By Monroe Roark
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
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
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
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.