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Locust Grove train platform unveiled

 

By Monroe Roark
Times Correspondent 

  More than 80 people braved the cold last Friday and came out to celebrate the new train viewing platform in downtown Locust Grove at its official ribbon-cutting.

  Mayor Robert Price and Main Street director Mallory Rich introduced and thanked many of the people involved with the project, and City Council member Otis Hammock, who is also on the Downtown Development Authority, talked about Locust Grove’s railroad history in general as well as this specific project.

The platform that sits between Hwy. 42 and the railroad tracks also has a new parking lot. It was built using funds from the city’s hotel-motel tax.

Attendees at the Locust Grove train viewing platform unveiling that was held last Friday.                     Photo by Beverly Smith

  Other improvements to the site include fencing, a crosswalk – which city officials said was sorely needed – and new lighting that was virtually nonexistent before. The feedback from local residents who work, shop and dine in the area has been overwhelmingly positive.

  The brick parking lot, while more expensive than concrete, is pervious. This means water can run straight through it and be absorbed into the ground, making it unnecessary to set aside a portion of the property for a detention pond. It has been observed during recent heavy rains and it working well. Overall maintenance of the site will be less because of this feature.

  The project took a bit longer than expected due to negotiations with the railroad concerning the city’s long-term lease of the property. Part of the construction process also included digging below an old railroad bed that was found unexpectedly, and because of that the project took longer to complete than officials originally thought.

  All of the lumber used for the train viewing platform was donated, a city official said.

  Watching the trains come through Locust Grove may be more popular than some people realize. When the project began, it was estimated that 35-55 trains rumbled through the city in a 24-hour period, although that number may have decreased slightly.

  In addition to local railroad enthusiasts, a number of “rail fans” from other areas have come into town to see the action. Some of them enjoy making videos of the passing trains. A search on YouTube of “Locust Grove train watching” revealed dozens of such recordings.

  “We had a couple from Maine at the ribbon-cutting,” said Rich. “They come down every winter for a few months, and they’ve been coming here for several years.”

  City officials knew something about the popularity of this pastime after visiting the southeast Georgia town of Folkston prior to starting the platform project. A double track known as the “Folkston Funnel” is the main artery for railroad traffic in and out of Florida, heading toward Jacksonville to the south and splitting just north of town to head for Waycross or Savannah. A large viewing platform with a variety of special features has been built in Folkston for train enthusiasts to enjoy watching the mammoth machines roll by, and it has been featured by national news outlets over the years.

 

 

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