakefront||October 28, 1946|
|79th Street||79th & Western||79th & Brandon||September 16, 1951|
|87th Street||87th & Vincennes||87th & Commercial||May 27, 1951|
|93rd-95th Street||95th & State||89th & Avenue O||May 27, 1951|
|103rd Street||103rd & Vincennes||103rd & Cottage Grove||October 13, 1941|
|106th Street||106th & Torrence||106th & Indianapolis||August 13, 1941|
|111th Street||111th & Vincennes||111th & Cottage Grove||September 23, 1945|
|115th Street||115th & Halsted||115th & South Park||September 23, 1945|
|119th Street||119th & Vincennes||119th & Morgan||February 3, 1946|
The primary remnants of the CSL system are the 77th Street & Vincennes car barns, the Ardmore temporary bus garage, and buildings that were electricity substations. Cable-car survivors include powerhouses at LaSalle and Illinois(NCSR), Washington and Jefferson(WCSR), a small barn on Blue Island east of Western(WCSR), and other structures on Armitage west of Campbell, and Lake Park south of 55th street. Burnside car barn at 93rd & Drexel is still basically intact. Some cars of CSL and its predecessors are preserved at the Illinois Railway Museum and other museums. Stand-in for CSL PCC "Green Hornet" streetcars (actually streetcars from other cities repainted in CSL colors) operate over the Kenosha Electric Railway in Kenosha, Wisconsin and the F-Market Line in San Francisco, California. A few CTA bus routes (notably 4 Cottage Grove, 8 Halsted, 9 Ashland, 20 Madison, 22 Clark, and 36 Broadway) still have their original CSL Through Route numbers. One can find rails from the old system around the city, although they have been significantly cemented and often only the tops of the rails can be seen.
- The Chicago City Railway had a subsidiary, the Chicago & Western Railway, and 95% of the stock of the City Railway and all of the stock of the Southern, Calumet, and Western were in a collateral trust, to secure certain bonds.
- Krambles, George; Peterson, Art (1993). CTA at 45: A History of the First 45 Years of the Chicago Transit Authority. p. 16. ISBN 0-9637965-4-2.
- Borzo, Greg (2012). Chicago Cable Cars. The History Press. pp. 15–18, 23–24, 59–66. ISBN 978-1-60949-327-1.
- Borzo (2012), pp. 161-163.
- In re Chicago Rys. Co., 160 F.2d 59, 61-62 (7th Cir. 1947).
- Lind, Chicago Surface Lines: An Illustrated History (Transit History Press, 1974), p. 16. ISBN 0-934732-00-0.
- Lind, p. 12.
- Krambles, p. 20; Lind, pp. 312, 332.
- In re Chicago Rys. Co., at 62.
- Krambles, p. 20.
- In re Chicago Rys. Co., at 61.
- Lind, p. 375.
- In re Chicago Rys. Co., at 62.
- Lind, p. 388.
- Lind, p. 379.
- Krambles, p. 39.
- Krambles, p. 45.
- Lind, pp. 256, 327.
- See Bill Vandervoort's Chicago Transit and Railfan for Streetcar Roster, Chicago Surface Lines Bus Roster 1927-1939, 1941-1948, and Trolleybus Roster, generally based on Lind.
- Borzo (2012), pp. 175-182.
- Chicago Surface Line Drawings, 1886-1926 Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution.
- Bill Vandervoort's Chicago Transit and Railfan - unofficial enthusiast's site:
- Chicago History Museum: Streetcars Bibliography
- Tom's Trolleybus Pix -- Chicago
- Chicago Streetcar Renaissance -- Proposal for a New Chicago Streetcar System