Endpoints: Chicago-St. Louis
Numbers: 1,4 (GM&O numbers)
Intermediate Stations: Joliet, Pontiac, Bloomington, Lincoln, Springfield, Carlinville and Alton, Illinois
Host Railroad: Gulf Mobile & Ohio
Amtrak Operated: May 1, 1971-November 13, 1971
Named for: It had formerly been named the Alton Limited, a name that was shortened after GM&O merged with the Chicago & Alton on May 31, 1947.
Pre-Amtrak History: Inaugurated November 9, 1899, the Alton Limited was the C&A’s flagship passenger train for many decades. Scheduled to leave Chicago in late morning, the Alton Limited featured observation-parlor cars that served afternoon tea. The northbound Limited departed St. Louis in late afternoon.
Amtrak History: The Limited and its running mate the Abraham Lincoln passed into Amtrak hands on May 1, 1971. Both trains continued to carry coaches, a parlor car with a drawing room, and a diner-lounge. The overnight Midnight Special was discontinued.
Amtrak immediately rescheduled The Limited to depart Chicago nearly three hours earlier at 8 a.m. The Limited joined the City of New Orleans on the Illinois Central as having the honor of being the first trains to depart Chicago on Amtrak’s inauguration day. The St. Louis departure time was moved back 40 minutes to 4:40 p.m. The Limited and Abraham Lincoln began stopping at Carlinville on July 12, 1971.
Much of the GM&O equipment quickly vanished from The Limited. By July it was running with coaches and a diner-lounge of Union Pacific heritage. A Southern Pacific diner-lounge also made an appearance. However, GM&O parlor car continued to be a mainstay on The Limited and Abraham Lincoln.
The Limited derailed on August 13, 1971, after hitting a gravel truck near Chenoa. The accident sent six cars and a GM&O locomotive off the tracks. In the aftermath, GM&O lightweight coaches and a heavyweight diner were assigned to The Limited.
Amtrak had grand plans for The Limited and Abraham Lincoln effective with the November 14, 1971, timetable change. Both trains would run through Chicago to Milwaukee. However, The Limited name would be retired and the train renamed the Prairie State. A GM&O timetable issued September 27, 1971, jumped the gun by showing the new name and numbers (301/304).