A Century of Light Rail in North Evanston

The year 2008 marks 100 years of service between Central St. and Chicago on what is now the "L." In 1907, the Evanston City Council agreed to let the Northwestern Elevated Railroad Co., one of many entities backed by controversial transit magnate Charles Tyson Yerkes, come into Evanston. The Northwestern Elevated installed overhead electric trolley wires and ran trains from Chicago up to a stop at University Ave. over existing track owned by the Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul Railway. The C.M.&St.P. continued to run a steam commuter train on those tracks, but soon gave up trying to compete with the Chicago & North Western Rwy. line (currently the U.P.R.R. Metra North Line). Back then the tracks and platform were at ground-level, and a condition of the franchise the City Council granted was that the company elevate the lines in south and downtown Evanston by 1910 (they did). Electrified light rail service was extended from University north to Central Street at the current location in May, 1908. However, that portion of the line was not elevated; the platform was at ground level. Passengers could also transfer to the Evanston Electric Railway trolley line that ran from downtown Evanston. In 1912, the Linden stop opened in Wilmette. In 1920, the Evanston City Council ordered the tracks north of University raised; due to financing difficulties in the NERR's successors, that process was delayed 8 years.

Between 1928 and 1931, the existing marble-facade Beaux Arts ticket station (right), designed by Evanston's Arthur Gerber, was built, with the tracks elevated so that cars, buses, and other streetcars could pass underneath. After elevation, the line was converted to third-rail-type electrification rather than overhead wire. CSNA maintains links to all mass transit maps and schedules -- Metra, CTA, and PACE -- on its Public Transportation page. -- Jeff Smith