Traveling at 80 miles per hour, the view of “The Lowcountry’s Hometown” doesn’t last long. But for a few seconds, the St. John’s Christian Academy's K-5 students catch a glimpse of their grandparents, teachers and neighbors waving cheerfully from Main Street.
Every year, people gather along the railroad tracks and wait for that fleeting moment. Some stand near the historical train depot at 100 Behrman St., until the Amtrak passenger train zooms by carrying the town’s youngest generation.
On Friday, 28 students rode by bus from their school to the train station in North Charleston. From there they took the Palmetto route to Kingstree. And then again rode buses back to the school.
They wore blue junior conductor hats that matched their blue school polos. Before boarding the Amtrak train in North Charleston, the group crowded together near the tracks to study the station, observe passing freight trains, and listen as Susan Gilmore, a media specialist, read various children’s books written about the railroad.
K-5 teacher Alicia Tucker organized the field trip as she has for the past 12 years.
“Back in 1966, I took the train in my kindergarten class,” Tucker said.
To this day, she said she can still remember details from the ride, including how her Donald Duck orange juice tasted as she sipped it inside of the trains’ dining car.
“That (experience) left such an impression on me, I said we’ve got to bring it back,” Tucker said.
Gilmore agreed that the train ride is a valuable educational experience for students.
“Children don’t ride trains anymore,” Gilmore said. “Trains come through Moncks Corner all the time- we hear them at school- but (riding them) is not something that people typically do.”
It’s been several decades since a train has picked up passengers in Moncks Corner. But the town’s historic train depot was once the center of commerce. For well over a century agricultural goods were shipped into and out of the small town by train. Mail was transported through the depot, passengers took trains to Charleston and other Lowcountry destinations, and Moncks Corner’s downtown area developed as a result of the depot’s activity.
In recent years the depot has been renovated, it now serves as a a meeting space for community members.
David Dennis, Mayor Pro-tem and Councilwoman Charlotte Cruppenink were both accompanying their grandchildren on Friday’s train ride through the Lowcountry.
Dennis said in previous years he stood on the loading dock at the depot to wave at the children as they passed by. But this year, he joined his granddaughter on the train.
“They look forward to it,” Dennis said. “They love it.”
Amtrak’s Palmetto route includes stops in ten states and stretches from southern Florida to New York City.