A monthlong quest for knowledge

Many Wikipedia articles on mass transit stations are fairly lacking, since often there are many stations in one system and most editors don’t find individual stations except for the major ones all that interesting. In particular, the photos have often been limited to non-existent for many stations. Since I have learned so much about transit systems from Wikipedia, I always feel compelled to offer my own expertise and photography to improve the information for others out there.

One example is the East 105th – Quincy Station, located fairly close to where I am now in Cleveland. For a long time, the platform was very short and only the front door of the front car of each train opened. Starting in late 2017, a project was undertaken to extend the platform to fit the length of a full three car train and open a new entrance. Once the project was completed, nobody had updated the article to reflect this. Since I live less than two miles from there, I waited for a sunny day and took a brief trip out there with my camera to update the article, and now the article accurately reflects the history of the station, complete with pictures of the results.

Over spring break last year (March 2019), I traveled to Chicago for a few days since I had never really gotten to know the city all that well. Chicago has a very interesting transit system, and the Metra Electric District was a particular object of my fascination. One station along the line that seemed interesting but had almost no documentation on Wikipedia was McCormick Place. I was interested in that station because of its underground-ish nature (I knew McCormick Place was built on top of it, but I wanted to see how enclosed it was) as well as its unique design being integrated into McCormick Place.

To see for myself what was going on at McCormick Place, I went there. The final destination was the Museum of Science and Industry, located on the same line near the 55th-56th-57th Street Station. Since the museum didn’t open until 10am and it was before 9am and I otherwise had nothing to do, I headed down to Millennium Station and boarded the next outbound Metra train. I jumped ship at McCormick Place to see for myself what was going on there. Of course, I got some photos, a few of which are here:

Entrance to platform at McCormick Place
Platform entrance
Metra waiting room at McCormick Place
Waiting room
Platform at McCormick Place, looking north
Metra entrance at McCormick Place
Entrance from the convention center

After getting those pictures, I waited around for the next train. Since it was a Saturday, they only ran every 30 minutes, though I took my time taking those pictures. On schedule, the train arrived and I continued down to the Museum of Science and Industry. The museum was super cool, but that’s a topic for another time.

Later on, I improved the Wikipedia article with my knowledge from the photos I took. I specifically added a better photo of the platform to the infobox and described the basic layout of the station.

Over this most recent winter break (December 2019-January 2020), I further improved the article since it was still lacking sufficient information. In particular, I described the rail service patterns in more depth and included some information from Metra press releases about some recent renovations and more planned in the future.

While I covered the current state of the system as well as I could have hoped (there’s always room for more depth, but I think I got the point across), I was unsatisfied by a complete lack of information about the history of the station. The only source I could find was on Subwaynut.com. The information presented there definitely was interesting, but I couldn’t find any authoritative sources to back it up. On and off throughout January, I searched all over the internet for information about the 1996 opening of the station or the previously-existing 23rd Street station and found nothing other than that same page.

Finally, this most recent week, I had a breakthrough. All of my previous searches were searching for Metra’s 23rd Street station, while the line was originally owned by the Illinois Central Railroad (IC). Once I changed my search to include the IC instead of Metra, I found something authoritative: a JSTOR archive of an article by an IC employee about the history of the IC. In that article, I learned a lot. The station was originally at 22nd Street and served both long-distance trains as well as commuter trains. Also, after the Great Chicago Fire inflicted major damage on the main station downtown, 22nd Street was the closest station with full service (such as buying tickets and checking bags). Then, in 1926 the station was moved a block south to 23rd Street, its current location.

Once I hit that point, I still couldn’t find any sources about the redevelopment of the station in conjunction with McCormick Place. With some creative Google Searches, I eventually found one source giving me the information I needed: an article in Plastics News about attending an event at McCormick Place and how Metra made it easier to get there. While it was a somewhat improbable source, it was something commercially published, giving me the missing link in the history.

This ends my monthlong search for articles about the history of the McCormick Place Station. It certainly took me a lot of interesting places around the internet.

Update: Later on I noticed that the Metra article showed the picture I used in the McCormick Place article as its headline picture in the infobox. I looked up the editor who did it, and it was some anonymous editor whose IP traces to Homewood, which happens to be on the same line. I first posted that picture on Wikipedia back in November, but the edit to the Metra article appears to be on February 5, just before I made the history edits to the McCormick Place Station article described here. Interesting.

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