Train watching is a growing pastime

The Mountain Traveler - Summer 2018

The Holcomb family of Toccoa is a train loving clan.

“You know you are a train loving family when on a Saturday at 5:30 in the morning you go wake your kids up and tell them they’ve got to get going because we don’t want to miss Train Day at 6 a.m. and they jump right out of bed,” Cavonna Holcomb said.

She and her husband, Stacey, are parents to boys Knox and Hamp.

The quartet spends a lot of their free time watching trains, most often at the train depot on Alexander Street in Toccoa.

“It’s a great place to watch trains,” she said. “And, the thing is whenever we stop there to watch, there’s always someone else there watching, too. There’s never been a time we’ve gone to the depot and there’s not been somebody there watching trains.”

Train watching at the Toccoa depot is most prevalent during the nighttime hours, she said.

“Especially at night you’ll see people gathering to watch the trains go by,” Holcomb said. “I’ve seen people there who have brought a picnic with them. Some groups come with their laptops and somehow get into the Norfolk-Southern radio network. There’s a way they can get into the Norfolk-Southern grid and know just what trains are carrying and when they’ll pass through Toccoa.”

But daytime train-watching has its own allure.

Take Harold Atkinson for instance. He’s lived in Toccoa since 1957 and on a recent warm May afternoon, he found himself with some free time downtown while waiting on a friend.

“I thought I’d just walk on down to the depot and watch the train go by. That was a real long one that just passed,” Atkinson said.

“Toccoa has changed a bunch since I came here, but the trains passed through then and they still pass through today. That hasn’t changed,” he said.

Holcomb said her husband is so fascinated by trains that he’s learned what the numbers etched on boxcars mean.

“He’s got it figured out,” she said. “He can tell you where that boxcar originated and where it’s headed.”

The Holcombs and Harold Atkinson are not alone in their love of trains.

Train watching is so popular in Toccoa the city of Toccoa is building a platform that can be used by train enthusiasts.

The city’s Main Street program has been awarded a Georgia Tourism Product Development grant of fund construction the railway viewing platform.

Holcomb says the goal is to have the platform completed in time for local observance of Train Day 2018 on June 29. National Train Day was discontinued in 2015 due to cutbacks by AMTRAK.

There’s only one problem with that date, she said.

“The Holcombs are going to miss Train Day this year because we’ve got to be out of town on that day,” she said. “That’s okay, though. That viewing platform is going to be awesome.”

This story comes from our free publication, Mountain Traveler magazine.

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