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'Friendship Train' Conductor Offers Words of Inspiration for CTA Riders

By Jackie Kostek | April 16, 2014 6:40am
CTA 'Friendship Train' Conductor
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DNAinfo/Jackie Kostek

ABOARD THE CTA RED LINE — CTA riders might not know his name, but they certainly know his voice.

It's a dynamic baritone voice that booms over the CTA intercom: “You’re aboard the friendship train! Good morning all riders!”

Depending on which “L” line riders frequent, Gregory Davis is known affectionately as the “Red Line guy,” the “Purple Line guy,” or sometimes as vaguely as that “CTA guy.” Davis spent years operating Purple Line trains, but currently conducts Red Line trains weekdays during the morning rush.

“We don’t give out names at the CTA, but I know they know my voice and they trust me,” said Davis, a 21-year veteran of the CTA. “I trust them, too, and I love them.”

Earlier this week, riding north on the Red Line from 95th Street, Davis’ comments are a mix of motivation — “80 percent is just showing up” — and information.

Two Brazilian tourists said it was "helpful" when Davis explained that the Addison stop was the closest to Wrigley Field, because they planned to spend the afternoon exploring the area around the stadium.

“Being that this is a world-class city with world-class resources, we always have people who are not from Chicago here,” Davis said. “Not everyone knows that at Monroe, there’s the Art Institute."

Davis said his announcements are never scripted, but rather born organically from years of reading motivational books like “Think and Grow Rich” and everything by author and pastor John C. Maxwell.

“I’m always feeding myself stuff like that because I can always find something in there that’s talking directly to me,” Davis said.

Although Davis said conducting trains wasn’t his childhood dream, he got an early taste of the rail life from his uncle who worked for the Indiana Harbor Belt Railroad.

“I would get to go up in the tower and watch the big freights pass,” Davis said. “That’s where I got the bug.”

Now, Davis embodies railroad nostalgia, sporting the head-to-toe pinstripe CTA uniform with a matching old-school conductor hat.

“You’ll get compliments from 3 [year olds] to 93 on these stripes,” said Davis. “Millionaires and billionaires, everybody has a thing for trains.”

Davis said he tries to make his announcements in his best “radio voice,” but he acknowledges that what he says is often background noise for riders who are busy reading or doing something else.

“If you hear me, I want to sound appealing. I want to sound motivated,” Davis said.

“I actually anticipate his comments when I’m on his train,” said Antoine Milian, a South Shore resident who’s ridden on Davis’ “friendship train” several times. “I look forward to it.”

Tim Larson, a Red Line rider from Uptown, called Davis “entertaining” and said the conductor helped connect the riders on the train.

“We’ll all go wherever we’re going and tell somebody about this guy that was talking positive on the train,” said Larson.

To watch and listen to Davis in action, check out the video.