Amtrak’s Illini is Now Boarding

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There is nothing extraordinary about this photograph that you will be able to readily see.

It was made at Chicago Union Station in March 2014 at the boarding gate of the Illini, a Chicago to Carbondale, Illinois, train that is funded by the State of Illinois.

Departing at 4:05 p.m., it is one of the most popular trains for passengers traveling to the downstate Illinois points of Kankakee, Gilman, Rantoul, Champaign-Urbana, Mattoon, Effingham, Centralia, Du Quoin and Carbondale.

What you don’t see or can’t tell is why I made this photograph. It wasn’t to show a boarding gate at CUS.

It was to make a record of the last time that I would ride a train that figured in my life for 20 years.

I moved to Cleveland in August 1993. The following April, I began what would be a twice-a-year ritual of taking Amtrak to visit my Dad in Mattoon, Illinois.

I would ride either the Capitol Limited or Lake Shore Limited to Chicago and then take the Illini to Mattoon. I would return to Chicago from Mattoon on the City of New Orleans and, later, the Saluki. Then I had my choice of either No. 30 or No. 48 to return to Cleveland.

But I always rode the Illini to Mattoon. In 20 years some changes were bound to occur even if they were relatively minor.

When I first began riding the Illini it was No. 391 and departed at 4 p.m. Once the Saluki began service in 2006 the number of the southbound Illini changed to 393. The schedule changed slightly to depart at 4:05 p.m.

My Dad moved to Arizona in May 2014 and I knew when I visited him in March that it would be the last time that I make that Cleveland-Chicago-Mattoon trek by rail.

So I made this image to record what for me was the end of an era.

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