Posts Tagged ‘Illinois Central Railroad Heritage Association’

Sanders Article Published in The Mid-American

January 4, 2018

An article about New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal by Akron Railroad Club president Craig Sanders recently was published in The Mid-American, the magazine of the Illinois Central Heritage Association.

The article describes the creation of NOUPT, which opened in 1954, and which some likened to the “second Battle of New Orleans.”

The battle reference reflects how it took more than 50 years to finally create a true union station in the Crescent City. Before the opening of NOUPT, the city was served by five train stations. The first Battle of New Orleans took place during the War of 1812.

The ICRR had built a union station that opened in 1892, but IC was among the few users of the facility.

NOUPT, which was the last major union station built in America, was built adjacent to New Orleans Union Station.

Sanders Publishes ICRR Passenger Trains Article

April 18, 2010

An article written by Akron Railroad Club President Craig Sanders about the decline of Illinois Central Railroad intercity passenger service has been published in The Mid-American, the quarterly magazine of the Illinois Central Railroad Heritage Association.

The article, titled “Into the Arms of Amtrak: IC’s Steady Retreat from Intercity Passenger Service,” focused on on the period 1969-1971. Like most other railroads, the ICRR trimmed money-losing trains and routes during this period. Unlike other railroads, however, IC made an effort to continue to market its service, particularly in the Chicago-Carbondale, Illinois, “Mini-Corridor. The IC was one of the few railroads in the late 1960s that still purchased advertising time and space in newspapers and broadcast outlets.

Fueled by the growth of three state universities located on or near the Chicago-Carbondale route, IC experienced ridership growth in the middle to late 1960s. However, the railroad said that much of the growth was college travel that was episodic, occurring on weekends and when schools were beginning or ending a term or vacation. During the week, the trains were far less crowded.

In his article, Sanders noted that the creation of the Mini-Corridor had earned the IC much positive press. Donald Stefee, author of an annual train speed survey in Trains magazine, described the Mini-Corridor as among the few bright spots in American passenger railroading in 1968.

But this meant little to IC Chairman William B. Johnson. “Our railroad receives no over-all benefit from handling sudden short surges of passenger traffic,” Johnson told a Senate committee in September 1969. Much of the time, the coaches used to handle that traffic sat idle. IC’s intercity passenger trains had an average load factor of 39 percent, or about 100 passengers per train.

Marketing campaigns, refurbished dome cars and relatively stable patronage were not enough to overcome the challenges facing IC’s intercity passenger service in its final years, Sanders wrote. Federal and state regulators might have delayed some train cuts for a while, but the IC would have continued to make the case for allowing these and other trains to die.

Sanders wrote that it is anyone’s guess as to how long it would have been until the IC prevailed in ending the trains it wanted to remove, but one thing is certain. The Illinois Central was unlikely to be in the intercity passenger business much longer without public assistance. If not Amtrak, then someone else would have to step in if service was to be preserved.

IC executives expressed a willingness, if not a requirement, to continue operating intercity passenger trains if the railroad received public funding. “On a private enterprise basis, I can’t see why the railroads should be forced to underwrite the cost of a public service,” said IC President Alan Boyd. He would later become the third president of Amtrak.

Two other Amtrak presidents also worked at the IC during the late 1960s. These included Paul Reistrup, who was IC’s vice president of passenger services, and David Gunn, who just beginning his railroad career. Since mid-July 2004, Amtrak has operated a train called the City of New Orleans longer than did the IC.

For more information on the Illinois Central Railroad Heritage Association, click on the link below.

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