Endpoints: Milwaukee-St. Louis
Numbers: 301, 304
Intermediate Stations: Sturtevent, Wisconsin; Glenview, Chicago, Joliet, Pontiac, Bloomington, Lincoln, Springfield, Carlinville and Alton, Illinois
Host Railroads: Milwaukee Road (Milwaukee-Chicago), Gulf, Mobile & Ohio (Chicago-St. Louis)
Amtrak Operated: November 14, 1971- October 1, 1973
Named for: Much of the route passed through Illinois, which is officially known as Land of Lincoln, but has a secondary nickname of The Prairie State.
Pre-Amtrak History: The Prairie State was a sucessor to GM&O’s The Limited. However, GM&O operated a St. Louis to Chicago Prairie State Express in the late 1950s.
Amtrak History: Effective November 14, 1971, Amtrak rescheduled the Abraham Lincoln and The Limited to operate between Milwaukee and Chicago with The Limited being renamed the Prairie State. It was a bold move at the time for no train has ever operated through Chicago. There had been numerous through car arrangements over the years, but never a through train. In part that was because the railroads were spread over six terminals. Operating the Prairie State and Abraham Lincoln through Chicago was easy because the Milwaukee Road and GM&O both served Union Station. Although Milwaukee Road trains used the north tracks and GM&O trains the south tracks of Union Station, there were two run-through tracks. A GM&O timetable issued September 27, 1971, jumped the gun by showing the Prairie State name and numbers.
Aside from its stature as the being one of the first two trains to run through Chicago, the Prairie State led a relatively uneventful life. Nonetheless, it was a colorful life. Cars from such railroads as Union Pacific, Santa Fe, Southern Pacific, Milwaukee Road, Northern Pacific, Seaboard Coast Line, Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac, Great Northern, and Chicago, Burlington & Quincy were assigned to the Prairie State and its running mate, the Abraham Lincoln. At one point, a former Wabash dome observation-parlor worked on the Chicago-St. Louis route.
The streamliner era equipment of the Prairie State gave way to French-built turbine-powered trains on October 1, 1973, and the Prairie State name was retired. Also ending was Milwaukee-St. Louis through service.