4000-series CTA train from 1920s at Dempster on the Purple Line
4000-series cars, built in the 1920s, approach Sedgwick during a 2013 event

Heritage Fleet

Our Heritage Fleet Program is designed to preserve and celebrate our history. The program was created to ensure that our vintage buses, rail cars and other equipment are preserved and maintained so they can be remembered and enjoyed through charters and events held for the public.

About the program

This program, established in 2016, is modeled after similar programs at other transit agencies and will establish guidelines and protocols for future preservation, maintenance and repair efforts for the current Heritage Fleet and those vehicles which may join it in the future.

Funding for the program comes from revenue generated by (our online gift shop) and private charters. Repair and upkeep of the vehicles is provided through the generous volunteer work of CTA employees, retirees, and industry experts.

Our heritage

Transit services by our predecessors date back to the late 1850s, with the first horse-drawn streetcar service operating south on State Street from downtown. Since those days, local transit in Chicago has been provided through a variety of cable cars, electric streetcars, elevated railways and subways and many types of buses, all of which have been a part of the important role transit has played in the Chicago and its region's development, by linking people, jobs and communities.

The CTA you ride today is an independent government agency incorporated by the State of Illinois. The first services operated under the CTA name ran in October 1947 when we acquired the then-private Chicago Rapid Transit Company (elevated and subway lines—the 'L' system) and the Chicago Surface Lines (who ran streetcars and buses), followed later by the acquisition of the Chicago Motor Coach company (buses).

This consolidation formed one, unified public transit system whose services became complementary to each other. In fact, many of the services we provide today are descendants or evolutions of those once provided by these three companies, around which the city and its many neighborhoods grew.

Today we operate a fleet of over 3,300 rail cars and buses which operate over 1,500 miles of bus and 'L' routes. On a typical weekday, our modern fleet travels about 380,000 miles, providing roughly 1.6 million rides to the people of Chicago and 35 neighboring communities.

We provide these services today with over a century of our own experience and that of our predecessors, and take pride in the rich history that has led us to where we are today.

What’s in the fleet?

Our initial Heritage Fleet currently consists of a handful of retired rail cars and buses, including:

  • Two 1923 4000-series rail cars, featuring the orange-and-brown paint scheme they wore in the 1940s and adorned with reproduction advertisements from the era.
  • An eight-car train of 2400-series rail cars, produced from 1976-1978 and featuring their restored red-white-and-blue exterior markings.
  • Three buses from the 1960s, all featuring their original markings.


About the 2400-series rail cars

The first of this series of railcars were introduced in 1976—a year where the nation was celebrating its 200th birthday. The 200 cars in this series were built by Boeing-Vertol between 1976-1978, with the car’s interior and exterior designs done by industrial design firm Sundberg-Ferar, who also worked on cars for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA, DC Metro), Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) and Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA).

2400-series cars stopped at Washington/WellsThe cars were delivered with bold, red-white-and-blue graphics on both the sides and the end of the cars—a nod to the nation’s bicentennial—and were initially introduced into Ravenswood Service (today’s Brown Line) and North-South Route (roughly today’s North Side Red Line and South Side Green Line, connected into one route via the State Street Subway), and West-Northwest Route (today’s Blue Line, with most of today's Pink Line as a subsidiary branch off the west portion).

One distinguishing feature of these cars that separated them from hundreds of their most recent predecessors is that they went back to sliding doors, which later made it possible to convert them for wheelchair access under the Americans with Disabilities Act. (Previous to these cars, starting back in the 1940s, our cars were built with “blinker doors” similar to doors on streetcars, being made of up sets of four narrow panels that swung inward at stops rather than sliding into a pocket in the wall.)

While the last 2400s ended their service on the Orange and Brown Lines, they were most associated with Green and Purple Line services since the 1990s.

Though no longer in passenger service, we also retain two dozen 2400-series cars that were modified to serve as maintenance/work trains (you may recognize 2400s designated for work service by their reflective red-and-white candy striping, lending them greater visibility if parked on the tracks at night).


About the 4000-series rail cars

These cars, numbered, 4271 and 4272 which CTA keeps for historic preservation, were built in 1923 and ran on the 'L' for 50 years! They were of the 4000-series of railcars and built by the Cincinnati Car Co., jointly purchased by the 'L' companies of the day to upgrade their various fleets (the first 4000s came in 1914 and between the two orders, around 450 were in service by the late 1920s).

4000-series car parked at 14th Middle TrackIn a contrast from our current fleet of more modern, higher-performance railcars (especially the new 5000-series that's being integrated into the fleet), these cars came with no computer chips, no A/C, incandescent lights (which would flicker when you'd go through a junction) and had relatively simple electric motors and mechanical, compressed-air braking systems.

The group of 4000s built in 1922-24 also had trolley poles mounted on top so they could run in areas where we had overhead trolley wires instead of third rail, such as in Evanston.

In some ways, many of the functional attributes of these cars were not much different than that of the earliest 'L' cars and electric streetcars in Chicago. One improvement these cars had over their predecessors was added safety--these came with a body of steel where older cars were made of wood. These also features more common of rapid transit cars of their era—wooden interior floors, cushioned plush seats, and electrically-controlled pocket doors (like cars have today).

The cars were outfitted with sash windows passengers could open for air, a collapsible cab the motorman would operate from, and originally had plush seats (later replaced with cushioned vinyl).

Initially, these cars would have a conductor who would stand outside, between each car and open the doors immediately adjacent him at every stop—rain or shine or blizzard. Later, the cars were upgraded to allow for all the doors to be open from one place, but conductors still generally did this from outside the cars.

While today's cars can easily reach our systemwide speed limit of 55mph (and frequently do on many of our lines), these cars tended to max out around 45mph and had a completely different feel and sound—but one we find warm and charming on the special occasions we start these cars up, today.

The last were retired in 1973 and these are the only two maintained by CTA, today.


About the three buses from the 1960’s

The CTA Heritage Fleet includes three buses that were built in the 1960’s.

Heritage Buses

Bus 8499

  • Built: 1960
  • Manufacturer: Flxible
  • Ran in service: 1960 to late 1970s (used sporadically in passenger service after 1973)
  • Diesel-fueled 40 foot-long bus; seating capacity for 50 people; included fluorescent lighting
  • Oldest continuously operating bus in CTA’s Heritage Fleet
  • This bus is the most rehabilitated of the three; includes new outside paint and reproduction vintage ads from its early service period
  • Fun Facts:
    • The 8499 bus is a one of a kind prototype; Purpose was to serve as a “tester” for new features, including updated designs and new types of engines.
    • Bus was featured in music video for “The Game of Love” by Carlos Santana (ft. Michelle Branch), which was filmed in Chicago.
    • This bus represented transition between “old look” body style used on hundreds of CTA buses in the 1950’s and more streamlined “New Look” style used on most buses built by GMC and Flxible during the 1960’s and 1970’s.


Bus 301

  • Built: 1962
  • Manufacturer: GMC
  • Ran in service: 1962 to 1983
  • Diesel-fueled
  • Fun Facts:
    • Part of a large order of “New Look” buses ordered in the 1960s and ‘70s. The order that included bus 301 replaced buses built in the 1940s.
    • The color scheme was originally all dark green; light yellow was added later to the upper body.


Bus 3706

  • Built: 1969
  • Manufacturer: Flxible
  • Ran in service: 1969 to 1991
  • Diesel-fueled
  • Fun Facts:
    • This bus was built 6 inches narrower specifically for the #16 Lake route. Due to the columns of the ‘L’ structure above Lake Street being located in the street west of Rockwell, unusually narrow buses were needed to provide sufficient clearance for buses to safely pass one another there.
    • Part of a large order of “New Look” buses ordered in the 1960s and ‘70s. The order that included bus 3706 replaced buses built in the 1940s.


Photo gallery

CTA Heritage Fleet


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