L is for ... the Chicago “L”.
I am impressed that something as complex as a mass transit network can be referred to by just one letter of the alphabet and everyone knows what is meant.
Chicago's elevated mass transit train network was first built in 1892. At the time the city was expanding rapidly and in 1893 Chicago was about to host the World Exposition so it needed to support mass transportation.
The Loop circuit was constructed in 1897 to form a complete circle around the downtown (at that time). Most of you recognize these images because Chicago's L and the Loop have been featured in many movies and TV shows. The subways weren't built until the 1940's and 1950's.
Unfortunately it is impossible to express the kinestic experience of the L with just photos and text. The trains are very loud with a cacophony of rumbling and screeching, all day and all night. When you are standing or walking on a train platform or bridge, you feel the heavy vibrations in your body. During the day the trains run every 5 minutes. Our hotel was directly next to the L line and even 23 stories above with windows closed we heard the trains very distinctly.
My husband was impressed with the engineering, particularly the bridges. The Lake Street bridge has two transportation layers - the lower layer for vehicles like cars, buses and trucks and the upper layer for the trains. The incredible engineering feat, however, is the ability for these 125 year old structures to open up in the middle to allow sailboats with tall masts to pass through. I'll post photos of that on the topic day "bridge".
Tourist tip: the best sightseeing value for your money is the one-way ticket for $2.50 on the brown line L. Get on north of downtown and head south to the loop - you'll see the skyline and travel in-between the skyscrapers for an unforgettable experience.