Posts Tagged 'Northwest Side'

The Train to the Plane (9-3-1984)

Guest Post from The Oldest Chicagoan

If you’ve ever been to New York, you know they’ve got subways and ‘L’s all over the place.  But try to get to one of the airports.  All the trains can do is get you to a few miles from La Guardia or JFK.  Then you’ve got to get your stuff and get on a bus.

Here in Chicago, we just take the Blue Line directly into the middle of O’Hare.  This was the day in 1984 when the first train arrived at the airport.  It had only taken 25 years to get there.


When they first built the expressway in 1959, they left an empty strip in the middle for a CTA line.  They were going to connect it with the existing ‘L’ line that went as far as Logan Square.

But for a long time, nothing happened.  Some insiders said that the Chicago & North Western Railroad was holding things up.  An ‘L’ line in the expressway would hurt the railroad’s commuter business.

The CTA finally got around to building that ‘L’ line in 1970.  But it stopped almost eight miles short of the airport, at Jefferson Park.  That was supposed to be the deal they worked out with the railroad.  You wanted to get to O’Hare, you got a bus at Jeff Park terminal.

More time went by.  The commuter railroads were taken over by Metra.  Now there was nothing standing in the way of getting that ‘L’ line out to O’Hare.  So in 1981, they started building that last eight miles.

Two years later, Mayor Jane Byrne is running for re-election.  The line wasn’t finished yet, but she wanted something to show to the voters.  So the CTA opened up another section, this time as far as River Road.  Well, at least the bus ride to O’Hare was getting shorter.

Byrne lost the election to Harold Washington.  So when the CTA finally pushed through to the airport in 1984, he was the one who got to cut the ribbon.  And that O’Hare station was something special.  Chicagoans are used to it by now, but it still impresses the tourists.


The dedication ceremony was the usual thing.  The best part about it was they got Dizzy Gillespie in to play his trumpet.  And the choice of a song was obvious.

Dizzy played Duke Ellington’s “Take the A-Train.”