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CTA Brown Line

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title_world_us_chicago_brown.jpg

CTA 3200 Series 3375 at Rockwell on the Brown Line. Photo by David Pirmann, May 2005.

Overview

Our journey begins at Kimball (3400W / 4800N). This grade-level station is at the corner of Kimball and Lawrence Avenues, in the heart of the diverse Albany Park neighborhood. The station itself is a 1960's-style, low-slung modernist station constructed of beige brick and white steelwork. Fare control is in a glass-enclosed area at street level, with a few steps that lead up to the platforms. This terminal has three tracks, all ending at bumper blocks. The easternmost track is served by a single side platform, while the other two tracks are served by an island platform. This island platform is the most commonly used; it is rare to see the side platform in use although there is nothing to prevent people from accessing it. A small storage yard and maintenance facility is directly to the east of the station, and a small commuter parking lot faces Lawrence Avenue.

Leaving Kimball, we curve to the east and find ourselves travelling between two alleys at grade, peering into the garages and back yards of houses and apartment buildings in this quiet residential neighborhood. We arrive at Kedzie (3200W / 4700N), the first of three small grade-level stations with island platforms. Kedzie has a newer station house at the eastern end of the platform, and an additional exit at the west end of the platform. Trains cross several streets at grade along this stretch, with traditional crossing gates and railroad warning signals to warn approaching motorists and pedestrians. Traction power is via third rail, and although there are no gates to prevent pedestrians from accessing the ROW, so-called "cattle boards" at crossings prevent access to the tracks, at least not without some effort on the part of the trespasser.

Our next stop is Francisco (2900W / 4700N), a station similar to Kedzie, except with an old and somewhat decrepit-looking station house at the east end of the platform.

We cross the placid north branch of the Chicago River on a graceful steel bridge before arriving at Rockwell (2600W / 4700N). Again, we have an older island platform station with a small station house at the east end. Despite the stations at Kedzie, Francisco, and Rockwell being mostly nondescript and bare-bones, it is well worth the time to stop and visit for the scenic photo opportunities.

After Rockwell, we climb up onto the el, where we will remain for the rest of our journey. Our first elevated stop is Western (2400W / 4700N). This is the northernmost of five various CTA stops along Western Avenue, Chicago's longest street. This large station is of a fairly modern design, possibly of 1960's vintage. It features two side platforms spanned by a large canopy roof. A third center track also makes an appearance at this station, just long enough to store one or two trains. Fare control is at street level below, connected to the platforms by stairs, escalators and elevators. Also at ground level are a couple of bus turn-outs.

Next is Damen (2000W / 4700N), an older station with side platforms and a vintage station house at street level. This is typical of the remainder of the stations on this line until we join the Purple Line tracks at Clark Junction. In the near future, almost all of the stations on this line will be completely rebuilt to allow for longer trains and wheelchair access. This line at present can only accommodate six-car trains, but increased population growth in the neighborhoods served by this line is leading to severe overcrowding on rush hour trains. Eventually the new stations will allow 8-car trains to be used on this line.

The tracks curve toward the south, and we see the viaduct of the Metra / Union Pacific North Line about a half-block to the east. A commuter rail station at Lawrence Avenue provides a short transfer to the Brown Line at Damen.

Our next stop is Montrose (4400N / 1800W), followed by Irving Park (4000N / 1800W), and then by Addison (3600N / 1800W). All three of these stations are of typical design, with two side platforms and fare control in a small station house below. After Addison, the tracks curve again to the east and rise up to clear the commuter rail viaduct.

While still higher than usual above street level, we cross over busy Lincoln Avenue and arrive at Paulina (1700W / 3400N), a station with typical side platforms and exceptionally long sets of stairs to the station house below. We are in the midst of the Ravenswood neighborhood, the part of town from which this line derives its name (lovingly referred to as the "Rave" by some old-timers). This neighborhood has experienced rapid gentrification in recent years, leading some to dub the Brown Line as the "Cappuccino Trail." Typical of most CTA elevated lines, the Brown Line primarily uses alleys for its ROW, giving riders a look into the back yards of dozens of passing low-scale apartment buildings and tidy houses.

Heading east of Paulina, we soon arrive at Southport (1400W / 3400N), another typical station with side platforms. This station serves an active business district along Southport Avenue, including the famous Music Box Theater a few blocks to the north, a beautiful old theater complete with functioning organ, featuring mostly foreign and independent films.

Continuing southbound, we cross over the intersection of N. Sheffield and W. Roscoe Streets and see the North Side Main L off to the east. At Clark Junction the remains of a former station platform can be seen in the middle between the North Side main and the Ravenswood Branch. This junction is a bit of a bottleneck during rush periods, as northbound Brown Line trains must cross over both the Red Line and Purple Line tracks. This is one spot in the CTA system where a flyover would be most helpful. Eventually we arrive at the transfer station at Belmont (see the CTA North Side Main Line page for details).

Photo Gallery


Image 14415
(218k, 1024x680)
Photo by: Doug Grotjahn
Collection of: Joe Testagrose
Location: Paulina

Image 14465
(237k, 1024x668)
Photo by: Joe Testagrose
Location: Francisco

Image 14629
(192k, 1024x678)
Photo by: Ed McKernan
Collection of: Joe Testagrose
Location: Irving Park

Image 14648
(176k, 1024x688)
Photo by: Steve Zabel
Collection of: Joe Testagrose
Location: Southport

Image 14656
(225k, 1024x678)
Photo by: Joe Testagrose
Location: Kedzie

Image 14660
(219k, 1024x678)
Photo by: Joe Testagrose
Location: Francisco

Image 14661
(240k, 1024x694)
Photo by: Steve Zabel
Collection of: Joe Testagrose
Location: Damen

Image 14918
(69k, 768x512)
Photo by: Mike Farrell
Location: Montrose

Image 21907
(201k, 1044x788)
Photo by: David Pirmann
Location: Kedzie

Image 54229
(218k, 864x552)
Photo by: Peter Ehrlich
Location: Clark Junction

Image 84706
(229k, 701x1044)
Photo by: David Pirmann
Location: Clark Junction

Image 138816
(295k, 1044x703)
Photo by: David Pirmann
Location: Paulina

Image 138868
(292k, 1044x788)
Photo by: David Pirmann
Location: Damen

Image 140317
(434k, 1044x703)
Photo by: David Pirmann
Location: Francisco

Image 142258
(270k, 1044x682)
Photo by: Chung/Chicago Sun Times/Negatives from Ebay
Collection of: David Pirmann
Location: Rockwell

More Images: 1-50 51-100 101-150 151-171

Photos By Location

Kimball, Kimball Yard, Kedzie, Francisco, Rockwell, Western, Damen, Montrose, Irving Park, Addison, Paulina, Southport

Page Credits

By David S. Cole









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