Before most Grovetown residents had cars, the town centered around the Georgia Railroad Depot.
Now, the depot is returning to the city - it's just a little smaller.
Dewey Roberts, a member of the Grovetown Museum board of directors, is working on a replica of the second depot structure, built in 1891, as a centerpiece of the museum's display of Georgia Railroad memorabilia.
"The depot was the lifeline out of Grovetown," said Charles Lord, a museum board member and Columbia County historian. "I stayed at this place when I was a youngster from 1954 on. It was the thing to go out of Grovetown. That was it.
"I used to get on the train and go to Augusta - leave at 2 o'clock in the evening and come back on the old bus that used to come through town - just to go to the library because I was a bookworm."
The depot was built in 1891 at the corner of Old Wrightsboro Road and Robinson Avenue on the east side of the tracks. It was part of what was considered the longest railroad in the world at the time, Lord said. The train ran 171 miles one way, from Atlanta to Augusta and back everyday.
Roberts, who is a cabinetmaker and boat-builder by trade, has spent nearly two weeks working on the depot replica, which stands a couple of feet tall.
"I belong to the museum (board), so all they pay for is materials and the labor is free," Roberts said. "And there's a lot of labor on this thing."
On June 16, Roberts was meticulously creating and installing rows of shingles onto the structure's roof. The half-building, which is installed flat against the wall, is fashioned with 140 individual slats of clapboard siding. Roberts built the train platform and stairs from donated 100-year-old wood.
"It's authentic," Roberts said. "I got with Charles to make sure I was getting everything right."
The pair have worked together to make sure windows, doors, signs and a locked message box are in the right place. Roberts said he still plans to add miniature people and crossing arms for a nearby street.
"They had an outhouse, but I don't think I'm going to put the outhouse in. I made this here," Roberts said, pointing to a tiny luggage cart parked on the train platform. "And I am going to put luggage on it from the soldiers."
Roberts said that when completed, the train he plans to add to the replica will look as though it is traveling out of the wall.
Mural artist Lisa Shead, of Appling, will paint murals around the structures Roberts is building.
Lord said the original depot was built in 1878. The passenger train ran along the tracks through Grovetown in April 1968, and the depot went out of service in 1970. The building was demolished in 1972.
"Fort Gordon used it for the soldiers," Lord said. "The last soldiers were sent out in 1965. I was right there."
At that time, the depot sat across the tracks from a popular gathering place - Mrs. S.F. Poole's Hardware and Feed of All Kinds.
A replica of that store sits on the stairwell landing leading to the second floor of the museum. Roberts and Shead also collaborated on that project, which was installed in early 2005.
Between the two locations was the center of Grovetown in the mid-1900s. Now, the two replicas sit across from each other.
"That was it," Lord said. "The action was all there."
The Grovetown Museum, at 106 Robinson Ave., is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Fridays and 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Dewey Roberts works on a replica of Georgia Railroad Depot. When finished, the display, being made for Grovetown Museum, will include a mural on the wall behind the exhibit and a replica of a train on the tracks in front of the building.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.