Friday, February 15, 2019

"The train, she's a-comin'"

 I grew up in Charleston and have been to the local train station many times.

It's technically in North Charleston, but it's "our" railroad depot.

It has been slowly begging to be replaced ever since it opened in the 1950s.

Problem: it still looked and felt like the 1950s.

It was a shabby "welcome" to the Lowcountry and talks had gone on for years on how to either fund a massive facelift or just tear it down and start all over.

The "tear it down" faction prevailed and the former station now is no longer standing.

I stopped by originally in November 2017 when I heard a change was coming.

Orange cones blocked off most of the small, fenced parking area and it now was even more inconvenient to use except to maybe drop someone off.

When I stopped by again - almost a year later - I could see construction was coming along fine and the new building already had a nice  "welcoming" look to it.

Finally, I knew the old station destination sign soon would be replaced.

But, I was pleasantly surprised last week when my brother and I stopped by so I could show him what was in the works.

Hey, it looked like it had opened!

None of the three daily Amtrak* trains was at the station (one in the morning and two in the afternoon).

An employee was in the brand new ticket office and she explained that trains now were stopping there to drop off and pick up new passengers heading North and South.

*(I went online to verify the three trains and their scheduled times but Amtrak has to be the most complicated entity government has ever produced. Customer service??

The listing I eventually found had the hours of operation wrong, showed photos and details about the old building that no longer exists and I could not find if any trains actually served Charleston. Sigh.)

It was twilight so I stepped out to see the new, much longer covered area where passengers would alight or board trains from now on.

Pretty impressive!

But inside - WOW -  the new facility was now as modern-looking as our nearby Charleston International airport.

Shiny, bright and squeaky clean.

Here was a proper welcome to train travelers coming in to visit America's Number One Destination...according to a survey of the readers of Travel & Leisure Magazine.

Well, I personally thought New York City was a pretty swell place to visit, but, this title WAS based on a survey.

My brother and I wandered around the deserted new facility. 

Well, any gathering of employees and passengers - or residents awaiting arrivals - would obviously be there closer to the expected train arrival or departure times.

So, we had the place to ourselves as we both tried to capture some of the "newness" with our cameras.

I did not see any of the empty tall, wooden pay phone booths I had seen in the old building.

In fact, we asked the lone employee there,  what was happening at that old, tired building.

I said I remembered taking photos of it and she looked surprised by the question.

"Well, it is gone. Once we moved into here in December, it was torn down," she said.

"Even all the trees have been removed, They just dug them up with big machines," she added.

We wandered down toward where it had once stood since the 1950s. Looking out just as darkness fell, we saw she was accurate. Very accurate.

Sure enough, the land was scraped bare and downed trees were stacked atop piles of dirt.

Obviously, it would not be long before all that space would be paved and parking stripes uniformly painted.

This would very soon be a very large parking lot for Greyhound buses.

That should have been done 60 years ago.

(Click on the photos and links for more details).

I have included a link to the very unclear details online about Amtrak passenger service.

Hopefully, as the details are compiled and updated, clicking that link WILL display the information rail travelers need.

Meanwhile, be aware the station is still at 4565 Gayner Avenue in North Charleston.

Happy trails!

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