Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Some more railroad dreams

I've talked about Mt. Carmel before. I've been there exactly as many times as I've been to Albion, Jenna's town, because that's where both her church and her grandmother are. It's also where her mother grew up, and her mother's mother, and her mother's mother's mother...

And, like most small American towns, the railroad was once the pump of its bloodstream. Driving into the town I always would notice this huge brick complex:

I always thought it was once a factory or some other source of labor for the city--and I was right. Take a look at this:

Same place, different time. The present buildings are visible in the top-right of the photographs. The brick hulk is the main shop of the Big Four Railroad Yard, which as you can see was a pretty major railroad terminal. Nearly all evidence of the tracks have disappeared; a few still pass through the town in unrelated areas. Around the back I found a few stragglers:

This grandfather of railroad prosperity is, I'm sure, full of tales. Big Four was where trains came for industrial needs, but wasn't a place for passengers.

This Italianate depot resembles the depots of just about every small town ever, but it no longer stands. Mt. Carmel received a much fancier terminal in 1905, and a little wandering will lead you to its doors.

The 1905 depot is an unusual 2-story affair that more resembles a household than a train building. It stands just a few blocks away from the former Big Four area, sandwiched between downtown Mt. Carmel and its orbital neighborhoods (full of incredibly beautiful houses and brick streets, I might add).

Here's the building as it appears now, standing upon its little yellow-bordered cement island in the middle of a parking-lot pond. It's currently used for office space, but hey, at least it's in use.

This is the loading dock side. Where the passengers would once have lined up, waiting for passage, folks now sit outside on some dated 1970s vinyl chairs and eat a light lunch. If you look at old pictures above, you will see some bridges crossing the old right-of-way: these bridges are no more. In fact, there is no evidence of tracks whatsoever. Just another town marooned from the railroad.

By the way, here's some news. In about a month--I am very pleased to say--I will be taking Amtrak from Little Rock all the way to San Antonio for a wedding. You have no idea how excited I am to be on a train for almost 20 hours. I am VERY excited. Okay see you later


1 comment:

Beth said...

if you come to Princeton sometime, you can see where the Southern Railroad had shops similar to the Big Four shops in Mt. Carmel. The buildings are used by a tire factory now, and the rail yard next to it is still active - and it's where I work. Don't wander around if you come to look at it - I'll have to call the police on you for being a trespasser. or you might get assaulted by a real trespasser.