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19992003: Becoming Part of History
 

In December of 1999, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History purchased CTA car 6719 for its scrap value to be displayed in the planned transportion exhibition, America on the Move.

After the Smithsonian purchased CTA car 6719 from the transit agency, it was stored at the National Park Service’s Steamtown National Historic Site in Scranton, Pennsylvania, while the Museum went about the task of deciding how best to use the car in the America on the Move exhibition.

Conversations with transit experts and historians—particularly Bruce Moffat, an expert in Chicago “L” history—steered us toward the decision to restore 6719 to its original condition and to set the car in 1950s Chicago. This would allow us to examine the great challenges facing the Chicago Transit Authority in the decade after its formation, as well as big transportation issues facing America’s postwar cities as Americans took to their cars.

6719 during restoration, 2002
6719 during restoration, 2002

In 2002, transit car manufacturer Alstom Transport in Hornell, New York, offered to donate the work necessary to restore 6719 to its original paint scheme inside and out.

The car was also modified to make it ADA accessible to Museum visitors; the wheels, trucks, and other under-carriage materials were removed to lower the car, making entry easier for wheelchair-bound visitors.

Shrink-wrapping CTA car 6719, 2002
Shrink-wrapping CTA car 6719, 2002

Once the paint dried, the car was shrink-wrapped in plastic to protect it during its 350-mile journey from Hornell, New York, to Washington, D.C.

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