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.
[Full map.]


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.

2 Responses to “Urban scar tissue”

  1. Anonymous says :

    The railroad was a minimally destructive solution to transportation problems of the time it was built. The “scar” you see is living history and your over-enthusiastic desire to erase the scar is in fact an attempt to destroy history, to wipe out the human past and live in a fairyland of your own design populated, one would gather, by airheaded yuppies who now desire to occupy the land of an industrial Chicago that made your luxuriant present possible. Which has wrought more damge to the environment, the trains that built with minimal damage to the environment or your petroleum-fed monsters that dominate the world with their roads, gas-stations, fast-food restaurants, etc. You’ve got it all backwards. Take a deeper look at the world in which you live. Consider whether their was more damage to the earth in the 19th century or in the 20th. Get ahold of a book called Asphalt Jungle and regroove your mind so that you can begin to differentiate between what is really up and what is down.

  2. Deal with it says :

    The railroad was there first. Get over it. Boo-hoo, all you Lakeview residents that’ll probably flee to the burbs when your firstborn has to attend school. The yuppie existance of Lakeview is in perpetual transience. No one that moves there for the uber-close latte shops lives there very long anyway. I suspect Peerless Confectionary and the tracks will be there long after you move to Naperville.