Though the coronavirus has managed to derail a lot of good times in Aiken this year, it couldn't stop droves of Aiken residents from celebrating the 10th anniversary of the city's train depot during a special Story Time in the Gardens event Tuesday.
During a train-themed reading outside of the City of Aiken’s Visitors Center and Train Museum, children and their families were able to listen as some of their favorite literary characters went full-steam into a new adventure. They also were able to learn about Aiken's centuries-old connection with the railroad.
The train museum is housed in a re-creation of the original Southern Railway depot which was originally constructed on the same spot in 1899. It was later torn down in 1954 after falling out of use.
Several decades later, the depot was rebuilt in its original location and a grand opening was held in September 2010. Filled with interactive displays and nine historically accurate dioramas of towns along the South Carolina Canal and Railroad from the Charleston to Hamburg railroad line, the depot now offers locals and visitors a chance to explore Aiken's railroad history.
Since its reopening, the depot has seen more than 110,000 visits, said Mary Rosbach, the City of Aiken's tourism supervisor.
Don Winslow, a train enthusiast and volunteer train conductor for the museum who led the reading, noted that the railroad drew in the people that helped build Aiken into what it is today.
"History is so powerful," Winslow said. "We're grounded in what we were, and we use it to build who we are today."
Winslow ended the reading with a note to the children who, he said, would not realize the kind "bustling history" they were sitting on.
"When you get a little bit older and learn more about it, I hope you'll be as enchanted with it as I am," Winslow said.
The Aiken Visitors Center and Train Museum is open Tuesday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., and is located at 406 Park Ave. S.E.