Tours of the metro system, guided by experts. For dates and reservation contact the tour operator or check their website.
Tours on Chicago's architecture by Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF). Learn about the history of the famous "L" system and how it has shaped the development of the surrounding buildings and districts within the Loop. Only about 15 minutes of this two-hour tour is on a train, while most of the remaining tour takes place outdoors standing on the station platforms. Tour operator: CTA (subway operator) and Chicago Architecture Foundation.
Try the following tour, recommended by residents or metro enthusiasts:
The famous downtown subway Loop runs through urban canyons and provides spectacular views of the world's first and most famous skyscrapers. Stop at Quincy station as it has been restored inside and outside to its original appearance of 1897. Jackson, Monroe, and Washington underground stations on the Blue Line have a long common platform. You can walk along that platform from station to station, which is very special. The same is true for the stations of the same name on the Red Line one block further east. The modern O'Hare station on the Blue Line with its illuminated glass walls was designed by Helmut Jahn, who also built the Unites Airlines Terminal.
Chicago has lost a number of suburban sections of its elevated network over the years, only some of which were replaced by new subway lines operating in vaguely the same areas. Chicago had a full-scale elevated railroad within a World's Fair site in the 1890s, which didn't last very long. A streetcar or tram tunnel has been partly or wholly abandoned.
VAL family Members: Chicago (O'Hare Airport people mover), Lille, Paris (Orlyval, CDGVal airport trains), Rennes, Taipei, Toulouse, Turin, Uijeongbu, Characteristics: Sleek, small, automated, rubber-tyred metros. Platforms are usually short and have platform screen doors.
Red and Purple Lines are set up like New York City's Express and Local trains. There are four tracks along the corridor between Howard and Belmont. The Purple Line uses the outer tracks as an express run skipping 12 stations while the Red Line uses the inner tracks for all local stops.
Lake Michigan: Many beaches are within ten minutes walking distance of the Red or Purple line stations, which both run parallel to the shore on the North Side of the city. Bryn Mawr and Thorndale are very close (about a quarter mile). Clark/Division on the Red line is a half mile from Oak Street beach. Davis on the Purple line is about a half mile from Evanston beach. Lake Michigan: Chicago's Metra system takes you to Illinois Beach State Park through the Zion and Withrop Harbor stations on the Union Pacific/North Line. Also, on the South Shore Line, you can access the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.
The coolest view from a train to Midway is as it makes the turn at 54th and Knox, just a few blocks from the little airport. The L tracks have to go over the Belt RR tracks and occasionally there will be a plane landing on the runway that's parallel to the L. The train is actually higher than the plane.
The downtown Loop is located amidst the world's first and most famous skyscraper buildings. Randolph-Wabash station is on the Loop.
A very friendly, pre-recorded male voice talks almost permanently to the passengers: "[Ding-dong] doors closing" (wav from chicago-l.org). "... Adams and Wabash is next. Doors open on the right at Adams and Wabash. Transfer to Green, Purple, and Brown Line trains at Adams and Wabash" (wav from chicago-l.org). "... This is Adams and Wabash. Transfer to Green, Purple, and Brown Line trains at Adams and Wabash. This is an Orange line train to Midway." And sometimes, one of the following is being added: "Standing passengers: please do not lean against the doors.", "Priority seating is intended for the elderly and passengers with disabilities. Your cooperation is requested.", "Soliciting on CTA trains is prohibited. Violators will be arrested.", "Smoking, littering, and playing radios or loud devices is prohibited.", "Your attention please. We are being delayed because crews are working on the track ahead. We expect to be moving shortly.", "Your attention please: We are being delayed, waiting for signals ahead. We expect to be moving shortly.", "Thank you for riding the CTA Orange Line." (chicago-l.org).