The Richmond Train Depot

Title

The Richmond Train Depot

Description

I read a book the other day in which the main character got off the train one evening at a small town. He entered the depot and found it empty and ill-lit. The ticket window was open, but no one was in the office. This all reminded me of experiences I had in my youth in the 1940s at the old L&N train depot on East Main Street here in Richmond.

I remember entering this depot, finding it empty and having to call for the agent through the window. Often, he was busy with the telegraph; sending and receiving messages from faraway places. Richmond served as a water hole for the thirsty steam engines, so there was a large tank across the tracks.

There was a mail box on the platform. If you knew the train schedule, you could be assured your letter a quick delivery. The passenger trains usually had a mail car attached and they emptied the box at each stop so you could look in the open door and see the clerks sorting letters, or you could watch the trainmen oiling the various parts of the engine.

Also often present on the platforms were baggage wagons for loading and unloading passenger trunks, etc. Next door to the depot was a building that housed the Railway Express. I remember seeing boxes with many holes drilled in them full of baby chicks sitting on the platform waiting to be picked up. Next to the depot was a Spur filling station. Guess where it got its name? Across East Main Street was a railway hotel.

I remember trains called by number, e.g. 31 and 32, one train going north and one going south. When the ordnance depot came in during World War II, we in Richmond had to learn two things; one, it was ordnance (bombs and munitions) and not ordinance (passed by city councils). Second, the train was pronounced “deepo,” so the new location was to be called “dehpo,” if you catch the fine distinction, as overlaid with a Madison County dialect.

Parents took children to the station just to see the big locomotives roar in, all smoke and steam or diesel fumes.

During the 1940s, I often rode the L&N to Cincinnati to see the Reds play at Crosley Field. I was amazed at the size and beauty of Union Station in Cincinnati. Later in life, I enjoyed navigating through King’s Cross (London), Waverly (Edinburgh), Grand Central (New York), Gare du Nord (Paris) and Victoria (London) stations. I am told that the greatest of all stations is the Victoria terminus in Bombay, India. It was a featured backdrop in the recent film “Slumdog Millionaire.”

Richmond had another train station over on North Third Street. I remember the building, but not the rail activity. I would like once again to be able to go down to the depot, that lifeline to the larger world outside of Madison County, and watch the steam engines come in — wouldn’t you?

Creator

Dr. Fred Engle

Date

5/4/2010

Rights

Content may be freely copied for personal and educational purposes with appropriate citation. Permission is required to reprint.

Files

Collection

Citation

Dr. Fred Engle, “The Richmond Train Depot,” Madison's Heritage Online, accessed September 19, 2017, http://madisonsheritage.omeka.net/items/show/2146.