Historic Amtrak Station
"On Dec. 5, 2017, state, local and Amtrak officials gathered at the historic Chicago & Alton Railroad (C&A) 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.
Constructed of red brick in two tones, 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 Revival 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.
Traditional detailing includes stone used in the foundation, belt course, lintels, capitals and coping; quoins at the corners of the building; modified pilasters between sets of windows; and deep eaves with a prominent dentiled cornice. Craftsman style embellishments, such as the diamond pattern in the upper sashes of the windows, are also evident. An elegant, rounded bay on the south end overlooks Centennial Park.
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 – at which time the breezeway between the depot and freight building was enclosed – to serve as a restaurant and catering hall, and continued in that capacity until 2013.
A year later it was acquired by the city using high-speed rail funds provided by the Illinois Department of Transportation. 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. As the project got underway, the 1970s addition was removed, and four rail cars that had been moved to the depot grounds as part of the catering business were relocated. New landscaping, sidewalks, lighting, a drop-off zone and parking areas for vehicles and bicycles were also installed.
Amtrak customers now enjoy a comfortable waiting room located in the former freight building, while the depot could be rented out 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.
When the C&A built its line between Springfield and Normal in the early 1850s, it established what is now Lincoln as a full-service rail stop. At the time, steam locomotives could only travel about 30 miles before needing to resupply with wood fuel and water, and thus towns were laid out regularly along a rail line. A local lawyer who had done much with railroad litigation, Abraham Lincoln, was hired by the C&A to file the plats; the railroad also asked if it could name the town in his honor.
On August 27, 1853, when the railroad officially opened the town lots for sale, Lincoln came to give a speech. He is said to have taken a watermelon from a boy selling them from a wagon; cutting it open with a pocket knife, he squeezed the juice on the ground to christen the town. A plaque and a sculpture of a cut watermelon commemorate the site today. This was the only city to be named for Lincoln during his lifetime. He returned on a whistle-stop campaign tour in 1860, and finally, in 1865, his funeral train stopped in the town overnight before proceeding to Springfield.
Lincoln is the county seat, and from the train, passengers can often see the impressive dome of the Logan County Courthouse. The city is also home to three colleges: Lincoln College, Lincoln Christian University and Heartland Community College. In 2014, Lincoln College opened a brand-new Lincoln Heritage Museum containing an impressive collection of Abraham Lincoln-related documents and artifacts as well as a hands-on exploration of Lincoln’s life.
Historic Route 66, which was the main corridor of car and truck transportation linking the Midwest, Southwest and West in the early 20th century, runs through town. As in other communities along the route, it brought economic growth and development to Lincoln. Colorful murals on buildings in the central business district recognize Lincoln’s rail and highway history.
The phone booth perched atop Lincoln City Hall is a favorite local curiosity. During World War II, people perched in that spot kept watch in the name of civil defense. Later, the city erected this phone booth to use for a weather spotting station, with a fully-functional telephone to warn the people below that threatening weather was sighted. A few years ago, the city was going to remove the phone booth as part of roof repair. Public outcry demanded that it be replaced afterward as it is a unique local icon, and it can be seen there today.
Amtrak does not provide ticketing or baggage services at the Lincoln station, which is served by nine daily Lincoln Service and Texas Eagle trains. The Lincoln Service is financed primarily through funds made available by the Illinois Department of Transportation."