Amtrak’s northbound Illini approaches the Central station on Aug. 4, 2012. A Genesis unit just doesn’t match the grace of the E6 or even E9 units.
When I rolled into Centralia, Ill., about mid-afternoon on Saturday, Aug. 4, 2012, it was not, strictly speaking, my first trip to the city in Southern Illinois named for the Illinois Central Railroad.
I had passed through Centralia numerous times riding on Amtrak and I have a hazy memory of having gone to Centralia at least once to cover a high school basketball game.
But I had never photographed a train in Centralia and it had been one of those things on my “to do” list for quite some time.
I had a video of train action in Centralia recorded in the late 1990s or early 2000s and I had seen it several times.
So on a trip to Illinois to visit my dad, I decided to spend a couple of days railfanning the former Mainline of Mid-America.
Yes, the former IC. It has been owned by Canadian National since 1998 and signs of IC ownership are fading fast.
In a perfect world, I would have spent all day in Centralia. But I had only one day and it began with my photographing trains in Effingham. After the passage of the Amtrak’s southbound Saluki I begin to work my way south to Centralia.
I ended up spending more time en route than I expected. I stopped in Edgewood to capture a northbound CN manifest freight and in Tonti to photograph the site of Amtrak’s first derailment that involved fatalities.
I also photographed a CSX train on the former Baltimore & Ohio line to St. Louis and the CN-CSX crossing in Odin.
And this doesn’t take into account the various other sites that I photographed, including a restored wood water tower next to the ex-IC tracks and a monument near Mason that marks the completion of the “Chicago Branch” as it was called in the 1850s.
I pulled into the parking lot of the Centralia Amtrak station and waited for trains to show up.
I would have a long wait and in some ways it was a disappointing outing. It would be well over an hour before Norfolk Southern sent a train through.
BNSF had a track maintainer out on the line, but no trains. Likewise, CN never sent any freight trains through Centralia during my time there, either.
My tally for the day would be three NS trains and the northbound Amtrak Illini.
The railroad demolished the Centralia IC station many years ago, replacing it with a small brick structure.
But as I studied the photos that Bob Farkas sent me and compared them to my own, I was amazed to see that some things about Centralia have not changed, notably the existence still of large telecommunications or radio antennas. Also, a grain facility visible in one of Bob’s photos can be seen in one of my going away shots of the Illini.
I would like to get back to Centralia this summer. This time I’m going to get their earlier.
Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders
Passengers wait on the platform as the Illini arrives. The IC station used to be located here.
Heading out of town for Chicago, the Illini passes a large telecommunications tower that was here in 1970 and a grain facility (visible above the bridge) that Bob Farkas would also would have seen. The bridge, though, did not exist more than 40 years ago.
An eastbound NS manifest bends around the curve and is on a joint tracks that is shares with BNSF. The foreground tracks are CN (ex-Illinois Central).
A westbound NS train is about the enter the joint track with BNSF and then will cross the CN mainline.
Another NS manifest cruises through downtown Centralia. The track to the left connects with the CN and is used to interchange coal trains.