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(rshsdepot) Winston-Salem, NC

From Saturday's Winston-Salem Journal.
Bernie Wagenblast


Passenger trains were scheduled to  start pulling into the newly restored J. 
Douglas Galyon Depot in downtown  Greensboro for the first time in 25 years 
early this morning.
Winston-Salem city officials envision a similar scene someday at the  
once-grand Union Station.
The former rail depot sits on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive near  
Winston-Salem State University. 
The 1926 station, with marble tiles and hand-carved wooden benches, closed  
in 1970 after serving as the main departure point for passenger trains in  
Forsyth County for 44 years.
It has housed Davis Garage, a privately owned repair shop, since  1975.
"If Greensboro and High Point can do it we can do it," Greg Turner, an  
assistant Winston-Salem city manager in charge of public works, said of  returning 
the station to its former glory as a transit hub. "The building is in  good 
shape even though it may not look like it from the outside."
Turner said that Harvey Davis, the building's owner, has done a good job  
maintaining many of the interior features that gave the brick-and-sandstone  
building its character.
"The walls weren't moved or the floors torn up, which often happens with  
buildings like this. The conversion back to a historic train station will be  
easier because those things haven't been done," Turner said.
Amtrak's southbound Crescent train was expected to stop at Greensboro's  
Galyon Depot at 12:30 a.m. today.
The return of passenger service marks the completion of a four-year, $31  
million effort to turn the 1927 building back into a transit center, said Kevin  
Elwood, a spokesman for the city of Greensboro. Most of that money came from  
state and federal sources.
At the peak of passenger rail service in the 1940s, more than 40 trains a  
day stopped at the downtown station, which Southern Railway donated to the city  
of Greensboro in 1979.
Since then, passenger trains serving Greensboro have used a station off  
Spring Garden Street.
Until restoration efforts started, the former downtown depot served many  
purposes, including frequent use as an event venue.
"A lot of people hoped all along that it would be used as a train station  
again," Elwood said.
Amtrak passenger service also returned to High Point after its restored  
station was rededicated in 2003.
Because Winston-Salem is off Amtrak's main line, the return of  
passenger-rail service here is riding primarily on regional efforts to develop  
commuter-rail services.
Consultants working for the Piedmont Authority for Regional Transportation  
are studying whether to build a 33-mile passenger rail system between  
Winston-Salem and Greensboro. Construction could start by 2011, with service by  2014.
Brent McKinney, PART's executive director, said that a restored Union  
Station would play an important role in future transit plans.
"It could be a major western hub for our regional system," McKinney said.  
"Not only would the station be used as a stop for commuter rail, but it would  
also be used as a terminal for express bus service running north and south 
along  U.S. 52."
City officials think that Union Station's restoration could also lead to  
extensive new development in the WSSU area southeast of downtown, similar to  
growth occurring in downtown Greensboro.
"The renovation of the Depot has already had a tremendous impact on  
development," said Keith Holliday, Greensboro's mayor. "We're confident this  station 
will continue to be a catalyst for activity and development in the  downtown 
PART and Winston-Salem city officials are working together toward acquiring  
and restoring the old Union Station building.
Renovation could be done in stages with bus service restored to one part of  
the station while work continued to make the station ready for rail.
Efforts are being paid for with a $1.3 million federal grant awarded in  
January 2004.
However, the total project cost is expected to run more than seven times  
that amount.
Consultants are being brought in to assess soil contamination and other  
environmental problems and to upgrade original estimates made at least five  years 
At that time, the projected cost of buying and renovating the station was  
set at $9.7 million.
That number is expected to rise substantially.
The appraisals of the building and property alone have risen in the past  
eight years to $600,000 from $275,000.
The city may also have to use its power of eminent domain to secure the  
site, because Davis isn't expected to give up the property easily.
In such cases, the landowner must be given fair compensation, and the  action 
must be for public benefit.
City officials have approached Davis before.
Davis said again yesterday that he doesn't want to sell.
"They may not give me a choice, but then I'll just have to park a tank out  
front," Davis said laughing.
He also said he might try to do something with the property himself.
"It's a grand old building that can be used for a higher and better use,  and 
we hope to do that someday," Davis said.

The Railroad Station Historical Society maintains a database of existing
railroad structures at: http://www.rrshs.org