Saluda Historic Depot
September 18, 2015 at 7pm
In a campaign to save the Saluda Depot, a series of talks are being given at the Saluda Depot on main street of Saluda. On September 18, at 7 pm, a native of Asheville, Dr. Fred McConnel will be giving a talk on some of the railroad history and showing pictures of his train layout of the region.
Dr. Fred McConnel has had a passion for the trains traveling through Western North Carolina since he was six years old. He used to go down to Old Fort with his father to his father’s factory and watch the Southern engines get ready to climb the loops around Andrew’s Geyser up Swannanoa Mountain to Ridgecrest. For the last 30 years he has modeled this area in his basement in Atlanta. Since his family wanted to stay in Atlanta instead of moving back to Asheville, he created Western North Carolina in his basement. He studied the history, walked the tracks and collected types of every engine used for trains in the Western North Carolina Mountains. If he could not buy an engine type that ran in this region, he built it.
By means of small video cameras you can be taken back in time and ride on different famous trains that traveled through Saluda. The model grade is so realistic that it has runaways and stalled engines on the layout just like the real track.
Dr. McConnel’s talk will begin with the history of why the decision was made to make the rail road so steep which caused the many wrecks. The listeners will hear other railroad adventures like the wreck of steam engine 4052. You will experience by camera re-enactment of what it was like to travel along the line from Biltmore to Tryon. Unfortunately, this is not a trip that is possible now due to the abandonment of sections of this famous railroad line. You will also hear the story of Pitt Ballew who first thought of how to make the grade safer and probably saved the grade from abandonment in 1903.
Engineer Ballew’s concept of safety tracks is probably the most important contribution of Saluda to transportation safety. Even though the track now lies in rust, lives are still being saved on highways that have run-off areas to save trucks that have lost their brakes. Let’s all have fun taking a trip back in time when the railroads were our major mode of transportation. There remains a certain romance brought to mind when you hear the whistle of an engine of in the distance.