Streetcar Lines: The Clark Street Line

This item may well be amended when published in the society’s newsletter.


The Clark St. Streetcar Line

by LeRoy Blommaert

Clark Street was Edgewater’s third rail line (the first two being respectively the Chicago & North Western’s Milwaukee Division and the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul’s Evanston Division, both stream railroads). Clark Street was also Edgewater’s first streetcar line and its only horse car line. However, it was not Edgewater’s first electric, "trolley" streetcar line.  That title goes to the Broadway line.

Clark Street was one of the first streetcar lines on the north side. It was operated by the North Chicago City Railroad, opened in 1859, and like all others at the time was a horse car line. Originally, it ran only as far north as Fullerton, and then later, probably in 1861, to Diversey. In August 1886 (some 25 years later!), the company secured authorization to extend the line from Diversey to Devon, though we don’t know exactly when the extension was completed. In the same year (1886) the company was purchased by Charles Tyson Yerkes who leased it to a new company he created, one with a very similar name, the North Chicago Street Railway (italics added). He then converted the line as far north as Dewey Court (just south of Diversey) to cable car operation. The cable operation commenced March 26, 1888.(over 6 years after cable cars were first introduced on the south side.). From Dewey Court north to Lawrence, the line remained a horse car line. Some time between 1889 and 1892 the line was extended north through Edgewater to Devon, but the line between Lawrence and Devon was a shuttle operation (the High Ridge shuttle, named for the High Ridge subdivision between Granville and Devon west of Clark). What this meant was that Edgewater residents using the line had to change at Lawrence and then again at Dewey Court if they wanted to go downtown by streetcar. The Chicago & Northwestern Railroad with three stops in Edgewater offered considerably faster travel time but not as frequent service. We have not been able to establish the exact date of the opening of the High Ridge shuttle. However, we know from a Chicago Tribune article dated December 10, 1892, that the High Ridge line was in existence then. The Rand McNally Guide to Chicago Streets of 1892 does not show the High Ridge line; thus it would appear that the line opened sometime in middle to late 1892.

In September or early October 1894 the line from Dewey Court to Lawrence Ave was converted from horse car to trolley operation (Chicago Tribune 10-4-1894). However the High Ridge shuttle remained a horse car operation. We are not sure exactly when trolleys replaced horse cars of the High Ridge shuttle, but Rufus Blanshard’s transit map of 1895 shows Clark Street from Diversey to Devon as being electrified, so we can assume the conversion took place sometime in either 1894 or 1895. Even when the High Ridge line was converted to trolley, it remained a separate line until at least sometime in 1897 based on the Rand McNally Guide to Streets and Street Railways of that year. However, a Chicago Tribune item dated December 3, 1899 announcing the success of citizens campaign for a single 5 cent fare from downtown to Devon, also relates a promise of the Union Traction Company to eliminate the transfer at Lawrence Avenue if the schedule warranted it, thus leading one to believe that the High Ridge shuttle continued longer, even after the line had been electrified.

Interestingly, a permit for a new car barn in the 6300 block of Clark was issued in September 1894 just before the line from Dewey Court to Lawrence was converted to trolley operation.  A good presumption is that this new car barn was for the cars (and horses) of the High Ridge shuttle.



When Yerkes sold his interests in his north side and west side streetcar companies in 1899, there was a reorganization. All of his lines owned by the North Chicago Street Railroad Company were acquired by the newly organized Chicago Union Traction Company; the other “suburban” lines (including the Chicago North Shore Street Railway Company—Edgewater’s streetcar on Broadway) were acquired by the newly organized Chicago Consolidated Traction Company. However, through agreement, the Chicago Union Traction Company operated the cars of the Chicago Consolidated Traction. The 1908 Rand McNally Chicago Guide shows that the North Clark Electric line to Devon was operated by the Chicago Union Traction Company. In 1908 the newly formed Chicago Railways Company acquired the lines of the Chicago Union Traction Company through foreclosure. In 1910 the company’s north and west side lines outside of the City of Chicago were acquired by the newly organized County Traction Company. In December 1910, the line into Evanston (first operated by the Chicago North Shore Street Railway Company) was severed at Howard Street. In 1914 the four streetcar companies in the City of Chicago were organized as the Chicago Surface Lines. The CSL operated Chicago streetcars until the Chicago Transit Authority assumed control in 1947. The CTA also assumed control of the Chicago Rapid Transit Company, and later the Chicago Motor Coach company. Before this the streetcar and “L” lines were operated by two separate and competing companies.

PCC (“Green Hornet” streamliner) cars were introduced on the line beginning October 30, 1946 under Chicago Surface Line management. All service was converted to PCCs in 1947. On September 8, 1957, buses replaced streetcars north of Harrison St.  A few years earlier (on September 5, 1954) buses replaced streetcars on weekends over the entire through route.

Although no photos of the High Ridge horse cars have surfaced, there are a few photos of pre-PCC (streamliner) trolleys on Clark Street in Edgewater.

Sources: Chicago Tribune, Rand McNally street guides; Rufus Blanchard’s Chicago maps, Chicago Surface Lines: An Illustrated History by Alan R. Lind.

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