Charleston, S.C., March 24 and 25
Visitors climb onto the Exhibit Train at Charleston, S.C.
Our stop partners welcome visitors to the train and to Charleston
Amtrak K-9 Officer Dan Scanlon demonstrates Bleckey's bomb detection skills
Instead of holding the Exhibit Train open house at the Amtrak station in North Charleston, CSXT and the city allowed us to park in Ansonborough Field, also known as Concord Park. It was a great location on the edge of the city’s beautifully preserved downtown, which is noted for its many historic homes and graceful public buildings. Lots of people heading to the nearby South Carolina Aquarium took a few minutes to walk through our exhibits.
We were joined at the event by the Children’s Museum of the Low Country, a non-profit organization that strives to spark imagination, stimulate curiosity, and encourage children to problem solve in fun and creative ways. Under large white tents, museum staff set up a craft station on Saturday where kids cut out paper locomotives and decorated them with whatever patterns and colors came to mind. Perhaps there were a few industrial designers in the making? It was interesting to see how many of the color schemes were reminiscent of historic liveries used by American railroads—Amtrak’s patriotic red, white, and blue scheme proved popular. For the younger kids, Chuggington was probably the highlight of the day; more than once, Brewster, Koko, and Wilson jumped off the tables and ran through the lawn.
In the grassy field, Amtrak K-9 Officer Dan Scanlon and his partner Blecky delighted the crowd by showing off Blecky’s special skills for sniffing out potential explosives. Across the Amtrak system, K-9 teams are strategically deployed at stations and involved in up to 1,000 train trips a month. They provide both a psychological and physical deterrent to potential threats. The Amtrak Police Department also maintains strong collaborative relationships with the Transportation Security Administration, federal and state Departments of Homeland Security, and state and local law enforcement agencies.
Members of two local railroad clubs volunteered to staff the display cars, hand out brochures, and assist people getting on and off the train. The Charleston Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society runs the Best Friend of Charleston Railway Museum, named after the first steam locomotive to be placed into regular passenger service back in December 1830. The museum collections include model trains, a research library, and other artifacts such as a manual light switch. Additional volunteers came from the Charleston Area Model Railroad Club that runs a showroom where the public is invited to watch model railroads in O, S, HO, and N scales.
Near the craft station, the Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority (CARTA) was on hand to answer riders’ questions and give out maps of the local bus and trolley service. Many people asked about the proposed intermodal center to be constructed in North Charleston. Once completed, it will bring together Amtrak, intercity passenger and local buses, and taxis to facilitate connections between different modes of transportation. Travelers will be able to take advantage of comfortable waiting rooms, food vendors, and other amenities, and the site could also include retail, residential, hotel and entertainment venues that will make it a true neighborhood hub.
To date, part of the 30 acre site has been cleared, roads realigned, landscaping and utilities installed, and a park-and-ride lot constructed. Although money was available to design the building, which is inspired by the former Charleston Union Station, CARTA and regional partners are still working to obtain funding for construction.
Our time in the Southeast these past few months has been a blast, and we’ve enjoyed meeting so many kind folks who volunteered on the Exhibit Train or came out to say hello and explore the Amtrak artifacts and memorabilia. But as they say, the railroad never stops—we’re headed north this week to Wilmington, Del., which is a major employee center that includes the Consolidated National Operations Center and the Bear and Wilmington maintenance and repair facilities. See you there!