Where the Past and Present Come Together

This past weekend my wife and I traveled to Charleston, Illinois to spend the weekend with family. On Friday evening we drove to Mattoon, Illinois to pick up some others who were arriving by train from Chicago and we found a little treasure trove when we arrived there, the Mattoon Depot.

The depot opened in January of 1918 and is currently in the last phase of restoration. I noticed as we awaited the arrival that they had a small museum that would be open the next day (Saturday) so we made plans to return the next day.

The Friday evening train arrived, and away we drove…

The train schedule on Saturday is a bit light, and as we arrived right after a tain had departed, we basically had the place to ourselves for a while. I’m guessing that there hasn’t been a gift shop behind this door for quite some time…

The Mattoon Depot was and is a stop for the legendary “City of New Orleans” passenger train that was operated by the Illinois Central Railroad between Chicago and New Orleans beginning in 1947, and was the setting for the song by the same name written by Steve Goodman and recorded by many artists, most notably Arlo Guthrie in the ‘70’s.

As I looked around the waiting room, a thought hit me… I wondered how many young men said their goodbyes to family and loved ones in this room and left here to go off to war, never to be seen again. Then on a happier note, how many have been reunited with loved ones in this same room upon their return?

The old ticket counter is quiet now; tickets are purchased on the internet these days…

At one time there was a café here; I took this picture of an old photo in a museum exhibit…

I also noticed an odd thing: They have a poster advertising the New York Central Railroad hanging in here. I rather doubt anything like that went on in the IC days, but I really like those old art deco posters, even if it is the wrong railroad.

I always enjoy visiting places like this, because if you let your mind wander a little more thn usual, if you let your imagination go out on a longer leash than usual, you can see quite a bit more than might meet the eye at first.

That was certainly true at the Mattoon Depot.

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About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
This entry was posted in Christian Life, History and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Where the Past and Present Come Together

  1. pipermac5 says:

    Grandpa McFarland was a railroader in northern Illinois, a line crew foreman, during the early years of the 20th century, so he may have laid the original train-tracks that went through there. That is a beautiful piece of history which should remind us of a simpler time and life.

    • Don Merritt says:

      Wow… small world! You’re so right Steve, it is important for us to preserve our history, warts and all. I was really surprised to discover that the Canadian National owns the line, and that the city of Mattoon had to buy the depot from the CN to restore it; amazing!

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