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LINCOLN — A project designed to blend the past, present and future in one small train depot in Lincoln could be finished sometime in the next year. 

The city is working with the Illinois Department of Transportation to purchase the Lincoln Depot from a private owner. Mayor Keith Snyder said details are being worked out, but the plan is to purchase the property, using funds from the state's high speed rail initiative.

"We have been working on this for a long time, but there were some processes we had to go through, to make sure there were no environmental issues and to get the language right in all of the papers," said Snyder. "Our hope now is that we can get it acquired and begin the restoration."

The brick shelter sits on a platform near the spot where the city was christened by Abraham Lincoln in 1853. The building was closed to the traveling public in 1972, but was sold and renovated five years later and named the Depot Restaurant. The restaurant and catering hall was last known as McCarty’s at the Depot, but the name of the current owner has not been disclosed.

A lounge car, dining car and two cabooses sit next to the depot. Snyder said the plan is to remove those.

"We are not going to be tearing anything down and there will not be any demolition associated with the restoration," he said. "But we think that once it is done, it will be a footprint of the way it looked when it was built in 1911."

Part of the building would be used as a waiting station for Amtrak passengers, Snyder said. About 20,000 people use the rail service each year and the depot could be another tourist attraction.

"Anytime we can attract someone's attention with something, it's going to be good for tourism," said Andy Anderson, president of the Board of the Abraham Lincoln Tourism Bureau of Logan County.

Part of the depot also could be used for office space to promote tourism with officials noting the depot and the railroad played a big part in Lincoln's early history.

In 1850, locomotives were used as a main source of travel, but could only travel about 30 miles before needing wood fuel and water. Railroad officials were building a new spur between Springfield and Normal, but needed a full-service stop in between.

Three Elkhart men combined their financial resources and platted the village. They filed the paperwork and then hired Lincoln, then an up-and-coming lawyer. Lincoln approved the town being named in his honor and attended the christening at a spot near the railroad, now identified as 101 N. Chicago Street.

"We think this could turn into something really special," Snyder said. "I would really like to see this get done."

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Agriculture Reporter

Agriculture reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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