Trains Magazine Covers Union Station

We are taught early on in childhood not to brag, especially about ourselves, and particularly not about home towns, or native states. Reckless bragging is disgraceful. A sign of poor manners. But maybe you will indulge me in a bit of gentle bragging on my home state, North Carolina. I was back recently and imposed on the good folks in the capital city of Raleigh for a preview of the new passenger station under construction and set for completion this spring.

If you haven’t heard of this $88 million project, I am here to predict that you will. Outside of California High Speed Rail and Brightline, I would dare say this is one of the biggest and boldest passenger train projects in the U.S. It is a station befitting a state capital, one corner of the famed Research Triangle Park, the home to megabits of knowledge and knowhow in the new world economy. The site is downtown and set to spark yet more residential and retail development in this urban setting.

The location us familiar to me. I went to college at nearby UNC-Chapel Hill and went train watching in the Boylan Tower area many times. It’s inside the wye (reader poll, how many other active stations are inside a wye in 2018?), where the Norfolk Southern and CSX main lines split after running jointly for about 10 miles to Cary. Once upon a time, until about 1950, there was a station here. Once upon a time about 30 years ago, trains called at the Seaboard Air Line depot on the north side of town, but then CSX took up the S-line between Norlina, N.C., and Petersburg, Va., and all trains began calling at the Southern Railway depot on Cabarrus Avenue. The SR structure is an old building and rather cramped for a state capital passenger station. So now the city and state are building a new station across from the current station that will be one for the ages – about 50 years into the future, to be precise. In about 10 years, that future could include commuter trains from Garner on the east and West Durham on the other side. Further down the road that could include high speed trains on a reborn S-Line. It is almost too much for me to fathom. I hope to live long enough to see it all unfold. Sadly, the SR station will be demolished to make room for more track.

The new station is incredible – it combines parts of the old Dillion Supply Co. building with new construction. A wall of the supply company creates one end of the three-story building. Overhead cranes decorate the ceiling. It has room for retail and for a restaurant. It has a platform that’s 900-feet long, enough to get most if not all of the Silver Star on one platform. And it has a train watching platform at the point where both legs of the wye are formed. Planners wisely reused the skin of the old Dillion supply for artwork to decorate the concourse leading to the platforms. Every step and every turn speak of thoughtfulness and a lot of passengers. ...
— Jim Wrinn - Trains

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Brent Woodcox