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Caught on film

Valeria Carullo

‘L’ elevated rapid transit system, Chicago, 1977

Elevated rapid transit system Chicago, 1892
Elevated rapid transit system Chicago, 1892

This photograph of Chicago’s elevated rapid transit system,otherwise known as the ‘L’, was taken by architectural historian and writer Colin Amery in 1977, when he and Lance Wright devoted a special issue of the Architectural Review to the American city. The network of elevated trains, an iconic symbol of the city of Chicago,began operations in 1892 and was at the time one of many similar systems built in American cities. These were subsequently replaced by subways, and today Chicago’s network is the only one surviving in a US downtown area.It is the product of the city’s very fast growth in the last decades of the 19th century and the consequent need for an extensive and efficient mode of transport. In the 1890s the different elevated train lines were connected in what is now known as the Loop, thanks to a steel structure by bridge designer John Alexander Low Waddell. Today the ‘L’ is such a distinctive element of the city that it has been frequently used as film location, starting with the 1973 classic The Sting (1973).