Train station to open as visitors center

Published 11:09 pm Sunday, September 21, 2008

Franklin Station will officially open as the city’s Visitor Center at 10 a.m. Thursday with a formal ribbon cutting ceremony

A freight depot within one of America’s first railroad systems, the Franklin Station was once the local social center of attraction in the mid-19th century. In 1835, a railroad tourist reported Franklin “a thriving village” set in a “swampy wilderness.” Diarist Elliot Story also mentioned activity at the station in an entry in 1838. The name Franklin Depot first appeared on a map dated 1839. The station was originally located on the east side of the Blackwater River in Isle of Wight County.

It was moved in 1857 to its current location, possibly to benefit commerce. The passenger depot was a separate structure located across the street from the present station. It was demolished in 1963.

Summary of the system

First called the Portsmouth and Weldon Railroad, a group of smaller rail systems partnered to become what was briefly known as the SAL: Seaboard Air Line Railway (c. 1888). The group was formally organized and recognized as Seaboard Air Line Railway in 1900. In 1946, Seaboard Air Line Railway reorganized as Seaboard Air Line Railroad (instead of Railway) following a period of financial distress during the depression and the war years.

The SAL operated under its new name until July 1, 1967, when it merged with the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad to become the Seaboard Coast Line Railroad. Later in 1972, the Seaboard Coast Line Railroad formed a partnership called The Family Lines System with a number of other railroads. These partners merged into one company in 1982 becoming known as the Seaboard System Railroad. Finally, in 1986, the Seaboard System Railroad merged with the Chessie System Railroad to become what is known today as CSX Transportation.

Over the years, the appearance of the Franklin Station has changed. It was originally unpainted brick with a cupola. Later, the cupola was removed and the station’s exterior painted. Today, the station has a new entrance opposite the train tracks, facing the parking lot across from Fred’s Restaurant on North Main Street.

The renovated Franklin Station will serve the community as Franklin’s Visitors Center and Downtown Franklin Association Office. The public is also invited to attend the ceremony and tour the station.