Chicago – October 2018 – Open House Chicago Special Tours

We were fortunate enough to get tickets to two Open House Special Tours.

Our first tour was of the CTA El Train Repair Shops in Skokie. Directions to our tour was to go to the Howard Street Station on the Red Line and gather on the far end of the platform.

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For this Saturday morning the platform was jammed with many people not used to taking the train, as they were in town for the University of Nebraska game against Northwestern in Evanston. To the normal commuter seeing a 1922 El Car come rolling into the station would be a surprise, but to this large out of town crowd it was stunning.

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One of the volunteers was dressed in a period uniform.

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While others had their safety vests on. All of the vintage cars are maintained by volunteers – many retired CTA workers.

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The passengers were excited…

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As we arrived at the yard we were greeted by other vintage cars awaiting restoration, as well as the revenue generating current cars.

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The 400 series cars really stand out against the modern cars in the yard.

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But it was time to tour the shop.

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Our tour guide was the manager of the facility.

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The shop.

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There were El cars in various states of repair.

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This station refurbishes the wheels.

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While another lifts the entire car for easy access.

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They also have some bays with pits to get underneath the cars.

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A great Chicago tradition is the Holiday Train. Started in 1992, the Holiday Train is a labor of love for the CTA employees who volunteer to work on the cars, as well as the public. During the holiday season the Holiday Train visits every El station on every line, usually taking food baskets to local organizations.

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Another vintage car along ithe snow removal engine (minus the blower)

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The El Cars have springs and shocks like a regular car, just much larger.

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An axle and wheels.

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A pile of wheels waiting on refurbishing.

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A collection of contact shoes that connect the train to the third rail to provide power to the engines.

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A series of trucks ready to go. After this we headed back to our vintage car and returned to Howard Street Station.

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Our second tour of the day was the Chicago Tribune Printing Facility

The Chicago Tribune Freedom Center is a printing and inserting facility located along the Chicago River. Built in 1981, it was located along the river with the theory of bringing the paper products directly into the facility by boat, but the first shipment showed that with the bend in the river, the bridges and the building itself they couldn’t get to the dock. While the doors are still there they have never been used for their original purpose.

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Our guide was someone from the receiving department.

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Our tour of the 800,000 square foot facility started in the warehouse with massive 1 ton rolls of paper.

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From this warehouse they are loaded onto carts that are electronically routed (via a wire in the floor – 1980s technology at it’s finest) to the appropriate press.

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There are a total of 10 massive presses that are used. The Tribune facility prints not only their own newspaper, but also for the regional suburban newspapers, the New York Times and Wall Street Journal for the Midwest, and even their local competitor the Chicago Sun Times.

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The tour group was very focused.

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The massive printing presses are very cool.

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The Chicago Tribune Printing Facility was a great tour – one of the best we have done.

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New York City – September 2018 – Random Scenes of the City

After a week in the city running around each evening taking photos, a number were left without a theme, so they are grouped together here as ‘Scenes of the City’.

The view from the roof of the Met.

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The Guggneheim

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Cool interior shots of the Daily News Building on 42nd Street.

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A Bloomingdale’s on the Upper East Side.

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The 9-11 Memorial.

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The Oculus – I seem to take a photo or two every time I am there and it never gets old.

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George Washington keeping watch over Wall Street.

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A cool interior downtown.

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Fountain in City Hall Park.

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The Flatiron with interesting lighting and coloring.

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Statue on top of City Hall.

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Chambers Street Subway Station entrance.

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Before all the subways in New York consolidated into one large Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA), there were many including the BMT (Brooklyn Manhattan Transit), The Independent Subway System (INT), and the Interborough Rapid Transit Company (IRT).

Numbered trains are IRT, the letters are either INT or BMT.

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A vertical Madison Square view.

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A series of contrasting architectural styles.

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New York City always provides lots of subjects for photos.

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New York City – September 2018 – Abandoned Subway Station Tour

According to the New York MTA documentation there are 472 subway stations throughout the city. Over the years a few have been abandoned for various reasons.

Easily the most famous of those abandoned stations is the former City Hall station. Since 1945 it has sat unused in the loop at the end of the 6 train.

On rare occasions the New York Transmit Museum offers tours of this station. Tickets are hard to get and available to members only (I had a good friend who came through for me!)

We went to the current nearest station (also known as City Hall) and boarded a 6 train that went a short distance before stopping to let us off. The crowd was excited.

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The station itself was the masterpiece of the system when it opened on October 27, 1904. It was the first station to open on the first line.

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The station has a single platform that is curved. This curve eventually lead to the closing in 1945 as the newer cars were longer and made the gap between the cars and the station too wide.

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The arched ceilings and tile work make what the Transit Museum refers to as the ‘Jewel in the Crown’ of the entire subway system.

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As with all subway stations the station name is a mosaic. While plain compared to some the tile work around it adds to the overall feel of the station.

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There are numerous skylights in the station. We had a night time visit so the ambient light from outside was minimal, but it too added to the aura of the tour.

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The mezzanine shown here (and the featured image of this posting) is amazing.

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The huge mosaic at the top is also a skylight, although for this tour there was no light from above.

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Back down on the platform the simple, yet elegant chandeliers provided dim lighting that accented the arched ceilings.

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The station is nearly intact, but some of the skylights need some work. Still the view of the ceilings and the curved platform is stunning.

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The primary station sign from the platform to the mezzanine level. Imagine the excitement in 1904 arriving and seeing this entrance to the station.

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There were 40 people on the tour so it was tough not having people in the photo (or getting into other people’s photos).

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A view from the mezzanine to the platform.

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A closeup of the platform ceiling and chandeliers. While we were there the 6 trains kept slowly rolling through their loop, their wheels screeching loudly on the sharp curve.

One not so hidden secret for the non paying tourists is to stay on the 6 train at the end and check out the station as the train makes it’s loop. Supposedly conductors will sometime allow this – the guides say do it on a bright sunny day so there is some light from the skylights.

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There are a few plaques commemorating the opening of the subway system.

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A close up view of the arched ceiling tile work.

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A close up view of the City Hall station sign mosaic and a skylight.

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The view down the platform into the tunnel with an oncoming train.

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Clearly I couldn’t get enough shots of the curved platform and ceiling. The style is known as a Guastavino Vault – the tile arch system using self supported arches and architectural vaults with interlocking terracotta tiles and layers of mortar.

It is named for Rafael Guastavino who immigrated to New York in 1881 from Barcelona. His work, and others in this style grace numerous buildings throughout New York City and beyond, including the Ellis Island Great Hall.

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Another view of a train rolling through with the arches and skylights (darkened). With no passengers they looked like ghost trains.

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One last look at the mezzanine level.

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And it was time to leave. Even this was amusing as our tour was holding up the entire 6 line as they stopped, set out a ramp to cover the gap and herded us on as fast as possible, with the people not wanting to leave.

Eventually we relented, and we left this fabulous place.

I feel fortunate to have had this opportunity – thanks to a good friend and the Transit Museum.

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Chicago – July 2018 – Weekend in the City

With a chance to spend a couple of nights in Chicago, we went without any specific plans. Once we arrived in town late Saturday afternoon we headed out for a walk.

Our first stop was the beautiful marquee for the Chicago Theater on State Street.

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While Chicago is known for the El trains there are a couple that are underground downtown, including the Red Line.

The entrance to the subway station has a great art deco look to it – backed up by a mural of Muddy Waters!

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State Street had a number of public art features – this one backed by the former Marshall Field Department store clock.

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As we made our way to Millennium Park we heard music.

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And were pleasantly surprised to find a symphony playing music from Lerner and Loewe movies.

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On our walk back we had the fortuitous timing to be crossing the Michigan Avenue bridge just as fireworks started from the Navy Pier.

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The view down the river framed the fireworks with the buildings.

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The next morning we took a 4 mile walk up through River North and Rush Street.

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Stopping at North Avenue Beach.

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Our walk continued through Lincoln Park, where they have made good use of dead trees.

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As we approached the zoo we saw a very large group of people – playing Pokemon!

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Eventually we made it out of the Pokemon crowd to a more serene part of the park, near Fullerton Street.

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Chicago even has skyscraper bird houses.

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We spent the rest of the afternoon back downtown at Grant Park for the Taste of Chicago.

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They had cooking competitions. This one is a Puerto Rico – Chicago specialty – the Jibarito.

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We finished the day walking along the river.

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Often when I photograph Marina City I shoot up – totally forgetting that there is actually a marina in Marina City.

As always we had a great time in Chicago.

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Washington DC – June 2018 – Views of the City

A day and a half in DC gave the opportunity to visit numerous museums (later posts) as well as check out the town. This post are randoms views of the city.

Starting with an unusual view of the Washington Monument down the tracks.

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Stores near Eastern Market

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The Eastern Market interior. I was surprised how small it was.

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A lone runner going past the capital. The reason there are no people around is the visitor center is underneath, and the police keep everyone off the steps.

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The aforementioned police.

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For those who read this blog that are not from America – nearly every 8th grader (13-14 year olds) make a field trip to Washington DC. They always have matching shirts so their chaperones can keep track of them.

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Apparently DC ducks don’t fly, so they have a ramp to get into the reflecting pool.

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The view down the Mall

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A well protected fountain

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The famed Watergate Hotel/Apartment Complex.

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And finally a ride on the Metro.

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New York City – May 2018 – Life Underground

Most New York City subway stations have some level of artwork in them. The 8th Avenue Subway station’s 14th Street station takes it to another level. There are around 130 small sculptures scattered throughout the multiple levels of subway platforms.

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Titled ‘Life Underground’ and designed by artist Tom Otterness in the 1990s, they were initially displayed above ground – eventually being installed in the station in the early 2000s.

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They are literally scattered everywhere.

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Underneath a gate to make it look like he his trapped.

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On the beams above the walkways.

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Some of the more popular are the legendary sewer alligators.

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Some of his inspirations were that the subways were designed in the 1890s, during the Tammany Hall/Boss Tweed era. This statue at the top of with a money bag head is one of the most popular with the commuters – the artist believes people rub it for good luck.

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We spent an hour wandering the station – many shots provided interesting backgrounds.

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This couple must be on happy hour.

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Many of the statues have some representation of poor versus rich.

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Some were hiding under stairs.

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One of my favorite, which I found in a couple of places, were two guys attempting to cut down the structural beams.

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Some were harder than others to figure out the message.

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Waiting on his train.

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One final look at another alligator and a number of others. If you find yourself in Manhattan it is well worth the effort to stop by this station.

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Brooklyn – May 2018 – Vintage Subway Car Interiors

The New York Transit Museum, located in downtown Brooklyn, has a great collection of vintage subway cars. This posting documents the change in interiors over the years

Traditionally subway riders have been known as ‘Straphangers’. To todays subway customers this makes no sense since there are a plethora of metal bars to hang onto, but in 1908 they had true straps.

Below are a series of photos of the interiors (hopefully I got the details on the car types correct)

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Early 1900s car with rattan seats and wood grab bars. While stylish it would’ve been very hot in the summer, even with the hat chopping paddle fan

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The ‘Million Dollar Car’. Built in the 1940s in anticipation of the Second Avenue Subway (which finally opened in 2017).

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1930s IND ‘City Car’ with striped rattan seats.

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R40 Subway Car from the 1960s – 1970s. While more practical they still had some style.

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R38 subway car from the late 1960s

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R44 subway car. To be realistic they should’ve left graffiti. By this point they are not nearly as stylish as the earlier ones.

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