strannik01 (strannik01) wrote in chicago_el,

Holiday Trains on the Yellow Line. Yes, Holiday Trains. Plural

Originally posted by me at my personal Livejournal. Reposted here for old times' sake.

I don't think I've ever written about Chicago 'L' system's Holiday Train on this blog - though I did put together a photo set about it a couple of years ago. To try to make a long story short, the idea is charming in its whimsy and relative simplicity. Every year, between Thanksgiving and New Years Eve, the Chicago Transit Authority runs a special train decorated with Christmas stuff, filled with whimsical Christmas-themed 'ads' and with a special platform-like car with Santa's sleigh. The train takes turn riding different lines on different days. It's a delight to kids, and, to be honest, I've seen plenty of work-weary commuters' eyes light up when see a Holiday Train pulling up to their station.

This year, I didn't really get a chance to get a Holiday Train. The closest I got was seeing the Holiday Train going in the opposite direction on Saturday, December 20, when I was taking the Red Line north.

Southbound Holiday train at Argyle 'L' station

I thought that was going to be it. But the next Monday, I had to take the Yellow Line to Skokie (to transfer to the bus that would get me to the Village of Niles). I had a vague memory that there was going to be a Holiday Train on the Yellow Line, but for some reason, I was still surprised to see one pull up on the other side of the station.

Yellow Line Holiday Train stops at Howard 'L' station's southbound platform

Now, for those of you who've never taken the 'L' this far north, one of the things that makes Yellow Line unique is that the Yellow Line trains are only two train cars long. The Holiday Train has the standard eight. The Yellow Line train platforms could technically fit three cars, maybe four, but certainly not all eight.

So, I thought, they simply truncated the train. That made sense.

It would take a few minutes for the train to turn around and arrive at the platform I was standing on. Meanwhile, I enjoyed the beautiful view of Chicago's northern edge, and the sunset-tinged skies above it.

Yellow Line Holiday Train stops at Howard 'L' station's southbound platform

Here's the train pulling up to the platform.

Yellow Line Holiday Train approaches Howard 'L' station's northbound platform

Yellow Line Holiday Train stops at Howard 'L' Station's northbound platform

Yellow Line Holiday Train stops at Howard 'L' Station's northbound platform - looking south

And here's what the train looks like inside.

Inside the Yellow Line Holiday Train

The woman in the red vest and Santa hat is one of the "elves" - volunteer CTA employees who handed out candy canes and Holiday Train schedules.

As I've said earlier, the Holiday Train has Christmas-themed, tongue-in-cheek ads in place of the regular CTA ads.

Inside the Yellow Line Holiday Train - Ads - "Vixen's Fixins"

Yellow Line Holiday Train ad - Now hiring at Kringle Toy Factory

And this time - I don't think I've seen this one before - they had ads of CTA employees wishing riders Happy Holidays. Which I thought was a nice touch.

Inside the Yellow Line Holiday Train - Season's Greetings from the Holiday Train crew

Yellow Line Holiday Train ad - More season's greetings from the train crew

The Holiday train also had these glass things by the doors - something that many families gladly took advantage of.

Inside the Yellow Line Holiday Train - Photo faces

Another thing that makes the Yellow Line unusual is that it was designed to be a quick express line. So the 'L' trains actually run at something much closer to full speed without much interruption. It wasn't long before we reached the first of the line's two Skokie stops - Oakton-Skokie station.

Northwest-bound Yellow Line Holiday Train stops at Oakton-Skokie station

Northwest-bound Yellow Line Holiday Train prepares to leave the Oakton-Skokie station

Which is where I got off to catch my bus.

Downtown Skokie at sunset

When I got back to Skokie, it was pretty dark - but I was pleasantly surprised to see the Holiday Train at the northbound side of the platform.

Northwest-bound Yellow Line Holiday Train stops at Oakton-Skokie station (evening)

It was the opposite of where I was going, so I didn't board - but I figured I might as well take some pictures.

Outbound Holiday train stops at Oakton-Skokie station
Northwest-bound Yellow Line Holiday Train stops at Oakton-Skokie station - Decorations

I figured that was it for the Holiday Train. After all, there was only one of them, and the train tracker indicated that there was another train, a southbound train, approaching the station in a few minutes.

So imagine my surprise when I saw a Holiday Train approaching.

Inbound Holiday Train approaches Oakton-Skokie station

There was no way it was the same Holiday Train. I know how long it takes the Yellow Line train to reach its final destination at Dempster-Skokie, turn around and head back to Oakton-Skokie.

Inbound Holiday Train arrives at Oakton-Skokie station

And then, I saw another train coming in from the southeast, heading towards Oakton-Skokie. And it was - guess what? - another Holiday Train.

Two holiday trains at Oakton-Skokie station

Remember how I said that the Holiday Train had the standard eight cars? I realized than that the CTA probably split the Holiday Train into three pieces (leaving out the platform-like cars with Santa's sleigh). I don't know why CTA did it like this, but it meant that the Holiday Train was running more or less continuously on the Yellow Line for the entire evening rush hour for several hours. And no other 'L' line could say that.

I got inside the Howard-bound train... And I realized that I've never, ever seen the Yellow Line train this crowded. Not in the 10 years I've been riding the Yellow Line. Not even during the Cubs games.

A crowded Yellow Line train - only on holidays

Here's the train dropping passengers off at Howard 'L' station.

Southbound Yellow Line Holiday train arrives at Howard 'L' Station

Southbound Yellow Line Holiday train and the regular Red Line train at Howard 'L' Station

As I was waiting for the Red Line train that would take me home, another Holiday Train pulled into the station.

Another southbound Yellow Line Holiday Train arrives at Howard 'L' station

Because of course.

Another southbound Yellow Line Holiday Train stops at Howard 'L' station

Tags: photo

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