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Check Out These Vintage Shots Of The 'L' On The Train System's 125th Birthday

By Stephen Gossett in News on Jun 6, 2017 6:35PM

Happy 125th, 'L!' You don't look a day over 120.

OK, kidding aside, we have a lot of love for the hulking, rumbling and relatively reliable mass-transit lynchpin that is Chicago's own elevated train system—which celebrates its 125th birthday today. It's one of the most iconic visual markers of the local built landscape—like the the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, the Loop tracks can provide an instant locational signpost for any film or photo—and compared to many cities we've visited, it's pretty damn dependable.

The 'L' opened for business back on June 6, 1892. It's the second oldest rapid transit system in the nation, with New York City's elevated lines being the only system that predates it. The first 'L' track ran from Congress Parkway to 39th Street; and the earliest trains were built from wood and driven by steam engines. A burst of modernization hit soon after, in 1900, when the L became the first system to incorporate multiple-unit train control, which allows the operator to control all cars in a line—instead of jus the lead car—and remains a norm for train systems.

The CTA has been sharing some of the L history this year on its Flickr and Instagram pages. (The transit authority is celebrating a milestone in 2017, too, as it turns 70.) All aboard the gallery above for some of the most eye-grabbing, transportive vintage shots.

And a reminder: the city is also taking note of the sesquicentennial, brining out a fleet of historic train cars that riders can hop on in the Loop on Tuesday, between noon and 3:15 p.m.