The Skokie Swift (4-20-1964)

CTA took over Chicago’s privately-owned rapid transit system in 1947. Having a government agency in control could only make things better.

Instead, CTA began cutting service. During its first decade, the Niles Center, Westchester, Humboldt Park, Normal Park, Kenwood, and Stock Yards lines were all junked. The excuse given was that the routes were unprofitable.

Skokie Swift @ Howard terminal

Skokie Swift @ Howard terminal

The big news in that first decade was the opening of the Milwaukee-Dearborn subway in 1951. And in 1958 CTA inaugurated service on the median of the Congress (Eisenhower) Expressway. These were certainly improvements.

But they were just replacements of existing routes—the Paulina Connector and the Garfield Park line. In the early 1960s, there was no guarantee that CTA would ever carry through the announced plans to put trains on the medians of other expressways. There was also talk that the Ravenswood line would be eliminated.

Then, in 1964, CTA actually resurrected a dead ‘L’ line.

Skokie Swift @ Asbury

Skokie Swift @ Asbury Street

The five-mile-long Niles Center branch of the ‘L’ had opened in 1925. Using the tracks of the North Shore electric interurban line, trains ran from Howard-Paulina station to Dempster Street in the suburb of Niles Center (today’s Skokie). There were seven stops between the terminals. North Shore continued to run trains after CTA service was discontinued in 1948.

In 1963 North Shore itself went out of business. During the fifteen years since CTA had eliminated the Niles Center branch, Skokie and other nearby towns had enjoyed a population boom. Perhaps the old ‘L’ line could now earn some money.

Skokie Swift @ Niles Center Road

Skokie Swift @ Niles Center Road

CTA’s new plan was to make the line a feeder to the mainline North Side ‘L’. Trains would run express between Dempster and Howard, with no intermediate stops. In a savvy bit of marketing, the re-born service was named the Skokie Swift.

Service officially began on April 20, 1964. Ridership surpassed all expectations, and CTA soon increased the number of trains. Today the route is known as the Yellow Line.

After nearly fifty years as an express, an intermediate stop was recently added to the line at Oakton Street. Plans to extend service to the Old Orchard shopping mall are periodically discussed.


5 Responses to “The Skokie Swift (4-20-1964)”

  1. 1 kyle l April 23, 2014 at 7:35 am

    It is incredible to think that the Ravenswood line would ever be shut down.
    I live in Evanston but have never taken the Yellow line. I need to do that sometime to see my neighbors’ backyards. I have heard what I hope is an urban legend of a young couple who took advantage of the uninterrupted trip and empty cars late in the evening for nefarious acts.

  2. 5 Garry April 23, 2014 at 10:44 am

    The current route through Evanston was one of two choices the CNS&M had in the 1920s, when they built the Skokie Valley bypass.
    The other was to use the Ravenswood tracks to Kimball & then go north & northwest to join the C&NW right of way to Milwaukee.

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