Galesburg, IL (GBB)
A major rail hub, Galesburg is famous for its annual Railroad Days Festival; the city is also the birthplace of poet and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Carl Sandburg.
225 South Seminary Street
Galesburg, IL 61401
Annual Station Ridership (2016): 98,613
- Facility Ownership: City of Galesburg
- Parking Lot Ownership: City of Galesburg
- Platform Ownership: BNSF Railway
- Track Ownership: BNSF Railway
For information about Amtrak fares and schedules, please call 1-800-USA-RAIL (1-800-872-7245).
The modern Galesburg station, easily recognizable by the steeply pitched gabled roof on its entrance portico and traditional flanking wings with hipped roofs, was built in 1984 with funding from the city of Galesburg, Amtrak and the Illinois Department of Transportation. The land was donated by the BNSF Railway and landscaping assistance provided by a local bank. The cost of the new station project was less than $300,000. The original wooden pews were salvaged from the predecessor Chicago, Burlington & Quincy (CB&Q) Railroad station and installed in the new facility, along with a historically-styled natural-wood interior paneling, ceiling fans and lamps. Currently, the city maintains the station’s exterior while Amtrak maintains its interior. A statue of Abraham Lincoln stands on the depot grounds to commemorate his many visits to the community.
In 2011, the city began developing specifications for a depot expansion. Ground was broken in November 2014 and the renovation celebrated during an open house the following November. The project, designed by Legat Architects, enclosed approximately 1,400 square feet in the north and south porticoes to create a Burlington Trailways ticket office, enlarged passenger waiting area and extra storage space for Amtrak and checked baggage. The work also included improvements to the restrooms and the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system. Sustainable design elements such as high-efficiency walls and LED lighting were also incorporated into the building.
Funding was obtained through federal and state funds. The former includes $690,000 from a Section 5311 grant, designed to support public transportation in rural areas, and from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The latter includes $40,000 gained through “Illinois Jobs Now!”, a six year, $31 billion statewide capital program supported by 20 year state bonds and federal and local matching funds.
Knox County, of which Galesburg became the seat, was founded in 1825, its first settlers arriving within the next year. The town of Galesburg originated with the ambitions of George W. Gale, a Presbyterian minister from Oneida County, New York, who intended to establish a collegiate institution providing religious education in the Mississippi Valley. In early November 1835, his scouts found a suitable spot for their colony and purchased thirty-six square miles of land. Their intent was to sell town plots around a nucleus that would become the college to fund the endeavor and populate the settlement, and over the course of a year, Knox’s small colony made their journey to Illinois.
Once in their new home, they moved immediately to form a group of trustees and founded Knox Manual Labor College in 1837; the name was shortened to Knox College in 1857. There is some uncertainty as to whether the college was named for the Calvinist leader, John Knox, or the U.S. Secretary of War and Revolutionary War hero Henry Knox—perhaps both. The college, which opened its doors in 1841, spurred the growth of the town, and its Old Main building hosted one of the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates, held in 1858.
It’s no coincidence that the Galesburg station and railroad museum are adjacent to the downtown Knox College campus, as the railroad has also played a major part in Galesburg’s life since the CB&Q arrived in 1854. The CB&Q (succeeded by BNSF) established a major rail yard in Galesburg, with car-shops, round house, locomotive maintenance department, bridge department and stockyards. This still-active rail yard was the first to use hump sorting. With seven main rail lines going in and out of the city, Galesburg is still a transportation center.
The three successive CB&Q stations built in Galesburg certainly fit the town’s aspirations as a commercial center. The first was destroyed by fire in 1881 and was replaced in 1884 with a sturdy red-brick Victorian structure. The 1884 station featured three floors on two wings with a tall, square tower capped with a high pyramidal roof, embellished in pale stone. This structure burned as well in April of 1911, and a new depot was constructed in 1912 to replace it. This last was an Italianate brick station with five arched bays per wing flanking a blocky, projecting portico, the whole giving an impression of solidity and purpose. All three of these stations stood upon the approximate location of the current facility. The third structure was razed in 1983, and replaced with the current facility.
The Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe (AT&SF) Railroad built through Galesburg in 1887 on its way to Chicago at the invitation of the city, opening large east-west markets for the community. The ATSF rail line followed Cedar Creek which provided the lowest elevations through the middle of the town. In 1887, the residents celebrated the completion of the line through town with a small event on the east side of the city near the tile works. ATSF opened a red sandstone depot with a central octagonal tower in 1888; this station was served by passenger trains until July, 1996, when Amtrak moved all of its Galesburg service to the site of the current station, after Burlington Northern (successor to CB&Q) merged with the ATSF to form BNSF.
One of Galesburg’s major products that the ATSF transported was durable and handsome paving bricks, especially Purington Pavers, which have been used world-wide in such far-flung locales as Paris and Bombay, India. Although the brick and tile factories are closed, these historic bricks are still much sought after for restoration and new construction both.
Galesburg has been known for its Railroad Days since 1974, when the BNSF first opened its rail yards for a public tour. The museum, adjacent to the station, was started from rail yard employees’ memorabilia and treasures displayed during the tours. It is now home to a historic Pullman club car, a CB&Q Way Car, a railway post office car, the CB&Q steam locomotive #3006 and a growing collection of railroad-themed artifacts. The nearby Discovery Depot children’s museum provides a family destination year-round.
The popular rail museum stands just north of the station and is the hub of events during the annual Railroad Days festivities. In 1970, CB&Q merged to form Burlington Northern (BN), and in 1974, to thank the community for its continuing support, the railroad and its employees held an open house in the rail yard, allowing the public to visit for the first time. So popular were these annual tours that employees took to bringing memorabilia to display at the station while people waited for their tours. By 1981, BN donated a retired Pullman Parlor car, the Meath, to the fledgling museum. Locomotive engine 3006 had been given to the city by the CB&Q and this joined the Meath at the new museum lot on the north side of the station. BN gave them the CB&Q Waycar 13501 in 1984. The museum building opened in time for the anniversary of the CB&Q’s arrival in Galesburg, on December 7, 2004.
The city’s public schools have hosted an annual rubber duck race each September since 1996. The revenue generated from this re”duck”ulously family friendly fundraising event goes toward monetary grants to schools in the district.
Galesburg is noted as the birthplace of poet and Pulitzer-prize-winning writer Carl Sandburg, whose father worked for the railroad there; as well as being home to Carl Sandburg College. Sandburg is renowned for the inspirational Americana of his prose and poetry. His connection to the community was recognized in 2006 by the naming of one of the IDOT-supported trains the Carl Sandburg.
The Galesburg station, which has a waiting room and is staffed by Amtrak employees, is served by eight daily trains. The Carl Sandburg and Illinois Zephyr are financed primarily through funds made available by the Illinois Department of Transportation.
- 30 Short Term Parking Spaces
- 30 Long Term Parking Spaces
- Accessible Payphones
- Accessible Platform
- Accessible Restrooms
- Accessible Ticket Office
- Accessible Waiting Room
- Accessible Water Fountain
- Checked Baggage
- Dedicated Parking
- Enclosed Waiting Area
- Help With Luggage
- Quik Trak Kiosk
- Ticket Office
- Wheelchair Lift