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.