Chicago’s First ‘L’ (6-7-1892)

On this date the Chicago ‘L’ began service. Operated by a private company named the Chicago & South Side Rapid Transit, the trains ran from Congress south to 39th Street.  Unlike New York—where the elevated trains ran over public streets—the Chicago ‘L’ right-of-way was in the alley between State and Wabash, earning it the nickname the Alley ‘L’.

 South Side ‘L’ car at Congress terminal in 1898, after the line was electrified

The coaches were pulled by steam locomotives. Patrons bought a five-cent ticket from an agent in the ground-floor station, climbed up the stairs to the platform, and gave the ticket to another agent.

Today’s revenue service began at 7 a.m, when a northbound train left 39th Street. On board the four coaches were 30 passengers. After stopping at eight intermediate stations, Chicago’s first Monday rush hour train pulled into Congress terminal at 7:14, right on time. The new service was a success, and construction was soon underway to extend the line to Jackson Park for the upcoming Columbian Exposition.


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