Denver’s Union Station has been a fixture in the Mile High City for more than a century. The dominant Beaux Arts portion of the building dates to 1914. In the early 2000’s the station became the centerpiece of a transportation themed urban redevelopment known as FasTracks. I moved to Denver in 2001 and lived there until I moved 2 hours south to Pueblo in April of 2016. As such, I was witness to the evolution of a relic from a bygone era into a re-imagined hub of transportation activity.
The Central Railway Station
Cuba is a fascinating travel destination in every way – culture, music, architecture, art, nature and bird life. And the people are friendly, gracious, and welcoming.
I borrowed my title from Graham Greene’s 1958 novel, Our Man In Havana, which was set in Cuba before the 1959 Revolution. It is about a vacuum cleaner salesman, who may be a Mi6 British spy, or maybe he isn’t. Who can be sure? It’s a great read, like most of Graham Greene’s novels.
When I visit new cities, I like to check out the railroad station and train infrastructure. Read more
A Brief History of the
Coutts – Sweetgrass International Train Station
This is the story of a unique building (the only one we know of) – an international train station that was run by one family operating two railways in the Northwest Territories (pre-Alberta) and Montana and how it was almost lost in the redevelopment of the new border crossing at Coutts Alberta (AB) – Sweetgrass Montana (MT).
In 1883, Sir Alexander Galt and his son Elliott co-founded the Town of Lethbridge, AB when he established a mine on the banks of the Oldman River in the southwest portion of the district of Alberta, Northwest Territories. Galt is a well-known figure in the Lethbridge area where a public park (Galt Gardens) and a museum (Galt Museum and Archives) are named after him. Canada’s then Governor General, the Marquis of Lansdowne, demonstrated the Government’s support of the Galt enterprises by opening the Galt’s railway in September 1885.
Grand Central Terminal
Just the sound of the words is enough to evoke powerful memories for the many hundreds of millions of passengers who, in the last 110 years, have started or ended their railroad journeys at this place.
Grand Central Terminal has been especially significant to me, because from my earliest memories, it has been the entry to a lifetime of experiences in New York City. Boarding a train from the suburbs with the knowledge that when the train arrived, I would be in the heart of Manhattan has always given me a thrill.
After a day in New York, the feeling of relief when entering from outside into the shelter of GCT was palpable. In rain, or snow, or cold, or heat or nighttime darkness, opening those heavy outside doors in to the Main Hall meant that I was almost home.
Grand Central Terminal during the holidays is especially wonderful. Arriving by train en-route to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, or to see the lights on Fifth Avenue, or to visit the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center, always begins the same way. The Conductor’s announcement as the train comes to a stop, is part of the ritual.
We are now arriving Grand Central Terminal, be sure to take your personal belongings, and thank you for riding with us”
These photos were taken three weeks ago, on Thanksgiving Day. The exterior lighting captures every detail of the building’s facade. The lighted wreath on the Park Avenue viaduct is a reminder that Christmas is coming.
When one enters the building from 42nd Street, there is a memorial to the people who built Grand Central Terminal. I’m sure many people never even notice it, but every time I go in, I pause for a moment to read the inscription:
“To All Those Who With Head Heart and Hand Toiled In The Construction Of This Monument To The Public Service This Is Inscribed”.
And then to the Upper Level Information Booth, probably the most famous meeting place in the world. Take a look at the people in the photograph. The elegant tall woman carrying a dozen white roses. Who is she talking with, and what are they saying? And where are all the other people rushing to?
This is, to many people and especially to me, a magical place.
Grand Central Terminal. We have arrived. Home at last.
Bob Hughes – Photographs and text Copyright 2016
A Very Special Rail Fan Destination
Rail fans come in many flavors: train watchers, history buffs, modelers seeking details, technical enthusiasts, equipment lovers, and photographers both hobby and serious. Point of Rocks has it all with robust rail traffic as an added bonus.
The station itself is the shinning jewel. Designed by E. Francis Baldwin in the Victorian Gothic style and built by the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad (B&O) in 1876, it remains as one of the most beautiful of historic rail road structures. It is not opened to the public and is used by CSX as an office. In 1931 it was struck by lightning and gutted by fire. We can be thankful that the B&O ordered its full restoration.
The station sits inside a wye formed by the junction of two former B&O mainlines (all tracks are now owned by CSX). The south side of the wye (shown above) is the Metropolitan Subdivision which carries most of the traffic you will see here and moves CSX freight east and west. This is the “new” main line completed by the B&O in 1873. The north side of the wye is the Old Main Line Subdivision and carries trains to Baltimore. This is the original B&O main line completed in the mid-1800’s. The east side of the wye connects these two main lines and is used primarily by Maryland Area Regional Commuter (MARC) trains diverging from the Metropolitan Sub to the Old Main Line Sub and eventually to the Frederick Branch.
Just west of the station is the Point of Rocks tunnel. The original single-track main line is the track on the left which goes around the cliff. The tunnel was completed in 1902 when it became necessary to add a second track. The tunnel portal is an interesting brick structure with “Point of Rocks” cleverly spelled out by protruding bricks. Both the east and west portals are of the same design. Most tunnel portals are drab concrete affairs but from time to time the railroads made the decision to get fancy. Another good example is the old Chesapeake & Ohio Railway Ft. Spring, WV tunnel which is of a classy art deco design.
Just over the river bank from the original main line was the Chesapeake& Ohio Canal (C&O). Space is tight here and the rail road and canal folks were often at odds. A wall between the two was constructed to help ensure the trains did not scare the mules pulling the canal boats
“Less than the width of a baseball diamond. For a quarter mile at Point of Rocks the space between the Potomac River and the mountain is that narrow. The C&O Canal Company and its arch rival the B&O Railroad were sure both a canal and a railroad wouldn’t fit there. Which one would get the land needed for their project? Who would decide? How long would the decision take?
These are things that intrigue me about Point of Rocks. The C&O Canal Company believed they owned that strip because their predecessor, the Potowmack Company, had owned the land. The B&O Railroad fought this and the dispute went to court in 1828. It took four years for the court to decide in the Canal Company’s favor.
In the end the C&O Canal Company came to an agreement with the B&O Railroad because the canal company needed the money. They managed to squeeze a canal and railroad into this narrow strip. It still didn’t quite fit. To make more room the B&O Railroad later blasted a tunnel through the hill next to the canal. Both companies operated side by side until the canal closed in 1924.” – Ranger Lisa – CanalTrust.org
For night photography Point of Rocks has a pleasing array of lights which are helpful in illuminating the area, lessening the need to use a flash (I actually never use a flash for night photography). The well-lighted areas also provide a measure of safety when moving about trackside. My only complaint, and it’s a minor one, is that I wish the station had some exterior lighting.
I grabbed a few shots of commuters de-boarding the MARC trains. I’ve never had any real objection to people showing up in my images. Most often, unless they are blocking the critical elements of a composition, they can add interest to an image. I enjoy capturing the hustle and bustle of folks coming and going about their daily routines. In large cities like Chicago or New York the mass of souls moving about can be quite fascinating.
The MARC Brunswick Line runs 9 east-bounds and 10 west-bounds through here Monday through Friday. Not all of them stop here though. I’m not clever enough about train movements to understand how that 9/10 train schedule works. In addition, the Capitol Limited goes by twice a day seven days a week—one west, one east. Those 21 passenger trains are a nice addition to the already busy freight traffic.
My recent trip to Point of Rocks (September, 2016) was my first and I look forward to a return. My primary interest in such places revolves around railroad photography and this beautiful place offers a rich array of photo opportunities. I did not explore all potential locations and following my return home I’ve thought of other compositions I’d like to explore. A little east of the station along the Old Main Line there is a grade crossing. From looking at Google maps it appears there might be some nice views looking back west towards the station.
Saying goodnight from Point of Rocks and wishing you Happy Rail Fanning!
Fred Wolfe – Photographs and text Copyright 2016
Firmly ensconced in the suburban sprawl of Concord, NC, lay a railroad past bypassed with explosive growth in the Charlotte metropolitan region. As time has marched onward, the expansion of Concord has cloaked a past not unlike numerous cities and towns throughout the North Carolina Piedmont. Whereas the dependence on the railroad, whether it be for passenger travel or the corridor for a bygone textile industry, is gone, the stamp of the past remains conspicuous along this former Southern Railway main line. Modern day annals, however, tend to overlook Concord as compared to other locations along the route such as Salisbury, Spencer, and Kannapolis. Archival photographs of the railroad in Concord are few in number which has continued to trend as there are few contemporary photos taken here as compared to other locations.
The railroad origins of Concord date to the antebellum period a decade before the onset of the Civil War. In 1848, the North Carolina Legislature passed a bill for the construction of a railroad connecting the coastal region of the state with the interior Piedmont. The following year, the North Carolina Railroad (NCRR) was chartered with the intent of constructing a 223 mile corridor between Goldsboro and Charlotte. On July 11, 1852, a groundbreaking ceremony was held in Greensboro and construction of the railroad began. Four years later, towns along the route, including Concord, witnessed the passage of the first train to traverse the length of the railroad in January 1856.
After the tumultuous Civil War years, the Richmond & Danville Railroad (R&D) signed an operational lease with the NCRR in 1871. This lease remained in effect until the R&D was acquired by the Southern Railway in 1894. Maps of Concord during this era are in existence and indicate the exact location of the first depot. However, there appears to be no photographs or artist renditions in the public domain to reveal the early appearance of this structure.
During the early 1890s, the Concord Railroad Company constructed a line from the depot area into the downtown district to serve the local businesses. Due to the topographical layout of Concord, the town is located on the heights above the railroad and the public sought improved efficiency for transport. Rather than walk or traverse these grades by horse and wagon, an inner city line was constructed to alleviate these concerns. Designed as a “steam” line and dubbed the “Dummy Line”, this street track diverged from the Richmond and Danville main line and ran on Corban Avenue until reaching the business district at Union Street. Here, it turned west and split numerous times with spurs to serve the local proprietors. Within a few years, it was extended further north on Union Street and to the Gibson Mills plant at present day McGill Avenue. In spite of these efforts, the “Dummy Line” was plagued with problems, most notably pertaining to reliability issues. Concord was among the first urban areas in the United States to utilize battery powered street cars and their usage on this route was generally unsuccessful. The battery life was short and passengers frequently assisted by pushing these cars. By the end of the century, the “Dummy Line” was history and Concord constructed a true streetcar system which partially utilized this former route.
By 1892, a Sanborn Fire Insurance map indicates that a small wooden passenger station existed on the west side of the now Southern Railway main line opposite the freight depot and cotton platform on the east side. A separate smaller structure was located adjacent to it. Perhaps this was also the location for the original station as well—structurally repaired as needed but oddly located opposite the town district side of the railroad. It was also during this era that the Cabarrus Cotton Mills was constructed opposite the station on the same side of the tracks as the freight depot.
At the turn of the century, a new passenger station was constructed on the east side of the railroad by the Corban Avenue grade crossing south of the freight depot. This structure was also of wood construction and included a separate baggage office. The life span of this station was through the first decade of the 1900s until 1913. It was that year that a new passenger station would be constructed serving Concord until the 1970s.
Construction began on the larger station several hundred feet south of the existing depot. The location, in effect, sandwiched the new site between the Southern Railway main line and the Cabarrus Cotton Mills. This new station, built with brick and trimmed in wood, was resplendent in the Victorian influence of the era. Solid and attractively designed, it became the railroad centerpiece for Concord during the halcyon years before the end of passenger service. The World War II years in Concord, as in countless other stations throughout the nation, proved a bright but brief zenith of the passenger train in full glory. As an example, in 1941, fourteen trains still called at Concord. Name trains such as the Piedmont Limited #33 and #34, the Peach Queen #29 and #30, and regionals such as #11 and #12, the Danville, VA – Greenville, SC, all stopped at Concord.
In the postwar years, as passengers left the rails in mass exodus, trains were either combined or abolished. Examples affecting the patronage at Concord included combining service from two trains into Southern’s flagship Crescent Limited. The southbound Aiken-Augusta Special was absorbed into the Crescent in 1956 and the northbound Peach Queen several years later in 1964. Further cutbacks would ensue as the passenger base eroded and services were discontinued. In 1971, what remained of the national passenger network was forged into Amtrak but the Southern Railway remained a stalwart by continuing to provide its own service that would continue through the 1970s.
In March of 1974, northbound manifest train 158 was passing through Concord when a defective wheel on a freight car picked a switch causing a derailment. This resulted in a pile up at the station area and the building sustained damage to its south and west sides. The damage was repaired but by this date, the venerable old structure was nearing the end of its useful life. In 1976, came the coup de grace. Trains #1, the southbound Southern Crescent, and #5 and #6, the Piedmont, remained on the timetable but by the end of the year, the Piedmont was abolished. With the discontinuance of the Piedmont, Concord was eliminated as a passenger stop. The Southern Crescent existed for another three years until the Southern Railway turned over its passenger operations to Amtrak.
On March 28, 1978, an epoch ended. The noble Concord passenger station, standing in silent vigil to a bygone era, met its end. Demolition began on this date and as the bricks crumbled, the visible connection to passenger rail at Concord belonged to history. It is, in a sense ironic, as a regional passenger rail renaissance occurred the following decade. In 1984, a joint effort by the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT)and AMTRAK resurrected the Piedmont train although it lasted but a year due to agreement conflicts. After a five year hiatus, service was resumed in 1990 and subsequently expanded in the 21st century. Today, eight passenger trains—the Crescent Limited and six Piedmonts— pass through Concord by the empty lot where its station once stood. With no structure to serve as a stop, Concord is now but a milepost location along the main line, nestled between the stops at Kannapolis and Charlotte. Whether a new station is constructed to restore Concord as a terminal may be a topic of future city discussion.”
Dan Robie – Photographs and text Copyright 2016
See more of Dan’s work at his website WVNC Rails.