32-year-old video gives a different view of North Side from 1981 Ravenswood train

If you'd like to take a ride on a Ravenswood train into the Loop in 1981, just hop aboard John R. Schmidt's Chicago History Today blog over at WBEZ.org.

There (or here) you can watch Schmidt's homemade video from the front of a Ravenswood train. He recently had the video from his tiny, hand-heldĀ Super-Eight silent movie camera digitized, and the result is stunning. Though he claims he's not a film-maker, the film is nonetheless riveting.

As he heads south from the Clark Junction into the Loop, you see the old pedestrian bridge at Belmont, and A-B stations. Check out a vastly different North/Clybourn corridor. The nieghborhood was "sketchy," as Schmidt describes it.

The eight-minute video is well worth the time.



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  • Those of us on chicagobus.org had a good time trying to pin down the initial delivery date of the 2600s shown on it (apparently opposite Armitage and at the lead of a Lake-Dan Ryan train), 2400s being banished from the Ravenswood, 2000s put on the Howard-Jackson Park or Englewood, and other trivia revealed by that film. I also remember when Oscar Mayer was there, instead of Walter Payton College Prep. Not really shown is that you could see Cabrini Green and Montgomery Ward looking out to the west.

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    Hello, Mr. Shakycam.

  • In reply to Adam H:

    Well, they didn't have self leveling camera phones in those days.

    Also, compared to today's Sun-Times story, I doubt there was the stealing of Kodak movie cameras back in the day.

  • I love the shot of the original Sam's Wine and Spirits at north/clybourn about 3 minutes in.

  • Some questions and observations from the video... Is that what the Belmont station looked like up until the renovation? I remember the bridge, but the station looked smaller than I remember. Also, I guess DePaul had tennis courts instead of a soccer/softball field then. I didn't know there was a Grand L stop at one point or that Washington/Wells had a overhead pedestrian bridge instead of under.

  • I wonder if Scooter had already started complaining about CTA incompetence back in 1981...

  • In reply to chris:

    So, what's your point?

    I would only claim that CTA incompetence became manifest when Belcaster was told to get lost because of a conflict of interest (he had a secret investment in Ballard Power Systems while CTA was testing their fuel cell bus) and then after Kruesi took over (which did not become obvious until late in Kruesi's term).

    The real question, Chris, is when the Chicago Transit Board started violating the provision of the Metropolitan Transit Authority Act that the Executive Director have transit experience. I noted that when Kevin had posted a list of CTA Presidents that "the mayor put into office," not that had been selected by the CT Board. And of course, that culminated with the appointment of someone who couldn't make it in the private sector as Rise Health.

    And then there was the BS about how two CT Board members didn't realize that they had killed the Lincoln bus, nor figure out a way to reinstate it, except, in the Rev's case, to pray.

    Are you in concurrence with that, chris?

  • In reply to jack:

    Concurrence with what? I simply wanted to know in what year did Scooter start screaming about the CTA. If you don't know, why did you reply.

    The argument over whether or not his rants are misguided or accurate is a completely different discussion.

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