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MATTOON -- An area historian is set to discuss the building of the Illinois Central Railroad during a program Thursday evening at the Mattoon Public Library.

Don Chamberlain, a retired teacher and photographer from Decatur, will discuss the reasons for and challenges in building the first major railroad in Illinois. Chamberlain will address why, where, and how the railroad was constructed, as well as how Illinois changed as a result of the railroad being built. His approximately 45-minute presentation is part of the library’s event series.

“Mattoon history and railroads go together,” said library Director Carl Walworth in a press release. “Thus when Don developed this program on the significance of the railroads in Illinois history, it seemed a good fit for our event series.”

Since retiring from teaching, Chamberlain has focused on history and photography. He has photographed the Lewis and Clark trail from Illinois to Oregon; the Mormon Trail; the Santa Fe Trail; the Bozeman Trail; 1,200 miles of the Oregon Trail; the Trail of Tears from northern Georgia to Kentucky; and the National Road from Cumberland, Md., to East St. Louis.

Chamberlain developed the railroad presentation from his research into the Civil War, about which he completed 11 Road Scholar programs that led to nearly 50 presentations across Illinois. He further developed the idea after attending the Illinois bicentennial conference last year. Chamberlain said the discussion will be a Powerpoint that includes photographs.

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