Great customer service, vintage aesthetics prove popular with Amtrak riders
The Princeton Railroad Depot was recently ranked No. 4 in an Amtrak customer service satisfaction survey.
The depot received a 95 percent rating and was beat out by only three other stations in the nation — one in Virginia, one in Missouri and one in North Carolina.
There are several features that set Princeton’s depot apart from others.
Princeton City Clerk Pete Nelson said for one thing, the customer service is hard to beat.
The city strives to have every train met with a human. Currently, there are three attendees who share shifts at the stations and are happy to help passengers in any capacity possible.
“They all work together to make sure the riders have a safe place to embark to and from,” Nelson said.
Riders also enjoy the station’s original aesthetic look from when it was built in 1911, that gives off a nostalgic feeling.
One will immediately note the vintage one-story, brick structure as they pull up to the station. Walking through the depot’s doors transports visitors back in time as they’re met with antique accents such as old tiled floors, radiators and benches that line the depot.
White-framed windows provide plenty of lighting even on gloomy days. Passengers can view old framed photographs that decorate the depot’s walls and show what the station was like in the early 1900s, shortly after it was built.
Tickets are no longer sold at the sliding glass booth, but an employee sits behind the window waiting to greet passengers and answer any questions they might have about the Amtrak schedule.
The free, safe parking at the station also serves as a huge attraction.
“People like the fact that they can leave their vehicle relatively safely at no cost and don’t have to mess with going into (Chicago),” Nelson said.
According to the Great American Stations website, the Princeton depot’s ridership in 2017 was 36,942, which brought in a revenue of about $1.1 million.
Riders can reach 67 cities on Amtrak from Princeton’s depot.
As the number of passengers continues to increase, Nelson said, there are some things the depot needs to do to step up its maintenance game.
“Unfortunately, with the amount of trains and the weight of trains that are coming through here now, it’s having an affect on the floor joints,” he said. “We don’t want to lose that.”
It’s also been the city of Princeton’s plan to pave the gravel parking lot at the depot to make it more user-friendly, according to Nelson.
There’s currently a concept plan in place to redo Darius Miller Park and the depot complex to give it a more unified look. However, the project has proved to be costly. The city has applied for grants to help pay for the plan, but so far has not been met with any luck.
Nelson said spending resources on the train depot is a good investment for the city. The Quad Cities is supposed to be the site of a new depot that will increase the numbers of trains coming through Princeton.
“There’s going to be four more trains a day. That’s 12 trains total. It will be a lot,” Nelson said.
While some may believe trains are becoming obsolete, Nelson said, that’s far from the truth.
“I think we’re experiencing the opposite. Fewer millennials are getting cars, and taking the train now. Service transportation is far from dead,” he said.
“In fact, it’s kind of thriving in this corridor. From what I understand, in this corridor that goes from Princeton to Quincy, it’s the only route in the state that makes money. I think that’s something to be proud of.”