Derailed: past and present clash


Andy Thompson

One of the three vintage trains brought back for the anniversary was the 2400- series railcar built in 1976. These railcars were in service for 36 years.

“You instantly recognize the setting of any movie or TV series, as soon as you see the CTA is an elevated structure,” Chicago Transit Authority spokesperson Catherine Hosinski said. “That is an icon of the city of Chicago.”

It is the first day of October and the celebration of 75 years for Chicago public transportation is today, except your normal train on the way to the Loop will be delayed. 

Since 1947, the CTA has provided the city of Chicago with public transportation. To celebrate their 75 anniversary, the CTA brought out a variety of vintage trains and buses for the public to ride throughout the day. (Andy Thompson)

A respectable line formed of about 40 people in the Daley Plaza. Workers present you a fake ticket and free poster to commemorate while you wait for your no-stop trip in one of the three vintage buses available: Flxible 8499 (1960), GMC 301 (1962), Flxible 3706 (1969). 

Among the crowd was Jim Bainter, a Cincinnati bus driver who traveled to Chicago just for the anniversary.

“Chicago was the second transit system I ever got to ride on,” Bainter said. “I’m a bus driver so I’ve rode over 300 transit systems in different parts of the world. I also worked in Chicago a couple of times with a railway contractor in the 90s. Seeing all the vintage trams or L trains and also the buses, everything in one day, it’s pretty neat.”

Along with the buses, CTA is also bringing out three of their past train models: 4000-series railcar (delivered 1923), 6000-series railcar (delivered in 1959) and 2400-series railcar (delivered 1976-1978). However, you will still need to pay for an actual ticket at Clark/Lake before boarding on this lucrative locomotive. 

Among the crowd were families with elated children scattered around the city and older couples reminiscing the beauty of Chicago’s past. 

Fans and local Chicagoans gather on October 1st to celebrate CTA’s 75th anniversary. (Quentin Blais)

Juggling to put on her toddler’s shoes while also keeping an eye on her oldest running around, Katherine Bern shares that this is the first time her kids have used the train. 

“I don’t think it’s safe for them so we avoid using it as much as possible, but this is a great way to introduce it to them without all the negatives of the CTA normally,” Bern said.

Bern used to take the train when she was in college but now lives on the north side of Chicago and drives her car when going to work in the city. 

“I just don’t see the need to take the risk,” Bern said. “You read any piece of news today and it’s about something terrible happening on the train. I’d rather deal with high gas prices than watch a crime happen right in front of my eyes on the delayed red line.” 

Bern isn’t the only one who no longer accesses Chicago’s public transportation. Martin Klien, a born and raised Chicagoian, hasn’t used the CTA in over 30 years. 

“My brother used to work for the CTA back in the 70s when they actually were paid livable wages,” Klien said. “It was unsafe then, and now it’s just ridiculous. Bringing these trains back is almost an insult to see what Chicago’s become.”  

Passengers were given a novelty ticket good for one ride around The Loop on the antique transportation, with stops at Clark & Lake, Washington & Wabash, Harold Washington Library, and Quincy. (Amber Stoutenborough)

Glancing up from her phone in surprise at the train time machine in front of her, Aneesah Cameron was not aware of the celebration happening today.  

“I saw there was a group by the L but I just thought someone got shot,” Cameron said. “Still had to make it to work though.” 

Cameron uses the CTA everyday for work and school but hopes to see a better use of Chicago’s money than a celebration of a system in which she feel has failed her.

“It’s just ridiculous,” Cameron said. “Why do I care about what the old trains looked like? How about you clean up the mess of the trains we have now then paradeing how great Chicago was back then?” 

The CTA started operating in 1947 and soon joined with the Chicago Motor Coach company to create a consolidated transit for Chicago’s public service. 

“CTA has helped shape the city of Chicago as we see it today,” Hosinski said. “When you look at the history books of Chicago, the northern branch of the red line was nothing but prairie fields. Suddenly you’re starting to see a more urbanized area. So much of what you see in Chicago is shaped by our public transportation system. And whether you take CTA or not, it’s impacting your life, often for the better.

Jim Bainter, a Cincinnati bus driver traveled to Chicago for the 75th Anniversary. Bainter has rode over 300 transit systems around the world thanks to his job. (Andy Thompson)