LINCOLN, ILL. – On December 5, 2017, state, local and Amtrak officials gathered at the historic Chicago & Alton (C&A) Railroad station complex in downtown to celebrate its reopening following an extensive $4.1 million renovation. Completed in Nov. 1911, the passenger depot, and a small freight house connected by a breezeway, stand close to where the city was originally christened by Abraham Lincoln in 1853.
“This impressive facility is just the latest in a string of achievements to improve the passenger experience on one of the country’s busiest rail corridors,” Illinois Transportation Secretary Randy Blankenhorn said. “The station not only highlights Lincoln’s rich history, but provides travelers and commuters with a great option to get to where they need to go.”
Constructed of red brick, the depot is a mix of Prairie style architecture – with a strong emphasis on rectilinear forms and a horizontal orientation reinforced by the prominent belt course – and Spanish Mission design that was also popular at the turn of the 20th century. The latter influence is visible in the north and south end gables with their swooping, curvilinear lines.
The station complex had been closed to the traveling public since 1972, after which rail customers waited on the adjacent platform and in a modest enclosed shelter constructed just to the south. The depot was renovated in 1977 to serve as a restaurant and catering hall, and continued in that capacity until 2013.
“Lincoln is truly fortunate to have such a beautifully restored depot that will serve our community…now that it’s finished, not only will our own citizens be able to view and use the station, but it will be an amazing facility to greet and welcome countless visitors passing through our city.” – Lincoln Mayor Seth A. Goodman.
A year later it was acquired by the city using high-speed rail funds provided by the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT). The buildings were restored to their 1911 appearance but upgraded with modern amenities. Historic interior features include the original ticket counter, a scale used to weigh luggage and handsome woodwork. New landscaping, sidewalks, lighting, a drop-off zone and parking areas for vehicles and bicycles were also installed. The short IDOT film below details the rehabilitation work.
Amtrak customers now enjoy a comfortable waiting room located in the former freight building, while the passenger depot could be rented as commercial or office space. Passengers board and detrain from a new, accessible concrete platform with a tactile edge.
Under the Federal Railroad Administration’s High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail (HSIPR) program, the state of Illinois received $1.2 billion to improve the vital Chicago-St. Louis rail corridor so that passenger trains will be able to attain regular speeds of 110 mph. When completed, the upgraded line is expected to present an even stronger transportation alternative for drivers along the congested Interstate 55 corridor. New stations have also recently opened in Alton, Pontiac and Dwight.
In 2017, nearly 22,000 Amtrak customers began or ended their journey at Lincoln, which is served daily by seven Lincoln Service (Chicago-St. Louis) trains and two Texas Eagle (Chicago-San Antonio-(Los Angeles)) trains. The Lincoln Service is financed primarily through funds made available by IDOT as part of the Amtrak MidwestSM network.