Amtrak representatives met with the Village of Homewood on Monday, Dec. 5, to announce that the Homewood Amtrak station was back to pre-pandemic levels service. These returning services include routes to Carbondale and New Orleans and ticket agents who are now available inside the station seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
“Today we’re restoring all the service that comes through Homewood,” Amtrak spokesperson Marc Magliari said. “That’s three southbound trains – two that go to Carbondale and one that goes to New Orleans. And three northbound trains – one that starts in New Orleans and the two Carbondale trains. For most of the last 11 months, we were only running one of the Carbondale round trips.”
The train to Carbondale includes a stop at Champaign-Urbana, making it a popular train for college students and their families, Magliari said.
The City of New Orleans, an overnight train, is the only Amtrak train from Chicago to New Orleans, according to Derrick James, the director of government affairs for Amtrak. The historic route was the subject of a bittersweet, country-folk song by Steve Goodman that’s been covered by Willie Nelson.
“Over the past year, we’ve spent more than $15 million here improving this station [in Homewood]. The latest improvement is establishing a ticket agent here seven days a week,” Magliari said. “All of our outgoing trains from Chicago will have an Amtrak ticket agent here to help people board, help people get ticketed, take care of checked baggage.”
Ticket agents inside Homewood’s station can sell any kind of Amtrak ticket, including a boarding ticket out of Chicago, Joliet or any other station. This can be convenient because the trains that go through Homewood don’t travel directly to Missouri, the Twin Cities or the East and West Coasts.
Despite this shortcoming, James stressed that Homewood’s Amtrak station can be used as a connecting route to Chicago’s Union Station.
“The trains from here go right to Union Station – as opposed to the Metra trains which go to Millennium Station. Our trains will take you right to the Amtrak hub at Union Station,” James said.
“We’re in a great place – being the only south suburban Amtrak station with national connections. It’s great,” said Homewood trustee Jay Heiferman. “There’s nothing like going to sleep on a train, waking up on a train and just waiting happily to get to your destination.”
“I’m delighted to be here today to again welcome Amtrak with a full-service Homewood station,” Homewood mayor Rich Hofeld said. “We’re very impressed with Amtrak’s performance of late and getting past the pandemic.”