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(rshsdepot) Atlanta, GA

From The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Original article at:

Bernie Wagenblast


Memorable stops: Atlanta`s Historic Depots
March 9 2009 - Atlanta Journal Constitution 

By Jim Auchmutey 

Like arrowheads in the dust, they are testaments to a vanished culture --
collectibles to be burnished and displayed as glimpses of the past. 

Train depots, once portals to the outside world, have become architectural
curios. The picturesque little buildings that once processed passengers,
freight and mail have become restaurants, museums, visitors centers -- even

Atlanta has more of them than you might think. It's only fitting. 

This was a depot town long before Home Depot. Founded in 1837 as a rail
junction, Atlanta was christened with an end-of-the-line name only a
conductor could love: Terminus. Despite its roots, the city has not always
treated its rail heritage well. Atlanta's two principal downtown depots --
Terminal Station and Union Station -- were demolished in the 1970s and have
become fond but receding memories. 

Fortunately, many of the smaller depots that fed the lost terminals live on.
More than 50 survive in the 28-county metro area. 

The railroads still use a few of them, but most have been recycled. 

Stone Mountain turned its depot into a city hall. Marietta's became a
welcome center. Eateries occupy the old spaces in Norcross, Covington and
Decatur (where the shingle says Depeaux, in keeping with the Cajun fare). In
Atlanta, lawmakers gather for the annual Wild Hog Supper in the Georgia
Railroad Freight Depot, built in 1869 and thought to be the oldest structure

Steve Storey, who remembers parking inside the freight depot when it was
used as a common garage, has seen almost all of the survivors in his
wanderings with the state Department of Community Affairs. He documented the
buildings and posted images on his Web site: railga.com. 

"I listed all of them but two," he said. Douglasville's somehow eluded him.
He elected not to include another one, on an abandoned line south of
Atlanta, because it had been converted into a private residence. 

One of Storey's favorite depots is being reborn this year in Gwinnett

Built in the 1870s, the Duluth depot is one of the oldest in metro Atlanta
- -- and perhaps the only one that required a change-of-address form. 

"This thing has been moved four times," said Mike Dudley, treasurer of the
Southeastern Railway Museum, where the depot rests on I-beams as a site is
prepared and the frame structure is repaired and restored. 

You'd need a timetable to keep up with its ramblings. 

The first move occurred decades ago when the depot had to be pushed back
from the tracks in Duluth. After passenger train service ended, Scott
Hudgens, developer of Gwinnett Place mall and the Mall of Georgia, saved the
building and converted it into offices. When he departed in 1986, the city
took over and relocated it to a park. 

The third move, last August, was the most dramatic. After Duluth let the
museum lease the depot for $1 a year, it was loaded onto a flatbed truck and
hauled two miles to its new home on Buford Highway. 

The fourth move? 

"We misjudged the elevation and had to move it again," Dudley said. 

The Duluth depot is a handsome Victorian -- 70 feet long, with yellow
siding, an orange roof and bay windows on both sides. It will be the first
thing visitors see when they arrive at the museum, a complex of sheds
housing locomotives, cars and memorabilia. Dudley hopes to have the $781,000
job finished by October. Long-range plans call for running excursions out of
the station. 

But first they have to decide what era it's supposed to represent. 

Should there be heating and air conditioning? Telephones or just telegraphs?
"White" and "colored" signs? 

"We had a debate about whether it should even have a bathroom," Dudley said.

In researching the building, he met an 87-year-old Duluth native who boarded
trains at the depot as a girl during the Depression. Mary Evelyn Jackson
used to accompany her mother on shopping excursions to Rich's in downtown

"They called our train the Belle," she said. "It was our MARTA." 

She told Dudley about the way she used to duck coal cinders during the
trips. The way trains snagged mail bags from a pole beside the tracks. The
way a hobo named Pete used to cook his meals on the rail embankment and slip
into the depot at night to sleep, and no one bothered him. 

Best of all, she had some pictures. 

For Dudley, a retired IBM systems analyst, the depot project is very
personal. His grandfather was an engineer who died in a derailment outside
Chattanooga in the 1920s. He still has the steam whistle from the wreck,
which the railroad gave his grandmother as a memorial. 

"He was hauling refrigerator cars loaded with ice and strawberries," Dudley
began. He paused to dab his eyes. Clearly, this is a man who hears that
lonesome whistle cry. 

Dudley drives from Cumming four or five days a week to join the contractors
working on the depot -- those are his cordless tools in the baggage room. 

Sometimes as he works, he hears Atlanta's last passenger train, the Amtrak
Crescent, roar by on the main line outside. He can't help but wonder what it
was like when dozens of trains like the Crescent linked North Georgia and
converged on Atlanta. 

"Do I feel ghosts when I'm working here?" he said. "You bet I do." 


> Atlanta. There's one working depot left in town: Brookwood Station, where
the Amtrak Crescent leaves daily for Washington and New Orleans. Designed by
neoclassical architect Neel Reid, the 1918 building has a graceful facade of
arched doorways and columns. 1688 Peachtree St. N.W. 

> Atlanta. The Georgia Railroad Freight Depot dates to 1869 and was one of
the earliest local depot restorations. The state rehabbed the building in
1981 and uses it for government functions and special-event rentals. 65
Martin Luther King Jr. Drive S.E. (across from Underground Atlanta). 

> Decatur. Generations of Agnes Scott students used the 1891 Georgia
Railroad depot. It was moved back from the tracks several years ago and
renovated as a Cajun restaurant called Depeaux. 303 E. Howard Ave. 

> Duluth. The Southeastern Railway Museum had the city's 1871 depot moved to
its site last year and is restoring it to add to the museum's array of
engines and rail cars. They hope to have the depot open this fall, but you
can see the exterior now. 3595 Buford Highway. 

> Emory. Seaboard Air Line Railroad built this little brick depot in 1916, a
year after Emory University relocated from Oxford to Atlanta. Students don't
catch the train there anymore; they dine in a cafe. 662 Asbury Circle. 

> Hapeville. The 1890 Central of Georgia depot, now undergoing renovation,
houses a local history and transportation museum. 620 S. Central Ave. 

> Jonesboro. A visitors center and "Gone With the Wind" museum occupy the
stone depot built in 1867 by the Macon & Western line. 104 N. Main St. 

> Kennesaw. The 1908 station was restored as a visitors center and sits
across from the Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History. The
Great Locomotive Chase of the Civil War started on these tracks in 1862.
2828 Cherokee St. 

> Lilburn. The depot in Mountain Park Park wins the prize for best back
story. It stood in Shannon, near Rome, and was going to be torn down in the
1970s when a legislator arranged to have it sawed in half and trucked 80
miles to Gwinnett County. The halves were rejoined to make a community
center. 5050 Five Forks Trickum Road. 

> Marietta. Another visitors center, in a charming brick depot built by the
Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis Railroad. 4 Depot St. N.E. (just off the

> Norcross. The Norcross Station Cafe, in the heart of the charming town, is
a great place to watch trains go by. The depot was built in 1909 for
Southern Railroad and is now crammed with rail memorabilia. 40 S. Peachtree

> Stone Mountain. The village of Stone Mountain uses this granite depot as
its City Hall. Part of the structure dates to 1914, part of it to the 1850s.
922 Main St.

The Railroad Station Historical Society maintains a database of existing
railroad structures at: http://www.rrshs.org
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