Historic photos of Chicago trains and buses

Take a ride back in time on the green and cream CTA buses, trains, trolleys (and horses!) from Chicago's public transportation past

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  • Photograph: David Wilson/flickr

    Riders board the 72 bus at North Avenue and Clark Street, June 14, 1967.

  • Photograph: David Wilson/flickr

    An "L" train pulls into the State/Van Buren Loop station, before it was the Harold Washington Library stop.

  • Photograph: CTA web/Flickr

    Pedestrians stand outside of the 58th stop on the South Side "L" in 1946. This early station building was built in the 1890s.

    Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  cta web 

  • Photograph: CTA web/Flickr

    On a late winter in 1962, "L" riders exit a Loop-bound Ravenswood "B" train at Chicago. Today, this would be a Brown Line train.


    Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  cta web 

  • Photograph: CTA web/Flickr

    This view, westward on Lake from Wabash, shows construction of the first leg of the Loop Elevated in 1895 which stills stands today.

    Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  cta web 

  • Photograph: CTA web/Flickr

    North Chicago Street Railway car 880 is led by two horses in this photo on Clark Street. The car says “Fullerton Av and Halsted St.”

    Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  cta web 

  • Photograph: CTA web/Flickr

    In this undated photo, an early, electric Chicago City Railway Co. streetcar poses with employees on a snowy day.

     Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  cta web 

  • Photograph: David Wilson/flickr

    Back in 1968, you could open the windows on a CTA train, as commuters do here at Wabash Avenue and Harrison Street.

  • Photograph: CTA web/Flickr

    In 1938, Shirley Temple visited Chicago and received a special 40-mile tour of Chicago via the elevated lines.

    Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  cta web 

  • Photograph: CTA web/Flickr

    A man looks at a poster on a Loop train platform during World War II that encourages people to take the 'L' instead of driving.


    Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  cta web 

  • Photograph: CTA web/Flickr

    Three train cars pass over the Chicago River on the Lake Street Bridge.

    Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  cta web 

  • Photograph: CTA web/Flickr

    CTA workers silkscreen a bus “roller curtain” at the old Skokie shops facility in 1954.

    Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  cta web 

  • Photograph: CTA web/Flickr

    Service to Niles Center begins in 1925—long before it was the Yellow Line, a.k.a. the "Skokie Swift."

    Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  cta web 

  • Photograph: David Wilson/flickr

    Folks get off the Skokie Swift at the Dempster Street terminus.

  • Photograph: David Wilson/flickr

    A CTA No. 56 bus rides along Madison Street at the Chicago River on July 8, 1968.

  • Photograph: David Wilson/flickr

    Light bulbs line the ceiling in an old CTA train interior.

  • Photograph: David Wilson/flickr

    A train carries on through the snow at the Madison/Wells "L" stop on January 6, 1968.

  • Photograph: CTA web/Flickr

    The "Free Santa Claus Bus" offers gratis trips up State Street in mid-December, 1973.

    Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  cta web 

  • Photograph: David Wilson/flickr

    A CTA 52 bus heads up at California Avenue past a Walgreens at North Avenue in March, 1969.

  • Photograph: CTA web/Flickr

    In this aerial photo, you can see the old Logan Square elevated terminal on what once was known as the Metropolitan 'L', 1968.

    Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  cta web 

  • Photograph: David Wilson/flickr

    A street view of the CTA Wilson stop from a gas station. Note the absence of Target and Sonic.

  • Photograph: David Wilson/flickr

    A bridge is prepped for installment at Cermak Road and Wentworth Avenue, September 22, 1968.

  • Photograph: David Wilson/flickr

    A CTA bus and cars navigate a flooded viaduct at State Street and Roosevelt Road during torrential rains on June 10, 1967.

  • Photograph: CTA web/Flickr

    A streetcar on Milwaukee Avenue has just passed the Portage Theater, 1925.

    Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  cta web 

  • Photograph: CTA web/Flickr

    A streetcar rides on trestle over the construction of the Chicago stop of the State Street Subway on April 11, 1941.

    Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  cta web 

  • Photograph: CTA web/Flickr

    The Market Street terminal (now Wacker Drive) in front of the Civic Opera Building.

    Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  cta web 

  • Photograph: CTA web/Flickr

    A CTA No. 87 to 87th and Western picks up students at the Chicago Vocational High School (now the Chicago Vocational Career Academy) in 1967.

    Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  cta web 

  • Photograph: CTA web/Flickr

    A No. 40 O'Hare Express heads down the highway from the airport before the Blue Line extension from Logan Square to O'Hare was completed.

    Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  cta web 

  • Photograph: CTA web/Flickr

    A steel subway train stops at Clark/Division on an "inspection trip" before the State Street Subway (now the Red Line) opened in April 1943.

    Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  cta web 

Photograph: David Wilson/flickr

Riders board the 72 bus at North Avenue and Clark Street, June 14, 1967.

RECOMMENDED: Chicago transit guide


The CTA took over operation of the city's public transportation system from the Chicago Rapid Transit Company in 1947, giving residents a new abbreviation to gripe about for years to come. But as much as we complain about station closures, late buses and Ventra fiascos, it's pretty incredible that a system this large runs at all. Even more impressive is the fact that the El has been ferrying people to homes, offices and restaurants since 1892. We looked through the CTA's photographic archives and picked out some of the best historic images of Chicago's ever-changing fleet of trains and buses.



Users say

2 comments
Bob B
Bob B

Actually, it's Wilson Yard, to the south of the 'L' station.  The building in the background are Wilson Shops, which were built more than 100 years ago and burned after being decommissioned -- paving the way for the Target store and other development now surrounding it.  

Bob B
Bob B

The cars on that train are special.  They were at least two of the four "high speed" cars built in 1959 to test new concepts that would appear on later series of 'L' cars.  The paint job was white over red and was only applied to eight cars total.  Those two cars were among four that ended up on the Skokie Swift to open service in 1964 and served there for many years after. For many years, they were the fastest 'L' cars on the system, capable of 70 miles an hour.