Archive for May, 2009

Sanders Presents Program to Literary Clubs Event

May 28, 2009

Akron Railroad Club President Craig Sanders spoke on the history of railroads in his hometown of Mattoon, Illinois, at the ninth annual Literary Club Luncheon on May 22, 2009.

The event was held at the Mattoon Golf and Country Club. About 25 women who belong to one of four reading and book clubs in Mattoon attended the luncheon.

Sanders gave a PowerPoint presentation of photographs that appeared in his book Mattoon and Charleston Area Railroads, which was published by Arcadia Publishing in June 2008. The book is an historical overview of railroad operations in Mattoon, Charleston and surrounding communities.

Sanders was born and raised in Mattoon and graduated from Mattoon High School in 1971. He was a reporter and copy editor for the Mattoon newspaper, the Journal Gazette between December 1976 and August 1983.

Club Needs to do More to Record its Members, Outings

May 27, 2009

The Akron Railroad Club will mark its 75th anniversary in 2011. ARRC President Craig Sanders thinks it would be nice to do a program featuring images of club members and outings. Goodness knows there have been many. Like any organization, the ARRC has had its share of characters and stories about guys whose reputations have grown to legendary proportions.

Aside from stories passed down from generation to generation, the only other record that these guys ever existed and what they did for the ARRC are in photographs. Yet there seem to be few of these in existence.

Just recently, a few members were talking about how no one seems to have a good photograph of the late David McKay, who served as ARRC president for 12 years before stepping down in December 2004. Dave died that same month so we can’t photograph him now.

In his latest column in “President’s Corner,” Sanders writes that club members could and must do a better job of recording each other during our meetings, outings and banquets. It is too late to go back and make images of past members who aren’t here anymore. Nor can we recreate past events.

We can and must do a better job of documenting through photographs our present members and activities. It is going to take a presence of mind to do this that we don’t now seem to have.

We also can scour our collections for photographs taken of members during club outings. I ran across some of these images while doing Akron Railroads, yet I sense that there is more out there then I was able to turn up. It is going to take some work, but surely members must have taken a photograph here and there of club members during an event.

As these photographs begin to turn up, we can start putting them into a collection to be used to present a history of the members of the ARRC over the past seven decades when we light 75 candles in another two years. It should be a fun night as we tell stories about each other and the good times we’ve had along the way.

Vermilion Eyes Creating Railfan Park

May 19, 2009

A Vermilion group is seeking to establish a railfan park that it hopes will attract the region’s railroad enthusiasts. The proposed park would be located near downtown Vermilion within the city-owned Victory Park.

The north end of Victory Park is located adjacent to Norfolk Southern’s busy Chicago Line, which sees about 60 trains per day. The park is currently separated from the tracks by a row of trees that would have to removed or thinned out. A viewing platform with electrical outlets would be built next to the tracks.

Leading the effort to establish the railfan facility has been Vermilion Main Line Rail, which has approached the city for support. The group hopes to establish as many as five railfan friendly parks in the Vermilion area.

The head of the group is Coletta Kubik, who has served as a director of All Aboard Ohio, a rail passenger advocacy group. Kubik, who is affectionately known as Vermilion’s “train lady,” has also pushed for commuter train service on the former Nickel Plate Road route that runs through Vermilion to Cleveland and for making Vermilion a quiet zone for train horns.

Vermilion Main Line Rail is seeking cash donations, which can be sent to the group at 685 Main Street, Vermilion, OH 44089. The group also is asking for donations of building materials, signs, a web camera and speakers for a built in scanner. All would be used to construct the viewing platform at the railfan park. Vermilion Main Line Rail is in the process of setting up a website.

For an article about railfanning in Vermilion, see the Vermilion page on the Akron Railroad Club blog. The page is listed at right under the heading “Ohio Railfan Hotspots.”

Sanders Article Published in The Mid-American

May 11, 2009

An article written by Akron Railroad Club President Craig Sanders was recently published in The Mid-American, the quarterly magazine of the Illinois Central Railroad Heritage Association. The article, titled “Mattoon’s Mid American CoverMillion Dollar Trench,” is about the cut that the Illinois Central Railroad built in 1914 in Mattoon, Illinois.

Sanders is a native of Mattoon and lived there for nearly 30 years. He also is the author of Mattoon and Charleston Area Railroads, which was published by Arcadia Publishing in 2008.

The cut through Mattoon was one of three that the IC constructed in Illinois in the early 20th century. The others were at Paxton and Monee.

Sanders’ article is illustrated with 14 photographs, most of which appeared in his book on the railroads of Mattoon and Charleston. Many of these photographs were borrowed from the collection of the Mattoon Public Library. A photograph that he took of an Illinois Central Gulf freight train in Mattoon on May 7, 1979, graces the cover of the the issue (shown above) containing his story.

Construction of the cut through Mattoon, which local wags dubbed the Million Dollar Trench because of its cost, began May 5, 1914, and ended March 6, 1916. As part of the project, the IC also built a new passenger station, which opened January 21, 1918.

The Mattoon IC station still stands and is used today by Amtrak. The City of Mattoon owns the depot and plans are moving forward to convert it into a museum to be operated by the Coles County Historical Society as well as to enhance its role as an Amtrak station.

Before opening this station, IC had shared a Union Depot located in the Essex House Hotel with the Big Four. The Big Four also built a new Mattoon station, which opened May 15, 1917. That former Union Depot was then demolished and a Railway Express building was constructed on its site.

The former Big Four depot, which served New York Central passenger trains until March 18, 1968. The former Big Four depot was subsequently used for storage by a local drug store, but stood vacant for several years. It was razed in April 2004.

Conrail removed the former Big Four tracks through Mattoon in May 1983 and the Big Four bridge over the ICRR was removed in early 2002.

The former Illinois Central tracks through Mattoon are today owned by Canadian National. Six Amtrak trains a day serve Mattoon including the City of New Orleans, Saluki and Illini.

For more information about the ICRHA, visit the organization’s web site at