There's apparently more to do than the usual near-campus activities in Carbondale the day of the eclipse.
[Amtrak spokesman Marc Magiliari explained] "This schedule enables a full day in Williamson County without affecting our other services.”But will it carry a special headboard or drumhead?
The return special to Chicago, train No. 398, will depart Carbondale at 5:15 p.m. one hour after the regularly-scheduled Illini, also only stopping at Champaign.
Unlike other Illinois corridor trains, the Eclipse Express will not carry pets or bicycles and won’t have business class seating, but it will have a café car. Magliari has promised that overhead lighting in the coaches will be turned off for early morning snoozers.
And astronomers, amateur or otherwise, have been rail-aware for months.
Amtrak’s northbound Illini, train 392, has been sold out on Aug. 21 for weeks, even after heavy demand prompted the company to add an extra coach to bring capacity up to 340. Since the special is bypassing other intermediate stations, travelers from Homewood to Gilman, Ill., and Mattoon to DuQuoin, Ill., can’t make a same-day round-trip.Let us be grateful there are enough spare coaches on hand, or enough cleverness in diagramming coaches for servicing, that Amtrak can lay on this extra train, plus a similar service on the Cascades route, which is also briefly under the band of totality.
If Amtrak, the state, and CN had agreed to reschedule the southbound Saluki earlier months ago, there would not be the existing imbalance of traffic on Aug 21 which made running a special train a necessity. If that happened and demand was heavy enough, extra sections could have been added to satisfy it. Between Aug. 1 and Aug 18, the northbound morning Saluki is scheduled two hours earlier to accommodate track reconstruction north of Champaign.
Although some Carbondale hotels have been sold out for nearly a year and just a handful of rooms within 100 miles of the city have been available for months, Amtrak only announced its co-sponsorship of Carbondale events on June 27. Part of the involvement includes distribution on the Express of special glasses, which are necessary to prevent permanent eye damage from viewing the sun in its partial eclipse phase. They will be given out on the southbound Express.
My plan will be to hang out at the university observatory or someplace similar and watch the coverage from there. Or perhaps rely on the nifty shadow patterns you get on the sidewalk when an eclipsing Sun shines through the trees.