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Macomb names Amtrak station in honor of Tom Carper

Mayor Mike Inman, Fire Chief Dan Meyer, Gayle Carper, Tom Carper, and Amtrak CEO Stephen Gardner (left to right) following the ceremony.
Rich Egger
Mayor Mike Inman, Fire Chief Dan Meyer, Gayle Carper, Tom Carper, and Amtrak CEO Stephen Gardner (left to right) following the ceremony.

The downtown passenger rail station in Macomb is now known as the Thomas C. Carper Amtrak Station.

“I’m honored. There’s no doubt about it,” said Carper, who served 15 years on the national Amtrak Board of Directors, longer than anyone else in board history.

The announcement was made during a special city council meeting held at the station on Thursday morning. City council members approved the renaming resolution quickly in front of Amtrak officials, city employees, and other community members who gathered for the event.

Gayle Carper was in charge of getting her husband to the station while keeping the announcement a secret.

Mission: accomplished.

“She kept saying, listen, we’ve got to do something on the 16th. Kept asking if it was still open. And finally she said, listen, something’s going to happen on the 16th. Just don’t plan anything for it,” Tom Carper said.

“I had not an inkling that it was going to be something this substantial.”

Carper began serving on the Amtrak board in 2008 after being appointed by President George W. Bush. He also served under presidents Barack Obama, Donald Trump, and Joe Biden before retiring from the board recently.

He credits many people with keeping Amtrak service available through western Illinois.

“I’m a lucky recipient of the opportunity and the recognition, but it goes way deep. The people who saved this station – we’ve leased this station since 1971. Otherwise Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad would have torn it down,” he said.

Carper said passenger rail advocates must keep promoting their cause. He said Amtrak funding should not be taken for granted.

His time on the Amtrak board was not Carper’s first lengthy commitment to public service. He also served three four-year terms as Macomb’s mayor.

And this was not the first resolution honoring his public service. The Illinois House last month recognized Carper for his contributions to the city and the state, and for his work on the Amtrak board.

Carper’s contributions meant enough to Amtrak CEO Stephen Gardner for him to make the trip from his home in Washington D.C. to attend Thursday’s event in Macomb.

“I’m here both on behalf of the company and our board of directors, who felt it was really appropriate that we recognize Tom’s contributions and his service,” Gardner said.

“He’s been a steadfast supporter of passenger rail and Amtrak from well before he joined the board. And we wanted to be here and be part of this celebration to recognize his contribution and to see this great station bear his name.”

Gardner said it’s rare for a station to be named for one of Amtrak’s leaders. Most are named after someone from the community where they’re located.

In this case, it’s both.

Tri States Public Radio produced this story.  TSPR relies on financial support from readers and listeners in order to provide coverage of the issues that matter to west central Illinois, southeast Iowa, and northeast Missouri. As someone who values the content created by TSPR's news department please consider making a financial contribution.

Rich is TSPR's News Director.