Down the Steps to the Waiting Room


The Amtrak station in Mattoon, Illinois, has below-ground boarding, a result of an early 20th century project to lower the Illinois Central Railroad tracks through town.

The station used by Amtrak today was built at the same time that the IC tracks were lowered. The depot is now owned by the city, which paid to restore it several years ago.

Countless thousands of people have walked these stairs going to or from their train. They came from all walks of life and were traveling for every reason you can imagine.

One of them was a young man who with his new wife arrived by train in a trip to see her grandmother in a retirement home in nearby Sullivan.

As he ascended these steps he might have been thinking about the idea he’d just had during the journey about how to flesh out a song he had started writing years earlier.

His name was Steve Goodman and the song was City of New Orleans. We know what happened within a couple years after he climbed these stairs.


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