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Folding Door 'L' Cars Ride Off Into CTA History

By Heather Cherone | August 8, 2013 10:32am | Updated on August 8, 2013 4:39pm
  All but two of the train cars are destined for the scrap yard after Thursday's ceremonial run.
Oldest CTA 'L' Cars Ride Off Into the Sunset
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JEFFERSON PARK — Jacob Colson, 7, is much too young to have ridden the CTA's 2200-series train cars when they made their first run in 1969.

But the train buff was there to see the train cars, perhaps best known for their blinker-style doors, which open and close in two separate sections by pivoting along a track and opening into the cars, ride off into the sunset.

"I love riding trains, so this is really awesome," Colson said, his eyes open wide in wonder. "I like to go places."

Colson, and his grandfather, J.T. Colson, were among several dozen train buffs who sent the train cars off with a ceremonial ride along the CTA's Blue Line Thursday morning.

J.T. Colson said he came to say goodbye to the cars and relive his high school days.

"My sophomore year, I rode these cars to Luther North High School," J.T. Colson said. "My freshman year, the tracks were still being built."

At first, Colson said he didn't like the look of the 2200-series cars, nicknamed the "Silver Bullet" for their shiny aluminum finish and tall windows. The trains were also known for being the fastest in the CTA's fleet, and the first with an air-conditioning system that actually cooled riders.

"They were taller than the other cars," Colson said. "But then they grew on me like an old shoe."

Of the 150 2200-series cars built for the CTA in the 1960s, 144 cars were in service until the 21st century. The CTA began removing them from service in 2010 because the blinker doors made it impossible for people in wheelchairs to get on and off the train.

The CTA bought the cars to use along the Dan Ryan branch of what is now called the Red Line as well as the extension of the Blue Line from Logan Square to Jefferson Park.

For their last trip, the cars were decked out with vintage advertisements and train route maps, some dating from the 1970s. Ads for the CTA offered rides for 45 cents — while those who took the retirement trip paid $2.25.

Kathy and Ted Beth, who now live in Arkansas but used to live in Chicago, spent part of their vacation saying goodbye to the train cars.

"We used to take this train to work every day," Kathy Beth said. "I even remember some of these ads."

Like many at the retirement ceremony, Colson said he was sad to see another piece of Chicago history slip away. While two of the 2200-series cars will be preserved at the Illinois Railway Museum, the rest will be sold for salvage, CTA officials said.

"It brings back good memories," said Vince Allen, of Beverly. "I rode them in high school, so now I'm feeling really old."

Allen recalled laughing at visitors and tourists who would stand too close to the blinker doors only to jump and scramble backward when they opened. Doors on modern train cars slide open like elevator doors.

"You could tell right away who was a native Chicagoan and who was not," Allen said. "I'll miss that."