Ask Geoffrey: Chicago's Old Passenger Rail Stations

Chicago Tonight


Chicago's old passenger railroad stations for decades acted as the city's front door where people from all over the country arrived seeking a better life or just the thrills of the big city. Jeffrey bayer takes us back to the golden age. Rail travel in this week's ask geoffrey. Hey geoffrey good to see you paris all right so we have a question from larry gardner of skokie he says. Could you do a story on the old train stations that once stood in downtown chicago. Well of course we can. There is as you mentioned. The the late nineteenth century the early twentieth century this was the golden age of rail travel when people traversed the country on trains. And of course right at the center there at the hub of it all was chicago. It's hard to believe. But as recently as the nineteen sixties there were six passenger train stations in downtown chicago today. All passenger trains that come into the city from beyond the suburbs. Go through the last one standing union station which is now owned by amtrak. It's designed including this now. Demolished concourse was right along the river there and the colonnaded main building which is still standing right behind it. In this picture of those things recall the grandeur of rail terminals in those glory days of designed to wow the traveler of the way many airports do today met with. Certainly the goal of another neoclassical designed terminal. Check this one out owned by the chicago and north western railway you know classical buzzards and it stood at what is today. Ogilvie transportation center which is operated by metra. That station included ornate concourses. Waiting rooms even dedicated spaces for barbers and hairdressers. People traveling across the country The chicago north western railway traced its roots to chicago's very first railroad. The galena chicago union established back in eighteen forty eight. By chicago's first mayor actually will be ogden. Certainly the golden age of travel there and then another key player. Of course you hear references pop culture all the time the illinois central oh absolutely That country that company billed itself as the main line of mid america. It was a dominant player. Both in passenger and freight rail their main passenger terminal was called central station once stood just just south of grand part right on the lakefront there. The railroad built this mammoth terminal in one thousand nine hundred three in part to accommodate the influx of visitors. That were expected for the world's fair that year you'll notice almost all of these terminals have clocks or clock towers so people hurrying to catch trains didn't have to fumble around for their pocket watches that of course they had watches it. All central station was also an important point of entry for many african americans who came to chicago from the south during the great migration with like so many of its contemporaries central station met the wrecking ball. In this case in the mid one thousand nine hundred seventy s amtrak diverted there trains to union station but there is still an active platform. Eleven street serving the metra electric line and i gather it's the inspiration for that residential development around their central station. Which i believe. Richard m daley lived there for a while and not to be confused with grand central station. Of course right. That's right and yes. We had our own grand central station. here in chicago. Not new york's wasn't the only one ours was at harrison and wells on the western edge of the loop. Read along the river for about eighty years. It was just north of if you know we're river city's development is today Traffic declined grand central after world war. Two this photo with the board of trade there in the background was taken in nineteen sixty seven at the end of the stations life. It was torn down in nineteen seventy one and this is one of several places in the city. were abandoned. Railroad land is being redeveloped during construction of the new development on this old site buried. Stones from grand central station were actually unearthed and they've been re purposed for a river walk. One chicago train station of actually is still standing So in addition to union station is dearborn station. South loop although of course. It's on train station anymore. You can see its clock tower visible all the way from the north side of lube looking south down on dearborn but what happened to the top of that clock tower. Take a look at this early photo. And you'll notice it once had this huge wooden flemish roof on top of it but in one thousand nine hundred twenty two. It caught fire. Look at these incredible photos from the scene as crowds gathered. Luckily firefighters were able to save the building. But but not that tower roof. I the nineteen seventy s. Most of the train. Shed was demolished but the facade and portions of the terminal were preserved as part of a mall. Serving printers row by the building is still called dearborn station. In fact peres as you just pointed out. Many old stations live on in the names of new developments of the one. You mentioned central station. Just south of grand park word. Mayor daley used to live and then a new apartment building at harrison and wells is using the grim central name

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