Charleston to Kingstree by Train, South Carolina – All Aboard to Kingstree
SC SC Newsletter SCIWAY News: January 2009 All Aboard to Kingstree
All Aboard to KingstreeFor the majority of us, "traveling by train" elicits images of a bygone era. Trains belong in museums, and riding one has become a "once-in-a-lifetime experience." In South Carolina, this seems like a normal reaction to a mode of transportation that's all but gone from our daily lives. Tales of dirty stations, long delays, and antiquated equipment keep many away from the joys of train travel. Yet, it need not be that way. When we planned our trip to Kingstree, we jumped at the opportunity to climb aboard and see for ourselves. What we saw made us realize the untapped potential that passenger railroads hold for our state.
Our trip started at the North Charleston Amtrak Station. While its location could be improved, we found everyone friendly and relaxed. Traveling by train is a far cry from the stress of air travel, and you can carry up to 150 lbs of luggage at no extra cost! No long security lines was a nice benefit too. We easily found room on the Palmetto and settled in for an on-time departure. The seats were clean and had ample legroom, electrical outlets, and a nice folding table. As the train made its way north, we enjoyed watching the scenery change from suburban homes and industrial complexes to the trees and swamps of Francis Marion National Forest. Traveling by train, one discovers a new perspective, away from the congestion and development surrounding roads and highways.
Even though our trip to Kingstree lasted only an hour, we were able to enjoy a morning coffee and pastry in the Cafe Car, a dining lounge with panoramic windows. Gazing at South Carolina's rural beauty while enjoying breakfast was one of the many perks of our railroad excursion. The friendly staff was also a delight and by the time our train pulled into the small town of Kingstree, we had almost forgotten about our destination. Arriving at the historic depot, we stepped off the train and bade farewell to our genial conductor, who, by the way, came complete with a handlebar mustache!
Our experience exceeded our expectations and got us thinking about the role of railroads in our state. At the beginning of the last century, passenger rail service reached every SC county, allowing South Carolinians to travel between almost any town in comfort and security. Today, the picture is a little different. While Amtrak continues to offer northbound or southbound service from a handful of stations, east-west rail service is non-existent. The thought of being able to board a train from Greenville to Charleston has motivated organizations like the Carolinas Association for Passenger Trains to push for better connections between cities in both South Carolina and North Carolina.
Railroads offer an attractive choice for intercity travel in the Palmetto State. Charleston and Summerville are leading the way by planning for a commuter rail to relieve traffic on I-26. Work is also currently underway for the construction of the Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor, linking Charlotte to our nation's capital – with trains traveling at up to 110 mph! This service will eventually extend southward into South Carolina and Georgia, connecting the Southeast to the major metropolitan areas of DC, New York, and Boston. As we look towards the future, air pollution, traffic congestion, the rising cost of fuel, and the need to stimulate our economy all spotlight the advantages of investing in railroad travel once again.
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