Urban scar tissue
[Update: Before you send me a nastygram about being a suburban-bound latte-swilling cretin, maybe read a little more closely. I'm a huge fan of the train and urban transportation in general. Scar tissue is a metaphor, not a value judgment.]
A little over a decade ago I helped build six single-family homes in Chicago on Melrose St. just east of Lakewood Ave. We were driving posts into the dirt for a fence on an irregular diagonal property border when we hit something solid that turned out to be a railroad tie. We later learned that the screwy lot line was the result of surface train tracks that once cut through the area, the remains of which we had dug up.
I was reminded of this today by this great satellite image of the urban tissue of San Francsico reassimilating land once used by railroad tracks. Sure enough when you scale back a bit you see the same evidence of “healing” from the area around where I worked on the homes in Chicago. Roads, parking lots, buildings, row houses and, ultimately, the front door of Wrigley Field all conform to the serpentine crawl of the former track.
Most interesting is that this urban scar tissue is actually part of what you might call a festering wound: a four-block portion of the line (south of this image) is still in operation serving a single customer. The path follows the route of the old Chicago & Evanston Railroad line and the functioning spur is called the Lakewood Branch. The only thing that runs on it is the Sugarland Express, a train that delivers sugar and corn syrup to the Peerless Confection Company twice weekly. Even so, the city is trying to heal over it. When the sugar train comes through residents must move their cars off portions of the tracks that serve as parking lots most of the rest of the week.