I have photographed the entire Chicago L!

At long last, I have photographed all 145 stations on the Chicago L! If you just want to see the pictures and not read the rest of this post, check them out here.

My first published photo was taken on March 9, 2019 at Adams/Wabash:

Adams/Wabash station after some rain
Photo at Adams/Wabash

…and my last published photo to complete the set was taken at Morgan on November 6, 2021:

Outbound platform at Morgan, looking west
Photo at Morgan

This was a really fun project, even if exhausting at times, especially near the end where I was trying to finish before it started snowing and we were less likely to get clear skies so I had to take advantage of the chances I got. This involved a lot of days getting up, eating breakfast, loading a day pass onto my Ventra card, and heading out the door to the Red Line then spending most of the day out on the train in parts of the city far from home and ending the day with an hour or two of sorting photos and choosing which ones to upload.

In the course of this project I really came to appreciate the diverse nature of the system. It ranges from utilitarian like Bryn Mawr (for now) to very old-fashioned like Ashland (Green Line) and Quincy to modern like Washington/Wabash and Wilson and everything in between. Meanwhile, the track structures range from elevated to embankment to ground-level to freeway median to open-cut to tunnels. Adding to that, the scenery ranges from industrial to suburban to medium density to ultra-high density as well. Really a big mix of everything.

This project also was a really cool way to experience the city, since I didn’t just go to the stations and take some photos and leave, but instead often walked between adjacent stations and on occasion got lunch on the go (best one was Italian Beef at Nicky’s near 35th/Archer). Walking through the neighborhoods really helped me get a good feel for the area. This also helped me improve my photography skills and figure out more about what conditions are/aren’t good and which techniques work and which ones don’t.

Going forward, I do have a few gaps to fill, between certain parts of stations I couldn’t/forgot to get to for various reasons or stations that received significant changes since I originally photographed them (for example, the three Blue Line stations under Milwaukee Avenue received new flooring). I’ll hit those as I have time, but am not in any hurry. I also of course will continue photographing the ongoing construction in my part of the city. I want to photograph Metra stations (I already have photographed all the stations on the South Shore Line), but am in less of a hurry to do that. After all, Metra doesn’t run anywhere near as frequently as the L does (and some lines don’t run on weekends at all).

Touring an abandoned prison

Today I took a trip down the Joliet Correctional Center in, you guessed it, Joliet. It was an active maximum security Illinois state prison from 1858 to 2002 and held a number of well-known inmates, including Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, Baby Face Nelson, John Wayne Gacy, and most famous of all, Jake Blues. It’s interesting that the most famous inmate is fictional.

To get there, I took the Metra Rock Island District to Joliet, then a Pace bus. Of course I got some pictures of the Metra station on the way:

Front of a waiting Rock Island District train at Joliet
The train that took me to Joliet
Rock Island District waiting room at Joliet
Waiting area
Rock Island District train at Joliet from the Amtrak/Heritage Corridor platform
Amtrak/Heritage Corridor platform
Joliet station building from across the street
Station building

Then, I went into the prison on a tour. It was definitely very eerie being in there. The building is a little worse for wear (it was closed due in part to being in poor condition and has seen virtually no maintenance in the intervening two decades). You can see all of the photos I deemed worthy of publication in my Flickr album, but keep reading to see a selection of them with more detailed descriptions.

We entered via the eastern gate where Jake Blues famously walked out. According to the tour guide the gate was actually welded shut, they only opened it after the film company bribed the warden to let them use it and have a crew break the welding. Even then, they only got one shot and five minutes.

Along the path from that gate were the industry buildings to the north and a few other buildings like inmate intake processing to the south.

Industry buildings at the Joliet Prison
Industry buildings (or what’s left of them after severe fire damage)
Industries building at the Joliet Prison
Another burned out industry building
Auto shop building at the Joliet Prison
Burned out auto shop building
Joliet Prison inmate processing building
Inmate intake processing building (also burned out)
Joliet Prison water cistern
Water cistern

We then headed to the solitary confinement building, which had solitary confinement cells on the first floor and death row cells on the second.

Joliet Prison solitary confinement building
Solitary confinement building
Joliet Prison solitary confinement building side view
Solitary confinement building – the windows here were the cell windows at the top of the cells
Joliet Prison original cell interior
Original cell (preserved), apparently three people were held at a time in these cells
"It's never too late to mend" at the Joliet Prison in the solitary confinement building
“It’s never too late! To mend.” (I wonder if that was always there or added because of the Blues Brothers)
Joliet Prison solitary confinement building lower level
Solitary confinement cellblock
Solitary confinement cell at the Joliet Prison
Solitary confinement cell (there was also a toilet-sink unit to the right)
Death row cells at the Joliet Prison
Death row cellblock
Death row cell at the Joliet Prison
Death row cell

Then we headed into the cafeteria building, which was segregated by race into north and south cafeterias (I don’t know/remember which one was which). The north cafeteria in particular included some interesting Simpsons-based graffiti.

Joliet Prison north cafeteria
North cafeteria
Chief Wiggum graffiti at the north cafeteria at the Joliet Prison
Chief Wiggum graffiti in the north cafeteria
Joliet Prison south cafeteria
South cafeteria
Kitchen at the Joliet Prison cafeteria

Then we left to head towards the cell house, passing by (but not entering) the gymnasium.

Joliet Prison gymnasium entrance
Gymnasium entrance

The tour guide then let one of the people on the tour open the door to the east cell house.

Man opening the east cell house door at the Joliet Prison
Man opening the cell house door
Cell block at the Joliet Prison east cell house
Eastern cell house cell block
Cell in the west cell house at the Joliet Prison
Eastern cell house cell

Apparently the eastern cell house cells had beds removed post-closing for maintenance reasons. Also a sobering fact that the left portion of the ceiling in the cell block was added to prevent inmates from trying to jump to their deaths, with apparently as many as three suicides per day.

We then left the cell block and walked by the hospital but couldn’t enter it.

Front of the hospital at the Joliet Prison
Front hallway of the Joliet Prison hospital
Entrance to the hospital

We then entered the western cell house, which apparently housed inmates that were disliked even by the other inmates (use your imagination).

Cell in the west cell house at the Joliet Prison
Cell in the western cell house (including a bed this time)
Cell block in the west cell house of the Joliet Prison
Cell block in the western cell house

Here, note the closed doors instead of bars. Apparently this was to avoid inmates throwing stuff at the guards. The inmates here were so disliked that they even had their own yard to avoid contact with other inmates.

West cell house yard at the Joliet Prison
Western cell block yard

We then passed the school and headed towards the chapel.

School building entrance at the Joliet Prison
Entrance to the school building
Chapel stage at the Joliet Prison
Chapel stage (it’s hard to see in this photo but many of the glass panes were missing)
Confession booths at the Joliet Prison chapel
Confession booths
Joliet Prison chapel seating area
Seating area
Joliet Prison chapel
Chapel entrance

It’s hard to see in the photos but the ceiling was in pretty bad shape due to apparently the roof being struck by lightning.

We then walked by a few other buildings to conclude the tour.

Joliet Prison library building
Library building
Joliet Prison laundry facility
Laundry machines
Joliet Prison sally port
Sally port

We then left via the eastern gate via which we entered.

Joliet Prison eastern gate
Eastern gate

I don’t really have much to say, I think the pictures speak for themselves. It was a very interesting tour.