Sunday, March 7, 2010

Tower's Top Trimmed

posted by richard gill

51st Street Metra control tower before the haircut

This short essay follows up on my earlier post Missing the Towers (May 22, 2009). That post included a photo of the 51st Street control tower, an Illinois Central Railroad facility retired in 1963. Since then, it has housed signal and communications equipment and maintenance items. Metra, the regional commuter rail agency, now owns the building.

The tower is located between Lake Park Avenue and the Metra tracks, north of Hyde Park Boulevard (51st Street).

Recently, it appeared that the 83-year-old structure was being demolished. As it turns out, that’s only partially true. The top floor, which actually was the control room, is coming off; the roof is totally shot. The lower two floors still house signal and electrical equipment; that portion of the building is being renovated. The work is part of a program to repair and upgrade substations on Metra’s Electric District.

51st Street Metra Control tower after the hair cut and recovering from nose job

So, I guess it’s not a tower anymore. Railroads often use the word “bungalow” when referring to minor buildings that contain signal and communications equipment. Usually they’re made of sheet metal, but brick also works. Bungalow is a good Chicago word, as in “Bungalow Belt.” The 51st Street Bungalow–I kind of like it.


Anonymous said...

I wonder why they couldn't just pull the old roof off and put a new one on? Seems like that would be a lot easier and cheaper than demolishing the third level while trying to keep levels 1 and 2. Of course, I'm not a structural engineer...

Richard Gill said...

I'm guessing that Metra just doesn't need a three story building at that location. Either that, or they erred in saying that the third floor was coming down.

A friend of mine who is skilled at sarcasm suggested that Metra rent out the third floor as a train-watcher's dream apartment.

Or how about a hookah lounge with a view?

Elizabeth Fama said...

Train watchers already have a dream apartment at 57th and Lake Park! My boyfriend lived there in college, and like the house in Mary Poppins after Admiral Boom's time gun goes off, you have to hold everything down when a train goes by.

Richard Gill said...

You mean the building that has a sort of turret facing the tracks? Yeah, that one should be reserved for a true foamer and rented at a premium rate.

Just wondering, does anyone other than me think that yellow chute attached to the 51st Street Tower makes it look like Mr. Snuffleupagus?

David Farley said...

Years ago I had a friend who found what he thought was an unbelievably low rent on a one-bedroom, until he found out it was that same apartment with the turret.

Richard Gill said...

Re the rent issue at The Turret: Yes, I would assume that foamers (those who, upon hearing or seeing a train, salivate and foam at the mouth) are vastly outnumbered by the rest of humankind (let us hope so), and that most people would regard living next to a railroad as a minus.

For the record, since you didn't ask, I am not a foamer, nor am I a closet railfan. I am a member of the great inbetween (those who don't mind being known as a train buff, but who have a life away from the tracks).

susan said...

I lived over the Hyde-away (now Kikuya) for a year during college and didn't notice the trains outside my window after about a week. Thursday country music night at the Hyde-away... that was another story.