Sunday, August 7, 2016

August 7, 1910 -- Vile Smoke from a Hundred Coughing Locomotives

August 7, 1910:  The Chicago Daily Tribune once again editorializes about the evil of the Illinois Central Railroad, writing, “Yesterday was a perfect day in Chicago.  The sky was cloudless and the lake a blue turquoise, save along the eastern edge of the south side.  There the vile smoke from a hundred coughing locomotives of the Illinois Central railroad made it seem the gateway to the inferno.  All along one-half of what should be the most magnificent city water front of the world went the disfiguring trains drawn by engines, the stacks of which belched forth clouds of smoke and showers of embers.  The public library, the Art institute, the hotels, the business blocks, and miles and miles of private residences are all begrimed and polluted by this nuisance.  Books, pictures, and furniture are discolored by it, health is endangered, and a property loss of millions constantly increased.” The paper presents only one viable alternative:  electrification.  Yet, it is pessimistic about such a remedy ever occurring.  “A corporation like the Illinois Central never improves its service until the balance goes against it,” the editorial ends.  “Or until a municipality takes it by the back of its corporate neck and squeezes it into compliance with a popular and imperative demand.”  At this point the Illinois Central operated over 300 steam trains into and out of Chicago.  It would take 16 more years before the commuter tracks were electrified from downtown to Matteson.

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