National Train Day: Hamlet once ‘a hustle-bustle town’

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

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HAMLET — Xzavier Spaine might not believe that Hamlet was once a thriving mini-metropolis, central to the former Seaboard Air Line Railroad.

In fact, he might not even care, much less give that fact the time of day. But if you want to talk trains, you will undoubtedly earn the 3-year-old Hamlet resident’s undivided attention.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Xzavier Spaine, 3, of Hamlet, plays with a toy train set inside the Hamlet Visitors Center with new friend Madison McPherson, 4, of Ellerbe.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Xzavier Spaine, 3, of Hamlet, plays with a toy train set inside the Hamlet Visitors Center with new friend Madison McPherson, 4, of Ellerbe.

“He loves trains,” said dad Malcolm Spaine as his son played with a toy train set inside the Hamlet Visitors Center during National Train Day in Hamlet.

The three-hour event included a museum hunt, a sidewalk chalk art contest and, under the covered pavilion, several booths from CSX, local artist Linda Faye’s paintings of Hamlet Depot and trains, the Richmond County Amateur Radio Club, face painting and more.

Volunteers prepared 175 goodie bags for children and another 75 for adults. Bags for both groups had all been distributed shortly after the first hour was up.

The Spaine family lives within 10 minutes of the Hamlet Depot & Museums. The sound of CSX freight train horns can easily be heard at their home. Spaine said Xzavier perks up whenever the train horns sound. His son also watches train clips on YouTube and, on television, Disney’s Chuggington animated train show.

National Train Day, supported by CSX and Amtrak, among other businesses and the city of Hamlet, was a time to reflect on the town of Hamlet and what used to be.

Tim Nevinger, president of the National Railroad Museum, stood in the locomotive giving tours to the public. Nevinger said it’s difficult for people to understand how central the town, once known as “the Hub of the Seaboard,” was to passenger transportation over the rails. More than two dozen passenger trains would pass through Hamlet each day, Nevinger said.

“If people would go back and look at all the photos, it used to be a hustle-bustle town,” Nevinger said. “Even for us adults, it’s hard to believe if we weren’t around (then).”

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Caitlyn Warren, 6, and her mom, Catherine Warren, move through a caboose on display at the Hamlet Depot & Museum on Saturday during National Train Day in Hamlet.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Caitlyn Warren, 6, and her mom, Catherine Warren, move through a caboose on display at the Hamlet Depot & Museum on Saturday during National Train Day in Hamlet.

Miranda Chavis, director of the Hamlet Depot & Museum, said passenger service is now by Amtrak — passengers getting on in Hamlet can travel to New York or Miami — but as passenger service was once key to people seeing the rest of the country, the current railroad makeup, owned by CSX, is by freight.

Chavis said the number of trains coming through Hamlet has remained steady over the years, but instead of passenger service, freight is the primary focus and that 10 percent of the local economy’s jobs are due to CSX and the railroad.

The most engaging event of the day seemed to be the Sidewalk Chalk Art youth drawing contest. Children of all ages picked out a square — or three — and took advantage of as much sidewalk chalk as they could get their hands on to make their desired picture. The only requirement was a train-related theme. The contest was judged by CSX employees Angie Averitte, Justin Cloninger and Robby Wheeler under a “trainsporation” theme.

“We want to see how trains inspire our young artists,” Chavis said. “I think this is one of the easiest and most fun contests that we do.”

Chavis said she might consider expanding the low-key competition to include an adult division for National Train Day in 2015.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com MacKenzie Spradlin, 12, of Rockingham, won first place during the Sidewalk Chalk Art youth drawing contest Saturday at National Train Day in Hamlet.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
MacKenzie Spradlin, 12, of Rockingham, won first place during the Sidewalk Chalk Art youth drawing contest Saturday at National Train Day in Hamlet.

MacKenzie Spradlin, 12, of Rockingham, was awarded first place with her use of a PeeDeePost.com banner and train cars. She and second-place winner Austin Hadinger, 11, of Hamlet, each were awarded a goodie bag that included a gift certificate to the Hamlet Depot & Museum gift shop, two railroad-themed DVDs and other items. Hadinger used his block of cement to illustrate a train crossing a bridge over water.

Jesse Womble, 12, of Hamlet, earned third place with his three-square drawing entitled, ” “How tomorrow moves.”

Beth Brown, of Hamlet, won a drawing for two free tickets on Amtrak to any east coast destination.

 

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Austin Hadinger, 11, of Hamlet, won second place in the Sidewalk Chalk Art youth drawing contest.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Austin Hadinger, 11, of Hamlet, won second place in the Sidewalk Chalk Art youth drawing contest.

 

Sidewalk Chalk Art judges (back row) Justin Cloninger, Robby Wheeler and Angie Averitte pose with winners (third to first place, left to right) Jesse Womble, Austin Hadinger and MacKenzie Spradlin

Sidewalk Chalk Art judges (back row) Justin Cloninger, Robby Wheeler and Angie Averitte pose with winners (third to first place, left to right) Jesse Womble, Austin Hadinger and MacKenzie Spradlin

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