Wilmette to celebrate el train’s 100th anniversary
Updated: April 16, 2012 8:50AM
The el arrived in Wilmette under cover of darkness on April Fool’s Day, 1912. Later this month, the entire community is invited to help celebrate this 100th anniversary.
The free celebration is scheduled from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. April 28 at Fourth Street and Linden Avenue.
Forrest Claypool, president of the Chicago Transit Authority, and Wilmette Village President Christopher S. Canning will start the celebration with brief comments, according to a news release from the Wilmette Historical Museum. Then guests will have the rare opportunity to tour two historic 1923 el cars, These “plushies” as they are called, have canvas-covered wooden roofs, luxurious interiors with green plush seats, circulating fans and opal shades on the lights. The leather “straphangers” overhead have porcelain enamel handholds.
In addition to the historic train, activities include the Dixieland Band of the Wilmette Community Band, information tables featuring historic photographs of the Linden Avenue station from the Wilmette Historical Museum’s collection, and material from the el and participating Linden Square merchants.
A docent will field questions about the history of the 1913 el station, which is now a branch bank. Light refreshments will be provided by the North Shore Community Bank.
This celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Linden el is sponsored by the CTA, Wilmette Historical Museum, Wilmette/Kenilworth Chamber of Commerce, North Shore Community Bank and the village of Wilmette.
For more information, visit the museum’s website, at wilmettehistory.org, or call the museum at (847) 853-7666.
When the el came to Wilmette, 100 years ago, it arrived in a way nobody in town had anticipated, according to the museum. In 1908 a North Side train line from downtown Chicago to Evanston was created, with plans to extend it to Wilmette a few years later. The proposed extension was opposed by Wilmette Village Board, who believed a cheap train from Chicago would bring in Sunday picnickers and other disreputable sorts of people.
In response, el service to Wilmette stole into town in the dead of night on April Fool’s Day, 1912. After many months of unproductive wrangling with the village, el officials decided they were through with negotiations, according to the release. Without permission, workers extended the track and built a 40-foot platform and ticket-seller’s booth while Wilmette residents slept.
Villagers awoke the next morning to find train cars at Fourth and Linden, ready to take them to Chicago.