The train station in Charleston, South Carolina is in North Charleston, north of the actual peninsula city that the main line doesn't actually enter. There are only freight only branch lines down to the Port of Charleston. The current station is was built by the Atlantic Coast Line in 1956 after the 1907 Charleston-Union Station burned down on January 11, 1947. CARTA, the local transit agency has been trying to rebuild the station into an intermodal hub for Amtrak and Greyhound, along with a bus hub for North Charleston. There are public transit connections today with Route 10 running about every 20 minutes during the day along Rivers Avenue, the major street just south of the station although the walk down Gaynor Street (that feels like a driveway) lacks a sidewalk. This wide street also crosses the tracks on the P.H. Livingston Overpass along the southern end of the platform.
The station today is in an industrial area between houses in the middle of a 100 space completely fenced in parking lot. This parking lot (and the platform as well) is secure. Since it is surrounded by a chain-link fence with just one-gated entrance for pedestrians as well. This gated entrance has keypads used by employees and is left open during the stations operational hours a split shift from 4:00am to 2:30pm and then 4:00pm to 11:00pm. This split shift is because the train presently sees two daily trains giving passengers going north to Washington and New York a choice between a daytime or overnight ride. The day tripping Palmetto stops late morning northbound and early evening southbound arriving in Northeast on the same day. The Miami-bound Silver Meteor stops lave evening (9:23pm as of 2013) for New York (a good overnight ride) although the southbound arrival time of 5:06am leaves something to be desired. The Charleston/Savannah to the Northeast market is one of the only long distance Amtrak markets in the nation where passengers have a choice of either daytime or overnight travel, since all other long-distance routes only run once a day.
The large station building once housed the ACL's freight office for the Charleston Division (that now been closed and combined with CSX's Florence Division with the office now in Florence). The utilitarian station is a two story brick and concrete building with a mixture of brick for about half the height of each level of walls and green concrete panels above the walls. The two stories have simple boxy windows that look original. The station has a completely flat roof but above each floor of the station is a secondary flat awning to provide shade above the windows.
Passengers enter the station through a slightly grand entrance with green concrete framework extending away from the building with more of an awning. Passing through the doors is a time-warp back to 1950s Jim Crow, Separate but Equal? America. Along the north wall is the ticket office. This has a pink structural beam in the middle that says tickets. The windows are made of Plexiglas and Amtrak has to positions (and two employees staff the windows during the hour before trains are scheduled to arrive and depart). At the far side of the window is an additional position marked baggage with the usual modern baggage opening. Across from the ticket office are two completely identical waiting areas that are like mirror images of each other. The exterior wall has a window. The interior wall has two old fashioned wooden telephone booths that still have payphones on them but signs on the phones say their out of service but today to ask at the ticket office if you need to make a phone call. Opposite the ticket counter are two sets of wooden doors that lead to restrooms, one for men and one for women inside each waiting room. Since the end of segregation Amtrak has only maintained one set of restrooms for passengers (those closest to the street) with the other set having signs that say Private on them. The open restrooms all have signs that they are for Amtrak Passengers only and only open within an hour of a train's departure (I didn't use them to investigate their upkeep). The seating has been modernized in each waiting room with modern blue attached banks of chairs. Modern differences have the trackside waiting area has been given a modern LCD Television that was on (with sound) for waiting passengers while the other waiting rooms CRT T.V. was completely off. There are also two Vending Machines at the back of the streetside waiting room.
A set of doors lead out to a long platform with various boarding position numbers that the station staff actually announce passengers to line up at depending upon service class and destination. The line has two tracks in this area although only one platforms. The platforms have a long white canopy that runs the entire length of the low-level platform with just a simple yellow line edge. At each end of the canopy are original silver letters that spell out Charleston. The canopy is completely attached to the station house allowing nearly completely covered boarding of trains. The entire platform is completely fenced off (with barbed wire) from the outside world with all entry from the station house except for an additional gate that is left open just south of the station. The reason this gate is left open is for ADA compliancy because a ramp has been added for the few steps down from the station out to the platform trainside but not streetside. There is also a primitive curb cut down to the fading ADA parking spaces. On the platform outside the station house are a few wooden benches for those wishing to sit outside and a fenced in enclosure for the baggage car trolley and other equipment (plus a golf cart for those needing boarding assistance). Outside this area is a sign the Baggage Claim with a small signThere are also a few mobile lifts that the station staff actually positioned near a boarding door in anticipation of a wheelchair passenger instead of waiting for the train to actually arrive. Signage along the platform is just one fading blue sign on the edge of the fenced off baggage area. There are also larger non-standard pointless arrow above the text Charleston, S.C. signs above the streetside entrance to the station and another one on the chain link fence that says Charleston Amtrak Station by the main station entrance.
All Photos taken on 13 December, 2013
Last Updated: 15 December, 2013