Do you hear the whistle blowing in the distance? Can you hear the clickety clack of the tracks and trains? I have been hearing those sounds for more than one hundred years. I have seen people come and I have seen people go. I saw soldiers going to war and I have seen them come home, some alive and some in flag draped caskets. I have seen the happiness and the sadness of people coming into my station.
When Camp Bragg and Pope Air Field opened in 1918 and 1919, my station was booming with young recruits training. I was booming with young soldiers going to World War II and battle-hardened soldiers returning home from war. I was proud that they came through my station- those young men saved the world. They were heroes.
Whenever I hear the train approaching, I get happy because there are more folks coming to our fabled city. We have a bus station as well, but I was already here when the bus station came to Fayetteville.
I was built in 1911 by the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad, right at the corner of Hay Street and Hillsborough Street, and I have been reinvented on three different occasions. My design came from an Architect named Joseph F. Leitner. Mr. Leitner was born in 1871 and died in 1930. He made me what I am today, and I thank him for that because I mean so much to this community. In 1982, I was honored by being placed on the National Register of Historic Places. In my newest incarnation, I am constructed of red brick with a Gambrel roof. Architecturally, I am designed in the Dutch Colonial Revival Style. I have a waiting area and there is also a retail area inside, along with a Subway restaurant.
In more than one hundred years, I have seen many changes that have happened in the downtown area of Fayetteville. Would you believe that I used to live across the street from a gentlemen’s club called Rick’s Lounge, which is now the City of Fayetteville Police Department? My neighbor these days is the Airborne and Special Forces Museum. So many years, so many changes. If you have been around the amount of time that I have, you would have gotten to see a small town grow into a thriving community.
The city of Fayetteville gave me an outward makeover in the early 1990’s. Between 2005 and 2006, I received another makeover and boy did it feel refreshing! It made me feel revitalized. I started to feel like the other buildings that were being made over. Our downtown area was beginning to flourish again – I was seeing more and more people in the downtown area and coming through my station.
I will have a new neighbor next year, and I will get to see baseball games in the new stadium that the Astros and the City of Fayetteville are constructing at present. There will also be a new parking area and the new hotel that will be done in the old Prince Charles Hotel. With the addition of the stadium, things will change as far as the loss of parking at my station, but there will be paid parking close by.
There are between 14 and 16 trains that pass through Fayetteville on a daily basis. Some are passenger trains which will utilize my tracks and come through my station, and then there are some freight trains that utilize tributary tracks in the area and pass through our area. Amtrak runs two routes through my station daily: the Palmetto and the Silver Meteor.
One cold December day back in ’43, an Atlantic Coast Line train, called the Tamiami West Coast Champion, left my station running late and headed south. She was pulling 18 cars when a piece of the track broke and caused the final 3 cars of the train to derail and fall over the other set of tracks. Thankfully, no one was really hurt too bad. The train crew, with the help of some volunteers, got everyone off the train.
The sister train of the Tamiami West Coast Champion, called the East Coast Champion, was travelling on the North bound tracks at the same time. She was pulling 12 heavy sleepers filled with people going to various locations to celebrate the holidays. The northbound train was travelling at a high rate of speed and did not see that the southbound train had derailed and was partially on the northbound side. Unfortunately, the collision could not be avoided. Many passengers were killed and injured that cold night. That was one tragedy that affected not only Fayetteville, but all of North Carolina and the country. It saddened me greatly. Those are difficult memories that I do not enjoy thinking about.
Looking back on all that I have seen come through my station, I am happy to say that there have certainly been more good than bad, and that makes this old station glad to have seen so much over a long period of time.
So many changes have occurred during my time here in Fayetteville, that it’s sometimes hard to keep track of it all. I even have wi-fi in my station, image that! I am old, but I am keeping up with the times. The city keeps me up to date and looking good, so I hope to be around for a while longer, serving my community.
Written by Stone Samuels