Selling the State Street subway with postcard cross-section renderings

Each week on its Facebook and Twitter accounts, the CTA posts an historic photo. Last week the agency posted this cool cross-section rendering from 1941 of what the State Street subway would look like.

It kinda looks like something out of the Jetsons. So I publish it here for your enjoyment. Below is the caption with the photo.

Postcards were issued in the 1940s to promote the new subways being opened under State and Dearborn Streets. This 1941 sketch was one of the images published and is an artist’s rendering of what the State Street Subway, still under construction, might look like once opened. The view depicts a cross-section of the street, mezzanine and subway platforms and tubes with crowds of people filling sidewalks on State Street above as well as taking advantage of direct retail connections from the station complex.

The specific location depicted here (one can deduce the location easily, with the flagship The Fair store on the left and The Palmer House on the right) is a view looking north on State from Adams. The subway mezzanine in view is the Monroe-Adams mezzanine (still today an entrance to the Monroe station on the Red Line) and the train in the tunnel is drawn as a Shoppers’ Special–the name for certain express services run from several ‘L’ branches to the Loop, catering to mid-day shopping trips to downtown during that era.

Certain details of the finished design would change for various reasons, including materials issues related to World War II, but the detailed image is remarkably close to what the finished stations would look like. Interestingly, the subway cars the artist drew are basically of then-new, experimental “Bluebird” cars which had recently been put into service onto the BMT lines of the New York City Subway. The Bluebird model cars (or similar) were under consideration for purchase here in Chicago, at the time.


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  • Somebody at transit engineering (probably at the predecessor to CDOT, since CTA didn't exist in 1941) sure must have liked cutaway drawings. Lind's book has similar ones of about 1958 of the Jackson St. rapid transit subway and Washington St. bus subway, facilities we still utilize today ;-). Of course, the depictions of PCC subway cars and Twin Coach buses looked realistic.

    Krambles's book has a picture of another postcard with Bluebirds. Of course, at the time of that writing, CTA had qualified management. While it now retains innumerable more consultants, I don't think we will see cutaway drawings of the Ashland-Ogden Circle Line subway.

  • Up at street level, is that vehicle in the middle of State Street a streetcar, a bus or a trolley?

  • CC it looks like a trolley bus, like this one

  • Take my word for it, there never were trolley buses on State Street. That, apparently, though, was a 36 Broadway-State PCC streetcar.

  • In reply to jack:

    Of course, that also assumes that the Dept. of Superhighways and Subways was looking about 7 years in the future.

    As noted today, CDOT continues by posting some pictures of Cermak-Chinatown as Cermak-Green Line.

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