View You Can’t See Anymore in Mattoon

Shawnee NB

I grew up in Mattoon in east central Illinois until 1983. I wish I had been more active in photographing the railroad operations of my hometown when I still lived there. There is much that is gone that I now wish I had documented.

In July 1983, shortly before I moved to Indiana, I made it a point to venture out on the former New York Central (Big Four) bridge over the then Illinois Central Gulf Railroad tracks to photograph the coming of the northbound Shawnee. No. 392 originated in Carbondale, Ill., and would halt in Chicago more than three hours later.

At the time that this photograph was made, the tracks on the ex-NYC bridge had been gone about two months, having been removed by Conrail in May 1983.

A southbound ICG freight had preceded the Shawnee and was still rumbling past the former Illinois Central depot as the Shawnee arrived. Most of the passengers for No. 392 are already on the platform, suitcases in hand.

The bridge from which this photo was made was built circa 1917 as part of the project that began in 1914 to lower the Illinois Central tracks through Mattoon to below ground level. The ex-NYC bridge continued to stand for nearly 20 years after the tracks on it were removed. The bridge was demolished in early 2002.

You would need a helicopter or a drone to get an image like this today. Nonetheless, you can’t exactly duplicate the image because the onetime Big Four Bridge is gone.

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