Illinois Railway Museum’s Executive Director Nick Kallas Analyzes Amtrak Route Selection through McHenry County

The northernmost route has been selected by Governor Pat Quinn. It runs through Huntley, Union and Marengo on the way to Belvidere. Probably because of the Chrysler train traffic, the track is welded to Belvidere, making faster trains possible than through the unwelded Genoa route Amtrak recommended when it was talking about putting up some money.

I had this great idea for a follow-up story to my Saturday article about Amtrak’s coming to southern McHenry County.

What if the Illinois Railroad Museum offered its station to serve Amtrak passengers on the line that Governor Pat Quinn just designated to run through Belvidere?

So, I called the Museum’s Executive Director Nick Kallas, who was in California, to ask him,

“What if…?”

“Our station is actually ADA,” he told me, but he wasn’t as enthusiastic about the idea as I was. “But, it’s wooden.”

“Our station is in Union,” he said. “That’s not exactly the population center of McHenry County.”

He talked of the time rail service connected Galena to Chicago:

“When they used to run the Galena train, it was into Chicago in the morning and back to Galena in the evening.”

Kallas pointed out that today, “Once you get to Galena, you don’t have a car. That’s fine for a day trip”

Right across the levy from the Galena Train Station is the Galena Winery.

The “but” was what do you do after you walk around Downtown Galena.

Eagle Ridge Resort guest rooms. Note the magnolia tree is in bloom. Its flowers popped last week while we were staying there.

I didn’t mention the shuttle that Eagle Ridge Resort runs to town. Now it takes people who arrive by car, but it could just as well take train passengers to the resort. Amtrak passengers wouldn’t be limited to a day trip.

Amtrak train moves slowly through Downtown Springfield, Illinois.

Kallas looked at the bigger picture:

“Once Amtrak starts running the route, that might stimulate Metra to come out. It might accelerate Metra service to Huntley and Marengo.

“Huntley has already sited a station,” he observed.

The Illinois Railway Museum was part of the coalition that helped convince Governor Quinn to select the McHenry County route.

“We’re actually a part of that Blackhawk initiative. We actually gathered 35 pages of petition signatures (for the Belvidere route.)

When Amtrak dropped the funding of the track, it became strictly a state initiation.

The Metra track and Union Pacific track to Belvidere is all welded track. The old route (through DeKalb County’s Genoa) is not. (I don’t see that difference in this DeKalb Chronicle article, which has lots of negative comments about Quinn’s decision.)

“The real thing is that there’s more population,” Kallas said.

“And the North side of Union Station is underutilized compared to the South side (from which the DeKalb County route would have run).

“So, it has many advantages,” he continued.

“This route makes more sense from the standpoint of the population served and we’re hoping that it will help to accelerate the efforts to bring Metra to Huntley and Marengo.”

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