Railroads essentially founded and developed
Mattoon and Charleston, twin cities located in Coles County in east-central
Illinois. The railroads enabled both
cities to become regional centers for agriculture, industry, and commerce. The
Illinois Central Railroad and NEW YORK CENTRAL SYSTEM (Big Four) maintained
shops, yards, and offices in Mattoon, while the Nickel Plate Road had shops,
offices, and a yard in Charleston. Hence, railroads were major employers in the
twentieth century’s early decades. Dozens
of passenger trains stopped at the local stations. But, the phase-out of steam locomotives
following World War II led to the closing of shops in both towns. Mergers and route consolidations starting in
the 1960’s led to further diminishment of Matoon and Charleston as rail
centers. Today, both towns serve as crew
change points only.
Author Bio: Craig Sanders, a Mattoon native, was a keen observer of the
local railroads while growing up and attending Eastern Illinois University in
Charleston. Now a resident of University
Heights (Cleveland), Ohio, he is also the author of Akron Railroads. Sanders teaches journalism at Cleveland State
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