CTA rolls out vintage train cars for anniversary of city’s first transit line

The State Street Subway, now part of the Red Line, opened 75 years ago

In 1943, the first underground transit line opened in Chicago: the 4.9-mile State Street Subway. Decades later it’s adapted into the Red Line, but the stations along the route still retain a lot of historical charm.

When it opened the State Street Subway had features that were uncommon in other systems such as ventilation, signals, drainage and escalators, according to the CTA. The subway line was meant to be a counterpart to the Milwaukee-Dearborn Subway which didn’t end up opening until 1951. The two lines provided crosstown transportation system on both elevated and underground tracks.

To celebrate the subway’s 75th anniversary, the CTA is rolling out the two 4000-series train cars it maintains in it’s Heritage Fleet. Although you can’t purchase ticketed rides anymore, they will be running Wednesday in the late morning and early afternoon. If you’d like to ride the vintage cars, there are seats available on a first-come, first-served basis. Details on where to hop on those cars and get photo opportunities will be posted on the CTA’s website. It might also be a good idea to follow the agency on Twitter for that information.


Historic photos from the city’s archive detailing the State Street Subway will be displayed for several weeks in the nine stations that were originally part of the underground line. Each station from North/Clybourn to Roosevelt will have a gallery of 20 images placed throughout the mezzanine levels.

The stations part of the State Street Subway line were designed in the Art Moderne style, which was popular in the 1930s and evolved out of Art Deco. Some characteristics of the architectural style include simplified shapes, long horizontal lines, off-white or beige colors and chrome hardware.

The State Street Subway stations’ designs included bright fluorescent lighting, grey glazed tiles in entry areas, off-white terracotta at platform levels with station names and colorful wayfinding cues embedded into the tile work at some locations. While a few of the stations have had modern upgrades and art installations original features still remain.

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