Train tracks are not only elevated for automotive traffic but also for other train traffic. The “Then” photo was taken in 1976, the country’s bicentennial year, and the celebrations included The Freedom Train passing through Urbana on the New York Central Railroad tracks. Those tracks went over-top the Erie-Lackawanna tracks and the Pennsylvania Railroad tracks. The Urbana control tower seen through the viaduct was constructed after the Big Four railroad elevated its tracks in 1926 and then became New York Central RR. To keep the bridge length to a minimum where the tracks cross over each other, the overpass was located over the exact center of the intersecting tracks below it. The grain elevator and the Pennsylvania Passenger Train Depot, on Miami Street, can also be seen in the distance in Champaign County Historical Society Museum’s photo A1827#6.
The “Now” photo, taken by Ward Lutz of the Champaign County Historical Society Museum, looks quite different from the “Then” photo.” A single set of tracks now share the overhead bridge with the Simon Kenton Pathway Bike Trail and one set of tracks remain along side the lower Simon Kenton Pathway Bike Trail. The train depot is now used as a coffee house and bike stop respite, the grain elevator still exists but is not visible from this exact angle, and now the Urbana Control Tower, no longer needed, mysteriously burned down one night. Perhaps the railroad company didn’t want to pay taxes on the building anymore. Come to the Champaign County Historical Society Museum at 809 East Lawn Avenue to see and learn more about our local heritage. Open Mondays and Tuesdays from 10 to 4, staffed with volunteers, and open one Sunday a month at 2 pm with a program and by scheduled appointments.
Submitted by the Champaign County Historical Society.