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  • Writer's pictureCharles I. Guarria

Train Depot bridging the past to the present.

On Tuesday, May 17, the Port Orange Railway Society and the City of Port Orange swung the doors open to a bit of Florida's past. Invitation-only guests were welcomed inside the 128-year-old Port Orange Train Depot.

The structure is marked by a timeless feel that takes one back to a period in the United States when rail was king.

For the Port Orange Train Depot, that period of time began in 1894.

Since then, the initial two buildings became one; that one building fell into disrepair, was slightly moved from its original location, has been listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, and had the outside refurbished with city and community support.

At the height of service, pre the great depression, seven trains would come through the double-tracked station each day. Those trains were a mix of passenger and freight trains.

More of the train depot's history will be captured via a soon-to-be-installed sign near the front entrance.

All those in attendance came away impressed

The chatter amongst the group who toured the inside was of how fortunate it is that the depot is still intact.

Folk wandered around and wondered out loud if opening the depot to community events such as weddings would be a good means to draw people in. The Port Orange Railway Society representatives did not commit to that idea.

They are committed to restoring the outside as well as the inside of the structure, with the ultimate goal of reopening the train depot as a museum and learning center.

Port Orange councilmember Reed Foley was in attendance. Hours after the tour, in casual conversation at the Port Orange city hall, he mentioned his interest in helping the railway society. (Note: I linked to Mr. Foley's country music career.)

Also in attendance was Kat Atwood. Ms. Atwood is running for the Port Orange city council district two seat. She stated in a Facebook post, "There has been incredible progress made already and there is so much more to do!"

Those who wish to do more may donate or volunteer by clicking here.

Serve ice cream and the people will come

There has been some talk that an ice cream polar will open up close by. Open a museum, have an ice cream shoppe as a neighbor, and watch people come. It's a good plan.

Another possibility to draw people to the train depot museum and learning center will be the renovated Riverwalk Park. The park is soon to begin its redevelopment. Located about two miles east of the train depot, railway society president Larry Powers is hopeful there can be a tie-in between the park and the depot.

Separate was not equal

The building still has the separate doorways of the Jim Crow era. One door for white people, the other for African-Americans.

Port Orange Railway Society President Larry Powers addresses the crowd

Mr. Powers explained when a white person would enter through their door, they would make a right to purchase a ticket. African-Americans would enter through their door and turn left. Meaning they entered separately, purchased tickets separately, and between 1830-1956, they rode separately.*

It is one thing to see history in a photo. It is another when you see the segregated doors in person. That history, and more, is the type of experience the Port Orange Railway Society is hoping to preserve and present.

*1830 is the earliest date that I can find. Though I could not corroborate it. Please pass along any information on train segregation and when it began via the contact link above. Thank you.

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See ya soon!


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