Chicago Highlight: All About the ‘L’

October 25, 2012 General 0 Comments


If you live in Chicago, you’ve probably developed a deep sense of attachment to the L … the feeling of hurtling around tight corners at breakneck speeds a few stories above Chicago streets, the people and experiences you come across early in the morning or late at night, the smell of the Cubs fans on a warm August day …

But if you’re like me, you’ve probably wondered what the history of the L was. Where did it come from? How old is it really? Why is it called the L? I did some digging around, and this is what I found.

WHAT IT IS: The L is made up of eight different train lines, including the Red, Blue, Brown, Green, Orange, Pink, Purple and Yellow lines. The system is in a spoke-hub layout that connects all lines to the Central Downtown Loop of Chicago. L ridership is currently somewhere around 500,000 riders each weekday.

WHERE IT CAME FROM: The original L started in 1892 with a small steam-powered locomotive that pulled wooden passenger coaches from 39th Street station to the Congress Street Terminal. Over the following years, the service was extended to help carry traffic to the World’s Columbian Exposition (this is what you see in the picture above!).

WHY IS IT CALLED THE L? No, it is not “El”, but officially “L,” a nickname that dates back to the late 1880s when the first route was nicknamed “Alley Elevated,” or “Alley L.”

Chicago has a rich history, so the more you know, the more you can appreciate the things you walk by every day!

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons (

-Amber Moore


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