An ode to the "Skokie Swift"

Even its (previous) name is romantic.

Skokie Swift.

It conjures up thoughts of the Olympics: Swifter, higher, stronger.

Over at A Chicago Sojourner, repowers has a nice essay and great photos about the Skokie Swift, aka, the CTA Yellow Line train.

You really need to check it out. This photo make the Skokie line look absolutely bucolic.

Skokie Swift.jpg


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  • It may be an ode, but the author shows he knows little about it.

    It isn't light rail, but uses (as he notes) the same grungy cars as the rest of the rapid transit. In fact, now it uses the same cars as the Red Line, not the last 3200s that had pantographs.

    Then, somehow, he goes from suburban woodlands to industrial to high towers. The towers are there because Comm Ed (an Insull company) was there first, and then Insull built the North Shore Line bypass on the same r.o.w. The bypass used to go north of there to Lake Bluff on that r.o.w--no chance of that now. It also appears that local government officials in Skokie have shot down the extension to Niles North H.S. (where it really would have ended, not Old Orchard).

    He's right that Dempster is not the village center--that's at Oakton, where supposedly a station will be built.

  • The reason the station is at Dempster is that the CTA or it's predecessor has always owned the right of way to Dempster.
    The CTA's predecessor, Chicago Rapid Transit, ran service to Dempster with several intermediate stations in Evanston & Skokie. CRT closed all the stations, except Dempster which was used by the North Shore Line until Jan. 1963.

    The only reason the extension to Old Orchard is on hold is because of the CTA's bizarre insistence on having the station on the old RR right of way west to Niles North, instead of moving it over to Old Orchard.
    It's not cost that has CTA management wanting the station there, but the weird belief that people will be able to walk to the Skokie courthouse on Old Orchard Rd. Even though the courthouse is closed on weekends & very few people go there by bus now.
    This is typical of the continuing design incompetence at the CTA.
    If you've ever taken the L to Midway, you know what a long walk it is to the terminal from the station. While the CTA has no input on where the terminal is, there was no reason to put the L yard west of the station, between the station & the terminal. The station should have been much farther west, where the westernmost yard tracks are.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    Funny, I've never found the station at Midway that inconvenient. Sure, the one at O'Hare is easier to get to, but in most places you're stuck with commuter rail, often by shuttle (BWI); cabs (OMA, which gets buses only at rush hour); or premium-priced buses that run on crowded highway (DEN). Fairly few places have standard-fare buses or trains from the airport to downtown - so maybe it's not O'Hare or National, it's better than most. If you have rolling luggage, getting through Midway isn't that much trouble.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    "The only reason the extension to Old Orchard is on hold is because of the CTA's bizarre insistence on having the station on the old RR right of way west to Niles North, instead of moving it over to Old Orchard."

    The station was originally supposed to be in Old Orchard, but, according to a CTA official I talked to, Old Orchard Mall balked at having the station on it's grounds. This is why CTA has to build the station at Niles High School, just short of the mall. As for the right-of-way - it's the cheapest alternative. Anything else would require CTA to built elevated tracks over public streets, which would be more expensive.

  • Nice essay and photos. I cross the Skokie Swift tracks (I hit town in 1972 and it will always be the Skokie Swift in my mind, such as it is) on one of my regular routes to work, and one thing that strikes me is how frequently it seems to run. Of course it could just be that time passes differently when you are waiting on a platform for your train to come, versus waiting at a grade crossing for the train to go by.

  • Anyone with some time to kill, it really is an interesting ride. Just don't expect any kind of destination at the Skokie end of it.

  • In reply to Cheryl:

    Kaufman's Deli is just a few storefronts east on Dempster. Amazing bagels and smoked tongue for those who like their food to taste them back.

  • Local musician Larry Rand recorded a humorous song, "Skokie Blues", which included the lines:

    "Skokie is the suburb that puts all the other suburbs to pride.
    There are railroad tracks in Skokie, but the whole town's on the other side."

    Last time I took the Swift, I was darn glad it was available--but I had a heckuva time finding my way to the boarding area after someone dropped me off.

  • There is a long-term plan to extend the Orange Line to Ford City. I believe the right-of-way to Ford City is where the current station is located. If the yard had been placed to the east and the Orange Line station moved west to be closer to the terminal, then a train to Ford City would need to curve back east to the right-of-way.

    I would have preferred this arrangement, but I suspect it was cheaper to build it this way and inconvenience thousands of people daily.

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