The Last Year of Chicago Trolley Buses

I’ve noticed from the stats that one of my most popular posts is “The Last Trolley Bus in Chicago (3-24-1973).”  That post has some historic pictures of those buses through the years.

In 1972, when CTA announced it was getting rid of the buses with the sticks on top, I started taking pictures of them in earnest.  I didn’t have a great camera then, so the results are spotty.  Still, I’m posting nine pictures from that final year of trolley bus operation, one for each of the last nine lines.


#12—Roosevelt.  We begin at Roosevelt Road and Paulina Street.  Note the old arrangement of this stretch of Roosevelt, with two service lanes flanking the main roadway.

6-16-1972--Roosevelt @ Paulina

6-16-1972–Roosevelt Road @ Paulina Street


#53—Pulaski.  At Pulaski and Grand, the large building on the left (behind the auto dealer sign) was a generating plant for the electric buses, and is gone.  But Jimmy’s Red Hots is still there.

2-12-1973--Pulaski Road @ Grand

2-12-1973–Pulaski Road @ Grand Avenue


#54—Cicero.  The Baltimore & Ohio Chicago Terminal Railroad, just north of Roosevelt, still hauls freight, and is unlikely to be converted to a bike path in the near future.

3-15-1973--Cicero Avenue @ B&OCT RR

3-15-1973–Cicero Avenue @ B & OCT RR


#65—Grand.  The viaduct in this Grand Avenue photo, just west of the Chicago River, has been torn down.  Traffic now crosses the railroad tracks at grade.

7-19-1972--Grand Avenue @ CMSP & P RR

7-19-1972–Grand Avenue @ CMSP & P RR


#72—North.  North Avenue near Goose Island was mostly industrial when this photo was snapped.  Note the still-new John Hancock Building in the distance.

2-25-1973--North Avenue @ Magnolia

2-25-1973–North Avenue @ Magnolia Avenue


#74—Fullerton.  Since there was no room for an off-street terminal at the east end of the Fullerton line, trolley buses looped via Lincoln and Orchard.

6-16-1972--Lincoln Avenue @ Orchard (Fullerton line)

6-16-1972–Lincoln Avenue @ Orchard Street


#77—Belmont.  Belmont-Central, pictured here, is still a busy outlying shopping district.  Notice the newsstand, once a common feature at major intersections.

11-8-1972--Belmont Avenue @ Central

11-8-1972–Belmont Avenue @ Central Avenue


#78—Montrose.  I rode the Montrose Avenue trolley bus to high school and college.  This picture is a few miles east of my home.

7-25-1972--Montrose Avenue @ Ravenswood 'L' (Brown Line)

7-25-1972–Montrose Avenue @ Ravenswood ‘L’ (Brown Line)


#80—Irving Park.  The final picture documents the last day of service on the Irving Park line—by the time I found this out and got my camera, it was already getting dark.  Here Lakeview High School dominates the Irving Park-Ashland intersection, just as it has since 1898.

1-13-1973--Irving Park Road @ Ashland

1-13-1973–Irving Park Road @ Ashland Avenue



3 Responses to “The Last Year of Chicago Trolley Buses”

  1. 1 Garry August 31, 2015 at 9:54 am

    I really miss the trolley buses.
    You never had to go into the street to look for one, as the wires would “sing” as it got a couple of blocks near you.
    There were many experts that said the frames were still in perfect condition & all the CTA needed to do was have new, air conditioned bodies put on them for another 40 years of service.
    Plus they produced no emissions of any kind.

  2. 2 Ken May 15, 2016 at 6:55 pm

    With a light passenger load late at night they were fast. I heard of a drag race between a hotrod and a trolley bus, and the bus won.

  3. 3 Pete July 7, 2017 at 1:32 pm

    Thanks for sharing your images!
    My recollection of trolley cars was not so good. At 8yrs of age I watched the trolley driver pulling down a rope on the electric arms to reconnect to the overhead wires. He was covered in a shower of sparks since the lights and heat were on.

    After the third attempt he could drive on, but I was scared of trolleys after that. Buses seemed so smooth and had A/C.

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