I’ve written previously about how Kathy & I like to seek out train stations on our travels through different areas. I hadn’t paid too much attention to train stations when we planned this trip to Florida, but almost by happy accident I realized that southern Georgia and Florida contain many examples of train stations. Here more so than in other states they seem to generally be in pretty good shape, many of them currently used as museums, social halls or offices.
While we were visiting the station in Avon Park, a volunteer at the museum there told us that the Silver Star passenger train passes through there daily, and that it would be there within the hour. He also mentioned that there is a station in Sebring that hadn’t come up on my search, even though the Sebring station is an active Amtrak station.
While we were in Avon Park, a CSX freight train came through, then we drove to the Sebring station in time to catch the Amtrak train making its stop there. We aren’t usually fortunate enough to actually see trains while we are at these stations, so to catch two on the same day was a real treat!
We made a quick stop in Abingdon, VA on the way from Bristol to Bardstown, KY. I’m pretty sure I have been in Abingdon at one time or another, but we wanted to check the place out for a potential long weekend visit.
Of course because there is a train station there – actually two, a freight depot and passenger depot – it gave me a good excuse to stop for a few photos.
According to my metadata we were stopped for less than an hour, so our stop is hardly representative of what there is to see and do there. Abingdon has a large arts community and is known as being the home of the Barter Theatre and the Virginia Creeper Trail, and the Appalachian Trail passes close to Abingdon.
Abingdon is about 3 hours by car, at least the way most people would go, but about 4-5 hours for those who like to take the scenic route. Definitely close enough for a weekend or even an overnight visit. We’ve got it on the list for a return!
On our recent adventure to Kentucky, Kathy & I decided to break up the drive by spending our first night in Bristol – but is Bristol in Tennessee or Virginia? As it turns out, it is a town in both Tennessee and Virginia!
Many folks – including me for a long time – had always thought of Bristol as being in Tennessee. But the state line runs right down the middle of State Street, so the businesses on the north side are in Virginia while those on the south side are in Tennessee. And both sides of town have their own city government. Interesting!
What attracted us to Bristol to cause us to decide to stop there? Well for one thing they have a very nice train station, and there is some interesting history in Bristol, particularly related to the early roots of country music. We made a quick overnight stop and managed to hit some of the highlights, and now we’re talking about a return visit, when we can spend some more time seeing more of what is there. It was a nice town to visit and we hope to get back there soon.
One of the things I love to do when we travel is seek out old railroad stations. They are especially prevalent in rural areas of North and South Carolina, and I have found them in Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee, as well.
One of the stations we pass by on a regular basis is the station in Branchville, SC. It’s on one of the “slow-cuts” we like to take when we are headed to Hilton Head and want to get off the freeway. I’ve taken pictures there before, and have been particularly interested in the old freight depot that sits across the tracks. It is in pretty sad shape, but a few years ago was given a new roof, and while I don’t know for sure I am hopeful that some funding will find its way there to complete the restoration. Both buildings are beautiful and reflect the good old days of American railroading.
According to one of the signs there, Branchville was on the first commercial railway, from Charleston to Hamburg, SC. Construction began in Charleston in 1829 and was completed to Hamburg in 1833. The distance was 136 miles and at the time was the longest railroad in the world and twice as long as any in the United States.
The railroad branched out from Branchville to Orangeburg in 1840, and Branchville became the first railroad junction in the world.
The Branchville Depot was built in 1877 and featured a dining room there trains would stop for breakfast and dinner. It claims the distinction of having had three former US Presidents dine there: President William McKinley, President Theodore Roosevelt and President Howard Taft.
The depot today is a symbol of Branchville’s rich railroad history and contains Branchville’s Railroad Shrine and Museum and a restaurant. It seems that we have never been there when either was open, but at some point I will be sure to get inside and look around.