Saturday, May 23, 2020

1893 World's Columbian Exposition - Intramural Railway.

The Intramural Railway carried without serious hitch or accident nearly 6,000,000 passengers during the term of the Exposition. This is an elevated structure, the motive power of which is electricity. Its length, from end to end, is three and one-eighth miles, and its track is double all the way.
There are ten stations at convenient points. The road begins with a loop that encircles the Indian School. It runs southeast, circling the Anthropological Building, and then turns northwest. Passing between the colonnade and the Stock Pavilion, the road skirts the south side of the Machinery Building and Annex and then turns northward past its west end. It next crosses over the Perron of the Terminal Station roof, where the connection is made with all out-of-town railways.
The next station is on the roof of the Annex to the Transportation Building, called Chicago Junction. Here the connection is made on a level with the trains of the Elevated Railway, which run to the city. From here, turning to the western edge of the grounds, the road extends directly north to the northwest corner, passing Midway Plaisance, the California Building, and through the Esquimaux Village.

Here a turn is made east along the north fence. Upon reaching the Iowa Building, a curving course, among some other State structures, carries the tracks between the French  Building and the East Annex to the Art Gallery, through the Foreign Buildings, and past the Fisheries Building. Its terminus here is at the United States Government Building, where it makes a loop over the lagoon's waters and turns back on its course to retrace its way on the other track to the starting point.
The road is unique and substantial in construction and, in all its details, is a triumph of electrical engineering. Its use is indispensable to visitors who want to see the great Exposition quickly and comfortably. Each train makes the round trip in thirty-five minutes, attaining a speed of twenty to thirty miles per hour between stations.
From ten to fifteen trains are in operation every hour. Injury to passengers by accident has never occurred. The trains cannot be derailed, and the block signal system makes collisions impossible. One fare of ten cents entitles the passenger to transportation to either terminus of the road from the station where the train is taken. The Intramural Railway is one of the greatest exhibits of the Exposition. The enormous dynamo, or electrical generator, which furnishes the power for operating the road, is the world's largest machine of its kind and the largest piece of machinery on exhibition at the Fair. It supplies three thousand horse-power; it costs $100,000 ($2,880,750 today) and weighs 192 tons. It was on display in the powerhouse of the road near the Forestry Building.

Chicago's elevated tracks were the right choice, as subways were too expensive to consider. The first 'L' train (then Chicago and South Side Rapid Transit Railroad) was built in 1892, and its inaugural journey took place on June 6, 1892, spanning 3.6 miles in 14 minutes. Until then, the 'L' was just an ordinary steam-powered train on raised tracks.

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.


  1. The South Side elevated ran into the fair grounds where it connected to the Intramural line.

  2. The Intramural Trains stopped at the Chicago Junction Station for Chicago via South Side Rapid Transit Elevated 'L' Railway; at the Adminstration Station for Railway Terminals and I.C. Express Trains to Chicago; and at the Midway Station I.C. Express Trains to Van buren Street.


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