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Local History: Westchester's Rapid Transit Line (1920's-1950's)

Back in the early days of the Village of Westchester Samuel Insull, William Zelosky and many others were instrumental in establishing an interurban shuttle line to service the growing community.  The rural Westchester branch of the Metropolitan "L", a line constructed primarily to help sell real estate that belonged to associates of CA&E president Thomas Conway.  The line was built as a single-track two-mile extension.  The tracks ran from the Chicago, Aurora and Elgin line Bellwood station to near the current intersection of Mannheim and Cermak with intermediate stops at Harrison, Roosevelt Road and Canterbury.  The text of the Westchester Rapid Transit Contract is available for your review.  From this document we can determine this branch was but the first leg of what was to be a much longer line extending to Warrenville, Illinois.

At one end of the line was the Bellwood station at Bellwood Avenue near Madison Street,  Bellwood.  Work on the Bellwood Avenue station nears completion in February 1926.

Photo from the Louis F. Gerard Collection

The Harrison Street stationhouse, unlike stationhouse at Roosevelt, stands beside the track bed.  On a sign in the background we can barely make out a William Zelosky Company advertisement in this enlargement.

Above photos from the Charles N. Field

Work is well underway for the underpass that will carry the Westchester branch under Roosevelt Road.  (The Photo is from the South Shore Interurban Historical Society Collection.)

Once the construction was completed double tracks rain to just south of Roosevelt Road.  Here are two 1929 photographs of the rails between the Harrison and Roosevelt stations.  Photos from the Chicago, Aurora and Elgin collection, possibly photographed by Charles N. Field.


A close-up view of the Roosevelt Road station on the Westchester Line. The distinctive bus stop sign near the front door belongs to the Sam Insull-controlled Metropolitan Motor Coach Company.


It is difficult to see but a small sign in this photograph is the distinctive bus stop logo for Samuel Insull's bus coach lines.

Photos from the Louis F. Gerard Collection

The Roosevelt Road station's size can better be judged by the view from the opposite side.  This Charles N. Field photograph is from the walkway above the tracks.  Walkways such as this and others on the Westchester line permitted people to cross the rail line without being blocked by the tracks or 'trolley'.          Photos from the Charles N. Field


The Canterbury station consisted of a small Tutor Revival-influenced wooden station house, with half-timbered wall surfaces and a steep, front-facing peaked gable extending over the entrance, exiting onto a small platform. It was served by a one-car shuttle that made connections with Loop-bound trains at Roosevelt. This was more than ample service for the undeveloped area. In 1933 the shuttle was replaced with a through car that was uncoupled from a train at Roosevelt.  This is a picture of the interior of the Canterbury station in 1930.

Photo on the above left from the Krambles-Peterson Collection.  Photo on the above right by Charles N. Field.

Today Westchester Masonic Temple sits on the site of the Canterbury station.

Photograph by Jim Arbuthnot

Carpenters are putting the finishing touches on the Mannheim/22nd terminal in December 1930.            Photo from the Chicago Transit Authority Collection


Car 4352 is on the solitary duty of providing shuttle service between the Roosevelt and Mannheim/22nd stations on the Westchester branch on November 20, 1941. It was not uncommon that the motorman and conductor were the sole occupants of the car.

Photo from the Collection of Gordon E. Lloyd

The depression devastated the holdings of many including Samuel Insull.  Reduced ridership on the entire Chicago transit system and particularly the Westchester shuttle line caused the line to wither.  By 1951, the station house and working lights were gone. Its low ridership is all too evident.

Photo by B. L. Stone

Services were discontinued December 8, 1951 when the CTA discontinued service west of Des Plaines. No sooner had the tracks been removed than Westchester experienced an enormous postwar development boom, missing the line's service by mere months.

The current occupant of location of the Mannheim/22nd station is the Mid-America Bank in Westchester.

Photograph by Jim Arbuthnot

More pictures of the Westchester line are available on the Development Efforts in the 1920s page.  Also see these newspaper articles:

Local History: Mount Carmel and Oak Ridge Line (1906-1920's)

Before the Westchester branch served the area another special branch existed in the area branching off the Chicago Aurora and Elgin Railroad.  It was constructed in the winter of 1905-1906 at the urging Catholic church officials and ran through Westchester and Hillside paralleling Roosevelt Road and Twelfth Avenue to just west of Wolf Road.  Stops were at both the Mount Carmel and Oak Ridge Cemeteries.  This service was a significant improvement to an uncomfortable horse-drawn wagon traveling often treacherous unpaved roads during periods of rain or snow.  Other lines already serviced the Waldheim and Concordia Cemeteries.

The line went into service on March 18, 1906.  In addition to charter service a passenger service was provided by a single shuttle car that met mainline trains in Bellwood.  By October 1907 the line was averaging twenty-two funeral charters a week.  For exceptional large funeral parties, additional cars were pulled from the regular passenger fleet.  In one occasion a ten-car train was required.

First one, then four more cars were modified with the removal of all advertising signs and the addition of dark green carpets and drapes.  One such car was Number 800 seen here at its Oak Ridge stop.


In 1907 Car 756 was rebuilt to service the needs of the funeral parties.  Once rebuilt and renumbered to 2756 the car more closely resembled the closed-end cars of the 790-927 series.

Photo from the Fred Borchert / Robert Gibson Collection

The Mount Carmel Cemetery station was tastefully designed on a large scale.  It is seen here with the rail car parked at its end.  The station had special facilities for both the handling of the caskets and the needs of the bereaved.

Photo from the Electric Railway Review

On November 1, 1926 the shuttle car was replaced by the #17 bus running from the newly opened Roosevelt Road station on the Westchester branch.  Direct rail service continued to be provided on major holidays such as Decoration (Memorial) Day and Independence Day for those people wishing to pay their respects.

Numerous sources were used for this page.

We intend on adding more information as time and resources allow. 

Please feel free to contact me at j.arbuthnot@sbcglobal.net.  I will route your email through our other researchers.

Last Modified:  07/13/2006