Located at the crossing of east-west and north-south rail lines, Effingham Union Station was dedicated on October 6, 1924. It was a very busy place in its early years, and hotels sprouted up in town to serve rail travelers. The Amtrak waiting room is housed in one of three buildings that make up the station complex. The theme of connectedness provided by the intersecting rail lines has long informed Effingham’s local nickname – “Heart of the United States.” A heart-shaped garden in front of the depot was designed, planted and maintained by area garden clubs.
In August 2022, local and Amtrak officials gathered at the station to cut the ribbon on completion of a $2.5 million improvement project at the facility. As part of the work, a new 700-foot-long concrete boarding platform was constructed, along with new station signage, a mobile lift enclosure, energy efficient LED lighting and guardrails. New accessible pathways make it easier to navigate from the waiting area to the platform and various access points to the station. State of good repair projects were also performed inside the building and included installation of new powered entry doors, rehanging of interior doors and a signage refresh. Undertaken in partnership with the Federal Railroad Administration, the work was part of the Amtrak ADA Stations Program – an ongoing effort to proactively provide all customers with an accessible and safe experience at stations.
Effingham’s first Union Depot was built in 1851 for the Chicago to Cairo branch of the Illinois Central Railroad (IC). The crossing of the National Road and the IC became a place of increased economic interest and as a result, the people of Effingham County voted to move the county seat to the crossing, where they built a city called Effingham. The first scheduled passenger train arrived there in 1856. The National Road (now covered by U.S. 40) had been created in 1806 by an act of Congress to serve as the first federally funded highway construction project.
The Union Depot served the IC (now CN) until 1870, when the St. Louis, Vandalia and Terre Haute Railroad Company, later the Pennsylvania Railroad, and today the CSXT, completed its construction and connected east to west at Union Station. Today, only freight rolls on the CSXT lines.
Today the city is home to the MA Garage Museum, a collection of vintage Corvettes and Volkswagens famous nationwide, that belongs to the Mid-America Motorworks. The MA Motorworks specializes in parts and materials for rebuilding vintage Corvettes and Volkswagens and sponsors a Funfest for Corvette lovers each fall, the largest Corvette show in the nation, attracting 7,000 Corvettes and 1,000 Volkswagens yearly. Another local landmark stands at the busy intersection of Interstate 57 and U.S. 40 – a 198-foot high and 113-foot wide white cross and associated chapel that was erected in 2001 by the Cross and the Crossroads Foundation, an ecumenical group that was first associated with Saint Anthony’s Hospital in Effingham.
The Illini and Saluki are financed primarily through funds made available by the Illinois State Department of Transportation.